Welcome, Guest. Please Login or Register

Author Topic: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya  (Read 12056 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« on: April 25, 2016, 09:36:10 am »


Or should I say “reincarnated”?, “reimagined”? or “reawakened?” My words fail me. I’m in awe.

Born and fed on the dust, brilliance and brutality of the Baja 1000, the venerable Big Red Pig has made her way – albeit in small numbers – to Kenya, and boy are we welcoming her with open arms. We’ll never approach the madness of the Baja, nor would we necessarily want to, but a more beastly weapon we couldn’t imagine for our terrain, and we’re ready to go give her a test.

Arriving mostly unscathed from their transatlantic journey from the USA (thanks Yankee Pigheads, you really know how to farkle your toys! Maybe it's the long winters in the Midwest…) we spent 3 days tweaking and preparing for our first trip out. The number plates hadn’t arrived yet, so we stole them off our other bikes... we couldn’t wait.

Thursday, while all the unlucky mopes were stuck in traffic on their way to work, Panic and I were lighting up the XRs for their maiden voyages. We had our eye on a dry riverbed where we wanted to go play a bit. Getting there would take us down into the Great Rift Valley, below the Ngong Hills, over to Ewaso Kedong for mandazis and fuel and back along the southern flank of Mt. Suswa.


Above: The usual entry point – goat trail down to the valley


Above: Panic blasts beneath a blooming acacia




Above: Deeper in the Rift, extremely green thanks to El Nino

The performance of these bikes is astounding, particularly given their simplicity and age. Both are fitted with pumper carbs and race exhausts; they’re uncorked, fire-breathing monsters that feast on tyre rubber and petrol while hurtling you down the road like a shot from a cannon. Playing with the suspension clickers on rough terrain – baby heads, marbles and lava flows make up the bulk of the road – we had them pretty well dialled in by the time we reached the river bed. Once inside, we just let loose and sliced a dusty gap along the sandy bottom, hearing the roar of the engine reverberate off the sheer dirt flanks of the canyon.






Above: Evidence of the force of the river during the rains… a fencepost dangling in space from her wires

We ripped up the riverbed until a rubble pile in a narrow gap turned us back. They’re agile and powerful, and in a pinch we could have crossed it, but we were into having a good time not lifting pigs over rockpiles. So we blasted back down to a shady spot, had a can of tuna for lunch and climbed our way out at a disused 4x4 track that got us lost in a maze of Masai thorn fences. Miracle we didn’t puncture. Back on track, we followed our bread crumbs back down the rocky road to Najile for fuel before splatting south to Oltepesi – a lovely, fast road with one harsh rocky section to keep you honest – where the tarmac from hell appeared to take us to Olepolos for beer and roast chicken.


Above: Canyon narrows


Above: Masai fence jumping and thorn tree selfie


Above: Panic hits the only puddle in the whole valley full tilt


Above: Waiting for the kuku with Tuskers and a dusty smile

All in all, a pretty amazing first day. The bikes performed better than expected. We were now ready for a full-kit overnight ride to the Ewaso Ngiro River.
 

Online Xpat

Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2016, 09:41:09 am »
Great riding!  :thumleft:

This is what adv riding should look like IMHO.

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
Take me to the River…
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2016, 09:44:48 am »
We spent Friday furiously adjusting what remained to be adjusted: changing tyres (I’d essentially de-knobbed the one that came with the bike already and Panic had ripped the valve out of his rear tube even with the beadlock cranked down), fiddling with the Edelbrock (a bit richer on the squirt screw to eliminate a slight bog), fixing my broken rack (screw had sheared off… Panic made a mod to mount it more solidly to sub-frame), Panic added a better fan to his radiator and we both strapped on our full-travel kit which included tents, tools, spares food and booze. Ready to roll.

Out the door to an overcast, Nairobi morning. The wind was cutting as we retraced our steps from Thursday down into the Rift and under the Ngongs then climbed again to Champaign Ridge Road along the edge of the escarpment. That road has seen better days. Rutted and rocky, we splatted along regardless, the bikes eating up everything in our path without hesitation.


Above: Looking Kajiado-side from Champaign Ridge

After about 90 km, we deviated from the big road down into the valley. It was a brilliant ride through weird agave plants, thorn trees and rocky valleys. About half way to Mile 46, we came across a little trio of ostriches who posed politely for photos, but started to get a bit stroppy as I puttered toward them, waving their wings at me in a rude and menacing way. I thought how embarrassing it would be to be killed by a bird, so I left them be.


