With barely two weeks left, nine Omani motorcyclists are in the thick of fine-tuning their preparations for the 40-day, Oman-South Africa off-road expedition covering 14,243km.
In connection with the flag-off ceremony on September 5, South African Ambassador HE Manabile Shogole, Oman Riders president Khalid Al Aazri and team leader and Vice-President Eng. Hamood Al Noufli spoke to Oman Tribune about the significance of this trip and the preparations for it.
Al Noufli, an engineer with Oman Air, said Oman Riders trips are not just about covering distances from point A to point B.
“A great deal of meticulous planning, careful preparation, detailed study, and in-depth research into terrain, topography, weather patterns, availability of foods, religious and cultural differences and similarities All this may take as much a year before we actually set out”.
“Also travel on two-wheeler is much more difficult. You are exposed to the elements, so it is much more strenuous and difficult than in four-wheelers.”
“We also have to take into account visa rules and regulations, entry and exit procedures at border checkpoints and ensure all our paper work for the trip is in perfect order. While we do try to make very precise calculations, on all aspects of the trips, we have to make allowances for unforeseen delays on account of inclement weather, mechanical breakdowns, or other matter.”
As an example he cited the case of Zambia, which has 16 checkpoints. “We have to respect and comply with laws of every country that we pass through.”
The team leader said “while seven riders will be on the road two riders will be travelling by car, taking care of logistic, food supplies and medicines. They will be joined by two more riders in South Africa.”
Al Aazri who is working with The Research Council says they would mostly be riding on BMW and Triumph motor-cycle. These bikes with a capacity of 800cc or more are ideal for adventure because of their sturdy build and endurance over long distances.
He said people usually have the notion Harley Davidson motor cycles are the best. But their performance is good only on metalled roads and not the kind of rugged terrain we will encounter as we travel off road.
Earlier, Ambassador Shogole said “this journey will be a historic milestone in the close and long-standing relationship between the governments of Oman and South Africa. These ties will be further strengthened by the people-to-people contact that the Oman riders will bring about as culture ambassador.”
“September is observed as the month of heritage in South Africa and weather wise it is the best time for people from this region to visit the country.”
He added motor-cyclists from South Africa would make a reciprocal visit to Oman sometime in the future.
A grand reception has been planned for the Oman rider by the Omani Ambassador on their arrival in Pretoria.
The motorcyclists will be flagged off on their 15-nation journey by Shogole.
Political counsellor at the South African Embassy Busi Sibusisiwe Mangoegape, said: “The Oman to South Africa will be an excellent way to strengthen the friendly relations between our two countries.”
“It will also lead to an increased interest in South Africa. As goodwill ambassadors, these motor cyclists will generate awareness about the country, its people and culture and promote tourism in our country,” she added.
Oman Riders president Khalid Aasem Zahran Al Aazri, said “this is our third international trip and it will give us a chance to introduce our country as a fantastic tourist destination to the people of South Africa.
Oman Riders previous two trips were to Europe in 2013 by three riders and to China (Oman to Guangzhou) in 2015 that came to be known as the Silk Road ride.