Sport-Touring

The Open Road => Ride Reports => Topic started by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 05, 2020, 06:10:05 AM

Title: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 05, 2020, 06:10:05 AM
I'm slowly cobbling together my trip to South Africa. Dan and I went there for my "special birthday" and had a great time.

We started out on our own in Cape Town for a few days, so I'll just toss up the link to those pages here, since there are no motorcycles involved: Cape Town only (http://dantesdame.com/main/sa-cape-town-a)

After Cape Town we joined a tour group and did some riding. As I write up the motorcycle portions, I'll see about copying them here. I figure that most of you guys need something to amuse yourself with, being this close to spring but not yet really riding   ;D
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Cookie on March 05, 2020, 06:13:19 AM
:popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: PatM on March 05, 2020, 11:12:58 AM
Me too  :popcorn:

Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 05, 2020, 11:18:32 AM
Ok!

I'll just jump right into the motorcycle portion of this trip...  here goes!



Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 05, 2020, 11:19:02 AM
Jan 21 - Feb 11, 2020

January 26 - Sunday - Stellenbosch

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/EXkgoZEA7xS7SNeG6)

(...as continued from the Cape Town link in my earlier post)
We slept in this morning, as we didn't need to be at the tour meeting place until noon. We packed up our clothes, after four days of scattering our stuff around our hotel room, and arranged for an Uber to take us and our baggage across town.

At the Protea Hotel we met our tour guides, Hana and David. They run MotoAdventours out of Malaga, Spain, and we'd entrust ourselves to their capable hands for the next two weeks.

* * * * * *

Just how does one chose a motorcycle tour company? And which tour to sign up for?

For me, it was a process of elimination. When i began planning for this trip, all I knew was "I want to go to Africa!"  And of course, "Africa!" is a very, very big place. What did I want to see in Africa? Well, animals, of course. Which ones? Where were they most likely to be seen? What time of year could I see them? What time of year would have acceptable riding conditions (heat? rain?)?

Once I had some more information I started to look up tour companies. For them, I had entirely different criteria. Where was the tour? When was the tour? How many people would be on the tour? What was the mix of dirt and pavement? What was included (hotels, meals, safaris, etc)? And of course, what kind of reviews did they have?

After going through a lot of sites, asking a few questions and compiling my information, I made my decision to go with MotoAdventours. I was happy with how they ticked all of the boxes, especially the one that stated a limited number of participants. No matter what, I did not want to be part of a parade on this trip!

Once I chose the company, I still had to chose the tour. I ended up Skyping with them, so that we could better discuss our skill levels and what I expected versus what they could offer us. We ended up agreeing that a fairly new-to-them tour "Cape Town to Kruger Park" would be the ideal choice.

Now let's get on with the tour, shall we?

* * * * * *

Our group was made up of Jonathan (who we had met the night before), Tom, Milan and Georg. Six riders, plus our two guides. Our taxi showed up and all of our bags were stowed in the back and we took our seats. It was a 30 minute drive to Stellenbosch, where we would spend the afternoon, get our bikes, and have a short orientation before dinner.

We passed mile after mile of township housing
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This is something you don't see every day! (Cape Town Film Studios)
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Mountains everywhere!
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We pulled into Stellenbosch and I immediately felt like we had arrived in Napa Valley: it was a clean, boutique-y wine town. Tree-shaded streets, outdoor cafes and restaurant seating, fashionable stores...Stellenbosch had it all. Plus, if you drove a few minutes out of the town center, you'd find yourself in lush vineyards and fancy wineries. This is South African wine country!

Stellenbosch
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Our hotel, the Oude Werf
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Nice lobby!
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Nice room!
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The motorcycles wouldn't be delivered for a couple of hours so Dan and I took the opportunity to walk around the town. It was a small place, and very interesting to explore. The culture here was completely different than Cape Town and we could also hear more Afrikaans spoken, which sounded really cool to my ears.

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A quick - and massive! - pizza for lunch
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After lunch we walked some more but on our return to the hotel we saw them: the motorcycles were being unloaded from a van.

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Jonathan checks out the bikes
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We were all assigned our bikes and spent time in checking for existing marks and scuffs before signing off on our rental insurance paperwork. Dan and I had opted for the standard 750GS, while everyone else on the tour had upgraded to the 1250GS. Dan and I aren't fans of the 1250, and prefer a smaller, lighter, bike, and were quite happy with the 750s.

Except I got an 805GS - the rental company didn't have two 750s to rent out, so I got an upgrade. Lucky me! And it was even red, just like my bike at home.

My 850Gs awaits
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South African registration attached to the exhaust
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Important instructions! South Africans drive on the left side of the road
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All tucked away for the night
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We gathered before dinner to review the upcoming trip: what was expected of us, what we could expect from Hana and David, and what was expected in general. There weren't any surprises, really: David would drive a support truck and carry all of our luggage. He would also pull a trailer in case there were any problems with bike or rider. Hana would merrily lead us across the country. Easy peasey!

And now it was dinner time. We walked across town to The Fat Butcher and sat down for what would be the first of many great meals.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: BMW-K on March 05, 2020, 08:10:44 PM
soooooooo looking forward to this!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: miles on March 05, 2020, 09:01:36 PM
Important instructions! South Africans drive on the left side of the road
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Orson missed the memo.    :'(
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 06, 2020, 12:44:34 AM
I thought of orson while on this trip, and just sent him an email to see what he's up to.  I only just sent it last night, so no word back yet  :popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: st2sam on March 06, 2020, 06:27:30 AM
Orson missed the memo.    :'(

I missed it too. 
Not to hijack your thread Dante but please enlighten us?
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: garry on March 06, 2020, 07:34:56 AM
Orson missed the memo.    :'(

I missed it too. 
Not to hijack your thread Dante but please enlighten us?

I seem to recall that Orson was in a nasty accident several years ago in South Africa. It would be nice to hear what he's up to. Last saw him at the Spring Meet in Canaan Valley before he headed to southeast OH and KY on his way home to Asheville.

A couple local riders that have been traveling the world for the last several years recently did a tour of Africa. Saw lots of amazing stuff but other parts were really hard.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Max Wedge on March 06, 2020, 08:44:51 AM
Looks warm there. /jealous. Thanks for putting this together for us to enjoy!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 06, 2020, 10:53:44 AM
Orson missed the memo.    :'(

I missed it too. 
Not to hijack your thread Dante but please enlighten us?

I seem to recall that Orson was in a nasty accident several years ago in South Africa.
That's right! Bad accident and a long time healing. But he healed and lives to ride another day!


Orson answered my email (and he's doing fine), but I'll see if I can convince him to pop in here and give his adoring fans a bit of love  :wave: :inlove:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 06, 2020, 11:04:02 AM
January 27 - Monday - Montagu

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/Ywz3HaHkoPsuivEg)

It was a really nice, quiet and comfortable hotel. I slept well, and would have liked to have slept in longer. But there were bags to pack, a bike to set up, and breakfast to eat!

The breakfast buffet was excellent, with the basic spread of fruits, pastries, meats and cheese all laid out. And of course you could always order something hot from the kitchen. This would be pretty much standard for most of the tour; we would not starve.

I had repacked our bags so that our carry on duffels were now our daily bags and everything else was packed away in the truck, not to be seen again unless something out of the ordinary came up. Like rain. But rain was not in the forecast for this week, so into the truck it went!

While each bike came equipped with a top case, I am a needy person and wanted my tank bag. It is something that I have used for years, and would be especially missed because it is instrumental in my ability to take photos without having to stop the motorcycle. Of course this leads to an overabundance of photos, but better to have too many than too few on a trip of a lifetime like this one!

Kickstands up at 9:30 - we were off!

Vineyards outside of Stellenbosch
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We hadn't been on the road long when we stopped for coffee. While normally I don't like to stop often (for anything other than gas, really), in this case I appreciated it. It was a good way to continue to get to know the others on the tour, for Hana and David to confirm that everything was ok, and, well, for some people to get their second cup of coffee.

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Coffee time!
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I love this South African coin
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Post coffee stop we were in for a treat: Franschhoek Pass!

First: a quick stop to take in the view:
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I really liked the style of architecture in this region
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And then we continued over the pass
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Lovely roads
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I admit that I was having too much fun coming down the other side of the pass to take photos. I was busy chasing Hana around corner after corner after corner to comfortably pull the camera out of its pocket. Trust me when I say that it was a glorious way to start the day.

Theewaterskloofdam - what a great name!
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We had crested the pass and dropped back down into the lowlands. It was hot and dry and beautiful. The mountains continued in the distance and the landscape was dotted with green. The occasional town (and township) sprang up, and with them, so did the garbage. It was nice to see that at least the empty countryside was generally clean.

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We took a right turn and a few minutes later were parking at Nuy Winery. It was on a hill in the middle of vineyards in every direction. We took a seat outside under a bit of shade and enjoyed a light but delicious lunch.

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After lunch it was back on the bikes and on to our day's destination: Montagu. The roads that I saw today were amazing: great pavement, excellent curves, wonderful scenery. I had no idea that South Africa would be so beautiful!

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Irrigated fields
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I noticed that instead of the usual yellow paint at the edge of the road, certain areas were painted red. Along with the red paint were signs that warned travelers not to stop here, as it was a dangerous hi-jack area. Well then... I'd heard about the dangers of South Africa, but I didn't expect them to come with signs!

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Kids in their school uniforms
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Fields of wind-blown garbage
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Typical farm: gates by the road but the buildings are not always visible from the road
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It was open country: not a lot of green, but still plenty of vegetation. Traffic was minimal and there was rarely a reason to slow down, let alone stop. It was amazing how just crossing over a set of hills would open up a whole new type of biome. In the heat, the smell of the eucalyptus wafted through the air - it was a surprisingly pleasant scent to come across. Just one of the benefits of traveling by motorcycle: you get to experience everything outside while still flying through the landscape.

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Hana pulled off to the side of the road, giving us the opportunity to take in the view below. We were at Burgerspas and our view was down the valley. Just around the bend was the town of Montagu.

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We made our way through the small town and then down a side street - we were at our B&B, Montagu Vines Guest House. Our hosts were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Hana and David had been here last year and they knew to expect this amount of hospitality.

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We were shown to our rooms and had time to freshen up and relax before dinner. Some of us hung out at the back of the garden, enjoying the view, the drinks and the company. It had been a great day of riding, and a great start to our tour!

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African chicken (ok, it is really called a "Helmeted guinea fowl")
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"Roughing it" in South Africa
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Dinner that night was in town at a place called The Mystic Tin. This is where I was introduced to the wonderful taste of the Kudu. It was a tender and flavorful piece of meat and not at all gamey. I wouldn't mind eating that again!

We sauntered back to the guest house and retired to our room. It would be another excellent day of riding tomorrow!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Virginian on March 06, 2020, 12:52:21 PM
What an amazing trip and I'm grateful you're sharing it with us!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 06, 2020, 01:18:51 PM
What an amazing trip and I'm grateful you're sharing it with us!

Thank you!

It is heartening to read comments here, to know that people are enjoying the posts  :beerchug:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: garry on March 06, 2020, 04:24:04 PM
Is the tour all paved roads or will you be heading into remote areas on dirt roads?
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: miles on March 06, 2020, 08:45:21 PM
Orson missed the memo.    :'(

I missed it too. 
Not to hijack your thread Dante but please enlighten us?

I seem to recall that Orson was in a nasty accident several years ago in South Africa.


His accident was from forgetting and riding on the wrong side of the road. 
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: st2sam on March 07, 2020, 01:25:57 AM
What an amazing trip and I'm grateful you're sharing it with us!
+ 1

  :popcorn:
(The weather looks perfect for riding.)

 
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 07, 2020, 02:21:55 AM
Is the tour all paved roads or will you be heading into remote areas on dirt roads?

I think it was supposed to be 70/30, but I'm not sure if we reached the "30" portion of that  :shrug:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: viffergyrl on March 07, 2020, 08:29:38 AM
I'm saving this report for the big screen.... love, love, love that you do this!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 07, 2020, 10:13:02 AM
I just looked at the videos from the GoPro  8)

I didn't want a video camera - I don't mind taking the footage, but I wasn't about to go through it all and edit it later. Dan, however, had other ideas. So he bought a GoPro, mounted it to his helmet, and took the videos.

And that's where the process ended....

We've been home for almost a month and the GoPro is still in its case from our return. So I finally pulled it out and started to look through the videos.



Not half bad!  :smoking:


Unfortunately, he had the camera angled down a bit too far, so we see more of his dash and less of the sky, but... it'll do.
But now that I've seen the videos, I think that I'll let them sit on the card a while longer and focus on getting the actual story up. I can imbed the videos later...
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 07, 2020, 10:15:09 AM
January 28 - Tuesday - Gondwana

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/1AC1SxZAdkDYj79JA)

Today would be a short and quick day. We had a tasty light breakfast at the guest house before dragging our bags back out to the truck and gearing up. It was another beautiful morning and I was ready to see more of South Africa!

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Fueling up - they pump, we pay!
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Drivers in South Africa were very courteous: any time they noticed that someone was coming up behind them, they would move way off to the side, allowing plenty of room to pass regardless of oncoming vehicles. They were good drivers in other ways, too, with great lane discipline and awareness. I was a little surprised, as I assumed that it would be utter chaos down here.

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Workers in the orchard
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Colorful shops in Barrydale
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 07, 2020, 10:16:37 AM
This morning's coffee stop was at an odd place called "Ronnie's Sex Shop". It was a little hole-in-the-wall cafe with a ceiling hung with donated shirts, undies, bras... some with personal messages written on them. The cafe didn't have much to offer, but considering that there wasn't anything else around, what little it did have made it stand out. For anyone who knows, it reminded me a lot of Coco's Corner in Baja, Mexico. With the exception of Coco not being there, of course!

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After our coffee at Ronnie's we got back on the bikes and back on the road. It was already hot and not even noon. I was glad that it was going to be a short day! And part of that day included Garcia's Pass, a lovely, high-speed road through the Garcia Nature Reserve.

Not Garcia's Pass...
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Garcia's Pass
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The countryside was getting greener
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Sheep grazing in the field
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 07, 2020, 10:17:11 AM
We turned off the pavement and onto a dirt road - it was the first dirt road of the trip! It was an easy road and a good place to get a feel for the bike's handling on a non-paved surface. It was also interesting to see how the group re-ordered itself according to those who had more confidence than others.

From that dirt road there was a short section of pavement, and then more dirt until we reached the gates of Gondwana Game Reserve. This was our destination; now we just had to get to our lodge.

Gondwana Game Reserve gates
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At the gate we checked in and waited for our escort. Because we were now within the reserve's property, there was nothing between us and the animals. And since the animals were not used to motorcycles, this could be a dangerous situation. A safari vehicle pulled in front of us and asked us to follow closely. We did - it was too early in the trip to be lion food.

Following our escort through the park
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Animals!
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At some point we stopped. There was a lot of discussion between our escort and other rangers: apparently there were a couple of elephants grazing near the road and we were not allowed to pass by. After some deliberation it was decided that we could get around by taking a "side road". Challenge accepted!

Elephants in the bush
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Detour!
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The fynbos were in bloom
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 07, 2020, 10:18:31 AM
The accommodations were extravagant; there is no other way to put it. We each had our own separate lodge and there were a couple of larger buildings for guests to gather at. Our room was amazing. I never thought that a round living space could be so comfortable!

