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‘It’s so true what they say,” chatters Charley Boorman, as he climbs off the BMW 1200. “Every great bike ride is f****** ruined by the last 20 minutes.”
He had got up in Gansbaai. He rode his bike down the road to a stunning beach before getting on a horse to ride a spot where he had to go down a set of steps to visit a cave where ancient human remains had been found. From there he rode, with good friend and project director Russ Malkin, to Cape Agulhas. (Oh, the day before he went cage-diving with sharks and abseiled down Table Mountain, something that left his legs wobbly.)
Along the way he has done numerous presentations to camera. He assured me he had not put the monster BMW on one wheel (unless I can prove pictorially that he got it up high). He’s walked up a lighthouse and, along the way, been absolutely charming to every person he’s met.
Heartfelt charming, too. He does it even when the camera isn’t watching; to people who open gates to him and, more importantly, to courteous fellow road-users.
But, from Cape Agulhas, he and his team have got to get through to Wilderness because, if they don’t, their timings will be out for the next several days.
Charley’s in SA for the next two months to do the second of his Extreme Frontiers television programmes.
He’s best known for riding around the world on two wheels – sideways, downwards but not yet up – with his great mate, actor Ewan McGregor.
His documentaries have appeared on BBC Knowledge, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, all on Dstv.
This journey will feature stops at locations such as Nelson Mandela’s birthplace and all sorts of exciting activities, including paragliding from the top of Table Mountain, diving with tiger sharks and hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains.
Boorman previously visited SA as part of the Long Way Down series in 2007, during which he and McGregor completed a motorbike ride from John O’Groats in Scotland to Cape Town.
Lungi Morrison of SA Tourism said: “Those who followed Charley’s expeditions before know he loves adventure and that South Africa has plenty to offer.
“This trip will provide new encounters with our country, its history, gastronomy, phenomenal landscape and people.”
The journey will be televised towards the end of this year.
Charley has done more miles on a motorcycle than most of us have had happy thoughts. Right now, though, he and his riding mate are fekkin’ cold.
Coming up from Bredasdorp to Swellendam was brilliant. There were springbok and unidentified bokkies on one side, buzzards, black-shouldered kites and blue crane on the other. Sweeping up, fast, through the farmlands, the light kept getting better and better.
But it kept getting lower and lower. And, as they neared Swellendam, they could see snow on the Langeberg.
The late afternoon sky was unbearably beautiful. The colours so intense that to take their eyes off the road to appreciate its immensity meant they would swerve across the N2 highway.
At Riversdale, it gets seriously dusky but Boorman who, perhaps to overcome his self-admitted acute dyslexia, is listening to an audio-novel on earphones under his Arai helmet (a “lid”, he calls it) says the biking convoy must “crack on”.
He has, however, been the one to call an extended stop because one of the riders has pulled alongside him and called for a comfort break… it’s only Day Four on the tour and there is one helmet that is a total bitch in the way it presses in on the rider’s jaw. At that time, he’s not leading the group of three bikes but he accelerates hard to the guy up front and instructs him to pull in to the nearest stop.
He’s not being a star but the leader of a team.
It’s very cold. There are periodically no markings on the road. Everyone wants to get home.
It’s very cold. Muscles start jumping and thighs and knees cannot be kept tucked in alongside the bike.
Ten minutes ago, the big-sky magic carpet-ride turned into k*k. Smoke from either veldfires or a plethora of mid-winter shack-fires obscured the highway heading into George. Roadmarkings disappeared.
Charley’s tired. He’s cramping. He’s tired to the nth degree.
He’s “doing it to earn the school fees” for his two teenage daughters… bollocks, he loves it.
He pulls up at the guesthouse in Wilderness. Walks in. “Wow,” he says to the owner. “You have an amazing home.”
Turns to his wife: “Could I have a really, really hot cup of coffee?