The Natron Burn - a trip report for you guys from far away!

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Atreyou, Dec 11, 2012.

  1. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    In June 2010, shortly after my 2004 950 Adventure S arrived in a container from the U.S., I decided to take it into the Tanzanian wilderness. I had heard great things about this bike, and had spent a lot of time researching it on this website. One of my brothers was visiting me at the time and I had just taught him how to ride a motorcycle. We set off for Lake Natron from Arusha via Longido. I had done this trip two years before on an XR250 - my first motorcycle.

    The route sees about two vehicles per day and is extremely remote. I thought I would share this trip report with you guys so you could see one of our great bikes in action! They really are amazing machines. :D

    Nice and clean about to leave for the three day trip to Lake Natron and back to Arusha on our bikes. While in the Natron area we planned to summit Oldoinyo Lengai and hike to the source of the river, which feeds the lake.

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    #1
  2. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    My first trip on the big KTM. Not sure of tank range or whether we will be able to refuel at all in Engare Sero, so I take 14 liters of petrol with me in 1.5 liter Kilimanjaro water bottles. That and all of our camping gear, stove, etc. made for a really heavy bike.

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    The gas station in Longido is my favorite in all of Tanzania. That's right, you can't see it because it isn't there. It is essentially a few gasoline drums locked in a tiny shed, served to you in a lemonade pitcher with tick marks per liter. You have to pick the guy from the crowd and then have him open up shop.

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    Longido in the background. Clean clothes, clean bike, fully hydrated and fed. That lasted two minutes. We had been told that the road had been fixed (the Longido entrance to Natron has a reputation for being really gnarly - only a truck a day or so travels on it and it is in the middle of nowhere). Actually, after Kitumbeini it was just as brutal as the last time I rode it!

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    Elephant tracks.

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    It was sweltering hot and we had to keep hydrating.

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    #2
  3. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Daniel takes another one for the team....

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    These conditions after Gelai are the worst surface for riding a motorcycle on. Shin deep silt ruts with rock hard surface underneath. Big heavy bike no likey.

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    One of my favorite things about Tanzania is that every time you let yourself feel a bit like a hero, you get a massive dose of humility in the form of a local performing the same task, better, with 1/10th of the resources. This 45 year old Maasai casually pinned his ragged out 125 cc Chinese motorcycle with bald tires right through one of the worst sections.

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    Here, we were riding off road for a bit to avoid the silt hell and this ditch came up out of nowhere and pitched Daniel over the bars. We stopped to shake it out and eat something. The sun was setting fast, we still had not reached the intersection where you turn right to head to Lake Natron, and we were both hypoglycemic and dehydrated.

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    #3
  4. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Night fell and we pressed on in the dark, the swirling silt made it impossible to see and kept on clouding our headlights. I had never seen the silt this deep.

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    We are so exhausted that we fall asleep under the stars without setting up the tent, changing out of our riding gear, or eating dinner. The skies whirl over our heads and the constellations spill from horizon to horizon. It was beautiful. This picture was taken around 6 a.m.

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    #4
  5. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    The road simply disappears because of a washout earlier in the season. We decide to transect from the dead end to the base of Oldoinyo Lengai, the volcano we intended to summit that night. I recalled that the road runs along its base. This dry stream crossing was too deep and the exit line sucked, as did my riding skills!. My bike decided to dig in and take a rest...

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    We dig it out and I try again. This is a few seconds before eating it. Couldn't keep it straight at the speed necessary to burst out at the necessary angle. The wind-packed silt and volcanic ash is annoying because it is as soft as sifted flour but hides rocks underneath. Also, it forms a hard crust on the surface that is enough to deflect the front tire. I decide to find another crossing.

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    We punch through and the rest of the transect is absolutely epic. Zebras! Awesome views!

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  6. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    At last, we hit the trail to Engare Sero and Lake Natron. It is like riding on Mars as we cross dry lake beds, ash deposits, etc.

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    Ahh...refreshing!

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    We reach Engare Sero and set up camp for an hour before heading off on our 8 hour hike to the source of the Engare Sero River.

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    Impasse in the canyon!

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    #6
  7. SCflyer

    SCflyer Long timer

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    Great looking start but may want to move this up to Ride reports or mods might do it...
    #7
  8. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    We have to climb out of a dead end branch of the canyon.

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    Back to the main river, which is a lot of fun to follow, crossing pools, traversing walls, doing a bit of bouldering up and around waterfalls...

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    We reach the source, an otherworldly natural amphitheater, swirling with swallows and lammergeiers. The water literally seeps out of the base of the Serengeti escarpment. Hundreds of feet above, the Serengeti plains continue into Kenya.

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    We return to camp at night, and set up kitchen on the Black Dog large rear rack! Ha.

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    Tire iron pasta, then we sleep for an hour and a half before starting our summit of the volcano at around 11:45 p.m.

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    #8
  9. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

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    Fackin crazy !!!

    This deserves to be 5-starred in the RR section :freaky :freaky :freaky

    :clap:clap:clap:clap
    #9
  10. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Final push to the caldera rim at around 6:45 a.m. - totally gassed.

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    This is what it is all about...

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    We leave for Arusha the same day we come down after sneaking in a two hour nap. I couldn't see out of my left eye because it was so snotty and infected so we decide not to brave the sands in order to take pictures of the shores of Lake Natron. I had not taken my contacts out since we left Arusha. Luckily, we were able to refuel here, in Engaruka, from this one-eyed bar owner.

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    Visibility was not great, but we made it back to Arusha, safe and sound, at 1:30 a.m. It was a hell of a trip and sold me on the 950 forever. :D

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    #10
  11. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Ah, whoops! I thought I would toss it in here because the star of the show is a 950 Adventure...sorry!
    #11
  12. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    Trying to figure out how to do it now...would love to be able to move the entire thread over there in one fell swoop!
    #12
  13. skidxr

    skidxr Excuses

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    Nice !!! Way to go guys !!! :clap
    #13
  14. crazybrit

    crazybrit Long timer

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    I sent GB a PM. He'll move it for you. Nice thread!
    #14
  15. crazybrit

    crazybrit Long timer

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    This in higher res, would be front page nomination material.
    #15
  16. Knoen

    Knoen Adventurer

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    :jump Nice!! Great pictures
    #16
  17. Atreyou

    Atreyou Having Fun

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    How do I nominate a pic? I have the hi-res version on my computer. :)
    #17