Tanzania to Botswana and back - two up!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Atreyou, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    In the U.S. for a few days for a conference and the internet is fast. Time to share with you guys a ride report of the most amazing motorcycle trip I have ever been a part of. Arusha, Tanzania, to Maun, Botswana, and back through: Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia.

    4.5 weeks, just under 9,000 kilometers - two up.

    My 2004 950 Adventure S was purchased on this website from a fellow inmate - DakarBlues. It is the most amazing motorcycle I have ever owned. Its reliability, toughness, and performance are second to none and I credit DakarBlues with taking meticulous care of it before selling it to me - this one is for you, my friend.

    For those of you that recall the post, I am the guy who warned our French brothers that are traveling around the world not to enter Tanzania from Rwanda via Rusumo over the summer. I live in Arusha, Tanzania, and was knocked off of my motorcycle by bandits, along with my brother Daniel, as we were traveling, two-up, at 83 miles an hour. Miraculously, we lived and our injuries were relatively light. (Will be posting a thread on this as well). I built myself and the 950 back up again and 3.5 months later, this dream trip became a reality.

    I kitted my bike with many parts and add-ons that I learned about via searches on this website, and all of my knowledge of this bike comes from the wisdom and dedication that comes through on this forum. I thank you all.

    I hope to entertain you a bit, maybe pass along some useful beta for those of you trying something similar, and to incorporate honest reviews of the parts and farkles that were abused on this epic.

    THE TRIP:

    My girlfriend and I decided to take a big, multi-week motorcycle trip in the African continent at the end of last year before she had to take a year and return to London to complete her pupillage. We both lived in Arusha, Tanzania, and worked as lawyers for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. I am still there today.

    We wanted to do it unsupported and plan the trip ourselves, from A to Z. We wanted to embark on something that was completely one-off for us, rather than follow a set and proven itinerary. We wanted a fair amount of dirt and remoteness, and we had a bucket list of places we really wanted to see, which would serve as the skeleton for our itinerary: Ruaha National Park (Tanzania), Lake Malawi, Okavango Delta, and the Kalahari Desert. It was exhilarating to plan this while staring at my mildewy Target map of the world shower curtain (we later bought maps..haha), and terrifying when we were sporadically reminded of how much experience we had with trips like this - ZERO. We oscillated between euphoric anticipation and "Holy SHI% we are totally going to die".

    We settled on the following rough itinerary:

    Arusha to Iringa via Dodoma (1,000 kms of desolate dirt - great way to start, right?)

    Iringa to Cape McLear along Lake Malawi

    Cape McLear through the Tete province of Mozambique

    Bisect Zimbabwe diagonally from northwest to southeast

    Bulawayo to Maun (Botswana)

    Maun to Livingstone (Zambia) through the Caprivi Strip (Namibia)

    Livingstone to Iringa (back in Tanzania)

    Iringa to Pangani, then Pangani back to Arusha


    THE RIDER:

    Me - Venezuelan and American, just under three years of riding experience, longest trip had been four days solo on an XR600.

    THE PASSENGER:

    My kickass girlfriend, English, had been on a motorcycle only a few times in her life.

    THE BIKE:

    2004 KTM 950 Adventure S, imported to Tanzania from St. Louis, Missouri. 30,000 miles (two significant accidents by that point) canisterectomy, Akras, high flow washable air filter, pre-filter, Facet fuel pump, Euro headlight conversion, BDCW extra large rear rack, Jesse luggage system with XplorerMoto removable bags, Wolfman Expedition Lite tank bag and extra large Expedition Dry Duffel, Slavens Racing crash bar bags, Scotts steering damper and clamp, TrailTricks 60 kg. fork springs, stock wheelset with D909 front and rear tires and UHD tubes, front fender conversion, and custom suede/vinyl Renazco seat for two people.

    Will be updating and adding pics and stuff over the next few days. If anyone knows how to add more than one pic to a thread, would love to hear how!

    Attached Files:

    #1
  2. aurel

    aurel Cheese&Wine!

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    Sounds good :clap
    #2
  3. mookymoo

    mookymoo Mookish Mook

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    Either UK or Australia ...
    Upload your pics to smugmug (help fund advrider) and then embed the images here with tags

    Looking fwd to the story :lurk
    #3
  4. cpmodem

    cpmodem Orange Caveman

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    Excellent! I remember Aurel writing about you and your brother's mis-adventure. I hope he has healed well. You didn't get those bullet holes in your Katoom on that trip did you? JK. Enjoy, and looking fwd to your posts.
    #4
  5. Gimme 2

    Gimme 2 wheels , with nobs

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    still looking
    awesome!
    #5
  6. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Thanks, Aurel! Sorry we never had a chance to have that beer in Arusha, but I was back in the U.S. recovering from my broken acromion, etc. I used your website as a resource, especially regarding the bike problems you had, tools you took, etc.
    #6
  7. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Thanks, man! Yeah, we are both healed now. Hah - no bullet holes from that attack, but the bike and I have a few scars from the incident. ;)
    #7
  8. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    November 19 finally arrives.

