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Old 07-11-2013, 10:58 AM   #31
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Feb 2010
Oddometer: 1,469
Originally Posted by Osadabwa View Post
Hey L.B.S.,

Yes, we find lots of quirky characters out here, but he was extra special. I include one more pic here just for you.


Above: I was nodding off when he arrived, but had to get in a pic with him
Bahahaha, much obliged! That's great!
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Old 07-12-2013, 08:08 AM   #32
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Location: Oviedo, España
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Loving it. Definitely worth the wait.

I cant help feeling a bit sorry for Phil, busted ass ribs and having to kick start a pig. Still I suppose 300km is not too far to ride like that.

Its not like there would be any other choice I suppose.
Dreaming of Dakar
Everyone has a max speed, 90% of that max speed is much safer and easier, and if that 90% speed isn't fast enough at Dakar, you enter the snowball. - neduro
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Old 07-15-2013, 11:12 AM   #33
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Location: Nairobi, Kenya
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Thumb Day 4 – Everything falls apart

Up early. Market not even serving food yet. Found a little tea shop on the street and ordered some extra strong ginger tea to wash down the mandazi that looked for all the world like buffalo scat while the chapatis were cooked and the eggs boiled. Loading up the bikes, I discovered my rear wheel bearings were shot, but nobody wanted to give me the time to change them:

[Ajax]: We’ll do it when it goes.
[Bean]: Or tomorrow.
[FundiPhil]: Oui, oui, cette rearwheelbearing est fooked.
[GilleMonster]: Ha ha!
[PubQuiz]: Can anybody name the only major African river that runs both North and South of the equator? Anybody? Guys? Hey?

Above: Your narrator at his best, chai and buffalo scat, preparations at the Inyonga Safari Hotel courtyard

Topping up the fuel, the annoying, gangly Thug-Life-T-shirt-wearing knucklehead from the guesthouse wouldn’t stop attempting his lame cool guy routine with us (high as a kite at 9 in the morning). Kept trying to give me a fist bump, mumbling something about Jah and that’s-how-we-do-it-in-Jamaica, then he slapped me on the helmet in a slightly overly emphatic faux-fraternal sort of way. So I says to the guy: “I ain’t Jamaican and neither are you, sporto”, and roosted on his shoes.

The day’s destination: Kipili on Lake Tanganyika. It was a known route through deep bush and a game reserve and everybody was keen to get after it. The first 30km out of Inyonga were fairly well maintained dirt, so we were spreading out to avoid each other’s dust. FundiPhil was ahead of me but kind of dragging ass.

Above, top: Sign says “Life is a Safari” on one side, then “Death has no escape!” on the other. Bottom: tobacco fields and a drying hut distant

Phil kept looking at his bike, like he didn’t like what he was hearing, then all at once he just raised up his hands and coasted to a stop. The brand-spanking-new “DID” chain had snapped after only 500 km of use. Why, you ask? How is it possible you ask? It was inevitable, I maintain. Mr. Bean had bought the chain at a local shop that peddles authentic Vee Rubber tyres but counterfeit everything else in Dar es Salaam. Nobody buys important parts there. You have to import it all from USA or Europe. It was a rookie move and proof positive that the Belgian has spent too many years in the Dar heat. His brains have gone soft. Too much Konyagi maybe.

Anyway, the chain broke on Mr Bean’s favorite bike and he was suitably punished for his transgression. The chain whipped around the front sprocket and did its best Weed-Whacker™ impression on the engine case, chain-sawing through the protective cover and grinding its way through the transmission fluid reservoir. Plans, it was clear, were about to shift from A to B.

Ajax and Benny Boom Boom can be oblivious when they’re in the lead. Two abreast, they routinely ignore the rule the rest of us follow of waiting for the next person to catch up before carrying on too long. So, while we waited for them to come back, I prepped my bike to fix the wheel bearings. When the guys returned half an hour later, it was unanimously agreed that FundiPhil’s bike was stuffed. No chain, hole in the engine, 100s of kms from anywhere. Not happy to be idle, Ajax and Phil take the tools away from me (I’d been fecklessly whacking at the wheel bearings for some time by then…) and replaced them while the tow rope was being extracted from the very bottom of PubQuiz’s Giant Loop.

