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Author Topic: How about South Africa?  (Read 3000 times)

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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #150 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #151 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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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #152 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #153 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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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #154 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.
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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #155 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.
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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #156 on: April 05, 2020, 12:41:37 PM »
February 6 - Thursday - Malkerns (Eswatini)

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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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #157 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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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #158 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #159 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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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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #160 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!
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Offline Jim

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #161 on: April 05, 2020, 06:14:53 PM »
Best wishes to Dan for a full and expedient recovery.

Thanks for the wonderful photos!
sodapop6620: You are never lost as long as you have gas.  Mrs. DantesDame: Side roads lead to interesting discoveries

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #162 on: April 08, 2020, 03:42:10 PM »
February 7 - Friday - Hazyview

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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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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #163 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #164 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #165 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #166 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #167 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #168 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!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #169 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #170 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
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #171 on: April 08, 2020, 06:08:38 PM »
Oh my - that looks wonderful!! I could get used to that too!!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #172 on: April 08, 2020, 09:40:54 PM »
I really do hate mosquitos.


And yet you graciously invite them in every evening!
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #173 on: April 08, 2020, 10:30:02 PM »
Oh my - that looks wonderful!! I could get used to that too!!

+1  :thumbsup:
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #174 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #175 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #176 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #177 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #178 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #179 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #180 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #181 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #182 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.
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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #183 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #184 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #185 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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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #186 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".
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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #187 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 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:
« Last Edit: April 09, 2020, 10:23:08 AM by Mrs. DantesDame »
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Offline st2sam

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #188 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:
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Online viffergyrl

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #189 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!)
The world is a mess. It has always been a mess. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.  Joseph Campbell

Offline badwolf

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #190 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.

Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #191 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.
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Online Skee

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #192 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 Is a unique place to stay.   It was the village site forthe filming of Shaka Zulu.

Luxembourg is a much shorter flight. 
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.    Henry Ford

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but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.   Vincent van Gogh

Offline Baxter

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #193 on: May 27, 2020, 09:06:42 PM »
Thanks, your write-ups are always amazing.

Glad Dan will be ok.
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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #194 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:
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Online Mrs. DantesDame

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Re: How about South Africa?
« Reply #195 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
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