Kirks Moto Travels

Travelling Africa on a KLR

Month: December 2016

Sani Pass, Lesotho, and Golden Gate National Park

2016-11-28

On Monday I ride from Ballito to Underberg. I ride the backroads to avoid Durban traffic and end up in a very nice town called Wartberg that has a magnificently maintained main street. The air as I ride through the countryside smells sweet, I think it is the sugarcane drying.

Once in Underberg I pull up to a restaurant with an old Honda Africa Twin parked outside. I look for the rider but only see a woman dressed up in café racer gear on the patio, I head inside and get a cold drink as it has been sweltering hot all day. No one inside is wearing motorcycle gear so I head outside and introduce myself to Cindy.

Cindy is from Paris and is riding around South Africa for 6 weeks. Cindy has travelled in Brazil and India with L’èquipèe, a troupe of five female riders from Paris that make movies of their adventures.

Cindy is also going to ride Sani Pass the next day and we agree to meet up the next morning and ride the pass together.

About an hour after I arrive at the hotel the weather moves in starting with hail and progressing to downpour for half an hour all while the sun is shining.

Rain in Underberg

Rain in Underberg

2016-11-29

Cindy and I meet up in the morning and head toward Lesotho up Sani Pass. I have been advised by some fellow riders while at the HUBB meeting I went to earlier in the month that the road can be a little brutal if it is wet. We air down the tires once we get off the paved road for better traction and it is pretty rough so it helps with the bouncing around.

The road is pretty busy with Land Cruiser’s and Defender’s bringing tourists up the pass. Overall it isn’t the worst road I have ridden but the last section of 10%+ gradient tight hairpins on decomposing rock is a little brutal. Thankfully we both make it up without issue.

Sani Pass

Sani Pass

At the peak you go through Lesotho border control, South African Border control is just before the technical section of the ride begins. The pavement starts the moment you cross the border which is a sight for sore eyes. We pay our road fees and head to the highest pub in Africa for a quick drink. At border control we meet a Norwegian couple riding from Cape Town on vacation on R1200GS’s and a pair of backpackers from the Netherlands that have hitchhiked to the top of the pass.

Sani Mountain Lodge

Sani Mountain Lodge

After refreshments we head north on A1 which all I can say is a spectacular road seemingly made just for us as there is almost no traffic on it.

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Litseng Diamond Mine

Litseng Diamond Mine

Afriski

Afriski

Northeast Lesotho

That evening we head in to Clarens, South Africa to go to Golden Gate National Park in the morning.

2016-11-30

After grabbing breakfast in the morning Cindy and I head to Golden Gate National Park. The canyons are pretty impressive and we see Zebras and Wildebeest. After Golden Gate we head back to Lesotho and settle in early in the afternoon in Pitseng.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Zebras

Zebras

Golden Gate National Park

Golden Gate National Park

When we arrive in Pitseng we go for a horse ride on Besotho Ponies through the village. Cindy is an experienced horse rider and is able to get some nice pictures. I have only been on a horse once 24 years ago so I focus on not dying. The ponies are able to handle some pretty steep terrain as they are bred for the mountains here.

Besotho Pony Riding

Besotho Pony Riding

2016-12-01

Today marks three months on the road. We head south toward Bokong Nature Reserve. Yet again Lesotho is nothing but beautiful roads through the mountains.

Typical Lesotho

Typical Lesotho

Pass Leading to Bokong Nature Reserve

Pass Leading to Bokong Nature Reserve

Waterfall at Bokong Reserve

Waterfall at Bokong Reserve

After Bokong we descend in to the valley that houses Katse Resevoir. Like all of southern Africa they are experiencing a drought here and the reservoir is at 40% of capacity.

Katse Resevoir

Katse Reservoir

Once we reach Katse Dam the road switches to gravel the rest of the way to Thaba-Tseka. After about fifteen kilometres Cindy pulls over. Two of her fender bolts are broken and the vibrations have caused the tire to grab the fender causing damage to both. No stress I take the fender off and we strap it to the back of the bike.

Sans Fender

Sans Fender

As we are leaving Thaba-Tseka we are joined by Jason on a Yamaha XT-660. As the Roof of Africa Enduro races are happening we join him camping that night as all the hotels are booked. One issue Cindy doesn’t have camping gear, so Jason and I share my two-man tent and she uses his one man tent.

