Migration an future plans

To make the website and blog easier to manage on the road, I will be migrating and rebuilding the website. I will also incorporate this blog into the website itself.

I aim to do  this work over the coming weekend ( 29th / 30th June) and early next week.

This means you will need to access this blog via the main website instead of the current URL address.

There should be no down time for the blog itself. Just look via the website: www.franglais-riders.com

Then I can concentrate on preparing our next escape later this autumn! I do not plan to spend the winter in cold and wet UK! Time to look for winter sunshine!



Next Chapter: nomads

Lots of things have been happening in the last few months so that the next big chapter in our lifes could start.

We have rented our house.

We have converted a van. This van will be our home for the next two years and maybe beyond. The first big test will be  few months around Eastern Europe later in the year.

We are not giving up on the bikes, just experimenting. Also that way  we can take our dog and cut the cost of travel. Indeed we can be off grid for extended periods of time, saving on accommodation and food.

I still would like to go back to Namibia and spend time exploring Botswana. On the other hand it would be marvellous to take our van to South America… A usual, I have many plans.

For those of you located in the UK, we will be doing few presentations based on our trips, at the biggest European overland meeting in Wales, this June. For details of the Horizons Unlimited meeting, check  Link HERE

Maybe see you in Wales! 🙂


Ending the trip

(scroll down for photos)

Day 110 – Hermanus – Saturday 15th September

We had a walk around town and investigated the boat trip to see the whales. at 800 rand per person, we thought it was a bit of a rip off! Instead we walked along  the cliffs and saw many whales very close to the shore.

It is the season now and many females whales come in the area with their off spring. We saw them jumping out of the water and playing around.

Too soon it was time to pack up. We had booked  hotel in Cape Town that looked fairly well located, was cheap enough, had secured parking for the motorbikes and included breakfast!

Day 111 – Cape Town – Sunday 16th September – around 200kms?

We decided to ride along  the shore. The views from there were superb, the weather perfect. The road was nice and twisty and as it was Sunday, all the bikers were out riding.

We thought about going to the Cape of old Hope, but the road to get there took us alongside many shanty towns. The weather was not great, the road pretty awful, so we decided to get the hotel instead.

We arrived mid afternoon to the Best Western Cape Suites hotel. our room was actually a flat, with a small kitchen, a large bedroom with balcony, and a second bedroom with 2 single beds. It was useful as we had to repack everything. We had to deliver the bikes to the shipping agent the next day.

Day 112 to 114 – Cape Town – Monday 17th to Weds 19th September – about 10 kms

So we loaded the bikes and rode to Econotrans’ offices. We parked the bikes and loaded our riding boots and jackets to the bikes. We left the helmets too this time. It was such a drag to carry them as hand luggage when flying in! After disconnecting the batteries, removing the mirrors and signing few papers, we went back to the hotel in a Uber car.

It was sad. We met for lunch with our south african friend Johan at a funky burger place called The Dogs’ bollocks / Bitch’s tits. It was quiet something! But the burgers were great.

Day 113 and 114 – Cape Town

The next day we explored the town on foot. The centre was nice. We found an amazing tapas place called Fork, in Long street. The food there was amazing. The weather was wet once again but it was worth getting drenched for such a meal.

The next day our plane was at 5pm only. So despite torrential rain, we walked back to Fork for a last meal involving Ostrich Goulash and other amazing stuff! IF you get to Cape Town, make sure to pay them a visit!

So we flew back to the UK. we rode over 15,000kms, 7 countries, in 4 months. It has been an amazing trip. I expected it would be much harder than that, but the fact everyone speaks english (even in Mozambique) and that most regions we crossed are fairly  touristic, makes it an idea part of Africa to explore. We saw many fabulous things and landscapes that will stay with me forever.

In the next few months I will try to produce a more precise and detailed Ride Report in ADVRider, as usual.

For now, I leave you with few photos.






