Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Ride Reports => Long Tours => Topic started by: Johnny-B-Good on January 26, 2012, 11:41:05 pm

Title: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 26, 2012, 11:41:05 pm
First of all, I am 15 months late writing this Ride Report, and I refuse to start working on my next trip (Americas) before I repay the riders on this forum with a decent story. Thanks to Adventurer, Tagsy and Trailrider - could not have done it with out you.

About that story...

I am a Yank who found myself living in Jo'burg while working across the continent on consulting projects.  I had an opportunity to go back to the US for another job (same company), but wanted to make the most of my time. So I started planing a big Africa trip, finally bought myself a 2004 BMW F650 GS Dakar around May of 2010 and got more serious about it. Then the World Cup came, parts got delayed from one supplier and suddenly I found myself ~10 days away from my intended departure date not sure that I'd make a go of it or not.

A client of mine up at Medupi introduced me to Tagsy who told me I was a). insane and b). a moron for trying to cover as much ground as I was in so little time. It was the beginning of September, 2010 and I needed to be out of the country in the beginning of November.  I had thought about Cape to Cairo, but Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt border crossings were not going to be very easy with my American passport. Figured I could get up to Uganda and back, see a lot of the 12 countries in between and who knows what I would find along the way.

I'll be honest - if I hadn't had Adventurer's help, I never would have made it. Tagsy was right - I was nuts for trying to do this and do it alone. But between a few phone calls and PMs on this forum, I was able to get in touch with Adventurer. From paniers to engine guards to multi-fuel stoves, he was a one stop shop for everything I needed to get my Dakar up and running to do the trip. He even helped me do maintenance on the bike before I left, fix ~15 things I broke after my shake down tour of ZA, get the bike cleaned up when I returned, and held onto it and sold it for me when I was out of the country.  For anything Dakar (and lots of other bikes), he is your guy.

This is best done with before and after pictures. The first picture is from when I bought the bike, the second is fully loaded the day I left for my trip (42,650 km on the clock) and the last is proof that it came back in one piece (60,029 km on the clock). Adventurer did what he could with my kit - the rest was up to me!

Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 26, 2012, 11:47:45 pm
And those pictures...
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 27, 2012, 12:19:29 am
DAY 1 - JOHANNESBURG TO SANI TOP - 643 kms (643 kms total)

With the best of intentions, I left home much later than intended in order to get to the top of Sani Pass that evening. After a couple of hours on the N3, I stopped off at a petrol station / Wimpy's for a break. While filling up, Adventurer pulled in right next to me (not planned) while test riding a BMW 1200RT. As I explained my late start, he quipped, "Good. Glad you're not that slow."

Turned off the highway around Mooi River, following Tagsy's advice to get off the tar and play on the gravel. My GPS kept leading me relatively coherently on gorgeous farm roads. Kept to the rule of not going on any with a gate closed, and seemed to be getting closer. The first couple of photos don't quite capture how gorgeous it was and how excited I was to be on dirt and off the highway.

I got to the South African side of Sani Pass around 4:30, with a bit of time to spare before the trail closed. I inched my way up the pass slowly and was pretty proud I had made it this far without coming off the bike (famous last words). As I'd later learn, going up hill is the easy part. Made it to the top within an hour and through the Lesotho border post. One of the guards asked if he could buy muy bike for half what I paid for it, and I declined his offer.

About 200 meters from the bar, my front wheel hit a big rock, slipped out and all of a sudden I was standing over my bike with it on its side. Perhaps I was too focused on the beer that waited for me - the local Maluti was like most of the other African lagers I'd had: reasonable, but none too remarkable. The photo in front of the highest pub in Africa was worth it and the Maluti tasted great after a hard day.

I decided to set up my tent before dinner so it wouldn't be too dark. Learned then and there that the next tent I'd buy would not require aluminum tent stakes to stand freely on its own. Was late to dinner - word to the wise, food tends to be eaten if you're not on time at the lodge at Sani Top!

After a mostly successful first day, I headed to bed for a windy first night camping in my tent (mostly due to poor construction on my part)
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 27, 2012, 02:25:05 am
DAY 2 - SANI TOP TO DORDRECHT - 541 kms (1184 kms total)

Woke up early after a windy night without a ton of sleep, but what a gorgeous view of Sani Pass. The first few pictures below show my little camp, the view and the last time my bike would ever be so clean.

I was feeling pretty confident (undeservedly) ater making it to the top of Sani the day before. Little did I know that going down was a lot harder with the fat rear end of my bike. I ended up locking up the tires in the 5th or 6th switchback on the way down and dropping the bike. The right pannier came off completely and I had to unload everything in order to get the bike back upright and on level ground again.

A lot less confidently, I made my way to Hineville. Grabbed petrol there, add some oil, serviced the chain and get a couple tips on my route. Found my way onto some back road for ~50 km of gorgeous dirt tracks to Matatiele and then catch the R56.

As I pulled into Maclear, I noticed a hollow sound from the exhaust. I looked back - shocked to see what I see, I pull over and switch off the bike immediately. I had been using cargo netting to keep the 10L extra petrol tank behind my camping gear. It had come loose at some point and found itself in front of my exhaust can. Soon the exhaust blew a hole through the plastic fuel tank - I was lucky the whole thing didn't catch on fire and explode as there was hardly a drop of fuel left in the thing. Close call! I needed to start learning some rules to follow, or I was gonna kill myself...

RULE #1: Don't use a cargo net to secure extra fuel

As I followed my GPS out of town rather blindly set to shortest route, I hit a cattle gate that was locked. No other option, my shortcut wasn't going to pan out and and I needed to backtrack on the farm road into town again. I was a little frustrated, and probably going faster on the gravel than I should have, given false confidence from having just ridden in the opposite direction.

Taking a blind curve to the right - perhaps at 80 kph or 100 kph - a baakie came roaring around the bend faster than I was going. Worse, he was on MY side of the road!  I had two choices: 1). get hit by the baakie or 2). ride the bike off the road and into a ditch, getting off as soon as I could.

As I got off the road, I felt like I could almost recover and pull the bike back onto the dirt track. Then the rear end slid out, I tried to correct, the front end became unstable and there was no saving it. The bike came down hard on it's right side. I landed on some mix of knee, hip, shoulder and head on my right side. It was the first time I had really come off a bike since I was ~12, and popped the clutch on my dirt bike only to accidentally wheelie into the side of my dad's truck. I think this time it hurt more.

I stood up. I didn't think anything was broken, but my head was throbbing. I yelled out at the driver of the other vehicle who had stopped ~100 meters away when he could finally slow his vehicle down. He got out of his baakie briefly, saw that I was standing and alive, gave me a thumbs up and drove off.

My confidence was gone - I felt shattered.

I looked around at farms and not a lot else. I started to survey the dibris. Both pieces of side luggage had come off. One of the mirrors had broken at the coupler. Three turn signals were hanging off. My GPS was 10 meters away from the bike. Some fuel was leaking, but that stopped once I got the bike upright. You can see most of the damage from a picture I took later on in the last picture at the bottom here (missing a mirror, clearly).

I was hacked off, but went to work putting things back together, mostly with duct tape. 30 minutes in, I finally accepted the situation and my own fault. I was going too fast on a road I didn't know. I was listening to something on my iPod and maybe lost a couple of seconds warning from the sound of the approaching vehicle. And hell, if I had been the guy driving the baakie in that part of the country and had nearly killed someone, maybe I would have driven off as well.

More rules:
RULE #2: Don't blindly follow 'shortest route' on the GPS
RULE #3: Ride like someone will be on your side of the road, going too fast straight for you on blind curves on gravel tracks
RULE #4: No headphones when riding off road, or while doing anything other than big highway stuff for that matter

As I put things back together for another hour or so, a couple different farmers came by and offered to help. One of them had a shop and proper tools I could have borrowed, but I just wanted to be back on the road again and as far away from that crash site as possible. It was a bad day 2, for sure.

Eventually I got back on my way and headed for the tarred R56. No more screwing around on farm roads for me.  I went as far as I could before it got dark and found a low end bed and breakfast in Dordrecht - nothing to rave about.

Before I could get to sleep, I had one more surprise: while putting my bike back together, I had somehow left my keys for everything but the motorcycle (along with a mini leatherman I had been using) on the side of the road. Luckily, Adventurer had told me to hide spares in the turn signals of my bike, and with a screw driver I was able to fetch the spares and get into my panniers for my personal effects.

What a crap day. I wrote something on Twitter after it all that scared the hell out of everyone at home. Wasn't sure if I'd keep going or turn around - would wait to see how I felt in the morning...
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Chris_M on January 27, 2012, 03:33:20 am
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 27, 2012, 03:43:36 am
DAY 3 - DORDRECHT TO DORINGKLOOF BUSH CAMP - 597 kms (1781 kms total)

So that's what it feels like to get hit by a truck!

In all seriousness, I was feeling the crash and had a nasty kink in my neck, but I was alive and in better spirits. By the time I had breakfast and coffee in me and the sun was shining, life didn't seem too bad. However, I wish I has skipped the breakfast part of my accommodation after waiting an extra hour for food since the store wasn't open...

RULE #5: If there is a Wimpy near by, go there rather than testing your luck too much with an early breakfast

I was back on the R56, making my way west toward Middelburg shortly after 8 am. Once in the open grass lands, wind gusted hard across the plaines with a hell of a force. It felt like I had to hold the bike at a 45 degree angle in order to keep it going straight. Passing a big lorry required extra skill to get the bike up vertical once the wind was blocked and back at an angle again once on the other side.

From Middelburg I turned south on the N9 to Willowmore. I got to Willowmore by 3 pm and stocked up with extra fuel and water. Then I made my way into Baviaanskloof, hoping to get to the campsite Adventurer had recommended called Doringkloof.

Along the way I saw a few animals. Perhaps the most interesting one was this tortoise that was in the middle of the road. I loved how rural Baviaans was - old windmills next to ostrich farms. I attached a couple of my favorite photos of the valley. This was exactly the kind of riding that I had hoped for, beautiful and not too technical (yet).

I found the campsite about 60 kms into the valley. I mostly had my pick and it didn't appear that anyone was working there. I had to leave my R70 under a rock at my campfire the next morning as there was no one else to pay! As I set up camp, the monkeys played in the trees and I decided to move my tent a bit farther away from them.

I used my multifuel stove for the first time and it worked like a champ. Only took a couple of minutes to boil the water I needed for some freeze dried food in a bag. I headed to bed early to get some rest and prepare for what I am sure would be a much more technical day. Wasn't especially looking forward to the water crossings in particular.

Baviaanskloof was the only place on my whole trip where I didn't have mobile phone reception. My negative note after my day 2 followed up by 36 hours of radio silence was freaking folks out at home - oops!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Dwerg on January 27, 2012, 06:20:01 am
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: JACOVV on January 27, 2012, 07:10:52 am
Subscribed  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Trailrider on January 29, 2012, 08:20:07 am
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 29, 2012, 09:20:21 am
DAY 4 - DORINGKLOOF BUSH CAMP TO GEORGE - 391 kms (2172 kms total)

Trailrider subscribes just in time to read about how I met him - good timing!

I got up early so I could take my time through the technical parts up ahead. It was another beautiful sunny day and my crash on Day 2 felt like months ago. I was loving the red rock trails and green valleys.

There wasn't a lot of traffic on the trail. I think I saw 2 4x4s and a couple of bikes the whole day. The switchbacks weren't too bad, seemed like getting the tar beaten out of me the first couple of days might have paid off in some ways. Then came the first water crossing...

I got off the bike to take this first photo. I also walked around the edges to see if there was a better side to cross on. Didn't think this was the big one that Adventurer and Tagsy had warned me about, but wasn't too sure. Ah what the hell, had never done a water crossing - why not! And the first one wasn't too bad after all.

So I continued with more confidence, but thinking about the next crossing. Soon after the first one, I did start noticing some noise from the rear end. Figured there must be some sand on the chain, or perhaps the water wasn't the best thing for it. Made a note to service the thing once I was on tar again.

Then came the big one! You can't see it all that well in this second picture, but it actually continued around a bend. I really wasn't sure this one would be good and tried to remember what Adventurer and I had discussed if I fell over and got water in my engine. Figured it might be a better plan to just keep the bike up and was happy there wasn't more water in the crossing. Adventurer said to stay right - all I had to do was stay right and I'd make it...

...and I did! Slippery river rocks be damned, and after a few very scary moments I made it to dry track again. Only wish I had someone to take a picture of me while I was doing it! Noted to get a helmet camera before doing another one of these trips.

I continued to make my way out of Baviaans. My favorite part was riding fast along the top of the ridges on the red dirt, surrounded by green shrubs. It reminded me of the hills near the house where I grew up in California, only they were green instead of brown!

Once back on tar I pulled over in the shade to clean up the chain. Not sure I can describe it (and it doesn't make sense to me now), but it appeared to be wearing unevenly. When up on the centre stand, you could rotate the tyre and one side of the chain appeared more lax than the other (as if some of the links had been stressed / stretched).  Again, not sure it makes sense, but covering it in chain wax helped keep the noise down for a while, but then it would creep back in for the rest of my ride back to Johannesburg.

