BMW GS Trophy: Africa Day 2

2010 GS Trophy: Day 2

Two hundred kilometers of transition (travel), all of it off-road, with four special challenge stages on the day; two on motorcycles, the other two off.

I was getting to know the American team a little better. As the imbedded journalist for the U.S. I rode with them from point to point and kept tabs on their progress in the special trials and challenges.

After qualifying earlier in the year the Americans (Iain Glynn, Shannon Markle, and Bill Dragoo) took it upon themselves to bond with some off-road ventures, becoming friends in the process. By the time they landed in Africa they were thinking and acting like one.

At 55 years of age Bill had the distinction of being the oldest competitor of the event, doing a stellar job of representing the "over 50" crowd with a respectful display of riding more akin to a man in his twenties.

Bill’s physical fitness had me looking at my gut and thinking I really need to get in shape.

The first special stage of day 2 had teams racing against the stopwatch pulling a tractor with their tow ropes around a small oval course.

This is the kind of thing the GS Trophy will throw at competitors, rewarding physical fitness (and as was the case with the South Africans; generic brute strength).

The second challenge stage, also based on time, was for teams to roll a relatively heavily and unwieldy tractor tire through a slalom course of cones. Touch a cone and you lose a point.

This physical fitness challenge was followed by another 100-kilometer transition through some beautiful South African landscapes. The border crossing into Swaziland took several hours.

Processing 93 foreigners and some 50 motorcycles overwhelmed the employees. The South African facility was clean and orderly, with bright smiling guards and green grass. 30-meters further on, officially entering the Kingdom of Swaziland, was a stark contrast in economies.

When I first saw it I took the Swaziland immigration office as an abandoned building. But this was the official passport processing center for the Kingdom. After a few more interesting stamps in our passports the GS Trophy circus pressed on into Swaziland.

Trekking through the mountains of Swaziland provided the teams with an opportunity for sightseeing (albeit on the move).

Somewhat like the fire roads of California, winding up and down and through a range of dense forests. In remote villages the locals would come out to watch the GS parade pass.

Descending the mountains we came upon challenge number three on the day; a deep water crossing rooted with large rocks and boulders that necessitated getting off the bike.

The 3-man teams went against the clock, fighting to get all three machines and riders across in a low E.T. There were some real displays of bravado and style here. The moss-covered rocks provided little traction for off-road boots and a number of riders dumped their bikes.

But it was amazing to see how fast their teammates were in the water and had them righted and underway again. I was really starting to see and understand the theme of the Trophy; team effort, three riders working together to achieve a common goal.

The heart and determination in the rider’s faces was inspiring, far outweighing any aspect of this being an amateur event.

In the afternoon we descended into a valley where the runoff of recent rains had conveniently collected in the basin, creating the stage for a messy-and highly entertaining to watch-mud crossing, the fourth challenge stage of the day.

The first few teams to cross had it the best, jamming through the thick sludge of Swazi mud, redlining the 800 GS motors and bouncing out the other side.

A few riders got bogged down, sinking wheels in and creating a perfect example of the team effort so essential to the sport of things.

Whenever a rider got stuck, his teammates were on him before he even had a chance to come off the bike. As the teams continued to take their turn splashing through the mess the crossing got progressively worse, with deep, wheel twisting grooves and ruts being formed beneath a churned up bog of blackish mud, resulting in a lot of Iwo Jima-type three-man pulling and huffing and struggling to extract their teammate’s GS – all while the stop watch cruelly ticked away.

With each of us carrying a few extra pounds of Swaziland mud and goo we headed on to our camp spot. It was a shame the last two challenges couldn’t have been reversed, with the water crossing following the mud crossing. That way we could have ended the day relatively clean. Wet perhaps, but clean.

That night we were treated to roast pig amidst the smell of DEET (we were now in mosquito land).

Again, I assume the common international thread of snoring acquainted the Swazi night, but I was too beat to notice and slept straight through to morning.

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 1

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 2

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 3

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 4

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 5

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 6

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 7

In this series about the 2010 BMW GS Trophy, follow Ultimate MotorCycling writer Jeff Buchanan day-by-day as he takes on Africa aboard the venerable F 800 GS motorcycle. Each of the 10 countries competing had an embedded journalist and Buchanan was invited by BMW North America to ride with the U.S. enduro team.