At a guess I would say that 500 motorcycles descended on Pongola this past weekend.  Did I hear you say “Where?”
Well ride out of Pietermaritzburg – stopping first for that rider who forgot to put in fuel – and head for Ballito. You do need to stop along the way for a break: fresh air for some, and tobacconated air for others. Work your way through the long queue of cars at the King Shaka Airport turn off, and discover a crowd of toyi-toying protestors who are throwing logs and rocks onto the N2 Highway. Hold your breath and gun it paasst them. Stop at the Ballito Mall for breakfast, where you try to persuade the waitresses to join your trip. Then go in search of the back-up vehicle that forgot to turn off the highway for breakfast. Back on the road, make sure there are more “fresh-air” stops, turn a corner and there it is: Pongola. Just don’t ride too fast or you will be through it before you see the sign that says the Cane Rally.
This annual event is hosted on the Pongola High School grounds by the Pongola Cane Riders, who invite all motorcyclists to share the weekend with them. This is a combination of bikes, very interesting bikers, live music, a touch of alcohol, braai/potjiekos/curry & rice/footlong hotdogs, and a Saturday morning of drag racing and some amazing superbike tricks on the local air strip.
There were some fascinating characters – people who bring interest and variety to a such bike gathering: one rode a bike that stuggled to start, but once it got going it turned into a bleedin’ backfiring boney; one rode a 250cc that he kept at full throttle all the way in order to keep up with the bunch; there was a real gentleman of Bharat ancestry who was voted the most sociable man at the bar, only leaving when the sun came up; and there was that clear sighted man who claimed to have personally seen Captain Morgan at the rally – in fact he saw The Captain more than once and that was why he needed to stay awake all night.
|Looking for The Captain|
Please remember that “what happens at the rally – stays at the rally”: so all in all a quiet, well-behaved, early-to bed, meditative experience was had by the bikers who went with me. (This last sentence is inserted especially to reassure those wives and partners who did not go on the rally – trust me on this one: I am a priest!)
 Pongola, a small town named after the river that runs through it, is situated in northern KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), and exists because of the surrounding 50 km² of sugarcane and subtropical fruit plantations.