Reader Gerald Young’s trip with his wife to Africa Bike Week 2011

We were packed and on the road at first light, 06h00 on the 26th of April and as our Harley’s handle bar vibrates at speeds over 60 mph, this was the average speed we kept most of the time. The distance to Margate is 421 miles and the trip was exhilarating, in a way only a biker can know. My wife (Maryna) and I spent the time chatting and snagging gospel songs on the intercom system all the way down. Having said prayers, and knowing we were in good hands,  we looked forward to our trip.

We stopped a few times along the way and quite often when we did, people would gather around to look at this strange sight of a biker and his gal on a Harley. Best is when you start up to leave, just that extra unnecessary (but oh so fantastic!)  rev, rev,  to let them ‘folks’ hear what a Harley is all about. I just love it, but the wife says I’m a brag ass.

At a mountain pass, called Van Reenens Pass, about 140 miles from home, we came up to a traffic block that went back for miles. Moving past all the stationary vehicles to the front, we found that a massive truck and trailer, had overturned on the highway, and the Traffic Officers had stopped all North and South-bound vehicles in all the lanes, whilst they awaited for the tow-trucks to arrive to remove the  overturned truck. We sat and waited, chatting to other bikers pulling up, all heading for Margate.

After about 2 and a half hours we were finally allowed to continue on our way.

About 50 miles further, I noticed the right back indicator was not working, so we pulled off at a gas station and I had a look. I found that the back wheel had cut the wire, probably at some point when we went over a bump. It took about an hour to figure out a temporary solution as I could not get my fingers between the wheel and the fender. I managed to do a makeshift repair job. Since there was no one with insulation tape or wire, I ended up using a piece of wire salvaged from a broken toilet light, and a Band Aid from our medical kit as insulation, we were off again.

At this point the wind had started to pick up and riding through the mountain passes became a horror, with violent gusts punching the bike this way and that. Meanwhile there were ominous clouds, which I had been keeping an eye on for a while, finally lived up to their “expectations”, and 80 miles further the sky erupted into a downpour. Cars were zooming past and I am sure, was it not for the cheap bicycle flashing lights I had bought and  installed on the back saddle bag and the protection of our Lord, plenty of cars would have looked past us and rammed us from behind. In particular, the “Taxi” drivers in South Africa must be the worst in the world: arrogant, selfish, and don’t give a damn to any other road users. Maryna and I are born again Christians however, and we believe in prayer and with faith in our Lord, Jesus, we have the insurance we need. When nightfall came the rain stopped, and then the famous Natal mist / fog moved in. For hours I drove between 35 and 40 mph, peering into the dark, gloomy mist expecting danger, with passing cars splashing rain onto us, I mostly rode with the visor up, but with the faith that we would make it out alright.

At 21h00, after 421 miles and 15 hours, we finally arrived wet, cold, and tired but safe at our destination. Never has a hot shower and a bed felt so good!

Next morning, on Wednesday,  we were up by 6h00 and, after a meal, went into town.

There were not many bikers around quite yet so it gave us time to ride around, get our bearings, and to buy food and essentials for the next few days.

We toured up and down the coast for a few miles and bought fruit and trinkets to take back home.

The next day we did not go to town as the rally only started that afternoon at 18h00, so we went to a secluded beach we had found the day before, and donning our bathing costumes, we laid in the warm sun on the sand and watched guys and gals braving the water (which looked pretty cold to us!). Back at camp we had a barbecue, called a braai in S.A., and downed a few Savanna Light Ciders.

Friday we were up early, packed food (leftovers from previous evening) and hit the road to town. We found decent parking, but already the street was starting to fill up with all manner of bikes.

The day was fantastic, and wow were there a lot of Harleys, some you normally only dream of. There are many Harley owners that only keep their bikes for show, never actually riding them. They trailer the bikes from one show to the next, collecting prizes yet never even having started the bike. But they are still beautiful.

Maryna and I walked up and down the streets (about 3 miles long) looking at bikes, H-D dealers, clothes, and badges, and taking photos the whole way, 300 in all!  There were local street vendors selling handmade articles on the sidewalks and endless food stalls. It’s impressive how much people can eat!

