Dar Bikers in Western Tanzania, AKA the "Lound of Rakes Tlip, 2013"

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Osadabwa, Jun 22, 2013.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Coffee morning. Frail, pink light on the distant hills.

    [PubQuiz at breakfast]: You know about Napoleon’s wife, right?

    Eager to go, loading bikes took ages. The venerable XR 600 already down with a puncture in the parking lot. An ill omen. FundiPhil does the change even though it’s not his bike. Setting precedent.

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    Above: Breakfast puncture repair

    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.

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    Above: Dusty exodus

    Galula church, built almost a century ago by French White Fathers, would have seemed decidedly out of place if it weren’t for its run-downedness, which matches the rest of the country. Awful lot of work to just let turn to dust, but that’s a common and boring story here. The tracks from Google Earth I made had launched us north, but weren't exciting enough for the boys up to that point. There was grumbling among the troops. We needed a morale boost.

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    Above: FundiPhil and the sugarcane, a lone baobab, Galula Cathedral

    So we doglegged it left on one of the other options from my digital recon mission. Track was smaller, more inviting. Fast, but narrower. It was choose-your-own-adventure kind of riding in some places. Still dusty. Very dusty. Moon and Mars dusty, also sandy and deep and the bush was thickening. There were few humans to behold apart from the seven of us raising an ungodly racket and atomizing the planet with our tyres.

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    Above: In and out of the dust, bottoming out in the Songwe River Valley

    All that dust took us to the river I’d seen on Google Earth. I half expected it to be dry, but it wasn’t. As usual, Bean took the first baptismal drop without hesitation. Following his success, we took turns crossing without incident until an overeager and winded PhatBilly twists one too many times on the throttle and lurches up the riverbank into the adjacent field, crashing to a stop in the thorn fence and riverine spike-reeds. Observers local and imported found the sight equal parts puzzling and amusing.

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    Above: Fording the river

    Wet but drying fast, we climbed out of the valley on the escarpment’s brushy flanks. High plains up there. Big views. Dry, scatty, scratchy were yonder hills and the sun like a slap in the face. So we stopped for drinks and a bike fix (Ajax’s something or other bolt was misaligned). Then later, at the Amani Hotel in Bilajina village, we devoured rice, beans and beef until we were warped and bloated and only really wanted to sleep it off among the bones and chewed up fatty-cartilage joint bits like drunken knights of some cast away plastic-clad order.

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    Above: Billy's fall and our beverage stop

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    Above: Pay first before service (that means YOU, dusty biker hooligans)

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    Above: Mr. Bean's hungry for beans

    But instead, we lit fire to the bikes. Another big dirt spread us out wide to avoid choking on one another’s dust. Nobody complained and the bikes ate it up. The stony outcroppings and bluffs on the horizon, the lack of people and cars, the wide blue sky’s vacuous depth, gold mining camps (formal and otherwise) and bush fires set the scene for the next act and entertained the senses.

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    Above: Bikes, buttes and brushfires

    GilleMonster’d broken a subframe bolt on the 690 (If you’re keeping track, that’s 3 mech-issues so far). He had the sense or the luck to stop beneath a beautiful widereaching shadetree to allow us to help or supervise (blue collar/white collar) according to our willingness and abilities. Monster, Bean, Ajax and FundiPhil used chisel, hammer and hacksawblade (yes, Ajax carries all three) to remove the remains of the bolt while PubQuiz and I offered advice from a remote position and PhatBilly putzed around the edges feigning helpfulness.

    Two bikes passed in the meantime, carrying who knows what. Then appeared the googly-eyed, skirt- parka- and Wellington-wearing, oversize-helmeted, nutjob biker apparition from the north. Batshit only touches on the crazy here. He was flying towards us on an AG intent on some point in the distance and suddenly slammed on the breaks halfway past as if he’d only just caught sight of us. Disembarking, he mumbled this and that to an uncomprehending FundiPhil, commented sagely on the operation taking place on the 690 and posed for a few photos before vanishing into the dust like a fart in the wind. An odd, but good omen he turned out to be.

