Bikers’ paradise, pure riding sensation and unforgettable Kruger -South Africa
After crossing the border from Botswana into South Africa, most of the journey was riding through majestic landscapes, just pure pleasure of riding. South Africa, bikers’ true paradise! Thirteen days of riding started from Magoebaskloof valleys, through Mpumalanga, Clarens, Drakensberg, Cintsa, Addo Elephant National Park, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Cape Agulhas and completed in Cape Town.
The weather was perfect on the day riding through the Wolkberg Mountains and Iron Crown Mountain. The green iron rock formations, pine tree forests, fruits plantations, curves and twists flashed by all the way to Hazyview. Locals call this area “small Drakensberg”. We stopped at the Three Rondavels, God’s Window and the Bourkes Luck Potholes. Along the journey, we met many African school kids on school outing trips and they were so joyful, laughing, hitting high-five, greeting, and just beautiful African kids. The potholes are nothing like what I have seen before. The rocks have been shaped by the clash of Blyde River and Treur River causing waterborne sand and rock to grind huge, cylindrical potholes into the bedrock of the river over millions years. Nature is always full of wonders and surprises.
The half-day safari game drive at Kruger National Park was very fruitful. Wildlife was abundant: elephant army crossing the road in front of us passing in between vehicles in a much organised manner; two female lions with 5 cubs playing at the side of the road. One of the female lions crossed the road and when I stood up taking a photo, it stared right at me with the chilling look. It is such a wonderful feeling to be so close to such magnificent animals; two giraffes were fighting to determine which one was the dominant one. Most of the time, they seemed as if they were dancing right next to each other, then there came heavy neck-blows and crushes from time to time; we were so lucky to see two rhinos right in front of us. Rhinos are strange creatures with tinny eyes and ears, and big firm stubborn body. They look as if they have bad tempers. Animals’ daily activities are all about getting food, drink and staying alive and reproduction. All wild life seems to be very at ease with passing vehicles. Considering the park has been established over 100 years, most of the animals were born into this safari-game-drive environment. We also saw a lot of eagles. It was a very enjoyable day; still we haven’t seen a wild cheetah.
A very beautiful day riding through the majestic Golden Gate National Park and Drakensberg Mountains. The park is made up of sandstone cliffs, with scenic rocks and other interesting landforms. The scenery is Mars-alike, original, mostly treeless, a landscape of mother land with bare chest, and raw beauty with no ornaments and decoration. A true paradise for bikers: accelerating, feeling the wind hitting the body, feeling the sensation of passing vehicles in opposition, aiming at the mountains from far distance and just carrying on. At the highest point of the park, the warm shades of multi-colour hues of a breath-taking tapestry merge with the cool mountain shadows as the day goes by.
The ultimate highlight for the bikers, Sani Pass!! Today our pillion passenger ladies went on a 4×4 trip while the bikers took up this very technical ride up the famous Sani Pass and into Lesotho. What a day: unbelievable scenery, rocky sections, hairpin bends, vertical drop-offs, and incredible mountain top columnar formations with snow cap! We often found our vehicle driving right on the edge of a cliff with us staring down into the deep valley. One can’t ask for a better weather, and the air is so clear and soaked with highland oxygen. So many photos were taken but no photo can justify the beauty captured by my own eyes. Sani Pass is in a different country Lesotho which is a mountainous country completely surrounded by South Africa. We had our passports stamped quickly on the way in and out. We visited a Lesotho village at the top and spent some time inside of a home. The tour guide explained how the locals live in such an inhospitable environment with no electricity and no water supply and just live off whatever the nature provides. Then we had our lunch at the highest pub in Africa.
As it is the winter time, most of the time we rode through dry land. As soon as we entered the Wild Coast Route, the landscape changed and we started seeing more trees covering the land and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. The Wild Coast is largely a rugged coastline where massive cliffs and rolling hills meet the sea. Deep river gorges are carved into the landscape and indigenous evergreen forests are abundant. Where rivers meet the sea there are prolific estuaries, rich in birds, fish and invertebrates. Riding! The connections amongst the rider, motorbike, mountains from afar, land, wind, sky, people passing by waving are truly unique. The feeling of moving, speeding, gliding sometimes almost flying in nature without any metal box around is fantastic. Then we arrived at Crawfords Beach Lodge and were welcomed with champagne. It is nestled in the middle of the beautiful Cintsa Bay on the Wild Coast, surrounded by rolling hills, lush tropical beach forests and overlooks the Indian Ocean.
On the way to Knysna, I encountered the strangest weather ever. It went from 36 degrees to 15 degrees within a few meters and a few minutes. The hot wind hit us like being in a hot oven, and then a few minutes later, we felt chill in the bone and had to stop to put on warm clothes. At the Storms River, we walked around the bridge which is built on top of a steep gorge and it was very windy. I had to hold onto my hat and felt a few times that I could be blew off the bridge. There are a few magnificent bridges build on steep gorges along the Garden Route. We stayed in Guinea Fowl Lodge which is located on the hillside overlooking the town and it was a short walk via steep stairs to the centre.
Riding on Route 62 through beautiful Swartberg Mountain and hills has to be on every biker’s riding list! The whole journey was filled with wonderful rock formations, cloud formations over mountains, waterfalls, many twists, cutting through rolling hills covered with colourful heathers and green forests. It felt as if we were cutting through the mountains and accelerating all the way. It was a misty start, but later on the sky cleared up. Then we arrived at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meets.
The last day riding (sadly) towards Cape Town, through Chapman’s Peak was fantastic and there were many beautiful spring bush wild flowers everywhere. After Gordon’s Bay, we also passed a massive shanty town. Then we arrived at the Cape Point, the most south-westerly point of Africa. After whistling through twists cutting through rugged cliffs and the Twelve Apostles, we then arrived at Signal Hill with the Table Mountain as the backdrop. Although I have seen the images of the Table Mountain many times, seeing it in real life is still a magnificent sight. The 35 day Kilimanjaro to Cape Town motorbike tour sadly finished here and we had to say goodbye to our gorgeous BMW 1200. Even as a pillion, I didn’t feel a bit uncomfortable to be on the bike for the whole trip and the whole journey was full of adventures, experiences, and memorable moments.
Before we head off to Namibia, we spent a few days in Cape Town and Hermanus. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden was an immaculate and beautiful garden set adjoined to the Table Mountain and there are great selections of fascinating and educational plants and trees. It is massive and there are a few hiking paths worth exploring in the park. Then we set off to Franschhoek, a winery region surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers, stunning and well-kept vineyards.
Time to say goodbye to South Africa and here we come Namibia!
Could do better next time:
- Mpumalanga is worth of staying for a few days to get on with activities such as hiking, biking and water rafting.
- It is worth staying at Kruger National Park for a few days to arrange a series of safari game drives. I would contact the same guide we had, John Taylor.