miércoles, 15 de mayo de 2013

Day 1 - Here we go. Or maybe not?

(If you are here just for the pics, it's probably better that you check my Facebook album)

Morning. It's cold. It feels almost new feeling cold, used as we were to sleep sweating barely 2 days ago. In a short while Craig, the guy from the rental, will come and pick us up.

First African surprise is that Craig (as almost everybody around here) don't follow the African time cliché and shows up almost 10 minutes earlier at the Bed and Breakfast we're staying. The BnB actually looks much more like a summer holiday villa for families with 2 bedrooms, 4 beds, 2 bathrooms, open kitchen, living room and even a swimming pool. There you go. 325 bucks each the night (325 zarbucks, which means around 215 rmb). BnB my ass!

We have a nice breakfast with Craig, his associate Steve (a really fun guy who resembles a lot to The Big Lebowski) and the couple of oldies who run the Lavender Cottage, talking a lot about all and nothing: our experiences in bike trips, where each one comes from, what the heck do a Spanish and a Swiss in Shanghai... the usual stuff.

After the breakfast we start our quest to buy the 2 or 3 small chips we had pending, like, for example, just to say, silly details like the malaria pills. Oh, but wait a minute, first we need an ATM and get cash and pay the rental guy. Easy peasy. Right? Well, maybe not so much. Our whole day went lost in getting our cash out of our chinese bank cards, which only work at FNB's ATMs, which happen to have operational limits of 2000 zarbucks each time you use the card (and after that your card is ejected and you need to start again) and even better, a daily limit of 10000. We need 57000 each one. And that's just for the bikes. Way to start. A ForEx office offers us to use our European cards, but only if they are credit ones (Mauro's is debit). And with a 6% commission fee. Any better offers?

After trying to hack all the possibilities, pay with almost all the USD we carried and take as much as possible from my Visa debit card, we finally could use Craig's online paying system, which only gets Visa and Master card, and where he gets ripped off by an 8% commission fee. But hey, he's the one making business here, right? Actually he was super helpful and even reduced our deposit fee to half, which was a big chunk (15000 zarbucks, almost 10000 rmb).

Finally and once the cash issue was arranged (and chifan time already reached) we get started. We manage to get the malaria pills thanks to Steve's blarney talking to the pharmacy girl (so that she would give them to us without any medical prescription) and we get all the missing details, simcard included. When we finally arrived at Craig's shop it was already past 2pm. It will go even longer up to 4.30pm fixing the luggage, learning the bikes' tricks, signing the contracts, and so forth. Only then we were ready to go.

Finally ready for pachanga
After so much paperwork and bs we barely had any daytime left to ride, nor we had any energy either, so we barely rode 50 km. But a quite intense 50 ones. For starters, the bikes are strange: very big, they have an unusual driving position, and at least mine have several little issues like that massive wind deflector which fucks my visibility of the road ahead. But step by step we get used to them.

The landscapes of the West Cape coast are just breathtaking. We go dancing with the coastline and to our left they emerge the impressive hills of Hottentots-Holland while to our right Gordons Bay opens immensely, with astonishing views that no photo camera would ever be able to capture. The road, with perfect tarmac, zigzags along the mountain shapes and taking us up and downhill so close to the sea that we can constantly smell that scent of seafood and salt. Waves break endlessly just a couple meters away from us, almost as if the sea was trying to spit at us, distracting our attention away from the road. It's hard to keep the focus on the drive, learning how to deal with this motorbike while trying to see all the landscape around us, which is worth hours of stare.

But the night comes upon us, rain included, and we need to stop as soon as we can. We find ourselves in a very small town named Betty's Bay, which looks like almost empty at this time of the year. It's easy to picture this place booming in summer (our winter), but now almost every house stays dark and with no signal of life. We follow the GPS instructions to end... watching penguins crossing the road!! WTF?! We could not take any pics since they panicked away, but you can imagine how we were both stuck dumb, our eyes on stalks, staring at the fact that the first animal we behold in AFRICA turns out to be a penguin. Fuck sake!

In the end we hit our bones in another "BnB my ass" that rips us 300 zarbucks off per person per night. South Africa promises. But it also promises cutting a big chunk off our budget.

To be continued...



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