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Fear.

Last week I was discussing an upcoming speaking engagement with a client when the topic transitioned to my presentation and how I could help my client with my speech to my real-life experiences on the road. The topic quickly folded into a subject that most people I speak with tend to share the same curiosity. They usually want to know if at any point during my travels if I felt that I was in danger or if I was afraid.

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People ask this question for many good reasons. But I think most feel that perhaps they would like to embark on some sort of adventure or travel, but they are afraid to take a chance; to risk their current state of being—their comfort zone. Understandably, their curiosity perhaps stems from wondering whether such fears are founded.

My usual response to these curious queries is, no I never felt in danger or fear for my life in my three years of solo travel on a motorcycle. But as my client probed further for insight into my travel adventures, he asked “What about dangerous roads or terrain, were you ever afraid in that way?”

I scratched my head, took a quick gander out the window and confided to him, that yes, I was afraid on a number of occasions.

To be sure, he knew that I crushed my leg on a muddy road in Bolivia during the trip. He knows that a bus roaring into my lane on a downhill turn on a dirt road in Ethiopia caused me to crash. And he certainly knows that a small taxi van pushed me off the road in Tanzania. But in each of these cases I wasn’t afraid. The crashes, for the most part, happened so fast that I had no time to think or react.

Then I started thinking. That’s when I recalled some scary episodes while riding at night, tense, white-knuckled and fearful that this night might be the last of my journey, that I might not make it to my destination before crashing—or worse. It’s never a good idea to ride at night anyway.

It’s funny, many of these episodes involved wet and rain conditions at night.

Like the time I was heading north toward Maceió in northern Brazil. I planned to arrive at this beautiful seaside city before sunset when the rain pelted me and slowed me down. Soaked and cold and with no visibility—no lines on the dark, wet and jet black tarmac. No street lights. And the headlight of my bike barely any use. The rain beaded on my visor and every 30 seconds I had to swipe the water off of it with my soppy wet glove.

As the minutes and hours clicked on, the rain made me wetter and wetter. My visibility so impaired that I had to strain, squint and slow to a crawl just to make sure I didn’t ride off the tarmac, because it was so dark and just blended into the landscape. Then I found myself winding through gentle rolling hills lined with sugar cane plantations.

On the road I had to be careful when rounding curves because trucks that carried harvested cane to ethanol processing plants would drop pieces of cane on the road. Like banana peels I’d often catch one— and my rear tire would slip and slide. My heart beat faster. I gripped the handlebars tighter.

These trucks would also appear out of nowhere. Sometimes a truck would seemingly magically appear out of the darkness of the tall sugar cane plants. Most of these trucks were carrying three trailers, each packed with cane. Most of the time only dim headlights shined on the road ahead. Barely visible I had to be careful because the could either hit me or because I couldn’t see them in the darkness, I might run into the back of them because the trucks were not fitted with reflectors or tail lights. That night was unforgettable and one of the most tiring rides of my entire three years. I was afraid and scared I might not make it.

Trying to make it to Iringa Tanzania from the border of Tanzania turned out to be another harrowing night. When tarmac becomes wet and the sun fades into night, the pavement fades again into the horizon and trying to see the difference between pavement and vast emptiness of desolate landscapes becomes the most important task of riding. The rain poured and even protected in the confines of my rain suit, I felt trapped and blind. The bright streams of lights from oncoming traffic would detract like a star filter through the drops of rain on my visor creating a massive blind-spot that would haunt me as I rode the twisty track. Drainage on African roads is nonexistent, so I would wade through two and three foot high flooded roads, once amazed at the thousands of frogs who sprayed off the wake of my front tire as I rode through. The sounds of the gurgling frogs actually drowned the noise of falling rain.

I was afraid then, too.

Because my memory was vivid from the time I crushed my leg in a slippery fall on muddy and slippery clay, the muddy dirt roads of South Africa, particularly near the Drakensburg scared me too. Like a slivering snake, to me there is nothing more frightening than lack of traction on wet clay. I can see no difference between it and ice—I think I would rather ride on ice. Mud? Please stay away.

At the beginning of my trip I was still haunted and spooked by the notion of bandits in Mexico. Caught in the dark and still 30 miles from the closest village. tense and stressed, and still unable to see through the dark forests of Michoacán, my heart beat fast every time a car came up from behind.

