OUR STORY (By Marina Britz)
The story continues, but this time it’s our story as I make it mine as well.
Kobus (as many of you might know him and Kobie to a lot more of us) leaves a lot out of his story, and of course there’s never enough time or maybe a good enough reason to put it all down. I am going to fill in a few gaps especially for those who do not know us very well or maybe even for those we have known for years.
This man of mine is driven, driven to be the best dad, the best husband, the best brother, the best friend. The best biker and the best fisherman. You name it. Life is for living to the fullest with no regrets.
The last ‘little’ incident he just happens to mention in passing, about his burning hands is of concern to me, because unbeknownst to most of our friends Kobie has a heart murmur and I’m wondering if this is not related. Stubborn as Kobie can be, eventually he makes an appointment to see the cardiologist and after battery of tests, sonars etc a camera is inserted into the arteries only to reveal a hole in his heart of about 7mm in diameter. In the interim it is agreed that Dr Harrisberg will perform the op that will sort it all out. The date is set for 19th October 2004.
Life went on pretty much as it always does, but this time, with what felt like the Sword of Damocles hanging precariously over our heads. The waiting takes its toll and Kobie’s condition deteriorates, so that by the time he is operated on in Johannesburg the hole has now increased to 38mm. After 3 1/2 hours in theatre the operation is declared a success. Dr Harrisberg’s closing comment was that he was absolutely amazed that Kobie had not had a stroke. The medical report with all its highfaluting terminology was overwhelming and went like this.
A LARGE ASD SECUNDUM WITH A STRETCHED DIAMETER OF 38 MM, WAS DETECTED. THE PULMONARY ARTERY PRESSURE WERE 40/16 MMHg WITH A MEAN OF 26 MM Hg. QP/QS WAS 1.8/1. UNDER TRANSOESOPHAGEAL GUIDANCE, A 38 MM AMPLATZER ASD OCCLUDER WAS SUCCESSFULLY PLACED WITHIN THE DEFECT.
I would like to say the days ahead were a walk in the park. But if the truth be known, although Kobie felt the difference almost instantaneously, it was a worrying time. Every day little things were not adding up. He slept badly, he could not remember his pin number or how to use his cell phone. Then one day when he noticed his bike in the garage and asked me how to ride the bike and if one should put one’s feet out when coming to a stop. I knew something was wrong, very wrong. Kobie had become a stranger and I often wondered if my Kobie had been taken by aliens when I was not looking. I would have to tell my self, “stop it, you don’t even believe in aliens.”
After consulting the doctor he told us that sometimes these things happen after heart surgery, why? Nobody knows. For goodness sake! men are walking on the moon and for these things here on earth man has no answers. That worry and a feeling of hopelessness were soon tempered with our faith and the love of the Lord and the continuous support and prayers of family and friends.
In the meantime our friends and family were all praying for Kobie. Eben Combrinck and many of his other golfing buddies kept on visiting and encouraging him. Kobie would sometimes sit in the lounge the whole night, just playing his guitar and singing! He just could not sleep! Although Kobie was making steady progress, I was not happy for him to be riding his motorbike, not knowing if he would in fact be able to ride again.
Santie (Kobie’s sister) and I advertised the bike and the trailer and soon we had a buyer who took both! I know that it was a sad and depressing time for Kobie to see his beloved L.T. leaving our yard, and quietly I too shed a tear, more for Kobie than for the bike.
I took Kobie back to the doctor and after more tests he came to the conclusion that the rhythm of Kobie’s heartbeat was uneven and explained to Kobie that it was similar to the timing of a car that needed to be tuned (Kobie understood that analogy) and that a series of electrical shocks would be the way to try and correct the rhythm of the heartbeat.
After all these months of total madness we were happy to make the arrangements to admit Kobie into Westville Hospital for the treatment. After the third shock they gave him, the doctors were satisfied that the rhythm of his heart was back to normal. Eddie O’Neill, Santie’s father-in-law, also came to visit and pray for Kobie at that time and Kobie just knew that God had healed him. All the praise, honour and glory be unto Him!
