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Author Topic: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late  (Read 1159 times)

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Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 11 - JOHANNESBURG TO GROBLER'S BRIDGE - 420 kms (4357 kms total)

I had planned a pretty short day to get me just over the boarder into Botswana. So I took time to have breakfast with my girlfriend before I left.

She had just decided she wouldn't be able to meet me in Rwanda as we had discussed, but instead we wouldn't see each other again until I was on my way back towards South Africa. We set a weekend for me to try to meet her in Zanzibar.

I took the N1 up to Bela-Bela. Made my way through the scenic Thabazimbi road to see the baboons play on the road before cutting back to Lephalale and then onto the border. I rode past a couple of mines and work sites I had worked in the previous couple years and thought fondly of my time in South Africa. Still I was excited, if a little home sick, to be crossing a border that day.

I made it to Martin's Drift border crossing around 4 pm. There was a small camp site behind the petrol station on the left just after the border, where I had heard was a good place to stay the first night. It seemed like a nice place and most folks were staying in rooms rather than camping, so I pretty much had the grassy field to myself.

I went to the bar for beer and water before setting up camp. The tent was becoming easier to set up without too much hassel, despite it not standing without tent stakes in the ground. The sun goes down and I get out my headlamp and multi-fuel stove to heat some water for food in a bag. Once boiling, I turn off the stove and hear a strange sound in the silence now that the roaring flame is gone. I can't quite place it...

Chomp... chomp... chomp.

Silence.

Chomp... chomp...

Silence.

I look around in the dark with my headlamp as the sound continues intermittently. I see a dark mound moving a bit, and I think two eyes reflecting back at me...

HIPPO!!!

I promptly run away from my camp, leaving everything there, and head to reception to ask for advice. As I explain the situation to a couple of ladies at the front desk and ask them please what I should do they laugh at me, "oh, don't worry! he's fine - just run away if he gets to close..."

"Yes, I know that. That's why I am here - what now?" I ask. The ladies laugh again and tell me he has probably moved on and farther away from my camp if I want to go look again.  I order another beer, not quite sure how much faith to put in this story.

Sure enough, the hippo has decided to continue munching on the grass some distance away from my tent and food. I take a seat and continue to watch him and listen in the darkness as we both eat. He was actually a perfectly lovely dinner guest in the end!
 

Offline J-dog

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 :headbang:
 

Offline White Rhino

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Hell JBG - you sure have the spirit of adventure :thumleft:

Good RR - thanks for sharing.
I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy
Nothing clears the head like a throttle twisted and the fresh air on the tip of the nose

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Offline Trailrider

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Sheez! Talk about an African Adventure!
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 12 – GROBLER’S BRIDGE TO NATA – 452 kms (5,809 kms total)

I was up early with the sunrise – not much choice given how light it was. I shower, pack up camp and load up the bike. For the first time, perhaps ever, I depart before 08h00, thoughts of Wimpy running in my head ;-)

It’s funny, but anything less than 500 kms seems like an easy day. Nata didn’t seem too far and it was easy to put distance between me and the border.

However, it was VERY hot, and the landscape suited the weather. Very dry and barren. Few people along the side of the road here, most of them smarter than I and kept out of the heat.

Goats and cattle were another story. They behaved themselves for the most part, but I swear there were entire herds of them running around Botswana with no one looking after of them. Usually it was some idiot with a stick that would run one of them into the road every now and then.

I pull into Nata Lodge before 3 pm (highly recommend Nata Lodge, by the way). I was extremely excited to use their pool given the heat. Refreshed, I set up camp in the sand behind the rest of the facilities.

I sign up for their sunset 4x4 trip to the Sowa Pan as well as a buffet dinner. Without much to do, I entertain myself with a few beers and reading a bit more of Shantaram (also highly recommended as company for this kind of trip).

I meet up as directed with the rest of the tourists going on this tour around 16h00. Of course, I soon find myself piled onto a Land Cruiser with 7 Germans, none of whom seem particularly interested in speaking English.

Once we’re on the salt pan and can’t see anything else, the guide has us get out and walk for a while. Meanwhile, the vehicles use the curvature of the earth to go out of sight. It’s amazing how so much nothing creates such a difficult landscape to navigate.

