Welcome to Bob’s Biking Blog. This is to record and report the adventures, trials, tribulations and all the excitement and action (well perhaps not all the action, but at least as much as is publishable) of my trip to South Africa with the Abu Dhabi Harley Owners Group. We’ll be tripping from 1st to 10th October. Wherever and whenever I can get access to a computer there will be a new post from me – but anyone else is welcome to comment – please keep it civil and as clean as you can manage.
So after a short pause for Bubbles to recover from the prospect of having to take a Sporster with to quote him “more ass hanging off the seat than on it” and then another pause while he fitted his 12 inch windscreen which he had loving dragged with him all the way from Abu Dhabi, we finally mounted up and headed off like so many intrepid explorers in South Africa before us, in search of Gold. Our destination was a sedate 50 or so kilometers away at Gold Reef City. What was once a highly productive gold mine has been tranformed into a theme park. It is possessed of all the requisite tackiness of a theme park and is a thinly disguised mechanism for extracting as much money from its visitors as possible once they have paid their entrance fees. But when in Rome… We opted for the full two and half hour tour including a historical film about the discovery of gold, a visit underground into the mine workings and a demonstration of pouring a real gold bar. We arrived at about midday, and the tour started at 2pm so we repaired to Mugg and Bean for provisions – its a South African franchise so if its going to be any good its going to be here we thought and we were undoubtedly right. Portions enough to satisfy any hungry prospector, and very tasty – and that was just the waitress. Anyway, stuffed and satiated we wandered over to the meeting point and met our guide Patricia. She proceeded to take us on an excellent and informative tour of the mine – at least the highest level – the mine when working went down about 3000 metres, but most of that is now flooded and we went down to 290 metres. We were equiped with shiny yellow hard hats and a very slick miner’s lamp with a lithium battery that weighed almost nothing – a far cry from those halcyon days of Kit Hill and Devon Great Consols armed with a similar lamp, but a whacking great lead-acid battery to provide the power. After a rather sedentary descent we stepped out into mine – and followed a short trail explaining the process of digging the levels, shoring up the roof, using explosives and getting the gold bearing rock out of the ground – we saw an actual gold seam and if I remember patricia’s explanation correctly it required shifting a ton of rock to get 4 grammes of gold – interestingly if perhaps not surprisingly the white workers got paid about double what the black ones recieved. An hour or so later, we re-surfaced and the tour concluded with a demonstration of pouring gold from crucible, into a mould to produce an ingot of gold. It certainly felt like the real thing when i picked it up. It was certainly heavy enough to be worth about 400,000 dollars, probably the largest amount of money i’ve had in my hand at any one time – and with the price of gold increasing by the minute it increased by about 3 percent in the time I had it in my hand. Blinking back out in the sunlight we rounded up the stragglers and headed back towards civilisation although unfortunately got caught up in the rush hour traffic – now i really appreciate those wings i fitted on my bike to keep the heat of one’s nether regions – you don’t feel the heat off those 96 cubic inches when you are cruising along, but stuck in a traffic jam and everything soon gets unbearably hot. Eventually we had to pull over on to the hard shoulder – which is apparently illegal in South Africa unless you have actually broken down. Our solution, very kindly endorsed by one of the local traffic police (also a biker) was to scoot along the hard shoulder so that we didnt have to stop – although even doing that it took us a good hour and a half to navigate our way the mere 50 cliks back to civilization and slide into our seats at a fine restaurant near the B&B. The name of the place was Rocket I believe and aside from a fantastically accomodating waitress and barman who fixed us all kinds of wierd drinks including a watermelon marguerita and fantastically tasty steaks, it boasted pound for pound more cute blondes than I have seen for a long time … there’s a joke there somewhere about rocket in your pocket, as well as in the salad and in the name of the restaurant, but i’m too tired to work it out, so just exercise your imagination.
Now its time to introduce you to my riding companions, I did think to change the names in order to protect the innocent, but then take a closer look at the photo – which one of those could be even remotely described as innocent! So from left to right we have Bubbles – normally you would think that the shades are part of biker cool, but i suspect in this case it was because of the gallon of Drambuie he consumed even before we left Abu Dhabi, accompanied by our good buddy Jack who came with us all the way on the flight the night before. Then there’s Mike the Bike – he was the instigator, organiser, tour guide and generalissimo of the whole event, ably supported and sustained by next in line Jayne with a “Y” his decidedly better half – clutching the club mascot. Just behind her is Jim – he’s the biker’s biker – and if ever there was the epitome of “ride it like you stole it” that’s Jim! Next, at the front, is Tania or rather to give her her full name and title: “Hi, my name’s Tania and I drop bikes.” And to give her full credit she managed to drop her’s before we’d even got out of the parking lot – nothing like living the dream! Just behind her – that’s me – I’m at the back, coz as anyone who knows me would agree I’m the shy retiring type. In the blue bandanna we have Max, he’s our emiratization programme – with him we’ve acheived 12.5% which is way beyond even our stretch target for a private sector enterprise. He’s also a man with a mission, but you’ll get to find out more about that as the plot thickens and unfolds… And so that brings us to our final and indeed most magnificent member Jo, a gracious lady of harley who doesn’t take crap from anyone, least of all from Jim her faithful side-kick, chauffeur and oh yes, husband.
After a lavish breakfast we eagerly waited for the cars to collect us and take us to pick up the bikes. One hour later we were still sat on the side of the road wondering what had happend. Eventually the drivers showed up with mumbled apologies and we sped ( i exaggerate a little here) towards the harley shop no more than a couple of
miles away – along the way we managed to lose one of cars who turned left when he should have turned right and showed up another half an hour behind us.
Roger the carefree cabbie then whisked us away to an upmarket northern Jo’berg suburb to our first night’s accomodation – a great little B & B – fantastic facilities, good food and an all round wholesome and warm welcome.
You know that old saying the best laid plans of mice and men etc. Well my original intention was to do a daily update or at least post something every other day. However the dearth of internet access coupled with being kn*ck*red at the end of each day didn’t do much for that plan. So here I am already back in Abu Dhabi, but with a mountain of photos and an even larger mountain of video footage to slog through to find the best shots – not so dissimilar to the gold miners digging through tons of rock to find the odd ounce of gold – but more of that later. We had an uneventful flight on Etihad. The only bright spot was Cassandra, one of the stewardesses whose delightful countenance made a seven and a half hour flight almost a pleasure. Here’s a photo of the South African Adventuresome Eight at the airport in Jo’berg.