Western Cape: between sea and mountains

Day 103 – Storm Rivers – Saturday 8th September – 0 kms

We woke up to yet even more rain. We decided to stay for another day, we could not ride in these conditions. It was like a monsoon. It was also very cold. Luckily we had electric blankets in our bed. As the backpacker place did not have any sort of heating, I made good use of the blanket as I was so frozen.

Later on, the staff lent me a hair dryer and I used it to try and dry some of our gear, like the boots, gloves and some clothes! I got a bit too enthusiastic while drying my winter gore-tex gloves and slightly melted some bits inside one of my gloves. Oops!

During a lull with the heavy rain, Alistair ran to a small local shop to get some food for dinner and got drenched again!

The day was slow and boring. We watched some TV in the communal room. Few guests arrived but none was particularly friendly and all ignored us!

Day 104 – Plettenberg – Sunday 9th of September – about 60kms

We booked a room in Mandalay Guesthouse. The house had parking outside only but we managed to get the bikes through the door into the garden. We had a big and very beautiful room in the 1st floor, with views over the sea and a nice big balcony. The day was sunny. We arrived soon after 10am, way before check In time, but we still got settled.

As it was sunny, we put all we could in the balcony to dry. We took all the luggage. The roll bag had remained dry, but both panniers where wet and all the stuff not in a dry bags was wet or humid. We had a lot of drying to do!

We visited the town and found a Mozambican restaurant offering a buffet lunch menu! The food looked really good with lots of choice, so we went for it! After 2 days of eating little else than pot noodles or tin food, it was nice to get also some fresh salad and vegetables.

Completely stuffed, we went back to the guesthouse for a rest!

Day 105 – Plettenberg – Monday 10th September – about 30kms

Our stay in Plettenberg had a very special reason. We wanted to visit a Wild Cat sanctuary. So, after an amazing breakfast, we rode to Jukani Sanctuary. We were the only guests for the guided tour. It was incredibly interesting and a beautiful place. They do an amazing job and our guide was very knowledgeable.

Some of the lions have been rescued from illegal canning farms. These farms breed lions and then sell them to some idiot with a small dick complex. The lion is released in a bigger enclosure and has zero chance to survive as the idiot shoot it. The poor lion probably has no idea what s happening, having been captive all it’s life!

Canning farms are illegal in South Africa and are horrendous places.

Some other cats, like Caracals, were rescued as they can be kept ( illegally) as pets, until they grow up. Adult Caracals are very aggressive and cannot be domesticated. Other cats came from abusive zoos and other places all around the world.

Only cheetahs can be rehabilited, taught how to hunt and released in the wild. The few wild dogs that they once had at Jukani, were also taught to hunt and are now free in national parks. But for most big predators and cats, born in captivity, they would not survive free. The good thing as well is that females are given contraceptive, so that they cannot breed.

They are well looked after and seemed happy.

I took the opportunity to buy a new mascotte for my bike!

Day 106 – Oudtshoorn – Tuesday 11th September – about 200kms

As the weather forecast was showing warmer weather inland, we decided to ride to Oudtshoorn, well known for its Ostriches farms and, most importantly, near the Swatberg Pass. The pass had been closed but I was hopeful it would reopen with the sunny weather!

So we rode inland.

We joined the dirt road that goes via the 7 Passes road, from Knysna to Wilderness. It was ok, with some hair pin bends but it was not really high. Still, it was nice to ride some dirt roads!

Then we joined the main road to Oudtshoorn. The road was actually beautiful, with great views of the snow capped mountains. We had booked a room at Oudtshoorn Guesthouse. The place was amazing and our room was massive! It was very impressive and the owners, as usual, very friendly.

Once settled and changed we went for a walk, try to find the local restaurants for dinner and investigate the town. The day was warm and sunny, the town pleasant, it was so nice!

