Thursday, December 28, 2006

5200 km: Birthday Party in the Bike Shop

My bike has had its first birthday and all in all it has been a positive experience, except for the fact that I could not have a birthday party for the bike because it was in the repair shop.

The most frustrating part of owning a Gomoto has been that I could not get reliable and quick service from the Gomoto dealer that sold the bike to me.

I just received my Gomoto back from this dealer, yesterday (27 December 2006) after they had it for a full month. Somebody had borrowed my motorbike in the second last week of November and when I got it back about 8 or 9 wheel spokes in the rear wheel was broken. The wheel was wobbling all over the place.

I asked the bike dealer to replace the spoke rim with a new solid rim, as I had found out that this is indeed possible. I phoned the dealer every day for a week to find out what the progress was with the replacement. From what I could piece together from his answers is that Gomoto did not have any solid wheel rims available and that the next shipment would only arrive in a month's time. (I was told this in November, but apparently they still have not arrived.) The dealer said that Gomoto would let him know the next day if they could provide me with a wheel from one of their new bikes, but nothing came from that. I then asked the dealer to please fix the spokes.

After being without a bike for one week I was beginning to become very agitated. They finally offered to give me one of their Gomotos on loan, and I really appreciated that. In fact, I just stopped calling them.

Then, yesterday, as I was climbing up Table Mountain with some family members I received a call from the Gomoto dealer to inform me that my bike is fixed. The cost was R150 and he asked if I could please urgently bring their motorbike back because they need it. I was in Cape Town until late in the afternoon, and I thought that I waited so long for them to fix my bike, that they would not mind to receive their bike the next day. At 17:05 I received a very agitated call from the dealer asking where his bike was. I decided not to argue and took the bike back and paid for mine.

When I had received the bike, it did not have a drop of petrol in it. I had to push it to the petrol station next door to fill it up. I returned it to them with a near full tank.

I immediately became even more frustrated when I could not start my bike. It's battery was flat. I had to kick-start it. And as I was driving home the second of my front indicators fell off.

It is probably too much to wish for, but in my dreams I imagine a Gomoto dealer who would actually have noticed that my indicators were broken while they were fixing the spokes and given me a call suggesting that they replace them or put something more durable on and provide me with a quote. I really get the impression that this dealer really don't care.

I asked him why it took so long to fix my bike. He explained that their mechanic had become sick and actually passed away. They needed to appoint a new mechanic. In the mean time his son was working for them and they could only get to the most important tasks.

I reckon that those are very special circumstances and probably requires me to be more sympathetic. And I really feel bad for them. But I still feel un-cared for as their customer, especially since this is not the first time that I've had long delays in having my bike fixed.

I asked the dealer if he would call me when new stock of the solid rimmed wheels arrive. He said that it would not happen before the middle and end of January and that I should rather call them closer to the time. Again his response makes me feel as though he is not really interested in giving me the service that I would like.

I know that this is my experience with a specific dealer. I am currently debating with myself if I should not find another dealer in a town nearby. It would be more inconvenient, but what can be worse than to be without one's bike for a month at a time (twice in one year!.)

In the mean time, I am trying to find a solution to my broken indicators. Francois suggested that I look at indicators on offer by motorward.

I have also e-mailed a few bike-shops in Cape Town to get quotes and solutions from them.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yet another Gomoto Experience

Yesterday I received yet another e-mail from a computer friend, Brady Kelly

He writes about his recently acquired Gomoto. I attach his experiences to this post:

Hi Weiers

I’ve just seen your recent blog updates, and I was quite impressed by the Ceres trip. I’m curious as to how the little engine handles long stretches.

I’m also curious as to my indicators. The bulbs seem to blow for nothing. Both my front units broke, one from vibration and one from catching the bike from falling over, and since I repaired them they seem to be like candle flames.


Brady Kelly

PS, I’m glad to see you also enjoyed Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Would you believe it was recommended reading on a first year computer science course?

It is interesting that he also experienced problems with broken indicators. One of my rear indicators broke relatively early in the life of my Gomoto, but that was my own stupidity due to over eagerness to demonstrate the effectiveness of a remote starter from 50 meters away. Little did I realise that my bike was in gear. (See a similar experience by Brady just further on)

Recently on my trip to Ceres, my right front indicator also just fell off. It cracked all by itself for no reason. It is now stuck on with some glue, but I think that I would like to put new indicators on when I get the opportunity.

Here is a follow up e-mail from Brady.

Hi Weiers

I’ve had mine for about two months now, and use it daily for my 15km commute to work. It really takes a lot of pain out of a freeway stretch that would normally take nearly an hour by car, and makes it 15 minutes!

I’m also sure your indicator just fell off. My front left did that, but I noticed it wobbling quite a lot so I pulled off and as I touched it it broke off. They really are cheap and nasty, and while bit of Pratley Steel is holding them together now, I am going to look for new ones. In my school years I went through a couple of indicators and there are lots out there.

Talking about electrics, I provided some entertainment in town yesterday when I accidentally nudged the start button. The bike leapt forward off the side stand, and like a stupid I grabbed it by the handle-bars to pick it up. Of course the engine was still running, so my grabbing action wheelied it up for lots of laughs from bystanders. No damage though.


Hehe, Brady, I hope you continue enjoying your Gomoto. Thanks for the contribution.


Due to a sudden rush of Spam-comments on my blog, I've enabled word verification. I hope it solves the problem.

I also hope that it does not detract readers from leaving their comments.

A Friend's Gomoto

Francois and I have become friends as a result of my blog. A few weeks ago he sent me some pictures of his his Gomoto. He keeps it in tip-top shape. I still plan to make time to go and visit Francois in Riebeek Valley - on the back of my Gomoto, of course.

He writes:
Hello Weiers,

Included are more descriptive pics and one of the Riebeeck Valley that
might be used as a wallpaper. Customizations include: Changed the
indicators, Moved the Ignition switch to between the dials, Changed the tail
light to an LED version.

For more info on Riebeeck Valley please visit the following website:
Riebeek Valley Handbook : The guide which tells you everything about the
Riebeek Valley

Please feel free to ask for more info if needed for your Website.


Look at where Francois' ignition switch is situated. This seems like a very good idea to me.

(Did I mention that my one indicator just fell off during my trip to Ceres? This seems to be a common problem with our gomotos and Francois solved it by fitting some custom indicators.)

I like the box on the back of his motorbike.

Friday, December 01, 2006


My work held their year-end function at the Houw Hoek Inn in the Elgin Valley past Grabouw.

My wife was teaching, so I drove to this brunch with my motorbike. I over-estimated how long it would take me to get there and I found myself there 40 minutes before the function was scheduled to start.

So I stopped at the Houw Hoek Farm Stall and discovered this. It somehow made me think of my Gomoto. The writing on the edges of the wrapper seems to indicate that the product comes from Russia. But a search of the Internet seems to point to its origins in Brazil.

I bought this packet of sweets for about R2.75.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Klara Majola

As soon as a person drives over the crest of the Gydo pass, just outside Ceres, there is an unobtrusive turnoff to the left with the sign, Agter-Witzenberg. It is a narrow road that leads through the mountains and opens up inside a completely new valley filled with vinyards and fruit-trees.

Klara Majola lived in this remote farm community with her father who was blind and the rest of the family.

On the 31'st of July 1950, the Cape newspaper Die Burger ran the following news item which I loosely translate here.

Frozen in the Veld
Went searching for her blind father

Ceres. -- An 8 year old black girl froze to death one night in the last week after she went looking for her blind father and got lost. She is Klara Majola. She lived on Mr. Ernst van Dyk's far, Die Eike, in Agter-Witzenberg.
Klara made it a habit to lead her blind dad around the farm and to take him to places where he could gather wood. Later she would then go fetch him.
Her mother went to a nearby farm during the day. She came back at dusk and wanted to go fetch her husband, but Klara offered to do it.
It appears that she could not find her father and got lost. The workers and other occupants of the farm went to look for her. Her father answered their call, but Klara could not be found. Shortly after finding her father, it started to Rain.
Mr. Van Dyk only heard about the events the next day. He immediately gathered a search party. Klara was found dead in a road.
It appears that she slipped over some rocks in a stream and fell into the water. She was to cold and frozen to get up. Her one arm was under her body and the other hand was in her mouth.
It was particularly cold that night and a thick layer of snow had fallen.
This story has been taken up in various ways in Afrikaans literature.

