God, Africa and a Motorbike – Part 4

This is the story of Kobus and Marina Britz, who in 2011 packed their BMW R1200GS and began traveling form Durban, South Africa, all the way to John O’Groats in Scotland.

← Click here to read Part 3

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Kobus & Marina

Sunday, April 10, 2011
Neither of us sleeps very well, we are so excited that finally the day for our Africa to Europe trip has arrived. We both go through the preparations over and over again in our heads and every now and again we share a moment of excitement, anticipation and just a little bit of our anxieties. Mostly it is excitement for this great adventure that lies ahead. Our passports are bulging with visas. We have lost track of the many times we have been pricked and prodded to get our little inoculation book in order. Sleep eventually comes, albeit it restless and broken. We are seen off in true style from The Whole Hog in Gillitts. Essentially a meeting, eating, drinking place for Harley Davidson bikers. What a happy occasion and what a crowd? Our children Lizelle and Eduard, Ilze and Brad and little Chad at our side. We are sure they often shake their heads at their ‘wayward’ parents but we can feel their love and joy at seeing us live our lives to the full.

In the sea of faces we see Ebie and Linda all the way from Cape Town, Louis and Heila, dear friends from our home cell group, our biker buddies Sid, Nick, and Lance. They do a good job of entertaining everybody at our expense, all good naturedly of course. Commenting on our appearance and the heavily laden bike. We take it on the chin. We know they wish they were in our shoes or maybe closer to home on our bike.

Kobie remembers asking Nick to join us for a meeting at our local church. After a short time, which we gathered was for consideration he replied with a classic, which we take with us. “Kobie, I would rather be on my bike thinking of God than sitting in church thinking of my bike.” Food for thought as we set off knowing we will be on our bike for a long time and thinking about our Maker for a lot of the time.

Allan Bullard the President of the BMW Club with 35 BMW riders at his back sees us off from Nottingham Road after a breakfast fit for a king. Our final goodbyes are bitter sweet. Words of encouragement, blessings imparted and tender moments, with tears flowing freely sees us on our way. Thanks to our communication system, Kobie and I share our feelings and emotions as we join

together singing “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days, all the days of my life.” One of our favourite hymns. Before realising it, this lovely hymn becomes our daily anthem. We know in the years to come each time we sing or hear it sung it will take us back to these days on the road.

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In the local newspaper

We draw much attention on the road. People waving and taking pictures whenever we stop. We are swamped with people asking questions. Nici and Grant who we meet at Maxi’s in Harrismith are keen to keep in touch while we are on the road so we exchange details and make our way to Johannesburg for part two of our farewell.

First stop in Johannesburg is our children, Hugo and his lovely wife Lindi and last but not least Leila our new born grandchild. This is Kobie’s first introduction to Leila and at six days old she steals his heart as he holds her close. I am happy to hold her again and marvel at how she has changed from the very first time I held her when she was newly born. How beautiful is this gift of being a grandparent? Hugo is a master of the ‘potjie’ and he spoils us with a delicious oxtail for lunch before we set off to spend the night with Santie and Edwyn (Kobie’s sister and her husband). Edwyn has a fair knowledge of Africa after many years of doing business on the African continent. So the evening is spent pouring over maps, checking routes and gaining invaluable insights into the many places we are hoping to visit. Let’s hope we sleep better tonight.

Monday, April 11, 2011
We surprise Kobie’s Mom and Dad with a visit to Tshipise where they are camping. A place of ‘pilgrimage’ for them. A home away from home that sees them spending four months of every year there. You can only imagine their joy and the expression on their faces when we arrive. A wonderful picture to take with us.

It feels good to be spending this time with loved ones before we leave South Africa. It sort of brings home the importance of family and friends. We tell our story again and again to fellow campers, all wanting to hear the story first hand. We get to sample the cuisine of fellow campers. It’s almost as if they are trying to fatten us up before the famine. The fire burns brightly and the boerie sizzles as we spend yet another night talking and reminiscing with Nico and Mossie who have arrived with their caravan. Its two nights of bliss and wonder as we try to take in the friendship and love of family and friends.

Wednesday, 13 April, 2011
We set off for Botswana on a road that will have us ticking off the South African places that we are all too familiar with. Musina, All Days and Swartwater and with them comes a road that is pot holed just to test our ability and agility. What a challenge and we rise to the occasion. We have a good chuckle as we pass Nico’s farm ‘Renbaan’ (race track) and the signpost has a baboon sitting on a motor bike with a little baboon on her back.