Day 107 – Oudtshoorn – Wednesday 12th September – about 200kms

After a big breakfast we got on the bikes. The first sign we saw for the Swatberg Pass was saying it was closed! We still continued. Eventually we saw a second sign, with no particular comment about the Pass, so we rode up.

We left the tarmac and follow the very steep dirt road to the Pass. The weather was good, the road enjoyable, the views superb! On days like that, riding a motorbike is just pure Joy!

At the top, we met with a South African couple. They offered us cookies and we spent some time talking bikes!

Then we descended by the other side, doing a big loop back to town. We had some tea at Prince Albert, a nice little village.

The N12 from de Rust to Oudtshoorn was spectacular. Probably one of the most beautiful roads we ever rode. It was at the bottom of a narrow canyon, surrounded by high, deep red cliffs on each side, the road crisscrossing over the small river. It was magnificent but too busy and narrow to stop and take photos. You will just have to believe me!

We went back to the beautiful guesthouse. For dinner we found a restaurant specialised in Ostrich meat. I had a superb ostrich filet set as a burger. It was amazing meat! All washed down with, obviously, a nice local wine! It had been an amazing day!

We then had to plan to get back slowly to Cape Town. We wanted to get to L’Aghulas, as good tourists that we are. This is the most southern point in Africa, and the division between the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic.

Day 108 – Swellendam – Thursday 13th September – 225kms

We decided to stop at Swellendam to break the journey to The Coast. The town is supposed to be one of the oldest in South Africa. It was ok. Nothing special. Our guesthouse had no safe parking for our bikes but Alistair managed to get them in the garden.

We rode route 62, but that section was very tedious, once we passed all the ostrich farms.

We had a walk in town. Accommodation was expensive, but restaurants were even more so. I did not understand why, as there did not seem to be anything of much interest around. We decided to get a take away a pizza instead of spending stupid money for dinner! It was enormous.

The guesthouse had a book with a couple of things to visit. One, about 100kms away was the last hand operated pontoon ferry in South Africa. We had to go and ride it!

Day 109 – Hermanus – Friday 14th September – 285 kms

We left the main road and got through little dirt roads to the ferry. It was a lot of fun, riding through rolling hills and farmland, with beautiful views.

Eventually we arrived at the river and rode the bikes onto the barge. Only two men operate the barge. We gave them a good tip as it is a hard job they are doing!

We then continued through the dirt roads until we had to join a main paved road to L’Aghulas. The place there was ok, nothing special.

Our attempt to find a cafe for a hot drink and a bite failed. It’s so hard to find cafes around! So in the end we continued until we got to Hermanus, our destination for the weekend. The weather was cloudy and very windy, it was very tiring.

Hermanus and the are is famous for many whales coming very near to the shore while the females are nursing. We hope to see some whales!

Winter has come to South Africa!

Day 96 and 97 – East London, Saturday 1st and Sunday 2d September – 0kms

I was still very ill over the weekend ( from a really bad cold) and despite wanting to get back on the road, we had to stay and give me time to recover. We got to know our neighbours in the next room, a british couple who lived not far from Darlington, where Alistair’s family is from. It was funny to find out commun places we like to go , including breakfast at the local prison! Yes the local open prison near Darlington has a restaurant and some farm and is a nice place for fresh eggs as well as food!

Feeling low with fever and not helped by bad weather, I was not too much in the mood to explore much. By then, over 3 months on the road, I was starting to look forward to go home.

The hotel was backing into a river that had many species of birds as well as fishing eagles, although we did not see the eagles!

Day 98 – Port Alfred – Monday 3rd September – 150kms

The day started cold and very wet. We waited until 11am in the hope it would calm down a bit. Unfortunately the south African winter decided to start then. At least it was a short ride.

Day 99 to 101 – St Francis Bay – Tuesday 4th, Wednesday 5th, Thursday 6th September – 260kms

The day was wet, once again and very windy. It was very tiring to ride with strong headwind. Eventually the rain stopped, but not the wind. We arrived at St Francis, a beautiful village with big white villas dotted around. We found a nice place to stay. In the afternoon, it was sunny and we went for a walk around the canals section.

