Maps at bottom of page, click here  

Ekke writes:

We crossed the Gariep River, waving to a few kids below the bridge, and entered South Africa.  A security guard showed us where to park and gave us a form for stamping at the various entry stations.  We walked over to the four stations and were officially in the Republic of South Africa.  As has been the case throughout Africa, the change in people as we crossed an imaginary line was quite dramatic.  Right away there were a lot more mixed race people, something we hadn't noticed before anywhere else.  It was easy riding for the 120 kilometres to Springbok where we stayed at the local caravan park.  The Spar shopping centre in town was an absolute madhouse either because of the upcoming long weekend or the end of the month paycheques.  When we arrived at the caravan park who should be there but Jilly and Keith.  They hadn't had any luck getting a camping spot along the river because of the long weekend and so had come to Springbok.  We offered to make them supper this time but for some odd reason they declined so we joined them in their campsite with our pasta and sauce.

Just after crossing the border into South Africa, not far to go now

A mongoose makes sure we have no snakes at the caravan park in Springbok

On Thursday, the first day of May, we left long after Keith and Jilly had packed up and departed.  The ride down to Clanwilliam was pleasant enough except for a strong headwind.  From there we took a corrugated dirt road to the Lebanon citrus orchard and campground where the Wild Dog adventure motorcyclists ( were having a get together.  Keith had invited us along and they were already set up when we arrived.  A group of about 20 people were putting up their tents and preparing their motorbikes for a weekend of off-pavement riding.  They welcomed us warmly and seemed happy to see a couple of motorcyclists who had just about ridden the length of Africa.  A delicious braai (BBQ) and telling stories into the night made for a great evening.

The sun sets behind the Cederberg mountains

In the morning, while everyone was putting fresh knobbly tires on, I retightened my steering head nut which had come loose on the corrugated road.  While we had planned to go through the Cederberg Mountains to Sutherland to meet a friend of Keith and Jilly, that fell through as there was no accommodation to be had on the long weekend.  Instead we followed Jilly and Keith to their home in Cape Town.  The adventure wasn't quite over before reaching Cape Town though.  The wind was just incredible and it was everything we could do just to hang on the handlebars.  At one point a fierce sandstorm swept across the highway and it wasn't possible to see more than a few metres ahead.  These challenges just made it so much more special when we crested a hill and found Table Mountain and the bay spread out in front of us.  We had done it!  We had ridden our motorcycles the length of Africa.  23,000 kilometres and 6 months.  To celebrate this accomplishment Jilly made a wonderful dinner of roast chicken and potatoes and Keith broke out a bottle of champagne.  Perhaps it is a maritime tradition to write on the champagne cork for a keepsake but Jilly wrote MUC - CPT and the date, May 2, 2008.  How special we felt!

Keith points out Table Mountain in the distance

23,000 kilometres, 6 months from Munich to Cape Town

We spent the weekend relaxing at Keith and Jilly's house.  On Saturday, after cleaning the bikes, they took us for a ride around the Cape.  In Fish Hoek (I wonder if there is a town called Vis Corner somewhere?) we stopped off at The Galley for lunch, enjoying scrumptious seafood.  Coming back home we rode along Chapman's Peak toll road.  It was easily worth the 16 rand just for the spectacular curves and stupendous scenery.  What I really enjoyed about the ride was that with Keith leading I didn't have to navigate.  I could just enjoy the scenery and the riding.  One thing we noticed was that the transformation from developing world to developed world that had started in Kenya with ice cream and T-bone steaks was now complete.  Cape Town was like a North American city such as Seattle or Vancouver with fancy shopping malls and Porsche Turbos.  They even called football soccer.  Sunday started out great, watching MotoGP racing on TV.  The weather wasn't terribly good so we decided to skip the yacht ride and did a bit of shopping in the afternoon instead.  We were still on the lookout for some nice camping chairs.  The caravan parks we had been staying in didn't have picnic tables like North American campgrounds so a place to sit for supper would be nice.  We didn't find the exact chairs we were looking for at Outdoor Warehouse and decided to keep looking.  In the evening we had been invited along with Keith and Jilly to Russell and Heidi's place for Russell's birthday braai.

