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Africa Adventure 2010

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Chapter 02 Dispacth from Dan Townsley


Port Alfred to Hazyview


So far the tour has been outstanding. . . right up until our entry into Botswana. The road was rocky and sandy in places but overall not that challenging for me. Having said that, a few kilometers down the road the front tire got a compression flat and lost air rather quickly. I just happened to be looking behind me for Helge at the same time and the bike pulled me over into the deep sand on the side of the road. I was thinking that the tank slapper I was experiencing was strange for the conditions and was just trying to stop when - well, the picture below says it all. The bike has surprisingly minor damage to it and will be ridable with just a little effort.


My original assessment, as I was sitting on the road, was that my ankle was broken. After a few hours in the chase vehicle, I reassessed to a bad sprain. I've spent the last five days in the chase vehicle with the HP2 on the trailer. I think I'll be able to get my boot back on in a few more days but I won't be able to ride the rocky and sandy roads in Namibia which is ever so disappointing.


I did accompany the group on the Okavango Delta Safari which was, as you will see below from the other entries, very cool. Lions up close. Elephants up close - uh, too close. And, my Birding Life List has almost a hundred new entries. All in just four days!


Helge and Sterling have been getting some amazing footage so the Africa Adventure DVD will certainly be a big hit. Sterling is always looking for the perfect Sun Rise or Sun Set.








Dan Townsley




Chapter 02 Dispatch from Lynne Clark

Tuesday in Livingstone, Zambia


Have gotten to the point where it doesn't really matter what day it is, just what today's "track" is - and I am finally getting the hang of following it!


Took my first Ultralight ride today. I say my first because it is something I must do more of. The pilot loved his job and loved Victoria Falls. He also teaches how to fly Ultralights and he rides a BMW and a KTM.


The water level over the Falls is very low right now but seeing the narrow canyon the river goes into and feeling the turbulence the Falls creates even now was very cool. The Ultralight flight over the Falls was more cool!


Yesterday was a Ferry ride from the Botswana border to the Zambia border then a long hot cultural experience getting through the Zambian Immigration and Customs and Road Tax Office and Police Office and then purchasing vehicle Insurance.


Evenings are cool (well maybe high 80's) and the air is lovely. Last night after I got to Livingstone, I took a ride to try to see the Falls - but they were closed! I may have been the victim of mangled english, but enjoyed the ride. I had a close encounter with an Elephant and some Baboons on the road back. An Elephant is very big when you're on a motorcycle!


Before Zambia was the Safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The adventure continues - tomorrow we are off to Namibia. The only way to travel is by motorcycle with friends. . .




Chapter 02 Dispatch from Jeff & Debbie Hower


Here I sit at day 21 of a 37 day trip in Africa, having covered 3011 miles of incredible scenery. Mountains, desert, big cites and remote villages all add to the memories this trip is creating for Debbie and me.


Everyone we've met has been very friendly and all the little kids along the way wave at us as we pass. We've handed out all of the M&M's we brought and wish we had brought more when we see the smiles of the children.


Some of the highlights so far. . .


Our first "Beer-crossing", much like a shallow river crossing only this one was caused by a Semi-truck full of Beer that spilled its load with cases and cases of broken bottles and thus a river of Beer on the road.


We also have been on two Safari's. The first a one day excursion into Kruger National Park where we saw many critters with the high point of seeing two rhino's sleeping under a tree about 75 yards from us. Kruger was great but pales to the second safari into the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Think of this as the Yellowstone of Africa, only there are no people. We traveled in open sided Land Cruisers down remote 4WD roads. There are signs of African creatures everywhere and we have scene probably a hundred elephants, maybe a thousand impalas a long with crocodiles, hippos, lions, cape buffalo, Kudu, mongoose and more kinds of birds than you can count.


