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I’m not brave. Not even remotely. In fact, if I think about what I’m about to do for too long, I get goose-bumps, and not the pleasurable kind either.
I’ve ridden scooters for longer than I’ve ever driven a car, but in a car you’re less likely to fly off and crash-land, butt first, on the hard, cold, tar while your bike gets crushed beneath the wheels of a minibus taxi. In a car it’s unlikely that you’ll slip when it rains, in a deceptively innocuous puddle of oil or on loose gravel. In a car you’re also safer, more visible, protected from the elements. But, there’s no feeling in the world like the one you get on your bike, just you, surrounded by nature, completely in tune with everything.
Add 7 500km of open roads, everything you own packed in two bags, and a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for Food & Trees for Africa, and let’s just say I’m getting that distant, faraway look while I think about it.
Food & Trees for Africa is a dynamic social enterprise that’s all about putting back more than we (as humans) take out, creating food gardens for schoolkids and low-income communities, planting trees and teaching people to become self-sufficient with permaculture methods.
For the next six months we will be taking our scooters through all corners of SA – visiting and volunteering at their projects, exploring, photographing and documenting SA’s natural beauty, the inspiring environmental projects that aim to conserve this and replenish what’s been lost, and sharing our discoveries with the rest of the world. Oh, and it’s June, just in time to catch winter.
It all started when I fell head-over-heels in love with an LML (a classic Vespa made in India).
It was so tough, so rugged, so unashamedly durable, that merely driving it around Cape Town felt like I was holding it back from achieving its true potential. It needed a challenge. When the opportunity to go to the Cederberg presented itself, roughly 240km each way, 58km of which is gravel, how could I refuse?
We’d recently purchased a second LML for my husband, photographer Christopher List, who’d long been hankering after mine. After a frantic day or two of packing and organising, we were ready to go. We’d be meeting long-distance scooter veteran Chris Venter and his Cape Town-to-Dublin crew, and driving convoy-style to the Cederberg wilderness, some 71 000 hectares of rugged, mountainous terrain.
In a car it takes just over three hours to drive 240km. On a scooter, it was nearly a whole day’s worth of driving. In a car, you’d be playing I-spy, or counting sheep, but on a bike you’re hyper-focused, defying death at every corner.
The gravel roads were the real challenge, so badly corrugated in parts that the views received less attention then they deserved.
Home to spectacular sandstone rock formations, one of the largest protected areas of fynbos in the Western Cape, and to more rock paintings per square kilometre than any other place on Earth, the Cederberg is a haven for hikers, nature-lovers and, erm, bikers.
Set in a valley, flanked by mountains, our campsite at the Cederberg Oasis was softly scented with citrus from the orange orchard. We decided to visit the Stadsaal Caves, renowned for the rock art paintings left by the San and Khoi.
More gravel roads, thick sand and a river proved no match for us, and we arrived at Stadsaal, which is characterised by dramatic orange rocks. We discovered a labyrinthine network of caves and the famous bushman elephant paintings.
After heading back to our camp for lunch and a hike up the mountain, we set off to bed for an early night before the long drive home.
Back on our bikes, we drove for about an hour on gravel before hitting what the Afrikaans call sinkplaat, a section of gravel so badly corrugated that it grabs you and shakes you around like a rag doll. Unable to control the bike, I skidded from one side of the road to the other, and was thrown off.
As I stood berating my bike (the recently christened Butternut, now squashed), Chris rushed up, terribly concerned. Raisins were forced upon me, supposedly to abate my shock. I picked up the now-chastened Butternut and we drove off along more narrow and twisty roads, finally arriving home relatively unscathed, albeit frozen.
And that was the first phase of our trip through SA. All that remained was to get some sponsors on board, training as a scooter mechanic, packing our bikes and setting off. Piece of cake.
At our farewell party on Friday night, a friend pointed out that we might have missed something – June 1, our intended departure date, was nearly over. “Are you leaving from here?” he joked. We weren’t. We’d be leaving from Somerset West three days later.
As it turns out, pulling off a trip of this magnitude is difficult to do in perfect time. But we’d still timed it perfectly to catch winter. - Cape Times
l Andrews and List are on a 7 500km carbon-neutral scooter safari to document SA’s beauty and environmental projects that aim to conserve it. Follow them at www.eco-friendly-africa-travel.com or www.facebook.com/EcoFriendlyAfricaTravel