Tanzania: The Full-Moon-Last-Chance-September-Ride-or-Die Ride

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Osadabwa, Oct 5, 2012.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    376
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    It was a muggy, moonlit night. Three bikers waited impatiently, sipping luke-warm beers and swatting mosquitoes. The atmosphere in Dar es Salaam was electric with the full moon’s early yellow promise of hooliganism, and the boys were ready to get on with it, to kick off the ride to Mkuranga. The minutes passed by like hours, the hours crawled past like eternities, and still Ajax farted around upstairs, gathering his kit and taking his sweet time about it. “Hurry up fafaksake!”, someone blurted, just as his shiny bald head (shaped much like the moon, actually) rounded the corner of the building. Let the ride begin.

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    Above: The four nightbikers of the Dar-pocalypse: me, Ajax, Wry and Tigo

    Leaving Dar on a Friday night can be harrowing. Every nut with a car is out, and they’re all trying to get somewhere at the same time on roads woefully inadequate for all the traffic. It’s headlight-blinding madness on the tar road and constitutes an adventure all to itself. We followed Old Bagamoyo up to the Mbezi Tank petrol station. It’s less than 10km, but we must have overtaken a thousand cars. The video does it some justice, actually:


    Above: Four minutes of badly behaved nighttime riding

    Off of the tar and onto the big dirt, we were not yet rid of the cars and we just added ourselves to the crazies. To have gravel under the wheels in the dark was an intoxicating feeling, and the gloom transformed all the familiar bends into a sinister serpent of dust and rock. With no horizon and no landmarks, only the glow of the GPS promises you you’re on familiar terrain. We got some speed going in places, and roared our way through little roadside shopping areas still very much alive at nighttime. The variety of random stuff you see on the roadside at night… it’s like riding through a circus.


    Above: Four minutes of fast big dirt and oncoming trucks

    At the junction where big dirt meets bushtrack, we paused to take in the night, Dar city flickering off the clouds to one side and darkest Africa looming on the other. We were off into the darkness.

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    Above: Night on bikes makes you happy to be alive

    With the big roads behind us, the serious fun could begin. In the daytime, it is a fantastic track with deep washouts and surprise bends through thornbush and dust. At nighttime, it’s a mental labyrinth and physical rollercoaster. The headlight danced ahead leaving brilliance in places and bottom-of-the-sea blackness everywhere else. It was riding on experience more than anything, and left the nerves jangling and asking for more.

    Not surprisingly, the video is less than stellar, but it captures the sense of otherworldliness and shows how quickly you can be surprised by a washout.


    Above: Four minutes of dark, tight tracks and close calls

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    Above: Ajax and two unidentified glowing orbs

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    Above: Ajax at night

    Shortly after 9:00 PM we arrived in Pugu and rumbled up to our favorite bar for a bite and a beer. We ordered chips mayayi, as usual, and two portions of goat which blew our socks off and had us hissing at our waitress (in more or less acceptable fashion) for more. In the dark, our hungry fingers latched on to any bit of meat (often just fat, lovely, flavorful, energy soaked fat) and greedily stuffed it in our mouths. We were starved and thirsty.

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    Above: Pugu arrival, relaxation and libations

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    Above: Pugu Bar by night

    Far from the city by this time, the tracks in the bush were ghostly quiet apart from the thunderous bikes. We rarely saw another person, let alone another vehicle on the powdery white tracks to Mkuranga. I was shocked to see that our speed wasn’t much reduced from our usual daylight rides, largely due to the excellent Baja Designs headlight my XR now sports, and the above average KTM 690 one that Ajax was using, and the fact that we were just freaking loving it! Ajax and I blitzed along basically side by side around blind corners and over natural whoops and burms, the dust-cloud so thick the other two had to wait until it settled to follow suit. Fantastic. I felt 100% focused on the moment, on the sensation of weightlessness and on the uniqueness of the experience. I literally don’t think I blinked for half an hour. Within a year I’ll leave Tanzania for good, but I hope I retain the memory of that feeling as long as I can.


    Above: The sweet stuff: Four minutes of fast sand tracks in the dark

    Arriving at the Mkuranga guest house well after 11:00 PM, we settled in to recap the ride around a couple more cold ones. The moon was high by then, and white, and looked very far away. There was no breeze, no heat, no cold, and no sound… just the buzzing in our bones from an excellent night out on bikes.

    Tomorrow: Daylight comes
    #1
  2. Deadly99

    Deadly99 Fast and Far

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2008
    Oddometer:
    11,339
    Location:
    Merrickville, Canada
    :thumb
    #2
  3. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    674
    Location:
    closer to Baja
    Haha.
    I thought lane spltting was tricky in California. At least we split traffic that is all going in the same direction.
    Thanks for sharing that crazy stuff.

    Check out the Baja Designs Squadron LED headlights. Make rides like that a lot easier!

    Why will you be leaving Tanzania? Where are you going?
    #3
  4. Bluebull2007

    Bluebull2007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    5,470
    Location:
    Oviedo, España
    You guys know you are insane right? :lol3

    Just hope you don't hit a wild animal is all (super high risk of that at night). Africa is not for sissies.

    Its nevertheless comforting to see someone else taking risk in traffic like I do here in Peru.

    Thanks for posting!
    #4
  5. tmotten

    tmotten Lefthand ride Dutchy

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,614
    Location:
    Calgary
    Nice. I'll have to call in when I get there. :freaky
    #5
  6. westfrogger

    westfrogger Moron with a bike

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2010
    Oddometer:
    81
    Location:
    Bottom left corner of Africa
    Always enjoy these ... waiting patiently for some more of the good stuff!
    :happay
    #6
  7. TCSVN

    TCSVN ...Stays in Vegas...

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    184
    Location:
    Living the dream
    Your RR's bring back memories of my trip to Dar in '08. Traffic is just like I remember it. We made a trip out towards the Pugu Hills then, too.

    Our stay was split between Hotel Alexander and the Blue Pearl. That was a good trip, to say the least.

    Keep up with the pictures, stay away from the bushmeat and sip on an Amarula for me.

    TC
    #7
  8. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    376
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    TCSVN: Dar would surprise you now... it's one of the world's 10 fastest growing cities and has become a traffic nightmare. The number of high rise buildings in the city centre has grown even since I've been here, as with the peninsula where the Hotel Alexander hides in a shady corner.

    westfrogger: Cheers mate, coming right up! The pics and write up have been done for days... it's the videos that take an eternity to edit... so somebody watch 'em, dammit!

    Bluebull2007: I'm definitely more worried about big cars than big cats in this part of TZ, though it has crossed my mind that startling an elephant or lone Cape Buffalo would be bad business. Would love to visit Peru on 2 wheels one day.

    tmotten: Please do call when you get here. Beers every Wednesday, rides most Sundays... or that used to be the way.

    WHYNOWTHEN: Yeah... the lane splitting on 2 lane roads is probably not the wisest, but it's the only way to go in this town. Unlike in the US, it's not frowned upon by the police (usually) and the cars seem to mostly fear the mega paint loss they'd face if they tried to put the squeeze on an oncoming bike. So far, so good... touch wood. I like the idea of the LED BD setup... have to put that on my wish list. I'll be leaving TZ in a year when my wife and I move for her job... hopefully somewhere else in Africa so I can keep riding, but you never know.
    #8
  9. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    376
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    After plenty of haggling the night before about what time we would set off, I was sure I’d convinced everyone to be on the bikes no later than 8:00. Predictably, we ended up leaving late (I blame the Frenchman. Hey Tigo, saboteur is another great word you don’t have in French!) but the air was cool and we were fuelled by the wholly uninspired egg on white bread with instant coffee breakfast we were served at the guesthouse. At the petrol station, we loaded up on gojuice and other essentials…

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    Above: Tigo proudly displays his Ralli cancer sticks, guaranteed to kill you fast, but you’ll enjoy it

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    Above: The little petrol station’s well stocked larder… while I filled up on water, Ajax put back two Red Bulls

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    Above: The Big Six: me posing before the petrol shop mural on Kilwa Road in Mkuranga

    We headed west out of Mkuranga toward the north/south Maneromango road that cuts into Selous. There had been rain in the night, and a slight drizzle persisted that kept the sandy bits very tacky and the muddy bits very slick. Tigo was the only one to see his ass when the big 690 misbehaved in a puddle filled rut, but we all had our near miss moments. Wry pulled up to me pale after experiencing a substantial sideways slide, and I had nearly tasted dirt the same way myself. It was a great way to warm up to the day ahead!


    Above: A minute and a half of slopping and splashing all over the show

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    Above: Tigo’s mudflop

    Apart from the early muddy sections, the track was very decent and quick. Even the stretches of bigger dirt were enjoyable with the cool air and puddles keeping you fresh.

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    Above: A bit of mud for your troubles, bikers in their element

    Deviating off the larger dirt, we found a few older roads that had been eaten away by years of neglect. Those are the kind of tracks that mix high speeds with potential for disaster which keep a guy quick on the throttle and quicker on the brakes.

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    Above: Ajax gets our 20, riding the old dirt


    Above: A minute fifteen of faster, fun stuff

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    Above: A quick pit stop: Papaya view, cassava view

    It was just a fantastic start to the morning: the riding was good, the scenery varied, the weather cool, the clouds looming ominous… While resting and fertilizing the flora, we were approached by a guy with a very cool mudflap on his cheap Chinese crapper. It’s a monkey stealing fruit and says something to the effect of: You know who’s boss. I gotta get me one.

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    Above: Slaloming palms, Mr. Mudflap

    After our little break, Ajax took us down a footpath into the unknown. As is common on these rides, we often deviate from known tracks to see if we can find an alternative route that is more challenging or tricky. This one quickly led us into thorny brush that swallowed the trail. After some hunting around, we relocated the track just in time for Tigo’s 690 to put on a show of “Race Readiness” in which the air intake tube from the airbox comes disconnected from the bike.

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    Above: Convincing goat-stopping thorns, Tigo fixes his fancy orange bike, a drywors’s eye view of the scene

    Minor technical faults rectified, we proceeded up the footpath, climbing up a nice hill through dense forest that dead-ended at a field and a hut… as many trails tend to do. We quizzed the guy awhile to find the likeliest way out of there and he pointed dubiously down the hill, back into the bush. Ajax and the others slid down to investigate and I continued to dig for info. He seemed 100% sure there was a 4x4 track down there that would lead us out of the valley, so we went for it. Sure enough, the escape route lay just at our feet.


    Above: Four good minutes of searching, finding and rocking on the little tracks

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    Above: From field back down into forest

    For the rest of the morning, we linked excellent track to excellent track. There were 2 tracks with grass in the middle, big dusty sandpot roads, ridgecrest viewpoint roads, you name it. It rained a bit, but never got slick, and we just blasted our way up the escarpment to Maneromango where we pitted again for some plastic jugs of fuel, young coconut and banana snacks and Mountain Dew and Ndovu Shandys. We snacked in lieu of eating a proper lunch in order to avoid falling into a food coma, and it paid off later in the day.

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    Above: Forest, village and deep bush

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    Above: Deep sand tracks and 4x4 doubletrack fun

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    Above: Orange onslaught

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    Above: Escarpment overlook road

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    Above: Maneromango views: Coolest kids ever, Wellies by the dozen, your one-stop-shop for all your Honda needs, chips in a bucket waiting to be fried

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    Above: The riders at ease clockwise from top left: Tigo (French maniac: KTM 690), Wry (Polite but dodgy Limey/Kenyan: KTM 450), Me (Yakity-Yank: XR400) and Ajax (Danish Lesbian Refugee: KTM 450)

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    Above: The chips take a hot bath, Wry wrangles some coconuts, I taste the nectar

    Next up: an afternoon of exploring West to Wami: Big dirt, dusty dirt, an evening trail ride, and a night approach.
    #9
  10. Johno33772

    Johno33772 Johnny Africa

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    959
    Location:
    St Petesburg, FL

    You'll never leave Africa...any Expat will you that. Damn I miss the wild freedom of Africa.

    As Bluebull stated....Africa ain't for Sissies!!!:D:D
    Great ride report by the way...bring it on!
    #10
  11. gilles b

    gilles b n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2012
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    Pepinster, Belgium
    Hey Hunter,

    Nice pics and video!
    I'm missing all those trips.
    My first trip in Tz was night starting to, I'll never forget it.

    Gilles.
    #11
  12. Faceplant

    Faceplant Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2006
    Oddometer:
    255
    Location:
    Swahilistan
    A grudging thumbs up...and don't leave me behind again.:pimp
    #12
  13. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    674
    Location:
    closer to Baja
    Lights! This is what you need!

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    These BD Squadrons have completely changed my night rides.
    #13
  14. jmcg

    jmcg Turpinated..

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    462
    Location:
    The Dandenong Ranges, Vic
    Great report + pics.

    Thanks,

    JM.
    #14
  15. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    376
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Cheers everyone,

    jmcg - Thanks for the encouragement, more coming right now.

    Man Whynow, those are some serious lights. It would be amazing to go for rides with that kind of illumination. Put it on my wish list for sure!

    Johnny Africa - if I leave it won't be for lack of trying not to. It's definitely become part of my life staying here... been here longer as an adult than I've been in the US.

    Faceplant - I'm not feeling comfortable with your comment. You must be ill or something. After the next post, please berate me for faksake. And if you recall, we asked, nay, pleaded for you to come on the trip. You told us you had to wash your hair...

    Gilles - Get your arse out of that neck brace (yes a motorcycle related injury) and get back out here already! And see if you can drag your ugly Uncle Bean along with you! Cheers for following along... I think the next vids are the best of the bunch.
    #15
  16. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    376
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    We rode south from the snack spot on a pristine, rolling dirt road with views to kill for. It’s not the type of road we seek out, but when you’re stuck on it, it’s best to enjoy it. Big trail bikers would eat this kind of thing up, and there are miles and miles of it in rural Tanzania.


    Above: A couple of minutes of lovely big red dirt... ought to make you BMW riders drool some

    After twenty clicks or so of cruising, we found a 4x4 track leading west. Our plan was to locate something good that would connect our usual Sunday ride area with a track used for getting much farther west, like Morogoro. For that, we needed to find a crossing on the Wami river. The track looked promising, and did not disappoint. Dry from hours of baking sunshine, the sand was challenging and invigorating and we just blasted it until we found the TAZARA railroad tracks.


    Above: Fast, sandy, wild riding that plunges smack into the Wami River... and a pretty decent video if I do say so.

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    Above: Sand tracks headed west to TAZARA

    One kilometer of footpath bashing from the TAZARA line later, we pulled up under some enormous old mango trees on the high banks of the Wami River. It was a beautiful spot. I could have cracked open a beer and chilled there all afternoon except for two things 1) we didn’t have any beer and 2) we were very far from anywhere decent to sleep for the night and it was already close to 2:00 PM.

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    Above: The Mango shade trees and the Angel of the Wami

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    Above: Looking into our options at the Wami Mango

    From the Wami, we shot north up a big dirt road, hoping to find a track to explore, but had no luck. After an hour of hard cruising, we could feel the fatigue setting in but couldn’t bring ourselves to abandon the day just yet. So, rather than push north to sleep on the Morogoro road somewhere, we curled east back toward the sea. The plan became to link up with a small singletrack trail we know of that leads to Kisarawe where we would regroup and reassess.

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    Above: Wry and Tigo take a breather after our long bout of big dirt

    The little tracks to Kisarawe were spectacular. The afternoon light had gold plated the world, and the tracks were varied and unpredictable. My GPS ran out of battery, so for the better part of this leg I was lost, just following Ajax down one seeming dead end after another, through fields, across bush-burned hillsides, and randomly up and over railroad tracks all the way. It felt good to ride hard in the afternoon on challenging tracks, and we arrived in Kisarawe just as the sun was biting the dust.

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    Above: Wry and Tigo approach a junction

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    Above: A house somewhere near a railroad line, Wry’s dusty red eye

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    Above: Getting lost in it for old times’s sake near a stately baobab somewhere

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    Above: Portrait of a two-wheeled beauty, the approach to Kisarawe at twilight


    Above: Excellent riding, pure joy... but we were getting fatigued and mistakes were coming one by one... CAUTION: Profanity! It could not be helped in a couple of places... like when I nearly kissed a railroad tie planted vertical in the ground on a blind turn...

    Reaching Kisarawe with just the faintest hint of light in the sky, we decided to press on down the road to Mkuranga again for the night so we’d be somewhere good to start from the following day. It was a bit ugly, the ride. Tarmac with cars and people and dogs and goats at dusk is never much fun but the sky turned black in time for us to turn onto the white sand road, so we had another half hour or so of off-road night riding to enjoy. We took turns escorting Tigo, whose 690 headlamp had gone kaput for no apparent reason. He’d ride side by side with one of us until a bicycle or cow would appear ahead, then he’d duck back into our dust until the obstacle had passed. By the time we reached Mkuranga again, we were beat.

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    Above: Mkuranga guest house at night

    Following day, I got up early and belted it back to Dar to be with my family at the beach and the other three went playing in the sand further South. By all accounts, that day’s ride was the best there has ever been, or will ever be again. Just my luck! On the other hand, it may be that they enjoyed it so much just because they spent the better part of the afternoon drinking and eating at Tigo’s boss’s house. We’ll never know for sure.

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    Above: Map of the ride. You just finished reading about the left loop. The right loop will remain a mystery unless the others fill us in (don't hold your breath, dear reader).

    Until next time... if there is a next time.
    Osadabwa out.
    #16
  17. Dirtnadvil

    Dirtnadvil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2005
    Oddometer:
    895
    Location:
    Inside the Orange Curtain
    another epic ride, thanks for sharing.....
    #17
  18. Finnito

    Finnito n00b

    Joined:
    May 1, 2011
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
    Once again very nice report :clap
    Sadly I missed the trip because of technical problem.

    And got to get those BD Squadrons for sure.
    #18
  19. Watercat

    Watercat . . . gravity sucks

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,739
    Location:
    Beervanastan, Duwamps Pacific NorWet
    Yeah,

    You guys are fuggin' crazy . . . . . . The good kinda crazy ! ! ! ! !:clap . . . . :clap . . . . . :clap . . . . . . :clap . . . . .:clap

    Thanks for putting this RR together:ricky

    :beer

    :slurp

    :happay:happay:happay:happay:happay

    :ricky
    #19
  20. KASUYAHO

    KASUYAHO Playing in the dirt

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    5,101
    Location:
    Aussie Land
    Thanks for the Tip on the RR Osadabwa, what a great place to ride, crazier the better.

    Faceplant had to stayhome to wash his hair, he's getting soft since he sold his 650R it looks :D
    #20