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#1003152 - 01/04/18 04:51 AM Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy)  
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MikeRC Offline
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MikeRC  Offline
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Introduction:

I spent 21 days on a trip with Renedian Adventures in September & October 2017 travelling from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Cape Town, South Africa. About 5500 km (3400 mi) total on the road, 5100 km (3150 mi) on a rented BMW F800GS. Of the distance on the bike, about 1000 km (620 mi) was on unpaved roads.

Our group consisted of 12 riders (5 women and 7 men) on 12 bikes (F700GS, F800GS and R1200GS) with one passenger (the 15 year old daughter of one of the couples in the group). We also had 2 guides (Rene Cormier and Piet Human) and a support van driver/mechanic (Michael Higgs).

I did a previous tour (The Garden Route) in 2015 with Renedian and enjoyed myself so much I was back again this year for the longest tour that Renedian does in Africa.

If you are only interested in a paved-road tour then Renedian does the Waterfalls and Wildlife Safari in Namibia & Botswana (with a two day detour to Victoria Falls).

General take-away messages if you just want to look at pictures and skip through:

  • Renedian Adventures is a great company. Rene Cormier and his co-workers have worked out all the kinks possible to make your visit to Africa as rewarding as possible.
  • With three different Motorcycle Safaris in Africa, you can choose your commitment level to unpaved road riding The only gravel/sand on the Waterfalls and Wildlife tour is on the approach roads to/from your nightly accommodations.
  • Don't spend time worrying about your personal security, you are just as likely to have problems in Rome, Barcelona, Athens or a hundred other cities and countries.
  • Most of the Renedian Adventures accommodations are more than comfortable (most are luxurious) and the meals are excellent.
  • If you are thinking at all about Africa ...... just go and experience it. Even if you aren't thinking about it ...... you should!


Africa is a very big continent. The motorcycle part of our tour started in Kasane, Botswana and went across Botswana to the capital of Namibia and then to the famous sand dune/salt flat areas of Namibia before continuing to South Africa. If you look on a map of sub-equatorial Africa, the trip looks long:

[Linked Image]

But relative to the whole African continent, the trip was but a minor sample of what Africa has to offer:

[Linked Image]

The Victoria Falls to Cape Town Motorcycle Safari is essentially broken into 4 segments.
  • First a couple of days at Victoria Falls with one night in the colonial Victoria Falls Hotel
  • Five days in Botswana on (mostly) paved roads with wildlife safaris on the Chobe River and Okavango Delta
  • Seven days in Namibia practicing gravel/sand skills and visiting some of Namibia's most famous natural wonders
  • Eight days in the Western Cape region of South Africa exploring roads (paved and unpaved), sampling wine and enjoying the coastal and interior scenery


Getting to Africa from North America isn't easy. With a handful of exceptions you have to fly through Europe (London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt most commonly) or the Middle East (Dubai) To get to Victoria Falls took me 36 hours (22 hrs in the air and 14 hrs in airports). If you can add a few days to your total time away it is worthwhile to include a few days stopover somewhere. People I know have chosen to spend extra time in Iceland, Europe or Dubai on their way to Africa. Then there's the packing. Count on one decent sized suitcase (or more commonly a duffle) just for your riding equipment.

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Most commonly people fly through Johannesburg, South Africa (SA or ZA) to Victoria Falls. If you do so, give yourself about 2 hrs in O.R Tambo Airport. You (at least at this point) can't check your bags directly to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from North America. In Johannesburg you have to enter SA from the International Terminal (20 minutes through Passport Control), pick up your bags and then check them into the British Airways/Comair or South African Airways counter in the Domestic Terminal. Then you walk back to the International Terminal, exit SA Passport Control, go through Security and on to your gate.

Since I had 2 hours in O.R. Tambo I picked up a SIM cared for my android phone. Although not useful for Zimbabwe, Botswana or Namibia it would allow me data & text access for my later entry into South Africa on the west coast. Each country I would be visiting has a different dominant cell service provider and would require a different SIM card. South Africa was the only country with a "reciprocal" plan with my Canadian service provider. And the cost would have been 5x what I paid for the SA plan with Vodaphone.

