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Offline MaxThePanda

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #100 on: September 17, 2013, 06:40:51 pm »

1000km means around 45 litres, even on these economical rides. I'd just come off four years on a lovely BMW X-Challenge that had taken me on memorable trips all over the country. The X, with Touratech tank, carries 27 litters and that Rotax is the most economical engine known to humankind. I reckon it might have made those 700 with a light wrist... or an extra 5 litres somewhere. But my 690 only had the standard 12, so who you gonna call? Rally Raid, that's who. The downside of the X in that configuration is that it's really heavy on the front wheel, and quite top heavy when fully loaded. Part of the move to KTM was the decision that it was time to try something lighter and more nimble, so I went for the little 5 litre rear tank, which only gave me 18 or so, but in a tiny, slim package. So where is the extra 28 going, then?


My X was a fantastic bike - possibly the best rough road tourer on the market. Its forte is long, fast open dirt - it's better than the 690 hands down. When the 690 feels skittish, unstable and overexcited, jerking its head left and right like a lively untrained stallion trying to break free from its master (and that's WITH a steering damper) the X simply puts its head down and storms away at speed. But the 690 has an ace up its sleeve. In the tighter stuff it's simply the best, most exciting and racy off-road beast I've come across. I'd specifically set up the bike with all of the weight in front of the rear axle, and despite a slightly nervous start with the extremely light front wheel, after 3 days of the trip I was having the time of my life.

Great RR gents, great pics :thumleft: I have to say have been waiting for you to say something about Xchallenge ;D Well simply because I own one and fact that I too would like to own 690 in future.....so coming from man who have ridden both :thumleft:

They are both killa bikes, but bearing in mind that a great X is R40k, and the equivalent 690 is R75-R85k (don't be fooled by the cheapie ones), the X wins the value stakes hands down. Both of these need proper money spent on tanks etc. I'd say the X is a better tourer - it has more relaxed geometry and is MUCH more solid and planted on the road - particularly at speed. It is also more reliable, all round, more comfortable and a little more economical - and has a subframe if you want to carry proper weight. In addition, the engine pulls from lower revs with more torque, so it's better at 'chugging' in low speed stuff.

However, and it's a HUGE however if that's your flava... The 690 is significantly more powerful and a more exciting bike to ride fast. It snarls and bites and kicks. It hisses in your ear, and demands to be be wrung out. It has much better suspension out of the box, although both need work, but it's cheaper to fix - at least to a non rally-god level.

In my case, I'd simply come to time for a change. Life is too short to ride the same bike forever, unless you're in love with airheads. I figure if you've met a wonderful woman, and don't plan on changing her, then you may as well change bikes every now and again. Go scratch that itch!

690's should come with a bit of a warning sticker attached. Are you in control of the devil within... that is the question??

Offline KTMRICK

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #101 on: September 17, 2013, 08:16:56 pm »
This is absolutely the best RR I have ever read and one that really inspires you to get out there. Also highlights the fact that your choice of riding companions is critical. Looking forward to Lesotho on the weekend now.  :ricky:
 

Offline pietas

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #102 on: September 17, 2013, 09:10:04 pm »
Loving this. Can't wait for the rest
Groot berge en lang grond paaie
 

Offline MechanicalCamel

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #103 on: September 17, 2013, 10:51:36 pm »
This is absolutely the best RR I have ever read and one that really inspires you to get out there. Also highlights the fact that your choice of riding companions is critical. Looking forward to Lesotho on the weekend now.  :ricky:

What a lovely thing to hear. Your comment has inspired me to sit down after a dismal date and ramble forth...

stay tuned

 

Offline jpbarries

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #104 on: September 17, 2013, 11:19:15 pm »
Absolutely love this RR.. Keep it coming please, need some glorious distraction like this RR from torturing routine..  :drif:
 

Offline MechanicalCamel

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #105 on: September 18, 2013, 12:00:29 am »
Waking up wet is not always a bad thing. Isn’t that right ladies? For one thing, it forces you to take your time mobilising, cause you have to wait till the sun dries your sleeping bag. For aspirant sloths (me), this is a wonderful excuse.

First order of business when waking up in a river bed is always tea, or coffee, or (if you were sneaky when the packing-nazi swept through your bags) a Nestle Instant Cappuccino, which is what Jesus would have turned the water into had he been an adventure rider.

