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Offline Xpat

Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« on: February 21, 2016, 05:15:28 pm »

Another year of rat race gone, another Christmas upon me, it was time for another african bushveld shindig (yep, lots of another in this sentence). Previous Christmases I have headed north west to Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, so it was time to check the north-east. I have managed to score a month off so I got ambitious and wanted to loop through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana backcountry.

Unlike the second Christmas Safari, which went more or less to the plan (OK, I killed the clutch halfway up the Van Zylís pass, but in the bigger scheme of things it kind of went OK), this one ended up much more like the 1st one in that the plan went to shit from day one and the trip turned into my usual hotch potch day by day improvisation.

Which was a shame, as I have spent many a night plotting a killer route on the Google Earth, following little bush tracks through the 4 countries, including many dune fields along the Indian ocean coast, and 100s of kms of national park boundaries with the big 5 supposedly roaming freely. The plan was to ride the sand tracks up the Mozambican coast from Maputo to Vilanculos, then head west to Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe, follow little tracks along the Zim east and northern border to Kariba, cross to Zambia, follow the tracks west along the north shore of Lake Kariba. After Kariba head further west to the southern border of NP Kafue, turn north along the Kafue boundary all the way up to Angolan border and the source of Zambezi. From there follow the little tracks on the western side of Zambezi all the way down to Kasane, Botswana. Then just head back to Joburg on as much dirt as possible travelling Hunterís road, Kalahari cutlines and Tuli Block. Like so:

It was a good plan. The only glitch was, it failed to take into account that I have barely ridden a bike since the last Christmas and spent most of the year farting in the chair in my little Sandton office. I havenít done any sport/exercise for few years now and have tried and failed repeatedly to quit smoking. Which didnít stop me to plan about 200 km a day of Mozambican sandy coast few days in a row each of them more than an equivalent of a DeWildt loop. And of course I ignored the season - both prior Christmas safaris were done in summer, so what can possibly go wrong?

The above was enough to make the plan questionable even if I would have managed to use the full month for the trip, which I didnít. After 3 years of trying to chisel the perfect adventure bike out of XT660Z, I have decided to move on and bought KTM 690. So far I have stayed clear off KTMs for adv riding because of their iffy reliability record. But assuming that after 6-7 years or so KTM finally either resolved the issues, or rather - they were known and rectifiable, I bought second hand 2014 690 with Omega rally kit and about 2000 km on the clock:

After one quick ride I pulled the bike apart to get it ready for the trip and rectify some of those shortcomings, including: new top and bottom tank bolts to prevent the reported collapse of the rear end with luggage on (this one thing is an eternal shame for KTM as the fix is so easy and cheap), Wings pipe that hopefully will not burn my soft bags, Unifilter, rear luggage rack, Mitas E09 Dakar tyres (why KTM sells these bikes with road tyres - Scorpion or some such - is beyond me), and most importantly took the suspension out for set-up by Hilton Hayward (I was unpleasantly surprised what a crap stock WP forks on 2014 are):

Things never go to plan in Africa, so I gave myself two months head start to sort everything out. I have managed to source all the things on time except for a rear spring that kept being postponed week after week. Which was problem as I needed the rear shock to assemble the bike - the rally kit tanks are held in place by the top tank bolts that I couldnít put back in place without rear shock.  For once it wasnít Africaís fault, but Dutchmenís. For some reason (some kind of internal company disputes), Dutchies (Hyperpro or Yacugar - I never know who is who in the Dutchland suspension world) failed to deliver ordered springs week after week. They finally arrived to SA on Friday before my planned departure, but then got lost somewhere in the DHL bowels. Eventually Hilton located it in the airport, where I fetched it on Monday evening and Hilton installed the spring on Tuesday. I then immediately proceeded to procrastinate on the assembly and packing for next 5 days (it was really exceptionally hot during the day this year - sigh of things to come), so I have lost effectively 9 days thanks to the late spring delivery and my lazy ass and lack of mechanical proves.

