Saturday, July 29, 2006

Safety Theories (no 1)

Hehe, I cannot resist to try my hand at a "Gomoto" theory on safety. In fact two. One is just a reflection on already well established political theory. The other one is pretty much my own and I will probably type that up in a seperate blog entry..

Can we ignore the fact that the society in South Africa is violent and unsafe? No. There are a great many people who keep us sober on that issue.

But from my perspective most people who complain vocally have some motive: either to challenge the powers in government; to show them up as incompetent, uninvolved, or misguided; or to harken back to an "old regime" where there was an appearance of safety as a result of a highly oppressive and undemocratic regime.

I would proffer a more realistic "Gomoto" theory to criminality in South Africa. All that is required is that we acknowledge that we live in a highly unequal society. In a country where an economic system of several centuries were structured to enrich a minority group of South Africans, and keep the greatest majority of the population in structural poverty, there will be great inequalities. In such an unequal society there is undeniably a greater need for those who are priveledged to secure or defend what they own or posess. In countries where there is not such a great gap between rich an poor, there is not such a great need for security. Crime is also lower. A corollary observation is that rampant inequalities in society cause a sense of alienation. People do not feel included in dominant value systems and express this alienation in alternative ways. Often this is in the form of violent or criminal behaviour.

My point, from my perspective on my small Gomoto motorbike is: If we want to take crime and violence in South Africa seriously it will be in our best interest to do everything in our power to eradicate the gap between rich and poor, to uplift the conditions of marginalised societies, and to establish harmonious relationships between people. This, I believe is a much better approach than to stand on our Ivory towers and to scream and shout damnation at governments and people who are merely trying to cope with the symptoms of a bigger challenge.

In a sense with the onset of democracy we have only started on our "ride to freedom." We face the challenge to now build our nation. And I am committed to do my bit to improve the quality of life for all in my country.


Shortly before I left on my last Gomoto road trip the South African media highlighted an anti-crime weblog which really upset me. I agreed with the comments by many common South Africans and politicians that the site is un-patriotic and that it is excessively negative in its focus and destructive in its attempts to dissuade people from visiting the country.

I even dreamt up a scheme in which I would challenge bloggers and web-site owners to use the name of this anti-crime website, and its owner, Neil Watson in conjunction with words like "misguided hatemonger" in an attempt to let his blog reach top listings on Google for that particular description.

I don't feel strongly about such a strong activism right now, but I have been wondering about crime and personal safety in South Africa (and elsewhere for that matter. A colleague of mine was in Palestine on a middle-east tour just when the current war between Hesbollah and Israel erupted.)

I also have crime horror stories to tell. But I have also had a very positive experience of South Africa. An experience that I saw replicated as I travelled on my Gomoto.

Let me list some of these experiences:
I lived 8 km's outside of Heidelberg, Gauteng for 3 years. In those three years I hardly ever locked the doors of my house, not even if I was due to spend a whole day away from home. I was never robbed. It could just be luck. I know of roberries and other criminal incidents that occured around us at that time.

I'm now living for a second year in Somerset West, in the Cape province, and again I seldom lock the door to my house and I have a general sense of safety.

As I drove on my Gomoto I spoke to the lady in charge of the camp-site in Greyton. I was concerned about leaving all my belongings in a tent in a deserted camp-site. She told me that in the 8 years that she was living there, she had not experienced any crime.

The next day I arrived at the Backpackers in Struisbaai. The owner was not there. There was nobody in the guest house, but everything was open and there were big signs welcoming me in and requesting me to make myself at home.

I'm not trying to deny that there is crime in South Africa. But, I strongly believe that focussing only on the crime in a negative and pessimistic way causes us to sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are many accounts of high levels of personal safety as well.

Am I immune to crime? No. I've experienced it myself. But I am not prepared to let those experiences be the main determinant of my perspective of life and beauty in South Africa.

As I ride my Gomoto 125GT through the country I would love to focus on the beauty, the enjoyment, and the relative peace that is all over.

(I might post two more philosophical theories on this issue a bit later though.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006


My Gomoto GT125 has been neglected a bit this week in more ways than one.

