I live in the northern part of Tanzania, where there's some of the best riding countryside in the world. Having only every ridden in Tanzania, I'm probably slightly biased, and massively ignorant. But as Cypher once said before he betrayed his friends and was fried, "Ignorance is bliss," and so is the riding around here. Every now and then a few friends and I decide to get out of town for the weekend and make the most of living about an hour and a half away from the best African safari park in the world - the Serengeti National Park. We load up our bikes with everything we'll need for a weekend of hooning and hit the back roads until we find ourselves somewhere where others aren't. A difficult prospect in Africa, as there are almost always others everywhere, staring and pointing and talking about you and wanting to touch your bike and remind you that you're not from this part of the world. The border of the Serengeti is a 'reserve' area, where anyone can go without paying park fees, but people aren't 'supposed' to build or own land. You're not allowed to ride motorbikes in the parks, but in the reserve area it's ok to ride and camp. Therefore, you don't see many tourists on motorbikes around the Serengeti - they mostly drive through on those raised tour buses so that they can take pictures of whatever it is the Maasai villagers do behind their walls and the locals can't try to sell them bananas through the windows. It must be a special experience. But not many people get to see the Serengeti the way it should be seen - on a Big Red Pig! So last weekend 3 of us packed our bikes and set off for the southern reserve part of the Serengeti. Above: Me, the BRP, my bag, and some extra fuel (BRP owners understand). Note the extra squishy custom made seat. The first leg was to meet up with Matt and Lars in the town of Bunda, about an hour away on smooth, new Chinese roads through lazy mountains and scattered settlements. I recently upgraded from an XL250 to an XR650R, so I'd be out and past and in front of the odd bus or truck before I'd finished thinking about it. Above: The kind of countryside that we have to put up with here. Above: 3 serious riders, as you can tell from our serious riding gear. Our first stop was a small, roadside town called Lamadi. Or Ramadi. It depends which sign you go by. Once again I filled up the beast with fuel of questionable quality and colour. I've gotten pretty good at judging fuel quality here by how my bike idles. We stopped for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall fast food place and had some rice with the catch of the day. Pretty sure the day had long past, but fortunately we didn't need the hole. Above: Lamadi/Ramadi - not even the locals are sure. Above: About $2 a meal and 60c per soda puts this place in the 'middle class hole' bracket. No one lost a tooth on the rice, which we thought deserved a tip. Above: Anything above 200cc in Tanzania is bound to bring about stares and chatter. I'm tempted to take the '650' stickers off my bike because I can't go anywhere without "650? How long does it take you to get to X?" "About the same as a car." "I bet you could get there in Y hours" (normally Y+2). "Sure, if you want to be road pizza." "What's pizza?" It's like groundhog day whenever I go into town. We finally left civilization *pause for irony* and took a turn off the road that bordered the south of the western side of the Serengeti. The real fun was just beginning. Above: Cows. Above: A small bridge over a creek. Last year I drove out this way with my family in our 4WD Delica van. We turned off on this road just as the sun went down, heading to Kijereshi Lodge for a quick weekend getaway. We'd never driven this road before, and doing so at night in the rainy season is an adventure that people would probably pay big bucks for if they didn't have their 3 little kids in the car. We came to the bridge in the picture above, but as it had been raining a lot, nothing of the bridge could be seen. It was knee-deep in water, and the only suggestion that the road went this way was a single white post and a concentration of reeds on either side of the road. After walking through a little bit on foot, I decided to go for it in the van (remember it's completely dark now), and we wound up in that section of reeds and mud off to the left in the picture just past the bridge, rather than on the road, which was also completely submerged. After about 20 minutes of rocking the car, pushing, and praying, we got through it. Anyway, that's another story. Actually, that's pretty much the whole story. Above: The markers of the entrance to the reserve area (but not the park itself). Upon entering the reserve, we were almost immediately confronted by thousands of wildebeest and zebras. This is part of the great migration, but the animals only come down to this side of the park for about 3 days a year before they turn around and head back. Which means there's a very small window of opportunity for viewing the great migration on a motorbike. Above: Stop for a quick break and to enjoy the scenery. Wherever we went we were surrounded by thousands of these. They'd hear the bikes and go hurtling off in every direction, then settle down and start grazing again, so that whenever we stopped we were fairly well surrounded. We pulled up to Kijereshi Lodge and asked the manager if we could dump our gear and go for a ride. I think he was pretty excited to see us. There was no one at the lodge, and no one expected for another day or so. Most of the time there aren't any guests, so he just sits around chatting online. The lodge is part of an Indian family's conglomerate of hotels and lodges around this region. We thought it rude to ask him what he'd done to get posted out here. Above: The lawn at Kijereshi Lodge. Once our stuff was secured inside the manager's office, we took off exploring. This is the fun bit. Sometimes we follow roads and paths, and sometimes we invent them. Inevitably on these trips, someone gets a puncture. This time it was Matt on his XR250R, but we weren't too far from Kijereshi, so we limped back and he and Lars began the long process of patching the tube. Not once. Not twice. Not those other numbers that usually follow. I think the final count was 7 patches. Above: Matt's thorn. Eventually Lars and I got bored, and so under the auspices of wanting to scout out a place to camp before it got dark, we went off for another ride and left Matt at the 1 or 2 patch mark. Above: Some of the interesting flora around the Serengeti. Above: Looking for a place to pitch a tent. Probably not here. Above: If you look closely you can see Lars riding past. Above: Back at the lodge, baboons. We found Matt where we left him, probably on patch 3 or 4. Since it was almost dusk, and, as another rider in Tanzania with much more interesting ride reports put it, dusk in the tropics is just romantic jargon for five-minutes-til-dark, we abandoned hopes for pitching a tent out in the middle of nowhere and selected a nice patch of flat ground about 20 metres in front of the Lodge entrance. The manager was more than happy to have us stay. I think he would have paid us to stay if we'd asked. We showed our appreciation by buying up all their cold drinks. It was the least we could do. Above: Dusk settles as Lars applies patch 5 or so. Above: Serengeti sunset. Lars and Matt missed most of it while patching Matt's tube, but I managed to grab some photos. Above: 3 and a half minutes later and it was dark. On goes patch number 7ish. We spent the rest of the night sitting by the camp fire, which is exactly the best place to be at night on a bike safari - there's nothing like it. Matt cooked up some steaks, I brewed some Starbucks instant coffee that someone had sent to me in a package, and Lars handed around some Norwegian chocolate. The moon was so bright that you could actually read at night. At one stage I caught a whiff of something that I was going to blame on one of the other guys, but then my headlamp picked up some eyes staring at us about 40 meters away. It was a big bull buffalo, with another 5 of his mates hanging around, grazing. We could actually see their outlines thanks to the full moon. We stared at each other for a while, us eating our steaks, them their grass, then eventually they moved on. We also heard baboons screeching, which is pretty normal, but it kept going on for about 5 full minutes. One of the lodge night guards came over and said it was probably because a leopard had climbed the tree and taken a baby baboon, so of course we had to go investigate. Unfortunately (fortunately?!) we didn't see the leopard, but we could still see quite a commotion of baboons in the trees just across the creek. Eventually we all climbed in the 4-man tent (thus rated because someone somewhere was able to fold 4 tiny oompa loompa men into it), and tried to get some sleep, which for me doesn't come real easy while camping. I think I got up around 6:00am, and Matt was already awake. He'd got sick of Lars rolling onto him in the night, so he got up around 5am and was hanging out around the fire. Above: The moon (not the sun!) at 6am. Above: Looking well-rested and refreshed...... :/ Matt decided that he didn't want to risk another puncture, so he had a friend bring a spare tube from Bunda to Lamadi, and the 2 of us drove back in to Lamadi to pick it up, which wasn't exactly a chore, if you've ever done a 6:30am ride through the Serengeti great migration. Above: Filling up again before heading back out. Above: New tube secured. Above: Lamadi. Above: Heading back out to Kijereshi. <object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="//www.youtube.com/v/3ZRcNG9qHiQ?hl=en_US&version=3"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="//www.youtube.com/v/3ZRcNG9qHiQ?hl=en_US&version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object> Above: Matt spooks some wildebeest. Above: A jackal or something. Above: The mountains of Bunda off in the distance. Somewhere on the way back from Lamadi my 5 litres of extra petrol came loose and blessed a poor villager somewhere. We drove around later looking for it, sort of as a formality. I lost my glove the day before while taking pictures, and we spent a while looking for that too. Now I have one sunburnt hand. Once back at camp, we cooked up a good breakfast of chopped onions, capsicum (bell pepper), tomatoes, crumbled boiled eggs and sausage, had some more coffee (ok, so we're not exactly roughing it), and then took off again to go exploring, this time cutting more inland where there are no roads. Above: Any bird watchers out there who know what this is? Above: Matt and the wildebeest face off. Above: Another one of those flowers, struggling for life in the dry Serengeti. One of the coolest experiences ever was seeing a stampede of wildebeest and zebras. I think we scared a bunch as we came up to them and they took off, and then everyone that was behind them, realizing that all their friends were leaving, also took off, and they just kept going. Above: Wildebeest stampede. There was a red and yellow spot on the ground. We think it was Mufasa. <object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="//www.youtube.com/v/2eNkuq06CoU?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="//www.youtube.com/v/2eNkuq06CoU?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object> Above: Stampede!! Out on the open plains the BRP shines, unlike on the small windy tracks. There are little ant-hills everywhere that you can use as little jumps, or you can just drive around with the throttle wide open. Above: Lars get 'big' air on his Yamaha Serow 225cc. Above: Matt shows off the XR250's tricks. Above: I go for the world distance record off the world's smallest jump and cream it. After a hard morning of riding around, exploring forests and rivers, and probably crossing borders that we weren't supposed to cross (no proof), we headed back to the lodge and found that the pool had water in it (quite a surprise if you've ever travelled in Africa), and so we had a swim. It felt great. Then we took off again for one last gear-free ride. Above: The Bunda mountains in the distance again. We decided to finish the trip by meeting up with our families at the Ndabaka Lodge back near Bunda for dinner and a swim for the kids. We've called many times to see if we could use the pool before, but this is the first time it's actually had transparent water in it. After that we headed back to Bunda, where I took a nice shot of the setting African sun: Since it was dusk when we got to Bunda, it was night time by the time we passed through to the other side. Lars had about a half hour drive to his place, and I still had about an hour. Fortunately I could follow my wife the whole way back, because driving a motorbike at night in countryside Africa requires so much concentration (and a little bit of luck) that it makes air traffic controllers look like kids playing Wii fit. I was glad to make it home in one piece, and even more glad to be back in my bed instead of next to Lars. Above: Riding at night - this is pretty much what it looks like when you can see something. But it was a great trip. Not exactly 'Angola; it's not like they said', but for a weekend getaway it was pretty special.