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Helmet Hair Magazine

The magazine that informs and inspires the female motorcycle fan

 

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July-September 2009
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Re-Live the Adventure
by Gillian Hine

 

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There is something about Africa that gets under your skin, especially if you’re born here as I was. I’ve lived in South Africa for 30 years but was born in Nairobi, Kenya at the tail end of the sixties. After my folks agreed to disagree we migrated South with my Mum, to start anew after leaving my father in Nairobi. It was during one Christmas holiday with my Dad that Santa bestowed my very first camera upon me. It was a little Kodak box with a big windy dial that would spring up a big button. It took big square flash bulbs that would whiz and pop when they went off. It was delightful and I loved it. I’ve been taking pictures pretty much ever since.

Growing up I had great aspirations to be a truck driver, a wren (girl sailor), a trapeze artist in the circus and an actress. All the while taking pictures but never thinking about being a photographer. After school I took a gap year which started in England spending time with my sister who had studied to be a professional photographer. It was mid 80’s and at the height of the apartheid era for South Africa. Spending my formative years growing up in somewhat of a blinkered society, London was pretty overwhelming. I had the idea of attending drama school but at that stage my South African accent and background was a hindrance and I lacked the tenacity of Charlize Theron! It was a miserable 6 months but I wasn’t ready to go home so I decided to go to Australia. We have a lot of family there and the romantic allure of the outback just had to be experienced.

I took a job as a domestic home help, on a million acre station 17 hours North of Perth, on the west coast of Australia. If I’d been able to ride a bike I would have been out in the bush rounding up sheep and cattle as a Jillaroo instead of cleaning toilets and making beds! I spent hours bleating about the fact that I so wanted to learn how to ride a bike, so the boys took me to the airstrip. Gave me a bike, showed me the basics and set me on my way! It was awesome careering down that vast expanse of redness leaving a dust trail, wind in my hafricansunsetair and bugs in my teeth. … The picture taking continued but the bike riding was sporadic. I owned a couple of bikes in my 20s and then just before my 40th birthday I bought a red BMW 650 GS. It has a modified single pipe making it loud which is a good thing as I can hear that it is still running when I’m riding!

It’s the dual purpose bikes that have grabbed my attention the most. I think they have the appeal of the matinee movie stars of a bygone era, with their rugged good looks and their ability to take you anywhere. As with anything that is inherently beautiful, they are really amazing to photograph which is only enhanced by the amazing environments that they are able to reach. This providing the perfect back drop to every adventure that I am in the privileged position to be able to capture.

I work exclusively with GS Adventures motorcycle tours, here in South Africa. It’s a small uniquely owner run and managed operation. Their success is attributed to the fact that each trip is researched and ridden before being sold to the clients thus bringing a personal touch to each adventure.

Every story has a number of chapters and my next one starts at a BMW gathering 4 years ago. I rode pillion with my mates (the now owners of GS adventures), standing on the back of the bike on the dirt was a whole new experience. This ironically turned out to be a godsend as I had a bruised coccyx. As a thank you I put a photographic album together, journaling the whole experience. They really loved it as they didn’t have many pictures of themselves on their bikes or on their trips and said that I should be doing this for “real”. So 2 years and thousands of kilometers later I am doing it for real and loving every minute of it.

localsAfrica still holds a romantic elusive air about it and to be honest there really is no better way to experience the true adventure of this vast ‘dark’ continent than from a bike. Luckily I’m not a control freak so I’m quite happy riding pillion; it’s a lot easier when I’m working. I think it’d be too stressful riding and taking pics at this stage, I may just forget my bike somewhere.

 

Being able to share these experiences through my pictures and words has brought me an incredible amount of joy. I have been lucky enough to have been published in a few of our local magazines. These included two biking publications, Superbike and Dirt and Quad and an outdoor lifestyle magazine, Countrylife. The cross over has been exciting as the term “biker” is so broad nowadays.

Three years ago I covered the Biking for breast health ride from Cape Town to Johannesburg. There were 15 women, all of whom were breast cancer survivors, riding BMW GS’ to spread awareness through the rural communities. It was a life altering experience to be in the company of such amazingly brave women. It made me realize that anything was possible. So I had the breast health logo tattooed on my… Yup what’s a biker chick without a tattoo, right? Ahh the stereo type! I think that this is something that a lot of women are still battling with here, that and the sexist 50s mentality. Granted, there are stereo types within every culture, with biking being no exception. But beautiful girlie girls ride bikes too! So do well-manicured respected businessmen. It’s a little harder being taken seriously in what is still a male dominated arena…that and finding safety gear that appreciates the female form. Luckily for me I have a good friend who designs really sexy gear for “chicks”.

I derive a great deal of pleasure from what I do with my camera from the back of a bike. I have had the honor and pleasure to have photographed some really interesting people in some of Africa’s prime superwomandestinations. The biggest thrill for me is presenting my subjects with their personalized photographic journey and watching them re-live their own adventure with the turn of a page.

We have two more big adventures planned for this year. One is an 18 day trip up through Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, taking in some amazing riding and awe inspiring scenery (the Big 5). Then we will go on a ten day trip through Botswana, including the Caprivi in Namibia. This is a wonderful wildlife opportunity as we get to view game from the water on the magnificent Chobe River. As I mentioned previously all these trips are well planned and owner run so if anyone is serious about a truly wonderful African experience check out www.gsadventures.co.za

 

 
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