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29th November 2012 Africa, my companion. Springbok – Cape Town, South Africa

December 2, 2012

At breakfast, even the table was so cluttered, I could barely eat without spilling my coffee or knocking over the plates, glasses, cups, baskets, flowers, napkins, more lamps, beads, them lace mat thingy me bobs, each table even had its own toaster. There was a lovely view out of the window overlooking the similarly cluttered garden so I set about the task of relocating the tables contents on to the table opposite. Oops, the waitress notices, snitches the objects back and slam them down back on to my table. Ok, that’s it, I’m out of here. Give me a campsite and my jetboil any day, there’s more space and it’s cheaper!

I join the scenic Namibia – Cape road heading south. Livingstone feels and sounds in good form and running well. Since changing from 20W50 to 10W40 yesterday, I can notice a quicker response when twisting the throttle and a significant increase in acceleration, although the 20W50 is certainly preferred bumping along the corrugations and through towns in second gear for long periods keeping the engine temperature at constant mid-range. Since fitting the K and N air filter which allows more volume of air across the engine has also contributed to the constant operating temperature.

Along the Kalahari Desert Highway, I see mini tornados swirling across the road just ahead of me, some travelling way faster than I until they eventually disappear in to the barren landscape. I’m already fighting the wind by leaning at an angle against the force, until, suddenly, I’m hit. The tornado whips Livingstone and I to the other side of the road and my head feels as if it’s just been hit with a baseball bat. Just as I get chance to reposition, I realise we’re in the eye as it suddenly whips us to the opposite side of the road as we exit the twirling sand and tumble weeds.

Topping the first set of mountain tops, the midday temperature drops from 32 to just 25’C and there is a chill in the air probably due to the high altitude.

Riding through the valley, we’re protected from the battering wind and make good progress as I thunder along the perfectly tarmacked road. Leaning in to the first fast sweeping mountain bends since the Rhonda Valley in Spain my adrenalin pumps as I sometimes look for a seventh gear. There isn’t one, so keep the throttle fully open as Livingstone’s rear end wobbles in the wind because of his uneven balanced panniers until I eventually let go coming to a natural stop in a lay by. There, I rehydrate whilst checking my map for the next town, village or fuel station, there is nothing for the next 100 miles except for exhilarating views across the valley and mountain tops. After the thrilling ride I gasp for more water. Luckily, two Namibian couples also stop to rest and kindly offer to refill my water bottle.

Riding from one mountain to the next, there are lush green vine yards for as far as the eye can see which slowly transit to sun burned yellow crops being farmed by the locals wearing their typical all in one blue overalls.

Panoramic views like this often make me realise how lucky I have been to see and experience what I have along the way, as I recollect some special moments. Sure enough, my rollercoaster emotions kick in when I suddenly realise my African adventure is coming to an end. For me, there was never any competition between Africa and I, Africa had become my companion, my best friend who helped me along in the times of need. The terrain and weather had all treated me well, as if to carry me across and help me live my dream. I become even more overwhelmed when I realise today will be my final day riding Livingstone in Africa, well, for this year anyway. I will never sell Livingstone or abandon him. I’m sure, without realising it, I owe him my life, no doubt he has saved me from many precarious situations without knowing by offering his comfort, strength, attention and speed to escape these situations.

I look down with despair to the remaining 80 miles to Cape Town shown on my gps. At the same time, I peak the mountain top revealing the most magnificent sites across the plains. I see it as Africa’s thank you and good bye to me, it’s all too much, my eyes glisten with tears and my bottom lip trembles. “Thank you Africa, Thank you!” I shout.

Weaving through the valleys and rolling corn fields approaching Cape Town, my emotions are soon overcome by concentration. The fierce Atlantic winds batter us from left to right. There is no constant direction making it impossible to lean or fight against it. Sometimes gusting head on making Livingstone almost come to a stop. Speed is my only solution; I need to keep us moving otherwise we’ll be down.

