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Offline BMBob

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #80 on: June 17, 2014, 04:15:40 am »
This ride report is super.  :thumleft:
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Offline dirtyXT

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #81 on: June 17, 2014, 07:37:44 am »
Thank you for comments.

@Alan: I will post the GPS - at least for the most juicy parts, once I'm finished with this. I need to figure out how to parcel them into smaller portions as currently it is too big - even in that format that you suggested.

@ dirtyXT: In my experience everybody who gets really hooked up on adventure riding - by which I understand riding long distance dirt as much as possible, naturally moves away from GS (or any of its 1200 clones) to smaller bike. GS is actually great bike for complete novices - that non-diving paralever/telelever (the one at the front - not sure which one it is) provides great level of confidence for noobs (I know I was one of them), especially if you need to brake in the corner. And most novices stick to tar anyway and for them easy dirt highway amounts to 'adventure of lifetime'. Once you discover the wonder of remote dirt trips, you quickly realise that GS (or any other clone) is just hugely wrong for that - I know I have dragged fully loaded 1150 GSA through deserts, crossed dunes in Swakpmund across few times and have ridden 1000s of km in deep sand tracks (not sandy farm roads).

The sad thing is - there are actually very few adventure riders that would fit the definition above - i.e. very small niche. As a result adventure riding became just another marketing fad for masses - and BMW mastered this dark art. That is fine by me, except for one thing - overwhelming focus on the 1200 category resulted in diminishing choice of the proper dirt adventure bikes on the market - which ideally are about 650 - 750cc IMO. Currently if I'm not mistaken there is only Tenere being sold (DR, XR and KLR being discontinued). Unless they came up with something new in this category, all future adventure bikes will have to be home made and probably from one of those old models (my Tenere is already like that, modified heavily as the standard is just underwhelming).

although i have never owned a 1200 anything, I agree and have the same weapon of choice as you for similar reasons. a bie for me represents being light and nimble, although the tenere isnt the lightest bike around it is nimble enough for my tastes. also agree with the remote soloness of adventure riding. the 1200's are two man affairs on any level of technical/difficult terrain. but enough about that, im green with envy on your adventure and think it is the ultimate approach to things like this.
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #82 on: June 19, 2014, 08:48:46 pm »
Day 15

I woke up finally to a clear sky. There were still clouds east, but nothing threatening like the Zim days and it seemed like I may finally spent the day dry. The objective for the day was Tuli block on the border of Zim, Bots and SA - the last chance to ride among proper african animals on this trip - I mean among them, not behind the fence. Of course to get there I wanted to ride as much dirt as possible, so I wanted to follow small tracks running south along the Bots/Zim border.

Good weather and relatively short planned distance (only about half of the prior day), made for very relaxing start of the day with long hearty English breakfast in the hotel restaurant and leisured packing. So when I finally set-off it was almost 11 am.

From Francistown I have retraced back to the Matsiloje on the Zim border, where I got promptly lost again. Itís funny as the tar comes from west all the way to the village boundary - presumably to get you to the border crossing, yet the sole purpose of the village set-up seem to be to make sure that you donít find the crossing on the east side. After few trial and errors I have eventually made it to the border gate at which I turned right and took the dirt trek following the border fence south. The trek seemed to be used only by border patrols. I followed the trek for about 15 km and it was getting more and more deserted - I checked the GPS and realized that the trek I thought Iím on is actually running in parallel few km west. I came across little path branching west so I took it to reconnect to the GPS trek, but soon the path disappeared in the bush.

So I retraced back to Matsiloje and with my nose stuck on GPS at about 8 meter resolution Iíve found the right dirt road and set-off south again. The dirt road heads towards Dikgathong Dam (about 40 km south of Matsiloje), which is fed from the west by the Shashe and Tati rivers. The road was dirt winding through the Bots bush - it allowed for relatively higher speed with sliding rear around the corners, but I had to constantly watch out for washouts and mudholes - very entertaining.

