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The first 2500km with Savannah

Season 5: Destination Unknown

15 March 2021

After having bought my new bike, a Honda CRF250L, I asked for name suggestions. The comment section on my YouTube-channel exploded. I received many name suggestions. In the end, I chose the name that immediately felt perfect for my bike: Savannah. It still feels like yesterday that I bought her in Johannesburg, but we’ve already clocked 2500 kilometers on South African roads together. 

First impression 

I have to admit that this little bike has surprised me in many ways. Even though she is the lowest powered bike I’ve ever had, she actually feels more powerful than my previous two RE Himalayans Basanti and Dhanno. The first surprise came when I left Johannesburg. I had to ride a part of my route on a big highway. There Savannah showed me that she could easily keep up with the local traffic and ride 110 kilometers per hour comfortably. 

The second surprise came when we had our first off-road adventure. South Africa is known as an off-road paradise for motorcycle enthusiasts. There are thousands of kilometers of dirt roads in the country. After buying Savannah, I received many messages from the biker community telling me that it was a mistake to buy a motorcycle with such a light engine. Especially with all my luggage loaded, I would not be able to ride it, they said. Well, when fully-loaded Savannah and I set wheel on the first dirt road, she just hopped over it like the agile impala she clearly is! 

I guess that a lot of these messages came from riders that are used to massive 1200cc engines. But when you are a solo rider like me, you can’t rely on a riding buddy to help you lift your motorcycle after you have dropped it somewhere on a mountain pass. You need a bike that you can pick-up yourself. I have always ridden alone around the world on a light motorcycle and I know that a small, light motorcycle is the perfect companion for around-the-world-travelers like me. 

Fair enough, a strong engine and fast motorcycle might save you when you encounter one of South African’s dangerous wildlife species. I recently learned that cheetahs will catch up with you even when you ride 120 kilometers per hour!! They probably can accelerate a lot faster too than me and Savannah. But, the chance that something like that would happen is very unlikely as the vast majority of dangerous South African predators live in game reserves that are fenced off and non-accessible for motorcyclists. Lions don’t roam freely here in South Africa, trust me.

Itchy Boots logic

So, Savannah and I started our journey through South Africa from Johannesburg. I chose to start in Johannesburg because I was told that the best chance of finding and buying a second-hand motorcycle would be here. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, but also one of the most dangerous cities. I can’t say that I enjoy riding in big cities anyway, so I didn’t mind riding out of the city after all the paperwork had been done. 

Just like on my previous travels, I didn’t have a detailed plan or route beforehand. I shall not forget the look on the faces of the people working at the Fire it Up motorcycle shop where I bought Savannah when I told them about my plans. I said: ‘I think I will first ride north and then I will go south’. That sounds like a perfectly good and normal plan to me, but apparently quite vague to everybody else. ‘So you don’t know your route, where you’ll be going, and where you’ll be staying?’, they asked me. No, I don’t and I love that! I already know that unexpected things will happen when I am on the road and I don’t want to get frustrated about plans and schedules that didn’t work out as planned. When you don’t have a plan, it can’t be ruined either. 

The first 2500 kilometers

And so I left Johannesburg in the early morning and rode in a north, northeast direction towards the famous Kruger National Park. 

With Savannah being a secondhand bike, she has a history of over 7 years with a previous owner that I don’t know anything about. On top of that, she will have to endure all of my abuse in the upcoming weeks or months as I mostly ride on dirt roads. We will have to see how it all goes mechanically. Maybe something will break at some point, maybe not. What I do know, is that from the minute I sat on this bike for the first time, I felt confident that we would be having many great adventures together. And so far we did!

During the first days on the road, I mostly struggled with the South African heat. I had come straight from The Netherlands with temperatures of -15 degrees Celcius at night, and now I was baking in 30+ degrees during the day. A difference of 45 degrees Celcius is quite brutal. Physically, this temperature difference bothered me, but mentally I couldn’t care less. I just had an overwhelming feeling of happiness. I was riding a motorcycle again. A motorcycle packed with all my possessions, hopes, and dreams. I no longer was a wing-clipped bird anymore, I was free to spread my wings and ride.  

Comments
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Please forgive me if this question has already been asked, but does the previous owner of Savannah know about you and the adventures their bike is going on? I love your videos and am binge watching to catch up.

Maureen  | 

I have no clue Maureen. I bought Savannah from a bike store, so I don't know the previous owner. Enjoy yourself while binge-watching my episodes!

Noraly  | 

Noraly, you are an inspiration, I have been watching your videos for over a year now and I am now travelling with you at the same time albeit virtually! I've loved every season, but I have to say a massive congratulations on your filming of Season 5 .. it is absolutely breath taking .. I can watch some of the videos over and over again .. I so admire you for what you are doing .. please keep going!

Julia  | 

Noraly, you inspired me at 76 and a road bike rider to switch to a dual sport. At a recent event featuring dual sport riders, someone asked me why I am riding a Tw 200. I said I watched this gal itchy boots and said why not me…I enjoy every mile even as slow as I am…thanks

LKTDUB200  | 

Hi,
Enjoyed the read, i agree with your comment on small bikes, i have toured Europe over the years on big bikes, even took a BMW LT to Spain for 2 weeks My touring days are now over i'm afraid, but i've always wanted to take a Honda 70 or 90 touring, ideal machine. Ride safe and take care.

GPZ  | 

Everyone considering local or world travel should read this. It shows that little motorcycles can get the job done. No need to keep up with your neighbor. Dropping bikes can be like "oh well" or "oh sh*t, there goes a bunch of cash". It's part no one can avoid forever.

Mike - P.  | 

So pleased to read this post and your reasoning and feedback for choosing, 'Savannah'. I've been waiting for this. I'm so glad she has exceeded your expectations and fits your needs so well. I'm loving your African journey immensely, the landscapes are otherworldly, the people a pure delight, the drone shots are magnificent, your spirit and love for beauty, adventure and freedom are so uplifting. Your sharing of the historical background of each of your destinations are priceless and utterly fascinating. You take us with you, we feel every bump, every challenge and the joy of the open road and the ultimate freedom of discovery.
Stay safe, ride safe and a big thank you!

ninofoto  | 

Thanks Ninofoto for your kind words! :-)

Noraly  | 
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