As we departed the bed and breakfast in Kidds Beach Neale’s BMW electronics let him know that he had a slow leak in the rear tire! It was a team effort to get the tire repaired and full of air, ready for the adventure in rural South Africa!
We headed east along N2 through East London to the Groot Kei Rivier, to make a ferry crossing from the small town of Kei Mouth to a dirt road leading to Kentani. The ferry resembled a large metal box with an outboard motor attached to it, and I went across first in order to take photographs of the group making the ferry crossing. It was a very tight fit for the support vehicle and trailer, which literally was right to the edge of the boarding ramp! The 300 meter crossing was incredibly interesting watching the boat pilot maneuver the ferry through the fast flowing water of the river! Once to the other side I disembarked, parked the truck and set up for the group and their ferry crossing. I watched through the lens as everyone lined up to get on the ferry on the other side of the river, and I could tell it was as exciting for them as it was for me, everyone taking pictures, laughing and smiling. As they individually disembarked everyone was clearly focused on the rough dirt road that beckoned.
Johann encouraged everyone to move on, and after a few pictures everyone was lined up and ready to hit the gas! Neale picked up a passenger who timidly got on the back of the BMW R1200GS for the 8 kilometer ride to his home. I watched in wonder as Neale navigated the extremely rough road with a passenger like it was nothing, having rode the big GS off road I know how much of a handful it can be, especially loaded up. It was clear that Neale had sick off road skills! Neale dropped the hitch hiker at his home, and from the smile and waves it was crystal clear that we had made a friend in this remote rural community! There was no TV cameras around, no adoring fans, no one to perform for, this was just Neale being Neale, which I had seen every day since I met him. Neale truly enjoys being around other people and hearing their stories as well as showing kindness to those less fortunate, it is who he is…
Once Neale dropped off his guest, everyone got on the throttle hard and were out of sight within a minute. Dr Don Sudy did his best to keep the support truck on the road in very, very, rough conditions. The dirt road was littered with giant pieces of rock that had been dumped and then spread over the entire span of the road with many of the rocks easily 2 feet wide with sharp edges! I was impressed that he was able to navigate some of the stretches, but it was soon one of our vehicles tires which let us down, a sharp rock instantly deflating it, bringing us to an immediate halt. We were in the middle of rural nowhere south of Kentani near Qolora, and the Daluxolo JS School, while enduring blazing 44 degree Celsius weather!
Dr Don did not waste a second and we heading to the back of the truck to get the spare tire, and we were greeted by dangling safety wire and an empty space were the spare tire used to be! Minor setback in the grand scheme of things…Don made a call to Johann, however only got his voicemail and it was clear they were still on the road. Don left a message and we then made the best of the situation by wandering around and taking pictures of the countryside! It was a bit disconcerting being in a remote rural area, with it being so hot with no signs of anyone coming to help us. Eventually Johann showed up on his motorcycle and after assessing the situation headed to the Kentani to get us help to fix the flat tire. Neale then showed up shortly thereafter with “Elvis” in a beat up truck, left with the tire and returned a while later with it repaired! Total time around 2 hours and 45 minutes, not bad considering where we had got the flat tire! Definitely an adventure!
Dr Don did an exceptional job of getting us to Kentani without getting another puncture on the treacherous rocks! We took a quick break in the town and I watched as Anthony and Johann joked with some local children, who were so animated with their hand gestures it looked like they were giving directions! I laughed at the situation and was again impressed at how the motorcycle was a means of breaking down barriers, the throng of children surrounding Anthony and Johann proof positive that you can be an ambassador for kindness while on a bike!
We still had a very long day ahead so Johann got everyone going and in short order we were heading to highway N2 and deeper into the eastern cape of South Africa. The roads along hills and mountains were spectacular, with stunning views and little traffic. At one of our gas stops we met an interesting South African Rasta, and I knew I had to take his picture! Don gave him a few South African rand while I took photographs, the man’s expression captivated us both, and truly we both would have liked to have stayed to chat with him to find out his story, but time was already a problem for us, so it was back on the road.
The group was stopped shortly thereafter at one of the many police blockades, while Don and I were waved on by the very serious traffic cop, he took umbrage with me photographing the blockade waving his hand saying no pictures as we drove by! Don kept a nice steady speed and eventually the group motored past us in the many curves. Although Don did an amazing job driving there was no way to keep up with the motorcycles once the road got squiggly!
Once we reached the town of Mthatha we ran into heavy traffic along Nelson Mandela Drive where we saw a lady driving her car with a monkey sitting on her shoulder and children begging for money while painted all white, they scrambled in between vehicles with a plastic cup, hoping for a few South African rand from drivers stuck in traffic. I wanted to stop and talk to them, to find out what the story was behind them being painted up and why they were begging in traffic at such a young age. With those questions lingering in my head we continued eastbound with heavy cloud cover hiding the sun.
As the sun was going down a gap in the clouds opened, temporarily letting incredible beams of light through, which shone upon the valley and small villages along our route! I managed to grab a few shots at 70 mph before the sun disappeared for the day.
The rest of the drive was in darkness, with Don doing an amazing job navigating rough roads to our home for the night, the Mbotyi River Lodge. We were all disappointed as we had arrived too late to experience the waterfall tour that Johann had arranged, ever the optimist, Johann said he would see what he could arrange for us. It might sound like a hollow statement, but if you knew Johann, it would be clear that he would make something happen for us, and sure enough an hour or so later we had an abbreviated guided waterfall tour arranged for early the next morning! Johann rocks! Everyone was exhausted from the day, and after a short visit to the Mbotyi Lodge bar we all retired to our cabins and for me, I was asleep in minutes.