Those of you with a smidgen of historical knowledge will know that the Apache Indians are incredibly tough, survive in the wilderness on just about nothing, and led by a chief named Geronimo led the US Calvary a merry dance for months in the remote “bad lands” of New Mexico.
This is a tale of four Apaches roaming far and wide across the south of another continent – Africa! If the truth be told they are not quite the same kind of Indian though! They are Indians of the Sachin Tendulkar variety. Built by Indian manufacturers TVS, the TVS APACHE 180 RTR is an absolutely incredible little commuter motorcycle. Like Sachin, it may be small in stature, but under the stylish exterior beats the heart of a lion!
My buddy Cobus found that his Landcruiser Troopy was too tall to fit into his parking spot at work, so on my recommendation acquired a TVS on which to commute. I sweetened the deal by promising Cobus “a trip on our TVS’s”. And so it was that when news of “the trip” spread we ended up at 6.30 am on a Friday, with four Apaches, accompanied by Willem on his 650 Honda Trans Alp, all fully laden with camping gear, cruising north on the “old road” to Bela Bela and beyond. After a quick Wimpy brekkie in Bela Bela it was back in the saddles and with the day getting ever hotter, we hung a left in Modimolle and then a right in Vaalwater. All was well with the world as we game spotted through the beautiful bushveld. Marken, Baltimore and Tom Burke were all reeled in and despatched as we approached Botswana. As always on the S A – Botswana border you are back on the road in no time. In the late afternoon the four Apaches with their shepherding Trans Alp pulled into Itumela Camp in Palapye.
After sipping on ice cold St Louis beers, and gorging ourselves at the buffet we retired to our comfy dorm for a well-earned doze. With newfound respect and confidence in our plucky Indian steeds we looked forward to the days ahead.
Day two dawned drizzly and cool and after fuelling we rode north to Francistown and breakfast. With hunger stilled we set Nata in our sights and gave the Apaches their heads. The drizzle was long since banished by the furnace that is our African sun, so it was some hot and bothered riders that pulled in to Nata Lodge to slake their raging thirsts. The smouldering aftermath of a veld fire that had raged in the night turned the dry bush into a hot and somewhat tortured landscape. The thermometer on my watch registered 40º plus for the first time on our trip. Our destination was Elephant Sands, 54 kms out of Nata on the Kasane road. The deep sand track to Elephant Sands Lodge was somewhat intimidating, so yours truly, with a bit more experience, offered to ride the bikes through the sand. Well, who do you think face planted in the sand first? None other than “The Sandmaster” himself!!
If it wasn’t for Steve, who gave me my “Sandmaster” moniker, helping to pick up my heavily laden beastie, it would still be lying there! (He wasn’t much help actually as he was weak with laughter!) We felt a bit better when Jaco, the Lodge Manager told us that, “ dis vir julle maklik, jy moet sien hoe sukkel daai manne met die groot B.M.W’s!!” Take that Charlie Boorman! Our hardships were soon forgotten as the St Louis flowed and we adopted the serene vibe of this oasis in the bush. Special mention must be made of the incredibly tasty ribs, pap and gravy, salads veggies and pudding that topped up our tanks and increased the gravitational pull on our eyelids! Elephant Sands was not quite done with us however …………………………
This was also the night that Simon, our very own Yorkshire man, decided to go big! As the evening progressed he was hooking gears with alacrity, seriously depleting the local St Louis and brandy stocks. He was in a bungalow with Willem and I, and with huge difficulty, we had managed to still his alcohol-induced motor mouth! At this point, Willem shook out his bedcover and deposited a monster scorpion on his bare left foot. What followed was the best performance of the “scorpion jig” I have ever witnessed. The final score before we settled down was takkie 3, scorpion 0, spider 0, cockroach 0!
Having witnessed this wild activity, and with the temperature inside the bungalow a sultry 38º at 9 pm, Simon stated categorically that there was no way he would be able to sleep. Willem and I were still grinning as slumber overcame us.
In an attempt to travel in the cool of the morning we were up early, packed, checked the footprints of the gentle giants that Cobus saw at 1 am, and ready to ride. My Apache was also now sporting Willem’s dance partner, cable tied to the crash bar. After a breakfast stop at Pandamatenga, where it should be noted petrol is no longer available, we cruised on to Kasane. We did stop a couple of times to photograph an elephant family sheltering in the shade. How awesome to ride in this unspoilt wilderness where elephants and other wildlife come and go as they please!
After pitching our tents in the campsite at Chobe River Lodge we shopped for our first self-cooked meal. We enjoyed amazing fillet steak (R55 a kilo in Botswana), mealies and rolls, washed down with the adventurer’s travel mate, Captain Morgan and coke. A stunning sunset over the Chobe river bade farewell to another special day!
A quick calculation whilst fuelling the Apaches the next morning showed that we were averaging 40 k/pl at our 95 kph cruising speed! Unbelievable!!