Finding out that the weather would be rather bad for the next few days, we decided to stay for an extra two days and visit the place a bit. The village is quite spread and we needed to take the bikes to visit the port and light house at the bay. The next day, weather was bad but we did not have too much rain during those two days.

The harbour was a working fishing harbour, the main catch being squid. So we had lunch at one of the local restaurants to try some of the squid and fish. Unfortunately it was way too salty.

We started rethinking our itinerary. With winter weather, rain and cold spreading around the southern part of South Africa, we could not ride to Cape Town via some mountain passes. There were rumours of snow, fog and intense cold. On the motorbikes, it would not be wise. So we decided to ride following the coast and the garden route.

Day 102 – Friday 7th September – storms river, about 100kms

According to the weathermen, the day would be mainly dry. They were very badly wrong! In the morning, we had heavy rain, then a bit of sunshine. We packed and left soon after 9am. Then things started to get bad. Really bad. We rode into huge heavy rain, hail, violent wind…. visibility became next to nil, we could not continue, it was getting dangerous. We could not see the road and cars would not slow down and would risk wiping us off the road. We came across a farm with a cafe and shop. We stopped there for few hours. Eventually, the rain and wind calmed enough we could ride through.

Meanwhile we had to find a nearby place to stay as we could not ride for long in such weather. The next village, Storms River, was about 32kms away and seemed to have lots of accommodation. We set the GPS and rode back into the storm. It was a long 32kms! We arrived at the village drenched, shaking from the cold and exhausted, my hands and fingers stiff from the cold. We found a backpacker place and took a room. We were told it was snowing in the nearby mountains and there were flood warnings in the area. We certainly passed many sections of road covered in water and bridges over raging rivers!

Once settled we took turn for a very hot shower. Most of our gear was drenched, and water had sipped through my trousers’ waterproofs, as well as through my waterproof jacket liner, my gore-tex gloves and boots! My jumper and thermal t-shirt were wet, my feet and socks were wet, my underwear as well as most of my clothes!

We hang all our wet items everywhere we could around the room. Without a radiator or heater it was unlikely anything would dry. There was nothing to do but wait for the insane weather to improve.

Winter had definitely started in South Africa!

Drakensberg and the Wild Coast

Day 88 – Clarens – Friday 24th August – 82 kms

We woke up early. It was daylight. After a very quick visit to the smelly pit toilet, I put all my motorcycle gear on.

The two guys looking after the place were around. We moved to their house and sat at the table, in the living room/ dining room, as the breakfast was included on the price (700 rands for the night plus dinner and breakfast).

The two guys had breakfast with, same as for dinner. We had coffee, some brownish porridge, bread if I remember. Like the previous day, the conversation was far from flowing, as the 2 guys concentrated on eating. I tried to ask few questions ( like why their mum did not eat with us? Apparently women don’t. Why? No clue). Answers were short. They were not interested on talking to us and it was a bit awkward. There are quite few places where we have been, where they don’t really get the notion of customer services. Basically where they don’t seem to give a crap about their customers! It is just uncomfortable.

Anyway, after the quick breakfast we left. It was still very early and we had a short ride to the border town. We stopped to buy fuel. It was cheaper in Lesotho than in South Africa, apparently it is subsidised.

The border was a drive-through. Once again, it was very fast to get back into South Africa.

By 11am, we arrived at Clarens. Our book said it was a very nice town, artistic and a bit hippy, with lots of restaurants and art galleries.

We rode to the Clarens Inn Backpackers. Despite arriving so early, Katie, the manageress showed us To a large building, it was a massive studio flat. It was huge, with a big kitchen fully kitted and big shower room! It was amazing.

