After all the turmoil at Buenos Aires, and the usual struggle I have not to watch the in-flight movie (which I lost again ! ), I manage about an hours sleep. John manages perhaps 2 or 3 but neither obvioulsy anywhere close to what one might call refreshed.
However it is a relief to be finally in Africa and quite exciting to be at the start of a new continent and culture. Immigration was a straight forward. I was asked about having a flight ticket out of South Africa but when I explained what John & I were doing, that proved satisfactory. John did show the e-ticket to his immigration Officer but not under any duress, largely to simplify the process.
Through customs, and we are officially free to tour South Africa. It has become a bit of a bizzare experience for me, border crossings, as they have become a bit like being allowed in someones home you don't know very well. Best behave...for a while anyway.
The first shock we have is that the Bureau de change won't change our Argentian Pesos which is a pain as we still have quite a few left between us. (I am also told that it is unlikely that anywhere in South Africa will exchange them !!) There is also only one ATM in the airport which is currently out of money so I have to pay some extorshoante rate to the bank in the airport to cover the cost of a phone call to the UK to verify I have sufficient funds in the account. That done, we have money again, money enough to buy a fried breakfast and smoothie each !
The next step was to ring the Broker we'd been recommended in Argentina. I got through easily after buying the correct phone card. He suggested we might find that as we were on the same flight as the bikes that the process might be straight forward and not even nessistate the use of our Carnets. I am really tired and don’t fancy the whole Customs process, however the prospect of two expensive Taxis(to and fro to Cape Town), combined with spending a whole other day getting the bikes out of Customs generates enough energy to at least see how easy/complex the process will be.
After some preliminary enquires I am directed to the correct customs office who inform me that once I know where the bikes are, the process is straight forward providing we have Carnet’s de Passage (which we do! ). The officer recommends coming back the following day as it can take an airline a few hours to allocate their cargo after landing. I trudge back the 1km to the airport and decide to see if Malaysian Airwyas have allocated ours as we’ve now been landed for about 4 hours. I discover their offices and find that our bikes have been allocated…...so we get our gear together and take a Taxi back to customs office.
After stripping all the cling-film off the bikes, we discover that they have indeed “stayed as fresh” as when we saw them wrapped ! The customs officer verifies the bikes VIN numbers against the Carnets and we are issued with the necessary release document. Wey-Hey !!!!! 2 hours later and numerous travel related conversations with the guys working in the warehouse, we’re on the road. We landed at 8, and we were riding at 14:00. Not bad at all.
Two Dakars, fresh from South America.
We’d booked an expensive Hotel in Cape Town, “The Cape Town Lodge”, through Expedia at a moderate price. The hotel was very nice, a huge quite room, beds you could get lost in and cable TV. It also had a huge bathroom with a mechanical advantage device attached to the flush handle of the toilet which looked like it would be more at home as a handle used to open up a number of prison cells doors.
After taking a shower we went down to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront in Cape Town and found a Belgian restaurant, Den Anker, where we both had the best meal we’d had for a while. I was so tired that I was involuntarily falling asleep at the table-there was just nothing I could do to keep my eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time. We retired to our hotel and got to bed at about 21:30 and that was it until about 14:00 the following afternoon when we finally woke up.
Den Anker... mmmmmmmnn..and worth every penny/rand we spent there !
Even after such a long sleep, we are both still wiped out. We do very little barring a return to Den Anker for another lovely meal, and return back to bed again. This time we both struggle getting to sleep-Sometimes you just can’t win !!
The following morning we decide that we’d like to extend our stay at the Hotel but discover that we can only extend our stay at the same price if we book through Expedia. Well, after countless attempts to book via the Internet and phone calls to the UK, we discover the Expedias system won’t allow bookings on the actual day you want to check in and the Hotel won’t allow us to stay at Expedias rate unless through Expedia….so we check out !! Talk about Crazy !! The Hotel had spare rooms !!! Everyone loses !!
We understand the need for security but this dog-kennel seemed a bit harsh and was likely to be counter-productive.
Some say that modern culture is having an adverse effect on a countries historic culture..pah !