A ride around the Cape with Keith leading on his Honda Transalp

Lunch at The Galley

Chapman's Peak road

Monday morning Keith had to go to work and so did we.  We moved to the Ashanti Guest House after going to Atlantic BMW and booking the bikes in for service.  The F650 would get its 60,000 km service done on Thursday and the R100 would get the steering head bearings checked out and the driveshaft lubricated on Friday.  Tuesday we went down to the Waterfront to do a little sightseeing.  We had hoped to go to Robben Island in the afternoon but it was fully booked so we had to book for Wednesday instead.  While walking to the Cape Town Castle, who should be walking the other direction but Herbie the Swiss KTM rider!  We had last seen Herbie in Stone Town on Zanzibar.  What a small continent.  His girlfriend had flown down from Germany to join him in exploring Southern Africa.  They hadn't seen Robben Island yet so we agreed to meet at the ferry station on Wednesday.

Audrey has fond memories of Munich

The table cloth on Table Mountain

Bumping into Herbie at the Waterfront

After dropping the F650 off at Atlantic BMW we walked down to the Waterfront and the Robben Island ferry terminal.  Herbie was there and said that they had decided against going out to the island but had come to see us off anyway.  When Audrey and I went in we were told that the weather was too rough to go out so we rescheduled for Thursday and went outside but Herbie and his girlfriend had left already.  At the BMW shop we bought Long Way Down, the latest DVD from Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor.  On their last adventure they had ridden around the world and now they had ridden from John O'Groates to Cape Town, following most of our route through Africa.  We watched the first three episodes on the laptop back at the Ashanti, enjoying reliving the adventures we had going through Sudan and Ethiopia.

We finally managed to get on the Robben Island tour on Thursday afternoon.  The beautiful catamaran ferry was pitching like a crazy roller coaster ride and we wondered what the seas were like when the ride was cancelled the day before.  Within a few minutes Audrey was rather green around the gills.  So she was actually pretty glad when we came ashore on a prison island and didn't seem to care that we had a return ticket.  A 45 minute bus ride around the island was very informative and eye opening but for emotional impact the tour of the prison building with a former political prisoner was simply stunning.  Our guide was roughly the same age as us so when we heard him tell of being imprisoned at the age of 17 it really hit home.  While I was in line to see Star Wars and riding my first motorcycle (a Jawa 350) he was being sent to Robben Island and tortured for being a student activist.  Wow.

A former political prisoner takes us on a tour of the prison at Robben Island

Nelson Mandela's cell

We had arranged the shipping of the motorbikes on Tuesday, visiting MMA Consolidators, so Friday we arranged our own transport.  The bikes needed to be disassembled and put on pallets on June 12 (I wanted to be riding my motorcycle in Africa for my birthday, June 11) so we arranged to fly to New York, departing June 13.  Since the flight on Emirates went via Dubai we thought it might be cool to have a longer lay-over than just two hours.  For only $20 more we could stay over for two days.  Done!

Our new non-business cards made in Cape Town (if you have the old one, hang on to the collector's item!)

Saturday we moved from the Ashanti (which had no more space for us) to the Best Western, using our Air Miles to pay the much steeper price and then got ready for a Sunday morning departure.  With the on and off rain we inserted our Gore-Tex liners and got off after a Mother's Day brunch at the Best Western.  We left Cape Town via the major highways and turned on to the coastal road as soon as was practical.  The lunch stop at Hermanus gave us an opportunity to warm up a little but we were a month or two early for whale watching.  Too bad as Hermanus is supposed to have the best land based whale watching in the world.  Unfortunately, the GPS locked up while I was checking accommodation possibilities and it didn't record our tracks from Hermanus to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.  Now we truly had ridden the length of Africa.  After taking the obligatory photographs at the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans we checked out the local campground (deserted) and Tip of Africa guesthouse.  Derrick, the proprietor of the guesthouse was especially interested in our journey through Africa and we spent the better part of an hour chatting over a cup of tea.  Unfortunately the guesthouse was a bit over our budget but Derrick phoned Hillary at the self-catering chalets and arranged for us to stay there.  Perfect.