When I set foot back at work after my road trip last week I found myself in a whirlpool of busyness that transformed itself into 17 hour work days on three occasions and the only day that I did not work under 14 hours was last week Saturday: When my door was only knocked on twice by arriving students (one of them at 23:30 in the evening).

The Gomoto stood in the garage waiting for some loving attention, but all it got was an irritable owner who would jump on it and whizz off to a meeting at the High School or to go pick his daughter up from the crèche. This photo was taken by Michelle on her late afternoon walk one afternoon while I was in a meeting at the high school to discuss their development plans for a new dormitory.

On one of the occasional rushed trips (this time to go teach my special Afrikaans class), the back wheel suddenly made a completely unprovoked noise. Somehow a second spoke broke. And that reminded me that I still want to write a rant about the poor service I have been receiving from Scooter World in the Strand, but I will do that later. (I've been struggling to get spare parts for my Gomoto from them for three weeks. They still have not called me to say that the stuff arrived. And I have not had the time to follow it up with them.)

There is a certain exhiliration in working hard. And my job is fortunately quite varied. I am just completing a project in which I installed 25 new network points in the top floor of my dormitory. I did most of the work myself and saved my college several thousands of Rand in the process. And I've learned what a crimping tool was (it is not a tool used on sex offenders for forced castrations!). I had to redo several of my connections and if I was a networking company boss I would have fired myself for my ineptness, but eventually it was very satisfying to watch the green lights on the switch go on as students began to connect their PCs to the network. Then there are the usual challenges of dealing with returning students and security at the College and getting the Gym up and running again. My wife and I have also initiated a project to make our campus more child friendly. Lots of fun and exciting planning involved.

But this exhiliration comes with its trade-offs. Wife and daughter only got a few minutes of my attention every day. Somehow the hard work messed my eating habits up and I ate take aways twice this week. My belt feels tight, as though I have regained some of the weight-losses of previous weeks (dissappointing), and I am beginning to wish for another break.

I think the coldest cold front of this winter is ravaging our section of the world at the moment, so there is little chance of taking the Gomoto for a spin today or tomorrow. I am still a bit unahappy about the broken spoke, but will rant about it on a better day.

If I could choose between the exhiliration of being busy and the exhiliration of driving on a deserted road with my Gomoto, I'd probably choose the latter.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Road Trip Photos (3)

One last picture. I parked my Gomoto at Hermanus which boasts one of the best land-based whale watching sights in the world. The whales come to this coast line every year between July and October to breed. I did not see any whales this time (I only saw one in Struisbaai). But the view was still quite magnificent. Outside the view on the right hand side of the photo is the old harbour and very beautiful rock cliffs. This is what road trips are all about.

Road Trip Photos (2)

This is my Motorbike in front of the backpacker lodge in Struisbaai. Inside the bag is my tent, sleeping bag, blow-up mattrass, gas stove, food, clothes, toiletries... etc. It must have weighed 16 kilograms.

I'm thinking it will be nice if I asked a welder to weld together a frame that I can bolt onto my carrier rack at the back that is just big enough for the bag in this picture. The frame can include a back-rest for me and a flat area above the black bag on which I can tie another small bag (or sleeping bag or mattrass). I can then mount this black bag onto the frame with a metal cable or a set of locks. I could even pull a canvass over the whole frame to protect the load from rain. Or to keep it out of reach of inquisitive eyes.

This is my bike, without it's load at the tip of Africa. I could technically have driven it to the actual monument, just 50 metres further, but there were tourists, and there were big stakes in the rocks to prevent cars from going through. So I decided to be considerate.

And below are photos of the backpackers lodge that I stayed in:

(This is the door to the TV-Lounge and the Office. Conveniently marked with a pen and arrows.)

This is where everybody hangs out.

The fire-place.

Visitors are encouraged to write messages on the wall. This caught my attention for obvious reasons.

The dormitory room that I slept in. I am a dormitory dean and the furniture inspired me.

Road Trip Photos (1)

These Photos were taken with a cellphone camera. They are not very artistic, but gives a bit of a view of where my Gomoto went this week-end.