    We meet at GF's house, where the picture above was taken, and load up the beast. I had stayed up late the past two nights installing the Jesse luggage system, changing the oil, and being obsessive. I had not realized that in order to install the Jesse system and BDCW rear rack, I would need to have the stock rear grab bars in place to provide a support for the rear rack. Those had been removed by the prior owner and I went into a bit of a panic thinking that I would not be able to use this beautiful, spacious, expensive luggage system for our trip, and that I would have to re-install my accident-damaged Gobi rack and bags. Fortunately, I realized that I could cut the cylinders from the Gobi rack, which had originally supported my BDCW rear rack and use them as spacers. Unfortunately, my hacksaw blade was duller than a butter knife. Cursing in the dark (power outage), I was able to cut the cylinders off by headlamp light (I could barely move my arms by the end) and install the BDCW rack (a must) using what seemed to be 43 washers on top of the rear cylinders to level out the BDCW rack.

    Now, as luck would have it, my Jesses had only arrived in Tanzania the day before and I had not had the time to do a mock-pack and see how heavy the bike was going to be.

    Sweet Mary Mother of God, the bike was way too heavy with our original packing list on there. After the picture above, it took both of us a few burst capillaries to get it off the center stand. The bike was practically bottomed out without us even on it and I instantly knew we were going to have to cull some gear. Steering was super slow with the damper, knobby front tire, and all that weight. We stopped by my house and jettisoned the stove, cooking ware, dehydrated food and heavy-ass C-clamp for rear bead-breaking, hoping that my untested Dale Cooper bead breaker would be enough.

    Still heavy as a mother and dying to get outside the city limits we roared off feeling like champions. Ahh...the road to Babati was opening up, Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" was playing in my head, the engine was humming, this is going to be so aweso.....

    WTF!!!!!

    Bike starts lurching and backfiring 40 minutes outside of Arusha and dies. Heat sensor alarm is shrieking like 7th period is over, the engine area is hotter than an oven even though the thermostat only read 4 bars and the radiator fluid is topped off, it smells like burning potato salad, it won't start. The electrics are shot (my biggest fear), massive Tanzanian trucks are roaring past us on the two-lane road with no shoulder, night is falling, it is the end of the world.

    I coast the bike down the embankment so we don't end up adorning the grill of an overloaded Scania. I am cursing a blue streak in my head. This is not the type of thing I can fix, we have been planning this trip for six months, I bought and imported this thing precisely for this type of trip. It has been fine for the past 7 months and I have been riding the piss out of it and trying to work out all the kinks...aaaaaaaaaghhhhhh.

    We eat a pound of biltong in the dark under starry skies, lying together and wondering what to do.

    I resort to the most important thing anyone, particularly bikers, can rely on. Friends. I call my buddy Jonathan who drops what he is doing and comes out and helps me load the bike on his pickup. He takes us to my buddy Per's house. These two really, really know bikes. The following day, these two geniuses realize that an overly vigorous local carwash had caused my voltage regulator to crap out, which, under load and riding hard had shot a volcano of excess voltage into my electrical system, cooking the battery (heat, smell, alarm), shutting down the electrical system (fuel pump stopped and bike died with symptoms of fuel starvation). Per runs a motorcycle safari company and is taking care of a bankrupt rival's fleet of Yamaha 660Rs. Miraculously, the voltage regulator from a 660R bolts right up to the KTM.

    Now for a new battery, too bad Tanzania only has wet cells that don't even fit in the battery compartment. The only dry cell that will fit is the one off of a 660R but it is a 6V battery and the terminals are reversed. Unfuc#ingbelievably, that crusty little battery starts the bike and the voltage regulator works. We decide to buy a 7v dry cell from Per to use as a booster and take along jumper cables for cold starts in the morning - regaining the weight we had dropped the day before.

    We are left to install the battery on the bike. I fashion a cushion around it with an old inner tube section so that it fits snugly in the rubber basket and drill out an old terminal bolt that is frozen onto the battery. Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to see if your partner really loves you and/or test your relationship, install a 660R battery with reversed terminals into that god-forsaken battery cave on a 950 together in the sweltering heat. The leads coming from the engine area were too short to permit installing the battery out in the open. The nuts and bolts became the size of sesame seeds, fell about 56 times and hid in cracks, knuckles were skinned, flies flew up noses.

    We finally build that ship in a bottle, get on the beast and take off after deciding to leave spare chain, chainring, second set of brake pads, inner tubes, and a few tools deemed redundant behind.

    Steppenwolf is playing again.

    Attached Files:

    #8
  9. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    The rigged-up 660R battery. The terminal facing the camera was the easy one.

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    #9
  10. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    We ride through an insane rainstorm after Babati and begin our 1,000 kilometer stretch of dirt. The curves to Kondoa are awesome and relatively dry. Knowing that the rains are hitting this area made me rather nervous, as I have never ridden the big bike loaded and two up in slick mud. Luckily, the road is graded and sandier than it was in February 2010 when I was here last on my CRF450R - a much better mud bike...haha.