Approaching Cape Town, Table Top Mountain offers no protection as I thought it would. The wind continues swirling around and over the mountain then dipping in to the industrial valley at the foot of this magnificent lone rock. I predicted seeing the Table Top would also bring emotion but since entering the Sahara it soon became apparent that the journey would be the adventure not the destination.

Struggling to keep Livingstone upright, I finally arrive at the industrialised container port where my gps directs me straight to Livingstone’s home for the next three weeks, the crating company. There I’m welcomed by a very helpful lady who had been expecting me. With my adrenalin still pumping from the challenging windy ride, I worryingly fire question after question towards the lady. She can see I’m worried for his safety at sea so calms me down by telling me “Don’t worry, we knew you was coming, try to calm down, your motorcycle will be fine”. The lady takes Livingstone’s measurements so the wooden crate can be constructed over the weekend and tells me to return on Monday morning with Livingstone for a customs examination.

From the port, I head over to the Raddisson, a hotel down by the Victoria and Alfred area of Cape Town to see if they have a cheap room for a needy adventurer. My wife and I stayed here last year on our annual vacation. The receptionist quotes 2500 Rahn per night. “Whoa, is that the cheapest”, I asked. “Yes Sar”, she replied. “OK, thank you, goodbye”

Nearby, I find several hotels including the Commodore, all of which are similarly priced. I should have known better than wanting to stay in the city. At the Commodore I describe to the lovely receptionist my journey here, though not sure she believed me, however, still offers a discount down from 2300 Rahn to 2000 Rahn but it’s still too much and well above my budget so set off in search of cheaper accommodation outside of the city.

I follow my sat navs suggested local accommodation up to thirty miles outside of the city. With no protection from the Table Top and being so close to the coast, the wind becomes stronger making it dangerously risky to ride along the elevated sections by passing the city. The wind is so fierce; my front wheel lifts off the tarmac as if I was pulling a wheelie. On the motorway, I’m blown from one lane to another. Again, there is no certain direction and each blow hits harder until my helmet twists. My nose is now where my ear should be. I can barely see, so feel for the hazard switch on the handlebars. I hit the button quickly to warn the surrounding vehicles to pass with caution. The barriers of the overpass are low and I have visions of being blown over the side on to the industrial units below. The powerful wind brings us to a complete stop in the middle of the motorway. I straighten my helmet and look behind. The vehicles must have seen I was having difficulty and had also come to a stop. I wave a thank you and set off trying to keep my speed up so not to be blown over.

I find a campsite which had now been converted to a spa and various other guest houses that are either full or expensively priced. I think, blow it, I’m here to see Cape Town and deserve some luxury so return to the Commodore in hope they still have that last room available at their discounted rate.

At the Commodore reception the Manger hears of my adventure and comes to say hello. To his amazement, every time I tell him one of my experiences the cost reduces further and further probably in respect of my triumphant ending. In the end the Manger offers me his last room for 1300 Rahn with breakfast included, parking and a whole load of extras, including laundry and room service. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome in Cape Town. The porter shows me where to park Livingstone and takes me to my room which overlooks the harbour, Table Top Mountain and the sea, wow, what a result.

I shower and take a stroll down to the busy harbour to find a restaurant. I revisit one my wife and I enjoyed last year which brings back memories. Unfortunately, the waiter looks me up and down and turns me away. Great, I love it and found it amusing that I hadn’t realised how scruffy my clothes had become, some torn from the beating on rocks when being cleaned by the locals in the villages. I’m proud of looking this way, it shows the adventure I have had, so vow to myself not to buy any new clothes whilst I’m here. I return to the hotel for dinner, but there I’m also stared at by the waiter and he suspiciously asks my room number as if I didn’t belong here. “It’s your sandals, sar” he said. So I take them off and enter bare footed as I’m sure he used to do as a child. He smiles in respect and asks what I would like to drink.