Before long we do rendezvous with the vehicles, but there is nothing there but the odd flamingo feather here and again. We stay and watch as the sun set and a full moon rises over the pan before we hop in the overland vehicles and ride back to the lodge.

Not having met a lot of friends out of my German tour group, the buffet dinner was a little awkward. I made good progress on my book (and a number of beers), but realized eating alone was something I’d have to get used to – OR, I’d need to get better at making friends along the road!
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 13 – NATA TO SEPUPA – 627 kms (6,436 kms total)

It is hot as hell before 07h00 – too hot to stay in my tent any longer. Not enough water, and potentially too much beer the night before, isn’t helping the feeling either.

Before long I am on the road towards Maun. Within 15 kilometers of the lodge I saw the most spectacular thing. I would have taken a picture of it, but didn’t seem right. On one side of the road lay a completely written off formerly 1.5 million ZAR Land Rover.  On the other was a dead and bloated cow. It was very clear what hat happened, and I flashed back to my ride back to Jo’burg from Cape Town and reminded myself not to ride at night…

After that sight, I find petrol and then make my way to the last Wimpy I would see in a while. There I meet and chat with an overlander. He is very clearly taking his time and just out for a journey for a coupe of months. He said something very wise I’ll share with you about the type of crazies who do these long trips alone: “Folks are either out here to remember what it is like to miss people, or purposely trying to scare the sht out of them!” He said he belonged to the first category, and I hadn’t really thought about why I was out there. Perhaps a bit of both?

Before I left, the guy told me to check out Planet Baobab before I made my way on up to Maun. I was really glad he did because the place was really funky and interesting. I grabbed a coke while I took some pictures of some of the strange details about the place.

As I continued on toward Maun, I noticed a bit of a head shake between 40 and 80 kph. When I got into town, I couldn’t find a proper bike shop or even a tyre shop that could take a look at the balancing of my front wheel with me. I decided to put it out of mind for a while as there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it and it wasn’t terrible – just didn’t feel right to take your hands off the bars at those speeds. Otherwise it was fine.

It was pretty early in the day, so I decided to keep moving up to Sepupa rather than stay in Maun. At some point I stop to grab petrol and some other customers are waiting and tell me (not in the friendliest way) to move my bike out of the way from the pump. I had planned to lube the chain up a bit in the shade, but moved on instead.

The sun was setting as I see signs for Sepupa Swamp Stop (had been recommended to me by Adventurer or I never would have known it was there). At least when I was there, the couple of kilometers you have to ride on the sand road to get there were no joke. Some of it was REALLY deep, and I was glad I hadn’t lubed up my chain only to get sand all over it. I reminded myself how much I hate sand roads and how bad I am at riding on them while staying in control, but didn’t come off the bike.

I got into the Swamp Stop, set up camp and have dinner in the restaurant by the delta before heading to be pretty early.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 14 – SEPUPA TO LIVINGSTONE – 638 kms (7,074 kms total)

It was not as hot, so I wasn’t forced from my tent at sunrise, but still pretty early. I packed up camp and enjoyed breakfast looking over the delta in their restaurant (see picture below).

I thoroughly enjoyed the sand roads heading out of the Swamp Stop (not really, but they were easier to deal with at the beginning of the day). Once out of the sand and back on the tar I stopped to clean up the chain on the side of the road before it got too hot to do it comfortably. Also felt better about getting the sand off now rather than keep riding.

As I approach the boarder with Namibia, I use the last petrol stop. Was surprised to see it was just pumps – really nothing else there except a guy to pay.

Somehow I again find myself on a sand road and a half tar / half dirt road that I am nearly sure can’t be the right way. I ask someone walking on the side of the road and he tells me, “yes, this is the way to Bengani.” I forgot to ask him if this was the way to walk there, or if there might be a better way on a bike. Oh well, never know.
`
The border crossing into Namibia takes me about an hour. Certainly not the most efficient process, but well worth it once I got onto the Caprivi strip heading towards Zambia.

