After Mozambique, South Africa was amazingly beautiful. Leaving the border, the road was sandwiched between a dark grey rock wall and beautiful clear blue river below us tumbling over the boulders. We were not traveling too far that day, but after the long border crossing and with time we spent trying to change money at the first “One Stop” along the way, it was now getting pretty late in the afternoon. We were heading to a small town called Hazyview on the edge of the famous Kruger Park, a town known for its adventure activities.
It’s always interesting who your friends put you in contact with. I met Amy weeks before leaving on my first motorcycle trip “Bangkok to Moscow” back in 2008. I was scared nervous and with less than 6 months of knowing what a motorcycle was, I had no expectations I was going to complete this outrageous idea of mine. Amy, had just completed a 24 month trip from London to South Africa with only six week motorcycle knowledge behind her, she gave me the courage and the confidence to do my first adventure. Then six years later she gave me a contact in South Africa. Martin, Sasha and their three boys, plus 7 dogs, 2 cats and so many fish.
I arranged with Martin via email, not knowing who they were, just purely trusting Amy and her judgement of people! We arrived at their home late Sunday, but we were instantly welcomed into their family. First things first, peeling off our motorcycle gear and jump into the shower! We headed up to the house not long afterwards as we were invited for dinner and a beer. Martin being the perfect host, asked if everything was ok in their spare cottage – I replied “Well…. actually, I think there is something wrong with the basin in the bathroom?” I saw instant worry in Martins eyes, feeling slightly guilty I quickly put him out of his misery “There seems to be hot water coming out of the tap!” Martin quickly laughed as I then go on to explain that I haven’t seen hot water in a basin since leaving home! It’s the little things in life.
I’ve only been in South Africa for a couple of days, but it feels like I have having the reverse cultural shock!
There are white (or coloured) people attending to me at the supermarket.
You can drink water directly from the tap.
I never get bag checked in department shops (due to my skin colour).
You can buy nearly everything you could ever want!
There are expensive BMW riders everywhere fully kitted out in the BMW experience!
These points are just to name a few. I’m sure the longer I’m here, I can compile an entire list!
Hayview was a great place to look for some new clothes, eat some food we hadn’t seen in ages (like sushi!) and to explore the beautiful area. One opportunity we couldn’t pass up was visiting Kruger Park. We hired a car and planned it just so, that we would have two safaris in Kruger Park. One in the morning and one in the afternoon getting the best parts of the day without hanging around during the middle of the day waiting for the animals to wake up!
Within the first hour of our safari we managed to conquer 4 out of big 5! I couldn’t believe it. I had just seen a herd of rhinoceros, a lion, a buffalo and an elephant. All I needed to see was a leopard to complete the list. I had seen some of these animals before, but never all in one day! Sadly, I wasn’t able spot a leopard, but I did get to see two cheetahs resting in the afternoon sun!
Inside the Kruger Park, there is a Kruger culture. You must stop and talk to every vehicle coming your way to compare notes, guide them to see something amazing or to just plain brag about what they saw. It got pretty entertaining, but also really nice to help someone see something they hadn’t seen before or couldn’t see despite being right in front of them.
I think my highlight of the park was the cheetahs, but I also got to see a very small hyena puppy which I think was a bit sick as it came directly up to the car , but it was so cute! Can I take it home Mike? Can I? Pllleeaasseee?
After Kruger, we were meant to head to Johannesburg to meet a friend of Mike, who was flying into the country in just a few days time. However, when Martin offered to take us out on a ride out lending us a Honda CRF250 and a KTM 200 XCW. It was fantastic to get on a bike and not have to worry it will fall apart if you twist the throttle too much! We had great fun bumbling around on single tracks, across country, learning new tricks to maneuver our bikes into position to get around things.
At one point, Martin disappeared into some thick trees. Martin’s son Ben waited for five minutes before he took off following Martins route. I pulled my bike up next to Mike’s. We looked at each other, let out a nervous laugh as we had no idea what was in store for us within those dark gloomy trees. Then it was Mike’s turn, I watched him also disappear and I was left alone counting down the minutes to when it would be my turn. When I thought five minutes had passed I too put the bike in gear, released the break and eased myself into the trees. As soon as my eyes adjusted I quickly shifted down a gear and grabbed onto the breaks. Before me laid a insanely steep muddy single track with a sharp corner around a tree at the bottom.
Control sliding down to the bottom, where I turned the bike around the corner only to find myself facing the same angle track but this some straight up! In the second of hesitation, I lost all my momentum and fell sideways. I love crashes, you always think you’re going to hurt yourself but lucky for me, so far I’ve only had 1.2 crashes where I’ve actually hurt myself.
Later that day, Ben was having some issues with his electric start, as we were the last two in the line of riders. I helped him to kick start it, but with Ben’s slightly out of control clutch release / throttle control, he stalled it. I could see he was almost panicking as we were getting further and further behind the other two. I was just walking back over to him, when he managed to kickstart the bike himself and take off. But I did notice a huge grin right across his face as he had just managed to kickstart his bike for the first time.
Heading home that day, Mike was now third in line and was giving Ben some more space. Then suddenly, Martin and Ben just disappeared. We had no idea where we were in relations to their house or the main road! So we sat on the edge of an orange orchard wondering where we went wrong. My bike was so loud, I decided to leave it on and rev it every now and then. Martin, followed the sounds and saved us from camping in the orchard for the night. By the time we got home, we were so amped up. It was such a change in riding style to what we are used to. We would never have attempted half the stuff on our own bikes.
We left for Johannesburg a day later, not actually wanting to leave but for some reason, I didn’t think this would be the last time I saw the Smith family. Due to our bikes being in fairly bad shape we took the motorway directly into the city and arrived late afternoon just in time for peak hour traffic. Perfect! With my oil consumption issues, my bike’s temperature rose quickly. I just hate having to sit on the side of the road, with all my motorcycle gear on in the hot afternoon temperatures waiting for the bike to cool down. But 30 minutes later, it was not completely cool, but enough to drive the remaining two kilometers to the guest house.
If you listen to the guide books, there is no way you would even think about entering into this city. However, that isn’t the case. It’s just another city in Africa full of beautiful people and the sprinkle of bad ones. There are many hidden gems to be found and I hope to discover them over the next few weeks.
You can view more photos for this blog here