African diaries (or When we were young)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Thomas B., Aug 17, 2020.

  1. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Believe me it is a fantastic ride with mountains getting higher and higher. We arrived in Hunza at almost 2500 m and took a rest day. Sandra liked the place. In the rest of Pakistan when checking into a guest house there would be a boy come out and help me with my bags. Here they would come and help Sandra. It's a different kind of people up there. There is not much civilization between Hunza and the Kunjirab pass that is the border to China. We didn’t want to cross, but just see how far we could get. It was only the first of march and the snow hadn’t completely melted yet. It was a long way and a lot of elevation to cover so we got up early, packed up all our gear, because we didn’t know if we would make it back that day, and at daybreak got on the bikes. It was freezing cold and we were wearing all our gear including the rain gear. Heated grips were on high the whole day. The whole area of the pass is a national park and when we came to park entrance the barrier was closed. We waited for a while and finally a guy showed up asking what we wanted. The border is still closed he told us. I told him the we didn’t want to cross into China, but just see if we could reach the pass. He thought about that for a moment and then told us to come into his office. We had to write down our details in a big book and leave our passport with him. He wanted to be sure that we come back. That was fine with us and soon we were on our way. The road was free of snow, but while gaining elevation the landscape became white. Then around a corner we stood in front of a large stretch of ice covering the road. There was a waterfall that’s water runs over the road and that was frozen. I tried to walk over the ice, but it was slippery as hell. We stood there looking at it and I thought - what do we do in winter at home when the roads are icy? We throw salt on it - not an option. Or we use sand or small stones to make it not slippery. I looked around and there was a gravely patch beside the road. I loosened some and made a path over the ice. We then carefully pushed both bikes over the ice. That worked. We got higher and higher. At some point it started snowing lightly. The road was then covered with a thin layer of snow. Driving became slow and very careful. Somewhere Sandra drove off the road accidentally and the bike got stuck up over the axles in a pile of snow the wind had blown there. It took us a long time to dig and push it out because at 4000m we were exhausted very fast and had to take a break to catch our breath again. And then we came to a point where the wind had blown a big pile of snow over the street. It was too high and too much to dig through and it was getting late anyway. We decided to turn around. I looked at our GPS and saw that we were only around 50m short of the elevation the pass was so that ridge we saw ahead was probably it. We almost made it. Not bad for the 1. of march.

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    nice trucks lovely decorated

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    in Hunza

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    Baltit fort over hunza

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    going up to Kunjirab pass

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    That's as high as we got

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  2. steved57

    steved57 Long timer Supporter

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    Incredible !!!
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  3. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    going back

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  4. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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  5. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Went over some other pass then to get to the next valley and Peshawar

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    cold and a bit snowy again

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    Ahhh, getting warmer again

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    in the market in Peshawar

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    sending some souvenirs home

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  6. forgorin

    forgorin Stuck in Japan

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    Are those tyres held on with tape?!
  7. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    No, they are just taped together. Onto the bike they were attatched with nylon strapes.
  8. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    We got back to the same guest house in Hunza after dark. It was a long day and we just ate and went to bed where we fell a sleep immediately. After backtracking the KKH almost the whole way we turned west over some pass to reach Peshawar.Not completely safe at the time and I think a no go today. We then went south for some time - looked at some sights on the way -before turning north to reach Quetta, our last stop before turning west to Iran.

    going south

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    Derarwar fort

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    only half left

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    In the morning of the day we wanted to reach Quetta the BMW was more unwilling to start than other days and because the crowd we were attracting in front of the hotel became bigger and bigger (almost a little frightening) we decided to tow the bike out of the town and try to get it running outside again. All of our efforts were in vain and while we were standing by the side of the road and thinking about what to do a local was suddenly standing beside us asking if we had a problem. We told him what was going on and he asked where we wanted to go. We told him Quetta and he said he could take us and pointed to his truck a bit away, that we hadn’t seen yet. He was on his way to Quetta anyway and the truck was empty. Great. We agreed on a price for taking my bike and when it was loaded he wanted the same amount for taking the DR. We told him Sandra could follow the truck by herself. He looked at us and told us to load the DR too for the same price. We then sat in the box over the drivers cabin the whole day, got a sunburn in the face and were in Quetta in the evening.