Tenting at Romabanta

Tenting at Romabanta

2016-12-02

Cindy and Jason head to Roof of Africa and I head south to Qacha’s Nek. I make it through the borders easily but get held up by the South African border guard at the gate who wants to know all about my travels and adventures.

I ride the rest of the way in to Kokstad, South Africa and shut it down as I didn’t sleep well the previous night.

Lesotho Motorcycle Police

Lesotho Motorcycle Police

St. Lucia and Ballito

2016-11-22 to 2016-11-23

After crossing the border back to South Africa I head south on N2 to St. Lucia which is a resort town on the Indian Ocean. I was hoping to get out on a whale watching tour but the seas are too rough for the boat. So the plan changes and I decide to just relax for a couple of days and try to get out on the ocean later on in the trip.

It's a hard life writing by candlelight with wine on my patio.

It’s a hard life writing by candlelight with wine on my patio.

2016-11-24 to 2016-11-27

I am working my way towards Cape Town roughly along the coast and stop in Ballito just north of Durban for the weekend. Like St. Lucia it is also tourism oriented area with nice restaurants to try along the ocean. The only issue is I can’t find a decent Old Fashioned.

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Boat Wreck

Boat Wreck

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Swaziland

2016-11-21 to 2016-11-22

On Monday morning John and I track down an electrical issue for my battery tender connection that I use to connect my air pump. The connection I use is also meant to connect my jump starter battery so it has a rectifier in it and will not let power out the other side. It reads 12V on a voltmeter but it won’t keep a test light lit. In hindsight this is obvious so we rip the rectifiers out of the circuit as it is more important to run the pump (at the moment, fingers crossed.) After that John joins me on his Honda Shadow for the ride into Barberton. It is nice to see some BC plates again. As John has worked in Swaziland he is able to provide me with some good advice on roads to take in Swaziland.

John and his Honda Shadow

John and his Honda Shadow

From Barberton I head up to Belembu Border Crossing. The South African side is nicely paved windy roads up the mountain to Swaziland.

View toward South Africa

View toward South Africa

At the South African border I have to get my bike’s carnet stamped out of South Africa. As the Belembu Crossing is a lightly traveled gravel logging road crossing there is no South African Revenue Service officer. The police officer who is acting as SARS officer for the border has never dealt with a Carnet de Passage en Douane before so I coach him through the process as I am responsible for the paperwork being filled out properly.

The Swaziland side of the border is quick, painless, and friendly. I sign into the 20 km logging road and ride to Pigg’s Peak. The mountainous area of Swaziland has a lot of forestry happening in it.

Magus Dam Spillway

Maguga Dam Spillway

Maguga Dam

Maguga Dam

On my way south I ride by Maguga Dam which is a water storage dam for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation.

Mountainous Region of Swaziland

Mountainous Region of Swaziland

I settle in that night in Manzini which is the biggest city in Swaziland.

The next morning I head across the street to Carson Wheels, the local Kawasaki (along with every thing else) dealer. I am looking for an interesting route to ride south but end up being told to just take the major highway. I get a chance to talk to a few of the employees and they insist on washing the bike before I leave. I am ushered into the BMW Motorrad dealers for tea and my bike is brought to the wash bay.

Most of the locals are riding 125 cc bikes so my 650 cc is impressive here and I am a local curiosity as some of them do not know where Canada is.

All Clean at Carson Wheels

All Clean at Carson Wheels

After disrupting work at the dealership I head out on N8 through miles and miles of sugar cane fields.

Normally the GPS displays the speed limit; however, in Swaziland it seems to only read 60km/h despite what the signs are saying. At one point I am cruising along approaching a town and don’t notice the speed limit change from 80 km/h back to 60 km/h. Luckily one of Swaziland’s finest indicates to me that I need to pull over, oops! I pull in where all the other tourists (South African plates) are collecting there tickets and paying their fines. The police officer informs me I have been caught speeding and the fine is 60 Rand ($6 CAD) at this point I am like okay where do I get my ticket. I think he is expecting an argument and insists I look at the speed camera reading for my bike. After that I am directed to the officers doing collections and issuing receipts. It seems legitimate (and I was speeding) so I pay the fine and carry on.

An hour later I arrive at the border which is extremely well organized, you are handed a checklist, told where to park, go inside the building and work your way down the line until you are all signed off, go back to your vehicle, drive to the border guard hand him your checklist and away you go. Same thing on the South African side. Whoever is running those posts has a good system in place.

I carry on to St. Lucia on the ocean in Kwa-Zulu Natal that evening.

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