One view of the mountains at Greyton. Taken after I walked into them for about 20 minutes.

My tent and motorbike just before sunset. (Notice the shadow :-) )

The tent was pitched in the middle of nowhere under two majestic pine-trees.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gomoto Tips

Tips for Riding on Gravel Roads

On my recent 600km road trip, I travelled at least 200 km's on gravel roads. I made the following mental notes. Don't take them as absolutes. I might have made some wrong observations.
  • Remember that you only have two wheels. Your wheels are also rather narrow and it means your traction tends to be rather precarious.
  • Slow down. Don't drive as fast as you would in a car.
  • If each bump feels like you hit a brick, it might help to deflate your tires just a little bit.
  • Don't change direction suddenly. Even if you see the pothole coming, don't swerve sharply. You're likely to end up in another pothole a few short metres further.
  • Gravel roads tend to have soft sandy spots. Watch out for them and avoid if possible. If you cannot avoid them, keep your steering wheel as straight as possible. Reduce speed before you drive into them.
  • Check your mirrors and blindspots before you change direction; even if you have not seen a car on the entire road. I got confused by a sign that warned of upcoming road works. When I decided to turn onto the "so-called detour", a bakkie just came screeching past me. He almost ended up in a ditch, and Gomoto's and their drivers must have been the focus of every negative thought that he had for the rest of the day.
  • Some farmers have dogs who have nothing better to do than to stand on the side of the road to intimidate motorcyclists. Don't show any fear. Just accellerate and aim straight at the dog. It will get out of the way!
  • Most secondary roads in South Africa have concrete kilometre markers on the side. If you are not sure that you are on the right road, check those markers. They should usually tell you how long the stretch of road is. In that way you can decide what the consequences would be if you were on the wrong road!

Tips for Riding in Fog

I rode in fog for a second time since I've taken my Gomoto on road trips. It tends to be quite an scary experience.

  • Wear reflective clothing.
  • Expect to get wet. It is water afterall.
  • Don't waste time cleaning the visor of your helmet every few seconds, just lift it up. Your eyes will burn a bit in the wind, but you will at least be able to see where you are going.

Tips for Riding on Gravel Roads in Fog (early on Winters Mornings)

Hehe. That is exactly what happened to me just after sunrise on the road between Struisbaai and Gansbaai.

  • Wear protective clothing. You might fall. (I fortunately did not fall, but I wore protective clothing).
  • Dress warmly with several layers of clothes beneath the protective layer.
  • Expect to get dirty! Dust and water create interesting patterns on your clothes.
  • Oncomming traffic will cause dust to come into your eyes and your eyes will tear like a baby.
  • Don't take the long route if you do not plan to stop at the attractions. I had no idea what "Die Dam" was, but decided to drive past there anyway. I never stopped, and ended up driving 40km's more than I could have if I drove directly to Gansbaai.
  • Wear protective clothing. You might fall.
  • Enjoy the adventure. There is nothing like it!

3310km: Successful Multi-day Road Trip

I'm back home after driving 600km in three days on my Gomoto.

Would I do it again?
Yes, most definitely!

I reported on the first day and a half's travel in my previous blog entry.
I will give a brief report on the rest of the trip here, in the form of an interview with myself :-)

So where did you sleep on Monday night?
I spent the night under a warm down duvet in a dormitory room of the CAPE AGULHAS BACKPACKERS in a small coastal town called Struisbaai. It is situated just 5 kilometres from Cape Aghullas, the southern most tip of Africa.

I thought you had packed a tent? Why a backpackers?
The two local caravan parks charge R84 per night for a stand. When I arrived, eager to pitch my tent, the lady at the campsite refused to let me enter before i investigated the Backpackers. They charge only R70 per person per night. It was not a difficult decision to make. (In fact, it was real relief. On my way from Bredasdorp to Struisbaai the wind blew so strongly that my Gomoto could sometimes not exceed 55km per hour!

What would you call a Gomoto with wings?
I have no idea! Probably a micro-light which only has a reverse gear. (Not enough power to fly forward.)

