Niassa, Chucky Norris and John the Baptist

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by metaljockey, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. NB_CRF'er

    NB_CRF'er I got a job, I explore!

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    Simply Awesome!!:clap
    Thanks for posting these wonderful adventures most can only dream of.
    #61
  2. Hayduke

    Hayduke ///SAFETY THIRD/// Super Moderator

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    :lurk

    Another incredible report, Metaljockey. Thank you!
    #62
  3. xdbx

    xdbx Motorcycle Connoisseur

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    I'm especially loving the 'go anywhere, do anything' theme that seem apparent in many of your African reports. Magical stuff, absolutely stunning! :clap
    #63
  4. edeslaur

    edeslaur San Diegan

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    :pynd :lurk
    #64
  5. Narri

    Narri Unlimited

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    MJ - thanks for the time and effort to do the writeup and for posting the report !!
    #65
  6. metaljockey

    metaljockey Dodgy SOB

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    Eastern Cape, South Africa


    The next morning it is a quick wash and stock up on drinking water, before we head out.

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    And right away the dust brings these tstetse bastards swarming.

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    This time I get a handle on them though. It appears that their top speed is about 40km/h, go at 45km/h and you loose them. I get some enjoyment picturing them going apeshit in the dust and finding nothing.

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    We go through riverbed after riverbed, all leading into the Lugenda.

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    Flotation like this is just a thing of beauty.

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    We stop for some playtime.

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    Today our plans change. We did some calculations and figured out that there is no way we can make it, time wise, on our originally planned route. We wanted to stick to the Lugenda to where it flows into the Rovuma and then head to the coast.

    We can still make it but there is no way we’ll get back to Malawi in time. So we turn away from the river and start heading south. Again our GPS’s have nothing to show, but where you see a string of villages all in a line, you know there must be a track. As soon as we head away from the river, we hit some exceptionally lekker roads. Just really good riding.

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    We don’t get many opportunities to cool off, so we use them.

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    When we get to the control gate for Hunting area B we cause some consternation. The guards are not used to people wanting to get out. Sort of difficult to refuse though. By the way, like the sign says, if you want to hunt in this area, look for Kambako Safaris. From all reports they are pretty good.

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    The first village we find, we stop for the obligatory warm beer. And again we get swamped like you won’t believe. I’m starting to know what it feels like to be Paris Hilton.

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    I manage to sneak away to watch the circus from afar.

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    Our navigation turns out to be quite easy as there is only one road to follow and it finally deposits us in Montepuez. Civilisation, fuel station, restaurant, that kind of thing.

    Coming from Pemba’s side, maybe more like the end of civilization, because here the road to Lichinga turns rural.

    This kind of rural.



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    Except for mud, this has to be the shittiest stuff to ride. Under that red sea of bull dust lies the cemented remains of the last wet season’s tracks , criss crossing each other and you just have no idea what’s going on down there. Of course having a sprained ankle, it is inevitable that I go down on that side and get that foot caught under the bike. Instead of wriggling and screaming like a girl I just lie there blowing little dust puffs until a local pulls the bike off me. Rather take my chances in the bush.

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    We ride through a town I never knew existed, called Balama.

    I’m leading so the police are just too slow off their behinds and I get through. All the others are pulled into the cop shop. The same shit again, who is your leader, what is your mission?
    A couple of km’s out of town I pull up as I don’t see my mates. I decide to wait. A severely drunk chap on a small bike pulls up, the police wants me back in town. When I try to start the bike the battery blows up. Same exact problem as in Angola. Lovely.

    I show the guy my bike is caput, he offers to give me a lift. I politely say fuck off. I make myself comfortable against a tree.

    Meanwhile back in Balama things aren’t going too well, every bike has to be unpacked and searched. Searched to the level of throwing open bedding, matrasses, foodstuffs, tools etc. One cop eyes Nardus’s hand pump with swivel head suspiciously, Nardus explains it’s a pipe, you smoke it. The cop sucks the one end tentatively and looks satisfied with the answer. Finally, about an hour later, they are let off.

    The lesson : if you are wanting to smuggle contraband through Balama, don’t get a white man, dressed like a power ranger, standing on a 950 with two bellowing Akrapovics, to be your mule. He might look like he is trying to slip through unseen, but these cops are sharp. They will get him.