This part of the ride was one of my favorites on tar. You’d ride past these places where for kilometers the whole side of the road was burned (or burning) and on the other it was green and fresh – just fascinating to see (have a look at the picture below). Then there was the wild life. It was like driving through a safari on tar roads. Check out a few pictures of an elephant I saw right next to the road. I stayed there long enough to get more attention from him than I liked before moving on. Quickly.

There were more fun and games at the border waiting for me. Namibia was okay this time, but Zambia was absolutely unreal. I paid 6 times to get into that country and in 5 currencies. Add the money changers and “officials” helping you through that process and you pretty soon feel like you’re on the wrong end of a scam. Here’s what I mean:
+ I paid for a carnet and a visa before getting there
+ Once there I had to pay a carbon tax, municipal levy, 3rd party insurance (I’d later dodge these where I could), and a tow fee (which they admitted didn’t make any sense for a motorcycle, but still insisted I pay)
+ I paid in US and Namibian dollars; South African Rand; Botswana Pula; and Zambian Kwacha.

Finally through that, it was just before 16h00. I pushed on toward Livingstone and started to notice how the country felt different than the others I had been in so far on this ride. There were just more people, animals and everything else – everywhere! There was a lot more going on, and of course therefore a lot more to worry about when riding through it.

The sun starts to set and I am still 100 km out. I’ll soon be breaking one of my rules, but for now I enjoy watching the evening rituals of the villages I ride past as women and children fetch water. Somewhere along the way I also start to notice that the slower speeds I had been traveling at in Zambia have made the bike much more fuel efficient. Something about keeping the bike under 80 kph makes it a camel in terms of fuel consumption.

As I rode through Livingstone, I remember thinking that it was a very cool town and wished I had budgeted more time to spend there. I make it to the Waterfront before too long and it immediately seems like the best place I have stayed yet.

It was already 20h00 or so and I decided to eat dinner at the restaurant and set up camp later. As it turns out, sitting alone at the Waterfront bar over dinner and a book is a great way to attract the attention of the locals. After some sort of a game of bait and switch that I didn’t know I was playing, I ended up with a student named Ashley at my table giving me all kinds of advice for the rest of my time in Zambia.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to take her up on her offer to show me around Livingstone the next day if I was going to make it to Rwanda on time to see the gorillas on the day of my pass.

I got back to set up my tent and crash after a long day and suggested to myself that two border crossings in a day might not be the best way to do this trip.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 15 – LIVINGSTONE TO LUSAKA – 511 kms (7,585 kms total)

For some reason, I just can’t get out of there before 08h00. I feel in a rush as I am trying to do some decent mileage that day, but only after seeing a bit of Livingstone. I start off for Victoria Falls.

At Vic Falls I get told to park and re-park my bike 4 different times. A bit hacked off at first, I shortly learn that the border police are actually trying to help me out by keeping the baboons away from my gear while I’m away.

As you can see from the pics, Vic Falls were a bit dry when I saw them. I took my time on the bridge, even went across to the Zim side (because you can if you tell them you’re taking a photo – no one checks, or charges ;-). I recall talking to the guy running the bungee jump while I was there. I just heard on the news a girl fell from that jump recently – rider be ware!

When I got back to my bike, I thanked the border police for their help with the baboons. I had breakfast at the restaurant overlooking the falls. When I went to jot down a couple of notes about the morning in my travel log, I realized it was gone. Somewhere along the way I had misplaced it.

I quickly rode back to the Waterfront campsite I had been at the night before after checking everywhere else I could. Unfortunately, I never got that travel log back. Everything you have read so far I have written in one form or another at least three times (on the bright side, I now had something in common with the author of the book I was reading). I also had to do a fair amount of cross checking to estimate the kilometers thus far. From here on, things are more accurate.

So, I rode on and made my way to Lusaka. The tar roads were some of the best I had seen yet on the trip. At some point I pull off on the side of the road to celebrate and document my bike turning 50,000 kms on the clock (see pic). While I was stopped, an empty tour bus slowed down, flashed its lights and hooted to ask if I needed help. I waived him on and let him know I was fine, but was very thankful for the offer if I had needed it.

