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Old 04-09-2009, 12:52 AM   #121
MikieSA
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Originally Posted by Douf




CAPRICON??? Am i the only one that noticed the incorrect spelling??
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Old 04-09-2009, 01:16 AM   #122
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Originally Posted by Douf
As I've been compiling the final sections of the Day 13 Travelogue, I've noticed what appears to be a glaring error. Being under the impression that we'd reached the Zimbabwe border at Pontdrif (and judging by some of the other write-ups on this little odyssey I'm not the only one), as I looked over the GPS track data and associated maps, it appears in reality that the border was actually with Botswana. Is this correct, or have Mugabee and his goons made a recent Botswanian land grab that I, nor Google/Garmin are familiar with?

Douf
'tis not an illusion...surprising that a detail like that escaped the General's notice. The Botswana/Zimbabwe border is approx 25km east of Pontdrif where the Shashe river meets the Limpopo. But still another country, ain't it??
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Old 04-09-2009, 01:59 AM   #123
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Query on most northern road point

Looking at the Google Earth coords it seems that Beitbridge (border with Zim) is in fact a couple of minutes further north than Pontdrift.

Great report though.
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Old 04-09-2009, 02:46 AM   #124
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Looking at the Google Earth coords it seems that Beitbridge (border with Zim) is in fact a couple of minutes further north than Pontdrift.

Great report though.
Beitbridge co-ord at Limpopo: S22 13 31.6
Pontdrif co-ord at Limpopo: S22 12 55.8

Not much in it but Pontdrif wins by a hair
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:29 AM   #125
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I thought that he and Di were stopping to take some pictures as I had.After realising his predicament ... we scratched our heads in puzzlement trying to figure out how the kill-switch broke... especially trying to figure out how could the bird have caused it from under the bike. (coincidence possibly).



I also have to mention that a local that works for CAT (as in Caterpillar earth moving machines) stopped and offered his assistance and not only want to shared his tools .. .but give them to us. Luckily we didnt require them ... BMW's make there bikes big enuf to carry that stuff around... as apposed to the Japanese manufacturers ... they make their bikes small and fast ... so the forced to make the reliable
Bird flying under the bike? Ian? Busted GS? Coincidence? There are WAY too many unexplained events concerning Ian on this trip for me to accept that this was mere coincidence.


Actually, the explanation for the Beemer's strange behavior is really quite simple: After being scared shitless at the graveyard, I had an overwhelming desire to get even; so when all you guys were happily eating lunch at Mike's Kitchen, I took a napkin to the bathroom where, using my extensive origami skills, I made a motorcycle Ouija doll of Ian's GS. At the exact moment you and Ian were sitting on the side of the road scratching your heads over its' apparently unexplained demise, I was half a mile downstream ripping the wiring off the paper GS.


So in reality, you're saying it just miraculously re-started up with no apparent explanation? Hmmmmmmm……

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Old 04-09-2009, 05:08 AM   #126
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Originally Posted by MikieSA
CAPRICON??? Am i the only one that noticed the incorrect spelling??
Apparently

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Old 04-09-2009, 05:17 AM   #127
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Originally Posted by Splat_SA
'tis not an illusion...surprising that a detail like that escaped the General's notice. The Botswana/Zimbabwe border is approx 25km east of Pontdrif where the Shashe river meets the Limpopo. But still another country, ain't it??
Hey, if nothing else, it certainly makes a better story: 'Yeah, I was on a big trip in Africa many years ago and, I'm not saying it was difficult to navigate on those unmarked trails, but one time we got so disoriented, we didn't even know which COUNTRY we were in.'

Douf

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Old 04-09-2009, 06:23 AM   #128
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Originally Posted by Brink
Looking at the Google Earth coords it seems that Beitbridge (border with Zim) is in fact a couple of minutes further north than Pontdrift.