Part of the trip involves getting into the big Jon Boat and motoring through the narrow waterway surrounded on both sides by tall grass. As we round one bend we startle an elephant who returns the favor by squaring off at us and letting us know in no uncertain terms that he was the boss. To say I was a little unnerved would be an understatement as he was probably only 10 yards from us.


Debbie and I had one small mishap right after the boarder crossing from South Africa into Botswana where between the boarder post we had to cross a dry river bed. I goofed up and we fell over and broke my right mirror off. This brings up a good topic fro anyone coming on a trip like this. A must have item is Moose or Quicksteel epoxy. This is a 2 part epoxy putty that you knead with your fingers and make repairs. So far it has repaired a broken hand guard, a hole in an oil cooler and my mirror.


It continues to amaze me how little people need to live. Very small huts, some made with sticks, some mud and some block. Probably very few have running water or any utilities. Even with this the people seem happy and those we have talked to are interesting and knowledgeable.


The group is a diverse flock from different backgrounds and interests but we all play together well. Everyone has helped contribute to making this a most enjoyable trip.








Chapter 02 Dispatch from Dan Marks

Tuesday, October 26th

Hi again—we’ve been on the road now for 12 days and are in Francistown, Botswana in transit to Kasane on the edge of the Okavango Delta where we will be going on an air/water/off-road safari for 4 days & 3 nights.  Two days ago we were in Hazyview, Mpumalanga (the province – one of 11), South Africa.  It is adjacent to the Kruger National Park in which we took a guided tour for some 7 hours and saw many animals up close in their natural state – grazing antelope, sleeping rhinoceroses, moving and grazing elephants and more, though we missed seeing giraffes and cats.
We’ve had three almost easy border crossings so far: from South Africa into Swaziland and back again and then into Botswana from South Africa.  Only almost easy because on the first crossing our leader Helge along with our motorcycle export/import papers was back in Durban tending to some business having to do with a pretty badly injured rider.  Rodger Waterman crashed on a 95 km dirt stretch in the Eastern Cape Province, breaking his collar bone, several ribs and ending up with a collapsed lung – yikes.  I assume the entire long story will be on the live journal, but at the moment of writing this I don’t have internet access.
I was ahead of Rodger on the 60 mile dirt stretch and did not hear about the accident until that evening at our lodging in Kokstad in KwaZulu-Natal Province.  Though I’ve done thousands of miles on dirt and gravel roads on my Harley, I’m just learning things I didn’t know I didn’t know about dirt riding, at least on my new dual sport (road & dirt) BMW F800GS.  (GS is German for Gelaende/Strasse, cross-country/street.)  I’ve now only ridden about 250 miles of easy to moderately difficult dirt roads on the BMW.  One reason I among others have not had five border crossings is that the 22-mile dirt road up about 4,000 feet from Himeville in South Africa to the Sani Pass in Lesotho was supposed to be very challenging – this was confirmed by our expert riders who made the trip.  I went up the first 5 or 6 miles and decided to wait for more confidence, should it ever come.
Then there was today, our longest so far ride (665 km, 413 miles) of which about 180 km were supposed to be on a “fair” dirt road.  That road started at the border between South Africa and Botswana, the first 500 meters of which crossed a dry river bed.  (So far, all of the rivers we’ve seen in Botswana have been dry and sandy, as has been the landscape.)  At about the first 0.20 km mark of this 180 km trek through dirt, I dropped my bike in deep sand at very slow speed (part of the problem).  Luckily, after about 5 minutes, a 4-wheel drive tour vehicle came by and the very friendly and sympathetic driver and 3 passengers helped me pick up the bike and put it on the track I should have taken.  Let’s see 180/0.2 = 900 spills; not a bright outlook and so much for building confidence.  But I got through the remainder of the 50 km dirt road (not 180 km - an error in the route description – Yea!) with no more spills, though there were some more squirrely sandy spots.  For this I must thank David Marsing who led and monitored me through it all, as had done on our first dirt road back in the Western Cape.
I’ve always thought and still do that dirt roads are used for getting from point A to B when other roads are not available or are undesirable (such as freeways), or when the dirt road has something special to offer.  This was always the case in my South America and Alaska motorcycle rides.  In most cases, there’s no choice, for example if you want to go to the North Slope of Alaska or to the southern tip of South America you’ve got to ride off-pavement. But, most of the riders on this tour seek out dirt roads for fun – to practice and challenge their riding skills.  I find that a problem with dirt roads (as well as paved roads in poor condition) is that you need to be constantly looking ahead at the road instead of at the passing scene and scenery, by far the thing I like most about riding.  I doubt that I’ll ever seek out dirt for its inherent “fun”, but certainly hope to get better at it to continue to ride into and through fun places.
As a footnote, no pun intended Dan Townsley, our very knowledgeable guide, expert dirt rider and bringer-up-of-the-rear-to-make-sure-we’re-all-OK got a flat front tire somewhere on that South Africa/Botswana road and when he hit the squirrely sandy part managed to tumble his bike and badly sprain his ankle.  Whoops, move my confidence down a notch – Dan T. is doing fine and hopes to be back up in a few days.
P.S. If any of you’d like to not continue to receive these missives, just e-mail me back – my feelings won’t be hurt – well maybe they will, but that’s my problem, that and the sand ahead.
Take care,






