We leave Mazeppa Bay early in the morning to get as much riding done before midday. We're traveling so slowly on these gravel roads and we don't want Neda wilting like a Croatian rose again beneath the hot African sun.
The obligatory rondavel shot
The blue waters of the Indian Ocean recede behind us as we head back inland again. There doesn't seem to be a single coastal route along The Wild Coast. Instead the network of interior gravel roads only dips to the shoreline at certain bays, probably to grant access to the camps and hotels that have set up along the beaches.
This is our plan for the next few days: to traverse the Transkei along the web of these back roads, only ducking back to the ocean to spend our evenings by the sand and surf.
We're basically playing hop-scotch along The Wild Coast.
The geography here is gentle - rolling hills spreading out before us. People carrying stuff on their heads just like Latin America and India
We follow the thin, grey ribbon of gravel, which looks like it's been unraveled over green carpets. Our wheels are skipping over the stones, and we often have to swerve around larger rocks and holes in order smooth out the ride. I think we're averaging between 40-60km/h. It's slow-going.
I'd say that we were haulin' Ass. But we actually weren't...
Every time I see rondavels by the side of the road, Neda doesn't even ask me if I want to stop to take pictures
More of the circular structures, up in the hills. Farmers tending to their crops
Traditional rondavels are built with thatched roofs but there are some that have more modern tin, corrugated roofs.
Gene: "We could just Bull-doze through them..." Neda: "Really? Bull-doze? That's the best you could come up with?"
Gene: "Check out this guy in front of us staring us down. Like he's got a personal Beef with us."
Gene: "They're always so much bolder when they're in a group. Like they're afraid to take you on one-on-one. How Cow-Herdly."
Neda: "Stop. You're embarrassing yourself."
Gene: "We'd best Steer clear."
Neda: "Just... No."
Obviously somebody is not in the Moo-d.
Once clear of the bovine blockade, we continue on through the Transkei. Direction: North. Generally...
Often the road forks. Sometimes it's marked on the GPS, but sometimes it's not. When that happens, we're forced to make educated guesses on which direction to take. If we get it wrong, we have to double back to the fork to take the correct route.
Confused. Isn't the water supposed to be *under* the bridge?
After a few hours on the road, we turn back to the coast again. From all the research she's done on places to stay along the Wild Coast, Neda has booked a campsite for us at Dwesa Nature Reserve. This is where we'll be sleeping overnight. It's a bit of a change from the self-catered apartments we've been staying at lately.
I prepare to volley my next batch of bad cow puns but Neda turns off the communicator. Looks like I'm the one that's been put out to pasture.
Just past the gates of the reserve, we park the bikes and Neda walks into the office to register us and our motorcycles. She'll need to get details of the reserve and maps of where we can set up our tent.
While Neda is checking in, I chat a bit to the ranger on duty and the topic somehow turned from our bikes and our trip (naturally) to Nelson Mandela.
He tells me, "Yes, Mandela was a great man. But he was Xhosa, and he did much for the Xhosa people. But I am Zulu. He did not do as much for the Zulu people."
Wow, that was such an eye-opening conversation! I didn't realize there was such tension between the tribes in South Africa. From the outside, it seemed like the struggle against Apartheid only involved two parties: the oppressor and the oppressed. Within the borders of the country, the political situation seems a lot more complex.
Our campsite at Dwesa Nature Reserve
There are a few other campsites set up already: a couple of cars with tents and an overland vehicle with a roof-top tent. Cool setup.
The campers are not around. Dwesa is a popular place to go hiking, fishing and bird-watching. The latter is actually what drew Neda to this nature reserve. She is quite the birder and this nature reserve has over 290 species of birds alone!
You don't have to go far to see the wildlife. From our campsite, Neda got some great shots from her iPhone camera placed up against her binoculars:
A bushbuck and some kind of birds nest, like Christmas ornaments decorating the trees
These nests are everywhere overhead. We spot the birds living in them and Neda has a handy app that identifies them.