Instead we visit a backpackers Hostel recommended in the Lonely Planet guide for being quiet & simple. The Hostel is called the “Zebra Crossing” and fits both categories well-It is also cheap at R75 each in a dorm or R100 each for our own room. There are R13 to the pound. This becomes home for the next 10 days as we work hard to prepare the bikes for the next leg of the journey and an intermediate BMW off-road course we’d booked from South America.
Guess where ??
On one of our trips into town during the day to see Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was held, two youths come around a corner on a main road and ask if we have "any change", I saw no but he is still standing there smiling at me. I hadn't yet seen the knife he was holding. I wasn't in the mood for this and grabbed his arm holding the knife, which he then transferred to his other hand, however I still wasn't in the mood and wasn't about to give up, even as a non-experienced knife wrestler . His mate decided that it was time to stop and they both left. We learnt to be wary after that...but had no more real problems.
Blimey, no wonder we can't find the bikes !
A young group seen near the Waterfront one morning.
An encouarging display seen on the Victoria & Albert Waterfront.
Some worrying displays seen ...........
...and an even more worrying display...anybody seen blazing saddles ?
The trip to Robben Island was one of the best we've taken so far. Our guide was a former inmate of the Island(as are most, if not all the employees). He was also very well educated and very humerous. John and I's best remembered comments were; "There is no such thing as a full bus"-in Africa, and whilst there was an Ambulance on the Island, there is no hospital which displays African logic-"The ambulance drives round until the patient is dead or recovers !!" It is impossible to convey how many elements there were to this trip. Very sad at some points, our Bus driver had not been allowed to see his Father for 22 years..whilst he was growing up, and yet at the same time you see all the hope that was bred there, and in that context you see how brave Nelson Mandelas "reconciliation" speech was, and how it has and is still transforming South Africa.
Capetown and the sea seen from the Island.
The corridor of one of the buildings where the Political prisoners were kept.
A previous unfortunate occupant.
Lime-face where the inmates would chip away at the rock face and then transfer lime from one side of the face to the other, and then sometimes, back again. It permanently affected the workers vision as the sun reflection burned into their eyes and they weren't allowed sun-glasses. To this day, Nelson Mandela doesn't allow flash photography because of his sight.
The toilet used by the lime-workers.
One of the mixed-inmate cells, Political & criminal side-by-side. Sometimes as many as 100 in a room this size.
This Penguin appears to have had some sort of conscience disorder as it tried to hide in this recess on the Island.
An exercise/garden area which would have previously been under the careful watch of a prison guard.
We think this may have been one of the boats used to transport inmates to the Island.
Robben Island as seen from our boat.
Robben Island as seen from Table-Top mountain. It is Capetown you can see in front. So close and yet so far.
One of the many ship refurbishments we saw at the Waterfront.
We had provisionally booked our bikes into one of Cape Towns BMW dealers, Auto Atlantic, for a brake fluid change, valve clearance check and adjust, and an overhaul of the Ohlins. We were to do all the other service items to keep the costs down. However, we’d changed our ideas since the original booking and thought it better to go North after the off-road course to try and maximise our time in Africa. This meant bringing the whole service forward two weeks which put a lot of pressure on us and Auto Atlantic (we’re sorry but grateful Shane !). The biggest rush was to get the Ohlins out and off to Auto Atlantics suspension specialist. We managed to do that by the Friday evening, one week before the course started. After that we had to replace just about every consumable you can think of, tyres, brake pads front and rear, oil & filter, air filter, chain and sprockets. I also found that one of the Overland solutions frame brackets had broken off, along with a thin part of the BMW frame. (I’m fairly confident as a result of my tumble in Ecuador.) The bikes were very dirty too as we hadn’t had anytime to clean them before the rush to get the suspension units off. This made working on them unpleasant. When removing my suspension unit I'd discovered that one of the securing bolts had actually snapped in the middle, which as a result, tore out the thread insert which looks like it is originally positioned in the end of the unit using some sort of heat method. The rubber sleeve around the top bolt sleeve has perished too. It seemed all the way through we were finding bits here and there which needed replacing.
John's, after a bit of elbow grease...where did that expression come from ?