Great report though.
you know, the more I think about this trip in retrospect, maybe it wasn't quite the forgone conclusion that I confidently assumed it was at the time. Let’s see: to start with we have two Americans who, after a couple of short e-mails were apparently naive enough to entrust their future well-being to a group of total strangers on a continent they'd previously never even set foot on. And, as far as those 'strangers' go, well then we have: Mikie and Ian - OK we should be all right here - two guys on big GS ADV's ought to know their stuff. Turns out one of 'em - the 'careful' one - had a total death wish and tried to kill us on the first day (and maybe sporadically thereafter too); and neither of 'em appeared capable of consistently maintaining an upright riding posture on anything less civilized than a 4 lane highway. Di: After being repeatedly tossed off Mike's GS like a rag doll, and then brought to breaking point on the back of Gary's speeding GS - was still deluded enough to jump happily onto Ian's bike, where she was soon making more sand castles. Koshik: Intends to do a 5000 mile trip though Africa on a Fireblade - I'm assuming this one needs no explanation. Narissa: appears so smitten by her sportbike riding mate, that she agrees to do the entire trip on the back of Koshik's 'Blade - and apparently enjoys it too. Koshik, if it wasn't for the fact that she wasn't even on the bike at the time, I would naturally have assumed that it was Narissa'a stones, rather than the luggage, that were caught in the 'Blade's back wheel outside PE. Fwiw Narissa, I imagine you won’t find childbirth particularly painful, after two weeks on the back of that torture rack. Is the limp better yet btw? Cindy: Well, since I already gave Cindy more than enough shit just a few posts ago, I'll leave her alone - for now. And finally, it just transpired that our noble leader and (more germane to this misanthropic little diatribe) navigator, didn't even know which COUNTRY we were in. I'm sat here checking the attachment of my limbs as we speak.

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Old 04-09-2009, 08:35 AM   #129
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Originally Posted by Douf
Koshik: Intends to do a 5000 mile trip though Africa on a Fireblade - I'm assuming this one needs no explanation.
There is more to come!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douf
Narissa: appears so smitten by her sportbike riding mate, that she agrees to do the entire trip on the back of Koshik's 'Blade - and apparently enjoys it too.
Initially .. I wasnt going to do the trip cos I thought Nerissa will never go for it. i didnt even mention it to her.
You can imagine my suprise when she over heard Di and gang talking about the trip last year, and asked me "Why arnt we going "
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Old 04-09-2009, 10:18 AM   #130
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There is more to come!


Initially .. I wasnt going to do the trip cos I thought Nerissa will never go for it. i didnt even mention it to her.
You can imagine my suprise when she over heard Di and gang talking about the trip last year, and asked me "Why arnt we going "
I HATE YOU!
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:38 PM   #131
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Originally Posted by MikieSA
CAPRICON??? Am i the only one that noticed the incorrect spelling??


Fix't

And if anyone out there with better photoshop skills than me could drop ol' Gary into one, I'm sure he'd be really grateful

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Old 04-09-2009, 06:49 PM   #132
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Originally Posted by Splat_SA
Beitbridge co-ord at Limpopo: S22 13 31.6
Pontdrif co-ord at Limpopo: S22 12 55.8

Not much in it but Pontdrif wins by a hair
That reminds me Paul - did you submit the paperwork for the award yet? I assume you'll get a certificate at some stage and a scanned copy of it would be a good intro at the front of this little tale

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Old 04-09-2009, 07:46 PM   #133
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Wicked The Last Supper - (what excellent timing)

Dinner in Polokwane (Day 13 - continued)

The neighborhood in which we now found ourselves looked decidedly dodgy with many of the loitering locals taking quite an unhealthy interest in both us and our expensively assembled cache of machinery. From my perspective, it certainly looked like we'd landed right in the middle of the 'hood, but with the country's predominantly black population, Anyplace, South Africa invariably looked like that to this naive little white boy; and in reality given the rampant countrywide crime, the place more than likely had the kind of serious felony rate that would make any of our comparatively innocent little American 'hoods blush with insignificant embarrassment. Despite the less than Utopian appearance of the immediate surroundings however, we were still in pretty good spirits since the elusive Gary had just been welcomed back into the fold after going AWOL around The Tropic Of Capricorn. In any event then, nothing as trivial as perceived personal safety, or lack thereof, was going to rain on our current parade.



'Paul honey - do you remember which bag I left my AK-47 in?'

