“Intellectually, you know Africa’s going to be different than anything you’ve known,” says Glen Amundsen. “But being immersed in it and walking through it with people who have lived there for generations presented an opportunity different than whatever Laura and I have done.”
Glen and Laura have toured much of the United States on their motorcycles, incorporating a long trip into their schedule annually. In between, they’ve enjoyed shorter jaunts from their Midwestern home. They’ve traveled to Europe and South America and dreamt of riding overseas. But after talking with Rene at a motorcycle show they set their sights on southern Africa and the Waterfalls and Wildlife tour.
“The people we meet along the way are one of the best parts of any trip,” says Laura. “While I was excited to see the animals, we knew the people of Africa would be different than any experience we’d had.”
Glen’s expanded on similar interests. “The natural part of the landscape, the roads, terrain, and geography also intrigued me. There’s nothing comparable in North America, Europe, or other Western countries.
”One of the most memorable experiences was the access to the animals. Being in such close proximity with so few barriers between you and these wonderful creatures was far more intimate and moving than I imagined.
“The African people we met were very warm, friendly, and inquisitive. They’re well-educated and have remarkable perspectives on life, their country, and the world. They asked many questions about America.”
Laura was taken with how happy everyone seemed. “It wasn’t what I expected. Many of them have very little relative to what we’re used to but they seemed so happy with their lives. Here people make demands if they don’t have what they want. The African attitude of appreciating what you have has stayed with me.”
Both reminisced about the different landscapes. “We’re used to a lot more hills and curves,” said Laura. “You might think the straight roads are boring, but where else do you have to dodge zebras or warthogs? We can’t race ostriches in Wisconsin. We worry about deer at dusk but in Africa, fifty species can be crossing the road any time of day or night. It was exciting.”
Glen came home with a new appreciation of the need for the preservation of animal habitat and protection of land that supports wild animals. “You see things on National Geographic but when you talk to people and see the effect of farming, mining, and even local herders trying to scratch out a living, you understand how those activities are at odds with the animals.”
Once they returned home, Glen and Laura downsized, trading in their heavy touring bikes for the BMWs similar to those they rode in Africa. They’re contemplating a trip to New Zealand in 2020 or 2021. It’s another unique landscape they’re curious to see, and of course, more people and perspectives to meet and share experiences with.
Photo credits: Glen and Laura Amundsen