Hiking up to the Amphitheatre in the Drakenberg Mountains, South Africa
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South Africa Trip Journal from February 04 to 06 and February 14 to March 08, 2008

Follow this link to return to the South Africa Photos Pg. 1 and South Africa Photos Pg. 2.

Country: South Africa
Duration: Feb. 04 to 06 and Feb. 14 to Mar. 08, 2008
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 5800km on the motorcycles.
Most Memorable Impressions:
We were both taken by South Africa, from its coastlines on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, to the breathtaking mountain ranges.  There was not a boring moment to be had, as we explored the Blyde River Canyon, Oribi Gorge, Drakenberg Range, the Swartzberg, Cango Caves, Table Mountain and Cederberg.  If we were not riding over incredible passes and scaling mountains, we toured a few of the nearly 400 wineries in South Africa.   We loved to braai (Afrikans for BBQ) with new/old found friends and enjoyed the excellent local wine.  Last, but not least, South Africa is GS motorcycle heaven.  The roads, both on and off are engineered too have fun and more fun.  Add to this the incredible scenery and it makes this country top on the list for ridding an Enduro bike.  It is with heavy hearts that we leave this country behind, hoping that its future is bright.  People of South Africa, fight for your country and all it has to offer.
Our Favourite:
- Blyde River Canyon
- Drakenberg
- Swartberg
- Wine Country
- Cape Town
- Cederberg
Fuel Cost: 8.09 Rand/litre ($1.09CDN/litre) for Unleaded Fuel.
Accommodations: Camped (10) nights for 80 to 120 Rand/night ($10.00CDN to $16.00CDN/night). Stayed for free with Morgan & Kate for (8) nights and with Collette & Rene for (5) nights  
Exchange Rate: 7.38 Rand = $1.00CDN
Border Formality Costs: South Africa Visa = Free for Canadians
Motorcycle Customs = Free with Carnet de Passage.
Special Thanks: Due to Motorcycle Service/Problems we were stationary in Durban for (7) days and Cape Town for (5) days.  Special thanks to Morgan and Kate who gave up their house, car, computer, cell phone and life for eight (8) days to take care of us. Special thanks to Collette, her Mom and Rene for taking us in for (5) days.  Special thanks to the BMW Dealership Hamman Motorrad in Bellville/Cape Town who provided us with outstanding service.

Feb. 04, 2008.  We entered South Africa from Botswana at Martin's Drift. The immigration and customs are straight forward. Riding into Pietersburg/Polokwane we are thrown into civilization as we know it at home.  Traffic lights, stop signs and rules are followed.  We stop for cash at the ATM machine and check out the motorcycle stores that line the road.  Yes, motorcycle stores. We have not seen any since Italy.  Our tires are on the wear bar and we inquire about some new tires.  They seem to be readily available. From Pietersburg/Polokwane we take the country roads (R36) to Blyde River Canyon.  The roads are made for motorcycles and the scenery is amazing. The R534 follows the west side of the canyon and ends at Graskop.  We pitch a tent in the yard of Valleyview Backpacker's in Graskop.

Feb. 05. 2008.  We have planned a day full of sight seeing and hit the road by 7am.  From Graskop we take the R532 to Sabie and turn onto the Old Lydenburg Road.  Our goal is to combine the Waterfalls Tour with the Blyde River Canyon Tour.  The Waterfalls Tour consists of seven waterfalls that are spread out over 100km distance.  Entrance to each waterfall is between 5 to 10 Rand/person ($0.80 to $1.20CDN).  We start with the Lone Creek Falls, which falls 70m from the walls above.  Our next stop is the Horseshoe Falls and we complete the loop south of Sabie by visiting the Bridal Veil Falls. En-route back to Graskop we stop off at the MacMac Falls (70m). With four (4) waterfalls seen we change the venue and head north of Graskop to the God's Window following the Panorama Route. The 18km stretch of R534 winds it way along the top of the cliffs and escarpments.  Just before the God's Window is the Pinnacle.  A waterfall plunges into the depth of the canyon.  At the God's Window the escarpment drops almost 1000m to the Lowveld plains below.  Continuing north we explore the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, which includes the Bourke's Luck Potholes.  Three (3) bridges allow great viewing of the potholes below.  At the northern end of the 20km Canyon is the Blydepoort Dam.  A couple of viewpoints allow an undisrupted view of the Blydepoort Dam and the three Rondavels.  There are no handrails and the drop offs are mind blowing. On the ride back to Graskop we detour to the Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls.  Each waterfall we had seen during the day had been unique.  As usual a day was packed full of activities.  In the evening we stop at the local supermarket and bought some noodles, tomato sauce and South African Wine.  A treat well deserved.

