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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #260 on: November 30, 2018, 04:02:54 pm »
Day 78 – South Africa, Nelspruit, Tuesday 14th August


The morning was slow, as we were still both under the weather. With our limited 150mb of daily free WiFi, I found few places within walking distance, to rent a car.

We thought we could spend some time the next day, self-driving in nearby Kruger National Park. Obviously, motorbikes are not allowed.

Alistair walked to various places but either they did not exist, or they had no cars available. It was disappointing.

For a couple of weeks, I had been in contact, via the Wild Dog forum with a lad called Canzius, who kindly offered help to find tyres in Nelspruit.

We arranged to meet late afternoon in a pub downtown. The bikes were ready by 4pm so we walked to the workshop to pick them up and rode to the pub.

The good thing being a biker is that wherever in the world you go, you will have friends! The motorcycle community is always incredibly welcoming and friendly, and so was Canzius.

 He advised us on places to visit the next day, on a loop north, and convinced us that it was well worth visiting Swaziland. It was not on our initial plans to cross Swaziland, but as usual, our plans kept changing as we went along.  ;D

My main problem with the new plan was that I had burned the Swaziland pages on my lonely Planet. Note I did not burn Swaziland out of spite, but in Namibia, trying to start a fire! We were camping and been told about the lions roaming around and to have a fire at night! We used some pages of the guidebook, and plenty of petrol, to start the fire (and failed!).  ::) Anyhow, the 5 or 6 sheets of paper on the guide were gone, and with very little WiFi, our plan would be even more vague than usual!  :biggrin:

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #261 on: November 30, 2018, 04:07:23 pm »
Day 79 – South Africa, Nelspruit, Wednesday 15th August – about 180 Kms loop

In the morning, feeling a bit better, we rode north across Sabie and various other places. It was a great ride to test our new tyres, and at last we had some mountains.



New tyres:



Later in the afternoon, Alistair did some more work and maintenance on the bikes.

On a twist of fate, one of those moments of “Most Unlikely Stuff” to happen, we saw on Facebook that the 2 lads we met in Luderitz, Namibia, 2 months before, and who had been walking across Southern Africa, from coast to coast, were also in Nelspruit!

We thought about meeting them at their backpacker hostel, but it got late as Alistair was working on the bikes until dark! So in the end we did not ride to meet them. It would have been cool, but we will meet them back in the UK!

So we packed, as we always end up doing. The bikes were in their best shape since we started this trip. Next stop would be yet another country!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #262 on: November 30, 2018, 04:08:59 pm »
Day 80 – Swaziland, near Maguga dam – Thursday 16 August, 150 kms


We did not have far to go, so we took our time. We only left the hotel after 9:30.

The ride to the border took us through stunning views through mountains, riding well above the tree lines and down again. The road was pristine and not busy, it was heaven.

The border crossing was probably the fastest and easiest we ever had!

On the South African side, we were the only tourists, no scammers or people hanging around, only the friendly staff. We were stamped out quickly and we had not need to get to Customs, as Swaziland is part of the South African custom union. Our carnets, stamped into South Africa, were valid in Swaziland.


Then we rode to Swaziland. Again, there were only few staff and us. The guys were friendly and gave us a newspaper issued for tourists. It had very good info about Swaziland, so I packed it in my backpack.

We were stamped in very quickly and we paid a tax of 50 rand per person (or bike, not sure).

That done, we got into Swaziland, the Mountain Kingdom. The country is an absolute monarchy, so we expected great poverty.

I was surprised at how nice the village over the border was. Not mud huts, well built houses, small but brightly painted. No women carrying buckets of water or taking the washing to the river anywhere. So I assume they had running water nearby or in the houses. I was told later that it was an orphanage and that they produced honey.

The road from the border was a bad track for about 18kms, very rocky and bumpy with deep holes, high engine clearance definitely was a must.  Then we got to the tarmac which was in good condition.





Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #263 on: November 30, 2018, 04:10:43 pm »
There were plenty of cars in good state, stunning views of mountains and farms, very little littering, a neat tidy little country.

Our initial destination was a lodge and campsite near the dam Maguga.

The lodge was super expensive, and the campsite was down a mile, through a very nasty track, with no shade, nowhere to sit and no facilities other than the shower block.

It was not ideal and as it was very early we decided to leave and find something more confortable.





The GPS was showing a backpacker hostel few miles away. So we rode to Sobantu Guest Farm and Backpackers. It was a working farm.

The little round hut (Rondavels) with en-suite bathroom was very affordable, about 28 dollars at current rate (the rand was plunging at that moment).

So we took one rondavel instead of camping! We appreciate our comfort these days.





The farm had stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The main building had a couple of very big lounges, a kitchen and all the stuff you may need for a backpacker place, including several TVs! Ok no free WiFi, but free WiFi seemed hard to come in the region!

In the evening we cooked a pot of vegs with noodles.

We had a couple of glasses of wine from the little bar, as it was cheap! There were only another couple staying in, from France, so we spent a while talking to them.


