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Offline Leon H

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Work trip to South Africa!
« on: February 22, 2006, 08:21:01 am »
Guys,

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Leon, I am from Townsville, Australia.  I work for Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service as a Wildlife Ranger here in North Queensland.  In the course of my duties I go to many interesting wilderness type places, which is handy for me as I can then return later on my R1200GS and tear around to my hearts content.  My Mrs often joins me on her KLE500, which I must admit is a little surprise package of a bike.  I also race a ZXR400SP in the local road race series, which provides some mild thrills every couple of weeks or so.  So I guess me in a nutshell is National Parks, Adventure Bikes, Road Racing - any of these 3 interest me.

I have been dreaming about riding around South Africa for a long time, but I abandoned the plan due to logistical, financial and family constraints. Then I had a brainwave - plan it into a work trip!

So the plan now is to head to RSA and do some wildlife research project work with National Parks for 6 weeks or so. At the moment I am busy with the process of organising such a trip with work at my end, but I am pretty keen to make some contacts at the RSA end who will be able to help me with the myriad of questions I will have during the planning of the trip.

The plan is to do some research work on either wild dogs or crocodiles ( I do a lot of crocodile work here in QLD) at one of the major national parks, then spend a couple of weeks touring around the place, probably by car (but bike would be better), seeing the sights. At the moment I have absolutely no idea where I want to go as I don't know what's there, I am kind of letting people advise me on where is the best spots.

I guess all I am looking for at the moment is some advice about nice places to visit, what time of year to visit, how to hire a car or bike, any areas I should avoid totally, stuff like that.

This trip is in it's very early stages of planning, but will occur in the next 12-18 months. I am pretty excited about it from both a professional and personal perspective, and I hope I get the chance to meet some of you RSA guys whose ride reports I enjoy so much.

Cheers

Leon :)
"I see a boundary, I eat a boundary...and wash it down with a cup of hot steaming rules!"
 

shark_za

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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2006, 08:27:02 am »
Welcome Leon, hope you plans work out smoothly and quickly!

Would love to have someone else appreciating our country a bit.
Even though you are an aussie, and we are gonna kick your ass in Rugby.

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Offline LiveInTheOutdoors

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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2006, 08:34:11 am »
Leon, welcome boet. Your name could be from a SA origin (of course, theres France too), but do you have roots here?

Hein, the Site Admin is looking to start renting bikes out, so you might just be in luck. He's a good lad to deal with, and will go to the ends of the earth to help you. Just watch out that if you do meet him, you are likely to do and talk bikes until LATE at night and then maybe start bbq'ing at midnight  :P  :P  :P

Theres a ton of info and the boyz and girlz here have travelled some around this country here, start your questions, I am sure we will all chime in.

Cool, chat to you later. Lito
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Offline Leon H

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2006, 09:01:20 am »
Quote from: "LiveInTheOutdoors"
Leon, welcome boet. Your name could be from a SA origin (of course, theres France too), but do you have roots here?

Hein, the Site Admin is looking to start renting bikes out, so you might just be in luck. He's a good lad to deal with, and will go to the ends of the earth to help you. Just watch out that if you do meet him, you are likely to do and talk bikes until LATE at night and then maybe start bbq'ing at midnight  :P  :P  :P

Theres a ton of info and the boyz and girlz here have travelled some around this country here, start your questions, I am sure we will all chime in.

Cool, chat to you later. Lito


Nah mate I've not got roots in RSA.  I guess I have always had an interest in the place as a number of guys I did uni with went there to look at the parks.  Being in the wildlife field of work, Africa is kind of the place to be.  My interest has been really strong for the last 3 years or so, when I met my mate from RSA with the fine Afrikaans (spelling?) name of Marius.  Listen to his stories, looking at his photos and just letting his passion for the country rub off on me has given me an isatiable desire to see the place.  In his words, "You have to go there, you just have to".  He then added that if I didn't I was a moffie, and handed me another Castle beer and telling some amusing but rude acronym for "castle" that I can no longer remember!  As for staying up late talking bikes and starting the BBQ at midnight - that is something I have a lot of practice at!!

To give a little more detail about my plans, as part of my work as wildlife ranger I can travel and work elsewhere to gain broader experience which hypothetically will make me better able to do my duties here in QLD.  Ideally, I would like to work in Kruger National Park as it is something of an icon, and they have a lot of charismatic megafauna research going on.  After the completion of that work I was hoping to get a bike or an old car and go for a bit of a cruise around the countryside.  I am also hoping to expereince a little bit of city life too while I am there.

