Avid biker and presenter Henry Cole is in South Africa for The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides. Debashine Thangevelo found out more about his journey in the series commissioned by Travel Channel.
HENRY Cole is on the road at the moment. Having arrived in South Africa on March 14, he has been shooting for The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides, commissioned by the Travel Channel. To date, the show has taken him to Germany, Eastern Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Scandinavia and Russia.
Cole is also known for other shows on the channel – Riding Route 66, First Class Italy and First Class South Africa, Great Drives and Riding Eastern Europe.
The Tonight tracked him down at the Tutwa Lodge, which is on the Orange River running through the Augrabies National Park near Upington.
Of his exploits on the Travel Channel, Cole says: “We have been going for 10 years. I have done 56 shows. The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides is one of the most popular.”
On shooting the series in South Africa, he laughs: “We’ve been dying to come here for years, but the schedule hasn’t allowed us to.
“Normally, we do two or three shows. This time we are doing five one-hour shows as we feel there is so much here. My producer, Hamish (Rieck), plans the route with me.”
With South Africa often being painted in a negative light, I asked Cole if this was a deterrent.
“A lot of travellers come to Cape Town because they are scared to go to Joburg. We want to show it is all about the solution and not the problem. This trip, we are travelling from Joburg to Cape Town.
“And we are keeping away from the major tourist routes to show stuff they didn’t know about. Tutwa Lodge is brand-new and in the middle of nowhere. It is unlike us to come to such a place.”
Cole says they are looking at covering between 3 220km and 4 020km.
“The weather has been divine. I’ve ridden in the desert in America and haven’t been as hot. I wear a protective jacket – not all the gear. It was really, really hot.”
The climate obviously plays a huge role.
“I have just done a series in Russia, where it rained for days.”
Commenting on the format and pull of the series, Cole says: “What I try to do, ’cos I’m a biker, I tell it like it is. Cuisine-wise, there are many people doing cooking shows. If I have a wonderful salad, I will say so. But we are not a cooking show.
“For me, the riding is what it’s all about. And the people and scenery. It’s for anyone who has a passing interest in motorcycling – we are all kindred spirits around the world.”
Cherishing his time in South Africa, Cole says: “I don’t know anything about the politics, but I see real hope here. That is just from me on a motorbike.
“We went to Soweto, which is the home town of our producer on the ground here. To see those people and what is going out there, it is inspiring.”
With excitement and danger around every corner, Cole simply rides it out.
And his sons, one eight, the other six, display a similar passion.
“The youngest, he is better than me,” laughs Cole. “The problem is that I am travelling all the time – it’s difficult for my family to come with me. The yearning is to one day ride with them. But that is quite a long way off.”
Cole was meant to ride Steve McQueen’s Métisse Desert Racer, but he had to switch to a KTM bike.
“My poor old British bike has given up, so KTM has sponsored a beautiful one. We hook up with my British bike later, once it has been fixed.”
Once the shoot is concluded, Cole will be making his way to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to try to break the world land speed record. After that it is back to Australia and a return home for some bonding time.
Absolutely blown away by his experience here, he says: “I have to tell you, Joburg rocks. It is the first time I’ve been to all the touristy places in Melville, Soweto and Sandton. I haven’t experienced that kind of vibrancy in a long time. Would love to bring my family here.”
• The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides is expected to air on the Travel Channel (DStv channel 179) later this year.