As I continued on these beautiful tar roads, the highest speed limit remained stuck at only 80 kph. They practically begged me to break it officer, I’m sorry…

On my way into Lusaka, I saw a sport bike going the same direction and take it as a good sign. I followed him into the city until I realized I need to find a place to stay! Oh, that reminds me, I had established a bit of an unwritten rule I might as well formalize:

RULE #8: Stay outside of big cities. It is cheaper and usually safer for you and the bike.

Anyway, I saw an overland vehicle in traffic and pulled next to them to ask for a recommendation. They had stayed at the Eureka Camp the night before and suggested I head over there. I highly recommend the Eureka Camp – it is far enough out of town to meet the requirements above, folks are friendly, and they have a great bar.

While I am setting up my camp, a Belgian guy comes over and introduced himself as Chris. He had done an Americas trip on an Africa Twin and was presently in a Land Cruiser with his girlfriend and her two young kids. He said he really missed the bike and would never do a trip in a truck again after this experience – much less flexible and slower.

After inflating my tyres a bit and putting some lube on the chain I headed to the bar for a bite to eat and a couple of beers. There I start talking to a guy named Ernest who runs a tour bus and is about to pick up a bunch of passengers from the Lusaka airport. Soon we realize HE was the guy who passed me on the road, and would have put my bike in the back of his empty bus and driven me to Lusaka.

Naturally, I bought him a couple beers before heading to bed. Turns out he was also considering getting into bikes, but had never ridden one. He talked about buying a Honda 1000RR Fireblade and learning on that – he had no interest in starting small. After explaining to him that you need to turn right to go left once at speed and he’d kill himself, he decided not to get a bike.

Hopefully I repaid the favor of his kindness on the road.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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Forgot the pics:
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 16 – LUSAKA TO MPIKA – 663 kms (8,248 kms total)

After a later than intended night chatting with Ernest, I needed to sleep in until 08h00. As I was packing up, Chris came over to wish me well and to say he was jealous of my freedom (glaring back at the truck, girlfriend and kids). I chuckled and told him how I had originally wanted to do an Americas trip like he did. Perhaps I would one day.

I went into town quickly for an ATM and to get petrol. Not sure how to describe it, but I always felt uneasy in big cities. Much more comfortable in open spaces where I can see something coming. I head back out of Lusaka as soon as I can.

Along the road I meet a few new challenges. There were pretty frequent check points where officers would check for licenses, registration, proof you paid all the ridiculous things I had paid at the border, etc. Was always happy when the officer was dealing with a big truck and would just wave me on.

For the most part, the roads were good for another couple hundred kilometers. Then, suddenly there would be huge potholes out of nowhere that were not a great idea to ride over. Changing speeds like this slowed me down a bit.

At one point, road works divert me onto a dirt road that looked more appropriate as a bicycle path than its current use. My luggage started rattling around, and without coming off the bike or anything another one of those frame locks for the panniers came loose. Luckily I had some spare, non-locking hardware. Still, these locks are the only thing I don’t like from SW-Motech.

Along the road as the sun is starting to go down, I get advice from a police officer to try to stay at Melody’s in Mpika. I’m a bit worried about petrol at this point as I had already put my extra fuel in and hadn’t seen a station in a while. I knew the range was good on the bike though, and was sure I’d find fuel in Mpika.

As I continued riding, the road works and potholes did as well. I frequently saw my favorite road sign, “Potholes,” which I assumed was a lot cheaper than actually fixing the roads.

I observed the same evening ritual of fetching water in the villages I’d pass. Children would give me a thumbs up as I passed – they were all teeth if I gave one back!

What I eventually found myself as a place to camp in the back of Melody’s – arriving in the dark, mind you – is probably best described in the pictures below. I literally camped in the dumpsite used for construction (and other things) behind the house. As I heated water for food in a bag, I watched rats and cats chase each other and hoped they wouldn’t find their way into my tent.

