Suzuki DR350 & 650, South Africa

Dreaming Through Drakensberg

| Blog South Africa

Craning your neck, I stare straight up at the Sani Pass that looms over our camping post. Excitement ripples through my gut. We are going to tackle that tomorrow, I think to myself with a smug look on my face. We have just arrived at the bottom of Sani Pass in Drakensberg at a beautiful backpackers. The overnight break will give us a chance to adjust ourselves and our bikes before we tackle a notoriously hard road the following day.

Leaving Johannesburg was a pain. There are so many toll road. Everyone one of them eating into our daily budget as they easy range from 30 ZAR to 70 ZAR (3 – 7€) each. To avoid them, we set our GPS to guide us down the provincial roads that twine through the countryside and criss-cross over the main highway. Every now and then we had to pop back onto the highway just to fill up on petrol at one of the many large service centers. When we were able too, we would head back onto the provincial roads with the other cheap bastards!

Just to step up my good feeling another notch, we turned off onto a even smaller road, and the asphalt disappeared completely, leaving us with just dirt, stones and more dirt. My smile just grew even bigger. Gliding over the bumps, taking the slippery corners, being stunned by the ever changing vistas became my world for the next few hours of my life.

It was over before I knew it and we arrived at our camp stop for the night. I wasn’t sure if my location for my tent was good enough. It was under a tree to stop the early morning sun, in front of guesthouse buildings overlooking Woodstock Dam onto the mountains that create a border between South Africa and Lesotho. I think it will do, for tonight at least! Once we had everything in our tent laid out it was time for a beer. It was our first day on the road and it felt good. After a couple of months being stationary, it felt liberating to shake off the concrete jungle feeling and get some fresh air on my face once again.

That one night turned into two nights, then three. It was hard to tear ourselves away from this beautiful area. Our campsite turned out to be perfect, the sun didn’t wake us up and the morning mist just hung around the Woodstock Dam before it burnt off. But a time comes when you need to change your vista. We packed up our gear, I completed a quick oil change and left only the imprint of our tent in the soft grass.

We rode onwards towards Sani Pass, an infamous road that would take us over the mountain and into Lesotho. Once again by just following the minor road that wrapped itself around the base of the mountains. Several hours later we arrive into a small township just outside Underberg. We pulled into a small cafe only to discover it was like visiting your grandma. It was jam-packed full of jams, chutneys, cakes, pies, stews and much much more. We sat around a tiny wooden table and ate our tasty late lunch. People came and went from the shop all stopping by our table to have a chat with us. I really felt welcomed into the community.

Tearing ourselves away from all the good home cooked food. We rode the last few kilometers to our campsite at the foot of Sani Pass. This camp spot was completely different from the last, but just as exciting. We had our own private nook surrounded by trees within the camp ground. It not only meant that we had more privacy but at least we could get out of the tent before putting on your pants! We headed up to the main common room grabbed a beer and started talking to a lanky british guy. This guy had been at the backpackers for a week and had completed almost all of the walks in the area. It wasn’t long before he convinced us to take a hike through the countryside and even recommended one. Looked like we would be staying here another day!

The following morning, we took a map that was provided by the guesthouse and hit the mountain. We strolled through the hills, under a waterfall where we had lunch and back around to a river which we followed out to the main road. It wasn’t an easy day and we cover over 20 kilometers and got lost right at the same point the map actually warned us not to get lost at! I was stuffed. Thank god, that the guesthouse did an amazing fixed menu dinner that would satisfy any hungry hiker.

We woke the next day to the sound of rain hitting the walls of our tent. We looked at each other and made the executive decision to snuggle further into our sleeping bags and stay another day. It was raining after all. During a break in the weather, we thought we should top up our food supplies in town. When we got to Mike’s bike we discovered he had left the keys on. Which equals a flat battery! We pushed the bike out onto the road to make our lives a little bit easier. We got the bike started eventually after a lot of huffing and puffing from me.

At the supermarket, we were loaded up with everything we need, we jumped onto Mike’s bike and he pressed the start button. Nothing. He pressed again and nothing happened. Getting off the bike, I pushed Mikes bike down the carpark to get it going again. Of course with everyone watching. On the way back to the campground, we pulled into the only motorcycle shop in the area. “Do you happen to have this type of battery?” When the lady said yes, we were both surprised! We are used things taking time and items need to be ordered in. We fitted the battery within a few minutes and rode off completely happy our problem was solved so quickly and so easily. We were now ready to tackle Sani Pass tomorrow.

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