Dispatches from the (home, again) front #12

Submitted by Cecil Hill on Sun, 2017/07/23 - 15:45


The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men 
Gang aft agley, 
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, 
For promis'd joy!
~Robert Burns (from To a Mouse)

What does one do when one's dream fades in the harsh light of reality?

I expected, and I was 'promised', many times, by many people, that this tour would afford me the opportunity to learn a few things about myself.

I have a pretty binary approach to most things, meaning that I generally, though not exclusively, look at simple events, situations, behaviour and the like as having one of two possible outcomes. Case in point is a visa application - a visa will either be granted or it will be denied. It goes without saying that I viewed the application for an Angolan visa in Pretoria in this way and had, at the back of my mind at least, a course of action for either outcome - or so I thought.

I don't know whether psychologists have a name for it, or not, but I suddenly found myself having to deal not so much with the fact that I didn't get a visa, as with the completely unexpected shock of the seriously devastating effect that this outcome had on me. I don't think the word 'gutted' comes even remotely close to describing the feeling.
This is a lesson which is still very much in progress!

I am back in Cape Town, for the second time in less than two weeks; this time to apply for an Angola visa at the local consulate. I am still none the wiser as to why the Pretoria embassy could or would not deal with my application.

Between flying back to Gauteng on the 6th and returning to Cape Town on the 18th of July, I made a "long weekend" swing through Swaziland and the Blyde River Canyon, between Thursday the 13th and Monday the 17th. There are, no doubt, probably a gazillion ways in which to address the challenge of dealing with one of life's unexpected twists. I can heartily recommend riding
a motorcycle through that part of the world as part of the "treatment".

I have to point out, however, that it wasn't intended to be a 'long weekend swing' at the time I left Johannesburg. I was committed to going that way but only as part of a round-about way to get to Botswana and onwards through Namibia on my way back home as reflected in these comments

I headed out of Johannesburg on the N17 and entered Swaziland through the Oshoek / Ngwenya border posts. This border crossing, and the one back into SA at Mananga the following day, comfortably ranks as the easiest ones of this entire tour. I completed exit & entry formalities inside 25 minutes on both

I spent the night at the very hospitable & affordable Sobantu Guest Farm in Mnyokane. I rode to the Mananga border post on a nice mix of tar and gravel, past the Maguga Dam, to the Samora Machel Memorial, just outside the village of Mbuzini, en-route to the town of Sabie, the following day.

Sobantu Guest Farm, Swaziland
Maguga Dam
Samora Machel Memorial
Samora Machel Memorial - wreckage & pipes
Samora Machel Memorial - wreckage
Samora Machel Memorial - shrine 1
Samora Machel Memorial - shrine 2
Samora Machel Memorial - shrine 3
Samora Machel Memorial - investigations 1
Samora Machel Memorial - investigations 2

The R10 route

This name is derived from the R10 entrance fee charged at all but one of the attractions I visited on the day. The day started, in bright sunshine, with a ride over the Long Tom Pass, through Lydenburg and over Robbers Pass to Pilgrim's Rest. Then south to Mac Mac Falls (R10), east through the forest, via the gravel Klipkraal Pass, and west again over Kowyns Pass to Graskop.

After lunch in Graskop came the glorious sites of The Pinnacle (R10), God's Window (R10), Lisbon Falls (R10) and Berlin Falls (R10). I first (and last) visited the Blyde River Canyon, with my family, back in 2007. We did not get to see any of the above sites because everything was shrouded in the dense fog that the area is notorious for. It may have taken 10 years for the mist to clear but it was certainly well worth the wait.

Bourke's Luck, at R50 the only exception to the R10 rule, turned out to be the undisputed highlight of the day. One needs an entire day to properly experience and appreciate this site. The excellent amenities - including picnic & braai facilities - makes justification of a day spent there almost a no-brainer. I arrived there shortly after 3pm with the effect of the low afternoon sun clearly visible in the photos I managed to take. It would be interesting to follow the effects of the sun during the course of a day at the site.

