Archive for May, 2011

Africa's most southerly point, half way, and homeward bound

Darren Writes  26May 2011

After about six weeks in Cape Town, we were at last ready enough to pack our bikes, put on some warm clothing under our motorbike gear and bid farewell to Tanja, giving her back her peace and quiet after her generous hospitality. Thanks again for everything, Tanja! We were happy to be on the road again and had lots of smiles per mile, winding our way through the mountains of the Western Cape towards Cape A’gulas, the most southern point of Africa and where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. So about four hours later we arrived there, rode our bikes over a walkway and parked in front of the Monument that told us we were about as south as we could get on the continent. Incidentally, a borrowed GPS showed our Easterly bearing to be 20 degrees, zero minuets and zero point zero seconds. Seems that this could be the point that the earth’s meridians have been set.

Where the Indian Ocean (left) meets the Atlantic (right), can you sea the join?

We had at last achieved, after many months, to arrive at our half way point. We celebrated with a shot of cane spirit and then drank another to our journey home. It was a great feeling as we reminisced some of the adventures that had bought us here and wondered also what might lie before us. We decided to jump on the bikes and find out!

Some of the treats on the road to Durban

Our travels took us towards Port Elizabeth, via some beautiful dirt gravel mountain passes and some decent winding tar. From here, the next morning, we rode a straight 3 hours and 200 miles until our bums were sore, our knees  were stiff and our bikes thirsty for fuel. A half hour stop for rest and lunch and off again, through the transcape. Through here we started to feel like we were back in Africa with livestock to dodge on the road and the odd crazy playing ‘chicken’ in the road! 394 miles that day just about made a record distance ridden in a day as had it been a record first 200 miles/ 3 hour ride earlier as a non-stop leg. Overnight at Port St Johns and some more beautiful winding roads took us a couple more hundred miles to Warner bay, near Durban.

On the road to Cape A'gulas

It is here we are now. More mechanical work to do on my bike, changing folk seals and I’ve my leaking oil tank out, which I will hopefully seal today. The main reason we are here though is because just down the road is Aliwal Shoal. One of the world’s top ten dive spots and time to spend some Rand on scuba instead of bike parts. Here, on a baited dive I took the chance to see a Tiger shark. The day before had been warm and sunny but when I woke at 6, the pitter patter of rain on the tent don’t put smile on my face. The thought of diving soon did though and I rode Russ’ bike though the rain to arrive at the dive shop ‘The Shoal’ for 7. We launched our boat in the rain which soon became torrential. Basha, one of our brilliant dive guides and I, enjoyed the effect of the Rain on the swell of the sea which made it appear to be a mist. Within a couple of hours  we were already cold, with numb fingers but enjoying watching all the black tip sharks swarming our boat as the skipper threw sardines overboard. Then into the swarm we back rolled off the boat and dived 9m to where a large metal ball of sardines was the focus of the frenzied 2-2.5m sharks that numbered about 40. Just being amongst such numbers and proximity of these feeding predators was exhilarating and for an hour we stayed. I started to become disappointed not to see a Tiger shark but towards the end of the dive the black tips thrashed around me and one hit me in the head. I put out my hand to feel the rough skin along their sides and then found, as I stroked along the belly of one passing over me, how soft and smooth its underside was. I should have kept a bit more distance but instead I took hold ones fin hoping to be taken for a ride. It thrashed me off immediately. Soon after, however, a larger one passed close enough for me to grab hold of. I don’t think I was supposed have my hands out at all, but wow… it was amazing, I’d never touched a shark before and now I’m riding one! I looked back at Basha and I could see, though she shouldn’t have, she approved with a ‘nice one’ in underwater language. Freezing cold, nothing could have taken the smile from my face on our rough return to the coast.

I want to tell you now about Rizél, a lovely lady who is taking care of us at Irie, the place at which we are camping. She’s here looking after the lodge whilst the owners are away. She has been great company, has taken us shopping and last night offered for us to sleep in the lounge instead of going to our tents in the wind and rain. We shared a bottle of cane and showed her the pics of our journey, along with some stories. She’s presently writing a book about the Taureg people of N.Africa which I’m looking forward to reading when published. So thanks for being a great host!

They really don't like baboons around here

After sorting out our latest mechanical issues, we will climb the Sani pass into Lesotho. The weather has plans to snow over it today so we are hoping this 4×4 only pass isn’t going to beat us along its 3000m accent!

Thanks everyone for your comments and mails. Always good to get feed-back. All you people that we’ve met along the way let us know how you’re getting on and remember if you don’t want your comments posted on the blog write ‘private’ at the beginning or email.

Darren Writes 12/05/11

Houtes Bai, Cape Town By Darren

Hi guys. As a lot of you already know we are in Cape Town already and, even though I can’t remember when we arrived, it’s been a few weeks. Not been lazy with the update but been busy with more repairs to the bikes, kit and even clothing.

Brandy tasting to start our day of vinyard tours of the western cape, Pic by our waitress

We’ve also been taking time with our amazing host, Tanja, to do some recreation… Mostly wine tasting. After one of these we went ice skating.. You can just imagine how that went after tasting 14 different wines.

Kristina spent a few weeks with us here too and has now returned home (miss you Kris). Kris and I, whilst my engine was in bits and waiting for parts, hired a car and went to see the animals of Addo National park and some of the Garden Route.

Addo NP. 2 days. Lots of animals. Pic by Daren

Also went to a small private park where we played with Lion cubs (already 3 times the size of a domestic cat at the age of 4 months). Oh yeah, Sharp teeth and claws! Russ has been playing golf, so hand is on the mend and has been running almost daily again. Ankle much better! He also had a swim in the Atlantic which at 12 degrees certifies him as insane! I planned a dive with the great whites but unfortunately it got called off due to the sea conditions and I haven’t had a chance to go again as I’ve had another bout of Malaria, which I’m just about getting over! Seems like I didn’t kill it off before. Who knows when the 40 degree fever will return?

The predator Tank. pic By Kris

Before that though, I did get a dive in the Two Oceans Aquarium, in the predator tank. Ragged tooth sharks, Kob, tuna, turtles, rays etc. I couldn’t let up the chance again after missing the opportunity in Kuwait 5 years ago.

Table mountain, with its table cloth. By Darren

Yesterday we eventually got to explore the top of Table Mountain. Nice, very nice!

Russ and I walking town Table Mountain. Pic of Russ by Darren

We are planning to move on early next week and will first go to the Cape Agulhas. With it being the most southern tip of Africa, riding on from there will signify our return journey home, which, though the east side will have its difficulties, should hopefully be a fair bit easier than our southern descent down the West. Our difficulties are mainly obtaining the Visas for Ethiopia (may have to detour to Harare, Zimbabwe), Sudan and Saudi. Syria is also in the way and so we are hoping their borders will open again before we arrive. Sudan is in the process of splitting up into two countries and so we are also praying we won’t run into too much complication there… Africa is so volatile and the rules and situations change like the Capes weather.

one of our vinyards By Darren

I’m trying to keep this one short so as not to bore you. And from now on we should find it easier to update more often (at times anyway) Thanks for all your support… Will be back in Hereford soon.. Soon may be relative though!

Kris, Russ and Darren get to the most South Western point of Africa

On the edge of the Cape of good Hope. By Kris

A couple more pics.. Diddn’t tell you we went The Cape of Good Hope

Au-strange.. Cape point by Darren