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Author Topic: Mzungo Moto - ZA:Uganda:ZA - 17,400 km, 45 days, 12 countries, 15 months late  (Read 1025 times)

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Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 23 – RUHENGERI TO KAMPALA AND THE BIRTH OF MZUNGU MOTO – 520 kms (11,082 kms total)

Early wakeup – a crow had decided that he wanted to try eating my dry bag. After wrestling him away from it, guessed it was a good enough time to get up.

When inquiring about breakfast, I took “yes, hello, good night, thank you!” as a positive sign and waited for my food to arrive. It was starting to get late, and I wasn’t able to depart until after 10 am. Hoped the weather would hold out and I wouldn’t be caught in the rain and dark.

30 km down the road I crossed the border at Cyanika. Dealing with the police before immigration didn’t give me the best feeling about Uganda. Cost me 45,200 Ugandan Shillings for a license.

After the border, the road was pretty bad for 30 kilometers. Then the road gets better on the way to Kabale, but still a bit of construction.

I could feel the rain coming and stopped to put on my rain gear before Mbarara. Very good thing I did because it soon was pouring! Water and mud cover the roads. Pretty soon it covers me too and my helmet feels bit like an aquarium. I keep the gear on all the way to Masaka. It gets dark with cloud cover and being late in the day and the road is under heavy construction all the way to Kampala. I make it over the equator, but it is too dark to do the bucket trick.

Along the way, I learned a lot of interesting thing from the Ugandans. One guy called my bike and airplane at a petrol station. Little kids yell “Mzungu, money!” repeatedly at me. I’d later learn Mzungu means foreigner at best, but better translated to gringo or whitey. Despite being told I must be a “really stud guy” in Masaka, I am exhausted

$10 hotel rooms are amazing inventions, and I manage to find one around 10 pm in Kampala. After checking in, I struggle a bit to put my bike up on the centre stand. The hotel manager who is nearby helps me and the bike falls over. My first reaction is that I shouldn’t have had that guy help me, until I realize the centre stand had snapped in half on the right leg along the weld.

Things seem a bit bleak, but a couple of Nile beers at 5.6% ease me into bed, but not before some brainstorming. Now over half way through my trip and nearly as far north as I would venture, I decided my bike needed a name. After a long list, I settled on Mzungu moto – as they say, can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Tomorrow I’d need to find the “welder man”…
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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Oops - a few pics of the countryside near the border I forgot.
 

Offline TVB

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Wow, what a gr8 read - keep it comming please!!  :thumleft:
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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Sorry for the delay, folks - been traveling / fighting an amoeba colony in the Philippines the last couple weeks. More to come this weekend at latest.
 

Offline wolfman

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Epic stuff! Keep it coming  :thumleft:
 

Offline Mzee

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You were not crazy to take that trip.  It seems you enjoyed it.  Here is one I did alone.  We shared the route in some places.  Checck this:  http://mzee-jaki.blogspot.com/2009/10/everyone-has-dream.html
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Offline ClimbingTurtle

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Great RR JbG - brilliant!

We also shared some points along the route with you - main difference being we did our East Africa Bike Safari in 1994, at the height of the Hutu/Tutsi conflict in Rwanda - definately no chance of going anywhere in that region at that time!

Looking forward to the rest of the report!
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"And if I knew I was going to be this thirsty, I would have drunk more last night"

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Offline Sitvlak

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Awsome! Brings back great memories! We departed to Uganda just as you returned home.

Adventurer also prepped us for our trip to and we used alot of the info you provided.

Great RR!
 

Offline Carrol

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Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Great RR this.

 8)
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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Other bike: '05 Honda Varadero 1000
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Offline White Rhino

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Greatness :thumleft:

If you can, pls publish the route or a pic of the route.
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 Johnny-B-Good

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Alright folks - here comes the rest of it. I've written it all now, so here comes a flood of posts and pics. Apologies for the delay!
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 24 – KAMPALA TO NAIROBI – 697 kms (11,779 kms total)

With the help of the hotel manager, I’m off to see the welder.

I strip the bike down and disconnect the battery. Of all the beautiful things about the Dakar, the amount of work you have to do to get those three panels off is not on the list.

Within a few minutes, I had an ugly, but relatively strong looking weld, reinforced with a piece of scrap rebar – should do the trick. The welder also introduced me to “eggs commando” – a mix of fried eggs, chapatti and beans. 13,000 shillings or ~$6 for breakfast and a weld seemed fair to me!

I leave as soon as I can pack my things up. Despite the instructions from the hotel manager, I get lost trying to make my way out of the city. The traffic reminds me why I avoid big cities – my bike is too big to be treated like one of the scooters weaving in and out of traffic and too small to be treated like a car. At one point a car swipes one of my panniers and almost knocks me over.

I cross the border at Malaba, some ~220 kilometers from Kampala. It is starting to rain, so I change into rain gear. Tired of paying for local insurance, I decide to skip it in Kenya and tell them I already have it. The trick appears to work, for now.

As I leave the border post, I realize my rear break is now entirely gone. No matter how hard I stomp, there is no response. Just to recap, I am riding in the rain, with no rear brake and no local insurance. Moving on…

I make it to Eldoret – the farthest North I will be on my trip. A diversion away from heavy road works takes me through difficult traffic again. It is still another ~350 km to Nairobi, and the weather is cold and wet.

It is starting to get dark. My headlight and visor both get clogged with mud frequently. It is impossible to ride quickly in these conditions.

I stop in Nakuru for fuel and consider not continuing. I grab some snacks and an energy drink. A local named Nelson stops me and asks me about my trip. Apparently he is a fan of Charlie Boorman and gives me directions on where to stay in Naivasha (his home town). On a whim, I decide not to follow them and continue on to Nairobi at the turnoff.

Between Naivasha and Nairobi I am stopped at a road block and begin to regret my decision. I am asked for my insurance and tell them I have it, but it’s raining and ask if I can move on. The fib works, surprisingly.

I finally make it to Nairobi at 22h00. I stop for directions to Jungle Junction and get lost. I negotiate with a cab driver for me to follow him to the place for $10.

It is after 23h00 when I finally get in. I meet another guy who is riding a Dakar all the way from England down to Cape Town named Duncan. For the first time in weeks, I am not the craziest guy in the camp!

I set up my tent and get myself in bed as soon as I can – it felt like a very long day of doing stupid and dangerous things.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 25 – STUCK IN NAIROBI – 0 kms (11,779 kms total)

My bike is pretty fck’d up, let’s be clear. I am lucky I got it here. But it is hard not to grin when you wake up on the lawn of Jungle Junction, in the middle of the organized chaos that has made so many very long and difficult trips possible.

I speak with Chris (the owner) and Dan (the head mechanic) and they estimate it may be a couple of days before my bike can get through the queue and turned around. I’m in a bit of a hurry as I am trying to meet my girlfriend in Zanzibar for the weekend. It’ll be a bit of a sprint to get there, so I hope the bike only takes a couple of days.

With nothing better to do, I walk around the grounds and introduce myself. There was an English and South African couple moving to the UK by driving their Land Rover from the Cape up. A Dutch couple was in the middle of a 5 year around the world tour – what a way to retire! An English couple in a Unimog were en route to the Cape. As I mentioned before, this was the first time I didn’t feel like the craziest guy in the camp.

My favorite had to be a single German guy on a 1995 Yamaha XT600 on his way down from Europe. He was truly fascinating. He has two of these bikes, each of which has over 100,000 kilometers on the clock. Each year he rides one of them down into Africa – a different route and a different destination each time – and then back home. While his is prepping one for the next trip, he is tearing down and completely rebuilding the one he just brought back. Really classic example of how older, solid technology can last and last and how easy it is to fall in love with the continent.

By mid day my bike makes it into the shop. The take apart the front end and something is definitely wrong with the front suspension. The fork oil was the color of mercury and smelled awful – didn’t seem like it could have ever been the proper fork oil. AND, the progressive springs were installed upside down! The front end was one of the few things I had Northside do before I met Adventurer – again, stay away from these guys if you can. Chris, who knows all the mechanics who help out with these types of trips, told a few stories about that place as well that confirmed my dislike for the shop.

Chris also explained the pricing mechanism at Jungle Junction: there are three tiers. The cheapest way to get something fixed is you tell them what’s wrong and let them take care of it. More expensive is to watch while they fix it. Most expensive is to ask questions while they’re working. They can’t find a price anyone will pay in which they commit to answering the questions as well!

Taking the hint, I made my way into Nairobi. Seems very normal to walk around, no one pays me too much attention just because I am a foreigner. It feels comfortable enough – the same way decent cities in South Africa feel. It’s great to be able to get some high quality food for the first time in a while.

A friend of mine from a few years back when we worked together in D.C. was living in Nairobi at the time so we met up for Ethiopian food. Like most of my friends and family, she gives me the same shocked look and unwanted advice about being more careful. Still it was good to see a familiar face.

