Going Naked to NAMPO 2024 – A harvest festival not to be missed!

  • Words: Séan Hendley
  • Pics: Black Rock C_S

NAMPO is undoubtedly one of the biggest privately owned agricultural shows in South Africa…. If not the world. It kicked off in 1967 just outside Bloemfontein on a farm named “Donkerhoek”. That makes this the 56th year of its existence and barring a year or two during the pandemic they have run it on every one of those years. From a mere 200 exhibitors in 1967 it moved between different farms. By 1974 it had grown to such an extent that the organisers had to move it to a permanent location and thus the current facility was purchased and developed just outside Bothaville in the Free State. 

Pic courtesy of www.grainsa.co.za
Pic courtesy of www.grainsa.co.za
Pic courtesy of www.grainsa.co.za
Pic courtesy of www.grainsa.co.za

Besides the usual ‘Big Show’ facilities the terrain also sports its own Heliport and runway, a caravan park, a tented camp, over 20 restaurants, a full media centre for the press, wifi and the opportunity for exhibitors to build their own permanent structures. As regular show goers, we enjoy the big well kept lawns, the huge number of exhibitors catering to just about every desire under the sun with new products, interesting innovations for just about every application, as well as the motorcycle and leisure brands that exhibit at NAMPO…. 

We will elaborate a little bit more about NAMPO a bit further on in this article, but the real reason we started our annual pilgrimage to NAMPO is because it is a lekker ride through some of our beautiful agricultural heritage and a great opportunity to put bikes through their paces and get a bit of mileage on them without going to the ends of the earth and back.

If you do visit, bring your walking shoes, NAMPO is huge!

This year we opted for a few naked ladies to accompany us on this little jaunt through the fields. Suzuki gave us their gorgeous GSX-S 1000, Kawasaki loaned us their ever faithful Z900 and Yamaha a recently landed XSR900. For the feature in our sister title, Dirt & Trail, KTM furnished us with their big, beautiful beast the 1290 R ‘Super Adventure’….  Read about that on www.dirtandtrail.co.za

Three Naked beauties, an early start on a rather fresh Highveld autumn morning…. as usual and a good crowd of mates. We mounted our rides and aimed south like characters from Mad Max Thunderdome. We meandered through the early morning rush hour traffic of Gillooly’s interchange, south down the N3, looking longingly at the promise of more tropical climes offered by the Durban signboards and we turned right onto the N12 towards Kimberley, towards the Vaal Triangle….It’s, like the Bermuda Triangle – just cooler. 

A quick stop at the Blockhouse One Stop for our now traditional NAMPO Wimpy breakfast and mega cappuccino to fight off the chill and a swap of steeds. We Flashed through the ‘Triangle’, whipped past Sasolburg and the bladders insisted on a stop by the time we pulled up at our favourite Eiffel Tower in Parys. This is the Free State, skirting the Vaal river. The skies were clearing, the bikes were purring and Garth Taylor was singing us a melody. Life is good.

Our traditional pee break at our favourite Eiffel Tower in Parys
Kawasaki Z900, the pretty 'Goth', dark and menacing, prowling the streets of Parys
Yamaha XSR 900, clearly the naughty one of these bunch of hooligans
Suzuki's gorgeous GSX-S1000, the most powerful of the three Nakeds on the day

These were quieter, emptier roads where we could play a bit more, Vredefort was behind us and Viljoenskroon was quite a ways ahead with some really nice tar in between with mountains and natural bush blending into fields of sunflowers and freshly harvested fields. As bikers we generally ignore “Road Closed” signage because we can generally tip toe past any obstacle that trips up four wheeled cages. But, at Viljoenskroon we met our match. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with. The local vlei had risen quite significantly…. very significantly. We didn’t think fish and ducks would be acceptable to the insurance companies as covered animal strikes on the road. With the speed limit sign and road warning signs peeking out of the water as the ducks swam past, we tucked our tails and quietly did an about turn and headed back to the detour through town to the guffaws of the local constabulary who had frantically tried to wave us down a few minutes earlier…. “Those are nice bikes brah, but you shoulda brought a jet ski…. Bwahahahaha!”

“Those are nice bikes brah, but you shoulda brought a jet ski…. Bwahahahaha!”