A couple of beers and a couple of bottles of water later, I was off to bed. Around 22h00, a group of 6-8 men pushed something into the yard not far from where I was staying. Not entirely sure what all the noise was at the time, I was happy it eventually stopped and I could fall back asleep.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 17 – MPIKA TO MBAYA – 494 kms (8,742 kms total)

I suppose by now I could claim to have a normal morning ritual. Then again, I was camping in a dump and there were two mechanics staring at me during these activities this morning – so nothing is really “normal.” The last pic from my previous poste will indicate what all the racket was about the night before.

Dirk and Steve are fixing the truck, but more interested in what I am doing there than what they’re doing. Once we get to know each other a bit, Steve even says he’ll meet me in California one day and asks me what street I live on ;-)

I fill up on fuel for the bargain price of K183,000! You’d think they would have cut some zeros off by now… Breakfast was not quite Wimpy quality, but the eggs were edible.

The road from Mpika to the border was wild. I don’t have great pictures here, but the pot holes were large enough to swallow a vehicle, break an axel, or snap the loading bed of a truck in half (saw it all). Veldt fires were extremely common. One of them was so close to the road with the wind blowing the flames actually onto the road I had to stop the bike and check it out. It was far too hot to walk through on the road, but I could see it didn’t stretch on very close to the road for kilometers at least and I could probably ride through it. So I went back the way I came and turned the bike around at speed. I’ll be honest when I say my jacket got hotter than I would call “safe,” but I made it!

At the Tunduma border crossing, I got hassled on both sides. Everyone always wants to be your buddy and help you out and they are just trying to get money out of you. Someone on the Zambian side at least pointed me in the right direction. In no man’s land before Tanzania, an “insurance agent” tried to sell me fake insurance. When I asked a real official about it, he got busted and I got the much cheaper form of local insurance that was required.

Once over the border, I made my way to Mbaya. The day I visited there was a party in town – not quite sure why. I found a cheap hotel called Calm Inn Hotel that did the trick. Enjoyed some decent Kilimanjaro and Safari beers and went to bed after some time with Shantaram.
 

Offline Trailrider

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Wow. This was quite a ride.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 18 – MBAYA TO MTERA DAM – 470 kms (9,212 kms total)

My trip was starting to feel long.

Managing my emotions up until this point had been easy. But I felt different when I woke up that day.

Lonely is the wrong word. You can never be alone in Africa. Just woke up a bit down and tired. Not for lack of sleep, but full-body and soul-deep tired. I supposed my pace was taking the toll anyone could expect. I showered quickly and realized my face and neck were getting two shades darker each day from dirt and perhaps only one shade lighter each time I bathed.

Once I got out of my hotel room for breakfast my mood turned based on what I saw – the guard who had admired my bike when I checked in the night before was busy washing it. He was a nice guy and I hadn’t asked him to do it, but I definitely appreciated the gesture. As I left the hotel, I tipped the guard and he gave me his phone number in case I needed any help while I was in Tanzania.

I rode on towards Iringa and the landscape began to change with more forests and farmland. Riding through the planted forest pictured below was gorgeous, but odd in the way it starts and stops so suddenly. The ride into and around Iringa was very beautiful. Nice twisty roads cut through the mountains. The jacaranda trees were beginning to bloom.

It was now after noon and I hoped to make it to Dodoma that evening and camp or stay somewhere around there. So I had a choice: take the long way on nice tar road that takes you through Mikumi National Park and then back around to Dodoma (560 km) or take the shorter direct way through Mtera Dam (266 km), but the road was not tarred. Surely the short way would get me there alright… famous last words.

The next 6 or 7 hours were an exercise in motorcycle destruction and my own stubbornness. I have never been on such a bad road in my life – I think riding on the side of it at times would have been better, but unfortunately it was pure sand. And when I say road I mean that in the middle you have groves as hard as rock that change frequency and there was no speed at which the suspension could find a comfortable rhythm and ride over them. 30 kph was bearable, sort of. I took the bike all the way up to 120 kph and above to try and find the right speed for that road and I was lucky the thing didn’t rattle to pieces. On the sides of the road there was a foot deep bank of road sand created by the vehicles that were crazy enough to try to drive on this road (not many). I just hoped that the bike wouldn’t fall apart completely. Anyone I asked about how long it was to Dodoma had no idea.