Above: Down the valley of the agaves


Above: Ostrich watching in the long grass

Thirty kilometres later, we were on the banks of the large, dry riverbed that passes near Mile 46. Since we were in no rush, we decided to play. We blatted up and down the riverbed, testing our confidence in the soft sand. It’s very clear the XR can do whatever you have the ability (and balls) to ask her to do, and with a smile and a roar.


Above: Panic enters the river with Masai onlookers looking on


Above: Down in the riverbed



Having burned a dinosaur or two of fuel in the sandy riverbottom, we emerged happy and warm and made our way to Mile 46 for refreshments. It was market day so hundreds of people milled around near the railroad tracks. If you were in need of a used pair of shoes, a goat, or a shuka, you were in the right place. A few curious men poked and prodded our bikes and gear and quizzed us about the GPSs. It was a cool scene. Very colourful. Our bikes matched perfectly with their Honda red.





From Mile 46, we re-entered the riverbed for a quick splat down to where the road crosses. It now looks like we could have followed it further, but we were worried about our fuel usage and needed to get to Magadi with a bit of reserve… riverbed riding is not conducive to frugal fuel consumption. So down the road we went, crossing the river again several miles later at a very deep and rocky waterfall… stuff you can’t see when planning tracks on Google Earth. A bit farther on, we stopped in the shade by a dried cattle reservoir playing host to a bunch of pointy-nosed frogs. The acacias there were in bloom and positively humming with insect life.





From our lunch spot, it was back on the road, Magadi bound. It was easy going and fast and the views as we descended deeper in the valley were broad and spectacular. We emerged on the horrible Magadi tar road after passing through a cool, fragrant swampy area just east of the GSU compound where Kenya trains its shadiest law enforcement agents. We only had 20 km to go which was good news because my bike was sucking on fumes. By the time we reached the Magadi Petrol station, I was tilting the bike upside down to get the last drops out of the left lobe. Mileage on a tank: 200 km or 125 miles. That’s not gonna cut it out here folks.



In Magadi town, the temperature and smell of the air resembles those reported for Hades, which makes sense considering Magadi sits on the very cleft in the Rift Valley which over millennia has been spread apart by the forces of hellfire below. Over the span of 200 kilometers, we had descended 1400 Meters (4500 feet). It was hot, man, real hot so we didn’t stick around longer than needed to suck down a Coke and buy extra water for the campsite. Take me to the river!




Above: Funky old metal work on the Magadi buildings had Scottish origins from pre-independence days

The heat kept us from stopping much to take pictures or to chat. The road from Magadi to the river was a rocky one with a lot of dust and virtually no shade. The sweat came and came, but didn’t seem to cool the body. We just pressed on, up and down the hills until we reached the Ewaso Ngiro River near Nguruman. Panic had been here dozens of times since his youth, so he led us straight (more or less) to the perfect campsite. On an oxbow in the river, a football-pitch-sized sandbar stands two meters above the muddy water. Hemmed in on one side by dirt cliffs and the other by thick acacias, it was spectacular. Just what the doctor ordered.











We soaked our bones in the water, cracked open the box of wine, heated our delicious camp food over a demonic East German cooker and shot the breeze under a nearly-full African moon to the sound of birds chirping in the trees, catfish smacking their lips in the river and tunes on the mini-speaker Panic brought along. What an awesome end to a brilliant day.

All night long, my mind replayed the day and it looked like this...
https://youtu.be/LAX2lhS_ZA8
(I'll figure out how to embed videos soon...)

Mod Edit: Embedded

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/LAX2lhS_ZA8" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/LAX2lhS_ZA8</a>
« Last Edit: April 25, 2016, 12:58:02 pm by IDR »
 

Offline Ganjora

  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Bike: AJS (all models)
    Location: Other
  • Posts: 2,860
  • Thanked: 203 times
  • Drug War Veteran
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2016, 09:49:58 am »
more please.
 

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
Rock and Run
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2016, 09:50:41 am »
The birds were our wakeup call. The sun hadn’t yet crested the trees on the Eastern bank, but we were up and moving around. I felt like I’d been hit by a train and wanted to chalk it up to my fast riding, but it may have also had to do with the boxed wine and Bain’s that took us well past the moon’s zenith the night before. The campsite was beautiful in the morning light, peaceful and cool, but it didn’t last long. By the time we’d decamped, the sun had begun its merciless work. One more dip in the river and on with the kit. Back at it!