Cape Agulhas lighthouse

The southernmost point in Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet

We probably weren't supposed to ride the bikes to the monument...

Sunset at Cape Agulhas

Monday morning, with a fully functional GPS, we rode back a few kilometres to the southernmost tip of Africa to record the moment for posterity and then continued a bit further around the cape to see the wreck of the Meisho Maru.  Helge Pederson, has a picture of this wreck in his book, 10 Years on Two Wheels.  Ten years ago we had met Helge at the BMW MOA National Rally and bought his book, inspiring us to do this very trip.  After bouncing along a couple of rough, sandy lanes to a viewpoint overlooking the cape we turned around and went inland.  The flat grasslands gave way to treed mountains as we rode to Swellendam (established 1745) for lunch.  We paralleled a mountain range towards Ashton and turned right, passing through Bain's Rock Tunnel underneath an English Fort from 1899.  After setting up camp in Montagu we headed over to the local hot springs for a nice soak.  It would have been nicer if the water was even close to their claimed 43 degrees but a tepid bath was still OK.  The waterslide was fun though.

The shipwrecked Meisho Maru

Goofing around on the beach at Struisbaai

How different from other parts of Africa, a nice cloth so that fuel isn't spilled on the bike

Bain's Rock Tunnel underneath the 1899 English Fort

Ekke enjoys a wild ride

After a Full English Breakfast at the Vic 1906 Hotel in Montagu we rode through the Klein Karoo to Oudtshoorn, stopping at Ronnies Sex Shop for lunch.  When we talked to a sales clerk she explained that the café's strange name came about when her grandfather opened up a stall to sell fruits and vegetables.  He had painted the sign "Ronnies Shop" and then headed into Cape Town for some supplies.  While he was away some friends pulled a prank on him and painted "Sex" on the sign.  Grandfather wasn't too impressed when he got back but was a bit of a procrastinator and didn't get around to painting it over for a while.  Then he noticed that business had really picked up.  Now the café is an institution and a "must do" for anyone passing by.  Outside Oudsthoorn we stopped at the side of the road in a driveway for a farmer's field to take a photo just as a couple of guys in a "bakkie" (pickup truck to you and me) pulled in to go to the field.  It turns out one of them had a BMW R1150GS and he was awfully interested to hear of our trip through Africa.  When he heard which campground in Oudsthoorn we were planning to go to he immediately said that the Klein Plaas camp was much better.  We never did go to the other camp but Klein Plaas was beautiful.  We decided to stay for two nights and do a daytrip over the Swartberg pass the next day.

Audrey doesn't seem so sure about stopping here for lunch

St. Jude's church in Oudsthoorn

My R100GS had been having a little difficulty with starting while hot so in the morning at camp I adjusted the valves and cleaned out the carburettor float bowls.  The joys of riding a 19 year old motorcycle!  After that we went to Cango Caves, just a few kilometres up the road.  We had a great tour of the caves led by "Eric".  Eric's real name had some interesting clicks in it and was generally unpronounceable by anyone who didn't speak the local language.  I was happy that we didn't sign up for the "Adventure Tour" which went through various tight spaces with names like the "Letterbox" in the extensive caves.  I didn't hit my head once on the "Scenic Tour"!  Just past the caves the climb to Swartberg Pass on gravel roads started.  The road twisted up the side of the mountains with stunning views over the valley below.  Once we got to the top we decided to keep going and make a loop, using paved roads on the other side to return to Oudsthoorn.  Except for a freshly graded section the gravel road down made for easy riding.  We did get passed by two people on mountain bikes though.  With only an hour till sunset when we hit the pavement we didn't go a couple of kilometres down the road to Prince Albert but rather sped off quickly on our loop.  We returned to Oudsthoorn a half hour after dark, arriving bug splattered but safely.

