Mud, trees and more trees. Eswatini!

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DirtyTeNeReLess

Grey Hound
Joined
Aug 24, 2011
Messages
9,562
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1,618
Location
Pretoria!
Bike
Yamaha T7
As mentioned in the planning a ride thread, I was hankering for an adventure, PE and CT were the first options, but due to time constraints and the distances involved, I decided against long hauls, and had a bright idea to visit Eswatini 2 days before departure. being saturated with planning throughout the year I had no energy for a over planned detailed trip, I have a mate who raves about Eswatini as he is involved in the festivals that side. so with that, I was going.

So packed some tools (biggest gripe with the T7 is the tubed wheels!), mostly for tyre changing and some socks and jocks and spare rok straps.

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Heading out I decided to stay clear of toll gates and highways and via the delmas road out of pretoria towards Hendrina, Carolina towards Baberton, I wanted to get to Maguga Dam lodge or the Mananga Lodge which came recommended, going solo alowed me to be carefree and flexible, stealth camping at a push was all on the cards.

It was an overcast day, so was nice and cool, so I just floated along, looking at all the scenery, first all the mielies and farms then the mines etc etc.

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Beautiful time, after all the rains, noticed many colourful RDP houses along the way, and some pretty decent public parks around the Carolina area surprisingly, a few townships scattered around. The town is as expected fairly small and decayed. Heading out the farmy pretoria area and all the Mielies and cabbage type things, I was in a lekker little bubble pondering life out in the sticks, I worked with a chap at Sasol who lived in Delmas and took the gautrain everyday from benoni station to get to the sandton CBD and lived in what I presume was one of these small holdings. Epic daily commute!

I started getting to the coal mines, and power stations, which is a hot potato now, noticed that almost all the mines were named ‘black diamond mine” and such Africanisms, I chuckled and imagined the names of yesteryear of these mines. The roads decaying rapidly around them and their trucks. I Hit a badly tarred road that started off potholed and quickly became a small tar pathway and then just a rutted dirt highway with the occasional tar bits and pieces, lots of things placed like barrels and stones around there are some road works seemingly were underway or coming up, it was my first dirt sections of the trip and I just smiled and opened up the Tenere moering over the ruts and rocks and decay, smooth as butter the T7 loved that and I was glad I could just hammer through it all admiring the suspension. I Hit the same road on the way back, and it was no longer holiday so the trucks were out in full force.

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Much of the same, not many photos, another T7 gripe is the fuel tank capacity, like the T6 the reserve is 5 litres so makes you nervous every time the reserve light comes on but you can do another 150ks so it's an irritation stealing some freedom.

As I was not in a rush, I told myself I would take it slow and stop and explore things on the way and in eswatini, true to my word, as I neared Barberton and the first of many many many forests I stopped at one section, as I had dreams of walking in an empty forest, smelling the moist air and just being alone, was looking for some head resetting experiences.

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So I stopped an went up a little path into the forest. I blindly attempted to power across, but my bike sank and went nowhere. WTF, then I realized I was in deep mud and sinking and slipping around like a Disney on ice pantomime in slow mo, mentally already I was retreating to a safe tar road but got through that section just without face planting. just no no traction lots of slipping and sliding and a sinking feeling. Got to the end of the path and battled to find solid ground to put my stand down.

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Re assessed my plan when I found a rock to put the stand on. And took some pics, as much as I love mud, I reminded myself that I wanted an easy trip and had a way to go still, so turned around, stuck to the grassy middle man which was also soft and slippy but offered a little less sink and more go forward.

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Hero’s that way. Zero the other way.

Also had notions of the twisties in and around forests, including some knee sliding, with my dented ego however I reigned myself back in, and carried on steadily with a new round the world traveler outlook, hoping the rain didn’t get worse as it was spitting now and again, had my wet suit in the pannier for that but too lazy to put it on. and the rain was spotty, all the while voices in my head telling me to watch out for the rain when in swatini.