The border post at Martin’s Drift is a pleasure and before we know it South Africa is behind us and the rest of Africa before us. Kwa Nokeng Lodge in Botswana is a lovely first stop. Our provisions bought at Swartwater make for a lovely supper of, Yes! you guessed it. Meat on the braai with bread roasting on the side. The aroma of the wood burning is not lost on us as we listen to a hippo snorting somewhere in the background. Again we meet new friends. Solly, Rina and their son Selwyn who have a GS on a trailer behind their Landie, get in on our plans and as usual it feels good to be surrounded by like minded people.

Kobie and I crawl into our little tent and talk a while of the day’s events, our children, our family and how blessed we are. We don’t remember when the hippos stopped snorting… or when we start snoring. Our sleep is deep and satisfying in preparation for the following day.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011
Morning comes too soon and by 7 we hit the road, heading for Francistown. Again the roads challenge us and again we show them who is boss. For a little while, at least. Donkeys and cattle roam the roads and often assert themselves. We don’t mess with them. Our earlier bravado takes second place as we tip toe around them. What a relief to find a Wimpy in Francistown and we take the opportunity to enjoy a Wimpy coffee and to stretch our legs. Who would have thought that the small things in life could give such pleasure?

Then it’s onto Nata Lodge where we pitch our tent and forgo our braai for a meal in the restaurant where we get to meet Jurie and Alida who also happen to be staying at the Lodge. They return to our simple abode, our ‘home’ to wish us well for the journey and to get our tracking details. There is something special about putting one’s head down in our little tent at night, and coming to the realisation that home is really where the heart is. We come to realise early on in this journey that we will be meeting many people along the road and that many of them will become friends, and we nod off to sleep happy in this realisation.

Friday, April 15, 2011
We are fast becoming experts at pitching our tent and setting and breaking camp. My old voortrekker master would be so proud. I’m thinking we might even be awarded a badge or two in our old age. We set of for Gweta an hour and a half’s ride pondering the meaning of the name Gweta. It is the custom of the people of Botswana to have an ‘outpost’ for their livestock in the grasslands and to have a home in town. This kind of outpost is known as a ‘Gweta’ in the Tswana language. Not only are we gathering friends along the way but improving our general knowledge as well.

On arrival at Gweta and after perusing the facilities we opt for dinner in the restaurant and decide a real bed would be a treat. With a guided tour to Magadi-Gadi Pans another day comes to a close. The ‘thirsty land’ truly epitomises Magadi-Gadi. In spite of the arid conditions and probably because of it Magadi is truly beautiful and these very conditions are what makes the hardy mopane worm flourish and play host to the local delicacy. In a way we are disappointed not to be around in December and January when these mopani worms abound and are consumed in huge quantities. Not that we see ourselves partaking, although I’m sure Kobie can be convinced. I think just to bear witness to nature and its bounty must be an amazing spectacle. As we travel closer to the pans, the scenery changes to more grassland and thorn-trees and eventually just grassland, right to the edge of the white salt-pans. Looking over these enormous pans (about 12,000 square kilometres) it seems like there is water in the distance, but it’s just an illusion. Kobie and I scratch our names on the surface of the dry pan . . . it should be there until the rains arrive later in the year! And when the rain arrives, the scenery will undergo a drastic change: the dry pans will be transformed as the floodwaters and as huge flocks of flamingos arrive and make the flooded pans their home for a season.

Shortly after we leave the pans, we came upon an enormous herd of zebra on the move . . . our guide estimates the herd to be more than 2,000 head. Our guide explains that this is a rare and unusual happening and that we are very fortunate to have witnessed it! It’s like one of those migrations you see in the movies, but now we are right here and all the drama is happening right in front of our eyes! What an overwhelming, once in a lifetime experience!! Awesome Africa at its best… showing off just for us!!

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The Botswana people in these regions are livestock farmers and their goats, cattle and horses graze on the common Tribal territory. No one ‘owns’ any of this land, but they do get permission to cultivate certain portions and to build homes. We visit one of these villages to see first-hand how the people live.’ Although the buildings are very simple and primitive, the owners are very proud and happy to be there! Quite a lesson!

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