D.J. Opperman was so affected by the story that he wrote a poem about it in Engel uit die klip, Tafelberg, 1951.

Klara Majola

Klara Majola wou haar vader
toe die skemer sak, gaan haal
waar hy, die blinde, hout vergader;
maar Klara Majola het verdwaal.

Klein Klara Majola lê verkluim
in die Bokkeveld se bros kapok,
haar arms en bene bruin
en kromgetrek soos wingerdstok.

Klara Majola, die koue geweld
sif stadiger oor my uit die ruim.
maar nooit sal ek in die Bokkeveld
so warm, Klara Majola, soos jy verkluim.

D.J. Opperman

The story was also transformed into a story by Boerneef in a compilation, Teen die Helling. The title of this story was "Klara Mentoor".

Anyway. The point is that I had the privilege of driving into that very same valley with my Gomoto over the week-end. At that stage I did not know the significant link that it had to the literature that I grew up with. But still, I am happy to have been there.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Other people's Gomoto Experiences

I have not been very active on this blog for about a month. This has mainly been due to the fact that I sometimes struggle to balance work-life, family-life, and the life required by my dreams. The Gomoto-blog fits into my dream life, and it took a back-seat for a while.

An interesting phenomenon that has been happening though, is that people e-mail me with their experiences of their Gomotos and some even ask me for advice because they are considering investing in a Gomoto. I am really enjoying this. I also get quite a number of hits every week from people who searched Google for "Gomoto" or "Gomoto Motorcycles".

Up until now my advice has been very positive. Yes! By all means, go ahead and buy it! You will really enjoy it. I say this because I am enjoying my Gomoto, not because anybody has asked me to say this.

A week or so ago I received this e-mail from Daniel Dobinson. Daniel has commented on my blog before. He is also a proud owner of a Gomoto. He gave me permission to publish his e-mail on my blog as long as I take responsibility for the spelling mistakes (Fortunately Firefox 2 has a built-in spell checker).
Hey Weiers

Well, remember I told you that i bought a Gomoto-just like yours! Well, its also red but has the mags on the wheels. Thought I'd update you about my thoughts on it(I've run out of work!)

Well, firstly, it's just as fun as any other bike I've had! I was really surprised to find that a tiny engine and old school bike could be so much fun. I've owned a 250cc motocross bike and a CBR400 before and I think it's really just the freedom (from traffic jams?) a bike gives you thats so wonderful.

I've fitted it with a bike box so now the only inconvenience of motorcycling has been
removed. I can now go for runs after work, do some limited shopping and go to the beach with all my paraphernalia stuffed in the back.

I've done 1000km on it so its first free service is due. I have reservations about the type of service that I'll get from 2 wheel mecca, because so far its been a bit on the slack side. My complaints are thus: the front fender came with a weird stain on it that can't be removed. The sales guy assured me it will be replaced on the first service but I'll wait and see if that occurs.

The alarm (which is endlessly entertaining) has already packed in so I've disconnected it- I hope its under some warranty of sorts cos it's a handy thing to have. The last thing is that my carburetor hasn't been adjusted properly and so I've fiddled with it a bit but have to have the choke on the middle setting for it to run without bogging down after 7000 revs. I have tried to get they guys at 2 wheel mecca to look at it but they've never really fixed it so hopefully the mechanic will be able to to a proper job when i finally get it in for its service.

Well thats it. I'm really happy with it and soon my girlfriend will be riding it to work, in which case I might have to buy one for myself! Just wanted to let you know. I think the Gomoto sales must be booming because I see at least a couple every day on the roads and give them a good toot-tooting as we pass each other. I haven't taken it off road yet but plan on doing so soon!


PS: I a friend recently took part in a rally on a Gomoto... to Oudtshoorn! took him 9
hours apparently.

De Hellenwagen

There is an Afrikaans folk tale of Jan Ellis who worked as a postal driver in the mid-nineteenth century in the Western cape. He worked on the route between Ceres and Wellington. One night he was riding his postal cart, drawn by 4 horses. He had six passengers with him. It was the beginning of winter and there was a chill in the air. His passengers were wrapped in blankets to keep the cold out.

I took this picture at the Posryers museum in Ceres

Jan Ellis reached the deepest and narrowest section of Bain's Kloof at midnight. The rider, the horses, and the passengers were all very tense. At one stage they came to a sharp turn and the horses came to a standstill. They began to snort and push themselves backward. Jan Ellis had to do everything in his power to control the horses (or they would have gone over the precipice).

It was then that they heard the sound of an oncoming wagon. They could clearly hear it rattle over the rocks. Then the wagon appeared in the dim moonlight and they could see that it was going at an incredibly high and uncontrollable speed.

In the darkness this wagon was chasing over rocks, stones and bushes, where, even at day a person could only move at walking speed!

As the wagon came closer, its tent came into view. There was a driver in front. And it was clear that there was no way to avoid a collision. It seemed as though the wagon was going to ride right through Jan's postal cart. With a devilish noise the wagon came closer. The passengers saw six mules pulling the wagon: their bodies glistening with sweat and their mouthes wide open and foaming.

Fearfully Jan shouted at them, "Where the Devil are you going!"

"We're going to Heellll!" came a long drawn out shout from the ghost wagon, followed by a satanic laughter that made all the passenger's blood curdle.

As this apparition came closer and closer, the passengers on Jan's postal cart jumped off and fled into the dark fynbos. With just a few steps left before the collision the ghost wagon swerved . Right across them the driver of this wagon looked around and pushed his cape back revealing his face: white as that of a dead person, with brightly glowing orange eyes. Then that blood-curdling laughter came again and the wagon disappeared into the night.

A week later the news came to Wellington that Jan Ellis drove his post-cart into a ravine in Bain's Kloof. It seems as though he had to swerve for an oncoming vehicle.

Apparently the story still does the rounds in the Ceres Wellington area, that a fiery wagon drives through these passes at a high speed, forcing other vehicles to turn out and fall down the steep cliffs.

Yesterday I found a rational explanation for this story.

It was a GOMOTO!

My Gomoto at the highest section of Bain's Kloof Pass. (More photos of the kloof in the slide show account of my latest expedition posted just two blogs ago.)


"Die Vuurwa". An Afrikaans short story published in Afrika Vertel 2, a composition of short stories for South African high school learners. Editors: Annah Siteyini, Sidney Miller. Publishers: Nasou Via Afrika: Capetown. 2006. The story is an adaptation of a similar story recorded by Abel Coetzee.

This kind of story can be traced back to early Germanic folklore of over 2400 years ago. It then spread across Europe in different forms. Sometimes it made mention of a wild chase of a group of wild spirits under leadership of Wodan, the chief of the Teutonic deities. In the Netherlands the story became known as "The Fiery Wagon", or hellewagen.

Who knows, perhaps this blog will cause some people in future generations to talk about the Fiery Gomoto, a fiery motorbike and its driver from Hell :-).


My Gomoto seems to draw admirers everywhere I go :-)

Or perhaps it is just the fact that a stranger with a helmet rips out a camera from beneath his Gomoto Suit and starts clicking at name boards in a a busy downtown Ceres.

When these guys saw the camera they rushed to pose for a shot.

4703 km: Trip to Ceres

Correction: I did my calculations again. I did not travel 450km on that day. I did in fact travel 350km's. Sorry for misrepresenting the information.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Language of my Dreams

One of the way in which I reward myself from time to time when the business of day to day life make way for a short break is by buying a travel magazine. These magazines provide me with dreams and ideas for leisure trips and hard core adventures on my Gomoto.