Even as fear tried to suffocate my spirit and crush my confidence in these incidences, I made it through. And with each incident I became a stronger foe to fear. And while fearlessness is unhealthy, balance and prudence is key; as is your attitude. The compromise you make with fear so that you don’t let it get the best of you and in turn, you don’t due anything stupid or intentional that could certainly upset your balance between strength and fear.

When it comes time for you to consider traveling, such as I did or to any of the places I traveled? There’s no reason to be afraid. There’s nothing to fear.

The Suez Canal & Mount Sinai — Wars, Religion & The Red Sea

And here I was just a scant few miles from the Suez Canal. As that globe-fingering kid I always wondered about Canals. The Panama and the Suez. It was nearly three years ago when I rode this same motorcycle over the Panama Canal. Now today I’ll ride under the Suez. I didn’t even know there was a tunnel under this fascinating feat of human engineering. The Canal as we know it today, more or less, opened in 1869. The idea of linking the Red Sea with the Mediterranean is centuries old. Historians, archeologists and even Napoleon believed there was an ancient Canal that connected the Red Sea with the River Nile and therefore creating a link between the Red and Mediterranean Seas. Some say the great Ramses who’s temples near the Sudan border were erected to intimidate the Nubians so many years ago, possibly honchoed the construction of such an ancient Suez Canal.

Egyptian President Nasser in May 1967 booted the UN peacekeeping forces out of the Sinai Peninsula, including the region around the Suez Canal. Israel through a fit but couldn’t convince the UN to act otherwise so the peacekeepers were withdrawn and the Egyptian army took over and ended up on the Israeli border. They closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, though the canal itself had been closed to Israel since 1949.

It was this that forced Israel to launch a preemptive attack on Egypt in June of that year, which ultimately led to the capture of both the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal.

After the Six Day 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the canal was closed by an Egyptian blockade until early June 1975. As a result, fourteen cargo ships (the Yellow Fleet) remained trapped in the canal for more than eight years. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, it was over this canal that the Egyptian army marched into Israeli-occupied Sinai and ultimately took back the land they lost some six years earlier.

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Egypt celebrates its 1973 victory in Sinai.

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Getting ready to go under the Suez Canal and to the Sinai Peninsula.

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It’s barren and home to thousands of nomadic Beduins.

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The Red Sea glistens and calls.

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Watch for military practicing maneuvers.

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The canal? It’s complicated. Syria convinced the USSR to veto a UN Security Council Mandate that would allow the UN to regain monitoring authority and maintain peace in the area. So an alternative multinational coalition was formed called the Multinational Force and Observers – MFO. The MFO’ s peacekeeping force supervises implementation of the security provisions of a Peace Treaty between the Governments of Egypt and Israel in the Sinai Desert and the Strait of Tiran and Gulf of Aqaba.

But as I rode by the memorial celebrating Egypt’s Sinai win, I couldn’t help think that this blotch of desert and the intersection of crucial waterways to Europe and the Middle East has long been a battleground of ideas, religion, trade, oil and freedom for nearly as long as man has walked this planet.

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I made my way under the canal and then south along the Red Sea toward Mount Sinai where, according to the Old Testa

ment Moses led the Hebrew escape from Egypt by parting this Red Sea and then as the Egyptian Army crossed allowed the water to fall thereby drowning them. He then rose to the top of Mount Sinai where God inscribed the Ten Commandments.

Glistening and the deepest navy blue with tinges of aqua toward the land’s edge, the Red Sea was calm and calling me seductively. The land to the east was dry, harsh and seemingly in hospitable. Resorts and homes are peppered on the shoreline but at this time of year the places seemed lifeless, like the desert that surrounds. I motored on passing through the ubiquitous Egypt police checkpoints until I came to the base of Mount Sinai and to St. Catherine’s Monastery and the 6th Century Church built on the site of The Burning Bush.

As I rode through the slick pavement and the arid and desolate landscape, I was startled when ahead of me I saw a dozen or more men in camoflage fatigues cross the roads carrying weapons, and high on a ridge above the canyon men on trucks with what looked like heavy artillery guns. Then as I dipped into the left decreasing radius turn, several more men in fatigues wearing berets waved me through as I jerked the bike as I braked wondering what’s going on. I assumed, hoped and since I was on Sinai, prayed that it was just the Egyptian army practicing its military maneuvers on this fine day.

