At fifteen years old of was in awe of my sisters boyfriend who owned and raced 2 motorbikes. He didn’t ride on the road but weekends would be spent helping out at “Scrabble” meetings around the country. I so wanted to have a go but these things where massive and it just wasn’t going to happen. I remember him giving me all is old copies of MCN and I would go through them looking at the pictures wishing one day that one would be mine.
As I approached 16 I had it in my head that I would buy a Yamaha FS1E with the money I had n=been saving from odd jobs, pocket money and my paper round. The day came. My Mum wasn’t keen on the idea but had enlisted Ron’s help to help me get a bike. Finally I would have wheels for the open road. Turns out I didn’t have enough for a FS1E so I ended up with……… a Puch Maxi.
It didn’t matter…I was mobile. I went everywhere on that Puch. Some of the places I have no idea where they are now as I had a dreadful sense of direction and road awareness. I fell off loads which was probably why when I was approaching 17 and now with more money as I had been working full time for a year, when I suggested getting a 250cc Mum really was not keen at all. In fact she cleverly planted the idea in my head that getting a cheap car would be so much better for socialising. Well that idea worked, along with a bit of cash to help me decide. From then bikes where to be just objects of desire and judging by the amount of car accidents I had it was probably just as well. I managed to bend pretty much everyone of my first 5 cars. I thought I was clever passing my test after just 3 lessons. Turns out there is no substitute for hours of experience on the road!!
Many years passing along with many dented cars until in 1996 I lost my Mum very suddenly and my world turn extremely dark. I was lost in a world of coping with grief and trying to look after my 80 year old Dad who was angry he had been left on his own.
Just before this all happened I had been saving to go on holiday with my long term friend Ian. We had already visited Japan and we had the urge to see more of the world other than of little market town of Leighton Buzzard. However I was in no fit state or had any desire to travel anywhere at that time but Ian came up with an idea that was to change my life. “Why don’t you take your bike license then we can travel on bikes” I still wasn’t over enamoured with the idea but went along with it as it was only a one week crash course and he had lent me a SR125 to clock up some hours. Ive often though it should be referred to as a “How not to crash course” The other bonus of course was that my Mum couldn’t tell me off now!
I passed and was soon keen to get my first proper motorcycle. Luckily Ian was in the bike trade with his own workshop etc and also did a bit of buying and selling of bikes. Who else would I turn to for help on this I remember the day he drove down my road and pulled up outside my house with a Honda CX500 on the trailer. It had been totally black hammerited with a floor to ceiling Rickman fairing attached that made it look like a shed door. “ You do buy some crap” I said. “what the hell are you going to do with that?” “ It’s yours” said Ian. DOH!!!! “Park it down the road before anyone see’s it” was my rapid reply.
In fairness it was a sound bike once I had stripped all the rubbish from it and for £300 was a bargain. Especially as it came with extra fuel tank and side panels. It was to become my first project and it got painted polished and loved to bits.
Let the travelling begin. Ok so we didn’t do any round the world trips but we did go to Swanage A LOT! It was more difficult now as I was still trying to look after Dad.
Just 2 years after passing my test was to be the first time I ever went to South Africa. Just a week but wow my life was to take another new turn. I had a KLR650 for a day and I was hooked. Riding in Cape Town and around is like nothing you will find in UK. I would return as much a finances would allow, which was actually quite often as I had somehow managed to stumble into a job that paid me ridiculous amounts of money for reasons I still haven’t worked out today.
In 2004 my personal circumstances changed which meant I was able to focus on me more. As a child I had been raised on a TV diet of Tarzan, Daktari and stacks of Sir David Attenborough docs. I loved wildlife. And wanted to learn more. Other than when I was learning Karate for 18 years I had never really studied anything since school. Even then I am not sure I really paid much attention. I was defeated from the moment I was told I was getting a Secondary Education…why cant I have a first? Anyway I managed to find a place in South Africa ( Had tried Kenya but too expensive) that ran Game Ranger Courses. I enrolled on my first course which was just 12 days long pure to use it as a holiday. I simply love the fact that these courses are run on practical learning. I struggle to learn from books but if I can get on the ground and get amongst the subject then I am winning. I loved that wildlife course so much I ended up doing it a further 4 times over the year. I even got offered a full time job on a reserve (Twice) but simply couldn’t take it due to UK commitments. I did however manage to get the reserve owners to agree to let me work there as and when I could on a casual basis.
