Wednesday, June 28, 2006

2658km: My First Tag

I've just been exposed to a new game that seems to be popular amongst bloggers. Every once in a while we play "tag". So, I got an e-mail that I was tagged by Michelle. I checked, and she was tagged by Chitty who was tagged by Blagrag who was tagged by Vesper,and somebody even mentioned that they saw it on Chloe's blog (although I don't see it yet).

So I will try to play along as nicely as possible.

"The rules are simple: Write 10 words beginning with that letter in your journal, including an explanation what the word means to you and why, and then pass out letters to those who want to play along."

And Michelle chose the letter "G" to pass out to me.

She helped me with the first one.

1. Gomoto. A major theme on my blog. My red 125 cc Gomoto motorbike with wich I enjoy exploring the world.

2. Guts. Somebody told me this morning that I had more guts than brains. I did not have my wife's car at my disposal but urgently wanted to buy some conduit from the hardware store. I need it for a little project in which I'm trying to install a network in the dormitory where I work. So I took my Gomoto down to town, bought the 12 m of conduit (in 2m lenghts), tied them together with a rope. and put the rope over my shoulders. It was a bit of a balancing act, but I got the necessary supplies back to my office without causing any serious accidents.

3. Gatsometer. I initially thought this was only an Afrikaans word :-). But a quick check on Google, showed me that most English speaking people should also be familiar with this device that is used by traffic authorities to measure your speed. I've been quite smug in my contentment that I would not have much cause to worry about these "speed traps" while driving on my Gomoto, as it is not designed for very high speeds. But ALAS! today I was almost caught by one. Going 70km/h in a 60km zone with all the conduit (see "Guts" above) over my shoulders.

4. Gasoline. Just to brag again that my little Gomoto travels 42 kilometres on 1 litre of gasoline when I ride between 60 and 75 km/h.

5. Gun. Another reason why I don't own a car? When last have you heard of a motorcylist being hi-jacked? Or if you are like me, you won't get hi-jacked. You will just get assaulted with the gun. When I owned my own car I used to twist the little spray nozzles used to clean the windscreen to the side. I would then ride on the beach front and squirt the pedestrians and oncomming traffic with a spray of water. I once squirted the wrong vehicle, and a few minutes later found myself looking down the barrel of a gun. I am fortunately still here to tell the story. It will therefore come as no surprise that I believe that guns should be outlawed.

6. Genadendal. The next place that I intend to visit with my Gomoto. I plan to take a day off next week to drive to Genadendal. I estimate Genadendal to be approximately 160km from where I live, but I plan to drive there via Villiers, in order to fit in two mountain passes with little traffic. It should be close to a 400 km round trip. Genadendal is one of the first mission stations that was established by those evil colonialists early in South African history.

7. Greyton. A small town close to Genadendal. I am told that there is a camp site there that charges only R30 per person per night. I have not discussed this with my wife yet, but I may want to sleep over in my little two man tent before returning home from my trip to Genadendal. If this happens it will be the first time that I do an overnight trip with my Gomoto.

8. Girl. I'm the dean of a men's residence. We are quite popular amongst the girls. But below is a photo of the girl in my life. You must see her in a helmet!

This picture of my daughter was taken by a friend who does this kind of work for a living. She is busy setting up a website, and I will link to it soon.

9. Green Tea. I bought myself some last week. It has a mint flavour and I've been drinking one cup, every day at 11.00. I am not a great tea drinker, but I am really enjoying this particular flavour.

10. Get Rich Slowly. Get Rich Slowly is the blog that I've been compulsively reading in the last two weeks. I've discovered that my credit cards charge far too much interest for me to sustain the lifestyle that I am living, and my job does not pay enough. Get Rich Slowly has made me feel good about cutting down on the expenses in my life and living a more simple life. I highly recommend it.

Well, that is the end of my assignment. I do not know enough bloggers to pass the tag on to. When I see some, I will present them with the letter X or something. I hope you enjoyed reading my responses.

Electrical Quirks

My Gomoto's next service is at 4000km.

There is something strange happening to the electrical system on my motorbike. Sometimes the small lights that light up the rev counter goes off for some reason. Then when I look again, it is on again. While I was travelling through the fog on my way to Worcester the other day my emergency flickers did not want to go on. But I discovered that if I first put on the left flicker, and then the right flicker, and then tried the emergency switch, they would work.

Some people would be at the Gomoto shop complaining. Perhaps I need to go visit the friendly shop owner down at the Strand.

But for some reason I'm not really concerned. I'll just go on my adventures anyway, and wait for the 4000km service.