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The bike parked before the walkway up to St. Catherine’s Monastery.

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Local police ensure that Doc is well taken care of as I trace Moses’ steps.

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Monk walking outside the massive walls of the Monastery.

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Back door entrance into The Monastery of St. Catherine. I arrived to late to get into the Monastery — it’s only open three hours a few days of week to visitors. I followed a monk to a through this door and while I was invited, felt like I was intruding. Note lower portion of the painting and that’s the Monastery. , Built by order of the Roman Emperor Justinian sometime between 527 and 565 AD, it is the oldest existing Christian Monastery and belongs today to the Greek Orthodox Church. Named after martyr Saint Katherine from the 3rd Century AD. It was built to protect and provide sanctuary for the monks and hermits living in this area.

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Ages old olive trees flank the gardens of St. Catherine’s at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

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No matter what they tell you. The riding a camel is uncomfortable – for men and for women – ouch. So I gave up after about 20 minutes and walked.

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Today you can use your cell phone on Mount Sinai, maybe even Google the Decalogue if you’ve forgotten them.

As the guards at the church parking lot directed me to safe and secure parking I had to wonder. If my bike weren’t safe at perhaps one of the holiest places on the planet, would it not be safe anywhere? The bike has been safe and never have I lost a thing — other than from my own fault of absent-mindedness — never to the evil hand of a petty thief. But I followed suit and proceeded up the Mountain, using a camel for part of my ascent. For this route is the ultimate pilgrimage for both Christian and Jews and certainly Muslims don’t deny Moses as a prophet, so this site is important for the three greatest monotheistic religions of the world. And yet I still wonder and wish, using the simple words of Rodney King, why we all can’t get along.

My holy land exploration begins to take form as I venture deeper into the Middle East.

The bike is running well, though the chain and sprocket are on their last legs. I only hope that they will hold up until I get to Turkey and Istanbul. We shall see.

Ngepi Camp: Caprivi Namibia

The Ngepi Camp sits at the beginning of the Panhandle of the Kavango River which flowing from Angola dumps into the vast swamp known as the Okavango Delta – a vast wildlife reserve of wetlands and bush, and the largest Most of the delta sits in Botswana but here at Ngepi camp we spent a few days riverside contemplating our next move and schedule. For me, it was clear I needed to wait for my DHL package in Moan. I would also spend countless hours trying to get through to the Namibian Post Office trying to track down the package Johnny “A” sent me from California with my Apple Leopard disk, back up video tapes and a few small odds and ends. I wonder if I’ll ever see this package.

But now I am riding with another. Before heading off on his two month odyssey, Ronnie shaved his head. And he’s not planning on shaving or getting a hair cut until he returns to South Africa. By the time I met him in Windhoek he was sporting a near crew cut and the salt and pepper of his beard provided the texture and gave him a rougher look that was softened by his easy smile. When he was just a child his family moved from Brazil to South Africa and after spending the mandatory two years in the South African army in the intelligence unit, Ronnie confided that he spent most of that time hear near the Angola border during the Southwest Africa (Namibia) Angola war – a senseless war that crippled South Africa’s economy but provided much of Namibia’s infrastructure.

An early riser and always with a cigarette in his mouth, Ronnie is a veritable encyclopedia of flora and fauna. We took a sunset boat trip down the Okavango River in search of evidence of wildlife and between the guide and Ronnie were treated to hippos playing and guarding their territory, monkeys, egrets, fish eagles, crocodiles and malachite-headed kingfishers and a slew of other birds. But what made our Ngepi Camp experience were the treehouses we stayed in. With a solid wood floor, reed walls and thatched roofs these en-suite tree houses were complete with bathroom, running hot water showers, electricity and mosquito nets. Now in the heart of malaria country I must take all precautions to keep from getting chewed by those nasty buggers. I’ve learned that the malaria-carrying mosquitoes aren’t those that buzz annoyingly in your ear as you try to sleep or enjoy a cold beer. Nor are the malarial mosquitoes those whose bites itch and raise red bumps on your flesh. No, these mosquitoes are silent and somewhat itch-free. I’ve been taking the mefloquine for nearly three weeks and in these humid evenings by the lake give myself a shower in “Jungle Juice” with its 100% deet formula. This stuff can’t be good for you. It’s like putting kerosene on your skin.

