Africa Blog

The Ride to Half a Million Miles

Shipping details

The day had come to return the bike back to Nick's shipping company.   I was sad to have to leave the African Continent.   I had been very welcomed here by many and it felt like home to me now.  I had also mastered driving or riding on the left side of the road!!   The rains had arrived and when I opened the garage door the rain was coming down sideways and the winds off the sea were cold, a true winter day in Cape Town.   I fought my way to the shipping yard still enjoying the lane splitting that the rest of the world allows.  I found my old shipping pallet and straps and with in 3 hours I had the GS packed and ready.

   It had been an amazing journey in Africa,  hard a times but  not impossible.  And its been an even more amazing 500,000 miles on my Trusty GS.  We have seen some much its hard to take it all in.  Just on this trip alone I believe I have taken over 8000 photos to help me remember all the places and people I have meet.  

    Will I get a new GS now?   I think not,  not yet,  plus the 1,000,000 Kilometer mark is not to far from here.  You never know.  As I rode the GS to the shipper I was still amazed at how smooth the motor idled even with all these miles.......

Return to Cape Town

On my return to Cape Town I was meet with new friends and old friends.   As I had mentioned before David had contacted me as I neared Cape Town and he was very interested in seeing the trusty GS.  He was new to the R1100GS and had many  questions about the longevity of the bike.  I basically  told him the best thing to do is just ride the bike.   Don't worry about the what if's otherwise you'll never leave.   I had a great time with David and he showed me some of his favorite roads around the Cape Town area.  The weather was still great but the forecast was not so good so it was time to get the last minute rides in.

    My old friends now were the Robbie, Adele and Franz who I meet in Namibia.   Robbie had offered me a place to stay when I returned back to Cape Town.   I stayed with Robbie and his wife Adele for a week as I sorted out the shipping details for the return of the GS.    Robbie and Franz  where great at making a braai (bar-b-que for the rest of us).  A true South African home has a braai built into the patio or kitchen and both Robbie and Franz where masters at cooking.  Adele also feed me well as cooking is one of her favorite past times.

     Franz to the left & Adele and Robbie,  thanks guys for hosting me and going way out of your way to making sure I was comfortable!!    Hope to see you in my part of the world soon.

Southern Coast of Africa

My time had come to return to Cape Town.  It was hard to believe that it had been 3 months ago that I landed here.

     Shortly before my arrival in East London I got an email from a fellow R1100GS rider named David who want to see the trusty GS.   David gave me so good options of roads to take on my return into Cape Town.   From Cape Agulhas I wanted to take the coastal road to a fishing village of Hermanus.  The day was a beautiful day with sunny skies and a cool air.   Rolling green hills and valleys where the landscape bordered by the mountains. 

      Hernanus is a great little city to relax in,   many shops and restaurant line the water front but, the coolest thing now was the whale watching.  You didn't have to even go in the water.  Just sitting a any of the cafes having a tea or coffee was  all the effort it took to spot whales in the bay.

     While in Hermanus I need Chris and Zara who were riding an R1150GS.   After having a chat with them I mentioned a route towards the town of Stellenbosch  which was where they were from and they offered to lead me in that direction.   Again the coastal road was just amazing.   From the ribbon that follows the edges of the cliff to the scenic views.  It was hard to go fast because I keep looking all around me.  Once in Stellenbosch your back in the wine country.   Rolling hill covered with rows and rows of grapes growing.

Chris and Zara

500,000 Miles

    Today should be the day,  I should make my mark!   I opened the door to the hotel and it was raining, very cold and very foggy.   I thought what a crappy day to mark my half a million miles!   So off I go,  into the traffic,  I had all the layers I brought with me on.  I don't mind the rain but cold rain with strong coastal winds is another thing.   Traffic was also heavy today.

     Not much excitement going on in my head other than trying not to get hit by other cars.  After 300 miles of this I saw the turn off for Route 319,  to Cape Agulhas  the southern most tip on the African continent.   Just as I took the exit the rains stopped.  I was now 60 some miles to the cape and I was 60 something miles to the long anticipated 500,000 miles.  Within  20 miles of the cape the skies opened and the sun started to come out!!

    As I rolled into the village of  L'Agulhas the odometer read 498,000.  At the end of the village It read,

    When I entered the nation park area I rolled in the 500,000 Mile Mark.   My Trusty GS had made it's Half  a Million Miles.

Southern Coast

    I left East London in route to Port Elizabeth which would have me riding along the southern part of South Africa.   I was here before,  when I rode the Karoo with Tony at the beginning of the trip.

  This time the temperatures where colder.   The winds again coming off the coast where cold and strong.  I could see rain all around me but lucky me I had managed to pass around them.