Above: The greenness of the conservancy and our camp in the morning


Above: Getting ready to move… and on the move with an Anthill as a backdrop and the Nguruman behind



We put a few liters of fuel in at the junction and filled our Camelbaks. Then we started North on a track we did a year ago which we didn’t remember was absolutely brutal. None of the photos show the hour’s worth of stones we bounced over on what turns out to be nothing more than a bulldozer track separating two group ranches. It’s an eerie no man’s land spotted with abandoned Masai manyattas, the houses crumbling back to piles of manure and sticks, and it’s just as rough as they come. The bikes took it all in stride, but it was painful for the humans. Fortunately, after the initial exercise, the track reverted back to hardpacked soil and we could twist ‘em open. We flew through valleys, past occupied Masai bomas squatting on brilliant red dirt and surrounded by emerald brush. It was beautiful all the way to the next village where we turned East and shot toward the belly of Mt. Suswa where we’d been on Thursday.




Above: Acacias in bloom


Above: At the turn, a bit of rural electrification happening, and a bad egg

The shot East was a ripper. Fast and furious with plenty of rocks to go around. It’s taking us a bit of time to trust the bikes on the stones. On our previous ride to Turkana, the Teneres had so many pinch flats from the rocks that we all became gun-shy. Now that we have the Pigs though, I think we can safely blast anything. I ran the whole weekend loaded with 22 lbs front and rear, banging and twanging off every rock in sight without a puncture (and a couple of times, I thanked my stars I had a steering damper because some of the hits were unexpected and aggressive). We rolled through a valley teeming with gazelle and Zebra, crossed the river we’d taken our test ride on, and cracked and crunched our way to Najile for petrol, of which again I was dearly in need.


Above: Panic races into the valley


Above: A mini launch to see if pigs can fly

It took all of our strength to ride the rocks south to the Magadi road. The prospect of roast goat and cold beer at Olepolos was the only thing keeping us going, and going fast. We raced ceaselessly down the track, stopping only to make sure nobody was dead yet or to admire the small herd of giraffe that were grazing increasingly diminutive trees (soon they won’t need those long necks at all) just outside Oltepesi. The bikes took it all and asked for more.


Above: Weaver nests in a flowering acacia


Above: My front tyre suffered as much as the rear


Above: Our reward: Goat and fast dirt


Above: Yellow track is Thursday. Red is the weekend, clockwise from Nairobi. Orange is where the two overlapped.

An excellent baptism weekend all in all. 300 Km on Thursday. 500 Km over the weekend. I need a fan for the rad, we may have to invest in the 7 gallon tank from IMS to give us the range we need, and we’re going to have to get bolder over the stones (and maybe keep clicking those clickers to soften the ride a bit) but otherwise, I’m ready to declare it: I’m in love with a Pig.

Until next time. Oink.  :snorting:

Video recap of day 2:
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/epUm0Ph0qkM" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/epUm0Ph0qkM</a>
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 06:59:25 pm by Osadabwa »
 

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
A few more pics...
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2016, 09:55:59 am »
A couple more pics...

It didn’t take long before we were keen to get back out there. Sunshine, Kenya and a Big Red Pig go hand in hoof. After our camping trip, we both had the feeling the bike could be softened up, particularly in the front, so we swapped out the fork oil for some 2.5 weight and took her for another spin.


Above: Pigs in Zen

A huge improvement! Even though I learned my bike was set up for a much larger lad and I will probably need lighter fork springs in time, just changing the oil weight took the sting out of the forks.

A week later, we decided to go for another wee spin. This time, we’d aim for a bit of a technical trail that I’d only previously done on my KTM 450. It was hot and the stones were pounding us, but we were making it through okay until Panic discovered he’d lost a bit of brake pedal to a stump. Always prepared, we searched through our tool kit to see what could be bodged together to save the ride. In the end, Panic had the perfect solution: the chain breaker. Worked like a charm.


Above: Clever brake lever repair and a rubbly road to the valley




Above: Pigs in profile

For the next weeks, I was using the XR to commute around the backside of the Ngongs for work in Kiserian, so I got to enjoy again and again the bike and the scenery, and was pleased to see a herd of giraffe hanging out roadside a couple of times. They don’t even mind the braap of the race exhaust, as long as I idle up to them.