We learn on the Tuesday of the following week that the main strut in John's Ohlins needs re-hard-chroming, which as a result of, has to be sent away to engineering company. Come Tuesday evening, all the work that can be done without the return of the suspension units, has been done. We ask Shane when we will get the units and we are assured that everybody was doing their best. Wednesday & Thursday came and went and we now realised that we will miss the first morning of the course at best, and that was only if the units were returned Thursday evening/Friday morning. They weren’t-we finally got them both at 13:30 and so the rest of the day was spent putting the bikes back together and riding up to Klipbokcop, the course centre.
We get there at about 20:00, fortunately we had advised them of our predicament and so our hosts had saved us some food.(Shame you can’t put days in a microwave too….so you can heat them up and have them later….keep up ! ) We met one of the other course deligates who “kindly” pointed out that we had missed a lot ! …hmmm, thanks. (We later discover though that this was the first time he’d attended any BMW off-road course and teaching we’d already received in England. ) ….nasty puncture he had the following day !! We met Leon & Marchant, the instructors, who were both very friendly and soon made us feel welcome and part of the course, as did a number of other deligates.
Next morning, a bit more refreshed from the excellent beds we had, we were greeted by RAIN and low cloud, sufficient for a few hours of the morning to be given over to theory for puncture repairs and recovering your bike form water ingestion (as in when you drop it in a river !). Interesting and useful as it was, we wanted to get out and ride. That moment came soon enough and we practised skidding the rear wheels and extremely controlled descents on steep muddy/rocky banks, along with a number of other control skills. I couldn’t disconnect my ABS(as the wires had come off the switch) so I could only do near-skids with the ABS cutting in. Leon sensing my frustration offered the HP2 he was riding which I gratefully accept. ( Funny how these wires seem to come off at such moments. ) Nearer the end of the day we get to the part of the course we wanted and dreaded/wanted/dreaded/wanted/dreaded/wanted/dreaded. Riding in sand……… .
Failed hill ascent recovery lessons. Harder than it looks and you are required to stall the bike by soley putting the back brake on-so no clutch use allowed.
John, finishing the final part of recovery.
We set off along a long track where there was a nice combination of grass & sand so you can get a bit of the feel for what is necessary to ride successfully in sand. However, after that part it is over(300m in), you’re left with the need to keep the bike at 50kph or above, not looking down and looking 30m ahead, keeping the tank loose between your legs and letting the front wheel of the bike largely doing its own thing. All very natural to a couple of guys from South East London.
Basically you need to be fit and have a fair amount of upper body strength as sand is demanding and requires a lot of concentration. I took off and stopped a number of times, some because I’d got out of control , some because I was too tired to continue. Finally I made it to the end of the track with only a few of the other riders left behind me. John found the going a bit harder and was going to turn back, however, Leon took John on the back of his bike IN THE SAND . I saw Johns face when he arrived at my end of the track standing up pillion and looking like he’d been caught in the headlights of a car. He’d arrived at a fair old pace and I’d assumed, brought on one of the many HP2’s on the course, but as I look down, I see his Dakar. I am shocked………damn, it can be done !
John had now defiantly had enough and rode back with a few of the others whilst a few of us went to “play” in an oval sand-track, which was supposed to be harder than the track. In reality it was actually easier for me as there were no tracks when we first arrived. Finally we returned to the conference centre and got ready for dinner.
John is still very tired and returns to his room soon after dinner to get as much sleep in as possible. I stay up and discuss many route options through South Africa, with much grateful assistance from Phillip, Marchant and re-assurance from XXXXXXXXX.
The next morning John is ill, he spent the whole night being hot on the outside and cold inside, and the cold he & I had had, was turning into flu for him-his course was ended.
I had breakfast and had actually requested to do the sand track again, as had a few others I learnt. I also learnt that a few of the others had requested to be taught how to power-slide, and whilst not part of the course, Leon had agreed to it. I joined up !! This was a bit tricky to start with as it requires you to lean your bike one way whilst putting your body weight on the slide-side footrest(which feels weird) and opening the throttle wide. Once I got the technique, I had a lot of fun with this later but a bit scary to start with. The “power-sliders” were also take to another sand point to practice putting their weight on the slide-side footrest going around a very cambered oval track(different from yesterdays). Going around clock-wise I found hard-ish but ok, going round anti-clock-wise demanded a lot more concentration, however once understood, was very satisfying.
