Back on the Road in Eastern Free State

Back on the Road in the Eastern African Free State ©2019 Keith Erskine

I’m out of bed early and packing the motorcycle to head further south from Springbok. My next destination is Cape Agulhas, which means a longer day of riding. About 700 kilometres (460 miles).

There was a time when I’d think twice about doing a ride of this length in a day; but after weeks on African roads, it seems like a walk in the park.

Onwards to Cape Agulhas, South Africa

I make good time, and have a late lunch at Franschoek in the Stellenbosch wine region. The contrast couldn’t be more marked from the previous few weeks of being ‘up in Africa’. Very European, surrounded by neatly maintained vineyards and classic Dutch architecture.

Towards the end of the day, I arrive at Cape Agulhas and check into the Tip of Africa Guesthouse. Derick Burger and his wife run the guesthouse, and visitors are offered the best in hospitality and home comforts.

Cape Agulhas is the southernmost tip of the African continent, and was the end destination for the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman epic motorcycle ride captured in “Long Way Down”.

The Ride into Cape Town, South Africa

It’s a beautiful day, and today I’m heading up to Cape Town; the major city in the Western Cape Province and known as the Mother City.

The roads around this part of South Africa are excellent. I see a lot of motorcyclists on the road, and I get the familiar nod of the helmet in acknowledgement.

I make the mandatory stop at the Cape of Good Hope. There is a common misconception that this is the southernmost tip of the African continent. It is not. However, it offers a great photo opportunity.

Hugging the coast heading into Cape town I ride beside the beautiful, but oddly named, False Bay.

I book into my accommodation, and head out with a group of people to the harbourside dining precinct for a meal and to hear some live jazz. Cape Town hosts an international jazz festival every year in late March, and it’s grown to be the fourth largest jazz festival in the world.

Next Stop: Ronnie’s Sex Shop

Leaving Cape Town, I’m following Route 62 to take me east to Oudtshoorn, which will be my stopover for the night.

Before I get there, I make a stop at one of the most famous pub and restaurants in South Africa – Ronnie’s Sex Shop.

It started out years ago as plain old Ronnie’s Shop, an initiative of a local farmer to sell some of his produce to passing tourists.

A prankster changed it to its present name. The story goes the owner wasn’t too happy with the change initially, but after the attention it gained, he decided to add a café to the operation. The rest is history, as they say.

After a burger and a coffee, I’m back on the road. The ride over the Klein (Little) Karoo, a semi-arid region, is uneventful. I check into my accommodation for the night at Adley House B&B in Oudtshoorn.

A Place in Surfing History

South Africans, like my fellow Australians, have had a long love affair with surfing. One of the great documentary film makers was Bruce Brown. His iconic surfing film “The Endless Summer” followed two young American surfers around the world. One of the places he filmed these guys surfing was at Cape St Francis. I can remember being in awe of the locations he visited when I watched the film years ago.

I’m going to be passing Cape St Francis, so I can’t resist. However, I find things have changed a bit since 1964. It’s now a populated residential area, rather than this pristine, remote location depicted in the film. The Endless Summer gives way to the endless march of progress.
Never mind. At least I get to see it.

My stop for the night is the Links Coastal Inn at Port Alfred, run by Willem. Like a lot of South Africans, he loves motorcycles. He has an MV Augusta and a serious looking GSX-R1000.
I love talking to fellow motorcyclists. There’s an instant bond, a camaraderie that transcends culture, gender, geography and language.

I talk about Bruce Brown, and we’re reminded that he also made one of the great motorcycle documentaries of all time – “On Any Sunday”.

The Weather Turns Nasty

From Port Alfred, I head across to East London before I turn northwards towards Pretoria.
I’ve been aware of a major weather front moving slowly from west to east. I’ve managed to stay ahead of it, but once I turn northwards, that’s about to change.

By the time I get to Aliwal North the temperature is dropping like a stone, and it’s starting to rain.

The next morning, the weather gods have unleashed some nasty weather. Temperature is hovering around 8.5 Degrees Centigrade (47 Degrees Fahrenheit), the wind is gusting to 20 knots (23 mph) and light rain is falling.

Decision time – Do I stay another day in Aliwal North, or push on to Clarens? A check of the forecast predicts this weather will be the same tomorrow. It’s about 370 kilometres (230 miles) to Clarens.

I have very good all-weather gear, I’m riding a capable motorcycle, and I do have to be back in Pretoria in a couple of days to catch the flight back home. It’s not a short ride, but do-able.
So, I set off.

I can share with you, dear gentle readers, of all the riding days on the African motorcycle road trip, this turns out to be the longest. The wind picks up to 30 knots, the rain gets heavier, the temperature drops further, the visibility gets less and I get colder.

It seems to take an eternity before I pull up outside Patcham Place in Clarens. I park the bike, grab my gear and stumble up the stairs like a decrepit sumo wrestler. Wendy shows me to my room and I heave a sigh of relief.

I take my boots off, and the left boot has water in it. The wind has blown the rain up the leg of my wet weather pants and trickled into my boot. No wonder I’m borderline hypothermic.
Into the hot shower, and I slowly come back to life. A bite to eat and to bed.

It’s Back to Pretoria, South Africa for the Last Time

I wake up, and I can’t believe it. There’s sunlight peeping through the shutters in my room.
The weather has cleared, and it’s a rather nice day.

I have some breakfast, check out the trusty Beemer, load up and I’m on my way for the last 350 or so kilometres (200 miles) back to Pretoria.

As I ride through the town of Bethlehem, I notice a signpost to Bloemfontein. Little do I know, but this town will play a large part in my life in the years to come.

I ride into Marloot, where I’m warmly welcomed by Elma and Loot. I do a quick mental calculation, and the final distance is 10,280 kilometres (6,388 miles) across six countries in 30 riding days.

Despite the challenges, what a fantastic motorcycle road trip.

I cannot put it any better, or clearer than to quote St Augustine – “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

When you go:

Long Way Down documentary: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Way_Down
Cape Town International Jazz Festival: www.capetownjazzfest.com/
Route 62 Attractions: route62.co.za
Adley House B&B: www.adleyhouse.co.za
Links Coastal Inn: www.linkscoastalinn.co.za/
South Africa Motorcycle Adventures: www.samamotorcycletours.com

Written by: Keith Erskine

 Keith Erskine picture Keith Erskine started his love affair with motorcycles very early; when at the tender age of eleven a family member put him on a Honda Cub and set him loose. Since then he has toured extensively around Australia and through parts of Africa on two wheels. One of the great joys of motorcycle road trips is the people he gets to meet along the way. His love of travel is still going strong, where his latest exploits travelling around Australia can be read at www.travellin-lite.com.au .

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