South Africa: The Rainbow Nation

South Africa: The Rainbow Nation
It’s a long flight, whichever way you spin it. Even though I remind myself of the old adage that it’s about the journey as much as the destination, I think that philosophy doesn’t apply here. Yet as I read my travel guide from the constricted comfort of my airplane seat, I get progressively excited about the upcoming two-week tour of South Africa. This destination has always been on top of my wish list, and part of its allure has to do with the remote location. Add into the mix wild animals in their native habitat, landscapes typically only seen in National Geographic, and trusty BMWs, and you have the perfect recipe for an adventurous motorcycle tour combined with cultural, as well as culinary, delights.

The maiden voyage of Blue Rim Tours (RoadRUNNER’s newly named organized tours division) to the southern tip of the dark continent brings together seasoned alums and a few folks new to international motorcycle vacationing. Oscar, our tour guide and route master, is the man with the plan, and Connie, his wife, drives the support van carrying our luggage, cold refreshments, and snacks. I’m in the back riding sweep.

This church off Franschhoek's bustling Huguenot road provides some solitude. Most buildings are white, as are most car.s

Our Arrival

South Africa is known as “The Rainbow Nation,” and it officially recognizes 11 languages. We hear mostly English and Afrikaans, a Dutch derivative. Surprisingly, Cape Town has a very high population of Caucasians. When I inquire about the seeming lack of diversity, the locals tell me that the closer I am to water, the more likely this is to be the case (even though nearly 80 percent of the country’s population is Africans).

Our group is antsy to swing our legs over a BMW and hit the road, but to get acclimated to the time zone, the heat (we escaped one of the worst winters in the U.S. and Canada), and most importantly the traffic on the left, we board the double-decker Red Bus for a sightseeing tour. We visit all the notable stops in Cape Town, including the famous Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, the glitzy suburb of Camps Bay, and end at Groot Constantia, one of the oldest wine estates in the country, for a tour and tasting. What a befitting welcome to our dream destination.

The private game reserve certainly knows how to put on a show. After a big buffet, we sat around the campfire and gazed up at the stars.

Cape Town and Around

In the morning, we pick up the rental bikes for the first day of riding. Cape Town is situated along the coast with mountains behind it, which means curves. We snake our way along False Bay, then through Fish Hoek, and finally to Simon’s Town to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope (once thought to be the southernmost point of Africa). After the National Park toll station, we see signs warning of baboons and for good reason. These old world monkeys are so smart (and mischievous) that they know how to open car doors. They’ll run off with your backpack, helmet, jacket, or whatever they can get their fingers on. Later we find out from a local that the main reason for the walls and electric fences around houses are to keep baboons out. They open windows, come inside homes, and raid the fridge. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find a monkey in your kitchen drinking from your milk carton—note that the size of the males can be up to 80 pounds!

Our visit was perfectly timed with the arrival of three cubs.

On the way back we ride one of the top five coastal roads in the world, Chapman’s Peak Drive. The famous road is dramatically carved into the near vertical mountain and offers magnificent views with lots of fun curves—pretty much a perfect ending to a perfect first day ride.