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I have decided to bring forward the last few big ticket items on my bucket list of rides before I make excuses not to do them.
One of those always included South Africa, so I am going to try ride from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
It’s a very long way to South Africa and flights are expensive. Rather than sit in planes for 30 hours and be total wreck on arrival I looked for an alternative.
Fares from Bangkok were a whopping $1000 cheaper than from Tokyo and I could get to Bangkok for $100. Ok, that will be leg one with overnight stop.
Bangkok is now the most visited city on earth. Even off peak it took two hours to my hotel. Prices have boomed like the city which I read now has 500 highrise buildings built or under construction. I got a fancy haircut then a shock at the price. Visited my favorite place to eat in Sukhumvit (which is more Indian than Thai now). A few beers at Hooters watching all the girls and guys that look like girls going to work in Nana plaza where you need deep pockets to have a beer these days.
From here I flew to Dubai. I want to stop there on my return so I thought I’d fly next leg in a spacious A380.
Well this plan was like one of Baldricks cunning plans. Emirates swapped the flight to a B777 sardine tin. Then I was conned by Dubai taxi staff like a complete rookie.
Oh well I got a good rest even if I had to wake at 3.00am. (I cannot sleep on planes) It’s still eleven hours flying south to Johannesburg. Africa is huge.I am using some of the money I saved not flying more direct from Tokyo on this sector. I got a promo deal business class on Kenyan Airlines at very low price.
Wasn’t sure what to expect but a terrific airline with superb service and food. So three days after leaving home I arrive Johannesburg. Taxis here are have the unfortunate reputation of robbing tourists. I took private transfer to the leafy suburb of Rosebank as I already have enough bad experiences with taxis in Malaysia.
I have an apartment and it’s nicer then my home haha. With a couple of days free to recover from jet lag that I now never had I could indulge in some of the great wine that South Africa produces.
I loved the Jacaranda and Eucalyptus trees lining the streets where I was staying. With Woolworths, KFC and a Caltex it looked like Australia.
I did something different for me. Regular tourist stuff.Downtown Johannesburg has a poor reputation. Honestly it did not feel as edgy as parts of Manila. But buildings shuttered, rubbish and graffiti everywhere and roads covered in smashed glass wasn’t a good look either. Bus staff escorted us tourists to the dilapidated view deck in the 70’s Calton centre (tallest building in Africa) then back to bus. It’s like below in four directions.
Ok lets talk bikes. I am renting through GS Africa. One of the larger motorcycle tour and rental firms in SA. I could not travel this far and just hope a bike is available and needing to transfer money overseas to secure reservations I want the firm to be there when I arrive and have insurance. These guys supply bikes to Charlie Boorman so I think they can sort me out.
My choice is the new BMW baby GS 310. Sure bigger might be nice but rentals here are more expensive than places I normally ride and I’m curious about the 310 which to me is much closer to what a ADV machine should be than those huge SUV bikes of late.
Finally then I set off. I did not know that open roads here are 120kph. Well I am in no rush. This works well as many speed traps along the way. I stop at a highway service centre and try the local burger chain Steers. Right outside the cafe it’s BBC Planet Earth.
You cannot pump you own gas here and need to tip attendants and waiters. I always struggle with tipping. Not the small extra cost, it’s something that in many cultures is seen as offensive and demeaning, very much so in Australia and Japan.
After mostly highway I arrive on the Panorama route and wow it is superb.
With time on my hands I take the little GS off road to a communications tower overlooking Long Tom pass.
The baby GS handles off road with ease. Tonight I stay in The Woodsman in Sabie. Biker friendly pub with Aussie style bar menu food items, I immediately zoom in on the fish and chips which is huge for just $7.
Easy ride today. Note the elevation. Started at 1700m in Joburg city and around 2000m at times despite climbing no mountains.
After the biggest breakfast I have ever been served I set off into a very cold misty morning.
I visit the three rondavels at the Byde River Canyon national park in less than good weather but the views are still awesome.
On my way back to Sabie the low clouds part for me at the place called God’s Window.
The ride south is mostly highway but not uninteresting. Brown wide land and scrubby bushes, coal mines and power stations. It reminded me of Australia.
Elevation remains high all day.
I stay in a Africa style self catering BnB tonight.
My host gives me a look of horror when I say I will walk to shops. Seems nice suburb but I ride to the Pick And Pay hypermarket on her advice (which later I understand)
Pannier cases were extra cost, I don’t use them in Asia anyway so thought no need. Doesn’t look like small bike.
The towns here have same turn of century buildings and street layouts as you find in Australia.
However in the centre is often run down and turned into a chaotic African market place with cars parked like a child’s sandpit. I didn’t know if safe to stop and try photograph so I didn’t.
The GPS was saying I would arrive way too early so I took a detour to Volksrust, just because name sounded interesting. Another town where I could be rural Australia.
Image from Google image search by Steve Herbert. I lost many photos from first four days due to incident I explain later.
This area is where the British suffered defeat in the Boer war. I rode out to Wakkerstroom historic town then turned south.
I decided to ride to Ladysmith through the former battlefields. Roads were good.
The G310 guzzles gas when riding at highway speed which is 120kph but to keep pace with cars is 130kph. I was on reserve at 170km.Entering the Golden Gate national park there is a huge storm but our paths did not cross.
It is magical scenery here inside ancient stone canyons. Click to see larger image.
Superb way to end today riding the fading light in landscapes impossible to convey here how majestic.
Enjoyed a nice pub dinner in Clarens a lovely small town which could have been any small country town in Australia.
I am writing notes each day but posting this ride is going to be delayed as wi-fi is non existent or woefully slow.
Anyway I’m in no rush about anything. To be continued as they say… much more ahead.
(part two here)
Some of those scenes certainly do look like Australia. Maybe that is why so many South Africans move here? Shame it isn’t safe enough to have a good look around there though. We are VERY lucky in this country in that respect.
Looking forward to the next installment Warren!
Yes there is some problems here. I experienced a little of this unfortunately. No where is perfect but I tend to view Australia as having less problems at the moment than many countries.
South Africa is stunning. The type of landscape and scenery I love. I visited twice in the early 2000s and would love to go again. Security there is sketchy which makes it a bit nerve wracking but I still intend to travel there again as I fear that one day it will implode completely and the option will be off the table.
Hi Tim, South Africa was stunning landscapes and fantastic wines, but I did have some safety moments, a lot more than I reported in the post as I did not want to come across too negative.
I would love to go back but it would have to be on a organized bike tour with security. That bumps up the cost dramatically compared to solo. Hotels and food are not expensive but bike tours price themselves as high as $1000AUD a day.
If you could get a couple of mates and ride together I think that would be great way to go in South Africa.