The lodges
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View across the pool to the game lands
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Our room
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Dan demonstrates the open shower area
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A shower with a view!
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We had a few hours to ourselves, so I used it to do some sink laundry and charge my electronics. The time went much faster than I expected and rather wished that I had the chance to actually sit and relax and enjoy the view. Time was up before I knew it and we walked over to the bar for our 4:30 game drive. The first game drive of the tour! I was very excited and had no idea of what to expect.

While you're waiting for the safari to start, I can recommend reading up on the Making of Gondwana (https://www.gondwanagr.co.za/the-making-of-gondwana/). It really is fascinating how this reserve came into being, and what it takes to make something like this work.

Safari time!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Skee on March 07, 2020, 10:24:18 AM
Wife & I are following along.  We enjoyed the photos of Cape Town.  We've never seen Table Mt.; it's always been raining or cloud-covered when we were there. 

Looking forward to the next post; looks like you are headed for Knysna, one of our favorite towns.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 14, 2020, 10:24:09 AM
January 28 - Tuesday - Safari

Our group had its own vehicle. Our driver was very nice and got us settled in. We took off down some dirt roads with the intention to see whatever animals let us see them. I had my camera, binoculars, sunscreen and a hat: I was ready!

Another truck, to give you an idea of what they look like
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It didn't take us long to find our first sighting: a small herd of Impala and a few Waterbucks. Because the animals were used to the shape and sound of the safari trucks, they paid very little attention to us as we rolled up to their grazing field. I liked to think of us as a really big rhinoceros that smelled bad and awkwardly hung around the other animals.

A regal Impala
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I love the horns!
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The majestic waterbuck
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More cool horns
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A plant whose name I do not remember
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An example of the kind of "roads" we took in our search for other animals
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The shy Bushbuck
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I love the Wildebeast's mohawk mane!
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Momma and babies
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 14, 2020, 10:24:33 AM
The rangers radio each other all of the time, letting each other know where to find certain animals. The Reserve is huge (11,000 hectares) and the animals free-roaming, so there was never any guarantee that they would be found. So when she heard that there were some elephants in one of the areas, we headed over in that direction.

Our first elephant sighting!
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Hello there!
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The Reserve also has a policy of no more than two vehicles at a time when approaching the wildlife, so as not to stress the animals. We were sharing the company of the elephants with this other truck, so I took a picture to show just how close we were to the animals.

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There were a few elephants in this herd and we sat and watched them in silent awe as they ate their way through the vegetation. Eventually our driver started up the engine and we went off in search of other animals.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 14, 2020, 10:24:54 AM
Because our game drive didn't start until almost 5:00, it was just a matter of time before the temperature started to drop along with the sun. Our safari truck was well-equipped though: there were blankets and awesome fleece ponchos for everyone!

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Our driver shows us some rhino dung - fun!
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We did see rhinos on this tour, but our guide asked us not to share the photos on social media in order to keep the poachers from knowing just what the Reserve had on their land. Fair enough, although it is difficult not to  be able to share them with you here, especially the video I took of the baby charging a young male that had wandered too close! Let me see if I have a photo that doesn't really show much, yet shows...something.

This seems safe enough
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Heron finds dinner in one of the many water holes on the property
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Recent rains in the area had really caused a surge in the vegetation growth. Watering holes had filled up, grasses grew thick, and the trees were no longer under threat from desperate herbivores. From what we heard from the rangers, it was a welcome change from previous years.

The amazing horns of the Cape Buffalo
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The darkening sky over a field of Impalas
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Baby wildebeast!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 14, 2020, 10:25:18 AM
And then we got the call: Lion sighting! Our driver put the truck into gear and we took off for the area where the lions had been reported to have last being seen. Dusk was coming fast, so I hoped that even if the lions did make an appearance, we'd have enough light to see them.

Spoiler alert: we saw them!

The happy couple
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The lions on the Reserve wore collars, primarily so that the rangers could check on the location of the lions in the case of an emergency. But the collars weren't used for casual locating, so it was only "luck" that we saw them tonight.

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The rollover bar of our truck visible in this picture, just to give you an idea of how far the lions were from us
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I could not take enough pictures of these guys
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A South African sunset
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With the sun setting on our game drive, we returned to the lodge and took our seats for a late dinner. Our server told us that the chef was new and that he'd like some feedback on our meal. Unfortunately, the new chef had a lot to improve upon. But food quality aside, it was a great time with the group, and a great end to an awesome day.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: zer0netgain on March 14, 2020, 11:16:33 AM
I know this will sound racist, but why South Africa?  With all the bad juju going on down there of late with the ANC...

Or is like California...which is real nice, but avoid LA, San Francisco, etc.?
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 14, 2020, 11:31:42 AM
I know this will sound racist, but why South Africa?  With all the bad juju going on down there of late with the ANC...

 :shrug: I didn't let politics affect my decision. I explained earlier in this ride report on how I chose this tour, with regard to which country, time of year and which tour group. Sure, "public safety" was something I thought of, but I didn't feel like SA was much of a threat to us.

Or is like California...which is real nice, but avoid LA, San Francisco, etc.?
:lol:

Actually, there wasn't any part of SA that I didn't like. Sure, there were uncomfortable townships full of poor people, but overall it was an interesting place to visit.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Baxter on March 14, 2020, 02:56:05 PM
It looks amazing.  Thanks for the travelogue!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: viffergyrl on March 14, 2020, 05:22:53 PM
This is great! Alan and I were perusing the pictures on your site this afternoon. The elephant pictures and video were fabulous! Keep it coming.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 03:57:30 AM
January 29 - Wednesday - Safari

My goodness but 5:00 am comes early! The plan this morning was to meet at 5:15 at the lounge for a 5:30 game drive. I was up before the sun!

The lounge at the lodge
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Pre-sunrise
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It was a chilly morning and it felt good. While I don't always like to be up before the sun, I really do enjoy watching the color come into the morning sky, slowly giving definition to the world around me.

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 03:58:19 AM
This morning's search started by looking for the lions. The rangers had an idea of where they might be, but that location wasn't necessarily accessible by our truck. But our driver tried!

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I don't think that they ever stop eating...
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Ok, eventually they stop eating
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After much scouring the hillsides with our eyes and ears, we were losing hope with the lion hunt. We returned to the pool where we had seen a couple of hippos yesterday. A momma and her baby had been deeply submerged in the water, only surfacing to exchange the air in their lungs. Today wasn't much different, but I did get better pictures of them!

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 03:58:53 AM
Finally having admitted defeat in finding any lions this morning, our driver turned the truck down a road that led us to the far side of the Reserve. It was a lush scene, full of healthy green plants that had benefitted from the recent rains. There was even water flowing in the small stream that ran through the property.

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Flowing water
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Despite keeping our eyes peeled, we drove down this valley without seeing any wildlife. I kept hoping that there would be a big cat hanging out in the shadows - and who knows? Maybe there was! - but I never saw it. The valley we were traveling through widened and became more obvious of what it used to be: farmland. From the Wiki page: "Gondwana is the first authentic free-roaming Big Five Reserve in the Western Cape, situated on 11,000 hectares of fynbos and proteas. Owners, Mark and Wendy Rutherfoord, started Gondwana six years ago, transforming a series of cattle and sheep farms into a safari destination." So what we were driving down was an old farm lane, and where sheep once grazed there were now Zebra, Impala and Wildebeast. Or at least there could be. Right now, we saw nothing.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 03:59:14 AM
Suddenly: Wildlife!
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It is springtime in South Africa
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Hartebeast
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Baby Hartebeasts!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 03:59:38 AM
We left the valley floor: our driver had seen one of the Big Five and would take us to a good viewing location - and we'd have a tea break as well.

But first - another one of "those" plants!
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And then - giraffes!
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Many giraffes!
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The vegetation in this area didn't appear to be high enough for giraffes to comfortably eat from, but they still managed to munch on enough leaves to keep them healthy and happy.

An overview to give you an idea of the landscape they were traveling through
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:00:04 AM
Our guide had parked our truck high up on a hill, out of the way of the foraging giraffes and giving us a great view of the valley below. There was even a surprised Bushbuck peering at us from the brush!

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The valley we had driven down
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One of the old farmhouses across the valley (super zoom to the rescue!)
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Bushbuck!
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Munching through the vegetation as they headed down to the valley floor
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My favorite photo from the morning
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Two-face giraffe
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:00:31 AM
After having watched the giraffes make their way deeper into the vegetation and out of sight, we resumed our tour through the Reserve's land. We made our way back to where we had been the previous evening, to see what other animals we might see this morning.

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Not everything flourishes in this unforgiving land
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Burchell's zebra (with the shadow stripes)
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Private homes within the Reserve (you'll to read the link from the previous day if you want to know more)
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We were back at the lodge for an 8:30 breakfast, a fast packing of the bags, and then a 10:30 departure. Our time at Gondwana had been amazing. Even if our trip had ended here, I would call it a success. But it wasn't over, and in fact, it had barely begun!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:02:50 AM
January 29 - Wednesday - Prince Albert

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/TmSZKH6C7m55N29EA)

We had a slight dilemma this morning: Dan and my bike had smaller tanks than the 1250s, and we needed fuel. There was the option to leave Gondwana via the north gate, but there was no promise of fuel in that direction. Instead, David and Hana made the decision to back track the way we came and hit a "sure thing" fuel stop back at the main road. And it turned out to be a good choice, as Dan's bike was on fumes when we pulled into the gas station.

Leaving Gondwana - thank you!
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The weather turned cool and damp as we neared the coast. Light rain sprinkled across the windscreen and a strong wind pushed the clouds around in the sky above. The first of many ostrich farms appeared, the birds running madly away from the motorcycles to the relative safety of the far side of the field. Ostriches are weird birds.

We rode through Mossel Bay, which was very industrial with large cranes ready to load cargo onto even larger container ships sitting off shore. We slipped around the side of the city, avoiding most of the traffic and slow roads. I was all too happy to start heading north, away from the coast and towards the mountains!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:03:13 AM
It was a nice morning on the road: the sun came out, the sky was blue, and the roads were fast. Leaving Gondwana at 10:30 meant that it wasn't long before we stopped for a break. It was the "<a href="https://www.boerqibistro.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Boerqi Bistro[/url]", and eclectic cafe, gallery, farm store... you name it, they had it. And I love their address on the internet: "R328 between Mosselbay and Oudsthoorn, Mosselbay, South Africa." I really did feel like we were in the middle of nowhere, and I once again wondered how Hana and David went about finding their tour stops.

Boerqi Bistro
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Our guides, Hana and David
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Inside the farm store
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"I'll take two boxes, please!"
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His and Hers bathroom stalls
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Cozy seating area - and we had the place to ourselves
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Yummy snacks and shakes
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:03:51 AM
After a nice break (and tasty food) we got back on the road. There were mountains in front of us (again!) and this time the clouds were threatening to envelop them.

Ostrich farm
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There are mountains in those clouds!
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We crossed over Robinson Pass, an easy but delightful paved mountain road. Lots of photos - yay!

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Almost into the clouds!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:04:21 AM
Coming down the other side
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Leaving the clouds behind us
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This region is known for its Merino wool
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:05:47 AM
Today held a special side trip: the Cango Caves. This series of caves has a long history, from the early Stone Age to the most recent activity being when it was rediscovered in 1780. This is interesting, because they also estimate that the caves were in use as little as 250 years ago. That means that the last person using it was there only ten years before it was "discovered". Personally, I think that someone's math is off.

We parked the bikes and shed our gear, having prepared for this ahead of time to be able to walk around in comfort for the tour of the caves. The infrastructure of the park buildings was really nice, renovated in 1998 but aging quite well. We passed through the gates and waited for our guide to share the secrets of the caves.

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There was an "adventure tour" that one could take that would require fitting through this slot (we would not be on that tour today)
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Reconstruction of a primitive encampment
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Unlike the Skocjan Caves we had visited in Slovenia, this system of caverns had the option to be lit up for full appreciation of the geology inside.

Cavern with basic safety lights
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Suddenly: lights!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:06:35 AM
Our group was more than just us motorcyclists and our guide did a good job of herding us through to the various informational stages. She spoke clearly and a bit slowly, which was great for the non-native speakers in the group, but a little frustrating for those who didn't need the hand-holding.

Looking up
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From 1964 to 1994, concerts were actually held in the main hall (Van Zyl's Hall, in the first picture). Steps had long ago been constructed to access the "floor" of the cavern, not to mention the extensive work done to create a floor that was flat enough to safely support a crowd. There was even a stage at one end to support the band. The concerts ended when it became apparent that the sounds the reverberated through the caverns was damaging to the formations. I fully support this move but man, it must have been an amazing experience!

Van Zyl's Hall, location of earlier concerts
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From Van Zyl's Hall, we moved further into the cave system to see more elaborate geological formations. Our guide explained about the people who used to live here and how they used the caves. Then she explained how the formations had come into being, and what their (long-term) future could be.

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Zoomed in on future stalactites
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:07:16 AM
It had been an interesting diversion off the motorcycles, and nice to see inside of a mountain instead of just riding over them. But riding over them is honestly more fun, and there were more mountain passes to experience before we finished the day!

Leaving the Cango Caves behind
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The mountain range that the Cango Cave is part of
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After slinking along between two mountain ranges, our road suddenly swept around a bend, the pavement disappeared, and it gained elevation at a rapid rate. We had reached the beginning of Swartberg Pass!

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Snaking its way along the mountain side
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:09:13 AM
This pass was built between 1881 and 1888 using convict labor. The dry-stone retaining walls, supporting some of its hairpin bends, are still in place and are over 130 years old.

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Take a second and appreciate the scale and geology of these mountains
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At the top of the pass we pulled over to take in the view and grab a few pictures. I was so happy that we had such great weather. It really let us fully appreciate the scenery, while not having to focus too much on the road surface. While we were at the pass, a few very muddy adventure bikes made their way passed us, followed by their own support vehicle. There were a couple of bikes on the trailer - it looks like someone had a bit too much fun! We waved as they went by us.

Here's a fun bit of history of the pass:
"The pass was opened for light traffic from March 1886 and after September of that year the pass was opened to carts and wagon traffic on Fridays. A regular post-coach service was introduced linking Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn over the pass. With much fanfare involving a 21-gun salute and the clinking of champagne glasses, the Swartberg Pass was opened by Colonel F Schermbrucker on 10 January 1888. The Colonel’s words at the opening that, "ten-thousand travellers will in future feast their eyes on this beautiful picture" has echoed over the more than 125-years since this most beautiful of mountain passes was opened."
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:09:39 AM
Swartberg Pass
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Dan for scale!
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Great view of the valley below
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Cresting the pass and coming down the other side - that's the other group's support truck
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"Hello from the other side"
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Not quite paved, but very smooth dirt
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Someday I'll remember to raise my sun visor for photos like this
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:10:12 AM
The other side of the pass was much more interesting than the one we had just come up. While coming up we were given expansive vistas and gently winding corners. Now we were facing steeply descending hair pin corners that dropped us into a deep gorge. It was beautiful to look at, and even more fun to ride.

I'm glad that the surface was good, because the corners tightened up as we descended
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Down into the valley - down, down, down, we go
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If I was a serious geologist, I'd never leave South Africa
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Swartberg Pass was only 20 kilometers, but they were 20 fantastic kilometers. And we still weren't to the bottom!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:10:34 AM
Difficult lighting, but more amazing geology
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The end of the pass. The road straightened out and took us directly to the town of Prince Albert. We had another wonderful Guest House expecting us and I was looking forward a relaxing evening.