Above: Ngong giraffes

All the forums promised I’d be chewing through tyres with this bike, but I’m shocked just how true that has been. I got the bike with a good knobby Dunlop on the rear, but after 2 day rides it was balding enough that I wanted to swap it before our overnight ride. I put on a partially used Enduro tyre from my KTM, and at the end of 3 days, it too was dead. And it wasn’t just the rears… the front tyre still had plenty of knobs, but just as many were either broken away or peeling back all the way to the bead!


Above: The GT enduro tyre didn’t last long

So I dropped dollars on a set of MT21s which are supposed to be a good choice for the bike. They’re wonderful to ride on and look the bizniz, but I’m not so sure they’re going to last any longer than anything else…


Above: About 150 km of rocky dirt and I’m already chunking out the Pirelli

I will be testing the Maxxis Desert IT and the Mitas Stone King next. I need good rubber. What I’m not willing to do is lay off the throttle, however. I bought this pig to braap, and braap she shall!  :snorting:
 

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
Another day out. This time with plans to explore new tracks.
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2016, 10:02:25 am »
Since the Pigs arrived, we’ve mainly been riding to see what’s what, mechanically. We’ve tinkered with carbs and suspension and tyres (lots of tyres) and have them pretty well set up, so it was time to go do some exploring. I got on Google Earth and plotted out a couple of likely lines and off we went.

We dropped into the valley as usual on the goat/boda-boda path that makes for such a wonderful warmup, then slid over to the West side of the Ngongs and connected to a track I found. While tinkering with a GPS antenna issue (my Garmin 276C is about to die on me… got a Montana on the way that I am hoping against hope will come close to replacing her) we were surprised to see a Kenya Police helicopter less than a kilometer away flying low and slow, doing maneuvers of some sort. They shadowed us (or we shadowed them) down into a deep, rocky valley where the challenging stuff began. I’d found a track that was entirely made of stones.


Above: Panic pauses to cross a stony dry river

The track, still relatively cool in the morning air, was rocky… and flanked by wait-a-bit bushes and acacia trees. Kind of tough going, but much improved since we softened our forks with 2.5 weight oil a few rides ago. Softer or not, the hill climb that took us out was a foot-flailing affair, with the Pig grunting and rumbling and jolting around. We made it to the top pretty tuckered out, but pleased with how well the big bike handled the climb. We are the weak link in the equation as always. She never feels heavy, until she slows down that is…


Above: It’s not just that it’s rocky, but that all the rocks are loose


Above: It's not just that it's rocky and the stones are loose, but the thorns are out to get you too

Done riding bowling balls and baby heads, we were treated to some nice double tracking down to Magadi road. We busted over to Oltepesi for a cold Coke and a chapatti before seeking out our second new track: a whip around the East side of Mt. Olorgesailie which would take us down to Mi-46. It turned out to be a wonderful and varied track of fast flats, rocky climbs and big views. It feels great to find something new.






Above: Paying homage to the Pigs… really powerful and responsive bikes

Nearly to the end of the new track, we came upon a road going back down into the bottom of the valley. Keen to explore, we went down for a look and were greeted by a wide view of a huge commercial farm and an old cotton harvester (I think) labeled (in no fewer than 3 places) “Butt Brothers”. That just made our day. Finding the farm was surprising given how far from Nairobi, or even a good road, we were. Google Earth’s last photo of the valley is from 2010 and it just shows flat valley floor. A worker informed us they were growing vegetables, chilies and maize for the Nairobi market. One day there will be no more bush.


Above: One must have pride in one’s name… I guess



Reaching the Mi-46 to Magadi link road, we turned left and blasted the very rough dirt and stones. The Pig handles it all without blinking, but some of those stones were buried tight and stuck up far enough to make your eyes cross when you hit them. I was again happy to have the steering damper. After a bit of that nonsense, we decided to hit the river bed for a bit of smooth sand riding. It’s a sensation between powder skiing and flying. Very nice.


Above: Recent rains have everything sprouting green green green: The RR crosses the river







We were turned back twice by boulder piles in the riverbeds, and climbed back onto the road for the last few kms to Mi-46. Down the road we met a Land Cruiser that was living testimony to the roughness of the road… stranded with a broken axle (but still proudly displaying an “Internet Access” sticker on the side window). We popped into Mi-46 for another Coke, and I had a chance to chat with a guy about vaccinating his cattle against East Coast Fever (as one does). We each took 7 Liters of fuel (bikes are getting 13 km/L riding hard) from plastic jugs and we were off, blasting North for Olepolos lunch.