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    Above: Nutballs and broken bolts, strict division of labour

    Because from there on, the road rocked. Deep sand. Thick forest. Nobody at all to be seen or imagined out there. The perfect temperature. The acute afternoon light flashing through the trees like a strobe at a rave, speed taking the place of X in our veins. Good honest riding.

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    Above: Afternoon light to Gua

    Then, Gua all of a sudden. Our destination for the day. A little village, but a good one, with respectable digs (6 good rooms, concrete floors for the bucket bath and a cramped little storage closet for GilleMonstar to sleep in) and a competent outsourced staff (beers from the hotel, food from some lady acting as impromptu take-out and boiled egg and salt-roasted peanut delivery) that catered for us well above expectations. Cleaned up, and gassed up in advance for the next day, we worked on bikes and bodies as the sun sat and the kids thronged.

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    Above: PubQuiz the thorn surgeon, FundiPhil on the bike

    Night fell and Thomas (local drunk and considerable pain in the ass) arrived to chat. PhatBilly, perhaps giddy with the day’s ride, attempted politeness awhile before asking him to excuse himself (PhatBilly used other language) repeatedly until it became a rally cry for the team: “Rock Off Thomas!” We chowed down on a kilo of salty peanuts, sorted breakfast’s delivery, and devoured a massive rice and bean feast. The next day would be a long one on a small track through the wilderness. And not all of us would make it through unscathed.

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    Above: Nightfall and Thomas

    Here's 6 minutes of the day's best clips... save one. Chasing Monster in the deepest dust, he suddenly vanishes into a cloud so thick it blocked out the light. I approached in the eerie twilight to find him waving like a lunatic next to the horizontal 690, frantically trying to keep me from ploughing into him. I swore I had the helmet cam going, but alas...

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/dNB6mwnq1PQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    Above: Mbeya to Gua, day 1's dusty riding and a river crossing

    More to come.

    Link to next day.
    #21
  2. Watercat

    Watercat . . . gravity sucks

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    :lurk
    #22
  3. tmotten

    tmotten Lefthand ride Dutchy

    Joined:
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    Calgary
    Cool vid :clap:clap
    #23
  4. KASUYAHO

    KASUYAHO Road Hog

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    Location:
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    When did you sell your BRP ?
    #24
  5. Faceplant

    Faceplant Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2006
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    254
    Location:
    Swahilistan
    Sold both a couple of years back...I miss them and if I find a deal I'll get another.
    #25
  6. Faceplant

    Faceplant Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2006
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    254
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    Swahilistan
    We're already planing the next trip and you're only on page 2 of this one!!
    #26
  7. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Boiled eggs and chapati. That could well have been the name of this trip. Couldn’t complain though as it was a big improvement over our usual fare of cold, limp, overly oily fried eggs and four-day-old white bread. Ordinarily you need 5 parts tea for 1 part breakfast just to wash it down, but with the chapati’s greasiness we could be more sparing of the chai.

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    Above: Gua morning, bikes in a row, shops open, chai and eggs and chapatti

    We set off by 9:30, an incredible feat made possible by the early retirement of the Belgian contingent the night before and their consequent early-morning perkiness. But, in a sort of inevitable way with us, the early gain was promptly followed by delay. Our group tends toward entropy. Mr. Bean led us out on a decent 2 track, rutted and overgrown, but I was chomping at the bit for something twistier so I danced over to a footpath I thought was sure to parallel his awhile and shortcut back onto it. It didn’t though, so I made a 90 degree cut through the bush and caught him up. Problem was, the herd of sheep that was PhatBilly, GilleMonster and FundiPhil had followed me down the errant path but didn’t see my return to course. They went blasting out to whoknowswhere and it took us 30 minutes to regroup.

