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Offline witold_dc

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A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« on: May 16, 2011, 03:02:23 pm »
Earlier this year I found myself browsing the web and saw these cheap plane tickets to Johannesburg. I have never been to Africa, but this being every kid's dream, including mine, I started thinking.  What better place to ride and find some stories?  Africa is synonymous with nature and adventure. This trip had to happen.

So I purchased my ticket and started doing some research.  I found a cool South African motorcycle forum, posted my story, and started looking into bike options.  In the end, it was one of the forum members that really made this trip happen by renting me his bike and for that I'm eternally grateful.  Without this, I don't think this trip would've worked out nearly as well as it did.

I would like to tell you that I did a ton of research and preparation for the trip, but reality is that the more information I found, the more uncertain I became.  I arrived in Johannesburg with my Lonely Planet guidebook and no plan other than taking a pretty easy ride up to Victoria Falls.  After that, the plan was to play it by ear.

And so, the trip begins. 

Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2011, 03:05:29 pm »
Madrid airport. One of my favorites.  More relaxed, nice lounges and pretty good food options. 



Iberia - the Chinatown bus of the airline industry.  Even worse than USA airlines.  To be avoided, if possible.



Chinese cigarettes, 1/2 price.  Coming to the USA soon.



Marlboro slogan in Europe.


 

After a grueling 30+ hour flights to Johannesburg, a super sketchy 'taxi' ride to my lodging, I was ready
to get some rest.  I spent the next few days exploring Joburg.  It is a perfectly fine - but also perfectly bland city.  I think it might be fun to live there if you are engaged in some interesting job opportunity, but otherwise... I would skip it. 

Its not a good sign for the biggest tourist attraction to be a black ghetto. And even then, Soweto is no longer what it used to be. At some point in the past it was a really poor township where Blacks were forced to live.  But today, because of big government expenditures and freedom of movement, it looks a lot better than many other parts of Joburg like CBD/Hilbrough/Alexandia/etc.  Any character that this area used to have is long gone.  Even Mandelas house has been plastered with LCD screens and fancy signs. 



Sowetos claim to fame



Most of Soweto I saw looked a lot better than most of Johannesburg I saw.



The poor parts are small and isolated.  I imagined all of Soweto to look like this.



Joburg CBD.  20 years ago, this was apparently the nice part of town.



You know you're in the bad part of Johannesburg when people start using razor wire and chain-link fence instead of standard electrified wire and tall compound walls.  This pic is from the place I stayed in.





Now this is what a proper Johannesburg ghetto looks like.  (Alexandria)




After doing the other standard stuff (Apartheid museum, Mandela square, etc) I picked up the bike.  Thanks a million, Geotraveller!



I love hot dry weather.  Africa is perfect for me. All sorts of fancy resorts and attractions everywhere in RSA. I've heard people refer to RSA as 1,3 - 1st World on the inside, 3rd world on the outside.  I can see what they mean.




Very few bikes here - just like the US - but they do have moto parking in many places.




Talk about brand over saturation.



With all these nice luxury cars everywhere, no wonder Joburg has a violent carjacking problem.
Still, what better time to take this picture than after midnight on a weekend?




OK.  I am done with Joburg.  Time to start the ride.



Red African soil


Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2011, 03:08:08 pm »
The first night at a hotel.  Even though the bike was right outside, I was so worried about it that I couldn't sleep.



South African road block



Looked inside, very disappointing, zero bimbos.




scenery is not all that different while riding at speed. It is only when you pull over that you start noticing things.


 
My lodging for the night. 



Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2011, 03:09:19 pm »

BOTSWANA

Botswana is all about wild life.  Chobe NP in NE Botswana is so full of animals it almost feels fake.




Botswana elephants





Watermelon ladies.  I had to do a taste test.



Say hello to the internet forums, watermelon ladies.



In the above pic, you can also see my spectacular packing job for the trip.  On the back of the bike is the toolkit and tent.  And in my backpack is everything else. 

Lions.





Boots.





Elephant in water



Elephant 2


Giraffe



Zebras



Typical African politician



Offline cloudgazer

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2011, 03:11:06 pm »
subscribed.
 

Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2011, 03:11:34 pm »

While there are no wild animals roaming the urban streets in Africa, there is a sense of nature and wild life. There are all sorts of colorful birds everywhere and all sorts of plants i haven't seen before.  





These villages are everywhere.  




Exploring some random tracks in Botswana.



Botswana salt flats.  Only after I passed through this area, some locals told me about Top Gear coming here.  Here is a link to that Top Gear special. Scroll down.
http://www.google.com/search?q=top+gear+botswana+special&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a





My 'safari tent' for the night.  Now that is the sort of tent I could get used to.
(need to post video... )



Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2011, 03:13:26 pm »
VICTORIA FALLS

Twice as high as Niagara Falls and a multitude wider.  You can also get much closer.  You can see the shrubbery 'fence' in this photo and in most place there isn't even that.
You can walk up as far as you desire.  You can really feel the power of the falls.  In a word; Spectacular. The falls really live up to the hype.