Above: The lame Land Cruiser


Above: Another stage in life: bushes in full blossom

We’ve ridden the track north from Mi-46 before, but two years ago it was in substantially better shape. Numerous washouts and lots of ruts have since appeared. I nearly went headfirst into one as I was gazing at the scenery at 100kph and noticed the hole a bit on the late side. All in all, a pretty exciting track made better by a new leg that took us through the valley just below Champaign Ridge and into what apparently is a housing development (or a dream of one) called Enape Ridge that boasts a Church, Amazing Viewpoints, a Proposed Resort, and a Mosque to attract investors. You can have 1/8 of an acre now for only 200,000 Kenya Shillings ($2000) according to their website. The valley was gorgeous.




Above: Leaving Enape Ridge toward Kona Baridi

A quick blast up to Kona Baridi and a squirt down the tar to Olepolos for a few cold ones and a big kuku choma overlooking the valley. Everything we could see below us, we’d ridden in a day. Nothing like a nice 250km ride to work up an apetite. And as we were sitting there, who should appear but the Police Helicopter again! They flew within 50 M of our lunch spot and did a loop of the place before vanishing slowly into the afternoon haze.







Almost 5:00 PM. Time to rush home. Zip under the Ngongs, back the way we’d come. Only donkeys and graders could slow our progress.



Until next time…  :snorting:
 

Offline bud500

Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2016, 10:12:13 am »
Brilliant!
Makes my throttle hand itch... :ricky:
May the bridges I burn light the way...
 

Offline 1ougat

  • The Commodore !!!
  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Bike: BMW R1200GS HP2
    Location: Western Cape
  • Posts: 4,300
  • Thanked: 64 times
  • The Commodore
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2016, 10:17:18 am »
 :sip:
Make mine a Boxer with a shaft!!!!
2006 R1200 HP2 !!!! - La Poderosa - "The Mighty One"
1965 R50/2
1996 R80 GS PD Classic
2010 1200 GS 1975 Suzuki AC50
 

Offline Nevar

  • Member
  • **
  • Location: Gauteng
  • Posts: 60
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2016, 11:34:10 am »
 :thumleft:
 

Offline DirtyHarry

  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Bike: BMW R80GS
    Location: Western Cape
  • Posts: 2,687
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • The journey will never end.
    • waveline holiday accommodation
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2016, 12:34:45 pm »
Very nice. That looks like a proper adventure.
 

Offline ROOI

  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Bike: KTM 990 Adventure
    Location: Gauteng
  • Posts: 3,309
  • Thanked: 18 times
  • XR650R YZ 250 2t WR AKA Red Rider
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2016, 12:55:00 pm »
Great reading .They are wonderful :thumleft: machines
FTS
 

Offline COLES

  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Bike: BMW R1200GS
    Location: Eastern Cape
  • Posts: 1,047
  • Thanked: 2 times
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2016, 12:55:43 pm »
now that is an adventure awesome photo,s

great ride report     thank u for sharing
 

Offline Black_Hawk

  • BackroadRiderZA
  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Bike: BMW F800GS
    Location: Western Cape
  • Posts: 3,579
  • Thanked: 267 times
  • Follow our blog: https://mytownsatoz.wordpress.com
    • My Towns A to Z
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2016, 01:51:35 pm »
Great RR and beautiful photo's. Looks like fun. Thanks for sharing  :thumleft:
Follow our blog: https://mytownsatoz.wordpress.com

2010 F650GS (Sold), 2009 BMW F800GS, 2002 BMW F650GS (Sold), 1982 Honda XR200R, 1983 Honda XL600R
 

Offline evansv

Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2016, 06:00:26 pm »
Looks like great fun & well written :thumleft:

Thanks for sharing!
DT 125, GSX 750 ES, XJ 900, KX 125, YZ 250, WR 200, RMX 250 (280 kit), FZ-6, 2006, DT 125 LC (rear ended by Fortuner - written off), DT200R (current), KTM 625 SXC (current)
 

Offline boland

Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2016, 06:45:20 pm »
Awesome RR!! And people wonder why people are so passionate about lightweight thumpers :thumleft:
 

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
Asante...
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2016, 07:58:06 pm »
Well thanks gents, seems folks are enjoying the pigs in E. Africa. So, without further ado, I'll add on the most recent rides and then this forum will be up to date.

