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Author Topic: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho  (Read 2291 times)

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Offline Three Dawg

A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« on: November 25, 2015, 06:59:31 pm »
I posted this a while back on another forum, but really it belongs here.

After having had two excellent holidays in Southern Africa on rental GSs I decided that I quite liked them, so in 2009 in a fit of madness I sold my mighty (and very wonderful) Laverda Jota and bought a weird time warp has-it-ever-been-used 1100GS. Here it is parked up near Lochinver in the Scottish Highlands:

This is the same bike I eventually flew down to Cape Town for my 2015 adventure which is somewhere on this board, so it was probably worth the pain of getting shot of the Jota, although I did find I couldn't do without a triple in the garage so I ended up buying a bust up late model RGS (from South Africa, coincidentally)  Anyway, I like the bike and still have it of course, but tooling round up here isn't exactly adventuresome (there don't seem to be any off roading opportunities at all in Scotland), so in January 2010 me and Mrs Three Dawg packed our bags and headed off to South Africa to see Mpumalanga, Kruger, Swaziland, The Zulu battlefields, the Drakensburg mountains and Lesotho.:D

We flew into Johannesburg. We were quite surprised to make it as the weather here in the UK wasn't exactly cooperating- minus ten centigrade and tons of snow everywhere. BA were having lots of trouble keeping up with the de icing.

First off, a quick word about SAMA tours http://www.samatours.co.za/ who supplied our 1150GS. Really nice guys to deal with, very helpful during booking (unlike some I could mention) and even willing and able to pick up at Oliver Tambo airport for the transfer to their base in eastern Pretoria. Top blokes and highly recommended. Of course, in my excitement I forgot to take pix of the guys...

We arrived early, got changed and packed up and with an escort from Jonathan at SAMA headed east on the N4 towards our first stop in Hazyview.

Lunch stop in Dullstroom, Flyfishing Central and 2100m above sea level. Nice wee place.

We rode the Long Tom pass, which I can highly recommend. This is the big gun at the top. The plaque giving the info was all in Afrikaans so I can't tell you anything about it, but it was a stonking run.

Our overnight was in Hazyview at the bottom of the 'Panorama Route' which took us in a big loop up the Blyde River Canyon. Anyway, that's tomorrow. Here's the Rissington Inn, our base for two nights.

Next day, The Panorama Route. Top road this and in excellent condition. Just right to ease us in to the trip.

Lisbon Falls where I tried (not deliberately) to pay for some souvenirs with Namibian money. Cue much merriment among the ladies manning the stalls when my mistake was discovered.

The Canyon and the 'Three Rondavels'

Bourke's Luck Potholes. River's been busy here.

We took a shortcut on the way back somewhere near Pilgrim's Rest, dirt at last!

Our last visit of the day was to God's Window.

And then back to Hazyview for a quick (outdoor) shower and 'dops'.  Lots of.  There were two young lads over from England who were very good at making sure my glass was never empty...

I can't remember exactly wwhere this was along the way, but eh???  Bit unexpected to find a castle here, but then again, there is also one in Namibia...

« Last Edit: November 26, 2015, 11:56:09 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline fcprinsloo7@gmail.com

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Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2015, 07:30:46 pm »
Beautiful pictures of the most beautiful country in the world! Keep em coming!

Offline Draadwerk

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Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2015, 07:45:07 pm »
In my backyard- nice man. I am riding with...👍

Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2015, 09:36:48 pm »
Nice ride, thanks for sharing.

1978. It's 6am, mid winter...two up on a XL 185S ... off to my first casino ever with all of R40 and we've got a full tank of fuel, so enough to get there we reckon.... that's determination...

Old bike: '82 Eddie Lawson Replica Replica.
Other bike: '05 Honda Varadero 1000
New bike: '16 Honda Africa Twin.

Offline Three Dawg

Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2015, 10:21:53 pm »
Well, just a wee ride this one.

Next day we had to schlep down to Nelspriut to pick up a rental car as we were heading up to a game reserve in greater Kruger. Apparently there are wild animals that might regard bikers as lunch. I dunno, a GS is pretty quick to 100kph...  This was really painful renting two vehicles at once, but as it turned out, well worth it.

With the bike tucked away at the Rissington we headed off to Balule Reserve in Greater Kruger in some hateful Hyundai 4X4. Hideous thing that it was.  It was amazing how different it felt.  Suddenly we were just another couple of tourists peering out at the world going by with the air con on.  No waves as we passed, no interest when we stopped, no nothing.  Bollocks to four wheels

Anyway, we got to Balule. We were surprised and delighted to find we had the whole lodge to ourselves. This meant that the game drives would be much more enjoyable, selfish gits that we are. :biggrin:

OK, so maybe a bike wouldn't be so sensible- this was by the road on the way in.  Gulp.