Feb. 06, 2008.  We leave the campsite early as we have to cover 800km and a border crossing.  From Graskop we take the country roads past Sabie and end up on the N4 east of Nelspruit.  At a fuel stop we are approached by a Fuel Truck Driver.  He tells us about the riots in Mozambique and points to his damaged truck.  We were not aware of any trouble in Mozambique and decided anyway to continue on our original plan to enter Mozambique at Komatipoort.  If there was any problems the border officials would advise if it was not safe to enter.  Traffic is definitely sparse, but the border post is open.  We have the carnets and passports stamped out of South Africa and enter Mozambique.     

Feb. 06 to 13, 2008.  See Mozambique Journal.

Feb. 13 to 14, 2008.  See Swaziland Journal.

Feb. 14, 2008.  We returned to South Africa from Swaziland at the Lavumisa/Golela Border Post.  The Carnet is stamped in again and our Visa (still valid) scanned.  Our destination is Durban for new tires and maybe a full motorcycle service.  The quickest way is the N2 (toll road).  Refueling outside of Richards Bay, we are approached by a KTM rider, curious about us and our adventure.  He invites us to stay with him.  Little did he know that we would actually take over his life and spend seven (7) nights at his place.  We follow Morgan back to Durban.  It is weird to be back in civilization, huge traffic, but controlled.  His place is in Pinetown within a gated community.  The brand new BMW dealership is only a couple of kilometers away.  We stop first at the BMW store to inquire about servicing the motorcycles and new tires.  I show the mechanic Mark the rear end problem and he believes it is either the bearings or rear shock.  We ask for Metzler Tourance tires, and are promised that if they are available in South Africa, we will get them. We decide to return early in the morning to get all the work completed on the motorcycles instead of proceeding to Cape Town.  It is Valentines Day, which we totally missed, but Morgan owns a Pub, above the Harley Dealer in Pinetown.  Kate, his girlfriend, manages the place and therefore both Morgan and Kate are working that night.  Morgan currently works as a commercial diver off Richards Bay.  We spent the evening at Wholehog Pub, listening to a great band, meeting lots of locals and having great food (all free of charge).

Feb. 15, 2008.  We take in the motorcycles to the Ryder BMW Motorrad Shop, requesting to have the tires, front & rear brake pads, alternator belt and the running light changed.  In addition, my left cylinder cover required replacement, Mike's windshield was missing some screws and both our Touratech headlamp protection covers had broken from vibration.  They recommended a local manufactured headlamp protection by Sword, which seems stronger. Being a Friday, we wanted to ensure that all the parts are ordered immediately otherwise we would loose the whole weekend.  We head off for breakfast and return around 10am.  The part's manager advises us that Metzler Tourance Tires are not available in South Africa and that he had the Michelin Anakee in stock.  The problem with the Anakee's is that they only last 15,000km maximum, which puts us somewhere in Congo without any tires.  A couple of used motorcycles on the shop floor had Metzler Tourance on them and we wanted to confirm ourselves that they were not available in South Africa.  Morgan also had a call in with some people to see if we could track down the tires.  Did I mention that Morgan gave us his Suzuki Tracker to use to do all our running around while the motorcycles were in the shop.  Yeap, not only the vehicle, but also his house, cell phone and computer.  At the internet café we searched for Metzler distributors in South Africa and did not get anywhere.  We did find out that Metzler has released a new tire called the Metzler Tourance EXP, with a new steel belt design.  Luckily Morgan tracks down someone who can order them from Joberg, but not until Monday morning, which meant Tuesday or Wednesday delivery.  Poor Morgan and Kate were stuck with us for a while.  We stopped at the bank and withdraw a load of cash to exchange inside the bank to US Dollars.  South Africa is our last chance to restock on US Dollars before we head up the west side of Africa.  Before the exchange of cash could occur, a copy of the ATM slips had to be produced and passport information noted, just in case we were laundering money.  The whole process took about 1 1/2hr.

Feb. 16, 2008.  We spent all day updating the website.  In the evening Morgan treated us to our first South African chicken braai (Afrikans word for BBQ).  A whole chicken is stuck on a beer can and than barbequed.  Kate made a fresh salad.  It was like being at home, having dinner with friends over some wine and beer.  South Africa has some great wine.

