I left Perth 11.50pm Friday, arrived in Jo’burg just on dawn and was met at the airport by Daryl Berman.
I looked at him and he said, I met you last November in Swaziland going up to the Candle factory, “Yes” I said, “That’s right”, he offered me a card of SAMA Tours, I told him I had one and that a girl gave it to me in May, 2013 in Victoria Park before I flew to Turkey etc. “God” he said, “That was my daughter, Nicole”. So that’s how I met the Bermans.
Picked up another chap who I saw on the plane and he comes from
Belmont in WA. He grew up in Edinburgh in Scotland and came to
Australia 40 years ago, his speech was such I thought he’d left
Scotland last week.
After 50kms or more we were in Pretoria, nice town or city to meet others and pick up the motorbikes.
They have a lot of BMW’s there, all GS’s and boy do they get a workout on the worst roads I’ve ever seen in my life.
The roads are nearly all bitumen with big holes that can vary
in length, they can be a metre or more long and up to 25cms
deep, there might be 4, 5 or 6 holes in a line in only 20-25
metres so when hit at 70-90km/h! I just don’t know how these
bikes can stand the treatment for long.
Jonathon was saying they trade them in every two years as they
are not covered by warranty after this period, usually with
70,000kms on the clock.
Our first night’s accommodation was very good indeed, this was Tuli Block. It was there I discovered I hadn’t got my pills, I told Jonathon and Nicole and so off to Pretoria Hospital we went in a little VW Polo.
Saw a doctor, then blood tests etc for a couple of hours before eventually getting the pills I needed, by then it was 9.30pm, so no dinner and could only get a coffee and biscuit at the hospital. Then back to Tuli Block for a sleep and a big breakfast next morning before heading to the Makgadigadi Pans late afternoon in Botswana.
After lunch we really hit the bad roads, sometimes doing 70-100km/h, then Adrian took the GS off Jonathon, he is faster again. The Botswana border, took 3 hours of crap to get through, but then the road improved and we were sitting on 120+ at times. Stopped that night at Kwa Nokeng Lodge, lovely place, then did the pans and watched the sun go down on the biggest salt pans in the world.
After paying our border toll of 250 Rand at a small town and filling up with fuel we went to Kwa Nokeng Lodge for the night. There are several large tents up off the ground covered with tarps. This I climbed into for the night, after dinner we all went to bed about 9 pm. After showering and getting into bed a couple of wart hogs decided to have a fight under my tent, this went on for 5-10 minutes, then one ran off, so quiet, but not for long, then the hippos started grunting and snorting in the river - after half an hour I fell asleep. Didn’t hear them in the morning, thank goodness.
Great breakfast and on the road again heading for the
Makgadigadi Salt Pans. On the way tall grass and short grass
about 35-60cm tall, then out of the blue dad, mum and two small
warthogs came out of the grass, straight across the road at
Judy was in front of me doing 120kmh or better and then hard on
the ABS and the F700 pulling up so fast she was flat out
stopping herself from going over the handlebars. I’m full on
with the ABS as well, we seemed to slow down a bit (for a while)
then back up to speed again. Quite an experience, I can tell
you, no more experiences after that. It was great.
Next day worse roads again and slower speed, plenty of
livestock on the roads, horses in mobs with a couple of black
fellows looking after them, several hundred goats wandering
across the road, donkeys everywhere, some pulling carts, then a
bit further lots of cattle either side of the bitumen. The last
two riders saw a car hit a cow and what a mess, they just kept
going, didn’t want to get involved with that lot!
That night we stayed in Chobe, did a river cruise and next day left all the bikes etc at Chobe. We were taken by as small bus to the border of Zimbabwe, another hour plus border crossing, then onto Victoria Falls and stayed for 2 days and 2 nights. The hotel has altered a lot and has a new entrance since Jean and I were there 25 years ago.
Went to the falls and also did a river cruise one evening, all good and then back to Chobe. Picked up the bikes and then rode to Okavango, good road and at times 130+ km/h. The little F700GS I had loved the speed and handled the bends perfectly. I was amazed at how good the bike was, superb brakes and handling.
We were in Namibia now, good border crossing and stayed at Nunda Lodge for two days. Did river cruise one afternoon and canoeing next morning. Saw elephants walking out into the middle of the river (2 metres deep or more) and eating green grass standing up a bit, sometimes to stuff food in their mouths, interesting.
Next day another rest day, then onto Etosha National Park, stayed two nights, did game drive etc and then stayed at Mokuti Lodge for 2 nights then onto Swakomund, right on the coast - an old German town with lots of German history, lovely gardens etc.
Went to an old historic ship for dinner both nights, then
back-tracked 130kms before going in a southerly direction to
Lake Oanob for a night, very rough gravel road for 8 kms to get
into Lake Oanob, then to the best place of all, Fish River
Canyon (Canon Village) where we stayed for 2 nights.
Had major problems here with the tyres on the Mercedes van. After being on gravel for an hour or more the right rear tyre was flat. The tyres are the wrong sort for this vehicle and country, they were Continental tyres made for Europe.
After much trouble getting the spare on, off we go slowly,
getting darker by the minute, half an hour later the GPS tells
us no more road. Turned around, hopefully towards Canon Village.
Jonathon came down the road to see what had happened as we had
all the luggage in the van. As we were telling him our troubles,
he shone the motorbike headlight on the spare wheel we’d put on
and that was going flat also.
Not good mate, over a km to the village, so had to slowly drive
on the flat tyre. Got there and everybody out to greet us, much
laughter about the tyres etc. Dinner not covered in tour price,
cost 234 Rand (about A$23).
Next day spent three hours on the phone before eventually
managing to get two new tyres that would fit the van, a chap
came out the next morning and fitted them onto the rear wheels.
Daryl Berman in Pretoria had to bring 2 new tyres up. (A
distance of 1500 plus kms, a bit like the Nullabor between
Norseman and Ceduna, anyhow no more tyre troubles.
Went in a 4WD to Fish River Canyon, what a place, bigger than the Grand Canyon in the USA. I had hurt my back and so rode in the van for a few days, so the F700GS was ridden instead of the 650GS from there to Springbok.
Stayed at Okiep Country Hotel, nice place and then to
Paternoster, pretty little fishing village with excellent food
etc. Then onto Cape Agulhus, the most southern tip of Africa,
where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Over mountain passes
through a main wine growing district, very pretty area to a town
called Franschoek where we had lunch.
That night we were in Cape Town at the Fountains Hotel. Had dinner at the waterfront, lovely meal etc. So a truly great trip and experience on a motorbike. Loaded 5 bikes onto the trailer and 2 into the van to go back to Pretoria. Good flight home and Kris picked me up at the airport.
Do it again sometime soon.