Corny Joke

Can you describe the backpackers hostel?
It is a new establishment which opened in February 2006. The owners have done everything possible to cultivate a laid-back relaxed atmosphere. The dormitory rooms have very neat and practical furniture, warm down duvets, en-suite showers, towels. The focus is on being practical. There is a notice at the toilet roll holder: "No Toilet Paper: Look in the kitchen cupboard above the plates." There are instructions on how to recycle trash. Each drawer in the kitchen is labelled with what utensils a person will find in it. (I like that, it is quite empowering to know where to find things when you need them). The colour schemes are vibrant. An outdoors patio, fire-place, and swimming pool is the center where most life seems to happen. Visitors have the option of writing a message on the green walls around the fire place. Almost everybody have written nice things. (Perhaps the not-so-nice things were painted over again.) I wrote my blog-address on the wall.

The owners of the place were not there, but their brother did a good job to make me feel welcome. The only one that made me feel a bit unwelcome was one of the dogs who did not know that I had moved in. And when I surprised it by suddenly opening a door it gave me quite a growl. I soon made friends with it, however and then it ignored me for the rest of the night.

Were there other people in the hostel?
Apparently there were about 7 people in the hostel the night before, but I only saw evidence in the form of some left-over bread. I decided not to eat it though. At about 19:00 the Moolman family from Johannesburg moved into another one of the dormitory rooms. Their 14 year old son had just competed in an inter-provincial Formula 3 powerboat championship competition on the Theewaterskloof dam in Villiers and they were on their way back home. The boy and his team came second. Congratulations!

So you spent your whole day laying around the hostel?
NO! I drove my Gomoto all over the place. I was not in the mood to explore Museums (and there are several at L'Agullas). I went to the southern most point of the continent, and then drove on to a small residential area, called Suiderstrand, situated within the Aghullas National Park. There is only one rough gravel road that leads to it, but I somehow got lost on the way back and ended up on a 4x4 track leading through the National park! In the beginning it was quite an adventure! I was hoping it would take me home in a different way, but about 5 minutes into the track, I hit some sandy spots. It is quite interesting to notice how a Gomoto Motrobike handles thick sand. One of two things tend to happen: 1) If the sand is very thick, the front wheel sinks directly into it, but inertia causes the driver to almost shoot over the handle bars. 2) More commonly though the front wheel suddenly gives way to the side, and then the back wheel seems to follow a person in a side-ways skid, and it takes quite a bit of muscling and exercise of the whole body to remain on the bike!

The sandy bits were interspersed with rocky sections, and in hindsight I am amazed that my Gomoto and its tires survived the ordeal. (I eventually decided that if this 4x4 route was going to lead anywhere it would take too long to get there. I turned back and got to see the lovely skid paterns created by my bike, followed by trenches where my boots hit the ground in an effort to retain my balance.) It was a really fun outing. I am now more convinced than ever that my Gomoto 125 cc motorbike can take any terrain that Africa can throw at it! (Although, I must honestly say that I would choose to bypass such difficult terrain should there be other options available.)

I bought my daughter a few small gifts at one of many shell-shops/art shops in the area. I bought some fresh milk (which the Moolman family promptly finished when they arrived at the Backpackers :-) ). And I went for a run on the 14km long white Sandy beach!

Did you run 14 km's?
No! I ran 15 minutes in one direction, and then I turned back and slogged my way back to the Backpackers (which is situated 200 metres from the beach - And NO!, I probably did run more than 200 metres). I did not have any footwear with me other than my boots, so I did my run without footwear. Later in the evening I got some weird cramps in my feet, which were obvioulsy traumatised by the strange new activity that they were exposed to.

I learned something useful. Apparently the name "Struisbaai" is derived from an old Dutch word, "Struis" (Obviously), which means "Large" or "Big". So I'm proud to say that my deductive reasoning figured out where the word "Volstruis" (Afrikaans for "Ostrich") comes from.

Would you go back to Struisbaai?