Above: The damage, the bikes waiting, me and my opinion of events all akimbo

The tow underway, Ajax and I sped back to Inyonga to get busy sorting out a salvage plan for the trip. We phoned the Lakeside Lodge to say we’d be late, and then we got PhatBilly on the blower. He was convalescing back at Utengule, milking his bruises to garner sympathy from the staff, but it was time for him to dig deep for the team, drag his numb ass out of the rack and get to work.

Subconsciously, Mr. Bean must have known it was folly to trust the phony Dar-bought chain, because he’d packed a spare and a rear sprocket to match it… although he’d left them both in the car back in Mbeya, 3 days’ ride away. It was therfore up to Billy to fix Mr. Bean’s blunder. So to sum up: An invalid (PhatBilly) who had been injured and subsequently exiled by his “mates” from a trip he’d waited months for and flown intercontinentally to participate in was asked to emerge from his deathbed to save the day by putting chain and sprocket on a Sumbawanga-bound bus addressed to one “Mr. Bean AKA Benny Boom Boom”. Life’s not fair.

Above: Making plans apparently requires maps, GPS and Kilimanjaro, the KTM towing party

Arrangements arranged, there was nothing left to do but ride. So we rode. Big dirt again, and pot-holy hell. Ajax and I took the lead and did the side-by-side riding thing. There just wasn’t much to see or do, so we just screwed in throttles and burned up kilometers.

Above: Towing down the dusty road, Ajax waits in the mottled shade

After a very nice descent from somewhere high to somewhere lower, we stop to regroup and chow some dried meats and candies. The two XRs were found to have lost subframe bolts, and PubQuiz’s bike was way down on oil. Hmmm. Anyway, all was going well with the towing operation… until 20 minutes later.

Above: The Pink Lion bus overtakes, Monster helps Phil with his rope, I pose for a dusty face shot

Mr. Bean testified that evening that he had been cautious, that he’d repeatedly asked FundiPhil if the speed was okay but the old goat kept insisting “Oui oui! Plus rapide! Allez allez, you nana!” and the like (you know how Belgians can be), so he reluctantly obliged. But PubQuiz saw the whole thing. An eye witness to the crime, as it were.

PubQuiz described the scene thus:
“There was a 90 degree bend in the road (dogleg right) followed by a 90 degree bend the other way (dogleg left) with enough potholes in between to break your bones, turn your teeth to powder… bruise your balls, etc etc…”

“Bean arrived at the first turn reasonably enough, you know, decelerating to set up for the corner. But then, ladies and gentlemen, he accelerated! Wholly oblivious, or fiendishly aware, of the fact that his Oulde Pal (in his fifty-eighth, remember), his Oulde Buddy FundiPhil was attached by a rope and a prayer behind. Well this royally fuc… (sorry) messed Phil up, your honor. Fighting the tow rope which, now jerked taught and angled right, threatening to pull FundiPhil off the road, it is no small wonder that, though valiantly fighting, he lost grip with his legs and was sent bouncing like a gazelle on a trampoline. His feet were loose, your honor! He’d lost all hope, please the court! [Swooning, hand to forehead] Oh, Billy! Someone get me water…”

[Later] “But ladies and gentlemen, FundiPhil is one tough sonofabitch… pardon my French. He fought hard, flexing every tendon and muscle to their geriatric breaking point and I swear on Zeus’s anvil he damn near saved his pointy Belgian ass! But wait! Mr Bean had other ideas! Just as Phil was about to regain control, his, “friend” his, “comrade” his, “bon ami” accelerated once again and banked left, jerking the rug out from under him if you will. And down he went like a sack of baguettes!”

After that, the prosecution rested. The defense had no further questions your honor.

All I know is that when I arrived, poor FundiPhil was still on his bum in the bushes off the track, shaking his head and saying “Oh la la! Merde! Puta!” and the like. And only after it was all said and done did anyone stop to think: Hey, if Mr. Bean is the guy who invited FundiPhil to come ride, and it was Bean who put the imitation DID chain on the bike that ultimately broke… why the hell is Mr. Bean not the guy on the receiving end of the towrope and potential launching into bush at speed? Life’s not fair.