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The inside of my treehouse at Ngepi.


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Ronnie’s treehouse as viewed from mine.

It’s hard not to rise early when staying in a tree house along the Kavango river. The house is wide open. The birds begin their morning song as the red ball rises from the east casting orange, red and muted yellow hues reflecting in the river while silhouetting the the briny branches of thorn trees and river reeds. And at night the groaning and sneezing sounds of hippos who’ve left their safe haven in the river to munch on the bush nearby. All is quite at Ngepi Camp and it’s like camping — with conveniences. Throughout the sprawling camp are a number of oddly named and uniquely designed and situated ablutions (bathrooms). One is located in the garden of eden, for example and another features tandem toilets appropriately named “His and Hers”.

Our stay at this staple camp in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia happened upon the slow season. As such, we shared the somewhat large camp with only a handful of other guests. This could have been the perfect Caprivi stop if it were not for the somewhat indifference to service that permeated from the manager down to the general staff. And maybe this attitude stems from the fact that there are few options for accommodations here and during peak time the place might be lucky to be fully booked. But there are other camps and while they might not have tree houses I would hope that service would be better. If not, there’s a huge opportunity here.

Not that the folks at Ngepi weren’t friendly or fun. No, on the contrary we found the staff to be enjoyable, fun and knowledgeable. But little things that are dictated by management policy with no room for flexibility that irked both Ronnie, me and other guests staying at this time. And the place is not cheap, either. Hoping to catch up on my writing and photo editing, we woke up the first morning to no electricity. Politely asking if the generator could be turned on, Duncan the manager informed us that the generator was very old and the owner was trying to get as much life out of it before it died. He was instructed not to turn it on until after 4pm. Meanwhile, food, beer and other perishables in the stores of the kitchen could be comprised. For me, I looked forward to enjoying these peaceful surroundings to inspire me. And while the lack of electricity didn’t affect my inspiration, my ability to leverage it would be limited.

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Above the toilet of eden while his and hers below help define the vibe at Ngepi Camp. Too bad the service didn’t match up to the atmosphere.


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Sunrise over the Kavango River on the Caprivi Strip in Namibia.

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Hello Allan!

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Hippos will show you their teeth and let out a big groan if you infringe on their territory.

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Masked Weavers looking to nest and eat.

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Tired?

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Hippos block the channel up river.

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A Malachite Kingfisher hanging in the reeds on the Kavango River.

Then when we ordered breakfast we reviewed the menu at a counter in the kitchen which sits just behind the wall separating the kitchen from the bar. The bartender simply walks through an open archway behind the counter to pass through between kitchen and bar. The only two customers in the kitchen and with the bartenders attention we ordered breakfast. But we were told we couldn’t order breakfast in the kitchen we would need to go to the bar. Scrambled eggs, some toast and ham. Simple enough. But no. We had to walk around to the bar where the same guy, our bartender, would then be able to take the order. Then he would walk back to the kitchen and tell the cook what we wanted. It seemed silly that he couldn’t write the order down in his book and was adamant that we walk around to the bar to make our order.

At lunch we ordered toasted sandwiches. Of a half dozen ingredients or so the menu asked to choose three. I felt like four: ham, cheese, salami and a slice of tomato. Sorry. You can only have three. We asked nicely. Then we asked again. Just throw on the slice of salami. After the bartender (yes, we were ordering at the bar this time) was flustered with Ronnie and my joking and repeated request for a simple fourth item to be added to our sandwich, manager Duncan appeared out of his office with a pen and pad and asked what we wanted on our sandwich. “Whatever you tell me I going to choose the first three,” he remarked while asking us to ease up on his staff. Never did anyone suggest that the salami could be included at additional cost, which I would gladly have paid. Nope. The rules were set in stone and there was no flexibility.