We should have also filled up in Viljoenskroon, because a little way out of town, fuel lights started flashing and fuel anxiety kicked in. Being the optimists we are, we kept going. Soon enough though, the Nakeds were lining up and drafting behind the KTM with her big tank and great fuel range, desperately lying as low on the tanks as possible and frantically eyeing the distance signboards to Bothaville versus the remaining fuel range displayed on the respective displays. You know the feeling, the naked bike riders were anxiously doing mental arithmetic to work out how far they were going to have to push the bikes. At the big 4 way intersection where we could turn right to NAMPO Park or left to the nearest fuel station much sign language ensued and sanity prevailed, we hit a much appreciated fuel stop before aiming at NAMPO’s gate and a great day of playing “Kyk Daar”, (old school Durban folk will appreciate that term)

The three naked bikes slotted in behind this big lady with her big tank, to save fuel drafting into Bothaville

Now, something that you have to understand about our history with NAMPO….  We always ride home in the most frightful rain storms. So as the clouds started gathering on the southern horizon in the late afternoon and the whirlwinds wreaked havoc with the umbrellas and gazebos, nervous enquiries were starting to be made about departure times. We always do this as a day trip, which makes for quite a long day, but a good day. 15H00 was the intention, but there was just so much to see and do that we eventually only started saddling up just before 17H00 with the skies getting quite dark, gloomy with the heavy threat of big rains to accompany us on our way home. 

Hasty goodbyes, hugs and kisses to everyone and we were weaving our way down the long row of cars coming out of NAMPO Park and heading towards Bothaville to their overnight diggs. We peeled off left towards Viljoenskroon and hit the gas, about 5 kays out, a stone was flicked up by a truck and ricocheted off one of the bikes radiators causing a very distressing jet of coolant to appear out the front of the bike. A quick assessment and we decided we could make it into town and try to find a way or someone to help  fix the radiator…. at 17H45 in a Plaas Dorpie?!?!?!

Thank You to SANRAL for their non-existent road maintenance for this little bit of after hours excitement....

As fortune would have it, we happened upon an old-school service station, you know the type: beige/brown subway tiles on the forecourt which was barely 3 metres wide in front of an old spares shop right on the main street across from the local grocery store. With coolant pressure-spraying the tiled forecourt we frantically googled how to access the radiator while Garth ran into the grocery shop for some eggs, apparently an old school remedy for leaking radiators, while Kyle stripped the bike and the rest of us pointed cameras, all very exciting for the local populace. Now, we do believe we are good people and the universe seems to agree with us. It so happened that the owner of the fuel station/spares shop happened to be on the forecourt of the only Sasol fuel station in Viljoenskroon and he gladly opened up the spares shop and sold us radiator stop leak and coolant which all worked a charm. Sir, we know you want to remain anonymous, but you are a true gentleman…. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!!!

Just a little side note, the hole in the radiator was no fault of the bike, as are all the chips on your car’s windshield. The fault lies squarely with the Free States Road Department and SANRAL in general who are so notoriously rubbish at road maintenance that they have been the feature of quite a few Carte Blanche articles. The roads are degenerating to such a degree that large 13mm to 25mm stones are strewn across the roads and big chunky off road tyres on bakkies and truck tyres regularly pick them up and launch them at high velocity at windshields and radiators making the need for industrial strength rock shields an ever bigger necessity in this country.

By now it was closing down at 19H00 and the skies were putting on a great display of lightworks in the clouds and the wind had turned decidedly frigid. It was loudly suggested that everybody don their wetsuits, flippers and goggles right then for warmth and precaution against getting soggy. With one last inspection of our repairs we cruised out of town and headed into the darkness towards Parys. Another technical inspection of the repair to assure it was holding well and a final pee break in Parys before following the tail end of the storm into Jo’burg along the R59. Fortune really favoured us this year and we only got a little bit of spray off the tarmac from residual puddles of rain coming back in though Gillooly’s interchange and aiming back towards the Airport just on 20H30, 5 minutes from home. What a lekker day out, NAMPO never fails to impress. If you have never been, you really do need to make a plan and visit this show at least once…. We know you will go back every year thereafter.

Pic courtesy of www.grainsa.co.za

Over the years a lot of the exhibitors have upgraded their stalls and offerings. NAMPO has also upgraded a lot of the paved roads and facilities encouraging many more exhibitors from a variety of new industries to start exhibiting as well making the experience to the NAMPO visitor even more enjoyable. Some of those new exhibitors are to be found in the new hunting and outdoor apparel, specialist coffee stalls, delicatessen stalls and various other food stalls along with the restaurant offerings that keep all the show goers well fed and hydrated with really good tasty food and beverages. This year, NAMPO aimed to really realise the NAMPO dream of old. The 2023 NAMPO Harvest Day is definitely a highlight on the agricultural calendar and offers visitors the ideal platform to network with the agricultural industry’s top players and suppliers, strengthen friendships and above all. While we were there we did our usual visits to our advertisers’ stalls and chatted with them about NAMPO 2024 and this is what they had to say:

SUZUKI SA are always in attendance and can be found on Suzuki Boulevard in the show grounds.Yup, they have a road named after one of their top selling models, thats how long they have been going to Nampo with their boats, bikes and cars. A regular face on the Suzuki stand and possibly one of the hardest working Suzuki dealers in South Africa is Jaco Viviers all the way from Richards Bay. We had a chat with him and Chris Kuun from Suzuki. Chris says, “It is always good to be at Nampo and Nampo is always good for us and it is just so good to be part of this community, the new DL1050 has been received very, very well by the Nampo visitors. Surprisingly our new little 250 adventure bike does seem to have attracted the most attention, especially at R59k, it is a no brainer to buy with all that it offers. But that is the job of the dealers to sell it and that is why Jaco is up here all the way from Richards Bay, but believe me…. This show is for the entire country, not just the Free State with visitors from all over the country flying in.” 

