print // close
VIEW THIS BLOG POST AT: http://www.altrider.com/blog/detail/id/25

Finding New Friends in South Africa

Nov 20, 2009 // Trips on Two Wheels //

Jeremy

Bombing down the South African coastline on an R1200 GS. Tearing up pitted gravel roads in the countryside with a local detective as my guide. Touring fantastic vineyards while drinking in some amazing views and rubbing elbows with diplomats. All highlights from my recent, week-long trip to South Africa.

By the end of October, I was looking forward to taking a break and seeing the sights in a new place with my incredible wife (and AltRider VP) Brianna. I’d heard so much about the culture and scenery in and around Cape Town. Of course, I also wanted to ride in what is considered some of the world’s best adventure country.

Jeremy in Africa

It all sounded so perfect, except for one problem: I’d always heard that it was too dangerous to get a bike without local assistance or some sort of guided tour. My solution was to place a posting on AdvRider to see if I could get responses from local riders. Despite several replies, nothing worked out initially.

Arrival in Cape Town
We flew into Cape Town and were treated to nice weather and springtime greenery. 21 hours after our landing, I checked my AdvRider listing and saw a response from a local chap who wanted to meet up to discuss a possible outing. I was a little leery of meeting someone without first knowing their caliber, and I was also debating making a 6-hour trek up the city’s iconic Table Mountain with my wife and father-in-law. In the end, I met up with the guy that Friday after our tours of the wine country.

The respondent of my post, Geoff, and I discussed our potential ride along the coast and into some surrounding areas. He was a bit concerned about how much off-roading he would be able to do, but I was just happy to find an adventure rider in the city.

Geoff in Africa

During the course of our meeting, I learned that Geoff worked as an upper level detective with the South African (SA) police, and had over 30 years of experience. He also graciously invited Brianna and me to a Halloween party that Saturday night at the U.S. Consulate, the day before we left on our ride. Let’s just say the world of international diplomacy is an interesting one.


Saturday morning rideThat Saturday morning we met at the hotel and saddled up. The kind of man that Geoff turned out to be, he brought a spare riding jacket and gloves. We then jumped aboard his R1200 GS to collect my rental at Motorrad Rentals Cape Town, where I was told the owner is an avid racer. Danie Grobler from Motorrad rental took care of us—I found him very knowledgeable about the specific advantages and weaknesses of the various models. I was surprised to find that my machine had no crashbar protection—which of course left me thinking about the conditions I might be encountering in the near future.

Without delay, we departed into the wild, traffic-clogged city streets of Cape Town. I was happy to find that Geoff was a true local cop, and an expert at weaving through the cars. Just before bombing the coastline, we stopped for fuel and cash, and to look over the map. Geoff was extremely knowledgeable of the area, and I had little doubt that I would be in good hands for the remainder of the trip.


Into the Countryside
Our initial course snaked along the coast where whale sightings are common—while we didn’t see any whales, we did roll right up to a Yamaha R6, crashed and lying on the side of the road. We checked it out and found the rider, who appeared fine and did not need our assistance, so we pressed on.

Great views along the coast


Geoff had mentioned heavy winds during our Friday night meeting, and the subject had come up among several other bikers during our first coffee break, so I was bracing for it. Sure enough, as we drove away from the coast into our first valley, the wind was fierce. After a while, I settled in and was able to ride through it no problem.
After 100 km we reached a road turnoff, which started off as brutal gravel in terrible condition. Geoff asked me to take the lead, and I struggled with disabling the ABS on my older model R1200 GS. I was just starting to worry that I would not be able to shut it off, and would be stranded off-road with ABS, when I finally got the feature disabled.

We motored off into the Pine Desert, a white sand back country cloaked in pale, sparkling sand dunes. I was tempted to ride off into the sunset, but the combination of razor-wired private lots and street tires kept me behaving myself. All around, the views were so surreal, and I really hoped my ad hoc method of documentation was working—I had packed my wife’s new digital camera, and though I don’t have much experience at photography, I was clicking away at what seemed to be epic shots.

Got some epic shots


At the top of the first ridge, I stopped to take a few photos and check on Geoff. He turned out to be just fine and riding confidently, standing up. I encouraged him to air down, as the gravel road was particularly unforgiving. SA’s standard air pressure is over 2 bar, so we aired down his tires to below 1 bar before pressing on. At our next stop, Geoff was happy to report that the simple modification of tire pressure had made a major difference.
From the dunes, we motored out to a country road and onto a major thoroughfare. We found a place to eat and recharge my camera in a quaint town in the countryside before heading further inland. As we drove the scenery became lush and green—we passed by farms and vineyards nestled on passes, overlooking shadowy valleys. At some point, during my constant struggle to take photos while riding, the brand new (not cheap) digital camera my wife bought kicked the bucket.

Of course, I lost the ability to shoot what was probably some of the most spectacular landscape during our trip, as we stopped at an old historical town on one of the highest passes in the area. I was amazed during our ride at the breadth of cultures and ecosystems that the country had to offer—it was never dull or familiar.

I almost regretted returning to the traffic and construction of Cape Town, but the city has unique charms all its own. We threaded through the thick Saturday night traffic as seasoned riders to reach the top of Signal Hill in the center of the city, looking out across the beautiful blinking lights and Atlantic Ocean beyond.

If you have not been to SA, it is an incredible place—I knew from our initial cab ride into Cape Town that this was an area I would definitely want to return to. During the course of my trip I developed a true camaraderie with Geoff—a kind, caring man who I found myself looking up to, and who clearly enjoyed life’s adventures.

What went from a small hope to find someone to ride with had morphed into what I hope will be a long-term friendship. The experience has reinforced my goal that our Rider Locator, part of the launch of www.AltRider.com, currently in development, will one day become an efficient tool for riders to meet up in America and all over the world.

AltRider in Africa