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South Africa got to me by surprise

Season 5: Destination Unknown

21 April 2021

Slowly Savannah and I are clocking away thousands of kilometers in South Africa. After 7 weeks, we have reached our 5.000km milestone. During my Asian and South American adventures, I would ride about 5000km each month, but a Honda CRF250L is not made to churn out 700 kilometers a day. That is okay, because here in South Africa I am riding a lot more on dirt roads than I have ever done before during my motorcycle travels. It makes me a very happy adventure rider!

South Africa adventure motorcycle galore 

As soon as I arrived in Johannesburg, it dawned on me that South Africa does not only have a huge motorcycle scene, it also has a huge motorcycle adventure scene! With hundreds of mountain passes, dirt roads going through deserts, lush green landscapes, and miles of coastal roads, there is an adventure ride around every corner.  

As in many other countries, the BMW GS is the most sold bike here. In my opinion, you don’t necessarily need a big (and expensive) BMW GS to experience the best of South Africa. On the other hand, South Africa is a big country. So I understand why people would like to have a powerful bike to ride with. It makes commuting to another part of the country a lot more comfortable.   

Recently, I met three locals riding their BMW GS. They told me that they had ridden 800 kilometers on their first day when leaving Johannesburg, averaging 160 kilometers per hour on the highway. Such a trip would take Savannah and me two long and exhausting days! Luckily, I don’t want to cover 800 kilometers in one day. I prefer to ride on dirt roads, take it slow, and enjoy all the amazing dirt roads and sceneries.  

Blending in with locals

The second thing that completely took me by surprise was how easy it was for me to blend in with the locals. With my blond hair, blue eyes, and an obvious Dutch accent, I thought they would know I was a foreigner. But many didn’t. Maybe because of my South African license plates. Or maybe because Dutch and Afrikaans are quite similar languages, which makes it more difficult to hear the difference when speaking English. Maybe that is why people think I am a South African too.  

All in all, traveling here is quite different from traveling in South America or Asia where I was never seen as a local. Also within Europe, people always knew I was from abroad due to my Dutch or Indian license plates. When you are abroad, and everybody thinks you are local, you begin to feel like a local too. And that has certainly given a different feeling to my adventure in South Africa. I feel at home here, even though I have no idea what’s around the next corner!

South African friendliness

Let’s face it, the crime rates in South Africa are pretty bad. I expected to be met with reservation as I am a stranger after all. In addition to that, I knew that South Africa has a complicated history with lots of conflicts. In these past two months, I’ve spoken to many Afrikaners, English-speaking people, Xhosa people, Zulu people, and many, many other South Africans. They all met me with smiles and often wanted to take a picture with me. 

I was surprised by their openness and willingness to share a part of their lives with me. On the other hand, the one thing I learned from traveling all over the world is that 99% of people are good people. The South Africans are no exception to that.  

Diverse local cuisine

Another surprise for me was the South African cuisine. Besides the type of roads and the people I meet during my motorcycle adventures, one other important aspect of ranking a country high on my favorite list is the food that is being served. Thanks to the melting pot of people living in South Africa, a unique South African flavor has been created. You find here many different cuisines originating from all over the world. One of my highlights regarding food was the bunny chow, a curry served inside a hollowed-out bread. It is an absolute calorie bomb dish from Durban and very spicy. I loved it! And as I am approaching Cape Town, I look forward to sampling more of those typical Cape Malay dishes like bobotie and Cape Malay yellow riceC.  

Besides having a huge variety of local dishes, I also noticed that South Africans love sweets and desserts. I’ve tried several of them already. One of them being koeksisters. It tasted like pure sugar, so it was a bit too sweet for my taste. I absolutely loved the milk tart though. It looks a bit like cheesecake but is much milkier, hence the name, and it has a nice crusty crust. Honestly, I could eat this tart every day. Another dessert I tried was malva pudding. It is a sort of sponge cake with apricot jam and often a hot creamy sauce is poured over it. Even though I am not a big pudding fan, this one was exceptional! 

And then there are the braaibroodjes, roosterkoek, rusks, vetkoek and many more mouth watering foods I got to try in the past weeks! 

Not able to see and experience everything

The weeks are ticking away on my South African visa. I probably could keep riding in South Africa for another year and still not have covered every amazing dirt road there is. Nor would I have met with all the different people living here, or sample all the delicious dishes of the South African cuisine. On the other hand, I am also looking forward to explore the next country on the African continent. And isn’t it better to leave a country knowing you have not seen everything, so you can go back and get surprised again?


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Hi Noraly. I think South Africa got to a lot of us by surprise. Seeing it all from yours and Savannah's view has been an eye opener for me. My preconceived ideas about traveling there and in particular riding a motorcycle there have been overridden by the amazing videos and photos and this wonderful blog post. Thanks for sharing it all with us!

secondcreekrider  | 

Hi Noraly. It was discussed in your video at Rhodes (2 April) that it snowed a long time ago.. It snowed exactly 2 months later on 1 June!! How to I send you a short video clip?

FritzP  | 

Everywhere you go you meet GOOD people. Why is there so many problems in the world? It's not those you meet in our travels, it's always the leaders of these countries who set up the troubles.
Maybe you should be a world politician when you eventually settle down. With your talent for friendship you would knock spots off our present, mainly, men. I suppose that makes me a feminist!!!!

Jim Payne  | 

"Liver is an acquired taste" is indeed a fact. Did you have to cut short possible videos from your stay with the Xhosa people due to youtube views Noraly? Take good care and ride safely.

Mike - P.  | 
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