Betty-Anne Alexander began riding as a passenger when she met her husband Greg Alexander in the 70s. When their daughter was fourteen, mother and daughter took their training and got their motorcycle licenses. “I’m quite short,” says Betty-Anne, “five-feet tall. Traveling to Africa intrigued them but they weren’t ready to go when they first met Rene in 2011. Now, Betty-Anne is in her early sixties and Greg’s going to be sixty-five.
They decided they had to go now, not later. Betty-Anne and Greg, along with two other couples, have traveled to the Yukon, Alaska, and the Arctic Circle, three trips in four years. They’ve also traveled extensively throughout western Canada and the United States. Next summer they plan to reach the Arctic Ocean. Betty-Anne has her license and her own bike but says she would not have been capable of doing the ride from Victoria Falls to Cape Town. Even on long rides in North America, she’s happy to let Greg do the riding while she takes pictures.
“My personal bike is a Gold Wing with a side car, but I can still keep up with everyone. For big trips, we’ve taken that bike so either one of us can ride while the other sits in the sidecar. I still have a Honda 230L but I haven’t done very much riding since my knee replacement a year ago.”
Although the African landscape is different than any she’d been on, areas were reminiscent of far away locales. “You’d be riding along thinking you’re in Arizona, or in other places I could be in southern British Columbia. It was all very beautiful.
Each country had its own highlights and personality.
“Zimbabwe, for us, was all about Victoria Falls. They were amazing and we were seeing them in the dry season.
“Botswana was about the animals, and the experiences of being on the Chobe River and in the Okavango Delta.
“Deserts, dunes, ghost towns, and diamond mines characterized Namibia.
“I had no idea South Africa had such amazing mountain ranges with aggressive passes. We saw everything from deserts to orange groves, vineyards to canola fields, and cattle grazing like you’d see in Alberta. Then all of a sudden we’d cross a mountain pass and were on the coast. The diversity surprised me.
“Namibia and Botswana had lots of grazing animals and it’s not uncommon to come across cattle or goats in the middle of the roads. In South Africa, cattle graze in more traditional fenced-in farms.”
Betty-Anne was glad she’d chosen to be a passenger on this trip, occasionally even enjoying the air-conditioning in the van. “Greg rides differently when I’m not there and can have more fun, especially on challenging gravel. I knew he didn’t need to second guess his moves and it didn’t detract from the experience of traveling in Africa.
“I was very apprehensive about going to Africa. I’m not sure if it was the travel, the unknown, or just being in an area of the world I’ve never been in. It was a wonderful trip that exceeded all of my expectations.”
Photo credits: Betty-Anne and Greg Alexander