Greg Harper and Teresa Martin have learned to deal with change.
A trip to China became a cross-Canada tour, but not without an unexpected, life-changing detour. China got bumped again when they read an article in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine and decided to go to Africa instead. When their first choice of motorcycle safari wasn’t available when they were, they worked with Rene to extend their stay with a two-week 4X4 trip.
Although both of them have lots of riding experience—Greg was “born in the dirt” and Teresa’s been riding for twenty years—most of their riding, until 2010 was around Ontario.
In 2010, Greg and Teresa contemplated an open offer of hospitality in China from a co-worker of Teresa. But when they talked about what they really wanted to do, the answer was a trip across Canada by motorcycle. They’d go to China the next year.
Then Greg got cancer and all plans got put on hold for a year. “His illness changed our lives,” says Teresa. “Our priorities and perspectives changed.”
Their cross-country trip took place in 2012. Wanting to avoid the Trans Canada Highway (TCH) as much as possible, they stuck to back roads from Winnipeg to British Columbia. On the way west, they stayed north of the TCH; on the way back, they followed a southern route along the American border. Many of the roads were gravel and rough in places, which in retrospect, helped prepare them for Namibia.
After returning, they read about Renedian’s tours in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine, and that planted the seeds for an African motorcycle safari. In 2013 they began saving, setting their sights on the twenty-two day Victoria Falls to Cape Town trip. China would wait.
They hadn’t anticipated the long wait times to travel with Renedian so in March, 2017. When a cancellation opened up spots on the fifteen-day Waterfalls and Wildlife (WW) tour, they booked, then talked to Rene about how to fill out their dream of a month in Africa. The result was a combination: fifteen days on the WW trip, followed by a two-week private 4X4 camping trip.
“Rene booked the 4X4 and designed the itinerary,” says Teresa. “I was quite happy with the roof-top tent and slept as well there as I did at home. The truck was comfortable, air-conditioned, and had everything we needed.”
“Rene listed all the places he thought we’d enjoy, planned the route, advised us of roads to avoid, and explained what were reasonable daily distances,” says Greg.
“It was two totally different experiences,” says Teresa. “The bike part was more about the destinations and the amazing people we felt we’d know forever to share it with. You’ve got this perma-smile because you’re riding in Africa. You see exotic animals, go on amazing safaris, and everything’s new.”
“We were treated like royalty wherever we went and didn’t want for anything,” says Greg. ”We woke up in awe and went to bed in awe. When we got into a 4X4 truck, we were sleeping in a tent and cooking our own food.”
Greg’s brother and sister-in-law from Canada flew over to join them for the 4X4 trip. With only the four of them, they started later and usually arrived at their destination in time to get in a few hours of hiking.
Routine activities, like selecting a campground or grocery shopping gave them plenty of opportunities to connect with the local people and culture. Cooking and sitting around the evening fire, they’d talk to more locals as well as other travelers. Everyone spoke English and were “friendly from their heart.”
Greg and Teresa toured Kolmanskop, a ghost town in the middle of the desert. Formed around diamond mining in the early 1900s, desert sands are now reclaiming it.
They hiked at Fish River Canyon and Hauchabfontein—the quiver tree forest—and kayaked in Walvis Bay.
Teresa says the combination trip was a perfect balance. “On the Waterfalls and Wildlife tour, we enjoyed safaris, five-star lodges, and excellent food—all with an amazing group of people.
“The 4X4 trip was more the type of travel we were used to. We felt more grounded and fortunate to share a private adventure with Greg’s brother Gary and his wife Joanne.”
“We didn’t know what to expect on our own,” says Greg. “As soon as we started, we saw it was very safe and very easy. We wouldn’t hesitate to return to Namibia on our own.”
There are no shortage of destinations in their plans. Next year they’ll spend a month or two touring United States. Then maybe Europe, followed by something further afield. Mongolia’s on the list of potentials, as is Argentina. And there’s always China.
Photo credits: Teresa Martin and Greg Harper