South to South 1: Background and the Plan

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On the 13th of October 2013, roughly around 16:00 I found myself on the back of a Dakar 650 heading North on the N1. I was sandwiched tightly in between the love of my life and an old Maties tog bag, four grapefruit and a tent. I can’t exactly recall the moment when I agreed to help fulfill this dream of De Wet, but with 5000km still ahead, it didn’t really matter at that point any more. And so we embarked on one of the biggest journeys of our life, with the least planning done possible. About two months earlier, we found ourselves numerous times sitting around an enormous Africa road map doing some rough calculations and filtering options. Our maths never added up. Logic never graced our conclusions. Neither of us owned anything remotely biker-related. The whole idea was too expensive and our leave was too short. We’d look at each other, pack away the map and say, ‘Let’s just do it, I’m sure everything will work out’.

And we did it. And it did.

BACKGROUND

We are not bikers. Never have been and never will be. Impulsive? Yes. Adventurous? Maybe. But bikers? No. Since I could remember my parents have always propagated that this activity was the most dangerous, life-threatening thing under the sun. This never made sense to me because since I could remember, my dad had always had a motorbike. When I was in the first grade, he would drop me at school and I had to drag an enormous red helmet from class to class and up a hill back home at the end of the day. It dwarfed my little school bag. Yet I also clearly remember the times he took me for a spin down the 11kms to the Jonkershoek gate and back. I think he used every possible excuse to take it for a ride even if it was at a snail’s pace with me on the back. De Wet has a different two-wheel history. He used to commute around campus on a classic orange ‘pyp-poegie’ or scooter. In 2010 he did a tour of the East Coast in South Africa with his dad, attending some of the live world cup football matches. But that was about it as far as our individual biking experience went.

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My dad’s kiff 80’s stallion

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The infamous orange ‘pyp-poegie’

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Originally cast for the lead in Top Gun, DW had to cancel due to a double-booking in his busy schedule, giving Mr. Cruise the break in his career. Photo cred: Chris Spies

In 2013, we moved to Juba, South Sudan. While we were living and working there, we bought a Boxer and called it the ‘ministry motorbike’. This was used primarily for church-related outreach and commuting. We didn’t have a car and made use of Boda-bodas to get around. I guess this kind of prepared me for the yet-to-be-conceived adventure awaiting us later that year. Most of our friends who came to visit in Juba also made use of Boda-bodas. The use of the term ‘boda’ originated from the travel statement, ‘border to border’.

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The Ministry Motorbike. Don’t be fooled, I never took it out of the compound.

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The Ministry Motorbike and the minister.

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On DW’s birthday we borrowed a friend’s scambler and took a ride outside Juba to the banks of the Nile.

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Jannie on a boda.

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Nicole and Beth on a boda.

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Unbeknownst to our parents 5000kms away, we hardly wore helmets in Juba.

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And this is exactly why we hardly wore helmets in Juba…

THE PLAN

The Plan was to fly from Juba to Pretoria for Sanmari and Stephan’s wedding and to start traveling back the next morning. Ignatius and Louise were planning to drive back with us in their Land Cruiser. I flew down a week earlier to try and help with wedding preps and to buy some gear for the journey. We bought new gloves, helmets, jackets and extremely hot winter biker pants for me (bad move). Hiking boots for me (half a size too small – another bad move) and some second hand biker boots for DW. He also borrowed his dad’s summer biker pants (although a bit big – smart move). DW bought a Dakar 650 online from a guy in Port Elizabeth. Due to a delivery mix-up, the bike only arrived in Pretoria on the morning of the wedding. With our goal of leaving the next morning at 11:00, we only got to meet our ride the night before. My dad took it for the insurance inspection and for a test drive while we were enjoying one of the most special weddings ever.

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The magical Fourie wedding.

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‘We’re doing WHAT tomorrow!?’ – the look of reality…

Meanwhile, one of our friends in Juba agreed to buy our bike once, or rather, if we arrived in Juba. Perfect! We were never going to become bikers anyway.

Meanwhile, Iggy and Louise decided not to drive back with us. This left us with no back-up vehicle and also no back-up company making this journey the perfect marriage tester.

Meanwhile, we bought the 2011 Lonely Planet East Africa on our Kindle.

Meanwhile, DW called Outsurance to cover the Dakar.

Meanwhile, my dad gave us his old GPS. I think it looked like we might need it.

Meanwhile, my dad and DW figured out where the battery was located – to connect the GPS.

Sunday morning. Our room in Pieter and Liesl’s house looked like a whirlwind had swept through it, 11:00 was not going to happen. DW took the bike to a biker friend of his so that the biker friend could show DW where the most essential things on the bike were located and to see whether the bike was even fit for such a big journey. I said ‘bike’ a lot in that sentence. Bike. Meanwhile, I shopped for supplies. It was grapefruit season and I managed to sneak four into our bags after DW confiscated another four. I was dismayed at the time, but in retrospect, I guess they were quite big… How we managed to complete this journey successfully is a miracle. Up to this day, I still run into aunties and uncles, friends of the family and other random people who ask us about our trip, recalling how they had prayed for us. We thank God for his grace and protection throughout. If this was a type of thing requiring a certain minimum measure of experience, we definitely did not qualify. But we did it anyway. And we have never regretted our decision to GO. As we set out that afternoon, the only two definites for the journey were:

1. We had to reach Lake Tanganyika within five days in order to catch the ferry, the MV Liemba.

2. We had to reach Juba by 02 November so we could clock back in at work on 03 November.

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DW all geared up.

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Demonstrating the signature co-pilot position.

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The very practical and handy suitcase-size road map we dragged along with our route marked in black.

Sometimes the greatest memories we have were experiences gained outside the parameters of our own extensive plans. We have learned a great deal about ourselves, our limits and abilities, when we were faced with the unexpected, driven to make quick decisions in uncertain circumstances. Even our wrong decisions have proven valuable through the lessons we were then forced to either learn or to reject – temporarily set aside only to be faced another day – to either learn or to reject. Repeat.

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Let’s just do it anyway, if it doesn’t work out – we just need to keep going because in the end, everything works out.

 

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