Above: PubQuiz on the road, exhibit A from the trial, a bit of dialogue from the accident scene

Long story short… too late. Let me insert the video:

Above: Motorbikes being towed at pace on dirt and a techno-backed hodge-podge of photos from my helmetcam

So the day had been a bruiser. From Fundi’s landing spot, we just had a bit more to go before the tall watertower (tenki refu) and the junction leading down to Katavi National Park. The main road was abuzz with construction vehicles, dusty and fast. PubQuiz had valiantly taken Phil’s place on the towed bike and was no doubt reciting the names of Latvian Cities in alphabetical order just to keep from soiling his riding trousers.

Above: the Tall Tower and the Pink Lion Bus Overtake

Making it to the north gate of the National Park, we were all beat. Ajax and I scouted the pretty rough options for accommodation (we did NOT choose the Hippo Garden), Phil rested his weary bones, and Bean sorted out a pickup to take the bike the next day. Couldn’t guess what PubQuiz and Monster were up to… diddily squat I suspect.

Above: peanuts in their cones, a warning to bikers, the accommodation not chosen

Above: R & R at N. Katavi

As dusk fell, we all moved into our new digs alongside a hippo filled river. Water came out of the showerhead, they provided towels and the toilets had seats on them, so we were pretty stoked. The night’s food was edible and the Konyagi plentiful… I gathered the courage to think, maybe things were going to be okay from here on out…

Above: Nightlife, end of Day 4

More to come
Don't be surprised.
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Old 07-16-2013, 10:05 PM   #34
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Excellent videos! Thanks for all the effort. Top notch RR.

RedRockRider - WR250R, TW200, Versys, Vulcan 900 LT, Zuma 125

Southwest Utah: Dual Sport Riding from St. George
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Old 07-17-2013, 11:20 PM   #35
where are the pedals?
Joined: Jan 2009
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Excellent fun
where does that road go?
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Old 07-21-2013, 12:13 PM   #36
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Thumb Day 5: Wildlife to Lakeside

First light brought the sounds of hippos in the trees and birds in the river (or maybe the other way around… I always wake up in a bit of a daze). Golden light slicing through the trees at the lowest angle possible gave the scene a wonderful tone. The bush across the river looked properly African and the hippos were doing their thing. For our part, we all milled around scratching our tsetse fly bites and enjoying the cool air.

Above: Taking notes for this very RR, GilleMonster’s bumpy bitten hand

Above: Hippos and bikers enjoying the morning

Aside: That river must be seriously chockablock with hippos. While researching our tracks, I zoomed in to the area where we were and found some very high resolution slices amid the typical fuzzy greenish mass. I zoomed in and found that someone, sometime had taken aerial photos of a bend in the river in the dry season absolutely jammed with hippos, clearly not happy, some dead. You could have literally walked across their backs (but I wouldn’t recommend it).

Above: Screenshots from where we were via Google Earth

The night before, Mr. Bean had worked out transport for the ailing KTM. Nobody was too keen to be towed another 200km, particularly FundiPhil who looked stiff as a board from his fall. All of us assumed the transport solution would be a pickup, but that’s what we get for assuming. In fact, it was a stretched Land Cruiser safari truck with hardwood detailing and a canvas top over steel roll bars. It took some engineering and muscle to get the bike aboard, and it was impossible to squeeze it all the way inside, so we left the handle bars, forks and front wheel jutting out like the taxidermy mount of some exotic orange bird. Classic.

Above: Transport sorted

Kitted up and fast broken, we embarked upon day five. Mr. Bean lit out early for Sumbawanga to see if PhatBilly had managed to get the chain and sprocket on a bus, FundiPhil was seated comfortably in his personal safari vehicle, and the rest of us blasted off through Katavi National Park at a happy lick over some very uncomfortable terrain. Bloody dusty, big, potholed road it was, but gorgeous in the periphery. Deep forested bush, ghostly white-barked trees interspersed among the miombo… it was lovely.

Above: Ghostly white-barked trees… PubQuiz and a plume of dust/smoke

Around a corner, I find the guys ahead of me stopped and waving me to slow down. They were scattered across a river bridge all looking into the bush. A herd of several giraffe, some gazelles and a few zebra were wandering lazily around in full view. Despite the stern and utterly, obnoxiously, ridiculously idiotic bureaucratically conceived and officially overbearing prohibition to the contrary, we all took the opportunity to freely view the game and practice our armature photography. Who wouldn’t? It was really cool. We’re so damn lucky to ride bikes here…

Above: A photo of a giraffe by a sign that prohibits wildlife photography… in a National Park established for the protection of wildlife… TIA.