We are pretty sure Jaco is going to have to reintroduce himself to his family and his dogs are going to bark at him when he gets back home eventually. Jaco is at every single event on the calendar from Simola Hill Climb, Nampo, Suzuki Weekend away, South Coast Bike Festival back in the day. If there is an opportunity to market the brand and his shop, Jaco makes the best of it. “I rode the all new DL 1050 up from Richards Bay and I am riding it back. It definitely feels faster and lighter than the previous bike. I also found a lekker 48 km stretch of dirt on the way up and this bike is chalk and cheese different from the last model with its 21 inch front wheel and gravel mode. It also feels lighter and the suspension is a lot more pliable and handles much better both on tar and on the road. The wider handlebars made the 900 km odd trip a lot more comfortable, the seat is also more comfortable. All of that is all small stuff, but added together they make a huge difference the the comfort and safety of the bike.” “This is my second year at Nampo and even though I am based in Richards Bay I am here to cover SA. Last year we generated six sales at Nampo and had a couple of spin offs later on as a direct result of being at Nampo and I deliver countrywide. NAMPO does very well for Suzuki as a brand and for my shop, I will be back next year.

Another regular at the show is SMITH MINING with their Polaris, Linhai, Kubota, Eco and a bunch of other product ranges. We chatted to Phil Greenhall and he showed us a couple of new Linhai products that they are quite excited about. “Nampo is always extremely good for our business with all of our products being very useful for everything from the agricultural industry, mining industry, game farming, security, leisure and anything else you can think of. So much so that we have listened to our farmers and have now brought out a Linhai Side x Side with a Kubota diesel power plant. It has a three cylinder 800cc diesel engine with 2×4 and 4×4 and hi/lo range, with front and rear diff locks and power steering and retails for around R275,000.00 including VAT. It has a steel loading bin with drop sides so you can have a flat loading deck, the bin can handle just over 300 kg’s and it has a towing capacity of 580 kg’s. We have listened to everything the farmer wants and have built this side by side to those specs. Another new vehicle we are launching here this year is the Linhai T-Archon 44 that retails for a very reasonable R143,000.00 and at that price the first shipment is sold out already and the next one is on its way. Understandably so, considering it is full auto with 2 x 4 and 4 x 4 with Hi/lo rangeland front and rear diff locks.” R143,000.00 inclusive of VAT does not sound like a lot of money to us, especially in today’s day and age.

Next we wandered on to the HERO MOTORCYCLES stand and found Donovan Fourie of ‘The Bike Show’ chatting to a Brazilian tourist who had purchased a Hero X-Pulse 200 and had just travelled about 6,000kms around our beautiful country and was now eyeing the East Coast of Africa which he had hitch hiked down a year or two earlier wishing he had a bike to ride. Well, now he does and is going to go re-explore some of his favourite places on his X-Pulse. Unfortunately we couldn’t chat to any of the Hero Motorcycles staff as they were exceptionally busy with customers on the stand. The brand is definitely growing in popularity and this, to the best of our recollection, is their second year at Nampo.

Possibly one of the biggest and most popular exhibitions was VERMONT SALES with their stunning range and array of tools and equipment all on show specials. We really love this stand and purposefully do not take our wallets in there as we would quite happily empty out our bank accounts into theirs without a second thought, possibly causing some enforced marriage counselling in the ensuing days. That sentiment seems to ring true with a lot of the show goers, with spousal chaperones dragging grown men away from the Vermont/Tork Craft store kicking and screaming like toddlers being dragged out of a toy shop. The Tork Craft shop is a very popular attraction at Nampo, we chatted to boss man Ryan hunt a week or so before the show and he told us what a worthwhile investment Nampo is in their annual calendar and budget. If you can dream it up Vermont Sales has it in stock. Watch out for a very special feature coming up in the next few weeks where we gain access to their ‘Destruction test facility and laboratory’ where they test absolutely every product they sell to destruction so that they can have peace of mind they are supplying their customers with the best possible products.