Tea for him who turned his nose up at cappuccino:



Second order of business is typically the bossie. More on that later. Save to say your walk does provide you with cracking views of the campsite:



Third order of business is AfterLife (foul Pronutro-style-breakfast-mulch that Max resolutely declares could power an army). I find it to be a deceitful trickster, promising day-long nourishment and dropping me in a hypoglycaemic heap by about 10am. Still, better than almost all the other breakfast options we didn’t have.

If you see this filthy nonsense, run a mile… (unless you’re a panda or a midget)


Fourth order of business is kitty bitch.

As we’ve mentioned, every year Max and I and a gaggle of like-minded hippies wander into the desert to the arts festival of Afrika Burn. It’s a wonderful place and time for many, many reasons, but one of them is that there is no money. You don’t carry money, you don’t see money, and no one steals it, principally cause there’s nothing to buy. We work this same angle into our trips. The principle is that your day is ever so slightly better (lets face it: you’re biking through Angola – it’s pretty bloody good already!) if you don’t deal with money at all. We up the ante by saying your day would improve even further if you didn’t have to do any form of administration whatsoever - finding accommodation, asking for directions, organising drinks at the rest stops, buying food supplies, organising gas, yadda, yadda. These are all trivial administrative matters that get in the way of soaking up the delights of a new country. So who, you might ask, will do all this admin for you? Well, that would be the day’s kitty bitch.

And who would the kitty bitch be? A fair way to do it would be to rotate the duties each day. But that’s dull, and life’s not fair. So we play a game each morning. The game can be anything and is decided on by the current holder, so they can skew it in their favour. The more ridiculous the game, the more admiration is bestowed. You can imagine that things got fairly silly by the time we got out the country. For a reason that we never quite got to the bottom of, the Midget bought a catty on the way up to Springbok (probably to fend off bats). This catty become the cornerstone of our morning kitty bitch routine.

On this particular morning, the Midget decreed that it was a game of ‘shoot-the-sock-out-the-tree-from-30-paces’. I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I was so excited to blast the sock out the tree (and the tree out the ground) that I let go the catty and the stone at the same time. You’ll note that (near-perfect body position notwithstanding) I’m not holding anything: (that look on my face would hardly have Goliath shaking in his sandals now would it?)


Despite being a child prodigy on the shotgun range, Max was almost as crap as I was at this catty firing business:


It soon became clear, however, why the Midge had bought a catty.  What he lacks in height, riding experience and toes, he more than makes up for in catty marksmanship. He’s a phenomenon, like a cross between mini-me and Robin Hood and David (him of Goliath slaying fame). Just look at his draw:


And that satisfied grin tells it all – no admin duties for this midget today:


Naturally the real aim of this game is less about winning and more about not losing. I’m a second place specialist. Drive for show, put for dough. Throughout our trip I think I only won a game once, but I also only lost it once. I rare and, dare I say it, fine achievement.


Ok, enough of this blather…. Back to the riding
« Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 12:05:01 am by MechanicalCamel »
 

Offline MechanicalCamel

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #106 on: September 18, 2013, 08:09:03 am »
At the risk of sounding repetitive , the riding that day was fantastic. It was slow going for most of the morning; lots of bouncing up and down gully’s full of loose rocks and stones. The Midget’s bike was having some ground clearance trouble and he kept on either bottoming out the suspension or whacking the bashplate on rocks (despite being a wee fella in tape measure terms, he holds his own on the scales). We had tried to dial in the pre-load earlier but clearly we hadn’t done enough. I do love the DR but that suspension is something I would advise anyone get sorted before doing a trip fully loaded.

The scenery really is utterly fantastic and things felt very remote. Like I said, the start of the day was pretty rocky, lots of large boulders and dips which I assume would be river crossings in less drought-stricken times. At this point we were in the middle of the hills. As we moved West though, it opened up; the road become smoother, the mountains receded to the north and south and it felt like we were on a plain…  It really was stunningly beautiful.

I’m going to bore everyone (more) describing this, so I’ll leave it to Max’s cracking shots to tell the story…

 

 

Trees. Some tall skinny ones:


And some a little more porky:





Max and my 690’s were going like the clappers. In that terrain it’s tricky to ride too fast, but the suspension soaked up everything that came its way without breaking a sweat. I did wish that I had relocated the mapping switch from under the seat though. I had been riding with it on 2 (nuts) but with the loose rocks, and when riding a bit more slowly behind the Midge, I felt I was having to be super sensitive with the throttle, which was a bit of a pain. I had my bags cable-tied in place as extra theft deterrents, so couldn’t be arsed to move it all to get the seat off to change the map. When I did change it later on, I found it a lot more comfy on 3 (normal) or even 1 (soft) sometimes, but obviously only for the more rocky, technical stuff.


