Close your eyes, sit back, relax and visualize a place with clean air, no artificial lights, and where the only sound you hear is a gentle breeze. All day you’ve been riding through scenery you’ve experienced only through National Geographic documentaries, you’re on top of a mountain, the sun has just set in the most awesome sunset you’ve ever experienced, and millions of stars are beginning to appear as the sky darkens. This was but one of the highlights John and Becky Warrington recalled from their Victoria Falls to Cape Town motorcycle expedition in August of 2014.
Already exhilarated after a day of riding, they’d stopped at their accommodations for the night—in the middle of the longest gravel road between two cities in South Africa. After a few minutes to settle in, they were told to prepare for a little trip and to wear ties as it was a formal occasion. The entire group piled into the back of a rickety jeep and bumped and jostled their way to the top of the mountain. Once there, they were asked to grab a log or blanket and watch the sun go down.
“Sunsets in Africa are a time to reflect and think about the day,” says Becky. “It’s a time to think about people back home and maybe about people who have passed away. Everyone goes completely quiet.” “It was a totally spiritual experience,” adds John. “You’re at the top of a mountains in remote South Africa surrounded by open land, with nothing to impede your view. Sunsets became a real highlight of the trip and the magic of Africa just added to it.”
As the sun moved to light other parts of the earth, they returned to home base for an outstanding dinner, lots of friendly banter, camaraderie, and drum playing. While they were away, their beds had been moved outside beside their motorcycles. “It was absolutely amazing,” says John. “Everyone slept outside under the stars beside our bikes.” “You wake up in the night and may hear animals,” says Becky, “but it’s not scary. And the stars are amazing!”
John and Becky, owners of BC Ceilings Systems Ltd. and Canadian Acoustical Ceiling Supply Ltd. usually put a great deal of thought into choosing their vacations. That they were on the trip at all was a result of John’s bucket list, although he’d pictured a safari from the back of a jeep. After reading University of Gravel Roads, feeling like they knew Rene, and then meeting him at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show in January 2013, everything changed. Within two weeks, they were booked for a trip 18 months into the future.
Becky’s greatest fears about the trip were snakes and gravel. She and John had extensive road-riding experience around North America but neither had ridden off-road. Even though they prepared by taking a four-day course with Rawhide Adventures in California, she was still somewhat concerned about being able to “keep up with the guys”. That too proved unfounded. She moved quickly from apprehension to being comfortable on gravel, enjoying it, and actually looking forward to those gravel roads. And she never saw a snake. But an up close elephant encounter during the optional safari has stayed with her. “They’re big, wise, and majestic creatures that walk gently. They look at you and there’s an instant connection. It’s like they can read what you’re thinking.”
John narrowed his list of highlights to a few. He says there’s nothing like being in your tent and being woken by a giraffe, or filming an ostrich on your GoPro as it runs beside you. And all the people they met were extremely welcoming. He was astounded at the lack of crime. They never took their keys out of the ignition, including when bikes were parked in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital. Helmets and gear were left with the bikes while the group walked out of sight to a cafe.
Everything about the trip surpassed their expectations. And now, whenever they bump into others wearing Renedian shirts, there’s an immediate bond – travellers who have been touched by mystical Africa, and left a piece of their heart behind.
Photo Credits: Becky Warrington