Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 103 to 105 - Cape Town, South Africa

RobC:  After a smooth flight in a big Boeing 747 of Malaysian Airlines, we arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, around noon - 5 hours ahead of Buenos Aires time and 7 hours ahead of Eastern Time back home. Both of us had slept a bit on the 8-hour flight (and two meals) and we were eager to find out whether our bikes had arrived, which had been sent by air freight via South African Airlines. But first things first, after clearing through immigration and customs, we obtained a local phone, exchanged some dollars into South African Rand (1:7) and took a taxi to the air freight terminal. As luck would have it, we ran into an employee of DRA Customs Clearing & Forwarding, who quickly found out that the bikes had been shipped to Johannesburg and were awaiting transit to Cape Town on a space available basis. Whoa, that was a surprise to us. We thought they were being shipped directly to Cape Town. I guess we should have asked more questions in Buenos Aires. Deon Adams of DRA said he would try everything possible to have the airline ship the bikes to Cape Town the next day.

 The Atlantic Ocean just before reaching South Africa.

 Cape town and Table Mountain in the background.

 Boeing 747 of Malaysian Airlines.

We inquired about lodging and found out that there was one hotel, the Road Lodge, at the airport. That would be most convenient, as we did not have transportation and in case we were called in to get the bikes. Next day, no bikes, but Deon assured us that he would push for a Friday night delivery and a specially arranged customs clearing on Saturday morning. Oh boy, that meant two nights in this rather small and sterile hotel with rather expensive Internet service. We had become accustomed to free WiFi in South America, even in the remote regions of Bolivia. Here we had to pay as much at US$ 10/hour for data transfer and Internet browsing.

The first night we took a taxi to the Canal Walk mall, which turned out to be at least as large and beautiful as any mall in the US or Canada. We needed to locate an outdoor sports store to obtain a copy of the Tracks4Africa GPS map, which had been recommended to us as the best source for all the major roads in Africa, including many dirt and gravel roads, camp sites, gas stations, game reserves and other points of interest. We purchased the software and were happy to find out that it could be loaded on more than one GPS. All set. We took advantage of being at the mall to get some nice sushi at a food court at a reasonable price and took another expensive taxi ride back to our rather austere airport hotel.

During the taxi rides we observed the left-hand traffic and the intricate right turns across traffic lanes and going clock-wise around traffic circles, precisely the opposite we were used to in North America. We would have to get used to this after we get our bikes. Everyone says it is easy, but it looks scary to us right now.

Next afternoon, a South African freight plane came in, but no bikes. Oh boy! Spoke with Deon, who assured us that he would do all he could to get the bikes in later that day and made a customs appointment for Saturday morning. Another restless night's sleep.

On Saturday morning, right at 9 am, Deon called to say that the bikes were in the warehouse and would soon be inspected by the customs official. He would send a car to get us.

It was great to see the bikes, still strapped to the trusty pallets, with the plastic sheeting removed for the customs inspection. We hooked up the batteries, connected the mirrors and windshields, cut the tie-down straps, drove the bikes off the pallets and down the ramp out of the warehouse. Hurrah, we were on our bikes again and finally starting the second half of our journey, this time mostly going north, rather than south.

 Great to see the  bikes again!!

Deon (center) and Rodney (left) moved mountains to get our bikes to us as soon as they could and without charging extra for Saturday work. Thank you follows!!!

After paying DRA's services (1,566 Rand - roughly 220 USD), we drove around the convoluted airport roads to get to our hotel to pick up our personal belongings and place them in our panniers on the bikes. On the way we filled the gas tanks and inflated the tires. It was a bit of a trick to get into the gas station by staying to the left and watching the oncoming traffic to our right. We were nervous and excited at the same time.

By now it was early afternoon and we headed for the Colts Villa Apartments, a "Self-Catering Holiday Home Away from  Home," belonging to Tony and Cheryl Heath. We had met Tony and his three friends in Buenos Aires as they were taking delivery on their motorcycles for a 6-month trip from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. Cheryl awaited us with a spacious garage for the bikes and a lovely apartment right on the race horse training grounds of Cape Town. The wind was at gale force and we decided to stay in, prepare the bikes and make a nice tour of the Cape Town area the scenic coastal roads the next day.


  1. Glad that you have been reunited with the bikes and that you have posted again. I was starting to suffer some severe blog withdrawal symptoms.... :)

  2. Here they are in Cape Town!/video/video.php?v=1743285789312&oid=216203836420&comments

  3. hi fellas,

    just getting caught up on your adventures and I must say I'm glad to see you've made it to South Africa in good order. Hopefully you've had it with the mechanical travails and the sailing will be smooth from here on in.