I keep riding to Jeffrey's Bay and the weather is starting to turn south. Tagsy had given me the number of FatB and suggested I give him a call when I was coming into town. Unfortunately, FatB had other plans, but told me to hang on for 5 minutes and he'd have a friend call me.

I was on my way to George anyway and I had to be there by 5 pm to pick up some parts from BMW (mostly turn signals and a mirror coupler I had broken in the crash). Then I get a call from Trailrider who told me to meet him in the Checker's parking lot. I did and he instructed me to follow him (although I wasn't quite clear where I was going or what the plan was).

When we got to Trailrider's house, he showed me to one of his guest rooms, told me to make myself at home, get cleaned up and warm and we could have dinner together once he saw his wife and son off to his son's karate tournament. I was shocked - no American is this nice to a guy he doesn't know and got his number from 3 degrees of separation. Again, thanks to the riders on this forum - you made my trip possible.

Trailrider introduced me to the indoor braai of the Western Cape and we had dinner. A bottle of brandy, a couple of bottles of wine and at least one motorcycle video later it was around 1 or 2 am. No way I was going to be sober for the sunrise departure I had planned. I also recall some debate about whether I should have stayed left or right coming down Baviaans - I'm not sure what the verdict was, but I was happy I made it!

Many thanks to Trailrider for the company at the end of a great day of riding.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Trailrider on January 29, 2012, 09:42:03 am

Many thanks to Trailrider for the company at the end of a great day of riding.

Was a pleasure having you! :thumleft:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Bushcat on January 29, 2012, 08:32:28 pm
lookimg forward to the rest of this report, keep it coming !
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 30, 2012, 02:40:04 am
DAY 5 - GEORGE TO CAPE TOWN - 646 kms (2818 kms total)

As expected, I wake up a bit fuzzy after a late night with Trailrider. He had been talking about riding to work that next morning, but he admitted defeat and took the car instead, appearing to look as bad as I felt. Still made it off a bit after 8 am, even though it meant passing on Trailrider's offer to stick around and make day trips through the back roads of the Western Cape. Unfortunately, plans for a rendezvous with my girlfriend came first (this will happen several times on this trip, btw) and I set off for Cape Town.

I stop at the Wimpy in Riverside (see Rule #5). Caffeine and a good breakfast sort me out. While I'm eating, I get a call from Tagsy who is checking to make sure I am alive. I give him a heads up on where I am headed and he confirms the route Trailrider and I had discussed the night before.

Shortly after Riverside I get off the N2 and find the fast gravel tracks and farm roads that lead on to L'Agulhas. Definitely one of the highlights of the day was riding the Pont. Not sure why, just an experience worth a few photos. Pretty cheap (and far easier) way to cross the river than riding through it!

I made it to L'Agulhas in the early afternoon and snapped a few pictures of me and the bike and also next to the point that splits the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Was feeling great that I had made it this far in only 5 days - I had seen so much already and hadn't even left South Africa!

I continued on the back roads for most of the way to Cape Town. Fantastic terrain for the most part, but somewhere before Hermanus I found a sand road that I didn't enjoy. Never really learned to ride properly on sand and never liked it, even by the end. At one point I locked up the front tyre and came off, but at pretty low speed. Was frustrating more than anything else. There's a picture of me on red dirt about to ride onto white sand again - none to happy about it...

I stopped in Hermanus for a coke and to get my head straight. As I push on to Cape Town, it is after 4 pm and it looks like it might be getting dark sometime soon.

Back in the N2 the wind is extremely strong and blows me all over the road. In the twisties I wish I were on a superbike rather than this tall DS with a lot of gear on it and a large profile for the wind to hang onto. In the city riding the bike was like passing trucks in the wind. Sometimes there would be no wind, blocked by a building, then you'd get a gust as you ride through a cross street.

Finally made it to my girlfriend's hotel (she was in town for business). I was looking a bit rough and reception had to call to her to make sure it was okay that I was staying with her ;-)

I sent out a post on the forum before bed to see if I could borrow a helmet from a local rider for a breakfast run with my girlfriend around the cape

Pretty sure I fell asleep before finishing dinner - long day!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: mtbbiker on January 30, 2012, 10:39:40 am
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 31, 2012, 12:40:36 am
DAY 6 - CAPE TOWN TO KENHARDT - 954 kms (3772 kms total)

My better half left early to meet her work commitments. Still I struggled to get out of bed too early given the comfort of a hotel room and feeling pretty knackered. So my breakfast run became more of a brunch run ;-).

Thanks to Firecoast and Trailrider again for trying to lend me a helmet for my girlfriend - sadly she couldn't make good on the offer due to work, but her loss!

I have no idea where I read this, but the coastal route was reputed to be the "8th best ride in the world." First of all, I have no idea who could possibly make that statement or who judges these things. Secondly, it was easily in my top 10 of rides I have done, so I believe the claim. Again, I wished I were on a superbike, but at least there was no wind bothering me and the sun peaked out here and again. See below for the obligatory pic of me and the bike on the coastal route.

After a gorgeous ride, I was back in Cape Town and started to make my way up the west coast around noon. I rode through the Flower Reserves and West Coast National Park a bit for the scenic route. At some point I realized I needed to start making better time if I hoped to split the distance between CT and Jo'burg today and the next. So after lunch in Langebaan I cut back to the N7 shortly thereafter.

After a while on the road I stopped for petrol and checked my map. Seemed like the R27 might be a bit shorter / more interesting than riding through Springbok via the N7 and N14 to Upington and I started off that way, hoping to make it to Upington for the night, even if it meant a bit of riding in the dark.

I made it to Calvinia around 6 pm. I stopped for petrol again and had a chat with an overlander in a Land Cruiser. He suggested it would take me 3 hours to make it to Upington in the dark. Didn't seem that bad and I was encouraged by his comment that "there was nothing to see out there anyway." So I pressed on.

A bit closer to Brandvlei than Calvinia (but not by much), I notice that I was riding without regular lights. All I had was my brights to go on, and I had a choice of turning them off or attracting the disgust of passing lorry drivers every 20 minutes or so. I tried turning them off once and it scared the sht out of me, so decided not to do that again!

I stop in Brandvlei to have a look around for a place to stay or camp given the issue with my lights. When I fill up with petrol, there is a drunk guy who refuses to pay for the petrol he has pumped. A larger crowd was gathering and the scene gave me reason enough not to poke around any longer and move on up the road a bit.

At this point, I figure Upington is still a possibility as I didn't have much hope for anything in between. Then about 35 km outside of Kenhardt my brights go out too. So there I am, in the middle of literally no where, with nothing but hazards to light my way, except for the occasional lorry passing and often hooting as if to say, "hey, wtf are you doing riding out here like that?" Yeah, yeah - I got it, thanks.

The next time you're on your bike, notice the tempo of the hazards. It's about a second between flashes, and I found my top speed limited to about 40 kph - anything else felt like insanity. At this speed, I seemed to be able to catch the odd reflector, or shadow of the edge of the road to keep myself on the tar. When lorries came by from the opposite direction, I usually pulled off to the side of the road. Otherwise I tried to ride straight down the middle.

The extra 35 km to Kenhardt took me over an hour. I spent most of that time thinking about a new rule or two:

I found the first guest house that was crazy enough to open their gate for me at that hour. The woman that ran it made breakfast, but no dinner. She offered for me to take mine now since I planned to leave early the next morning.  The cold egg sandwich was surprisingly delicious as I took pictures of my bruises from my earlier crash and all the bugs who had met their end on my helmet that day.

Okay, I might have been a bit delirious... off to bed!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 31, 2012, 12:57:29 am
DAY 7 - KENHARDT TO JOHANNESBURG - 934 kms (4706 kms total)

Feeling the hard day before, I started for Upington around 8 am.

Perhaps I was just used to seeing nothing for hundreds of kilometers, but Upington seemed pretty decent. I wished I had made it there the night before, but picked up a couple of globes (including a spare) for my head light from a local bike shop before heading out of town. Promised myself I'd never be caught without a spare again.

It was a straight shot and extremely boring ride back to Jo'burg on the N14. Given the number of kilometers I was putting on the clock, all I wanted was to get back to Jo'burg and I was hoping with every ounce of hope I had that the bike would make it. The drivetrain was making a lot of noise. Nearly all of the tred in the rear tyre was gone. I even called Adventurer to see if he thought I'd make it back with this combo. Sure enough, he thought I was being too cautious and I continued on.

As the kilometers kept coming, had to stop for a fair amount of road construction. After the 3rd or 4th stop in the heat, I pulled of the tar and just rode on the dirt next to it far faster than anyone else was going!

I was 150 kilometers from home and I felt one of the wire strands in the clutch cable snap as I shift. I took it all apart to find out how bad it is, clean it up with some lube and put it back together in the best way I can, hoping a bit less friction will hold it together for just a bit longer. Still, it was only hanging on 2-3 strands. Add it to the list of stuff I'll need to fix once I'm back...

I get a message from Adventurer, and he said he'd be up for helping me with the bike the next afternoon once he was back from the Eco1000.

I finally made it hope - was so happy to see my girlfriend and our dog and promptly pass out!

No pics this time - was too busy riding the most boring leg of the route. Still, pretty happy to have done almost 5,000 kms on a mix of nearly every riding condition I'd see on my trip up in Africa. Sure, I came off 3-4 times, but I had survived. The bike needed some work to get it ready to go again, but it would make the trip, I was pretty sure of it.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 31, 2012, 01:29:49 am
DAY 8 - FARTING AROUND JOHANNESBURG - 91 kms (4797 kms total)

Was awesome to be home and to survive. Took the morning for brunch with my girlfriend and some of our close friends. They explained to me I was no longer able to use Twitter to capture my trip after the brief and alarming messages I sent out at the end of Day 2 / beginning of Day 3. Promised I'd be more careful in describing my trip, perhaps only telling the whole story once I got back (unfortunately 15 months late!)

Met up with Adventurer at his house around 2 pm to work on the bike. Well, he did most of the work, I did most of the watching. I'm amazed we did so much that day after he had already done a huge ride that morning:
+ Changed out the sprockets and chain for new ones. The old ones were completely toasted.
+ Did a full service and topped up all the fluids.
+ Put new tyres on, front and rear. Adventurer showed me how to pop the bead on the rear tyre and change out / repair the tubes if I get a flat in the field.
+ We put in a new K&N air filter (washable) and new spark plugs as well, keeping one of the old ones as a spare.
+ Changed out the Barkbuster plastic on the right side I had destroyed. Not sure it was necessary, but felt better having full thickness material there again.
+ Replaced the broken frame locks I had sheared off (at no cost) in some of my crashes that involved removing my luggage. These parts would continue to prove the only ones I don't like from SW-Motech. They are a crap design with pins pushed in from either side, rather than one all the way through the main shaft.

In all of this work, Adventurer and I noticed the side stand was flexing a lot and went to investigate. What we found was a problem.

Somewhere along the way, I had sheared the main subframe bolt that connects the subframe to the main frame of the bike. It was a structural member and one I really shouldn't have been riding around without - at least not off road, and certainly not up into Africa.

We also discovered that the seal for the clutch input shaft was leaking. I had to get the subframe bolt anyway, so I'd grab a new one from Northside BMW first thing in the morning. We'd also wait to beat out my panniers until the next day since we now had more time and Adventurer had already had an epic day - still don't know how he did it all between the Eco1000 and all the fixes on my bike.

I promised I'd order the parts as soon as they were open in the morning.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 31, 2012, 01:39:05 am
DAY 9 - FARTING AROUND JOHANNESBURG (continued) - 34 kms (4831 kms total)

I called early to Northside, but their parts department continued to fck me around most of the day. I'm not going to bash a guy by name here (if you want to know who this a-hole was or my sht supplier for GS parts to avoid, PM me). Just be weary of Northside - at least a year ago they weren't my favorite shop. Perhaps the have changed since then.

Anyway, was told I could only get parts on Tuesday. Hacked off, I decided I check in again the next day.

So, I ran some errands for some other bits and bobs I needed. A phone charger, an iPod charger and extra freeze-dried food were top of the list. Also picked up some extra chain lube, a syphon in case I needed to get fuel in or out of my bike in a pinch, some longer tyre irons and a tube puller. I even did some admin in the office... I was really itching to get going with my real trip.

I put the spare clutch cable on my bike - at least that felt like I was doing something positive to get this show on the road...
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 31, 2012, 01:51:31 am
DAY 10 - FARTING AROUND JOHANNESBURG (continued) - 106 kms (4937 kms total)

Based on Adventurer's advice, I called early to Northside again - regardless of my attempts to explain the urgency, it was lost on their parts department. I called again at 10, told parts were arriving this morning and they'd call me when they arrived. Heard nothing, so I called again at 1 pm and was told they were "just unpacking things."

Hacked off, I rode over there myself at 3 pm. Only then did this guy tell me my subframe bolt was on back order. Fck them! I made a big fuss out of it, and they borrowed one off another bike that was going to be in the shop for a few weeks. Not exactly what I'd call a great practice from a shop, but at least this way I had hope I could continue my trip the next day.

I was 20 minutes late when I arrived at Adventurer's house, but I had the subframe bolt and input shaft seal in hand. We beat out the panniers and put the seal in place. We worked on a couple last odds and ends, and he wished me well on my trip and told me there would always be a way to get me parts and help if I needed it and to call or SMS him if I got in a spot. I didn't know it then, but I'd need to do just that!

