A Motorcycle tour of the KwaZulu Natal, Memel area
Author: Steve and Carole Eilertsen. firstname.lastname@example.org
I do not ask for whom the road tolls
The road tolls for me . . .
I love the open road, to see it disappear over the horizon or around a mountain spur. I enjoy the sense of community with the other road users as our different lives cross momentarily en route. For me a deserted dirt road is a destination and I love to stop to breathe in the swamping silence and feel the buzzing warmth on my back. Back on the road I look forward to the next town, one I have never visited before and a name that results in blank stares from my friends when mentioned around a braai fire.
I grade towns on a 13-point scale shown below using fuel, food, drink and toilet facilities as the yardstick. (Chain and conference hotels are not considered when grading.)
Grading Number. Description.
1. Diesel only and the locale is deserted.
2. Diesel and one type of petrol. The petrol attendant works at the spaza shop down the road.
3. Diesel and both types of petrol. The petrol attendant also sells chickens on the side.
4. More than one brand of petrol station. You can also buy a cold drink from a locked fridge. There is an ATM in town.
5. Petrol stations with locked toilets. The key is wired to a large wooden block but the door is loose having been forced open a number of times.
6. A local hotel that serves steak, egg and chips in the bar but has no printed menu. The friendly barmaid is a gentle reminder why you spent thousands of rands on orthodontal treatment for your kids.
7. Bottled water is available. The town also features two churches i.e. one with straight lines built 100 years ago with the roof on top. The other, only 50 years old, with diagonal lines with the roof that touches the ground on the corners.
8. The public toilets are public and therefore open, but you have to dry your hands on your pants and your face on your T-shirt.
9. Wimpy Fast Food and / or Spur Restaurant with a TV where you can watch the game.
10. The public toilets have soap, disposable paper towels and insipid piped music.
11. The town offers a choice of small, owner-run restaurants that offer different menus. One of them has a vegetarian menu.
12. The town has an owner-run boutique coffee bar with freshly baked cakes that closes at 5pm.
13. A late-night boutique coffer bar that also sells imported beer. In addition, it has baked cheesecake and not the fridge-tart sort.
This trip Carole rode pillion due to her recent pregnancy. Panniers, top box, tank bag, GPS and we were sorted. Leaving Johannesburg we headed south towards the Free State. I think straight roads through flat country are underrated. The relaxed drone of the powerful engine and the hum from the tyres is both relaxing and hypnotic. There is something bizarre about travelling at 140kph and yet the countryside still crawls slowly by. This allows you a brief look into the lives of those that live alongside the road. In particular, I feel a kind of kinship with the herders as they ride their horses bareback through the fields as they tend to the cattle.
The once deserted hotel is now a smoothly running family business – friendly, relaxed, cold beer and the usual pool table in the bar. The dining room offered good South African country cooking. For the uninitiated, this is cooking that offers all the food groups, cooked in as few pots as possible. We met the other 35 participants and admired the vast range of off-road machinery outside the hotel. Not all riders are created equal. Some bikes were already covered in dust and two of them already had bent and missing pieces. Others in concourse condition where being gingerly offloaded from the back of bakkies and trailers.
Thirty minutes into the ride the only error on the map caused confusion i.e. follow the GPS co-ords or follow the contradictory directions? Remembering the briefing of the previous night of “when it doubt, go straight”, some of us went straight! Why did we take this advice? Its logical conclusion is a round-the-world-trip starting in Memel, South Africa! Other riders ignored the advice and turned right as indicated by the GPS co-ordinate (this confusion has been corrected in the co-ords supplied below)
After an easy and relaxed 85km ride through undulating countryside, we arrived still somewhat confused at Verkykerskop, a type 2 town. The only petrol pump had a lengthy explanation bleached white by the elements. I could not read it but filled up anyway, as I needed extra fuel should I get lost. The entire trip does not have a single petrol station worthy of the name except for the town of Newcastle 50km from the end of the ride
An hour later, our group arrived at intersection number seven. We came in from the North while another group arrived from the South. Reunite and confusion now irrelevant, we all blasted off in hot pursuit of a few riders who seemed to know where they were going.