Chapter 02 Dispatch from Randy McClanahan

Diary entry, Randy McClanahan, Sunday, October 30, 2010
It’s hard to believe that it has been two weeks since I last wrote in this live journal.  So much has happened since we got on the road from Cape Town.  We have now traveled 3000 miles, in three countries, and are going to our fourth tomorrow.  But we have been very busy.
I have gotten to know my riding compadres very well, and like them all.  The biggest disappointment is Roger’s accident and resulting injuries.  He is still in Durban, getting well-enough to be allowed to fly back home for surgery and recovery.  I know that he and Emily are terribly disappointed not to be with us, and we really miss them.  Fortunately, I live close to them in New Mexico, and am looking forward to renewing our friendship when the trip is over and things calm down.
Also, my roommate, Dan, has been injured, and has missed the last two days of riding.  I’m glad that he was able to join us on the safari, however, and he has really been dealing with his pain and inconvenience without complaint.  I guess that should not surprise me, given that he served our country for six years in Viet Nam and was a Navy Seal!  I hope he gets back on his bike soon.  I know he is “aching” to do so!
Our next major city after Cape Town was Durban, South Africa, where we spent an extra day for R&R and bike maintenance.  I chose to visit the Natal Sharks Board.  South Africa is one of the world’s capitals for shark activity, including the largest great white sharks in the world.  The Sharks Board is an organization whose purpose is education, conservation, and protecting the recreational public from shark attack.  We saw a collection of shark memorabilia, including bitten surf boards and cartilage “skeletons” of gigantic sharks of all kinds.  Our visit began with a clever animated movie about how the great creator decided to make the lion king of the jungle and the shark king of the sea.  We also got “up close and personal” with sharks as we viewed a dissection of a freshly caught shark!  We were lucky to have as our companions a class of school children on a field trip from another place in South Africa.  This gave me a chance to compare their kids with ours, and to see how the youngest generation is dealing with the vestiges of apartheid and racial equality.
The kids were impressively well-behaved.  They enthusiastically greeted the lecturer/dissector, answered all her questions and made me a bit envious for our own school children.  Most impressive, however, was the complete absence of any issues of color among the kids.  Below is a picture of two boys, one white and one black, behaving as if there were no difference in their color.  This has been my observation throughout South Africa.  I do believe that South Africa will recover completely from the disease of apartheid.
We next ventured into Swaziland for a visit to a Zulu village.  This was a fun experience, but unfortunately reminded me of an amusement park.  The villagers clearly have devised an entertaining show for the tourists (including a topless eligible young girl to give the men a thrill), but do not live there, and return at the end of the day to their modern lives.  In fact, as we were riding away, I spotted the fortune teller, still in makeup, waiting at a bus stop for her ride home.  It was still fun to engage in a bit of make-believe! 
Next, we were back in South Africa for a visit to Kruger National Park.  This was my first “safari experience,” although it would pale in comparison to what was to come in Botswana!  Nevertheless, our guide was a charming young South African woman, and we got a taste of wild animals up close and personal.  Here we saw impala, kudu, elephant, hippo, mongoose, rhino, crocodile, and many other species. 
Leaving South Africa, we passed through many areas reminiscent of America.  There were purple mountains’ majesty and fruited plains.  Most impressive to me, however, were the forests.  South Africa must have a great timber business, because mountains were covered with planted trees, in the precise formation of a military cemetery, from bottom to top for as far as the eye could see.   Other parts reminded me of the Grand Canyon and Moab, Utah.   My take-away, however, was that we have most of this in America and should better appreciate what we have at home! 