    Back together, again, we lasted 15 minutes before we were separated… again. It was like a Three Stooges flick out there. Ajax pointed us down a track which looked plausible [Boing! Ya knuckleheads!]. Eventually I realized we were going the wrong way so I stopped, turned around and waited [Nyuk nyuk nyuk nyuk!]. And commenced swatting the first of what would be millions of Tsetse flies away from my fleshy exposed bits [Whoo woo woo woo!]. Voracious vampire flies they were, horrible bastards. PhatBilly and GilleMonster came up (the Monster crashing spectacularly into Billy’s tail somehow in the process) followed by Bean and we all turned back… except that Billy and Monster somehow didn’t get the memo. GPS-less they careered into the foliage, each more sure than the other that they knew where they were going. The rest of us killed another half hour slapping at flies and blaming each other for the screwup before the bush puked them back at us again. It was nearly 11:00 and we were only 20km from Gua.

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    Above: PhatBilly wet for the first (but not last) time that day and going the wrong way, Ajax cruising along

    All that nonsense, but we were rewarded anyway. The tsetses were on the hunt, so we just fled. The track was old but easy to follow, a double-track that somebody – probably a hunting lodge – had recently drug a homemade claw behind to keep the saplings from taking root in the centre but that permitted trees of bone-breaking diameter to remain mere inches from the insides of corners. It was a kind of wicked, fullspeed, do or die dual slalom and I was having a blast. Ajax and I led most of the morning, taking a tyre track each to duel for the lead. The track was rougher than I expected with rocks and ruts producing some very unsuspected rattles and clangs to go with the endless slap and kertwang of tree branches and sapling trunks ricocheting off handlebars and helmet. At one point, I took an utterly graceless swim in a creek crossing, followed by PhatBilly (helmet cam rolling, see below).

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    Above: Some of the few pics from the morning… riding was great but tsetse flies were impossible… see video

    The riding was rough and the flies were insane and I was having a lot of fun, so I didn’t stop. But as I’m driven to document these stupid adventures, I let Ajax go and slammed on the brakes to take snaps of the bikers as they roared past. Now I was at the back, I thought. But I was so preoccupied, swatting and dancing around to keep the flies off of me, I lost count of who had gone past me and couldn’t be sure. I consulted my camera and found that PhatBilly had not checked in, so I went back and found him hunched over his handlebars. Apparently he’d come off on a rutted section and planted himself atop some rocks. Pretty sure he’d snapped a couple of ribs to starboard, he kickstarted the XR 600 and kept on going down the track. Having no options (or is it brains?) makes you brave.

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/2zGyyr7tJWY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    Above: First of three vids of the day ends with Billy and I taking a drink in the creek

    Mid-day had come and gone. We stopped just enough to regroup and consume some dry wors in the mottled hardwood shade. We hadn’t seen a soul all day. Tracks were few and great to ride. I took the lead and enjoyed a long stretch of effortless, totally-connnected-to-the-bike moments slithering through the trees in 4th. Saw some hartebeest and warthog. Flushed a number of hornbills from their perches. Amazing, hypnotizing riding.

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/IkWimng29aM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    Above: Excellent double-track through the forest, lots of two-abreast riding with Ajax

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    Above: Shadowrider, the boys, PhatBilly at a rest stop “it’s the only position where nothing hurts!”

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/OXuS7Vfm04A" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    Above: Two minutes uncut on the cattle paths chasing Mr. Bean

    170 km of fantastic tracks behind us, we emerged in stages from bush to field to big dirt as humanity asserted itself on the forest and the tsetses slowly vanished. We were 30km down the road from Rungwa, our original destination so there was nothing for it but to bomb the smooth dirt-slab down there after a coke and a quick search for roadside accommodation.

    A slithery side-story: At the soda-stop, FundiPhil’s ordinary black leather belt was nicked by one of the little kids thronging around who couldn’t help himself. It was one of the very few incidents of theft we’ve ever experienced, but it left our guest with droopy britches. Half an hour later, as I’m whizzing down the road I skid to a stop 10 feet past a massive Cobra who scared the bajeezus out of me by standing up tall in the road as I approached (no doubt kind of pissed off since Ajax had run him over 2 minutes before, I later learned). Photo-op not to be missed, I get my camera ready to capture one of the guys racing past that most iconic of snakes. Clipping along, FundiPhil sees me in the road gesturing at the snake and slows almost to a crawl, inching closer and closer to the reptile, cool as a cucumber as I gesture with increasing franticness. I’m thinking “this Begian guy has balls!”, but it turned out he thought (inexplicably) that the snake was his belt, magically appeared on the road, and that I was pointing it out for him to pick it up… The perils of riding with 50 somethings with serious prescription specs.