Feb. 17, 2008.  Morgan took us around town to complete our shopping.  We had to restock and replace camping gear and miscellaneous items.  We walked into a similar camping store as we have in Calgary.  It had everything our heart desired.  Pretty amazing after being away from all this modern stuff.  We picked up propane canisters, new chairs, insect repellant with 80%Deet, duck tape, new inflatable pillows and a tech T-shirt for Mike.  Some straps were purchased in the adjacent bicycle store.  That's what we call shopping.  We stopped in at Gear-up Motorcycle Accessories & Parts store (open on a Sunday) and met John, the owner.  He actually had the two (2) front Metzler Tourance tires in stock, which we later purchased.  Our motorcycle gloves were starting to evaporate from wear and we purchased new ones. By noon we had everything we required.  For the rest of the day it was back to work on the computer and internet.

Feb. 18, 2008.  The weather in Durban is superb, blue sky and hot every day.  We contacted John at Gear-up to order the rear Metzler Tourance EXP tires and inquired with Ryder BMW Motorrad on the status of the motorcycles.  The parts (brake pads, alternator belt etc) had not arrived, but should on Tuesday.  At this point we did not worry.  Uploaded Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to the website.

Feb. 19, 2008.  We stopped in at Ryder BMW Motorrad at 10:30am and were advised that the parts still have not come in.  Surprised that overnight service if ordered on Friday does not show up by Monday, we asked to speak with the owner Roger who had been away in Portugal for the launching of the new BMW 800GS.  Roger made it happen, parts were taken off the shop models and the bikes were promised to be ready by the end of the day even if they had to work late.  He picked up the front tire from Gear-up's shop.  The rear tires had not arrived from Joberg and everyone was hoping for Wednesday.  Thanks Roger.  We returned to the bank to withdraw a load of more cash and exchanged it in the bank for US Dollars.  The same process applied as previous and it took 1 1/2 hours.  We were set for the second part of our journey.

Feb. 20, 2008.  After laundry and repacking everything, we did some final uploading of Tanzania to the website.  The tires arrived in the afternoon and were installed immediately.  We picked up the motorcycles after 5pm.  Of course the Visa card was blocked as we tried placing a large amount for the service through.  The collect number on the Visa Card is actually not collect from South Africa and the operator asked us what credit card we would like to use to pay for the call to Canada Visa (how ironic).  American Express has never let us down, it just is not accepted world-wide.  Visa tells us that the computer automatically blocks large amounts and that they can not do anything about it, that is why the card is called conveniently the "Visa Travel"-Card – The only one you will ever require when traveling.  On top of everything Visa places us on hold.  Note that we had phoned all our credit card companies to advise them of our travels in Africa prior to leaving Canada.  Visa is the only one that has ever given us trouble.  Finally all squared up we check the motorcycles, and the mechanic lets me know that the shock has not been repaired, but should last the 30,000km back to Germany.  Let's just say, it lasted until the next day up the Sani Pass before leaking oil.  We said Good-bye to everyone at the Pub and took Kate out for supper.  Morgan was stuck at sea, as they were waiting for the current to die down to place an underwater pipeline (fascinating work).  We were really sad that we might not be able to say Good-bye to Morgan.  Both Kate and Morgan, were wonderful to us.  We were strangers to them and they took us in like family.  Two (2) great people with lovely personalities.  We can not thank them enough and everyone else who made our stay in Durban memorable.

Feb. 21, 2008.  The previous night we had run into Mark (or Zogs as the locals call him) and his brother-in-law, who decided to ride with us to the Sani Pass.  We met up at the Wholehog Pub at 9am, said good-bye to Kate after some free breakfast and told her that we would stop in again on our way through Durban after Lesotho and Drakenberg on Feb. 24, 2008 to say our farewell to Morgan.  Mark is one of the real off-road riders, not just a Sunday meet for breakfast and go home rider.  We left Durban/Pinetown via N3 and turned toward Richmond, and then it was off into the country side on some gravel roads toward Underberg.  A quick stop at the pub for some refreshment and refueling we were on the road to the famous Sani Pass.  The South African Border Post is located at the bottom of Sani Pass.  All that is required is an exit stamp in the passport and we set off into the unknown.  To read about Sani Pass and Lesotho please go to Lesotho Journal.

