Stewart Lechelt grew up southeast of Edmonton, a few hours east of the Rockies, so he’s used to riding in the mountains. But the mountains in Namibia were different than anything he’d ever seen.
In 1978, Stewart and his wife Lynne and two other couples formed a riding group known as the Cutliners. Every long weekend, they, and an expanding group of others, would head for the hills.
Oil-rich Alberta, is mapped out in a big grid that extends into the mountains. Range roads run north and south, one mile apart. East-west Township roads are spaced two miles apart. Oil companies cut trees along these grids to gain access for exploration. “They’re much rougher than gravel roads and great to climb,” says Stewart. “The view from the top is stupendous!”
The Cutliners popularity grew and Stewart and Lynne became part of ten family camping units that would go riding, including all the children. “Families would rough camp in trailers, truck campers, and fifth-wheel trailers. Now that the children are grown, their kids ride, too.”
Setting up camp includes erecting a parachute over the fire pit. Made of silk, which doesn’t burn easily, the bottom is twenty-five feet in diameter. Light reflects off the inside to keep the heat in and campers warm. Everyone contributes to a potluck dinner and a fun family outing.
Many of the Cutliners participate in hare scrambles, motocross, and enduros. Scott and Lynne don’t go as often as they once did, but Scott still volunteers for trail maintenance. This year, the group will celebrate their fortieth anniversary with a reunion at the end of September.
Eventually the couple began riding on the pavement. They’ve ridden extensively across Canada, taken a six-month trip to Europe with the bikes, and travelled to Alaska.
They’ve always gone to the Edmonton Motorcycle Show and began speaking with Rene because they both had 650 BMW’s, the same model Rene rode on his round-the-world trip. “Every year we’d stop at his booth, and said, one year, when we can afford it, we’ll go.”
When they retired, they decided to go and signed up for the Spectacular South West Africa safari.
“It takes some time to get used to navigating in South Africa,” says Stewart. “Not only do they drive on the opposite side of the road, but because you’re in the southern hemisphere, when you looking north, you’re looking into the sun, opposite to North America and Europe.”
“In South Africa, we were on narrow tarmac roads. We were surprised at how vast an area cultivates grapes for the wine industry. You wouldn’t know you’re not in southern British Columbia. Once we crossed into Namibia, there was lots of gravel. Every day held something new, exciting, and marvellous.
“You never lose sight of the mountains. Once you’re away from Cape Town and in Namibia, cone-shaped mountains jump out of the sand, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Some are connected to mountain ranges, but often, there’s no apparent reason for it to be there. They’ve formed in different colours, textures, and shapes. You never seem to run out of them.
“We’re so glad we went,” says Stewart. “It was perfect.”
Photo Credits: From the collection of Stewart and Lynne Lechelt