Making my way back to Cape Town I try my best not to tread over the same ground I’d before. Curious to see one of the oldest towns in South Africa I set my sites on Graff-Reinet. Cruising across the “Grand Karoo” with its scrubby rough terrain, proud buttes rising from the desert floor and miles of straight and boring riding, yet with stunning vistas as the sun journeyed its daily descent. Winds whipped and the temperature rose. At least there was no rain.
My unplanned u-turn and night in Burgerdorp turned out to be quite a treat. Anita and The Nook, a cozy B&B was taken back by my adventure and shared her stories of travel as she served me free-range scrambled eggs and a delightful selection of serials, toast, jams, juices and coffee. She had referred me to NuNu’s the night before where Jan cooked farm fresh foods for locals who travel sometimes fifty miles to come to perhaps the best restaurant for double those miles. Turns out Jan is a GS1200 owner, though the time constraints of his business meant he’s tracked less than 600 miles since buying the bike last March. Yet he handed me his card and his personal phone number in the event I needed anything as I continued my journey.
It continues to put a smile on my face and amaze me at the hospitality and genuine offers of help that I receive as I continue my travels. I receive e-mails from local South Africans from Pretoria, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and more with offers of places to stay, work shop space, food, petrol or just great greetings. The South Africans are friendly, helpful and interested in my project and eager to ensure that I take home a good impression of this country.
I had low expectations of South Africa and I don’t know why. I have found that it possess immense diversity, has a great infrastructure and for the most part it’s easy traveling. But as in the States and in particular parts of Latin America it’s inevitable that I will run into a sampling of people that fortunately don’t make up a majority nor provide a true indication of the mindset of the country. But the entertainment value and sad but true reality of some people’s naive thinking always invokes wonder and thought.
Finishing a beer in a local pub in South Africa’s Free State I notice two twenty-something guys donning ball caps and with their feet firmly planted on the bar stools as the chatted with their school buddy on the other side of the bar. Shots of Jaegermeister were turned upside down in rocks glasses and then covered with a god dose of Red Bull. Inquisitive I had to know what the hell they were drinking: Jaeger Bombs, I’m told. They invited me to a table and our conversation ranged from my travels, to sports to politics. That’s when the one guy adjusted his cap and looked at me and with sobering words explained, “Now I’m not a racist, but…” Disclaimers like that are sure to open a can of worms that should remain closed. “They are just plain stupid,” he continued. “I mean look at it Allan, when the white man first landed here bringing guns and ‘the wheel’; I mean they hadn’t even invented the wheel! What does that tell you?” I stared blankly raising my shoulders toward my ears. “They are just not smart.”
Though not even a teenager when Apartheid ended, I knew many of his opinions were not his own but perhaps hand-me-downs from parents, friends of his parents and other impressionables. “Crime was much lower before Apartheid ended, our country was much safer,” he explained but of course forgetting cause he just didn’t know how close to economic collapse the country was due to its alienation from the world community. “At 9pm sirens would go off, I know this sounds harsh and perhaps the laws were harsh, but if you were caught on the street with out permission you would go to jail.” He goes on. “My dad has a couple good ones that work for him, but that’s an exception.” His friend chimed in with a few like-minded stories. Both were fans of our current US president and I only imagined that the attitude represented by these friendly and well-meaning lads exists in every corner of the globe and while as world neighbors i believe world residents get more tolerant with each passing year, it’s how the attitudes and opinions are handed down from generation and generation is what amazes and is difficult to reverse.
On my way back to Cape Town I found a nice guest house on the beach along the “Garden Route” in Wilderness, a small community nestled among indigenous forest with a long white sandy beach. And just outside of Cape Town I noticed a sign to Oak Valley Vineyards in Elgin, a cooler climate wine region. Jonathan Steyn at Balthazer’s in Cape Town offered me a sample of Pinot Noir from this relative newcomer to the South African wine scene. With young vines and only their second vintage of Pinot Noir, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and profile of this wine. So I had to stop. The sales and marketing person, Beverly, sampled me their full portfolio of wines and shared with me recent awards they’d received for the other wines. A winery to watch.
In Cape Town I returned to my “home” at Tom’s Guest House with my hospitable and helpful hosts Martin and Gunter. Eager to repack my exhaust, troubleshoot my electrical problems, I woke up with a dead battery while in Coffee Bay and my PIAA lights and GPS were not receiving power. Plus, I needed to have SHane and the crew at BMW (Atlantic Motoraad) try to diagnose my low power/starving gas condition. I would also connect with Robin, a local BMW owner who planned to join me as I crossed the next border into Namibia. Meanwhile, Grant and Jules, the Aussie couple on a V-Strom who’d I spent time with the last couple weeks were making their way back to Cape Town from Kimberly.
I celebrated another birthday while on the road while in Cape Town. Wes, the Dakar owner I’d met at Atlantic BMW when I first arrived and who I’d ridden with around Hermanus and Franshhoek, along with his wife Celeste took me out to dinner to Rozenhof on Kloof Street in Cape Town. Toting a couple bottles of wine, including a California Merlot, we ended up closing the place while the owner, Robert, opened up a bottle from his personal collection to share with us yet another great South African wine. But as I talked about my route through Namibia and onward to Botswana Wes shared his dream of riding sometime in the future to Kenya on his Dakar. Inspiring adventures and travel over some great wine with new friends and excellent food. A damn good birthday! Thanks guys!