     


The only thing I hate when traveling is all the double pricing, which was in full effect in many places I traveled through. Here are the prices for Victoria Falls.  Quite a few hotels had prices about 50% higher for tourists than for RSA/SADC.  It really adds up for non-rich tourists like me, and definitely keeping a lot of people away from visiting this region. 

     


After seeing this sign in the lobby, I asked the receptionist if tourists get robbed here a lot.   He thinks about it, then answers "Yes, but not every night."




Kayaking the Zambezi.  My group of 4 had the pleasure of being charged by a hippo.  Thankfully, false-charged.  But about a week after I came through, a hippo injured someone pretty badly.  The guide said that most of them are not too keep on doing the canoeing work because this is slow water, where all the animals hang out - and people get attacked -
whereas the rapids are safe from animals. 



Really big tree.





Heli around the falls.








Heli ride is nice.  But the best way to see the falls is via ultralight. 




Motorcycle guards.  you mean not all Africans dress like this?



Ice cubes





Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2011, 03:14:43 pm »

ZIMBABWE


Zim road



Pic of the president in most hotels and all govt buildings.



Electoral violence billboard



One definitely senses that Zim is in a lot worse shape than its neighbors.  Street hawkers start out by trying to sell overpriced stuffs, then trying to barter it for your clothes, and finally just begging for a dollar for food. 

Finally, felling like a millionaire.



Impalas are Africa's deer.  Three days before the end of my trip I almost hit one when a herd appeared out of nowhere, and some ran in front of me and some after me. 





All these poor Africans may live in straw huts with no plumbing or electricity, but you would never know it from their stylish way of dress. 



One of the big stories in the USA about Africa is just how big of a push China is making in the region.  Personally, I can't say I've seen this first hand.  I did see quite of few of these stores, and some Chinese in Beira ports, but that was it.




Rhode's grave



I had the place all to myself, and as I was leaving a school group showed up.


Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2011, 03:16:46 pm »

Plenty of cool back roads.




I rarely got caught by the rain, but when I did, there was no where to hide.  You get soaked in a second.  The good thing is that these storms disappear as quickly as they appear and the scorching African sun dries you out pretty quickly.




For a region with such a big HIV problem, there are surprisingly few PSAs like this around.






zim in a nutshell; half the things are old, broken, or out of service.  Sometimes you have to go to 5 gas stations to find one that hasn't ran out of gas.




Zimbabwe is a politically tense region and something big is going to happen here soon. 



Say what you want about Zimbabwe leadership, but they definitely got one thing right.



A note to all 'you folks' from the white lodge owners.


Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2011, 03:18:16 pm »

MOZAMBIQUE

Has anyone seen this monkey?  At the Mozambique border post, it stole some apples out of the bag I had on my bike.




Beira, Mozambique is full of these big old buildings that haven't had any maintenance since the Portuguese left.  They are interesting and charming in their own special way. 



Beira ocean front. 



Instead of tourists, you see locals fishing  and working on the beach. 





This is what prime ocean front property looks like in Beira.





Mozambican port.



Beira beach



Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2011, 03:20:23 pm »

My Mozambican guard slept right outside my room on just a straw mat on top of concrete.  The house (on the left) is being renovated and I was the only one in the already renovated guest house pictured.  Talk about random accommodation find.  I found this place around 10pm when I got into Beira.  Lucky.



Full service gas station.



Lots of street hawkers at intersections in big cities.  They mostly sell the most random useless trinkets.



Pretty sweet loading job.



The roads are generally pretty good, but there are occasional pot holes in the road that are gigantic.  One of them creeped up on me too fast for me to slow down much.  I literally fell into this giant crater and caught some air coming out of it.  I was actually surprised how smoothly I went through it.  On my sportbike, I would've definitely crashed. 

Here is what happens to vehicles that do not see these craters in time.  This was on the same road, same location, and the sand patch in the back is the hole in the road.  It may have been the same hole that gave me my scare.  It doesn't look like much until you get very close to it. 



If these holes are hard to spot during the day, you can imagine how hard they are to spot during the night. 





One of the big surprises for me was just how many people spoke some English. The only exception was Mozambique.  It seems like the only people who don't know how to speak english are the really poor farmers.  This is the shelter I found one time when it started to rain.




The women carry their babies on their backs tucked in with 2 towels and it's kinda interesting how they can do this with no help from anyone.  I should've taken a video.




Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2011, 03:21:01 pm »
This is supposed to be a smile on my face.

   
   


In the countries I've visited, you generally don't get much value for your money.  Decent standards will cost you, and even then, things are often done very sloppy.  For example, you can see in the back the door to my $150+ hotel room. 



And here is the secure parking area of said $150/night hotel room.  I got to this city about 10pm, exhausted after a full day of riding, and even more exhausted after so much night riding and not even knowing if I will have enough gas to get to this city.  There were only two hotels in this city that I could find.  The cheap and dingy one was full. 


Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2011, 03:22:38 pm »


ZAMBIA

Whoa... double rainbow!  Of course it didn't come out on the photo. 




One of the coolest things in this part of the world are the spectacular sunsets and pink moons created by the red earth/dust.