After all the hours in his garage, all the patience, and all the tips that most mechanics wouldn't take the time to show a newbie, I couldn't believe how little Adventurer charged me for labour.

I'd be back on the road headed out of South Africa for the first time in the morning.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 31, 2012, 01:58:51 am
I was wrong, I do have a couple pics from Day 7 of how straight and boring the road was. These bird nests covering power lines were by far the most interesting thing for several hundred kms...
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on January 31, 2012, 02:28:05 am
DAY 11 - JOHANNESBURG TO GROBLER'S BRIDGE - 420 kms (4357 kms total)

I had planned a pretty short day to get me just over the boarder into Botswana. So I took time to have breakfast with my girlfriend before I left.

She had just decided she wouldn't be able to meet me in Rwanda as we had discussed, but instead we wouldn't see each other again until I was on my way back towards South Africa. We set a weekend for me to try to meet her in Zanzibar.

I took the N1 up to Bela-Bela. Made my way through the scenic Thabazimbi road to see the baboons play on the road before cutting back to Lephalale and then onto the border. I rode past a couple of mines and work sites I had worked in the previous couple years and thought fondly of my time in South Africa. Still I was excited, if a little home sick, to be crossing a border that day.

I made it to Martin's Drift border crossing around 4 pm. There was a small camp site behind the petrol station on the left just after the border, where I had heard was a good place to stay the first night. It seemed like a nice place and most folks were staying in rooms rather than camping, so I pretty much had the grassy field to myself.

I went to the bar for beer and water before setting up camp. The tent was becoming easier to set up without too much hassel, despite it not standing without tent stakes in the ground. The sun goes down and I get out my headlamp and multi-fuel stove to heat some water for food in a bag. Once boiling, I turn off the stove and hear a strange sound in the silence now that the roaring flame is gone. I can't quite place it...

Chomp... chomp... chomp.


Chomp... chomp...


I look around in the dark with my headlamp as the sound continues intermittently. I see a dark mound moving a bit, and I think two eyes reflecting back at me...


I promptly run away from my camp, leaving everything there, and head to reception to ask for advice. As I explain the situation to a couple of ladies at the front desk and ask them please what I should do they laugh at me, "oh, don't worry! he's fine - just run away if he gets to close..."

"Yes, I know that. That's why I am here - what now?" I ask. The ladies laugh again and tell me he has probably moved on and farther away from my camp if I want to go look again.  I order another beer, not quite sure how much faith to put in this story.

Sure enough, the hippo has decided to continue munching on the grass some distance away from my tent and food. I take a seat and continue to watch him and listen in the darkness as we both eat. He was actually a perfectly lovely dinner guest in the end!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: J-dog on January 31, 2012, 03:02:31 am
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: White Rhino on January 31, 2012, 04:52:30 am
Hell JBG - you sure have the spirit of adventure :thumleft:

Good RR - thanks for sharing.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Trailrider on January 31, 2012, 06:53:13 am
Sheez! Talk about an African Adventure!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 02, 2012, 10:47:07 am
DAY 12 – GROBLER’S BRIDGE TO NATA – 452 kms (5,809 kms total)

I was up early with the sunrise – not much choice given how light it was. I shower, pack up camp and load up the bike. For the first time, perhaps ever, I depart before 08h00, thoughts of Wimpy running in my head ;-)

It’s funny, but anything less than 500 kms seems like an easy day. Nata didn’t seem too far and it was easy to put distance between me and the border.

However, it was VERY hot, and the landscape suited the weather. Very dry and barren. Few people along the side of the road here, most of them smarter than I and kept out of the heat.

Goats and cattle were another story. They behaved themselves for the most part, but I swear there were entire herds of them running around Botswana with no one looking after of them. Usually it was some idiot with a stick that would run one of them into the road every now and then.

I pull into Nata Lodge before 3 pm (highly recommend Nata Lodge, by the way). I was extremely excited to use their pool given the heat. Refreshed, I set up camp in the sand behind the rest of the facilities.

I sign up for their sunset 4x4 trip to the Sowa Pan as well as a buffet dinner. Without much to do, I entertain myself with a few beers and reading a bit more of Shantaram (also highly recommended as company for this kind of trip).

I meet up as directed with the rest of the tourists going on this tour around 16h00. Of course, I soon find myself piled onto a Land Cruiser with 7 Germans, none of whom seem particularly interested in speaking English.

Once we’re on the salt pan and can’t see anything else, the guide has us get out and walk for a while. Meanwhile, the vehicles use the curvature of the earth to go out of sight. It’s amazing how so much nothing creates such a difficult landscape to navigate.

Before long we do rendezvous with the vehicles, but there is nothing there but the odd flamingo feather here and again. We stay and watch as the sun set and a full moon rises over the pan before we hop in the overland vehicles and ride back to the lodge.

Not having met a lot of friends out of my German tour group, the buffet dinner was a little awkward. I made good progress on my book (and a number of beers), but realized eating alone was something I’d have to get used to – OR, I’d need to get better at making friends along the road!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 02, 2012, 10:54:26 am
DAY 13 – NATA TO SEPUPA – 627 kms (6,436 kms total)

It is hot as hell before 07h00 – too hot to stay in my tent any longer. Not enough water, and potentially too much beer the night before, isn’t helping the feeling either.

Before long I am on the road towards Maun. Within 15 kilometers of the lodge I saw the most spectacular thing. I would have taken a picture of it, but didn’t seem right. On one side of the road lay a completely written off formerly 1.5 million ZAR Land Rover.  On the other was a dead and bloated cow. It was very clear what hat happened, and I flashed back to my ride back to Jo’burg from Cape Town and reminded myself not to ride at night…

After that sight, I find petrol and then make my way to the last Wimpy I would see in a while. There I meet and chat with an overlander. He is very clearly taking his time and just out for a journey for a coupe of months. He said something very wise I’ll share with you about the type of crazies who do these long trips alone: “Folks are either out here to remember what it is like to miss people, or purposely trying to scare the sht out of them!” He said he belonged to the first category, and I hadn’t really thought about why I was out there. Perhaps a bit of both?

Before I left, the guy told me to check out Planet Baobab before I made my way on up to Maun. I was really glad he did because the place was really funky and interesting. I grabbed a coke while I took some pictures of some of the strange details about the place.

As I continued on toward Maun, I noticed a bit of a head shake between 40 and 80 kph. When I got into town, I couldn’t find a proper bike shop or even a tyre shop that could take a look at the balancing of my front wheel with me. I decided to put it out of mind for a while as there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it and it wasn’t terrible – just didn’t feel right to take your hands off the bars at those speeds. Otherwise it was fine.

It was pretty early in the day, so I decided to keep moving up to Sepupa rather than stay in Maun. At some point I stop to grab petrol and some other customers are waiting and tell me (not in the friendliest way) to move my bike out of the way from the pump. I had planned to lube the chain up a bit in the shade, but moved on instead.

The sun was setting as I see signs for Sepupa Swamp Stop (had been recommended to me by Adventurer or I never would have known it was there). At least when I was there, the couple of kilometers you have to ride on the sand road to get there were no joke. Some of it was REALLY deep, and I was glad I hadn’t lubed up my chain only to get sand all over it. I reminded myself how much I hate sand roads and how bad I am at riding on them while staying in control, but didn’t come off the bike.

I got into the Swamp Stop, set up camp and have dinner in the restaurant by the delta before heading to be pretty early.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 02, 2012, 11:01:18 am
DAY 14 – SEPUPA TO LIVINGSTONE – 638 kms (7,074 kms total)

It was not as hot, so I wasn’t forced from my tent at sunrise, but still pretty early. I packed up camp and enjoyed breakfast looking over the delta in their restaurant (see picture below).

I thoroughly enjoyed the sand roads heading out of the Swamp Stop (not really, but they were easier to deal with at the beginning of the day). Once out of the sand and back on the tar I stopped to clean up the chain on the side of the road before it got too hot to do it comfortably. Also felt better about getting the sand off now rather than keep riding.

As I approach the boarder with Namibia, I use the last petrol stop. Was surprised to see it was just pumps – really nothing else there except a guy to pay.

Somehow I again find myself on a sand road and a half tar / half dirt road that I am nearly sure can’t be the right way. I ask someone walking on the side of the road and he tells me, “yes, this is the way to Bengani.” I forgot to ask him if this was the way to walk there, or if there might be a better way on a bike. Oh well, never know.
The border crossing into Namibia takes me about an hour. Certainly not the most efficient process, but well worth it once I got onto the Caprivi strip heading towards Zambia.

This part of the ride was one of my favorites on tar. You’d ride past these places where for kilometers the whole side of the road was burned (or burning) and on the other it was green and fresh – just fascinating to see (have a look at the picture below). Then there was the wild life. It was like driving through a safari on tar roads. Check out a few pictures of an elephant I saw right next to the road. I stayed there long enough to get more attention from him than I liked before moving on. Quickly.

There were more fun and games at the border waiting for me. Namibia was okay this time, but Zambia was absolutely unreal. I paid 6 times to get into that country and in 5 currencies. Add the money changers and “officials” helping you through that process and you pretty soon feel like you’re on the wrong end of a scam. Here’s what I mean:
+ I paid for a carnet and a visa before getting there
+ Once there I had to pay a carbon tax, municipal levy, 3rd party insurance (I’d later dodge these where I could), and a tow fee (which they admitted didn’t make any sense for a motorcycle, but still insisted I pay)
+ I paid in US and Namibian dollars; South African Rand; Botswana Pula; and Zambian Kwacha.

Finally through that, it was just before 16h00. I pushed on toward Livingstone and started to notice how the country felt different than the others I had been in so far on this ride. There were just more people, animals and everything else – everywhere! There was a lot more going on, and of course therefore a lot more to worry about when riding through it.

The sun starts to set and I am still 100 km out. I’ll soon be breaking one of my rules, but for now I enjoy watching the evening rituals of the villages I ride past as women and children fetch water. Somewhere along the way I also start to notice that the slower speeds I had been traveling at in Zambia have made the bike much more fuel efficient. Something about keeping the bike under 80 kph makes it a camel in terms of fuel consumption.

As I rode through Livingstone, I remember thinking that it was a very cool town and wished I had budgeted more time to spend there. I make it to the Waterfront before too long and it immediately seems like the best place I have stayed yet.

It was already 20h00 or so and I decided to eat dinner at the restaurant and set up camp later. As it turns out, sitting alone at the Waterfront bar over dinner and a book is a great way to attract the attention of the locals. After some sort of a game of bait and switch that I didn’t know I was playing, I ended up with a student named Ashley at my table giving me all kinds of advice for the rest of my time in Zambia.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to take her up on her offer to show me around Livingstone the next day if I was going to make it to Rwanda on time to see the gorillas on the day of my pass.

I got back to set up my tent and crash after a long day and suggested to myself that two border crossings in a day might not be the best way to do this trip.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 02, 2012, 11:17:11 am
DAY 15 – LIVINGSTONE TO LUSAKA – 511 kms (7,585 kms total)

For some reason, I just can’t get out of there before 08h00. I feel in a rush as I am trying to do some decent mileage that day, but only after seeing a bit of Livingstone. I start off for Victoria Falls.

At Vic Falls I get told to park and re-park my bike 4 different times. A bit hacked off at first, I shortly learn that the border police are actually trying to help me out by keeping the baboons away from my gear while I’m away.

As you can see from the pics, Vic Falls were a bit dry when I saw them. I took my time on the bridge, even went across to the Zim side (because you can if you tell them you’re taking a photo – no one checks, or charges ;-). I recall talking to the guy running the bungee jump while I was there. I just heard on the news a girl fell from that jump recently – rider be ware!

When I got back to my bike, I thanked the border police for their help with the baboons. I had breakfast at the restaurant overlooking the falls. When I went to jot down a couple of notes about the morning in my travel log, I realized it was gone. Somewhere along the way I had misplaced it.

I quickly rode back to the Waterfront campsite I had been at the night before after checking everywhere else I could. Unfortunately, I never got that travel log back. Everything you have read so far I have written in one form or another at least three times (on the bright side, I now had something in common with the author of the book I was reading). I also had to do a fair amount of cross checking to estimate the kilometers thus far. From here on, things are more accurate.

So, I rode on and made my way to Lusaka. The tar roads were some of the best I had seen yet on the trip. At some point I pull off on the side of the road to celebrate and document my bike turning 50,000 kms on the clock (see pic). While I was stopped, an empty tour bus slowed down, flashed its lights and hooted to ask if I needed help. I waived him on and let him know I was fine, but was very thankful for the offer if I had needed it.

As I continued on these beautiful tar roads, the highest speed limit remained stuck at only 80 kph. They practically begged me to break it officer, I’m sorry…

On my way into Lusaka, I saw a sport bike going the same direction and take it as a good sign. I followed him into the city until I realized I need to find a place to stay! Oh, that reminds me, I had established a bit of an unwritten rule I might as well formalize:

RULE #8: Stay outside of big cities. It is cheaper and usually safer for you and the bike.

