We wanted to leave at 6am, but after packing our panniers for the first time and changing the linkarm on Kristine’s bike (to lift the suspension due to the load) we left Durban 6 hours later - 12pm. Traffic was calm and the rain had subsided as we made our way along the N2 southbound along the east coast of South Africa. As we headed towards Kokstad daylight was running out and we decided to stay the night with Nick`s cousin’s (Susi and Faan) on their farm in Matatiele. As we arrived we were told that it was Nick`s other cousin Lynette`s birthday, and we headed to her house to have a drink and catch up. We arrived and were treated to a delicious curry and vegetable potjie (yummy !!).
Day 2 :17 December 2009
Left Matatiele at 8am and travelled 49kms down the road…until Nick’s bike started jolting and indicating it was low on petrol. So we turned around and filled up our tanks after a small miscalculation on our fuel consumption…apparently the load and wind resistance from the panniers results in higher fuel consumption!
We then travelled along back to the N2 towards Umtata and stopped for a lunch break. Transkei traffic was ok and not as bad as anticipated, only a few large trucks affected the flow of traffic while a few cowboys attempted to overtake on blind rises and squeeze back into the traffic when on-coming traffic arrived. Nothing can be said about the ease of overtaking on a motorbike with the increased acceleration speed when compared to the average car. Stopped at the Kei River Bridge Ultra City which was the start of all the beautiful river crossings along the Eastern Cape Coast. Continued through to Morgans Bay where we camped at a place called Yellow Wood Forest – excellently run with a earthy decorative style. Indulged in a few refreshments and devoured a wood oven pizza and decadent burger under a canopy of Yellow Wood trees.
Day 3: 18 December 2009
9am start through to Kei River mouth which reminded us a lot of Zinkwazi Estuary on the North Coast of Durban. Continued along to Morgans Bay top shop for a few energy bars and fruit juice for breakfast before heading southbound on the N2 towards East London. We stopped at Beacon Bay Shopping Center where we met a family friend (Anton Grey) for a catch up and brunch snack. He advised we travel southwards towards Port Alfred on the coastal road, but head inland again to the N2 at Bathurst towards Grahamstown as the road works result in lengthy waits the further south you travel. The R72 coastal Road was beautiful and we stopped at Kidds Beach, a beautiful coastline with an endless beach - much like Umhloti just North of Durban.
As we travelled this R72 stretch we stopped in at a number of River Mouths and beaches. At one side road a bit of a challenge presented itself… Sand…and with that it was “beep beep” – and Kristine dropped her bike!! Nick continued to focus the camera on her while she yelled at him for help to pick up the heavy machine. Funny thing is she picked up the bike (with help) and sped through the rest of sand in a fit of rage – obviously no problem with that last stretch of sand obstacle!! The trip out of the sandy road was a little more stable, but ended with a manic wobble and near collision into Nick’s bike.
Continued through Port Alfred and onto Bathurst for a quick stop at the Pigg and Whistle and Centenary Memorial Hall built in 1820.
Continued along R67 towards Grahamstown when the rain started becoming a bit more threatening. We geared up into our rain gear for the stretch along the N2 to Shamwari Game Reserve to meet an old school friend - Dave Olsen. Guided tour through the luxurious Shamwari Lodge and then treated to an exciting game drive, which included black and white rhino, giraffe, hippo, bleesbock and calves, zebra and calves and last but not least walked up to and sat 10 meters away from a mother cheetah and her 2 sons, while a curios brown hyena wandered in the distant behind us.
What more to say: Amazing !!! Dave suggested we stay at a B&B in Paterson called Sand Flats. Ate the most tender steak, egg and chips; enjoyed a drink in the very charismatic bar and off to bed after a very eventful day.Day 4: 19 December 2009
After a jaw clattering breakfast (lets just say a quiet dining room and false teeth clanking made it quite ‘jaw clattering’) we jumped onto our bikes at 9am and headed towards Port Elizabeth. From PE travelled along the N2 taking the R331 through Lories Pass and Hankey where we stopped at one of the biggest sun dials in Southern Africa!! Through Patensia where we met fellow riders and filled the bikes before heading into the Baviaans wilderness.
After purchasing our permits to gain entry into Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site we decided to camp at Kudu-Kaya private farm which had rows and rows of lime trees. After setting up camp we took a walk to the natural rock pools in the mountains to cool off. Nick took some awesome pictures of frogs (Mari you will be impressed !!).
Made a fire with flint and knife, enjoyed a hearty pasta meal and sipped on a bottle of OBS (Old Brown Sherry) – what a way to end another wonderful day of riding in South Africa!!
Day 5: 20 December 2009
Cleared our campsite and left 9am towards the Eastern Gate of Baviaanskloof Wilderness area. As we headed on to the gate we came across a dead(ly) snake…and thought it would be best to wrangle it onto the side of the road away from passing vehicles. Baviaanskloof has the most amazing scenery that no words or pictures can capture what was experienced – truly Spectacular.
At the first water crossing – and talk about being thrown into the deep end- Nick took both bikes through at least a 1m deep and 10m long crossing covered in hidden boulders. Of course Nick managed this without any incidents… J
Our next major river crossing was quite intimidating being approximately 60m log with murky water and no way of seeing what lay before us. Guinea pig Nick ventured into the unknown and after a small dip, big bounce and a few wobbles he was through. The left section of the path was then ruled out and Kristine followed gracefully through the crossing on the right path.
As we headed out through the amazing gorges we saw incredible rock features, dry river crossings and high walled ridges. As family of baboons played near the road with their babies we continued meandering through to Willomore.
Note: From a technical point of view Sani Pass is more difficult but a lot mor commercialized, whereas Baviaanskloof is more rugged, well maintained and extremely scenic – a seemingly untouched part of South Africa.
The quaint town of Willomore contains a number of B&B’s and antique stores. We stayed at the 1856 established rectory, now a B&B called ‘The Willows Historical Guest House’. Enjoyed a hearty meal in a beautiful Victorian/Dutch style restaurant with ‘True Karoo hospitality’.
Day 6: 21 December 2009
Willmore – the day of rest
After a good nights sleep, yummy breakfast (excluding the sheeps balls) and shower we wandered the town of Willmore. Explored the Antique Stores taking us back in time and visited the Old Town Jail, currently being refurbished into a B&B. Unfortunately this refurbishment has meant that most of the history is being removed to make rooms bigger with en-suite bathrooms…
Moved from ‘The Willows’ to the ‘Villa d’Lockyear’ Country Lodge’ and relaxed in true December (in South Africa) holiday fashion – by the pool. A few drinks by the pool led to us visiting ‘Die Roya Hotel’ for a game of pool. Back to the B&B and the party began…lets just say we have made friends with some lovely people from Willmore and George - to be visited again soon J
Day 7: 22 December 2009
Willmore – Knysna
Achingly rolled out of bed for a nice greasy breakfast and lots of orange juice to soothe our throbbing heads.
Left Willomore at 11am and headed towards the coast on the N9. After lots of ostrich farms and citrus plantations we headed through the Outeniqua Mountains. The pass reminded us of pictures we have seen of the Swiss Alps – sans the snow of course.
The windy road through the pass towards George was amazing and spectacular, especially when one looks at the how high the mountains are (approximately 800m) descending down to the Eastern Coastline.
After a quick drive through George we travelled along the Garden Route towards Knysna. We crossed the Wilderness and Sedgefield estuaries which are dark blue and vase with holiday makers sailing, canoeing, fishing and enjoying the beautiful weather.
Arrived in Knysna and found the ‘Monks Caravan Park’ where we set up camp for the evening. The camp sites are very well maintained and the end of the property had direct access onto the Knysna estuary.
Explored that town in search of a place to eat. The streets and malls were quite busing boasting a holiday vibe. Interesting artistic and crafty displays throughout an open, maize like shopping arena. The Eastern Cape was experiencing a serious water shortage during our visit, and a number of light poles have signs on them explaining the issue about water scarcity requesting persons to use water sparingly.
Enjoyed a delicious meal at the Swing Café – a local hot spot with regular live performances. Had an interesting sighting as vagrants were searched by police for drugs and a few were then put into the back of the police van off to the local police station.
