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Mon Feb 05 2018: The Republic of Transkei

After spending a good and long relaxing time with Caroline and family, we pack everything back on the bikes and head back out onto the road again.

We're really looking forward to this next leg of our trip, because we're venturing into a part of the Eastern Cape called the Republic of Transkei.

It's pronounced like "Trans-Sky", which sounds very futuristic. But Kei is actually the Xhosa tribal name for the river "Kei" (which means water), and the Transkei literally means, "Beyond the River Kei". It's actually one of the more underdeveloped and less-traveled areas of South Africa.

This is exciting to us because our travels up till now in Sub-Saharan Africa have not been what we've expected. South Africa is a very developed country and everything feels so western and familiar.

Too western and too familiar. Not as exotic as we'd hoped for.


Speaking of western and familiar, just outside of East London, we pass by an airplane parked on the side of the road. What?

I found out later that this is the Morganville Motorcycle Museum housing over 650 motorcycles on-site. I wish we would have known! We would have paid a visit!


No, I don't have a drone. Picture taken from the museum's website

The motorcycles aren't inside the plane, they're all in a couple of hangars on-site. The collection also includes many other vehicles: cars, trucks, buses and this 1963 Convair 880 aircraft. The owner converted the interior of the plane into an office!

I also found out they only open on special days, like during motorcycle rallies and holidays. So it was probably closed when we rode past it.


Smooth pavement on the N2 from East London till the turnoff to Kei Mouth

Because the Transkei is less-traveled by businesses and tourists, the road here devolves into broken tar and then gravel once we step off the main N2 highway. It's about 40 kms till we see signs for the ferry, which signals the start of the Transkei or what is also known known as The Wild Coast.

The Wild Coast! I like that!


There is no Bridge over the River Kei (Isn't that a movie?), so we have to take a ferry

Scenes from the Kei River crossing

Neda is really suffering from the heat. It's not even noon and temperatures are topping 30°C+. Did you notice she even forgot to pet the doggies? That's how hot she was!


This ferry that crosses a few hundred meters across the river Kei saves us an additional 154-km trip on the N2 Highway

If we had stayed on the N2, it would have taken us all the way to the interior until finally doubling back to the coast a bit further north. Crossing the river allows us to hug The Wild Coast. Surprisingly, this pont (ferry) only became operational in 1990. If you wanted to cross the river before then, you had to do it in a row boat. That might be okay for smaller motorcycles, but I don't think our BeheMoths Would have fit.

Actually, that probably would have made for a more exciting blog entry...


A party of cows greets us on the other side. They are as entitled as the cows in India, because they don't moove for anyone.

We have been warned by everyone not to travel the Transkei after dark.

Not because of crime, but because you won't be able to see animals and potholes which will destroy your vehicle's wheels, tires and suspension.

That's a good tip, because we are dodging a lot of holes in the pavement to save our wheels, suspension and kidneys.


We make a small detour on the other side of the Kei River to stop at Trennery's Hotel for lunch

OMG, I'm going crazy with the prawns, they are so large and delicious! We keep hearing that these ones you get in South Africa pale in comparison to the prawns in Mozambique. How is that even possible?!?

We must go and find out for ourselves.


After lunch, we go for a little stroll on the beach to work off the meal we just ate

Neda's favorite beach activity: searching for sea-shells

She doesn't have a tankbag anymore, so the only thing Neda is able to take with her now are pictures. This is her loot.

There's a refreshing breeze coming off the coast and the roar of the waves from the Indian Ocean is soothing as we just play around in the sand. This is a very welcome break from the heat of our morning ride.


Balancing on the edge of a dune

Although it looks like we're just dawdling, I am keeping one eye on the clock because we need to make it to our destination before nightfall. And we are tip-toeing so slowly on these bumpy gravel roads.

We're back on the bikes within the hour and heading north up the coast. From Kei Mouth, the dusty road takes us inland a bit.


People are so friendly here, doesn't matter if you've got seventy horses beneath you or one, everyone waves to us as we pass them

To underscore how touristy The Wild Coast *isn't*, there are no road signs anywhere. So many times we've stopped at a fork in the road wondering which way to turn. We rely heavily on the route keyed into the GPSes, because the directions we found on the Internet look like this:

Drive along the N2 national highway to Butterworth and take the R409 turnoff. Follow it for 31km and turn left at the Petrol Station as you enter Centane. Turn left again after 7km and then right after a further 8km. From here it's a 27km drive to Mazeppa Bay.

Take the road to your right marked Mazeppa Bay. You will go past SA Breweries and then the road becomes a gravel one for 60 km. Mazeppa Bay Hotel is at the end of this road. Turn left at the T-junction at Mazeppa

It reads like Rally pacenotes: "200 m: square left (90°), 400 m: flat (maximum speed) into crest into kink left severity 4"...


100 m: kink right severity 2

I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky, and the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill

The gravel road turns back towards the coast, we crest the hill and... WOW!

I am so in love with these circular dwellings. They're called Rondavels

These rondavels are so traditionally African! I love it!

The Republic of Transkei was originally set up as a Bantustan (Black Homeland) during the Apartheid era. Black inhabitants were segregated into their different tribes and relocated to these separate republics. They were stripped of their South African citizenship and made citizens of their republics instead. Transkei was primarily a Xhosa Bantustan.

Transkei was actually recognized as a separate country by South Africa, with its own government. This was considered one of the turning points in Apartheid, and when the regime fell in 1994, The Wild Coast was re-integrated back into the Eastern Cape province and South Africa.


Smiles from the side of the road when we say hi to the locals

Everytime I saw a rondavel, I had to stop and take a picture

I told Neda, "We have to find a rondavel accommodation somewhere. I'd really like to spend a night or two in one!"


After about 100 kms of dirt and gravel roads, we finally make it to the coast. We're staying at the Mazeppa Bay Hotel

All of the non-AirBnB accommodations we've stayed at in South Africa are categorized as either Self-Catered or Full/Half-Board depending on your meal plan. We always get a self-catered apartment and cook our own meals, it's actually quite cost-effective.


Although it's not a rondavel, it is very comfortable inside. Also an ocean-side view!

We're booked in here for a couple of nights, so during the day, we head to the lodge to hang out on their comfy lounge chairs and stare at the beach outside the large bay windows. The hotel is pretty much empty, though we do have to share the lodge with a few other souls:


Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria!

This is what we are doing at Mazeppa Bay

Neda and her Kindle have found their favorite spot in the lodge

...candle-lit steak dinners and long walks on the beach

Not really sure where this goes...

...So Neda goes hiking to find out

I spent some time Pawing through their Cat-alog of books and Meowgazines

This is why we're dog people and not cat people

Cats are bastards.

They don't come to you when you call them, but the minute you ignore them (like me, because I'm allergic), they follow you around everywhere as if they're asking you, "Why aren't you interested in me? I must find out. Why? Why? Why?"


Some awesome downtime at Mazeppa Bay

But tomorrow: back on the bikes to explore the heart of The Wild Coast!

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