South African Motorcycles were in their ninth year with the BIG BOY brand at the show. Chatting to Doug and Dirk, they tell us NAMPO is a top show to attend. With them having exhibited for the past nine years they are developing strong relationships with the agricultural community and good friendships with a lot of their returning customers. With each year more trust is grown in the brand and support is growing. Over and above their normal range on offer they also had the full range of RFZ bikes on display which were being well received by young and the young at heart. The stand was so busy that we only managed to grab a few short sentences from them in between serving the multitude of customers on their stand. We did also happen to notice quite a striking VOGE 300 DS Rally on the stand on show special for just under R60k. Vogue is a brand that is growing in leaps and bounds internationally and all the bikes we have reviewed have all been exceptionally good value for money and of a high standard. We are quite excited to get our hands on the Rally as soon as they become available, we did try with this one but it was already sold. Just a quick look at it had us chomping at the bit….

First timers to the show KAWASAKI/SYM were all smiles. The stand was manned and operated by Pat’s Scooter World in Klerksdorp in partnership with KMSA and they went all out for this year with a model line up that had something for everybody. Patrick, boss man at Pat’s Scooter World was all smiles under his envious moustache telling us how blessed they had been with selling 2 to 3 units everyday since the show opened its gates this year and that they will most certainly be back next year. While Dad and the farm manager were all eyeballing the Kawasaki Mules and SYM dual purpose bikes, “OuBoet” was drooling over the Kawasaki super and hyper bikes while Mom was checking out the Kayo quads for “Klein Sis” and herself. The local fast food guys were particularly interested in the SYM scooters and commercial bikes as was Dad so he could get out of the daily school run by getting “OuBoet” a bike that he could drop “Klein Sis” off at her school whilst on his way to school and pick her up in the afternoon. The Kawasaki 300 Versys-X was the machine that did seem to attract a lot of attention as well from everybody. We are mighty glad to see this amazing little Adventure bike back on offer in SA and at a very reasonable R96k odd. We will have a demo very shortly…. Keep an eye out on www.dirtandtrail.co.za as well as the YouTube channel.

Like our publications, Nampo attracts all sorts of exhibitors and advertisers. MAXXIS TYRES, a regular exhibitor at Nampo and advertiser in our publication, is very proactive in the market. Ride up Jericho rock and you will see a big MAXXIS logo painted on it for the local rock crawling 4 x 4 competitions etc, go to any off-road event and they are there. We chatted to Boss Man Jon Wen who mentioned they are battling to keep up with demand for their bike tyres which are extremely popular. Their bakkie and ATV tyres are still well stocked due to bigger production numbers by the factory, but the demand is growing hugely in the agricultural and mining bakkie sector. They also have a good range of bicycle tyres in stock, especially for mountain bikes.

YAMAHA SA are also a regular exhibitor, but had us all a bit lost as we wandered around looking for their new stand location at H6. An impressive stand with all their power products, boats, bikes and side by sides had a lot of punters visiting their stand. We caught up with the guys from Motos Klerksdorp who were looking after the stand for Tuning Fork SA and they were beaming from ear to ear. NAMPO 2024 had been particularly good to them this year with huge interest in all the products, but especially the power products range of generators, water pumps and the like as well as the Kymco Side by Sides.

The team from CAN AM importers and distributors, FC brands, had something special for us to look at on their stand. CF Moto is a brand that has been around for a good thirty years internationally and about 5 years in South Africa. FC took over the distribution and sales about a year ago through their national dealer network and it has quickly risen to the top of the ATV sales charts locally and just getting stronger every day. And it is an innovative brand that is quickly expanding its offerings out of the Side x Side and ATV market and into the motorcycle market. We have had the privilege to have a sneak peek at some 800cc bikes that are here for homologation…. All we can say is this, “Expect to be pleasantly surprised”, they do have something special up their sleeves that we think will be well received by our market. We chatted to Leander Pienaar from their Bloemfontein dealership and his eyes were shining with excitement. He mentioned that NAMPO is big for them, catching up with their customers from around the country, introducing new customers to the brands…. Always a very worthwhile time away from the office for him every year.

KTM also was also represented this year with a stand that looked like it was well supported. Operated by a local dealer we saw lots of KTM apparel floating around NAMPO and many, many kids clutching tightly to scale models of KTM bikes and various other KTM paraphernalia. Many handshakes between the friendly and efficient staff would suggest that many deals were being made on new bikes, always good to see. With all the brands reporting such great success, maybe all the other brands may start exhibiting at NAMPO as well. Wouldn’t it be so cool if they had their own mini AMID show at the NAMPO show? 

Anyways, that is all we had time for before the clouds started gathering and the winds picked up making us anxious to hit the road home and dodge the inevitable inclement weather and cold and wet underwear.

Keep an eye out on our website and YouTube channel for an in depth review on each of the bikes we rode there and back coming up shortly.

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