After getting settled, we walked to town. It was very pleasant, hippy and arty, like the guide said. We had lunch at the micro brewery place. The food was disappointing. Whoever heard of a goulash soup with chicken and no red wine in the stew? A watery tasteless chicken soup. We found the big shop and bought fresh vegs and noodles for dinner. We were keen to make the most of the kitchen and get some vegetables.

The town is still around 1800 m altitude, so as the sun set in, it got very cold. Luckily we had plenty of fire wood and a nice fire place. This time, starting the fire was easy, once you have first!

In the afternoon, I sat near the reception desk, to get WiFi reception and work on the blog. A group of young women arrived. The were volunteers working in Lesotho. I did not get exactly what they did for work, but they were involved in AIDS and LGBT stuff. One of them was with the peace Corps ( American charity), another was German. All in all 6 of them, some natives from Lesotho, all lesbians. Maybe you need to be LGBT to work in what they did? I did not ask. Listening to they conversations was highly entertaining and funny as they sat around me. We laughed a lot at their stories of living in Lesotho! It might be the reason why my last entry was a bit disjoint! I got distracted!

Day 88 and 89 – Clarens, Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th August – 0km

Saturday we did lots of washing. Most of my clothes were very dirty. All by hand as usual. I wanted to wash my motorcycle suit but it was too bulky for the small bathroom sink. I guess it can wait until we are back home now.

We got to know Katie, the backpacker manageress and a wonderful lady, and Robin, a guy working on fire management in Mozambique. I had not laughed so much in a long time. We really had a lot of fun with them. One of those places where you feel at home and leave very reluctantly. Definitely worth spending few days there.

Also the town was safe to walk around, and we had some nice food. And of course a nice sampling of local wines!

But as usual, it was soon time to go. We packed up. Sunday was very cold ( it dropped to minus 2 overnight) and the next day would be even colder. We had a big fire going in our room.

Day 90 – Boston – Monday 27th August – 340 kms.

With the weather so cold, we decided to ride as fast as possible down to the coast!

As I woke up at 6:30 it was still freezing outside. About minus 2! I started a big fire to warm the place and we packed slowly. We waited, hoping it would get warmer. Then we left by 10am.

We were heading south, taking the backroads. The ride across the mountains was very beautiful. However, despite wearing pretty much all our layers on, we arrived at the Boston T Party backpackers totally frozen.

I expected rustic lodging but was surprised that we had a large room with ensuite bathroom for 480 rands. And thankfully, the water was very hot!

The owners were also farmers. They were very friendly and we spoke about bikes and travels with them. The husband ( can’t remember his name ) is a big fan of enduro and had a nice bike in his garage!

The place had a big loung/ bar building where they set a fire for us to warm up and sit.

The communal kitchen was busy with 3 South African guys. They were transit workers. They blanked us out and concentrated on eating their food and watched some crappy soap opera on TV. We prepared some baked beans in the microwave and some toasts. After eating we washed our plates and left. We had not a flicker of acknowledgement. South Africa can be funny like that sometimes.

Day 91 – Port St John – Tuesday 28th of August – 350kms

The morning was, once again, very cold. We were still at altitude. After a quick breakfast, still being blanked out by one remaining guy in the kitchen, we put all our layers on and left. The last 100kms to Port St John was slow going. It was constant villages and houses dotted all around, along the road, with very agressive speed bumps. We could not go fast. From what I read, it seems that in some regions the land belongs to tribes, and the locals there are on subsistence farming. The new president was considering in his land reform, to divide those tribal lands, so they would belong to individuals living there, rather than the tribes’ chiefs, but that was vehemently opposed by the chiefs. So these regions are very poor. Sadly, villages were covered in rubbish everywhere. Locals, like in many other places we ave been to, don’t seem to care that they live in a giant bin/ toilet!

In any case, it was still fairly cold and our descent was slow. Arriving at Port St John was underwhelming. The place was covered in litter, everywhere. Nad I mean even worse than what we had seen before! The smell of rotten food was sickening.