One of the many small border crossings.  This one is into Zambia.  The funny part about this photo is that the second I got the camera out, everyone went hiding.  The dozen of sketchy money changers and fixers are walking away, and the border official hid behind the post. 



I went to Galito's Grilled Chicken for lunch.  They said they ran out of fries.  Strange, but whatever.  Does this chicken look good to you?  Becasue it was completely raw and just below the grilled outside.  I mean... completely. 



In a testament to my good judgement, I decided to eat the ice cream anyway.  Thankfully, I didn't get sick. 



Sad to say, food is generally lousy or horrible.  Sometimes it's acceptable.  I generally tried to find nice restaurants everywhere and the best thing I can say is to not come to this part of the world for the food.  It is just OK.  Also, they also tend to ruin the steaks by putting this overpowering glaze on top. 



Offline N[]vA

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2011, 03:23:28 pm »
wow

stunning photos!
So much of win it hurts! ^.^


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Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2011, 03:23:43 pm »
Biltong is their version of jerky.  Quality varies from OK to awesome.  



I bet their expense ratio is really good.




Wilderbeast herd by the side of the road



Typical rural area scenery.  These little straw hut villages are everywhere.  Rather picturesque.  




You can see the power lines over head, but these people do not have power.  At night, there are no lights anywhere, only fires.  They do not have plumbing either, and you see women and kids carrying water back to the village along the road sides.  Life is not easy here.



Another filling station.  They are generally in remote regions where there are no gas stations and this is the most expensive gas you will ever buy.




PSAs in Africa are a little different.  In retrospect, I should've replaced and kept taking the Malaria medicine I lost at some point.


Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2011, 03:24:43 pm »
Another accident scene.  As you can see, the local folks got two spectacles to stare at that day.  As a white guy on a big motorcycle, all eyes are generally on you riding through all these regions.  Lots of people wave and are generally very friendly.





More street vendors at the outskirts of town. 




This PSA is probably only interesting to me, as my work has me looking at and analyzing US Census data quite a bit.  I wonder how different the process is in Zambia.



Yet another accident. 

This truck's front tire blew out and the driver lost control ending up in the filed.  He is being towed out by two other trucks. 



The signs say there are lodges by the river.  How far down this road, who knows?  Are there random wild animals right by the river at night?  Heck yes.  Hopefully, they like BMWs.   It sucks looking for accommodations after dark. 




Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2011, 03:25:47 pm »
NAMIBIA

Namibia is the most visually striking part of my trip.  At the same time, it is pretty touristy and overrun by Germans, making it the least interesting anthropologically, unless you really get off the beaten path.

Namibia plains, getting closer to the coast.  Desolate, calm, Perfect.

   
        
A lot of Namibian roads are like this.  It is easy riding... until you hit heavy sand patches that can really make you squirm.




You can go off road here in the desert and it is surprisingly easy riding.  Just keep the power lines in sight and you should be OK.



This bike is an excellent choice for these rides.  It can do a lot of things pretty well. 




Atlantic coast on the right, sand dunes on the left.  I made it from Indian Ocean to Atlantic Ocean!




Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2011, 03:26:56 pm »
The dunes. 

Riding up should not be too hard at all, but riding down would be another story and I wussed out.  These dunes are 100s of feet tall and fairly steep.  Maybe if I was riding my own bike I would chance it.
 


Gloves make great kick stands.




Riding around in the sand is pretty hard.  I was never comfortable with it, but you just have to do it if you're here.



Exhausted. 




Good ol' sand storm.  Visibility of fog, with the added bonus of sand in your face.



Desert roads.




Riding into the eye of the storm.  No where to hide.


Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2011, 03:27:37 pm »
One way to save on lodging in Namibia is for the headlight to break and to sleep by the side of a random road. 




Motorcycle tan line




This is what big African trucks look like.  About 30% longer than the US trucks.



This particular truck had some problems crossing the Kalahari desert.  I wonder how long it's been there.



Plastic Ram mount cracked.  This is my new and improved GPS mount.  Patent pending.


Offline witold_dc

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Re: A few thousand KMs across Southern Africa.
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2011, 03:29:26 pm »
One of the biggest surprises for me turned out to the be amazingly good driving everywhere.  I thought it would be chaos everywhere, but in reality everyone drives very smoothly, signals their intentions, and gives adequate room and respect to others.  I felt like such an a** if I forgot to signal in Zimbabwe.

Biggest road danger is cows, goats, and donkeys that roam free.
 


The bike performed great and I see now why these bikes are so popular. They do a lot of things pretty well.




The trip was logistically very easy. The paperwork at each border was minimal.  I didn't do any research on particular border crossings.  I just showed up and kept my fingers crossed.



Back to the real world.  (pic is from the London airport shoe store.)




All these countries have a lot of police checks setup and I was pulled over at a lot of them.  I generally made an effort to engage and chat up the cops to steer the conversation in the direction I want and this has worked quite well.All encounters turned out to be cordial and friendly. Most of the time, they didn't even ask to see my driver's license.  And at one stop in Zambia, I actually persuaded a cop to let me ride his motorcycle.  Sadly, I have no photo of this.  Apparently, letting people ride your motorcycle is no problem, but taking a photo together is against police rules.