Jonathan moved this tortoise from the middle of the road
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One to beam up, Scotty!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:11:29 AM
"The village of Prince Albert was founded in the early 1800's and in 1849 a post office was opened, followed by a school in 1852. One of eighteen gabled houses in the village, the 'De Bergkant Lodge' was built by Carel Lotz as a wedding present for his daughter in 1858." Our guest house had some history, to say the least! But unlike the Mountain View Hotel in Lady Grey, our lodgings tonight were spacious, well maintained and comfortable.

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We were each offered a glass of sherry upon our arrival
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I want a tree like this in my yard!
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The pool and breakfast area
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Reception area in the Manor House
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 15, 2020, 04:12:10 AM
When Dan and I brought our gear up to our room we were met with a most unusual and unexpected surprise: a Basel Läckerli! This is a specialty known only in Basel; to see it here, over 9,000 kilometers from home, was crazy. Of course, this led to a conversation with our hostess later that evening, with the obvious-yet-surprising news that she is originally from Basel. And the world gets smaller...

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The irony of having a large tub, yet signs everywhere to conserve water
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His and Hers shower heads!
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We re-grouped and made the short walk to the village center - and to dinner. We arrived at the Gallery Cafe, which looked nothing like a restaurant from the outside, and was only reachable by climbing a set of well-worn wooden steps. It was worth the climb though, as the service was good and the food we were served was excellent.

Sunset during the walk to dinner
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The Gallery - the Cafe was next door
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Another Kudu meal was consumed and desserts were had by everyone. With all of this great food, I'm going to have a hard time fitting into my motorcycle gear!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 02:59:49 PM
January 30 - Thursday - Storm River

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/CAovd9GzG4koHYrD9)

Much to my dismay, Prince Albert has mosquitos. And even worse, they were in our room. I had been enjoying the strong, cool, breeze that blew through our windows that evening, and naively assumed that leaving the windows open would guarantee a good night's sleep with plenty of fresh air. Instead, I spent a good portion of the night hiding under the blanket, keenly aware of how much I was not sleeping while I waited for the next whine of the little buggers. Other than that, it was a comfortable night!

Breakfast by the pool
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The breakfast buffet was light and healthy - just like I would expect from a Swiss person. Yogurt, muesli, veggies, meats, cheeses, cereals and juices; everything looked fresh and tasty. There were a couple of interesting additions to the layout that I have never seen before:

The juice pitchers had delicate lace clothes draped over them, weighted down by beautiful beadwork
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There were little rotating fans to keep insects from flying in the area
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:00:17 PM
At 9 o'clock our bikes were packed and we were ready to hit the road. We were heading east, parallel to the Groot Swartberg Nature Reserve.

"I am Groot."
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The roads were flat and straight. Oh-so-straight. It really was unbelievable just how straight a road could be.

Borrowed from GoogleMaps because I can't find my photos
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We had reached the edges of the Nature Reserve and the road took an abrupt turn south, into the Reserve itself. I assumed that we'd cross over the mountains, but instead of a road that crested over the top of the range, this road cut its way through, following the natural contours of the Grootrivier.

The Garden Route - "you are here"
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:00:46 PM
We had pulled off for a short diversion: the Meiringspoort Waterfall. It was a nice place to stop, and the waterfall itself was just a couple of minutes' walk from the parking area. I was once again happy that I finally had a pair of boots that are comfortable to walk in for more than ten minutes.

Walking to the waterfall
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The waterfall
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I would have loved to have taken more photos, but the lighting was "difficult" and I knew that I would just be frustrated with the under/over exposed pictures I'd have when I got home. So I took minimal photos and burned the images into my memory instead.

Walking back to the bikes
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I spied this pair napping in the cliff face
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After a quick fill-up in De Rust we once again headed east down yet another long, flat and very straight road.

More straight roads
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:01:04 PM
In the middle of one of those straight stretches of road, there was a sudden slow down and stop. At first it wasn't clear what was the cause, but eventually I could jockey into position to get a better look: a truck carrying a massive load of hay bales had lost part of its load. And the police took this opportunity to check the registrations of the vehicles that were now stopped. Fortunately he only checked Hana's bike and was apparently satisfied that we were all part of the same group and let us all go by.

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Oops
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And back up to speed
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I have to admit that when people raved about "The Garden Route" this is not at all what I had in mind. I was expecting more scenery, more curves, more dramatic elevation changes. The name comes from the verdant and diverse vegetation found here and the numerous estuaries and lakes dotted along the coast. That all sounds lovely, but it didn't seem like what I experienced. This photo is what I think of now when someone says "Oh! The Garden Route!"

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:01:24 PM
Our coffee stop today was in Uniondale, whose only claim to fame appears to be a ghost". Apparently the ghost is "a young woman who stands alone alongside the lonely stretch of road between Uniondale and Willowmore. When people stop to offer her a lift, she gets into the car and then – unsettlingly - vanishes." 

No ghosts hitched a ride with me when traveling through here. Bummer!

Coffee stop
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View across the street; that's a >Boer War monument on the hill in the background
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I zoomed in on the monument
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Back on the road!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:01:43 PM
It was a really short ride after the coffee break before the pavement ran out. The new road surface was fast and easy packed dirt, and our group spaced itself out into "those who love dirt" and "those who tolerate dirt". And then me: "I love dirt but want to take photos". I ended up being at the back of the pack, and eventually back far enough that the dust had settled by the time I came by.

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This region reminded me a lot of eastern Oregon. The pine trees gave off a wonderful smell in the heat, the dry-but-green hills, and the mountains in the distance all made me think of the trips I'd taken through the Oregon outback. But this was not Oregon - this was South Africa!

The road was narrow, and narrowed considerably more as it dropped down into a valley. This wasn't an issue except that it was still a two-way road and many of the corners were blind. And while the road was fairly remote, it was still active and I had to keep on my toes - and on the left hand side of the road!

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:02:05 PM
We had reached the bottom of the valley, which was just a narrow flat area where the Keurboomrivier flows through. We were on Prince Alberts Pass, and it was a glorious road. The weather was outstanding - not too hot - and recent rain kept the dust down.

Angie's G-Spot
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Outstanding views
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We had stopped again for the view and some water. The road had been much more technical then I had expected. Nothing strenuous, but still enough ruts and switchbacks and loose patches to keep me on my toes. And when I'm on my toes, that means that the camera is not in my hand, so there is no photographic evidence.

Always something on the road to be aware of
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Workers taking care of the roadside
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:02:28 PM
We stopped for a break and a re-grouping of riders and the support truck. The views were amazing; I was really enjoying today's riding.

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While at one of our stops we were joined by a local rider "Jerry". He's from Cape Town and made this road part of one of his regular routes. Yes, we had taken a very roundabout way to get here. If we had been serious about getting to Prince Albert pass from Cape Town, we could have been here in six hours instead of five days. I could see making this a nice weekend overnight ride, if I lived in Cape Town.

Jerry at the end of Prince Albert Pass
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We returned to pavement, but not for long. It was lunch time! And Hana and David had quite a feast in store for us: we were going to a winery! And I am embarrassed to say that I do not know the name. This is really too bad, too, as it was an amazing meal.

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I love this style of map
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This meal was unique on this trip, as it was served "family style". Our servers just kept on bring platter after platter of scrumptious food to our table. Fresh bread, salmon, calamari, various salads...it was all amazing and our group was in full agreement that it was the best lunch we'd had so far.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:02:51 PM
The rest of today's riding was generally uneventful. We were on a major road and heading towards the coast. The speeds were fast and the traffic light.

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Toll roads suck on a motorcycle
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I loved these flowers, but had a hard time capturing them with my camera
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We were heading for "The Fernery Lodge and Chalets" near Storms River and in the Tsitsikamma National Park. It was a long, dirt road through a dense pine forest.

Colorful cows in this region
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Through a dense pine plantation
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Arriving at The Fernery
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Once we reached the Lodge itself there was a bit of confusion as to where we staying and how our bags would get there. The property was large, with individual lodges for us accessible by a walkway. But should we leave our bikes near reception? Or should we park them closer? They had someone to carry our bags to our rooms, but it was not clear how or when that would happen. But like most things, it worked itself out and we were soon in yet another amazing accommodation.

The pool, overlooking the Sanddriftrivier that flows into the Indian ocean
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Our lodge
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Another dual headed shower![/img]
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We had some time to explore the grounds, which Dan and I did gladly. We found that it is called "The Fernery" because they actually supply plants (ferns!) commercially. My green thumb was quite happy to see their green houses.

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Pond plants on the property
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Dew-covered webs
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Morning view of the Sanddriftrivier
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Right on the ocean!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 18, 2020, 03:03:48 PM
I should be able to post up Day 6 by the weekend. I hope that I am still spinning an entertaining tale for you :popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: viffergyrl on March 18, 2020, 03:22:53 PM
I should be able to post up Day 6 by the weekend. I hope that I am still spinning an entertaining tale for you :popcorn:

Yes! Yes! Yes!  :wings:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Skee on March 18, 2020, 05:30:15 PM
I should be able to post up Day 6 by the weekend. I hope that I am still spinning an entertaining tale for you :popcorn:

Yes! Yes! Yes!  :wings:

Yes! Yes! Yes!  :wings:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: coho on March 18, 2020, 06:07:22 PM
:popcorn:

Carry on.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: R Doug on March 18, 2020, 06:25:38 PM
I did not expect this level of diverse landscapes.  Flip'n epic.

Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:12:28 PM
I did not expect this level of diverse landscapes.  Flip'n epic.

I was well and truly surprised as well! Pleasantly surprised, of course   8)
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:14:05 PM
January 31 - Friday - Addo

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/nwE2EwvW64abfJaUA)

I loved last night's lodging! It was very cozy and comfortable, and I slept quite well. We had breakfast at 8 am at the restaurant on site and planned to leave right afterwards. We wanted to get to our next destination in time for lunch. It would be another short day of riding, and with the humidity levels and temperatures this morning already, I was only too glad to hear it.

Leaving The Fernery behind
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I noticed that throughout South Africa there was always someone walking or standing along the roadsides. Many kids walked along the roads in their school uniforms, making their way home from classes in the late afternoon. The kids were almost always excited to see us ride by, with many waves and cheers greeting our odd caravan. The adults also seemed pleased to see us, especially out in the countryside. The shepherds in particular were quick to wave.  There were also people who stood at the side of the road in hopes of either someone stopping to pick them up or at least one of the numerous shuttle vans would come and get them. It seemed like a good system for a country that otherwise had a severe lack of public transit infrastructure.

Hitching a ride at the side of the road
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We were back on the toll road, but only for a short time. The temperature gauge on the bike's instrument display was rising. So far it had only gone from 27 C to 28 C, but I got the sense that it was going to continue to go up.

Large (controlled?) fire as we turn away from the coast
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Hitching a ride!
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Oooo - 33 C!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:14:35 PM
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I found these trees interesting: they had the basic tree shape, and then an extra level of branches above
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We stopped for gas at the wonderfully named town of "Humansdorp," and had a quick coffee in the attached Wimpy's Burger. I had heard of Wimpy's before but didn't know much about it. I think that I associate it with "Wimpy" of Popeye fame - not that that really means anything. They had the usual fast food menu though, and plenty of coffee selections for the coffee connoisseurs among us.

Coffee break!
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There were a lot of people milling around near the gas station. It was payday and many of them looked dressed up for the occasion. They also lined up for blocks, presumably to cash their pay checks. I heard that it was a bad time to be on the road, as they tended to celebrate payday with a few drinks. Well, we'd be off the road in another hour or two, so hopefully we'd be safe.

Evidence of "The Garden Route": many citrus orchards
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Ugh
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:15:03 PM
As long as we kept moving, the heat didn't seem so bad. The scenery was green with open, rolling hills and it was pleasant to ride through. It wasn't challenging and the views were nice, but not overly interesting.

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That all changed when we reached the outskirts of the town of Uitenhage.

Outskirts of Uitenhage
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Something serious had happened here, and recently, too. There were numerous blackened lines across the road, the remains of a road block created to "disrupt funeral processions until the paving of Siwani Street is complete. Over 400 mourners were stopped from using Matanzima Road on Thursday afternoon, as about 100 protesters blocked it with rubble." The shacks that I could see looked empty in the midday heat, with the exception of three people who appeared to be building something

Future neighborhood?
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Two of many burn marks on the road
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Substandard housing near Uitenhage
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Selling food on the side of the road
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:18:16 PM
This region seems to have a lot of problems, based on what I found while researching the reason for the above protests. I found article headlines such as:

- Uitenhage residents want their pothole left alone (https://www.groundup.org.za/article/residents-want-their-pothole-left-alone/) - Land occupiers use water from the pothole for bathing and boil it for cooking

- Protesters say councillor’s office will remain closed (https://www.groundup.org.za/article/protesters-say-councillors-office-will-remain-closed-until-their-toilets-are-cleaned/) until their toilets are cleaned - Uitenhage residents say seven toilets for 500 people are “full of faeces” and unusable

- Pigs feast on human excrement (https://www.groundup.org.za/article/pigs-feast-human-excrement-township-drain-overflows/) as township drain overflows

It seems like the region is the plagued with social problems  :crazy:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:18:38 PM
Meanwhile, the temperature was still climbing
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Rolling through a quiet town
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More scenic roads
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Almost there!
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And not a moment too soon!
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South Africa uses narrow gauge tracks - and they really do seem narrow!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:26:47 PM
We turned off the main road, crossed those narrow gauge tracks and reached the entrance to Addo Elephant Park. We had arrived!

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Hana arranged for our entry through the gates (check out those massive elephant skulls!) and we pulled ahead. But it turned out that we weren't done yet. The plan was to have lunch, leave the bikes here inside the park, and hitch a ride on a safari truck to our accommodations at River Bend Lodge.

Lunch was good and our driver was waiting for us by the time we were done. Because River Bend Lodge is a private game reserve outside of the park, and the long drive to the safety of the lodge buildings passed through the animals' territory, we were not allowed to ride our motorcycles within the grounds. For this reason, we needed a ride.

I'm not sure what sort of deal Hana and David have worked out, but the bikes stay here
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The gates to River Bend Lodge
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This is why we are not riding here!
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Immediate animal sightings
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"Show me your best side"
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The lodges at River Bend
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:27:36 PM
There was another gate to pass through and now we were "safe" inside an electrified fence. This fence made sure that the lions, baboons and other animals did not disturb us while we were spoiling ourselves in the pool or dining at the restaurant. The fence was subtle enough that we could easily watch the elephants stroll by, elands graze and the monkeys play in the fields.

Set on its own private 14,000 hectacre within the heart of SANPark’s “Big 5” Addo Elephant National Park, River Bend Lodge is known for colonial grace and luxury. The main building is a restored Eastern Cape farmhouse, with the original trees and vegetation still covering the landscape. Newer buildings had been built in a comfortable array around the property, giving each suite privacy while still keeping the overall footprint to a minimum.

A view of the grounds
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This bed is almost bigger than our bedroom at home!
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We dropped off our gear and bags, sorted out a bag of laundry that the staff would process for us, and put on some clean (and cool!) clothes after taking a refreshing shower - in our private outdoor shower, of course! I really had gone overboard in choosing this particular tour. I never expected this extravagant level of luxury. But hey: a person only celebrates turning 50 once in their life, right?