Is it really not about the bike Lance?




There was a bit of game about – a few springbok, some smaller, shaggier things (duiker?), and, oddly, some squirrels. They looked like they may have spoken with the bats and gave me the mild fear. I can confirm that these little fellows can run at exactly 35kph, because that’s what I was doing when they were running along next to me.

Squirrel, at 35kph:


Glorious stuff this was.

With the smoother road though, came faster riding. And we all know what happens with faster riding don’t we…

« Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 08:12:11 am by MechanicalCamel »
 

Offline MechanicalCamel

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #107 on: September 18, 2013, 11:09:56 pm »
In the tempting fate department, the following conversation has to be right up there with stuffing grass into a lawnmower by hand:

“What’re you up to there Midge?”
“I’m pulling the knee pads outta these pants”
“Why?”
“They’re driving me nuts – scratchy things keep rubbing on my knee”
“Think that’s a wise idea?”
“Sure it’ll be fine – all my falls are low speed events [the midget had been rolling about on the ground with his bike about 5 times a day on average at this point]. What you think?”
“Well, the thing with knee pads is that you don’t need them until you REALLY need them.”

Fast forward half the day and I come round a corner to find the Midget pinned under his DR like a fat dolphin under a whale. Surprise surprise, he’d smacked his knee in exactly the spot that the pad would have been. Nothing too critical - mere flesh wound – but we’d been carrying a bulky medical kit around for a while now and I spotted an opportunity to play Dr House and abuse someone.  

Dr Gregory House – king of acerbic vitrol (not to be confused with tank manufacturer)


On opening the medical kit, it immediately became apparent that the midget had put as much time into stocking it as I had on the food. We had enough pain killers to keep a landmine victim happy but that was simply because the Midget had raided his wife’s private supply. On the disinfectant front we were a tad light so I stuck a stick in his mouth and prescribed a good scrubbing with the precious last remnants of our whisky. Let it never be said that we are uncaring.



Cleaned and bandaged, shrubbery removed from his front spokes and knee pad safely back in place, the Midget hopped back on buttercup and forged on with nary a hint of the near catastrophe.

Disappointingly, I seemed to be in worse shape. The trauma of seeing drink poured into dry earth had left me a little wobbly. By this point, I was a thirsty camel. A very, very, thirsty camel:


The picture’s caption informatively explains: “The photo here does not illustrate the camel's sexual organs but is in fact the lining of the mouth extruded during mating calls”. Because naturally the first thing that I’d be thinking was that those were his balls coming out his mouth.

We had mis-calculated the water situation (we did this just about every day) and the dreaded AfterLife had gobbled up the last of our reserves. I wouldn’t say we were ready to drink the sweat from our socks but I was starting to wonder if we hadn’t ballsed this up rather spectacularly. The area has had no rain for 4 years (the drought has driven the farmers North and East to look for grazing for their cattle). None of the rivers had even a suggestion of water in them and all this was starting to make me a bit dizzy. Even the hard man Midget was getting desperate:


Still, not much to do about it so we bumbled on into the mid afternoon. It was pretty hot and it felt very, very, remote. There wasn’t a sign of human inhabitation, other than the occasional tire track on the road in front of us.  Every now and again we’d go over a rise, the mountains would open up and we’d get a glimpse of the huge dunes of the Northern Namibian Skeleton Coast far away to the South. Spectacular.

Then, unexpectedly, we came across this little settlement:




It consisted of only a couple of huts, some families and some uber-cool motorbike rockers. But not a drop of water.















Moral dilemma’s plague me at times like these. I’m pretty much permanently hungry, so any stop means lunch-time to me. But when you stop in a little spot like this the crowds gather round pretty sharpish. And everyone is dirt poor and certainly sporting a more urgent hunger than mine. We were pretty light on food at this stage and we definitely didn’t have spare to be passing around (‘spare’ being relative, granted). So I end up not eating simply because I didn’t want to share, despite the unimaginable wealth gap. These situations leave me feeling mean, and irritated that this is a reality of our world. And maybe guilty for the luck in how my die was cast. In this sort of mood, I cherish the fact that I can disappear into my helmet alone with my thoughts.

