Day four. Leslotho.
Leaving Clarens I enjoyed more of the Golden Gate national park. Difficult to capture in a photo but grand landscapes as I had hope to see in Africa.
Perhaps the most casual border I have crossed. A teenage guy at the immigration stamps my passport, the paperwork prepared for me by GS Africa is not looked at. About $4 road tax fee and I am set for a awesome day of riding in the mountainous kingdom.
Riding past traditional villages with thatched roof huts and people living simple lives here was special moment.
The road across the country is scenic mountains and curves all the way. The road then climbed steeply, literally straight up side of mountain.
And still I climb to over 3000m, the G310 is performing perfectly, not affected by the altitude.
Now I am in high plains with lunar like scenery. Check the route below, altitude is 3000m+ for over 40km.
The road is fantastic. Google shows it as some gravel but actually it is all new hot mix.It was very cold and no services so make sure you have everything you possibly need with you. I saw couple of pick up trucks, security for a huge diamond mine but that was all.
The descent was an amazing ride. I lost quite a few photos from today as I will explain later and regret not being able to show those better images.
I never saw any locals with a car. In villages people are using donkeys, horse or walking.
The border is a couple of tin huts then once past this road suddenly ends. Its so weird this road seems to serve nobody and go nowhere.
The way down is the Sani Pass. From hotmix to steep rough track.
I lost my photos from the top so here is some from Google and Wikipedia to try give idea. Weather was fine exactly like this image. What this doesn’t convey is how steep it is and the loose stone surface.
The descent, that first 3 km the road drops like a roller coaster on terrible loose surface.
Here is a video that shows things much better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JyaUeCjCOU Skip forward to where they are in upper section. I am not going to BS you, this was really tough. Being able to use power going up a loose surface is a key thing but going down that is not an option.
Had to go at walking pace, gingerly trying not to lock the wheels but constantly in slip slide and desperately trying to get the bike stopped lest it gain momentum and then crashing would be inevitable. Was so glad to be on the light baby GS here.
I took a couple of long breaks on way down to admire the scenery and rest. Above at 2nd rest spot. It was hard work. I was sweating despite being 2500m up in cold, alas the scale is not captured in this photo.
But it was beautiful. And I made it! A achievement for someone not really into ADV rides. From the SA border post the lower section is easy then excellent road into Underberg. One of the most amazing days of riding I have experienced in my life.
I wandered in to the Underberg Inn and everyone is a rider and wanting to know about the G310 and my ride.I got introduced to South African sherry and it got messy. Lucky for me this town is safe as I staggered back to my room very late.
Today starts cool then turns to rain and then really miserable as a cold front rolls in. It’s 13 degrees which on a naked bike with full wind blast is unpleasant. The roads remains scenic and nice riding when it was not raining, but it is so cold up 1500m in these high plains.
Today became all about getting the mileage done.
I had my base layer thermal shirt, then a tshirt, then the lightweight fleece I brought (because temperature should be twice this) then my secondary nylon rain jacket then the Alpinestars jacket minus liner but water penetrated it and crept in to make me cold then the temperature fell further with strong cross winds and rain making it difficult going.
Lost my Dues Ex cap today. I had it clipped on to bag for access when I stop rather than have helmet hair but it was stolen at petrol or coffee. I have my bags cable locked to bike so this was stupid of me.Anyway, I arrived at my BnB for tonight in Queenstown with room heater already on and long hot shower just in the nick of time saved me from hyperthermia.
Its 7 degrees at 9.00am with spots of light rain. I cannot put it off any longer so with 5 layers fitted I head out.
Nice roads this morning but too cold to take photos, I was afraid I would drop the camera. I stop a couple times to put my hands near the muffler to thaw them. My Held Rain Star gloves have lost their warmth, the liner is worn out, last ride for them. Still up high. I urge the road to drop in elevation and eventually the vegetation changes and my wish is granted. The temperature jumps to 17 but cross winds keep it cold.
I had lunch at Grahamstown that looks remarkably like a gold rush town in Victoria, however downtown was very edgy with shifty characters sizing me up. I had to use a ATM and chose one with a security guard inside a bank then waited until it was clear outside to get back to my bike and quickly mount and ride on. Just imagine the beautiful country towns of South East Australia being turned into ghettos to get a idea of what things are like – but it’s too surreal to imagine.
I found a gated shopping centre which I have never seen before so turned in there thinking it would be safe and indeed inside is a white enclave of sorts. I met met a fellow rider Stefan who was going to Kenya on a Chinese made 125cc boxer and told me to harden up when I mentioned how things were and the cold. Ha-ha, perfect response but then he is a local.
Final run into Port Elizabeth it warms to low 20’s at sea level and I arrived at the apartment I had booked exactly on time.
Here is where things took a turn for the worse.
There is nobody there, I phone and message but am left sitting on street in old part of town.While I am distracted looking at booking.com on phone for hotel two guys rush me with large knife and grab my me and phone. They only move away because a car turns into the street which perhaps saved me and I sum up in milliseconds nobody is going to help me in this black neighborhood so I jump on the bike and am moving in two seconds along the footpath then jump the kerb and am gone before the thugs have time to do anything further.
I don’t know what to do but at the lights put my gloves on then ride clear of this sketchy area. I move towards the ocean then turn south as that is where I was looking at hotels on phone. I arrive at the suburb of Summestrand and look for mall then look for accommodation nearby and seeing a place called Palm Beach which reminds me of Gold Coast back home decide to randomly stop and ask about vacancy. Luck turns my way, a fabulous studio is available and owner upon hearing what happened discounts the price for me so I take it two nights.
I just switched off my brain back there. My guard was down for couple of reasons, the area looked very much like the workers cottages in Sydney, an expensive area back home but I should have realised downtown here is all black and no place for solo white traveler. Then instead of moving on promptly to a gas station where I could have looked for hotel over a coffee I let myself worry about losing a few dollars on the booking and persisted in hanging around almost inviting trouble.
But being a glass 1/2 full person I thought well it could have been a whole lot worse. Could have lost wallet, bike or everything. I was sad I lost the photos on the phone. I usually copy them off to free up space but I had been using my camera too so again all was not lost.
Well I am determined not to let this ruin my once in a life trip here so I got some good wine and tasty cheese from the mall.
Further ride report soon as more wi-fi is available.
(Part one is here)
(Part three now posted)