As the mechanics of fuel replenishment were completed, there was still the small matter of accommodation to sort out and, we also wanted to get a some beer for later on that evening, a necessity which ended up taking precedence over any other requirement based on the limited opening hours of the country's bottle shops (usually closed by 7pm in my experience). Luckily, there was just such a shop located directly across the road from where we were currently standing, and since that looked like as good a place as any, a couple of us wandered over. Now, as I mentioned, the predominant aura here was somewhat downtrodden, and the bottle shop didn't really provide any better feeling of security either. Attached directly to what looked like a 24 hour bar, which had a sort of indoor/outdoor feeling to it, there were small groups of locals loitering around, who looked on our presence with what appeared to be a mixture of suspicion and mild hostility. The consumption of alcohol looked like it might have been raised to somewhat of an art form in these parts and, even with, what to us was grubby motorcycle gear, compared to the locals we still had the kind of innocent, squeaky clean appearance that's often detrimental to your well being in a place like this. The inside of the bottle shop was no better either. The store itself was organized well enough, but the clerk had the sort of semi-conscious slightly dazed look that suggested an intimate familiarity with the fruits of the distillation process, or maybe even something worse. However our unlikely presence seemed to wake him up briefly, and subsequently his utter incredulity at our patronage was extended even further - if that were even possible - when we inquired if they had any alcohol free beer. Impressively, he managed to stifle all outward signs of amusement, but it was evident that he found such an obviously ridiculous request quite funny. Predicting his response to this inquiry was somewhat of a foregone conclusion; you could tell by the looks of the place that they very seldom sold drinks with a regular amount of alcohol in them, let alone none. It was a bit like going into a health food store and asking for a Double Cheeseburger and Large Fries. So with nothing alcohol free to show for our efforts in the bottle shop, Gary and I wandered out and headed back across the road to the rest of the waiting crew. However somewhere halfway across the road, it occurred to us that a couple of the girls were still inside and maybe it wasn't that great of an idea to leave them there unattended. So we stood guard until they'd made their purchases and left the store.

While this minor melodrama was taking place, Paul was involved in the mechanics of setting up a hotel for the night and, over the phone had secured reservations at an intown Travel Lodge. Now typically, given the constant security concerns, we'd try to see a place in person before making a commitment, especially in a large city such as Polokwane. However, after interrogating the receptionist for quite some time, Paul was confident that this place would work out adequately, so we set the co-ordinates in the GPS and headed away from the gas station. The reception was indeed downtown, but upon gaining entry to the front lobby, the receptionist informed us that our rooms were actually at a different location, which made us even more suspicious of the place. On top of this, we were all pretty tired and cranky from the long day's riding and just wanted to get off the bikes and out of the riding gear. The rooms weren't too far from the reception though, so we rolled out of there, I think expecting the worst. The route initially ran through the center of town, which looked safe enough, although bike security might have been a problem. When the directions starting heading to the other side of downtown though, I think we all probably started to get a bit more edgy. However, my suspicions improved when we took a right into what appeared to be the hospital district (usually a sign of reasonable civilization) and sure enough when we pulled through the front entrance into the gated parking area, the one story apartment style accommodation was really quite nice - much better than the downtown reception area with its' barred doors and jail like atmosphere. The receptionist called soon after to check that we were happy enough with everything and even gave us couple of dinner recommendations, which fortunately were only a couple of blocks easy walking from the hotel itself. The rooms themselves were actually pretty nice too, with a small alleyway connecting the apartments and an even smaller walled communal area with its' own pool.

We sat around and chatted for a while before going to dinner and even managed to negotiate another bike washing session - done by a couple of the hotel guys. When the group first got wind of this opportunity, for some inexplicable reason, they sent me out there to do the negotiating, which - given my reputation for hard nosed bargaining - had as much chance for success as Pee Wee Herman would have of getting a blow job at a Debutant Ball - off one of the women - before they put the grain alcohol in the punch bowl. Of course the price I eventually agreed on was met with predictable amusement by the others and subsequently Koshik was dispatched to haggle over the real price. However, as I recall he didn't get 'em down much more from my price, which can only have a couple of possible explanations (i) I'm a better negotiator than I thought: unlikely (ii) Koshik got worse: equally unlikely (iii) He was just tired and couldn't be bothered, or (iv) He negotiated for them to do his bike at least twice without telling the rest of us. Thinking back, it did look much better than the other bikes afterwards. Hmmmmmmmm.....



I don't remember it being that color.



That Freakin' 'Blade is hurtin' my eyes.

Cleaned up and shining - ourselves, we made our way out of the hotel to walk the short distance to the evening's restaurant - spread out across the street like so many pretentious teenagers from one of those old John Hughes movies. Unfortunately however - at least for the sake of this story - we were more John Cryer than Rob Lowe and as far as I know, there was a distinct lack of excessive drinking, womanizing - or under age sex (where's Mikie when you need him, eh?). The restaurant turned out to be great. Set in an older style residence, with many high ceilinged rooms comprising its' interior space, we commandeered a large table on the equally expansive outside porch. Sitting around enjoying what would sadly be our last group meal together, it felt like we were at a big Thanksgiving family reunion, only in this case, everyone liked each other. We undoubtedly enjoyed ourselves while we sat there, but I could definitely sense an inevitably somber air of completeness was beginning to creep in to the atmosphere; we all knew that our great shared adventure was almost over and soon we'd return to whatever realities constituted our regular lives.