After that, those who wanted to, re-attempted the sand track again. I found it easier but still very hard work. The HP2’s seemed to find it a lot easier. One of the guys on the course lent me his HP2 to try it out-it was easier, even with 105bhp at the rear. I returned it whole and grateful. After that we went for a trek out for a pick-nick on the bikes which John unfortunately still wasn’t well enough to attend.
We returned back to the conference centre again for a final debrief and certificate presentation confirming our successful control of the bikes.
We pack up head for home. John fairly confident that the prescription he needs, at that moment, is tarmac. He gets it and, after lunch, we return to the Zebra crossing.
A far cheerier looking model than we see back in Blighty.
A view of Table Mountain in cloud taken from the Waterfront.
Over the next few weeks we work hard 6 days a week to catch up with our web updates, outstanding admin from home and here, get a whole heap of shopping we need for the camera, bikes and clothes for ourselves etc. We also spend more time working on the bikes which finally results in John confirming that he is going to leave his top-box and auxiliary fuel tank assembly in Cape Town as they are just too heavy for what he gains.
........and it's fairwell to John's weighty fuel tank and top box.
My battery had been playing up for a while and I wasn’t originally sure if it was the battery of alternator. Shane from Auto-Atlantic checked the output of the alternator to confirm it was ok, and after fitting a new earth switch, concluded that the battery was a goner. That’s a Hawker Odessy, just over a year old at around 100 pounds. Arrgghh. I'd met Chris Harmann of Moto-Harmann on the off-road course. He owns his own BMW dealership just outside Cape Town. His team fitted me a new BMW 1200GS GEL battery, at what can only be described as, a very generous price. Thanks again. He also gave John and I some BMW face/neck masks free , along with the labour to fit my battery which included reversing the position of the negative cable. (The 1200 cables sit the other way round.)
As part of our weight reduction (anything to avoid the diet ! ), we nominate a spare bed in our room as “nice-to-have, can-get-by-without” area. That soon fills and we are hopeful of a much reduced load and volume.
We also both get our boots re-soled & heeled with a commando style made from Vibram would you believe. The job done is excellent. We visit the Cinema a few times and have a few nice evenings out with one of the partners of Auto-Atlantic, Johan and his wife, Wendy, including one, where we learnt some basic African drum techniques . A lot of fun. We also had a nice evening out with Chris Harmann and his wife at a fish restaurant at the Waterfront, the night before he was departing for Germany to attend a significant off-road riders instruction course.
Drumming for South-Londoners. Sometimes John stayed in time...just as long as he didn't try to ! - The lady is Wendy, Johans wife.
We also attend a BMW owners meeting, at the offer of Dave from Auto-Atlantic, and are given the opportunity to re-tell of some of our tales as we’ve travelled. We are also invited to Sunday afternoon lunch by Chris & Belinda which we gratefully accept.
The clock though is ticking away and we’ve been in Cape Town for nearly a month, knowing that our time in Africa, with originally only one week in Cape Town planned, was already tight. We had to ramp up our speed further still and had already set ourselves the task of finishing all outstanding tasks before we left so we could relax and enjoy our travels, and more importantly, our planned two week rest in Mosambique.
Some evening views taken at Camps Bay.
Table Top mountain from the rotating cable-car....yes rotating. The outside stays still while the inside revolves.
The floor of the cable car.
The view of the cable-car bottom station taken from our revolving car...made for interesting photo shooting.....wait...wait...NOW NOW..wait, wait.
A motto I whole-heartedly endorsed back in the 80's, and one I wish I could endorse now !!
Table-top mountain seen under a cloud as the cloud literally rolls over its top.
We planned to leave on Monday, 4th September but my list of jobs is still too long to complete in time and as so we agree to depart on the Tuesday, and after all, there is the prospect of getting a “combat ride” in a Huey helicopter (as used by the Americans in Vietnam) …….in Cape Town.