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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    Hey Wayne, so we´re in the same situation.
    Two old guys waiting for thier bones to heal.:lol3
    I don´t feal old, do you?
    We´ll be fine. And what is one season when we got plenty in the future?
    Take care and heal fast!
    Cheers Thomas
    #41
  2. BCBackRoads

    BCBackRoads Travels with Gumby

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    In my mind I’m still 30. Body......not so much. Time to heal and get back into shape (round is a shape) for next year. Hopefully the world will be a bit saner. All the best to you and heal well.
    Cheers Wayne
    #42
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  3. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Leaving Djanet our goal was Tamanrasset and again the hoggar mountains on the way. The weather was perfect and the piste easy to find. I was still with the two Germans from the ferry and now with a Swiss couple in a Range Rover. The group stayed together after Tam to go north. Arriving on the campsite in Tam everyone there was excited. The Dakar (then still Paris-Dakar) was arriving in Tam that evening. It was the 9. Dakar to ever take place. We set up our tents and got back on the bikes to ride out to the bivaouc that was out of the oasis on a flat piece of land. In those days you could just walk around and look at everything and talk to the people. Nothing was locked off. We stayed there until late at night waiting for the competitors to arrive, but there was not much happening. That day it was a 600 km stage and that took time. One car and a bike had arrived when we decided to go to bed and come back early in the morning. When we arrived at daybreak the bikes, cars, and trucks were still coming in, while the first ones were starting already for the day’s stage. Those poor guys. We watched the whole action for a while and then went back to the campsite. We had bike maintenance to do.

    leaving Djanet

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    getting closer to the Hoggar mountains

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    from the top of the Assekrem again - always an impressive view

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    after days on the piste you all of a sudden see a straight line in the landscape. A paved road and you close to Tam.

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    The Dakar back then - you could just go and walk up to everything

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    #43
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  4. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Going north the decision had been made to start on the Amguid-piste again, but then turn west towards In Shallah. Everything was going well until I suddenly could see my front fender over the head mask I had mounted to the bike. That´s strange I though and stopped the bike. I was standing on the left side of the bike looking if anything was wrong when the Swiss stopped on the right side of my bike. He got out and asked that was going on. I told him what I had seen and that I was looking for a cause. All of a sudden his eyes grew about twice the size that they normally had and he pointed to the frame on his side. I went around the bike and there was the problem. A big problem. The frame of the beemer was broken and not only a little. The main tube from under the tank and one of the two tubes going under the engine were broken through and bend apart. No riding on like this. In the meantime the two other bikes showed up and we all thought about what to do. We came up with the idea to take the fork out of my bike and strap the two sand ladders on the Range Rover under the oil reservoir of the BMW. Then tie the sand ladder ends onto the bumper of the Rover and pull the bike as a fifth wheel behind the car. Luckily at that time a bumper was still a bumper and not just a piece of plastic. After all my stuff was stored in the Rover I had just enough space to lie on top of everything. Between my feet I could see the top of my tank. That was my sight for the next three days always ready to shout in case it should suddenly disappear. In In Shallah I reassembled the bike and we pushed it to the customs office. Luckily I had an insurance from the german automobile club that covered the transport of my bike home even from Algeria. Luckily In Shallah had a small airport so I called the automobile club, gave them the address of the customs office, and took the next plane to Algier and then home. The bike arrived three weeks after me.

    Going north

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    preparing for the night

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    we past some really big dunes,
    those dots down there are our vehicles

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    and then disater struck, look closly and you can see the broken frame


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    ready to move on

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    What to do with the BMW? At the time I was working with BMW in Munich and a college told me about a girl in a different department that was doing desert trips on a bike as well and was even working on doing her first Dakar rally. He took me to her and we started talking. It turned out it was Jutta Kleinschmidt that was doing her first Dakar on a bike and later became the first woman to win the Dakar, but in a car. She knew some guys that were building the BMW bikes that won the Dakar at the time. It was a small company consisting of three guys. HPN was their name. She took me to them and I saw what they were doing. Really nice work. Well thought through and professionally made. I bought a reinforced frame from them, a longer swingarm, and some bits and pieces and started to rebuild my bike and make it better suitable for the desert.
    #44
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  5. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Almost forgott.

    the red line is this trip and the cross is where the frame broke.
    Hope you can see it. Maybe zoom in a bit. The other lines are other trips (the first one and the previous ones)

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    #45
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  6. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    Bad luck with the frame. I guess it shows manufacturers (and perhaps riders as well) back then had little experience with the type of abuse bikes suffer on adventure trips. Compliments for the improvised tow, African style :-)

    you had good contacts at BMW! So we could say after that your GS was sort of the HP1 version? :lol3

    To date Jutta is still the only female Dakar overall winner in any of the classes. And the only German winner.
    #46
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  7. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    Great story and incredible landscapes. Thanks for taking the time to post.
    #47
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  8. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    The next winter I was back with my “new bike”. It had changed quite a bit and oh what a difference it was to ride it. The longer wheelbase made it much more stable in the sand and my new luggage setup with less unnecessary things was great because lighter.