Yes, but this time en-route to some other interesting alcoves that I never got to explore. Apparently Arniston/Waenhuiskraans has a large cave that a person can only reach during low tide. And I would like to explore the De Mond and De Hoop nature reserves. (People who like Kite-Surfing will probably prefer to stay at Struisbaai for longer periods of time).

How far did you travel on the second day of your journey?
I travelled approximately 150 km's from Greyton to Struisbaai. I saw many Merino sheep, and a few beautiful pairs of Blue Cranes (actually they are all over the Overberg but always a beautiful sight.)

Yawn... Perhaps you can continue the story tomorrow. I'm off to bed.

Monday, July 10, 2006

3086km: Pitstop Bredasdorp

Yesterday at 11:15 I set off on my first multi-day road trip with my odometer exactly at 2800 km.
The bike does not look particularly pretty. I took the red carry case off the back, and tied a large bag onto the back seat which contains my 2 -man tent, a sleeping bag, a gas stove, cutlery, food, and some clothes.

I rode up Sir Lowry's pass to Grabouw (average up the pass approximately 50km/h). Then I turned off the highway and headed across the beautiful Hottentots Holland mountains and the Theewaterskloof dam to the small town of Villiers. The trip was just over 70 km, and I reached there at approximately 13:00. I supported the local economy and bypassed the well-known shops to go to a small cafe on the side of the road where I bought a stale pie (made in Gansbaai) and a Pepsi for R11.00. One person appraoched me and asked where I was headed with this lawnmower with the big load.

So I left Villiers and followed a beautifully scenic route down a valley through wich the sonderend river flows. Most of the road was gravel road and my speed averaged around 60km/h. There was hardly any trafic on the road and at one occasion I had the opportunity to follow two large fish eagles as they flew along the river. The countryside is beautifully green with freshly planted meadows of what I think is either canola or feed for the milk (Jersey) or sheep (merino) farms in the area.

After about 40 minutes of travel I reached Genadendal, a small town that used to be a mission station. The mission station seems to have done a good job in Christianising the community because everybody on the streets were dressed in suits and ties. They were obviously not very good in developing the community because it was clear that the area was still quite poor. Of course, I could not go into any of the four or five museums in the area, because it was Sunday and they were only open on the other 6 days of the week. So I headed for my final destination, Greyton, a few kilometres further on.

Greyton is a really quaint little town with beautiful houses, lovely gardens, mostly gravel roads, at least 40 guest houses, several art shops, handmade material shops, restaurants, and a chocolate shop. (No Automatic Teller Machine.) I searched for the municipal campsite which I finally found outside of town on the side of the Sonderend river. There were no other campers. No Electricity. No warm water (although there is a place to make a fire to warm water. The fire was only made the next morning at 10:00 when I was on my way out of the camp site.) The lady who runs the campsite moved there 8 years ago and she does not have electricity in her house either. She runs a television off some car batteries.

I pitched my tent and then headed to explore the town and the nature reserve. I had to make way for several cows and one bull with an ominous rope through his nose as I drove through the town. It suddenly hit me that a RED Gomoto is probably a bit of a liability when it comes to navigating one's way through a heard of cattle. But everything happened without much trouble.

The mountains in the area are beautiful. Fortunately it was not too cold. (I saw photos of the town when the mountains are covered with snow). The unreliable thermometer on my cellphone claimed that it was about 9 degrees celcius during the night.

After hiking in the mountains I cooked my rice. (Something that is a treat because nobody in my household eats rice). As the sun went down I crawled into the tent and read about 50 pages from a textbook on Postmodern Curriculum Theory with the aid of the led light of a head torch that I own.

A phonecall from a relative reminded me that the world cup soccer final had started at 20:00, and not at 21:00 as usual. So I jumped on my bike and drove the 4 km back to town to the restaurant that had advertised that they would screen the event. The restaurant was really smart. Smarter than the Spur! And better run as well. I got to see the final on a large flat screen (amazing quality). Around me was about 20 other people, of whom several were foreigners. Wealthy people, who were obviously either on holiday, or owned a second or third home in the area. They were all sipping wine from large glasses. I bought myself a small can of Coke for R8. (R8.00 &#%$&!!!).