So no, I didnít manage to ride the planned loop, not even half of it, due to fatigue and lack of time. But I still managed to ride lots of nice tracks that seem to be rarely (if at all) frequented by bikers (or even 4x4s), and confirmed that these countries offer fantastic riding opportunities for  people willing to get off the beaten track - much more than SA and Namibia combined as most of the land is communal and freely accessible. So this trip ended up being initial exploration for the future more focused ventures into this part of the world.

Here are some teasers to whet the appetite - of course, ridding solo, most of the pics will be the bike pictures. So if you don't like 690, you might as well stop reading now:

I will add here the GPS tracks as I plough through the report:

GPS track for the planned coastal ride from Marracuene/Macaneta to Vilanculos (unfortunatelly download works only on Firefox - Google Drive error that hasn't been resolved for 5 years now. I will try to find other solution later): https://drive.google.com/uc?export=download&id=0B9kOx7wDkTe_Y3JrSXA1SEV1MGs
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 08:16:35 pm by Xpat »

Offline Ratel

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozabmique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2016, 05:30:52 pm »
Looking forward to the rest  :thumleft:
"Stercus accidit..."

Offline sidetrack

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2016, 03:50:17 pm »
Yep also would like to hear how you found the 690 as a trip bike vs 660
Little by little, one travels far
J.R.R Tolkien

Offline DirtRebell

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2016, 04:02:19 pm »
Looking forward to the rest  :thumleft:


Lekker sover :thumbsup:

Offline YamaV

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2016, 04:06:28 pm »
Yep also would like to hear how you found the 690 as a trip bike vs 660


Beautiful pics Xpat!

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2016, 07:58:35 pm »
Day 1

I have finally managed to set-off on Tuesday, December 22nd. The plan/hope for the day was to make it to Marracuene on the northern outskirt of Maputo, the start of the sandy double track up the coast, cca 600 km away. It was a long liaison stage, most of it boring tar where the main challenge was the Komatipoort border crossing to Mozambique - the only main border post between SA and Moz. In the middle of summer holidays just three days before Christmas it was shaping up to be a character building exercise. And there was a real risk that Iím not going to be let into Moz. I hoped to get Moz visa on the border as I did on my prior trip, but just before my departure there was a thread on WD forum where people in the know advised strongly for foreigners (Iím not SA citizen) to get the visa upfront as the visa issuance on the border seemed to be pretty arbitrary, especially in the peak season. So there was a real possibility that I may just bounce off the border and may be gunning it next day in the opposite direction north west to Botswana.

To give myself a fighting chance I started early before 7:00. First 15 km on N1 went without a glitch, until I stopped at the Shell garage to fill-up. The bike has 3 separate interconnected tanks and I closed them off to prevent the fuel spilling out of the lower two tanks. However I havenít taken into account though how deep the filler caps stick into the tanks and ended up with petrol spraying all over me and by now hot engine anyway. So Iíve spent next hour in the parking lot sucking the excess petrol off the tanks with paper towels and waiting for the spilled petrol to evaporate.

An hour later I was back on N1 reeking of sweat (it was properly hot by now) and petrol. Somewhat intoxicated by the fumes I managed to miss the N4 off-ramp - a real Sandton bushtracker that I am - and had to turn back on the next off-ramp, having to paying toll in both directions getting off and on again. Then I got sprayed again by petrol from the front left tank - I was almost starting to like it. Who says you need to leave Gauteng highway network to have an adventure?

Quick stop and opening the tap between the tanks resolved the problem and I have finally reached N4 and headed into the sun towards Maputo. The ride was the dull slab enlivened only by antiques of overjoyed swarms of Moz heading holidaymakers and my sore ass. I have stopped for late breakfast in one of those rest points near Belfast and then again in Nelspruit for a refuel.