At the moment I am just like a sponge, soaking up any information I can from my friends and colleagues (a number of whom are ex-pats).  And the more I learn the more excited I get.  But the info I really need to know, that maybe you guys can help me with, to get the ball rolling is:

1 - What is the best tmie of year to go?

2 - Do any of you guys work for National Parks / game reserves who can tell me a little bit about what it is like to work for them?

3 - Do I need to quit racing and take a second mortgage on the house to afford this trip - or is the cost of living pretty reasonable over there?

Incidentally, if any of you are planning an Australia trip, I would love to provide you with help, information, great riding locations, routes, or where to buy biltong here in Townsville!  

Thanks for your help and congrats too on a great website - it's very informative and entertaining.

As for the cricket, I won't say much, but you have to admit that new Twenty20 one day format is very entertaining to watch!!

Cheers

Leon
"I see a boundary, I eat a boundary...and wash it down with a cup of hot steaming rules!"
 

Offline funacide

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2006, 09:02:20 am »
Leon

Welcome to the forum.

Most of the animal research places are focused in the north of the country. The African Wild Dog Organisation's web site is as follows:
http://www.awf.org/wildlives/4548


South Africa as a whole has so many places of interest for DS type riding, from Bushveld in the north, sub-desert in the mid-west, sub-tropical forests in the South-east and deserts in the west. All of these areas connected by good roads (most of the time and when not good DS roads :)  :) ).

I think you need to give a bit more info on the length of your stay and things that interest you and people could give you more info....

On my list of top 10 to visit (some of which I have been to others still plan to go to) are as follows:

Northern Cape Karoo: Near Victoria West - (Unspoilt sub-desert region with some of the best DS riding around and very friendly people)

Lesotho KATSI Dam (Trip report done by Michnus recently)

Sabie/Pilgrims Rest/ Grsskop area (just the beauty of the place and awesome roads for all motorbikes)

Kynsna Forests - Eastern Cape

Cape Town - Within an hours drive you will find some of the best twisty roads to ride on in the world...

Namibia - Desert in the south with more sub-tropical in the north

The bottom line is that no matter where you are in SA you can find awesome roads to ride.

Probably the best time of year to come is Late April early May or Late October early November. As the South of the Country has Winter rainfall and the north has Summer Rainfall.

Let us know what you are looking for and the peeps here will definitely assist.
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Offline LiveInTheOutdoors

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2006, 09:12:58 am »
Nice one Leon and Funacide. You both responded quickly!

Leon, what Fun said - give us time of duration, budget that sort of thing. I think that living is pretty cheap out here, particularly if you are comfortable with non 5 star living and hooking up in a tent sometimes.

I did my national service in the Kruger Park on the Mozambiquan kaftan line, and I have walked a great deal of that place on foot, interacting with all the animals in the park. I can tell you some fun stories! (from old Buff being 20metres away on foot, downwind - to being chased by a wild pig that was humping and we disturbed him to lions chasing troops, that sort of thing.)

Where will be your point of entry, theres a lot to really chat about

Gas is pretty expensive to me in this country - around R5.50 a litre, so if you want to traverse this country, you will need some money, and an economical bike if you want to do it on shoestring. This is where the KLR/Dakar really shines. Will you do it solo?

hehe Marius - can just believe what kinda stuf he tells you..  :P  - welcome aboard again, its going to be fun!
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Offline Leon H

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2006, 10:04:21 am »
Thanks guys for the replies and interest - and thanks for the AWF site that is a good resource.

In answer to some of your questions, and to try and be a little more specific, my plan is to fly over to Joburg in either October 2006 or February / March 2007.  From there I was hoping to head directly onto park to do the work part of my trip.  As I mentioned I am really interested in wild dog research.  Why do I like wild dogs?  They remind me of my own dog with massive ears!  I was looking to do about 4-6 weeks of work, then spend maybe another 2 weeks taking in the sights.  My budget at this stage is a bit of an unknown, but it looks like a large portion of the costs will be paid for.  I guess you could say I want to spend as little as possible, in order to afford more experiences while over there.  I am not a 5 star sort of dude, and normally tent it or stay in some fairly ordinary barracks while on work business.  

Funacide, all of those places sound great.  And I guess that is what makes it so hard to plan, to me it all looks exceptional.  There are a few things I really want to see, deserts, rift valley, a valley called hell's something (kitchen? - I cant remember), the big 5, cape town.  I would also like to sample some of the local bike culture and get along to a bike rally or bike road race to talk crap and drink beer with the locals.  I have also heard that the southern coast (garden route?) is nice too.  I'm sure there are heaps of other wonderful little places tucked away from the tourist places that you guys know about.

I was toying with the idea of bringing my own bike over, but the cost would be prohibitive.  Is it reasonable to expect to buy a nice little dual sport (KLR type thing) then sell it when I leave?  Or rely on public transport?  Or buy or rent a car?  This is all stuff that I suppose will become clearer when I finalise the work side of it all.

At this point I plan to come over by myself.  My wife may come with me, but I doubt it as she is a little more accustomed to luxuries and being organised than I am.  For me the best times are had when you have no plan and just let things happen.  When you don't know where you are going it is the best way to get to somewhere you have never been to.

The other thing is that I have not finalised what work I will be doing yet, and as such I am pretty felxible on that too.  If there are some mind-blowingly fantastic projects or places you recommend, I would love to hear about them.

Cheers

Leon
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Offline Welsh

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2006, 10:10:47 am »
Howzit Leon,
This is the same Welshie and Toucan from the ADV site, LITO also shows his face there ocasionally!
I love LITO expounding on the economy of the KLR/Dakar when he runs around on a 950 Katoom?

Anyway, Welcome, are you Religious? Whoops. :oops:  :oops:

Welshie
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Offline macduff

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2006, 10:29:33 am »
Quote
There are a few things I really want to see, deserts, rift valley, a valley called hell's something (kitchen? - I cant remember), the big 5, cape town. I would also like to sample some of the local bike culture and get along to a bike rally or bike road race to talk crap and drink beer with the locals. I have also heard that the southern coast (garden route?) is nice too.


howzit leon...
find this place by googling "wilddog"?  :D

all the above would be possible if done in the southern part of the country. (except i dont know what you mean by a "rift")
semi desert is just inland of the garden route (karoo) and i think you are also talking about "die hel" which simply translates to "the hell". this is all close to the coastal area. a bonus for the time you mentioned is that south africa has the largest m/cycle rally in march in that area. the buffalo rally takes place at the beginning of the garden route (bottom end)

about buying a bike, well i cant give too much advice or info here. but if you are thinking of renting i am sure we could knock up a few places which you could look at.

enuff for now

cheers
 

Oppad

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2006, 02:13:55 pm »
Leon

To add to MacDuff's input: Oudtshoorn is the town closest to Die Hel and lots of other excellent roads for ds bikes. As luck would have it, the Cango Wildlife and Crocodile ranch is in the same town. Very touristy, but they say they do lots of research on crocodiles and white tigers. It is a private concern with no ostensible links to oficial bodies.

There are many crocodiles and in nearby George - 57km across the wonderful Outeniqua (tar) or Montague (dirt) passes - a guy by the name of Heribert Seyer, runs a commercial croc farm. At times he has had up to 4000 of them, two of which escaped into the suburbs at one time, and one that ended up in the dam in the prison compound.

You should be able to find contact details for these people on the web, but please shout if I can help.
 

Offline LuckyStriker

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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2006, 02:44:46 pm »
Hi Leon H

My wife worked for National Parks for several years but left to do research for a University. I have picked up some of her 'Greenie' ways and like to believe that I can also answer some of your questions...yeah right...
I will direct my wife's attention to this thread. Perhaps she will find the time to talk to us lowly bikers and share info. :wink:

Let us know when you come over to SA. Any one of us here would take you on a ride through scenic surrounds I'm sure
 

Offline LiveInTheOutdoors

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Work trip to South Africa!
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2006, 03:42:55 pm »
Quote from: "Welshman"
I love LITO ...


easy Welshman, easy.....

ps: just cos the 650's are frugal, doesnt mean I am  :twisted:

LeonH, i saw you posted your same question on the Outer Darkness section. I am definately sure that you are going to come up with more info you can handle.

 :D
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Offline Welsh

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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2006, 04:59:01 pm »
Quote from: "LiveInTheOutdoors"
Quote from: "Welshman"
I love LITO ...


easy Welshman, easy.....



 :D


And I get accused of taking advantage of Freudian slips and grammatical errors! (Was my speeling write, it is post lunch).

Welshie

Not riding this weekend, prepare for a grumpy one, a bit like PMS, quite Freudian that!
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Offline X Banana Boy

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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2006, 05:39:05 pm »
Welcome Leon,

Pick the spot where you are going to work and then base your travels around it.  Car hire is not that cheap as i found out when i came back to SA for a wedding last year.  Probably spoilt by US competition.  

Where ever you go, you will have a blast.  Enjoy the sites and we will expect a report.  :lol:   I expect you will be coming back to SA again after this trip.  :D
 

Offline Leon H

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Great information
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2006, 06:54:12 am »
Great information - this is superb!