Cheers  :snorting:
 

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
A Lone Pig in Zen (or Reflections on the Merits of Solo Adventuring)
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2016, 08:00:18 pm »
A year ago, I was contacted by a friend of a friend out of the blue. She finishing up a grueling PhD in the US and wanted to do something completely different for a month to celebrate. She’d settled on riding a motorcycle somewhere in Africa, and had been put in contact with me to see how she might go about it. I helped her pick a country (Tanzania, where I’d lived for 5 years) and a bike (Baja Boxer… she had very limited funds) and then just generally supported her decision, knowing full well that 98.5% of her friends and family in the US would beg her not to go.

So she shows up in Dar es Salaam, having only passed her motorbike test a week earlier. She dumps her bags in a hotel and heads to the nearest Baja dealer to buy a new bike off the floor. Following morning, having not slept a wink, she gets up and sets off. It was a series of firsts: First time in Tanzania, first time riding in a city… really first time riding period! Apart from the safety test in the US, she’d essentially never been on a bike at all. With all those nerves jangling, she escaped the hell-hole that is Dar rush-hour and rode west into the heart of the country, not stopping until she needed fuel. Not only did she survive the trip, it sounded amazing. She had no major mishaps and came away with a million stories of happy encounters with people and weird situations you only find out there on your own.

That brings me to my latest ride.

It pissed rain from midnight til six AM here in Nairobi, and when I awoke I half knew what would be waiting on my phone: a text from Panic saying he’s bailing out of our plan to hit the valley, citing inclement weather. That raised my hackles. We own Big Red Pigs for dag’s sake! We bought them so nothing could stop us! Bring on the monsoon!

So, ignoring the little angel on my shoulder saying “riding solo in Africa is not safe, and particularly not when it’s wet and slick…” I donned my gear and sped out of town, making sure to rattle the Barnum’s race exhaust near Panic’s house so he’d hear me go past.

And I had a brilliant day. Riding with somebody is great, especially a good mate with equal skills, bike and riding style. A friend provides good banter, safety in numbers, help with punctures or at least words of encouragement, etc… but riding alone is magical. Every decision happens as quickly as you make it. You change your mind, the bike is the only one helping you decide if it’s a good idea or a bad one. You look at familiar country with fresh eyes, see people along the way as potential friends and allies, stop to smell the acacia blooms more… or not, it’s your choice. You become one with the bike in a way you don’t when there is someone else along. You sense her moods, make sure your fuel level is okay, listen for signs of complaint. She’s your one lifeline, and you respect and love her for it.

So, just a plug here for solo adventuring as the weekend approaches. Ditch your friends. Go somewhere you’ve wanted to go. Leave the GPS at home and put the phone on Airplane mode. Ask directions. Stop for coffee somewhere you’ve never been and ride, ride, ride!


I sent this pic back to Panic from the edge of the escarpment to say: see, it’s not so muddy after all. I was proving a point. Rain in Nairobi doesn’t necessarily mean mud in the valley. Of course, there was mud, but mostly the day was tacky soil and stones. Perfect pig playground


Alone, I'm willing to pose for photos with the gals at the Investment Hotel (in Kenya, Hotel means restaurant, so don’t get any ideas) in Ewaso Kedong. I’ve been there many times, but usually just have my chai and mandazi and move along. This time, I shot the breeze. Enjoyed the cool air and hot tea. Being solo brings you closer to the others around you. You’re less intimidating, even in your fancy dress, more approachable, and – because your mate isn’t there yakking at you non stop – you are keen to engage.


I was planning to just drop down to Ewaso for tea, then head back home, but once I got out there I couldn’t help riding on and on, especially since the sun was coming out. I’ve seen this semi-symmetrical pile of stones many times in the past and finally stopped to take a shot of it.


Even though I riding solo, I had decided to try to go up a rocky track I’ve only heretofore ridden down. The escarpment looms over the Najile-Oltepesi road, and the track just scratches its way up it. Alone, if you take a chance, you’ve got to make it count. There’d be nobody to help me pick the bike off my leg if I topple over.