Above: Ajax was closest to the giraffe, FundiPhil had the best shots of the croc and zebra

The broken chain kind of relegated us to blasting away the day like BMW riders have to (I know, I’d done it before on a Dakar), but we weren’t too bothered. The big dirt wasn’t the most exciting, but the views up in the dry hills were really nice. We were witness to some very extensive Chinese-led construction going on that made you wonder how much longer the place will look like it does now. Then you start lamenting it. Then you start arguing that no, it’s good for the country etc. Then you wonder if it’s because they found oil, and it’ll be crawling with western mineral rapists, I mean interests. Then you just stop thinking, like a good biker, and keep riding.

Above: Honda needs oil again… the dry hills and roads above

Above: Both headlights working... Out the way cows!

We were gaining altitude rapidly. The air was cleaner feeling and things had a greener look to them around Namanyere. We stopped briefly at the junction to Kipili, our destination on Lake Tanganyika, before cruising in to Namanyere for fuel and food. We guessed the pickup with FundiPhil and the KTM in it would be crawling along behind us, so we had plenty of time.

Above: Namanyere junction, Namanyere town views

For a nowhere town in a neglected region of a poor African country, Namanyere looked pretty damn good. They had stuff. There was fuel in the pumps. There was cold beer in the fridges. They managed to cook up some very fine mishkaki and chips to boot and we were considering hanging out all afternoon until FundiPhil called Ajax to ask “Where the diable êtes-vous, stupid foofoohole?” He was already at the drop off point.

Above: PubQuiz speechless after a big meal and sugarcane dessert

A break in the middle of the day like that can have one of two effects: a) you feel like napping b) you feel like sharpening the throttles and filleting the bloody roads ahead. From Namanyere, we were feeling decidedly “b”. Part of it, no doubt, was the promise of what lie ahead: cool Lake Tanganyika, a lovely luxurious lodge, clean rooms and a day off to enjoy it all. But it was helped along by the fantastic, steep, tricky descent into Kipili through thick woods. GilleMonster and PubQuiz followed Ajax rapidly down ahead. I could see some emergency-type clench-the-buttcheeks-worthy skid marks approaching a number of corners and could tell somebody was giving it more than they ought (and might have been leaving skidmarks of another type in their shorts). Eventually I found out who it was: GilleMonster was sideways in the road, the 690 looking a bit scuffed but still rolling. No blood to be seen, no broken bones (I think Monster, like the KTM, is made of grade-A aluminum reinforcements and composite materials anyway) so we proceeded apace down the rubbly road.

Above: Descent from Namanyere

We found Fundi-P at the agreed locale, beer in hand bullshitting away with some Congolese gents he found by accident at a bar. He’d been dropped off about 10km from the lodge in some noname village due to the safari vehicle’s having been hired on the sly, and the driver not being keen to have anybody in the tourism business rat him out to his boss. So, that left a few more kms of towing to be done. Roped up and ready, we set off, the Fundi pulling the Quizmaster this time. I was sure I heard him shouting “Does anybody know the specific gravity of bone marrow….?”

Above: Osadabwa on approach. Lake Tanganyika in my sights.

Above: The tower, the towed and the Monster

All was going hunky-dory. We’d been numbed by a day of big dirt, and had essentially switched off our brains on the assumption that we’d roll right up to the lodge on the same. Not quite. The towing party and I found ourselves looking up a 100 meter stretch of river rocks strewn straight up a hillside. While FundiPhil and the Quizman sat there ogling the steep rocky slope I decided to go ahead, but only half way up the hill I was struck by a very undeniable and urgent bout of intestinal liberty that had to be sorted out right f-ing now, so I stood the bike and was scrambling through the bush in my boots, loo roll in hand while they sorted out how to climb the hill. My issue resolved <> I strolled back to the track and had just thrown a leg over the XR when I caught sight of something. Careening up the track was Ajax (substitute-tower for the weak-kneed Fundi), stones flying, engine raging, dust billowing, legs outrigging with PubQuiz hanging on for dear life on the lifeless KTM behind. They were all over both sides of the track and not slowing down. It was clear they were both fighting gravity with every fiber, so I yanked the bike off to the side, squishing myself between it and a tree, and watched the show. Hilarious. Ajax giving it the stick, PubQuiz paddling along furiously trying to keep balance… proper entertainment.