My favorite magazine by far is Weg, an Afrikaans travel magazine. I enjoy the informative articles, the creative use of language, and the inspiration found in the magazine.

Last week my wife decided to spoil me with this magazine. EXCEPT! She bought the English version of the magazine, called Go!.

The articles are exactly the same. The pictures are the same. The layout has not changed. The translation is excellent.

BUT. It is just not the same. Somehow it just does not feel right. I'm not even sure if the camp fire food (made according to an English recipe), would taste exactly as the food made according to the same recipe in Afrikaans.

I live and work in English. My family speaks English exclusively at home. But it would seem that my dreams, of travel in particular is in Afrikaans.

If I wanted English, I'd buy the Getaway magazine. But who wants to Getaway if you can go with Weg!

Helderberg Farm

I finally got to take my Gomoto on a pleasure trip over the week-end. It was only about 10 km's, but that is about as much as I can manage without my daughter falling asleep at the back.

The farm is on the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosh, and practically borders the College where I live. I think they are incredibly successful in capitalising on the tourist market in the area. (They have 4x4 trails, playgrounds, animals for kids to feed, hiking trails, view-sites, exclusive picnic and braai areas - you pay for most of this of course.)

I visit them for the strawberries that they sell. They sell punnets of strawberries at the same price for which you get them in the shops (about R20 for 800g or so). But then they sell 3kg boxes of Jam Strawberries. These strawberries are either small or a little bit to ripe for the punnets. A 3kg box only costs R30, and who needs the fancy packed stuff anyway.

I'm not sure if the farmer was too impressed with me parking my gomoto practically in his straberries to get this photo :-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Training and Enrichment

My work took me to two very diverse training/enrichment programmes in the last two weeks.

The first was a flashy conference on Higher education and community engagement. The conference was attended by 200 - 300 representatives of the elite of higher education in South Africa and we were treated to five star food, hospitality, and very stimulating discussions and debate. Several remarks were made by international experts that South Africa was ahead of even developed countries as far as the conception, debate, and implementation of community engagement in higher education was concerned. It was very stimulating and I am still busy internalising a number of the concepts that were discussed there.

The second training programme that I attended was organised by "Working on Fire." It was a basic two-day course on fire safety, the prevention and combat of Veld, Forest, and Mountain fires. The training forms part of a workplace skills development programme for farm workers and is in all likelihood positioned somewhere in the FET-range (accessible to people with a Grade 9 certificate). We arrived at the place for the seminar and the presenter was an hour late; there was no coffee, tea or refreshments of any kind. (We hoped this would change on the second day, but it just got worse when the presenter, who was late could also not find the pictures that he wanted to show us on his laptop; and still no coffee, tea, or refreshments). At the end of the second day we were all placed in a squad and made to jog military style to the area where we would be introduced to fire-fighting equipment and its correct use.

The surprising fact is that the training that I received from "Working on Fire" caused a greater paradigm shift in my thinking and my actions, than I got from the very high quality conference on Higher education and community engagement.

I've always gone out of my way to involve myself with fire fighting. A fire poses an immediate challenge that requires a person to think strategically and solve problems. It is always exciting. I realise however that I was extremely lucky not to have been injured or killed in the process.

My approach to fighting fire has almost always been one similar to the one used by "Van der Merwe" who came rushing into the fire where other teams had given up on the fight. He did not even stop his bakkie. His people just jumped out and fought for life and death, extinguising the fire. When commended for his bravery he explained that he had no intention of killing the fire, but that his bakkie's brakes had failed.

Anyway in the future I will be a much more effective fire fighter and team player.

The most frustrating part of both of these training opportunities was that I had to find alternative means to get to them because my Gomoto was broken.

The Real Cost of Owning a Gomoto

I took my Gomoto GT in for its 4000 km service 12 days ago on a Wednesday. I was then told that I should not expect to get it before Monday.

When I heard nothing from them by Tuesday, I called. I could only get hold of the manager of Scooter World late in the afternoon. They had not yet looked at the motorbike. Neither had they ordered the parts that I requested to have replaced. Apparently two people had just bought brand new motorbikes earlier in the week, and they would not work and that took priority.

I phoned again on Thursday afternoon, and this time I became really unhappy when I was told that they would work on my bike as soon as possible.

I see that I missed a phone call from Gomoto / Scooter World on Friday. No message was left. Unfortunately I was in a seminar that kept me busy until after business hours.

I have no idea what the status of my motorbike is. I hope and trust that it will be ready tomorrow morning.

My bike has now been out of commission for three weeks. It was broken for a week before I could find the time to take it in to be fixed. Now it has been at the repairs shop for another two weeks. If I was running a small business, or if I had to use the bike to commute to work every day, I would now have been livid.

I do use my bike on a daily basis. This hiatus in its working condition has caused quite a lot of discomfort. I am fortunate because my wife owns a car. I needed to plan carefully to slot my travels into a time when her car was available.

Riding a Gomoto is pleasurable. Three weeks without this pleasure! Very Upsetting.

Update: Monday, 18 September

I called Scooter World this morning. Everything has been fixed.

They were just experiencing a few challenges with the wheels:

1. It appears it is not possible to replace the spoke wheels with rimmed wheels in this model.

2. But they will replace the spoked wheel at the back with a new one. This happens under warranty, and therefore I will not be paying as much. This is very good news for me.

3. I received another call from the owner of the shop in the afternoon. The wheel will be delivered tomorrow afternoon and I should be able to collect my bike at 17:00.

4. The final cost for fixing the clutch handle, and servicing has now been reduced to R500 and something. That is much better than the R1200.

I feel much better, and my liking for the manager at Scooter World has gone up again!

UPDATE: Wednesday 20 September 2006

Frustration levels are back to RED ALERT! I made all my arrangements to get a lift down to Scooter World to collect my Gomoto, on Tuesday afternoon. At 16:35 I called. A lady answered the phone and gave me a message that I could collect the motorbike at about 12:00 on Wednesday. It is now 11:40 on Wednesday. I don't have access to a lift until this afternoon and all the business that I had to do in town has to wait until somebody finally feels that it is important enough for them to fix my bike. I'm too scared to even call. I will just become more and more upset!

FINAL UPDATE: Wednesday 20 September 2006

I finally collected my Gomoto at 15:00 in the afternoon. The seat was not bolted on. I guess that is the result of me taking it apart before I took it in to them. I forgot to take in service booklet to have it signed, so I guess I will have to visit the shop again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Mnn, I've not tried this before. :-)
Picture from: bikepics.


Unless I take one of my own photos and turn it onto its side.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Social Ideology of the Motorcar

Aquila, posted the following graphic on his blog to indicate the driving statistics of a typical morning trip from his home in Northriding, Johannesburg to his office in Sandton.

This graphic clearly illustrates some of the poignant thoughts of the social philosopher, André Gorz, who argues in an article "The Social Ideology of the Motorcar" that cars "are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people." Paradoxically, however, the motorcar has become a "luxury object that has been devalued by its own spread."

This sounds very theoretical, but what it comes down to, is that it is just not practical for every person to own and drive a motorcar as they wish to. In South Africa only a small portion of the population owns a motorcar, and already the roads are clogged up to the extent that, in some places, it takes 52 minutes to travel 15 kilometres.

Compare this to many other developing countries where a smaller section of the population own cars and many more people drive around on motorbikes not unlike the Gomoto. The streets might seem much busier and slightly more chaotic and noisy, but I would like to presume that the population as a whole experience slightly more freedom of movement than we experience in the South African metropole.

I love my Gomoto 125cc GT motorbike. :-) Your ride to freedom.

(Thanks to Aquila for the picture - he often photographs other cars on the road. Thanks also to Kabir for sharing this very insightful article with me. I will be commenting on some other aspects of what I've read later.)

An Apology to my Readers

When I set up my blog, I used all the conventional internet wisdom that I know. I used a "disposable" e-mail account so that I do not put myself at risk for spam or unwanted consequences of going public in an online way. (I have some friends who would be even more paranoid. They would even manufacture complete pseudo-identities in order to protect their real identity. I did not do that.)

In the beginning I feverishly checked in on my gmail account to read statistical reports from the statistics engine I have on my site and to check for e-mail. As time went on, I lost my enthusiasm for statistics and google ratings. I write primarily as an expression of what I enjoy, not to promote my writing etc. (Perhaps the fact that my blog receive 2 hits on average per day made my visits to my gmail account demotivating).

This week-end I discovered how this back-fired. I began to suspect that one of my readers had tried to contact me and I checked into gmail. I got quite a shock when I realised that three individual readers had tried to contact me. Some as far back as three weeks ago!

Two of these readers wanted to ask me some questions before they bought a Gomoto for themselves. One reader sent me a delightful article by a fellow Marxist/socialist like myself, André Gorz and I will certainly give a review and response to this article very soon. I am SO upset with myself for not checking in more frequently.

Fortunately one of the readers have gone ahead and invested in a Gomoto completely independently of me! I hope that I could set up an interview with him to get his perspectives on the motorbike. Perhaps we could even ride to some destination together.

I have remedied the situation. In future any e-mails sent to me via my blog will be delivered directly to the e-mail address that I use every day. Chances are that I will not miss any feedback aymore.

I apologise for managing this aspect of my blog so poorly. I promise that it will improve with immediate effect.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Long Ride to Freedom?

Life happened to me this week, and I was not able to even think about my broken Gomoto until yesterday (Wednesday).

I offered somebody with a bakkie a two-litre Coke and off I went with the Gomoto in a few pieces to Scooter World.

I asked for a 4000km service. I also asked them to figure out why the Gomoto could not start and why the headlight keeps going on and off intermittently while I ride.

I explained that my spokes were busy breaking and then I was presented with a seductive option. Gomoto no longer keep those spokes, but they are prepared to replace the weels with mags at half price. Normal price is R500 per wheel, so I can get two new solid-rimmed mags for 500.

Added to my list is replacement of the broken clutch bracket, broken ignition lock nut, broken break-light switch. (Somehow, Reynard had absolutely no recollection that I had been to his shop about 5 weeks earlier to order those same parts in order for me to replace them then.)

I asked how much it would cost. Obviously I was not able to get a final answer, but I was informed that it would be in the vicinity of R1200.

Now I know that I am definitely being a bit unreasonable here. I am replacing a whole lot of broken parts. And some of the parts are broken due to my own negligence. But I still can't help feeling a bit done in. When I bought the motorbike I was told that I would pay about R220 for a service. Technically that is still the case, but here, after 3700 km's I find myself paying R1200. (I should probably not have ordered the mag-wheels, but who can argue against the fact that the company will not be manufacturing/importing spokes anymore).

I'm wondering if this is not the beginning of my own "Ride to Freedom". The last time that I found myself in this situation was when I bought my first computer and found that I was paying copious amounts of money to have other people install operating systems and fix hardware. I took some risks and today I hardly have to pay anybody to do anything on my computer (which runs Linux).

Next time I will probably buy myself a little electrical meter and take the advice of people like Francois (who is a regular and welcome commenter on my blog) to do things myself. Surely I should be able to figure out how things work. That will certainly be my first step on my ride to freedom.

Hmmpf... I'm still cringing at the fact that I'm paying 1/7th of the price of the bike for its first decent service at 3700km. (Oh yes: And it really hurts me that I take the bike in on Wednesday, but can only expect it back on Monday or Tuesday! Am I from a different world? Is this normal?)

Friday, September 01, 2006

3708km: Electrical Woes

My Gomoto takes me everywhere. Yesterday it took me to the dentist to have my tooth extracted. I've never experienced so much physical violence directed towards me in my whole life! But my Gomoto provided me with a comforting ride back home (despite the fact that my whole body was shaking from shock). The Gomoto could do nothing for me however, when the anesthetic worked itself out of my system. Not even my wife could do anything for me. She was getting really frustrated with me tossing and turning and eating Myprodals like Smarties.

This morning (still with a throbbing pain in my mouth), I put my daughter on the seat behind me on the daily creche' routine. It is spring day and she had to take flowers to school. I don't have any flowers growing in my flat, so I stopped at about three places to help myself to some flowers. About 500metres into the journey, my Gomoto decided to just switch itself off. I let out an expletive and reached for the remote control in my pocket to switch it back on again. But nothing happened. So I stuck the key into the ignition and turned it. The familiar blue light came on, and went off immediately. Nothing could pursuade my Gomoto 125 cc motorbike to start. So I left it on the side of the road, walked my daughter to school, and returned to try to switch it on again. It seems the Gomoto is quite a stubborn creature, and I ended up pushing it up the hill back to my flat.

In the garage I found a size 10 and a size 14 spanner and removed the seat. I found a 15w fuse. It is definitely blown. I happen to have another 15w fuse lying around and stuck it in, but still to no avail. I pushed and pulled on some of the wires. Checked the batery, looked at all the connections I could see. But still nothing.

So I called Scooter World in the Strand, and the verdict is that I need to bring my motorbike in to them. They are too busy today to come fetch it themselves. I'm not quite sure if I am going to be able to do that. I don't have many friends with bakkies. (One friend recently bought a Landrover, but I don't think it is up to carrying this kind of load :-). I'll wait until Monday and ask Scooter world if they could please come and fetch it. (At a cost of R30. VERY REASONABLE).

In the mean time, without my Gomoto Freedom, I'll sit at home and feel sorry for myself with my throbbing mouth and jaw.

I hope Scooter World will provide promt service and help me get back to my usual freedom as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dark Star Safari

I just started reading Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town. I've only read a few pages so far, but am already inspired!
Out of touch in Africa was where I wanted to be. The wish to disappear sends many travelers away. If you are thoroughly sick of being kept waiting at home or at work, travel is perfect: let other people wait for a change. Travel is a sort of revenge for having been put on hold, or having to elave messages on answering machines, not knowing your party's extension, being kept waiting all your working life -- the homebound writer's irritants. But also being kept waiting is the human condition.

I thought: Let other people explain where I am, and I imagined the dialogue.
'When will Paul be back?'
'We don't know.'
'Where is he?'
'Where not sure.'
'Can we get in touch with him?'

Travel in the African bush can also be a sort of revenge on mobile phones and fax machines, on telephones and the daily paper, on the creepier aspects of globalization that allow anyone who chooses to get their insinuating hands on you. I desired to be unobtainable. Mr Kurtz, sick as he is, attemtps to escape from Marlow's riverboat, crawling on all fours like an animal, trying to flee into the jungle. I understood that.

I was going to Africa for the best reasons - in a spirit of discovery; and for the pettiest - simply to disappear, to light out, with a suggestion of I dare you to try and find me.

Home had become a routine, and routines make time pass quickly. I was a sitting duck in this predictable routine: people knew when to call me, they knew when I would be at my desk. I was in such regular touch it was like having a job, a mode of life I hated. I was sick of being called up and importuned, asked for favors, hit up for money. You stick around too long and people begin to impose their own deadliens on you. "I need this by the 25th...' or 'Please read this by Friday...' or 'Try to finish this over the weekend...' or 'Let's have a conference call on Wednesday...' Call me ... fax me ... email me ... You can get me anytime on my mobile phone -- here's the number.

Everyone always available at any time in the totally accessible world seemed to me pure horror. It made me want to find a place that was not accessible at all ... no phones, no fax machines, not even mail delivery, the wonderful old world of being out of touch; in short, of being far away.

I'm happy that I live in Africa.
I am happy that I own a Gomoto to help me achieve this ideal from time to time.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Safety Theories (no 1)

Hehe, I cannot resist to try my hand at a "Gomoto" theory on safety. In fact two. One is just a reflection on already well established political theory. The other one is pretty much my own and I will probably type that up in a seperate blog entry..

Can we ignore the fact that the society in South Africa is violent and unsafe? No. There are a great many people who keep us sober on that issue.

But from my perspective most people who complain vocally have some motive: either to challenge the powers in government; to show them up as incompetent, uninvolved, or misguided; or to harken back to an "old regime" where there was an appearance of safety as a result of a highly oppressive and undemocratic regime.

I would proffer a more realistic "Gomoto" theory to criminality in South Africa. All that is required is that we acknowledge that we live in a highly unequal society. In a country where an economic system of several centuries were structured to enrich a minority group of South Africans, and keep the greatest majority of the population in structural poverty, there will be great inequalities. In such an unequal society there is undeniably a greater need for those who are priveledged to secure or defend what they own or posess. In countries where there is not such a great gap between rich an poor, there is not such a great need for security. Crime is also lower. A corollary observation is that rampant inequalities in society cause a sense of alienation. People do not feel included in dominant value systems and express this alienation in alternative ways. Often this is in the form of violent or criminal behaviour.

My point, from my perspective on my small Gomoto motorbike is: If we want to take crime and violence in South Africa seriously it will be in our best interest to do everything in our power to eradicate the gap between rich and poor, to uplift the conditions of marginalised societies, and to establish harmonious relationships between people. This, I believe is a much better approach than to stand on our Ivory towers and to scream and shout damnation at governments and people who are merely trying to cope with the symptoms of a bigger challenge.

In a sense with the onset of democracy we have only started on our "ride to freedom." We face the challenge to now build our nation. And I am committed to do my bit to improve the quality of life for all in my country.


Shortly before I left on my last Gomoto road trip the South African media highlighted an anti-crime weblog which really upset me. I agreed with the comments by many common South Africans and politicians that the site is un-patriotic and that it is excessively negative in its focus and destructive in its attempts to dissuade people from visiting the country.

I even dreamt up a scheme in which I would challenge bloggers and web-site owners to use the name of this anti-crime website, and its owner, Neil Watson in conjunction with words like "misguided hatemonger" in an attempt to let his blog reach top listings on Google for that particular description.

I don't feel strongly about such a strong activism right now, but I have been wondering about crime and personal safety in South Africa (and elsewhere for that matter. A colleague of mine was in Palestine on a middle-east tour just when the current war between Hesbollah and Israel erupted.)

I also have crime horror stories to tell. But I have also had a very positive experience of South Africa. An experience that I saw replicated as I travelled on my Gomoto.

Let me list some of these experiences:
I lived 8 km's outside of Heidelberg, Gauteng for 3 years. In those three years I hardly ever locked the doors of my house, not even if I was due to spend a whole day away from home. I was never robbed. It could just be luck. I know of roberries and other criminal incidents that occured around us at that time.

I'm now living for a second year in Somerset West, in the Cape province, and again I seldom lock the door to my house and I have a general sense of safety.

As I drove on my Gomoto I spoke to the lady in charge of the camp-site in Greyton. I was concerned about leaving all my belongings in a tent in a deserted camp-site. She told me that in the 8 years that she was living there, she had not experienced any crime.

The next day I arrived at the Backpackers in Struisbaai. The owner was not there. There was nobody in the guest house, but everything was open and there were big signs welcoming me in and requesting me to make myself at home.

I'm not trying to deny that there is crime in South Africa. But, I strongly believe that focussing only on the crime in a negative and pessimistic way causes us to sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are many accounts of high levels of personal safety as well.

Am I immune to crime? No. I've experienced it myself. But I am not prepared to let those experiences be the main determinant of my perspective of life and beauty in South Africa.

As I ride my Gomoto 125GT through the country I would love to focus on the beauty, the enjoyment, and the relative peace that is all over.

(I might post two more philosophical theories on this issue a bit later though.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006


My Gomoto GT125 has been neglected a bit this week in more ways than one.

When I set foot back at work after my road trip last week I found myself in a whirlpool of busyness that transformed itself into 17 hour work days on three occasions and the only day that I did not work under 14 hours was last week Saturday: When my door was only knocked on twice by arriving students (one of them at 23:30 in the evening).

The Gomoto stood in the garage waiting for some loving attention, but all it got was an irritable owner who would jump on it and whizz off to a meeting at the High School or to go pick his daughter up from the crèche. This photo was taken by Michelle on her late afternoon walk one afternoon while I was in a meeting at the high school to discuss their development plans for a new dormitory.

On one of the occasional rushed trips (this time to go teach my special Afrikaans class), the back wheel suddenly made a completely unprovoked noise. Somehow a second spoke broke. And that reminded me that I still want to write a rant about the poor service I have been receiving from Scooter World in the Strand, but I will do that later. (I've been struggling to get spare parts for my Gomoto from them for three weeks. They still have not called me to say that the stuff arrived. And I have not had the time to follow it up with them.)

There is a certain exhiliration in working hard. And my job is fortunately quite varied. I am just completing a project in which I installed 25 new network points in the top floor of my dormitory. I did most of the work myself and saved my college several thousands of Rand in the process. And I've learned what a crimping tool was (it is not a tool used on sex offenders for forced castrations!). I had to redo several of my connections and if I was a networking company boss I would have fired myself for my ineptness, but eventually it was very satisfying to watch the green lights on the switch go on as students began to connect their PCs to the network. Then there are the usual challenges of dealing with returning students and security at the College and getting the Gym up and running again. My wife and I have also initiated a project to make our campus more child friendly. Lots of fun and exciting planning involved.

But this exhiliration comes with its trade-offs. Wife and daughter only got a few minutes of my attention every day. Somehow the hard work messed my eating habits up and I ate take aways twice this week. My belt feels tight, as though I have regained some of the weight-losses of previous weeks (dissappointing), and I am beginning to wish for another break.

I think the coldest cold front of this winter is ravaging our section of the world at the moment, so there is little chance of taking the Gomoto for a spin today or tomorrow. I am still a bit unahappy about the broken spoke, but will rant about it on a better day.

If I could choose between the exhiliration of being busy and the exhiliration of driving on a deserted road with my Gomoto, I'd probably choose the latter.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Road Trip Photos (3)

One last picture. I parked my Gomoto at Hermanus which boasts one of the best land-based whale watching sights in the world. The whales come to this coast line every year between July and October to breed. I did not see any whales this time (I only saw one in Struisbaai). But the view was still quite magnificent. Outside the view on the right hand side of the photo is the old harbour and very beautiful rock cliffs. This is what road trips are all about.

Road Trip Photos (2)

This is my Motorbike in front of the backpacker lodge in Struisbaai. Inside the bag is my tent, sleeping bag, blow-up mattrass, gas stove, food, clothes, toiletries... etc. It must have weighed 16 kilograms.

I'm thinking it will be nice if I asked a welder to weld together a frame that I can bolt onto my carrier rack at the back that is just big enough for the bag in this picture. The frame can include a back-rest for me and a flat area above the black bag on which I can tie another small bag (or sleeping bag or mattrass). I can then mount this black bag onto the frame with a metal cable or a set of locks. I could even pull a canvass over the whole frame to protect the load from rain. Or to keep it out of reach of inquisitive eyes.

This is my bike, without it's load at the tip of Africa. I could technically have driven it to the actual monument, just 50 metres further, but there were tourists, and there were big stakes in the rocks to prevent cars from going through. So I decided to be considerate.

And below are photos of the backpackers lodge that I stayed in:

(This is the door to the TV-Lounge and the Office. Conveniently marked with a pen and arrows.)

This is where everybody hangs out.

The fire-place.

Visitors are encouraged to write messages on the wall. This caught my attention for obvious reasons.

The dormitory room that I slept in. I am a dormitory dean and the furniture inspired me.

Road Trip Photos (1)

These Photos were taken with a cellphone camera. They are not very artistic, but gives a bit of a view of where my Gomoto went this week-end.

One view of the mountains at Greyton. Taken after I walked into them for about 20 minutes.

My tent and motorbike just before sunset. (Notice the shadow :-) )

The tent was pitched in the middle of nowhere under two majestic pine-trees.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gomoto Tips

Tips for Riding on Gravel Roads

On my recent 600km road trip, I travelled at least 200 km's on gravel roads. I made the following mental notes. Don't take them as absolutes. I might have made some wrong observations.
  • Remember that you only have two wheels. Your wheels are also rather narrow and it means your traction tends to be rather precarious.
  • Slow down. Don't drive as fast as you would in a car.
  • If each bump feels like you hit a brick, it might help to deflate your tires just a little bit.
  • Don't change direction suddenly. Even if you see the pothole coming, don't swerve sharply. You're likely to end up in another pothole a few short metres further.
  • Gravel roads tend to have soft sandy spots. Watch out for them and avoid if possible. If you cannot avoid them, keep your steering wheel as straight as possible. Reduce speed before you drive into them.
  • Check your mirrors and blindspots before you change direction; even if you have not seen a car on the entire road. I got confused by a sign that warned of upcoming road works. When I decided to turn onto the "so-called detour", a bakkie just came screeching past me. He almost ended up in a ditch, and Gomoto's and their drivers must have been the focus of every negative thought that he had for the rest of the day.
  • Some farmers have dogs who have nothing better to do than to stand on the side of the road to intimidate motorcyclists. Don't show any fear. Just accellerate and aim straight at the dog. It will get out of the way!
  • Most secondary roads in South Africa have concrete kilometre markers on the side. If you are not sure that you are on the right road, check those markers. They should usually tell you how long the stretch of road is. In that way you can decide what the consequences would be if you were on the wrong road!

Tips for Riding in Fog

I rode in fog for a second time since I've taken my Gomoto on road trips. It tends to be quite an scary experience.

  • Wear reflective clothing.
  • Expect to get wet. It is water afterall.
  • Don't waste time cleaning the visor of your helmet every few seconds, just lift it up. Your eyes will burn a bit in the wind, but you will at least be able to see where you are going.

Tips for Riding on Gravel Roads in Fog (early on Winters Mornings)

Hehe. That is exactly what happened to me just after sunrise on the road between Struisbaai and Gansbaai.

  • Wear protective clothing. You might fall. (I fortunately did not fall, but I wore protective clothing).
  • Dress warmly with several layers of clothes beneath the protective layer.
  • Expect to get dirty! Dust and water create interesting patterns on your clothes.
  • Oncomming traffic will cause dust to come into your eyes and your eyes will tear like a baby.
  • Don't take the long route if you do not plan to stop at the attractions. I had no idea what "Die Dam" was, but decided to drive past there anyway. I never stopped, and ended up driving 40km's more than I could have if I drove directly to Gansbaai.
  • Wear protective clothing. You might fall.
  • Enjoy the adventure. There is nothing like it!

3310km: Successful Multi-day Road Trip

I'm back home after driving 600km in three days on my Gomoto.

Would I do it again?
Yes, most definitely!

I reported on the first day and a half's travel in my previous blog entry.
I will give a brief report on the rest of the trip here, in the form of an interview with myself :-)

So where did you sleep on Monday night?
I spent the night under a warm down duvet in a dormitory room of the CAPE AGULHAS BACKPACKERS in a small coastal town called Struisbaai. It is situated just 5 kilometres from Cape Aghullas, the southern most tip of Africa.

I thought you had packed a tent? Why a backpackers?
The two local caravan parks charge R84 per night for a stand. When I arrived, eager to pitch my tent, the lady at the campsite refused to let me enter before i investigated the Backpackers. They charge only R70 per person per night. It was not a difficult decision to make. (In fact, it was real relief. On my way from Bredasdorp to Struisbaai the wind blew so strongly that my Gomoto could sometimes not exceed 55km per hour!

What would you call a Gomoto with wings?
I have no idea! Probably a micro-light which only has a reverse gear. (Not enough power to fly forward.)

Corny Joke

Can you describe the backpackers hostel?
It is a new establishment which opened in February 2006. The owners have done everything possible to cultivate a laid-back relaxed atmosphere. The dormitory rooms have very neat and practical furniture, warm down duvets, en-suite showers, towels. The focus is on being practical. There is a notice at the toilet roll holder: "No Toilet Paper: Look in the kitchen cupboard above the plates." There are instructions on how to recycle trash. Each drawer in the kitchen is labelled with what utensils a person will find in it. (I like that, it is quite empowering to know where to find things when you need them). The colour schemes are vibrant. An outdoors patio, fire-place, and swimming pool is the center where most life seems to happen. Visitors have the option of writing a message on the green walls around the fire place. Almost everybody have written nice things. (Perhaps the not-so-nice things were painted over again.) I wrote my blog-address on the wall.

The owners of the place were not there, but their brother did a good job to make me feel welcome. The only one that made me feel a bit unwelcome was one of the dogs who did not know that I had moved in. And when I surprised it by suddenly opening a door it gave me quite a growl. I soon made friends with it, however and then it ignored me for the rest of the night.

Were there other people in the hostel?
Apparently there were about 7 people in the hostel the night before, but I only saw evidence in the form of some left-over bread. I decided not to eat it though. At about 19:00 the Moolman family from Johannesburg moved into another one of the dormitory rooms. Their 14 year old son had just competed in an inter-provincial Formula 3 powerboat championship competition on the Theewaterskloof dam in Villiers and they were on their way back home. The boy and his team came second. Congratulations!

So you spent your whole day laying around the hostel?
NO! I drove my Gomoto all over the place. I was not in the mood to explore Museums (and there are several at L'Agullas). I went to the southern most point of the continent, and then drove on to a small residential area, called Suiderstrand, situated within the Aghullas National Park. There is only one rough gravel road that leads to it, but I somehow got lost on the way back and ended up on a 4x4 track leading through the National park! In the beginning it was quite an adventure! I was hoping it would take me home in a different way, but about 5 minutes into the track, I hit some sandy spots. It is quite interesting to notice how a Gomoto Motrobike handles thick sand. One of two things tend to happen: 1) If the sand is very thick, the front wheel sinks directly into it, but inertia causes the driver to almost shoot over the handle bars. 2) More commonly though the front wheel suddenly gives way to the side, and then the back wheel seems to follow a person in a side-ways skid, and it takes quite a bit of muscling and exercise of the whole body to remain on the bike!

The sandy bits were interspersed with rocky sections, and in hindsight I am amazed that my Gomoto and its tires survived the ordeal. (I eventually decided that if this 4x4 route was going to lead anywhere it would take too long to get there. I turned back and got to see the lovely skid paterns created by my bike, followed by trenches where my boots hit the ground in an effort to retain my balance.) It was a really fun outing. I am now more convinced than ever that my Gomoto 125 cc motorbike can take any terrain that Africa can throw at it! (Although, I must honestly say that I would choose to bypass such difficult terrain should there be other options available.)

I bought my daughter a few small gifts at one of many shell-shops/art shops in the area. I bought some fresh milk (which the Moolman family promptly finished when they arrived at the Backpackers :-) ). And I went for a run on the 14km long white Sandy beach!

Did you run 14 km's?
No! I ran 15 minutes in one direction, and then I turned back and slogged my way back to the Backpackers (which is situated 200 metres from the beach - And NO!, I probably did run more than 200 metres). I did not have any footwear with me other than my boots, so I did my run without footwear. Later in the evening I got some weird cramps in my feet, which were obvioulsy traumatised by the strange new activity that they were exposed to.

I learned something useful. Apparently the name "Struisbaai" is derived from an old Dutch word, "Struis" (Obviously), which means "Large" or "Big". So I'm proud to say that my deductive reasoning figured out where the word "Volstruis" (Afrikaans for "Ostrich") comes from.

Would you go back to Struisbaai?

Yes, but this time en-route to some other interesting alcoves that I never got to explore. Apparently Arniston/Waenhuiskraans has a large cave that a person can only reach during low tide. And I would like to explore the De Mond and De Hoop nature reserves. (People who like Kite-Surfing will probably prefer to stay at Struisbaai for longer periods of time).

