When Scott Becker’s friend bought his wife Tabitha a copy of The University of Gravel Roads for her birthday a few years ago, he had no idea it would be a life-changing experience for the couple. A short time later, he came home from work to Tabitha announcing, “We’re going to Africa. I just booked it.”
The Calgary couple, both in their mid 40’s have been riding for 7-8 years—Scott on a KTM 990 Adventure and Tabitha on a BMW F650GS. Scott manages a team that supports geosciences within the oil and gas industry while Tabitha is a Project Management Consultant. Getting completely away on vacation is important for them. They love to pack up their camping gear and head south of the border for two to three weeks, exploring gravel and dirt roads that get them lost, taking them to out of the way places that can’t be located by a GPS.
Although Africa’s strongest calling cards for Tabitha were her love of meeting people from different cultures, exploring new lands, and the exotic animals, she ultimately chose the Spectacular South West Africa (SSWA) tour because it has the most gravel. She admits it was still a bit of a challenge because she wasn’t as prepared as she would have liked. Furthermore, the African gravel and sand were different from the western dirt and rock she prefers. Initially challenged, after a day or two, she’d settled into a comfortable ride.
Scott, who wants to experience as much as possible in life, likes surprises. He had no idea of their start point, the itinerary, or what to expect, other than a motorcycle safari.
Tabitha recalls their evening at Tankwa Tented Camp as a highlight of the trip. “The way the group bonded was awesome,” she says. “There was a type of freedom that you don’t normally experience.” Sleeping in canvas tents and a gathering area around the fire fashioned from car seats out of the latest Mad Max movie, helped create the atmosphere. Top it off with guys behind the bar playing bongo drums in tune with African music—in the middle of nowhere in the driest part of South Africa—and you’ve got the makings of an unforgettable evening.
Scott loved the Sossusvlei, explored during one of the riding-free days. Their guide introduced them to Dune #45, a.k.a. Big Daddy, but diverted their climb after five minutes to show them the petrified forest. Not one to back away from a challenge, Scott received permission for a few of them to continue. The angle of the sun was such that when they walked barefoot up the ridge, one foot was on the sunny side and quite warm. The other foot walked in the shade and was quite cold. The ascent was more demanding than it looked, but Scott made it and was rewarded with a spectacular view. “It was like sitting on top one of the Rocky Mountains,” he recalls. “The landscape went on forever.”
The couple has simple advice for anyone considering a trip to Africa. “Don’t think too much. Just do it.” Tabitha advises you to ride lots of gravel to prepare for SSWA and pack light, picking your equipment carefully. “It’s not a fashion show.”
Scott adds, “When I found out the cost of the trip with the air fare, and tour, it sounded like a lot of money. Once I was done the trip, I felt it was a bargain for the experiences I had, the relationships that were created, and the memories that are cherished forever.”
Photo credits: Scott and Tabitha Becker