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Couchsurfing in East London & Durban 16 – 27/04

We left Avon Heights on a chilly morning, wearing almost everything that we’ve got. Across the mountain, then through some farmland and rocky trails, the ride to East London took the better part of the day. We reached tarmac again in the afternoon, stopped for another barbecued chicken and veggies lunch, then rolled into Gonubie.

This poor fluffy jackal had been hit by a car, even in this lost land

A puzzle of suburban homes for coloreds and blacks. Something that in South Africa is called  ’township’.

Our big hearted main man from Cape Town had been the first to suggest we should meet a certain Metal Jockey. In PE it seem to be unanimously agreed that that was a good idea. So we popped in, our only chance to meet the legend. And the man, not to mention the wife and the kid, were up to the hype. Their ride reports on advrider are a must read. Our encounter was brief, but rich. These people are keeping it real. One day, if I’ll have a kid of my own, I hope I’ll have the balls to follow MJ’s example and strap him or her to my bike and keep on being myself and do what I love best. Cheers guys for the braai and book!

We left late morning and on the way we decided we would push the 675 km to Durban. Lucky that the roads are top notch! We zoomed across the picturesque Transkei countryside, stalled by STOP sighs and roadworks. In the background the Drakensberg and Lesotho lured us to future adventures. The sun followed its prescribed route and as soon as it fell behind the horizon a cold wind gripped. We arrived in the Kloof suburb of Durban metropolitan area late at night, after passing by a familiar industrial sight. It had become a habit to reach our day’s target by darkness.

In 1497 Vasco da Gama named this stretch of coast Natal (Nativity), having reached it on Christmas Day. Today Durban is the municipality of KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa’s biggest general cargo port and a mecca for holiday makers. We had come here invited by the most unlikely family that had accidentally learned about us. It looked like our couch surfing journey across South Africa would end among compatriots and now citizens of this land.  Twenty years ago, Martin and Camelia gambled their life, left a newly freed of communism Romania, and won. Today they are living a comfortably if not wealthy life, which has allowed them to own property in exotic places and even indulge in the fantasy of overland travel. In a couple of days, they would be making the fantasy a 4×4 reality, taking the road from Cape Town to Cairo and Bucharest.

One of the coolest thing is that their son, Andy is a magician. A very young & talented one. To get your mind blown by some of the most new age magic numbers though, you must travel to Durban, before this guy will explode on the international scene.

Andy’s sweetheart, the half woman, half fairy Candace, a massage therapist and healer.

We were received with Romanian meatball soup

Pork rind and red onion – another Romanian ‘snack’

Romanians must be amongst the few whites who savor African maas or amassi (sour milk). Locals eat it with pap (maize meal similar to our polenta).

Audrey, the maid. She rents a room close to Kloof for 350 rand/month (about 35 euros).

Durban has a lot to offer: bustling city life, mild beaches, great surf, hiking trails in the Kloof Gorge and a heap of pleasant cafes along Florida Road.

A funky way to recycle: making lamps out of discarded milk bottles

The new football stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup

The Scientologists couldn’t miss to have a share of the pie

South African breweries are world’s biggest.

While sorting our shit out and gearing up for the continuation of Into The World we had an attempt to do Sani Pass on a light set up, with just the tent and mattresses strapped to the bike. Even if we took the tarred road to Sani, the ride was great, the green mountains stretching forever.

Epic fail. 50 km before the border I noticed that the back Heidenau had been delaminating and soon a big piece of rubber fell off. We though we would give it a go, but at the border we decided it was too risky to head into Lesotho like that. Figure for yourselves:

So we returned to Durban, kinda pissed, even if the ride down was fantastic.

We would definitely give this place another shot

We were lucky to return to the city: the guys at Bike Gear in PE were fast in sourcing us a free replacement tyre. A quick visit to Gear Up in Umhlanga was all it took. We couldn’t find another Heidenau, so, taking into consideration the state of the roads up the East coast, we decided for a Michelin Anakee 2. Hopefully we are not sacrifing our love for off-roading in vain and this tyre will last to Europe.

But a Travellers’ life is the road, so off we went. Good bye Martin & Camelia and safe travels along the East coast of Africa!


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