    When they finally find me under the tree, I give them the good news about my bike. I learned some things in Angola though, so this time I have both a multimeter as well as a set of jumper cables.

    We put some kilo’s between ourselves and Balama before the sun sets.

    The area is pretty populous and it takes some time to find a place to sleep.

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    Brian snaps trees with pure body weight.

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    We covered a lot of ground today and the bikes have been working pretty hard.

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    One last thought before we go to bed, if you see this stuff somewhere. Stay the hell away from it.

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    #66
  7. DakarBlues

    DakarBlues One-everythinged man

    Joined:
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    Location:
    The pink lake less circled
    Some questions:
    - is this trip achievable only during the dry season? (I saw that you crossed innumerable, wide, sandy riverbeds),
    - I see you bathing into some fairly deep rivers, are'nt there Nile crocs around? (it's the great lakes region after all),
    - I see that the lodges where you stop are not protected against wildlife, not even summarily, aren't there any lions around there?
    - did you cross that region where the lions are making short thrift of people?
    - did you hear any roar?

    This rr makes me just apply for a park ranger job in Africa, let me know if you see any opening.
    #67
  8. Motor 1

    Motor 1 Been here awhile

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    WOW! Thanks for taking the time to write. It really feels like we're riding along!:D
    #68
  9. jeckyll

    jeckyll Kneedragger

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    Vancouver
    Awesome. Again.

    Great stuff, can't wait for the next chapter. :freaky
    #69
  10. metaljockey

    metaljockey Dodgy SOB

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    Eastern Cape, South Africa
    ..
    #70
  11. metaljockey

    metaljockey Dodgy SOB

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    279
    Location:
    Eastern Cape, South Africa

    This day should be our last day, lots of distance to cover; tonight we want to be at the lake again. The day starts badly.

    First, the jumper cables prove to be less effective than I had hoped. It appears that when a battery gets an internal dead short, it interferes with the current passing to it from the donor bike. Next time I'll fit a jump connection straight onto the starter.

    Nardus’s quote for the day; “All you need for a lekker trip is two KTM’s”.

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    The second reason this day starts badly is this:
    When we planned this trip I did a lot of research on the landmine situation, seeing as this is such an out of the way area. I found this.

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    The red marks indicate mined areas. So it’s not like the place is infested. But there are several areas on our route that is suspected to still be mined, and the info comes from the villagers. You’d be stupid to ignore it.

    Basically you are safe as long as you stay on well used pathways. Mines are generally planted close to villages. If there is an area close by a village that is not being worked or walked, then you would do well to first enquire from the villagers before going there.

    The previous evening we broke all these rules. We followed footpaths that led to huts with planted fields. We went off these tracks to the only area with trees, no paths and no sign of agriculture. This is where we slept. For some reason we did not even think about the landmine risk. I really cannot explain why we slipped up like this.

    We have about a two hundred meters to cover to get back to the road. About eighty meters out we start riding into and out of 4 – 5 landmine holes. Lucky for us there had been a sweeper team here at some stage that detonated them.

    I am mightily pissed off at myself. I don’t like making mistakes in general, and I hate making mistakes like this. This is not the kind of mistake you can fix afterwards if it goes wrong.



    Back to the ride. As the morning progresses we get to ride entertaining tracks again, bush, no bush, short sand pieces and a rut or two. Actually quite relaxing and I am slowly able to let the landmine mistake go and just enjoy the ride.

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    We pass through villages,

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    and do the neverending bridges. I am embarrassed to say I just never picked up any skills in dealing with these confounded bridges. They just plain out-psyched me.

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    Here’s Brian, waiting for us to catch up.

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    The dream.

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    The reality.

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    We make it to Marrupa. We stop for lunch. Apparently they also have taxi problems.

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    We get cold beer, and spectators.

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    Oh, and I learn something new. I always look at these Portuguese menus and the only thing I recognize is ‘frango’ – chicken. And everytime we get served the toughest mother…ker of a chicken you ever had to remove from in between your teeth. This has been going on for years now.

    Finally the penny drops. Frango does not mean chicken. These people do not serve chicken, they serve either hen or rooster. ‘Galinha’ means hen. ‘Frango’ means one badass, muscle and sinew, agro, fight to the death cockerel.

