After winning a trip with Renedian Adventures, the big decision was, “Which one?” Liza and Evan Firstman had their choice. Following much deliberation they settled on Spectacular South West Africa for its combination of scenery, points of interests and roads—and the timing was right. They also wanted the challenge of 60/40 pavement to gravel that route offered. Evan was a seasoned adventure rider but the sport was new to Liza. Initially thinking she’d go as Evan’s passenger, after a mere five months of riding, unwavering determination, and a lot of hard work, Liza embraced the challenge.
She was also looking forward to re-visiting Cape Town, 20 years after falling in love with it and staying there three months. “It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” she recalled. “I was eager to retrace my steps and see how it had changed. I also knew that riding around Chapman’s Peak and the coast would be spectacular.” All of it exceeded her dreams. “Cape Town is still a small city with all the same charm I remembered.
While heading for the Cape of Good Hope, they saw their first wildlife—baboons and ostriches along the side of the road. A novelty for them, they’re commonplace to the South Africans, much as riding by a cow pasture is for North Americans. The highlight of their animal experience happened during their three day Etosha experience as they watched a lioness with three kittens testing their tiny roars, right next to the road. Mom picked one up and crossed the road, with the other two scurrying closely in tow.
Rounding the Cape along Gordon’s Bay on the way to Hermanus, the riding was spectacular,” exclaimed Liza. “The mountains go right into the sea and there was a profusion of fuchsia fynbos (a botanical treasure found only in South Africa). Our lunch stop overlooked the ocean and while the ocean breezes caressed, the sun shone, and we ate, whales breached right outside. That scene is seared in my mind forever.”
One of their fondest memories was arriving at the Tankwa camp in the middle of the Karoo, home to the annual Africa Burn, an event much like Burning Man. Evan recalls the special, homey feel that enveloped them, accentuated by a giant-pillow-festooned buggy ride. He had his guitar, everyone had brandy, and they all had an amazing time. The towers from Africa Burn were still standing because it had been too windy to burn them during the event. Also evident was some of the remnant artwork.
The best part however was being removed from the usual routine and open to experience anything that came their way, with no distractions—like work hassles, responsibilities or anything remotely close. They were not connected 24/7 to television, internet, or cell phone. It was available if necessary, but overshadowed and forgotten by the spirit of the place.
Even most cameras can be left behind. Liza was a photographic editor for a National Geographic photographer, and she’s got a good eye for a picture. “I’ve traveled with a big lens, big camera, always stopping and changing lenses. This time I took most of my pictures on a cell phone. Evan had a little pocket point and shoot. While the pictures weren’t fabulous, it was so nice because you tend to enjoy the moment more, rather than worrying about the shot. It takes all the tension and pressure away.”
The trip was profoundly life-changing and they’re grateful for an exceptional experience. In fact, they’re now reassessing their priorities. It’s anyone’s guess what lies in store for them, but guaranteed this trip has opened new possibilities they never dreamt existed.
Photo Credits: Evan and Liza Firstman