Anyway, I saw an overland vehicle in traffic and pulled next to them to ask for a recommendation. They had stayed at the Eureka Camp the night before and suggested I head over there. I highly recommend the Eureka Camp – it is far enough out of town to meet the requirements above, folks are friendly, and they have a great bar.

While I am setting up my camp, a Belgian guy comes over and introduced himself as Chris. He had done an Americas trip on an Africa Twin and was presently in a Land Cruiser with his girlfriend and her two young kids. He said he really missed the bike and would never do a trip in a truck again after this experience – much less flexible and slower.

After inflating my tyres a bit and putting some lube on the chain I headed to the bar for a bite to eat and a couple of beers. There I start talking to a guy named Ernest who runs a tour bus and is about to pick up a bunch of passengers from the Lusaka airport. Soon we realize HE was the guy who passed me on the road, and would have put my bike in the back of his empty bus and driven me to Lusaka.

Naturally, I bought him a couple beers before heading to bed. Turns out he was also considering getting into bikes, but had never ridden one. He talked about buying a Honda 1000RR Fireblade and learning on that – he had no interest in starting small. After explaining to him that you need to turn right to go left once at speed and he’d kill himself, he decided not to get a bike.

Hopefully I repaid the favor of his kindness on the road.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 02, 2012, 11:26:18 am
Forgot the pics:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 02, 2012, 11:29:16 am
DAY 16 – LUSAKA TO MPIKA – 663 kms (8,248 kms total)

After a later than intended night chatting with Ernest, I needed to sleep in until 08h00. As I was packing up, Chris came over to wish me well and to say he was jealous of my freedom (glaring back at the truck, girlfriend and kids). I chuckled and told him how I had originally wanted to do an Americas trip like he did. Perhaps I would one day.

I went into town quickly for an ATM and to get petrol. Not sure how to describe it, but I always felt uneasy in big cities. Much more comfortable in open spaces where I can see something coming. I head back out of Lusaka as soon as I can.

Along the road I meet a few new challenges. There were pretty frequent check points where officers would check for licenses, registration, proof you paid all the ridiculous things I had paid at the border, etc. Was always happy when the officer was dealing with a big truck and would just wave me on.

For the most part, the roads were good for another couple hundred kilometers. Then, suddenly there would be huge potholes out of nowhere that were not a great idea to ride over. Changing speeds like this slowed me down a bit.

At one point, road works divert me onto a dirt road that looked more appropriate as a bicycle path than its current use. My luggage started rattling around, and without coming off the bike or anything another one of those frame locks for the panniers came loose. Luckily I had some spare, non-locking hardware. Still, these locks are the only thing I don’t like from SW-Motech.

Along the road as the sun is starting to go down, I get advice from a police officer to try to stay at Melody’s in Mpika. I’m a bit worried about petrol at this point as I had already put my extra fuel in and hadn’t seen a station in a while. I knew the range was good on the bike though, and was sure I’d find fuel in Mpika.

As I continued riding, the road works and potholes did as well. I frequently saw my favorite road sign, “Potholes,” which I assumed was a lot cheaper than actually fixing the roads.

I observed the same evening ritual of fetching water in the villages I’d pass. Children would give me a thumbs up as I passed – they were all teeth if I gave one back!

What I eventually found myself as a place to camp in the back of Melody’s – arriving in the dark, mind you – is probably best described in the pictures below. I literally camped in the dumpsite used for construction (and other things) behind the house. As I heated water for food in a bag, I watched rats and cats chase each other and hoped they wouldn’t find their way into my tent.

A couple of beers and a couple of bottles of water later, I was off to bed. Around 22h00, a group of 6-8 men pushed something into the yard not far from where I was staying. Not entirely sure what all the noise was at the time, I was happy it eventually stopped and I could fall back asleep.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 02, 2012, 11:33:51 am
DAY 17 – MPIKA TO MBAYA – 494 kms (8,742 kms total)

I suppose by now I could claim to have a normal morning ritual. Then again, I was camping in a dump and there were two mechanics staring at me during these activities this morning – so nothing is really “normal.” The last pic from my previous poste will indicate what all the racket was about the night before.

Dirk and Steve are fixing the truck, but more interested in what I am doing there than what they’re doing. Once we get to know each other a bit, Steve even says he’ll meet me in California one day and asks me what street I live on ;-)

I fill up on fuel for the bargain price of K183,000! You’d think they would have cut some zeros off by now… Breakfast was not quite Wimpy quality, but the eggs were edible.

The road from Mpika to the border was wild. I don’t have great pictures here, but the pot holes were large enough to swallow a vehicle, break an axel, or snap the loading bed of a truck in half (saw it all). Veldt fires were extremely common. One of them was so close to the road with the wind blowing the flames actually onto the road I had to stop the bike and check it out. It was far too hot to walk through on the road, but I could see it didn’t stretch on very close to the road for kilometers at least and I could probably ride through it. So I went back the way I came and turned the bike around at speed. I’ll be honest when I say my jacket got hotter than I would call “safe,” but I made it!

At the Tunduma border crossing, I got hassled on both sides. Everyone always wants to be your buddy and help you out and they are just trying to get money out of you. Someone on the Zambian side at least pointed me in the right direction. In no man’s land before Tanzania, an “insurance agent” tried to sell me fake insurance. When I asked a real official about it, he got busted and I got the much cheaper form of local insurance that was required.

Once over the border, I made my way to Mbaya. The day I visited there was a party in town – not quite sure why. I found a cheap hotel called Calm Inn Hotel that did the trick. Enjoyed some decent Kilimanjaro and Safari beers and went to bed after some time with Shantaram.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Trailrider on February 02, 2012, 03:11:42 pm
Wow. This was quite a ride.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 04, 2012, 10:03:31 am
DAY 18 – MBAYA TO MTERA DAM – 470 kms (9,212 kms total)

My trip was starting to feel long.

Managing my emotions up until this point had been easy. But I felt different when I woke up that day.

Lonely is the wrong word. You can never be alone in Africa. Just woke up a bit down and tired. Not for lack of sleep, but full-body and soul-deep tired. I supposed my pace was taking the toll anyone could expect. I showered quickly and realized my face and neck were getting two shades darker each day from dirt and perhaps only one shade lighter each time I bathed.

Once I got out of my hotel room for breakfast my mood turned based on what I saw – the guard who had admired my bike when I checked in the night before was busy washing it. He was a nice guy and I hadn’t asked him to do it, but I definitely appreciated the gesture. As I left the hotel, I tipped the guard and he gave me his phone number in case I needed any help while I was in Tanzania.

I rode on towards Iringa and the landscape began to change with more forests and farmland. Riding through the planted forest pictured below was gorgeous, but odd in the way it starts and stops so suddenly. The ride into and around Iringa was very beautiful. Nice twisty roads cut through the mountains. The jacaranda trees were beginning to bloom.

It was now after noon and I hoped to make it to Dodoma that evening and camp or stay somewhere around there. So I had a choice: take the long way on nice tar road that takes you through Mikumi National Park and then back around to Dodoma (560 km) or take the shorter direct way through Mtera Dam (266 km), but the road was not tarred. Surely the short way would get me there alright… famous last words.

The next 6 or 7 hours were an exercise in motorcycle destruction and my own stubbornness. I have never been on such a bad road in my life – I think riding on the side of it at times would have been better, but unfortunately it was pure sand. And when I say road I mean that in the middle you have groves as hard as rock that change frequency and there was no speed at which the suspension could find a comfortable rhythm and ride over them. 30 kph was bearable, sort of. I took the bike all the way up to 120 kph and above to try and find the right speed for that road and I was lucky the thing didn’t rattle to pieces. On the sides of the road there was a foot deep bank of road sand created by the vehicles that were crazy enough to try to drive on this road (not many). I just hoped that the bike wouldn’t fall apart completely. Anyone I asked about how long it was to Dodoma had no idea.

As the sun is setting I start getting into some really gorgeous mountain passes, and the road remains terrible. I am sure (read: delusional) that the next valley has to be Dodoma, but it isn’t. The sun sets and I continue to press on in the dark. I cross the dam at night and realize I am perhaps half way through this road. My hope is starting to fade.

It was 20h00 and a few kilometers down the road from the dam crossing when I hit a patch of sand that I couldn’t see. I was going slow, but I came off the bike. When I picked it up, I noticed the license plate had fallen off (luckily right there) and decided it was a good enough sign as any that I should call it quits for the day.

I pulled the bike off the side of the road with a mix of pushing and spinning the rear wheel. I knew it was far enough off the road when I no longer had a choice – I had buried the rear wheel in the sand so deep the bike was sitting on the pan and standing straight up on its own. Good enough.

I was exhausted and low on water. I wasn’t supposed to riding this long and hadn’t come on this road as prepared as I should have been. I knew I’d need the water in the morning, so I skipped the food in the bag.

I set up my tent and passed out after a grueling day.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 04, 2012, 10:46:40 am
DAY 19 – MTERA DAM TO IGUNGA – 504 kms (9,716 kms total)

I am up before the sun rises with the sound of trucks and children. It’s 05h30.

I take everything I can off the bike and it is still near impossible to get the thing out of the sand. By this point I have attracted a crowd of school children – clearly I am more interesting than getting to school on time. In fact, I am sure I was about as interesting as a purple guy on a space ship to these kids. A crowd seemed to gather out of no where whenever I was tinkering with the bike on the side of the road in Tanzania.

I wasn’t out of the sand and on my way until 06h45. It took three more hours of riding before I found the tar road again and Dodoma. Along the way the frame lock for the left pannier rattled itself to death – no more locks for luggage and no more spare hardware if I broke it again. Again, don’t buy these if you’re doing heavy off road stuff.

It had been more than a day since I had eaten anything. I was grumpy. The late morning big breakfast plus big dinner plan worked well for long days of riding. You had more time to ride during daylight and it was pretty efficient. However, when you miss one of these, sanity and perspective tend to go out the window. I’d try to not do that again.


I realized I hadn’t seen another white guy since Zambia. English was very limited everywhere. My Swahili was far from proficient. Still, I managed, but it was a bit lonely not to talk to anyone at length.

Now back on the tar roads, I noticed the instrument board was rattling something awful. I took off the plastic cover and found three missing bolts! They must have rattled loose somewhere along that 266 km “road.” In a small town, 2500 Shillings and a lot of gesturing earned me replacement bolts and a coke.

From here on the road is fine with the exception of some road works here and there. However, the front end would never feel the same again – whatever I did had tweaked the suspension. I hoped I hadn’t broken a fork spring, but wasn’t positive. Nor could I guess how to check without opening up the fork tubes and decided that wasn't going to happen on the side of the road. Besides, if I did have an issue I couldn't do anything about it for a while, probably not until Kenya.

The sunset was gorgeous. Shortly there after I arrived in Igunga before it is completely dark.

The first hotel I could find looked like it was either made for animals or filming a horror movie. The 2nd one claimed to be the best in town. For the equivalent of eight dollars, I was happy to get a shower, a bed, and cold beer within walking distance

As it turns out, at a local restaurant I was offered three temperatures of beer: warm, cold or hot. Although curious, I stuck to my cold beer and thanked the hostess. In that heat I struggled to understand why anyone would want anything hot to drink.

I was finally able to get my uncle on the phone after several rounds of phone tag. He was also in Tanzania, but on the other side of the country. He laughed when I told him I wished I had asked him to teach some Swahili before I got lost on that road. He travels a lot in Tanzania and told me I was crazy for ever going on the short Dodoma road. Although we’d miss each other by the time I was coming back down on the other side of Tanzania, he gave me some tips on where to stay in Dar and Iringa.

After a hard couple of days, I was happy I had made it through. Word to the wise: don’t ever take the short Dodoma road.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 05, 2012, 06:08:17 am
DAY 20 – IGUNGA TO KIGALI – 651 kms (10,367 kms total)

The $8 hotel room would have been worth it for the bed alone. I feel fantastic after a solid night of rest and am excited to be moving on from Tanzania today. Everything seemed to break in Tanzania (and would again on my way back down).

I finally tried chapatti for the first time at a restaurant down the road. Turns out it is delicious and I had several for breakfast before heading out of Igunga.

Somewhere near Nzega I got on the wrong road after I stopped for petrol. Luckily I realized my mistake after seeing names for towns that are in a different direction than the one I thought I was going. In an attempt to correct my mistake, I stopped on the side of the road to ask a couple of boys walking through the bush carrying water on their heads. In a hurry, I don’t take off my helmet, but instead I yell out to them pointing in the direction I thought I should be going and asking, “Kahama? Is Kahama that way?” After pausing to blink at me a couple of times, the children promptly drop their water and run in opposite directions! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – to them I truly was an alien.

I eventually find my way back to the road to Kahama. After Kahama the road conditions changed dramatically – felt like I was riding a road that someone was trying to build at the same time. Half the time you’d have to share dusty detours with huge lorries and the other half you could ignore signs and ride on perfectly good tar. Just be careful not to ride of a cliff when the tar suddenly ends.

Once the road improved, the landscape began to change before the border with Rwanda. Making pretty good time today I stopped in a village for a snack. While I was there I got tempted by something I have never seen before - a french fry omelet! Despite the flies and my general concerns about sanitation at this street cart, I ordered away anyway. Never did get sick, but probably wasn’t the wisest move I made.