I left the extremely warm lounge, managed to dodge two fierce looking dogs roaming the road (I always thought dogs were my friends, until I started riding bicycles and motorcycles), and crawled into a now-cold tent.

I only tried to stick my nose out of the tent after 08:00 this morning. It was really cold, and everything outside was wet with some kind of precipitation. In fact the inside of the flysheet of my tent was also wet, and that proved to be quite a challenge, because the sun was just not coming over the mountains. (I saw the sun for the first time at 10:00 in the morning, but by that time I had decided to try to dry the tent with my towel and to pack up because I had to get to Bredasdorp, and hopefully to Cape Aghullas after that. My cellphone battery suddenly died on me (it should not have, but perhaps I spent too much time talking to my family on Sunday.) So my stress levels were a bit higher than they should have been. (Strange though: because if something had to happen to me, I would not really know if a cellphone would have made my life any better.)

But that is the reason why I am in an internet cafe in Bredasdorp in stead of exploring the southern most tip of Africa. My phone is busy charging in a cellphone shop.

Cost so far:

Pie and Coke in Villiers: R11.00
Drinks During World Cup Match: R20.00
Cost to pitch tent for night: R40.00
Cost of Petrol when I filled up at Riviersonderend: R32.00
Lunch at Bredasdorp: R33.00 (+R7 tip) = R40.
Cost of time at internet cafe: R20.00 (What a waste! The connection is also extremely slow!)

I'm not going to add everything up now.

Oh yes. I bought myself a long sleeve t-shirt at Mr. Price for R29.00. I felt just a little bit too cold last night. There is a bite in the air and apparently there is a cold front moving in.

But now my time is up, and I need to go on my adventures again.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mindspace: Marginalisation

Apart from the obvious fun and adventure that accompanies my ownership of a Gomoto, it also holds some symbolic value.

I choose to drive a Gomoto, in stead of a car. I do this because I cannot afford to buy a car. I used to own a car, but the maintenance and insurance was just too much. The Gomoto is one of the most inexpensive bikes on the road. It is one of the smallest ones. It uses very old technology compared to the Hondas and Yamahas of today. Somehow the Gomoto symbolises my experience of being marginalised in society.

Now this is not a reactionary political rant. I've always been rather liberal politically. (I think I was the only White man who voted for the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania in the 1999 general elections, although I have since then rejected their political views because they obviously do not really live up to the "Pan" in their Azanianism by regarding some Africans as more African than others.) I strongly support the attempts to counteract the undeniable structural bias that still exists in the South African economy towards white people.

The fact is that there are many levels where I often find myself on the threshold of society. Financially, I am not in a high income bracket (I chose the wrong career) and according to my calculations my real income has dropped in the last 4 or 5 years, in stead of escalating. Politically I am not in the main stream. Philosophically I often find myself at odds with what the people "in power" hold to be true.

And in a strange way, owning a Gomoto embodies the sum-total of this awareness of being on the margins.

To me this is not necessarily a negative observation. Being a bit of a revisionist of Marxist theory, I do not believe that my life and my identity is determined (imposed upon me without my consent) by those who are wealthier, or more powerful than me. To me there is much to be said for being on the margins. Being on the margins is like standing on a threshold, about to exit an existence that is oppressive and depressing. Looking at/anticipating/inviting the wide open space out there.

When I think of being on the margin, I think of other words, like doorway, leading edge, facing forward. And I like what Stephen Toulmin says about such things:
Those who choose to face forward into the future are our pioneers, prophets, creatives, dreamers, explorers, intuitives, risk-takers, artists, and imaginers. They anticipate the future in the present. They shape and form that future. They create possibilities for the future by living fully in the present. They learn from the past but they don’t live in and for the past. They surf the leading edge of the wave.

(The original context in which I read this quote is here).

What better way to go searching for these values and attributes than exploring the countryside of South Africa with a somewhat marginalised Gomoto 125cc motorbike.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Horizons Unlimited

I found an amazing website which tells the stories of Motorcycle Travelers throughout the world.