    We run over two chickens in less than a minute and eventually pull into Kondoa, spokes bloodied and feathery. The bike sounded funny and was misfiring towards the end. Confidence rattled by the voltage regulator incident and the Macgyver solution, I expect the worst. Luckily the sound was due to the spare rear tire hanging too low over the exhaust tips and a loose terminal on the battery was responsible for the misfiring.

    We left GF's visor in Jonathan's truck. Fortunately, I brought a pair of motocross goggles. Unfortunately, some a$$hole steals them as we are unloading the bike and taking stuff to the room - right around the time the picture was taken.

    The innkeeper on the right is awesome and cheery, though.

    GF begins day two with H&M leopard-print sunglasses as her only eye protection.

    Attached Files:

    #10
  11. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Beautiful morning. We strap the tire higher and out of the way of the pipes. I am amazed at how well the bike handles on dirt with all this weight. The tennis ball-sized rocks on the tire tracks keep the speed down - at first...:D

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    #11
  12. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Bike is handling like a dream. Cruising comfortably at 55 mph on the nice sections, like this one. The little battery is starting the bike up no problem - first time I turned it off and had to turn it back on I think I started it on sheer willpower. Still hyper-obsessing about any weird sound or feeling from bike.

    We reach the capital of Tanzania - Dodoma, an oasis of immaculate pavement in the middle of a vast dirt expanse. Upon leaving Dodoma we encounter some sections of horrid, sharp encrusted rocks. I dodge most of them but the bright light and light-colored ground is unforgiving. I hit a few a lot harder than I would have liked and realize that the steering damper has already paid for itself. Weird though....the hits seem really harsh and undamped, as if I was holding a metal rod and somebody hit it with a hammer. And why did the hits sound so metallic, anyways? :huh

    Attached Files:

    #12
  13. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Beating the rim back into shape with my largest ratchet, in the middle of nowhere.

    Turns out that the D909 front tire is so incredibly burly, and I am so stupid, that when I pushed on the tire with my hands before departing, it felt rock hard despite having only around 18 psi in it, so I didn't top it up. The metallic sound when I hit rocks was my rim denting and flat-spotting. If we had not noticed this and permanently damaged the rim, our trip would have been over. I pump it up and we continue.

    Attached Files:

    #13
  14. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Long-haul buses - a rider's nemesis. Big and fast, they like to tear down the middle and could care less whether you end up in a bloody heap by the side of the road. You have to hold your line, inch over without drifting into the soft shoulder, and flash your lights in case an oncoming car is trying to make a pass through the dust cloud at the same time. :eek1

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    #14
  15. cpmodem

    cpmodem Orange Caveman

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    Whew! What a start to a tour. 660R's have 12v batteries BTW.:evil
    #15
  16. Shakeyhands

    Shakeyhands Goober

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    Dood! Thats what I wear!!!
    #16
  17. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    The fuel light went on about an hour outside of Iringa with nothing but baobab trees and dirt in sight. I thought we would reach Iringa on the tank from Dodoma but the steep, windy hills after New Mtera just used up too much fuel. Luckily, every small village has somebody in it with a few jerry cans of gas for sale. We are fortunate that there is a village around the bend and we fuel up with gas poured out of recycled cooking oil bottles, which is filtered through a small colander.:clap

    The crowd at the bar loves the big bike. :freaky

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    #17
  18. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Nine hours and 700 or so kilometers later, we arrive in Iringa. We congratulate ourselves and wave grandiosely at passersby. Smug and heroic, we carry on to a nice lodge that was recommended to us.

    We can't find it.

    Night falls, and dehydration and hypoglycemia set in. It is so dark and I am completely destroyed. We try to ask for directions and people are either wasted or terrified - sometimes both.

    We tuck tail and return to Iringa after adding an hour and a half of riding to the day. Then, on a brand new stretch of immaculate asphalt, smooth enough to ice skate on, we get a rear flat. We don't really know where to stay, GF heads out to ask for recommendations as I guard the bike by a new looking hotel. We don't want to stay anywhere that requires us to leave the bike on the street and it isn't looking good.

    Then, the night manager at a hotel I am parked outside of suggests that I ride the bike up a ramp, through the front door, and into his lobby where I can park it.

    Why the hell not.

    In my own personal Led Zeppelin fantasy, I ride the beast up the ramp, through the front door, past two people checking in and park it by a small aquarium, under a picture of the President of Tanzania. People in the dining room are literally mouth agape, forks halfway towards their faces. That bike is pretty loud inside the small lobby of an all-concrete hotel.

    It smells like exhaust. The goldfish is bouncing around. We shower, stuff our faces with chips and beef stew, admire the strange decor, and crash out on cheap synthetic blankets.

    Awesome.

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    #18
  19. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Ahhhh - that would explain it then! That little effer lasted until the end of the trip and I didn't have to boost it, ever, even on cold mornings.
    #19
  20. cpmodem

    cpmodem Orange Caveman

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    Good to know the VRR fit too. Wires plugged it too, or not?
    #20