Subscribe to my newsletter to stay informed.

Every month I send out a mix of adventure news, upcoming events, and inspiration, as well as tales from the road.

Plus, new subscribers receive a complimentary copy of the chapter on Africa from my book The University of Gravel Roads.

Rene

* indicates required

Mike Martell and Michelle Letourneau

Mike Martell and Michelle Letourneau love exploring raw and remote destinations—the places that still feel like frontiers, inhabited by only a few people. That’s what they loved about trips to Alaska, the Arctic Ocean, Grand Canyon, and New Mexico. It’s also what attracted them to the Namibian Desert.

 

MM Elephant sign IMG_8271 Mike Martell

 

Both riders, they got their start in different ways during radically different life stages. Mike grew up sitting on the gas tank of his dad’s DT250, holding onto the handlebars. He’s since graduated to the seat and his own BMW F800GS.

Michelle’s parents are both riders but until six years ago, she was content ride pillion. After a two-up Alaska trip, she decided she wasn’t interested in looking at the back of Mike’s helmet any more. Her dad bought her a motorcycle safety course and she’s been riding ever since.

When they attended the Vancouver Motorcycle Show in 2015, they were planning to ship their bikes to Europe and travel there for the summer. After meeting Rene, they decided instead to join Renedian on the August 2016 Waterfalls and Wildlife safari.

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0166.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0107.

 

Going all that way, they decided to tack extra days on before and after their tour. Mike works for an electrical contractor and arranged to have a month off. Michelle’s a teacher so getting time off in the summer isn’t a problem.

 

MM Porq MMG_7973
MM Giraffes IMG_7846

 

MM Giraffe IMG_8955

 

“Nothing we saw in Africa reminded us of anything we’d seen before,” says Mike.

Two very different experiences enthralled them and left a desire to return to southern Africa.

 

MM O Delta IMG_8024
MM Plane IMG_8029

 

The first started when a small plane dropped them in a bush camp in the middle of the Okavango Delta. It felt like the middle of nowhere in remotest, legendary Africa. A big safari jeep picked them up and carried them even further into the wild. Animals he’d seen only in pictures materialized before his eyes.

Returning to camp, the group exchanged stories over something not usually seen in the wild—a sit-down dinner featuring a sumptuous culinary spread, served on white linen.

“During the day it was peaceful,” recalls Mike. “All the activity happened at night.”

As tired as he was, he slept only an hour. “The animal noises, from lions, hippos, and others, had me scared half to death. You feel the lion in your chest more than seeing it.”

‘The next day, we saw a leopard that had just caught a kill and buried it in the bushes,” he says. “We didn’t notice it until we were about 20 feet away.

“As dusk settled in, two bull elephants started sparring quite close to where our jeep was parked. The victor then turned towards us but lumbered away when the driver turned on the jeep’s headlights.”

MM VF IMG_8273
MM Michelle IMG_1321

 

On the other end of the wildness scale and close on the memorable scale, were the two days Mike and Michelle’s spent in Victoria Falls prior to beginning the Renedian tour.

“It was awesome,” says Mike. “We could unwind during the day, then get dressed up for dinner in a luxurious and historic hotel. We visited a couple of towns in the area, met and spoke with local people, and toured hospitals. Of particular interest was listening to a horticulturalist explain how they’re teaching farmers how to use drip irrigation.”

MM Vegetables IMG_8398
MM Lunch IMG_8012

 

Visitors to the area speak of the genuine welcome they receive from everyone they come into contact with. Mike and Michelle’s experiences were no different. “People don’t have a lot of material wealth,” says Mike, “but it doesn’t matter. The hospitality is outstanding and they really care about you. When we stopped at the side of the road for a break, two cars stopped to see if we needed anything.”

Mike and Michelle made a conscious decision not to research their trip. They wanted to go with no preconceived notions and see what they learned. While they were there, their motto was ‘Experience it, see it, and only if there’s time, take a picture’.

This summer, the couple are heading into Wells Gray Provincial Park and the British Columbia wilderness with a tent and camping gear. Another couple they met through their Renedian trip will accompany them. After that, Mike’s not sure where his motorcycle will take him. Michelle, however, is determined to ride solo across Canada.

 

Photo Credits: Mike Martell