We rode to the Jungle Monkeys Backpackers and got a room with shared bathrooms. It had been a long day, and I was coming down with a nasty cold and a bad cough. The place was very pleasant. We shared a pizza, at the on-site restaurant, as we had no food left. We were told that the bin men were on strike, hence the state of the town.

I went for an early night as I was feeling unwell.

Day 93 – Port St John – Wednesday 29th August – 0 kms

After spending most of the night coughing, I was not keen on doing much that day. We had decided to have a day rest, as the next ride would be a long day again. We also had to sort few things out and needed WiFi, which luckily was provided, and for free (!) at the backpackers.

I was trying to find out if some Yamaha dealers could source some parts locally for my bike ( no they can’t ) and book a hotel for our last 3 nights, in Cape Town. We plan to arrive on Sunday 16th, deliver the bikes to the shipping company on Monday, and spend the rest of Monday and Tuesday exploring the town on foot. So the hotel has to be central and well located. And ideally provide a shuttle service to the airport!

Mid morning we decided to walk into the village and get some stuff from the supermarket. We walked among huge piles of litter. As we approach the town hall, we saw many police cars and riot police in full body armour. There were crowds hanging around, rubbish in the middle of the street, some on fire, and all shops were canut with metal gates. The atmosphere was kind of tense. We decided to walk back to the backpackers, as I did not fancy to be caught up in the middle of a riot and everyone was staring at us. We were the only white walking around so felt a bit of a target. I did not Andy being caught in te middle of a violent riot.

We asked one of the staff at the backpackers if the shops would open later on the day, but it was unlikely. I suppose looting during a riot is a big risk, so all shops remained shut. One teacher we met few days before told us how 20 schools were torched following protest on some education stuff. How is burning down 20school s going to help te education of the kids? But if this is the norm it s not surprising that all shops were shut!

The backpackers owner told us that the local businesses had been threatened so everything was shut.

Even the main gate to the backpackers reception was closed. We needed to get some cash but decided it could wait until we left town. We had enough to get some fuel.

Day 94 – East London – Thursday 30th of August – 370kms

We left early as we had a long ride. We were planning to get back into the mountains to the famous Hogsback and it’s even mor famous Away With The Fairies backpacker place. But things did not go to plan.

About 150kms on the ride West , the Honda stated playing up and shutting down the engine at speed. That is never a good thing. So we decided to diver to the closest big town on thee way, more or less. That was East London, down the coast. So we set the GPS and rode there. We found a backpacker place but it was impossible to get the bikes inside so we got recommended another backpacker place.

At 250 rands for a room with ensuite, you can imagine the kind of place!

The town was covered in piles of litter and garbage again, and did not have the excuse of the bin men’s strike.

After buying some fish and rice from the local supermarket, for take away, we sat in the main room. The place filled with road workers, coming in at the end of their shift. People stared at us a bit.

Security in the area was very high.

I had a very bad night with my cold, with a very painful throat and sinuses infection. It made breathing very painful and I had nothing other than paracetamol. Where on Earth are the pharmacies hidden In South Africa? I have been on the look out for one for few days and saw nothing!

Day 95 – East London – Friday 31st August – about 15 kms

We rode to the Honda dealer and after few checks were good to go. Alistair got the oil filter cover seal changed as it had been leaking a lot since Nelspruit. The bike dying could be the result of water in the fuel.

The guys told us we had stayed in the most dangerous part of town. To be fair the backpacker’s gate had been shut early evening and our bikes were safe.

We had booked a room at the nearby Fish eagle hotel. I was not in any shape to go for a long ride. I needed a rest and to recover from my cold. The hotel had great reviews in booking.com and was on special offer. We arrived there just after 10am. Despite turning up so early, we got the room very quickly and we were warmly welcome. We also had a free upgrade to a better room! It was a really nice place.

Looking at the weather forecast, it looks like Hogsback may have to wait as the weather in South Africa turns cold and wet. So we are changing our plans again.