Ah, Botswana!  What a surprise.  The roads after crossing the border (sand river crossing) from South Africa into Botswana were the pits.  But what a place! 
We overnighted at the Safari Chobe Lodge.  After the largest buffet dinner I have ever seen, we flew in two commercial airplanes to the Okavango Delta.  My world then changed.  Everyone I have talked to about their “favorite place in Africa” has responded, as if in unison, “the Okavango Delta.”  I must agree.
My guide was Ofentse Legase, a native Botswanian who is devoted to his country and to its wildlife.  When he is not guiding people like me, he teaches school.  Some day he hopes to use his earnings to start an orphanage.  Does that give you any idea what kind of person he is?
Through Ofentse I learned about the animals, culture, and problems of this amazing country.  We toured the Mababe National Park and Game Reserve in safari vehicles on deep sand roads.  We saw no signs of human pollution.  We saw God’s perfect creation.  We saw cape buffalo, zebra, giraffe, eagles, antelope, impala (they have an “M” on their butts, and I will henceforth call them “McDonald’s antelope,” as they serve as a fast food snack for the big cats) hyena, dung beetles, and everything in between.  We saw lions feasting on their killed cape buffalo.  We watched the alpha male lion, right out of the movies, ripping, pulling, chewing and feasting.  Then he passed off the feast to his younger son.  Then the lioness fed.  Chase the vultures and hyena away.  Like tag team wrestling.  Oh, did I mention that we saw all this from a distance of two feet?
Then we went down a VERY narrow river in a boat right out of the “wild river ride” at Disneyworld.  It was about 50 miles to our campsite.  On the way we were attacked by a mad elephant (see the photo below) when we rounded a corner and invaded his territory, and had to avoid families of hippos that wanted to help us capsize.  We camped on an island under a sky full of stars.  In the morning, Dan said to me:  “How cool is it to wake up in the Okavanga Delta?”  Cool indeed!
Our second night in the Delta was spent at the Mankwe Bush Lodge, which I will award 5 stars.  It was opulent!  The previous night a jaguar had slept underneath our cabin.  Animals growled all night.  There was no fence.  The managers, a delightful couple of “Anglo” South Africans named Roo and Linda, considered Nelson Mandela a national hero and displayed no signs of racism, confirming my belief that apartheid is really over.  The cuisine was magnificent.  The staff, joined by our Botswanian guides, performed a delightful combination of native song and dance to inform us that our dinner was ready!  It might well be the best “hotel” at which I have ever stayed!
The third day we continued our safari, seeing more animals and amazing sights.  Our third night was spent camping in tents in a coastal plain, and we enjoyed a storm and rain.  Today all the animal tracks were fresh, and we made our way back to the Safari Chobe Lodge after four days and three nights in paradise. 
My time in Botswana has changed me.  I now understand the meaning of a developing country.  I know what it is like to be challenged with the creation of a national infrastructure, educational system, communications system, etc.  I see how this applies to America.  I see why education of its people is the key to any nation’s continued success!  I better understand the need to be good neighbors, because on the Botswanian side of the river are wild animals, on the Namibian side are livestock (see photo below), and the elephants and lions don’t understand the political border between the two. 
I love this place.  It is perfect.  The land is perfect.  The animals are perfect.  The ecology is perfect.  Only man screws it all up!
Tomorrow, another day and another country.  All because of a motorcycle!
More to come . . . . . . .




