|Two locals at the Garrulous Griffin pub in Dundee|
We were up and out by about 9:00 this morning, heading back into South Africa and down to the Anglo–Boer-Zulu battlefield sites. We had a smooth ride back to the border and a trouble free transfer back into South Africa. Route 17 took us smoothly down to Ermelo, back through more beautiful scenery. At Ermelo we swapped over with me driving the next leg.
It seems to be sods law that if we’re on a long journey and sharing the driving I tend to get the crappy legs. As soon as we left Ermelo, the flat and smooth tarmac Stef had driven over was replaced by road with lots of potholes so you couldn’t really clock away the miles as fast as we’d hoped to be able to. They are starting to improve the road and a few times there were short delays as traffic was reduced down to just one lane serving both directions.
By the time we made it to Newcastle I was knackered and ready to swap over again. Not a surprise then that the road quality improved immediately and Stef again had smooth tarmac to ride on. Both really in need of a break we pulled in at a petrol station with a café attached to find they had no bread and not a lot to eat so we carried on. A few kilometres further on we found where the people in the know stop. A smarted petrol station with a shop and a Wimpy attached to it. It's years since I’ve been in a Wimpy and there is something pretty odd about going to a fast food place and having your burger served up to you on a plate.
From Newcastle it was a short and straight forward hop down to Dundee. We’d chosen to stop at Dundee because it seems to be the best place to go to to get a good tour of the battlefields. The only problem we had was very scant choices of accommodation and no town centre map to show you what was were. By luck more than design we found the tourist information centre but we could see from the road that it was shut. Today is, Constitution day, a holiday in South Africa so pretty much everything is shut.
Behind us Stef had spotted a sign for the Battlefields B&B and Tours which was next door to the Royal Country Inn. There only seemed to be a door for the Inn so in we went. We were met be a very friendly lady who confirmed they had rooms free and took us off to show us one. Designed on a barracks style the rooms are set around a central courtyard garden which has a very peaceful air to it. Our room was also decorated in a country cottage style and although simple it had everything we needed. As we checked in the hotel called around the local tour guides for us to find someone who could accompany us around the battle field sites tomorrow.
We decamped to the hotel bar for an early sun downer. What started as a quiet drink in an almost deserted bar soon changed as a group of bikers descended on the hotel. They almost all drive Harley Davidson’s and are off to a rally at Richards Bay for the weekend. It was mostly men but a couple had their wives and very young children with them, who come behind in a car. We chatted away with them for a while and listened in to their debriefing at the end of the day’s ride. They seem to share hints and tips to make the next days riding better but although some listened intently others seemed to take it with a bit of a pinch of salt.
The hotel was built in 1886 and it has oodles of olde English country charm. There is a large lounge with comfy settees and chairs and a small quaint dining room. All of the public rooms are covered in memorabilia related to the Anglo-Zulu wars. There are pictures of military battle scenes, information panels about key people or facts of interest and different colours (as in flags) also on display. We could easily have been back in home in an English country village hotel which was quite a strange feeling.