Dinners were fixed price/fixed menu meals. And they weren’t cheap. The meals were fair and portions small and allocated. Upon checkout we discovered we were charged for an additional bottle of wine we never drank. Needless to say the setting, grounds and accommodation at Ngepi are fantastic. But the service and management policies unfortunately overshadowed the experience and left us only remembering what we didn’t like about Ngepi Camp. And while the place tries to ooze a cool and laid back attitude which they try to communicate in their “Get A Life” tagline or slogan, I think it’s Ngepi Camp who needs to get a life and work on customer service.

Quest For Water In Kaokoland. Back In Time With The Himba

The small settlement of Opuwo sits just south of the Angola border in Namibia’s Kaokoland. Due to its harsh terrain including bush, desert and mountains, this part of Namibia is more rural and seems somewhat trapped in a time warp, largely due to the presence of the semi-nomadic Himba people. In what might seem movie sets for pre-colonial Africa story or a National Geographic special, Himba villages are populated by tall people with striking features wearing the same traditional dress they’ve done for centuries.


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The Himba people are beautifully sculpted and skin is protected by ochre and butter/animal fat.

The women rub ochre mixed with butter, animal fat or petroleum jelly to protect their skin from the harsh desert conditions. Men use dusty dirt. They’ve resisted traditional dress opting for cooler and more comfortable short skirts, loin clothes and adornments of shells, beads and iron. The women weave animal hair and caked ochre in their hair and are perennially topless. Small fires in their traditional huts of sticks, mud and dung provide a smoky fragrance that they use to treat their clothing and blankets. Chased to this part of Namibia and southern Angola in the 18th and 19th centuries after losing ethnic battles with other African tribes where they live now somewhat isolated and wander the pastoral lands in search of water and vegetation for their cattle and goats.

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Those that are ‘lucky’ enough to live near Opuwo experience and minutely participate in the “western” world.

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Villages are simple, dry and very real.

IMG_3097_2.jpgAnd while the town of Opuwo sits at the center of this stark and sparsely populated region, surprisingly one can find modern society conveniences such as internet, cell phones, a supermarket and more. And wandering through that supermarket the unmistakable smoky fragrance of those Himba women alerts me to the fact that these people commingle in this modern society but have resisted modernization. Some live in semi-permanent villages while others are nomadic and move where they can find water. Which for the pa st few years has been difficult.

A scant 20 km outside Opuwo and its modern conveniences we searched for villages where we could bring water, corn meal, sweets, aspirin and other items which we purchased at the local market. Taking along with us Willy, a guide we found in town, he suggested we stock up on supplies and bring to the villages as an offering and request permission to visit. The Himba don’t speak English so Willy provided the necessary translation. The first village we visited was a permanent settlement of a half dozen structures with neither electricity nor running water. The daily task of the women of this village is to walk 8km with jugs, fill them with water return and do it again. Morning and evening. Other villages are much further from a reliable water source.
At a temporary or roving village we visited the water source was far away and over difficult terrain. Too weak to stand on its feet, a goat lie under the semi-shade of a dying tree moaning. I was sure it would be dead by morning. No water. And nothing to graze on because the sun cooked any pasture from which it could eat. And huddled under a makeshift shelter of plastic sheeting, blankets and sticks nearly twenty women and children just sat trying to grab shade in the heat of the day. IMG_3082_2.jpg
There were no men in any of the villages we visited. Out tending to livestock, looking for food or building materials. The daily life of these people is harsh and difficult. But they seem so happy. And while many may never visit the Opuwo, they are aware of the existence of a life vastly different from theirs. But they barely use currency instead trading crops, animals and artisan crafts for trade.

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This shell is the most sought after adornment by women and worn for special ceremonies.
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Care is taken to fix the hair which also protects the scalp. Note the loin cloth on one of the children.

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This girl posed and posed. I have 10 photographs of her. Maybe more.
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The matriarch of the village.