Above: Towing the steep grade, Monster going it solo

One by one, Monster and the Fundi rumbled past and I made my way to the lovely Lakeshore Lodge. In the parkinglot, PubQuiz was expostulating to anyone who would listen about old Ajax’s heavy throttle-fisted handling of the towing-on-steep-hillside-of-river-rocks situation. Ajax just smiled like a Hindu cow. Fundi dismounted with a grunt. Monster grunted with a dismount. We all beelined it for the bar.

Above: More towing, our triumphant if dusty arrival at the Lakeshore Lodge on Lake Tanganyika

I could go into details about the night’s shenanigans. I won’t. Suffice it to say, we were in a celebratory mood enhanced by beer and a very welcomed full-body emersion in the world’s second deepest lake (thanks for that tidbit, PQ). For awhile, we were gentlemen. We enjoyed the scenery very much, commenting sagely on this and that and snapping photos of the fishermen passing in their dugout canoes, etc.

Above: Ajax’s exuberant entrance, me and PQ enjoying the refreshment

Above: Transport boat on L. Tanganyika, sage discussions, tsetse fly bites still itchy

Above: Monster and Ajax… (Fundi’s camera has a really neato telephoto lens)

Above: Fishermen on L. Tanganyika at dusk

Above: Bloody sunset, daintily cross-legged bikers in shorts drinking beer in black and white

Anyway, we were of a passable quality. The other guests and the staff tolerated our enthusiasm well enough and for our part we tried our best to use our inside voices and to keep the subject matter civil. Not saying we succeeded, saying we tried…

To come: Rest day uncovers reality that PhatBilly, while an engineer by trade, cannot be trusted to perform simple bike maintenance on his own…
Don't be surprised.
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Old 07-24-2013, 08:19 AM   #37
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Great ride report! Really enjoying it!
15 FE 350 S
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Old 07-25-2013, 07:01 AM   #38
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Eek Day 6: "Rest Day..."

Up, but not at all early. Excellent breakfast of eggs any way but boiled and good, smooth coffee. FundiPhil was up as soon as Ajax arrived, eager to get to work on the KTM.

Above: AM Repairs and a Kingfisher

At a much more leisurely pace, the rest of us finished our breakfast and morning ablutions and made our way to the parking lot to check on the bikes. Although it was a scheduled rest day, maintenance was also on the agenda. I planned to change oil since PubQuiz’ XR had consumed all of my 15w40 and all that is readily available on the road is straight 40 heavyweight oil “for older engines” which, let’s face it, is just fine for the XR.

PubQuiz was also checking oil and fiddling around when he made the big discovery for the week: PhatBilly had fitted the airfilter incorrectly. Well, that’s saying it charitably, actually. What he’d done was absolutely daft. Back in Mbeya, when the XR riders took time out from beer drinking to install new filters for the ride, Billy had managed somehow to discard the inner screen (which in this case was a plastic aftermarket thingy, not the steel and mesh OEM one) and had “installed” the foam filter without it. Naturally, over the course of 1000 km of extremely rough riding, the structure-less foam filter jounced its way free of the air intake, leaving a gaping chasm that led straight through the carb and down into the cylinder.

All that dust. All those KMs. So THAT’s why the bike’s been smoking and drinking oil…

Anyway, after Ajax cooled down (someone wisely ordered cold ones), and that big vein on his forehead stopped throbbing (I kept thinking “Flux Capacitor… fluxing…”) he put his mind and hands to work fabricating an ingenious filter frame out of some discarded plastic bottles found in the junk pile. It was a thing of beauty, really, and slipped right in place.

Above: Our unofficial sponsors, Ajax explains what happened to his XR, the replacement frame

Abvoe: The final product with filter installed

FundiPhil and Mr. Bean (back from Sumbawanga with the new chain and sprocket… at least Billy sorted that out okay) spent the better part of the day trying to patch up the KTM’s nibbled-out slave cylinder to no avail. Their last ditch effort before knocking off for the day was to mix up some hard-as-hell epoxy and let it sit overnight. We wouldn’t know til the next day if it took. So, nothing for it but to hit the lake, have some beers and go for a boat ride.