'We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when.........'

There were a couple of amusing details to remember though. Gary - who as a result of his extensive lexicon of local dialect acquired on the trip, will soon be the first fluent Afrikaans speaker to have a Boston accent - during the meal had picked up a new phrase to go along with circle (=rotary or round-a-bout), robot (=stop light), top box (=trunk), petrol (=gas) et al. The Afrikaans phrase 'Baie Dankie' (=thank you very much) had been interpreted by our Bostonian linguistic expert - with no little amusement - as 'Buyadonkey', and almost immediately that became his nick name as far as the locals were concerned. For what it's worth, in a similar vein I made a mental note of 'Putt Course' on the way to the airport, a phrase that Di had trotted out a couple of times in between bites of Biltong (which, if you've read this whole report you'll be familiar with ). The true English meaning of this phrase is actually 'road food' and the correct Afrikaans' spelling - according to the wonderful internet - is really 'Padkos'. However I amused myself by incorrectly assuming that the correct definition was really: a piece of terrain on which some self important, polo wearing, middle class fag - er, sorry, ahem: I mean a golfer - can swing one of his gay little $300 clubs (no joke there). By the way - I never asked, but: how does one say 'F$%K You Mikie' in Afrikaans?



'I love you guys' (sniff..)

Dinner over, and back at the Hotel, we sat around in the common area and went through the mechanics of compiling the entire cache of photos onto a few thumb drives. Someone had bought some Champagne; we opened it and made a weak attempt at celebrating, but I don't think anyone was feeling particularly celebratory by now. I imagine a winning Super Bowl player goes through similar emotions: there's months of build up, you make the plays, get the result, complete the ultimate achievement and spray the bubbly. Now we're sat in the proverbial locker room: all the fanfare is dying down and we're looking at one another thinking 'now what'. In reality the trip as we all knew it was over. Gary and I would leave the others in the morning with only a couple of hours of boring highway blast back to jo'burg remaining. I was quite sad.

Shortly after we all went to bed.

Douf screwed with this post 04-10-2009 at 04:38 AM
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Old 04-10-2009, 03:45 PM   #134
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Bluhduh and...........we're gone

Polokwane - Johannesburg (Day 14: part one -185 Miles)







I awoke on this unwelcome Friday morning with a heavy heart. Our trip as we knew it was over; traveling just for traveling's sake was disappearing fast in the rear view mirror and what lay ahead for Gary and I was the unwelcome prospect of two day's worth of 'formality travel' - an unpalatable cocktail of stopping and starting - of loitering aimlessly in airports and long flights. However, before embarking on at least 16 hours of baggage class transcontinental purgatory, the dubious pleasure of a tediously monotonous interstate blast back to Jo'burg remained and, only after returning the bikes, packing the luggage, checking and re-checking would we undertake - in an unfortunately necessary four wheeled conveyance - to complete a sloth-like crawl through the perilous stagnation of Johannesburg's finest Friday afternoon gridlock in order to catch our flight.



The bikes bid each other farewell, before leaving for the last time.



'Get me the hell away from this freakin' pity party will ya?'

Our departure from the Polokwane hotel was emotionally anti-climactic even so, since it was only Paul and Cindy who we'd permanently be saying goodbye to at this point. Koshik/Narissa and Ian/Di were also heading back to Jo'burg, but without the time constraints of a flight to catch, bikes to return and a million and one other small details to take care of, were not intending to depart in quite the urgent manner that our schedule dictated. Consequently, waking those guys up to bid them a temporary farewell was met with a collection of predictably bleary eyed heads poked around doors and a typical response along the lines of: 'Uh....oh yeah, OK....we'll see ya later'; so having established their current indifference to our very existence, we wandered over to see if Paul and Cindy were any more coherent. The answer was: barely; but recognizing that there was to be no long goodbye between the four of us, presently - having thrown on whatever clothing came to hand - they both emerged from their apartment in a semi-comatose state and stumbled out to the parking lot to wave goodbye. The four of us stood there briefly in the lightly falling drizzle of the early morning hour and exchanged the usual hollow pleasantries that typically serve to inadequately express our poignant emotions in times like these. Then, after predictably professing the inevitability of future trips and friendship between us, we put on our helmets, the receptionist opened the front gate and, turning around one last time to wave goodbye, the two of us rolled morosely out of the parking lot and the gate closed irrevocably behind us.