All this time I was still playing on bikes around South Africa. All the time I was thinking that I really wanted to spend more time in Africa and riding. I knew that I didn’t want to be in the corporate world forever as it was strangling me. I had been working for a major Network Solutions company and I won’t lie, I loved working there but my job was done. I had set up the Facilities and Security side for the business but now, for me, it was getting a bit samey. I was asked to go to work for a company in London. A fashion Company of all things. Some of you won’t be surprised having seen my up to the minute dress sense…… OK maybe not! I dealt with the Security situation that I had been asked to solve but really, me and the fashion world, it was never going to last. One day having mentioned a concern to my director I was told “That’s the way it is, you will have to get used to it.” Guess what? 3 days later I was back in the bush. Unemployed, but now taking clients for bush walks and game drives on the game reserve.
It’s about now I knew that I was going to make a massive change in my lifestyle. I had been out to SA with mates and ridden bikes around the Garden Route area a couple of times. Lightbulb moment. Why not see if I can bring more people out which would fund me doing what I love doing. Riding Bikes and being amongst Wildlife.
Back in time to my sister’s boyfriend Ron. Now her husband, and recently retire from owning Ron Humpheys Motorcross. We had a chat and he and my sister Eileen became convinced that I could do this. So was born Kaapstad Motorcycle Adventure Tours Limited.
Why Kaapstad? It means Cape Town in Afrikaans. It also works in Dutch and German. I had hope to find an African name for the business that would mean Adventure or Exploring but having asked many of my Zulu, Khoisan, Swazi etc friends and taken on board all their suggestion it was never going to work if I couldn’t pronounce them.
One thing we did agree on from the start is that we were going to do this properly. No micky mouse trips flying by the seat of our pants. We would build a reputation that would make clients want to come back again and again. I want to sell South Africa, not just bike rides. South Africa has had its share of bad press and some of it totally valid. However you will still be greeted with a smile. I doubt anyone has ever been to South Africa and failed to feel its energy. A feeling that will stay with you for the rest of your life willing you to return and discover even more. It’s a country so diverse with ever changing landscapes, its multitude of cuisines and 11 official languages it was once described as “A World in One Country” trust me, that description fits perfectly.
When I first started running commercial tours I had just one route, the Garden Route. Simple, beautiful and offering a bit of everything to the firsttime explorer. The first tours were done on KTM 990’s loaned from KTM Cape Town. I soon realised that this particular bike wasn’t maybe the best to offer as an only option. We get people on tour who are not 6ft tall. I have always said that I will never put a brand of motorcycle against my business. Quite simply because this trip is yours! You shouldn’t be told what to ride. You should have the choice. We now offer BMW GS range, KTM 790 adv, Honda Africa Twin and sometimes Triumph Tigers but all depend on availability.
Our clients come from a varied selection of the touring market. I would have to say that most are 40+ years even up to a recent chap who is 84 years old. So much of it is about mindset, I think. The tours we run today are aimed at the people who want to experience Southern Africa and not just ride flat out everywhere. I would say that Kaapstad Tours offer Holidays on Motorcycles.
The word Adventure in my opinion has been hijacked by the super macho wannabe hero type that are only interested in showing off themselves rather than giving the client a true experience of the country. Clients that come with us need no special skills other than competence and good road craft. Even the gravel roads we ride are perfectly ridable by those new to biking.
Our tour range covers the whole of South Africa and also into Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) we can offer 10 day, 12 day and 20 day trips in different parts of the country on set dates to suit the weather patterns. There will hopefully be a new tour covering the Eastern Cape and KZN by the end of new year 2021.
I am a firm believer that if you are in a position like myself then you also have a fantastic opportunity to “give back” into the cultures and communities that we visit. In 2017 Kaapstad Tours organised “Ride for Rhinos” where we were able to donate almost £15,000 to anti-Poaching projects. This particular ride saw motorcycles enter Kruger National Park for the very first time. Since then we have included that segment into our Kudu Tour, a 10 day Motorcycle Safari.
In 2019 in partnership with BMW Motorrad South Africa we were able to donate £6,000 to a project that saw the upgrade of the Communication system in Kruger National Park. In April 2021 it is my intention to lead another Ride for Rhinos from Cape Town north through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Eswatini in a bid to raise 1,000,000.00 South African Rand for conservation Projects in said countries. These will include Anti-Poaching and a tree planting project in Namibia. We have a voice, let’s be heard.
Kaapstad Motorcycle Tours is now solely owned by myself after Ron and my sister Eileen decided that they really did want to be retired. I now run it with help from my very clever wife Tanya who also just happens to be a Senior Travel Consultant.
2020 calendar is looking a bit uncertain with the obvious cancellation of many shows around the uk. We do have bookings made for September and Oct so we are holding out to see if they can go ahead. If not…. We’ll have loads for next year
Details of all tours can be found at kaapstadmat.com of our Facebook Page Kaapstad Motorcycle Tours and Safaris.
Details on Ride for Rhinos 2021 can be found on Facebook – Friends of Ride for Rhinos. More info on that email firstname.lastname@example.org