As the sun is setting I start getting into some really gorgeous mountain passes, and the road remains terrible. I am sure (read: delusional) that the next valley has to be Dodoma, but it isn’t. The sun sets and I continue to press on in the dark. I cross the dam at night and realize I am perhaps half way through this road. My hope is starting to fade.

It was 20h00 and a few kilometers down the road from the dam crossing when I hit a patch of sand that I couldn’t see. I was going slow, but I came off the bike. When I picked it up, I noticed the license plate had fallen off (luckily right there) and decided it was a good enough sign as any that I should call it quits for the day.

I pulled the bike off the side of the road with a mix of pushing and spinning the rear wheel. I knew it was far enough off the road when I no longer had a choice – I had buried the rear wheel in the sand so deep the bike was sitting on the pan and standing straight up on its own. Good enough.

I was exhausted and low on water. I wasn’t supposed to riding this long and hadn’t come on this road as prepared as I should have been. I knew I’d need the water in the morning, so I skipped the food in the bag.

I set up my tent and passed out after a grueling day.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 19 – MTERA DAM TO IGUNGA – 504 kms (9,716 kms total)

I am up before the sun rises with the sound of trucks and children. It’s 05h30.

I take everything I can off the bike and it is still near impossible to get the thing out of the sand. By this point I have attracted a crowd of school children – clearly I am more interesting than getting to school on time. In fact, I am sure I was about as interesting as a purple guy on a space ship to these kids. A crowd seemed to gather out of no where whenever I was tinkering with the bike on the side of the road in Tanzania.

I wasn’t out of the sand and on my way until 06h45. It took three more hours of riding before I found the tar road again and Dodoma. Along the way the frame lock for the left pannier rattled itself to death – no more locks for luggage and no more spare hardware if I broke it again. Again, don’t buy these if you’re doing heavy off road stuff.

It had been more than a day since I had eaten anything. I was grumpy. The late morning big breakfast plus big dinner plan worked well for long days of riding. You had more time to ride during daylight and it was pretty efficient. However, when you miss one of these, sanity and perspective tend to go out the window. I’d try to not do that again.

RULE #9: DON’T SKIP MORE THAN 1 MEAL IN A DAY.

I realized I hadn’t seen another white guy since Zambia. English was very limited everywhere. My Swahili was far from proficient. Still, I managed, but it was a bit lonely not to talk to anyone at length.

Now back on the tar roads, I noticed the instrument board was rattling something awful. I took off the plastic cover and found three missing bolts! They must have rattled loose somewhere along that 266 km “road.” In a small town, 2500 Shillings and a lot of gesturing earned me replacement bolts and a coke.

From here on the road is fine with the exception of some road works here and there. However, the front end would never feel the same again – whatever I did had tweaked the suspension. I hoped I hadn’t broken a fork spring, but wasn’t positive. Nor could I guess how to check without opening up the fork tubes and decided that wasn't going to happen on the side of the road. Besides, if I did have an issue I couldn't do anything about it for a while, probably not until Kenya.

The sunset was gorgeous. Shortly there after I arrived in Igunga before it is completely dark.

The first hotel I could find looked like it was either made for animals or filming a horror movie. The 2nd one claimed to be the best in town. For the equivalent of eight dollars, I was happy to get a shower, a bed, and cold beer within walking distance

As it turns out, at a local restaurant I was offered three temperatures of beer: warm, cold or hot. Although curious, I stuck to my cold beer and thanked the hostess. In that heat I struggled to understand why anyone would want anything hot to drink.

I was finally able to get my uncle on the phone after several rounds of phone tag. He was also in Tanzania, but on the other side of the country. He laughed when I told him I wished I had asked him to teach some Swahili before I got lost on that road. He travels a lot in Tanzania and told me I was crazy for ever going on the short Dodoma road. Although we’d miss each other by the time I was coming back down on the other side of Tanzania, he gave me some tips on where to stay in Dar and Iringa.

After a hard couple of days, I was happy I had made it through. Word to the wise: don’t ever take the short Dodoma road.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 20 – IGUNGA TO KIGALI – 651 kms (10,367 kms total)

The $8 hotel room would have been worth it for the bed alone. I feel fantastic after a solid night of rest and am excited to be moving on from Tanzania today. Everything seemed to break in Tanzania (and would again on my way back down).