   This section of South Africa is known as the Garden Route.  Major mountains running along the right side (inland) of me as I head west and green landscape with the ocean and cliffs to my left.   Traffic was very heavy today being a weekend.  My fastest speed was about 60.  Speed cameras as scattered along the way and I believe I may have triggered one of them as I saw a major flash as I crossed a large bridge.  We'll see if they send my a bill in the mail.

   Today was another long day of riding.  400 miles with very slow moving  traffic  cold weather had me worm down.  I wanted to make it a little further down the road but I could see a major down pour of rain ahead of me and I knew luck would not help me this time.  The next village was Stormsriver, and thats where I pulled off.  First thing,  get a place for the night, seconded thing,  hot chocolate to warm up.

East London, South Africa

I was introduced to my new friends Michnus and Elsebie

by my friend Aldo.  Michnus offered me a place to crash for the night.   Both Michnus and Elsebie are also avid BMW  m/c riders and travelers.  They have traveled most of Africa and a large part of Europe via motorcycle.  They were fantastic hosts and we spent hours talking about different place we had been to and place we need to go see.

   It  was great just to relax for a day and just enjoy the area.

Their home sits facing the ocean and as we stood on the deck of their back yard a whale jumped out of the water.  That was so cool and I can say & add to the list of animals I

saw in Africa!

Headed for East London

    Today would be a long day of riding .   My goal was to make it to East London a city on the Indian Ocean side of Africa.   The distance was about 400 miles,  the problem would be small two lane roads, lots of road construction and I  was warned about plenty of live stock grazing on the road  along the way.

    The day started out a bit on the warm side but once I turned away form the ocean and headed inland the road started to climb in altitude and yes the temperatures started to drop.   The landscape was beautiful,  rolling hills and valleys with major mountains in the distance.   Along the way I past the small town of Qunu,  which was very busy with traffic.  I discovered this is Mandela's final resting place.

    I was held up often by the construction of the roadways and the sun was dropping behind the mountains again making it colder.   I started to push harder passing when I could.  As I rounded he curve Mr Policeman points to me to pull over.   He just happen to notice that I was passing in a double solid line.   He showed me the rule book and said I wasn't allowed to pass in these areas,  not even motorbikes.

   I mentioned I was in a hurry as I still had 100 miles to go and I didn't want to ride at night, plus I was cold.  I asked him,  aren't you cold?  He said,  yes my hands are freezing,  then he gave me a smile and said keep going!  Great!!

Durban, South Africa

   Today would be an easy ride.   Since I didn't make Durban the night before I wanted to take my time and see some of the city and surrounding areas.  I heard so many great things about Durban,  and it did live up to all the hype.   Much like Cape Town,  It had fantastic beach front area.  One of the things I find fascinating in the water front is the architecture of the buildings.  Very art deco very sixties but, with great up keep.  It not as if the buildings look old and falling apart.  The have a very different yet stylish look to them.

   I made my way to the city center and pulled along the board walk,  found a nice restaurant with the perfect view of the beach and watch people walk by

    After a good lunch I jumped back on the bike and headed towards one of the last World Cup stadiums, it too had some great architectural lines.   I found my way to one of the more well to do areas around Durban.  Umhlanga was the suburb with very pricey hotels along the water front.  By now the day was passing so I found myself an affordable hotel room in this swanky part of town.  As I wondered around I was told that a must visit or must do was to have a drink at the Oyster Bay Hotel as it had one of the best views of the city.

   I got to the hotel just before sunset and walked to the hotels restaurant's but no one was sitting out on the hotel's patio as it was getting cold again.  But what I did to was have a seat inside and the pre dinner or tea hour buffet was out.  It had a few finger foods and plenty of pastries.   I had a slice of German chocolate cake, then when back for a red velvet cake, and finally some Belgium chocolate cups.   By now I was so high on sugar but it was an experience worth the trouble!!

Zebras at Breakfast

My ride out of Swaziland was very nice and enjoyable.  As I headed for the  border and lower lands the temperatures got warmer (not for long).  It looked like this lower valley of the country was mostly used for growing sugar cane.   Much like Mexico's tropical east coast,  I was dodging and passing sugar cane trucks and farm trackers most of the way.

    I exited Swaziland in about 5 minuets and was stamped in to South Africa just as fast.  I believe my last African border stamp for a while here on the African continent.  

   As I rolled down the country and closer to the sea I could feel the winds picking up and they had a sharp coldness to them.  Another cold front was in the distance.  Here too it was field and field of sugar cane.

   I could see the rain clouds in the distance.  I had my GPS set to take me into Durban but I started to have doubts that I could make it before night and now I could smell the rains in the air.

