Travel and a bit of shopping
First published in Juice, Mango Air in October 2017
Wheelies and donuts at the Buff
In 2017 the 40th Buffalo Rally was held in South Africa when more than 5000 bikers gathered in Mossel Bay. It’s a testosterone-loaded event for petrol heads and piston heads. It’s a weekend event where young and old, city folk and bikers from small towns, local South Africans and international visitors and most of the two-wheelers of the Southern Cape gather.
The concept of the Buffalo Rally – fondly referred to as The Buff – came about in 1969. A couple of bikers from the Nomads Motorcycle Club were camping at Silversands outside Robertson when a camp fire sparked the idea. Egon Mendel, Tony Bayley, Peter Flor, Tony Ferguson and Ray Bergman were amongst those who signed their names on a paper plate which served as the official attendance register.
In 1969 the first Buff – held in Bathurst – drew 250 entrants. The Nomads still claim they broke the drought in the Eastern Cape as it rained for most of the weekend.
To this day the Nomads are the organisers of this event. At the top of the first page on their website (www.nomads.org.za) they have a clock counting down the time to the next Buffalo Rally. As I’m typing this it is precisely: 226 days, 14 hours, 52 minutes and… 35 seconds.
Apart from the local baaiers who either come out in their droves to watch all the shenanigans of the bikers amid the smell of burning rubber – there are also those few who hunker down in their homes muttering to themselves – nearly everyone out on the streets is a biker or a passenger on a bike.
Contrary to popular belief the Buff is great for people-watching too. No prizes for guessing what the predominant colour for attire is: black, of course. It portrays “a mystique of mystery and power” (sic) I read in a book sub-titled ‘A brotherhood of outlaw bikers’.
On lapel badges I read: Grandpa Z1300 Six Cylinder, Heeltyd Speeltyd (All the Time, Play Time), Grow Old Disgracefully, My Oupa’s a Biker, 100% Biker, Final-Few and I Survived The Storm.
On a dude’s T-shirt I read ‘Tell your tits to stop staring at my eyes’ whilst he poses next to Mossel Bay’s superintendent who plays along nicely, another one proclaims ‘Ek’s die swartskaap’ (I’m the black sheep) and I spot a ‘Ladies’ Man’ displaying a picture of an unshaven Homer Simpsom with his beer boep and a draught mug in hand. I read some more: ‘Most Wanted Wannabee’. ‘My wife says I don’t listen… or something like that’, Voetsek Jou Bliksem Ek het Genoeg Vriende (Bugger off, you bastard, I have enough friends) and Born to Bitch.
Two out of three people have skull rings; toddlers accompanying their biker parents sport ‘baby biker’ leather waist coasts; thirsty revellers drink out of vuvuzela glasses or handcuff their beer mugs to their wrists; beards, feathered punk helmets and long hair long past its sell-by date abound; and you could open a tattoo parlour with all the tattoo designs sported around here. Speaking of which – on the festival grounds there is a pop-up tattoo parlour where bikers queue. I reckon they might regret it later. Or not.
Motorbike clubs have their own logos and slogans: Urban Fellas ride for joy, the Hoodlums have a logo with a Falconetti-eye patch, the Arc Warriors’ design features a muscled torso and flowing locks, the Ottery Boyz show everyone the middle finger and the Evil Riders have a skeleton riding a bike in a supposedly cool pose.
Club members try to outdrag each other at the traffic lights, especially in Marsh Street in Mossel Bay. ‘You won by a gnat’s cock,’ one proclaims when his bike buddy outwits him. He shows off by popping a wheelie right there and then. “I’ll show you how a donut is done later tonight,’ he threatens albeit good-naturedly.
You might as well learn the lingo if you want to hang out here. A ‘hard tail’ bike has no rear shock absorbers. A shaped gas tank is a ‘small coffin’. A ‘rat bike’ is one that is in poor condition. Lengthened wheel bases are cool. Back rests called sissy bars are not. Old Harley’s (affectionately known as hogs) don’t die, they just get rebuilt.
A motorbike builds its owner’s identity. His (usually cut-off) jacket shouts out his name: The Don, Weskus Kreefsmokkelaar, Road Runner or MacGyver – and his attitude seems to match the chosen moniker. A lady biker resembling an aged Pocahontas has First Lad sewn on hers. A rotund tannie proudly calls herself Ella Doughnut.
Number plates are adorned with G-strings – it also means the riders can’t be fined for the duration of the weekend. A CF number plate reads: Ride it like you Stole it. Custom paint jobs are admired by fellow riders; a pilloried stuffed tiger on a red Yamaha evokes many grins.
A year or three ago Danie Hoffmann of Sedgefield revved his Suzuki incessantly with the result that it erupted into flames and burnt out on the spot. He was treated like a hero though the adulation might not have lasted beyond the weekend.
It’s quite a sight to behold to see hundreds and hundreds of little dome tents erected at De Bakke Santos Resort. In between Harry and Nettie’s caravan invites the hungry – or hungover – to Traai Maai Paai; they also have pancakes or homemade bobotie available. The Free Riders tent offers free coffee.
On the Buffalo Rally weekend a mass ride takes place through the town of Mossel Bay. Riders dress up in masks and ballet tutus, kerchiefs cover mouths, Vespa’s join the throng and the local Fanta Sea Horse Free Delivery TukTuk tagged along too.
Over the years the Buffalo Rally has been held in Bathurst, Aliwal North, Oudtshoorn, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, Maseru and for the past 12 years in Mossel Bay.
In 1984 the government banned open air gatherings which meant that the Buff could not take place either.
In addition the Port Elizabeth City Council refused to permit the Nomads Club the use of the Humewood Caravan Park where the Buffalo Rally was held before and there were no suitable alternative venues to be found. This led to the demise of the Buffalo Rally for the nine years that ensued. The ban on open air gatherings was repealed in 1992.
In 1993 it was time for biker banter again; it continues to this day.
On the weekend of 16-18 March 2018 the Buffalo Rally returns to Mossel Bay yet again. “The Mossel Bay people are great”, says Luderick Jacoby of the Nomads Motorcycle Club who organises everything that happens within the festival ground from security staff to paramedic services and cleaners, from portable toilets to black refuse bags.
Every year the Buff makes a sizeable contribution to Mossel Bay’s Mayoral Fund and and the Round Table as well as various charity organisations benefit from the event as well.
Apart from the local community benefitting one biker – who has bought a ticket to the event – wins the grand prize of the year apart from a sizeable second and third prize and various smaller prizes as well. The grand draw takes place on the Saturday night in a big marquee tent at De Bakke Santos Resort amidst loud cheers, lots of beer, a festive atmosphere and the sound of bikes revving coming from the camp ground. In 2017 the grand prize was R135 000 cash, the second prize R25 000 cash and the third R10 000.
Keep calm and ride, as they say.