I finally tried chapatti for the first time at a restaurant down the road. Turns out it is delicious and I had several for breakfast before heading out of Igunga.

Somewhere near Nzega I got on the wrong road after I stopped for petrol. Luckily I realized my mistake after seeing names for towns that are in a different direction than the one I thought I was going. In an attempt to correct my mistake, I stopped on the side of the road to ask a couple of boys walking through the bush carrying water on their heads. In a hurry, I don’t take off my helmet, but instead I yell out to them pointing in the direction I thought I should be going and asking, “Kahama? Is Kahama that way?” After pausing to blink at me a couple of times, the children promptly drop their water and run in opposite directions! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – to them I truly was an alien.

I eventually find my way back to the road to Kahama. After Kahama the road conditions changed dramatically – felt like I was riding a road that someone was trying to build at the same time. Half the time you’d have to share dusty detours with huge lorries and the other half you could ignore signs and ride on perfectly good tar. Just be careful not to ride of a cliff when the tar suddenly ends.

Once the road improved, the landscape began to change before the border with Rwanda. Making pretty good time today I stopped in a village for a snack. While I was there I got tempted by something I have never seen before - a french fry omelet! Despite the flies and my general concerns about sanitation at this street cart, I ordered away anyway. Never did get sick, but probably wasn’t the wisest move I made.

I continue on toward the border and am thankful for whoever put large piles of boulders and rocks in front of potholes that are large enough to swallow a vehicle, but nearly impossible to see. My front suspension is clunky and sounds bad, still not much I can do about it here. My bike has also started to backfire more than normal, perhaps due to bad fuel, but I wasn’t sure. Doing a service soon wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Once I crossed the border, I was AMAZED how different Rwanda felt. It was a gorgeous ride into Kigali, through sweeping roads and banana plantations. The roads were all new tar and hardly a pothole in sight. Everyone in the village communities seemed to be actively doing something and working together. And it was clean! Rwanda had outlawed plastic bags and there were maybe a couple pieces of trash on the road in all the kilometers I rode across it. Best thing was when folks whistled and cheered at me when I rode through the villages – felt like a true Charlie Boorman, camera crew and all ;-).

The sun was now setting and my headlight had gone out again. Luckily I made it to the lodge before it was too dark. I’d need to find a replacement for my spare globe while in Kigali.

Once I arrived at the lodge, I met with a business contact of my father’s who had helped me get my gorilla pass and a local phone for a few days. I settled in and ended up meeting a Canadian couple staying at the lodge and sharing dinner with them and a few of the local lagers (Skol).

It has been awesome meeting new folks along the way. However, I was a little tired of telling my story and having folks look at me like I was insane. Looked forward to a day off tomorrow and time to rest and fix the bike.
 

Offline madmax

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lovely
fornicate the proletariat
 

Offline Kenisis

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Hey Johnny-B-Good.

Awesome ride report!  Can wait for the rest!
2012 KTM 990 Adventure
2015 KTM Rally Replica
2016 Husqvarna FE 450
2017 Husqvarna FC 450
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 21 – DAY OFF IN KIGALI – 13 kms (10,380 kms total)

I didn’t sleep in too much, excited about seeing Kigali and getting some things fixed on the bike. I replaced the globe for the headlight and started thinking about how to track down a spare; cleaned up the chain, which was very much in need of the help; and corrected the tyre pressure.

After a little bit of work to start the day off I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Definitely the best fried eggs I’ve ever had – certainly the best since South Africa and that was 10 days ago!

As I left the hotel on foot, a driver convinced me to take his taxi rather than walk. I don’t recall his argument, but it must have been a good one. First stop, the Genocide Museum.

The museum is a must see for anyone visiting Rwanda. It does a great job of putting on display the horrors the country lived through in 1994, what led to them and how the people of Rwanda have moved on since then. Still, the fact that 1 million people were killed in less than four months and the global community watched it happen is sad in the truest sense of the word. Bill Clinton claims it was his biggest regret as president.