How far did you travel on the second day of your journey?
I travelled approximately 150 km's from Greyton to Struisbaai. I saw many Merino sheep, and a few beautiful pairs of Blue Cranes (actually they are all over the Overberg but always a beautiful sight.)

Yawn... Perhaps you can continue the story tomorrow. I'm off to bed.

Monday, July 10, 2006

3086km: Pitstop Bredasdorp

Yesterday at 11:15 I set off on my first multi-day road trip with my odometer exactly at 2800 km.
The bike does not look particularly pretty. I took the red carry case off the back, and tied a large bag onto the back seat which contains my 2 -man tent, a sleeping bag, a gas stove, cutlery, food, and some clothes.

I rode up Sir Lowry's pass to Grabouw (average up the pass approximately 50km/h). Then I turned off the highway and headed across the beautiful Hottentots Holland mountains and the Theewaterskloof dam to the small town of Villiers. The trip was just over 70 km, and I reached there at approximately 13:00. I supported the local economy and bypassed the well-known shops to go to a small cafe on the side of the road where I bought a stale pie (made in Gansbaai) and a Pepsi for R11.00. One person appraoched me and asked where I was headed with this lawnmower with the big load.

So I left Villiers and followed a beautifully scenic route down a valley through wich the sonderend river flows. Most of the road was gravel road and my speed averaged around 60km/h. There was hardly any trafic on the road and at one occasion I had the opportunity to follow two large fish eagles as they flew along the river. The countryside is beautifully green with freshly planted meadows of what I think is either canola or feed for the milk (Jersey) or sheep (merino) farms in the area.

After about 40 minutes of travel I reached Genadendal, a small town that used to be a mission station. The mission station seems to have done a good job in Christianising the community because everybody on the streets were dressed in suits and ties. They were obviously not very good in developing the community because it was clear that the area was still quite poor. Of course, I could not go into any of the four or five museums in the area, because it was Sunday and they were only open on the other 6 days of the week. So I headed for my final destination, Greyton, a few kilometres further on.

Greyton is a really quaint little town with beautiful houses, lovely gardens, mostly gravel roads, at least 40 guest houses, several art shops, handmade material shops, restaurants, and a chocolate shop. (No Automatic Teller Machine.) I searched for the municipal campsite which I finally found outside of town on the side of the Sonderend river. There were no other campers. No Electricity. No warm water (although there is a place to make a fire to warm water. The fire was only made the next morning at 10:00 when I was on my way out of the camp site.) The lady who runs the campsite moved there 8 years ago and she does not have electricity in her house either. She runs a television off some car batteries.

I pitched my tent and then headed to explore the town and the nature reserve. I had to make way for several cows and one bull with an ominous rope through his nose as I drove through the town. It suddenly hit me that a RED Gomoto is probably a bit of a liability when it comes to navigating one's way through a heard of cattle. But everything happened without much trouble.

The mountains in the area are beautiful. Fortunately it was not too cold. (I saw photos of the town when the mountains are covered with snow). The unreliable thermometer on my cellphone claimed that it was about 9 degrees celcius during the night.

After hiking in the mountains I cooked my rice. (Something that is a treat because nobody in my household eats rice). As the sun went down I crawled into the tent and read about 50 pages from a textbook on Postmodern Curriculum Theory with the aid of the led light of a head torch that I own.

A phonecall from a relative reminded me that the world cup soccer final had started at 20:00, and not at 21:00 as usual. So I jumped on my bike and drove the 4 km back to town to the restaurant that had advertised that they would screen the event. The restaurant was really smart. Smarter than the Spur! And better run as well. I got to see the final on a large flat screen (amazing quality). Around me was about 20 other people, of whom several were foreigners. Wealthy people, who were obviously either on holiday, or owned a second or third home in the area. They were all sipping wine from large glasses. I bought myself a small can of Coke for R8. (R8.00 &#%$&!!!).

I left the extremely warm lounge, managed to dodge two fierce looking dogs roaming the road (I always thought dogs were my friends, until I started riding bicycles and motorcycles), and crawled into a now-cold tent.

I only tried to stick my nose out of the tent after 08:00 this morning. It was really cold, and everything outside was wet with some kind of precipitation. In fact the inside of the flysheet of my tent was also wet, and that proved to be quite a challenge, because the sun was just not coming over the mountains. (I saw the sun for the first time at 10:00 in the morning, but by that time I had decided to try to dry the tent with my towel and to pack up because I had to get to Bredasdorp, and hopefully to Cape Aghullas after that. My cellphone battery suddenly died on me (it should not have, but perhaps I spent too much time talking to my family on Sunday.) So my stress levels were a bit higher than they should have been. (Strange though: because if something had to happen to me, I would not really know if a cellphone would have made my life any better.)

But that is the reason why I am in an internet cafe in Bredasdorp in stead of exploring the southern most tip of Africa. My phone is busy charging in a cellphone shop.

Cost so far:

Pie and Coke in Villiers: R11.00
Drinks During World Cup Match: R20.00
Cost to pitch tent for night: R40.00
Cost of Petrol when I filled up at Riviersonderend: R32.00
Lunch at Bredasdorp: R33.00 (+R7 tip) = R40.
Cost of time at internet cafe: R20.00 (What a waste! The connection is also extremely slow!)

I'm not going to add everything up now.

Oh yes. I bought myself a long sleeve t-shirt at Mr. Price for R29.00. I felt just a little bit too cold last night. There is a bite in the air and apparently there is a cold front moving in.

But now my time is up, and I need to go on my adventures again.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mindspace: Marginalisation

Apart from the obvious fun and adventure that accompanies my ownership of a Gomoto, it also holds some symbolic value.

I choose to drive a Gomoto, in stead of a car. I do this because I cannot afford to buy a car. I used to own a car, but the maintenance and insurance was just too much. The Gomoto is one of the most inexpensive bikes on the road. It is one of the smallest ones. It uses very old technology compared to the Hondas and Yamahas of today. Somehow the Gomoto symbolises my experience of being marginalised in society.

Now this is not a reactionary political rant. I've always been rather liberal politically. (I think I was the only White man who voted for the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania in the 1999 general elections, although I have since then rejected their political views because they obviously do not really live up to the "Pan" in their Azanianism by regarding some Africans as more African than others.) I strongly support the attempts to counteract the undeniable structural bias that still exists in the South African economy towards white people.

The fact is that there are many levels where I often find myself on the threshold of society. Financially, I am not in a high income bracket (I chose the wrong career) and according to my calculations my real income has dropped in the last 4 or 5 years, in stead of escalating. Politically I am not in the main stream. Philosophically I often find myself at odds with what the people "in power" hold to be true.

And in a strange way, owning a Gomoto embodies the sum-total of this awareness of being on the margins.

To me this is not necessarily a negative observation. Being a bit of a revisionist of Marxist theory, I do not believe that my life and my identity is determined (imposed upon me without my consent) by those who are wealthier, or more powerful than me. To me there is much to be said for being on the margins. Being on the margins is like standing on a threshold, about to exit an existence that is oppressive and depressing. Looking at/anticipating/inviting the wide open space out there.

When I think of being on the margin, I think of other words, like doorway, leading edge, facing forward. And I like what Stephen Toulmin says about such things:
Those who choose to face forward into the future are our pioneers, prophets, creatives, dreamers, explorers, intuitives, risk-takers, artists, and imaginers. They anticipate the future in the present. They shape and form that future. They create possibilities for the future by living fully in the present. They learn from the past but they don’t live in and for the past. They surf the leading edge of the wave.

(The original context in which I read this quote is here).

What better way to go searching for these values and attributes than exploring the countryside of South Africa with a somewhat marginalised Gomoto 125cc motorbike.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Horizons Unlimited

I found an amazing website which tells the stories of Motorcycle Travelers throughout the world.

This particular blog entry by Robert Bielesh, who travelled through South America on his motorbike really inspired me. I copy one relevant piece here, although the whole travel blog is worth reading.