I explored and subsequently rejected one track (above L) that looked like it would have broken my bones and stranded me forever before heading back to the track on my GPS. There, the rocky sections were very rideable. Baby heads only, no boulders, and with my Pig very well dialed in, she and I sailed up them. At the top, I continued on a small track that took me slowly through Masai back-yards and thorn fences. I won’t go there again. I hate pushing through thorn fences. But somehow I’m glad I went there alone.


By 2:00 PM, I was within sight of the Ngong hills. One hour from home. I stopped under a nice shade tree for a snack and a rest. Spent half an hour there just chilling. Spoke to a man named John who has a nice little plot and a house nearby. He asked if I was okay. “You kidding? I’m fantastic!”  :snorting:
 

Offline Osadabwa

  • Member
  • **
  • Bike: Honda XR650R
    Location: Rest of Africa
  • Posts: 364
  • Thanked: 139 times
  • Don't be surprised
Two Big Red Pigs and a Husky 701 – Mud, stones and broken bones…
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2016, 08:03:09 pm »


Okay, no broken bones… just sprains and bruises. Still, it was a rough day in the Great Rift Valley.

It’s been an eternity since I’ve been out with Atreyou but we finally got it together and made it happen. Panic and I have properly tested our XR650Rs since bringing them to Kenya a couple of months ago, but Atreyou’s spanking new Husqvarna 701 was virginal. She fairly sparkled in the early equatorial light. She needed a baptism. It was time to scratch the plastics a bit. So, we set off as usual down the Rift Valley toward Oltepesi and Mi46 via a rough stony track I’d checked out earlier in the week.



The morning was cool and misty. It has been raining, so even the boda path leading to the Ngong circuit road was tricky and unexpectedly slick in spots. Panic was the first to see his ass, slipping on his right hand side on a deceptively slick bend. The Ngong hills were fog-covered and mysterious looking, with only the faintest glimpses of the wind turbines visible in the early light.


Above: A Candelabra and the Ngong windmills hidden in fog

We rode somewhat cautiously along the road skirting the hills (which we’ve dubbed Ngong 1 for reference), deviating to a rocky and mud-puddled cut that links us up with Ngong 2 (the original road paralleling the hills) before screaming down a nice, quick road toward our trail-head.


Above: Atreyou and the 701 start the rocky day


Above: Panic wisely avoids a lorry-swallowing quagmire

The road was fast and furious and we were soon spread out, enjoying the flow. Not a lot of rocks meant good speeds and good cornerning… mostly. Atreyou and the 701 decided not to follow an abrupt left hander and blasted instead into a nice, spiky acacia, thus tallying up the bikes very first scratches and leaving his bulging bicep bedecked with bright beads of blood.  Meanwhile, Panic had chosen to go an alternative route and only by luck did I hear him calling the phone asking where the hell we’d gone. I didn’t mind riding back to find him since it meant I could blast that track all over again.


Above: Fast-tracking it

With the smooth track behind us, we descended into the depth of the valley on a broken rock-strewn track past Masai bomas and beautiful rocky cliffsides. We rattled happily along and stopped to admire the green acacias, buzzing with life and well hung with phallic weaver bird nests in an empty river bed at the base of a rock-split, dry waterfall.







The descent consists of two steep, rocky drops with a small level spot in between. We’d gone down the first half with no issues. After the rest break though, things didn’t go so great for me. First of all, I nearly dropped the front wheel into a gap that I was just narrow enough to jump but just wide enough to eat your tyre if you mess it up. As I was too chickenshit to blast over it, I needed Atreyou’s help backing the BRP up from the brink (photo credit to Panic… thanks, jerky). Then after stopping to get a photo, I choose what is certainly no better or worse a section of rocky, baby-head-on-ballbearings-covered track and turn it into my own personal hell, dropping myself flat and hard onto the bowling ball sized stones along the edge, bruising and scraping myself all out of proportion to the speed or challenge of the terrain and spraining my clutch hand enough to make me cuss. It made the rest of the ride, lets say… challenging. But we went ahead.


Above: Me captured in my moment of shame…


Above: Right – Atreyou easily navigates the very corner that busted my ass and sent my wrist ligaments aflame

Wimpy wrist notwithstanding, the descent was awe-inspiring. Nice long views down the valley with the escarpment to the left and the green from recent rains evident everywhere quickened the pulse… as did the seemingly endless rolling loose stones. Sweat was pouring off of us as we finally reached the bottom and slipped and slid around in the dusty, sandpacked valley to Oltepesi for a cold Coke and petrol before crossing the Magadi road to skirt Olegorsaile to Mi-46.