Our fuel-saving helped to offset the US$46 road and carbon tax levied by the Zimbabwe powers that be for the pleasure of spending your tourist bucks in their country! Through the border, and an hour later we purred into Victoria Falls.
Vic Falls remains one of my favourite destinations. What a special place! The Municipal Campsite has been upgraded with a restaurant and swimming pool and is immaculately maintained. In no time our tents were pitched on “shady lawn” and we strolled to the elegant and stately Victoria Falls Hotel for a drink. Thick walls and high ceilings with fans keep the finely furnished, colonial-style lounges cool. The view of the railway bridge to Zambia, with its famous bungee jump, is spectacular from the terraced lawns in front of the hotel. After an afternoon swim, we rode up to the lodge adjacent to the Boma restaurant and witnessed a herd of elephant at the waterhole. All this as the sun, a huge red orb, set in the background. Sunrise and sunset in Africa are experiences you simply never tire of!! The light softens casting pink and purple hues on a normally harsh landscape. The phrase “red skies at night, the shepherd’s delight” must have been coined in a similar country! Back we went for dinner next to the pool and then to bed.
Bright sunny skies heralded in a new day. A visit to the Falls themselves was on the agenda for the day. At R160 it is cheap at the price! We meandered along the opposite lip of the magnificent gorge over which the Zambezi river boils and tumbles in all it’s glory. Magnificent red spiky flowers grow in the rainforest resulting from the constant spray from the falls. Vervet monkeys gambol about, chattering and seeming ever on the lookout for mischief. One simply must experience the falls first hand as words cannot convey their splendour!
We took the scenic route back from the falls, stopping to photograph our amazing bikes with the backdrop of the “Big tree”, a 1 500-year-old huge old Boabab. Having really enjoyed chatting to Captain Morgan at Chobe, Steve, since dubbed “Corporal Coleman”, and the Sandmaster went to replenish our stocks. We discovered that in Zimbabwe, only “Admiral” rum is sold. We decided that the “Captain” had clearly been promoted to Admiral and as such would have even more wisdom to share! Warm rum is not really recommended unless spiced with gunpowder, lit and then downed as a flaming brew on the prow of your ship! (The Blackbeard Teach – he of pirate fame, method).
An empty TVS top box, filled with ice covering two 2 lt cokes bracketing the “Admiral” made a pretty picture, The Admiral chilled in this fashion while we witnessed another sunset at our now favourite water hole. Back at camp the crew of the good ship “TVS” engaged the Admiral and marvelled at his nautical tales! A very good time was had by all! If the truth be known some did not come away unscathed from the “Admiral’s” broadsides and were destined to carry head and stomach wounds into the next day. Corporal Coleman, who was valiant and courageous and at the forefront of the fray, was somewhat grievously smitten. It would appear that he is an old hand at such fighting, and with
huge wisdom made the Admiral walk the plank. It seems that the Admiral hung on to the rudder for a while but the courageous corporal made a full recovery!
We departed Vic Falls in mercifully overcast and cool weather, a welcome respite from constant 40º heat, and rode to Bulawayo, where after we hit the only real rain of the trip. Gwanda and our fuel stop and then we punished another 76 kms to arrive at Tod’s Guest Lodge, our stop for the night. Our trusty TVS’s had run 638 kms without any hassles. Our longest day in the saddle!
With rain in the air, we booked into rooms. We gathered in the historic pub, complete with pictures of a youthful Ian Smith with Diane, the iconic Tod’s resident giraffe. Sadly, both have since passed away. Tired from our lengthy ride, we enjoyed a scrumptious meal, had a nightcap and retired early.
With heavy hearts due to our trip coming to a close, we got an early start for Beit Bridge. The much-vaunted border crossing was a breeze and we pulled into the Spur in Messina for a much-needed breakfast. Willem and Simon left to ride home to Pretoria, whilst Cobus, Steve and I planned a final night at Nylsvlei Game Reserve near Nylstroom.
The gate at Nylsvlei was already closed when we arrived, after negotiating 8 kms of good dirt road to get there. Motorcycles are not allowed at Nylsvlei under normal circumstances but considering we were the only campers the staff agreed to our staying the night. And what a night! After pitching tents, Cobus got a fire going while we prepared a beef stew. Sitting around the fire, sipping on our preferred tipple, and listening to the jackals and calls of the prolific night birds we chatted and toasted an amazing adventure! 2 665 kms at an average of 40 k/pl and not a drop of oil used by the Apaches! How cool is that? I believe that the biggest contributing factor to the reliability of the bikes and general oil consumption was the fact that all of the bikes were running on MOTUL 5100. This oil was developed for motorcycle endurance racing and therefore deemed the best option for what was going to be an endurance trip. The first modification I do on all my bikes is to fit a new oil filter and change the oil to MOTUL – then you know your set for any adventure!
Simply dream it, plan it and do it! We are blessed to live on the most exciting and amazing continent with unparalleled diverse landscapes and fauna and flaura! This was the first of many TVS tours. How about it? Join us for our next ride on the wild side!