The night passed quickly and I was waiting outside my condo at 05:30am for the shuttle, apprehensive as I always am in terms of being timely, so I decided to occupy my time with a self-portrait on the curb. I wanted to capture the end of a long evening of having my mind completely engaged in preparation for South Africa. It seemed like only a few seconds of time shooting “selfies” with a little mini tripod that the shuttle arrived and my journey had truly begun.
Upon arrival at Washington Dulles airport, after a few long delays I was able to meet up with Neale in the International Departures area. I was so excited I think I exceeded the manly hug limit one expects from a good friend, but I was going to South Africa on an adventure with him and worrying about limits was not on the agenda! Neale and I chatted and laughed about such a wide variety of topics, and if you know Neale the conversation is ALWAYS interesting! My face was sore from laughing by the time our flight was ready for boarding, we even managed to have our seats rearranged by a lovely and wonderfully funny attendant from South African Airlines. She joked that she would put us together as long as we did not fight, her smile was infectious and before long we were laughing with her about the potential rumble at 40 thousand feet!
So it was onto the plane and in short order we realized that the flight was barely half full!!! What an incredible coup!!! Multiple seats available so we could stretch out, especially helpful when you’re going to be on an aircraft for a total of 19 hours, I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming!
The flight with South African Airlines was exceptional, great food, service and wonderful people surrounding us! I chatted for a long period of time with Judith a South African Doctor working on potential cures for a variety of human ailments. Such a kind and interesting lady, and I could not help but think that there is no coincidence that Neale and I were meeting people who are intrinsically drawn to helping others. This would not be the last time that serendipity would come to mind after coming into contact with kind people.
We landed in Dakar to refuel, and after a quick fumigation of the aircraft, WITH US STILL IN IT, PHEW! We flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, where we boarded a different aircraft for last leg of our Journey, a 2 hour hop to Cape Town. Once we arrived there, despite Neale and I being exhausted, we walked with our bags to the nearby Road House Hotel just outside the airport. We were in South Africa! The room at the Road House was Spartan, but clean, and the bed comfortable. We ended up chatting until about 02:00am and did manage to get some much needed sleep, this ole knotty pine snoring away like a chain saw keeping poor Neale awake!!
Morning brought us an amazing view of Table Mountain with the top covered by clouds, and after a quick breakfast we met Johann the owner of Moto Motivo and guide for our journey. I cannot adequately express in words just how much effort Johann put into making our adventure happen, suffice to say if you ever have Johann planning and guiding a trip you will not be disappointed!
I also met Bob, Keith, Cris, and Don (our Doctor and another incredible photographer) just before I picked up our support vehicle. An amazing and diverse group of kind people who joined this trip for the ride and to help some children in need. We caravanned to downtown BMW rental shop where everyone picked up their respective motorcycles, Day 1 of our South African Adventure had begun!
I quickly learned that I needed to adjust my shooting to the speeds we were going to be travelling, I adjusted settings and focal lengths until I found a combo that worked, reasonably sharp pictures, framed well, documenting some of the scenery the guys were riding through. All while travelling at highway speeds…I love a challenge!
Much of the mountainous terrain in the Cape Town area was shrouded in a heavy cloud, covering just the rocky tops like a grey blanket. We stopped to take a few moving shots of Neale before the heavy rain ruined the fun, and I got to see Neale ride a slick red muddy path in the rain on street tires, talk about slip sliding away! Don had to run out to help Neale turn around in the mud, now that is dedication, I was amazed that they both did not end up on their heads!
The ride back to the hotel took us through areas of shanty towns, right beside well off neighborhoods, and that the contrast was not lost on me…the lines between the haves and have not’s delineated by razor wire and electric fences. I have not been anywhere in my travels where the contrast was so clear, my education on South Africa had begun.
We eventually stopped at a mall typical of what you would find in Canada or the US, and the meal was outstanding, even the cricket match being broadcast on TVs in the restaurant was interesting, something I had not watched before. I had to ask Johann and Neale lots of questions on the meaning of the players activities in the game, and I noticed that 90% of the people there were focused intently on the game…South Africans are clearly proud of their cricket team!
The ride back also helped us sort out what happens if we get lost or separated, an adventure in and of itself with one of our group getting lost! Once back at the hotel sleep was elusive even though I was exhausted, jet lag had reared its ugly head, so I was up really late but once I did get to sleep it was dreams of South African adventure that dominated my slumber…once I woke up, the dream would be coming true, and much more adventurous than I could have hoped for! Stay tuned!