A very short tour of the grounds led us to the pool, which was the perfect place to relax in the afternoon heat
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Awww - Dan's martini glass is empty!
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The electric fence doesn't keep everyone out (but they never came close to us, that I noticed)
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Seats for viewing elephants at the waterhole
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Resident Leopard tortoise
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 19, 2020, 02:28:02 PM
It was a relaxing afternoon. Some rested in their rooms, some used the time to call family members, and some of us sat in the shade and enjoyed a cool beverage and conversation. Dinner wasn't going to be until much later - close to sunset, actually - so we had plenty of time to ourselves and it was nice not to have "something on the agenda".

I zoomed in on a train in the distance - 4x engines, many, many, many cars; coal for the local energy plant?
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A quick check of the waterhole before dinner
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South African sunset
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When we sat down for our meal, the staff handed us our menus and inside was a personlized letter to each of us, welcoming us to River Bend. It was a nice touch, even if they did misspell my name. Our servers were egnimatic and friendly. I noticed for the first time that instead of saying "You're welcome", they said "Pleasure". Which lead to exchanges like:

"The meal was fantastic!"
"Pleasure"

It was a nice change to the usual phrase.

We were studying the menu when the lights went out. Needless to say, we were surprised. But the staff weren't - apparently this happens every night between 7 and 9 pm. The country cannot supply enough electricity for everyone, so various areas are shut down ("load shedding") at regular intervals. It seemed like an inconvenience that should not be tolerated by the populace, but the government was too strapped for cash to "fix it". I had seen some wind turbines on this trip, but the cost of them was too high to offer any serious coverage. It really is a shame, considering the constant and strong winds that we had experienced so far.

The staff brought out electric lanterns so that we could order our dishes and later, see what we were eating. The meal was fantastic, with a lovely variety of dishes on offer. By the time we finished our meal (and dessert, of course), the electricity had been restored. We said our good nights early, as we had plans for an early morning: a 5:30 am game drive!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: PatM on March 19, 2020, 02:40:39 PM
I never pictured South Africa to this beautiful. Thanks for posting.

ps 42°C is hot
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Virginian on March 19, 2020, 03:57:01 PM
Jaw dropping beauty!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: st2sam on March 19, 2020, 05:59:43 PM
ps 42°C is hot

Oh ya, about 107*F.. 

Best report ever DD..  :popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 11:36:17 AM
February 1 - Saturday - Safari (morning)

Five thirty was early. But Dan and I got up and met with our driver for this morning's activities. I could not tell you her name, but it was awesome with a native "click" tucked in the middle of it! Very cool to hear.

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The electric fence and active beehives
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Hana and David had brought their last tour group here, but they said that they hadn't seen any animals the entire time that they were here. And considering that the tour included the luxury of two nights here, that was saying something!

We set out through the gates with immediate guidance: two male lions had been spotted just a few minutes from the lodge. Because this is a private reserve, there is discussion among the staff as to known locations, so we headed in that direction immediately.

We were well-rewarded.

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One of two male cubs on the reserve, heading back to momma
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The lions had reportedly caught and ate a zebra the day before, so they had full bellies and really didn't care if we stared at them with wonder and awe.

Look at that full belly!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 11:36:45 AM
The other safari truck left the area and our vehicle moved into a better position. Not that our first position left much to be desired.

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Eventually one of the males sat up and looked around
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Looks like someone got into a fight
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Walking around the front of our truck - so big and so close!
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I was in such awe of being so close that I completely forgot that my camera can take videos. Hana took one, so I will see if I can get a copy from her to share here.

Everything about this guy is big
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 11:37:20 AM
After taking a long lap of water, the lion wandered off to find somewhere else to sleep off his meal. We took the hint and went in search of other animals. It didn't take long at all before we found a jackal:

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And a trio of mongooses (Mongeese? Mongoosi?)
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African pied crow - great color pattern!
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Another jackal
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Landscape of the reserve
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 11:37:53 AM
I was pleased to see that today was not yet sunny or too warm. Without the sun beating down on my head, I found it to be a comfortable ride through the reserve. More recent rains also promoted the growth of herbivore foods and filled the watering holes.

One of the 300 species of birds on the reserve (and I forgot which one this is)
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That's a nasty looking thorn bush
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We drove back towards the lodge and then went off in another direction. With almost 35,000 acres of land, we had a lot of area to cover!

Kudu - cute and tasty!
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An ex-elephant
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Knowing that the lions were sleeping elsewhere in the park, our guide was comfortable in getting out of the truck to show us some of the native plants found in the region.

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A native's coffee substitute
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Looking back at the lodge
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The early morning start time was more difficult for some in the group
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Cool African starlings
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 12:14:27 PM
And then we could see them: a couple of elephants rumbling around in the bushes. Our guide pulled our truck (the "human rhino", as I liked to think of it) down a lane and then passed some tall vegetation. We had found the elephants.

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Many elephants!
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They say that while on safari, you have the best chance to see animals during a drought because they all congregate at the dwindling number of watering holes. But during a drought there is also a lot less food, so the animals that you do see are often thin, or sick. Personally, I'd prefer to take my chances on not seeing any animals if it meant that they were healthy and well-fed. On this trip, I scored on both accounts: lush vegetation and many healthy animals were seen.

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Just looking for a willing partner (he was in musth)
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We followed the couple of elephants we had first found and they led us into an opening with even more elephants. There were probably at least twenty elephants in this group, of both sexes and of varying ages.

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Video (https://photos.smugmug.com/MotorcycleTrips-1/Moto-Africa/South-Africa-2020/Day-7---Feb-1---Addo/i-whDGCDj/0/3ccca642/1280/P1120002-1280.mp4) of elephants and our proximity to them

I love it when the young ones get feisty and stick out their ears!
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Video (https://photos.smugmug.com/MotorcycleTrips-1/Moto-Africa/South-Africa-2020/Day-7---Feb-1---Addo/i-ksmdZWn/0/8406478a/1280/P1120066-1280.mp4) of a teenager who wasn't sure what to make of us

Probably one of the better photos I've taken
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The detail of an elephant butt - who knew it would be so interesting?
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 12:21:08 PM
Our guide followed the elephants for a little bit longer, trailing behind them as they made their way down the road. To my uneducated eye, it seemed like we were following too closely, but I like to think that the driver knew what she was doing.

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Video (https://photos.smugmug.com/MotorcycleTrips-1/Moto-Africa/South-Africa-2020/Day-7---Feb-1---Addo/i-DZRxs8W/0/a352b280/1280/P1120057-1280.mp4) as we followed the two above

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I took a lot of photos - they were so amazing to watch!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 12:21:36 PM
While I could have watched these creatures wander the landscape for hours, I doubt that the elephants would have appreciated it. We slowly pulled away and went off to see who else was out enjoying the still-overcast morning. We didn't have far to go when we saw this distinctive guy:

The warthog
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More zebras
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While we watched the zebras chase each other in the morning dew, it was time for a tea break. Like we did in Gondwana, hot thermoses were pulled out and tins of biscuits cracked open. Ah, this is the life.

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More thorn bushes - that could be painful!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 12:22:57 PM
As we traveled down the main road I spied a different large group of elephants off to one side. I guess one could say we were on a "trunk" road (thank you - I'll see myself out). The zoom lens came in handy here, as the group was fairly far off in the distance.

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And then we spied her: a tiny baby lost in a sea of legs and trunks. Our guide estimated her age to be about 2 - 3 days. Days!

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Sticking close to momma
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Staying under momma keeps her safe from both predators and the sun
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Video (https://photos.smugmug.com/MotorcycleTrips-1/Moto-Africa/South-Africa-2020/Day-7---Feb-1---Addo/i-MZk5nj6/0/ebf0928a/1280/P1120143-1280.mp4) of the baby staying under momma

Video (https://photos.smugmug.com/MotorcycleTrips-1/Moto-Africa/South-Africa-2020/Day-7---Feb-1---Addo/i-PmrjQtZ/0/d47a88ad/1280/P1120133-1280.mp4) showing the protection of the herd
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 12:24:06 PM
Just a note: there are some video links in the above posts. If you're just scrolling through for eye candy, you might miss them  :popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 20, 2020, 12:24:24 PM
Our day had been fantastic - and we hadn't even had breakfast yet! After watching the baby and her (I have no idea if it was male of female, to be honest) antics, we put the safari truck back on the trunk road (yes, I am finding this amusing) and meandered our way back towards the lodge.

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Our morning safari was over. It had been a grand three hour tour of the River Bend reserve, and I felt very lucky to have seen as much as I did.

Back through the lodge gates
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The rest of the day was ours to do with as we liked. There was a lovely breakfast on the porch while we watched yet more elephants wander by. Oh, and the power was cut during breakfast as well. Apparently this location suffers load shedding twice a day, for two hours at a time, which happened to be during breakfast and dinner.

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Nests of the southern masked weaver
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Southern masked weaver visits its young
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Another Leopard tortoise, eating the garden
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I still can't get over the size of these thorns
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And then it was nothing but relaxing, be it by the pool, resting in our rooms, enjoying a late lunch or going through the photos that had just been taken. For Hana and I, it was a shorter break than for the guys: we had opted to go on a bonus afternoon safari. I had seen so much already, but there was always the potential of "more". Plus, how often would I have this opportunity?
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:40:43 PM
February 2 - Sunday - Lady Grey

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/WXr65tgmgEwZYpFo6)

I left the rains down in Aaaaaaaa-frica! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTQbiNvZqaY)

We had an amazing thunderstorm just as we were crawling into bed the previous night. It rained some, but not nearly as much as I expected based on the frequent sharp flashes of lightning and the extreme rooooooolllllling thunder. It was hard to go to bed and miss out on any of it.

There was an early breakfast (when the power was cut, of course!) where we were "joined" by an Eland and some monkeys in the nearby field.

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A troop of Vervet monkeys
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After breakfast we threw our bags in the truck and were driven back to Addo Park. Our bikes were waiting for us, just a little bit dustier than how we left them. Once our bikes had been re-packed and our gear was on, we hit the road.

And that road was unpaved!
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Termite mound - there were fields full of these!
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Hello Tom!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:41:33 PM
It was a nice road and it felt good to "stretch my legs" again, after a day off the motorcycle. But once we met up with the pavement, the miles went by quickly. We would make good time today, which was welcome, considering that we had almost 500 kilometers to cover!

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Pushing their car - uphill
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Bridge to nowhere
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Hitching a ride
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Coming into Fort Beaufort
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:41:53 PM
A perfectly cloudy day
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Entering the Mpofu Nature reserve
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Waterdown Dam
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A cow, rubbing against the front door
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The burning landfill
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:42:17 PM
We were visiting <a href="https://www.queenstown.co.za/history.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Queenstown[/url] for lunch. It was a big city, with just under 100,000 residents, and the streets were full of people walking or sitting around, buying and selling. It was a city of industry!

But it was also a city that had a past to recover from. "After the world wide depression in the 1920's, Queenstown once again entered a period of prosperity while still acting as a supply and educational center for surrounding farmers and smaller towns. After 1948, and the beginning of the Apartheid era, the district changed character as white owned farms were bought out and the land incorporated in the Transkei and Ciskei and settled with people. Queenstown has since then been a service centre for these people." (<a href="https://www.queenstown.co.za/history.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Link[/url])

Queenstown
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It was hot. We crammed our bikes into the limited parking in front of Wimpy's Bugers and I was only too happy to go inside and cool off in the air conditioned shade. After an OK meal (the planned lunch location had apparently closed since Hana and David had been here last), we geared up and I reluctantly went back out into the sun.

Jonathan had expressed interest in trying out the 850, so he and I planned to switch bikes for a short bit of the afternoon's ride. That meant that I'd be riding the 1250, which while I had no real interest in riding it, I admit that was curious what a back-to-back comparison would be like.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:42:44 PM
Because Jonathan now had my bike, he also had my tank bag and therefore my cameras. Fortunately for us both, the switch was short-lived. We had pulled over in a small rest area and Jonathan was only too ready to hand me my keys back. He liked the bike well enough for handling, but the reduced windscreen created too much wind flow for his comfort. Me? I was happy to have the smaller, more responsive 850 back under me.

Back on the road
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I loved today's clouds - so fluffy!
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It is a big country
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Somewhere outside of Aliwal North
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Friendly locals
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Aliwal North
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Wherever we go, we get an audience
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Nice church across the street
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:43:10 PM
After filling up our bikes we had just a short way to go before we reached our destination: the town of Lady Grey. This was a new location for the tour, as Hana and David were always trying to find "the best" for their customers. They warned us that they didn't have any personal experience with tonight's hotel, so they asked for our understanding if it turned out to be "less than perfect".

Leaving Aliwal North behind
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The outskirts of Lady Grey
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As we traveled east, the land was consistently getting greener and more lush. But whereas the drier regions from the last few days seemed populated with people trying hard to get anything to grow there, the fields I saw here looked empty and overgrown. It seemed like a poor use of resources, but with the political history of the region, I could (sort of) understand why.   

One of the white owned farms that had been bought out and now sat abandoned
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Kids cooling off in the pond
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:43:40 PM
Lady Grey is a small town, but like most towns we had traveled through, the sidewalks and berms were full of people. It was surprising just how many people were sitting around, with what looked like nowhere to go anytime soon. I saw this phenomena all over South Africa: there were always people around, whether we were in a city or in the middle of the countryside.

We worked our way through the town, found our hotel, and parked the bikes for the day. It had been a surprisingly comfortable ride considering the number of kilometers we had covered and the heat of the day.

Mountain View "Boutique Hotel" in Lady Grey
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The building was an old one, "full of character", as one would say. Personally I love a place with this much character, but others expected a bit more class and finish, based on some of the comments that I heard. Since this was only Hana and David's second time running this route, it was a very fluid plan and they were always looking for ways to improve it, either via the route taken or places stayed. I think that they will continue to search for an alternative the next time they come this way. As for me, I love learning about the history of such a place, trying to imagine the variety of people that have passed through over the years. From the hotel's website:

"The age of the building is unknown (est. built in 1832) but we know that it was already operating as a Hotel in about 1872 when HR Giddy and his brother OS Giddy stayed over. ... On passing through Lady Grey, they “put up at the Commercial Hotel also known as Rose’s Hotel and today named the Mountain View Hotel”. This indicates that the Inn is more than 140 years old. In those early days, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Rose, a German, was the owner of the Commercial Hotel.  When he died in 1897 his son, Carlie, took over. Carlie added a large stable, forage and harness room, cart shed and a four room cottage to the Hotel. Today this is the laundry, workshop, garages and storage rooms at the back of the hotel."

Stuff like this fascinates me!

Registration and lobby area
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Staircase to the upper rooms
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Upstairs hallway
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Our very small room, with a very awkward toilet/shower area
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View of the town from the front balcony
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 25, 2020, 04:44:00 PM
There was some time to kick back and relax before dinner. Dan and I even made the effort to clean off our motorcycle chains. That is one advantage of the 1250s: they have a shaft drive and relatively little maintenance. There wasn't enough time to really walk back into the heart of the town see in more detail what it had to offer, although to be honest, our initial drive through didn't inspire me to want to explore on foot.

Behind the main hotel building
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Spring rose
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Dinner was at 7 o'clock, which was perfectly timed with the load shedding of the region. Candles were brought out and some electric lighting was visible - apparently there was a generator somewhere on site. We were sitting in the darkened red dining room, with one other group of people sharing the space with us. The karaoke machine provided some music, and our group joked that we'd do some singing later. Thank goodness that never materialized!

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Rita was our waitress and she was a blast! She had so much enthusiasm and energy, dancing around as she explained what was - and wasn't - on the menu that night. Because of the load shedding, we couldn't have anything that required frying. No worries - we were here for some Kudu steak!

We finished our meal before the electricity came back on, so it was a good thing we had brought our flashlights with us. Dan and I went back up to our room, prepared for a relaxing evening and anticipated another exciting day of riding.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 02:40:52 AM
Just a note that the next day is a lot of photos. LOTS. I could not get enough of the beauty and the roads, and it went on All Freakin' Day.

 
 :needpics:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 02:42:31 AM
February 3 - Monday - Lesotho

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/1xnZd92WLxvsbdfa7)

We left the window open to enjoy the sounds of the thunder, the pitter-patter of rain, and feel the cool breeze. Unfortunately, we also enjoyed the whine of mosquitos. I did not sleep as well as I had hoped I would. I was awake at 2 am, and was fully awake at 6 am. Interestingly enough, the bed seemed to be permanently fitted with a most uncomfortable heated pad - complete with thick cables crisscrossing underneath me. Shelves in the corner of the room had heavy wool blankets on them, making me wonder just how cold it got during the winter in this region. I was rather wishing it was that cold.

Breakfast was served in the room next to the red dining room and while dinner had been great, breakfast was mediocre. We didn't hang around long and were only too eager to get back on the road.

The breakfast nook
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Today was a day that I been anticipating since I booked this tour: Lesotho, the Kingdom in the Sky. "The Kingdom of Lesotho is situated on a highland plateau entirely within South Africa. The lowest point in the mountainous country is 1,400 meters (4,593 ft) above sea level. It is home to 2.2 million residents, most of them poor, living off the land as farmers" (wiki). We were in for some good riding today.

I had no idea just how amazing it would be.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 02:43:26 AM
Leaving Lady Grey behind
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Goats!
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Deeply eroded river channels
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It was in this region that I noticed the appearance of octagonal houses. They all seemed of fairly recent construction and I could not figure out why this design would be preferred over the standard four-walled house. They were not prevalent, but they were common enough to be seen as a regional thing and not just a singular event.

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And standard four-walled buildings
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It was a fast ride to the border: the roads were open and in good condition. We routed around the few towns that we saw; there was nothing to slow us down!

Heading for the border
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Cubed water tower (I think)
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Car washes were the South African version of "US Nail salons" - so many of them!
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Entering the town of Sterkspruit
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Parasols! They were everywhere
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Sterkspruit was a happening place!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 02:43:47 AM
And back into the open
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A more traditional hut
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Always something walking along the roadside
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Jonathan is giving one of the locals a riding lesson
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I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road (this guy was flying!)
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Lesotho has entered the game
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 02:44:28 AM
The crossing into Lesotho was a breeze! We parked our bikes and walked over to the South African border shack, where only six other people were in line ahead of us. The South African border guard put my passport on the scanner and then inked the exit stamp onto the paper. Then it was back on the bike, rode across the river, and walked up to the Lesotho border station. This was an even easier process: the guard there took my passport, flipped through the pages and then just added the entry stamp to my collection. I was in!

We found out later that Jonathan had taken a photo at the border and was firmly dressed down by one of the border guards. We tease Jonathan for the rest of the day about this; everyone knows that you can't take photos at border crossings! Or if you do take photos, be more clever about it.

Welcome to Lesotho! (crossing the Telle River)
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Border toilets - very specific
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First view of the country
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 02:45:12 AM
As stated earlier, Lesotho really is a poor country. The houses were not grand, there were limited vehicles on the road - and most of the ones I saw were fairly old - and there was almost no evidence of standard Western-style consumption. The countryside was clean, which I assume was due to a lack of there being limited things to be tossed around by the wind. But who knows? Maybe the people of Lesotho have more respect for their land than their neighbors do.

Decoy road - I thought for sure we'd go that way
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But instead we went this way
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And this way went up!
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Looking back at the road
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 02:46:16 AM
We climbed up the arid mountains, Dan and I agreeing that it reminded us somewhat of the American south west, in a vague sort of way. The roads were smooth, which was a surprise. I assumed that a poor country would have poor infrastructure, but I was very wrong. Even the engineering was remarkable, with well-cambered corners and nice sight lines. And then we crested the mountains and it got even better.

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This little foal raced back to his dam when he saw me coming
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 11:02:08 AM
I had to find out more about these round huts. It turns out that they are the traditional dwelling style of the region and are known as "mokhoro" (in South Africa they are called rondavel). Most traditional huts are built of local materials (usually stone) and almost always roofed with thatching. Even more recently built huts are topped with thatch simply because constructing a rounded roof out of anything else takes considerably more skill and money.

Architecture lesson over - back to the landscape!

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 11:02:26 AM
There were so many interesting distractions in this region. I noticed (usually too late to photograph) many small-scale brick makers. They were really small-scale, to the point of maybe four people working on the process at any given time. There were also numerous animals - even more than we saw in South Africa! Because Lesotho is such a poor country, I think that people still rely heavily on their own animals for transportation and food production.

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 11:02:49 AM
Today was just amazing riding. Every direction I looked held such beauty, and every corner brought out new vistas. The camera did not leave my hand very often. And keep in mind: I shared a lot of photos here, but this isn't just because one section of the road was particularly nice. No - the entire day was particularly nice.

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A more modern roof type that frequently popped up
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 11:03:16 AM
(I told you there were a lot of photos from today!  :popcorn: )
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 03:08:13 PM
Zooming in on a village on the other side of a valley
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An enthusiastic wave from a shepherd
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More animals than cars
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Kids!
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White Wellies (the boots) were really common
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Hand-planted corn rows
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Bricks and donkey
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Typical agricultural setting in Lesotho
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Oops
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 03:09:00 PM
The VIEWS!
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New roof installation
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Moving a plow, using just one tire
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Another zoom across another valley
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 03:09:19 PM
The landscape changed slightly but was still wonderful to behold. The clouds were just the icing on the cake. The roads had been empty for the most part - other than the frequent donkey, horse, goat or sheep. The temperatures were perfectly comfortable and the bike felt great under me. This day had climbed to the top of my "best day riding ever!" list.

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Crossing the Senqunyane River
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And into the mountains - and clouds!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 28, 2020, 03:09:45 PM
The clouds on the horizon had been looking threatening for quite some time, but not really knowing which direction we were heading meant that I didn't know if we'd come into contact with them. After crossing Senqunyane River, the road climbed rapidly and directly towards the darkest, blackest clouds we could see. It wasn't long before the flash of lightning lit up the landscape around us. I think that we were going to get wet.

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I tried to catch the lightning - and failed
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Waiting for a ride
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I'm guessing they had some pretty heavy rains recently
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While looking around on Google for interesting tidbits to share in this report, I saw the aerial view of this region. It is amazing! It is truly artistry which could never be fully appreciated from the ground.

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What it looks like from the road
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:04:15 AM
 :wave:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:04:42 AM
Cloud fingers
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This wasn't the only burned out car I passed
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The inevitable drops of rain started to fall and the riders in front of me pulled over to put on their rain gear. I scoffed at the idea: it wasn't cold (20° C) and I figured that I'd dry off just as quickly as I might get wet. Besides, my gear was in the truck. Not very clever I know, but the weather had been so nice, rain never even seemed like an option. But then David pulled up with the truck so I figured I might as well put on the rain jacket. And I'm glad I did.

Dan contemplating life as we put on our rain gear
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The drops had started to fall before we even put our side stands up, and by the time I rounded the next corner, I knew that the rain jacket had been a good idea.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:05:09 AM
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The rain started gently, but didn't take long for the clouds to open up and soak everything under them. Beautiful, glorious rain!

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But if riding in the rain, in the mountains, on unknown roads isn't challenging enough, we ran into what seemed like the Lesotho version of "rush hour". There were dozens of groups of shepherds guiding their flocks up into the mountains, using the same road we were on.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:05:29 AM
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They were very accommodating to our passing, trying their best to move their animals out of the way, and waving as we went by.

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Fluffy clouds and periodic rain
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And yet more animals!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:05:51 AM
We pulled off to the side of the road. Before us was a deep, lush canyon, with waterfalls pouring their contents into the river at the bottom. This would be our last stop before lunch. We had been riding for a while - about five hours - and lunch would be a late one, with us not stopping until almost 2 pm.

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Jonathan goes off, looking for a better view
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:06:41 AM
The rain let up for our entry into the town of Semonkong, which was fortunate as that allowed me to more fully appreciate the "local flavor" of the town and its people. We were heading for lunch at the Semonkong Lodge, down along the river and in the middle of the town. There were many people enjoying the drier air on this side of the mountains.

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Bricks! 'an stuff
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A happening place
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I finally had the chance to check out the saddle type that they used here - very interesting
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Parking lot
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We had threaded our way through the town and then took a pot holed dirt road down a short hill and across the river. It was lunch time at the Lodge!

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Crossing the Semonkong River to Semonkong Lodge
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:07:10 AM
The lunch was good (I had a great burrito; not exactly what I was expecting in Lesotho!) and while we waited for our food, I was entertained by an endless parade of people and animals going by.

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Traditional clothing
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Heavy traffic
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When we stood up to pay, one of the other riders made a terrible discovery: sometime during the morning his wallet had fallen out of his pocket. He still had his passport, but he had no other means of identification or - just as importantly - money. As there was no real way of figuring out when this loss might have happened, it was decided that he'd just have to soldier on for the rest of the trip as best he could. Hana and David, in a true testament to how much they care for their customers, made arrangements to loan him some money, so that he could still enjoy the remainder of the trip. Not that there was much to pay for: the rooms, breakfast and dinner were already covered by the tour. But now at least he had the option to eat lunch and buy any little incidentals that he might need along the way.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:07:38 AM
After lunch the clouds - and the rain - came back
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Most of the day's riding had been tackled and now it was just a matter of getting to tonight's lodging. Or so I thought. Instead we went through more mountains, more rain, and more herds! And more lightning, too. It was almost constant flickering in the clouds above us, with frequent bolts shooting down to the distant ground. It was real "weather"!

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I noticed an interesting situation on one of the corners: there were two young boys madly urging their sheep across the road and out of our way. They wore the comfortable-looking clothes that I had seen on the people of Lesotho and they seemed quite pleased in their success in clearing the road. Then just a minute later I saw half a dozen kids walking down the side of the road all dressed in their smart-looking school uniforms. I wondered at this point how much more privileged the school kids were, compared to the shepherd boys, and how different their futures might be because of this difference.

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It had cooled off considerably, with the temperature gauge reading 12° C. That, along with the rain, made for a dampness that would have invaded my bones, if I hadn't brought along my rain jacket. Regardless, I was really enjoying today, rain or no rain.

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 29, 2020, 10:08:45 AM
Remember all of those herds that were being guided along the road before lunch? Bah! That was nothing! NOW we had really run into the madness of Livestock Rush Hour!

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I thought that we had passed a lot of herders before lunch - it just got crazy after lunch!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 30, 2020, 12:47:34 PM
I guess I'll keep posting, and assume that you guys are enjoying!  :couch:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 30, 2020, 12:47:51 PM
We finally left most of the furry rush hour behind, but not the mountains. Oh no.... we still had more of those to enjoy before our day was over!

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The rain came and went, and came again
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The red soil of the region was really beautiful
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 30, 2020, 12:48:16 PM
The end of our riding came rather abruptly. We turned off the main road, rolled through some green fields and then turned again onto smaller and smaller roads.

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Our lodging tonight was the Botleng Hotel in the town of Makhoathi. It was strikingly European and seemed entirely out of place considering the types of housing I had seen today. The grounds were planted with flowers and bushes, and the buildings were nicely spaced and designed. It was a fairly quick process to sign in and get our rooms, and I admit that I was looking forward to a relaxing evening. It had been a long and wonderfully beautiful day!

We ate together in the restaurant on the grounds, our group just one of a handful there. The restaurant had a really nice buffet set up and I enjoyed the chicken, rice, and vegetables that they had on offer. After our meal, Dan and I went back to our room, which was set up almost like a house: there were three "rooms", all opening onto a central living space and full kitchen. And as typical for this trip, I tried to get online from the comfort of my room, but the wi-fi signal was too weak. The wi-fi signal was always too weak. But I guess I should be grateful if there was any wi-fi at all. Besides, I was on holiday!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: st2sam on March 30, 2020, 09:30:44 PM
"furry rush hour"  :lol:

   :popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 11:38:23 AM
"furry rush hour"  :lol:

   :popcorn:

I have never shared the road with more animals that I have that day - it was insane!!!  :o

One guy almost hit a goat! Dan has it on video, but the video sorting comes later, I guess...
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:15:14 PM
February 4 - Tuesday - Clarens

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/rqNM6VdhTFN5ip799)

Our room had an air conditioner but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to run it. Instead, we left the windows open for a cool breeze. This turned out to be a mistake: mosquitos! I noticed the first one just after midnight, and woke up a few more times throughout the night, aware that Dan and I had many tiny winged creatures in our room. Eventually, we turned on the lights, Dan figured out the A/C and I went around the room and smashed the mosquitos that had settled on the walls.

The previous evening our group had deliberated about our start time, proposed route and the weather forecast. There was heavy rain coming in the afternoon, but would we have enough time to complete the planned route before it hit? Clearly the previous day's ride showed that riding in the rain itself wasn't a problem, but today's route included 50 kilometers of dirt roads. And dirt roads in the rain would not fun.

The end result was that we chose to have an early breakfast and an early departure. It was probably one of the quickest departures that we had made so far on this trip: we were on the road before 8 o'clock!

A shot of the Botleng Hotel in the morning light
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View from the grounds
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We stopped shortly to fuel up - here is a surreptitious shot of the guards in the background
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Brick-making!
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Cemetery
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:16:58 PM
Regardless of the afternoon's forecast, this morning's weather was excellent. It was a comfortable temperature, the winds weren't too strong, and the blue sky was dazzling. The road conditions continued to be excellent and the scenery pleasing. This would give yesterday a run for its money for Best Day of Riding (Ever)!

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You can still see the original bridge down below
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More hand-planted corn fields
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Terraced fields in the distance
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More brick making
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:17:21 PM
We were crossing back in towards the center of the country, traversing more mountains and enjoying ever-better views. There was very little in the way of human civilization here. What we did see were primitive but tidy homes and periodically a cheerful shepherd or two.

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House ruins with a cemetery plot in the background
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That's a big 'un!
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Wide open views
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Sheep pen
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The roads just kept on going, always offering up great curves and vistas
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Fascinating geology, too
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:17:45 PM
The mountains that we were riding on now were wide open with long, lazy corners and sightlines that went on forever. There were few buildings, and surprisingly little in the way of agriculture or livestock. Sure, there was the random herd of goats of sheep, but with such verdant slopes I expected to see more pastureland.

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Currently on top of the world
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This went on for hours
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Never let your guard down
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A glimpse of the internal roof structure
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:18:10 PM
The beautiful road brought us down the mountain to the small town of Thaba-Tseka (population 15,248!). And even though we had descended, our elevation was still over 2,200 m. We were sailing through the Kingdom in the Sky!

