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Offline Gasman

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Swaziland you lekker thing
« on: October 25, 2011, 10:00:01 pm »
So Swaziland... I didn’t really know anything about it except for what I heard from one of my friends who took his wife there for a week in December. As days tend to get long and strenuous every now and then at the office, I found myself on Google in search of places to go to with my trusty steed. Henk and I was talking about doing a trip and decided that Swaziland is closer to Jozi than Lesotho and Lesotho will probably be really cold in July. So we booked the Friday off and decided that we should leave early and try and hit the dirt roads of Swaziland as early in the day as possible. I have just fitted my bike out with TKCs and bought a GPS as I tend to get lost within a shopping mall (good thing I did).

Day 1: Ride from Johannesburg to Nisela Lodge, which is on the eastern border of Swaziland. The route was plotted out on the GPS and showed that we had 497km to cover for day one. Nisela is really a great place and I can highly recommend it (more about that later).
Co-ordinates of Nisela lodgeS26°59.306’
Elevation: 140m  
Johannesburg – 6am in July = slap teef koud. This was my first proper trip (only got the bike in Dec and was studying up until June). So naturally I was as eager as a 12 year old boy who is about to open a scope for the first time.

Not long afterwards and Henk rocked up ready to go. This is actually happening! Last check and we were off.

First pit stop was after the first of many toll gates on the N17 to try and defrost our fingers a bit. The small streams next to the highway was frozen just as a reminder as to why we can’t feel our fingers.

Oh yes, there is a shite load of road works, so don’t expect to get to Ermelo quickly. Luckily we just drove past the traffic to the front everytime, which saved us a lot of time. You really get a proper wake-up call when you come around a corner and discover a bakkie coming straight at you because the twatwaffle on the other side with the Stop/Go sign let the traffic through.

We stopped for a quick Steers coffee and toasted sandwich somewhere along the way. Got back in the saddle and arrived in Ermelo about an hour or two before lunch. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this building in Ermelo! I thought they must be busy building a casino here. We turned around to have a closer look. This building is massive and looks like the parliament building. Turns out it is Ermelo’s new municipal building.

Old mode of transport vs new

At Ermelo we turned off onto the N2 and were on our way to Piet Retief where we stopped at the local Spur for a lekker burger. Onto the Mahamba border post. It is remarkable how friendly the people are literally 30m on the other side of the SA border.

Passports stamped, road tax paid etc. No one even checked our bikes out or asked for their papers, only our passports and a fee to get in.

8km from the border we hit our first dirt road for the day. We stopped quickly to take everything in and I deflated my tyres a bit as it was sailing over the loose sand/gravel. We still have about 150km left for the day and it is 2:30pm at the moment. I started to wonder if we will make it before sunset as it is winter and Swaziland is a bit more east than Jozi... only time would tell, but it was definitely in the back of my head.

As we were cruising through the country side I couldn’t stop wondering why you never hear people talking about Swaziland?! How beautiful it is or how friendly the people are... It’s like a hidden gem just a stone through away from Gauteng!!

Even the condition of the roads surprised me as I was expecting some rough stuff

The shadows started to stretch over the road and I released we didn’t have a lot of time left for the day

The scenery is really something to experience

Now by this time the battery of my GPS was starting to really run low, so we would switch it on, check in how many kms we should turn left or right and then switch it off again. Henk is a much more experienced offroad rider than me, so he would go ahead and then wait at the next turn to check with me how many kms before the next turn off.

