Jan 21 – Feb 11, 2020
February 2 – Sunday – Lady Grey
We had an amazing thunderstorm just as we were crawling into bed the previous night. It rained some, but not nearly as much as I expected based on the frequent sharp flashes of lightning and the extreme rooooooolllllling thunder. It was hard to go to bed and miss out on any of it.
There was an early breakfast (when the power was cut, of course!) where we were “joined” by an Eland and some monkeys in the nearby field.
A troop of Vervet monkeys
After breakfast we threw our bags in the truck and were driven back to Addo Park. Our bikes were waiting for us, just a little bit dustier than how we left them. Once our bikes had been re-packed and our gear was on, we hit the road.
And that road was unpaved!
Video of this road
Termite mound – there were fields full of these!
It was a nice road and it felt good to “stretch my legs” again, after a day off the motorcycle. But once we met up with the pavement, the miles went by quickly. We would make good time today, which was welcome, considering that we had almost 500 kilometers to cover!
Video of the road
Pushing their car – uphill
Bridge to nowhere
Video from this stretch
Hitching a ride
Coming into Fort Beaufort
A perfectly cloudy day
Video from this stretch
Entering the Mpofu Nature reserve
Video of riding through the town of Whittlesea
A cow, rubbing against the front door
The burning landfill
We were visiting Queenstown for lunch. It was a big city, with just under 100,000 residents, and the streets were full of people walking or sitting around, buying and selling. It was a city of industry!
But it was also a city that had a past to recover from. “After the world wide depression in the 1920’s, Queenstown once again entered a period of prosperity while still acting as a supply and educational center for surrounding farmers and smaller towns. After 1948, and the beginning of the Apartheid era, the district changed character as white owned farms were bought out and the land incorporated in the Transkei and Ciskei and settled with people. Queenstown has since then been a service centre for these people.” (Link)
It was hot. We crammed our bikes into the limited parking in front of Wimpy’s Bugers and I was only too happy to go inside and cool off in the air conditioned shade. After an OK meal (the planned lunch location had apparently closed since Hana and David had been here last), we geared up and I reluctantly went back out into the sun.
Jonathan had expressed interest in trying out the 850, so he and I planned to switch bikes for a short bit of the afternoon’s ride. That meant that I’d be riding the 1250, which while I had no real interest in riding it, I admit that was curious what a back-to-back comparison would be like.
Because Jonathan now had my bike, he also had my tank bag and therefore my cameras. Fortunately for us both, the switch was short-lived. We had pulled over in a small rest area and Jonathan was only too ready to hand me my keys back. He liked the bike well enough for handling, but the reduced windscreen created too much wind flow for his comfort. Me? I was happy to have the smaller, more responsive 850 back under me.
Video outside of Queenstown
Back on the road
I loved today’s clouds – so fluffy!
It is a big country
Video of riding through Jamestown
Somewhere outside of Aliwal North
Silly video at the gas station
Wherever we go, we get an audience
Nice church across the street
After filling up our bikes we had just a short way to go before we reached our destination: the town of Lady Grey. This was a new location for the tour, as Hana and David were always trying to find “the best” for their customers. They warned us that they didn’t have any personal experience with tonight’s hotel, so they asked for our understanding if it turned out to be “less than perfect”.
Leaving Aliwal North behind
Video of the approach to Lady Grey
The outskirts of Lady Grey
As we traveled east, the land was consistently getting greener and more lush. But whereas the drier regions from the last few days seemed populated with people trying hard to get anything to grow there, the fields I saw here looked empty and overgrown. It seemed like a poor use of resources, but with the political history of the region, I could (sort of) understand why.
One of the white owned farms that had been bought out and now sat abandoned
Kids cooling off in the pond
Lady Grey is a small town, but like most towns we had traveled through, the sidewalks and berms were full of people. It was surprising just how many people were sitting around, with what looked like nowhere to go anytime soon. I saw this phenomena all over South Africa: there were always people around, whether we were in a city or in the middle of the countryside.
Video of us pulling into Lady Grey
We worked our way through the town, found our hotel, and parked the bikes for the day. It had been a surprisingly comfortable ride considering the number of kilometers we had covered and the heat of the day.
Mountain View “Boutique Hotel” in Lady Grey
The building was an old one, “full of character”, as one would say. Personally I love a place with this much character, but others expected a bit more class and finish, based on some of the comments that I heard. Since this was only Hana and David’s second time running this route, it was a very fluid plan and they were always looking for ways to improve it, either via the route taken or places stayed. I think that they will continue to search for an alternative the next time they come this way. As for me, I love learning about the history of such a place, trying to imagine the variety of people that have passed through over the years. From the hotel’s website:
“The age of the building is unknown (est. built in 1832) but we know that it was already operating as a Hotel in about 1872 when HR Giddy and his brother OS Giddy stayed over. … On passing through Lady Grey, they “put up at the Commercial Hotel also known as Rose’s Hotel and today named the Mountain View Hotel”. This indicates that the Inn is more than 140 years old. In those early days, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Rose, a German, was the owner of the Commercial Hotel. When he died in 1897 his son, Carlie, took over. Carlie added a large stable, forage and harness room, cart shed and a four room cottage to the Hotel. Today this is the laundry, workshop, garages and storage rooms at the back of the hotel.”
Stuff like this fascinates me!
Registration and lobby area
Staircase to the upper rooms
Our very small room, with a very awkward toilet/shower area
View of the town from the front balcony
There was some time to kick back and relax before dinner. Dan and I even made the effort to clean off our motorcycle chains. That is one advantage of the 1250s: they have a shaft drive and relatively little maintenance. There wasn’t enough time to really walk back into the heart of the town see in more detail what it had to offer, although to be honest, our initial drive through didn’t inspire me to want to explore on foot.
Behind the main hotel building
Dinner was at 7 o’clock, which was perfectly timed with the load shedding of the region. Candles were brought out and some electric lighting was visible – apparently there was a generator somewhere on site. We were sitting in the darkened red dining room, with one other group of people sharing the space with us. The karaoke machine provided some music, and our group joked that we’d do some singing later. Thank goodness that never materialized!
Rita was our waitress and she was a blast! She had so much enthusiasm and energy, dancing around as she explained what was – and wasn’t – on the menu that night. Because of the load shedding, we couldn’t have anything that required frying. No worries – we were here for some Kudu steak!
We finished our meal before the electricity came back on, so it was a good thing we had brought our flashlights with us. Dan and I went back up to our room, prepared for a relaxing evening and anticipated another exciting day of riding.
Link to Day 9