Suzuki DR350 Engine

Oily fingernails And Visa Woes

| Blog South Africa

It’s been a long tiring month. I have oil ingrained into my fingernails and I never want to see my clutch again! Mike and I decided to rent the apartment in Johannesburg for another month after New years. With the hope of completing some of our tasks that we neglected to finish before christmas. One being the vain of my life – my motorcycle.

My motorcycle was burning too much oil, all through Mozambique (Read that blog here). Before I can start traveling again the engine would have to be opened up and the piston rings replaced along with the valve stem seals and a cylinder hone. Jim from the Wild Dogs Adventure Riders kindly offered us his workshop which is perfectly set up for Suzuki maintenance since he owns two DR350 and had owned a 650 previously. Mike and I stripped the bike down and extracted the cylinder and the head to take to the motorcycle mechanic.

The first shop we tried to get the work done, spent a few days sitting on the parts. After they had bumped me off a couple of times I took back the parts and found DNA Motorcycles. I rocked up to DNA Motorcycles on a busy saturday morning handed them my parts hoping they would have time to fit it into their tire changing, chain lobing saturday morning schedule. A couple of hours later, they called me to confirm, they had the time and the work is all done. Yippee as we raced to pick them up before the shop shut.

While we waited for the first shop to do its work, we worked on the rest of the motorcycle and did a much needed general overall maintenance, from front wheel to rear mudguard. Almost everything needed attending to. I even did a some repainting on the side stand and pannier racks. A lot of the screws / bolts and nuts needed a lot of work to get loose, it took time and a lot of frustration. I’m sure Jim had never seen such a ill looked after motorcycle. All his bikes are still shiny and everything works perfectly down to the last bolt. My bike hangs its handle bars in shame, for everything needed WD40 and a lot of slow careful work.

Once I had the parts back, we had to put my bike back together. While the engine pieces went back one after another and I was down to the last bolt, when disaster struck. I had to take it all apart to fix a stripped thread. Thankfully, it went back together smoothly after inserting a helicoil. Now everything was back bolted back on, I just had to hook up the clutch cable.

As Mike and I worked side by side, frustration once again started to boil. The cable would go on, but there was no adjustment. This is insane, we just took the damn thing off, why wont it work? We got it on and releasing the clutch vaguely. Taking it for test rides up and down the road. I wasn’t entirely happy with the results and Jim kindly gave me a brand new clutch cable. It worked a lot better than the old one, but still not 100%.

We got a call from a fallow overlander Jay (View his website here), who I had first meet in Nairobi all those months ago. He was in town and about to head to Cape Town. I arranged for him to meet us at Jims workshop as it was convenient location for both of us to have a quick catch up over motorcycles and coffee. We then took our bikes to the Suzuki Dealer Dirt Bike Style, where I had been getting my parts for this repair.

On the way to the bike shop, my wrist started to ache as the clutch got heavier. My hand gave out just as we arrived at the bike shop. I explained my dilemma to Christo, the owner of the shop. He gave me a small area of his overpacked workshop to take the clutch apart to see what was going on. Struggling to get the side cover bolts off, he handed us a special tool to grip the bolt head, which we used wrong (of course) and ended up cracking the cover. I surprised myself and didn’t cry, I was at my wits end with this bike. It just seemed everything we touched on the bike, five things disintegrated around it. I think my frustration had snapped and I was totally past it. I just want this damn thing fixed so we can be on our way.

The cover finally came off and I saw what happened inside. The clutch bearing and been pressed flat and all the balls were now loose inside my engine. Sifting through my engine oil and clutch plates, I found each of them except one. One tiny wee little ball that could get stuck anywhere in the engine. I brought some diesel and flushed the engine hoping that the little ball would appear. A lot of dirt came out but not ball. I gave up looking for the damn thing.

While waiting for a new clutch bearing to arrive, I went down the road to another motorcycle mechanic and a very good aluminum welder. This is where we meet the business owner Dave. I liked Dave as soon as I meet him, he had interesting but crazy stories to tell about his time in Angola and of course his night time neighbour watch activities dresses as rambo doing his duty for the community. Dave took my clutch cover and expertly welded it up for me.

Finally the bike was all back together and now we could focus on our next problem. Our visa was due to expire in a months time and we hadn’t even started exploring South Africa. After years of traveling Mike and I have learnt when needing any kind of paper work you must go to the biggest most central office possible. So with this in mind, we headed to Pretoria to get our visa extension started. When we arrived we fumbled through the building, eventually found the right queue to join and stood there for 30 minutes before a guy behind us worked out why we were there. He explained to us, unless you have all the documents there is no need to wait for three hours.

We left the queue with the list of things we needed and headed back to Johannesburg, with our tails between our legs. At least we didn’t wait three long hours to find out the information. Jim gave us the letter we needed and we doctored all the paperwork we needed before heading into Johannesburg Home Affairs office. We walked up five flights of stairs to the correct floor, waited in the first queue only to discover they didn’t have the forms we needed and a sign told us to get the form from Google! Trudging down the stairs, found an internet cafe, printed and filled it out before trudging back up the stairs and hour later.

Once we had everything we were allowed to enter into the next room. Not knowing really what to do, we took our seat in the back row. After a few minutes, everyone shuffled along a seat or two. We did this for the next three hours until we were number one of the queue. Ten minutes later we had submitted our paperwork, paid the bill and were already heading back down the stairs. Now all we had to do is wait, wait a month for a text message that our visa’s are ready to pick up.

I’ve written below a how to get a visa extension for those who need it.

How to get a South African Tourist Visa Extension

Visit their website

What You Need:

  • Bank Account Statement
  • Copy of Visa Page
  • Copy of identification page of Passport
  • Letter from a person who lives in South Africa inviting you to stay and a reason why.
  • 2x Passport photo
  • Flight ticket
  • Correct Fee
  • Pen (Black or Blue)
  • One original form obtained at Home Affairs. (Please note this the latest and they have removed the forms from the website.)
  • Passport (6 months valid) with one empty page for the visa extension.

Time to apply: 30 days before visa expires

Once you are armed with all the paperwork, clear your schedule and head down early to the Home Affairs closest to where your letter of recommendation is written. (Also, to save yourself some time, it would be wise to check which offices does visa extensions as not all branches do so.) Be prepared for a long wait, it took us three hours once we were inside the door. Every office is different, I will be talking about my experience in the Home Affairs building Johannesburg.

At the counter outside the elevators you will have to get your documents checked and receive the form. Once they have signed off on everything then you will be allowed inside the main waiting area.

Waiting Area- There will be several rows of chairs (probably full by the time you get there). Ask around, to find out where the end of the queue is. Take your seat and shuffle along when needed until you end up at the front of the queue.

After all that wait, its a bit of a let down and the lady will only take a few moments to check your paperwork and tell you to pay and come back when told.

This process takes about 4 weeks, expect a text message or an email. You can also call home-affairs and quote your case number to get an update. Once you receive the text message, you have one week to get back to Johannesburg and pick up the visa.

Pick up doesn’t take as long, you should only need two hours.