Here he is waiting for me again to advise which road to take

The sun was taking its last breaths for the day and I saw that we have about another 38kms before we hit the tarmac which is roughly 4kms from our accommodation for the evening. So Henk pushed ahead and was quickly out of my sight. Something that I forgot to mention was that the road was getting worse with every km passing by. The sun was burning bright red in my mirrors and then all of a sudden it was out of sight. Not too worry as we should have about another couple of minutes left of daylight before it is pitch black. As I checked my GPS again to see how many kms are left I hit a patch of really loose rocks that was about 20cm deep. Only thing is, this patch lasted for about 6kms and it didn’t help much that I could start seeing my headlight in the road ahead of me and not much of anything else at that stage. My speed went down dramatically as we have been on the road the whole day and my concentration was starting to fade quickly now. I thought to myself to rather go slow for the last stretch that fark it up in create a proper mess.

After a couple of really close calls I hit the tarmac and still haven’t seen Henk. As I drove past the first Shebeen (roughly 30m on the tarmac) I saw the Africa Twin standing there in all its glory. I pulled up just as the last light left us and had a HUGE smile on my face knowing that we made it and that the first beer is not far away. This is what your face looks like if you ride with a open visor on dirt roads.

First things first, let’s get a beer man! There are NO words that can explain what a beer taste like after a whole day on the bike (with some close calls along the way).

After chatting to one of the locals outside the shebeen we left in search or our accommodation for the evening (Nisela Lodge). I did book the place over the internet, so wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. When we got there it exceeded all my expectations! What a great place! We opted for the traditional hut option, which was fairly to cheaply priced at R120 per person.  Quickly through the shower and off to the bar for another beer and something to eat. I was mentally and physically exhausted after the day’s ride and after we had some food in our stomachs, I thought there is no way that I am going to see 7:30pm. We opted for another beer and decided to just have one skuimkop aka Captain Morgan Rum and Coke. It was about that time that we discovered the bonfire outside to ourselves and the words “nog net so enetjie” flowed from our lips about every 15mins. The weather was great! Here we were in the middle of winter and sitting outside with t-shirts and visplakkies. We closed the bar and fell into our courters around 11pm.
This is the inside of our hut and I promise it becomes even more difficult to get through that door after every skuimkop

What a day! And it feels like we are 10 000kms from the Republic! I fall asleep with a great excitement for tomorrow with a little bit of a worry about the babelas ahead.

Offline punisher

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2011, 10:53:31 pm »
just wanna have fun , and ride ... and ....... ride

Offline Klomper (RIP)

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2011, 07:22:31 am »
Lekker Gasman! Ek gaan sommer more weer...

Offline Mark Hardy

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2011, 07:44:33 am »
Bring it on  :thumleft:

ISwaziland is a great place to ride, been there twice and will vist again in December.

Offline XTZFegen

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2011, 08:02:50 am »
Oh man this report came at just the right time. I am planning a trip to Swaziland next month and will use your info here to help me plan my route... :pot:
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Offline Hidalgo

Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2011, 08:04:04 am »
Hey guys nice trip !

Looks like you had a great time  :thumleft:

Look forward to the rest of your report

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Offline Gasman

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2011, 09:17:44 am »
This is the route we took from Piet Retief to Nisela. T4A route attached, enjoy KLR650Fegen

Offline Gasman

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2011, 09:47:20 am »
Day 2: Nisela to Sondzela lodge - T4A route attached
142km - only about 5km tarmac, the rest dirt roads

Offline Gasman

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2011, 11:21:13 am »
Got up early the next morning nursing a bit of a hangover. Luckily I had my camelbak next to my bed so no need to get up and get some water during the night. We had a little visitor during the night who tried to chow its way through my camelbak’s mouth piece to get to the water source. The little bugger almost got through.
This is the little village where we stayed

Henk also feeling the aftermath of last night a bit

We met a very nice guy from Worcester and his family who were so kind to charge my GPS, which was dead flat by now. He has been travelling with his wife and two teenage daughters for about 2 or 3 weeks and you could see that he was hungry for a bit of male conversation.

As we were standing at his Land Rover, we heard a scream coming from his daughters’ hut. They found a little snake in their bed. Needless to say no one knows what type of snake it was.
We made our way over to the restaurant and had a really good breakfast and a couple glasses of juice.

