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AFRICA


Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

ZEN AND A SPARKPLUG SPANNER

When the invitation came to go to Magoebaskloof for the 4x4 challenge, we knew that this has to be done on Impi! We don’t really know this part of the world, but know that if we head towards Polokwane we’ll find it – the start of a brand new adventure!

We set out on a friggin freezing Jo’burg day; luckily as the monkey I was wrapped up in blankies, scarves and more… the sun thankfully came out just outside Pretoria, and let me tell you this was more than (a warmer) welcome.

We made our way via Roedtan (close to Marble Hall, and I swear that it does not exist, unless it is a shed of some sort) and believe it or not, this was a fantastic trip down memory lane. So how would this be possible if we’ve never been? Well there were the most beautiful cotton plantations, and that took us right back to Std. 1 (or Gr. 3 nowadays). People in their 30’s would possibly remember that we had to cut labels out of clothing showing the cotton sign, and any child of the 80s would know that Polyester was high fashion in those days, so “cotton labels” were very hard to come by. Ultimately if you want to show your kids beautiful raw cotton, take your sidecar for a ride – it’s as good an excuse as any.

Well in typical Wheeler style we ran out of petrol 53kms outside Polokwane. So like any good parent Greg juiced Impi up, and into the city we go to get more juice, just in case….

We are glad to report that we saw Moria; you know that place of pilgrimage in South Africa? So it’s a mountain, and not far from there is a very weird steel structure. So if anyone knows what this is, please let us know otherwise we’ll just write it off as an unidentified steel object.  Eventually we reached our destination, Magoebaskloof Hotel. For a second we thought we were in the wrong place because the luxury is something that us working class citizens is simply not used to. We have a beautiful room and… well just look at the picture to take in the view! Absolutely magnificent!

Like any thirsty traveller, we explored the pubs in the area. At the hotel is the Phoenix and Fireman, in memory of when the hotel burned down a while ago – some of the original pub has been restored and is incorporated into the new pub. I must make special mention of the barman – Moses – he caters not only for thirsty travellers, but anyone who wants a coffee, wine or beer.

Not far from the hotel is the Iron Crown pub. Now The Iron Crown is definitely worth talking about, not only did we meet our hosts Malcolm and Mignon here but we also got a lot of free drinks! The “Crown” has a bell in the bar area where if it is rung the person who rung the bell has to buy every patron in the pub a round. This particular eveing we were sure that the bell was located above the entrance to the pub. The bell was rung so often that you did not even have time to finish your current round and the next one was quing up. Scared of all the free drinks coming our way (and being on Impi) we did the responsible thing and left, to alternating calls of “old fogies” and “can’t handle it can you, you soft Gautengers”. We did however get our own back and drove Impi past the pub which promtly brought the pub to a standstill as they had not seen such a stange moster as Impi.

If you’re driving between Polokwane and Tzaneen towards the Magoebaskloof pass you’ll find Haenertsburg (also home to the “Crown”) perched up in the hills nestled between a lot of dams and rich forest land. Haenertsburg looks like a little bit of Europe transplanted into Africa. It’s a tiny village with only one main street and has a rich history as a result of the gold rush in 1887. This is where we started to hunt down (you guessed it) – battle fields and guns.

The first place was obvious, the War Memorial in Haenertsburg which was erected in memory of local residents who died in the Makgoba War.

We learned here that arms deals with the French are definitely not something new – these guns were bought by Pres. Kruger from the French and were then better known as Creosot Guns (155mm). The famous Gen. Buller and his gentlemen nicknamed them “Long Toms” which put Kruger and his chinas’ noses out of joint. This meant war, because no one should dare to make fun on a boer and his big gun.

We also learned that once the Long Toms were distributed to various points in South Africa from their original home in Pretoria the guns were used without their special base plates (which traditionally would keep them in place after firing them). The recoil would send the gun back 40 metres, this proved to be an excellent exit strategy by the boers.

As we all know the boers had a fantastic sense of humour, so the story goes that they fired one of these guns into a Brittish camp on Christmas day. The shell was filled with Christmas cake, a Union Jack and a note “It are Christmas – enjoy your cake”. Obviously the English were fresh out of yorkshire pudding, mint and tea, so they retaliated by “nipping the tip” off the Long Tom. The gun got repaired, and was fondly known as “The Jew” thereafter. “The Jew” now rests at the Haenertsburg memorial and is one of two Long Toms that was destroyed in the area.

Apparently the cemetry at Haenertsburg is a very popular picnic spot frequented by “bergies” when the moon is full (well this is what Mignon our hostess told us anyway). Our curious nature took us straight there, and looking at the views it’s understandable, but very much like the twilight zone. I’m sure if you go on a midnight picnic you pack a wooden stake next to your bottle of dry white….

Mignon was right – there is a beautiful picnic ground just outside the cemetry, and is also popular amongst hikers (the trail is close by, but as you know I don’t walk). Beautiful views to the Ebenezer dam, plantations and forestry, it’s any property developer’s dream. Unfortunately taken up by a bunch of dead people.