Time passes and just so does it heal. Back to my old self once more, I set off to pay Tommy John’s a visit. A sort of window shopping expedition, nothing more, nothing less. Who was I trying to kid? There on the vast showroom floor stood a shiny black LT, sporting enough chrome trimmings to charm the pants off a Hell’s Angel. And would you believe me if I told you my name was written all over it? Our butts were in those hot seats before the previous owner had finished packing for Perth.
With only 18 000 km on the clock I am out on a mission to rack up the kms in style with Marina and Mitzi (our little Yorkie) at my back. I am ashamed to say, that with all the excitement and the many fabulous trips we have done and places we have seen that l seldom thought of my old L.T. and my initial mourning for her was but a distant memory. I must admit to a little nostalgia and kept the personalised number plate Kobie 1 ZN. Maybe deep down, I knew that one day I would use them again????
By nature I am restless and always seem to be on the lookout for the next adventure. So it came as no surprise to Marina when I started entertaining the thought of yet another motorbike, but this time one to take us off road. I needed the challenge and we both yearned to get off the beaten track to get the true feel of South Africa. This time Marina was chomping at the bit to get in on the action and not just to be the supportive wife.
June 2008 saw us the proud owners of a BMW GS 1200. The dynamics of the ownership of this bike changed. All of a sudden it was ours and not mine. I still can’t fathom how it quite happened. It was such a natural progression. All we needed to do now, was learn to ride ‘off-road.’
Learning to ride under all conditions, the rider and pillion acting as one, in the dirt, the mud, the rain, the water. What a learning curve? The adventure had already begun while we learnt to pick up the bike in case of a fall or how to lay it down and even how to fix a flat tyre. This team came out tops and boy did we grow.
Both of us learnt a great deal. It was lot of fun in the process and we felt a lot more confident about our ability to cope in different conditions! Little did we know then, how much this training would help us in the future! On one occasion we had to ride on sleepers and between sleepers and then at a certain place we had to jump over a log. I did well until the last jump, when the bike stalled and I went flying in one direction and Marina in the other and the new GS in another! This was part of the training . . . learning how to fall, how to get up, and how to get on with the job at hand, would most probably be the most crucial part of our training in the years to come.
December 2008 sees us take our first long trip on the 1200 GS to Cape Town via the Transkei. Those long hours on the bike takes its toll on one’s behind irrespective of how comfortable the seats are or how much padding your derriere sports.
At one of our pit stops along the way Marina struggles to get off the bike. Badly in need of respite from the long ride but also to spend a penny while I fill up with petrol. She sets off in the direction of the ladies. She is sort of waddling and sort of plodding along with her helmet in place and the communication system still on. She hears the little exchange going on between the attendant and me. In Afrikaans I ask him if there is any chance of him finding me a younger woman to ride with, as the older one is really struggling. Marina’s giggle filters through my earpiece as he replies in that typical accent that only a ‘Kaypee’ (a person of mixed colour from the Cape) can bring to life. “Nay mister, I think you must give her another chance, I think she will come right!” Marina walks back across the tarmac full of herself, straight up and pert, ‘a young’ lady in her prime. The attendant’s look says it all. ‘I told you so. ‘
What joy it is to have friends like Eben and Linda (Thiart) who join us as we make our way up the West Coast. Port Nolloth, the Augrabies and Clarence. Surely some of our country’s pride and joy, and they do not disappoint as we head back to Durban. Another trip under our belt, another beautiful time of sharing with our friends and then it’s time for their farewell as we wave them goodbye until next time, as they head back to Cape Town.
Four months down the line Ebie and I join a group of Christian biker friends from Pretoria and head off for Botswana. I guess by now you are thinking does this guy work? And the answer is yes, sometimes. And then very, very hard. Another amazing trip. Camping under the stars, enjoying the gift of Africa and giving thanks not only for this land and our lives, as we sit around the campfire talking about everything and about nothing, when another dream takes hold. A dream to travel through Africa onto Europe and the UK on a motorbike.