In the states I turn on the tap and water cometh. Hot or cold. It’s even drinkable (barely). I carry about four battery charges on my bike and at home in the states I’m sure I use enough electricity to power the simple needs of a dozen of these villages. Taking for granted what I’ve become accustomed to and rely on, I find mostly the lack of water the most disturbing eye-opener of my journey through these lands. Sure, it’s not only here. The desert of Northern Peru and Northern Chile come to mind. And while water is the lifeblood of rural settlements and primitive peoples I’ve encountered in South America, Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. But in this blazing heat and stuck in the driver’s seat of my rented Toyota Condor, during my Himba visit I chugged nearly 2 liters of bottled water which I purchased at the market in town. And when finally leaving one of the villages the young children crowded around the door of the Toyota stepping on their tippy toes peering into the cab and spotting bottles of water on the seat and floor and eagerly grabbing for them. This, after we’d already given them several liters. One boy just wanted a sip. Another asked if he could have just the empty bottle. The happy faces I’d seen while visiting their camp turned sad and full of wanton when they saw water which they couldn’t have. I wanted to give them all of it. But we were headed yet to another village. Had I kno wn. Had I thought. Water. Simply water.These kids are hiding from the heat of the day under a temporary house of plastic sheeting and blankets.

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This goats demise likely the result oflack of water and sparse vegetation offers no space for grazing. The Himba people dry the meat in the trees.

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This is one of the nomadic roaming group’s villages.

These people have adapted and after four years of drought there’s little water. Their lives are spent wandering this hot and hostile land. They’re able to survive on less water than most. But they need it. Desire it. And spend their lives in quest for it. Water. Simply water.
Then I thought of my waterlogged riding days through South Africa, Northern Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia. It’s either not enough. Or too much. And when the kids hands reach out and ask not for a coin or money for food, but for water, simply water, my mind spins. Water. Simply water.
The the next village we gave them every last drop we had in the Condor. We had money in our pockets, but only a bit of water. I wished we had more. Water. Simply water.

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Addo to Hogsback: The Matole Mountains.

The next morning I decided it was time to shove off from Addo and bid my hosts John & Cheryl goodbye while I left them a large map of South America outlined with the route I took. This will adorn a wall in their restaurant and become a new place for travelers to post notices, pictures and stories of experiences and adventures.

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John reviews the map of South Africa with my route outlined as he dreams about one day riding a KLR through Latin America.

As I made my way to the Matole Mountains and Hogsback, I soon discovered my reserve fuel light was lit. Checking out the map, I planned to ride a gravel track from Paterson to Grahamstown but early along this route there was a dot on a town called Alicedale. The dot appeared to be bigger than others in the region. My first mistake. Arriving in the tiny desert town of Alicedale, I found two high-end private game reserves. One, the Bushman Sands Resort included an 18-hole Gary Player designed golf course. There was an ATM but at first saw no gas station. A second loop through the 200 meter long main street I saw two gas pumps sitting outside a five and dime type store. Turns out the pumps were locked and nobody knew where I could even get a liter of gas — about all I would need to ensure that I made it to Grahamstown without getting stuck in the bush. The receptionist at the Bushman Sands was even less helpful. She said nobody at Bushman Sands would be able to help me. She also confirmed the distance to Grahamastown, and with this information I knew I’d better get some fuel before venturing on.

I spotted a guy on a four-runner. A paid security guard for the resort he tried but couldn’t help. I started asking anyone and everyone in the parking lot. I finally spotted Brian. with a few teeth missing, thick glasses and a good-sized gut, he was well fed and extremely friendly. When I explained my plight he said wait. Twenty minutes later he showed up in one of those safari adventure vehicles like I saw in Addo and waved me to follow him. Armed with the keys to the pumps outside the five and dime, he filled me up and I was on my way.

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Brian & Duncan from the Bushman Sands resort in Alicedale fill Doc with the gas it needs to make it to Grahamstown and beyond without running out!

I continued my journey to the mountain hideaway Hogsback.

Township Colors
Townships are a fact of life in South Africa. But their community planning, architecture and design leave much to be desired. At least the colors are pleasing.

Deeper Into Africa – South Africa.

The further away I ride from Cape Town the more I feel I’m moving into Africa. But this is South Africa, and as such doesn’t really feel like Africa at all. In fact the woman at the gift shop where I purchased a few African gifts for my nieces and nephews explained to me that in the next few weeks her place and the town of Knysna will be slammed with South African tourists from Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and elsewhere in South Africa. Her shop offered a unique, if not eclectic mix of goods. Part of the shop featured hand-made artisan gifts from indigenous materials or sporting some sort of African motifs. The other gifts were seeming of the generic quality which many, she explained, were simply made in China. Why this mix? Because South Africans don’t want anything to do with African oriented gifts.

