The Whale Rally is held annually in June, the middle of winter, in Plettenberg Bay. It is hosted by the Ulysses Garden Route motorcycle club.
The Ulysses Motorcycle Association of South Africa is a motorcycle association for people older than 40 years of age. The name comes from a poem of the same title by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It tells how the great Greek hero Ulysses, now middle-aged and securely in charge of his kingdom of Ithaca, is getting bored with things around him and longs to go adventuring again with his shipmates of old.
The national organization consists of a number of clubs referred to as chapters, which are area based. The Garden Route chapter is unique in that it is not centered in a single town or city but spans an area of around 210 kilometers from east to west.
The Whale Rally is said to be one of the "not so wild" Rallies so it sounded like the perfect Rally to "get my feet wet".
Before the Rally I spotted a post on the Dual Sport forum Wilddogs of a local Wild Dog asking if any other Wild Dog members are going to the Whale Rally. As it turns out there were five of us so we decided to camp together. Things were looking up!
Rhino_Horn, Wave Rider and I met at the designated spot in George and rode through to Plett. They were riding Suzuki V-Strom's so it was a good thing that I was on a road bike too. Kidding!
Arriving in Plett we found Tengai and Super T (the Cape Town WD's) already set up in a nice secluded spot:
Camping in a municipal camping ground is very different to camping out in the sticks somewhere. Nice flat pieces of grass, electricity and all the luxuries that goes with it. Rhino_Horn even brought an electric blanket!
The camping ground was filling up quickly. After our site was settled in we walked around a bit soaking in the Rally atmosphere.
There were hundreds of bikers milling about. I also saw a lot (and I mean a LOT) of bikes with my hometown registration. Who knew? I guess they don't travel on gravel.
Every bike Rally has a lucky draw and the first prize is usually a brand new bike - in this case a Suzuki V-Strom:
Imagine winning a brand new bike! With my luck I'll probably win the bicycle.
As the sun set and the party got in full swing. There was a cash bar, live bands and lots of little vendors selling everything from pins to badges to tattoos to food.
The party never stopped...
We headed for bed at some stage but the noise levels were off the charts. With over a 1000 people laughing and shouting, a live band in the background somewhere and bikes revving all night long this was quite an experience.
I was warned not to stay at the Rally site, but rather find some off-site accommodation. I now knew why. But I'm glad I decided to stay at the site. It's my first Rally and I wanted the whole experience. And what an experience it was turning out to be...
I'm still trying to understand the bike revving. Why do they do it? Some guy would be standing around drink in hand and then decide to start his bike (cold engine) and rev it right into the red line. The revs would be bouncing against the rev limiter and he would just keep it pinned for 5 minutes / 10 minutes / 15 minutes whatever. When he stops someone else somewhere would walk up to his own bike and do the same. Starting with cold engines! I cringed every time. With such abuse the wear and tear must be enormous. Why on earth would someone want to do that to their own bike? At some stages during the night there were several bikes going at it at the same time, all with aftermarket exhausts. The louder the better it seems. And it was LOUD! This also never stopped. I eventually fell to sleep. I think I still heard bikes going around 4am.
I was up before daybreak. What a beautiful sunrise.
Looking at this photo you would never guess that there was 'n bike rally going on behind my back.
The Beacon Ilse Hotel across the lagoon:
Some more scenery shots. What can I say? I'm used to taking nature shots when on a bike trip.
I was surprised to see these birds here. They must be deaf.
And turning around 180 degrees, some rally shots (the party was still going):
Lots of interesting bikes and trikes. This one even has a trailer.
Some club sites:
More bikes and another 3-wheeler:
Even a motor bicycle:
A Police bike (police as in sunglasses, not cops)
Some more shots around camp - this fellow's party is over.
About 10 minutes after I took that photo one of his mates joined him. I guess they forgot to bring a tent.
Designated area for burn-outs and donuts. They start early (or did they stop?).
After years of riding I certainly saw a totally different side of biking. I see myself as a biker, but I felt like a total newby here.
Time for the mass ride through Plett. Now this I know.
Hopefully the people who partied till now were clever enough not to get on their bikes and come ride at speed in close proximity of other riders.
After the ride there was a mass gathering in Plett...
...but I decided to head out by myself and have a look around.
I just had to get a pic here!
Some more Plett scenery:
The Beacon Isle again:
The NSRI had a life saving exercise on the beach. Quite interesting to see:
Right after I took this photo disaster struck...
I pressed the starter button of the VFR and "click..." Nothing. "Click". Nothing again. Turns out the battery's flat. How is this possible? It's a new bike! Luckily I was on a steep downhill. Unfortunately you cannot run start an automatic bike.
I rolled down the hill to the Beacon Isle. No chance of starting the bike. I was well and truly stuck - now at the bottom of the hill.
I was still sitting on the bike wondering what to do when someone said: "Hey, aren't you Trailrider?" Yes! Are you on Wild Dogs too? Yes! Cool! Do you perhaps have a jumper lead?
I'm not fat, I'm recognizable!
With the help of a fellow dog we jump-started the bike and soon I was on my way again, this time straight back to the Rally site. I'm not taking any chances with this battery.
At the entrance there was a lot of commotion going on - donuts and burn-outs with a whole crowd of people cheering them on.
I stopped for some pics and video while leaving the bike to idle.
I packed the cameras away and when I touched the throttle to pull off... the bike died. Could there be a worse place for this to happen? I now had to push the bike right in front of this whole crowd.
There was cheering and clapping. One guy even shouted: "That's typically BMW!" ...so I agreed.
In the site someone helped jump-start the bike again while people took photos of the new bike needing help. Nothing brings you back to earth like this.
Back at the tent I was happy to find that Rhino_Horn had a battery charger. Hopefully this problem is something of the past now.
Since I was riding nowhere today we sat back, relaxed and had a couple of cold ones. When in Rome...
We chatted to some other bikers, made some friends and had some laughs. This is a great place to people watch. The bikes aren't half bad either. One of Rhino's friends came over on this Blackbird. What a beautiful example. Another of Honda's legend bikes.
Later we moved over to the main tent where the party was in full swing - still:
They had a wet T-shirt competition and the lucky draws where I missed winning the bike by ONE NUMBER! Damn! A girl from Port Elizabeth who does not ride herself and doesn't even have a license won the bike. Good for her.
The band tonight was particularly good and played a lot of AC/DC, Bon Jovi etc. I was getting into the spirit of things and tonight we had a blast! One of the better parties I've had. It felt like I was 20 again.
The people were friendly and everybody was having a whale of a time.
That night I slept like a log!
The Whale Rally - what an experience.