With scenery like this though, it’s hard to dwell in melancholy too long…








I have to give full credit to Max here for the shots. He was the designated camera bitch and did a cracking job of charging ahead and getting some shots of me n the Midge trundling through. He had to resort to self portraits:


He’s been furiously editing while I’ve been scribbling so booya to you big papa.

An hour or so further on we rolled into the delightful little village of Iona. Unlike any of the villages we’d been through since crossing at Ruacana, this place was neat and clean and orderly. White painted rocks lined the few roads, a smart looking building turned out to be a school and Angolan flags were proudly hoisted.




More importantly, there was a well, at which I made myself comfortable and set about inflating my humps. Yes, yes, I know that a camel’s hump actually stores fat, not water, but that’s not going to stop me using the expression “inflating my humps”.


Donkey’s can look like motorbikes when you’re at the point of expiry:





There was also a big shiny 4x4 in Iona that looked like it was either government or UN related. It turned out to be neither – a Spanish doctor / anthropologist was there with 2 sidekicks making a film (about medicine or people – can’t remember which). This fellow had worked in Angola before and during the war and was super knowledgeable about the local people and cultures – fascinating to listen to. To be honest, he made me feel a little like a petrol headed pig. But in a good way.

The day was wrapping up so we headed out of Interesting Iona to look for a campsite.


Max is like a homing pigeon when it comes to finding a place to sleep – he’s a campsite connoisseur. It’s wonderfully comforting to know that he’s normally got the nap spot covered. 9 times out of 10 it’s a riverbed. Hands down the best place to kick back after Another Astounding Day…






« Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 11:17:02 pm by MechanicalCamel »
 

Offline MechanicalCamel

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #108 on: September 19, 2013, 08:02:37 am »
Things are eerily quiet on this here thread. Are we boring you poor people into a gentle coma??

 

Offline MechanicalCamel

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #109 on: September 19, 2013, 08:05:06 am »

Btw....you okes know we are doing our annual bash this weekend at Kei River Mouth?  Make a plan....

http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=124104.0

Forgot to respond to this KilRoy. Yeah, thanks, do know about the bash but I'm a little in the red on the pink ticket front so gonna have to skip. We'll get there one day...

 

Offline Malibu

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #110 on: September 19, 2013, 08:18:34 am »
So write!  And post pics.. Damn it!  

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Offline MaxThePanda

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #111 on: September 19, 2013, 09:16:45 am »


The morning dawned bright and still. We were really in that ride flow now. Baring disaster, this was to be the day we crossed the bulk of Parque Iona and reached the sea.



Believe it or not, we had been averaging about 150km a day since we entered Angola. Admittedly we had a novice with us, but Gaza had been keeping up a surprising turn of pace. It was very slow going. The track - a road would be very generous - was very tight, rough and rocky, and the sensational views gave cause to stop often.

The previous night had probably been our best campsite yet.



I'd turned off the road and ridden about a kilometer up a broad, soft river bed, which we had all to ourselves. Well, except for a surprising amount of wildlife.



I'd heard stories of everything living up here being wiped out, and between a war, a drought and pretty pervasive poverty it didn't sound particularly far fetched. But the camp was beautiful and our rough bivvy was working well.



I've graduated away from tents on motorbike trips unless it's properly necessary. Ordinary life is so cloistered, so protected and, well, soft. Cape Town is all cappuccinos and sushi. Bike trips are about reuniting with the oft-forgotten primal, earthy parts of ourselves. They are about returning with sticks in your hair and a wild look in your eyes - at least for me - and I've found sleeping out does a lot to make that happen.

Morning ritual was always tea (the Midge is faintly obsessive in that department):



... followed at this point by bandages:



and some obscure ritual I don't feel privy to.



This is an idea of the landscape we were heading off into.



Sandy plains surrounded by spectacular mountains in the far distance. Honestly, the terrain had been a lot more varied than I expected. It felt like we had been crossing about seven different ecosystems, each with their own curious little plants and landscapes. For a countryside wracked by severe drought there were a surprising number of trees about. Clearly well adapted to the arid terrain, I've no idea where they were getting their water from. Every river bed we passed was simply a ditch filled with sand.