   After a fuel stop the next exit was for a small beach town of Mtunzini.   I thought rooms would be easy to find here as every beach town has to have plenty of hotels. 

    I did find one on the main drag of the town.  Typical beach town with many tourist shop and surfers walking the streets.

    The following morning as I sat by the large windows watching he all the leaves blown on to the hotel's lawn from the storm from the night before I see 3 zebras walking down  the street.  Not running or scared, just as clam as could be.  As one of the other customers put it,  Only in Africa!


My next country was Swaziland.  It's located between South Africa and Mozambique.  They tell me that Kruger National Game reserve is twice as big as Swaziland.

   As I left Johannesburg the wind was colder and stronger. A cold front was coming.  As I headed east the landscape turned into mountains and pine country.  Logging seems to be the biggest industry here.  

    I arrived late at the border again due to much construction on the road ways.   I have the route on leaving South Africa down to a science now.  Getting into Swaziland was rather easy but did take some time.  As I crossed the border the rains and fog where in the distance.  The roads were good but mountainous and with large mining trucks going very slow and tossing stones and gravel.  I finally found my place for the night,  as I had dinner I watched the cold rain come down.

   The Next morning was very foggy and with light rain, and yes, cold.  I didn't have much of a mood to go out and explore the area.  Muddy  wet roads was the forecast today.

   As rode east on the edges of Manzini I saw a BMW Car store with a small sign that read Motorrad.  So I turned in their drive to say hello.   They didn't have much in BMW motorcycles but the staff was very friendly and welcoming.  I had a long chat with Carlos who told me the main BMW guys was Wayne.   When Wayne finally had a chance to come say hello I told him the story of my bike and the reason for my trip.

    Before long he and Carlos were taking pictures with the bike, them some of his customers came over to see what all the fuss was about.   I mentioned that I was on my way out and the gave me a quick you can leave yet,  so much to see!!!   I got a list of places to visit which I did and it turned out to be a great day.  It was still very foggy rainy cold but I had a great time.

Swazi Again

It rained the entire night and the morning was very nasty wet and muddy.  Today I had to leave.   The night before Carlos from the dealer had dinner with me and the drove me around the area showing me different place to see and giving me some of the local history.

    I stopped by the dealer again as it was on my way and had a visit with Wayne and Carlos.   Wayne was sure the sun was coming out and insisted on having the bike power washed to remove all the mud from the days before.

   After more than an hour of washing the GS never looked so clean.   And to make my visit to Swaziland official,  Wayne place the Swaziland flag decal on the pannier.  And Wayne was correct, the sun was shinning.

   Thanks to the guys at Carson BMW,  they where fantastic and went way out of their way to help a traveler.

   If your in the neighborhood make sure you stop by to see Wayne.

Sight Seeing

  When I was lost in Johannesburg's downtown I saw the signs for Constitution Hill.   The is another area of deep history in South Africa's past.   Here is some of its history:

  "Consitution Hill Precinct in Braamforntein Johannesburg has very complex history going back to 1892 when the Old Fort was build under the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek.  Functioning as a prison,  except for the brief period of the South African War (1899-1902) when it was a military defence post,  new buildings were added to the site in the late 1900s and early 20th Century:  the so-called Natives section and isolation cells known as Sections Four and Five where black male prisoners were held,  a Women's Prison (1907), and an Awaiting Trial building (1920s).  All these buildings together were known as the Fort, a place that was notorious for its harsh treatments of prisoners:  who range from common criminals to hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women who contravened colonial and apartheid legislation such as hut tax laws,  beer brewing laws, pass laws and the Group Areas act.  Many political prisoners were also incarcerated at the Fort.  In 1906 and 1913 Indian passive resisters (including Mahatma Gandhi) were incarcerated.  Nelson Mandela was also incarcerated here for several years after Robben Island"

Touratech ZA

     One of the other reasons I wanted to return to Johannesburg was to visit Touratech South Africa.   I had been in contact with Aldo who runs Touratech ZA during my time here Africa.  

    It took me a while to find the place as I missed the exit and was in city center again.   Finally finding the store and meeting Aldo in person he discovered that the bracket for the Touratech's shock preload adjuster was broken.  I commented that yea, it had happen some time back.  While I was looking at the bike more closely I also discovered that the exhaust extension I had made in Namibia had broken off.

   Aldo was fast to remove the shock's adjuster to have it repaired and I looked around for a piece of metal tube to make an extension.  In no time the bracket was re-wielded and I had the prefect tube for the extension.  With the exhaust tube Aldo found a clamp to use instead of welding a bracket.  It seems that the hard pounding of the bikes frame and suspension here in Africa is causing the exhaust to move and stressing the exhaust extension.   This should be real fix!