Feb. 22, 2008.  After spending the night and almost a full day in Lesotho (see Lesotho Journal for more detail) we entered South Africa at the Caledonspoort Border Post.  We stop in Clarens, a small town that reminded us of Canmore or Banff, refueled and had our first ice cream in who knows how long ago (Italy I think).  We continue our ride along the base of the Maloti Mountains in the eastern Free State of South Africa and pass through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park which encompasses 48 sq km of grassland and sandstone formations.  Our destination of the day is the Amphitheatre Backpacker/Campground approx. 21km from Bergville.  The road first passes by the Sterkfonstein Dam and then descends a pass for a full view of the Drakenberg Range.  The Amphitheatre Backpacker/Campground is perfectly situated at the base of the Drakenberg Range and most importantly offers a hike to the top of the Amphitheatre and Tugela Falls.  The facilities are quite nice, with a swimming pool, bar/restaurant and communal kitchen for a good price of 100Rand/night ($13.00CDN/night). They do also offer day trips into Lesotho and Climbing and Fishing activities.  We signed up for the Amphitheatre/Tugela Falls hike for 300Rand/person ($40.00/person), which included 200km of transportation, lunch and guided full day hike).

Feb. 23, 2008.  Nineteen of us enthusiastic people set off at 8:30am to the Royal Natal National Park.  The drive to the Sentential Park entrance takes us almost two (2) hours as we continuously climb in altitude.  From the car park we hike up the back side of Mont-aux-Sources, mostly a walk, until we reach a steep ravine.  At 2 hours we reach the top and are rewarded with a spectacular view.  The Amphitheatre is a crescent-shaped basalt wall 6km wide and with a vertical drop off of a 1000m.  We sit down on the edge of the drop off and have our legs dangling in the air. To our left is the Mont-aux-Sources Peak and to the right the Eastern Buttress, the view over the KwaZulu-Natal Region is breath-taking.  After having lunch we venture along the rim of the escarpment to the Tugela Waterfall.  It is the second highest waterfall in the world and plunges 948m into the valley below.  We take a different return route.  Leaving the waterfalls a thunderstorm starts to build and we descend down two (2) vertical 25m chain ladders.  At the bottom of the ladders the sky opens up and the thunder is deafening.  Through hail and huge water, soaked to the bone we return at the Park entrance an hour later.  A little thunderstorm could not dampen the great experience we had of visiting the awe-inspiring Amphitheatre.  We return to the campsite by 6pm and the owner advises us that Morgan had left a message to call.  I call him and ask how he found us here and he told me that South Africa is a small place.  We arrange to meet in Richmond in the morning and they would spend the day with us riding south.

Feb. 24, 2008.  We woke up to clear blue sky and a breath taking view of the Drakenberg Range.  To make time we stayed on the R74 to Escourt and then joined up with the N3 toll road.  Just as we rolled into Richmond, Morgan and Kate arrived on their KTM990.  Near iXopo we stopped for some breakfast at the Kings Grant Farm and then continued over Umzimkulu to Harding.  The Oribi Gorge was our destination and specifically the Leopard's Rock.  We met up with Morgan's parents for lunch at the Leopard's Rock.  The restaurant's deck overlooks the Oribi Gorge, another one of those amazing spots, which we would have missed, if it wasn't for being with locals.  Beside the restaurant lies the famous Leopard's Rock.  The legend has it that a leopard used to hang out on the rock, hence the name.  The rock itself is impressive as it dangerously sticks out over the gorge with a huge drop off (see picture in Photo Gallery).  From here we take the scenic route to the Fairacres Estates.  10Rand/person provides us entrance and a map guide to Oribi Gorge Views.  We ride to each viewpoint overlooking the Umzimkulwana River and end up at another overhanging rock.  The Oribi Gorge is a perfect day trip.  Morgan had arranged accommodations in Port Edwards.  A beautiful holiday home, owned by one of his friends was available.  We were getting spoilt with all these nice accommodations.  We talked the night away over some wine and beer and Morgan's famous braai (BBQ) and Kate's great salad.

Feb. 25, 2008.  After a leisurely breakfast on the deck (with Crunchy Peanut Butter – thanks Kate), it was time to say Good-Bye.  We knew we would miss them both.  There is always hope that we would see them again either in Canada or maybe Europe.  Thank you both Kate and Morgan for a wonderful time. Instead of returning to the N2, we stayed on the side roads.  From Port Edward we took the R61 over Flagstaff to Port St. Johns.  It is located directly at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River.  The road leading into the port is beautifully twisty.  As a matter of fact South Africa has some amazing motorcycles roads.  From Port St. John's it is all the way back to the N2 at Mthatha.  The Wild Coast is rugged and access limited.  It has some beautiful secluded beaches and subtropical vegetation.  We made it has far south as Chintsa (approx. 30km north of East London) and took an ocean view room at the Buccaneer's Backpackers for 300Rand/night ($40.00CDN/night), mainly due to a huge storm brewing over the horizon.  The supper was excellent.