I continue on toward the border and am thankful for whoever put large piles of boulders and rocks in front of potholes that are large enough to swallow a vehicle, but nearly impossible to see. My front suspension is clunky and sounds bad, still not much I can do about it here. My bike has also started to backfire more than normal, perhaps due to bad fuel, but I wasn’t sure. Doing a service soon wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Once I crossed the border, I was AMAZED how different Rwanda felt. It was a gorgeous ride into Kigali, through sweeping roads and banana plantations. The roads were all new tar and hardly a pothole in sight. Everyone in the village communities seemed to be actively doing something and working together. And it was clean! Rwanda had outlawed plastic bags and there were maybe a couple pieces of trash on the road in all the kilometers I rode across it. Best thing was when folks whistled and cheered at me when I rode through the villages – felt like a true Charlie Boorman, camera crew and all ;-).

The sun was now setting and my headlight had gone out again. Luckily I made it to the lodge before it was too dark. I’d need to find a replacement for my spare globe while in Kigali.

Once I arrived at the lodge, I met with a business contact of my father’s who had helped me get my gorilla pass and a local phone for a few days. I settled in and ended up meeting a Canadian couple staying at the lodge and sharing dinner with them and a few of the local lagers (Skol).

It has been awesome meeting new folks along the way. However, I was a little tired of telling my story and having folks look at me like I was insane. Looked forward to a day off tomorrow and time to rest and fix the bike.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: madmax on February 05, 2012, 06:44:49 am
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Kenisis on February 05, 2012, 07:19:03 am
Hey Johnny-B-Good.

Awesome ride report!  Can wait for the rest!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 06, 2012, 03:57:35 am
DAY 21 – DAY OFF IN KIGALI – 13 kms (10,380 kms total)

I didn’t sleep in too much, excited about seeing Kigali and getting some things fixed on the bike. I replaced the globe for the headlight and started thinking about how to track down a spare; cleaned up the chain, which was very much in need of the help; and corrected the tyre pressure.

After a little bit of work to start the day off I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Definitely the best fried eggs I’ve ever had – certainly the best since South Africa and that was 10 days ago!

As I left the hotel on foot, a driver convinced me to take his taxi rather than walk. I don’t recall his argument, but it must have been a good one. First stop, the Genocide Museum.

The museum is a must see for anyone visiting Rwanda. It does a great job of putting on display the horrors the country lived through in 1994, what led to them and how the people of Rwanda have moved on since then. Still, the fact that 1 million people were killed in less than four months and the global community watched it happen is sad in the truest sense of the word. Bill Clinton claims it was his biggest regret as president.

After the museum, the driver and I went in search of a replacement spare globe for the headlight and chain lube. The globe was easy enough to find, but relatively thin oil meant for a bicycle chain was about as good as we could do for the other request.

I had failed to negotiate my taxi fare in the beginning and found myself paying a $30 bill for the rides around town. It wasn’t ludicrous, but nor do I believe it was the market rate.

I met again with my father’s business contact, Rene. He helped me plan my route to go see the gorillas the next day and we decided it was best I stay another night in Kigali and ride early in the morning up to Ruhengeri. I also made a quick trip down the road for petrol and some groceries. My bike filled up with 16L, and the petrol light hadn’t been on. Something was wrong and I added it to the list of things I’d have to sort out in Nairobi.

In fact, there were lots of things I’d need to sort out:
+ Front suspension feels like a worn out pogo stick and sounds about as good
+ Engine had been backfiring – not sure if I need to change the fuel filter, or had clogged my catalytic converter, or something else
+ Petrol indicator not working – who knows what’s going on there
+ The rear brakes feel oddly squishy – not sure, perhaps I need to change the pads

In the late afternoon I have a nice chat with an American family moving to Rwanda from Colorado. For the 2nd time in 2 days I find myself sitting across from a woman who thinks I need some mothering and expresses how worried she is that I am doing this trip. I thought briefly of my own folks and send a quick note home to make sure they know I am alive and they should not worry (like that helped).

After a quiet dinner, I hit the sack early – alarm will sound at 03h30 for my ride to Ruhengeri.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 06, 2012, 04:11:50 am
DAY 22 – KIGALI TO RUHENGERI – 182 kms (10,562 kms total)

I got up at 03h30 to pack and check-out.

At 0h400, Rene called to make sure I didn’t miss my alarm. Gorilla passes were $500 then (and more now) and neither of us wanted it to go to waste!

I left at 04h30. It was a bit later than I had intended, but still dark. I am very thankful my headlight is working again. The road to Ruhengeri was absolutely gorgeous. This was the most beautiful ride I have done in my life. Still, I wished I had been riding a superbike as the roads were flawless. But watching the sunrise as I rode through the country of 1000 hills was absolutely priceless – one of my favorite moments of the trip.

There was a bit of road construction here and there. At one point I got confused with the directions I was given. I went for 30 kilometers the wrong way and my margin of error was now gone. You had to be on time and at the rendezvous point at 07h00 sharp. I sped back toward where I had just been and corrected my wrong turn (or lack of turn-off) to Ruhengeri.

I was in luck, 15 minutes late, but in luck. I made it to the gorillas and they hadn’t yet divided folks up into groups. Most people had overland vehicles and they split up into them. I followed on the bike to the edge of the park.

We walked for 30 minutes across farmland before entering a bamboo forest and winding our way along the path for 30 minutes. We then climbed through jungle up a hill and without a path for another or 20-30 minutes before we all of a sudden were in the middle of a pack of gorillas – 25 of them, to be exact. They were above and below us on the hill and all around. One of them reached out and grabbed my ankle as he swung from one side of the path to the other. We then spent the next hour following them as they made their way down the hill and into the bamboo forest. I have hundreds of pictures of these guys (many are enclosed below). Was truly an amazing thing to see.

Since I had arrived late, I didn’t have a chance to change properly (you’ll notice my riding socks tucked over my riding pants). And I haphazardly left my boots underneath my bike, hoping for the best. After a scare in returning to find them gone, I learned that one of the guides had put them in his vehicle for me. Whew!

As I pack up my bike a small crowd of locals began to form. 10 people become 20. Soon there are 50 and eventually close to 80 just standing around watching me. This was common, but one of the few occasions in which I have pictures of what it feels like to be a purple alien riding a space ship… Thanks to Meryl (an English woman who was in my gorilla group) for emailing me these pictures.

Pretty exhausted from a long day, I decided to stay at Kinigli Guest house, where I camped in their field. I ate lunch and dinner with Meryl and decided that Mutzig was my favorite Rwandan beer.

With a very accurate weather forecast from the hostess, “no rain, small rain, African rain” and a shrug, I was off to bed.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 06, 2012, 04:14:23 am
Some more pictures:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 06, 2012, 12:16:28 pm

Early wakeup – a crow had decided that he wanted to try eating my dry bag. After wrestling him away from it, guessed it was a good enough time to get up.

When inquiring about breakfast, I took “yes, hello, good night, thank you!” as a positive sign and waited for my food to arrive. It was starting to get late, and I wasn’t able to depart until after 10 am. Hoped the weather would hold out and I wouldn’t be caught in the rain and dark.

30 km down the road I crossed the border at Cyanika. Dealing with the police before immigration didn’t give me the best feeling about Uganda. Cost me 45,200 Ugandan Shillings for a license.

After the border, the road was pretty bad for 30 kilometers. Then the road gets better on the way to Kabale, but still a bit of construction.

I could feel the rain coming and stopped to put on my rain gear before Mbarara. Very good thing I did because it soon was pouring! Water and mud cover the roads. Pretty soon it covers me too and my helmet feels bit like an aquarium. I keep the gear on all the way to Masaka. It gets dark with cloud cover and being late in the day and the road is under heavy construction all the way to Kampala. I make it over the equator, but it is too dark to do the bucket trick.

Along the way, I learned a lot of interesting thing from the Ugandans. One guy called my bike and airplane at a petrol station. Little kids yell “Mzungu, money!” repeatedly at me. I’d later learn Mzungu means foreigner at best, but better translated to gringo or whitey. Despite being told I must be a “really stud guy” in Masaka, I am exhausted

$10 hotel rooms are amazing inventions, and I manage to find one around 10 pm in Kampala. After checking in, I struggle a bit to put my bike up on the centre stand. The hotel manager who is nearby helps me and the bike falls over. My first reaction is that I shouldn’t have had that guy help me, until I realize the centre stand had snapped in half on the right leg along the weld.

Things seem a bit bleak, but a couple of Nile beers at 5.6% ease me into bed, but not before some brainstorming. Now over half way through my trip and nearly as far north as I would venture, I decided my bike needed a name. After a long list, I settled on Mzungu moto – as they say, can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Tomorrow I’d need to find the “welder man”…
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 07, 2012, 03:26:26 am
Oops - a few pics of the countryside near the border I forgot.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: TVB on February 21, 2012, 06:38:15 pm
Wow, what a gr8 read - keep it comming please!!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on February 22, 2012, 06:06:46 am
Sorry for the delay, folks - been traveling / fighting an amoeba colony in the Philippines the last couple weeks. More to come this weekend at latest.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: wolfman on March 01, 2012, 09:44:11 pm
Epic stuff! Keep it coming  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Mzee on March 02, 2012, 04:58:49 am
You were not crazy to take that trip.  It seems you enjoyed it.  Here is one I did alone.  We shared the route in some places.  Checck this:  http://mzee-jaki.blogspot.com/2009/10/everyone-has-dream.html
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: ClimbingTurtle on March 02, 2012, 09:45:53 am
Great RR JbG - brilliant!

We also shared some points along the route with you - main difference being we did our East Africa Bike Safari in 1994, at the height of the Hutu/Tutsi conflict in Rwanda - definately no chance of going anywhere in that region at that time!

Looking forward to the rest of the report!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Sitvlak on March 02, 2012, 12:32:38 pm
Awsome! Brings back great memories! We departed to Uganda just as you returned home.

Adventurer also prepped us for our trip to and we used alot of the info you provided.

Great RR!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Carrol on March 04, 2012, 01:50:43 pm
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Ian in Great Brak River on April 01, 2012, 10:42:42 pm
Great RR this.

Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: White Rhino on April 02, 2012, 04:44:12 am
Greatness :thumleft:

If you can, pls publish the route or a pic of the route.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:08:09 am
Alright folks - here comes the rest of it. I've written it all now, so here comes a flood of posts and pics. Apologies for the delay!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:10:06 am
DAY 24 – KAMPALA TO NAIROBI – 697 kms (11,779 kms total)

With the help of the hotel manager, I’m off to see the welder.

I strip the bike down and disconnect the battery. Of all the beautiful things about the Dakar, the amount of work you have to do to get those three panels off is not on the list.

Within a few minutes, I had an ugly, but relatively strong looking weld, reinforced with a piece of scrap rebar – should do the trick. The welder also introduced me to “eggs commando” – a mix of fried eggs, chapatti and beans. 13,000 shillings or ~$6 for breakfast and a weld seemed fair to me!

I leave as soon as I can pack my things up. Despite the instructions from the hotel manager, I get lost trying to make my way out of the city. The traffic reminds me why I avoid big cities – my bike is too big to be treated like one of the scooters weaving in and out of traffic and too small to be treated like a car. At one point a car swipes one of my panniers and almost knocks me over.

I cross the border at Malaba, some ~220 kilometers from Kampala. It is starting to rain, so I change into rain gear. Tired of paying for local insurance, I decide to skip it in Kenya and tell them I already have it. The trick appears to work, for now.

As I leave the border post, I realize my rear break is now entirely gone. No matter how hard I stomp, there is no response. Just to recap, I am riding in the rain, with no rear brake and no local insurance. Moving on…

I make it to Eldoret – the farthest North I will be on my trip. A diversion away from heavy road works takes me through difficult traffic again. It is still another ~350 km to Nairobi, and the weather is cold and wet.

It is starting to get dark. My headlight and visor both get clogged with mud frequently. It is impossible to ride quickly in these conditions.

I stop in Nakuru for fuel and consider not continuing. I grab some snacks and an energy drink. A local named Nelson stops me and asks me about my trip. Apparently he is a fan of Charlie Boorman and gives me directions on where to stay in Naivasha (his home town). On a whim, I decide not to follow them and continue on to Nairobi at the turnoff.

Between Naivasha and Nairobi I am stopped at a road block and begin to regret my decision. I am asked for my insurance and tell them I have it, but it’s raining and ask if I can move on. The fib works, surprisingly.

I finally make it to Nairobi at 22h00. I stop for directions to Jungle Junction and get lost. I negotiate with a cab driver for me to follow him to the place for $10.

It is after 23h00 when I finally get in. I meet another guy who is riding a Dakar all the way from England down to Cape Town named Duncan. For the first time in weeks, I am not the craziest guy in the camp!

I set up my tent and get myself in bed as soon as I can – it felt like a very long day of doing stupid and dangerous things.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:11:51 am
DAY 25 – STUCK IN NAIROBI – 0 kms (11,779 kms total)

My bike is pretty fck’d up, let’s be clear. I am lucky I got it here. But it is hard not to grin when you wake up on the lawn of Jungle Junction, in the middle of the organized chaos that has made so many very long and difficult trips possible.

