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Old 05-26-2015, 04:46 AM   #1
Osadabwa OP
Don't be Surprised
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Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Oddometer: 259
Talking BMW F800 Adventure & Yamaha 660 Tenere – Bush Test Kenya

There’s also a very loudly painted 1985 XL600 on the trip, but I know my audience… I bet this day trip report gets more hits than any of my others just because I mentioned a BMW in the title!

Let me stick the video compilation here:

Anyway, it’s been over a month since Panic and I did our quick trip to Suswa and we were dying to remedy that situation. “Gun-it Gary” (aka Mzee Amazing, AKA ye olde man) was also ready to go. Not long after this Tenere trip down south of the Ngongs, Gun-it nearly met his maker in a head-on collision with a pickup. But, tougher than a gristly piece of goat meat, Mzee just cartwheeled the pickup, trashing his Tenere (and the pickup!) in the process and awarding him with a wee concussion. You think it slowed him down? Nope: two weeks later – still woozy from his concussion – he and his gal were off to India on a month-long Enfield tour*… And then, upon arriving back in Nairobi, the old cuss – impatient as a 6 year old and not much taller – buys a bloody great big BMW F800!** So, naturally, we had to go see if it would break.

* Not advisable
** Equally inadvisable

Above: Our long day of riding… over 300km and 10 hours…

At 10:00 AM we’re still waiting for Gary to get his things together, which doesn't amount to much: he only wears jeans, hiking boots and a jacket and carries a half-litre of water. “It’s only a day-ride after all…”, he said, “and I just want to take it easy”…. [Hint: Ironic Foreshadowing].

So, taking it easy, we descend the Ngongs and raced along well-known dirt roads. The rainy season had been doing its best to keep things interesting, leaving big muddy holes around and washing out sections, but it was easy enough going.

Above: On the big roads in the green Rift Valley

Above: Me clipping along on the XL600

Above: A bit of mud spray on the XL

Above: Panic ripping up the road on the Tenere

We paused briefly in a low spot, as yet not denuded of its fantastic, thorny, yellowgreen barked acacias. A herder and his sheep passed by after having a drink and gawking awhile, particularly impressed by Gary’s dun-colored bull. I think he was considering making him an offer to buy it but saw the BMW badge and came to his senses.

Above: Fevertree stop

Above: Splashdown

Above: Sheep and bikes

We were riding South of Mt. Suswa on the same track Panic and I took last time. Gun-it thought maybe we’d gone too far West – his idea was to ride down to Oltepesi and on to Olepolos for lunch – but we pressed on anyway since the riding was good. At one point, while I was out in front, licking it along in 5th gear and flirting with 100kph, a pair of buck gazelles leaped into the road just feet in front of me. The first guy cleverly speed straight across, but the second one – which I was doing my damnedest not to collect as a hood ornament, skidding and cussing – decided to turn down the road! I was in the right tyre track and he was in the left one about a metre ahead of me, sprinting flat out. Before finally diving back into the bush, he bounded one last time so high I could see his belly clear enough to count the ticks on his nuts. It was a close shave.

Above: Rising out of the valley

After awhile, the big road kind of fizzles out. Nobody’s repaired it in ages, so the washouts led to detours which make for brilliant riding. A long stretch of single track led to a couple of river crossings, the wider of which I couldn’t help but play around in a bit. Gun-it and Panic needed a wee rest from tossing those beasts around all morning…

Above: Singletracking the Tenere

Above: My XL600 deep in the riverbed

Above: Blasting around in the riverbed

Above: Riverbed riding

After the rivers, we re-emerged onto a more clearly defined road. It was in rough shape, but it was clearly in use. It took us a long way toward Magadi, past those funky, fat white trees that seem only to grow there, and through some lovely wide valleys, green with recent rain. We deviated off of it at some point and wound up on what turns out to be a bulldozer track demarcating group ranches. Not really a road – more like a less-rough and treeless area – it was bumpy going, even for the plush 30-year-old XL600. For a long time we couldn’t go much faster than 50kph, and it was getting hot and late.

Above: Gun-it and Panic, whipping the beasts

Above: The weird white blob tree (genus unknown), and the XL600 AKA Daffy AKA Ronald

Above: On the bulldozer tracks

Above: Rest-stop

The rough going just kept on going. It was a never-ending green, rocky line and we were tracing it up and over hills, down into dry river crossings etc. I’d misread my GPS, and announced we were 6km from a road which would eventually lead to Magadi, but the correct distance was 26km as the crow-flies and we weren’t exactly flying. This led us to take a track that looked on paper to be more direct, but which instead dead-ended at a 100 foot escarpment of boulders and stones, looking down on a very idyllic valley dotted with umbrella trees and emerald grass.

