John and Patti Heveron

Riding in southern Africa made the list of the top 3-4 places that sounded exotic enough for John and Patti Heveron to try. John had read Rene’s University of Gravel Roads and when he learned Rene would been in their hometown of Rochester, NY, to do a presentation, he made sure he was there. He took home a flyer for Renedian’s motorcycle tours and both he and Patti were hooked.

Although both are experienced riders and had ridden to Alaska three times, they were concerned that motorcycle travel in Africa was way out of their comfort zones. A CPA by profession, 69-year-old John has been riding since childhood. His Yamaha Super Ténéré is a far cry from the ‘bikes’ he started with, when anything with wheels got a motor put on it. Having learned to ride at 50, Patti, a Director of Communications, has been riding for 12 years and loves her BMW R1200GS.

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They signed up for the Waterfalls and Wildlife tour because it was timely and mostly paved. “We didn’t have a clue how much we’d get for our money,” recalls John. “The cost of it seemed very reasonable as the days went by. Rene’s like Santa Clause and he can’t wait to show you his surprises every day.”

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Because of the group’s size, two trucks were needed to transport them when they weren’t riding. The trucks went off in different directions, the perfect set up for tall tales, hijinks, and banter later at the dinner table. “The bonding was amazing,” says John. “We’d all done things we’d never done before and were so happy to share them with our group. Those bonds of friendship will last forever.”

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That they were far in the wild sunk home with John’s sighting of a little bush baby, or rather, almost sighting. He thought people were playing a joke on him when he saw red lights bouncing around in the tree, possibly security monitors protecting them. The large eyes of the primate reflected light, glowing red as it jumped from branch to branch.

Camping in ground-level canvas tents was Patti’s favourite night of the trip. “We heard rhinos in the river behind us all night. There was no ambient light and the stars were phenomenal. Breakfast was served before sunrise so we could fly to a little dirt airstrip to see the early morning animals. We came back and everything was packed up and ready for the day.”

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Another time they watched the interactions between a pride of lions and other animals at a watering hole. Clearly, the lions were Kings and Queens of the jungle. You could feel the tension in the other animals.

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African sunsets are magical, as John and Patti discovered. “The last night before returning to Windhoek we went up to the lookout of the inn we were staying at and had appetizers, wine, and thought about a loved one we missed,” recalls Patti. “Everyone was silent and very emotional.”

John and Patti’s advice for anyone considering a similar trip is unequivocal. “The adventure was bigger than our emotions can explain,” says John. “Prepare by doing everything Rene tells you to do,” adds Patti. “We just did everything on the list— what to bring, how to pack, what shots to get, what meds to bring, contingency plans—and it worked!”

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Photo credits: John and Patti Heveron