Chapter 02 Dispatch from David Marsing


On Monday I went down to Nieport to go to the BMW dealer and get a much needed side stand. Mine bent. The parts department didn’t have one in stock in fact there was not one available in all of Africa. After a bit of conversation with the Motorcycle sales manager I talked him into selling me the side stand off his demo model and he ordered a new one to be delivered in about 7 days. He was great and very helpful. Then I took off to catch up with the rest of the group and we met in Sabie after wonderful gentle rolling hills with twists and turns that reminded me of those on the autobahn in Germany, I met up with 4 riders who had just come over the hills from Kruger and our location the night before. We cruised through spectacular scenery of canyons and forest then without warning transited to the other side of the mountains where it went from 65 and pleasant to over 100 on the dry side as we headed to Tzaneen for the night.

On Tuesday we headed for one of our longest days of over 400 miles and moving into Botswana and ending in Francistown. This trip started off in a cold mist with low cloud cover and a mix of truck accidents including a beer truck that lost its load and beer running down the sides of the streets with brown glass all over the place, followed by the smoldering remains of a semi-trailer off on the side of the road. There were great views up at the top of an incredible winding road at God’s Window. We crossed over the ridge to temps over a 100 F.

As we left South Africa we went through “no man’s land” between the two countries and had to cross a dry river bed with moderately deep sand. Two of our group put their bikes down in the river bed sand. They got them up again and got to the Botswana border post with only a bruised ego.

After Francistown we headed up to Kasane at the top of Botswana near where Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana intersect. From here we left our bikes and gear and headed out via plane into the Okavango delta region where we began our 4 day Safari from up through Moremi National Park and then on to Chobe National Park. Incredible experience seeing the Lions, Elephants, et al. The trip through the border into Zambia was a trip. 3 taxes and required travel insurance and 3+ hours later we felt lucky to get through that fast with the wit, social skills and experience of Helge. It could have been much longer! The ferry trip across the Zambezi River was fascinating with the capacity of two semis or one really big one. We all loaded together and took up the front of the ferry. There were trucks lined up for an incredible distance on both sides waiting for their turn to get across.








Chapter 02 Dispatch from Tom Petrillo


We started on Wednesday morning by leaving our luxury safari resort to board an airplane at Kasane Airport and we flew into Xakanaxa, Botswana in the Moremi Game Reserve. Then we were picked up by Land Cruisers and taken to Mboma Island boat station, where we then traveled by boats for a 3 hour tour into the Okavango Delta Safari Game Reserve. Botswana is home to more than 130,000 elephants. More than 25% of those are here in the Delta according to Lenti our Safari guide who is amazing with the amount of knowledge he brings to our travels. The plane ride was really nice to see the Delta from above and get a perspective that allows you to really understand the network of walking paths that all the animals follow back and forth.


Wednesday after a light lunch we left our island campsite in the Okavango Delta that was reached by boating through miles and miles of small waterways between tall reeds to begin another animal watching tour. I was a beautiful ride.


We as a group have taken thousands of pictures, all of them beautiful and in no way will they ever do justice to actually being in front of every one of these majestic creatures.


Week three is ahead of us with Zambia and the Victoria Falls, Nambia and the deep sand. It should be very exciting.


Until next week…







If you would like to follow Tom's personal weblog of his Africa Adventure click here

Chapter 02 Dispatch from Ben Jack



You can check out Ben's Africa Blog by clicking here.



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