Bob and Mary Beth Alexander have travelled extensively around the U.S. and Europe, always making their own plans. An intro to Africa was more of an unknown but a small, intimate tour, where they could really see the land and the people as they are, interested them. “We’re bikers,” says Mary Beth, “and so we wanted to combine that experience with seeing Africa.” That’s how they ended up on Renedian’s longest tour, Victoria Falls to Cape Town.
It’s the first time someone else has done the planning for the couple and it worked out very well. There was enough free time to do what they wanted to do, and the one and two-day layovers gave them time to do other things.
Both are seasoned long distance riders. Bob’s been riding for more than 35 years and has several bikes but primarily rides his BMW R1200RT. Mary Beth has been riding for 14 years and has a BMW 650GS and a Spyder. Neither had ridden much on gravel or hard-packed dirt, and although Bob knew what to expect, Mary Beth chose to ride pillion, occasionally moving over to the support vehicle. They agree that anyone doing this route has to be comfortable in the dirt, something that was made clear to them when they signed up.
Bob wanted a riding experience in a different country where somebody else set up the trip. He didn’t want to go through the time and worry about whether he was picking the right places, doing the right thing, and making the most of the trip. Mary Beth was most looking forward to seeing the animals and the terrain. “When I hear ‘Africa’, that’s what I think and I wanted to see it,” she says.
Her biggest concern was making sure they had the right kind of cash and they’d taken precautions so they wouldn’t get sick. She knew to go to an immunization clinic for vaccinations prior to departure, but not about the availability of drinking water or what to expect from restaurants.
“It was not that difficult and we need not have worried,” she says in retrospect. “We got shots and drank bottled water. The food and the places we went to were in better condition than a lot of places we’ve been to in Europe.”
They loved the evenings and the camaraderie of the group. Many of them didn’t know each other but quickly started to connect with each other. There was always lots of good-natured kidding about the day’s ride, stories, and experiences. Always, they’d question how it could get any better. “How do you top a safari where a leopard walked right in front of us,” she asks. “Where else can you see the new elephant mother protecting her baby with the umbilical cord still attached? Or the elephant silhouetted against the sunset? We were there!”
Mary Beth found African sunsets and sunrises phenomenal. She would get up early and stay out late just to see the sky light up with a brilliant orange not seen anywhere else.
Another time while sitting in the safari truck in the Okavango Delta, three male lions walked right next to the open truck beside Bob. He didn’t dare move or speak, and she didn’t dare snap a photo, lest she disturb them with the flash. Being that close to them was surreal.
People everywhere were so welcoming. One accommodation proprietor toured them through now-derelict equipment in an old copper mine on the property. Welcoming owners shared how they work hard to maintain their place and their stellar reputations.
Sometimes her mind was so wound up with from the day it was hard to unwind and sleep. Then the eight o’clock start would come early.
Riders experience many dramatic dimensions in terrain between Victoria Falls and Cape Town, each a favorite at the time. Rocky areas with small narrow roads, outstanding desert and dunes, and mountainous gravel roads with a charm all their own greeted them. In Cape Town, they enjoyed the beach and water, and seeing the penguins.
Their intro to Africa inspired Mary Beth to create a poem, entitled TIA, (This is Africa).
TIA ( This is Africa)
We open our eyes to the first painted sky, we’re here, a new perfect day “TIA”, This is Africa.
The falls so deep, steam raises up high, What a day! “TIA” This is Africa
The sounds of the lazy wild, lion, elephant, kudu and giraffe. “Outstanding we say!” “TIA” This is Africa
The taste of the desert, grit in our teeth, the sun overhead, an exhausting feat. What can I say “TIA”, This is Africa
The expressions of kindness and warmth of their smiles, our hosts give us song in perfect array. “TIA”, This is Africa
The alarming winds protect the guardian of the sea , we pass slowly their rules we abide, from the Falls to the Sea, so wild and free. We want to stay “TIA”, This is Africa
The possessions we shed all along the way, as time went by it became more about the day. “TIA”, This is Africa
If only for a moment in time, we’ve traveled and seen the spirit of land embrace man. There are many things in life that have caught our eye, but only a few that can touch our hearts, what a perfect stay. “TIA” , This is Africa
Inspired and titled by my travels with Renedian Adventures, Sept 2016
Mary Beth’s advice for anyone who’s considering motorcycle travel to Africa is to question why they want to go. If it’s just for the riding, then you probably don’t need to go to Africa. “If you want a huge experience with enormous variety, from animals, to riding, to phenomenal people, breathtaking and diverse scenery, and seeing all these areas in a short period of time, then go! It’s incredible and so worth it.
Photo Credits: Bob and Mary Beth Alexander