I speak with Chris (the owner) and Dan (the head mechanic) and they estimate it may be a couple of days before my bike can get through the queue and turned around. I’m in a bit of a hurry as I am trying to meet my girlfriend in Zanzibar for the weekend. It’ll be a bit of a sprint to get there, so I hope the bike only takes a couple of days.

With nothing better to do, I walk around the grounds and introduce myself. There was an English and South African couple moving to the UK by driving their Land Rover from the Cape up. A Dutch couple was in the middle of a 5 year around the world tour – what a way to retire! An English couple in a Unimog were en route to the Cape. As I mentioned before, this was the first time I didn’t feel like the craziest guy in the camp.

My favorite had to be a single German guy on a 1995 Yamaha XT600 on his way down from Europe. He was truly fascinating. He has two of these bikes, each of which has over 100,000 kilometers on the clock. Each year he rides one of them down into Africa – a different route and a different destination each time – and then back home. While his is prepping one for the next trip, he is tearing down and completely rebuilding the one he just brought back. Really classic example of how older, solid technology can last and last and how easy it is to fall in love with the continent.

By mid day my bike makes it into the shop. The take apart the front end and something is definitely wrong with the front suspension. The fork oil was the color of mercury and smelled awful – didn’t seem like it could have ever been the proper fork oil. AND, the progressive springs were installed upside down! The front end was one of the few things I had Northside do before I met Adventurer – again, stay away from these guys if you can. Chris, who knows all the mechanics who help out with these types of trips, told a few stories about that place as well that confirmed my dislike for the shop.

Chris also explained the pricing mechanism at Jungle Junction: there are three tiers. The cheapest way to get something fixed is you tell them what’s wrong and let them take care of it. More expensive is to watch while they fix it. Most expensive is to ask questions while they’re working. They can’t find a price anyone will pay in which they commit to answering the questions as well!

Taking the hint, I made my way into Nairobi. Seems very normal to walk around, no one pays me too much attention just because I am a foreigner. It feels comfortable enough – the same way decent cities in South Africa feel. It’s great to be able to get some high quality food for the first time in a while.

A friend of mine from a few years back when we worked together in D.C. was living in Nairobi at the time so we met up for Ethiopian food. Like most of my friends and family, she gives me the same shocked look and unwanted advice about being more careful. Still it was good to see a familiar face.

I made my way back to Jungle Junction in time to share a few rounds with folks. As we swapped stories of border crossings, it dawned on me how special Jungle Junction is. I’d love to come back some day.

<<PICS 104 – 108>>
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:12:49 am
DAY 26 – STUCK IN NAIROBI (continued) – 8 kms (11,787 kms total)

The guys in the shop are still doing their magic so I have time to kill. It’s nice to be able to relax a bit. I catch up on some reading and use the time to work on my travel log (the basis of what you’re reading).

I repack my panniers and finish up my laundry. A whole day in one place seems like an eternity given my pace.

The fuel light issue was more minor than I had feared – just a broken wire. The rear brake problem is the opposite and remains a mystery. The hydraulic system is sound. The ABS functions as it should. I use the opportunity to pop in my spare brake pads and hope for the best.

As I fiddle with odds and ends, I start to realize my trip is more than half over. I had budgeted 50 days if I needed them, but planned for only 6 weeks, giving me some wiggle room if I needed it. Still, now half over, Jo’burg seems a long way and a long time ago, yet it all flew by.

I settle the bill with Chris. For all of the work the bike needed, the cost was less than half of what my 40k service at Northside cost me. Chris advises me only to use Bavarian in Pretoria from now on.

I’m now getting very restless. Sitting around and waiting for the go signal is like purgatory. Boredom is a dangerous playmate. I can’t wait to get on the bike.

The bike is out of the shop with a clean bill of health. I load up all of my gear and take a short trip into town to hit the ATM and make sure all is well before I depart in the morning.

All seems well as I ride out the gates. As I stop before I take the second turn into town, I notice the breaks feel squishy. I play with it a bit and the pressure comes back. Once back at Jungle Junction, it’s clear that I dumped the reserve tank of brake fluid, but not so much as to foul the circuit and lose pressure entirely.

Dan and I top up the reserve tank and he goes for a ride. He pounds on the brakes and we engage and disengage the ABS. We do everything to try and reproduce it, but no dice.

With fingers crossed, I hope the issue will sort itself out rather than get worse and prepare for an early morning departure.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:13:19 am
DAY 27 – NAIROBI TO MOSHI, TANZANIA – 460 kms (12,247 kms total)

I had aimed to get going at 05h00, but didn’t make it out of my tent until 06h00. By the time I pack everything up and am on my way it is 07h00.

I ride 100 meters down the road and my rear brake fails, shooting brake fluid all over the road – problem!

I can’t get pressure back in the line, but for the first time I can see where the leak is in the hose. It’s right at the elbow of the line. When the panniers are off, and/or a smaller guy like Dan rides the bike, the hole pinches closed. Put all my crap and my fat self on the bike and out comes the brake fluid – mystery explained! Now back to Jungle Junction to sort it out…

The shop doesn’t open until 09h00 and my urgency isn’t going to change anything. While I’m worried about my timeline, I know that doing anything other than waiting patiently is going to make this process more painful and less efficient. So I wait.

Dan is kind enough to reprioritize what they’ve got on in the shop to get my brake line off the bike. Sure enough the puncture is right where I thought. Bad news is they don’t have a spare on hand, so they send it into town to “Pipeman” – flash backs of welderman from Kigali – for a replacement to be made.

I hoof it into town to fetch more cash for another workshop bill. The part is back by 13h00 and I am itching to depart, hoping to make it to Moshi before nightfall. I’m finally able to depart around 15h00.

Despite Chris’s directions on how to best get out of town and to the border, I get a bit lost and turned around. At Athi, I accidentally take the 109 instead of the 104. I still make it to the border by 19h00 (in time to cross) after watching a beautiful sunset.

I press on through the 200 km to Moshi. Unfortunately, there is a ton of road works going on. I’d later learn there was a road I could have taken to avoid all of this construction, but it’s hard to see the turnoff at night. I don’t make it to the lodge just outside Moshi – the Honey Badger – until after midnight.

I pitch a tent and boil water for food in a bag. My gas stove is faulty, so the flame doesn’t have the power it normally does. It takes a long time to boil water and I promise to clean it out in daylight the next morning.

I finally make it to bed around two in the morning.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:13:59 am
DAY 28 – MORE MOSHI – 36 kms (12,283 kms total)

I am up at 6 am before the roosters to pack up. I feel anxious to be on my way.

As the day becomes light, I see a familiar face. The German on the 1995 Yamaha from Jungle Junction had found the same camp, likely long before I pulled in the night before. I take it as a good sign and force myself to slow down and get some breakfast before I hit the road.

Once I’m on the road, I feel great to be back on the bike and moving. Still, it feels like I am in a hurry and nothing good happens when you’re in a hurry on a motorbike.

17 kilometers down the road from the Honey Badger, something strange happens: the temperature light on my bike goes on. I pull off the road. Alone and stranded, Zanzibar seems impossibly far away.

I inspect the bike. Everything appears fine externally; there is no visible leak, but I fear the alternative. Too hot to touch, I wait for the engine to cool and phone Adventurer for advice. An hour later, a freely spinning water pump impeller confirms two things: stripped water pump gears and no more riding. I can still hear Adventurer’s words: “your ride is over.”

Pushing the bike back to Moshi, I search for a solution. I could not return to Kenya for repairs without a new visa. Egypt and South Africa were out of the question. I would need to source parts, do the repairs myself, and skip my belated rendezvous with my girlfriend.

I try to hail a ride to Dar es Salaam for the next few hours. I figured I could get me and the bike on to the back of one of the lorries, but wasn’t having a lot of luck.

I also called Chris from Jungle Junction while Adventurer looked into what he could do from South Africa. Chris didn’t have a good way to get me parts in a hurry given the fact that I didn’t have a visa to get back into Kenya. I hope Adventurer was having a bit more luck and focused on getting me to Dar as soon as possible.

I still don’t know how he did it, but Adventurer had a friend of a friend who is going to fly into Dar on Tuesday night and can carry my parts in his pilot bag. Barry – sorry, I don’t know forum handle – thank you so much for your help.

I stay again at the Honey Badger and explain my problem to Jenny and Joey. They let me pike my bike in their garage (tin roof, bare dirt floor – but it worked). One of the lodge workers, Sampson, also escorts me into town to buy a bus ticket so I can get picked up from in front of the lodge rather than get into town at 6 am.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:14:28 am
DAY 29 – MOSHI TO DAR VIA BUS – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

I wake up early and feel in a rush as usual.

I am packed and waiting for the bus in front of the lodge at 06h30. It doesn’t come until 07h30 and I spend much of that time fretting. My girlfriend arrived in Zanzibar the day before and I am starting to feel bad.

The Tanzanian guy next to me wants to chat. I am sure I am quite the sight to see on this bus, but all I want to do is sleep and I search for a polite excuse to do so. It’s a struggle given the volume and quality of the loud movies being played with titles such as “Crazy Love” and “White Maria.”

I arrive at the bus terminal the normal couple hours late that I expected. I have exactly 20 minutes to catch the last ferry. I pay too much, but for a good (and crazy) taxi driver to try and get me there on time. Unfortunately we get there only to realize the ferry has left 15 minutes before because it is a weekend.

Next plan: the taxi driver rushes me to the airport to try to catch the last plane. I make it onto the 17h00 flight after the driver helps me get through security quickly by talking to his brother who works there.

On the 20 minute flight, I feel a moment of relaxation for the first time in weeks. Upon landing, I haggle for a $30 taxi to the hotel (now in touristville and have to pay tourist prices).

I get an SMS from Adventurer. Turns out my parts will only be in Dar on Wednesday evening. More time in Dar to sort things out before I head out.

It is amazing to see Siru (my girlfriend). For the first time, I wish I were home already. It has been a long trip – perhaps longer than I had bargained for.

I had the best shower ever, although Siru claimed that the layers of dirt would require a lot more than one shower to get off. Still, was good to get the smell of a bus off of me and spend a civilized evening together.

That night I had nightmares about motorbikes for perhaps the first time in my life. This trip was weighing a bit on me – mentally probably more than physically.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:15:18 am
DAY 30 – ZANZIBAR – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

I slept in for the first time in a long time.

Siru and I decide not to go kite surfing. We decide to read and hang out on the beach and catch up. It had been nearly three weeks since we had seen each other and she could see I was a bit off kilter.

Not much else to say, but here are a couple of pictures.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:16:02 am
DAY 31 – ZANZIBAR TO DAR VIA FERRY – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

Siru and I are up early to get the most out of the morning before she has to return to Jo’burg.

We leave the hotel around 10h30 and it is hard to say goodbye when the taxi drops me off first at the ferry building.

It’s a short walk to the YMCA from the ferry building and easy enough to find a room since it is not a weekend. I spend most of the evening drinking copious amounts of Safari Lager and finishing the rest of Shantaram. Was a great book to read over the past month of my own adventure.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:16:26 am
DAY 32 – ERRANDS IN DAR – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

A local tour operator decides to help me out with errands and recommends the MTEI express for a few thousand TSH cheaper than the other one. I go along with the idea.

I also track down 11 mm and 24 mm spanners and a set of long torx wrenches. It’s not too difficult to find motor oil that will work. Then I make my way to print instructions and tips from Adventurer for the job I’d need to do on my bike.

After brunch, I still need an oil pan, coolant, grease and a few other odds and ends to do the job properly. Somewhere between India and Libya streets I find most of what I need from the local spares shops.

After checking that I could find the Southern Sun during the daylight, I return there in the evening and meet Barry. Again, can’t thank you enough Barry for helping me continue my trip.

Back at the YMCA I end up having a couple of beers with some Israelis traveling through Tanzania. They seemed to believe I wasn’t seeing anything on my trip given the pace. I decided that was a good signal to stop drinking with the Israelis and out myself to bed early.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:16:54 am
DAY 33 – DAR TO MOSHI VIA BUS – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

I depart early at 05h00 from the YMCA for the bus terminal. It is total chaos there and I am forced to use a local with a hand truck to find my bus.

I am the only Mzungu on the bus and the locals don’t appear to like me for it. Someone tries to write over my ticket and give me one farther away from the luggage. I refuse and keep my vantage point.

Some other guy tries to sell me “security” for my package. When I asked why he didn’t charge anyone else and if it was Mzungu money he was trying to charge me, he laughed and slinked away embarrassed.

The bus smelled of vomit and several days sweat on too many bodies. I try to sleep for most of the way until the 11h00 stop for food. I also struggle to explain to the driver where I want to be dropped. After countless weigh stations and police check points, I finally get dropped around 14h30.

I am anxious to get to work on the bike, but Joey informs me that I left my parking lights on when I left. Knowing how special the battery is (I had a friend bring me a sealed one for my bike back from the US in his checked luggage), I am really concerned.

Dao, the lodge’s electrician, spends most of the afternoon with me trying to see if we can charge the battery. First with the generator, then with the solar system they have at the lodge. Eventually we get the bike started at 17h00, but the true test will be if it holds the charge still by morning.