Feb. 26, 2008.  The anticipated rain did not come, lucky for us.  We continue to follow the coast line on the R72 through East London and Port Alfred all the way to Port Elizabeth.  We tried staying off the N2 by taking the old R102 whenever possible.  On the sunshine coast we detour to Jeffreys Bay to get a glimpse of some of the best surfing waves in Southern Africa.  From here we enter the Garden Route and set up camp at the Dijembe Backpackers in Stormsrivier for 120Rand/night ($16.00CDN/night).

Feb. 27, 2008.  In the morning we visit the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park (50Rand/person – $6.75CDN/person).  It is known for its beautiful coastline, Otter trails, Primeval forest, rugged mountain scenery and rivers feeding into the ocean.  We park the motorcycles at the Storms River Mouth.  A restaurant is perfectly situated at the entrance to the gorge overlooking both the sea and the hanging bridge.  We have breakfast at this peaceful spot and then take a boat tour to the hanging bridge and inside the gorge (Storms River Mouth).  Due to a recent fire, the path and wooden bridges leading to the hanging bridge have been destroyed.  The only way one can get close to the hanging bridge is via a zodiac boat (50Rand/person – $6.75CDN/person).  Most people spend a few days in this park, exploring via foot the countless hiking trails, but we have only a limited time and add this to our must do list when we return one day.  We stay on the N2 until just after The Crags and turn inland on the R340.  A few kilometers up the road the pavement stops and the gravel starts.  We gain in altitude and pass over the Prince Alfred Pass and through a windy canyon, with numerous bridges.  Due to heavy rains in the previous month the road is actually signed as closed, but we decide to give it a go anyway.  A bit rough and at some spots washed out the road was passable.  The road to Uniondale also was closed, instead of detouring we attempted the road and made it over the Uniondale Poort.  The road was actually in good condition with the exception that half the road was reclaimed by the adjacent river.  From Uniondale to Oudshoorn we stayed on the N9/12 passing over the Potjiesberg Pass.  In Oudshoorn we set up camp at the Backpackers Paradise for 90Rand/night ($12.00CDN/night).  For supper we tried the local delicacies of Ostrich steak and sausage.

Feb. 28, 2008.  A full day of activities lay ahead.  From Oudshoorn we ride up the Schoemanspoort.  This pass was built by Thomas Bain in 1862 it leads through a narrow chasm and is paved all the way to the base of the Swartberg pass.  A good gravel road winds its way for 24km to the top of the pass.  It took Thomas Bain seven (7) years to complete the route. The view over the Little Karoo region is spectacular, especially when there is not a cloud in the sky.  From the pass the road descends into the small town of Prince Albert.  We had a great breakfast of tomato and cheese sandwiches with salad in the old fashioned village.  Back on the road we take the paved R407/N12 to Meiringspoort.  It is a 23km section of road that leads through the Groot River gorge.  In the midst of the sandstone cliffs lies the Meiringspoort Waterfall, well hidden from the road and a perfect place to take a swim.  With temperatures in the high 30 Deg. Celsius, we quickly changed into our swim gear and jumped into the very cold 9m deep pool at the base of the waterfall.  We were lucky to have the place to ourselves.  After the refreshing cool off we return to Oudshoorn and change out of our riding gear and ride back over the Schoemanspoort to the Cango Caves.  We had signed up for the Adventure Tour at the Cango Caves.  The Park advises that this tour is only for the fit and non claustrophobic.  The 1 1/2 hour tour starts with the six chambers, which has some impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone formations.  We did not expect the well preserved and comprehensive selection of formations.  In Cango 1, the Grand Hall is 107m long and 16m high.  Concerts used to be held in this hall up to the 1990's, but where discontinued as guests would wander off into the chambers and vandalize the formations. There is evidence at the entrance of the cave that it was occupied as early as 15,000 year ago.  The cave itself is believed to be over 150,000 years old. After the main tour, the adventure begins.  The portion of the cave we enter has been damaged and therefore we were able to touch and hold on to the formations as we make our way through the Lover's passage and chimney.  Some passages we had to slide on our belly to get through.  We were fortunate that our group consisted of four (4) people only.  After another full day of exploration we return to our campsite.