The day of the 4x4 challenge dawned upon us with a beautiful surprise, this time Malcolm spoilt us to the old “Coachman’s road”. Let’s say that this is for the more adventurous amongst us, however I think with a name like “Wheeler” we qualify at birth (or marriage), especially when halfway down Greg suddenly yells “we have no front brakes”! Obviously I hit panic stations and tried to McGuyver an anchor out of 6 used tissues, lipstick, 3 Fishermans Friends and a handbag strap. This did not work and I invoked the ancient and forrgotten sidekar monkey art of “Deja Fu”. It’s quite easy, you concentrate really hard, feeling that you have been here before and scream “FU**”. Eventually Greg couldn’t keep the giggles any longer and told me that he was kidding. This did not help, as he was laughing so hard he could not see where he (and by extension we) were going.
(Greg: “How would you know? You were still leaning over the bike on my side making sure that the brakes actually still worked”)

To find this road take the road called “Apple” (yes, I know it’s strange and the locals pronounce it “Aaaapple”) from George’s Valley side, you’ll either end up at the Magoebaskloof Hotel or the Pig and Plough (another pub in the area).

Pig and Plough possibly makes the best pizza in the Southern Hemisphere, and apparently is also frequented by one of our sidecar buddies. We don’t know who you are, but we know that you have a red Tourist and stop at the Pig and Plough for the odd pizza! Next time we’ll make sure that we meet you buddy.

When we arrived at the 4x4 challenge we had a lot of people wondering if we didn’t get lost.

I’m happy to report however that this was not Greg’s famous English navigation skills in action. We were definitely at the right place. Personally I think that they were scared that we would enter the challenge and show them Impi’s superiour Russian skills.

There were various hubs where you can enjoy the action, personally I enjoyed “The Beach” the most. The Beach is located on the Letaba River and you’re carted to the hub on the back of a 4x4 bakkie. On the “Beach” the 4x4s did the most amazing things. However none of the were as good as Impi and by that afternoon we were more excited about the party. Tonight we will celebrate the 4x4 okes hard work of the day. It would be an evening of dancing on the tables and loads of R&Rs. Apparently they make the tables fresh every year because they get broken under the weight of stomping feet.

The party was great, but we learned that the bulk of Tzaneen attended a Steve Hofmeyr concert. In typical boer style Steve also had very bad timing.The band, Clint and Co. did an acceptable U2, everybody went mad for these dudes. When we eventually left it was so cold that we froze, climbing off the bike we could not even move our hands.

The next day we decided to point Impi to the four winds and headed to Modadjiskloof (Duiwelskloof), expecting it to be massivly twisty we were disapointed that it was more or less straight and flat.  It’s here that Greg managed to talk us out of yet another fine while we sped out of town towards a beckoning cappucinno.

We obviously had to stop at the famous big Baobab tree to see if they didn’t serve beer instead of caffeine. Unfortunately they don’t serve anything and make you pay to get into the tree. I would suggest that you take your own eats and drinks or the alternatively drive a little bit further down the road to stop at Tzaneen Country Club – they definitely serve it all.

The Baobab tree is massive, and you can actuall walk into it. It’s very much like Noah’s ark – you can only go in two by two. The sad thing about this marvel is that you have to make up your money’s worth by taking loads of photos. We couldn’t get the tree to do different poses, so they pretty much look all the same.

After all our adventures in the Tzaneen area, it was time for us to turn back to Jo’burg, back to the proverbial salt mines. In typical Impi style he decided on the scenic route towards the Kruger National Park. We set out to drive towards Hoedspruit, Graskop, Pilgrims Rest, Hazy View, etc. Obviously this was a quick scouting mission so that we would know where to go on our next trip. A quick stop at Mad Dogz (just outside Hoedspruit) for breakfast would set us right for our expedition. Whenever you’re in the area, doesn’t matter what you do – go to Mad Dogz! Well worth the stop.

Well friends, let me tell you, this day life had other plans for us! Impi must have picked up a nasty flu during our visit to Magoebaskloof. He spluttered along from Ohrigstad to Sabie where we had to stay over, and finally called it quits at Milly’s just outside Machadodorp. Greg didn’t know it at the time of the photo, but he is definitely praying. The strange thing is that we found zen in a sparkplug spanner. We would lovingly change Impi’s sparkplugs when he needed it, we cleaned his airfilter fed him Med-Lemon…

Unfortunately Impi’s flu could not be fixed by the usual Med-Lemon remedy and the three Wheelers had to be rescued. When we got rescued we discovered that not all super heroes wear their underwear on the outside of their pants. Isaac from Sidecar Africa arrived at Milly’s not long after we placed our SOS, and let me tell you he was a welcome sight! I’m pretty sure that Greg and I kissed him all over while he was trying to get Impi on the trailer for our Jo’burg destination. Sadly Milly’s burnt to the ground on the Friday after we were collected, we pormise that we had nothing to do with this.

So would we do this again? HELL YEAH – HAVE PETROL WILL RIDE! Adventure riding is all about having fun, exploring our beautiful country and the odd breakdown. It builds great character and will hopefully help you find zen in those funky pieces of steel such as spanners that you lug around with you.

Written by Greg and Louise Wheeler