Above: Lake Shore Lodge’s interiors, PubQuiz wondering why his name isn’t in there

At five or so, the boat left for an evening cruise around the lake. It was gorgeous and calm, boats of all sizes moved up and around, transporting people and goods between villages. On one of the islands, I was amazed to see a large village thriving along the shore. Lovely, absolutely lovely. We were lamenting our luck, bike troubles and all, but one of the other guests trumped us: he’d just been mauled by a Cape Buffalo at Katavi a few days before. Had some very wicked bruises and a hell of a tale to share as a result. We kept quiet and sipped our beers for awhile after that.

Above: Bikers on the evening cruise

Above: Sights on L. Tanganyika

Back on shore, Ajax and I snuggled down by the fire while dinner was being prepared. We were in for a treat on that score as well. Apparently a Norwegian chef had asked if he could swap his skills at the lodge for free accommodation, and the clever owners said “karibu”. Turns out this kid is a whiz in the kitchen, and an experimental cat too; that night we ate L. Tanganyika freshwater muscles in a sort of paella and washed it all down with lovely South African wine. Oh, we do suffer on these trips, yes we do.

Above: The lodge at night, bikers around a fire

We turned in early, I think… excited for the ride ahead, maybe… I was thinking: “With the busted bikes, we’re going to have to stick to big-trails all the way back to Mbeya.”


Stay tuned. Jump straight to it.
Don't be surprised.

Osadabwa screwed with this post 08-12-2013 at 06:09 AM
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Old 07-28-2013, 07:54 AM   #39
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Thanks for the RR guys, looking forward to the next one
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Old 08-01-2013, 12:42 PM   #40
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Flippin great stuff man.
Dreaming of Dakar
Everyone has a max speed, 90% of that max speed is much safer and easier, and if that 90% speed isn't fast enough at Dakar, you enter the snowball. - neduro
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Old 08-06-2013, 05:27 AM   #41
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Hey, why have we started talking about Napoleon?

I saw fundiphil last week, he is ok, he will go to Italy by bike, with his wife and friends.

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Old 08-12-2013, 01:36 AM   #42
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Location: Nairobi, Kenya
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Thumb Day 6: The Plot Thickens and the Track Narrows

[Ugh, actually day 7... wish I could edit the subject line!]

Up on time. Another great breakfast. Ajax had the map out and between bites quizzed the staff about options for getting back to the main Sumbawanga road at Namanyere without retracing our steps. Chris and Louise said they’d had a guest try it on a bike and fail. I’d looked on Google Earth and had found only the sketchiest of potential paths. We were all but resigned to just head back the way we’d come when the tall waiter said: “yes, there’s a track from Ninde to Namanyere”. And so, typical of us, we ignored the preponderance of evidence and went with one guy’s opinion because it was what we wanted to hear.

Above: Chris and Louise at Lake Shore Lodge, their best-dressed-guests

We bid farewell to Chris and Louise (lovely folks, great hosts – thanks for the epoxy and the 5L of fuel!), paid our bill, and lit out for the trail to Ninde, a small fishing village hunkered along a beach south of Kipili. The mid-morning light was that cool-yellow-almost-white particular to cold-season African mornings and the calm lake waters sat like wine in a goblet. The bikes all started with no fuss, and it appeared the KTM’s epoxy-job of the day before was going to hold. Everything was going according to plan again!

Above: Our bill, the day’s first few kms

Well, not exactly. Or rather, not for long. The epoxy held for only enough time to get back through Kipili town and south a few clicks. Then it gave to the pressure in the transmission and ejected the clutch fluid into the dust, leaving FundiPhil clutch-less. All agreed that this was no big deal; so long as the track remained relatively open he’d be fine as long as somebody was always ready to get him rolling enough to crank over the engine in 1st gear. So, we put the specter of a bad omen out of our minds and cruised down the road.

Above: Morning flora and fauna, FundiPhil getting a pushstart

Rolling up and around the contours of the land, the track gave us numerous good looks at the lake and fishing villages below. It was a great way to start the day: blasting an interesting track into unknown territory, saving ourselves from backtracking. Made us wonder aloud why the hell we live in Dar when so many places in Tanzania are so much more attractive. (Answer, of course: money).

Above: Views from the Kipili-Ninde road

The road danced its way up and over hills among monument-like rocks. Speeds slowly increased as the guys started getting into it. Then the road abruptly ended. Not in a village, not at a crossroads, it just ended. Like the bulldozer got tired and went home. More likely, the contractor ate the money and went home. Beyond the cut, a footpath continued its journey toward Ninde, so we followed it.

