I F**cking Did It: Cape Town, the End of an Epic

I’ve woken with a swelled stomach.  At first, I dismiss it for saddened nerves.  Today, I’m making the final run into Cape Town, the end of an epic journey from Mali to South Africa on the backs of an $800 scooter.  But after kissing the toilet bowl a couple times, I realize that it’s something worse.  I’ve made it through the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana and the like while never once catching a stomach bug, but last night eating a fancy meal on the coast of developed South Africa, I got food poisoning.

I struggle to put some clothes on and pack my things.  I had this date set, I’m not going to miss it.  One last massive heave at the toilet, and my swelled belly feels well enough to move.

Cape Town, scooter

Anne waits gracefully for me outside for our last ride together.  I toss myself and all that I own on her broad shoulders.  I stop for some powerade to hopefully regenerate my electrolytes, guzzle the contents and whizz away through West Coast National Park.

I’m surrounded by beautiful greenery.  Sand dunes are coated by lush green shrubs and the road twists and turns through the thick foliage.  The meandering road offers my mind an escape from the war going on in my stomach.  I find the highway again, and pull into the shoulder as trucks go flying past.

Cape Town, West Coast National Park

Suddenly, I have to hit the breaks as hard as I can as not to drive into a downpour of my own contents.  I toss the helmet from my head, and launch a perfect orange waterfall of powerade into the ditch.

I have been playing this day over and over in my mind for months.  My arrival in Cape Town after 17,000 or so kilometers was meant to be emotional, exciting and filled with pride, but all I can think about is rolling into a ball and sleeping at the side of the road.

Soon though, I press on.  I open the visor to my helmet and let the world flow through it.  I can see Table Mountain in the distance, and it seems much nearer than it is.  Before long, I forget about everything and just focus on the plateaued peak standing gracefully in the distance.

Cape Town

As I ride into the shadow of Table Mountain, I can’t help but laugh.  I can’t help but feel a tear peel from my eyes as I mouth the words “I did it, I f**cking did it.”  My stomach issues become a distant memory as I start seeing signs like “Cape Town Motors”.

Through 17,000 kilometers I’ve endured two bouts with malaria, countless rough roads, more flat tires than I could ever dream of counting, and many days of deep loneliness.  And here I am, at my destination.

The first emotion that hits is laughter.  I chuckle so hard that my whole body shakes.  I giggle at the hilarity of it all.  Did I just drove a scooter down the west side of Africa?  Before the giggles fully leave my chest, a mixed feel of sadness coats my body.  What now?  There is such finality to Cape Town.  Such tragedy that it has to end.  The emotion flows to pride.  I hold my head high like a father walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.  It ends again with the laughter.  I did it.

It’s only on this day that I start thinking about what I’ve done and what it means.  These adventure challenges become addictive.  What will I do next?  What stupidity will I indulge in now?  Can anything I ever do in my life from now on beat this?  Is this my one epic, or will I spend my life trying to outdo myself?

Cape Town, Mount Nelson Hotel

I roll down an empty Cape Town street and turn through the white Colosseum-like pillared gates of the famous Mount Nelson Hotel.  It gleams in a perfect shade of pastel pink and is back-dropped perfectly by the wonder that is Table Mountain.  It’s like the scene out of a movie I never thought I’d be a character in.  The bellman, Wilson, greets me with one of the friendliest smiles I’ve ever seen.  He helps me unload Anne Murray one last time, and he remarks about how much he loves my scooter.  How many people have said that along the way – each gas attendant, each hotel reception, and each police checkpoint has made that remark – and this will be the last.

Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town

I toss myself onto my overly soft bed and spread out in the shape of the naked man on the cover of anatomy textbooks.  I stare at the roof and again start laughing in recollection of all the things that went down.

This has been the trip of a life time.  I’ve grown immensely.  I always knew I was patient, but this trip taught me I could be stern if I needed to be as well.  I learned too how strong my family and friends are, their support was unbelievable.  And all those people who said it couldn’t be done, well, I needed them desperately.  Anyone who knows me knows that the best way to get me to do anything, is to say I can’t do it.

So, I ask you, what do you think I can’t do now?


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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27 Comments

  1. Congrats! I’ve been following your blog for several months and looked forward to each entry as your journey unfolded. Hope you feel well soon to better celebrate your accomplishment!

