It’s late here (well, 11pm, but I have been waking up at the crack of dawn as the South African suns bursts through my bedroom window each morning), and I’m dragging a bit. Tomorrow I have a big MUni (mountain unicycle) ride in the Tokai forest organized by my new South African uni friends. I’m excited, but have to get up really early to first take the MyCiti bus into Cape Town, and then the train towards Muizenberg.
Back to the title of this post. Today I put a deposit on a KLR650 (Kawasaki)! It has taken me a few days to get my head back into being in Africa, gathering intelligence and the latest travel news and vibes, and sort out my thoughts about this adventure. Eleven years ago, I rode mostly alone from Cape Town to Dublin, Ireland on a KLR650. Now that I’m here and re-thinking the same issues about packing and planning — I’m even more amazed that I was able to complete that trip (and back then many more of the roads I took were unpaved).
The word is that passing thru Congo is not a good idea right now. And while I’m brave (trust me, the Cape Town drivers will make you soil your pants), I’m not (totally) stupid — and I have a lot of people I want to return home to. So, my latest thinking is to have two halves to my trip: the first half I’ll ride around southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, possibly Angola), return to Cape Town and sell the bike. The second half, I will fly to Nigeria, and then make my way (by bus, OK, that is a bit nuts) to Ghana — and maybe Sierra Leone (I also have people waiting there).
To implement the first part of this plan, I need a motorcycle. There are now a plethora of Chinese brands here which are all new to me: Balanco, Big Boy, MotoMia, etc. There is a married couple that rode a MotoMias from Cape Town to Cairo — 200cc little motorcycles. The thing is, these bikes only cost $1200! So, my friend encouraged me to check one out. He said ‘It is like eating off of a paper plate, it only needs to last you one good meal’. After riding a hornless Vespa around town and being pretty damned scared doing so, the MotoMia was only a slight step up. The one I tested belonged to the sales guy–it had only 5300 km but already sounded pretty sad — valves tapping, chain sagging, and cold-blooded to boot. I imagine it could make the trip…and make it miserable.
It turns out that there is a bike shop (Wicked Bikes) literally a block from where I’m staying. After my MotoMia sampling I went over to Wicked to have a look. They had a 2007 KLR650 for sale. I took it for a test ride and things were settled immediately: it is like second-skin for me–I’ve crossed 4 continents on a KLR, and Kawasaki didn’t change the design for nearly 20 years. So everything was second nature to me: body position, horn location, the weight of the bike, etc. While I didn’t agree on terms to buy this particular bike, I immediately started looking at used KLRs online (where we prefer Craigslist, South Africans prefer Gumtree, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/6m7vt45)
By 6pm I was shaking hands for the purchase of a beautifully maintained 2006 KLR650, which will hopefully lead to great adventures and blogposts 🙂 I probably won’t actually have the bike until Thurs or Friday. I used to refer to my original KLR as my “wife”, so I’m going to dub this one the “Green Mistress”.
Hope all my friends and family are enjoying the holiday season and not taking the gift-giving thing too seriously. Just slow down and hold hands, enjoy a slow hug, tell whoever you love that you love them. Those really are the gifts that will create lasting memories.