Not only does Jan (pronounced Yohn) Coetzee know how to guide adventure travellers and ride a motorcycle through the wild, he’s lived the experiences he now facilitates for Renedian clients.
“I love showing people how unique and diverse southern Africa is—not just the landscape, the people, and the different countries, but the distinct ways of doing things and seeing life.
Born in Pretoria, he’s led clients with various organizations throughout southern Africa and raced in Dakar-like cross-country rallies. He’s travelled through Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho, and as far north as Kenya.
“I love to explore the countryside with a few friends. Whenever possible, we head out for two to three weeks, avoiding tar, seeking out single-track, and sleeping in the bush with the wildlife. If we suspect we’re likely to encounter dangerous animals, we’ll camp in a small village for safety.”
“Travelling on my own, I get to immerse myself in my surroundings. I experience more of the landscape—heat, smells, sounds—that form part of the countryside. I can go places people don’t normally go, where they haven’t seen a motorcycle. People open up to me and my friends more at the end of those days. They’re very friendly and welcoming because they know what we had to go through to get there.
“Villagers use Honda generically in place of motorcycle. They’ll come up to us and ask what kind of Honda we’re riding.
“In some places they don’t speak English. In Mozambique, for instance, people have lost their native language and speak only Portuguese. To communicate, we draw pictures in the sand of places we want to go or people we want to see. It works very well.”
Jan brings this passion and experience to Renedian’s tours. “I love interacting with clients, sharing our continent, and trying to give them the African experience they’d like to have.”
He realizes that people need time to culturally acclimatize to life in Africa—beyond learning to ride on the left side of the road and dealing with taxis honking for no apparent reason.
“Things happen a lot slower here, sometimes not at all. It can be very frustrating. We need to remind visitors we’re in third world countries and time doesn’t carry the same urgency it does in first world countries. Here, there’s always tomorrow. We say Hakuna Matata—a Swahili phrase translated as “No worries.””
Jan observes that the biggest “aha” moments are when people go into the bush on the Okavango Delta excursion and realize they’re actually in the wild. “It’s not like going to the zoo and looking at a lion through a cage, or even walking up to a river to look at the water, not thinking of crocodiles lurking in the shallows. We’re accustomed to it and know what to look for when we walk around.
“Once visitors appreciate where they are, that they can tour a country that’s completely different than what they’re used to and do it on a motorcycle, it’s an amazing experience.
“I try and teach everyone a few words in Afrikaans. We start with baie dankie (pronounced buy a donkey)—thank you!
Africa finds a very special place in your heart. We welcome you here to experience it.