This particular blog entry by Robert Bielesh, who travelled through South America on his motorbike really inspired me. I copy one relevant piece here, although the whole travel blog is worth reading.

April 22, 2006 GMT
(1) Peru: The South

While visiting a museum on the outskirts of Arica, we met a Japanese couple who were travelling South America, for one (1) year, on their Yamaha....Yamaha 90 that is.

They were a retired couple in their 60s. They had special panniers built, a triple deck luggage pack on the back carrier, a large front basket, not unlike that found on a bicycle and double capacity gas tank giving them 10 liters of capacity and a range of almost 400 kms. I was astounded. I evaluated my 1100 cc brute, weighing in at 525 lbs plus 100 pounds of luggage plus 200 pounds of rider, tipping the scale at 700 lbs.

Their combination was about 200 lbs for the bike plus 100 lbs for the luggage plus 200 lbs for the rider and passenger coming to about 400 lbs. I was simply amazed that the suspension system was up to the load and the pounding. On my bike and other large bikes the weakest link seems to be the suspension. The rear shocks inevitably fail...and yet their tiny 1-1/2" diameter rear shocks and simple front suspension just kept on working and working and working. The motorcycle world could learn a valuable lesson from Yamaha here.

Japanese Couple.JPG
(Photo taken by the author of the particular blog - URL above)

(At another place he publishes a photo of people who make a business by using their 125cc Honda Motorbikes as taxis to get around town. They charge 30c per ride.)

Surely I can travel through South Africa on my 125cc Gomoto Gt motorbike.

2711km: Replacement Parts

It helps to wash your motorbike from time to time. It gives you the opportunity to observe it very carefully.

As I observed my Gomoto on Sunday, while watching it, I noticed a few things that worried me. So I took it for a ride to the Gomoto shop in the Strand this morning and the very friendly mechanic helped me to get words to describe what I was missing:

1. A spoke was broken in the back wheel. Apparently this happens from time to time and I have now ordered two spokes.

2. The little wire that was hanging loose was actually my back brake-light switch. I thought it was attached to the break, and I thought that I saw the break light coming on when I fiddled with it. I've ordered a new one. I have no idea how and when it broke.

3. The reason why my ignition switch was hanging loose was because the ignition switch nut had come loose and fallen off. I've ordered a new one.

4. The fall that I described above did not break my clutch lever, but the clutch lever bracket. I've ordered a new one.

The Gomoto shop promised that these parts should be available by Friday. I hope so. They all seem very easy to replace. I'll probably do it myself.

I thought I would tell them about my blog, but when I asked them if they had internet access they looked at me with a quizical look and then some faint recognition that I am probably talking about that evil thing that their minister preached about in church a while ago. So I thought I'll keep my blog to myself for a while longer.

Very nice people at that Gomoto shop. The owner comes from Namibia. When he delivered my motorbike he saw my daughter and said that I must bring her to play by his son (same age) at some stage. I should arrange that playdate some time. I've met him a few times at different places in Somerset West. He always recognises me and calls me "his friend". I think he is actually a good friend. I've always had good service from him.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Who said handsome people don't ride Gomotos!

The pictures were taken by my friend, Claudelle Bender. She is starting a website and I will link to it as soon as it is ready.

Getting Smaller

I am not the smallest of people, thanks to very unwise addiction to MacDonalds and Spur food. But I am also under the impression that the sizes of the standard Gomoto motorcycle gear is also not exactly measured for the average South African.

When I tried to buy a helmet from their store, their largest size did not fit around my head. I also asked for an Extra Large Gomoto riding suit. But I could never fit into the pants very comfortably. The poppers kept popping open around my waste.

Until today that is! I put my Gomoto riding suit on for some photos (watch the blog for a few samples), and it fitted around my waste without me having to feel like I am in a corset. It would seem that one month of cooking my own food, in stead of eating out frequently is paying off. Now imagine if I actually added some good exercise!

I should actually take note of the kilometer reading on my Gomoto and use it to keep track of my weight loss.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Ugliest Sight in the World

A motorbike rolling forward by itself and falling onto its side!