Anthony our guide (and off road loon) and Richard our cool dude tracker preparing a snack on the Landy.  The thing about Greater Kruger is that unlike the NP you can go where you like, so bashing through the bush in persuit of photo ops is on, and Anthony was fully up for it.  

We saw plenty of animals:

Noble ones

Bored ones (it's yawning)

Big 'uns...

Small, ugly ones...

This thing is just showing off.

As well as lions and the rest, we saw giraffe, zebras, antelopes (various) baboons, eagles, owls and a leopard. No pix of that one as we had to go out in the dark to find her, but what a beauty.

Oh, and ridiculously cute animals too. This is Charli...

The great thing about the private reserves that border Kruger (no fences so they 'share' the animals) is that you can go off road to go where the game is. Anyway, River Lodge, we loved you, we were so, so lucky.

After two nights in Balule we headed back to the Rissington via Kruger NP.  We'll be back on the bike soon on the way to Swaziland, but I've got a few pix from our drive through Kruger NP which might be worth sharing
« Last Edit: November 25, 2015, 10:23:59 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline KiPi

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Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2015, 08:59:51 am »
Nice ride, I'm with you!

Offline Lem

Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2015, 09:05:13 am »
Thanks for sharing this incredible experience with us :thumleft:

makes me want to write a trip report about our June 2015 KNP trip
Faith is not knowing what the future holds, it's knowing who holds the future

Offline Three Dawg

Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2015, 01:01:33 pm »
On the way back to Hazyview we ducked into KNP for a wee drive rougnd.  In the Kruger proper you have to stay on the tarmac, but there's still plenty to see- hippos, Jackals, hyenas and some close up ellies

Back at the Rissington we spent a very enjoyable evening with the owner and some of his friends. The two young lads are English and were on their gap year. One had just finished at Sherbourne (posh private school) and the other had just left Harrow (super posh private school) I still managed to beat them to solving a puzzle on the bar, so one up to Egglescliffe Comprehensive, HA!

Chris, the owner (striped shirt with the money) was educated at Charterhouse (or Winchester, I forget), and I was beginning to get an inferiority complex. Fortunately I was also quite drunk (thanks to Humphrey, the smooth talking devil on the right) by the time I took this photo so I wasn't dwelling on my less glamorous education. Chris writes extensively for newspapers especially regarding Mpumalanga and is very knowlegable about the area.

The next day we ditched (not literally) the horrible Hyundai back at Nelspriut airport and jumped back on the bike for Swaziland.

We were going to get into Swaziland via Barberton, but the road was apparently in very poor condition, so instead we opted for the Jeppe's Reef border post.  On the way there from Nelspruit we took a dirt road shortcut from the N4 through Kaalrug.  Beautiful run but muddy in places.  The border was easy and we climbed up towards Pigg's Peak.

We stopped for lunch at a nice cafe with a view, but the girl who served us did some creative accounting with our bill.  Naughty.  Could have argued, but couldn't be bothered.  Must be relaxed:evil

Swaziland is lush and there seemed to be plenty of logging activity going on. This is a lake created by a large dam on the way to the capital Mbabane.

Swazis are a very good looking people- cool dudes and sassy gals abound.

This is Xolile who looked after us at our overnight in the Foresters Arms near Mbabane. The 'X' is actually a click. Nice name, charming young lady. The Forester's is a hoot- great atmosphere and food.

A little local enterprise...

And some not so local... Pulp mill. Jobs and pollution. Horse and carriage.

We left Swaziland at the Sicunuza crossing and took the dirt road to Piet Retief. This was actually in better shape than the tarmac alternative which was full of potholes.

Gassed up in PR. I was pretty sure I was getting great mileage as most of that last few days was taken at around 80kph. How about 352km for 16.85 litres. Is that nearly 59 imp MPG. Someone help me here.

We were on our way now to the Zulu battlefields and Rorke's Drift.

Faith writ large


Ha! No problemo! Rorke's Drift Lodge. Unusual...  They had a psycho chef there who didn't seem to mind telling us how he slapped his girfriend around if she got 'out of line' and the manager/guide was a very intense bloke who yelled at his dogs a lot.  We were glad only to be staying one night- another couple were there for longer and looked a bit desperate.  Pity, cos it's in a nice spot.  This will all have changed by now I'm sure.

Nice view over the battlefields from the deck at Rorke's Drift Lodge. We were there two days before the anniversary.

The rebuilt mission building at Rorke's Drift.

Memorials to the fallen on both sides. I read a history of the battle and watched the movie again before we came out. The movie is pretty accurate - guess Mel Gibson wasn't involved :-)

After finishing our tour of RD, we headed off towards our next stop in the Drakensburg mountains. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated somewhat.  Is that a tinted visor?  Yes it is.

Pomeroy (?) was somewhat damp.

