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Jo Rust Adventures Women’s South Africa Adventure Motorcycle Tour

Woman owned and operated tour and training on BMW GS dual-sport bikes

By Lisa Malachowsky, Apex, North Carolina
3/22/2018

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For any female adventure motorcycle rider who has a passion about women in the sport, Jo Rust, who became the first person to cycle across South Africa solo in 2010, is a goddess. In what is probably the pinnacle of male-dominated segments of motorcycling, the BMW GS Trophy competition is a team-oriented endurance test for GS riders. In 2016, Jo Rust became the first ever female marshal (referee) of the competition.

jo rust adventures womens south africa adventure motorcycle tour
All the riders from my all-woman Jo Rust Adventure tour at the southwestern tip of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. From left to right: Jo Rust, Lisa Malachowsky, Moira Zinn, Tara Mitchell, Nancy Martin, Vanessa Knighton Rosenfeld, Karen Salemi, Andrea Jensen, Caitlyn Kalinowski, Erin Sills, and the support driver, Louie.

jo rust adventures womens south africa adventure motorcycle tour leader
Jo Rust is a BMW GS powerhouse. She is a BMW South Africa brand ambassador, founder of the worldwide group called the GS Girls, and has set several records during her travels around Africa. Here she is teaching us about body positioning on the bike.

I’ve been following Jo’s rise to fame since 2011, when she decided pedal-powered bicycles did not provide enough challenge for her and hopped aboard her first BMW GS adventure motorcycle. In six short years, she has shown the world that there is nothing that a woman can’t do as well or better than a man when it comes to adventure bike riding. Recently, she took her star power to another level and started a business called Jo Rust Adventures in her home country of South Africa leading motorcycle tours with her business partner, Tim Skelton.

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I couldn’t pass up a chance to be a part of the first women-only tour in April 2017. I never had a desire to go to South Africa, but I knew it was an amazing place to ride dual-sport motorcycles. Throughout my life, I’ve done some amazing scuba adventures and I used to measure adventure by how many inoculations I needed for a trip. My motorcycle trips were tame by comparison. This was my opportunity to change that and ride with Jo Rust! I thought, “How cool would that be?” I got my yellow fever vaccine and was ready to go.

jo rust adventures womens south africa adventure motorcycle tour bikes
All the BMW R 1200 GS, F 800 GS, and F 700 GS adventure bikes lined up at the start of the trip.

Upon arriving at my hotel in a suburb of Johannesburg, I had a feeling this trip was going to be different. My preparation consisted of little more than emailing back and forth with Jo and Tim and buying a Lonely Planet book. I thought my experiences with adventure scuba trips in Asia prepared me for almost anything so I was lazy about getting ready. Besides, in 1997 in Indonesia, I had a machine gun pointed at me and I lived to tell about it. Could anything be harder?

My hotel was comfortable and I could even drink the water from the tap. I wondered, “Was this really going to be an adventure?” I met several others tour participants at the hotel and we started sharing our life stories. I already knew eight of the 10 women on this trip, some being household names in BMW circles.

jo rust adventures womens south africa adventure motorcycle tour jeep
A group of the ladies exploring the wildlife from a Jeep: Moira Zinn, Tara Mitchell, Jo Rust, Andrea Jensen, Caitlyn Kalinowski, and land speed record holder, Erin Sills.

The next morning, Tim transferred us to the Cradle of Humankind (a paleoanthropological site about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg), our hotel base for the first four days. The first two days we trained on our bikes at Jo and Tim’s training location. In addition to leading tours, Jo offers training as one of only four female BMW-certified off-road motorcycle instructors worldwide at the time.

Spending the time to train on the bikes turned out to be very valuable as it showed everyone what they would need to work on during the trip. The group had various levels of ability with at least one person who had never ridden a motorcycle off-road. I had taken my R 1200 GS off-road twice in Arizona and had extensive small bike dirt riding in my past but I knew I had a lot to learn about how the big GS was going to behave on rocks and gravel. I fell several times. But everyone helped out when a rider fell down. Picking up the behemoths was a skill we learned and used regularly.

jo rust adventures womens south africa adventure motorcycle tour south cape
Riding in the South Cape.

After the training, the tour took us through some of the most amazing countryside in both South Africa and Lesotho. We rode to high altitudes in Lesotho and down the famous Sani Pass Road, which is on every adventure rider’s bucket list. We rode through forested areas that took us back in time and were the inspiration for the movie The Hobbit. We saw indigenous people and went on two big game drives where we saw African animals galore. It was the most amazing motorcycle trip I’ve ever been on.

jo rust adventures womens south africa adventure motorcycle tour sani pass road
My BMW R 1200 GS and the beautiful scenery at the top of Sani Pass Road, Lesotho.

So, was it an adventure? Yes, it was! I can only say that I already want to go back. I got a taste of the African continent and a land of many contradictions. Would I recommend this trip to more women riders? Only if you want to push yourself and have a journey of a lifetime. I now call Jo my friend and know she changed my life. Her warmth and sharing were evident every minute of the trip. If you want to live your life with adventure and authenticity, go ride in South Africa with Jo.

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