BMW GS Trophy: Africa Day 5

2010 GS Trophy: Day 5

The sun broke over the GS dome village in Pongola Game Preserve crisp and clear. No one was eaten during the night by wandering big African cats. One thing that’s great about traveling with a bunch of Euros is that coffee is a vital morning ritual.

Not a lot happens before a decent cup of Joe is had. That suits me well as I’m a coffee snob. Breakfast consisted of eggs, lots of sausages, bacon, beans, bread, juice and fruit.

Today was a lengthy transition over dirt roads and paved highways to the next camp. Shortly after leaving we were stopped on the main dirt road by our guide. Up ahead a herd of elephants was crossing the road.

The females and their young didn’t seem to mind but one of the bulls was getting agitated by our presence, flapping his ears and rocking back and forth in uncertainty.

Our guide suggested we pass through two at a time and to be on our toes. He and one of the Americans tested the waters, creeping past. The elephant gave chase and the two riders gunned it out of there.

The bull then turned his attention back to us. The second guide suggested we turn around and get ready to bail, explaining that although the elephant looked to be a safe distance off, if he decided to charge he would be on us in very short order.

Ironic that we would have done the "Elephant Turn" special test the day before. It might be put to use here in another few seconds.

Eventually the angry bull took to the trees, chasing up the females, soon disappearing into the bush. It was kind of an invigorating experience, to be that close to a herd of elephant and be directly in the sights of an agitated bull ready to protect what he perceived as a threat to his brood.

After that we pressed on through the lush green of recently rained on Africa, enjoying that special euphoria of riding with others, yet being in your own private world of engagement, without words, enjoying the scenery.

The first challenge of the day was a roadside rear wheel swap against the clock. The Japanese astonished everyone with a time of 6 minutes to trade the rear wheels between two of their machines.

A handful of teams had trouble with spacers and screwed the pooch on the time, giving up vital points. The South Africans and the English then dropped into the 5-minute range to gather up top points to contribute to their steadily increasing lead in the Trophy.

Toward the end of day 5 we arrived at another game preserve where the riders competed in a spear-chucking contest aboard their bikes. The special challenge required riders build momentum in order to grab a spear in their throttle hand, then make a turn-off the gas-and chuck their spear at a target.

It’s a whole lot tougher than it sounds. This is typical of the Trophy; verbal explanation, no rehearsal, jump in and figure it out on the run; baptism by fire. It was impressive to see how the teams mentally figured out and planned an approach and executed it under the gun. Once again, despite being competitors, each team was cheered on by the other teams. This is where the theme of the GS Trophy is most rewarding; unbiased support among competitors.

After the spear event the contestants were led down to the lake and waiting canoes. Next up, again, typical Trophy variation of challenges, the teams were to go against each other in a good old fashioned canoe race.

The Americans-thanks to all having been childhood members in the Boy Scouts-took to the water like geese and laid out some impressive strokes and speed. The Nordic team didn’t fare as well, capsizing their boat at the dock and then again in deep water.

Only later were we told that around the next bend in the river the hippos we splashing about. Best they didn’t know this as they were splashing about, as hippos kill more people each year than any other animal in Africa. But nothing dramatic happened, the Nordic team was picked up by a game warden and returned to terra firma.

After a lavish dinner spread and the emptying of a good number of bottles of South African wine, we retired. The scent of DEET was in the air, as we were camping next to a lake, a hotbed of mosquito activity. Being just on the border of a malaria warning zone no one was taking any chances.

The GS Trophy was winding down. Although riders were starting to show signs of exhaustion, there was also the sentimental realization that this exceptional experience was going to be over soon.

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.