My first cross-country bike adventure

Chapter Organiser: 

  • National Rally


by Marina Willemse


It was a huge disappointment to hear our Big Five Chapter Mbombela Rally was cancelled - and with it my plans to graduate from being a pillion to riding my own bike to a rally for the first time.

But then...

...Oskar shared on our WhatsApp group, that he was planning a trip to the Cape Seal Rally in Hermanus in December. Hermanus, Cape Town. On the other side of the country. My head said "let’s do it", but my butt said NOOOO it’s WAY too far for your first time! I checked on Google maps - over 1 500 km and 14 hours - and told myself “There is no way that I’m going to do it”.

A week later, Oskar and Salome said they’d be going and I told myself, “if they’re going to the rally, then so are we”. After a chat with Oskar, he told me they’d be flying down and hire their bikes. Yeah, that sounded good, but not as good as I wanted to ride down on my own little Iron 883®. I’m just not experienced enough to ride a Harley® I don’t know!

Oh, how to decide!  Yes, we should ride. No, we should fly. Why do all the difficult decisions come my way? If only someone else would just tell me “This is best!” or “Do that!” . Then I would have someone to blame if the whole trip went for a loop. But no, THIS IS MY DECISION. I was not going to let anyone else spoil it.

So I made a plan, which involved a party and probabilities. I’ll give you a hint, there were multiple possible probabilities and a final decision was made.

Before I could stop myself, I had bought two rally tickets. Then the consequence of my action hit me. What had I done!!! Best news for Reynier and extremely bad news for my butt. Reynier even tried to convince me that it would be a good experience to put in more kilos on the bike before going for my license.

So I made a final, final decision that I would ride on that comfy couch on Reynier’s bike. Yeah, that would do, we’d get there in style.

But then I saw the pictures of our crazy Big Five members doing the Blisterbutt down to Barrydale. It seemed fun-­tastic! There and then my mind was made up. I made a final, final, final decision – YES, YES, YES, I’m riding down on my OWN bike. Reynier just sighed and he was like, “Oh no, there she goes again”.

I started planning the route, basing the calculations on how many kilos a day my poor body would be able to last. The planning started with when we wanted to be at Hermanus (Thursday, 29 November) and then working backwards to the date of departure. There were going to be a few predetermined stops, like sleeping over at my cousin’s place.

I insisted that Reynier took two weeks leave because I was taking two weeks and I WAS going to jump in on this challenge. Oh, yeah, baby!!

Monday, 26 November 2018

The first day was a long 414km stretch with the stress of a LONG trip ahead. My heart was beating like crazy.  I was a scared ­ I felt far too inexperienced as a rider.

Kinross to Theunissen was a 4 hour trip and we would spend the night with my cousin. “If I feel that I don’t want to ride further on my own then I can leave the bike with them,” I decided. Reynier communicated with me the entire time and telling me when I was speeding, or to look out for the car next to the road, or if it was safe to overtake a truck.

Tuesday, 27 November

After a good night’s rest, I felt ready to ride down to Cape Town. There was no turning back. We took a trip down memory lane to visit the house where my late grandparents live, and then continued on. It was hot and windy, and other than a quick brunch at Colesberg Ultra City, I didn’t get off my bike until the fuel stop in Richmond.

What a ride down to Beaufort West. The wind was really gusting and I knew that I had no other choice but to push myself to the next destination - either Laingsburg or Touwsriver. As we neared Leeu Gamka dark clouds loomed on the horizon in front of us. It was incredibly cold due to the rain earlier, I told Reynier that I needed warmer gear. We stopped at the Leeu Gamka fuel station to prepare ourselves for heavy rain.

But luck was on our side – by the time we arrived in Laingsburg the rain was moving away. I was so tired and GATVOL from driving in the wind that we decided to call it a day. We found a country hotel next to the petrol station. Four seasons in one day with the mileage of 864.8km. We had covered an amazing 1289.8 in two days in awful weather.

Wednesday, 28 November

At the breakfast table, a little Yorkie greeted us with some love and my mood as lifted. We were very close to Cape Town - I would make it.  Like the day before, the morning was wintery. We defrosted frozen fingers on a cup of coffee at Worcester before we hit the last stretch of road. As we got closer to Cape Town, the wind picked up again, but it was now unbelievably hot!

