Wes Robinson, from Vancouver, Canada, has some stories to tell from his 30-day trip from Kigali, Rwanda to Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2017. This was one of Ride Down South’s first expeditions back when we were all about exploring new routes on the fly and riding the classic Honda Africa Twin XRV750 motorcycles.
“It was my first adventure style of ride…” he says, and hopefully, not his last.
Can you sum up your epic trip in one sentence?
A lot of fun – a combination of excitement, fun and a few days of “What did we get ourselves into, and whose idea was this anyway?”
Tell us about some of those ‘what have we got ourselves into’ moments?
We understood that we were going to be riding in good weather in August and did not come prepared for ‘bad’ weather. We left Kigali, heading for Uganda, and that week it just rained and rained. At the end of the day we would get off our bikes in soaking wet gear and often get back into wet gear the next morning.
When did you feel ‘out of your depth’?
The description of the trip, which I initially said no to as I thought it was a crazy idea, said around 70% good tar roads. Fair enough, that was probably true mileage wise, but time wise – it felt more like 50%! Andrew had scheduled us to be at a feature area every night, which was amazing, but at times we were late and riding through sand, or on rocky roads, to our desired destination due to breakdowns or bad roads! Through one stretch of 4–6-inch sand, most of the riders spent some of the time on their side in the sand, needing rescue. We also had to push the support vehicle out of the sand at times. About a week into the trip, when we were in Nairobi, Kenya, I sent a text to my wife saying, “I don’t think I can or want to do this anymore, please find me a trip home.” Almost as soon as I sent it, the weather cleared, and it was great from there onwards.
What did you most enjoy about the trip?
About half the group went to see the Gorillas in Uganda, and they said it was definitely the highlight for them. I didn't do it due to the hefty additional cost, but it sounded like a really great experience. We were often on the road by 6:30 in the morning, stopping along the way for cereal and coffee, and found food along the way for lunch, so by evenings we were hungry and enjoyed our delicious supper immensely.
What was your most challenging moment, other than riding in the rain for a week?
Even though the bikes were pretty bullet proof decent bikes, we did have some breakdowns. Andrew was always quick to find a way for us to get moving again, with a bunch of spare parts in his vehicle. One day we broke down which meant we ended up riding after dark in the Nairobi area, in the rain, trying to find our way. That night I feared for my life and for my team’s lives, but we made it. When I told the stories at home, they said, “What were you thinking riding in Nairobi in the dark?” Once we were lucky to wait at a Safari camp for a mechanic to get us on the road again.
What was the moment that made all these escapades worth it?
When we got to Vic Falls, some of us hired a helicopter and flying over Vic Falls was an absolute highlight for me, a once- in-a-lifetime kind of moment. We spent a night in the Masai Mara, and saw the most incredible game, another once-in-a-lifetime moment for me.
What was your favorite part of each day?
Starting again each morning – getting back on the bike and setting off! I was so tired at the end of each day – after the adventures of getting lost, breaking down, waiting, rain, and more – I would go to bed thinking, I am done, but then I would wake up and be so excited about the day ahead. We always had good food and great places to stay – and that was excellent.
You said there were so many highlights – which is your most memorable?
What was probably a lowlight for Andrew, was a highlight for me! When travelling through Zambia we hit a very nicely paved road, and picked up speed before coming to a halt at a Police Roadblock. Whilst we were all speeding, I was singled out by a Police Officer who presented me with a ticket. I could have negotiated a small bribe but went the ‘admission of guilt’ route that cost me 300 Kwacha, I now have it framed on my wall.