Above: Double barrel Gary and Panic in the stones

Above: Need knobbies for this stuff, we confirmed

Above: That red and yellow bike, what a beaut!

Above: Gun-it on the run

Above: Our beautiful dead-end overlook

Above: The overlook in panorama

After our detour to the overlook, we descended into a new ecosystem. The soils changed to white, there were 3 metre ant-hills all around, and the heat was picking up steam. Elephant droppings everywhere and the almost utter lack of wheel tracks on our path told us we were deep into it. The riding, predictably, was excellent.

Above: Anthill landscape

At last, we emerged onto a more commonly used road in a no-name village and made tracks for Magadi. As we crested a ridge, the pink-hued salty lake in the distance came into view, flanked by lovely green bluffs. A few more turns and we could see the soda ash plant, and were catching whiffs of the mineral-rich waters.

Above: Gary and his prized dunn-and-black bull

Above: Descent to the soda fields

Above: Magadi soda-ash lake

Above: waiting for worlds shortest and slowest train

Across the bridge, past the plant and onto the tarmac we went. It was now 16:00 and we were way, waaay off track. Normally, we’d be home by now, but this time we clearly weren’t going to make it before dark. Now would be a horrible time to get a puncture… so of course, we got one. Gary, gunning it as ever, ate one of the million potholes on that horrible road and the big BMW’s girth made short work of both the rim and the tube beneath it. A nice big ding he earned, and a first-attempt at tyre repair too. We nursed the bike along the road for 20 km or so, pumping it up and sprinting along, pumping and sprinting, just so we could do the tyre change at Olepolos where roast chicken and cold beers had been waiting for us for 4 hours (we called ahead… a bit prematurely).

Above: Flamingos on the water, bikers on the roadside (like that gash in Panic’s tyre?)

Forever later, we arrived at Olepolos. Dusk was upon us, but there was nothing to do but chow down on our chicken feast and get wrenching. We moved the bike out of the rain and blocked it up on stones. Quick job with three guys, we were finally ready to roll just as darkness and rain set in. Of course.

Above: Hallelujah, Olepolos ahoy!

Above: Olepolos tyre-changing kukus and our chicken dinner

Dark. Raining. I was following Gary’s tail-light blindly. A few drops fell on my goggles and I resisted wiping them away. “Don’t do it”, I told myself. But the shiny star pattern of on-coming headlights was making me dizzy, so I reached up with what I hoped would be the cleanest fingered glove and gave it a wipe. Mud! Frantically, I wiped again. More mud! Aaah! Cars whipping past, where’s Gary’s taillight? Wipe! Mud! Wipe! Less mud… ahh... a smeary blur... I can live with that. More than an hour of horrible, inconsiderate, idiotic African roads later, we made it home, alive and well, cold and exhausted.

So, what’s the verdict?

The BMW: Most folks wouldn’t have taken their new BMW F800 Adventure into the Rift Valley for a 300+ km “test run”, but Gun-it did (albeit somewhat unintentionally) and it came out unscathed apart from some scratches and a bent rim he got on the tarmac. Compared to the other “Adventure” bikes BMW have made in the past (think F650 Dakar, or that ridiculous behemoth 1150 thing…), at least this one seems to be taking it seriously with upside down forks and a decent shocks. Gary rode his Tenere a bit faster than he rode his BMW on this trip, but that’s probably a good thing, overall. So, it may be a mightily heavy thing to toss around all day, but if a mature, vertically-challenged fellow can do it, so can you!*

* Though still inadvisable!

The Yamaha: Panic’s Tenere was as reliable as all Yamahas, and appeared to ride like a large enduro bike – hopping around over stones. With knobbier rubber he’d be happier for sure, but considering it’s his all-around bike, it handles the tougher roads swimmingly.

The Honda: My little beasty is simply beyond reproach (apart from the lack of magic button, the garish paint scheme, and the need to carry a Litre of oil along on every ride)! 30 years later, she bounded happily over all of it like a stupid puppy. I look forward to many more trips with her.

It was a loong day boys! Lets do it again!
Don't be surprised.
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