Drakensberg and the Wild Coast

Day 88 – Clarens – Friday 24th August – 82 kms

We woke up early. It was daylight. After a very quick visit to the smelly pit toilet, I put all my motorcycle gear on.

The two guys looking after the place were around. We moved to their house and sat at the table, in the living room/ dining room, as the breakfast was included on the price (700 rands for the night plus dinner and breakfast).

The two guys had breakfast with, same as for dinner. We had coffee, some brownish porridge, bread if I remember. Like the previous day, the conversation was far from flowing, as the 2 guys concentrated on eating. I tried to ask few questions ( like why their mum did not eat with us? Apparently women don’t. Why? No clue). Answers were short. They were not interested on talking to us and it was a bit awkward. There are quite few places where we have been, where they don’t really get the notion of customer services. Basically where they don’t seem to give a crap about their customers! It is just uncomfortable.

Anyway, after the quick breakfast we left. It was still very early and we had a short ride to the border town. We stopped to buy fuel. It was cheaper in Lesotho than in South Africa, apparently it is subsidised.

The border was a drive-through. Once again, it was very fast to get back into South Africa.

By 11am, we arrived at Clarens. Our book said it was a very nice town, artistic and a bit hippy, with lots of restaurants and art galleries.

We rode to the Clarens Inn Backpackers. Despite arriving so early, Katie, the manageress showed us To a large building, it was a massive studio flat. It was huge, with a big kitchen fully kitted and big shower room! It was amazing.

After getting settled, we walked to town. It was very pleasant, hippy and arty, like the guide said. We had lunch at the micro brewery place. The food was disappointing. Whoever heard of a goulash soup with chicken and no red wine in the stew? A watery tasteless chicken soup. We found the big shop and bought fresh vegs and noodles for dinner. We were keen to make the most of the kitchen and get some vegetables.

The town is still around 1800 m altitude, so as the sun set in, it got very cold. Luckily we had plenty of fire wood and a nice fire place. This time, starting the fire was easy, once you have first!

In the afternoon, I sat near the reception desk, to get WiFi reception and work on the blog. A group of young women arrived. The were volunteers working in Lesotho. I did not get exactly what they did for work, but they were involved in AIDS and LGBT stuff. One of them was with the peace Corps ( American charity), another was German. All in all 6 of them, some natives from Lesotho, all lesbians. Maybe you need to be LGBT to work in what they did? I did not ask. Listening to they conversations was highly entertaining and funny as they sat around me. We laughed a lot at their stories of living in Lesotho! It might be the reason why my last entry was a bit disjoint! I got distracted!

Day 88 and 89 – Clarens, Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th August – 0km

Saturday we did lots of washing. Most of my clothes were very dirty. All by hand as usual. I wanted to wash my motorcycle suit but it was too bulky for the small bathroom sink. I guess it can wait until we are back home now.

We got to know Katie, the backpacker manageress and a wonderful lady, and Robin, a guy working on fire management in Mozambique. I had not laughed so much in a long time. We really had a lot of fun with them. One of those places where you feel at home and leave very reluctantly. Definitely worth spending few days there.

Also the town was safe to walk around, and we had some nice food. And of course a nice sampling of local wines!

But as usual, it was soon time to go. We packed up. Sunday was very cold ( it dropped to minus 2 overnight) and the next day would be even colder. We had a big fire going in our room.

Day 90 – Boston – Monday 27th August – 340 kms.

With the weather so cold, we decided to ride as fast as possible down to the coast!

As I woke up at 6:30 it was still freezing outside. About minus 2! I started a big fire to warm the place and we packed slowly. We waited, hoping it would get warmer. Then we left by 10am.

We were heading south, taking the backroads. The ride across the mountains was very beautiful. However, despite wearing pretty much all our layers on, we arrived at the Boston T Party backpackers totally frozen.

I expected rustic lodging but was surprised that we had a large room with ensuite bathroom for 480 rands. And thankfully, the water was very hot!

The owners were also farmers. They were very friendly and we spoke about bikes and travels with them. The husband ( can’t remember his name ) is a big fan of enduro and had a nice bike in his garage!

The place had a big loung/ bar building where they set a fire for us to warm up and sit.

The communal kitchen was busy with 3 South African guys. They were transit workers. They blanked us out and concentrated on eating their food and watched some crappy soap opera on TV. We prepared some baked beans in the microwave and some toasts. After eating we washed our plates and left. We had not a flicker of acknowledgement. South Africa can be funny like that sometimes.

