heThat Kelly Wilcox had a rare sighting of the honey badger while in Africa, was not surprising. Friends and colleagues affectionately refer to her as a honey badger because of her intrepid approach to life, including her African experience.
Honey badgers are members of the weasel family, known for raiding beehives and staying out of sight. They’re also fearless, determined to succeed, not afraid of larger than life challenges, and have a reputation for high performance.
Kelly and Rene have been friends since before Rene left for his RTW (round-the-world) trip. When Rene came back, they reconnected and she and their friend Steve were enchanted by his stories and pictures. In 2009, she and Steve learned to ride a motorcycle, specifically to ride on one of Rene’s trips.
They both bought BMW 650GS’s, like the one’s they’d be riding. At Rene’s recommendation, they rode to Alaska in 2014 to see how they’d adjust to the daily miles, being away on motorcycles, and sitting on the bikes for so long.
The Africa trip was postponed a few times. When Kelly met Cris Simpson, the three of them planned to go but Cris came to it late in the game and wasn’t prepared. They were all agreeable to postponing it a few years so he could save up the funds to go. Then Kelly bought a house and the trip got pushed back again. At the last minute, Steve had to cancel so Kelly and Cris were the only ones going.
She and Cris practiced riding ‘crazy’ gravel roads and trails to prepare for Africa. Last year she got a Honda CBX500X to exercise on the roads around her Squamish, British Columbia, home. Knowing her penchant for adventure and a challenge, Rene recommended the Spectacular South West Africa trip because it was the most adventurous and, combined with an optional trip to Etosha National Park, would give them lots of animal sightings.
They were looking forward to three solid weeks dedicated to riding in an exotic land, adventuring, and seeing new things every day. “You couldn’t say that yesterday was the best because today started something else that was awesome,” she recalls. “Every day, we’d say, “I can’t believe we did this!””
She was surprised at how easily she related to the lifestyle she observed during her visit. “Everyone we met along the way was very happy. People came out to the street to meet us, took pictures, and the kids high-fived us.”
The riding was definitely challenging, but then Kelly admits that some of the best things she’s done are while being scared out of her mind. She’d practiced a lot but was not used to riding in sand. Every day, adrenaline-fueled confidence had her riding on the edge, loving the adventure! It was scary but she never crashed. “I killed it,” she says. “I can ride anything now!”
Kelly knew that when Rene took them out of their way to Lambert’s Bay, there’d be a good reason for it. The B&B was nice, but not extraordinary. The walk she and Cris took along the beach offered waves, surfers, and a gorgeous horizon. But they live on the Pacific coast so again it wasn’t unusual.
It was that night’s dinner in a beach hut she’ll never forget. “Everything was exceptional,” she said. “The only thing they served was fresh fish delivered by local fisherman and cooked on an open fire. We could see the guy cleaning them out back!”
Etosha National Park was incredible. That’s where they saw the honey badger. It’s quite rare to see one but there he was, strutting along. I’m sure he was curious about Kelly and the woman who embodied his characteristics.
Kelly pauses as she summarizes her experience. “Overall, the trip raised the bar for what you can do with a motorcycle trip. It opened the door to adventures we can create for ourselves. Having never been to Africa, we were a bit intimidated about what we’d encounter. But now we say, if we can do this, we can do anything! I’m a real motorcycle chic now!”
Photo Credits: Kelly Wilcox and Cris Simpson