I remember the very first Mystery Ride very well. It was at the time of the great pandemic. I almost sound like my father now when he talked about the past like that, but it was a very special ride in a very difficult time. Although the distances were very long, the destinations were very special, and we could forget about the difficult times. Together with Jos Matthysen, head of Ducati South Africa, we had a nice time together and talked about our shared passion for Ducati.
Soon after, two more Mystery Rides followed with the same recipe: You follow Jos to your place of residence and enjoy the landscape on the way there. By the time the fourth one was planned, Jos had convinced me to purchase my own Ducati rather than borrow one. It was a breathtaking tour through the Western Cape. Together with my Ducati friends I have been as far west as Kathu, east as far as St. Lucia and south to Worcester, but the north of our country was still sparsely explored. When Jos announced that the fifth Mystery Ride would take place in May, something just told me we were going north. Far north.
This time Jos and I chatted again, and shortly before the tour I got a new addition to my garage: a Ducati DesertX. I had to scramble to get 1,000 km on the bike so it could be serviced before we left.
Mystery 5 was planned quite differently from the start. Those who could, had to carry their own luggage and the group mostly consisted of old acquaintances. However, there were quite a few newbies who signed up as well and you could see the excitement in their eyes from a mile away.
The night before we left, there was a short social where we received a small gift package. The pack had a military theme and we were given homework to read up on naval and aviation terms. We would apparently need it the next morning. We all wondered what Jos had up his sleeve! There were also tickets for sale that made you eligible to win a special prize: a one-of-a-kind Ducati DesertX. Jos had three DesertX bikes specially painted and the winner of the bike could choose which one of the three he or she wanted to take home. The proud winner was Wimpie Jonck!
Day one kicked off with a light breakfast, after which the entire group had to hand in their cell phones and watches. Our motorbikes’ instrumentation was taped over and we were divided into five teams. Each team was given cryptic clues with airspeed and nautical miles, and of course no one did their homework as asked. We had to keep strictly to the speed limit, and times had to be recorded at certain points. As no one had a watch on, or any idea of speed, it was quite a hoot! At our first stop, we had to perform a chore, but our team arrived at our destination without difficulty. There we were reunited with our electronic devices and were able to have a late breakfast. Other teams got completely lost and we had a good laugh at everyone’s stories.
From here we started driving north to our first overnight stop just outside Thabazimbi. Jos specifically paid attention to keeping the distances short so that we would have more time to socialize. Every Mystery Ride kicked off with a delicious barbecue, and this one was no exception. With fires burning high and spirits equally high, we ended the evening in our luxury tented accommodation. The road to our overnight stop was dirt road, but I was on the DesertX, a bike made for this kind of road.
After a delicious breakfast, day two arrived with an even shorter shift than the first day. Our route took us even further north, through Ellisras and even past the Tropic of Capricorn. Our final destination was the village of Tom Burke. We stayed on a luxury hunting farm and once again the fires burned high and the togetherness was special.
Day three was a Sunday, and suddenly you realize that here in the city we accept that gas stations and restaurants are open 24 hours a day. That is not the case here. We had to look around a bit to finally find a petrol station where the 37 motorbikes could get precious fuel to continue driving. Those of you who have recently driven the road between Tom Burke and Alldays will understand that the tarmac lives up to the expression “place-place”. It is mostly soil with here and there a piece of tar that stubbornly clings to the earth. Until recently this road was drivable, but today this is no longer the case. We progressed cautiously to Alldays where we refueled and enjoyed a welcome break. Apart from a pothole or two, our road held no new surprises.
The ground put us behind schedule, so the pass to Louis Trichardt was tackled a touch more enthusiastically. What for most people are the Hendrik Verwoerd tunnels, was for the 37 Ducatis a symphony hall! It was something special to feel and hear the rumble of these bikes there. Our final destination for the day was Hoedspruit. We stayed again in luxury tents and that evening we all got together in the Sleepers restaurant in Hoedspruit. Here, gifts were distributed to the riders who could correctly guess each evening’s destination. Certain traditions remain part of the Mystery Ride.
Although we saw beautiful wildlife, and drove through a forested area of our country, the Ducatis were keen on winding roads. Jos was one ahead of us. From Hoedspruit he led us to Hazyview, and then turned onto the lovely R40. Here we could stretch the legs of the bikes. I was surprised by the DesertX’s ability on tar, and here it exceeded all my expectations! To make things even more interesting, we drove through Nelspruit and over Nelshoogte Pass. These short twists and turns were just so much fun!
Just before Machadodorp we were greeted by a downpour, but still it did not dampen our enthusiasm. However, it was time to go home, and the N4 beyond Machadodorp is bitterly boring. Luckily my DesertX has speed control or I might have been in trouble at some speed traps.
For many Ducati riders, the Mystery Ride is the one long ride they don’t miss. Although I’m not exactly a group rider, the Ducati Mystery Ride remains a highlight for me. A lot of planning (and expense) goes into such a ride, and the whole team at Ducati does it with gusto. Now the only question remains, where to next? I really hope we can drive around the Cape again, or maybe the Karoo, but I will leave that decision to Jos. No matter where Jos takes us, I’m going with him!
I feel the DesertX deserves an article of its own. I will be able to talk about this bike in more detail after I have spent more time on it.
Hou gerus Ducati se Facebook page track for more information.
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