“Stop contemplating and pull the trigger. Every year you wait you get a year older.” That’s the pep talk Kris Brenneman gave himself before signing up as a solo rider on the Garden Route tour. Kris is no stranger to adventure or travel, having explored Ireland, Europe, Iceland, and ridden through Mexico on a 6,000-mile trip to Central America in 2014. He’s been riding for 10 years, currently enjoying a BMW 1200GS.
A few years ago, riding in Africa wasn’t even on the radar. Owner of an environmental compliance consulting firm in Oregon, and an FAA licensed drone pilot, life was busy and his schedule full. On a whim, he accompanied a friend to a presentation Rene was giving in Eugene, Oregon, and that piqued his curiosity. Over the next few years, he met Rene at other events and at some point, decided the trip would be a 40th birthday present to himself.
Once booked, Kris eagerly anticipated riding in a very different part of the world. Of secondary interest were were the optional excursions—like Great White Shark diving.
If you’re going all that way he reasoned, make the most of it. Kris tacked three days on to each end of the tour to see Dubai, and explore Cape Town, including visiting Robben Island and riding the cable car to the top of Table Mountain.
Then it was time for riding and wildlife adventures.
“Going eye to eye with a Great White shark was super intense,” he recalls of the excursion during a down day in Stellenbosch. “It was literally a foot away from me.” The surrealness he felt at 6:00 am as the boat left Gansbaai became an oh no, what have I done moment as the boat headed out to sea. “It was intimidating and I had to push myself to go through with it,” says Kris. Summoning up his courage, he donned the wet suit, which combined with adrenalin kept him warm in the frigid water. Then he was in the cage with four others and submerged, with strict instructions to keep all body parts inside the cage. It was an experience he’ll never forget.
Kris likens an early morning safari to being in a National Geographic documentary. A water hole gave them a chance to observe elephants in the wild. “We could see them approaching from a mile away. The whole family was there, from the babies to the huge alpha male, sucking water up their trunks and splashing it on each other. Guides recognized each elephant and knew their given names.”
Unlike the shark cage, there were no bars in the topless vehicle carrying them on safari. They’d seen the lion pair during the previous evening’s outing but what awaited when they went back in the morning was shocking. The same lions were now covered in blood, enjoying a fresh kill. “It was one of the most frightening feelings you could have,” he says. “But the lions look at the vehicle and those in it as a single being—too large to attack. We sat and watched, mesmerized. ”
Lest we forget, it was the riding that drew Kris here. The high desert mountain passes were a highlight, especially when they got technical. The roads were good hard packed gravel—great conditions by African standards. The coastal riding was phenomenal. “I thought blue clear water existed only in the tropics and didn’t expect to see such a beautiful coast. The idyllic ocean and beaches of Jefferys Bay are my image of paradise.”
“It’s cliche,” says Kris, “but there’s no better time than now to do it. In 10 years you’re 10 years older and your back’s going to hurt more. If you can pull it off financially, do it!”