    Every single time I thought I ordered chicken in Mozambique and Angola, I’ve been ordering rooster. Things are looking up for next time. Portuguese peri-peri galinha is in my future.

    Leaving Marrupa, we still believe that we can make it to the border before closing time. From where I’m sitting now, that wasn’t so viable an expectation.

    It’s me and the bridges again and with the battery now dead, the bike’s idling is also getting worse, stalling in the most awkward of places. Normally on a bridge. And a bridge is normally the lowest point around.

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    Cue my mates to run-start my bike going uphill.


    We ride again on tracks that is not in agreement with T4A. And we ride fast, because we want to make the border, a couple of hundred kilo’s away. It closes at six. This time we get lost quite a bit.

    In the end I set the GPS to compass and this proves to be quite effective. Just make sure you are heading within a 30 degree variance of where you want to be.


    This is the second day straight that the bikes are ridden hard over uneven terrain and it begins to show.

    On my bike a bolt on the carrier goes it’s own way and my back wheel eats all my stretchies, my side cover and part of my tent.


    Brian donates his pannier bags and brackets.

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    Hennie’s bags are also showing serious wear.

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    Steeking like this makes for not many pictures, but the scenes are still worthy, even though it is entrusted to the feeble memory.

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    And everytime we stop, this scene repeats itself.

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    One thing happened that sticks in my mind. Late afternoon we are backtracking again and it is hot, wev’e been going hell for leather for hours already. I ask a local directions, which he takes to be a request for water. A little girl of about 4 is summoned and she returns from the hut with a tin cup filled with the best tasting water I can remember ever having.
    Cool, clear, sweet and beautiful. Just a little cup in which a universe of peace and quiet and reflection. Strange.


    At dusk Nardus again get’s pulled off by police and given grief for speeding. Justified I would say, but it wastes another half an hour.

    Check out the young one on the back.

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    We keep going after dark, and when we finally reach the border post we pull into the shebeen we stopped at that first day. They are kind enough to let us sleep in the yard.

    The riding part of the trip is just about over. We sleep 50m from the boom.


    This is Mandimba border post, I have always had a pleasant experience here.

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    Packing up the next morning, and it appears that I may need a little wipe down before I meet the Missus.

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    That's about it folks. I will post some thoughts on the trip and a last couple of pictures that did not make it into the report tomorrow.
    #71
  12. LC8TY

    LC8TY must......find.......fuel

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    was Kununurra, now Carnarvon, Australia
    'Lekker' ride report mate :thumb ...... again!

    I hope 'lekker' means fucking good!
    #72
  13. Onion

    Onion What?

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    Great, thanks! I especially enjoy your pictures of the local population.
    #73
  14. beerjonny

    beerjonny Planning mode...

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    Willow Grove, NB Canada
    #74
  15. metaljockey

    metaljockey Dodgy SOB

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    279
    Location:
    Eastern Cape, South Africa

    On the countryside.

    Being the last month of the dry season, one can expect that the place might be a little unpretty. And so it was, but really, the locals decimate large swathes of land. They burn to get access, and then they clearcut. I have pointed out before how they cut for sustainability, but you have to see the extent of the cutting to appreciate it. It took me by surprise because I expected wilderness.

    This is the last major trip I do in the dry season. I've had enough of everything being dry, dusty and grey. Next time I'll rather try for the end of the rainy season.


    On the population
    These people are poor, really poor. You will notice that there aren't as many pics of the locals as I normally include. This is because not too many of them were friendly or smiling. Don't get me wrong, no-one was unfriendly, I just got the feeling that happiness was a scarce commodity here.

    It appeared to be very much a hand to mouth existence. What commerce we saw was the very basic, stone age, live from the land type thing. Cutting trees for house building and charcoal, cutting grass for roofing, that kind of thing.

    The trees are cut into logs which gets transported one by one on bicycles. Often we would come across a lone oke pushing his bicycle along the path 200km from the nearest town.

    The second use for the logs is charcoal.

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    Again transported by bicycle.

    In a lot of faces you could see that surviving was the sole activity that this human being was consumed with. It got to me a little. Poverty is everywhere in Africa, but here it was different to any other place I had been to.