After the museum, the driver and I went in search of a replacement spare globe for the headlight and chain lube. The globe was easy enough to find, but relatively thin oil meant for a bicycle chain was about as good as we could do for the other request.

I had failed to negotiate my taxi fare in the beginning and found myself paying a $30 bill for the rides around town. It wasn’t ludicrous, but nor do I believe it was the market rate.

I met again with my father’s business contact, Rene. He helped me plan my route to go see the gorillas the next day and we decided it was best I stay another night in Kigali and ride early in the morning up to Ruhengeri. I also made a quick trip down the road for petrol and some groceries. My bike filled up with 16L, and the petrol light hadn’t been on. Something was wrong and I added it to the list of things I’d have to sort out in Nairobi.

In fact, there were lots of things I’d need to sort out:
+ Front suspension feels like a worn out pogo stick and sounds about as good
+ Engine had been backfiring – not sure if I need to change the fuel filter, or had clogged my catalytic converter, or something else
+ Petrol indicator not working – who knows what’s going on there
+ The rear brakes feel oddly squishy – not sure, perhaps I need to change the pads

In the late afternoon I have a nice chat with an American family moving to Rwanda from Colorado. For the 2nd time in 2 days I find myself sitting across from a woman who thinks I need some mothering and expresses how worried she is that I am doing this trip. I thought briefly of my own folks and send a quick note home to make sure they know I am alive and they should not worry (like that helped).

After a quiet dinner, I hit the sack early – alarm will sound at 03h30 for my ride to Ruhengeri.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 22 – KIGALI TO RUHENGERI – 182 kms (10,562 kms total)

I got up at 03h30 to pack and check-out.

At 0h400, Rene called to make sure I didn’t miss my alarm. Gorilla passes were $500 then (and more now) and neither of us wanted it to go to waste!

I left at 04h30. It was a bit later than I had intended, but still dark. I am very thankful my headlight is working again. The road to Ruhengeri was absolutely gorgeous. This was the most beautiful ride I have done in my life. Still, I wished I had been riding a superbike as the roads were flawless. But watching the sunrise as I rode through the country of 1000 hills was absolutely priceless – one of my favorite moments of the trip.

There was a bit of road construction here and there. At one point I got confused with the directions I was given. I went for 30 kilometers the wrong way and my margin of error was now gone. You had to be on time and at the rendezvous point at 07h00 sharp. I sped back toward where I had just been and corrected my wrong turn (or lack of turn-off) to Ruhengeri.

I was in luck, 15 minutes late, but in luck. I made it to the gorillas and they hadn’t yet divided folks up into groups. Most people had overland vehicles and they split up into them. I followed on the bike to the edge of the park.

We walked for 30 minutes across farmland before entering a bamboo forest and winding our way along the path for 30 minutes. We then climbed through jungle up a hill and without a path for another or 20-30 minutes before we all of a sudden were in the middle of a pack of gorillas – 25 of them, to be exact. They were above and below us on the hill and all around. One of them reached out and grabbed my ankle as he swung from one side of the path to the other. We then spent the next hour following them as they made their way down the hill and into the bamboo forest. I have hundreds of pictures of these guys (many are enclosed below). Was truly an amazing thing to see.

Since I had arrived late, I didn’t have a chance to change properly (you’ll notice my riding socks tucked over my riding pants). And I haphazardly left my boots underneath my bike, hoping for the best. After a scare in returning to find them gone, I learned that one of the guides had put them in his vehicle for me. Whew!

As I pack up my bike a small crowd of locals began to form. 10 people become 20. Soon there are 50 and eventually close to 80 just standing around watching me. This was common, but one of the few occasions in which I have pictures of what it feels like to be a purple alien riding a space ship… Thanks to Meryl (an English woman who was in my gorilla group) for emailing me these pictures.

Pretty exhausted from a long day, I decided to stay at Kinigli Guest house, where I camped in their field. I ate lunch and dinner with Meryl and decided that Mutzig was my favorite Rwandan beer.

With a very accurate weather forecast from the hostess, “no rain, small rain, African rain” and a shrug, I was off to bed.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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Some more pictures: