Kellee Irwin became hooked on Africa three years ago after completing a motorcycle tour in Morocco. As gruelling as that trip was, she vowed to return, wanting to explore more of the continent by two wheels and get a feel for its cultures.
The 51-year-old Vancouver-based RSA Insurance Executive has never been one to shy away from challenge. Kellee grew up in a motorcycle family and began riding as a youngster. Most of it was off-road and racing enduros between ages 16-19 and 30-38. The last few years she’s enjoyed more dual-sport riding on her KTM 350 and most recently has challenged herself with a Beta 200 trials bike.
Even with her experience, she worried about whether she was going to be a good enough rider, especially given she’d be on a new bike, different terrain, and riding with people she didn’t know—on the left side of the road.
Kellee prepared with her personal trainer, boxing to improve upper body strength. “As a woman rider, it’s a lot of riding,” she says. “I wanted to make sure I was strong enough physically to ride a big bike in the gravel.”
Spectacular South West Africa appealed to her because of its introduction to a new culture, animals, and, “As an off-road rider, I liked the fact that there were a lot of dirt roads, and there was a challenge technically. If you’re going to go, go all in.”
Namibia’s scenery and hospitality made her time in that country the best part of the trip. “Every day was a new adventure fueled by kilometre after kilometre of spectacular views, “ she says. “The lodges we stayed in were incredible, each one with its own personality.”
Hiking the Sossusvlei dunes was a highlight, as was watching the sunset at Fish River Canyon. The partial cloud cover enhanced rather than detracted from the experience, liberating spectacular colours across the sculpted chasm as the sun went down. They all celebrated—with singing and jamming, expressing themselves freely. “I absolutely loved that experience because the whole group bonded,” she recalls. “We made friends for life.”
Kellee points out that this was “seeing Africa by motorcycle, rather than a riding trip.” And she’ll be back. Like others who have been there, she fell in love with Namibia.
For now, she’s back in training, her sights set on next year’s Mongolia trip.
Photo Credits: Kellee Irwin