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #264 on: November 30, 2018, 04:12:22 pm »

Day 81 – Swaziland, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Sondzela backpackers, Friday 17th August - 75kms


It appeared that Swaziland had a lot to offer. The little touristic newspaper that we were given at the border described few interesting places to visit. We also picked, at the backpackers place, a little free book called “Coast to Coast”, which listed all the backpackers places in Southern Africa, with a nice description of what was around.

The description of the Sondzela Backpackers, in that little book, was too tempting to resist: “ Sondzela overlook a Valley where wild animals roam and impalas, warthogs and zebras graze on the edge of the gardens. Campers are surrounded by fruit trees and roaming game”.

With such a description, we decided to spend a night there. 

It was not far, Swaziland is a small country, barely 120 kms wide and 180kms long, so we took our time.

We still got there before lunch. We arrived at the game park entrance and stopped to pay the entrance fee.

Just there, with no fence in between, were zebras and wildebeests, totally unfazed by us!



Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #265 on: November 30, 2018, 04:13:39 pm »

Once in the park we saw many antelopes, zebras, warthogs and more wildebeest along or on the track! They were so close to us it was amazing!










They had camping space, dorms and rondavels.

Some of the rondavels were very cheap so we took one, as the weather forecast was not looking too promising. Once changed out of our motorcycle gear, we went for a walk around the compound, the gardens  and the vast orchard with lemon and grapefruit trees.

Immediately we saw several antelopes, some very large, some smaller, and lots of warthogs, inside the camp, despite the fence. I saw the warthogs drop on their front legs knees and squeeze under the fence, to come inside our camp, and I guessed the antelopes just walked in when the gates were open!



Warthog running along the shower block:


Offline Edgar

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #266 on: November 30, 2018, 05:57:11 pm »
Awesome ride report :thumleft:
 
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #267 on: December 01, 2018, 06:00:05 am »
This is great, please keep it coming. :ricky: :thumleft:
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Offline Oubones

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #268 on: December 01, 2018, 06:28:35 am »
Great country, near Big Ben in the south is a game lodge that we used to frquent where we walked between the game only to find out when we came back that the staff had been searching for us as the lions had broken out the night before! :peepwall:
Did u pass the distillery at Big Ben? I took the one column( the bolts holding it together are the only black ones) down in SA and shipped it there complete with full re-assembly instructions and my friend put it up.
Keep up the RR. :thumleft:
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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #269 on: December 02, 2018, 01:44:49 pm »
Great country, near Big Ben in the south is a game lodge that we used to frquent where we walked between the game only to find out when we came back that the staff had been searching for us as the lions had broken out the night before! :peepwall:
Did u pass the distillery at Big Ben? I took the one column( the bolts holding it together are the only black ones) down in SA and shipped it there complete with full re-assembly instructions and my friend put it up.
Keep up the RR. :thumleft:

The only Big ben I know stands in London in the Palace Westminster  :biggrin:

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #270 on: December 02, 2018, 01:46:23 pm »
Mlilwane:







The views over the valley and mountains were stunning. We were glad we had decided to cross Swaziland, as it is a beautiful country!

Later in the afternoon we had a walk in the reserve, as it was safe to walk around and hiking. Once again, we got very close to zebras, wildebeest and many antelopes.

This backpacker lodge had probably the best views we ever had anywhere!







The communal kitchen was quite busy that evening. A large group of young teens with their teachers had been having "team building " games in the orchard earlier. Now the adults supervising them were cooking a big meal for them. We still managed to cook a quick something and we bought some eggs and bread from the shop near reception.
Later in the evening it’s started raining. We had a great night in our little Rondavel. It had no facilities but the shower blocks were close by and very clean, with good pressure and very hot water in the showers. And the tap water was drinkable!


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #271 on: December 02, 2018, 01:47:28 pm »

Day 82 – same place – Saturday 18th August


The day was still very wet with constant rain and fairly cold, all of a sudden.

We decided to stay an extra day. The place was so magical with all the wild animals wandering around and the most stunning views. We felt comfortable there. The large youth Swazi group left, another arrived and took over the dorms once again. This time they were from the UK. The place was very busy, and with good reason. It was a stunning place.







If you get the opportunity, make sure to go there!


More zebras in case you did not have enough:








Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #272 on: December 02, 2018, 01:49:11 pm »

Day 83 – Swaziland, Hlane National Park – Ndvolu camp, Sunday 19th August – 105 kms


On Sunday it was time to leave the fabulous Mlilwane, the game sanctuary, and ride to Hlane, the main national park in Swaziland, on the east side, near to tehborder with Mozambique.

The road was perfect; (allegedly built by the Chinese) the towns and villages tidy and clean, people were often dressed in their best Sunday clothes or traditional warrior costume for men, with traditional tools and weapons at hand.

It was a very cool sight. Maybe it is traditional on Sunday to dress like that, as we did not see anyone dressed in a traditional way before.

Swaziland is such a wonderful little country. I expected grinding poverty. After all it is an absolute monarchy. I expected a banana republic with the king leading an extravagant life while the subjects would be dirt poor.