    Then I got to the same routine looking for the problem. Changing electrical parts (I had with me), taking carbs apart and putting together again, and in general thinking about what the problem could be - and getting annoyed. Nothing helped. We finally decided to head for Iran anyway and one morning packed, got the bikes running, and left. We didn’t even make it out of town when the BMW made a banging noise, the engine stopped, and some strong smelling smoke came out from underneath the tank. I got the tools out, took the tank off, and finally saw what the problem had been for all that time. The ignition coil was hanging there with a melted housing. I did have a spare one with me, but it was second hand and I never tried if it worked (never gonna make that mistake again) or it might have broken from all that shaking through Africa. Who knows. I called Dad back home and told him to go buy one and send it. We waited for two weeks and it didn’t arrive. We then went to the post office and got all the way to the head of the office and he called Karachi while we were with him and asked about our packet. Nothing could be found. (It actually came back home 3 months after us and the Ignition coil is still in the beemer today). I called my dad again and told him to go back to the BMW dealer and ask what we could do. (I must admit that I am of no use when it comes to electric. I’m a mechanical engineer.) The boss of the workshop at the dealership said I could basically put any ignition coil into the bike. The spark would be a bit stronger or weaker, but it would run. That sounded good and Sandra and I immediately went for a walk looking for car dealers. We came across a Suzuki car dealer and went in to ask for a coil. We told him the whole story and the guy was the BEST. He told us to sit down, sent a boy to his wife to get some tea for us, and send his workshop chef to the black market to look for what we needed. After chatting with the boss for a while the chef came back and had two coils with him. One looked dubious, but the other looked ok. It had two ports to attach spark plugs and it had made in Japan written on it, but was much smaller than the one of the BMW. I asked the boss how we would do this. He said: take the coil, put it in the bike, when it works come back and pay for it. If it doesn’t bring the coil back. That sounded good and we agreed that we would be back by 5 pm at the latest. Back at the hotel I put the coil into the bike, pushed the button, and the beemer immediately came to life. Hallelujah. We hadn’t eaten the whole day and agreed on going for food and then go to pay for the coil. Back at the hotel in the evening the guy at the reception told us there had been someone there that had asked for us. The boss didn’t trust us completely.

    We went for a longer test ride the next day and all was fine so we were ready to head out to Iran - again. We were not alone anymore. We had met an Australian guy at the Iranian embassy, on a bike as well, that wanted to join us.


    our ride to Quetta

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    getting loaded - he drove the truck to a pile of rocks we used as a ramp

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    strapping down my bike

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    both bikes loaded and Sandra in the box over the driver cabin

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    during the test ride with Gus the Australian

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    between Quetta and Iran

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  9. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Its funny how bike breakdowns make a ride report so much more interesting. When I would tell people about a breakdown on one of my rides and how I fixed it people would say "wow...you were so lucky." And I would have to remind myself that I did 40 things to make things happen and there was NO luck involved (well...maybe a little). I like reading about how fellow riders solved a problem.
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  10. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    that's right. Breakdowns always make good stories, but it often is because you get a lot of help from strangers and that is often very special for us.
    And to always write - and then we went there, and then we went there - is boring. So you write about the things that are out of your daily travel routine (gladly) and those are often the breakdowns.
    Just wait, there is another breakdown coming.
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  11. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    We left early to reach Iran. The advice we had read said not to stop if not necessary. People had been shot at. We tried to act accordingly. At the border we had to change the side of the road. Now it was back on the right side all the way to Europe. Iran had (and still has) a bad reputation, but once you are there all is good. The people are very friendly and particularly helpful. If we didn’t exactly know where to go we would just stand by the side of the street and within one or two minutes someone would ask if he could help. It was a pity we could only get a transit visa for one week, that we managed to extend twice for 3 days, but that was it.

    In the short time we had we wanted to see some of the cities that are well worth it. Esphahan, Yazd, Shiraz, but our first stop was the citadel of Bam. That was before the big earthquake in 2003 that destroyed the whole thing (it is being rebuild). An amazing place with a lot of history. (Google)

    The cities were beautiful and specially the mosques with their tiles were great.