The only place Marina takes the backseat is on the motorbike. Otherwise she is up there, beside me and this time it’s no different. The excitement and the anticipation all unveil itself in no time as we start our ‘homework.’ Talking to anybody who will listen, listening to anybody who will give advice. We talk to the big boys who have done it and we talk to the little boys who try to put us off. And then we talk to those who would love to do it and somewhere in amongst that and all the reading we do, we set our plans.
This is a big plan and a big trip and I figure it needs a big bike with a big tank and not least of all a big heart. Well as luck would have it, or is it once again a bit of Divine Providence? Lo and behold a 1200 GS Adventure with a 34 litre tank and a range of 500kms is born and it cries out for us and we hold out our arms.
Again we find ourselves asking, is it lady luck, divine providence, co incidence or Godincidence? We get to meet a couple, John and Arlene McCormack who have backpacked extensively mostly in third world countries from Africa to South America, Nepal and India. They have stories that literally could take one from here to Timbuktu or pretty close. They are new to the motorbike fraternity and have a 650 Kawasaki which sports a home made side car. By Arlene’s own admission it’s ugly, very ugly and no amount of imbibing of the fruit of the vine is one going to be able to drink it pretty. They have already put the bike and themselves to the test and have done a three month stint around Southern Africa. They too want to try the trip to the UK. So we spend much time with them planning and sharing, talking about the dangers, budgets, etc. We share the excitement and the anticipation of times to come.
Now comes the challenge of fitting everything that we need for the trip onto the bike. The only thing we seem not to be taking is the kitchen sink. A two man tent, an inflatable mattress, cushions, camping stools, cooking utensils you name it. We are starting to think a trailer might be the next purchase. We arrange and re arrange, pack and unpack and eventually we have it all down to a fine art not withstanding the brilliant idea of Marina’s to have water proof bags made to spec for our camping gear which gets strapped to the panniers and the rain gear which gets strapped to the crash bars. The panniers are packed to capacity and with another bag on each side weighing 15kg, with a top bag weighing 30kgs we are starting to wonder if we are ever going to get the show on the road.
We splash out on BMW raingear, T shirts with Madiba (Nelson Mandela) blazoned across the front. We think seeing we are going the ‘whole hog’ lets give Mandela pride and place not only on our chests but on the panniers as well. We could easily pass as part of the campaign trail to bring Mandela back into the presidential race. The BMW is given a little face lift with a map of Africa and some SA flags. Not only are we out to see Africa but we too want to take with us the Spirit of South Africa. We are almost there. GPS system in place, communication systems, music, cameras, cell phones and all the paraphernalia one needs and even the stuff we most probably won’t need, all packed firmly in place. Tracetech a tracking device is our last indulgence. Not only will family and friends be able to track as down wherever we are, but they will even know how fast we are travelling.
Now all that is left, is for us is to remember where we have put what. The hair might be grey but the old grey matter does not let us down as we test ourselves as to what is where. If Flink Dink (a quiz show) was still on we would be streaks ahead with all the information we have gathered for this trip.
Now we are ready to test drive this machine, fully loaded and we know without a doubt she is going to perform well, albeit with a few minor adjustments. ‘ Ma and Pa here we come, issue a warning in Henties Bay (on the Namibian West Coast) that the Flying Dutchman ( so christened by John and Arlene) and his right hand man sorry that should be his right hand woman are on their way.’
What better training route than Botswana’s sandy roads and Namibia’s dirt and salt roads. We set off mid January 2011 with 7000km’s of tar, dirt and gravel roads ahead of us. Our confidence grows by the day, even with the new off road knobbly tyres testing me at times. Every now and so often I feel a little out of control and then I remember that just for today I am King of the Road. If you are wondering, ‘Just how conceited can he get?’ Don’t feel lonely the thought has crossed my mind as well.