Above: Panic (begrudgingly) replaces a Masai thorn fence


Above: Down to the valley



South of the Magadi road, the track was smooth again and flowing. We moved briskly along, pausing only to play in a section of bone-white dried clay and a flat plain of (thankfully dry) black cotton soil. Mountains on both sides of us and puffy white Simpsons clouds above made it an excellent stretch.









Halfway down the valley, the track climbs up on the flank of the hill, probably to avoid a muddy section farther down that on some maps shows up as a lake, and made for some interesting man vs. environment action. Atreyou was enjoying the hard scrabble track so much he decided to do a double wheel drift around a bend… losing the front at speed and gliding along the dirt on his keester like a superbiker come off on a bend. He said he’d never slid so far on dirt in his life. Nor had the Husky… she was starting to understand that, although her owner is a fan of pretty things, she would not be spared the odd tumble in the service of braaping.


Above: Atreyou and I survey the valley from our pebble track

Eventually the track merges with the main dirt road connecting Mi-46 and Magadi road. We turned west and unwound the throttles, blasting over the hard packed dirt and embedded stones. We’d warned Atreyou in advance that the track was brutality incarnate, so many stones sticking up to help you slap the tank or pinch your tubes, but the sunshine and the dust got the better of him and after about half an hour we were watching him repair a snakebite.


Above: the road looks civilized enough, but she harbors rim-bending embedded stones


Above: Working on the snakebite… a few new racing stripes to the 701’s skid plate


Above: Atreyou works on his snake bite while I rest in what shade I could manufacture at 1:31 on the equator. Such a rookie move, getting a flat where there’s no shade! :lol3

Our plan was to hit Mi-46 for a cold Coke but when we got there, the Saturday Masai market was in full swing. Hundreds of beaded pastoralists were milling about selling and buying wares and livestock. It was a circus, and our arrival looked to herald the beginning of the clown act, so we decided to give it a miss. Sometimes, you’re too beat up from the road to enjoy being the center of attention, and anyway, we had beer and goat leg waiting for us at the end of the ride.


The ride from Mi-46 continued to pound our bodies and our bikes. Unlike the previous stretch, this bit of road is washed out in many places, and covered in dried truck tracks that can teach you a lesson real quick if you try to lazily slide a tyre over them. My wrist was now in agony, jangling the nerves with every rock hit. I finally found a relatively gentle way to grip the bar and set to flying up to Olepolos, but nearly paid for it when my rear end hit me in the ass over a larger-than-it-looked bump. Arriving in Olepolos was like being rescued from being mauled by a Cape Buffalo.


Above: Just leave me here… save yourselves…


Above: Olepolos 2.8kg of mbuzi choma and a ravenous Atreyou going to town

We filled our bellies on goat, salt and chips and donned gear for the last hour’s ride home. Panic reminded us that the ride isn’t over til it’s over, and he was damn near clairvoyant on that score. Blasting past the Ngongs, up the boda track and railing along on the happy dirt that leads us home, I was enjoying myself and watching Atreyou’s light in my mirror. He was enjoying it too… and then he was gone. No light. Apparently, he wanted to give the Husky one last ding, so he hammered a big whoop and went flying… head down, feet in the air, slow-motion style, riding the front wheel before crashing in a heap, thankfully on softish dirt. It rang his bell, but he survived it. Bike didn’t  seem to notice…



So the result of the day: Bruises, sprains and great memories. Luckily, it’s raining cats and dogs in Nairobi right now, so I don’t feel so bad being laid up with this fat wrist, and Atreyou is out of the country. The month of May, though, will be big for the Pigs. I’m thinking Masai Mara maybe… it’s time to branch out and race with the cheetahs!  :snorting:
 

Offline edgy

  • Bachelor Dog
  • *****
  • Bike: KTM 790 Adventure R
    Location: Eastern Cape
  • Posts: 12,838
  • Thanked: 128 times
    • A Stone's Throw Bed & Breakfast
Re: XR650R Rebooted... In Kenya
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2016, 08:11:43 pm »
Just WOW!!! :thumleft:
www.astonesthrow.co.za

 BEER..."I drink it when I`m happy or when I`m sad. I drink it when I`m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. Trifle with it if I`m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it - unless I`m thirsty"