I could tell Paul was all choked up when we left..........



........and only after considerable persuasion, did Cindy manage to improve his spirits
- note South African fornication habits must be really good, since apparently they even smoke during sex.

My innate sense of sorrow was temporarily lifted though, as I shortly became distracted by the mechanics of picking my way through Polokwane's city center, which was awash with the significant first throes of early morning rush hour traffic. Guided by the magic of our GPS's urban knowledge, the two of us progressed slowly through the already grid locked surface streets comprising the city's central business district. Without any particular enthusiasm for the process, we engaged in a limited amount of lane splitting, but in deference to our currently indifferent state, no real urgency attached itself to our movements. A little further on however, our sedentary rate of progress was legitimized to some extent when a construction zone and consequent detour scenario presented itself, requiring careful and methodical roadcraft in order to follow the makeshift signage that was currently our only way of successfully navigating the maze of thoroughfares to the other side town. Presently though, after passing through the last of the diversions, an empty expanse of freeway stretched out in front of us and, feeling that Profound sense of relief that accompanies liberation from the shackles of urban congestion, we smoothly rolled into the throttle and accelerated steadily up to cruising speed.



The human emoticon that is my riding buddy, Gary



Riding along suicidally, we waved happily to each other

Within a few moments of being freed from the city's limits, we thankfully rolled into a landscape of sparsely vegetated open countryside, characterized - as far as the eye could see - by an endless series of gently rolling hills. The coolness of the crisp morning air immediately became more apparent as speed increased, with an additional bonus
to this refreshing sensation contributed by our exit from the cosy warmth of the city's comforting thermal blanket. As we rode along steadily, I methodically checked the integrity of my thermal defenses: Collar tabs?: check; ankle snaps?: check; wrist zips: a little loose, so I closed them tightly up around the wrists of my gloves; and, after successfully taking sensory stock of my mobile itinerary, within the comfort of consequent relaxation, my thoughts returned to the trip's imminent conclusion.



Bye bye you FF's

As we rode along, a melancholy wave washed over my being and, flushing out any sense of indifference in my current state of mind, my sadness intensified with each passing mile. I started to think about how much I really loved doing this, just the pure mechanics of being out on the road; and soon it was all coming to an abrupt end. From the first day on this ride, I had inherently experienced the joyous sense of traveling, the clarity of mind that comes with focusing only on the basics of daily life, and the details necessary for mere survival. It had been quite some time since my last trip of this magnitude and I knew immediately that I missed it - a thought legitimized by my memory of a comment I made to Paul about how much fun I was having, even on the initially dead straight roads of the Northern Plains.

I didn't want this trip to end and felt - like I always do on my less than lengthy excursions - that it could go on forever. Although I missed my wife and family very much, I could think of nothing much else than would mentally prevent me from carrying on indefinitely. As Gary and I rode along together, I tried desperately to take in everything I loved about this feeling; to try and crystallize it in my mind's eye in order to happily revisit whenever I desired. I felt the powerful thrust of the turbulent air rushing over my body, cushioned by the stiff fabric of my suit, but still immediate to my current existence. I held on to the 'bars as it buffeted me constantly; my head nodding almost rhythmically as I battled through some tougher climatic conditions. The churning noises made by the air were also critical to my riding experience and, although dampened by the sonic defenses of my earplugs, still provided an anathema to the aural deprivation of a car journey. Even the smells were essential to my ride. I smelled things on a bike that weren't even 'smellable' in normal life, like rain for instance - and I'd certainly smelled my fill of that on this trip. Riding into a town on a cool early morning, I'd smell the restaurants cooking up their wares and imagining all the tasty concoctions waiting inside would pique my appetite as nothing else could. Out in the countryside, I could smell all sorts of different things, some fragrant - some not so fragrant; but even undesirable smells passed quickly in the continuous nasal 'soundtrack' of a bike ride, and they'd combine - whatever they were - into a colorful kaleidoscope of nasal information, imperceptible by any other means of travel. Maybe most importantly, I'd relish the temperature variations I'd feel on a ride, which often ran from one extreme to the other - sometimes in the same day. I'd be freezing on a cold early ride, even bundled up against the elements; but then I'd stop at a cafe and, walking inside through the door, instantly feel comforting warmth as I ordered what was always the best cup of hot coffee I'd ever had. Setting off afterwards I could ride along and feel relief as the morning temperature slowly came up along with the sun - the first rays of its' warmth being both mentally and physically therapeutic with the relief they'd bring. I could feel local variations in temperature too, riding along in blisteringly oppressive heat then suddenly dipping into shade and feeling a welcome moderation its' severity. No better example of this could provided than our ride into Port Nolloth early in the trip, which coupled many miles in sweltering temperatures battling barren severely windswept plains, with gorgeously moderate slightly breezy weather conditions as the seafront appeared - rendering the final triumphant ride into town that much more memorable. Whatever the temperatures, hot or cold, coddling or victimizing, they would always be a key part of the ride's memory.



