Rally Africa Style

After two plus years here in Africa, we finally attended our first motorcycle rally in South Africa. The catch phrase ÔÇ£Everyone goes to the Rhino,ÔÇØ is indeed true. The Rhino is the largest rally held in South Africa and it is sponsored by South AfricaÔÇÖs largest motorcycle magazine Bike SA (thatÔÇÖs bikeessay for those not in the know). The magazine sponsors about four rallies a year, but this is by far the largest with an attendance of around 5000 people. It seems that tradition has it that bike rallies are named after animals. There is the Hippo Rally, the Buffalo Rally, the Impala Rally and of course the Rhino. Those sponsored by the magazine generally have a major door prize of a motorcycle or three. At the Rhino they gave away a quad, the last Africa twin in the world, and some type of Kawasaki 1600 cruiser, which I am not familiar with. With your admission fee, around $15 US, you got a medal (pin) and you could purchase a badge (patch), ÔÇ£freeÔÇØ camping, and entertainment.

Well how does it compare. Both Diane and I agree that there is some sort of commonality with all bike rallies. There is the wide variety of people from the professionals on down to the biker baddies. The Rhino was no different. In South Africa there are hundreds of motorcycle clubs, ranging in size from a few to many. They all come with their colors, generally a large patch on the back of a denim jacket or a leather waistcoat (thatÔÇÖs a vest to you Americans.) At this rally there was a higher percentage of women then you see in the U.S. and there were quite a few children. Interestingly enough, many arrive by baakie (pickup truck) or with bikes on a trailer. The need for someone to drive the bakkie with all the gear S. Africans believe is necessary for camping may help explain the large number of woman. The gear and support vehicles are not exactly our style.

We went to the rally with three other riders (South Africans) from Lesotho, all of who are employed at the Lesotho Brewing Company. Vincent rode his F650, Dave on his K12RS and Chris on a Yamaha Genesis. Diane and I rode our R11GS that is well equipped for long distance travel, though the ride to the rally was a mere 350 kms (200 miles). Due to previous engagements we left for the rally on Saturday morning at 7 AM. Now riding in South Africa is not quite the same as riding in the U.S. With the speed limit on the back roads generally around 120 kph (75 mph) getting there is a quick affair, especially because the speed limit merely serves as a guideline, though there is police radar and fines. In South Africa the police use laser radar, but always from the side of the road, never from a vehicle. The ride to the rally was uneventful and it took just three hours.

The rally was held in a small town called Christiana at a large caravan park (caravan = camper). It had a few hotel rooms, a large swimming pool and a huge camping facility. Though the number of people taxed everything at the facility there it seemed to work for those in attendance. I will admit I was not too anxious to jump into the swimming pool in spite of the hot temperatures. They had a concours event, complete with a rat bike category (won by the Honda generator powered Suzuki). The field events were not in the style to which we were accustomed. There was the motorcycle tire toss, arm wrestling and tug of war. The womenÔÇÖs tug of war was one by one of the local clubs for the second or third year in a row. The average weight of the four women exceeded 150 kgs (300 lbs) with the women who anchored the team at petite 200 kgs (400+lbs). It was not a pretty site.

Now Christiana really opens up for this rally. I am sure that it is the biggest event of the year. The rally site is a few kilometers outside of town, but the town closes down its main street, which it changes into a ÔÇ£high risk area.ÔÇØ This means they tire off the main street on both ends, a distance of a half a kilometer or so (quarter mile). On the street anything goes, wheelies, donuts, stoppies, and your general drag race. Most participants did this resplendent in their shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops and sometimes with a tank topped female passenger on the back. Spectators line the street, where people have set up stands selling sososties (kebabs) and other goodies. No attempt is made to supervise and drunken townies are seen crossing the street at inopportune times. I am proud to say that not a single BMW popped a wheelie, made a donut, dragged raced or did a stoppie while I was there. Can you imagine any town in the U.S. opening itself up for the liability issues that are available here?

There were vendors. Not what you would expect at a U.S. rally. Here they sold t-shirts, badges (patches), jewelry You could not buy a bungee cord, though there were some leather distributors. Helmets and the like were not available, though there was one exhaust vendor. Aprilla had a small display, but there were no other dealers and I am sure that demo rides were something that no one ever heard of, nor expected to be able to do.

The entertainment was fine. More interesting was the ten or more bars set up around the entertainment area. No beer tent here You can get the mixed drink of your choice, for around two dollars, a can of beer was seventy five cents and the hardest beverage to find was a bottle of water. Since we were traveling with the brewery boys, they felt it necessary to keep a supply of their product available. None of them over imbibed, but they did maintain a continuous stream of beer for the afternoon. I was slightly embarrassed or impressed when Chris came back to the main street in Christiana with three beers and water for Diane and myself.

The South Africans themselves are fun loving bunch, not up to Aussie standards, but fun loving enough. One young man came over and said in Afrikaans that he liked the fact that I was a BMW supporter as evidenced by my t-shirt. Of course he addressed me as uncle, a respectful term for an older person. At least that is what my translators told me. And then there were the three people who came by, speaking Afrikaans that did not need any translation. He was commenting on his girlfriends f*cking aprilla this and f*cking aprilla that and what the f*ck is aprilla Mostly he was complaining about her Aprilla pants.

The awards ceremony only took an hour. The editor gave out awards as he saw fit. But first you had to crown Miss Rhino. About 8 ladies went up and they narrowed it down to a couple of finalists. Finally one was selected. She had the honor of picking out names for door prizes and kissing the winners. Four guys who completed their iron butt ride at the rally got a door prize. They gave out awards for the oldest geezer, the guy who came from Namibia The door prizes (you had to be present to win) were picked in groups of ten people. Each of the ten got a prize, then they narrowed the field to three and from the three a winner was chosen. They did this three times, interspersing trophies for the winners of the fun events. No the stage did not collapse when the womens tug of war winners went up.