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!