A trip to Africa was one of the furthest things from Cris Simpson’s mind. Until things got more serious in his relationship with Kelly Wilcox and she mentioned she’d booked a motorcycle trip with Renedian. She wasn’t about to go without him but he needed to prepare. Their solution was for her to defer her trip to give him time to save.
Cris grew up on motorcycles in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. At seven years of age, he began riding a friend’s 50cc bike and was hooked. The first bike he owned was a dirt bike, purchased when he was 14 out of proceeds from his work in an ice cream shop. Now he’s got a stable that includes an F800GS, CBR1000, an RM25 MX bike, and a Gas Gas trials bike.
He didn’t know what to expect in Africa but he didn’t have to wait long to find out. It felt like he was in another world. During the flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek, he stared out the window, mesmerized by endless desert. The whole way was flat, sandy, and sculpted by dried up riverbeds—the only evidence there was ever water there.
If that wasn’t enough, baboons on the side of the road two minutes outside the airport told him he’d definitely entered a different time and place.
He was still saying, “Pinch me,” while he and Kelly went to Etosha National Park prior to joining the Spectacular South West Africa safari. “The abundance of animals was astounding,” he says. “Elephants, giraffes, lions, zebras, all the kinds of antelopes, and birds. You’d be at a water hole and there’d be 150 animals in your field of view, all mingling and trying to get a drink while keeping a wary eye on the lions.
In Namibia, he was fascinated by the wild horses. He learned the oryx (genus of four antelope species) near Sossusvlei never drink running water. They’re hydrated solely from eating cacti.
The sand dunes in Sossusvlei were like being on the moon. Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa, some of the dunes reach almost 400 meters. Not ones to stand back from a challenge, Cris and Kelly hiked right to the top and then frolicked down. At nearby Deadvlei, he was in awe of the petrified camel thorn trees. Estimated to be 900 years old, they haven’t decomposed because the climate is so arid.
The day Cris left Stellenbosch for 700 km of riding through the desert, alone, is one he’ll always remember. With nowhere he had to be, he stopped at a gas station to purchase a map, wanting to backtrack on one of the roads Rene had taken the group. Passing Agulhas, he took a road that crosses approximately 100 km of seemingly barren land and from that, turned deeper into the desert.
“You can’t make a mistake,” he acknowledged. “You know you’re alone, so far from anyone, and with no cell service. Even a flat can have you stranded for hours.” He wasn’t scared but he was mindful.
He struggled for words, trying to describe the sensations he felt out there alone in the desert. “It was euphoric. A natural high. Like Christmas morning as a little kid.”
“I was incredibly sad when I had to turn in the motorcycle at the end of the trip,” Cris laments. “I asked Kelly if there was any way we could just stay.”
They know they’ll be back. There are other places they’ll see first, but Africa hasn’t seen the last of them.
Photo Credits: Cris Simpson and Kelly Wilcox