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Fri Feb 16 2018: Final Days in South Africa

The next couple of days will be a bit of a relocation exercise.

I had initially routed us through Naude's Nek, which is a very scenic mountain pass that runs from Rhodes to Maclear. Check out that topo map above! Yuh! (That's a thing that South Africans say, like "OMG!") It's the second-highest gravel pass in South Africa, and the challenging road conditions mixed with the gorgeous views from above make this an adventure motorcyclist's dream.


Sadly, due to the rains, the road is closed, which means we need to double back the way we came in from

We're a bit disappointed, but we keep telling ourselves, "You can't see and do everything!"

Sometimes, we almost believe it, too... :)


Dirt roads in Rhodes are still a bit damp as we depart in the morning, but the skies are clear, which is a good sign.

So this is what we're doing instead.

We head back out on the dirt road west towards Barkly East. The sun is starting to dry the surface and our progress is a lot faster than when we came in a couple of days ago.

I was leading, so no pictures of our return ride.

We stopped just outside of Barkly, where the road becomes tar again. I pull out my air compressor to pump up our tires, which we've deflated for our run through the dirt roads. Neda also takes the opportunity to lube our chains.

As she's fiddling with her bike, I hear her exclaim, "OH NO!"


We installed a tool tube behind one of her panniers when we first got our bikes. Inside, she keeps miscellaneous tools, zipties, chain lube, rags...

The picture above is what it *used* to look like. Somewhere since the last time we lubed the chains and now, the tool tube must have worked itself loose on one of the bumpy roads we've been doing lately, because it wasn't there any more.

I guess we're not lubing the chains today.

We've been doing so many dirt and gravel roads lately. I think we've done more off-road in this country than any other on our trip. I don't think our sport-touring experience has prepared us enough, though: Plastic bottles rubbing against the inside of the metal boxes and exploding, bolts being shaken loose, stuff falling off our bikes, etc.

We really need to make some changes in our setup, including amending our pre and post-ride inspections.


Once we're back on the tar roads, the sun comes out in full force. A welcome change!

We double-back through roads we've done before, but because we're doing them backwards, the scenery's all new again. Plus it's sunny...

The flat-topped Drakensberg Mountain range appears in the distance again.

A lot of construction on the roads. At least they tell you how long you have to wait. 30 minutes for this one!

We're stopping overnight in Maclear

What should have been a 100-km ride through scenic gravel mountain passes, has turned into a 160-km tarmac detour to get to the same place.

The next morning, we prepare ourselves for another long stretch of paved roads. We make a quick stop in town to hit an ATM machine. I was looking for a Nedbank...


When I returned to the bikes, Neda was offering rides to the local kids. This little guy's mom wanted pics for her Instagram page! :D

Sharing the motorcycle love!


Another brilliant day as we hit the Katkop Pass (R56)

The mountain pass is not as dramatic as others we have done, but the twists in the road are a nice change from the long and boring straights from yesterday.


And just as quickly, the pass is over and we head down back into the plains

Rural houses greet us at the bottom of Katkop Pass

Riding through the town of Mount Fletcher

Elundini Municipality 2017

Elundini is Zulu and refers to the Drakensberg Mountains, where we are headed to. We are leaving the Eastern Cape and entering into the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Like Transkei, KwaZulu used to be another bantustan, where the Zulu people were relocated to during apartheid.


Mzimkulu River Valley

KwaZulu-Natal province lies south-east of the Drakensberg Mountains and we are traveling through the Mzimkulu River Valley, which are mainly flatlands composed of dairy and cattle farms.

We reach Underberg in the early afternoon. This is our destination for the next few days. There we're confronted with a very different kind of place than the bantu towns we've been riding through the last couple of days. Underberg lies at the foot of the south Drakensberg Mountains, which rises up like a vertical wall making for a very picturesque backdrop to the town. This place is a tourist hub, catering to hikes and tours of the mountains.

In town, we find an outdoor store and pick up some supplies. Number one is to get rid of all the plastic bottles of water that keep rupturing in our metal cases. So we replace them with stainless steel drinking bottles. No chance of *those* wearing down!


Our very comfortable place in Underberg

We've booked ourselves for three nights here. We're just resting up and running out the clock on our South African tourist visa.

It's been sunny for the last couple of days, but I've just checked the forecast and I'm dismayed to find out that it's supposed to be pouring cats and dogs the day we're scheduled to depart South Africa. 100% chance of rain accompanying us when we attempt the steep ascent up the dirt and gravel roads in the Drakensberg Mountains.

Perfect.

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