(And hope the bike does nor break down when I come close to Mali. ... Mnnn ... come to think about it. I'm not quite sure what I would do if my bike had to break down on a trip.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

2633km: Growing Up

Friday was a public holiday in South Africa. It was a day for people to relax and enjoy a long week-end. I had, however, foolishly agreed to participate in a Regional Youth Leadership Summit in Worcester where I had to do a presentation on "The Context, the Trends, and the Impact of Postmodernism" to a number of young people between the ages of 16 and 30.

I had put off my preperation for this to the last minute (as usual), and I could kick myself for having agreed to do the presentation in the first place. With all my misgivings about the presentation, and the work around it, I decided to turn it into an adventure. I could at least ride to Worcester on my Gomoto!

I had done this 300km return trip before, earlier in the year, on a warm summer's day. Then my purpose was to explore and I had driven through Wellington and the Bain's Kloof Pass on a leisurely ride.

This time it was winter. My presentation was at 09:00. I had to leave at 06:30. The weather report predicted clear weather, but the temperature outside was only about 7 degrees. Fortunately previous exposure to cold circumstances have taught me that gloves are essential. I still do not own proper motorcycle gloves, but I found a thick pair of cotton and wool gloves. I wore several layers of clothes under the tight-fitting Gomoto Riding Suit that I was given when I bought the motorbike. I even wore two pairs of socks (I was not wearing boots, but the shoes that I needed to appear halfway decent for the presentation).

As I reached Stellenbosh, the streetlights created a shadow-effect in the darkness of the morning making it appear that a faster motorbike was passing me every few seconds.

The sun rose as I was reaching Paarl, and preparing to go up Du Toitskloof Pass. (Did I mention that the trip was going to take me over a 890 meter mountain pass?). I welcomed the sun, hoping that my nose could now stop running, and that my fingers would stop feeling like they were going to fall off.

The mountains were beautiful in the morning light. We had good rain in the Cape in the last few days and practically every kloof was spewing a beautiful waterfall. By the time that I had reached the top of the pass, I actually started to feel warm, but I still had 40 km's to go.

And this is where the trouble started. As I exited the kloof through which the Du Toit's Kloof pass (the main road between Cape Town and the northen part of the country) was built, it appeared that the valley that Worcestor is situated in was covered with a dense fog! No Sunlight! The last 30 kilometres were quite scary. Everything was wet (did you know that some kinds of fog is actually a kind of light rain). I had to keep wiping my helmet visor to see the road, and even then, I could not see anything more than 1 or 2 seconds ahead of me. The road was a double lane high-way with no shoulder, and my fear was constantly that some big truck would ride over me from the back.

Well, the fact that I am still writing this post, proves that I survived the trip. I stopped at the Shell Ultra City and went to the bathroom. When I came out, there were about 10 ultra modern and large motorcycles there. The drivers had the best leather apparrel (and gloves!) and seemed to have thouroughly enjoyed their ride. I felt quite proud that my Gomoto 125cc motorcycle had done what even the big-shots have done.

Anyway, this post is long now, but what I wanted to reflect on briefly is the concept of growing up. One of the senior presenters at the summit that I attended remarked that I still had to grow up.

I'm actually happy that I'm not "grown up" yet. If maturity requires me to see the world exactly as other people see it. If maturity means the end of a sense of adventure, and wonder. If maturity means that I should stop asking certain questions. Then I don't want to be grown up. I often look at my peers who are running around town with their 4x4's and living "responsible" lives looking after children and families, and wonder why it seems as though they have it all so together. I also have my family. I think I look after them responsibly, but I sometimes still prefer to feel like a student who goes through life without too many worries. In fact, I think it is a source of personal power: To choose an open, questioning, explorative, "not alltogether figured out" approach to life.

Afterall, what does being "grown up" really have to offer?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Baggage Management : Light Travel

As with almost all things relating to motorcycles, I have absolutely no experience with motorcycle baggage management systems.

Except for a quick Google search which brought me to the conclusion that a traditional set of bags (on the side, on the back, on the tank) could almost cost me as much as the motorbike cost in the beginning.

Which means that I need to keep looking, or think creatively. As I was driving a bus full of school kids through town on Friday I saw a delivery motorbike not unlike my Gomoto with a large plastic crate on it, the kind that you buy in plastic shops. I think it holds about 50 litres of water.

That would be my last resort. In the mean time I will continue searching for baggage systems that might be affordable. I will also treasure lists of stuff that a person can take to make travel lighter. Like this one.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cederberg Table Mountain

My envisioned long distance tour through South Africa on my 125cc Gomoto motorcycle got a bit of a boost last week when a friend invited me to go hiking with him in the Cederberg. He wanted to climb Table Mountain, the second highest peak in this range of mountains.