On arrival to Victoria Falls International Airport we had the unfortunate timing of entering Zimbabwe at the same time as one other flight The four Border Entry booths were inundated with tourists who spoke only French, German or Cantonese with only one interpreter. Not only that but you must have $50 US cash for your entry visa. Which many of the Europeans were obviously not informed of prior to their arrival. Another hour of my life gone.

If that sounds like a PITA ....... it was. Every border crossing on this trip took from 30-90 minutes by the time we exited one country and entered the other.

Since the complete collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009, the US dollar is the only accepted currency in the Victoria Falls area (and most of Zimbabwe).

Victoria Falls is truly one of the natural wonders of the world.

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And the Victoria Falls Hotel is a classic hotel with stunning grounds and views of the Second Gorge and Victoria Falls Bridge.

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Interesting groundskeepers.

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But, Zimbabwe is one of the most stunning failures of African freedom and democracy. With 70% unemployment, one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world, rampant human rights abuses and entrenched corruption it must be an incredibly depressing place to live and (try to) work. But all of the workers that we met were attentive and appreciative.

My first evening was spent with a couple from Vancouver, BC that I met at on our transfer bus from the airport to the hotel. The first meal included some local flavor with a kebob of beef, kudu and impala. A bit tough and nothing really spectacular in taste.

Next installment: Victoria Falls area and Botswana.

Last edited by MikeRC; 01/04/18 04:53 AM.

2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003155 - 01/04/18 05:49 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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Great thread first post.
Thanks, Mike.
Subscribed.


Channeling farfegnugen since 2011.
#1003207 - 01/05/18 05:59 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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Installment 2: Victoria Falls

My first full day consisted of a morning trip to a couple of rural projects supported by the non-profit Geenline Africa Trust. Renedian supports the Greenline Trust both directly and indirectly (more on that later). So while some of our group were exploring the area (swimming in the Devil's Pool or walking with the lions on the Zaire side of the Zambezi river), five of us went to visit three projects in the Chisuma District close to Victoria Falls supported by the Greenline Africa Trust.

First was a local vegetable growing operation to demonstrate sustainable agriculture in this very arid area with marginal soil.

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Next was a preschool that had thirty students in a single room schoolhouse with one volunteer teacher. We had been asked to bring some simple supplies to help the school (crayons, coloring pencils, coloring books, erasers, flash cards) and a couple of soccer balls. All the supplies were received by the teacher and students with enthusiasm.

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Next stop was to drop off some supplies for a local "elderly" women (54 years) who had many of her grandchildren living with her. All seven in the family were engaged in most of their daily activities in one round hut of perhaps 15ft diameter with a central fire pit and then they slept in a separate hut of perhaps 12x16 ft.

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In a scenario to be repeated, the small van we were using developed a tire leak on the rough roads. However, it was quickly repaired (plugged) at a roadside repair shop which didn't consist of much more then a few hand car jacks and a compressor.

Early afternoon the entire group went on a guided tour of the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls.

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Late in the afternoon we had our first rider's meeting. Rene went over details of our next few days and started to acquire all the documentation required to smooth our motorcycle rental, border crossings and provide medical care if required.

That evening we ate as a group at the Victoria Falls Hotel and were entertained with a narrated traditional dance provided by a local troop.

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After sunrise the next morning we busied ourselves getting the last details and all our equipment ready:

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Four of us went on a short helicopter tour of the Victoria Falls area and Zambezi River Gorge.

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The group departed Victoria Falls in our support van about 11am for the Zimbabwe/Botswana border (only 100 km away). The driver/support person (Michael) had been our support person in South Africa two years before and it was a treat to see another familiar face. I knew many beer would be consumed, laughs enjoyed and wildlife (and geography/geology) identified in the weeks to come.


Our first border crossing went smoothly. First we all had to file out of our van and line up and have our Zimbabwe visa checked and "cancelled" before departing the country. Then a kilometer later we did the same thing to have our Botswana entry visa granted. At least only Zimbabwe charged for their visa.