Very nice deck overlooking the dam with supposedly some crocs in it (even though I couldn’t find any)

I looks like we have some good weather ahead of us today.

All set and ready to go. We only have about 150km to cover today, so we weren’t in any rush as we were planning to hit our destination for the day around lunch time and spend the rest of the day chilling and drinking beer.

As we are on the eastern border of Swaziland (with Mozambique on the other side) we were on the lowest plateau and will be climbing back up through Swazi the whole day, I can’t wait!

Henk gunning it in the distance

The first sign of the mountains that were are heading towards. The clouds kept reminding me of the ones in the Simpsons

Henk waiting for me at one of the many turnoffs. The roads in Swaziland is generally in good condition. Every now and then you hit a light patch of sand, but nothing too hectic.

The place is amazing!! I can’t get the smile off my face

You need to stay aware that a taxi, bus or truck could appear around every corner as there are many of them on the roads.

I think we were actually in this guys’ turning circle, but he managed perfectly anyway

One of the many river crossings in Swazi

Here you can see the kids doing the laundry in the river

Not sure what Henk was going for here

I never seem to get bored of pics with my bike somewhere in the middle of nowhere

As soon as we stopped we drew a lot of attention and this little guy didn’t let the opportunity pass of being a bad ass biker himself. All the people are very friendly and it really struck me how most of the kids are on their way to school in their uniforms and how proud they are of it. This guy had to do chores (while having a great time at the river bed with his mates) on the Saturday instead.

Time to get going again, the next plateau is call our names

As soon as you start ascending you have a great view of eastern Swaziland and can see all the way to the Mozambique border

Attie kicking up some dirt

Enough said

Time for a quick pit stop

It’s really funny how the beauty of Swaziland ends up in every discussion and especially the fact that no one is going on about it or recommending it! Must be a hidden gem, because if more people knew about this place, you would hear dogs raving about it around every fire.

I am really impressed with the TKCs. They are making this trip even more of a bliss. As I took this pic I remembered my girlfriend saying “Please don’t just take pictures of tyres and bikes. I would actually like to see the scenery and other stuff as well.” as we left jozi.

So this one is for you Maryke  ;D

Just as you think you must be on the top plateau now you see the next hill around the next corner. I am loving this!!

Why do you never hear people going on about Swaziland?!?! Has no one been here before on a bike or what?!?!

Die perde ruik die stalle

Now this is what I call a view from your front door

Here you can see one of the guys on a Saturday cruise with his school books and soccer ball

There’s water in every river and it’s not even rainy season yet.

I was really excited to tackle the road up ahead, but as we started climbing the GPS told us to take a right and we descending down one of the steepest passes that I have seen before. I was a bit bummed out when I realised that we are not going up anymore.

We started getting closer and closer to “civilisation” again. I couldn’t help thinking “were are all those sugar cane fields that everyone told me about...?”

Every time we stopped I was telling Henk how keen I was to get my hands on some sugar cane, maybe even take one or two back for our dog. Now that would be a schweet stick
After stopping a couple of locals to find out exactly where Sondzela back packers is, we made our way there. It is in a reserve, but they are bike friendly. If you want to go deeper into the reserve, you need to take a car or go with them in one of the game viewing vehicles (which we didn’t do, as by that time we were really keen on getting lunch and a couple of beers)

So the sugar cane fields are in the west, not the east. I finally found them!!

Here you can see one field that has recently been harvested and the other that still needs to be

We made it and there’s still plenty of sunlight left for the day

There are a couple of friendly critters on your way to the back packers and they aren’t really shy

We check in and unpacked the bikes. If I remember correctly it was about R175 per person, not bad at all

We made our way to House of Fire down the road and had one of the best hamburgers of my life there. I asked the waitress where I can find some sugar cane and she told me that I can just walk across to the field and pick some up from the ground as they harvested the day before. She did warn me about the snakes as they like to cruise in the fields apparently. If I remember correctly she said rinkals (which is one of the most poisonous snakes in Southern Africa, if not the world). So I stepped very lightly (with my boots) and got a couple of canes.