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River running to the sea on the garden route in South Africa.

At one point the new Africa with its first democratically elected government that has identified 12 official languages, most of which are from African tribes, in addition to English and Afrikaan which were official prior to the 1990’s, yet there’s definitely a population segment that wishes to distance itself from its African roots. To be sure, Africa is the first world. I’ve seen more BMW motorcycles in one week than I saw in more than a year in South America. It may be on the same continent, but the South Africa I’ve seen to date doesn’t seem like the Africa I think I’ll discover as I continue to ride.

As the distances I ride grow with each day, I move deeper into the Eastern Cape I set my sites for Addo Elephant Park, a national park just outside Port Elizabeth. Passing along the eastern fringes of the Garden Route I find more evidence of the devastation that the recent rains have caused on the infrastructure of this part of South Africa. So sadly I’m stuck to traveling the busier N2 national road instead of picking up the 62 through the mountains. I ride over what is the longest span concrete arch bridge in the Southern Hemisphere which at 216m high is also the highest commercial bungee jumping place in the world.

Bungee Jump View
The view Bungee Jumpers see before tossing themselves over the highest commercial jumping point in the world.

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He’s just a spec falling off the bridge. Looke closely and you’ll see him.

Before sun fall I roll into Orange Elephant Backpackers in Addo I’m greeting by a joyful bearded guy wearing an apron. “You must be Allan?” he asks but confident in his guess. “We know all about you and have been waiting your arrival.” The owners of this once horse feed supply and stables facility now converted into a budget travelers mecca at the fringe of one of South Africa’s fastest growing national park, John & Cheryl opened their business a scant three years earlier. Ever since business has been booming. Trained in the culinary arts and allergic to alcohol, John, a guitar player and passionate music fan, runs the kitchen and provides the soundtrack in the on premises pub. One night we stayed in the bar an hour after closing while he played me a medley of blues and rock until both of us faded and hit the sack.

Orange Elephant Backpackers

John Cheryl Orange Elephant

Grant & Jules arrived earlier than me and had set up camp on the greenbelt just behind the cozy dormitories. Orange Elephant also offers private rooms and comfort focused tents. My laziness and the $10 for a bed in the dormitory made deciding where to sleep easy.

Grant Jules Orng Ellie
Grant cleans his brake calipers at his campsite at Orange Elephant Backpackers in Addo.

Getting Down and Things Done in Cape Town

With a population of more than 3 million people, Cape Town is the economic and tourist center of western South Africa, and it serves as the legislative capital of the country. Like most of South Africa there is quite diversity and clearly visible contrasts on every street corner. Standing at the BMW Pavillion near Cape Town’s waterfront and looking across at the spanking new Aston-Martin dealership, I think that it’s been barely ten years since the Republic of South Africa was reborn as a democracy and apartheid abolished, yet it seems that things are slow to change as economic discrimination has replaced racial discrimination.

Wandering the predominantly Muslim neighborhoods of Bo-Kapp and the Sixth District checking out the colorfully painted Cape Dutch architecture and watching kids play cricket in the street, I’m reminded of the barely faded past of pass laws and apartheid. As Cape Town grew and space was needed to meet the needs of the growing white population and economic power, blacks living in these areas were forced to move to Townships located on the fringe of town. Though it existed informally since the turn of the century, Apartheid was established in the wake of World War II in 1948 by the winning National Party creating mandatory classification of individuals by race and a host of laws that legalized racial discrimination. New laws enforced the physical separation of residential areas. Separate public facilities including beaches, buses, toilets, schools and even park benches were mandated and delineated. Pass laws required blacks carry ID documents at all times and were prohibited to visit or stay in white towns without permission. In 1990 these laws were repealed but it wasn’t until early 1994 that the new “multi-racial” Republic of South Africa saw its first democratic elections and with it the country gave birth to a new national anthem and new “rainbow” flag.

Cape Town Da Koop
The Bo-Kapp Neighborhood of Cape Town with colorful Cape Dutch architecture and shades of Table Mountain in the background.

Bo Kaap Woman
Women in Bo-Kapp in front of her cantaloupe colored home.