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    Above: Wanted poster? No, just a local Hitler-mustachioed politician seeking your vote, and the cobra that would have made a nice belt for FundiPhil

    Rungwa. The one little town big enough to make it onto our map, way up on the edge of the game reserve bordering Ruaha National Park, was basically a dump inhabited largely by low capacity individuals. We located the guest house by the smell of the long-drop hole-in-the-floor toilets. The place hadn’t been improved in at least four years and was just plain shabby. So for once our presence didn’t bring the property value down.

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    Above: Ajax, yours truly and Monster in the dumpy courtyard

    We cleaned up, fueled and organized food and drink. The kid who brought the jerry cans of petrol bid us farewell with “Have a nice journalist”. PubQuiz, still pretending to be at work, tried to connect to the internet, unsuccessfully… “What? No Wifi?” PhatBilly was in bed by dusk, floating down a cloudy stream on a pillow of serious pain killers after having asserted that his ribs were throbbing and but like he couldn’t feel his ass. Over at the bar in the night, Mr Bean and Ajax made a name for themselves over warm Konyagi at a plastic table with a headlamp in a glass for ambiance.

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    Above: Evening coming down, PubQuiz goes to work

    Night. Unknown in advance how noisy the grubby little town would be. Rooms adjacent to the street. Full blast Swahili music as I dozed off, feeling pain in the neck, swollen like a tennis ball from the tsetse fly bites. I slept in my clothes. No sheet. Window shutters zip-tied shut. In darkness, the unmistakable sound of someone being chased down the street and a mob of men, voices shouting. Then a woman’s scream amid chants of “Piga! Piga!” (Hit! Hit!!) and sinister empty-headed laughter. Later, a truck. Later still, an immense bus sounded its hell’s carnival horn. Then the dawn.

    More to come.
    #27
  8. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Awake early but on the road late. PhatBilly announced he was calling it quits before breakfast, still in agony from his banged up ribs and perhaps suspiciously worried about the absence of feeling in his arse. The Dar Biker reaction was to accept this setback with composure, not get overly emotional about it, and point his broken carcass back down the road to Mbeya alone. Like some primitive band of roaming hominoids, we instinctively set in motion a plan that benefitted the group’s survival and exiled our wounded elder, stripping him of any useful items in the process and saddling him with worn goods and unnecessary articles. We dumped the ancient XR 600 on him, a bike that had already proven to have little to no braking ability and handled like a tugboat in a sea of molasses. Then Mr Bean enhanced the bike’s sorry state by looting the half decent front tire it wore and swapping it with the bald, cracked, egg-shaped slab of rubber off of his bike. So, after stiffly mounting the steed (kick-start only, mind you) off went Billy on a 300 km ride to Mbeya on the worst bike we had with no map or GPS to guide him, alone. We Dar Bikers are a band of brothers.

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    Above: Boiled eggs and chapati again, preparing PhatBilly’s funerary motorbike

    As the dust settled, the rest of us went for chapati and tea before lighting up the bikes and launching them at the big dirt from the day before. It was a necessary evil, a small price to pay for the promise of a 150km of small track that lie between us and Inyonga, our next stop. At the bar, the XR400 was slow to start and blew one hellovalot of blue smoke once it got going, but being a Honda, nobody paid it much attention and everybody blamed it on PubQuiz’s inability to work a choke. Afterall, Billy never mentioned it had an issue, so off we went. Assumptions. Omens. Portents of ill winds of bad things to come. Good thing we ain’t superstitious (though everybody who lives in Africa too long is a little ‘stitious).