At Thaba-Tseka we stopped again for gas and re-grouping. From here we would be on dirt roads, followed by a picnic lunch. The gas "station" was a small shack in the middle of a sloping field of dirt. Only two bikes at a time could be filled so I had plenty of time to look around and watch the goings-on. The owner of the station looked to be a young Chinese guy and he seemed to have a good handle on his business and his employees.

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Using a calculator to show the cost of a fill up
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I love this guy's blanket
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The weather looked like it was holding up and rain wouldn't be a problem. Time to turn off the ABS and stand up on the pegs!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:18:29 PM
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The outskirts of Thaba-Tseka
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Eventually the group spread itself out on the dirt, with Dan hot on Hana's heels and me right behind him. The other guys settled in behind us, finding their comfort zone and enjoying the day.

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:18:56 PM
For as poor as the country was, there was a remarkable difference to what I had seen in South Africa. Dan and I agreed that the people of Lesotho, while poor, seemed happier with what they had than their neighbors. It looked like they took more pride in their homes and yards, and the people looked generally content.

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Uh oh! Looks like weather!
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Re-grouping
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Hana and Dan had stopped ahead of me and when I rounded the bend, I saw that a long, muddy stretch was between me and them. Hana motioned to me to slow down - or was it "maintain speed"? - and I just smiled as I powered my way through the mud. Fun times!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on March 31, 2020, 02:19:38 PM
I pulled over to chat with them and was in time to watch Tom come along and slide into the mud, putting his motorcycle on its side. Oops! We rushed over to help him right the bike and push it onto the dirt. Other than the potential for a couple of bruises, Tom was OK. A small crowd had gathered from the neighboring homes to watch the excitement. I can't imagine that this must happen very often, as we really were in the middle of nowhere.

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The group distribution had shifted greatly after this point, and Jonathan and I were now following Hana. Dan was somewhere behind me, our Senas' connection coming and going as we went around mountains and lost line-of-sight. No worries: Dan loves riding on dirt roads and I was sure that he was having a fun time back there. And then it started to rain, ever-so-slightly. Hana stopped to wait for the others and motioned for Jonathan and I to go ahead, being careful and waiting for the group when we reached pavement.

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It actually wasn't that far to the pavement and Jon and I had time to relax while we waited. Jon had also dropped his bike on this road and had quite a layer of mud on his gear and bike. He grabbed a spoon (it was the closest thing he had) and started to pry off the larger chunks.

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We were at a T-junction with just a couple of buildings, one of them a bar with a (very) loud sound system and someone with a taste for some pretty hard-rocking music. A few people wandered by, but we didn't seem to cause much of a stir with our presence. One local approached us and went on for a while about needing someone "on the inside" in the US. in order to get a foothold on a way "in".  Jonathan was more patient than I was and gave the guy his email address to see if he could help once he was back home.

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Waiting for the rest of the group to arrive over that hillside
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Milan and Georg pulled up and explained the delay: Dan had a moment of "too much fun" and crashed his bike in a corner. Um... what? Georg said that he wasn't sure how serious it was, but the bike had been loaded on the trailer and the truck should be here soon.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: viffergyrl on March 31, 2020, 04:16:20 PM
Ruh-roh!!

Keep it coming! Love it!  :smiley_thumb:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 01, 2020, 03:10:47 PM
Dan is resilient and I wasn't too worried about him. Sure, he might be sore and bruised and riding in the truck for the rest of the day, but he's Dan: he'll bounce right back.

Except that when the truck finally pulled up, he didn't look ready to bounce at all. It had been a pretty hard fall and Dan looked shaken. But on a positive note, he wasn't bleeding and no bones were sticking out in awkward places. This was incredibly fortunate, seeing as we were still in the middle of no where.

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All this and it wasn't even lunch time yet.

After digging out some Aleve and bottles of water for Dan and making sure that he was as comfortable as possible, the group continued the ride, this time on pavement.

Below the Katse Dam
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 01, 2020, 03:11:15 PM
We hadn't gone very far when we stopped again. This time we were to have a picnic at the side of the road while overlooking the Katse Dam. I didn't really get a chance to enjoy the view, as I was helping Dan out in the truck, making sure that he got something to eat and drink. He was in some pain and it was frustrating not to be able to do anything more for him.

But the best thing we could do was to keep on going and get to our hotel. We still had a long way to go.

The threat of rain had disappeared - for now
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Still beautiful roads and scenery though
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Heading into the darkness
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Crossing the Malibamat'so River
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Safety first! The red flag is to warn oncoming traffic of the current road work
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 01, 2020, 03:11:41 PM
Dan and David in the truck; I like to think that David appreciated the company
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I still haven't gotten tired of this country - so beautiful!
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We had climbed up gentle slopes, ever closer to the dark clouds. But then we crested the top and had an amazing view down a long and fairly narrow valley. The feat of engineering to get a road down there was incredible.

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The first of many sharp corners
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Getting to the valley floor was fast - but fun!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 01, 2020, 03:11:58 PM
Of course, being in the valley didn't mean that the fun ended
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Now that's using your head!
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Our route passed through some small towns, but for the most part, Lesotho remained a largely agricultural and green land. We still had a ways to go before we reached our hotel for the night and I was hoping that Dan was doing ok back there in the truck.

Poor guy.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 01, 2020, 03:12:25 PM
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Modern machinery - what a surprise!
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Random road check to see if our registration was up-to-date
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Getting closer to the South African border
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Friendly and happy locals!
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Approaching the border
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Crossing into South Africa was really easy, and it didn't take us long to get our passports stamped out of Lesotho and into South Africa. Dan was able to get out of the truck and stand in line when leaving Lesotho, but when the truck pulled through to the South African windows, we decided to leave Dan in the truck and I took both passports for stamping.

No one seemed to notice or care.

Welcome (back) to South Africa!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 01, 2020, 03:13:00 PM
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Mechanically planted corn!
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We were about fifteen minutes from the town of Clarens - and our hotel - when the skies opened up. It felt good, especially knowing that we'd be at our hotel soon and could change out of our motorcycle gear. I was anxious to get there and have a longer talk with Dan and see how he was doing. The guy has a high tolerance of pain, but just how badly was he injured?

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We pulled into the Protea Hotel in Clarens. Hana made sure that Dan and I got our rooms first, so that we could get our stuff unloaded and plan what to do next. She asked the desk staff about a hospital in town so that Dan could get checked out, but it turned out there were not hospital in Clarens. The nearest hospital was 36 km away, in the town of Bethlehem.

The hotel staff agreed to call a taxi for us, which showed up about 40 minutes later. The drive to Bethlehem was fast and the driver dropped us off at the MediClinic Hoogland. From there, it was a blend of paperwork, routine checks, IV pain killers - and an x-ray. The x-ray confirmed that there was more damage than just a few bruises: he had broken four ribs, two of them in a couple of places.

Now came the time for deliberation: do we stick around for the next 24-48 hours (as the doctor suggested) so that she could monitor for severe muscle spasms and further complications? And in doing so, get left behind by the tour group and thereby leaving us stranded in this inhospitable town? Or do we go back to the hotel tonight, pick up prescriptions in the morning and continue on with the tour, with Dan keeping David company in the truck?

I left this decision up to Dan; I would make it work either way. Bethlehem had an airport and there was a hotel nearby. I could go to back to Clarens and pick up our stuff tonight, get a room and wait there until Dan was safely discharged from the hospital, using the time to arrange for a flight back to Cape Town on the 12th. But Dan determined that with the proper drugs he would be fine. And if he wasn't fine? Then he'd ask David to drop him off at the next nearest hospital. While the doctor naturally preferred Dan to stick around, she did not try to dissuade him, and she made the necessary arrangements for Dan to have his prescriptions and paperwork ready that night.

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The staff at the Clinic were all amazing. They did their best to give us everything we needed and were great in helping me when I was trying to sort out what our options were. One thing that was really striking was their reaction when I said that I needed to get a taxi back to Clarens. The woman at the desk was adamant that I should not, under any circumstances, use public transportation or flag down my own taxi. If I needed a ride back to Clarens, I should call the hotel and have them send someone. So that's what I did. The taxi arrived 30 minutes later with not just the driver, but with an employee from our hotel in the back seat. Dan and I arrived at our hotel at midnight. It had been long, long day.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: viffergyrl on April 01, 2020, 04:39:49 PM
Whoa. Don't make Dan laugh I guess.

 :popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: garry on April 01, 2020, 05:46:36 PM
Whoa. Don't make Dan laugh I guess.

 :popcorn:

Or sneeze or cough.Getting a cold/flu right now would doubly suck for him. I guess it's been a few weeks, so he is probably healing up by now.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: st2sam on April 01, 2020, 07:13:31 PM
Whoa, that's gotta hurt.
Hurts just looking at the X-rays. :crazy:

  :popcorn:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: doc4216 on April 05, 2020, 10:40:26 AM
Thank you for sharing this report. It certainly changes my opinion about the possibility of visiting SA (still not sold but thinking). Sorry to hear of the lay down and injuries. That seriously looks painful. Hope recovery has gone well.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:32:28 PM
Thank you for sharing this report. It certainly changes my opinion about the possibility of visiting SA (still not sold but thinking).

I can recommend it. I'm glad that we didn't go on our own though. We learned a lot on this trip and being part of a tour was helpful  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:33:05 PM
February 5 - Wednesday - Piet Relief

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/kn43N5owpsKQ5fzz7)

Even though (or perhaps because?) we had such a stressful evening and a late bedtime, I slept very well. Dan slept well, but I think that this was drug-induced. We had been in contact with Hana the previous evening, grateful for her support for us. Of course they couldn't delay the rest of the tour for the full day that the doctor wanted, but they were more than willing to delay this morning's departure by an hour. This extra hour would give Dan time to fill his prescriptions at the pharmacy across the street. Dan would continue to keep David company in the truck and the motorcycle would get a ride on the trailer.

Morning view from our hotel room
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The bike
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Just a "little" bit of damage
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After a very nice buffet breakfast at the hotel, we (I) hauled our bags down the from the hotel room and into the truck. Everyone in our group was very interested in how Dan was doing and sharing how glad they were that he was still here to continue the journey. It was a good group of people we were with, and I was really glad that we could continue to travel with them.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:34:32 PM
Hana had a surprise for the group almost as soon as we left Clarens: the Golden Gate National Park. Covering an area of 340 km², the park butts up against the Lesotho border and showcases and amazing display of "golden, ochre, and orange-hued, deeply eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops" (wiki). It was a nice way to start the day.

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We're missing a bike!
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Golden Gate National Park welcome center
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:35:00 PM
The first part of the park was winding and cut through high sandstone rocks, and the second half passed through rolling, open country. It was a nice mix of landscapes, the weather was great, and I was just glad that we were able to still enjoy the South African countryside.

The stone posts were frequent enough for me to notice; boundary markers, perhaps?
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A sign proclaimed that they were working to improve the wetlands here
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Still got to keep on your toes!
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Outside of the park we continued on some fast roads, passing by Harrismith and then on to Ladysmith.

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Fuzzy trees! (and look at that road!)
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The fast roads got faster as we hit the South African highway system. Traffic was very light although there were a few interesting trucks to catch my fancy.

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The Mystery Load
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:35:29 PM
At the morning's gas stop, David parked on the far side of the station and Dan was able to get out and walk around for a bit. I could see that he was hurting, but not hurting enough to stay in the truck at least. This particular gas stop was longer then usual because Tom and Jonathan wanted to wash the mud from their bikes. There was someone willing to wash the bikes, but instead of grabbing the handy car wash nozzle from the bay wall, he picked up a bucket and proceeded to fill it with water. Apparently there wasn't enough power to actually use the hose with any effect.

While the discussion about bike washing was taking place, Dan and I were checking out the armored truck that had pulled up in front of the station. The security lead took his job very serious: he got out of the truck, gun in hand, and quickly-yet-thoroughly cased the scenario. He took his position by the door, watching the scene in front of him. I could see that he wasn't too happy about all of us motorcyclists standing around.

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Keeping guard
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:35:54 PM
We eventually got back on the road, some bikes shinier than others. It had gotten warmer out and the roads were still fast. Or they should have been fast. Instead, one lane was blocked off for a major construction project and we were stuck behind some very slow trucks. This, combined with the increasing humidity, made for some uncomfortable riding.

Old style, modern color
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Not the most exciting pass I've been on (Van Reenen's Pass)
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Whoops - going a little too fast, are we?
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Trucks! Lots and lots of trucks
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Nice scenery, at least
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Cool iron art installation (?) outside of Ladysmith
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:36:25 PM
We eventually pulled through Ladysmith and then on some quieter, emptier roads. It was still good riding, even with the humidity. Dan was doing well in the truck, but if he wasn't, Ladysmith had a hospital. Good to know! They also had an ice cream shop, which we stopped at and were treated to a cold tasty treat by David. It was a nice break - thank you!

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Saw this guy during a re-group at one point
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I admit that I was a little jealous of Dan in the air conditioned truck
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It was lunch time, but the restaurant that Hana and David had planned on stopping at was closed. It was a Wimpy's, so I wasn't too disappointed. But where we had stopped didn't have anything else nearby, so our next plan was to go into the busy city of Newcastle and see what we could find.

Why aren't parasols more common elsewhere?
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The streets were busy as Hana hunted down another Wimpy's. She finally found one that was part of a gas station set up rather like we had seen in Humansdorp - except this one was ten times more chaotic! Most of the parking spots were taken as we struggled to slot our motorcycles into any available space. This was fine for us, but left no place for David and his trailer to park. Hana did her best to fend off a spot that did open up, but it was causing a lot of anger from someone else who wanted to park there. Hana finally relented, David parked "somewhere" (not sure if it was legal or not, but I don't think that the people here really cared about such things) and we were finally ready to eat! But the Wimpy's that we had been focusing on was standing room only with no where nearby to sit and eat. Fortunately for all of us, there was a Nando's around the corner. Better food and plenty of room for us and our gear.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:36:53 PM
After our tasty lunch break we got back on the bikes and got out of town as fast as we could - which wasn't too fast due to lots of traffic. But funny how "foreign" traffic is much more interesting than the stuff you get stuck in at home.

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Once we were out of town we were on some lovely, fast, back roads. I could see a front of rain off to one side; would we go that way?

This Volvo is slightly larger than our Volvo at home
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We took a quick break at Fort Mistake
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Yet another coal plant
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We were avoiding the rain
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Riding through Volksrust
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Old steam trains on display
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Outside of Volksrust
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:37:17 PM
Also an interesting point that I noticed along here: there was a shift from "us" taking pictures of "the locals" to some of "the locals" were now taking pictures of us! Kids walking along the road suddenly pulled out their phones and were taking photos of us as we went by. It felt a little weird to suddenly be recognized with more than just enthusiastic waves and smiles.

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Another train just down the road in Wakkerstroom
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The roads were wide open and through some unstated mutual agreement, our throttles were soon wide open as well. We were flying along, enjoying the scenery and feeling the force of the wind against my head and chest. I'm not a speed demon, but sometimes it just feels really good to open 'er up. And coincidentally, my camera battery had died, so I had nothing else to do but keep my hands on the bars and enjoy the ride.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:37:41 PM
And then we reached Piet Retief. It was a small and clean city and our lodging was easy to find. We were staying at Holme Lea Manor Guest House, where Hana and David had stayed previously. The owners greeted us all warmly and it was a fast process to unload the bikes and get our rooms. The property was very nicely maintained and laid out and the rooms were spacious and pleasant to be in.