We also had our first Agriculture Checkstop at the border. Botswana has an important cattle export business. But it has been interrupted by outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease. So there are frequent checkpoints where footwear is sterilized by walking though pads soaked with bleach. One person in our group ended up with an unexpected exfoliation because the bleach came over the edges of his sandals.

Mid afternoon we arrived in Kasane, Botswana to get our first glimpse of the motorcycles that had been delivered from Johannesburg by BMW Motorrad Executive Rentals.

[Linked Image]


Next installment: Botswana


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003214 - 01/05/18 04:19 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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Dennis Andress Online
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#1003219 - 01/05/18 07:03 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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I think the soccer ball was the clear winner...


Channeling farfegnugen since 2011.
#1003223 - 01/05/18 08:42 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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Fantastic jouney! Thanks for the ride report.


beemerman2k
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Defeat is my teacher, not my master - Bruce Lee
#1003265 - 01/07/18 01:21 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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MikeRC Offline
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Installment 3: Riding in Botswana

Since this is a Ride Tale maybe I should deal with the riding first grin

[Linked Image]

The Renedian Africa tours run with a support van, trailer and a spare motorcycle. The van caries your clothing, some repair equipment, water and food for snack breaks and a roadside lunch.

If a pillon or rider needs a break, there is room in the van to ride and space on the trailer for one more motorcycle.

The days aren't long (most are around 3-4 hours of riding, the longest was 7 hrs of riding). Breaks are every 60-90 minutes and the support van is well stocked with fluids and food.

In our case the motorcycles were all fitted with new (or nearly-new) Pirelli Scorpion or Scorpion Rally dual-sport tires that had more than enough grip and easily lasted the 5100 km (even on the heavier 1200GS).

The route we rode through Botswana was 1100km of paved surface and pretty straight.

But that didn't mean it wasn't without challenges, some of which are illustrated in the photos below.

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So there is the problem of wildlife, although it would more often be ostrich or hoven animals than elephants.

Then there is the domestic animals. There are very few fences and many of the domestic animals (goats, sheep, donkeys and cattle) would be grazing right beside the road and casually cross (or suddenly dart) from one side to the other.

Then there were the roads themselves. Although mostly good condition a section would appear that looked like it had land mines planted.

That's the problem in the first photo above. We are in Africa, so we should be on the left side of the road. But the semi ahead of us has slowed to a crawl working his way through a particularly bad section of road. And the semi in the ditch on the wrong side of the road gave up on his side of the road. And even his shoulder/ditch.

Always keep on the lookout!

I will leave the description of the riding in Botswana with two other pictures. The first is a typical roadside pullout, the second is hazard-free formation riding wink

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


Next up: Botswana accommodations & wildlife


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003279 - 01/07/18 06:05 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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MikeRC Offline
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Installment 4: Botswana


Shortly after our arrival we left for a river cruise on the Chobe River in Chobe National Park. Over the next few hours we experienced an abundance of wildlife before watching the sun set on the Chobe.

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And that evening we had our first currency exchange. Botswana uses its own currency - the "pula" - with a currency exchange rate of about 10.5 pula to one US dollar. Almost all gas stations in Africa only accept cash (in local currency) for fuel, so currency exchanges were necessary. Luckily the US dollar and South African rand can be used for exchange purposes at most banks or currency exchange stands at border crossings.

Up early the next morning to get the bikes squared away, everyone was selecting their choice. We had ordered our rental months before and Executive Rentals had done an excellent job filling our requests (even some factory lowered F700GS models). The bikes appeared in good shape although a few surprises would show up during the tour. However, considering the condition of the roads these rentals are used on, we had minimal problems over the next three weeks.

I had pre-ordered an F800GS which turned out to be an excellent choice (for me). Great gas mileage, more than enough suspension travel and easy to handle at both slow and moderate speed on pavement and in the African sand & gravel. If I was ordering one myself I would get the optional rider modes to defeat the traction control for really poor road conditions, but that is about the only change.