    Retracing steps is anathema to bikers, particularly if it’s big dirt, so we were all basically asleep at the bars when one by one we were snapped awake by a hump created by the recent installation of an enormous culvert that sent us all flying like overweight supercrossers. Then not long afterward, a very unexpected sight: PhatBilly! Broken ribs, rattle trap bike, long solo ride ahead… and he rides the wrong bloody way. I began to wonder if he had a brain injury in addition to broken ribs, but the guys assured me that wasn’t it. Still, as he rode off, again, in the right direction this time, I wondered if he’d make it alone… hell, I wondered how he managed to get his boots buckled alone.

    And then:
    Q: “Where the hell is PubQuiz?”
    A: “Looking for his fuel cap”
    Q: “WTF?”
    A: <Shrug>
    He’d hit the big culvert and the thing had gone “POP!” off into the bush. We spent 15 minutes riding slowly up and down a 100 meter section of road, but gave up. I felt like I was riding with some sort of traveling freakshow.

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    Above: PubQuiz’s new fuel cap of plastic bags, inner tube rubber and zip ties; PhatBilly reincarnated on the wrong road to Mbeya

    Finally off the big dirt, we were ready to start the day. The track was similar to the previous day; tree-lined doubletrack with sandy dusty sections and a million tsetse flies per square foot. It was excellent and tricky in areas, but I spent the morning lumbering along clobbering roots and repeatedly losing control instead of enjoying myself. It was like my brain was sending messages to my body at the speed of an African internet connection. Reflexes like a drunk’s and no sense of urgency to turn or brake, I rode in a mental fog all morning just trying to keep it on the track.

    Not riding worth a damn, I stopped to take photos and to test if the 100% DEET I’d sprayed on myself shielded me from tsetse attack but was distressed to discover that while the tsetses seemed repelled enough, it seemed to positively fascinate the bees! And there were thousands of bees. All along the track, locals had hung traditional tree bark beehives high up on the canopy directly over the track. At one point there was one hung low enough to explore, but it was audibly buzzing, so I gave it a wide berth and let Ajax explore. It gives one pause to blast noisily under these buzzing cylinders, hung with nothing more than a bit of vine, particularly if one recalls the phrase “African Killer Bee”. So, my plan for the day was simply not to stop, and I didn’t much.

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    Above: low-hung bee hive in the forest

    We rode by sad looking tobacco fields with plucked stems yellowing in their rows. The drying huts – taller versions of mud houses with racks inside to hang tobacco leaves on and a place to light a wood fire – stood smoked-out in the fields, some new and others in utter disrepair. There was a noticeable reduction of trees in the areas around the tobacco fields as most of them were cut for tobacco drying. My idle brain thought it typical: another example of the types of externalities common to a cash crop in Africa that makes raw materials (like tobacco, cotton, pineapples etc) appear cheap and beneficial since they can raise poor farmer incomes but that have irreversible ecological consequences. Everything has a cost.

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    Above: bushfire and bikers

    Around 1:00, we stopped in a relatively tsetse free patch for our typical bush lunch of droewors and battered cookies from our Giant Loops (imho: GL’s the best GD saddlebag ever made, hands down). The boost of fat and sugar was enough to snap me out of the daze I’d been in. For the rest of the afternoon I was riding high, blasting along side-by-side with Ajax, branches whacking us on all sides, happy as a monkey in a tree. It salvaged my day, and by the time the big dirt came, I was smiling ear to ear. We stopped on the big road for a Passion Fanta (worth the trip all on its own) and blasted it down to Inyonga in 5th gear, punishing ourselves on the potholes and eating eachother’s dust.

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    Above: Fantastop and a faded Obama t-shirt

    At last, Inyonga. A decent sized town with many guest houses, we did several noisy circumnavigations before settling on accommodation (there was no room at the Hilton). Showered up, we set out for the bar where I sampled my first (and last) Balimi Beer, a regional favorite and high in booze points. As night fell, the bar came alive. First the ungodly sound system crackled to life with local favorites like “Kigoooma!” which had the drunks singing at the tops of their wavery tubercular lungs, and then quiet temporarily fell as they tuned in for the nightly news. Amazing really. Electricity is a new thing out in places like Inyonga, and they’re making good use of it. I juiced up my camera batteries in a shop dedicated to charging cell phones for a little less than $0.50. Not possible 10 years ago.