I made my way back to Jungle Junction in time to share a few rounds with folks. As we swapped stories of border crossings, it dawned on me how special Jungle Junction is. I’d love to come back some day.

<<PICS 104 – 108>>
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 26 – STUCK IN NAIROBI (continued) – 8 kms (11,787 kms total)

The guys in the shop are still doing their magic so I have time to kill. It’s nice to be able to relax a bit. I catch up on some reading and use the time to work on my travel log (the basis of what you’re reading).

I repack my panniers and finish up my laundry. A whole day in one place seems like an eternity given my pace.

The fuel light issue was more minor than I had feared – just a broken wire. The rear brake problem is the opposite and remains a mystery. The hydraulic system is sound. The ABS functions as it should. I use the opportunity to pop in my spare brake pads and hope for the best.

As I fiddle with odds and ends, I start to realize my trip is more than half over. I had budgeted 50 days if I needed them, but planned for only 6 weeks, giving me some wiggle room if I needed it. Still, now half over, Jo’burg seems a long way and a long time ago, yet it all flew by.

I settle the bill with Chris. For all of the work the bike needed, the cost was less than half of what my 40k service at Northside cost me. Chris advises me only to use Bavarian in Pretoria from now on.

I’m now getting very restless. Sitting around and waiting for the go signal is like purgatory. Boredom is a dangerous playmate. I can’t wait to get on the bike.

The bike is out of the shop with a clean bill of health. I load up all of my gear and take a short trip into town to hit the ATM and make sure all is well before I depart in the morning.

All seems well as I ride out the gates. As I stop before I take the second turn into town, I notice the breaks feel squishy. I play with it a bit and the pressure comes back. Once back at Jungle Junction, it’s clear that I dumped the reserve tank of brake fluid, but not so much as to foul the circuit and lose pressure entirely.

Dan and I top up the reserve tank and he goes for a ride. He pounds on the brakes and we engage and disengage the ABS. We do everything to try and reproduce it, but no dice.

With fingers crossed, I hope the issue will sort itself out rather than get worse and prepare for an early morning departure.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 27 – NAIROBI TO MOSHI, TANZANIA – 460 kms (12,247 kms total)

I had aimed to get going at 05h00, but didn’t make it out of my tent until 06h00. By the time I pack everything up and am on my way it is 07h00.

I ride 100 meters down the road and my rear brake fails, shooting brake fluid all over the road – problem!

I can’t get pressure back in the line, but for the first time I can see where the leak is in the hose. It’s right at the elbow of the line. When the panniers are off, and/or a smaller guy like Dan rides the bike, the hole pinches closed. Put all my crap and my fat self on the bike and out comes the brake fluid – mystery explained! Now back to Jungle Junction to sort it out…

The shop doesn’t open until 09h00 and my urgency isn’t going to change anything. While I’m worried about my timeline, I know that doing anything other than waiting patiently is going to make this process more painful and less efficient. So I wait.

Dan is kind enough to reprioritize what they’ve got on in the shop to get my brake line off the bike. Sure enough the puncture is right where I thought. Bad news is they don’t have a spare on hand, so they send it into town to “Pipeman” – flash backs of welderman from Kigali – for a replacement to be made.

I hoof it into town to fetch more cash for another workshop bill. The part is back by 13h00 and I am itching to depart, hoping to make it to Moshi before nightfall. I’m finally able to depart around 15h00.

Despite Chris’s directions on how to best get out of town and to the border, I get a bit lost and turned around. At Athi, I accidentally take the 109 instead of the 104. I still make it to the border by 19h00 (in time to cross) after watching a beautiful sunset.

I press on through the 200 km to Moshi. Unfortunately, there is a ton of road works going on. I’d later learn there was a road I could have taken to avoid all of this construction, but it’s hard to see the turnoff at night. I don’t make it to the lodge just outside Moshi – the Honey Badger – until after midnight.

I pitch a tent and boil water for food in a bag. My gas stove is faulty, so the flame doesn’t have the power it normally does. It takes a long time to boil water and I promise to clean it out in daylight the next morning.

I finally make it to bed around two in the morning.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 28 – MORE MOSHI – 36 kms (12,283 kms total)

I am up at 6 am before the roosters to pack up. I feel anxious to be on my way.

As the day becomes light, I see a familiar face. The German on the 1995 Yamaha from Jungle Junction had found the same camp, likely long before I pulled in the night before. I take it as a good sign and force myself to slow down and get some breakfast before I hit the road.