With that in mind, I delay cracking open the engine case until the morning and enjoy dinner with Jenny, Joey and some new guests. The Honey Badger has a great vibe to it with these communal dinners.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:17:27 am
DAY 34 – ELECTIONS IN MOSHI – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

Cloudy weather slows my excitement to get started in the garage. I enjoy a leisurely breakfast with Nick, who is here learning Swahili while teaching English in one of the local schools.

I start on the bike around 09h00. The battery hadn’t taken the charge, so I jumped it to get the fluids flowing. By 10h00, I realized that the sump plug was going to be an issue.

I head into town for a smaller wrench (23 mm) and hope to be able to hammer it on to get the plug off. I really needed a 6-sided socket that was the right size, but couldn’t find one. After a lot of trial and frustration, I decided to just train the oil through the clutch housing. I don’t begin the real job until 14h00 or so.

Around 15h00 I realize I haven’t had lunch and walk across the street to a local store for a snack and a coke. I could hear the PA system from a nearby political rally. I was exhausted, covered in dirt and oil and wearing only shorts. I must have looked pretty odd to some of these folks.

The next thing I new, a crowd of five young locals came marching up to one of the lodge staff. One started hitting a female worker at the lodge repeatedly. Several of the lodge staff (including Sampson) intervened, but the crowd continued to shout and attack.

I kept thinking back to a scene in Shantaram and the same thoughts swirled in my head: “This isn’t my country. This isn’t my language.” But I couldn’t just watch. Before I knew it I was in the middle of the two groups with my knife out and pointed down in a clenched fist. I instructed the young activists to “go” as I pointed up the road from where they had come. Slowly, and carefully, they slinked away while picking up rocks in case I tried to follow them up the dirt road.

Everyone seemed to be okay, although the girl was pretty shaken up. I informed Joey of the situation, but there wasn’t a lot that could be done. I later learned that this young woman had mistakenly given this group the wrong directions to the political rally. They had assumed it was on purpose and returned for vengeance. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but so it is around election time.

I get back to work on the bike, but it is rough going. I finally get the clutch housing on around 19h30 and stop for dinner with the full intention of going back to work afterwards.  

Good discussion and food mixed with a few too many cold beers by the small hours of the next morning made that impossible.

I went to bed hoping for the best with my battery trickle charging overnight.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:18:27 am
DAY 35 – MORE MAINTENANCE IN MOSHI – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

The battery is not holding it’s charge now that it is back on the bike. Not a good sign, but I still needed to finish up the mechanics before I sorted out the electrical issue.

In my haste and inexperience the day before, I had put the clutch cover back on without putting the oil pipe in place. I vow to replace this piece with something more flexible if I ever buy another Dakar.

By 11h00 I am still putting things back on. I wrestle with the pipe for 2 more hours before breaking for lunch and asking for help to muscle it in place. With the pipe back in place, the clutch is no longer mated, so now more iteration. Finally by 15h00, the cover and pipe are back in place.

I fill the bike up with oil and coolant. Next, I bleed the coolant system. As I top off the oil, I notice a bit of milky foam and check with Adventurer about it. Seems to be okay.

Checking the bike once over, I notice the LHS indicators aren’t functioning. Dao and I trace the problem over the bike with a multi meter. Eventually we find the short in the front left turn signal, where two writes were shorting together. I hope this also explains the death of my battery – I could swear I didn’t leave the parking lights on.

It has been a long slog. It took me 3 days to do what would have taken Adventurer 3 hours. Sure, I didn’t have the right tools and there were some new issues that came up. Even still, I knew I was a bit exhausted and the extra time off the bike was likely a good thing.

I enjoy my last dinner that evening with Joey, Jenny, Nick and others. It dawned on me that motorcycle maintenance was a bit like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” when played correctly. I had done a lot of 50/50, asking the audience and phoning a friend in the past few days.

Still a long ways from Jo’burg, I hope for the best.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:19:41 am
DAY 36 – MOSHI TO MIKUMI – 660 kms (12,943 kms total)

The battery is too low to start the bike. I jump it with an extra battery and go for a 20 minute test ride before heading out.

I fix a few rattles and pack up most of my gear. I take the clear view of the summit of Kili as a good sign (see pics) and grab breakfast quickly and then finishing packing up. I say goodbye to Joey, Jenny and Nick – all great friends to have met along the way and who made the last few days a lot more enjoyable than they could have been.

Finally I depart around 10h30. It feels great to be on the road again, but I am constantly worried about the bike. There are new rattles I hadn’t noticed before. The power output seems a bit shallower. I get 10 kph lower for the same RPMs that what I recall getting before.

I stop after nearly 300 kms on the B1 for petrol. The battery still has no charge, so I have to beg for a jump from some American tourists with two young kids. The guy recommends I try Veta in Mikumi if I am making my way towards Iringa. Will be tough to get to Iringa before it is dark.

The next 380 kms are some of the most beautiful in my entire trip. Perhaps I am just happy to not be on a bus as I retraced the A14 before Chalinze. But the A7 is truly stunning, especially once inside Mikumi National Park.

The contrast between the mountains, African plains and shrub growth is beautiful – like riding through a post card. I count antelope, zebra, buffalo, giraffe, monkeys, baboons and many others as I continue on. The sunset is gorgeous - just spectacular shades of orange, red and yellow contrasting with a fading blue sky.

I make it to Veta before 19h00 and parked the bike in front. With a quick bit of maintenance and tending to the chain, I wash up before grabbing some food and drink at their restaurant.

I really hope to find a battery in Iringa tomorrow and head to bed early.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 01:24:25 am
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:00:45 am
DAY 37 – MIKUMI TO IRINGA – 213 kms (13,156 kms total)

I slept almost 12 hours the night before. I must have needed it.

After packing up quickly, I push the bike over across the street for a jump from a local garage. Some of the guys offer to buy my bike, as usual…

I make my way towards Iringa on the A7. The first 30 kms are just as good as the best from the evening before. It’s like riding through the Lion King. Then the road works start for 100 km or so. It gets better outside of Iringa.

Once in Iringa, I realize I need cash, petrol and a battery. First thing is first: I go in search of cash. Given the location, I leave the bike running in front of the ATM so I don’t have to remove the skins and grab a jump only to do the same thing again at a petrol shop.

I ride from shop to shop along the road inquiring about a battery for my bike. Nothing seems to be big enough, have the right shape, and have the terminals on the correct side. All of that plus being a sealed battery would be a dream!

At one point I turn off the bike at a petrol station and a local named Aaron begins to help me look for a battery. We try using an inverter from a diesel generator, but I know how this story is going to end. Then we move onto the “battery specialist” up the road.

With Aaron’s Swahili and being able to understand my English pretty well, the owner of the electronics shop basically tells me my battery is screwed. I leave it as a sample and go back to fetch the bike.  For 5,000 TSH I am able to get a cab driver to tow me up the road on the bike to the electronics shop.

When I arrive, somehow they have found a battery. It’s the right voltage, but lower amp hours than the original. It’s smaller shape makes me believe I can cross the wires to get it to hook up. Miraculously, it starts the bike, even with its lower rating. A bit of Styrofoam on top and we are good to go!

I tip Aaron and thank him for his help. Then I make my way to Riverside Camp, where my Uncle had recommend I try to stay if I can. It’s a lovely spot outside of town. Very quite and next to a river. I enjoy the opportunity to set up camp in the daylight and fix my camp stove that had given me grief so many days before when I first pulled into Moshi.

I began to think I would make it back to South Africa after all.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:01:24 am
DAY 38 – IRINGA TO LIVINGSTONIA, MALAWI – 582 kms (13,738 kms total)

My stomach has hated me for the last few days and I wake up at 06h00 needing to run to the toilet. I’m up for real again and finished with breakfast by 08h30. After packing everything up I move on from Riverside Camp around 09h30.

I make my way towards the Malawi border and meet the junction with the M1 around 13h30. The landscape changes around then. There is more of a jungle, and banana plantations are common. It reminds me of the border area surrounding and just inside Rwanda. The twisty roads are just as enjoyable.

After a petrol station lunch (not the wisest thing to do with a bad stomach, but I don’t want to skip anymore meals), I get to the border near Kyela by 15h00. I cross into Malawi just before 16h00 and enjoy the fact that time has changed back an hour.

It’s another 45 kms or so to Karonga, but I am especially excited to learn they have fuel. I heard chatter near the border that fuel can be an issue and note to myself to fuel up wherever I can.

I make my way another 90 kms down the road to the turnoff for Livingstonia. Along the way I can’t help but notice a lot of young peope, a few older folks and not a lot of folks in the middle. Also, it appears the only industry around is drying fish from the lake. Not the best smelling industry, but people look relatively well fed here at least.

The road to Livingstonia is the hardest technically of any on the trip. I couldn’t do it in anything but first gear and wasn’t quite sure how I would ever make it back down with the fat rear end of the Dakar skidding along behind me. Still, it was a fun ride and gorgeous views above lake Malawi.

I stayed the night a Lukwe Eco Camp. The Challets are cheap and had such a gorgeous view I couldn’t bother to pitch my tent. The whole place runs on solar and each chalet had a kerosene lamp. A spring near by offers great tasting and clean drinking water.

I ate dinner and a few beers with a South African named Jonathan touring around. We shared some interesting stories from our respective journeys.

I knocked off early to read my book by kerosene and listen to the nearby waterfall. We seemed to be high enough here the mosquitoes weren’t that bad.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:03:05 am
DAY 39 – LIVINGSTONIA TO SENGA BAY – 495 kms (14,233 kms total)

In the morning I could really appreciate what the Lukwe Eco Camp had to offer.

The views from the chalet, breakfast table and even the outdoor shower are amazing. The solid composting toilets work really well and are extremely clean.

After getting some advice from the owner, I decide to go the long way to get back to the M1. There is no glory in falling off the steep trail I came up the evening before. After 60 km of beautiful dirt and sand back roads I found tar again.

I make my way to the coast near Nkhata bay. It appears Malawi doesn’t have 1 km of straight road, which is fine by me. It’s generally a gorgeous ride. As I ride on through Kande Bay, Chinteche and Nkhotakota I don’t see anything I need to stop for. Still, the “coastal road” is quite far from the shore so I will be the first to admit I might have missed something.

The whole country appears to live along the side of the road. From people going about their day, to children playing in the road, the odd bicycle with too many people loaded onto it, goats, pigs and piglets, cows, etc. The most disturbing was the frequency of coffin shops – the most heavily advertised institution in the country.

Another odd thing was that police check points seem to not apply to motorcycles. The police almost appear frustrated when I try to queue in line and they hurriedly wave me through.

I make it to Senga Bay and try to locate Cool Runnings. Unimpressed by the road that gets me there, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally arrived and pitched my tent around 17h30.

The place is owned by a fascinating women from Zimbabwe named Sam. She’s had an interesting life and has some great stories to tell. She helped me understand a little of what I saw along the road that day, explaining some of the statistics she has seen in helping out in local clinics.

The official HIV/AIDS infection rate in Malawi is somewhere around 30%. Based on the clinic work Sam does, she estimates it is closer to 60%. There is a whole generation missing because of the disease.

A Canadian couple staying there told their story about donating computer systems to the local hospital a year or so ago only to return and find none of it functioning and much of the equipment missing. Sam piped in with a far worse story of a woman from a local charity who ran an HIV/AIDS orphanage and essentially siphoned off donations to run around with her local boy toy. Now, I have no idea how true all of it is, but Malawi sure seems like a hard place to help.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:04:15 am
DAY 40 – SENGA BAY TO CAPE MACLEAR – 166 kms (14,399 kms total)

I wake up just after 05h00 with the sun as it rises over Lake Malawi. By 06h00, I am being baked alive inside my tent and there is no longer any use pretending I can sleep longer.

I enjoy the morning while taking a few pictures and adjusting the chain on my bike. At breakfast I meet a young Dutch woman staying at the same lodge. I mentioned wanting to take a canoe out, perhaps to “bird turd island” a couple miles out in the lake. She asks to join me.

By 09h00 we’re in the canoe and paddling along. Some 20 minutes later we’re about half way to the island. Just as we notice this fact, be both look around a bit. Before we know it, we had lost our balance and over we went in the canoe.

We sped the next couple hours swimming the rest of the way to the island with the canoe in tow. I think that is the farthest I have ever swam in my life. Once there, the smell reaffirms the name and we flip the canoe over to empty out the water. As soon as we catch our breath, we hop in and paddle far enough away so as to not linger in the smell.

We carefully paddle back to shore in time for lunch. I then pack up and settle up with Sam before heading out.

It was a relatively short day to ride to Cape Maclear, but after the morning even less than 200 kms seemed like a lot. For the most part the road was good, but there were short patches of dirt every so often.

The last 20 kms are dirt tracks, but a good bit of fun if you can avoid the corrugations. I checked into Fat Monkeys around 16h30 and Carin (the owner) hands me a green (Carlsberg) as I set up my tent.  Nice place!

There are a lot of travelers, especially young students here. Many of them are passing through, others are teaching English nearby.

After too much fun and a long day, I make it to bed around midnight.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:04:43 am
DAY 41 – CAPE MACLEAR TO BEIRA, MOZAMBIQUE – 1002 kms (15,401 kms total)

I’m up with the sun again, but the tree over my tent provides a bit more shade and I stay until the ten until almost 08h00. I clean up and feed myself before packing up and I’m finally off by 09h00. Later than I had wanted (especially since this would be the longest single day of my trip).