The impressive Cango Caves

Taking a break from riding up Swartberg Pass

Ekke looking pretty happy

Don't miss the corner or it really is the long way down

Down the switchbacks towards Prince Albert (no, this doesn't look like Saskatchewan does it?)

Maybe we aren't really welcome in Oudsthoorn

Thursday we only rode 88 kilometres (!) to Mossel Bay.  We had plenty of time to do some laundry and then visit the Diaz museum.  On display at the museum was a boat built in 1988 that was a replica of the boat that Diaz sailed to Mossel Bay in 1488.  The boat wasn't an exact replica as below decks were crew quarters along with a kitchen to feed the 17 crewmembers.  In 1488 Diaz had 33 crewmembers and everything happened on deck as below decks was cargo.  Also on the museum grounds was a Milkwood tree that was thought to have been the spot that a message was left in a bottle in 1501 by one explorer and picked up by the next making it the oldest post in Africa.  We mailed a couple of postcards from the same spot.  Unfortunately my bike refused to start after our museum visit and Audrey had to give me a push start.  Back at camp after going for a ride to charge the battery we decided to forego cooking and headed across the street to Delfino's restaurant.  The place was really popular but we managed to get a table fairly quickly.  When we ordered dinner we found out that today was half price day.  Wow, a full dinner for two with wine and dessert for only R129.  Less than $20.

Replica of Diaz's 1488 ship on display in the Mossel Bay museum

Audrey gets a little carried away with the interactive displays

I took the bike to a battery shop to test the battery and it came back that it was marginally OK and should not be the source of the starting problem.  Hmmm.  Again the joys of riding a 19 year old motorcycle!  At Lynn Schroeder BMW in George I had the oil pressure switch replaced as it was leaking and they also couldn't figure out why the bike was tough to start.  Donovan, the chief mechanic, suggested a back road to Wilderness that was fabulous; tight and twisty with picture-perfect overhanging trees.  At Victoria Bay we found camping with our own ablution block, just like in Swakopmund, overlooking the bay where surfers were playing.

Saturday we went back up to the old George to Knynsa road for some fun on gravel.  We stopped off at the Big Tree where a five minute walk led to the tree.  It sure was big.  When we got to Plettenberg Bay we found an enormous caravan park easily able to hold hundreds of campers.  It was virtually deserted and there was no-one at the front office.  We went for a ride around town and when we got back there still wasn't anyone in the office so we just went in and found a spot by the beach to pitch our tent.  

A discussion about The Big Tree

Sure enough, in the morning a security guard came over and told us to go over to the office to pay up.  That done, we packed up a soggy tent (from the heavy mist) and rode to the Prince Alfred Pass road.  Even though a sign at the beginning of the gravel portion of the road said the road was closed to Avontuur we thought we should ride as far as we could.  We had no trouble on the nice gravel up into the hills.  A challenging two kilometre side trip from the main road led to the Spitskop viewpoint where one could look over the wooded hills.  For some reason it reminded me of the view from Moose Mountain at home.  We came down to De Vlugt where we had a muffin break and asked if the road was indeed closed to Avontuur.  They told us that the sign was still up from the recent heavy rains when the road had washed away and it was OK now.  Suitably refreshed we pushed on to a single lane road through a narrow canyon, enjoying the great ride.  We made it to Avontuur and turned onto the paved Route 62 (only 118 km from Oudtshoorn!) back to the coast.  We pulled into Cape St. Francis and looked for the campground, passing a fancy resort and conference centre.  When we asked a couple walking their dogs where the campground was they said it was at the fancy conference centre.  We could camp on the grass beside the swimming pool but since there wasn't anyone staying in the backpacker's dormitory we could have that to ourselves for only a few rand more.  Rob, a manager at the resort, was a keen motorcyclist and offered to show us a few nice roads on a map over breakfast in the morning.