Once I’m on the road, I feel great to be back on the bike and moving. Still, it feels like I am in a hurry and nothing good happens when you’re in a hurry on a motorbike.

17 kilometers down the road from the Honey Badger, something strange happens: the temperature light on my bike goes on. I pull off the road. Alone and stranded, Zanzibar seems impossibly far away.

I inspect the bike. Everything appears fine externally; there is no visible leak, but I fear the alternative. Too hot to touch, I wait for the engine to cool and phone Adventurer for advice. An hour later, a freely spinning water pump impeller confirms two things: stripped water pump gears and no more riding. I can still hear Adventurer’s words: “your ride is over.”

Pushing the bike back to Moshi, I search for a solution. I could not return to Kenya for repairs without a new visa. Egypt and South Africa were out of the question. I would need to source parts, do the repairs myself, and skip my belated rendezvous with my girlfriend.

I try to hail a ride to Dar es Salaam for the next few hours. I figured I could get me and the bike on to the back of one of the lorries, but wasn’t having a lot of luck.

I also called Chris from Jungle Junction while Adventurer looked into what he could do from South Africa. Chris didn’t have a good way to get me parts in a hurry given the fact that I didn’t have a visa to get back into Kenya. I hope Adventurer was having a bit more luck and focused on getting me to Dar as soon as possible.

I still don’t know how he did it, but Adventurer had a friend of a friend who is going to fly into Dar on Tuesday night and can carry my parts in his pilot bag. Barry – sorry, I don’t know forum handle – thank you so much for your help.

I stay again at the Honey Badger and explain my problem to Jenny and Joey. They let me pike my bike in their garage (tin roof, bare dirt floor – but it worked). One of the lodge workers, Sampson, also escorts me into town to buy a bus ticket so I can get picked up from in front of the lodge rather than get into town at 6 am.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 29 – MOSHI TO DAR VIA BUS – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

I wake up early and feel in a rush as usual.

I am packed and waiting for the bus in front of the lodge at 06h30. It doesn’t come until 07h30 and I spend much of that time fretting. My girlfriend arrived in Zanzibar the day before and I am starting to feel bad.

The Tanzanian guy next to me wants to chat. I am sure I am quite the sight to see on this bus, but all I want to do is sleep and I search for a polite excuse to do so. It’s a struggle given the volume and quality of the loud movies being played with titles such as “Crazy Love” and “White Maria.”

I arrive at the bus terminal the normal couple hours late that I expected. I have exactly 20 minutes to catch the last ferry. I pay too much, but for a good (and crazy) taxi driver to try and get me there on time. Unfortunately we get there only to realize the ferry has left 15 minutes before because it is a weekend.

Next plan: the taxi driver rushes me to the airport to try to catch the last plane. I make it onto the 17h00 flight after the driver helps me get through security quickly by talking to his brother who works there.

On the 20 minute flight, I feel a moment of relaxation for the first time in weeks. Upon landing, I haggle for a $30 taxi to the hotel (now in touristville and have to pay tourist prices).

I get an SMS from Adventurer. Turns out my parts will only be in Dar on Wednesday evening. More time in Dar to sort things out before I head out.

It is amazing to see Siru (my girlfriend). For the first time, I wish I were home already. It has been a long trip – perhaps longer than I had bargained for.

I had the best shower ever, although Siru claimed that the layers of dirt would require a lot more than one shower to get off. Still, was good to get the smell of a bus off of me and spend a civilized evening together.

That night I had nightmares about motorbikes for perhaps the first time in my life. This trip was weighing a bit on me – mentally probably more than physically.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 30 – ZANZIBAR – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

I slept in for the first time in a long time.

Siru and I decide not to go kite surfing. We decide to read and hang out on the beach and catch up. It had been nearly three weeks since we had seen each other and she could see I was a bit off kilter.

Not much else to say, but here are a couple of pictures.
 

Offline Johnny-B-Good

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DAY 31 – ZANZIBAR TO DAR VIA FERRY – 0 kms (12,283 kms total)

Siru and I are up early to get the most out of the morning before she has to return to Jo’burg.

We leave the hotel around 10h30 and it is hard to say goodbye when the taxi drops me off first at the ferry building.

It’s a short walk to the YMCA from the ferry building and easy enough to find a room since it is not a weekend. I spend most of the evening drinking copious amounts of Safari Lager and finishing the rest of Shantaram. Was a great book to read over the past month of my own adventure.