Here I was in Africa. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be here. My late Dad and I had always watched Sir David Attenborough’s Life series when I was a kid, and he would talk wanting to visit Africa. He passed just one year before my trip to cover GIVI’s Wilderness Adventure 2015. A trip that was unprecedented for any Malaysian journalist.
I’d ridden ahead of the convoy to find a suitable spot to photograph the participants as they rode.
All I saw for the last half hour were kilometres upon kilometres of ankle-deep dirt. The South African morning sun was already up. My arms and thighs were starting to burn from all the standing, while the Yamaha XT600R Enduro bucked, squirmed and slid around underneath me.
I had opened up a few times, but was promptly rewarded with the front tyre flick-flacking lock to lock after hitting the deeper sand ridges each time.
A few minutes later, I spotted a bridge over a stream, followed by a gentle curve.
I stopped. My foot disappeared into the ochre sand as soon as I put it down and both the bike and I were on the verge of tipping over. I hopped off and heaved the bike onto a grassy patch beside the road.
Minutes went by but no one showed up and I started to worry. I squinted down towards where I had come from, wondering if I had missed a turn. Paranoia began to settle in and every sound from the bush made me jump. “Hyena Attacks Malaysian Journalist” would’ve sounded sensational in the media but it didn’t to me.
Soon, what appeared to be a sportbike’s headlights poked through the heat haze.
A sense of elation and relief washed over me as it turned out to be one of the marshals, Danny Mulder, on his maroon-coloured FJ-09 Tracer. He was standing upright on the footpegs, riding it like a Dakar Rally racer chasing the finish line. I didn’t even have time to bring the camera to my eye as he blew by in a cloud of choking dust.
Danny’s flyby had left me awestruck. His Tracer was shod with the same Dunlop road sport-touring tyres as this test bike’s and while the rest of us rode dual-purpose bikes such as the XT660R Enduro, XT660Z Tenere and the XT1300Z Super Tenere – on offroad tyres! I later learned that most of the participants were struggling in sand and either crashed or tipped over. The Tracer on the other hand, being a sport-tourer, had no business on a dirt road, let alone on street tyres!
I got back on my bike and caught up with Danny some 10 kilometres later where he had stopped. I requested to test the Tracer and he gracefully obliged. Right away, the Tracer got down to business by flying down the dirt road beyond, its suspension soaking up whatever irregularities there were. When dips in the sand appeared, all I needed to do was blip open the throttle and the bike flew past them as well. No drama