Yes - I was feeling really depressed

I liked to travel towards the back of the group and watch the others enjoying themselves too. In doing this I could see a perceived reflection of what I was doing, and that made it even more enjoyable for me. Right now I was riding slightly behind Gary in staggered formation; I could see he was steeling himself against the elements - that loosely fitting jacket of his, puffed up in an exaggerated torso and flapping eagerly in the breeze - making his efforts to hold on look that much greater. I imagined how cool we must look to anyone unlucky enough to be imprisoned in a mere car - two hardened travelers battling against the wrath of nature with the apparent contents of their lives strapped haphazardly on the bikes. As I struggled to savor every last moment, a sense of regret passed through me as I cursed myself for each time I'd wished that even the most trying parts of this journey could be over quicker. What was my rush? What the hell was I in such a damned hurry to get back to? WORK? YOU..... IDIOT!

Fortunately, as the ride progressed I completed my personal character assassination and my thoughts eventually turned to the nuts and bolts of how I'd got to be in this exact place at this particular time.

I can't express how unbelievably grateful I am to everyone involved with this experience for making it happen. To have been lucky enough to stumble across a group of folks with a shared vision and the motivation to follow through on it is a wonderful thing. Many people I bump into - when I tell them of this trip - express a yearning to do something similar, to live out of their comfort zone for a little while, to be adventurous, to live the dream. Well, we did it. We had the idea; we took the time; we made the effort and the arrangements; we got the bikes ready; we did whatever it took and got it done; and I thank each and every one of you for doing all the things, big or small, that it took to make this really happen.

Of course even before leaving South Africa, we were all talking about doing a reciprocal trip in the U.S. and make no mistake there's nothing I'd like more. It'd be great to have those guys over here and payback their collective friendship, kindness and generosity of spirit. We've got the bikes, the accommodation, all of that stuff: let's do it! But, even if we never do any of that; for a few fleeting moments we shared something that very few people ever get to experience; something that in retrospect, however the details of each of our personal situations subsequently pans out, will turn out to be one of the few defining moments in each of our lives; one of the small number of things that we can look back on in a few years with a sense of pride and wonder. It's memories of this trip - and if we're lucky maybe a few others like it - that will be the substance of the rhetoric that we'll bore our grand kids with someday (actually some of us may already be doing just that), and we experienced it together.



Douf screwed with this post 04-13-2009 at 02:53 PM
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Old 04-11-2009, 04:41 PM   #135
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Talking Bye y'all - Hi y'all

Day 14: Leaving South Africa

Tiring of my soul searching and hoping to reach Johannesburg before I had a nervous breakdown, it was with great relief therefore - at least in my case - that we reached the outskirts of the city. Our only stop down this - for me - retrospective road home was at a Wimpy-A-Like (Steers, maybe) some way back up the N1 (just north of the N4 actually) for a late breakfast, which predictably was the inspirational equal - culinarily speaking - of the dull stretch of major highway over which it was perched. As the GPS counted down our final miles, homing our bikes in on their place of origin, I derived some sense of mild satisfaction when considering that we had, with these last few miles, completed an entire loop of the country, which was something to be proud of at least.

