When Barb Kreutter and her husband Ken, were considering which Renedian tour to choose, she suggested Victoria Falls to Cape Town. “He had been looking at that tour for a long time but hesitated, acknowledging that I’ve been to all those countries.
“I could go to these places over and over again,” I said. “It’s my favorite part of the world and I’ve never gone in October. Every month is different. Different flowers are in bloom. Water levels change.”
Although Ken was an avid adventure motorcycle rider, Barb had never ridden her own bike and had no interest in riding pillion. Joining the tour as a passenger in the van while Ken rode a motorcycle was the perfect solution. Mike (Higgs), whom she found to be great company, drove. Being the only participant not on a motorcycle was a non-issue for everyone. “I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “Namibia is probably my favourite country in the world. I love the sand, the colours, and the stark, bare, landscape, and there were places we’d visit on this tour that I’d never been to.”
Barb first traveled in southern Africa with a friend in 1988, joining a camping trip for approximately half of their eight-week stay. About seven years ago, she traveled with another tour group on a Garden Tour stretching along southern South Africa. She then continued to Namibia with a group of Canadian photographers, stopping often and spending time wherever they spotted the right shot.
Every visit was a new adventure. “The last time I was at Victoria Falls, it was March and high-water season. No offense against March, but in March, you can’t see the falls very well because there is so much water and mist. This time I could see what they really looked like.”
The first few days from Victoria Falls to Cape Town, Barb didn’t feel like she was on a motorcycle trip. “We went on a sunset river cruise and by fluke, where they never see lions, fourteen lions showed up. Then we flew into the Okavango Delta which was another amazing twenty-four hours. We saw so many different animals, including rare wild dogs. You know when the guides get excited, you’ve experienced something special.
“Because of the heat, we stopped often for quick rest stops with drinks and snacks. Often, they’d be off the beaten track, and you’d never know what to expect. Once we found two guys sitting at a roadside picnic place under a tree, far from any town. These quick stops were always a lot of fun.
“On other trips, I’ve been in smaller game parks where most of the animals you see are around the watering hole. This time we saw them in their natural environment as we drove around. The tents we stayed in were built exclusively for us for the day and then dismantled in the morning. Every hotel we stayed in was unique and we felt like we weren’t in touristy places. Every day would bring a surprise.”
Riding in the van had unique perks. “There was always something we would see that Mike could tell you about. For example, they have big graders on these gravel roads to try and keep them relatively smooth. Little huts would appear along the way and Mike explained that’s where the grader drivers lived. Being hundreds of miles from anywhere meant they couldn’t get home at night. So, they’d grade a section, then hook up a little square trailer, drag their hut and take it to the next spot where they’d cook their food and spend the night.
I had already been to Kolmanskop in the Namib desert and was excited to return. I still haven’t explored every building.
In South Africa, especially, we went to places where we never saw other tourists. The roads we traveled on weren’t used by tour buses, tour vans, or even people in rental cars. I saw more beautiful scenery than other times when I’d been on more organized tours with lots of people in a vehicle on more mainstream roads.
“Being a van passenger on this trip was about 100 times better than a bus tour. At the end of the day, I arrived at our destination more refreshed than if I had been on a motorcycle. I could go swimming, get a drink, or do whatever I wanted. It’s very comfortable. You’re in the van with the drinks and snacks if you get hungry. I was so happy to be part of this tour and glad that I opted to be a van passenger.”
Photo credits: Barb Kreutter