When the ad in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine for a Renedian Motorcycle Safari caught Ian O’Hagan ‘s eye, he was working as an estimator for a construction company with no thought of traveling to Africa. But it triggered a memory and an interest that quickly grew. At 59, he’d been riding for ten years, most of it on the road and he was ready for an adventure.
Ian had been to South Africa in 1979. He’d gone to visit his father, there on a construction project, and ended up with a job offer as a piping draftsman. He was intrigued but about to get married back in Canada. He flew home, married and returned to South Africa with his wife Colleen, working for eight months before leaving to settle down in Ontario. Based in Johannesburg during Apartheid, most of his time was spent in the city, with brief forays to Cape Town, Swaziland, and Kruger National Park. Prompted by the ad, he saw an opportunity to explore the country in more depth and experience how it had changed.
After retiring in 2012, with his wife’s encouragement, he convinced two friends to join him and they signed up for the Spectacular South West Africa safari, riding from Namibia to Cape Town.
Ian relates there wasn’t a day they didn’t see something spectacular, but top spot went to the coastal road from Stellenbosch to Cape Town. At 6’5” and riding a BMW1200GS, he had a bird’s eye view . It brought the California coast to mind and he had to keep reminding himself that he was in Africa. With a 12-inch curb separating him from the drop off, he also had to focus on the road.
The sand dunes of the Sossusvlei were an entirely new breathtaking experience. Literally. “Climbing them was hard work,” he recalls. “It felt like you were taking one step up and a half a step back.” But it was worth it. “You could see sand dunes for miles, and it was neat to look down on the petrified forest.”
Of course what is Africa without its wild animals? They saw water buffalo, zebras, rhinos, kudus, and élan, but the encounter that stands out in his mind was having Namibia’s wild horses run along them as they rode, separated only by a fence. The scariest animal encounter came in a most unexpected way. “My buddy Bob had been looking forward to seeing some real African wildlife,” says Ian. “We hadn’t been on the road for more than half an hour when he nearly got run off it by a cow being chased by another cow. He swerved and avoided it and the whole was captured by video.”
Ian would love to go back. “Rene and crew made us feel comfortable, very welcome and looked after us the entire trip with warmth and enthusiasm. The food was delicious and the scenery second to none. The riding conditions were challenging without being dangerous.”
If you’re thinking of a trip to Africa, Ian encourages you to do it. “Buy your full face helmet and get ready to have a lot of fun and make a lot of fantastic memories.”
Photos courtesy of Ian O’Hagan’s collection.