There was a gate and obligatory police checkpoint about 1 km before the dam. The police were friendly and chatty, but then they decided to inspect my luggage (I was probably the biggest entertainment they had for a whole year so they had to stretch it a bit). I complied grudgingly, but this arbitrary bureaucratic bullying gets to my nerves very quickly - nobody checked my luggage on any of the border crossings where I may have expected it.

After the check I have reached the dam wall and followed it on the east side through the dry spillway. The dam was pretty long, but funnily I have never seen any water as the road run lower than the dam. On the other side I came to Robelela Kgotla village, where I hit the main dirt road towards Selebi-Phikwe. This was the main supply road to the dam as it was wide straight gravel road - one of those boring wide corrugated dirt highways, which are best taken upwards of 160 kmh. Tenere wouldnít get there, especially with the crappy running engine so I stuck to 120 kmh - these are the only dirt roads where those 1200cc things can make some sense (but even the tar in Zim is much more preferable to me).

I disposed quickly of the remaining 60 km or so to Phikwe - the more traditional twin of the Selebi-Phikwe metropolis, where I hit the big tar road and turned into Selebi.

Selebi is one of those alien impersonal towns with incongruously modern buildings and infrastructure sticking like a sore thumb from the surrounding bush - big contrast to the more traditional Phikwe. It looks like it was all built in the last decade thanks to some kind of gold rush (some newly discovered mineral deposit or something) and local people, who probably until recently still lived on cattle posts, donít seem to feel at home there yet.

Iíve stopped for petrol at Engen garage - with shop and other amenities. Despite its totally modern set-up, the locals made it feel a bit like the frontier town in spaghetti western (kind of like initial scene in the Once upon a time in West). People - including children were remarkably unfriendly, parking always way too close to you for no particular reason and just staring quietly without any greeting or normal human acknowledgement - quite weird especially in Africa, where people usually engage with you warmly within seconds. Iíve read recently somewhere on the internet one of those idiotic articles about top ten places to travel to - according to that particular New York Times bimbo the best place in Africa is Botswana, because of its friendly people. Well sorry, the Botswanians (not only in Selebi), with Ethiopians are by far the least friendly people in Africa (barring war zones like Congo) - if I may venture broad sweeping generalization.

I didnít linger and after quick lunch bar and smoke I set-off to Tuli about 120 km south-east. Because of the late start I was running out of time - I wanted to get to Tuli before darkness to still manage some safari ride about, so I followed one of direct roads on the map rather than retrace back to the border. The road was tar all the way to the Zanzibar on the border, where it ended in T junction with the main dirt road crossing Tuli along the Bots/SA border. At the T junction I turned left on the dirt road and after few km came to turn off onto the double trek to the Molema campsite about 10 km away right on the Bots side of the Limpopo river.

Iíve been here once before and this trek always gets my blood pumping - itís double track winding through wild bush where Big 5 roam freely. Last time here I spent the whole night in the cabin accompanied by at least 30 elephants grazing around, as well as couple of enamoured porcupines. So I was on my tiptoes ready for quick face-about should I come across ellie.

But the ride to camp turned uneventful - I have encountered only herds of impalas and some elephant spoor in one of the creek beds. I guess the green vegetation made the animals dispersed around. In the campsite I was welcomed by the two attendants in the office , who still remembered me by name from about 2 year ago - Iíve spent one night there then (definitely exceptions to the generalization above). To my embarrassment I could not remember any of their names. I have paid for one of the cabins and settled in quickly.

I was surprised to find the camp completely empty. Even when I checked the visitors book there seemed to be very little traffic throughout the holidays. On one hand I like that as I do not like big crowds. On the other hand I find it perplexing, as Tuli block is a little gem - I have found about it only after few years in SA by accident in an article in Enduro World. It is one of the last places in Africa where you can ride among the animals freely roaming about (admittedly only on the main road crossing the whole block and the approaches to Molema camp, as the rest are private reserves off limit to bikes - but not fenced, so the animals roam anyway) and easily accessible from Gauteng over a long weekend through the excellent network of Limpopo dirt roads. This IMO is absolutely unique adventure proposition for Gauteng and Limpopo bikers, unmatched by trips like Kruger fence of Sani pass (except if you do Lesotho proper) and with much better riding in between. Anyway, I better stop proselytising or next time Iím there I may be sorry.