April 22, 2006 GMT
(1) Peru: The South

While visiting a museum on the outskirts of Arica, we met a Japanese couple who were travelling South America, for one (1) year, on their Yamaha....Yamaha 90 that is.

They were a retired couple in their 60s. They had special panniers built, a triple deck luggage pack on the back carrier, a large front basket, not unlike that found on a bicycle and double capacity gas tank giving them 10 liters of capacity and a range of almost 400 kms. I was astounded. I evaluated my 1100 cc brute, weighing in at 525 lbs plus 100 pounds of luggage plus 200 pounds of rider, tipping the scale at 700 lbs.

Their combination was about 200 lbs for the bike plus 100 lbs for the luggage plus 200 lbs for the rider and passenger coming to about 400 lbs. I was simply amazed that the suspension system was up to the load and the pounding. On my bike and other large bikes the weakest link seems to be the suspension. The rear shocks inevitably fail...and yet their tiny 1-1/2" diameter rear shocks and simple front suspension just kept on working and working and working. The motorcycle world could learn a valuable lesson from Yamaha here.

Japanese Couple.JPG
(Photo taken by the author of the particular blog - URL above)

(At another place he publishes a photo of people who make a business by using their 125cc Honda Motorbikes as taxis to get around town. They charge 30c per ride.)

Surely I can travel through South Africa on my 125cc Gomoto Gt motorbike.

2711km: Replacement Parts

It helps to wash your motorbike from time to time. It gives you the opportunity to observe it very carefully.

As I observed my Gomoto on Sunday, while watching it, I noticed a few things that worried me. So I took it for a ride to the Gomoto shop in the Strand this morning and the very friendly mechanic helped me to get words to describe what I was missing:

1. A spoke was broken in the back wheel. Apparently this happens from time to time and I have now ordered two spokes.

2. The little wire that was hanging loose was actually my back brake-light switch. I thought it was attached to the break, and I thought that I saw the break light coming on when I fiddled with it. I've ordered a new one. I have no idea how and when it broke.

3. The reason why my ignition switch was hanging loose was because the ignition switch nut had come loose and fallen off. I've ordered a new one.

4. The fall that I described above did not break my clutch lever, but the clutch lever bracket. I've ordered a new one.

The Gomoto shop promised that these parts should be available by Friday. I hope so. They all seem very easy to replace. I'll probably do it myself.

I thought I would tell them about my blog, but when I asked them if they had internet access they looked at me with a quizical look and then some faint recognition that I am probably talking about that evil thing that their minister preached about in church a while ago. So I thought I'll keep my blog to myself for a while longer.

Very nice people at that Gomoto shop. The owner comes from Namibia. When he delivered my motorbike he saw my daughter and said that I must bring her to play by his son (same age) at some stage. I should arrange that playdate some time. I've met him a few times at different places in Somerset West. He always recognises me and calls me "his friend". I think he is actually a good friend. I've always had good service from him.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Who said handsome people don't ride Gomotos!

The pictures were taken by my friend, Claudelle Bender. She is starting a website and I will link to it as soon as it is ready.

Getting Smaller

I am not the smallest of people, thanks to very unwise addiction to MacDonalds and Spur food. But I am also under the impression that the sizes of the standard Gomoto motorcycle gear is also not exactly measured for the average South African.

When I tried to buy a helmet from their store, their largest size did not fit around my head. I also asked for an Extra Large Gomoto riding suit. But I could never fit into the pants very comfortably. The poppers kept popping open around my waste.

Until today that is! I put my Gomoto riding suit on for some photos (watch the blog for a few samples), and it fitted around my waste without me having to feel like I am in a corset. It would seem that one month of cooking my own food, in stead of eating out frequently is paying off. Now imagine if I actually added some good exercise!

I should actually take note of the kilometer reading on my Gomoto and use it to keep track of my weight loss.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Ugliest Sight in the World

A motorbike rolling forward by itself and falling onto its side!

And it happened to me for the fourth time this year. This morning! I was on my way to the Spar to buy some cheese for our weekly omellette breakfast. I stood by my kitchen door and pressed the remote-control starter button and watched how the motorbike that was standing on the road started stuttering forward, off its stand and ended up lying on its side on the road.

That remote starter (yes, you can press a button on a remote control and start the bike) is such a curse! And I have not learned to resist the temptation to use it. I am always careful to put my bike in neutral when I park. But it seems I sometimes do not get it quite right. (Or a kid from the neigbourhood might have walked past and kicked the gear leaver. Or my daughter might have decided to climb onto the bike when I was not there). And then the bike is in gear and starting it causes it to think it is HERBY and that its owner wants it to ride on its own. (Perhaps it is trying to live up to Gomoto's slogan: Your Ride to Freedom!)

The damage this morning: Mirror is loose, and needs tightening. The clutch-lever is broken and needs to be replaced. (I've needed to replace it before, for the same reason). The rubber foot-rest looks like it has had better days as it always seems to experience the greatest impact when the side of the bike hits the road.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Follow the Leader

This week has been a week of analysis and practical thinking. In my mind I was visiting all my relationships and trying to figure out what they were made of. Why have I been constantly on the war path with my five year old daughter? What are the strongest and most enduring qualities that sustain my realtionship with my wife. Why do I frequently find myself struggling to balance my work, study, exercise, entertainment and family responsibilities? I suspect that these are universal questions asked by the greater majority of non-hedonistic people or people who are not complete drug addicts yet. (Does watching three seasons of the series, 24 in a matter of two weeks count as addiction?)

At the same time I have engaged in a new practical rigour in approaching my finances. It might sound strange to many people, but I actually borrowed money to buy my Gomoto. At R7500, a great many people would have been able to fork out cash! (I should have doen that) I've borrowed money to buy other things as well (and many of them have much less value than my Gomoto.) So since I was paid this week I ensured that I made the best possible financial choices. And I think I was mostly successful. The problem is that I need to now survive the month on almost no money, and then make these same choices every month for the next 12 months before I would be able to say that I am clear. (I am using a debt snowball approach. Although I am tempted to try an additional approach of buying a Lotto ticket each week as well.) This week I am celebrating the fact that I now have a written out menu for a healthy cooked meal for every week-day of the month. The menu is interesting and it has variety. I can cook most meals in a mater of 25-30 minutes. And I have been very successful at sticking to the menu. (I have not yet learned to eat only a small portion of these meals). The food is remarkably tasty (I never thought there was much in life to beat the taste of McDonalds Chips, but I have now been off McDondalds for more than a month! Yipee!). It definitely saves money!

Anyway. The result is that not much have fed my creative brain. In fact when my wife called me to sit with her and watch the movie "Elizabeth Town", I was rather bored and frustrated with this romantic girlish love story. But I watched it, and smiled (grimaced) slightly at the scenes of the totally outrageous funeral. A week later, however those scenes have faded from memory, but what remains in my mind are the pictures of the main character (Drew) on a road trip with a map drawn by his girlfriend (Claire). She wanted him to discover her America. One of her instructions was that he should not contact her. She wanted him to feel a loneliness and a longing for her (or something like that. I did not pay enough attention.)

Riding on the Gomoto is also a lonely endeavor. It is something that I am longing for now. I feel a need to re-kindle the romantic in life. To stop worrying about life's practicalities. And I think I found a way to do it. I'll be able to take some leave for two days in the next two weeks. I am going to ride to Greyton, and then to Bredasdorp and L'Agullus, and I'm going to try to draw a map for the ones I love. With pictures and descriptions of the road that I've travelled. I want to do it on my own, but I want to draw the map in such a way that the ones I love will read it and one day be able to replicate the journey that I travelled and enjoy it more than me.

I know there is a game that people play where they leave small gifts at a variety of GPS co-ordinates. I cannot buy a GPS (I can, but it is not in my financial plans at the moment). But I can put together a map and even some music (First song: Koos Kombuis, Baskitaar), and play "follow the leader."