Article by ZA Bikers:
A while ago, I saw a wonderful post on Facebook from a guy called Dawie Fourie. He described how he was struggling to keep his fully loaded bike upright on a muddy track in atrocious weather. As he came to a T-junction, he had to make a decision. If he turned right, he would be home and dry in four kilometres. If he turned left, he would be embarking on an epic, solo adventure. What separated him from other adventure riders though, was his choice of motorcycle: a SYM Trail Blaze 200.
Fortunately for us, he turned left. What followed were some epic photos, each with a story behind them. I simply had to meet him, so we arranged to meet in Deneysville for coffee and a chat. And of course, he arrived on his SYM!
Dawie is an accountant from a small Freestate town called Heilbron. He also dabbles in event photography and was roped in one day to cover a 500 km horse and carriage ride. As the top speed of the carriage was only 11 km/h, following in his car proved tiring at best. He then decided to buy himself a small SYM motorcycle for any future events.
He settled on a SYM due to the dealer network and the promise of ”some off-road capabilities”. He figured that it would be easier to get around and soon Dawie and his SYM became known as the Paparazzi at events. He promptly christened his Trail Blaze “Papparapsie”, an Afrikaans play on the word Paparazzi. As we chatted, I knew it would be impossible for me to describe his experience, so I asked him to do it for us. Dawie delivered something akin to a War and Peace novel, in Afrikaans. So here is my attempt to capture the essence of his trip as best I can…
Narrative by Dawie Fourie:
I bought the SYM to get around easily at events, but soon the bike became a tool to explore the surrounding areas and I undertook a few day trips around Heilbron. The thought of taking a longer tour with Papparapsie started taking shape in my head, and I floated the idea to a close friend, Pieter Henn. He commented: “It does not matter what you ride, as long as you look mean!”
So, from October 2021, I decided to grow a beard, as I figured that would do the trick. By the end of February 2022, I was ready to take my mean look on an epic tour, even if Pieter said I looked like Father Christmas. I already had a rough idea of when I could leave, but the SYM needed attention first.
With all the day trips I did, I knew the SYM would require some modifications before I set off. There is a rack fitted to the back of the SYM where you would normally attach a box for deliveries. I found that fully loaded, the load was so far back that the front wheel had a mind of its own. So I moved the rack forward, over the passenger seat. I also raised the handlebars by about 3 cm to give a more relaxed riding position. Spotlights were fitted as well as some USB ports to charge the electronic devices on the go. Larger, fatter wheels were fitted as well as some tubes to hold tools, a tripod and tent pegs. I also fashioned a skid plate to protect the underside of the bike. After fitting soft luggage, I was ready to go.
On the 4th of April, I arrived at my watershed T-junction already covered in a generous layer of mud. I left at 10 am and by 2 pm I reached Koppies, barely 50 km from where I started. The temptation to just abandon the whole idea was very real. In Koppies, while filling up, I realised that the mud was clogging up the fins of the air-cooled engine.
Fortunately, I packed a small brush in a spur-of-the-moment decision, and I used it to good effect. As if the rain and falling over were not enough, I got stung by a bee just under my left eye. At least that helped with the whole mean look.
Between Koppies and Bothaville I passed through two more storms. The rain was relentless and I quickly had to learn how to manage the SYM on the slippery roads. I dragged my boots to balance myself and once the bike started sliding, I just allowed it to go where it wanted to. I only reached Bothaville by 9 pm. Even though I planned to camp, one of my clients insisted I stay over with them. The SYM, mud and all, got preference parking inside the house!
The next morning the sun was out and I set off in the direction of Bloemhof. Every so often I would encounter a puddle of water. Initially, I would stop and wade the puddle to judge the depth, but after a few of these, I just went for it. With all the water, the chain was already showing signs of rust, so in Bloemhof I emptied my beard-oil bottle in favour of real oil to keep the chain lubricated. That evening I pitched my tent inside the Bloemhof nature reserve. I was the only person there.
The next morning I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise. Things were looking up for this mean-looking traveller!
While filling up in Bloemhof, I asked the attendant to check the tyre pressures. It said 32psi on the side of the tyre. That translates to about 2.2 bar. While I was chatting about my bike to a stranger, the attendant merrily pumped the tyres to 3.2 bar. As I meandered south in the direction of Warrenton, I learned the secret of sand riding: faster is better even if every ounce of you is screaming to slow down. Remarkably, the SYM handled the road well with its overinflated tyres. Ignorance is bliss, they say. In Warrenton, I parked the SYM in front of a food truck and sat down at a small table.
Soon I was joined by other travellers and workers which made the experience so much better. Everyone was asking about the bike and the fact that I was, effectively, touring on a delivery bike. This gave me an opportunity to stock up on some liquids, chips and a Bar One. At Spitskopdam, I stopped for some photos and then headed in the direction of Kuruman on a gravel road.
On this road, the first people I saw were on a donkey cart. I simply had to stop them for some photos. As a reward, I parted with my Bar One.
As I continued on my journey, I saw a large tree with ample shade. Right there, next to the road, I parked the SYM and took a brief nap! A concerned bakkie stopped to ask if I was OK. I just raised my hand with my Coke in it and waved them off.
