Prior to touring in Africa, 56-year old Caroline Barnes had only ever taken three uncomfortable rides as a passenger. Her biggest concern about a motorcycle safari was whether she could sit on the back of a BMW R1200GS all day and not hurt. Marc had ridden a Harley for twelve years and had no qualms. Fortunately, Caroline’s concern evaporated as soon as the Waterfalls and Wildlife tour began.
Friends of Marc and Caroline had traveled with Renedian the year before and were booked to go back, this time with their wives. Their invitations for the couple to join them initially fell on deaf ears. Marc and Caroline, from Pleasanton, CA., were getting ready to book a trip to Ireland and besides, “Africa was too far, too much money, and too everything.”
But the seed had been planted. Now a realtor, Caroline, had traveled the world in a previous job, including a couple of stints in Africa. She loved the continent and was eager to return. Marc, 57 and a custom homebuilder, loved riding motorcycles. Anywhere. Two good friends and their wives would be part of the group. The couple decided to make it happen.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” says Caroline. “Being a passenger is scary. You’re not in control. It’s not like he’d driven the trip or knew the roads.”
“The riders were all really safe and as a back seat rider, I felt like I had the advantage,” she acknowledges. “I didn’t have to concentrate on the road. I didn’t have to look ahead. I’d tap his shoulder and tell him where to look but he didn’t have the luxury I had to enjoy the ride.”
“Sometimes I’d put my arms out, tilt my head back, look up at the sky, and feel like I’m flying,” Caroline recalls. I’d think, “I’m really lucky to be here right now taking in the moment.” The landscape would change from bush, to grass, hills, and then flat. The colours were spectacular and the landscape beautiful. “You start daydreaming about how good life is good to you. You can’t ask for anything more.”
“Initially I put my iPod on and played music until the battery went dead,” she continues. “At one point, rather than charging it I left it off, realizing it took away from being in the moment. The songs would always relate to something else—a party or that trip to Mexico. I wanted to remember whatever I could without it being associated with a song.”
She watched in awe.
It’s rare to see a male lion mating a lioness but the safari happened to pass by at the right moment. Another time as if on cue, 30-40 elephants began moseying out of a watering hole. It soon became clear they were clearing room for a new herd making its way across the desert towards them, like the caravan coming to town. The babies were doing somersaults, ducking under water, and coming up again. Adolescents would run at each other hooking trunks, fighting, and throwing mud on each other’s backs.
Herds of different animals were constantly moving through their line of sight. They even saw a leopard protecting her baby while baby lunched on an impala mom had dragged up into the tree.
Mostly, Caroline loved the people. One night they stayed near a tribe of San people (formerly known as Bushmen) and were invited into their huts. Via a translator, they talked about their life, showed how they track animals, and identified plants known for their healing properties. Wandering behind the huts, she stumbled upon a cheetah, completely skinned but otherwise intact, ready for roasting.
She’d brought toys, crayons, and little things for the children and handed them out at rest stops. Her greatest thrill was their squeals of excitement and being allowed to take their photograph.
Caroline realizes they weren’t there to change Africa. Still, she wished she’d have packed a huge duffle bags filled with clothes and shoes, and been able to give them out along the way.
“Life gave me a good hand. I just want to take in every moment because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. We have close friends who can’t do this anymore, and things are getting worse for them, not better. That could be me, and my husband.”
Photo Credits: Caroline Barnes