After a donnerse lekker burger and a couple of beers we decided to head back to Sondzela and chill for the rest of the day (as they also have a bar there). The warthogs are cruising around the place and doesn’t care about the people who walk past

There’s also a tame ostrich which I thought was flirting with destiny by chilling at the braai place

This is the view from our front door

As I was walking towards the showers to get cleaned up, I saw her rubbing herself against one of the tents. I couldn’t really figure out what she was doing...until I got back from the shower.

As I got back she actually laid an egg right there on the grass and proceeded to break it open and have it for lunch....which I thought was rather peculiar.

The rest of the day we hanged out at the backpackers, had dinner, some more beer and hit the sack for the evening. Or at least that is my version of it

Offline Gasman

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2011, 12:09:22 pm »
Day 3 – Heading back to Jozi.
As I woke up the mist was lying dead still in the valley below us, what a sight

As we were packing the bikes again I realized that the key of my panniers was taking heavy strain and started to bend. As I tried to lock them again I could see the tear in the key. So we tried to spray the lock with some Q20, but there was no way of locking the panniers without breaking off the key. I took out my passport (luckily) as there was no way of opening them up again after they were closed and used a cable tie to somehow lock the panniers. Good stuff!! Ready to roll
Henk discovered some tennis biscuits that he bought the day before. After laying into them a bit we got back onto the road and did the last odd 30kms to the boarder.

Just before the border we turned off at Ngwenya Glass factory and manhandled a moerse lekker farmhouse breakfast and a couple cups of coffee.
At the border you we stumbled upon some of the biggest avos and pineapples that I have ever laid my eyes on. Henk just couldn’t resist and decided to support the local GDP for the last time. The lady even gave him a certificate allowing him to take the goods into South Africa. Not that the officer at the border control every asked for it though.

All strapped up and ready to go. I was really happy when no one asked for the bike papers etc at the border post as there was no way in hell that I could’ve opened the panniers without breaking the key off.

Somewhere between Swaziland and Joburg...

There were a couple of huge roadblocks heading back to Joburg and without fail we were pulled over and being asked for our licenses etc. As we waiting in line to present our cards, Jan Staal pulled up next to us. We showed our cards to the officer who checked if we had any outstanding fines  (which made Jan stress a bit as he wasn’t sure but thought he must have at least some) had a quick chat with him and carried on towards Jozi.
We stopped next to a train track somewhere before Ermelo take have a couple more of the tennis biscuits and to take a quick leak before we took on the last stretch home.

My bike can’t fit next to my car in the garage with the panniers on, so I phoned up my neighbour you said she was in the Kruger but that I am more than welcome to park my bike in her garage until I get new keys for the panniers. Thanks again Jennifer!!
It is always an anti climax when you finish a trip like this and arrive home. You never really know what to do now. So I have learned that instead of unpacking the bikes and chilling for the rest of the day, it is best to light the fire, open some beers and invite some mates over for a braai!  :thumleft:

Offline Klomper (RIP)

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2011, 07:21:59 pm »
Thanks bra, weereens 'n lekker RR!!!  :thumleft:

If anyone wants to know about the local Swazi produce, let me know and I'll drop you a pm...that shit is not to be discussed in public!!  O0

Offline goingnowherequickly

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2011, 08:17:32 pm »
Nice trip!!
Ive stayed at Sondzela on the way to mozam.... very cool place...
What an excellent test of your new bike...
(im planning to go back to the Swazi Kingdom early next year .. :mwink ;D)
Thanks for sharing :thumleft:

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Re: Swaziland you lekker thing
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2011, 08:21:58 am »
Nice report and pics Gasman  - very lekker!  :thumleft:
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