Before dropping the bikes back at MotoBerlin though, we gassed them up, just up the road from their location. A couple of guys at the pumps started the inevitable conversations about the bikes, but when we explained what we'd just put the finishing touches to, they were pretty much lost for words. After dropping the bikes off back at MotoBerlin - thankfully with no funny business regarding our security deposits - Alex (of MB) was nice enough to give us a lift back to Paul's house where we were picking up the rest of our luggage. Once again MotoBerlin is a class act - recommended - and no, I do not have any personal affiliation with them either (www.motoberlin.co.za)



'Goodbye old friend.' I really would've liked to keep the GS as a souvenir. (Coincidentally it was Alex's last day with MotoBerlin too - he was moving to Cape Town to start a new venture - 'good luck Alex')

Trustingly, in order to simply our departure logistics, Paul had given us the keys to his home even before the trip had started - and before he had got to know Gary and I that well (which in my case at least was probably a good thing). I was both surprised and extremely grateful for this unusually faithful act. Nevertheless, once back inside the residence, I did spot of a couple of quite valuable items that I quite fancied, but try as I might I couldn't rearrange my luggage appropriately to fit them in - although I did have about half a dozen pairs of soiled skivvies that I thought about leaving on the counter to make room, but ultimately I thought better of it and took the moral high ground instead. After a short while spent packing our belongings, Ian and Di (who had generously agreed to give us a ride to the airport) arrived in Ian's car. On what I distinctly recall being the fifteenth permutation of possible luggage arrangement options, the assemblage of bags, souvenirs and make-up products did indeed conspire to cram themselves into the back of Ian's Alpha after which we headed off to the airport.

What I - in my naively innocent mind - automatically assumed was a fairly straightforward sojourn through downtown jo'burg to our destination, turned out to be slightly melodramatic in one or two instances. Although pessimistically leaving such a ridiculously excessive amount of time for the airport run, that a more optimistic pair of individuals could have probably squeezed another SA lap in and still got there on time, the rush hour traffic - I call it rush 'hour' but that implies some finite time frame to its' existence, which as far as I could tell did not apply to the seemingly perpetual Jo'burg gridlock - was so incessant, that I started to wonder if we'd even make it. Thankfully that ultimately didn't become an issue and I was spared the mental torture of having the excessively well prepared Gary repeatedly berate me with 'I TOLD you we shouldn't have done that fourth corner', as we sat there waiting for the next available flight. However, our painfully slow rate of advancement did potentially have a couple of positive aspects to it: for a start, it was certainly a strikingly obvious illustration of how utterly futile - especially compared to a lane splitting motorcycle - any attempt at expedient car-bound movement becomes in this environment. Judging from the look of absolute frustration on the face of our driver, Ian obviously perceived this too; and I imagined he was contemplating that, were he making his aggressively typical two wheeled urban assault on his GS right now instead of being interminably marooned in this supposedly mobile Alpha, he'd already have dispatched us at the airport, managed to squeeze in ten or twelve carefree laps of Soweto rock/bullet dodging and still found time to make a few calls, grab a Mega coffee and check his e-mail. Secondly - in terms of regarding our progress in a better light - it did allow Gary and I to take in the sights of Jo'burg at a more leisurely pace as, for those of you tenacious enough to have read this far, I would imagine it's somewhat evident that on our happy-go-lucky two wheeled city jaunts, we'd usually exhaust most of our immediate concentration with either praying or dodging cars (and occasionally worrying about a few animated airborne objects too). Amongst other things, we spotted a circle of uniformed school kids who appeared to be engaged in some kind of breakdancing competition as they - one after another - took turns stepping into the ring to show off their best moves. The rate of our forward motion became so limited that impressively, Ian even managed to by a monogrammed license disc holder for his car without getting out of the car or even leaving the 'flow' of traffic. A street vendor - even having to slow his walking pace to match ours - provided the service, and it struck me that maybe the locals could teach the U.S. a thing or two about commerce, as this was the drive-thru taken to it's logical conclusion, with the distinctly advantageous overhead rates for the associated 'premises' (maybe the odd pair of shoes?) being a considerable advantage over more traditional outlets in these currently difficult economic times.

In competition with Johannesburg's extremely impressive automotive snarl-up, Ian and Di's navigational skills were also conspiring to throw a monkey wrench into our progress. They appeared to spend so much time discussing route minutiae, checking and re-checking the GPS directions and generally second guessing each other's directional recommendations, that I began to wonder if either of them even knew where the airport was. In retrospect though, I put their behavior down to trying to find a short cut through the stagnant traffic flow; at least that made me feel better about the whole experience.



Do either of you clueless wonkas even know where we're going?