I hadn’t seen any fuel south of Nkhotakota and hear it isn’t much better for a while. I press on and hope for the best.

I get lost somehow making my way to the Dedza border crossing. What should have been 130 kms became 160 kms. It was a mix of dirt and road, so who knows what happens – maybe I was flinging that much gravel behind me the whole way?

The Dedza road is beautiful as Sam had promised. Just gorgeous mountain roads and twisties the whole way and well tarred. By 12h30 I clear the border.

The road that connects Dedza to the 103 and onto Tete remained great. There just was nothing around. Every once in a while I’d see a few people, a cow or a goat, but that was it. Just me and some beautiful mountain roads to ride through.

About 160 kms outside of Tete, the fuel light comes on. There hadn’t been any fuel since I had entered Moz and I doubt there would be any before Tete. I had seen the black market stuff being sold on the side of the road here and again, but didn’t want to use it if I didn’t have to. I just don’t trust it won’t have water or something else in it.

I push on towards Tete. 5 km before fuel (according to my GPS), the engine begins to sputter and lose power. I pull over.

Within a few minutes I was able to flag down a bakkie. With my Spanish and his Portuguese, we were able to understand each other. He towed me a couple kilometers down the road to an intersection where I could purchase two liters of black market fuel. Somehow, I had managed to change a little money at the border and could pay the 3x markup.

There is no petrol before the Zambeizi bridge, so I move on to cross it. This bridge is perhaps the largest infrastructure mess I had seen in my entire trip. It was pure chaos. They had never finished building the thing before opening it, but instead opened one side at a time. Now, they switch from one side of traffic going and then the other. But the heavy loads do so much damage, that they are constantly repairing the bridge. Also, this is Africa, so when traffic switches it is quite often a matter of who is bigger, cares about their vehicle less and more fearless than the other. If I hadn’t run out of fuel 2 kms before, I shutter to think what would have happened to me if I had run out while on that bridge. Oh, and did I mention it was over 40 degrees Celsius? Yup!

I am able to grab fuel shortly after crossing to the other side. It is now 16h30 and I have no interest in staying in this place.

I push on for another few hours and fumble with my sun glasses as it gets dark. I end up popping out one of the lenses at 120 kph. Despite retracing the road, no luck finding the lens.

With a few more hours riding in the dark (bad idea, but it was a full moon) I made it to Beira. My GPS didn’t seem to notice the difference between tar and sand roads as I searched for a place to stay.

Eventually I find Biques, which is little more than a sand lot on the beach with a restaurant next to it where they let me camp. They were closing up, but offered me a few slices of pizza and a beer before they were off.

I am extremely happy to put head to pillow that night.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:05:41 am
DAY 42 – BEIRA TO VILANKULO – 544 kms (15,945 kms total)

I wake up in good spirits. The late food an rest had made the world a lot better after a 1000 km day the day before. Still, I find it hard to leave the beach and don’t depart until 10h30.

I spend an hour in search of fuel and sunglasses. They weren’t my favorite, but for ~16 ZAR, I got what I paid for.

I had planned to make it to Maxixe or Inhambane by the end of the day, but I don’t think daylight is on my side. Also, I didn’t want to push my luck with night riding after such a long day yesterday.

On the hot tar roads inland, it feels like being baked to death. I have to stop to cool off once and refuel with coke, carbo junk food and chocolate. There I decide to aim for Vilankulo instead. I have no idea what the place means in Portuguese, but I snickered to myself at the very rough Spanglish translation of “Evil Ass” inside my helmet.

The roads can be a bit bumpy, but for the most part are well paved until you get into town. Then it appears the locals forgot how to use tar as the roads are inevitable made of sand for the last 2 km bordering the beaches.

My GPS is having some sort of brain failure (perhaps left over from the crash on day 2 where it became a projectile). Instead of following it I follow signs to a decent place called Bilbao Backpackers.

They had a clean dorm available for 20 ZAR more than camping and I take it. I enjoy the rest of the evening outside while sipping beers and reading and writing about the trip.

The power shutting off at 8 pm was a convenient excuse to get a bit of rest and fall asleep with my headlamp on.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:06:23 am
DAY 43 – VILANKULO TO TOFO – 334 kms (16,279 kms total)

I wake up to a strange noise at 06h30. Fearing rain, I am happy to learn it is just wind, but a storm is coming in.

After a walk to the beach for a swim, getting cleaned up properly, my go-to English breakfast and packing up, I decided I’d try to get to Tofo beach today. I depart the backpackers by 10h30.

As I head up the sand roads, I see a kiosk selling sunglasses on the side of the road and pull up next to it. I don’t like the pair I picked up the day before and I haggle over a pair of $5 Oakley’s. Although less than a meter away from my bike, someone unzips my tank bag and grabs what they can before I turn around.

Once I do, I quickly look at what is there and isn’t and realize my headlamp is gone. It’s not the end of the world, but it was a gift and had been with me on some good trips. I wanted it back.

I think about options – I have a knife on my side as usual, but there are at least 15 people standing around and I have no idea who to point it at. Even if I did, that sounds like a good number one item on things not to do when in rural Mozambique. Besides, I am not sure how it will help me get what I want.

Then I recall Jonathan’s trick. He was the South African I had dinner with in Livingstonia. He used to be big into hang gliding and he said he’d always get crowds of people in the bush surrounding him where he would land and he’d need to clear them away to pack up the glider. The easiest way was to put one in charge of helping you do just that.

So, what the hell. Worth a try. I went up to the guy who sold me the sunglasses and told him what was missing. I explained that he had sold me the sunglasses and he really needed to sort it out. He started speaking to the crowd, within seconds several people were pointing at one guy. The next thing I new he was being held up against a wall and the mob emptied his pockets.  They quickly handed it back to me, apologized and asked me to come back again soon.

I still don’t know why this works, but it does.

After grabbing petrol, I make my way towards Massinga. The road is pretty new, with only two deviations for road works.

The road all the way from Massinga to Inhambane is filled with coconut plantations. I had never seen anything like it.

I arrive at Bamboozi around 16h30 after heeding warnings about Fatimas down the road. Off the bike, by quick inspection revels some coolant weeping out of the weep hole and that the bike was a bit low on oil. I topped up the fluids and planned to check again more frequently tomorrow.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:07:15 am
DAY 44 – TOFO TO MAPUTO – 453 kms (16,732 kms total)

My starts continue to be slower than I’d like, but I go with it and depart around 10h00.

I am worried about the coolant weeping. I get lost in Inhambane and stop in the first major town I can for coolant. Then I ride a bit outside of town to get away from people and strip down the bike to add coolant. Seriously, BMW, I love this bike, but could you fix this MAJOR design flaw?

On the side of the road in the middle of no where I am soon joined by a few kids. Five becomes 10. Ten becomes 20 and soon there are 50 kids around me watching everything I do.

I have no leverage and Jonathan’s trick doesn’t seem to be working. The kids are getting more adventurous and starting to touch pieces of the bike, spare bolts and tools. All I need is for something to walk off and really crap on my day. SO I grab a big stick and beat it on the ground and yell until most of them scamper off – no, it wasn’t nice, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time. Now I had to put everything back and get out of there quickly!

I push on. The EN1 keeps dipping inland and it is hot, perhaps 35-40 degrees Celsius. It is a long way to Maputo and I am thankful I stopped the day before where I did.

About 50 km outside of Casa Lisa (the guest lodge I planned to stay at outside of Maputo), I see clouds on the horizon. Soon there is a bit of rain, which is actually very refreshing. The hail is less enjoyable.

When I pull off the main road, the recent rain has covered up all texture on the dirt path. I found my way into some soft sand and had my last little spill with the bike. I even took a picture of this one as I felt like a grown man that had fallen in a child’s sandbox!

I brush myself off and check into Casa Lisa’s. There I join a couple of Americans and a South African for dinner and a few drinks before heading to bed.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:08:12 am
deleted a duplicate post - sorry
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:08:48 am
DAY 45 – MAPUTO TO JOHANNESBURG – 647 kms (17,379 kms total)

I wake up rested from the best night’s sleep in a while.

After a quick breakfast, I tend to the chain a bit and notice coolant has been weeping out of the bike all night. I top it up as well and just hope to get the bike home.

I run a couple errands (including shopping for a beer T-shirt to add to my collection). Around 11h00 I leave Casa Lisa and head towards Maputo.

I know some people rave about Maputo and love the place. For me, it was a bit of a dreary day and everything was wet and dirty within a 30 km radius of the city. The people choked off transit and it was difficult to navigate on a bike.

There are a lot of police check points and traffic stops. Most of them wave me on as I have become accustomed. One looks pretty serious about stopping to harass me, but I pretend not to notice and speed on my way out of town. It was another 30 km out of town before I felt I could breath normally. Perhaps I had become too accustomed to open roads and few people for my own health!

I fill up with fuel once more before heading across the border. No issues at the crossing, except for the normal need to change money for some road tax or other I didn’t understand.

Riding through Swaziland makes me thing of a road trip Siru and I had taken with the dog. We had almost got thrown out of a nature reserve for smuggling the puppy in. Really starting to miss home now and I press on quickly, but enjoying the ride.

It’s starting to get cold, but no rain yet. I arrive at Hwane lodge before 16h00 and take a look around. It’s a lovely place and I am sure I would have stayed there, but I just felt the need to get home. I checked my guide book for when the border would closed and decided to make a go for it.

Funny enough, the border crossing back into South Africa is the worst of any on the trip. The queue was a disaster, everyone was pissed off at each other, no one knew where to go, etc. After negotiating an extra couple weeks on my visa (I’d need it to pack up my stuff and move out of Jo’burg), they finally let me clear the border around 17h00.

Now 340 kms from home, I have to fight the urge to fly through the roads as fast as possible. I know the home stretch is where most people get hurt, and I’ve felt why. You’re so close; you start to relax before you’re finished. I stop in Carolina for Wimpys and remind myself of these facts.

The last 200 km are all will power. I just want to be home.

It was a great thing to finally make it and see smiling faces I loved.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:11:48 am

I promised myself I’d never do another trip longer than 30 days or 10,000 km solo at the end of this trip. Yet, I still have the itch and it ebbs and flows all the time. I had to write this up as I bought myself a 2005 Dakar here in the US in January that I’d like to ride between Argentina and Alaska. I just couldn’t start thinking about that journey without repaying my debts and learning from this one.

So, there were three reasons to write it all down now:
1). Again, to thank everyone who was part of my trip and especially the riders of this Forum.
2). To re-live all of it, and see if I am really in the state of mind to do another big trip again.
3). Having achieved #1, give myself “permission” to order parts and fix up the new Dakar.

I sincerely mean it when I say I couldn’t have done this trip without the Forum. Some day I hope to live in RSA again and really look forward to riding with many of you when the time comes. In particular, Adventurer: there are countless times I may have given up on my dream without your help and support.

I’m not quite ready to do another long trip. I think I’ll know in the next 6 months if I need to get my head straight about life and the timing is right. But at this moment, I’m not ready to do it again. Perhaps I’ll take it in segments and get friends to join me along the way. I may be able to convince my dad to join me to go up to Alaska and back from the bay area if it were quick enough. Not yet sure if I know anyone crazy AND trustworthy enough for the down leg. I had what could only be described as PTSD for a couple weeks after this trip (read: I woke up with nightmares being stuck in deepest darkest Africa with a broken motorcycle and a knife). It is non trivial to go through that with someone else. My father isn’t even sure he’d want to see me that way.

One thing is certain – I am ordering parts. We’ll see how well the bike gets used in the next couple years, but I’d like to get her 80% ready to do an Americas trip and see if life puts the pieces in the right places to make it happen, or not.

Thanks to everyone for reading – ride safe, cheers and keep well.
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: White Rhino on April 25, 2012, 06:23:56 am
JBG, you covered some serious turf on this adventure ride. Thanks for sharing.

I sensed that at time it seemed more about the destination than the journey. Maybe that's because you were on your own. Doing it with someone might change the dynamics. Just a thought.

Anyway the bug's bitten, the next one's on its way :biggrin:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Johnny-B-Good on April 25, 2012, 06:33:11 am
JBG, you covered some serious turf on this adventure ride. Thanks for sharing.

I sensed that at time it seemed more about the destination than the journey. Maybe that's because you were on your own. Doing it with someone might change the dynamics. Just a thought.

Anyway the bug's bitten, the next one's on its way :biggrin:

WR - it's a good point, and one I've thought a lot about. The pace I made was pretty hectic. I am glad I did it given the circumstances, but I'd do the next one differently.

I'd love to do a trip without an end date. That would be the dream - all journey! We'll see if I can pull it off.

Thanks for reading!
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: wildside on April 25, 2012, 10:50:22 pm
An amazing ride and well done. Spending time with the gorillas is such a special experience and  worth every penny. You have clocked up some wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing them. :thumleft:
Title: Re: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late
Post by: Mzee on August 18, 2019, 07:35:35 am
Great ride.  I did a similar trip here: https://mzee-jaki.blogspot.com/2009/10/everyone-has-dream.html