A very short and to-the-point email from my friend Roland Sands to our buddies Grant Gorman, Erik Bond, Roland’s dad Perry, and me received a very resounding YES when he asked if we wanted to ride motorcycles across South Africa. Details were sketchy (Roland sucks at planning), but we all figured “What the hell? Let’s just show up and see what happens!”
I don’t know how, but we hit the lottery. Bavarian Motorcycles hooked us up with bikes and local legend Dereck Du Toit and his ragtag group of road warriors took us on a 2,000-mile adventure from Johannesburg to Cape Town through the middle of SA. After a welcome party and a meeting about the design of the 2025 BMW cafe racer at Open Window (a visual arts/creative college), the crew took off with only a shred of a plan scribbled on a cocktail napkin that immediately blew out of Dereck’s pocket.
It was pitch black when we rolled into a little village with no name near Vredefort Dome (the site of the largest meteor strike in the history of the world and reputedly the place where life began) where Dereck’s wife happened to have grown up in a beautiful farmhouse with 5 guest cabins. It was in the middle of nowhere, and when I say middle of nowhere, I mean 40 miles down a dirt road and then another mile straight up the side of a mountain on what could barely be called a road. We loved it so much there that we begged to stay another night so we could go explore the baboon-heavy mountainside and some old mine shafts the next day. After some horrible African moonshine and an impromptu drum circle around a real African fire, we headed off to bed to get some rest before some more 100-mph wheelies the next day.
Day 3 broke a bit too early when Bond decided that everyone should look out the window at a herd? school? pack? party? of baboons cruising across the countryside not far from us. [Editor’s Note: A group of baboons is called a “troop.”] 400 miles, 97 wheelies, 6 smoke breaks and one lost BMW key later we made it to another pitch black town that reminded me a little of Page, AZ as it was looking out over a man-made lake and a massive dam. Things got real ugly, real fast in the hotel bar when Roland decided that teaching the Zulu bartender how to make margaritas was a great idea. (It would have been, but Roland makes TERRIBLE drinks…) Some highlights of the night include Roland and Gorman slap fighting with massive African flowers and me having to buy dinner for the only other people in the bar because I was so embarrassed at how childish my friends were all acting. (OK, me too…). After losing a good chunk of my hair in a three-way hotel room wrestling match with Gorman and Roland, we got to get a few hours of sleep to prep for another solid day of riding.
Things didn’t start out all that well for Gorman, who woke up to a flat front tire that saw him in the truck driven by our savior (and sober babysitter who could fix or explain anything) Ruan. A quick stop for a flat repair turned into a 4-hour detour (of course) filled with street meat sampling, wheelies past the cop station and an unexpected street concert by 4 pretty damn good school kids. The ride to the town of Jefferies Bay was pretty epic, with sunsets like we had never seen and then a crazy mountain pass that got freezing cold in the dark. Bond and Roland were smart and decided to get a bit of sleep (again) and somehow Gorman and I ended up in a local bar where I decided that doing a 3-minute burnout on my fully dressed GS 1200 before riding it through the bar was a great idea. Somehow we made it out alive (barely) and found our way back to our hotel for another short sleep.
The waves were firing in J Bay the next day, but since I don’t surf and Roland and Gorman were too hungover, we bombed out. More wheelies, more smoke breaks, more roadside beer (and tequila) stops and we made it to George the next night, under the cover of darkness once again.
Weird… More beer, more tequila, and some more really, really great food was on the menu. I continued my newly found job of filmer, DIT, and chief charger of batteries for the mess of electronics that we were documenting the trip with. 6 GoPros and a Canon 7D were the weapons of choice and I was getting a crash course in using them all. Nothing like owning a production company and having to ask an intern how to turn on a GoPro…
The next day we ended up waaaay off the beaten path, so far up some farm trails that we were sure we were lost, but somehow Dereck knew where we were, and then at a tiny village where the entire place came to greet us as we pulled in. I don’t know if they had ever seen guys on motorcycles before, but we spent 3 hours doing wheelie shows and giving kids rides on our bikes. It was an absolutely incredible experience that we never expected to have, which made it all the better. Bondo loved it so much that he even married an African girl, and if she ever finds her teeth, he will be in trouble!
My last day was much the same as the rest: Amazing riding, crazy scenery, and a baboon who came by our table mid-tequila and stole our limes out from under us! The last 70 miles were epic seaside roads along False Bay on our way over to Cape Town, and we capped the trip off with an amazing seafood feast on the beach about 25 miles from the airport. I bailed from the crew a day early, so I missed out on the Cape Town shenanigans (luckily), but somehow the rest of the crew made it home alive.
Special thanks to Bavarian Motorcycles and Open Window for making this trip possible!
Thanks to Alpinestars for keeping us safe!
– Andy Bell