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    Above: Monster checks the map, Ajax thrilled by the speakers, a Balimi in the capital

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    Above: Monster checks the map, Ajax thrilled by the speakers, a Balimi in the capital

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    Above: Our too-cool-for-school guest house attendant and the bar’s hopping and utterly unoriginal chips mayayi and mishkaki grill

    That night, we slept like the dead. Cold air and clean sheets plus a blanket and relative silence did us right.

    Once or twice Ajax and Bean awoke in the silence, conscience stirring. Where was PhatBilly, they wondered. I sure hope he’s okay out there all alone… Ha! Just kidding.

    More to come
    #28
  9. L.B.S.

    L.B.S. Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,484
    Oft times I will type out LOL, in the spirit of appreciating a humourus post. For the most part this is figurative rather than literal.

    An involuntary literal *snort guffaw* escaped me at the vision of Mr. Googly Parka. :rofl:lol3

    Awesome R.R. is awesome! So much enjoying this twisted tale! Thank you for sharing, wonderful narration and pics :clap :freaky
    #29
  10. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    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.

    Cheers

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    Above: I was nodding off when he arrived, but had to get in a pic with him
    #30
  11. L.B.S.

    L.B.S. Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,484
    Bahahaha, much obliged! That's great! :D
    #31
  12. Bluebull2007

    Bluebull2007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    5,262
    Location:
    Oviedo, España
    Loving it. :freaky 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.
    #32
  13. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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:
    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/PJsmiKdPhhM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    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.

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    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.

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

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    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…

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    Above: Nightlife, end of Day 4

    More to come
    #33
  14. RedRockRider

    RedRockRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,479
    Location:
    St. George, UT
    Excellent videos! Thanks for all the effort. Top notch RR. :thumb
    #34
  15. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    612
    Location:
    closer to Baja
    Excellent fun
    #35
  16. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    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.

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

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    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).

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    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.

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    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.

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    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…

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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….?”

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

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    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 <<aaah>> 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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

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

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

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    Above: Fishermen on L. Tanganyika at dusk

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    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…
    #36
  17. hedd

    hedd Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    42
    Location:
    Northern VA
    Great ride report! Really enjoying it!
    #37
  18. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    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.

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    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&#8217; XR had consumed all of my 15w40 and all that is readily available on the road is straight 40 heavyweight oil &#8220;for older engines&#8221; which, let&#8217;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&#8217;s saying it charitably, actually. What he&#8217;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 &#8220;installed&#8221; 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&#8217;s why the bike&#8217;s been smoking and drinking oil&#8230;

    Anyway, after Ajax cooled down (someone wisely ordered cold ones), and that big vein on his forehead stopped throbbing (I kept thinking &#8220;Flux Capacitor&#8230; fluxing&#8230;&#8221;) 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.

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

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    Abvoe: The final product with filter installed

    FundiPhil and Mr. Bean (back from Sumbawanga with the new chain and sprocket&#8230; at least Billy sorted that out okay) spent the better part of the day trying to patch up the KTM&#8217;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&#8217;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.

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    Above: Lake Shore Lodge&#8217;s interiors, PubQuiz wondering why his name isn&#8217;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&#8217;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.

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    Above: Bikers on the evening cruise

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    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 &#8220;karibu&#8221;. 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.

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    Above: The lodge at night, bikers around a fire

    We turned in early, I think&#8230; excited for the ride ahead, maybe&#8230; I was thinking: &#8220;With the busted bikes, we&#8217;re going to have to stick to big-trails all the way back to Mbeya.&#8221;

    Wrong.

    Stay tuned. Jump straight to it.
    #38
  19. KASUYAHO

    KASUYAHO Road Hog

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,841
    Location:
    Aussie Land
    Thanks for the RR guys, looking forward to the next one
    #39
  20. Bluebull2007

    Bluebull2007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    5,262
    Location:
    Oviedo, España
    Flippin great stuff man. :freaky
    #40