The track was fairly wide – like the kind you get where there’s bicycle and motorbike traffic – which makes for some fun riding, but I was conscious that one of our party didn’t have a clutch to help him ease his way through sticky sections, and the track was doing some pretty sharp turning in relatively rugged terrain. I was sure Ajax and Bean would pull the plug and we’d have to go back.

Above: Where the big road became a track

But I should have known otherwise. Ajax can’t say “no” to a new track. No matter what mechanical, physical, spiritual issues may be plaguing the guys behind, he can’t not explore the thing to find out where it ends. And once again, there was a local guy there to egg us on. Standing with his donkey in the track, this kid told us “yeah, sure, there’s a track to Namanyere…”.

Above: Donkey boy and monkeybikers

And to be fair, all signs were looking positive, really. The track was easy to see and there was even a substantial hand-made bridge over a river to navigate (on hindsight, maybe that river is why the road didn’t reach Ninde). The existence of a trail didn’t seem to be in question… the question was: did it make sense to continue, seeing as FundiPhil had no clutch. Ajax’s answer: yes. And who could say no? It was awesome out there.

Above: The wooden bridge, proof the track was maintained…

Above: From Lakeshore to the little wooden bridge

Not long after the foot bridge, however, we came to a crossroads. One track clearly continued on to Ninde, the other track led East into the interior, in the direction of Namanyere. The trail was fairly wide at first, but once we’d passed through a couple of fields, it virtually disappeared. It looked like very few had walked it, let alone pushed a wheel on it for years, and it started climbing almost immediately. Needless to say, FundiPhil was struggling. So, at last, Mr. Bean does the right thing and volunteers to ride the ailing bike, giving Fundi his perfectly good 450. Now we were ready to continue. If Mr. Bean had a rough day due to the broken bike, nobody would probably lose sleep over it.

Above: Committing to the little track in the woods

I was loving it. Those kinds of tracks aren’t about ripping around corners or lifting up cumulonimbus clouds of lung-choking dust. They’re discovery tracks. The kind that make you feel like an explorer. There’s no way to know if it’ll take you where you want to go, or whether you’ll come across impassible obstacles en route and be forced to turn back. They’re like an itch that has to be scratched. We wouldn’t turn back unless we had to.

And we were lucking out. The track looked like it would meet up with the scratch I saw on Google Earth, which gave Ajax and I some hope. Of course, what I knew that others didn’t know was that in places the gradient exceeded 20% and there were large stretches where I couldn’t see any track at all. Still, it gave us something to go by, so we pressed on, across several tricky water crossings and through some beautiful forest.

Above: Mr bean on foot, Mr Bean on bike… Dr. Dorky and Mr. Ryde

Above: Ajax and I navigate some water

Above: A GilleMonster through the forest

To say the track was tough to see is understating it somewhat. Long grass and uniform forest made any hopes of racing through this section impossible, and with the stream crossings and downed trees coming every so often, it didn’t pay to carelessly twist the throttle anyway. More than once I connected with a stump or rock that reminded me that all of us were just a twisted knee away from a very difficult rescue.

The slow pace was obviously was a problem for Mr. Bean who could neither idle his bike nor finesse it through technical areas. So, we devised a plan that would ensure that Bean never had to stop riding. Ajax would go ahead with the GPS. At a technical spot, he’d figure out how to get around it and I’d watch him. He’d then continue up the way and I’d show PubQuiz how to cross who would show Mr. Bean. By the time Ajax was arriving to the next rough patch, I was there to see him clean it and we’d start over. It worked fairly well and we made decent progress.

Above: Ajax in the long grass

Above: PubQuiz in the long grass

We were ascending quickly. At some point, the track stopped cutting across drainages and began following a ridge which afforded some spectacular views of the forest below through the trees. We didn’t stop much, but when we did it was impossible not to be impressed by the remoteness of the place we were in.

Above: A wicked looking spider lording over a spectacular hillside viewpoint

Occasionally the track would open up a bit where the grass was shorter or the soil more rocky. I’d take the opportunity to try to zip through the trees to catch up Ajax who was plodding ahead staring at the GPS. The track would be an amazing mountain bike trail… if you’re fit as hell.