    On the trip
    I am loathe to bring this up, but one has to be honest. I have no intention of writing fiction.

    I was dissapointed with this trip. Ja, I know, you are thinking 'what an arsehole'.

    It was like I was waiting for the real trip to start the whole time. I have tried to figure out why it did not work for me.

    It could be the immense poverty that made it depressing.
    It could be that the mindfuck of an Angolan trip spoiled me forever.
    It could be that my expectations of the wildlife wasn't met.
    It could be that not completing the trip by reaching the ocean made it feel inadequate.
    It could be that it was too short.
    It could be that it was too easy, there is nothing like a bit of suffering to make you feel accomplished.
    It could be all of the above.

    My wife said something that sounds about right though. Not all trips can be the best one ever. Like anything else in life there are going to be good ones and less good ones (can't really picture a bad one).

    And so it is OK. I'm cool with it. It was still very memorable and I enjoyed it.


    On expats
    In Malawi we got to meet a good many of the expat community. Most of them know each other even though they may be scattered through the country. I liked every single one I met. Tanya, Maria, Kate, Mia, Julie, Dan, Jurie and many others that I do not recall the names of. There are of course a couple of odd ones, but like any small society, their quirks do not exclude them. They are a tolerant lot. I could see myself having a good life there. I was also surprised about the amount of young white girls just migrating around Zim, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia by themselves, finding a job at one place, staying a year or so and then moving on again. And they party hard when they get together.


    Some arbitrary pics

    This guy makes probably the best wooden cars trucks and excavating equipment in Africa. All of them have moving parts. Fascinating.

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    Here's his workshop. Hard to believe eh?

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    Bicycle taxi

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    Bike taxi

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    Local delicacy, birds on a stick.

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    At the odd village we would find boreholes like this.

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    This plaque is on each one. Looks like some biker connection?

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    Just for you 'sweat in the sun' tyre lever specialists.

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    Yes that's a plug. Yes on a 640 tyre. Tubeless baby, tubeless. Or more correctly Tubliss. I've converted three of my bikes so far. Fantastic stuff, cannot stop myself smiling like I won the lottery everytime I fix a flat.


    And a last Malawi pic, because it's pretty.

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    These weeks were not wasted time. We brought back memories, we brought back pictures, I brought back bilharzia and Hennie brought back malaria.

    And I brought back an excellent idea for a new trip. Woohoo.



    Oh, I almost forgot about John the Baptist.

    We drop Brian in Blantyre to catch a flight and we stay over at Doogles. Doogles is a backpackers situated in a taxi rank. Thursdays are the unofficial party day there for expats. We are there on a Thursday. Big get together of locals, expats and overlanders, socializing and drinking till late. The owner of Doogles allow prostitutes (ugly word, there should be something better) on the premises. They are well behaved because if they are not, their priviledges are revoked. Some pretty ones too.

    One of these girls, introduces herself as Sugar, or 'Shooogah' (in a husky voice). This ample bodied, very dark, heavily made up femme fatale (with no concept of personal space) leaves me speechless when she hotly breathes - "You look like John the Baptist".

    John the Baptist!

    Me?


    And there you have it, one man's Chucky Norris is another woman's John the Baptist


    #75
  16. Stillupright

    Stillupright Make my day

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    Most excellent report and professional story telling MJ. Thank you for showing us an Africa few of us will see in person.
    #76
  17. longwaytim

    longwaytim Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
    Fantastic... made my morning looking at this amazing ride report! Now I have to go to work..:cry
    #77
  18. jeckyll

    jeckyll Kneedragger

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    Very true.

    Thanks for taking us along for the ride, it looked pretty damn good from the sidelines.
    #78
  19. Lion BR

    Lion BR I'd rather be riding

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2005
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    The plaque says, in Italian:

    San Cristoforo Well
    Malawi 2005
    Enrico and friends
    Italian motorcyclists

    Could it be that these wells were donated?

    Lion

    #79
  20. Dickyb

    Dickyb Bewildered Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Thank you.:clap Excellent prose and pictures. This, and your other ride reports which I just had to read, took me to a land far, far away in a time not so long ago. Looking forward to the next one:deal

    Stay safe,

    Dickyb
    #80