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Rene

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Rod and Norma Sydenham

Norma have just returned from a month on the dark continent—three weeks on the Victoria Falls to Cape Town tour followed by six days on their own exploring Cape Town.

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Rod began riding ten years ago and enjoys 50K kilometers a year, dividing his time between long distance touring, forestry roads, and “just for fun” riding. He and five friends have toured overseas in New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Spain. They’ve ridden extensively through the western states and provinces.

Africa was a dream. Rod had spoken with Rene at the Calgary Motorcycle show but it was a chance meeting at Blackfoot Motorsports that led to this season’s trip. Going all that way, it made sense to him and his friends to do the longer trip but there were no openings until 2017. When his friends backed out and a spot opened up for this summer, it caught his attention. Although Norma rides with him a lot, she wasn’t keen on riding that distance on a lot of gravel but wanted to share the experience. Rene was able to accommodate her in the support vehicle and the trip was on! By this time it was May and they only had a couple months to prepare and get vaccinations but they did it.

 

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They like to say they went with no expectations, yet it was much more incredible than they’d imagined. Norma found riding in the van a treat. She’s quick to credit driver Rob’s caring and entertainment for making the experience as special as it was. While she was the only passenger in the van for the whole trip, four other women joined for much of the time and they had a hoot together.

 

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Both Rod and Norma were effervescent when describing their trip and had difficulty coming up with a favourite memory. The terrain, animals, people, and culture were so different than anything they knew. “The trip on the houseboat on the Okavango where hippos, elephants, and crocodiles were right there was surreal,” recalls Norma. “So was the ride where the lion brushed up against the jeep. I could have touched her!”

“Every single stop along was a treasure,” she adds. “It was a wonderful adventure for those of us that weren’t riding as well. Everyone along the way was friendly, polite, and couldn’t do enough for us.”

 

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Rod admits he loves carving up the mountain twisties in his Alberta back yard, yet it was the roads in Namibia he loved. “They’re dead straight, disappearing into the distance,” he says. “There was so much to see on what can look like a moonscape and one of the most fun trips I’ve ever done. “ His favourite—and toughest—stretch of road was from Helmeringhausen to Aus. “It was dirt, sand, and gravel all mixed together,” he recalls, “and the scenery was stunning.”

 

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As a former veterinarian, he was fascinated with the animals. Seeing a leopard from 25 feet away was a highlight. Observing the free range cattle he wondered how herdsmen differentiated one from another, and how the animals, who looked to be in good shape, could survive on the scrubland.

 

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Norma, who’s terrified of heights, climbed two-thirds of the way up the Big Daddy dune in Soussevlei but panicked at the thought of descending. “Jonathan, the driver, took me by the hand and walked me down,” she says. “It was just like walking in marshmallows and I went from fear to ecstasy!”

Their reservations prior to departure proved groundless. “I was a little afraid of lions visiting us during the camping,” says Norma. “I was also a little nervous about the food. I’m not an adventuresome eater and didn’t know what to expect but it was all super!”

Any concern for personal safety evaporated as soon as they stepped on the ground in Victoria Falls. They had a day there on their own and six days in Cape Town at the end of the trip and had absolutely no concerns. “You just need to stay aware and use common sense, just like you would anywhere,” says Rod. “Until we got into the larger towns, we left our keys in the ignition.”

 

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Rod and Norma’s advice for anyone considering a trip with Renedian is, “Do it! It’s the epitome of under promise and over deliver. “

Photo credits: Rod and Norma Sydenham