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Ex-resident recalls African odyssey

At the age of 65 a former Helderberg resident completed his dream of motorcycling from Denmark to South Africa.

Johs Larsen, who started the Cara-Camp outdoor centre and caravan dealership in Somerset West in 1993, always wanted to take on a journey of this magnitude, but life had never allowed him the opportunity.

When his business partner bought him out, he suddenly had a lot of free time on his hands and he didn’t know what to do with that time. Then he decided to tick the item off his bucket list.

“I told my wife this is the ideal time to take on this journey,” Larsen explained. “Thankfully, she agreed she could do without me for the four months it would take to complete the journey.”

He prepared for his big trek a year ago and set off four months back.

“I decided to take the East African route and wanted to travel along the River Nile, and as close to it as possible.”

Larsen and his wife sold their business in 2003 and moved back to Denmark. He set off from Denmark on his trip, driving all the way to Greece. From here his bike was shipped to Israel, from where he set out to pursue his African odyssey. He aptly named his trip the Soul of Africa Tour.

“Once in Israel, I set off towards Sudan, where I met the most amazing people and had the best experiences interacting with the locals there,” he recalled, a smile lighting up his face.

“It is also where I realised the locals had more knowledge about my home country’s national soccer team. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Three years before, Larsen had been fitted with a pacemaker and he admits that it may well be the reason his wife agreed to the journey.

He spoke of some tension he encountered in Egypt because he didn’t know he needed a passport for his motorbike, a matter which took a few days to sort out.

“I was also taken in for questioning so many times during the journey,” Larsen said. “I remember, in Egypt they are so concerned about the safety of their tourists, there are so many police checkpoints there. After I was set free, I arrived outside the police station and was instructed to follow four armed men in a car. They were my guides. Everywhere I travelled they would drive ahead of me to make sure I reached my destination safely.”

He speaks fondly of a beautiful Nubian family he lived with in Sudan and of the immersion in the culture he encountered there.

But mostly he waxed lyrical about the incredible kindness he experienced in all the countries he travelled through on his four-month journey.

“This whole adventure has reaffirmed my belief that Africa will still go far,” Larsen said. “I was amazed at all the construction sites I saw on the road and all the other smaller, but also positive things going on. It has been really uplifting. And the people, no matter how little they have, will share it with you or give it to you, all with a welcoming smile on their face.”

Wherever he went he was included and regularly visited with locals in the taverns and shebeens.

Larsen confessed that motorcycling is an addiction and he tackle a trip on two wheels again at the drop of a hat – although definitely on a smaller scale, he laughingly added very quickly.

“It is an addiction, not just a passion,” he said. “After having a pacemaker for a year I decided it was not the end of my life; I am still able to do the things I love. I’m thankful I didn’t let it determine my future.”

Larsen embarked on this journey to learn more about Africa, spread joy and show compassion.

“Further up in Africa it is almost as if you are a novelty,” he pointed out. “People genuinely get excited when they see you pulling up on your bike and they excitedly ask where you are from and most of them obviously mention our soccer team – I learnt that soccer is an integral part of African culture.”

Larsen’s journey from Denmark to the southern most tip of Africa, where his journey ended on Tuesday 20 November, spanned all of 21 852 kilometres.

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