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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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How about South Africa?
« 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

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
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Offline Cookie

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2020, 06:13:19 AM »
:popcorn:
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Offline PatM

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2020, 11:12:58 AM »
Me too  :popcorn:

Ride safe!

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2020, 11:18:32 AM »
Ok!

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



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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2020, 11:19:02 AM »
Jan 21 - Feb 11, 2020

January 26 - Sunday - Stellenbosch

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(...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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2020, 08:10:44 PM »
soooooooo looking forward to this!
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Damn.  Was that really a good idea?

Online miles

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #6 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.    :'(
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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #7 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:
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Offline st2sam

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #8 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?
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #9 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.
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Offline Max Wedge

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2020, 08:44:51 AM »
Looks warm there. /jealous. Thanks for putting this together for us to enjoy!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #11 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:
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2020, 11:04:02 AM »
January 27 - Monday - Montagu

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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!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2020, 12:52:21 PM »
What an amazing trip and I'm grateful you're sharing it with us!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #14 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:
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #15 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?
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Online miles

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #16 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. 
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Offline st2sam

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #17 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.)

 
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #18 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:
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2020, 08:29:38 AM »
I'm saving this report for the big screen.... love, love, love that you do this!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #20 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...
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2020, 10:15:09 AM »
January 28 - Tuesday - Gondwana

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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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #22 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #23 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #24 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. It really is fascinating how this reserve came into being, and what it takes to make something like this work.

Safari time!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #25 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.
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The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible,
but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.   Vincent van Gogh

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #26 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #27 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #28 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #29 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #30 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.?
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #31 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #32 on: March 14, 2020, 02:56:05 PM »
It looks amazing.  Thanks for the travelogue!
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.  --Douglas Adams

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #33 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.
The world is a mess. It has always been a mess. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.  Joseph Campbell

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #34 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #35 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #36 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #37 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #38 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #39 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #40 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!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #41 on: March 15, 2020, 04:02:50 AM »
January 29 - Wednesday - Prince Albert

Map Link

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!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #42 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #43 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #44 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #45 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #46 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #47 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #48 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."
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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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  • Location: Basel, Switzerland
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #49 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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