Above: A rare open meadow and a very purple flower

Above: Fundi and Monster and Ajax

With our system well tuned and progress being made, we stopped for a biltong break at the other side of a wide river. PubQuiz’s bike had drained his oil reservoir, again, and we filled it up using the leaves of a tree for a funnel. On the tree where we’d parked, a Blair Witchy looking tree hieroglyph in the silent forest gave the place a sense of total otherworldliness.

Above: Posers, hieroglyph, leafy funnel

Progress up to the river... and PubQuiz's baptism in said river

Little did we know that the track was about to get trickier. After the river, the pitch of the trail began to increase and the packed-dirt singletrack gave way to rocks and ruts. We were struggling to clear technical sections fast enough to keep Mr. Bean from killing the bike, so he just blasted ahead, bouncing over the stones like they weren’t even there.

Above: Ajax coming up

We’d cleared many rises, but we finally met our match. The rocky track led to a very rutted climb that simply didn’t look like we were going to be able to ride. I was having premonitions of us dragging each bike one at a time up the damn thing, not knowing if it would be just one of many to come. While Ajax and I were walking the steepest sections to see if there was a logical line, the Monster cans up the 690 and just starts riding. But he doesn’t come straight at it. Instead he follows the contour a bit, out in the grass away from the trail, curving slowly up until he reached the top. It was a brilliant piece of work and saved our collective ass. One by one we followed his lead.

Above: PubQuiz finding his hillclimb-line, the Monster ascends from his blazed trail

After the hillclimb, it wasn’t long before we saw signs of life. First a few bee hives, then a field, and eventually a house or two. The single track became a double and the speed tripled as a result. We were all filled with a sense of accomplishment, and were being rewarded with a pretty decent return into Namanyere. There were a few muddy spots, some sandy patches and Monster managed to turn the 690’s shift pedal into a pretzel on an unseen stump, but otherwise it was smooth sailing from there on. Mr. Bean, being able for the first time all day to see where he was going, exploded into action, flying down the track after Ajax and racing him all the way to town.

Above: Fundi and the first hut, some mud and a bent shifter

Above: My favorite photo from the trip… this guy’s outfit either belongs in a museum or on a runway

Above: Roads appear, fields and dust

Spirits were high over lunch. Nobody expected we’d get into such interesting riding, and once we were in it, we all thought maybe we’d never get out again. It took several hours longer to get from the lake to Namanyere than if we’d backtracked, but nobody was disappointed. That track was certain to be a major highlight of the trip.

Above: Fundi and Bean celebrating in Namanyere

It was after three as we set off from Namanyere. We were behind schedule, so rather than get creative with the GPS, we set a course for Sumbawanga to make up some kms. It was 90 clicks of big dirt, but the sights along the way were lovely. The main road cuts along the top of a high plateau with views of hills hanging on the edges of the horizon on all sides. The road was a mess with construction equipment everywhere. In another two years it’ll be just another slab.

Above: Christianity on display, relics and recent

Above: Afternoon pastoral scenes

Above: Moving toward the sunset

We arrived near dusk, showered and filled up on beer and beef.

Plan for the next day: Descend the escarpment in search of the swinging bridge

Definitely stay tuned for that… HERE is the link
Don't be surprised.

Osadabwa screwed with this post 08-19-2013 at 01:37 AM
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Old 08-12-2013, 06:22 AM   #43
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Location: Oviedo, España
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Another epic post in a great RR. What was the elevation difference that day, must have been a good couple of hundred meters at least?
Dreaming of Dakar
Everyone has a max speed, 90% of that max speed is much safer and easier, and if that 90% speed isn't fast enough at Dakar, you enter the snowball. - neduro
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:07 AM   #44
Edmond Dantès
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Location: Château d'If
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It was big dirt past the Mbeya Range. Dusty dirt. Fesh-feshy dirt. The kind that puffs and piles as you ride through it, pulling at your tires. The light was already angry with us it seemed. Long stretches with trees and fields and a handful of humanity. An old brick cattle corral and squeeze chute next to an empty weekly market area looking ghostly and dry, suspiciously smell-free.
Hemingway could not have put it better. Marvelous! Simply marvelous!
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Old 08-13-2013, 04:54 AM   #45
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Pretoria, South Africa
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Great writing!

What a leka report and great writing.
"Never miss a good chance to shut up!"
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