All in all it was a decent rally, and Saturday, found us on the beach again. This time we braved the water, and swam in the sea until we were too tired to jump another wave. Arriving at camp at about 15h00, we started packing for our return journey, topping it off with another braai and shower before an early night. Sunday morning, 06h00 we said our prayers, left the camp and hit the freeway back home.

We figured that since Monday, May 2nd, was the end of the Easter long weekend, we’d miss the rush of all the inlanders heading back  to the Transvaal.

But it seemed about a couple thousand people had just about the same idea as I did! You could not believe the amount of cars, busses, trucks, taxis and bikes attempting  to get home as quickly as possible. Gas stations along the way, were overflowing  with cars and busses waiting to be assisted by gas pump attendants. We often waited  more than 40 minutes at each gas station before getting a chance to re-fuel. This was affecting my tight time schedule, as I wanted to be home before dark.

As nightfall approached, we took the last  turnoff, at a town called Villiers,  away from  the freeway towards  our hometown, Deneysville.  Ahead clouds had built up again signaling that rain was on the way.

This stretch of road, 50 miles, was riddled with potholes, some as big as 3 feet across and more than a foot deep. It is normally a nightmare during the day, but now with night upon us, this could have ended up being the biggest obstacle of the trip.  This road unfortunately is typical of the roads in South Africa, where corrupt municipalities and municipal officials  do absolutely nothing to fix the roads, but missing funds for personal gain. BUT, no time for politics here!

As we moved into the darkness on the single lane road, the rain poured down on us in buckets. Within a few moments the road was a layer of water from one side to the other. It was all I could do to keep the bike aimed straight ahead. There was no where we could turn off, as the road has corrugated sides with 4 to 5 foot high grass and grass walls  either side. Cars were piling up behind, wanting to pass, and their headlights reflecting in the pouring rain added to the visibility problems. Each time one passed, it threw up a wall of water 3 to 4 feet higher than us, soaking us through to the skin. The Sporty’s thin biscuit front wheel is definitely  not designed to ride in water 5 to 6 inches deep.  I was really worried, with the knowledge of the potholes, corrugated furrows, and ripped out pieces of tar on this road, all hidden by water.

Then on the intercom, comes wife Maryna’s calm, quiet voice.

‘Don’t worry, I prayed to Jesus, and He will get us home safely. Come sing with me. ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” And through the rain we drove singing one gospel song after the other. Cars chased passed us  like a bad dream. Somehow we did not hit a single pothole or obstacle The entire way home.

Suddenly, about 10 miles from home, there was a sudden bright light up ahead in the sky quickly followed by bright red tail lights. When we approached we saw where 2 cars had collided head on in the middle of the road. The collision had caused the cars to swerve and both were sitting diagonally across the road.  Two other cars had already stopped and their drivers were pulling injured people out of the wrecks.

There was smoke and steam in the air and injured people screaming and the rain poring and all I could concentrate on was the road in front of the bike as the road was covered in oil and glass bits and pieces of mangled metal.

Without touching the brakes, which I knew was fatal on the oil covered road, I swerved off the road behind one of the smashed cars, missing it by an inch or two, and, gliding through the mud, I managed to swerve back onto the tar road past the crashed cars.

Shakily, we continued home, praying for the injured and thanking God for our safe passage.

Arriving home, we pondered this incident and the horrific road we had just travelled through, and we came to a joint conclusion.

There is power in prayer. God said, pray, and trust in me, and I will get you home safely. All honour and glory and praise to our God. For we alone are nothing.

Well, to end our story:

We travelled a total of 1439 kilometres, i.e. 894 miles, an average speed of 60 miles an hour, and fuel consumed was a total of 71.27 litres or  18.83 gallons of petrol.  That’s about 47.5 miles per gallon, not too shabby.

I have thought about the trip and have come to the conclusion, that perhaps a bigger Harley would do the trick. Our max allowed road speed in South Africa is 120 kilometres per hour, about 75 miles per hour, but to ride that speed with the Sporty, is near impossible as the vibration is too much, hour after hour. Also the grip on the road is not too great either, and the Sporty can take a major battering from the wind.

But of course, tomorrow, I will look at my Sporty in the garage with loving affection and before you know it, we’ll be on the road again. The wife, Sporty and I.

Cheers to everyone.

Remember to Pray.

If you don’t, now is the time to begin.

God Bless

Gerald and Maryna Young

‘Forever Young’