“All the research I did, you get there and it’s almost like you didn’t do any. It’s totally fresh and new.”
That’s was Shannon Goddard’s perspective after the Victoria Falls to Cape Town safari she and partner Richard Dornik enjoyed last fall.
As soon as they booked their trip—a year-and-a-half in advance—Shannon started researching. She had the itinerary and went online to see what she could find.
What research didn’t tell Shannon
“I Googled all the accommodations. Nothing came close to what it was like when you’re there. The people, the heat, the atmosphere is so different. It’s a hundred times better in person versus looking at it online.
“You see pictures of Sossusvlei and the beautiful orange dunes, but when you’re there, you feel the sand filling your shoes and the sun beating down on you. It’s very different.
“Rene has a way of taking you to places other than where the typical tourist goes. Like the place that did the braai (outdoor barbecue) with us. It was full but didn’t seem like a place on the beaten path. You need to know how to find it.
“It was right near the ghost car, or what’s left of it. Two thieves stole diamonds and the cops chased them out there in the middle of nowhere and shot them up. All that’s left is the body of the car and the ghosts that haunt them.
“Research doesn’t tell you how diverse the weather patterns are. We were told to prepare for hot, medium, and cool, but you still think it’s going to be hot everywhere. As you go further south, you start to bundle up a little more.
Nor did her research prepare her for the gravel roads in Namibia. Shannon started riding twelve years ago at age forty. She’s never taken off-road training but rides on the forest roads to their cabin.
“The first day on gravel was scary. It was a long day, and I started to lose my nerve and pulled over to the side of the road. Rene’s really good at telling you what to expect from your bike, how it’s supposed to act on gravel and that speed is your friend, and he coached me well.
“As I sat there, Karen Carroll went by and inspired me. I could see her standing up on the pegs, fishtailing. I continued on and felt a real sense of accomplishment to say I didn’t put my bike on the trailer. Even on off-days I rode. When we got out of Namibia and the dirt roads, everyone was kind of sad.
“Roads change going from one country to the next. Botswana has paved roads that are not very well maintained. You’re looking out for potholes while watching for the elephants crossing. Namibia has more dirt than anything else, then you get to South Africa and some of the nicest highways I’ve seen anywhere.”
“Things that became highlights for us won’t be highlights on someone else’s trip.”
Shannon and Richard’s next big trip, possibly to South America, will have to wait until 2020 when their youngest child finishes high school. That gives her plenty of time to research—for what it’s worth.
Photo Credits: Shannon Goddard