I don’t know about the king, but people seemed wealthy enough, compared to Mozambique, Malawi or even Zambia. I did not see, like in the rest of Southern Africa, women walking for miles and miles with heavy loads of washing, dishes, wood or water, balanced on their head.

I saw no men hanging around waiting for a customer to taxi on their bicycle, no one walking along the road, or very rarely. Everyone seemed busy, well dressed, lots of nice cars, lots of satellite dishes out of houses, electricity, proper glass windows in the houses, no littering or garbage anywhere along the road.

After the depressing sights in Mozambique, it was so uplifting to discover a smiling welcoming happy country! And they didn’t even gouge you with the accommodation and parks. Prices were very reasonable and affordable!


So we rode to Hlane. It had lions. We wanted to see lions. The campsite and lodge had great facilities, communal kitchen, big shower blocks, bar, restaurant, but no electricity at all.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #273 on: December 02, 2018, 01:50:51 pm »
We put the tent up and went to explore, as far as the bar. We had a late lunch of toasted sandwiches (Still not a match on the one from Rosteck Ritz Lodge in Namibia – I know I go on about it!).





We could see the edge of a water hole and lots of people looking and taking photos. I thought they were seeing elephants and we were a bit blasé about them.

As we moved closer, we saw what it was: 5 white rhinos. They were massive! And so close! The only fence between them and the public was 2 lines of barbed wire! Like if this could hold them, should they get angry! It was extraordinary!






We booked an evening safari drive, as we were hopeful to see lions.

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #274 on: December 02, 2018, 03:24:07 pm »
I don’t know about the king,

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Offline shark_za

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #275 on: December 02, 2018, 04:58:09 pm »
LOL Big Bend!


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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #276 on: December 03, 2018, 06:56:23 pm »
LOL Big Bend!


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 :-\

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #277 on: December 03, 2018, 06:58:07 pm »
The safari drive was a 2 1/2 hour evening tour. To start with, it was rather disappointing, as for about 1h 1/2, we only saw 2 elephants.





And then we found the lions: 2 males and 3 females (brothers and sisters and their mother – not sure where the father was!). It was amazing to see them!









We went back to camp in the dark. Literally. The campsite had no electricity, only a generator for the restaurant. Staff left some oil lamps in the shower block and in the communal outdoor kitchen.

After preparing a small dinner (our usual can of mixed vegs and noodles) we moved to the bar and celebrated seeing the lions with a bottle of Malbec! Even the bar was using oil lamps.

We caught up with a lad we met at Mlilwane the day before and spent the evening with him, around a fire camp, drinking wine and talking rubbish. The way it should be!

That was our last night in Swaziland. It might be small (120kms side and 180kms long) but it made a big impression on us: the superb landscapes, the welcoming smiling people, the Sanctuaries, the sense of optimism I sensed from talking with the locals…. definitely if you come to South Africa, make sure to spend few days here!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #278 on: December 03, 2018, 07:00:48 pm »

Day 84 – South Africa, near Dundee– Battlefield sport resort– 285kms - Monday 20th August


After a quick breakfast at the campsite (coffee with bread and peanut butter) we packed the tent and left Hlane.

The border back to South Africa was about 130 kms south and although a section of road was bad with potholes (all relative, nothing can ever compare with Mozambique!) we made good progress.

Getting back into South Africa was very fast, a quick stamp out of Swaziland in our passport, and quick stamp in on the passports, into South Africa and we were off again.

We decided to avoid the main roads and take secondary roads through Kwazulu-Natal as it was not easy to keep up with fast traffic on our little bikes, and back roads are usually much more interesting in my experience. We passed many sugar cane plantations and farms. The weather was very hot.

Off a little road we saw a little shop and stopped to buy some cold drinks and a snack. The only snack they had was biltong. I bought  a bag but it was way too salty.

By mid afternoon we arrived at a town called Vryheid. My guide had nothing about it. It seemed the main business in the are is coal mining and cattle.

The  town had lots of B&Bs. We stopped at one and declined. The second and third B&B were still very expensive! A good 800 to 900 rands for an empty B&B!

I am not sure if they ever fill at the weekend, as there did not seem to be much around to attract tourists, but considering the prices, we decided to continue to Dundee. I had spotted, in iOverlander App, a caravan park there and figured it would be more within our price range (i.e cheap  :angel11:)

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #279 on: December 03, 2018, 07:01:39 pm »
Few kilometres from Dundee, we saw a sign for a large resort. They had a campsite advertised. We decided to investigate. By then we were a bit tired and very hot.

The place was absolutely massive, with plenty of rooms, rondavels, little square chalets, all with en-suite bathrooms, a big lake and lots of land. The chalets were only 500 rands so we decided to take one! It was luxurious, with TV and plenty of channels, a nice hot shower and beautiful grounds.


The restaurant was a buffet and very expensive, so Alistair rode to the nearest supermarket in town and came back with some sandwiches and a couple of beers.