Day 91 – Port St John – Tuesday 28th of August – 350kms

The morning was, once again, very cold. We were still at altitude. After a quick breakfast, still being blanked out by one remaining guy in the kitchen, we put all our layers on and left. The last 100kms to Port St John was slow going. It was constant villages and houses dotted all around, along the road, with very agressive speed bumps. We could not go fast. From what I read, it seems that in some regions the land belongs to tribes, and the locals there are on subsistence farming. The new president was considering in his land reform, to divide those tribal lands, so they would belong to individuals living there, rather than the tribes’ chiefs, but that was vehemently opposed by the chiefs. So these regions are very poor. Sadly, villages were covered in rubbish everywhere. Locals, like in many other places we ave been to, don’t seem to care that they live in a giant bin/ toilet!

In any case, it was still fairly cold and our descent was slow. Arriving at Port St John was underwhelming. The place was covered in litter, everywhere. Nad I mean even worse than what we had seen before! The smell of rotten food was sickening.

We rode to the Jungle Monkeys Backpackers and got a room with shared bathrooms. It had been a long day, and I was coming down with a nasty cold and a bad cough. The place was very pleasant. We shared a pizza, at the on-site restaurant, as we had no food left. We were told that the bin men were on strike, hence the state of the town.

I went for an early night as I was feeling unwell.

Day 93 – Port St John – Wednesday 29th August – 0 kms

After spending most of the night coughing, I was not keen on doing much that day. We had decided to have a day rest, as the next ride would be a long day again. We also had to sort few things out and needed WiFi, which luckily was provided, and for free (!) at the backpackers.

I was trying to find out if some Yamaha dealers could source some parts locally for my bike ( no they can’t ) and book a hotel for our last 3 nights, in Cape Town. We plan to arrive on Sunday 16th, deliver the bikes to the shipping company on Monday, and spend the rest of Monday and Tuesday exploring the town on foot. So the hotel has to be central and well located. And ideally provide a shuttle service to the airport!

Mid morning we decided to walk into the village and get some stuff from the supermarket. We walked among huge piles of litter. As we approach the town hall, we saw many police cars and riot police in full body armour. There were crowds hanging around, rubbish in the middle of the street, some on fire, and all shops were canut with metal gates. The atmosphere was kind of tense. We decided to walk back to the backpackers, as I did not fancy to be caught up in the middle of a riot and everyone was staring at us. We were the only white walking around so felt a bit of a target. I did not Andy being caught in te middle of a violent riot.

We asked one of the staff at the backpackers if the shops would open later on the day, but it was unlikely. I suppose looting during a riot is a big risk, so all shops remained shut. One teacher we met few days before told us how 20 schools were torched following protest on some education stuff. How is burning down 20school s going to help te education of the kids? But if this is the norm it s not surprising that all shops were shut!

The backpackers owner told us that the local businesses had been threatened so everything was shut.

Even the main gate to the backpackers reception was closed. We needed to get some cash but decided it could wait until we left town. We had enough to get some fuel.

Day 94 – East London – Thursday 30th of August – 370kms

We left early as we had a long ride. We were planning to get back into the mountains to the famous Hogsback and it’s even mor famous Away With The Fairies backpacker place. But things did not go to plan.

About 150kms on the ride West , the Honda stated playing up and shutting down the engine at speed. That is never a good thing. So we decided to diver to the closest big town on thee way, more or less. That was East London, down the coast. So we set the GPS and rode there. We found a backpacker place but it was impossible to get the bikes inside so we got recommended another backpacker place.

At 250 rands for a room with ensuite, you can imagine the kind of place!

The town was covered in piles of litter and garbage again, and did not have the excuse of the bin men’s strike.

After buying some fish and rice from the local supermarket, for take away, we sat in the main room. The place filled with road workers, coming in at the end of their shift. People stared at us a bit.

Security in the area was very high.

I had a very bad night with my cold, with a very painful throat and sinuses infection. It made breathing very painful and I had nothing other than paracetamol. Where on Earth are the pharmacies hidden In South Africa? I have been on the look out for one for few days and saw nothing!

Day 95 – East London – Friday 31st August – about 15 kms

We rode to the Honda dealer and after few checks were good to go. Alistair got the oil filter cover seal changed as it had been leaking a lot since Nelspruit. The bike dying could be the result of water in the fuel.

The guys told us we had stayed in the most dangerous part of town. To be fair the backpacker’s gate had been shut early evening and our bikes were safe.

We had booked a room at the nearby Fish eagle hotel. I was not in any shape to go for a long ride. I needed a rest and to recover from my cold. The hotel had great reviews in booking.com and was on special offer. We arrived there just after 10am. Despite turning up so early, we got the room very quickly and we were warmly welcome. We also had a free upgrade to a better room! It was a really nice place.

Looking at the weather forecast, it looks like Hogsback may have to wait as the weather in South Africa turns cold and wet. So we are changing our plans again.