The rain was pretty relentless. We were mighty glad to get to Giant's Castle in the Drakensburg. There it is, in the mist. Funny thing, last time I was here (in about 1973) the weather was the same Main difference from then is that we were constantly pestered by kids in rags in '73 wanting sweets or whatever, now all the kids are wearing smart school uniforms - there seemed to be schools everywhere- so that has got to be a change for the better.

Nice place to stay

Useful woodburning stove in our rondavel.

The next day conditions on the road weren't good for a bike fitted with Bridgestone DeathWings. That wet clay was slippy We were due to try the Sani Pass, but I doubted by now that it could be done.

Bridgestone DeathWings. Useless on tarmac (I've got a set on mine at home) useless on mud. What I would have given for a set of TKCs!

If only this tarmac went for more than 100m in either direction.

Gassed up in Himeville and took a deep breath.  I was pretty sure I could do the Sani Pass in the dry, but it really didn't look good today.  Also it had taken us too long to get from Giant's Castle to Himeville because of the slippery roads.  But...heading up the Sani Pass.  This is OK!

Yep. definitely can do this...

Hmm, not looking so good.

Front Anakee looks reasonably OK, gonna try a set on my bike.

Looks real bad- at least two up on a big ol' bus like the GS with rotten tyres.  Two guys on KLRs tonked past while we were considering our options- they looked comfortable.  Can you believe I dropped the bike in a car park turning round (sorry guys), not in this? Luck, not skill I can tell you..

« Last Edit: November 26, 2015, 01:12:22 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline Three Dawg

Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2015, 10:20:31 pm »
OK, at this point it started to rain properly (about 2K from the Lesotho border post I think) and there was no way we were going to risk going further on those tyres. The photo doesn't do the gradient justice (honest!)  Anyway, we dug the bike out of the mud hole it had got stuck in and turned it around.  This was before I had bought my Sidi Adventure boots- no cleats in the soles of the Vertibraes I was wearing, so it was a bit of a tense operation. :o

We met these guys from Pretoria University doing a survey of the roadside flora while we were catching our breath, and they were good enough to take the panniers and the Mrs 3D down with them in their pickup.  I freewheeled down slipping and sliding to the hotel at the bottom.

Slip sliding away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you're ya-de-da...

We were mighty glad to check in to the Sani Pass Hotel. Nice view from our room!  This was a bit strange too- it took forever for the girl on the desk to decide which room we should have- it turned out to be at the end of the longest corridor outside the Pentagon.  No reason for this, there were about a dozen people staying in the place.  Dinner was served in a vast dining room which had those funny stretchy cloth covered chairs they use at weddings- was like something out of The Shining.  Fortunately we had the company of Bev and Boet who were running the place- they'd just taken over...

Truth be told, we were a bit down after having to turn back (although it was inevitable given the conditions) but Bev and Boet were good fun.  Hope it worked out for them.

Anyway, the weather was improving, and we had a Plan B, head up to the Northern Drakensburg (on tarmac!) find somewhere to stay and then get to Clarens for our last night. We'd be able to see the Golden Gate National park on the way which would be a bonus.

It was all going great (our stuff was all dry) until just outside Bergville when we ran into a massive thunderstorm. At 10kph I couldn't see a thing, there was forked lightning massive thunder everywhere, it was positively biblical and properly scary. This shows what it was like after the worst had passed.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/L3HcQA1jKuw%26hl=en" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/L3HcQA1jKuw%26hl=en</a>

We sheltered on the verandah of a local hairdresser while people in cars drove past smirking...

Anyway, eventually we got going again and made for a place called Little Switzerland. This was in a spectacular spot and promised an eight (!) course buffet dinner. Just what the doctor ordered!

Moody Drakensburg scenery from our room...

The next day we headed to Clarens for our final night. Nice run through the Golden Gate NP, although a wee bit of sunshine would have helped the pics.

Clarens is an attractive place arranged around a square. Lots of cafes and shops seling arts and crafts. Funny place though, a lot of the shops were selling overpriced tat like fake Coca Cola signs and dubious art. We didn't see anybody actually buying anything, but the cafes were nice.

Anyway, our last day was a pretty straightforward run up to Pretoria. This next pic is only of interest to my family...

It was a shame we couldn't get into Lesotho.  I really really wish we could have found the time to have another bash at the Sani on our most recent trip- even had some halfway suitable tyres on- a big mistake.  Next time it will probably be tarmac.  Anyway, there it is.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2015, 10:25:09 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline Casting from Turd

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Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2015, 04:41:20 am »
I dont want to ride fast, But I want to ride FAR
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Offline Duster

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Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2015, 06:30:42 am »
Just getting something to drink...... :sip:
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Offline 0012

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Re: A short ride from Pretoria- Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2015, 08:54:36 am »
lekker  :ricky:

thanks very much for this RR, great pics  :thumleft:
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