Feb. 29, 2008.  Remaining on Route 62 we continue west over the Huisrivier Pass and enjoy a nice breakfast in Ladismith.  Shortly after Ladismith is the famous Ronnies Sex Shop.  It actually is a restaurant/pub and way back in time someone added the word Sex besides Ronnie's and made it an instant attraction for a stop-over.  From the R62 we turn onto the R324, over the Tradouws Pass and rejoin the N2 for a short distance to Swellendam.  The R319 south to Africa's Southern Most Point is quite boring.  We refuel and pick up some wine in Bredasdorp and arrive in Cape Agulhas mid afternoon. We left exactly six (6) months ago from Canada on this journey.  Officially we are both in distance and time half-way.  We are both excited to be at this point where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet.  After a picture, we see Andre and Doris walking toward us, who we had originally met in Mozambique three (3) weeks ago.  What a coincidence that we would meet again.  Andre carries a very large watermelon and after some more pictures, we slice the watermelon in half and start eating it.  We were only able to eat half of it, and had to stop because our tummies started to hurt. Though we were heading in the same direction, we were not sure if we would see each other again.  We hope to see them again in Europe in a few months.  A few hundred meters west of the southern most point is a ship wreck, or the small portion that remains of it.  As we stop to take a picture, my motorcycle will not start again.  The starter had been acting up since Sani Pass a week ago.  After numerous tries we almost gave up and called the tow truck, when it started.  It was time for another shop visit.  From this point forward I did not turn off the motorcycle unless absolutely necessary.  The Agulhas lighthouse is one of the oldest working light houses in Southern Africa and located at the southernmost point of Africa.  The annual music festival was being held in Struisbaai, and our first choice of accommodation was completely full.  The second, and now only, choice was the public campground right beside the beer/festival tent.  We celebrated our half-way point by opening up a good South African wine (Nederberg). 

Mar. 01, 2008.  With the constant worry that the starter would totally fail on my bike, we head toward Cape Town.  Back tracking over Bredasdorp and then took the R316 to Caledon.  Rene, the Canadian from Edmonton traveling also on his motorcycle, was back in Cape Town to visit his girlfriend for a month.  As luck should have it, he was in town at the same time as us.  We had last seen him in Ethiopia.  After breakfast in Caledon, we remain on the N2.  At the top of Sir Lowry Pass the view is amazing.  False Bay and the cities of Somerset West, Gordan's Bay and the Cape Peninsula can be seen.  Rene is staying at Monkey Town in Somerset West.  Monkey Town is owned by his Girlfriend's, (Collette's), Mom.  Originally a farm, they have added to the premises a refugee for monkeys.  It is amazing to watch the process of food preparation and the continuous attention toward the monkeys.  To cover the cost of taking care of the monkeys, they have opened up the premises to the public.  The farm house or I should call it the estate is a beautiful white washed house, with unique and weird "Old World" African treasures like a real stuffed tiger head and elephant ivory.  The yard has a huge fountain with palm trees etc.  There we are traveling through Africa, mostly roughing it and are treated to a place like that.  Rene, Collette and her Mom took us in for five (5) days.  As it was the weekend the BMW shop was not open until Monday.  Rene was excited to pamper us, as he normally is on the receiving end.

Mar. 02, 2008.  In the morning Rene prepares some great breakfast and I get the laundry out of the way.  We have planned to meet one of Rene's friends in Cape Town and hike up Table Mountain.  First Rene gives us the orientation tour of Cape Town, starting with the waterfront.  We met up with Greg and Criegs.  The hike starts above Camps Bay via the Woody Revine.  It is a steep climb up the Table Mountain with the 12 Apostles in full view.  Near the top we rest at the Secret Spot Forest. The spray of a waterfall covers the Secret Spot Forest in fine mist, very refreshing.  We are lucky to have some beautiful weather, blue sky, no wind and very hot.  We continue to the top of Table Mountain and the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir.  The boys jump into the water for a cool-off.  Criegs shows us the rare red Disa Orchid, which is protected.  We descend Table Mountain via the Kasteelpoort.  After a good hike like that a big meal is required.  We venture down to Long Street for dinner.  Thanks a bunch to both Greg and Criegs for the excellent guided tour.

