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The Journey


November 2001

Falling in love with South Africa
After arriving in Johannesburg the thoughts and ideas of being unwelcome in this country (due to difficulties in obtaining a visa) changed completely. People were friendly, the BMW community was very caring and bureaucracy indeed wasn't as bad as it was in the beginning.

Running around in Joburg
I was hosted by F650 family the Haasbroek's (Mandy and Elroy, their two lovely kids, dogs and a cuddly cat). An extremely helpful family who was pivotal in helping me getting everything done. Not to mention all the fun we had. They really are sweet people. They helped me get my bike issues sorted out, apply for visas and collect Snoopys from MacDonald's. (We collected 22 Snoopys and left them with Mandy's son in Joburg who's been named "Guardian of the Snoopys" for this motorcycle world traveler. They also graciously let me use their kitchen to cook and bake for the first time in many months.

My first ride was short, only about 500km towards Nelspruit, but the results were devastating. Apparently oil was still leaking and much of it ending in the airbox. The mechanics at Midway Motorcycles were as troubled by it as I was. They got to work immediately and started digging around in the engine. After a little effort they found a seal and bearing behind the compensating shaft that needed to be replaced. After a few moments of frustration and panic they got back to work. Showing extreme patience, my "man" was fixed and ready to go after a couple of days.

The waiting itself wasn't even that bad, because Koos and his girlfriend invited me for ballroom dancing. An absolute delight after being off the floor for over 10 years: though in my borrowed high heels shoes I felt like I was on stilts.

In Pretoria I had a good time, this is one of the greatest places in the world to collect a bunch of visas, especially since Elroy allowed me to borrow his 650 and I could cover more ground than if I had to walk.

At Midway Motorcycles in Midrand, Allen and Mike, who are passionate BMW doctors, did an excellent job on the bike.

I then left for Lesotho, for some fun in the mountains. I did avoid eating cat though (I was told this is a great local delicacy). Lesotho was beautiful, a tiny country and really unspoiled.

Partying in Durban
I then headed on to the bustling town of Durban with the same active BMW community. Everything was arranged and agreed upon beforehand with Anthony Krijger of the BMW Club Durban, Everything except the weather, but even that was perfect. These Durban riders almost destroyed me. I think they are a clan of partiers. But the Sunday ride showed they are hard riders, too, boy, I had to ride 300 kilometers before I earned my breakfast.

The mechanics at Tommy Johns' place really wanted to do some work on my bike, but as there was nothing really much to be done, they strapped a little Power Ranger to my bike for giving me strength in Africa. Durban was really "unbefreakinlievalbe" fun! Their care for me was complete, because when I was leaving Durban dead tired (after all the partying, what else...) they had arranged a pit stop with BMW riders' parents in East London, who let me sleep and catch up on the energy required for this demanding trip (thank you Tony, Woman, Jim and June you mean sooo much!).

Riding with "mom"
I really don't know why people are making such a big fuss about the Transkei area, it was fun and uneventful and nobody wanted too shoot me, only a couple of cars passed me too closely.

My trip from Durban to Cape Town was special for another reason. I had a co-rider. I have been told so many times about how lucky I was to be riding around the world and everyone always went on and on how they would like to join me, but no-one ever did, until Mandy came along. She's a woman my age with a husband, two kids and her own business, and she just said "here, I come". It was a unique experience for me too, because it was the very first time that I needed to compromise; cope with another bike on the side, someone else's needs and wishes. We just had too much fun and its no wonder I miss her and all the little things, like the time I was taught her how to pee on the side of the road while wearing a riding gear...

South Africa doesn't feel like real traveling destination - the roads are brilliant, not much traffic, the scenery is gorgeous, so many thing to do here, people are open, hospitable, friendly and extraordinarily tough. Not to mention all the motorcyclists out there straightening the curves. It is just like a dreamland. I should hate places like that except I always miss them after leaving them.

From East London we rode in a lot of wind to Port Elizabeth, tempting us with our next adventure, world's highest bungee jump. We never planned it, but it was just there and I could not resist tempting opportunity.

Plettenberg Bay brought more friendly hosts, more unforgettable memories and a phenomenal beach. I was a little upset after finding out that South Africa is the only place in the world where motorcycles have to pay the same toll as four wheel vehicles. So, we pulled into the toll booth together and asked the guy to count the wheels, and demanded the car toll rate. The trick worked out most of time.

Another kind of bike
All the roads from Plet to Cape Agulhas were absolutely fantastic, especially Nature's Valley the passes were breathtaking.

To rest our butts, we stopped to learn more about those big birds in Oudtshoon, and went for what I call a little fun - ostrich funduro riding.

Going south in search of good wine and sharks I thought a visit to South Africa wouldn't be complete if I didn't visit the continent's most southern point, so we had to climb over some rocks with the bikes to get there. On the way to Cape Agulhas Elroy joined us, and we went on a hunt to find good wine and cheese. We stopped at almost every small village, visiting establishments such as the winery in Barrydale and the cheese factory in Swellendam. By the time we arrived at our destination we had picked up enough goodies and a had an amazing picnic at the bottom of Africa.

On approaching Cape Town I had nothing else on my mind but good wine and sharks. But instead of those, I got a cracked barrel in my engine. Bummer... What would I do without Auto Atlantic Motorcycles and super friendly guys there?

They jumped my aid in this misery. Yes, misery! I felt like my husband had just quit after 5 years of happy marriage and no warning. But then Johan at Auto Atlantic said that it wasn't as bad as it looked and let me use one of his F650GS in the meantime. So now my man is being serviced and I am running around having fun with another man, a new F650GS. Very unlike mine, switches are all different, and its much faster and louder than mine not to mention I always killed the engine when I attempted to park. Moreover my habit of parking before switching off the engine did not work as the kick stand automatically switched the engine off.

After receiving the news about the cracked barrel, I joined BMW Motorrad's hardworking web editor (with whom I've been corresponding since I was in Sri Lanka), to explore Cape Town. Sure enough we started at the top, on the mountain, and ended up at the bottom, at the waterfront (Feel free to blame me if his website is not being updated so frequently in these days).

Riding with the guys
I couldn't miss the Sunday ride with BMW Club Cape, another bunch of interesting fellows. By now the world is getting a little too small, everybody knows everybody. I think the BMW community in SA is definitely the strongest I have ever experienced to date. It was fun to meet the BWM people in New Zealand and Japan, but they weren't as organized, there are things happening here all the time. Every ride and every breakfast is too short, because I never had time to talk to everyone. I wish the rides were longer and breakfasts extended into diners.

I am getting ready for a shark dive and am determined not to leave Cape Town before I do this. How in the world could you NOT love South Africa?

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