From here, my GPS got me completely lost on a road that does not exist anymore. A local farmer said I must continue on this road until I got to a gate. There I would see three numbers that I could dial and someone would open the gate remotely. Even though I felt completely lost and alone, this was a pleasant ride. When I stopped at the gate, I had no signal on my phone, and turning back was not an option for me.
As I was weighing up my options, a local farmer stopped and after being interrogated about why I was there, he said to follow him to Daniëlskuil. I honestly thought that he was going to hand me over to the local police for trespassing, but instead, he invited me into his house and said: “You look like you need coffee.” He recommended I take the tar road to Postmasdrif and onto Witsand where I intended to stay the night. I reached the Transboegoe 4×4 camp at Witsand just before sunset.
The next morning I saw the rainclouds gathering again. What I thought would be a gravel road to Upington, turned out to be tar, so I reached Upington in good time. From there I snaked over Duiwelsnek pass, but as I reached the summit, I was hit by the mother of all storms. Near Kakamas it was still raining and the road surface was very bad. I had to slow down and I was convinced that the SYM was going to collapse in a heap of bolts and nuts, however, the rain was pelting my helmet so hard that I would not have heard anything anyway.
I stopped at the KFC in Kakamas and sought refuge inside the establishment. I was hoping for the rain to stop, but after an hour and a half, I decided to push on to the campsite at Augrabies. I phoned ahead, so I could just get in and camp, and sort out the admin the next day. This section of road was terrifying to ride at night. Since I was riding so slowly, my biggest fear was being hit from behind, especially because the bike does not have hazard warning lights. I pumped the rear brake from time to time in an attempt to alert traffic.
I pitched my tent at Augrabies, in the rain, on an island in the parking lot as that was the only dry place I could see. I simply wanted to get inside the tent, out of the rain. The next morning a couple offered me their stand, as they were leaving. I decided to stay another night, just to dry everything and to explore the park on an unladen bike! That evening another motorcycle traveller came to say hello. He was on a Yamaha and had a serious spill near Kenhardt and was riding with a broken screen. As a precaution, I inspected the SYM thoroughly. One of the questions I got asked a lot was how many screws I have lost already. I was concerned that I would find a lot of empty holes where screws once lived, but everything was in order.
I left early the next morning and had breakfast at the same KFC in Kakamas. I took the gravel road to Kenhardt and here the devastation of the rain was evident. The road was in bad condition. On this road, I met Hendrik Bruwer (78) while he was busy repairing fences by digging them out of the sand.
My ritual of stopping, cleaning the engine, and lubricating the chain had to be adapted to also include making sure my bags were closed before I set off. At one point I stopped for some photos and forgot to close my soft luggage. I felt like Hansel and Gretel, leaving a trail of my belongings behind me. I only realised my mistake after 10 km or so. I had to retrace my route all the way until I reached my wallet, the first item to abandon ship!
I reached Kenhardt at lunchtime, filled up and left for Putsonderwater. I just had to stop at the only inhabitant of Putsonderwater, Oom Blackie. The SYM really enjoyed this stretch of road. I had to rush to get to Maryvale though, as I heard that their fuel station closes at 5 pm. I made Maryvale in good time and I reached Prieska at sunset. I camped at the Gariep Country Lodge.
The next morning I rode to the Fort just outside Prieska for a few photos. I then set a course for Orania. Just before Hopetown, I stopped for a tortoise, exactly the thing you won’t see if you are flying through the scenery.
The SYM ran faultlessly and I arrived in Orania late afternoon. After pitching my tent, I went for dinner. It was here that someone pointed out my overinflated tyres. I had been travelling like this for so long and I stood in amazement that the tyres lasted through all the abuse I put them through.
The shortest leg of my journey was from Orania to Vanderkloof. That gave me ample time to explore the area. I slept over at Sandgat caravan park. It was, however, time to start my homeward journey. Because it was Good Friday, I knew that the roads were going to be busy and the accommodation – expensive. I headed to Bloemfontein and found a caravan to rent at Kloofeind caravan park.
On the last day, I mostly rode on the N1, only stopping at Winburg, Ventersburg and Kroonstad. I was home just before 5 pm.
So there you have it. Dawie is already planning more trips like this, and we share the same mindset about travelling. Travelling should be enriching. Both of us love going slowly, stopping often to take photos. Riding on a fully loaded bike always attracts attention. Everyone wants to know where you are from and where you are heading. That gives you the opportunity to engage with people. To sit and listen to their stories.
The one takeaway from his SYM tour is its affordability of it. The SYM Trail Blaze 200 probably costs less to buy than it would cost to repair a large adventure bike if you drop it in your driveway. On top of that, riding in the conditions Dawie did, you will most probably be riding at the same speed as the SYM, regardless of the bike you are on.
Dawie planned this trip in between SARS deadlines on a bike that costs less than some mountain bikes. So what is stopping you from also going on your own adventure? I would like to leave you with the words of Helge Pedersen, a seasoned traveller that said that you have no excuse to go on an adventure. “Go out your front door, put the key in your bike and start riding”. It is as simple as that!