Bo Kaap Veggie Man
Making a living selling vegetabls in the Sixth District in Cape Townb

I spent my first two nights in Green Point, just south of the city center near the waterfront before connecting with Martin and Gunter, owners of Tom’s Guest House (highly recommended) in the Oranjezicht district of the city center. Impeccably and tastefully decorated, Tom’s became my home base for exploring Cape Town, Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula while Shane and the excellent crew at Atlantic BMW plugged Doc into its computer and performed an overall check-up of the bike before I head deeper into Africa. We also took care of routine maintenance which included finally unloading some of the spare parts I’d been carrying including new front and rear sprockets and D.I.D. gold link chain. We repaired the wobbly headlight with another zip tie and discovered that the PIAA lights were inoperable because of a blown fuse.

End Racism Bo Kaap
There’s a lot going on in this photo taken near Bo-Kapp in Cape Town.

Cape Town Homeless
The apples I bought from the Bo-Kapp vegetable sales guy pictures earlier in this post I gave to these homeless people. The woman suggested the next time I drop by I should bring Kentucky Fried Chicken.

While going through the bike at Atlantic I met the affable and friendly Wes. Recently back from a two-week adventure tour of Lesotho, the island country in the sandwiched between the Eastern Cape, Free State and Kwazulu-Natal states and high in the mountains, Lesotho, Kingdom in the Sky, remains an independent country largely because when the in the the late 1800’s the area was not included in the formation of the Union of South Africa. We swapped stories and planned to connect for some riding before my travels took me away from Cape Town.

While chatting with Shane and others at the BMW dealer I noticed a several GS650’s with a small plastic extension beak on the front upper fender. Another design flaw or simply an open door for aftermarket manufacturers, but riding the bike in rain or on muddy tracks, the front wheel spits water, mud and everything else onto my face-shield of the helmet. Some 650 riders have installed lower fenders offered by Touratech or Wünderlich, but at the beginning of this trip I opted against it. But these “beaks”, originally installed on pre-2001 Funduro 650’s by BMW, it seems that many South African riders have found that simply retrofitting this part on the post-2001 fuel-injected GS’s solved the spitting liquid problem. I ordered one and would have to wait a few days before beginning my journey southward along the Klein Karoo and Garden Route — with my aim on Lesotho and then finally venturing north into Namibia.

One other nagging issue I’ve contended with is the increasing volume of my exhaust. The excellent Adventure Pipe and it’s “stash tube” (which Roger at AME has informed that he has sadly discontinued) is in dire need of repacking. I have no desire to mimic the decibels of a Harley nor a barely dampened two-stoke dirt bike. Thanks to the good folks at Race Tools, I’ve got a repacking kit custom fit to the Adventure Pipe. But the corrosion that infected my bike while it sat outside in Rio for over a month has taken its toll on the fasteners holding the end cap. These will need to be sheered off and somehow I will have to figure away to refasten the cap. You see there is nothing that I can tap into to create new threads as there are lock-washers welded to the inside of the pipe. I will either have to re-weld new fasteners or see if the existing can be tapped and made secure enough to hold the end cap in place. While repacking the pipe with the Race Tools kit is a simple task, but when I tried to loosen those bolts I knew the job would be tougher, so I will need to enlist some help. I will take my tour of South Africa and spin back though Cape Town prior to going to Namibia and handle the task then. At that point I may want to replace my tires as the Avon Gripsters current have about 4,500 miles (7.5k kilometers). I’m sure I can get 10,000 miles on them but it may be prudent to replace them on my way back through Cape Town, depending how many miles I ride over the new few weeks in South Africa. North of Windhoek and until Nairobi, Kenya it will be virtually impossible to find new tires for my bike.

Cape Town Balthazars
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But all is good here in Cape Town. I had an opportunity to meet Jonathan, the owner/partner at Balthazer’s Steak House on the Waterfront. With 196 wines by the glass, he was quite happy to sample the couple bottles of Argentinean Malbec I couldn’t resist bringing to Africa. He’s armed me with a few tips of wineries to visit in the Cape region, so I’m beginning to form my South Africa route. I’ll keep you posted.

Look For Penguins Sign-1
You don’t want to run over any little webbed feet now, do you?