On stops the bike draws a lot of attraction - naturally, I have never had a bike with so many letters on it, including first ownerís name, initials and date of birth - in the form of race number. The downside is that it makes you (well me for sure) unwittingly act like a blase elder brother of Marc Coma in front of any spectators, particularly of female disposition. Those nonchalant moves came to bite me at that petrol station as I managed to pull the bike off its side stand while fastening a strap at the back, and the bike come crashing down right next to the fuel point. This came to become far too regular occurrence on the trip - posturing aside, the sidestand is just too long once the sag in the suspension is set-up correctly and the bike is filled up with petrol and luggage, and parking the bike turned out to be pain in the ass. Iíll have to sort that out before my next trip.

Once filled-up I continued on N4 towards Komatipoort, but I was feeling some serious misgivings about what laid ahead. There was a mass of traffic heading that way and I wasnít keen to face the resulting mayhem on the border, including possible visa rejection by too busy officers. Quick check of the map brought up a possible solution - I turned south and headed to Swaziland about 30 km away. I have made it across the border to Swaziland without a glitch in less than half an hour where I turned east again heading along the SA/Swazi border for the Namaacha border crossing to Moz. By now the sun was getting low and I thought they may close the border for the day, so I was pushing to get there before border closes. I made it to the border on time and even better - there was no traffic whatsoever. I fully expected it to be pretty busy, surely I couldnít be the only one to figure out this way around Komatipoort only about 30-40 km to the north. But I was, which amazed me even more when I was told later that the line in Komatipoort was 4-6 km long. Those people waiting in those line must have been comatose not to see the obvious workaround.

The officers were friendly - they gave me a cursory pep talk about how dandy it is to get visa upfront in embassy, but then proceeded to issue me one without a problem. Score! They even had official price list for it, so I guess it is still legally possible - I wouldnít try it in Komatipoort in peak season though.

Once in Mozambique, the urban scenery immediately changes into a Brazilian favela with bright colours and plaster peeling off the decrepit concrete buildings - the portuguese influence is clearly visible, as are the scars of the civil war. Nevertheless, to my amazement, I was able to withdraw Meticais from the only ATM in town (and to my much bigger amazement it turned out later on that you can pay almost everywhere with payment cards - even in remote villages hundreds of km from tar) and afterwards pushed hard down the serpentines off the mountains towards Maputo racing the setting sun.

At the bottom of the hills I came to a T junction, where I had a decision to make. Left going north to Moamba  on my original route from where I had plotted dirt roads all the way to Marracuene, bypassing Maputo completely. Right would take me straight through the middle of Maputo. Normally I would turn left without a second thought, but it was almost dark by now and the Maputo route was only half the distance, so I made up a theory about most of the Maputanís already out of town in their beach houses up the coast and turned right. That lasted for few kms until I hit the peak traffic head on still way out of the Maputo proper and had to switch into full street-fighting mode.  Unlike most westerners I do enjoy a bit of the trademark African traffic chaos and disregard of rules (SA, Botswana and Namibia do not qualify as Africa as people follow the rules more or less there) and soon got into the swing of things riding like an idiot swaying around stationary traffic alternating between the dirt riding on the shoulder and lane splitting  against the oncoming traffic. It was fun, but with 550 km and two border crossings under the belt for the day I tired soon and persevered in the dark through the heat and fumes driven only by fantasies of medium rare stake and nice bed in Jayís lodge in Macaneta.
The slow, stop and go traffic and the tropical heat were ideal for the KTM to show its character. The rev meter started acting erratically and eventually quit completely, the fan was on more or less all the time, and I was getting cramps in my left hand clutching my way through the choke a block traffic thanks to that truly stupid close ratio gearbox. Oh and my speedometer quit already in Joburg Ė I was sure it was blown fuse, but didnít bother to change it as it also disabled permanently ABS, which is how I like to have it.  I eventually came to like this bike a lot with all its Ďcharacterí( especially as it didnít leave me stranded which is all that matters at the end of the day), with exception of that stupid close ratio gearbox, that IMO is an epic KTM fail.
It took about two hours of intense urbane fighting to get me to Marracuene which Iíve reached at about 7:00pm. I still had to cross the Incomati river to reach the bliss of cooked meal and bed and was greatly relieved to see that the ferry was still operating. Normally they close at 6:00pm, but due to high holiday traffic they kept operating longer Ė bless their soul. Being on bike I jumped the long queue of cars (the ferry has limited space and according to locals it takes regularly about 4 hours wait to get car to the other side) and took the next ride to the other side. Then it was quick dash of about 5km or so on a good dirt road until I reached turnoff to Jayís Lodge another 5 or so km away. Iíve been here before and knew that the double track to the lodge is one of the most brutal sands you can find even in Moz as it crosses the coastal dune field. So uncharacteristically for me, I have stopped and lowered the tyre pressures to about 1.3 bar and set-off.  And I battled, battled bad. Tired from the long liaison and checked out mentally too early assuming Iím already there, I even had to resort to a duck-walking in places Ė not a good sign for the next 600 km or so of the same shit I had planned for me.
I have made it eventually to the lodge, where I inhaled in quick successions few sodas and beers, followed by some kind of meal that I donít remember. Somewhat recovered Ė or so I thought Ė I still had to brave about 1,5 km of brutal sand to the chalet following the two ladies from the lodge leading the way. It was easy for them in their hard core Daihatsu Terrios 4x4, but me and my Dakar replica suffered badly in the deep uneven weaving sand and they had to wait for me couple of times. To say that I was relieved to see the chalet would be a gross understatement. I was tired like a dog and hit the bed straight away.
Sorry I have no pictures from this day - it will improve going forward. Route for the day:

Offline Kobus Myburgh

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2016, 08:18:57 pm »
 :sip: Ek ry graag saam
"If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them.  I want men who will come if there is no road at all."

-David Livingstone-

Offline Draadwerk

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2016, 08:39:42 pm »
Gooi, ek ry saam...👍🏻

Offline lj111

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2016, 09:45:37 pm »
 :ricky: :drif:
 :thumleft: :thumleft:
Some people feel the rain and others just get wet...

Offline dirtyXT

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2016, 10:55:52 am »
cant wait to hear the rest!
Bike history:
Ital jet 50 - sold, DT 50 - scrapped - AR80 - sold DT185 - confiscated  KDX250 - sold ZZR400 - sold KX500 - XT660R Swapped for R1 YZF R1 - sold - XT660Z - sold

Offline SchalkL

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2016, 11:19:37 am »
I read all your RR, so in my kraal.   :3some:
Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2016, 12:20:40 pm »

@sidetrack re Tenere vs 690:

 XT660Z is better all-round travel bike - more comfortable to eat up long distances, even in good dirt (but then of course twin would be even better). That's where more weight and real estate of the bike helps with creature comforts and stability. For those mainstream trips most people like to do, like Sani pass and surrounds, Baviaans or Tankwa Karoo it is the better bike.

690 is better tool for the focused trips off the beaten track (i.e. not just off tar, but routes rarely ridden by bikes or even tourists that you will often not find even on T4A - kind of what you and Wolfskaap do on Google Earth). To give some examples:
- Christmas Safari 1 where I've spent most of the time on tar and relatively good dirt (those Kalahari cutlines are quite OK, especially after rain) - Tenere was the better tool.
- Christmas Safari 2 - I would say 50/50. For most of the route actually Tenere is the better tool (including the tracks in southern Botswana that were used for Amageza), but then in Damaraland and Kaokoland 690 takes the win.
- Christmas Safari 3 - 690 hands down. This was my physically toughest trip so far and I would have most probably had to skip most of it on Tenere due to exhaustion.

But to be honest, I couldn't help feeling that TE630 would have been even better in Moz...

