One Step

Every journey begins with a single step, and so it is for my departure up Africa. 

After fitting some additional Denali lights and hooter to the bike last week, it was time to head down to Amanzimtoti just south of Durban to meet up with Hein from Motorcycle Safety Institute to chat about being an MSI ambassador during my trip. Most long distance trips have a side agenda raising funds and/or awareness for worthy causes, and my side agenda is talking about motorcycle safety and continued rider improvement; both for MSI in South Africa and EAMG in UK.

It was great spending a couple of days there chatting to Hein and sorting out a few things, and we capped it off with a quick interview.

The ride down to Durban was in solid rain all the way from Harrismith, and the ride back a few days later was no different. I don’t mind riding in rain or cold, the bike gear we have today is perfectly warm and dry, but I can’t honestly say the same about setting up or breaking camp in the rain – that one I try to avoid!

I met up with the usual suspects from Potch for a weekend at Malutizicht lodge, and a day at the Stars of Sandstone event. Sandstone Estate is a working farm just outside of Ficksburg, and home to what must be (one of) the largest private collections of old steam, farm, and military equipment. The estate even has it’s own private railway that runs around the estate, and joins with the national network. Stars of Sandstone is when they open the estate to the public for 10 days, and people flock from all over the world to attend. I have never seen such a collection and concentration of working steam engines and locomotives. I fear my words will not do justice to the event, so I’ll just pop a link here and invite to go as far down that rabbit hole as you want!

I’ve got nearly a week to get down to Cape Town where I’ll get some final preparations done before heading north. With that kind of time, I decided to go via a mountain pass I have heard lots about but never ridden – Langeni Pass in Langeni Forest in the Eastern Cape. As mountain passes go you wouldn’t think much if you just looked at a picture of it, but consider they were not allowed to build access roads and all materials had to be carried in by hand because of the protected forest, making it the most expensive road in South Africa by R/km.

With that background info, the pass is very impressive, and even the road getting there from Elliot to Ugi left me having to remind myself time and again I was not riding the Black Forest in Germany! If mountain passes are your thing, do yourself a huge favour and subscribe to Mountain Passes South Africa – their content is mind blowing!

I stopped over in Queenstown and when the guest house owner saw the bike he started telling me about friends of his that are riding in South America on 650’s. It didn’t take long for me to ask ‘You’re not talking about Michnus and Elsebie from PikiPiki Overland?’, which he was. I’ve known them since the first Horizons Unlimited event in South Africa in 2014, and been in touch following their trip ever since. Small world! 

Camping at Oppi Dam in Oudtshorn and a small disaster strikes. I let someone use my Helinox camp cot for one night, and they gave it back with the usual thanks, but nothing else. The next time I used it, two of the legs collapsed. I got those repaired through Cliff at The Adventure Bike Shop in Sudbury, and I thought all was well. Until last night, when I tried to fit the raised legs and found one of the feet had larger holes for the extensions than the others. Early this morning the third leg also failed, leaving me with only one ‘good’ one. Now this is where I argue the point about paying just that bit extra for quality goods that are backed up by a 100% manufacturer commitment, ‘no questions asked’. I let Cliff know the latest, and within a day Helinox EU had sent him a full set of 3 replacement legs, and they are now winging their way here, ETA 2 days. Helinox have said they don’t need the other legs back, so I’ll keep the one good one as a spare and see how it goes. That is the kind of customer service that justifies spending a little more, and keeps me coming back and pointing other customers their way. Nice one Adventure Bike Shop and Helinox!

That adjusted plans slightly, and I now find myself catching up on things here in Cape Agulhas, the southern most point of Africa. I’ve stayed in this guest house a few times now, but it’s always nice to get a personal greeting on the Welcome Board!

Everything from here is Up!

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