I couldn’t wait to get to the dealership and... BOOM, there we were!!! 1 562km from our home to the dealership. The staff was friendly and checked our oil while we were browsing around before our final stop in Somerset West with the mileage of three days: 1 612km.

Thursday, 29 November

RALLY TIME!  It was just a few kilometres to the rally, and we took a beautiful scenic mountain route via Gordons Bay. We were welcomed with a drink and rally pack by the staff and rally event team at Windsor Hotel in Hermanus. After booking in and a change to comfortable shoes, we decided to park the bikes at the back of the hotel and browse the area around.

UUHH. I let my bike go down just in front of the Hotel by locking its forks. Ouch. But before Reynier looked in his mirror to see I was down on the road, the director of Cape Town Chapter, Malvin and two gents kindly help me with the bike - was my face red! We introduced ourselves and Malvin was surprised to hear that I rode 1 713.6km – and on a Iron 883!

We soon met up with lots of local riders, and made friends and had fun for the rest of the day.

Friday, 30 November

With me as pillion, we completed the poker run: Fernkloof Nature Reserve, The Rotary Way Scenic Drive. The Hermanus night shelter being built with the sponsorship of the Cape Town Chapter, Benguela Cove and Dutchies restaurant.  Then we headed back to Gearings point for fun and more new friends.

We met up with our Big Five Chapter director, Oskar and H.O.G.® member Salome. It was a great day for me as I had rather missed the leisure of being a pillion - although I will never regret becoming a rider.

Saturday, 1 December

We all gathered at Gearings point for the mass ride with the Cape Town Chapter to Benguela Cove for lunch, again as a pillion. We ended our day with a fun-­tastic evening with dinner and an “Outer Space” theme party... good music and food.

Sunday, 2 December

We left Hermanus via the pass to Barrydale, stopped for lekker milkshakes at Diesel ‘n Crème, then we were on Route 62. In the middle of a very hot Karoo drive, we stopped at the famous Ronnie Sex Shop... no it’s not what you think. It’s a bar... but being responsible riders, we kept to soft drinks. At Oudshoorn, we had double cream sodas and pushed another 182km to our Beaufort West guesthouse.

Total mileage for the day was 560.1km (Reynier accidently reset Trip B odometer at Riversonderend as he thought it was Trip A and just wanted to kick himself)

Monday, 3 December

I woke with such “bike lag” (like jet lag but more physical – after all you don’t have to steer the plane!) We still had just over 1 000kms to go before reaching home. We visited Human Harley-Davidson dealership in Bloemfontein for a “butt-break”.

The road was quiet but 100km before Welkom we were very, very tired. With numb nether regions we decided to stop at my Welkom relatives for the night with the mileage of the day at 733.2km. Seeing my cousin’s face when we rode up on our Harley’s was priceless – my aunt and I had arranged it secretly.

Tuesday, 4 December

Our final day on the road, and just 349km way from home. At Kroonvaal petrol station I was SO hungry. I took a look on the map to see how far the Gas Monkey was - just 54km away.

After such a long trip, it seemed just around the corner, so we headed down to Vanderbijlpark for lunch.

YESSSS. Safely home at last! I know we had more leave days and we could’ve stayed longer and ridden shorter kms each day but I was glad I could use the time to recover from “bike lag” before going back to work.

  • Total mileage for Marina on an Iron 883 ®: 3 368km.
  • Total mileage for Reynier on a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra® : 3 501km.


All I can say is WOW WOW WOW! I was so proud of my achievement. It was a very long trip on my own and I made it! I could not have done it without Reynier who was so supportive. Thank you to the Big Five Chapter members and the Cape Seal WhatsApp groups for their motivations and cheering. It was the best vacation I have ever enjoyed. Now I understand the motto, “Live to ride, ride to live!”

My family in Theunissen
Filling up at Edenburg
A trip down memory lane - the church near my grandparent's home in Edenburg
Total kilometres on the 27th!
The little Yorkie that lifted my mood after a tough riding day
We're ready for the road to Cape Town
At Worcester - almost there!
We made it to the dealership - 1 562,1 km
The ocean at last!
Gordon's Bay - what a beautiful scenic ride
And then I drop my bike in front of the hotel...
The Cape Seal Rally welcome desk at the hotel
Gearing Point - Rally HQ