The physical resemblance between Karen Jones and Jennifer McCleod is noticeable yet the mother-daughter duo could hardly have more different personalities or approaches to adventure. United by a strong bond, a huge heart and a love for people, animals, and experiences, they’ve already traveled together to foreign and unfamiliar places. Last year was their first time in southern Africa.
Outgoing and exuberant, when Karen isn’t in her sports car or instructing scuba lessons, she’s out on her Harley-Davidson Road King with a riding group, embracing the camaraderie and the magnificence of the Foothills and Rocky Mountains. She was the only one in the Renedian group to bungee jump at Victoria Falls, something she describes as “the most terrifying and exhilarating thing I’ve done in my life!” Jennifer is more sedate, a trait well suited to her work as a nanny.
Karen initially booked a solo spot on the Garden Route, then lost her job in the oil industry. She cancelled but was lucky enough to get work two months later so the trip was back on, this time with Jenn able to join her. Working with Rene and considering both their interests, they opted for the Waterfalls and Wildlife Safari.
Karen already knew she’d love the countries they’d visit. For three years she’d travelled to Chad regularly administering contracts for her employer, spending time off visiting villages and meeting local people. The opportunity with Renedian to combine motorcycling and exploring new African cultures was irresistible, especially when she could share it with her daughter. Not much makes her nervous but riding a BMW for the first time, in Africa, was a bit intimidating. Both mother and daughter were more comfortable with Jenn riding in the back-up vehicle. Jenn’s medical issues were also a concern but they were prepared and other than a sinus cold and flu bug that dogged her, she remained healthy.
South Africa was an eye-opener for Jenn who was 19 at the time. “In school we don’t learn how developed the country is. We think everyone lives in mud huts and that’s just not the way it is, “ she marvels.
Seeing a giraffe within a half hour of arriving primed their interest in the wildlife they’d come to see. Karen describes a boat ride down the Chobe River as “a floating zoo” with sightings of hippos, elephants, crocodiles, baboons, kudu, and springboks. Zealous and trying to get just the right photo shot, she had to haul in her enthusiasm and legs which were dangling over the side when the guide advised she was “acting like bait.”
Jenn’s fair skin, blonde hair, and youth drew a lot of attention. The children especially were curious and drawn to her, and all spoke English. “I was surprised at how happy everyone was, even though it seemed they had very little,” she recalls. “No one seemed to have any worries or get upset.”
The meat market in Namibia, where animals are slaughtered initially horrified Jenn. “At first it looks cruel, but every bit of the animal is utilized and sold. The meat cooked right on the spot with our choice of fresh spices is the best we’ve ever had,” she says.
Seeing animals in the wild was a trip highlight. Having to stop to allow a large herd of zebras to pass, driving past a watering hole and being challenged by a male elephant, or dodging donkeys and goats were taken in stride by the guides familiar with animal behavior and travel in these climes.
Both were enamored with their experiences and have already booked a 2017 Victoria Falls to Cape Town safari. Heather wants to see how many African countries she can visit and both love being with the locals, visiting villages, and seeing wildlife.
“We’re going to take what we learned this time on our next trip,” says Karen. “We had three suitcases—way too much. When Rene sends out the list, he knows what he’s talking about. Take the laundry pack and do your laundry as you go. You don’t need much because you’re either in motorcycle gear, shorts, or a sundress.”
“Getting up and seeing a new place every day was amazing,” she continues. “It still blows my mind that I actually did it!”