Jan 21 – Feb 11, 2020
February 5 – Wednesday – Piet Relief
Even though (or perhaps because?) we had such a stressful evening and a late bedtime, I slept very well. Dan slept well, but I think that this was drug-induced. We had been in contact with Hana the previous evening, grateful for her support for us. Of course they couldn’t delay the rest of the tour for the full day that the doctor wanted, but they were more than willing to delay this morning’s departure by an hour. This extra hour would give Dan time to fill his prescriptions at the pharmacy across the street. Dan would continue to keep David company in the truck and the motorcycle would get a ride on the trailer.
Morning view from our hotel room
Just a “little” bit of damage
After a very nice buffet breakfast at the hotel, we (I) hauled our bags down the from the hotel room and into the truck. Everyone in our group was very interested in how Dan was doing and sharing how glad they were that he was still here to continue the journey. It was a good group of people we were with, and I was really glad that we could continue to travel with them.
Hana had a surprise for the group almost as soon as we left Clarens: the Golden Gate National Park. Covering an area of 340 km², the park butts up against the Lesotho border and showcases and amazing display of “golden, ochre, and orange-hued, deeply eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops” (wiki). It was a nice way to start the day.
We’re missing a bike!
Golden Gate National Park welcome center
The first part of the park was winding and cut through high sandstone rocks, and the second half passed through rolling, open country. It was a nice mix of landscapes, the weather was great, and I was just glad that we were able to still enjoy the South African countryside.
The stone posts were frequent enough for me to notice; boundary markers, perhaps?
A sign proclaimed that they were working to improve the wetlands here
Still got to keep on your toes!
Outside of the park we continued on some fast roads, passing by Harrismith and then on to Ladysmith.
Fuzzy trees! (and look at that road!)
The fast roads got faster as we hit the South African highway system. Traffic was very light although there were a few interesting trucks to catch my fancy.
The Mystery Load
At the morning’s gas stop, David parked on the far side of the station and Dan was able to get out and walk around for a bit. I could see that he was hurting, but not hurting enough to stay in the truck at least. This particular gas stop was longer then usual because Tom and Jonathan wanted to wash the mud from their bikes. There was someone willing to wash the bikes, but instead of grabbing the handy car wash nozzle from the bay wall, he picked up a bucket and proceeded to fill it with water. Apparently there wasn’t enough power to actually use the hose with any effect.
While the discussion about bike washing was taking place, Dan and I were checking out the armored truck that had pulled up in front of the station. The security lead took his job very serious: he got out of the truck, gun in hand, and quickly-yet-thoroughly cased the scenario. He took his position by the door, watching the scene in front of him. I could see that he wasn’t too happy about all of us motorcyclists standing around.
We eventually got back on the road, some bikes shinier than others. It had gotten warmer out and the roads were still fast. Or they should have been fast. Instead, one lane was blocked off for a major construction project and we were stuck behind some very slow trucks. This, combined with the increasing humidity, made for some uncomfortable riding.
Old style, modern color
Not the most exciting pass I’ve been on (Van Reenen’s Pass)
Whoops – going a little too fast, are we?
Trucks! Lots and lots of trucks
Nice scenery, at least
Cool iron art installation (?) outside of Ladysmith
We eventually pulled through Ladysmith and then on some quieter, emptier roads. It was still good riding, even with the humidity. Dan was doing well in the truck, but if he wasn’t, Ladysmith had a hospital. Good to know! They also had an ice cream shop, which we stopped at and were treated to a cold tasty treat by David. It was a nice break – thank you!
Saw this guy during a re-group at one point
I admit that I was a little jealous of Dan in the air conditioned truck
It was lunch time, but the restaurant that Hana and David had planned on stopping at was closed. It was a Wimpy’s, so I wasn’t too disappointed. But where we had stopped didn’t have anything else nearby, so our next plan was to go into the busy city of Newcastle and see what we could find.
Why aren’t parasols more common elsewhere?
The streets were busy as Hana hunted down another Wimpy’s. She finally found one that was part of a gas station set up rather like we had seen in Humansdorp – except this one was ten times more chaotic! Most of the parking spots were taken as we struggled to slot our motorcycles into any available space. This was fine for us, but left no place for David and his trailer to park. Hana did her best to fend off a spot that did open up, but it was causing a lot of anger from someone else who wanted to park there. Hana finally relented, David parked “somewhere” (not sure if it was legal or not, but I don’t think that the people here really cared about such things) and we were finally ready to eat! But the Wimpy’s that we had been focusing on was standing room only with no where nearby to sit and eat. Fortunately for all of us, there was a Nando’s around the corner. Better food and plenty of room for us and our gear.
After our tasty lunch break we got back on the bikes and got out of town as fast as we could – which wasn’t too fast due to lots of traffic. But funny how “foreign” traffic is much more interesting than the stuff you get stuck in at home.
Once we were out of town we were on some lovely, fast, back roads. I could see a front of rain off to one side; would we go that way?
This Volvo is slightly larger than our Volvo at home
We took a quick break at Fort Mistake
Yet another coal plant
We were avoiding the rain
Riding through Volksrust
Old steam trains on display
Outside of Volksrust
Also an interesting point that I noticed along here: there was a shift from “us” taking pictures of “the locals” to some of “the locals” were now taking pictures of us! Kids walking along the road suddenly pulled out their phones and were taking photos of us as we went by. It felt a little weird to suddenly be recognized with more than just enthusiastic waves and smiles.
Another train just down the road in Wakkerstroom
The roads were wide open and through some unstated mutual agreement, our throttles were soon wide open as well. We were flying along, enjoying the scenery and feeling the force of the wind against my head and chest. I’m not a speed demon, but sometimes it just feels really good to open ‘er up. And coincidentally, my camera battery had died, so I had nothing else to do but keep my hands on the bars and enjoy the ride.
And then we reached Piet Retief. It was a small and clean city and our lodging was easy to find. We were staying at Holme Lea Manor Guest House, where Hana and David had stayed previously. The owners greeted us all warmly and it was a fast process to unload the bikes and get our rooms. The property was very nicely maintained and laid out and the rooms were spacious and pleasant to be in.
Holme Lea Manor
Milan and Georg
Sorry for the bad lighting
And typical at the nicer guest houses we stayed at, our bikes were behind walls and locking gates
Our evening’s dinner was at Mamma Mia, and Italian restaurant about a kilometer down the road. We walked there in the dark on somewhat questionable sidewalks. Dan was glad that it wasn’t any further than it was, as the pain was starting to get to him. But the reward was worth it (well, in my opinion anyway). The ambience, service and food were all great! I went out on a limb and ordered something called “the Shipwreck” which turned out just to be a massive cordon bleu – and very good. Everyone’s portions were too much, and poor Dan had almost no appetite. It felt a shame to waste the food, but we also knew that it was pointless to bring anything back with us, since we’d leave the next morning.
There was an option to grab a taxi back to our lodgings, but Dan said that as long as we went slowly, he would be ok. As it was, he was all too happy to be back in our room, pop some pain medication and fall asleep.
Link to Day 12