Exploring the Midlands by motorcycle exposes you to the elements and makes you feel a part of the scene rather than an outsider looking in. Anton Crone describes his experience.
Letting go of the controls is ultimate test of a motorcycle’s balance. It’s also a great way to enhance the feeling of flight. But on a 1700cc bike weighing 400kg, you might think twice. I didn’t. A previous test ride of the Harley Davidson Ultra Limited inspired complete confidence, and I thought taking my hands off the controls would be a great way to scare my girlfriend in the pillion seat - It’s just one of the things boys do to impress girls.
Perhaps I was also inspired by the birds. On our way to the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands we had visited the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary where falconer Shannon Hoffman enthralled us with aerial displays of raptors, including a longcrested eagle and a yellowbilled kite. And the moment called for it: the green countryside was rolling by, a lazy morning sun lay on the horizon, and when I saw a yellowbilled kite on the wing I spread my arms out on either side of me. I savoured the moment, that feeling of flight. Thoroughly impressed with myself I expected a shriek from the back, but all it elicited was: “Oh.”
She was more hardcore than I thought. Nonplussed I grabbed the controls and cruised on. Perhaps she’d be impressed if I picked up more speed? Once again I did my best “King of the World” Impression. Nothing. Not a murmur.
Stopping for lunch, I asked if she wasn’t just a little frightened when I took my hands off the controls. “What? Both hands? I thought you were just pointing at some cows.”
Cows are synonymous with the Midlands Meander. Peaceful, calming vistas require cows - not great herds of them, just enough to have forgotten cows by the time you see them again. It’s one of the things that makes the Midlands Meander seem like a perfectly orchestrated landscape. Sheep too, and little lambs. A farmer let us hold his newborns. It’s not a fitting image for a wannabe hardcore biker, but holding a wooly lamb just makes you feel oh so very good.
The Midlands is the antithesis of hardcore, so it's all the more remarkable that a motorcycle with a ‘Screamin Eagle’ exhaust system fits in. Perhaps it's because cruising country roads makes more sense on a bike. Unlike a car in which one is cocooned in steel, we were exposed to the elements, taking part in the scene rather than observing it through a car window. And where some might think a motorcycle is limiting for weekend stay-overs, the Harley Ultra had enough luggage space for both my companion and I.
SEE: Epic routes to 6 of SA’s best motorcycle rallies
We based ourselves at a charming boathouse just outside Rosetta where Nugget, the Jack Russell, and Ruby, the bullmastiff greeted us. As they ran ahead, our host Dee lead us down to the boathouse cottage on the banks of the Mooi River. We were arrested by the view of the river which was complemented by her colorful garden and the trees on the water’s edge - home to a vast number of weaver birds. As we enjoyed the view with Dee, a long-crested eagle alighted on a tree, reminding us that we’d be flying over this wonderful countryside again the next day.
We had visited the midlands many times before, but touring on this Harley added a new dimension, a sense of freedom and adventure while remaining supremely comfortable thanks to its sumptuous seats and large luggage space. It’s something you wont find riding two up on the more common motorcycle tourers, and it’s probably the reason the motorcycle brand with the American Eagle is still flying high.
Other memorable places on our meander:
Perched on a hill, this expansive, open plan café arguably has the best view in the midlands. Floor to ceiling glass offers the vista to every table, a treat especially in winter when you can warm yourself with great food and coffee while gazing at the snow capped mountains of the Drakensberg.
Terbodor Coffee Roasters
Despite nestling in one of the quieter parts of the midlands (as if it could get any quieter) their coffee has gained nationwide recognition thanks to their commitment to the craft. A great place to stop and enjoy a brew in the garden where you are bound to meet the Great Danes that are the hallmark of Terbedor’s iconic label.
One of the things that makes the Midlands Meander distinct is the eclectic range of arts, crafts and antiques that you find along the way. Hellooow Handmade recently opened a showroom at The Gingerbread House in Nottingham Road, and, among other wares, their ceramic chandeliers, jewelry and accessories are extraordinary. Best of all, owner and designer Merewyn de Heer runs an outreach program working with local women, most of whom are HIV infected, thereby transferring skills and confidence to those in need.
Nelson Mandela Capture Site
An incredible walk-through sculpture stands tribute to Nelson Mandela at the very place he was captured in 1962 after paying a clandestine visit to Chief Albert Luthuli to request support for an armed struggle. An exhibition takes you through the life of Mandela and his heroic role in the struggle against Apartheid and establishing a democratic South Africa.
Anton Crone is the CEO/editor of Safarious.com.
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