Holme Lea Manor
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Milan and Georg
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Sorry for the bad lighting
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And typical at the nicer guest houses we stayed at, our bikes were behind walls and locking gates
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Our evening's dinner was at Mamma Mia, and Italian restaurant about a kilometer down the road. We walked there in the dark on somewhat questionable sidewalks. Dan was glad that it wasn't any further than it was, as the pain was starting to get to him. But the reward was worth it (well, in my opinion anyway). The ambience, service and food were all great! I went out on a limb and ordered something called "the Shipwreck" which turned out just to be a massive cordon bleu - and very good. Everyone's portions were too much, and poor Dan had almost no appetite. It felt a shame to waste the food, but we also knew that it was pointless to bring anything back with us, since we'd leave the next morning.

There was an option to grab a taxi back to our lodgings, but Dan said that as long as we went slowly, he would be ok. As it was, he was all too happy to be back in our room, pop some pain medication and fall asleep.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:41:37 PM
February 6 - Thursday - Malkerns (Eswatini)

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/ojVwF9q78EwHbraH7)

Our lodging offered us a wonderful sit down breakfast, which was hurried due to an early departure in order to avoid afternoon rains. Dan was in good spirits although relying on his drugs to keep him moving comfortably. I brought out our bags to the truck, we all got geared up and with Dan once again keeping David company, we pulled out of Piet Relief.

The morning was already warm and humid, and the scenery out of Piet Relief wasn't all that interesting. Monoculture forests bounded both sides of the road for miles, with any change being the recent cuts of those same forests. Logging was indeed the dominant industry here.

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When there weren't trees blocking the view, the view was quite pleasant. The roads here were open and comfortable, although the humidity did dampen my spirits (not really - I just couldn't resist the pun).

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:42:31 PM
Our time in South Africa was short this morning: we were about to enter the Kingdom of Swaziland. The country has since changed its name to Eswatini, but I'll probably continue to refer to it as Swaziland out of habit. The only thing I could anticipate in entering the new country was what Hana told me: it is much more tropical, with more jungle-like vegetation. OK! This should be interesting to see.

Border of Swaziland
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Logging trucks at the border
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In talking to someone at the border, we learned that the trees are cut in South Africa, driven into Swaziland for pulp and processing, and then the materials brought back to South Africa. It seemed like a convoluted process.

We stopped at the South African border for an exit stamp in our passports, and then proceeded to the border office to cross into Swaziland. The process was fairly simply, but it took us a long time. The outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China had been going on for a couple of weeks but thus far it was easy to think of it as a "Chinese problem" and unaware of the far-reaching effects it would have. Even so, the first step at the border crossing was to have our temperatures checked. I was admittedly a little worried because I was really warm due to the outside temperature and wearing all my gear, but apparently my internal temperature was just fine.

Then I needed the motorcycle rental papers from Hana so I could have a slip of paper filled out by the person behind the window. And that person also took my passport to stamp - except that they were having a hard time finding the South African exit stamp. Everyone in our group was having the same problem. A couple of the guys in front of me managed to locate the South African stamp and once the Swaziland stamp holder realized just what he should be looking for, he was able to more readily locate it on the rest of our passports. Whew! Next was a different Swaziland window where we paid ("Hana paid") 100 Rand road tax (per bike).

While we waited for the whole group to be processed, Jonathan, Dan and I stood near the door and spoke with a South African trucker. He was the one who had told us about the logging industry here, and was very friendly and happy to answer our questions. Oh, and by the door was another point of interest: a large box of condoms. It is estimated that 26% of the adult population in Swaziland is HIV-positive. It was good of the government to provide some protection for both visitors and citizens alike.

With our slips of paper in hand, we walked across to another government building and stood in line again. This time the process was to hand over the slip of paper to be stamped by the person behind the window. Stamped slip in hand, we exited the building and handed the stamped slips to yet another guard who was standing outside. Only then were we free to get on our bikes and enter the country. I'm not sure if the whole process is so complex to reduce corruption or to make jobs.

Swaziland - not terribly different so far
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A round house with four "wings"? Someone suggested that it is a church
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Roadside businesses
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I approve of the ingenuity used here
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There were a number of billboards along this theme
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:43:30 PM
In just a few minutes we had reached the other end of the logging process. It was a massive operation and full of activity as we passed by.

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My first impression of Swaziland was pretty much "Hmmm - not much different than South Africa." But as we followed the roads I noticed subtle differences. The disparity between the houses was greater: the houses that weren't that nice were "less nice", but there were more fancy houses. The billboards gave me the impression that it was a society that wanted to better itself. Kids still wore uniforms for school and still waved at us when we rode by. I wouldn't get to make too many more discoveries: we were already almost to our lodging for the night; it was a half day of riding with an afternoon to ourselves.

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Education!
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"Rider's Ranch - this could be fun!"
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Dan and I consider the joys of self-employment
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But decided to leave it to the professionals
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Satellite dishes for EVERYBODY!
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Modern housing
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:44:13 PM
We had left South Africa promptly this morning because there was rain forecasted for later today. It was humid enough that I just wished that it would rain anyway. But we were almost there - the rain could hold off a little longer, right?

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Advertising
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The rain had held off - we had reached Malandela's with enough time to unload the bikes and get our rooms before the first drops fell. We agreed to drop off our stuff, take a break and then have a nice lunch together.

Malandela's Guest House from the road
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Inside the property
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Our guest house for the night - we took the bottom floor so that Dan didn't have to deal with the stairs
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Wonderfully simple and comfortable inside
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Lunch under the vines
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 05, 2020, 12:44:52 PM
Lunch was fantastic but once the food was gone, the group wandered off to their individual rooms and their own personal activities. For Dan and I, we went back to our room, where I made him comfortable before going back outside to explore the grounds. Thunder was rolling in the distance and I could see more rain on the horizon - I wanted to walk around before the humidity was completely replaced by rain.

Much to no one's surprise, the power went out shortly after lunch. However, this turned out to be not a power supply problem, but a unique problem due to the storm. No one on the grounds knew when the electricity would come back, so I took advantage of the daylight and went out to explore.

The grounds were ... unique. The man who started this place back in 1976, Peter “Malandela” Thorne, had fallen in love with the valley decades before, and over the years, built it up to what it was today. It is an interesting read if you google it, and if you're at all curious, I recommend giving it a look. I had no idea of the history as I walked around, and every time I turned a corner I was surprised.

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View of the grounds
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There were a number of small shops on the property, staffed and stocked by local workers with local handicrafts. The quality of the products available was excellent and I considered buying something before we left. But the purchasing window was small: without power, the shops were dark and no credit cards could be processed. And then the shops closed before the power was restored, so preventing others from doing any shopping. I took the opportunity to visit the art galleries and the performance stage, and then wandered back to the room to relax.

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It was a wonderfully relaxing evening. We had another delightful meal on site (chicken and mushroom pie!), and while the rains never really came into full force, the thunder continued to roll across the valley. The staff put multiple homemade candles in our room in anticipation of the power not coming back any time soon. It was also convenient that our room had separate beds, so that Dan could make himself as comfortable as possible - and I got a good night's sleep.

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Day 13 - coming soon!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Jim on April 05, 2020, 06:14:53 PM
Best wishes to Dan for a full and expedient recovery.

Thanks for the wonderful photos!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:42:10 PM
February 7 - Friday - Hazyview

Map Link (https://goo.gl/maps/nLG1s2gjYFWD6zd98)

Sometime during night the power came back on. It was noticeable, as the lights in the room suddenly lit up, startling me out of sleep. It let me see the mosquitos that had come in through the window as well. I really do hate mosquitos.

Dan was stiff and sore and moved slowly, but we finally made it to the breakfast table where everyone else had already started. After a light but good meal, I got our bags together and took them out to the truck. Everyone was ready to hit the road just before 9 o'clock and I was happy that the temperatures were slightly cooler than yesterday. Then again, it was still early and clouds hung low over the landscape; things could change!

Today was the last day of riding on our tour and it was be another abbreviated day. With the lacklustre scenery and the humid weather from yesterday, I admit that I wasn't upset about the tour ending shortly after lunch. We set out from Malkerns and passed through a modern, built up area. There was a lot of active building sites, which gave me hope that this area was experiencing some prosperity and that the future would be bright.

Leaving the city behind, we were soon riding through thick fog and the lush green of the countryside. The road crossed in and out of the low clouds, views periodically coming into sight, But frequently, I had to focus on Hana's tail light, as that was all I could see.

Leaving Malandela's
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Reminder that I am still in Swaziland!
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Advertising for such luxuries!
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The views get less expansive
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Hana!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:42:33 PM
Hana was excited because this morning we would stop at a glass factory. This didn't sound terribly exciting to me: what would I do with a piece of glass while on a motorcycle tour? But whatever - it was on the way and who knows what it might actually be like? Our group pulled off the motorway we had been on and turned into the parking lot of the Ngwenya Glass Factory.

It turned out to be really interesting.

Ngwenya Glass factory
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Walking through the front door, I was immediately confronted with hundreds of tiny glass figures, wine glasses, decanters...an almost endless variety of items made from glass. And not just any glass, but recycled glass that was collected locally. "Swedish Aid", the firm that started the factory in 1979, operated until 1985. Then the current owners took over in 1987 and have been active participants in the local economy ever since. Check out the "History" tab on the above link if you want to know more.

After browsing the goods available, I went on to explore the factory itself. There was a staircase tucked into one side that led up to a catwalk that was high over the furnaces, tables and packing stations. It was warm there, but I could imagine that the heat must be overbearing in the summer months. I watched a few of the stations and the work that was done there, wanting to know more and to be able to follow the process with more information.

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Naturally, the most interesting part is behind the hanging hose
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Cleaning and packing
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:42:51 PM
Our resolve not to buy anything had broken and Dan and I picked out a cute little penguin - and an even cuter and little-er elephant to take home with us. They were small and didn't seem terribly fragile for the remainder of the trip. The woman at the cash register did a good job of wrapping them up as well.

A sign at the cashier's counter
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The rain was threatening as we waited out in the parking lot for someone in the group to do his "last minute shopping", and it was good to get back on the road and put some more miles behind us. At this point we were mere minutes from the South African border, and the crossing came up quickly. This wasn't quite a complex as our entry into Swaziland, and it still entailed passport stamping, of course, but now there was an added feature: biometrics! Each of us had to have two fingers scanned, then the thumbs, and then the face. Fancy!

This was our last passport stamp until we actually flew home - how had our two week tour gone by so quickly? But wait! We weren't done yet: we still had today and tomorrow to enjoy.

Trucks at the South African border
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Periodic outposts of civilization
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The countryside was much better than yesterday's
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:43:28 PM
The landscape became dominated by tree farms again, with the harvesting method being the unforgiving clear cut. It was a shame to see the monoculture forests, but worse to see the effects of the cutting.

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When they weren't cutting the trees, they were planting them. Here are some citrus groves heavily protected by fences and concertina wire. This was by far not the only grove that was so heavily protected.

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A particularly colorful market stall
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Beautiful Africa
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Another facet of the tree industry
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Riding through Nelspruit
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:44:01 PM
After we had passed through the city of Nelspruit and enjoyed more wide open country roads, our guides pulled off at what I would call "a wide spot in the road". There were some shops built up along one side and it was a mystery to me what we would do here. The store fronts were packed up against each other and Hana made her way into one of them. It turned out to the be the "Route 40 Farm Stall" - which was also a restaurant.

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We were seated out back, the noise of a generator humming loudly nearby. Yes, "load shedding" was happening yet again during meal time. Our host apologized for the noise and gave us his opinion on the government's inability to handle the current infrastructure. It was a difficult problem to solve, to be sure.

As our food came out from the kitchen, I realized why Hana and David had chosen this location: the food was amazing. Both presentation and taste were wonderful, and I was only too happy to enjoy what was put before me. of course I didn't take a photo of it - just what the people around me had.

Jonathan's burger
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Dan's salad
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Dan's milkshake - it was hot outside!
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As we were finishing up our meal, a couple who had been dining nearby got up and come to our table. The man asked if we were with Hana and David and when they acknowledged, he greeted them warmly: they were the hosts of tonight's lodging! The coincidence of them being here, of all places, and at the exact time we were, seemed incredible. They were very friendly and said that they looked forward to our arrival at their lodge so that they could greet us properly.

Waiting for a ride (across the street from the restaurant)
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:44:22 PM
We weren't too far from our destination and it was a fast ride over fast roads.

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We were in banana country! (Banana for scale)
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Banana grove (plantation?)
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We pulled into the town of Hazyview to fuel up the bikes before the last few minutes to our destination. But some of the guys in our group wanted to return their bikes shiny and clean, even though this was not required by the rental company. Hana and David acquiesced and found a car wash nearby so that the bikes could get a rinse.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:44:40 PM
It turned out to be more than "a rinse" - we had found a full service wash facility with a full service team. And water pressure to run their hoses, too! Our guides worked out a deal with the manager, who hovered closely throughout the entire process. And what a process it, was too: we pulled as many bikes into the bay as possible and the team immediately got to work. It was quite a good deal for 50R (2.50 CHF) per bike.

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Rub-a-dub-dub!
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Post-wash drying station (with the manager in the middle, keeping a close eye on things)
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With everyone's vehicle clean and shiny (even David's truck got a wash!) we rode the last few minutes to Ashbourne, where we would park the bikes for the last time. I had to chuckle when the road changed from paved to dirt - good thing we washed the bikes!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:45:11 PM
The Ashbourne Country Escape was a delightful array of buildings, landscapes and views. In the time that we spent at the lodge I learned a lot about our hosts and the history of the grounds. It was a compelling story, and I was really surprised that the buildings on the site were new (well, they started to build in 2006) as they looked well-set into the environment and could have been built 100 years ago. Here is an excerpt from their website that pretty much sums up the history of the place:

"Having always had a love affair with the Lowveld, when they decided to downscale from citrus farming, it took just one look at the site to inspire them to build a new home from scratch.
'We wanted to take all that’s good about South African farmhouses, but tweak the design to get rid of passages, poor lighting and lack of bathrooms,' Rob comments.
'I wanted our house to disappear amongst the trees and rocks and definitely didn’t want anything ostentatious,' says Dawne, adding that they were determined to use the land’s natural resources."


The main building and reception
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The grounds were on the top of a ridge, giving expansive views no matter which way you looked. It was a wonderfully peaceful and comfortable space. I would love to have something like this for myself.

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 08, 2020, 03:46:01 PM
Our hosts had designed everything themselves and it was an on-going project, with constant additions and updates as they went. But in talking with Rob, he admitted that they were realizing that they liked what they had built and now they wanted to focus on finishing projects instead of starting new ones. They were supposed to be retired, after all, and would appreciate being able to focus on their guests.

New wood
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Our own personal sunroom
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Our charming room - and real mosquito netting!
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We had the afternoon to ourselves. It was important to make sure that all our personal items were removed from the motorcycles, as the guy had come to load them up on a trailer and haul them back to Cape Town. What had taken us two weeks to cover he had hoped to complete in two days. But I bet he wouldn't stop to smell the flowers like we had!

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I spent time exploring the grounds and chatting with our group. They were a great bunch of people and I was glad that our personalities had meshed so well. Rob and Dawne were around and I picked their brains about their experiences here. Then I joined Dan who was resting in our sunroom and we relaxed together until dinner.