We are fortunate to be able to stop over with Hendrik Reyneke a relative not so long lost. We revel in the beauty of family and farm between Vryburg and Tosca
On the road again and with the help of the thick loose sand, as well as the big trucks who churn up the ‘road’, especially after the Bray border post we literally hit the dirt as one of the side panniers clip the sand, that throws us off balance as we ‘lay the bike down’ with us beside it. The nightmare of the thick loose sand has its redeeming qualities of cushioning us in its big bosom; possibly it’s only up side.
Picture the three of us lying flat on our backs, two of us laughing. If our friends could see us now. That off-road training kicks in and with my back well ensconced across the ‘yster perd’s’ midriff and Marina taking command of the posterior. We push and pray and our prayers are heard as we lift the 350kg behemoth to her feet. It takes a little time to catch our breath and to figure out the next move while I dig the sand away from the front wheel.
Marina sets off ahead of me by foot. It’s up to me to get out of this sand pit. I fire up, rev to my heart’s content, let the clutch out and practically take off. The next 500 meters sees me mustering all the control I can as I nearly bite the dust a second time. It’s time for Marina to take her rightful place as we breathe a sigh of relief. With a smile on our dials we head off for an easier ride. Well was that smile wiped off our faces?
‘Buitepos’ â the last outpost between Botswana and Namibia, here we come. The weather would have it another way. No sooner had we hit the tarmac when the rain came down and boy did it come down. Visibility was a mere 10mts. Luckily we had seen the storm coming and had geared up appropriately or so we thought. Our fancy water resistant BMW outfits did not stand a chance and neither did we. Talk about drenched. We can almost feel the steam rising off our bodies as we soap ourselves in a lovely hot shower. We can savour the taste of a lovely brewed cup of ‘koffie kapitaal’ with ‘Buitepos’ waiting to welcome us with outstretched arms. But it’s no room at the inn, due to heavy flooding. What is it they say about counting your chickens before they have hatched?
Neither of us being the type to cry over spilt milk, we set off for Gobabis. Another 100kms. Ok! we are not exactly smiling. We are tired and hungry and dirty and just a little irritable. The days are long and hard. Gobabis shows no sign of rain or destruction and there is plenty of room at the inn. Practically had the bike parked in the room with us. The land lady, although most hospitable drew the line at having three of us in a bed built for two. Sleep came like a gift and we embraced it in each others arms.
Namibia never ceases to fascinate, captivate and delight. This time it’s no different even though we are not doing it at the leisurely pace we so often do. We’re heading past old familiar places, with weird and wonderful names like Okahandja, Karibib and Usakos. We wonder how these names came about and promise ourselves to do a bit of googling when we get home. The tar roads are good, too good and I find myself yearning for a bit of gravel and grit. A sucker for punishment some would say as we head off on an alternate road to Henties Bay. A mere 130 km of gravel road travelled at a mere 100 â 120km per hour. Not bad and most enjoyable even if I must say so myself.
When we arrive at Henties we have just a little taste of what it is to be pursued by the paparazzi. With my parents on the front line to welcome us we field endless questions from friends and folk who have been holidaying each summer at the same spot. Meeting up again and again over the years. Talking about our plans to travel through Africa to Europe seems to take us to another level. The dream is edging closer and closer each day to reality.
Experience has taught us that all work and no play, definitely makes way for a very dull boy. Henties Bay is a wonderful playground. Fishing may not be the sport of kings, but we feel like royalty as we are feted by the fishing fraternity. We hear about the big ones that got a way and the small ones that are best fried in a pan. We soak up the advice given on every aspect of fishing from the bait to the hook, to the catching and cleaning and cooking and last of all to the eating. We are fast catching onto the fact that the journey is really not so much as to the destination rather more so about the experiences and the people we meet along the way. The week catching our breath in Henties passes by in a flash. As I have heard it said it’s though the clock turns at the speed of a fan. Before we know it our bags are packed once more.
‘Pad Kos’ lovingly prepared finds a little place squeezed in between a sleeping bag and the tent. And then we’re off and as always not without a few tears.