Mar. 03, 2008.  Rene recommends a BMW shop in Bellville/Cape Town.  It is approx. 45min from Somerset West and was easy to find with Rene's directions.  The Hamman BMW Motorrad Dealership is owned and operated by a father and son team (John and Chris).  The Service Consultant, Gareth, took my motorcycle into the shop immediately.  The bad news was that no new starter was available in South Africa.  Chris, one of the owners, offered the starter out of his motorcycle to get us back on the road asap.  How amazing was that?  The rear shock was removed and sent out to a specialist, who rebuilds Ohlins and Wilbers Shocks.  A special favour was called in and the shock was rebuilt in a day.  In addition any recalls were fixed.  We both were very impressed by the service we had received.  The shop has four (4) full time mechanics, including a master mechanic who is qualified to train other mechanics.  It is a pleasure to talk to both Chris and John, as they know what is important.  There number one goal is to have a happy customer and provide after sales support.  Chris races the BMW's and they run a BMW off-road school from beginners to advanced.  All we can say, way to go and keep up the good work.  We wish we had a dealership like that in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Leaving my motorcycle behind, we double up on Mike's motorcycle and return to Monkey Town for some work on the website.

Mar. 04, 2008.  We always talked about taking a wine tour and finally we actually signed up for one.  The Easy Rider Wine Tours is located in Stellenbosch and runs its tours out of the Stumble Inn.  It is a specialist tour which includes a visit to four (4) wine estates in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.  We leave Somerset West and stop en-route to Stellenbosch at the La Romantica Restaurant for some breakfast to ensure we would start our wine tasting on a full stomach.  The tour departs the Stumble Inn at 10:30am.  We were a group of eight (8) including the driver/guide.  Two Irish, two Americans, one Swiss and us two Canadians.  Our first stop was the Simonsig Wine Estate, family owned and run, it was the starting point of learning more about wines.  We first toured the winery and watched the wine making process.  The estate in season harvests 80 tones of grapes a day. Then our guide beheaded a bottle of Sparkling Wine with a sword.  We learnt the three (3) ways of tasting a wine.  First you hold the wine glass against a white wall to look for clarity etc., then swirl the wine in the glass and cover the opening of the glass with your nose for a smell.  At last you taste the wine, by having it enter all chambers of your mouth.  It is your option to spit it out or swallow the wine, pending on how drunk you want to get.  We tasted six (6) wines at the Simonsig Wine Estate, the glasses were always half full.  After that the mood in the mini van was much happier and we continued to the Fairview Estates.  The guide let us loose for one (1) hour to taste seven (7) wines.  In addition to wines the Fairview Estates also produces quality cheeses.  We had a Sweet Red Dessert Wine which went great with the Fairview blue cheese.  Our favourite wine was the Agostinelli Wine called Barbera and we could not resist to pick up a bottle for 70Rand/$10.00CDN.  After that much wine it was time for lunch and the famous chicken schnitzel accompanied by more wine.  Our third winery was the Boekenhoutskloof in the Franschhoek area, where we were presented with another nine (9) wines to taste.  The boys kept up with the pace, but both the Irish girl and I had to take a few breaks.  We were treated to their best wine called the Chocolate Block 2006.  Our last stop was the Dieu Donne Vineyard located at the base of the Franschhoek Pass. The wine tasting area has a truly amazing view of the mountains and wineries.  We are presented five (5) more wines to taste.  In total we each must have had 1 1/2 bottles of wine.  At the end of the day our guide toured us around Stellenbosch.  He was a great guide, who had worked at wineries and knew what he was talking about.  He also enjoyed his job and made it a great experience for us and everyone else on the tour.  All this for only 300Rand/person ($40.00/person).  We had dinner at Gino's in Stellenbosch including some Red Bull to sober up and then rode back to Somerset West.

Mar. 05, 2008.  We picked up my motorcycle first thing in the morning. The rebuilding of the shock was only $70.00CDN and the starter installed and everything around $500.00.  We pick up another couple of oil filters and are reassured that if we run into trouble (require tires or parts) going up the west side of Africa to contact them for help.  Both crash bars had a bolt missing or stripped bolt and Hamman Motorrad fixed them for free.  We spent a couple of hours talking to them before starting our Cape Peninsula Tour.  Thanks again for your personalized service. We start our Cape Peninsula tour at Muizenberg.  Colorful huts line the beach and are used as changing rooms for swimming.  The M4 winds its way along False Bay, past Fish Hoek to Simon's Town.  In Boulders we visit the African Jackass Penguin Colony.  The penguins are under protection as their numbers have been reduced from 1.5 million in early 1900 to only 10% remaining now. Entry is 25Rand/person ($3.50CDN/person).  A boardwalk allows for easy access to the penguins.  We continue south on the east side of the peninsula and enter the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve for 55Rand/person ($7.50CDN/person).  At the Cape Point we hike up to the original lighthouse.  It is no longer in use and has been rebuilt further down, as it is most of the time engulfed in fog. The Portuguese liner, Lusitania, run aground onto Bellows Rock in 1911 and sunk and as a result a new lighthouse was built at a lower spot.  Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Cape, a sign reads "Cape of Good Hope", it is a huge tourist attraction, but we were able to sneak in a picture of both of us.  Leaving the park, souvenir stands line the road, we stop in search for a special chess game made in Malawi out of teak wood. The figures are hand carved.  We almost thought we were out of luck, but then a local pulls out a bag and bingo.  His original price was 850Rand ($115.00CDN), but Mike got him down to 330Rand ($45.00).  The board was larger then the Touratech bags and we strapped it to the back seat.  It would be mailed home asap.  A white lighthouse stands at the Kommetjie village, the road jags inland around Kommetjie beach and then we pay for the famous Chapman's Peak toll road (16Rand/motorcycle or $2.00CDN/motorcycle).  It hugs the cliffs of the 592m Chapman's Peak with stunning views of unspoilt beaches, the towering Sentinel Rock and Hout Bay.  Riding along side the 12 Apostles we park the motorcycles at Camps Bay and treat ourselves to a nice meal in a restaurant overlooking the Bay.