    While unloading at the hotel in Yazd I turned the rear wheel of the beemer and there it was again. That not so smooth running that told me a bearing was on its way to death again. When changing them in Nepal I again couldn’t get the C3 bearings, but only normal ones and they lasted until here. Looking over the street I saw an FAG sign (manufacturer of bearings) on one of the shops. I went over and pulled out the list of bearings I needed for the gearbox and what a luck - he had them all. Ok one was from Russia, but the others were from Japan and Germany. Now I only needed a place to work and there was none at this hotel. The next morning Sandra and I asked where the quarter was where all the workshops were and headed off in that direction. While waiting at a traffic light I spotted a big Mercedes sign on one of the buildings ahead. Let's have a look I said to Sandra. A shop was upfront, but behind it was a big yard with some trucks in it and two guys sitting under the hood of one of them. And there was a big hall that looked empty. We went into the shop in the front and told them our story and what we needed. One guy told me to follow him and lead us into the empty hall in the back. It was spotless clean and had 10-15 workbenches lined up at one wall and that was it. The guy said I could use the hall to work in and he unlocked a room full of special tools and said I could use what I needed. Just amazing. I immediately got to work. Every hour or so they would bring us tea and sometimes some biscuits. I send Sandra to look for some gearbox oil and she came back successfully. After 8 hours all was done. All the men and women from the shop and workshop were still there to say good by to us and when I asked if I could give something for their help there was a big NO. What a lucky day and what generous people.


    colorful landscape

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    a lot of Iran is desert

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    The citadel of Bam

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    the two young ones again

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  12. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Persepolis

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    Yazd

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    with Sandra in her other outfit

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  13. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Wind towers that they brought wind into the houses with

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    Isfahan

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    met some other tourists in our guesthouse

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  14. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    So many incredible places…

    please tell us a bit about riding in Iran? Did you stick to the main roads between the cities you visited? Or did you get to do some “back road” discovery?

    I am also curious about the places you stayed at. How did you find accommodation, and what were those places like?

    Oh, and did you ever read the Tintin comics? Sandra wearing a chador is a bit like the detective twins when in disguise in a foreign country :lol3
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  15. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    At the time coming from Pakistan we could only get transit visas and that didn't allow us to do much exploring. Iran is not a small country and we had to stick to the main roads to cover ground, unfortunatly.
    We found accomodation mainly in the Lonly Planet. Internet had just been born and there was not the huge amount of information available as there is today. Since we hadn't planned to go to Iran when leaving home we only tried to get infos in South Africa, where the plan of going through there came to our minds. We found the Planet in a book store in Cape town. The hotels and guest houses were mainly small places with only a few rooms. Often made the impression of privatly run, but they had to be gouvernment approved. small clean nice places.
    And no, I never read Tintin. Sandra got that chador from a women we met before entering Iran that had come from there and didn't want it anymore. To cover her hair would have been enough and wear something decent, but she felt comfortable wearing it after having some men in Pakistan being touchy in the markets and on crowded streets. Although I don't think that would have happend in Iran. It's a much more women respecting place.
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  16. BornAgain

    BornAgain Been here awhile

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    squardraquota is referring to Thompson and Thompson
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    I was a big fan of Herge' growing up
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  17. BarryB

    BarryB Been here awhile Supporter

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    So, Sandra wore her riding gear, and as soon as she stopped and took off her helmet, she put on the chador? Does she get a little grace period to make the switch? Did she ever get chastised or do other Iranian women go through the same process.
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  18. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    She did leave on her helmet longer than normal and when she took it off she covered her hair until we were in a hotel. She then changed there. they are not that strikt there.
  19. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    The bridges of Esfahan

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    There are cafes on some of them where you can smoke a shisha aswell

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    One of the main places in Esfahan

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    christian churches in an islamic country

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    Getting north and to higher mountains

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    Mount Ararat where Noah parked the arch ( in Turkey allready)

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    Though Iran

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  20. roog909

    roog909 The answer is no

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    Your write up and gorgeous pictures completely submerge one into the travels you’ve made. Thank you for posting! I had a wonderful afternoon reading it al!
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