So a bit of a plan is now coming together I think.  Fly to Joburg some time in February, travel directly to wherever I will be working at, do my work there.  From there go to Kruger for a look (if I am not already working there), the head back along the coast via the Garden Route, attend the buffalo Rally, then fly back to Australia.  I sounds simple - maybe too simple.  What places are must go destinations on the east / south coast?  Are there any inland destinations (such as Die Hel) that I can divert my course inland to visit?  And I would love to hear about the Buffalo Rally - is it a tent and beer thing much like we have here in Australia?  Is there room for a red headed Australian who gets drunk off his scone on 6 beers and likes to sing sea shanties with interpretive dancing?  So many questions!!

I also have Mapsource for Garmin GPS on my PC, and I am going to start putting in waypoints, places and routes so I can get a bit of an idea about the distances and where the places are.  If anyone feels compelled to email me GPX files of routes, places or tracks - that would be just great!  If anyone can fill me in about a good map set for Garmin GPS for South Africa that would be good too.

Thanks for the great info keep it coming!  And don't forget if there is anything you want from me just ask........

Leon :D
"I see a boundary, I eat a boundary...and wash it down with a cup of hot steaming rules!"
 

Offline toucan

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Re: Great information
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2006, 07:36:41 am »
Quote from: "Leon H"
 And I would love to hear about the Buffalo Rally - is it a tent and beer thing much like we have here in Australia?


i don't know what the bike rallies are like in oz, but this is definetly tent and beer and stroh rum and wet t-shirts and stuff. it was banned in the mid 80's due to hooliganism and since it started again it has calmed down quite a bit. people even take their families with now.
i'm not a complete idiot. some parts are missing.
 

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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2006, 07:37:25 am »
Hey Leon.

In the mean time, download these maps and start having a look.

http://www.tracks4africa.co.za/t4a_maps_prev.asp

These are older discontinued versions (free) of T4A that work with mapsource.  

Garmin has City Select and all that for the town bits, but for the proper dual sport trails, T4A looks to be the best.

They dont have details like mountains or lakes but have good track info.

Or pay the few R's and ge the Pro edition, thats more complete with details.  What GPS unit you got?  The discontinued lite version works well, even on an e-trex legend (8mb) or GPS III.

I'm buying the T4A pro this week, want the Mozambique bits as well as all the SA stuff.  Quite cheap and they are based on real peoples travels, not sattelite photos etc.
 

Offline Leon H

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« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2006, 08:06:06 am »
Regarding the Buffalo Rally - it sounds a lot like an Australian rally used to be.  Although in recent years they have been watered down a lot due to public liability insurance issues and what some people see as bad behaviour.  I personally believe that bike rallies are the most appropriate forum to practice nude drunk burnout techniques and the like, but I am somehwat alone in that opinion.  So our bike rallies in the last 5 years have become lame to say the least.

Thanks for the T4A map info.  I will bung it on my PC when I get home tonight.  We have T4A here as well (although obviously in our case the A stands for something else).  It's the same deal, I send in my tracklogs and they are used to create the latest version of the map.  I have a feeling that the same guy who runs T4Aus is the same guy who started T4Africa.  I remember him telling me something about him going over there to do some mapping work.   Incidentally I have Garmin eTrex Legend C that I use hiking, on the bike, in the car and at work.  It is a nice little unit with plenty of memory for what I need it for - love the small size.

Cheers

Leon
"I see a boundary, I eat a boundary...and wash it down with a cup of hot steaming rules!"
 

Oppad

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Re: Great information
« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2006, 10:01:51 am »
Quote from: "Leon H"
Thanks for the great info keep it coming!  And don't forget if there is anything you want from me just ask........

Leon :D


Hey Leon, now that you've mentioned it...is that thing about Australians and sheep really true??? :lol:  :lol:  :lol:

Seriously, just shout if you want more specific info. We'll be glad to help.
 

Offline LuckyStriker

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« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2006, 08:08:43 am »
Leon H
I am slightly concerned with your desire to work in Kruger National Park.
From what I'm told by friends in the Parks service, it is the worst place to work! GVI volunteers receive notoriusly bad treatment and foreign researchers usually have to pay big bucks for the honour of working in the park.

Perhaps you should consider the 'Kalahari Transfrontier Park' or 'Addo Elephant Park' instead. Also try to get in contact with 'The University of Pretoria' since they are the HQ for large mammal research in South Africa and can probably get you a grant or at least organise you a good placement.