Mar. 06, 2008.  It is time again to get back on the road and make some miles.  Rene thankfully offers to mail the huge chess board and figures for us.  It is Collette's Birthday.  Rene has a special day planned for her and we say Good-Bye to great hospitality.  Thanks again for everything.  We return to the top of Sir Lowry Pass for one last picture of False Bay and turn onto R321 at Grabouw, past the Theewaterskloof Dam and over the Franschhoek Pass.  A bicycle race is underway and we watch them come through Franschhoek as we have breakfast.  Franschhoek is one of those small very nice villages like Stellenbosch and feels like home (the area reminds us very much of British Columbia).  Wine Estates line the road as we continue to Paarl and over Bain's Kloof Pass and Michell's Pass to Ceres.  We are blessed with amazing weather, maybe a bit on the hot side.  We constantly stop for water and diet coke.  After passing over Prince Alfred Hamlet Pass we fuel up in Op die Berg.  17km down the road the pavement ends and gravel starts.  We follow the road for another 60km over some great passes and set up camp at the Sanddrif Holiday Resort Campground for 100Rand/night ($13.50CDN/night).  The layout is similar to government run campgrounds in Canada.  At the same time we purchase our permit to hike to the Wolfberg Cracks & Arch for another 100Rand ($13.50CDN).  A river runs along side the campground and we jump in to cool off.  After setting up camp Mike finds enough wood to make a fire.

Mar. 07, 2008.  We rise and shine at 5:30am.  Equipped with six (6) liters of water we start the hike at 6:20am with the first light.  An early start is necessary as temperatures by mid day reach 40 Degree Celsius.  The map we received from where we bought the permit indicates 8 hours return.  We park the motorcycles in the designated parking area only accessible via special code.  The path up Wolfberg to the cracks is well visible. There are two (2) options through the Cracks, the easy and the adventurous.  We opt for the adventurous route, crawling under a huge rock, through small spaces and climbing up rock cliffs.  In Canada hikers would not be allowed to take this route unless properly equipped with climbing gear.  Here we are finally through the toughest part and the flare cap of the SLR camera falls into the crack below.  It is impossible to climb back down without a rope.  We decide to retrieve it on our way back down the easy route.  At the top of the crack/mountain the path leads to the Arch and another good hour of walking through some pretty landscape.  The hike is well worth it, as the reward of finally sitting within the Wolfberg Arch is beautiful.  We eat our peanut butter and raisin power bars and sip some water.  We descend the easy route and climb up the adventurous route again through the Crack to get the Flare Cap and then back down.  It took us half the time on the second go as we knew where to go.  In total, after all that, we were back at the campsite in seven (7) hours from start to finish.  After a rest we hiked another 20 minutes from our campsite along the river to the Maalgat swimming hole for a refreshing dip in some clear water at the base of a small waterfall.  Another campfire at night and the perfect ending to our time in South Africa.

Mar. 08, 2008.  We rode out of Cederberg over Algeria on a good gravel road to the N7.  In Clanwilliam, we stopped for some unique Breakfast Pizza.  A very good Pizza with eggs, sausage, tomatoes, cheese etc.  We stocked up on some Pasta as we were not sure of what was available in Namibia.  It is one boring ride from Clanwilliam, through Springbok to the South African/Namibian Border Post at Noordoewer.  Eventually the 400km of mainly straight road past and we said our farewell to South Africa at the hottest border crossing yet.

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