Hard tailed Hogs with their equally hard tailed chicks on the back burbled laid back into town from points North and West, occasionally emitting an ear shattering bark to serve notice of a weekend of mayhem. The Kawas, Hondas and Yammies made a more strident entrance, racing between robots but the attitude, chicks and threads were the same. It was September 1977 and 4000 horsemen of the Apocalypse – well the Nomads Motorcycle club amongst others – had descended on PE for a weekend of exhaust fumes and burning rubber fueled by high octane petrol as well as high octane chicks, brandy and rum – Coke optional.
Main picture: The 1978 massed bike parade through the city
Their base was the Humewood caravan park above Happy Valley and, given the amount of dope smoked, the camping ground became Happy Heights. The local traffic cops tried to rope them off by placing gatsometers on both sides of the road leading to the beachfront opposite the Apple Express station – vain hope. The only point in the city where they would behave themselves – sort of – was directly over the gatsometers. Even then, they would gooi zap signs and scream, “Pigs!” before roaring off again. This was particularly so riding towards the beach as the S-bends ahead were like the Sirens beckoning them. Others raced over the gatsos with a heavily booted foot skimming the road surface to pick up and rip the cables to pieces and others still jammed on back anchors to full lock over the lines. The cops soon gave up and ended up merely observing the antics with bemused detachment.
PE is known for its September floods and this was as biblical as the ’68 floods. For some though, it was rather a biblical plague of noisy, dirty, anti-social misfits and loose women, alcohol and bad attitude. To others, it was life affirming – giving The Man a proctal examination with the middle finger.
One biker set fire to his recalcitrant bike in Main Street out of frustration when it baulked at starting, spontaneous drag racing was the order of the day and at least one person was reported to have been killed over the weekend. This was heady stuff for us locals and the rumours of their behavior ran riot – some true and some wishful fantasy. Whatever animosity the city fathers and the old folks harboured was ameliorated by the massed bike tour through the city on the Sunday morning. There was a deep base rumble as more than 3000 bikes sedately and innocently toured through the city that took more than half an hour to pass any given point. No one had ever witnessed such a parade before outside of the ending of the Rinderpest.
But all bad things, like good things, must come to an end eventually and by early Sunday evening, PE returned to its somnambulant slumber. This was to last for a year before the hibernation of the city was again rudely shattered by the sound of highly strung Japanese motorbike engines and the insistent bark of the Hogs. The bikers had enjoyed terrorizing the Pigs so much that they asked to come back. Being The Friendly City and with an eye to the business opportunities in a slow time of the year, the city fathers apprehensively agreed. This time though the city’s gods were not caught napping and pissed on them with their usual September earnestness. But bikers are made of sterner stuff particularly when protected by a half jack of brandy in the back pocket. In fact it just made for more sports in the camp ground with bikes sliding under the slightest of provocations. Even a 50cc could ride around speedway style there.
The city was a glutton for punishment and so too were the riders given the predisposition for floods at that time of the year. They returned in ’79, ’82 and ’83 with Maseru enduring their bravado in ’80 & ’81. At that point, the city probably had had enough of them and the bikers probably had had enough of the capricious – actually downright ornery – rain gods. The dead hand of the Nationalist Party also came out of the wings with the declaration of the State of Emergency in 1984 that disallowed open air gatherings (except for rugby, jukskei and horse racing) and riotous assemblies which was an apt description for The Buff. The result was that The Buff disappeared off the anti-social calendars of bikers until the legislation was repealed in 1992. The city’s knees quaked but with relief they heard that the Nomads decided to hold their revival gathering in Oudtshoorn in 1993. I always wondered what they did in the intervening years – learn macramé or scrapbooking … not. PE did not escape their attentions for long and they reprised their earlier forays with even hotter and faster machinery, not to mention chicks, in ’96, ’97, ’98, ’02, ’03 ’04. Much to PE’s relief, The Buff seems to have found its spiritual home in Mossel Bay where they have been consistent unwelcome/welcome visitors, depending on your outlook, since 2005 (except for 2008 when Aliwal North found itself under the cosh).