Long Tom Cannon
The Long Toms
Long Tom Gun
Long Tom - up close
Robbers Pass, Pilgrim's Rest
Mac Mac Falls
The Pinnacle
God's Window
Lisbon Falls
Berlin Falls
Bourke's Luck 1
Bourke's Luck 2
Bourke's Luck 3
Bourke's Luck 4
Bourke's Luck 5

I enjoyed riding the last, approximately 100km for the day over the Abel Erasmus Pass, through the J.G. Strijdom tunnel, to the Mariepskop area, near Hoedspruit, where I would spend the next two nights.

The off-road ride to the top of Mariepskop, which I did on the Sunday morning, ranks as another highlight of this part of the tour. The views of the canyon and surrounding areas simply defy description (or photography, for that matter)!

I rounded out the ride with a late lunch at the Upside Down Restaurant, named for the giant baobab on the property, near Hoedspruit.

Mariepskop View
Blydepoort Dam 1
Blydepoort Dam 2
Mariepskop Viewsite
Timbuktu Bistro & Pub (closed)
Baobab at Upside Down Restaurant

I had just filled up with fuel, fully intent on riding towards the Groblersbrug / Martin's Drift border posts between SA and Botswana, on Monday morning, when I experienced what I can only describe as my whole being quite suddenly and unexpectedly, 'revolting' against the idea of ending the tour this way. So I set a course back to Johannesburg where I booked a flight to Cape Town for the following day. The R36 south of Lydenburg is arguably the worst "tar" road I have ever traversed in South Africa. It feels like one large pothole punctuated, every so often, with a patch of smooth tar! 

I have, at the time of writing, not yet succeeded in getting my application accepted for consideration in Cape Town.

The route to date: 

Day 100 - 107: Cape Town
Day 108: Return to Johannesburg
Day 109: Angola Embassy Pretoria. Visa application outcome - apply in Cape Town
Day 110 - 113: Mwendo gets a fresh set of tyres and final attention to the front shock.
Day 114: Final prep to continue east then around through Botswana and Namibia
Day 115: Johannesburg, Springs, Ermelo, Chrissiesmeer, Oshoek / Ngwenya border posts to Mnyokane in Swaziland (372km)
Day 116: Mnyokane, Maguga Dam, Mananga border posts, Mbuzini, Samora Machel Monument, Emangweni, Tonga, Malelane, Mbombela, White River to Sabie (334km)
Day 117: Sabie, Long Tom Pass, Lydenburg, Robbers Pass, Pilgrim's Rest, Mac Mac Falls, Kliphoogte Pass, Kowyns Pass, Graskop, The Pinnacle, God's Window, Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls, Bourke's Luck Potholes, Abel Erasmus Pass, J.G. Strijdom Tunnel to Mariepskop area (332km)
Day 118: Return trip including Mariepskop Summit & Hoedspruit (163km)
Day 119: Mariepskop area, J.G. Strijdom Tunnel, Abel Erasmus Pass, Ohrigstad,
Lydenburg, Machadodorp, Belfast, Middelburg, Emalahleni to Johannesburg (434km)
Day 120 - 125: Cape Town


  • - Springs : -26.2607243 28.4630376
  • - Ermelo : -26.5123582 29.9856157
  • - Chrissiesmeer : -26.2794984 30.2195374
  • - Oshoek / Ngwenya Border : -26.2219248 30.9532123
  • - Hhohho Region (Mnyokane / Maguda Dam) : -26.1365662 31.3541631
  • - Mananga Border Post : -25.9323353 31.7615458
  • - Samora Machel Memorial, Mbuzini : -25.9322734 31.9444669
  • - Emangweni : -25.7443712 31.8164031
  • - Malelane : -25.4860587 31.548418
  • - Sabie : -25.0952176 30.7867129
  • - Lydenburg : -25.0815817 30.447285
  • - Graskop : -24.9327665 30.844152
  • - God's Window : -24.876541 30.8887795
  • - Bourke's Luck : -24.6727584 30.8070925
  • - Mariepskop : -24.5391667 30.8713889
  • - Hoedspruit : -24.346139 30.9732917
  • - Emalahleni : -25.8727817 29.2553229
  • - Johannesburg : -26.2041028 28.0473051
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