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  2. Congratulation Brendan. What an amazing trip indeed. But can I be selfish and say that you shouldn’t have finished it yet ? Why’s that ? Of course because now, I won’t have any posts anymore about your african journey in my RSS reader anymore. How can I survive that ? 😉

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    • Thanks for hanging around Laurent! I’ve got lots of articles from Africa still coming. And maybe you’ll join me (via reader) on my next epic journey?

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  3. Awesome journey! Have been following from the beginning, and am planning a similar trip in the future. Especially loved the stories from the harder destinations- Nigeria, Gabon, Congo etc. Just the kind of travelling I like to do as well! Im sure there isn’t anything you cant do if you put your mind to it. A true adventurer will always take up a challenge.

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    • Thanks for following along Jonny and I hope you get to experience something like that too… what a crazy voyage!

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  4. Congratulations on such an amazing accomplishment. I’m seriously considering a similar type of journey and your journey has given me lots of inspiration!

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    • Thanks Adam! I say go for it… countless stories and even more memories.

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  5. Congrats Brendan!

    I’ve had a few people tell me that they live vicariously through my blog, but I always tell them that they could probably do the same thing as well. Now I know what they mean though as I have absolutely no desire to do what you just did but I have been living vicariously through your blog.

    So what am I going to do now it’s finished? I know, new bike and up the east coast. Off you go then 😉

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    • James, I get that!
      I’m not sure I’d do it again haha. However, funny you say to go up the east. I’ve been planning it… however, it looks too easy 😀 lol

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  6. Congratulations!! We’ve been “accused” of being adventurous, but we’ve never come close to doing what you just did – 17,000 km on the back of a scooter. Thanks for taking us along for the ride and changing many perceptions of this part of the world.

    Sometimes the worst food poisoning incidents come from fancy meals 🙂

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    • Thanks Audrey, I had dreams of this kind of adventure when I started in the industry but always made excuses why I wouldn’t do it. I’m glad I did in the end… will be hard to top for sure!

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    • Except get pregnant… stupid sexism.

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  7. A memorable trip that I’ve enjoyed travelling with you from Gabon, when I first discovered your blog. Specially since I didn’t get bouts of malaria or food poisoning! Well done on an epic journey. I’d love to know what you think of South Africa now you’ve had a chance to explore it a bit more…

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    • Thanks for reading Roxanne, loads of South Africa articles coming up this month!! Believe me, I’ve loved it so far.

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  8. Holy shit! That is pretty awesome! Congratulations on making it!
    I love how adventures like this shape the way you will live your life, forever.

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    • Thanks! Pretty awesome journey. Can’t wait for the next one 😀

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  9. This is the first I read about your challenge I must be honest! but I will certainly be checking out previous post to catch up! well done! and well written

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    • Thanks Rebecca!
      If you read my articles backwards it’s a story about a guy who drives a scooter from Cape Town towards Europe then gets bad at driving that in Mali he decides to quit haha.

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  10. I FEEL BEREFT! I can´t imagine how YOU feel!! I´ve so enjoyed following your journey through The Dark Continent and can only salute your sense of adventure and take on life, not to mention your skill at writing and photography which has brought it all alive for the rest of us stay-at-homes! I wish you all the best for whatever new adventure you concoct, but whatever it is, do it quick – the withdrawal is going to kill us mere mortals!! Chapeau, Brendan.

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  11. Hi Brendan,

    Congratulations on a safe arrival in Cape Town!
    You’ve already collected more stories than there are Christmas trees to tell them under.
    I’ll be following your footsteps (o.k., in a Landy, and just taking my dog) in 6 months, and your posts have been very helpful in my preparations, and they were great fun to read and watch.

    Safe travels,

    Gee

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  12. Congrats on your epic accomplishment, Brandon! I’m sure there were days where you wondered if you’d actually ever make it across the finish line, but you did it and you’re right, now you’re left wondering if there’s any challenge you can’t tackle and conquer. I know it wasn’t all sunny days and easy rides, but what an adventure you have had! I’ve loved reading about all the ups & downs and can’t wait to see what you tackle next.

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  13. What an epic journey indeed. I really enjoyed following your travels. So what next? Why not travel through the whole of India on a rickshaw? 🙂

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  14. What an amazing journey. I can’t wait to read the book. You are the next Paul Theroux.

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    • Don’t put that bar so low… yikes. So much pressure!

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