Offline Minxy

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #112 on: September 19, 2013, 09:24:35 am »
Really enjoying the ride report guys.
Awesome pictures, looks like such an epic adventure!  :thumleft:
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Offline MaxThePanda

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #113 on: September 19, 2013, 09:26:26 am »
On we rode...









When all of a sudden the tight terrain emptied out into this vast plain.









We sped up to 80 or 100km/h and tried to chase a vague blue line on the GPS as the tracks were vague and disappeared off in different directions at regular intervals. Sometimes it meant simply turning on a heading and bolting across the sand and sparse scrub bush.

All of a sudden we came to a small rise, and found a collection of buildings, perhaps a planned camp in the park - who knows? But they were new and unoccupied.





It's hard to convey the sense of remoteness here. We stopped seeing the ever present motos and occasional hamlets. There is no park gate or fence, and I doubt people are barred from living in this area, but it just seemed that we were entering an abandoned, vacant territory.

But we were on the right track!


Offline MechanicalCamel

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #114 on: September 19, 2013, 09:47:24 am »

Morning ritual was always tea (the Midge is faintly obsessive in that department):




Don't you be confusing me with the Midget - I'm not 5'1 and short on toes dammit
 

Offline Bram

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #115 on: September 19, 2013, 10:55:12 am »
Awesome report so far. Keep it going  :hello2:
 

Offline Betsy

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #116 on: September 19, 2013, 11:18:42 am »
Awesome report guys! very entertaining - the midge sounds pretty hardcore - being a beginner and all! he looks like a very impressive athlete.  ;)

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Offline MaxThePanda

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #117 on: September 19, 2013, 11:35:59 am »

Morning ritual was always tea (the Midge is faintly obsessive in that department):




Don't you be confusing me with the Midget - I'm not 5'1 and short on toes dammit

I KONW! You were Kitty Bitch that morning and simply doing the Midge's bidding. Which, as we know, includes tea in 'bed'.

Offline MaxThePanda

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #118 on: September 19, 2013, 12:28:41 pm »
Reading stories about journeys through this part of Angola it always seems to be the beach that stands out... particularly the mythical Doodsakker. Our pre-trip meetings had gravitated to it, like matter to a black hole - slightly laced with apprehension at the remoteness and potential danger of it all.

I barely remember mention about what we were crossing today, which probably made the surprise all the better for it. And we were gobsmacked and the sheer unending beauty of it all.



It was as if we had waltzed through a time port and stumbled out into the Atacama desert.



Wild, endless stony plains. Like a fiery stallion freed from the constraints of marking time I gave the bike its head and watched the speedo race past 100km/h, 120km/h... 140 km/h. Blasting across endless miles of nothing. Exhaust snarling, rear tyre dancing, wind whipping at open visor.

As if I needed warning of what could go wrong, a long way from clean white hospital sheets, a shimmering hulk in the distance swam into view:





Abandoned cans marked the passing of time.







And then we were off again.



There's something bewitching and magical about this landscape. On a trip of amazing riding this was surpassing even the incredible days that went before it.



And no sooner had we got used to the plains, than they started to fold, ripple and twist into stony dunes.







The Midget was holding up his end with aplomb. When you think about it, this should NOT be your first proper dual sport ride. Nobody deserves to get scenery and terrain like this without paying their dues at Oasis and on some proper miles of the more average and predictable Cape dirt roads. This was like being set up by your grandfather to lose your virginity in a Greek brothel, and finding Kate Moss waiting for you in a beautifully appointed boudoir with three grams of finest Columbian and an attitude.



Still, I guess he was paying in impacts and ingested dirt - his mule chucking him off a few times a day as retribution for his cheek at having waltzed thorugh the Pearly Gates without properly paying the price of admission.





This is our last view of the big plains. That hill led into a massive soft sand dune section, much like what you'd expect to see on the Dakar. For some reason I don't have any pictures, so I shall try to get some video going soon. It was extraordinary. The kind of stuff the punters at Atlantis fantasize about while falling asleep to visions of Mark Coma carving 300ft faces.

We were almost there.

Offline Malibu

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Re: Ngola Kingdom: Motorcycle (mis)adventures in south-west Angola
« Reply #119 on: September 19, 2013, 12:34:35 pm »
Holy Heng!  Loving this RR!   :notworthy:

Is The Midget going to comment at all....?
Would love to hear his version...
They call me Judy or Judes...

You need chaos in your soul to birth a shining star!