Yes, I know I should probably get help   ;)

Offline M3X3Z3

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2016, 01:23:24 pm »
Hey Xpat

Your RRs are the best !   :thumleft:

Looking forward to the rest.  :drif:

Jup, poor physical fitness is a real passion killer when out on a bike.  :-[
Now: Honda XR250  KTM 690R  KTM 500
Then: XR650R  TE510  TE630  SMS630  690R

Offline woody1

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2016, 01:25:49 pm »


Ducati 100cc Mountaineer, Honda 550 K3, Suzuki Gs1000E, Suzuki Gs1000G, Suzuki 1100 Katana, BMW R1100RT, BMW R1150RT,,,,,All gone. Only 2014 ST in the garage at the moment... And Honda XL 600

Offline andrew5336

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2016, 02:00:10 pm »

Offline Steekvlieg

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2016, 02:04:41 pm »
 :sip: :sip:

Offline ROOI

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2016, 03:02:27 pm »
SUB  :spitcoffee:

Offline dirtyXT

« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2016, 04:46:10 pm »
And now we wait... Hurry!

Sent from my D6603 using Tapatalk
Bike history:
Ital jet 50 - sold, DT 50 - scrapped - AR80 - sold DT185 - confiscated  KDX250 - sold ZZR400 - sold KX500 - XT660R Swapped for R1 YZF R1 - sold - XT660Z - sold

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2016, 04:52:25 pm »
Sadly I still have to work to eat, will post next installment in the evening, thanks for following.

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2016, 09:24:15 pm »
Day 2
I woke up early before sunrise still sore from the prior day liaison and decided to take the day off - a record of a kind for me, a rest day after just one day of riding.
Me casa:

I went for a walk on the beach, where the local fishermen were getting busy to rope their daily catch in.

This little girl picked me up at the chalet and accompanied me staying always exactly out of reach:

The fishermen playing the tug of war with the sea:

They used boats to get the nets out to the see and musle on the shore to pull it out:

Biggest catch of the day:

Not much actually for all the effort, but good enough for me - I have a suspicion this one ended up being my dinner:

Yesterday in the mad dash to make it to the ferry before it shuts down I didnít stop to refill, so one chore for the day was to go back to Marracuene for a fill-up. Still painfully aware of my yesterdayís struggle in the sand I took the luggage off and set-off in shorts and t-shirt for the 20 km round trip, stopping for a breakfast at the lodge. I hit the sand with apprehension remembering yesterdayís fiasco, but well rested and without the luggage it was a breeze and I was able to sail the double track mostly in third sliding rear into the corners. My sand riding mojo was back! Which was a good news considering I had about 600 km of sand to cross to get to Vilanculos.
Iíve made it to the ferry in no time, jumping the queue again. With all the developments on the beaches around Macaneta, the ferry is a major choke point causing serious delays. So it is probably a good thing that Chinese are busy building a bridge across the river, though I shared the lodge managerís concern that this will bring in crowds from near by Maputo with all attendant issues destroying current tranquil vibe of the place.
Ferry across Inkomati - note the bridge on the right being build by the Chinese:

Once in Marracuene I have filled up and withdrawn more money as a reserve, and made it back to the lodge before lunch to the amazement of the staff, for whom this 20 km round trip usually takes whole day due to the delays at the ferry.
Back at the lodge's parking lot:

After yesterdayís mad dash Iíve spent rest of the day feeding at the lodge and chilling in the pool next to the chalet. Relaxed, not even the playlist at the lodge consisting from the Afrikaanís folk-pop (or whatever is this curious genre called), Brian Adams, and Modern Talking could destroy my inner peace - at the end of the day I still have sweet memories of shaking vigorously to the tunes of Cherry, Cherry Lady as part of the early mating rituals in the late 80ís. I also chatted to the lodge boss-lady who saved my ass on my first visit 4 years ago, when the subframe bolt on my TE630 snapped and she managed to fabricate one from an old bolt we found in her shack. At the time my mate and I were the first people who made it to the lodge on bikes and not much has changed since Ė they had probably handful of people in plastics there since, but no adv bikes. So if you are looking for an initiation ritual, just take your GS to the Jayís lodge, you wonít be disappointed   8).
I wrapped the day with hearty dinner and few beers at the lodge, hiked back to the chalet, and packed up for an early departure next morning and hit the bed early.