I went for quick walkabout around the Limpopo river bed - which again to my surprise was completely empty. I was here after long periods of heavy rains and have seen pictures afterwards (probably later dated though) of Martins Drift completely flooded. I have seen some elephant spoor and the standard baboons troops, but not much more. The place though has magic atmosphere as its just across the border from SA, and yet it has that proper wild African feel, especially with sun setting down.

After the walkabout I quickly jumped on the bike to go for another quick game drive on the trek between camp and the main dirt road. Again, I have seen only impalas, but the colours of the bush in the setting sun made up for it nicely.

I continued on the main road north east all the way to the Solomons wall in the riverbed. I was surprised to find the river bed completely flooded and uncrossable. It was getting late - and I could not continue, so I just turned back and have ridden leisurely back to Molema for a good night in the African bush.

Map for the day:

« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 08:55:20 pm by Xpat »
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Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #83 on: June 19, 2014, 08:57:32 pm »
You sir is showing me Africa through your lens. :deal:

Please keep up the good work in any future trips. :thumleft:

Offline hedleyj

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #84 on: June 19, 2014, 09:27:19 pm »
I am I twin minds about this report, in fact actually three minds.

1. Please finish I hate the anticipation with which I feel compelled login, an to check for an update.  :biggrin:
2. Please keep this coming and please make sure your next trip has been at least planned if not completed, for us to start reading about, this is awesome.
3. If this was published and I knew about it what would I pay to read it, damn good money.

This doesn't mean you can retrospectively charge us for this RR

Bloody well done is all I can say.
I'm sure the sun goes around the earth twice a day.

Offline lj111

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Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #85 on: June 20, 2014, 03:21:21 pm »
Great rr and pics :drif:

Some people feel the rain and others just get wet...

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #86 on: June 24, 2014, 10:14:46 pm »
Day 16

Last day of the trip. Map for the day:

I went to sleep early night before as there is no electricity in the hut. As a result I also woke up early to the stunning sunrise with sun illuminating the clouds east with beautiful colours. Like so:

With the sun up I went for short walk in the riverbed, had a breakfast of Salticrax with something and leisurely packed up. It was the last stretch home, so I was taking it easy. Once packed I rode slowly few km of winding double track back to the main dirt road checking the bush for game. Again I have seen few herds of impalas but that was it - it seemed like Iíve spent my quota of animals for the trip.

On the main road I turned south and set-off for an easy dirt ride constantly checking both sides of the road for game. The sky was quite heavily overcast and while there was no immediate risk of rain, it looked like I may get wet later on. After few kms I came upon a guy in full ATGAAT on KTM Superenduro, sitting on the bike and checking the bush around. I stopped to see whatís happening - he was looking for an elephant in the bush about 100 meters further on. He stopped originally next to the elephant, but the elephant chased him away. Well I didnít want to miss this opportunity so I waited as well and we chatted a bit about the bikes.

I tried to play it cool, but the truth is my mind always goes into overdrive when confronted by SE. My rational self tells me that it is not the right bike for my trips due to limited fuel & tyre range and somewhat sketchy reliability (yeah, I know that my engine was running like crap almost the whole trip, yet I still completed the trip without worry of getting stranded). But my gut just wants one badly as to me its the thing of pure beauty and joy. I always must control myself strongly when I see one for sale - especially as the proper dirt-worthy adventure bikes are disappearing quickly in this inhospitable metrosexual world - and sadly it seems that in a few years these kind of bikes will be just a legend of the glorious past. Oh well, that much for a little sentimental moment - Iím sure with no choice Iíll toughen up and buy myself something with real shit like traction control, motoplan and stuff.