    Again I was alone arriving at the ferry, but left it with two other bikers. I didn´t ride very long with them because one didn´t see a rough spot and had a bad fall doing summersaults with his bike. He had a broken collar bone and the bikes parts were scattered all over the place. We managed to get him to the next oasis that had a hospital and an airstrip and he was picked up by an emergency plane the next day, and brought home for operation. His friend somehow got scared and he went home also. I found another guy to carry on with and we made it to Tam together, but then parted. On the campsite in Tam I met a group of bikes and a truck that had all met on the road and were heading to Niger. That sounded interesting and I asked if I could join them. They all agreed and we headed south. It was a bit tight for me as I had a ferry ticket back to Italy and had to be back at work in time. But I had never been that far and I was willing to risk it. The problem was that I had to go back the same way and find someone I could join because doing it alone was too risky.

    The group came along together very well and we had a lot of fun. Arriving in the first town in Niger, Arlit, I we bumped into 2 bikes and a truck going north and because that was possibly my only chance to find someone to travel with I turned around and joined them.

    The rest of that trip was pretty smooth and I returned to Europe in time.


    My "new bike", almost ready for Dakar

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    I even put a 1043 cc kit on it and the increased power and torque was good fun

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    it looks firm, but the sand underneath was soft and needed speed

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    The crash site - parts lying all over the place
    on the right side you can see the strange bumps that the guy didn´t see, raced directly into them with a good speed, and that threw his bike into the air with him loosing control

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    the unlucky guy with the wrecked bike

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    he had a broken colar bone so we tied him up to get it better back into shape. (I don´t know the english word for this )

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    we later got his bike back together the best we could and spend the night there.

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    just look at that pannier

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    By pure luck the next morning a local showed up by foot and said hello. He asked if we were ok and we told him the story. He turned around and pointed to an empty truck standing on the road in the distance. He was going to the next oasis and could take the bike and rider. Perfect.
    #48
  9. BornAgain

    BornAgain Been here awhile

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    "Splint" is the word your looking for. Loving the report takes me back to younger days.
    #49
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  10. BCBackRoads

    BCBackRoads Travels with Gumby

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    Nice! The bike and rider look way better balanced on this trip. Thanks again for posting.

    Wayne
    #50
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  11. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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    (I don´t know the english word for this )

    What's your word?
    Luvin this!
    #51
  12. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    I was looking for the word for this figure 8 bandage we made for the broken colar bone (look at foto in #48)

    The name seems to be "splint" as "bornagain" mentioned.

    Glad you like it. Stay with me - there is more coming.
    #52
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  13. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    The landscapes were always amazing

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    NOOO! Don´t approach a dune from the soft side. you´ll get stuck

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    Told you so

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    The groupe heading south to Niger

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    A place for the night - no need to ask anyone for permission

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    groupe shot

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    #53
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  14. Cafeguzzi

    Cafeguzzi Been here awhile

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    was that a Borgward truck?
    #54
  15. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    our Xmas tree that year

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    the dunes of Laounie, a soft sandy stretch where a lot of guys driving old cars to west africa to sell them didn´t make it.
    a car grave yard in the middle of nowhere.

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    The guys I joined to go north again

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    Just look at these wide openness. It is not like you would ride a day from one place to the other. No.
    You would ride sometimes for many days to reach the next village and there is nothing and noone in between.
    Just amazing.

    I then found some other guys to go further north with.

    Some didn´t make it

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    We then spend the night at some huge dunes. I remember that I would get speed in the plain at its foot and race into the sand wall with 120 km/h going higher and higher shifting down the gears and in first make a turn and stop. I got sort af scared when I saw how small the others were down there. The only way down was with spinning rear wheel and a lot of throttle. Looking at the line I had made I realized - I hadn´t even reached half of the dunes height.

    Mist over the dunes in the morning

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    On the map you can see the town Arlit written by hand. That is as far as I got then.

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    That was the 3rd trip.

    More to come
    #55
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  16. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    The first one could have been an old MAN - not sure.
    The second one - no idea - too long ago.
    #56
  17. Mark64

    Mark64 Adventurer

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    Hi Thomas, looks like the Sahara is really etched in your memory, I guess you have the sand in your blood, I'm lovin your work fella, fabulous photos and great literature to accompany them, keep them coming pal.
    #57
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  18. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    OH yes it is. I've been there many times and I loved it. It almost broke my heart when everything went bad down there and the times of independant, easy, and safe travel were over. I am still looking for desert places to go {and I find them - look in my signature} and go there as often as I can.

    Glad you like my memories, but I won't share all of them with you. That would take me too long. You gather quite some stories in 40 years of traveling.
    #58
  19. BornAgain

    BornAgain Been here awhile

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    If you post them I'll make time to read em :lol3
    #59
  20. lilgman

    lilgman n00b

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    I just want to say thank you again for sharing these great memories and pictures!
    #60