We started our epic journey in Boston UK in April of this year, and arrived in Johannesburg on the 13th of September. We will continue on to Cape Town in the next week or two. Our route was: England, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa. Two wheels, 20 countries, 22 000 kilometres and two complete idiots.
Tough, cheap and foolproof? We’re looking for you!
The Honda CG125 was the only choice for us. I quit the British Army last year, but still needed some excitement in my life – so rode to Senegal on a C90. When I came back, my girlfriend had caught the bug and wanted to come along on the next one. I would have used a C90 again, but needed something ‘big’ – relatively speaking. It also had to be tough, cheap, foolproof, and easy to find spares for, and (Hannah’s stipulation,) pretty. A no brainer – The CG125.
After a trawl of a certain internet auction site, we bought a clean-looking 1982 model. It was essentially sound, but needed some TLC to bring it back to its former glory. So we gave it none and took it to Africa instead. Grand plans and good intentions of modifications and services added up to no more than some chain lube and an extended tank. We left England on the original tyres, sprockets and plug.
The indestructible Honda CG125
Almost 6 months later, we arrived in South Africa, after a single change of tyres and sprockets (the original plug still sparks). We didn’t encounter a single major mechanical problem. A chain tensioner snapped, and the head and rear wheel bearings have both been replaced, for pennies by locals at the roadside. Twice we lost our sump plug as a result of bouncing rocks battering the sump. Both times we were completely unaware that our oil had drained out until the bike seized. Both times we were sorted out by locals providing a makeshift bung and a fill of diesel oil. And both times we were back on the road within 15 minutes. The bike ran fine on diesel oil, as it has done on synthetic, semi-synthetic, and mineral – sometimes all at once! Not a single murmur of dissent from the engine, which still starts first kick, and purrs, with just a touch of twenty-a-day throatiness.
In between those two end points, the little Honda faced things a geriatric pizza bike should never have to be put through: sun washed and dust packed deserts, equatorial downpours, talcum fine sand, washboard corrugations, cracked up crazy paving concrete like broken ice on a puddle, rocks the shape and size of razor edged rugby balls, rubble roads to nowhere far more rubble than road, stream crossings deep enough to flood the engine, and fiery wastes hot enough to boil the oil. -5 degrees in England, to 55 degrees in Sudan, 600km autobahn days to 60km hub deep sand days, and everything in between. The CG has taken it all in its stride, succeeded and survived where many modern and expensive bikes have failed.
It deserves to be put in a museum after all it has been through.
Instead, we want to take her from Alaska to Argentina.
Amazing people of Africa
Time and time again on the road, we have met people, locals and foreigners, who have been amazed that a 27 year old commuter can ‘do’ Africa. More photos have been taken of us than Posh Spice; we have been celebrities everywhere we have been. We have arrived at places we had never heard of, and been greeted on first name terms by people who know us simply through gob smacked word of mouth. Without any initial intention to, we have inadvertently been a hugely positive advert for Honda, and the reliability of the marques. My forthcoming book, tentatively titled ‘Bandits and Bad Roads,’ can only reinforce this. – Joel and Hannah Burdall