And it happened to me for the fourth time this year. This morning! I was on my way to the Spar to buy some cheese for our weekly omellette breakfast. I stood by my kitchen door and pressed the remote-control starter button and watched how the motorbike that was standing on the road started stuttering forward, off its stand and ended up lying on its side on the road.

That remote starter (yes, you can press a button on a remote control and start the bike) is such a curse! And I have not learned to resist the temptation to use it. I am always careful to put my bike in neutral when I park. But it seems I sometimes do not get it quite right. (Or a kid from the neigbourhood might have walked past and kicked the gear leaver. Or my daughter might have decided to climb onto the bike when I was not there). And then the bike is in gear and starting it causes it to think it is HERBY and that its owner wants it to ride on its own. (Perhaps it is trying to live up to Gomoto's slogan: Your Ride to Freedom!)

The damage this morning: Mirror is loose, and needs tightening. The clutch-lever is broken and needs to be replaced. (I've needed to replace it before, for the same reason). The rubber foot-rest looks like it has had better days as it always seems to experience the greatest impact when the side of the bike hits the road.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Follow the Leader

This week has been a week of analysis and practical thinking. In my mind I was visiting all my relationships and trying to figure out what they were made of. Why have I been constantly on the war path with my five year old daughter? What are the strongest and most enduring qualities that sustain my realtionship with my wife. Why do I frequently find myself struggling to balance my work, study, exercise, entertainment and family responsibilities? I suspect that these are universal questions asked by the greater majority of non-hedonistic people or people who are not complete drug addicts yet. (Does watching three seasons of the series, 24 in a matter of two weeks count as addiction?)

At the same time I have engaged in a new practical rigour in approaching my finances. It might sound strange to many people, but I actually borrowed money to buy my Gomoto. At R7500, a great many people would have been able to fork out cash! (I should have doen that) I've borrowed money to buy other things as well (and many of them have much less value than my Gomoto.) So since I was paid this week I ensured that I made the best possible financial choices. And I think I was mostly successful. The problem is that I need to now survive the month on almost no money, and then make these same choices every month for the next 12 months before I would be able to say that I am clear. (I am using a debt snowball approach. Although I am tempted to try an additional approach of buying a Lotto ticket each week as well.) This week I am celebrating the fact that I now have a written out menu for a healthy cooked meal for every week-day of the month. The menu is interesting and it has variety. I can cook most meals in a mater of 25-30 minutes. And I have been very successful at sticking to the menu. (I have not yet learned to eat only a small portion of these meals). The food is remarkably tasty (I never thought there was much in life to beat the taste of McDonalds Chips, but I have now been off McDondalds for more than a month! Yipee!). It definitely saves money!

Anyway. The result is that not much have fed my creative brain. In fact when my wife called me to sit with her and watch the movie "Elizabeth Town", I was rather bored and frustrated with this romantic girlish love story. But I watched it, and smiled (grimaced) slightly at the scenes of the totally outrageous funeral. A week later, however those scenes have faded from memory, but what remains in my mind are the pictures of the main character (Drew) on a road trip with a map drawn by his girlfriend (Claire). She wanted him to discover her America. One of her instructions was that he should not contact her. She wanted him to feel a loneliness and a longing for her (or something like that. I did not pay enough attention.)

Riding on the Gomoto is also a lonely endeavor. It is something that I am longing for now. I feel a need to re-kindle the romantic in life. To stop worrying about life's practicalities. And I think I found a way to do it. I'll be able to take some leave for two days in the next two weeks. I am going to ride to Greyton, and then to Bredasdorp and L'Agullus, and I'm going to try to draw a map for the ones I love. With pictures and descriptions of the road that I've travelled. I want to do it on my own, but I want to draw the map in such a way that the ones I love will read it and one day be able to replicate the journey that I travelled and enjoy it more than me.

I know there is a game that people play where they leave small gifts at a variety of GPS co-ordinates. I cannot buy a GPS (I can, but it is not in my financial plans at the moment). But I can put together a map and even some music (First song: Koos Kombuis, Baskitaar), and play "follow the leader."