The Cuckoo Weaver! These brightly coloured yellow birds are so interesting to look at! Not at all like the dull grey birds we have in North America.
Although they're quite pretty, they've been classified as "Brood Parasites", which doesn't sound very pretty at all. It means the Cuckoo Weaver lays their eggs in other species' nest and lets the host bird raise the weaver's young as their own.
Despite them being parasites, we really enjoyed having these yellow-feathered birds hanging around above us, tweeting and cooing...
...until they all shit-bombed our tent and bikes! Damn Deadbeat Parrots!
We also catch a glimpse of Vervet Monkeys hanging out in the shade of the branches.
They're all watching us very intently. I wonder what for? Perhaps they perceive us as a threat and are keeping a close eye on us.
Since everyone else is out of the camp hiking, we decide to don our safari gear and head out ourselves
Spider web caught my interest
We walk down to the shoreline and hang out at the beach. Coastline looks much the same as it did at Mazeppa Bay
More wildlife and Neda goes seashell hunting once again
(l) A bit early for Valentine's Day... (r) Ocean breeze leaves a zebra pattern on the sands
Terns dodge the incoming waves. This looks like a painting!
It's getting late in the evening, so we head back to prepare dinner before it gets too dark.
Check out Neda's new water tank. It's collapsible and rolls up real small
This saves us from having to go back and forth to the taps, we can wash our hands and fill up the pots for boiling and making tea.
In a monumental act of sacrilege, Neda commandeers a braai pit and cooks dinner with our camp stove. OMG, if Jacques or any other South African person saw her use a braai pit for anything other than braaing, she'd be reported to the authorities and deported immediately!
As soon as Neda starts cooking, the monkeys climb down from the trees
They creep closer and closer. Curious animals...
Haha, we see some monkeys climb onto the overland vehicle and start rummaging for food!
Okay. I get it now.
There are so many visitors to Dwesa that the monkeys have figured out the pattern. They know exactly when dinnertime is for humans and that's when they climb down from the trees to steal food. I watch the overlanders shoo away the would-be burglars.
Neda and I are at the braai pit having a good chuckle at the slapstick comedy going down a couple of tents over, when suddenly Neda smacks me on the shoulder with the spatula and yells, "Gene!" She points the utensil at our bikes.
We both watch, wide-eyed in horror, as the simian thieves pilfer through the soft bags on *our* bikes. I yell out loudly to scare them off and they just look up briefly in disinterest, and then continue their plundering. So I quickly run over and the cheeky robbers finally scamper away.
I check our bags. Thankfully they were unable to loosen the Rok Straps that were tying them down to the seats.
Those little bastards!
Yeah, you run! And tell all your vervet brothers and sisters there's a new sheriff in town!
This must be where the phrase, "High-tailing it out of town" comes from
Thankfully there were two of us, because I know if Neda would have given chase to these Dwesa delinquents with her spatula, their furry accomplices would have immediately descended on the braai pit to steal the food there! Classic decoy tactics!
Those sneaky little bastards!
The sun sets and we crawl into our tent for an evening under the stars. Neda is reading her Kindle and I'm typing out another blog entry when I hear something flicking against the side of our tent.
"Sounds like the mozzies are trying to get in", I tell Neda. She mumbles something in reply. This isn't anything new.
The flicking continues, so I shine my flashlight through the mesh to see what it was.
There was nothing flying against the tent. Instead, I see tiny bugs jumping up from the ground and flinging themselves against the suddenly very thin fabric.
What the... I move the beam of light around so I could see more clearly.
Ticks! There are ticks hopping up from the ground, flinging themselves against our tent! And they were right outside the flap door. GROSS!!!!!!
"OMG Neda, there are ticks outside our tent! Thank god we're in here protected by mesh!"
She looked at me, eyes as wide as dinner-plates: "But I have to pee..."
From somewhere outside our tent, I hear the distant chattering laughter of a gang of vervet monkeys.