Johannesburg, SA

    I returned back to the Johannesburg area get a second look at my shoulder as the pain is still there and with cold nights the pain is much worse.   I had a physical therapist have a look this time and the thinking was the same,  nothing broken or torn but its believed that 3000 miles of corrugated roads and me having a death grip on the handle bars most of the time due to sand cause my weaker left side to go into spasms and is still doing this.  The pain with the cold comes from the muscle getting tight due to the cold making it spasm more.  The therapist worked on the arm and shoulder and tapped the shoulder area to add some support and suggested a vacation or holiday. 

Out for a Ride

I when for a short ride to Botswana,  Gaborone that is.   One of my customers from back home has some long time friends that live in the capital of Botswana and I wanted not only to say hello since I was in the neighborhood but,  also visit the southern part of the country.

    It was a very since drive,  but I got held up with border formalities that had me arriving in Gaborone at night.   One thing I really try not to do is ride a capital city late at night and not knowing where to go.  Its hard to reed traffic when your lost and can't tell if your in a good part of town or not.

   I finally found a backpackers,  out in the country.  I woke up to cold morning,  remember its winter  here below the equator.  The was a large big checking out my bike,   that was a first but, I have to say I've seen some strange things here in Africa.  The saying around here is This Is Africa!

   I mounted up and rode to city center as they also say in this part of the world.   Spent some time walking and visiting the Botswana's museums on its history and geography.

   I finally located the family I wanted to visit,  which was a farm just on the edge of the city.   I often call then ranches and I'm quickly corrected.  They are called farms.

   I'm getting closer to my mileage,  2000k to go!


   My next point of interest was a trip to Soweto an urban neighborhood in Johannesburg.  This was a different type of tour, this was on a bicycle.  The tour is run by one of the local hostels or backpackers as they are called here.   This was a great way to see the real neighborhood and have a chance to speak to locals as we paddled across down the streets and allies. 

   Soweto today a vibrant  townships with a very deep heritage and  a very difficult history as it struggled against the apartheid.

   It is Soweto were people like Nelson Mandela and Rev. Desman Tutu lived.    I took a brief tour to Mandela's home.

    A very simple and modest home that he lived the early 60s until his arrest.

Pretoria, South Africa

Because the oil cap was ordered I had a couple of days to visit the area and see the sights.   I went to see the city center and Union Buildings,  the presidential and parliament buildings.   The biggest attraction is the huge statue of Nelson Mandela.   Pretoria once the heart of the apartheid regime today the city has a great feel to it, very pretty and lively city. 

Zambesi Motorrad

When I visited Kruger National Park  I had a nice chat with the owner James of Elephant Walk Accommodations,  who to my great surprise had my bike washed ( Thanks again!!) while I was in the park.   We talked about traveling Africa on a BMW bike and he mentioned an up coming trip on a R1200GS.  I mentioned the troubles I was having with the oil cap leak and how something so simple could cause such a mess.    James said you must visit my friends at Zambesi BMW in Pretoria.

   He was right,  this was a first class dealership all the way around.  The staff was fantastic.   I meet with Udo who went out of his way to attend to me and show me around the place.   Udo took several pictures of my odometer having a hard time believe my GS was about to turn 500k.   I also had a great time talking to some of the local customers and urging them to come to my part of the world for some adventure.

   I bought fresh o-ring seals and ordered a new oil cap.

Kruger Park

I've heard a lot about the Kruger Game Park in South Africa.  It is a huge place.  I can't even remember how many miles the park is but it would take you months to drive all the areas.  Like Etosha  there are tours of all kinds and all the big 5 game animals are there.   I signed up for  a morning tour which had us coming across many elephants and one lion.    I also signed up for a walking tour, which was fun.   We are picked up in the early morning and taken to an area not normally accessible by car traffic.  From there you have two guides with guns taking us on a 3 hour walk.  Its all luck, you may find some game or not see any thing.

    We started our walk and after about 45 minutes the guides spotted some white rhinos, a pair.  As we walked in their direction we heard the very loud roar of a male lion.  We waited for  a few minutes then changed directions towards the lion.   We got very close to him but at some point he heard us and took off in the other direction.   At this point we turned back towards the rhinos and were able to get close them , about 50 yards!

The Great Zimbabwe

Today was an easier day,  I didn't want to ride to far to give my arm a rest and also the muscle relaxers where not making me sleepy but, were affecting my balance on the bike.

    I stopped at the Ruin of the Great Zimbabwe.  These are ruins in the south eastern part of  Zimbabwe of an ancient African city.  There are still several theories to its purpose and its believed to have been built around the 11th century.

   Of course for me it was a great place of mystery and a great place to photograph.