Sunday, August 31, 2008

From the Karoo to Land’s End

- André Jaquet -

If you have the good fortune to have lived in our lovely community for some years, you will instinctively know that the photograph of a heavily-laden motorcycle on this page must have something to do with Lindsay Steyn and wonder: “What has he been up to this time?” The answer: Lindsay and Jannie le Roux, a wine farmer and motorcycle enthusiast from Paarl, have just completed a 22 000 km overland trip on motorcycles from Prince Albert to Europe through 17 African countries and lived to tell the tale.

From Prince Albert their epic journey included Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Western Sahara, and Morocco. They transferred to Spain, drove through Portugal and France to catch a ferry to Tilbury in the UK. Then, just for the fun of it, they did a trip from John O’ Groats to Land’s End!

Can this greying, middle-aged man who is chatting and drinking tea with me on the lovely stoep of his Dennehof guest house really have done this? When I express my surprise to Ria, Lindsay’s wife, she adds laconically that it is actually his second trip because her mad husband had done the East coast trip through Africa and wanted to see what the West coast would be like. She had advised him to go ahead when he first raised the idea because if he had wanted to do so since his childhood, he would regret getting older not having lived his dream.

During our short conversation Lindsay confirmed the hackneyed phrase that Africa is a continent of contrasts. For instance, one of the hazards they faced were mud holes so deep that they almost engulfed both motorcycles and riders. Then there were sectors which involved driving hundreds of kilometres in a day, without seeing any signs of human habitation or even vegetation. They also encountered sandstorms in the Sahara with the winds sandblasting the paint off their bikes. A most testing time was driving for hours on end, leaning over to one side to counter strong winds from the left or the right. At the same time, Lindsay was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity he and Jannie encountered from ordinary folk wherever they went. On hearing they were South African, “Nelson Mandela!” and “Bafana Bafana!” was the common vocabulary!

I wondered aloud what advice he would give those who might want to follow in his tracks. Lindsay thought for a while and said that the secret of success was meticulous planning of every aspect of the trip. This included consulting anyone who had done similar journeys, luggage, visas, knowledge of Africa, superior fitness and the ability to adapt to the new and unexpected. And that was just for a start, before deciding to prepare seriously!

Lindsay is busy piecing together the diary he kept daily during the trip in order to write a book about the adventure. He has a small problem in that his diary did not take kindly to being totally immersed in one of the mud holes! Congratulations on your successful trip, Lindsay and Jannie. Please let us all know about the next adventure you are planning.

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