Finally, - and after extinguishing the majority of the 'putt course' served up by our very own Cape Cookie Queen - the telltale signs of low flying airliners revealed our imminent arrival at the airport and, after making a few laps of the multi-storey parking facility, we eventually had some success at parking the car, following which Gary and I (ably assisted by Ian if I remember correctly) grabbed our bags and the four of us trudged unenthusiastically into the airport.

International check-in at Johannesburg's airport undoubtedly lives up to it's name much more impressively than any American airport I've ever been to - where the majority of people, although obviously from different ethnic backgrounds, all conspire to look somehow, well....American! This place couldn't have been more different; the mixture of many different nationalities along with their associated dress codes gave our current surroundings a wonderfully diverse multicultural appearance, and it felt as though I now stood in a true melting pot of our astounding humanity. With the amount of obviously middle eastern natives wandering freely around - which of course the prevailing U.S. propaganda automatically had the pair us of viewing with no little suspicion, - especially in an airport - there was a level of uncertainty about our surroundings that made the whole experience quite compelling. However, no one else seemed to be particularly concerned about the stereotypically terroristic appearance of many of our would-be traveling companions, so eventually I thought no more of it. In fact I felt quite insignificant in the typically unremarkable middle class American attire that I was currently dressed in and secretly wished that our normal westernized clothing selections were a little more flamboyant. :ymca



After fighting over the 'tomato sauce' during our last South African meal together, Gary and I pouted and I and didn't speak to him again until we got back to The States.

Eventually, as arranged, Koshik and Narissa appeared, clutching our freshly minted thumbdrives (which they had spent the last couple of hours loading with the balance of the group's collective photo archive). I was very grateful that those two had made the significant effort required to get the photo's to us before we left - even more so having experienced the frustration necessary to complete the airport run (although since they were still on the 'Blade, Koshik's blood pressure was surely low - in relative terms - compared to Ian's at present). Despite the heavy traffic though, our arrival to the airport still left us with a comfortable cushion of time before the flight's departure so, after checking in the baggage, the six of us had lunch in a restaurant at the airport, which as I recall was considered to be a fairly well known chain and regarded as a 'must do' by our local friends (I don't recall the name of it unfortunately). Eventually, with the meal finished, the dreaded moment for our final farewells approached and we all wandered downstairs to the security area. I felt very sad to say goodbye to my new friends and, turning to wave for one final time as I walked through into the departure area, I felt a distinct numbness as Gary and I were left alone to deal with the bureaucracy of the boarding process. However, the plane departed eventually and, as it took off I looked wistfully out at the newly discovered country which I was about to leave behind.



Overcome with emotion, Koshik bids us a sad farewell..........

or......after a horrendous off road wreck in the sands of Alexander Bay, double amputee Koshik undergoes revolutionary transplant surgery;
unfortunately the donor pool is very limited and he is less than happy with the results.



.........and just when I thought things couldn't get any more emotional:

SUPRISE! Mikie showed up to bid us a teary farewell.

OH COME ON! - surely you didn't think I wasn't going to use that shot somewhere.

Although crowded and interminable, the 16 hour flight back to Atlanta didn't seem that bad, as my mind was constantly swimming with the vivid details of my recent adventures. In what was a totally anticlimactic moment for my melancholy state of mind, for the final farewell of the trip Gary and I concluded with nothing more profound than the briefest of exchanges, as the time line of his connecting Boston flight required an expedient transfer on his behalf. Alone now for the first time since the start of the trip, I wandered vacantly through the corridors of repatriation that would ultimately lead to my loved ones and, sitting on the transit shuttle as it whisked me through the belly of the airport, I looked around at all the other travelers and with significant disdain for their very existence, noted how tedious and ordinary - in that predictably middle class sense - they all looked; convinced in my current condescendingly arrogant state of mind that whatever tawdry adventures they had been on were totally inconsequential compared to my own incredible experiences. As the escalator transported me ever upward and deposited my listless body at the end of its' last disappearing step, the feeling of utter indifference that enveloped my thoroughly insolent disposition spontaneously evaporated when I spotted my beautiful wife on the other side of the barrier, smiling broadly and waving as if her life depended on it. Rushing over to her, we kissed and embraced with a warmth that instantly melted my otherwise heavy heart and, collecting my baggage from the nearby conveyor, we chatted blissfully as we walked to the car.

That's all I've got.

Douf screwed with this post 04-12-2009 at 06:00 PM
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