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This must be the picture of the trips, stunning, I stopped at viewing pull off on some or other pass and took these. So much greenery, just amazing and other worldly.

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shot into Barberton, stopped for a burger and carried on through the pass via Barberton Nature Reserve, on google maps it looked decent and scenic from google, because there were a few lookout points in-between.

Loving the T7, it really is an do it all bike, like the T6 was but better, isn’t the absolute best at anything, but can do everything very very well. The touring with this motor is just incredible, you can really cover huge distances with a smile.

Went through the windy pass roads at the Barberton reserve, very little traffic if any, you can feel the wet air as you enter the forests and the roads of perfect and bendy. Went past a son, girlfriend, father mother group all on what looked like Harleys on the way up having their annual tour, big smiles and waves and a kindred nod as I went past, listening to the black widow exhaust sing its tune. Bit of a giveaway to anyone in that valley as to your attitude.

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Stopped once near the top, floating around all the history of the area towards the Bulembu border crossing, and the low hanging mist was spoiling any decent landscape viewing. Was getting excited to be leaving SA and seeing what Eswatini was about.

Started soaking up the history. What an amazing story, first time I learned about eswatini and the ‘Shaka Zulu of the north’ and his expansion of their little empire, apparently they were pretty good warriors and terrorized as far as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and south African areas raiding settlements and claiming them as they went. strangely another formidable african leader that died young.

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The border, post, happy to see that there was not a single person around, in fact most of the trip so far has been pretty quiet and empty on the roads, a little creepy in fact.

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Super friendly staff lots of great questions and comments from them, not invasive but friendly banter you can tell, by the way the address you and speak to you that these guys are different, Paid R100 conservation fee and off I went, new country! Glad that it was cooler, but not sure what lay ahead in the mountains. Going through the little border post towns and settlements, all forest activity oriented, from a time long gone by, felt like an explorer in a time capsule.

Found the roads into the forest were mostly full of rocks at first and started opening the throttle a bit and getting cockier and cockier and just enjoying myself, I came round a bend that dropped off sharply and suddenly to find myself going too fast and on the wrong side of the road to think about sudden swerving actions as I was coming right up to a seriously muddy section I would have avoided if I had the time and talent.

I slowed down as much as possible in the now muddy and not any more rocky road leading up to this muddy bog, and just heading for the largest trench as the smaller ones looked too deep and sinister, slipped along the gully expected to see my arse come past me, but luckily the wall was enough to stop my back wheel going horizontal, in an instinct split second action to counter the slide I was in I pointed the front wheel out of the trench, preparing to see mud face first, I came to a stop as below, adrenaline was going.

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Climbed off here for a few minutes to reassess myself and just listened to the forest noises, no one nothing around since almost delmas. Ok ok, maybe the drop in the road was not as sudden or sharp, I was having fun and its my story...

Other than that, I saw a cow on the road, which was the first alive thing I saw since the border, so to entertain myself I took a picture. Moo. The black widow pipe did its duty as I went passed. Can see why these docile beasts have become food.

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Carried on through piggs peak, which in my mind was like a sun city casino, looked at the maps and decided as it was still early like 11am, I would just shoot to Maguga dam for a look see first, as I intended to go to Mananga Lodge for night one.

I was told this place had gone to the dogs, so just wanted to see a bit of eswatini, and floated around a bit doing the loop I ear marked on google maps. my standards are very low regarding accommodation, so I was curious. Nice little roads here, everyone going about your business and youngsters super friendly offering me swazi gold to smoke. Seems like a thing.

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I crossed the dam wall and went in to say hello. And asked a few questions, well I stayed and for R640 I booked in the night, they offered a couple units, one they said just a ‘few’ stairs, which ended up being a couple flights of long steps, that looked ok to go down but not back up. So traded that for a higher up one, so I can have my bike close. Beer, wifi and bed sorted.