I agreed, but had to immediately set out (in defiance of a budget that did not have the space) to buy myself a small 2-man tent and a -5 degree sleeping bag from Outdoor Warehouse. (When I arrived at Outdoor Warehouse, I stood looking at about three possible tents. The shop-assistant did not know this, but he made the sale on the particular tent when he explained that it was a popular tent amongst motorcyclists who like to travel lightly!).

The trip to the Cederberg did not happen on the Gomoto. We traveled in my friend's car. The area had just been through a week-end in which they received 200ml of rain. All the roads were badly damaged and we had to take a 75 km detour because we could not drive across the low water bridge that gave access to the mountain range.

On the first day we hiked up a kloof (Welbedacht Kloof) and slept at the top of the kloof close to a stream. The night was cold, but not as cold as expected and my 4 layers of clothes and the new sleeping bag helped keep me warm.

On the second day we left our tents and hiked up the mountain. It took about 4 hours to get to the top (Approximately 1900 metres above sea-level.) The walk was really beautiful.

This picture was taken at sunset on the day that we had climbed Table Mountain. Table mountain is the brightly illuminated one in the background.

This is me on top of the mountain. Across the valley is Sneeuberg, the highest peak in this range.

This is us back at the car park after 3 days of hiking.

I am now a step closer to taking my motorcycle trip. My most important task will be to find a luggage system to pack my equipment in. On this trip I carried about 14 kg with me. I imagine that I would be able to do my motorcycle trip with more or less the same amount of equipment.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

2344km: 80 km/h

My Gomoto booklet stated quite categorically that I should not drive the motorbike above 7000 revs in the first 1800 km. I followed this religiously (well about 99% of the time).

I realise that since I reached that magical 1800 km mark, I have not taken my bike out on a nice long trip on the open road. All of my journeys were in and around town.

Yesterday, I drove out of Somerset-West towards Stellenbosh to buy some grape juice at the Mooiberge farm stall. This stetch of open road allowed me to get a feel for my motorbike at 8000 and 9000 revs. At 8000 revs it makes a pleasant huming noise and I get to travel at approximately 80 - 85 km/h. 9000 revs and there-around sends me to a more pleasant 90-95 km/h, but I get the distinct impression that the engine is not really supposed to be driven at that speed for too long periods of time.

I settled it in my mind that I should just plan to enjoy travelling through the country at 75 - 80 km/h when I do my long trip with this motorbike.

Then this morning I got two responses to a note that I posted on the Thorntree forum at Both of them have relevance to the thoughts I was just developing in my mind:

You will have to badly mistreat your 125 unless ou manage to travel very light. My best recommendation for overland travel in Southern Africa is a 650 like a Kawasaki KLR or Suzuki DR.

This statement was made by somebody who owns a motorcycle rental business in Cape Town and I am know he is very knowledgeable on the issue.

Another commenter said:

This is something which i have wanted to do for a long while. However, not on that particular brand.
I sometimes drive a Honda Activa 100cc. I have test driven a Gomoto 125 .....Hopelessly under-powered.
Also, after experiencing a blow-out on the back wheel of the Honda, at 80 kmh, I realised the danger of the small wheels on the scooters.
But, touring long distances on a scooter is still something I will probably end up doing. I heard that the guys from Vespa, at the entrance to the Waterfont are currently on a tour of South Africa with their latest models.
Again, this commenter is definitely well informed.

And suddenly I have a whole lot of questions that I want to sort out.

What exactly is this abuse that they mention? Will I be putting too much strain on the engine if I took it out on the road at 80km/h for four or five hours a day? (I know my butt would feel the strain). Or would I be straining it if I drove at 90-100 km/h (where I imagine most motorcyclists would prefer to be, but I don't have a compulsion to be there because I have never driven a faster motorcycle.)

I went hiking in the Cederberg with a friend last week. We carried everything with us for three days. My backpack with the tent and clothes and food for four days weighed about 14 or 15 kg. I definitely took a lot of strain, and I was also definitely under-powered. But I took it slowly, and I made it to the top of the mountain. It was beautiful.

I imagine that my motorcycle trip through the country will also be done with approximately 15kg's of luggage. I won't be doing it for the thril of speed and high-ways. I would like to explore small towns and back-roads at a leisurely pace.

I wish I had more wisdom. Am I being foolish? Am I unaware of the mechanical realities that I am dealing with? Or is it possible to define stress and strain and power in different ways?

I don't know.