MCN man's African adventure
MCN’s World Superbike reporter Michael Guy is currently on tour with the first Enduro Africa expedition, with 164 other fundraisers. Here’s his update after week one.
Only 24 hours after setting off from London Heathrow, 165 charity fundraisers/intrepid holidaymakers were in Port Elizabeth in South Africa and having our first rides on the machines that will form our transport over this amazing trip for the next fortnight.
The flight here went to plan for most of us, barring tense moments at Johannesburg Airport which was a bit of a lottery when it came to the luggage. Mine arrived no problem but five of the kitbags didn't make the connection, including for the photographer who's currently a bag down and has no tripod or lights for the trip.
Our final briefing saw us filled in on the organizers plans for getting all 165 of us across the African deserts in one piece. It transpired that not all the bikes have been built yet so we got our hands dirty before we started.
The Yamaha AG200 doesn't look much, as it’s essentially an agricultural farm vehicle, a million miles removed from the machines I’m used to dealing with in my normal job at work.
We get used to talking about top-spec works race bikes being priceless, but for these little Yamahas really can’t have a price tag put on them. It forms the workhorse for the nurses helped by Riders, and more than any RCV or Desmosedici, its benefits can’t be put into financial terms, because each of these AG200s directly equate to saved lives.
The man from Yamaha reckons the AG200 is indestructible, and with it forming our transport over the roughest terrain we are likely to have experienced in our riding lives, we’re finding out if he’s right.
Day three saw the Enduro begin in earnest it was an early one, each day: breakfast at 6am, everyone on the road by 8am.
The first day’s riding was a gentle (!!) 133 miles of mixed terrain, with a stable to welcome us for accommodation at the far end.
The next three days saw us hit South Africa’s Wild Coast on Friday and in doing so leaving behind civilisation as we know it. The vastness of this country is starting to sink in and the areas that remain untouched by the developed world are sprawling before us in 100 mile chunks at a time.
The dusty gravel roads are now behind us and we’re into the most technical stage of the Enduro. Big climbs, river crossings and some seriously rocky passes make up our days and so far we’re all rising to the challenge.
Things that seamed impossible on the Yamaha AG200 at the start of the trip are now easy, but I’m still amazed at what we’re able to achieve on what is essentially an underpowered farm bike.
To begin with we all smirked at the AG200, but now there’s a lot of respect for the little blue Yamaha.
Sunday saw some serious river crossings. Heavy overnight rain had the advantage of damping down the dust but on the flip side meant that the rivers were running fast and deep.
That didn’t stop us though and with a lot of hard work, in what was the toughest day yet, 165 bikes managed to get through even if it did take some over nine hours to cover 60 miles.
Today we start the run back to Port Elizabeth, so it will be a big mileage day, but without the technicalities.
The atmosphere is good and the sense of achievement within the teams is beginning to bubble over. At night the bar is buzzing with stories of near misses, adventure and full-blown crashing.
This really is the trip of a lifetime…