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I had ideas to head to the lodge the next day. Learned a lot and researched the history to compliment what I had seen throughout the day, eswatini I think uses something like 240 MW of power, requiring a generation capacity increase to 350 MW in the next decade or two, they have a number of hydro dams mainly funded by SA and built in partnership with SA supplying their power and the rest and bulk comes from SA. It was a thunderstorm brewing that night, and the power tripped a few times, but came back on within minutes each time. Just seems tiny when compared to our power requirements, gigawatts.

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The next day, I had the breakfast and plotted the route out, again I figured while I was nearby I would go and see the sibebe rock, and maybe loop back to the low veld and the lodge that was recommended by everyone.


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The weather gods were not playing along, It was drizzling in the am, again too lazy to put the rain suit on, I ventured out to the see this rock, hoping for the rain to go away by the time I got there.

I took the turn off to the rock, and followed the dirt roads here is an example. of the mess.

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very wary of the mud situation left from the rains, the terrain was odd, some clay muddy sections, but the surface getting closer to the rock almost had a sea sand type of texture to it, hard so you won’t sink into it, but it has a slippery initial layer on it that gives way underfoot easily that was interesting and the camber in the roads made progress slow.

I was meandering nicely, going down down down, and came to a rise in the road, that looked messy, it was steep enough for me to pause and consider an approach.

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I walked it first, it was a puddled rutted mess, there was a section on the left that looked like my best bet, but given the slipperiness I didn’t like the idea that if I slipped off that it would be into that deep rutted section, I would have had to climb off and walk it up through the mud and puddles and I was not in the mood for that kind of adventure, my panniers on they would break the fall and probably themselves. We all know the camera removes the angles, but still. I will mention it again just in case any man badge police are lurking here. The camera makes it look flat!

In my defense, I spoke to the people that lived next to this, and they said everyone gets stuck, BUT there was another way to go the other side of their dwelling, so I tried that way, which started off as a nice twee spoor, and immediately became a grassy swamp for 20 metres. These guys were super friendly and had no issues telling me that they wanted pictures of each of the kids on my bike.

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The rain was always threatening, and I was not in the mood for a battle.

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So I decided to leave it for another trip and headed off back to the ‘loop’ road I ear marked on google, just following my nose, ended up in Mancini curious to see the way of life there, and well, I then realized that I was close to Foresters, that was recommended on the planning thread.

I zipped into town and just floated around a bit like a proper tourist, And happy to be not face down in a muddy ditch somewhere seeking assistance. Learned a lot about their king and his 370 wives and their palace. He tried to slow AIDS down by banning sex before marriage or age and then married a young wife himself and broke the rule. He seems like a friendly fellow. Last African monarch.

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Heading towards Foresters is just breath taking, I got exactly what I wanted, a deep green, moist forest, winding roads and deep into the forest, no idea what to expect at foresters but was bracing for something simple. Going through Mhlambanyatsi in the forests, you can see finally some decent familiar looking quality houses in-between all the trees and dams. Imagining living here, cut off.

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This place is just amazingly well done, from a different time, self sufficient for the most part, lots of history on the walls, and news papers in the lounge, proper colonial stuff. R1200 for dinner, beers, and breakfast and board. the food was far to fancy and rich for my peasant pallet, but good. unusual tastes as all fresh and locally made, breads, jams, pasta etc.

Checked in and did a hike through the forests to the Usutu forest country club, just enjoying being alone and very quiet in forests, only company I had was some donkeys floating around in the forest.

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The next day was up for breakfast, and high tailed it out of there, went through the Ngwenya border post and followed a similar route home via Carolina, and that dirt road now packed with coal trucks, those guys just don’t give a toss and moer through there without a worry in the world. I got stuck between two at one point.

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Was a lekker why not trip, with minimal to no planning involved, good to see other places and feel like I went away. Eswatini is certainly a place to go on a bike, pretty affordable as well and a measly 380ks away from Pretoria. The people are great, open friendly and engaging. Can’t help but draw comparisons between our people and theirs, there is a confidence there that is missing. definatly going back, with a new bike.
 
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