Nick Clarke's African Adventure - Part 2
Earlier this spring, Nick Clarke spent a few months in South Africa riding bikes, filming his Welcome to The Rise video and helping out Matt Macduff with his Loop of Doop Project. As he signed up for this trip, little did he know that he was on board for the craziest journey of his life. His adventure was so inspiring that he had to put it down in words to share it with the world. Check out the Second Part below, and in case you missed it, Read Part 1 Right Here.
Words by Nick Clarke
Photos by Thomas Sandell, Eric Palmer, Julien Grimard
The closest main city to the park was the town of Knysna. A small town that was big for tourist attractions and boats. This is where we were introduced to Chris Boates. Chris is easily one of the most badass dudes I have ever met! A successful business man and a guy you don’t say no too….he’s 225 lbs of pure muscle not to mention a survivor of Cancer! He’s done it all it seems. He’s been a Rugby player, an expedition diver, a corporate business man, an entrepreneur, and many other things. Along with running a sports park in Johannesburg, he runs a boat tour called Knysna RIB Adventures. Only this is a military grade 600 horsepower weapon in some of the most treacherous waters in the world, known for hundreds of shipwrecks and powerful currents. This was wild! Crazy caves carved out of the bluffs and Chris jumping the boat clean 8ft out of the water off of massive swells made for a great welcome to town. This is a tour you want to go on if you if ever get the chance, just hold onto your hats! After a wild ride and some stories from the man himself, we were handed a beer for a toast over “Shark Alley” as Chris likes to call it. Chris was a great host. Several nights a week we would meet up at local restaurants, bars, as well as the local Yacht Club for dinner and drinks. It was never just dinner with Chris however. We found out pretty quickly that if were going out with Chris for the night, tequila would make an appearance and the next day would be over before it even began.
Now that we had our team, we needed some machinery to get started on the loop. Everything that was meant to be ready for the loop hadn’t yet been prepared, so it was up to us to handle the tall task of milling the planks as well as build the loop. This is where we were introduced to our friend Terry Hayward. There aren’t enough people in the world like Terry and the Hayward family. One of the most loving and outgoing families you’ll ever meet, as well as being certified badasses. Along with lending us a mill to tackle this incredible task, Terry took the time out of his day after work to teach us how to use it. Terry didn’t seem to be afraid of anything, and that seemed to rub off a lot on his younger son Reece! Only 16 years old, Reece would show up on his dirt bike after school barefoot and start climbing every tree in sight! He would climb to the top and use his body weight to pull it all the way to the ground, and then simply step off snapping the tree back into shape. Tarzan was the best way to describe this, and it became his nickname from the crew because of this wild hobby! Sharing the same passion as his dad for motorcycles he also shredded a brakeless BMX. Terry simply made a rut in a pile of dirt with his big bike one day and Reece charged at it with his friend Slade Pullin. This was not the typical set up most people would want to try and flip on, but after some positive words and energy from the crew, they both sent their first backflips to dirt! Slade was close but cut short by a dislocated shoulder, and Reece kept charging getting multiple flips around. He has been doing them on anything and everything ever since. Be on the lookout for this young gun at the Night Harvest in the future! Every day that the two left, they’d be on one wheel popping wheelies down the dirt roads on their dirt bikes, occasional with his wife Kirsty on the back with Terry. They were a crucial part of this trip! Up until the day we left the park, we couldn’t go to Kynsna without stopping in to see the family!One day to ease stress the idea to build a crazy backyard pit bike track behind the super loop house came up. This wasn’t your average pit bike track though. It was infested with ants, surrounded by barbed wire fencing, fallen trees, and branches going anywhere and everywhere above us. With the help of the throttle and back wheel, ruts quickly became huge nascar corners against fences, jumps over sections of the track, and a wide open section for high speeds on the driveway! This was a pretty tight and technical track, not the kind of track that you wanted to go down on. Misjudge your speed and you’re headed for a bloody ending beyond the corners. Of course the pit bikes weren’t the most reliable bikes either adding more danger into the mix. They needed some work. The brakes were busted, foot pegs falling off, bent bars, and a shifter that you had to destroy the roof of your foot to work. It was bad news waiting to happen, but somehow we all survived. After a hard days work, Matt would come flying in 3rd gear tapped towards the barbed wire frightening all the monkeys out of the trees as he tore around the berms. They later broke into our house and pissed on our kitchen table after eating some of our food. Pay back is a bitch I guess haha!
Working in the African sun was exhausting. Sun screen was a necessity, and the reality of sun stroke was high. Early on into the milling process we had issues with belts and blades putting us back by a full week. After repeated trips back and forth to George for parts by Matt, the team eventually got into a rhythm cutting a couple hundred planks to get started on the massive radiuses. We were short on time and in a bit over our heads. No pun intended. Eventually the proposed 2 week build became a full month. With time running out and a slow process with the mill, Julien and Marshal stepped up and bought the remaining wooden pieces to the puzzle. Unfortunately due to the deadline constantly changing, both Julien and Louis ended up having to extend their flights to remain on African soil for the big day. There was roughly two weeks left of my trip at this point and the build was sure to eat up the last of it so I thought about extending mine as well. I was still fired up about my first contest win and being involved in something this big had me wanting to experience everything I could with the opportunity I had been given. I called my parents, told them the story, and used the money I had won from the NH to extend my trip by an extra month. It had been years since I have produced a professional video, and my gut was telling me that this was the place to do it.
A few days later we stopped into a second hand store and picked out our own unique outfit for a big party night in town. I went with a classy but badass suit which I later chopped the sleeves off, while Louis went with the most rasta outfit he could find, Matt went with a button up shirt and vest, and Julien looked for the most cannuck look he could find! We were the talk of the bar that night when we walked in to meet Chris. It just so happens that the night we choose to get fully dressed up, we get introduced to a couple guys behind El Jimador Tequila through Chris. After some dinner with our new found friends, we moved on to our favourite bar called the Bloo bistro. It was this sweet hippy style bar with hookahs, a dance floor, face paint and a dj.This was a bar where you painted your face with glow in the dark paint, so one night a decent looking brunette girl started painting our faces. At first we thought she worked there and this was routine, turns out she was just a repeat customer that took a liking to Louis’ Rasta hat. After repeatedly stealing the hat back and forth she ran behind the bar, hid the hat, and bounced! We went up to the owner Paul, told him the story. After a few minutes of looking it was no where to be found. Instead, Paul hands us an old disco ball. “I can’t find it, but this should cover it right?” Sure why not I’ll take your disco ball. Thankfully as we were walking out to the next bar, she appeared and showed us where she was hiding it. Not even 10 minutes into the Zanzibar, I was handed a bottle of Tequila on the house by the El Jimador guys with the words “Do with it as you please”. Lets just say the whole place soon figured out we were giving out shots.
The morning of the big attempt the house was awoken at 6am by Metallica-for whom the bell tolls at full volume on the speakers. The speakers became the house alarm because it was so far from everyone’s bed that you physically had to get up to shut it off. We all had troubles sleeping knowing what the morning would bring, so we knew it was coming. Everyone gathered at the site of the loop, did some prep work, and got ready to watch Matt go after the loop. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans for us, and began raining down on our parade so we were forced to abandon the morning attempt and come back to it later in the evening.
If you missed it, make sure to read The First Part, and stay tuned for Part 3!