Start of the Prince Alfred Pass looks nice enough

The view from Moose Mountain, er, Spitskop

The single lane Prince Alfred Pass road past De Vlugt

A nice "backpacker's" at Cape St. Francis Confrence Centre and Resort (tent drying out on the veranda)

With Rob's encouragement we rode towards the Baviaanskloof after stopping off at the Cape St. Francis penguin rehabilitation facility.  Once at Patensie we had lunch and decided that riding the Baviaanskloof would lead us in the wrong direction, back towards Cape Town, so instead we turned around and went to Port Elizabeth.  At the Pine Lodge Resort we phoned Charles and Rensche, a couple we had heard of from fellow travellers.  They had ridden 250cc Hondas from England to Port Elizabeth following the same route as us.  They were the ones trapped in Marsabit, Kenya, for six days when there was no fuel available during the election protests.  The Pine Lodge Resort had a great seafood restaurant so they came over for dinner and to chat.  We spent three and a half hours sharing experiences.  What a pleasure it was to talk with someone who knew exactly what we were talking about, whether it was convoys in Egypt or sand riding in Sudan.  They had some great stories to tell as well and we could relate to them so easily.  If you're at the Pine Lodge restaurant I can certainly recommend the seafood bisque.  It was delicious!  (For Seinfeld fans I mentioned the bisque.)

Except for a colony on the Cape of Good Hope, African penguins live on islands off shore

At the camp an enormous four wheel drive truck with Dutch licence plates was parked a few spaces away.  Hein and Bernadette had just picked up their truck from the port (explaining why it was so clean!) and were starting a one year voyage through southern Africa.  They invited us over for afternoon tea so we went into town, continuing our search for camp chairs, so that we would have somewhere to sit.  We found a couple of chairs at Midas, an auto parts store, and went back to camp.  We were greeted with wine from real wine glasses.  Apparently you can carry quite a bit in a giant camper truck.  Our new chairs were bulky but the reward was supreme comfort.  Sadly the 100 kg limit must have been true as by Wednesday morning, after breakfast, I noticed that my chair already had some cracks in the supports.  Fortunately Midas cheerfully refunded my money and I promised not to sit in Audrey's chair.  We found time to work on the website a bit, do some laundry and have a look at some niggling little problems with the bikes.  I also managed to find a sturdier but less comfortable tripod stool.

Hein and Bernadette start their year long trip

From Port Elizabeth we turned away from the coast and rode north, first to Grahamstown with its beautiful architecture and then on to Queenstown going over Ecca pass (would have made a nice photo if there was a sign).  Since we wanted to get to Lesotho we decided to push on from Queenstown after a bite to eat, hoping to make it to Aliwal North before dark.  We would have made it too except for a 20 minute construction delay.  The campground was huge but completely deserted and a bit rundown.  It wasn't as secure as other campgrounds either in that there were sports fields in the same area.  The waitron (the gender neutral term for waiter or waitress in South Africa) in the restaurant near the campground was nice enough to turn on the heat lamp in the near freezing cold.  We had climbed to 1,600 metres and as soon as the sun went down it got cold.  Who would have guessed that our Mountain Equipment Co-op down-filled sleeping bags would be one of our favourite pieces of gear on a trip through Africa?

Robots and waitrons; what a cool country!

In the morning we had confirmation that it might indeed be the battery in the R100 that was causing the difficult starting because with the cold the bike didn't want to start at all.  We went for breakfast at the restaurant and hoped that with the morning sun warming the bike it would fire up.  No luck, so Audrey had to give me a push start again.  We took the N6 north and then turned off onto secondary roads towards Lesotho.  Beautiful vistas of wide open countryside made our ride even more enjoyable.  Soon enough we were at the border, checking out of South Africa.

A township near Aliwal North

Riding to Lesotho

Map of our ride down to Cape Town from Namibia  

Riding from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth

PE to Lesotho

Back to the top