After a leisurely stroll back to the campsite we relaxed on a blanket watching a magnificent sunset. As we continued to relax on the blanket into the evening we were spoilt and a large owl landed about 5meters from where we were relaxing…what a great event to end a splendid day!
Day 8: 23 December 2009
Left ‘The Monks’ at 9am and went through to Knysna estuary mouth to the Knysna Heads. Windless, clear sunny day made the water look turquoise blue. Watched as people paddled to the caves near the heads and enjoyed a snorkel in the chilly water.
The drive from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay involved crossing a number of bridges over estuaries with large inland lakes. Te clear water was crystal like and everywhere we looked holiday makers were enjoying lots of different sporting activities (water skiing, para-gliding and fishing).
Continued through Plettenberg Bay past ‘The Crags’ and to the start of Natures Valley. Went to Birds of Eden and wandered for over an hour watching hundreds of different bird species enjoying a piece of heaven. Birds of Eden looks like a large net has been thrown over a natural valley forest and inside approximately 2000 birds enjoy a safe and beautiful environment.
Other places that can be visited while you are there include Monkeyland, an Elephant Sanctuary and then through to the Tsitsikama Forest.
Next stop was the Bloukrans Bridge to watch the highest bungi in the world. Note to self is to book the jump in advance to try when we go down that way again J
Ode through to Storms River where we walked to the middle of the bridge admiring the drop and view down the valley.
The very breezy ride to Jeffery’s Bay led us to meet hundreds of other holiday makers getting ready for the Christmas and new year celebrations.
Continued along the Northern stretch of the Garden Route on to Grahamstown to explore my brother’s soon to be home town.
Camped in Grahamstown Camp Site where we met a lone traveler from Pretoria on his way to J. Bay. Although we were knackered from the drive we enjoyed entertaining stories and listened to different perspectives on life.
Day 9: 24 December 2009
Explored the 10- fun things to do in Grahamstown during the morning before we realized we were grumpy and needed some breakfast.
Chatted to a fellow rider we met at the Spar shopping centre in Grahamstown who had travelled from PMB. He shared some interesting back road routes we should try through South Africa. J Again the fallacy of riders being hard core clicky people was proved incorrect as he shared his riding experiences and eagerly listened to ours.
Continued along the N2 through to the Wild Coast – Cintsa Beach. When we arrived we were informed about the Christmas dinner and party organized for the evening – which we quickly booked for. As rain threatened we set up our tent on a wooden platform – definitely a first – especially with the challenge of putting in the pegs.
Took a walk down to the beach where we relaxed on the dunes and watched whales and dolphins swim past. Whilst sitting on the beach we were greeted by a friendly, persistent border colley who wanted to play throw and catch all afternoon with anyone who would join in.
After a steamy shower headed for pre-drinks at the bar before we went through to Christmas dinner. The backpackers had gone through great efforts to decorate the room and cook a delicious Christmas feast for about 80 people to enjoy. Once filled with yummy food we went through to the bar again where we partied Christmas day in. Made some new friends and experienced a new way of celebrating Christmas.
Day 10: 25 December 2009
Left around 11 on a rainy morning after jump starting Kristine’ dead motorbike. Continued along the N2 through to Umtata where we detoured onto the XX road-a back route through to Matatiele. Although it stopped raining our route through Mount Frere involved some thick mist.
Arrived at Bev’s house where we were treated to a delicious Christmas dinner. Exhausted after a few days riding we got to sleep in a comfy bed…
Day 11: 26 December 2009
Matatiele-Durban (Home again)
Battled to get out bed in the morning. Had to jump start Kristine’s bike again before going through to Shell Hole Memorial where Bev showed us a lot of interesting memorabilia from Wars fought by local hero’s. Decided to head home but before we could get on our way had to push start Kristine’s bike again…this time in 28ºC heat. As Kristine was pushing the bike the heat got to her and she took her jacket off and put it on the pavement. Although a quiet town, looks are deceiving and before she had a chance to go back and collect it, it had been stolen. Luckily this happened on the last day of the trip. We travelled along the inland route through to PMB where we met some of the strongest winds we had experienced since Jeffery’s Bay. Made our way home after a phenomenal holiday on the Eastern Coast of South Africa.
Total distance travelled: 4850km