The elephant eventually crossed the road ahead of us and let us know in no uncertain terms that we are not welcome to come closer and say hi. Here he is:

We said our farewells and I continued on my way under dark sky:

Eventually the clouds opened up and I was riding under a glorious sky. Iíll let the pictures tell the story:

Eventually after about 130 km I hit the main tar road between Martinís Drift and Palapye. I considered continuing on dirt further south and take one of the smaller border crossings, but I was late so I just resigned myself to Martinís Drift and turned left on tar. Before the border I have stopped at the Clintonís QuaNokeng petrol station for a quick meal at Barcelos and refuel. I bumped into Clinton and gave him brief of my trip and thanked him for the help.

With the remaining Pula spent I hit the border. As expected at the end of holidays it was very busy and chaotic, but with a bit of waiting Iíve made it through without glitch. The guy manning the entry gate to RSA said ĎWelcome homeí. I may be a foreigner, but it felt spot-on.

In conclusion: It was a good trip. Not on par with the Kaokoland I did the year before (but that is tough act to follow), but close enough - especially the Botswanian part. The Zim part was exploratory and without prior research I have probably missed the best parts, like Eastern Highlands. But that leaves something for the next trip.

Thank you for tagging along and nice comments. I will post the GPS tracks for the interesting sections once I figure how to resize them into the allowed limit. I will also post later videos from Zim part, which I still need to make.

Ride on.

Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #87 on: June 25, 2014, 12:39:44 am »
Classic stuff!

Thanks for sharing.

1978. It's 6am, mid winter...two up on a XL 185S ... off to my first casino ever with all of R40 and we've got a full tank of fuel, so enough to get there we reckon.... that's determination...

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Offline bomskok

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #88 on: June 25, 2014, 11:13:23 am »
Great ride report. I really enjoyed the photos of the almost blood red gravel roads towards the end of your trip.

You don't have a link to your Kaokoland trip you mentioned at the end?

Wouldn't mind reading that old chap  ;D

Offline ALLEN I

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Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #89 on: June 25, 2014, 11:20:15 am »
Awesome RR. Deserves a place in the honour section, had me spellbound, but as all good things go, i suppose it had to end. thanks for sharing and the magical ride with you.  :ricky:
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #90 on: June 25, 2014, 09:30:24 pm »
Thank you for nice comments.

@bomskok: I haven't done the Kaokoland report and its too long ago to try now. But you can check the videos linked in the first post - they cover quite a bit of the trip.

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #91 on: June 25, 2014, 09:37:16 pm »

I have managed to get the GPS tracks into the up-loadable size. For some reason I do not have the Zim part of the track, but that can be followed easily on the map. Here are three separate tracks:

  • Palapye - Kubu - Maun: this one just follows T4A, so no novelty
  • Maun - Cutlines - Chobe boundary - Kasane: this is the interesting one, where the most interesting tracks are not yet on T4A
  • Francistown - Tuli Block - Joburg: the last two days on the way home
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 09:38:01 pm by Xpat »

Offline mtr89

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Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #92 on: June 26, 2014, 05:16:42 pm »
Awesome!thanks for the RR.
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Offline Roulof

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #93 on: July 07, 2014, 08:13:12 pm »
Might be a bit late, but thank you XPat.

I can only echo the others' comments and add that this has left me spellbound.  Truly an inspiring report.

Welcome home!

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #94 on: July 09, 2014, 06:00:18 pm »
Never too late - thanks Roulof  :thumleft:

Offline Laban

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Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #95 on: July 09, 2014, 07:33:36 pm »

ExtraordinaryÖÖÖthanks XpatÖ :thumleft:

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Offline alanB

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Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #96 on: July 19, 2014, 08:33:59 am »
Just saw the GPS tracks now!  Thanks very much for going to all the effort in  writing this inspiring report.

I hope to do this trip too one day,  probably just the Botswana sections to start with.

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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #97 on: September 21, 2014, 08:51:01 pm »
Video covering riding over three days northern Zim between Vic Falls and Kwe Kwe.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/W83mXISLIP8" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/W83mXISLIP8</a>

Offline Mev Vis Arend

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #98 on: November 07, 2014, 08:53:53 am »
WOW!!  Xpat, I have no words.  This must be one of the best RR Iíve read. 

Thanks for sharing. 
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari
« Reply #99 on: November 08, 2014, 08:15:57 am »
Thank you.