They had some very big and loveable dogs on the property
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The car that Dawne's mother gave to her when she had turned 16
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A wonderfully heavy rain rolled through that evening and it was so nice to watch (and hear) it come down from within the comfort of our sunroom. I would love to have a room like this - and a view to go with it, of course.

Rain on the pool
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There was a wonderful sunset before we headed over to the restaurant building for a pleasant meal at the outdoor table. The food was just as good as the views, and the staff that served it were extraordinarily pleasant. I wouldn't mind spending a lot more time at this place!

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Day 14 - coming soon
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: viffergyrl on April 08, 2020, 06:08:38 PM
Oh my - that looks wonderful!! I could get used to that too!!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: miles on April 08, 2020, 09:40:54 PM
I really do hate mosquitos.


And yet you graciously invite them in every evening!
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Skee on April 08, 2020, 10:30:02 PM
Oh my - that looks wonderful!! I could get used to that too!!

+1  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 12:51:52 AM
I really do hate mosquitos.


And yet you graciously invite them in every evening!

 :lol:


I wish they were like vampires, where they weren't allowed in unless invited.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:03:19 AM
February 8 - Saturday - Hazyview

We had early morning game drives before, but none of them required us to be ready at 4:45 am. Ugh. Dan and I had discussed whether or not he would go on the game drive, but it was decided that with his ribs being as sore as they were, it would do him no good to ride around on bumpy roads in the back of a truck. I promised him I'd take photos.

The rest of the group had gathered at the appointed time and we stood outside in the pre-dawn, waiting for the driver to show up to take us to our destination: Kruger National Park.

And we waited; he was late.

While we waited, we chatted about this and that and Jonathan complained how terrible the mosquitos had been! We all looked at him with surprise: didn't he use the mosquito netting? It was Jonathan's turn to looked surprised. "I thought that was just decorative!" We all tried not to laugh, although we did tease him about it for the rest of the day.

Our driver finally showed up and we piled into the truck and returned down the hill to Hazyview and then on to Kruger Park's Numbi Gate. Once we got to the gate we had to wait even longer; because we had arrived late, we were now almost last in line to go through the gate once it had opened. One by one, other safari jeeps and even buses passed through the gate and into Kruger. Finally it was our turn.

The first thing we saw were some elephants. Another jeep had already pulled over to watch them and we pulled up behind them. It was a small family group and they played hide-and-seek with our cameras in the dense trees.

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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:03:33 AM
The landscape in Kruger was vast and impressive, and ecent rains made everything green and lush. What really stuck out to me was the height of the grass. In the smaller and more restricted private game reserves, the animals grazed the grass down very short. But here, with almost 5 million acres of land to graze on, the grass was able to grow tall. It was beautiful, but I also realized that it made it much harder to see the animals.

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The park had some rules that I appreciated. Although there was a mix of public and private vehicles on the roads, it was forbidden to leave the road surface. In the private game reserves, although our guides generally stuck to the main roads, they were allowed to drive anywhere in the park in order to get a better view of the animals. In addition, no one, under any circumstances, was allowed outside of their vehicle. But the rule that was missing? The limit of two vehicles at a time parked at an animal sighting. This came into play later in the morning.

For now, our guide had threaded his way through the intertwined road system and taken us to a small pond. From our spot we could see a couple of hippos submerged in the water. More interesting to me, however, were the birds along the shore.

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Gray Heron
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African Fish eagle
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:03:48 AM
The weather was great for me, but according to our guide, it wasn't the best weather for viewing the animals. To be honest, I wasn't terribly concerned about what we saw today; nothing could top what we had already seen on our previous game drives. Of course, that didn't mean that I wasn't watching out for them!

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Oxpecker birds, hunting for ticks
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Our guide had mentioned that a lioness and her cubs had been spotted near this rock yesterday, but they were not to be found today.

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"A bird"
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Kruger Park - for as far as the eye can see!
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African hyenas sunning themselves on the warm road surface
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:04:18 AM
At one point, our driver was busy on his radio and excitedly turned the truck down one road after another, driving as fast as was allowed within the park. Something was afoot!

And then just as suddenly, he slowed back down. He informed us that a leopard had been sighted, but because of all of the vehicles that had pulled up to watch, it had felt threatened and had retreated into the bush. Argh!!! I was instantly annoyed with the lack of a "two vehicle" rule here in Kruger. I knew I'd never have another chance to see a leopard on this trip.

No leopards here
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Our early morning departure was catching up to some
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Plenty to eat this year
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Chicks!
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Leopard tortoise
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Thick brush made it hard to spot anything
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Brown Snake Eagle (I think)
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We spotted another family of giraffes
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Ooooo - give us a kiss, luv
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:05:35 AM
Some of the few Wildebeests we saw today
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Southern yellow-billed hornbill
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Dead tree, killed by animals ravaging the bark on the trunk during times of drought
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Lilac Breasted Roller (<a href="http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_lilac_breasted_roller.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">looks much prettier[/url] than this photo indicates)
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The Grey Go-Away Bird (yes, that is what it is <a href="http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-grey-go-away-bird.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">really called[/url])
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Our driver took us to the Nkuhlu Picnic Site, where we enjoyed a picnic meal that Ashbourne had provided for us. It was a pleasant location on the Skukusa River and our group broke up a bit, each enjoying their own personal space. There was a large gift shop on site as well and I took my time to stroll through it, picking up a souvenir T-shirt for Dan. Our break was over and it was time to head back to the truck for the second half of our morning.

An injured Cape buffalo in the Skukusa River
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Right outside of Nkuhlu gates we found some animals hanging around
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A party of shy Kudu horns
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Yes, it was much harder to spot the wildlife here
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:05:55 AM
Who knows what was within 20 meters of us, but behind a bush?
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African Oyster Catcher, taking off
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We ran through a smattering of rain a couple of times - excellent weather!
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It looks like a set for a Disney play
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The Quelea: the most common bird in world - after the chicken (est 1.5 billion)
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Impalas keeping alert at the watering hole
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A little bit of everything (zebra, impala, wildebeest, warthog)
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:06:14 AM
Our guide had another surprise for us: a larger pond in the park. When we arrived, we joined 3-4 other vehicles parked in an area that was clearly frequently used just for this purpose. But before parking, our guide pulled up to one of the private vehicles and proceeded to (politely) yell at the owner, who had gotten out of his car and was standing nearby. This would be a R1,500 (78 CHF) fine if the park police had caught him instead. The guy seemed surprised that this wasn't allowed and sheepishly got into his car and drove away.

It was quite an active pool, with hippos, at least one crocodile and various birds. It was relaxing to watch the animals move within the scene.

Africa crocodile with a flock of Egrets (and a hippo submerged in the background)
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Egyptian geese family
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Another Fish Eagle - this one has a fish
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A Cape buffalo standing on the sidelines
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I love the seed pods on this bush
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:06:28 AM
We were essentially heading out of the park when our guide had mentioned that some lions had been sighted in the area the previous day. We rolled along slowly, stopping periodically to take a closer look, but there was no luck. The lions might have very well still been there, but with grass cover like this, we never would have seen them.

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Leaving the lions to wherever they might be, we continued on our way out of the park. We saw a few more elephants along the way.

We watched this pair cross, and then pulled and stopped to watch them disappear into the bush
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But unbeknownst to our driver, there was another baby coming - and we were in the way!
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Heading back to Hazyview
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Selling firewood on the roadside (the sellers were often just out of sight, in the shade)
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Imagine: all of that and it was only noon! Personally, I was glad that we had opted for the half day safari. It was pleasant to drive around and see the landscape and maybe spot an animal or two, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to spend all day doing it. Instead, we were going to return to the peaceful comfort of Ashbourne and relax on what was really our last day of our South African motorcycle tour.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:06:41 AM
We all returned to the lodge and shortly afterwards, David and Rob offered to drive into Hazyview and pick up some pizzas. Pizza! Such a simple-yet-satisfying meal. A few of us waited by the pool for lunch to show up. There were actually six different pools on the property, although some of them were accessible only to certain rooms. But this one was a different pool than the one near our room. Instead, it was right near the lounge/bar area, faced east, and had a wonderful view.

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After lunch most of us hung around the pool area for awhile longer, sharing photos and memories and reminding Jonathan to use the mosquito netting tonight. Eventually Dan and I went back to our room. I had a lot of organizing to do with our luggage, as tomorrow we'd be flying across the country and back to Cape Town.

While Dan rested in the sunroom, I took advantage of the quiet afternoon to learn more about the property from our hosts and explore some of the areas previously unseen. It was still awesome. I also lighted our load by offering Dan's motorcycle helmet to Rob. He knew of some locals who would be thrilled to have it, even in the state that it was in. I guess a damaged helmet is better than no helmet at all, right?

Another beautiful sunset from our room
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And another wonderful dinner
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We weren't the only ones eating well tonight!
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:07:06 AM
After a night of heavy rain, the sun rose at 5 o'clock. The power came on at 6 o'clock, and the alarm went off at 7:15. Our group's departure was staggered, as we each had individual flights to catch to our destinations. Milan and Georg had left at 7 o'clock, as they had the earliest flight of the day.

The rest of us enjoyed a nice breakfast at 8 o'clock, after which Hana and David left, taking Tom with them. And then our taxi came to get Jonathan, Dan, and I to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, about 45 minutes away. Our driver, Raymond, was very personable and talkative on the drive, and gave us some parting information about the land we were traveling through.

Protective bags on banana bunches
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After this tree species is harvested, it grows back from the stump
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:07:17 AM
Raymond dropped us off at the airport, unloaded our bags and we were immediately greeted by someone with a baggage cart. Normally when we travel I would decline any assistance, but between his insistence to help and my need for his help (having four bags to carry was not easy), I let him load the bags on the cart and followed him in to the airport. It was a surprisingly nice airport.

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We had some time to kill so Dan and I wandered the shops and ended up finding Jonathan down at the bar. We ordered (surprise!) Wimpy's for an early lunch.

Our flight boarded and we settled in for the two and a half hour flight across the country. Dan took the window seat, but I looked over his shoulder once in a while.

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Getting close to Cape Town
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Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:07:46 AM
Dan called an Uber to bring us from the airport to our BnB, the Markotter, for the next two nights. We would not be going back to Cape Town, but to a suburb town called Bellville. I knew nothing about this place and chose it primarily on proximity to the airport and good reviews. Our host Louise even asked me what my expectations were because, as she put it, "there is nothing here". I appreciated her frankness but frankly, this is what I was looking for. Regardless of Dan's accident, I had been looking forward to a full day of doing nothing but relaxing, repacking the bags and taking a break before we made the long flight home. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived and we immediately dumped our bags and got settled in.

What we had was perfect: a nice comfortable living area with couches to stretch out on, a big bedroom to scatter our belongings, a quiet pool and yard to relax in. There was a Pick n Pay just a few blocks away that we could walk to in order to get ingredients for our meals. The neighborhood was interesting in that it was a middle class area, but the defenses were strong. Fences, gates, signs for alarm systems...it gave the impression that robbery attempts happened regularly. Dan and I did not feel unsafe walking around, but we also made sure to go out only during the day.

It was a great night's sleep and now we had a full day to do nothing. We did find a wonderful cafe (<a href="http://bostoncoffee.co.za/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Boston Coffee[/url]) near the Pick n Pay where we had a tasty brunch before picking up some more snacks at the store. And then it was back to the pool!

With our flight early the next morning, I repacked our bags the night before. With the absence of Dan's helmet (and a bit of packing magic) I was able to get our stuff down from four bags to three bags. This would make things much more manageable, since Dan wasn't able to carry anything.

On Tuesday we took another Uber back to the airport, dropped off two of the bags and made our way to the gate. We got the last South African stamp in our passports of this trip. Next stop: Switzerland!

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Farewell, Cape Town!
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Somewhere near the Sahara
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Zoom!
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The dunes of the desert
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A friend of ours was kind enough to pick us up from the airport, making the trip from Zürich to Basel so much easier. Dan had been good about getting around, but it really was through the use of some strong drugs that he had made it this far with this level of comfort.

Some things never change
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A rough view of our trip - superimposed over Europe for scale
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Follow up on Dan: Shortly after our return to Basel Dan went to his own doctor for a check up. After another x-ray, his doctor immediately made a request for Dan to go to the hospital and get a CT scan. It was determined that he had nine breaks and had a partially collapsed lung. Everyone, including Dan, was surprised. He has since had surgery to remove excess fluid and stabalize some of the ribs. I am happy to report that he is well on his way to back to "normal".
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on April 09, 2020, 07:07:58 AM
And now for the last post on this: I have since gone into my webpages and added some video links. Dan was in charge of the GoPro, so i can take no credit (nor blame) for how they came out. It was also our first time with the camera, so we learned (too late) that it should have been angled better. Live and learn, I guess.

If you are interested in seeing any of the videos, check out my webpage (http://dantesdame.com/main/sa-cape-town-a) and do a search for "video" on Days 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 & 10.

There is nothing earth-shattering there, but it is something to compliment the photos.

Thanks for those who have commented! It is satisfying to see what you guys think about a trip like this  :bigok:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: st2sam on April 09, 2020, 08:04:57 AM
  :clap:
WOW, now that's a vacation!
I will watch the video's, and thanks again DD for sharing with us.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: viffergyrl on April 09, 2020, 11:04:02 AM
Yes thank you very much! Absolutely fascinating and much more personal than most trips and photos I've seen of Africa. I think it's because of the motorcycle travel. Nobody ever shows 'how' they traveled to a park because that's not thought to be 'interesting'.

Well Dan really whacked himself! Glad he's going to be back to normal soon.  :squid: (j/k!)
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: badwolf on May 27, 2020, 10:51:10 AM
Thanks for sharing! Wonderful read and some great pics. SA has been on my moto-travel short list for quite some time, and it's great getting a first hand account of the trip. I'm particularly interested in Lesotho - I have an odd fascination with enclaved countries.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on May 27, 2020, 02:19:46 PM
I'm particularly interested in Lesotho - I have an odd fascination with enclaved countries.

Thank YOU!

Lesotho was amazing. I would have liked to have explored it more.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Skee on May 27, 2020, 03:05:10 PM
Thanks for sharing! Wonderful read and some great pics. SA has been on my moto-travel short list for quite some time, and it's great getting a first hand account of the trip. I'm particularly interested in Lesotho - I have an odd fascination with enclaved countries.

You might find the nearby Kingdom of Eswatini, also an enclave country known as Swaziland interesting as well.  Not so much for game viewing, but because Shakaland (https://www.aha.co.za/shakaland/) Is a unique place to stay.   It was the village site forthe filming of Shaka Zulu.

Luxembourg is a much shorter flight. 
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Baxter on May 27, 2020, 09:06:42 PM
Thanks, your write-ups are always amazing.

Glad Dan will be ok.
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on May 28, 2020, 12:28:21 PM
You might find the nearby Kingdom of Eswatini, also an enclave country known as Swaziland interesting as well. 

I know that I didn't spend a lot of time there, but Eswatini did not impress me much. In fact, I keep forgetting that I was even there  :facepalm:
Title: Re: How about South Africa?
Post by: Mrs. DantesDame on May 28, 2020, 12:29:05 PM
Thanks, your write-ups are always amazing.

 :smiley_thumb:

Glad Dan will be ok.

Good as new, if not even better!  ;D