We’re out there looking for roads that will challenge us and notch up not only the miles and miles of smiles but also the miles and miles of experience we will need to equip us for the big one. I’ve been plotting and planning and after tackling the salt road to Walvisbaai which is a breeze we turn off at Dune 7 and head towards the Gamsberg pass. As it turns out we are thrown a curved ball and somehow know this wouldn’t be the last. Namibia has just had the heaviest rainfall in living memory and taken with it any semblance of the road we were meant to be on.
Two hundred kms later, the GPS perched on its perch and not helping much, we have not a clue where we are. With all the water around we could have been forgiven for thinking we were up stream without a paddle. In first gear and both of us standing, we know that turning back is not an option as we forge ahead with the water engulfing the engine at times, leaving her coughing and spluttering before recovering. Between the three of us we rise to the occasion and come up trumps with our fears of ending up in the drink and in need of a drink, which never comes to fruition.
By the time we stop we are practically on our knees, not only to give thanks for the Lord’s protection but from sheer exhaustion. It is then we realise that we have been on the road for four whole hours. A hellishly hard four hours. During this time we had not come across another living soul. Still we never doubt in the fact that we are not alone.
Rehoboth 20kms! You cannot imagine our relief and joy at that moment! It is here in Rehoboth at the petrol station that we survey the after effects of the four hours before. The bolts and nuts that normally hold the rear mudguard in position are no longer. The mudguard hangs precariously begging to be restored to it is former glory. To our delight and by some stroke of luck a stranger steps up to the plate. In his truck he has a veritable supply of every kind of tool, screw, bolt and nut and a whole lot more. Does this man restore our faith in mankind? Yes Sir! Without a doubt. Seems like he was just waiting for us to come along so that he could be of service and make our day. Sadly we never recover the bag which contained Marina’s rain gear that had somehow fallen off along the way. We do have this picture in our heads though of a local lass or possibly lad wondering around in the BMW kit on the coldest of days and no doubt on the hottest of days. It makes us smile.
By the time we reach Keetmanshoop we are finished but not ‘klaar.’ With 800km of ride behind us, 500km on horrible roads and with the excessive heat wanting to take us prisoner and ten hours later we are ready for more than just 40 winks. But not before we pitch our tent at the Engen garage or rather that should be the campsite which by the way is a good one. Even if I have to say so myself, man can I braai a piece of meat and put back a good cold beer? A bit of rest and relaxation sure revives a man and his good wife. What better preparation for the Big One?
What were we thinking when we purchased our two man tent? Surely the two men must have been Pygmies. They must have been on their travels through Africa by foot without any food and sometimes a little water. You know what that means. A new tent is in the offing. One that takes a man and a woman, their riding gear, pots and pans etc.
Its rise and shine for the last 1000kms to Cape Town. The heat beats down on us with temperatures rising to 46 degrees. All part and parcel of our preparation as to what lies ahead for our Africa trip. We arrive at Eben and Linda’s home exhausted and happy. The exhaustion is soon forgotten as we talk late into the night.
Our first stop the next morning is to BMW in Tygerberg. We are feeling on top of the world knowing that the only casualties on our trip are our tyres. The knobblies are ‘treadbare’ with the steel belt trying to get away. It is then we realise just how lucky we are to have made it to Cape Town with those tyres. Two days later we are on the road again with our new tyres leading the way. What a performance? There and then we decide which tyres we will be using for our Africa trip â The Big One. With only one stop at Beaufort West we arrive back in Durban. Saddle sore takes on a new meaning. 7000km later, weary but elated with the outcome of our journey we know we have passed the test and that we are as prepared as we will ever be. We are filled with an abundance of faith and a good bit of ‘guts’ as we set off on this once in a life time journey.
You know how we have these special little memory banks where we have those very important dates and moments stored. The births of our children and our grandchildren, marriages, and even death. Today we add another memorable date. And guess who has been tasked with keeping a diary? No doubt Kobie will put in his penny’s worth more often than not.