[Linked Image]

The first day of riding from Kasane to Nata defined the riding in Botswana. Mostly good pavement roads with some sections of the worst degraded road surface I had seen in my life. On the really bad sections the cars & trucks would be driving in the ditch on either side of the road. We would mostly weave our way through the potholes but sometimes had to alternate sides of the road or ride brief sections on the shoulder.

And another agricultural stop with the mandatory "bleach-the-boots" routine.

[Linked Image]

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Our first day also brought about our first two "misadventures". While avoiding potholes one rider got caught in the soft shoulder and had an unplanned off-road excursion into the ditch and back onto the road. All at highway speed!

"No harm, no foul."

Someone also had a slow speed spill on the (unpaved and sand filled) entry road into our nightly accommodation, the Nata Lodge. The sand proved to be an excellent landing zone as the bike appeared completely unharmed.

The Nata Lodge was a very nice place. Each unit had an walled outdoor shower if you wanted to look at the stars while cleaning up after sunset.

[Linked Image]

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The next day we headed west from Nata to Maun, BT. Same challenges as the previous day with one detour to the Planet Baobab camp & lodge. Although a short detour, the road conditions off the pavement were always challenging due to sand, washboard and exposed rocks.

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We arrived early in the afternoon to the Maun Lodge and quickly changed to prepare for a short flight into the Okavango Delta.

[Linked Image]

We were picked up from the airstrip by our safari vehicles for a late afternoon game drive into the delta by Swampland Safari Trails.

[Linked Image]

In a very short time we saw 3 lions, a leopard feasting on a recent kill, elephants, hippos and a variety of other wildlife and birds.

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Rene had told us we needed nothing but a toothbrush for our overnight stay, and we (mostly) listened. But, of course, we were rewarded with the first rain shower in 6 months resulting in some wet and cold tourists. Luckily the very low humidity had us dried out in an hour or two.

[Linked Image]

Our evening accommodation was a tent camp set up by the guiding company. After an excellent meal and some prolonged discussion with enjoyment of local adult beverages (Amarula & beer) we retired for the night.

[Linked Image]

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This tent camp was set up in the middle of a wildlife refuge with essentially no barrier to animal movements through the camp. We were warned to stay close to the tents if we had to get up during the night, and given our earlier predator sightings everyone followed the recommendation.


Up at sunrise for a morning game drive, we experienced even more wildlife including another leopard.

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We came back to the tent camp about 11am to enjoy a full breakfast before driving out of the camp on a long, dusty, bumpy trip back to the Maun Lodge. We saw some more wildlife on the trip out.

[Linked Image]

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Some jokers added some "spice" to the drive with seating adornments or full-facial coverings to keep out the dust.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

The next day was a straightforward ride. Including our second "Agricultural" roadblock where everyone is required to clean the soles of their shoes and boots in a bleach solution.

Our stay in Ghanzi, BT was at the Kalahari Arms Hotel. Beautiful grounds and a very interesting local grocery store across the street. You learn a lot from things like supply stores. But there are almost more questions than answers.

[Linked Image]

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The next day had us spending our last few pula before exiting Botswana and entering Namibia. Although we had no trouble exiting Botswana (line up, have your passport examined & visa cancelled) there was a delay at the Namibia border entry. An "official" insisted on seeing everyone's International Driver's Permit. The only problem with that was that none of the countries we were travelling in require an International Driver's Permit. This rather suspicious shakedown was taking place right at the Namibia border entry fence, but out of view of the official Customs building. Rene, Piet and Mike had gone ahead to start the paperwork for taking the rented motorcycles into Namibia and not noticed the rest of us being stopped. But in a few minutes Rene was back arguing with the "official" and demanding his supervisor come back to discuss the matter. After 5 minutes of lively debate we were allowed to go to the official Namibia Customs entry post.

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We used the next 30-45 minutes of time to finalize the paperwork and have our lunch break before going on to the capital of Namibia, Windhoek.

[Linked Image]

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Next up, Namibia


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003281 - 01/07/18 07:17 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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Outstanding!! Thanks for taking us along.


John

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#1003435 - 01/11/18 01:10 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town (verbose, image heavy) [Re: MikeRC]  
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