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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    Sadly you will have to forget that. The border between Morocco and Algeria have been closed for decades. No getting through there. And the sahara part of Algeria is only possible with a guide (didn't look at that lately, but I doubt it as changed). So you'll have to look for a new dream.
  2. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    For the photos just hang in. We are in Cameron. Next up is Central African Republic then Zaire. We are getting there.
    In some aspect it was not so much different in those days. People were nice and curious, fuel was hard to get sometimes especially the more remote you went so a good range was always comforting, where there are people there is food but sometimes you cannot be picky, and the border crossings are often tiring. I haven´t been to Africa for over ten years, but I don´t think that that much changed. There are for sure a lot more people around like everywhere on the world. The big difference are all the electronic divices we have nowadays and all the information that comes with them. GPS, internet, computers, smartphones - that all made a big change in traveling. Just think of all the information we have today, the knowledge of where we are and where we can go, and the posibility to comunicate almost everywhere. We had map and a compass, infos out of a few books or articals that were on the market, and we talked to eachother and exchanged infos. There were a few traveller events in europe back then where you could meet others and in Africa there were a few well known campsites mainly in the capitals where everyone went and where you would ask around where everyone was coming from in order to get infos.
    Just imagine: when I left home my mother would give me 20 dollars and say call me once, please. And I would have to go to a post office somewhere, ask for a line, wait in a row, and when I finally got the line I could talk for 2 minutes and pay 20 dollars.
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  3. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    The upper part of Cameron was all dry grassland. Going south we then all of a sudden had a green wall in front of us. The jungle started from one step to another and was dense. There was no bush-camping anymore. You just couldn´t get off the piste. We would stop in a village and ask with sign-language if it was OK to put up a tent and sleep there. It was never a problem. It was funny that the villagers would sometimes sit in a circle a bit away and talk to each other, but watch us all the same. In other villages they would stand right next to you and watch what you were doing.

    We made our way to the capital Yaounde for a couple of days and then headed east. We were aiming for two things: we had heard from some guys with bikes that had managed to get a lift from a boat on the Congo river and had said it was quite an experience. And we had heard from some other guys on bikes that had taken an interesting route that was very direct, but had an uncertainty. To connect two cities a German company was building a real tarmac street from one side and the Japanese were building a road from the other side, but there was still a stretch missing. The guys had gotten through by using footpaths and said it was doable if it didn´t rain. These two things were in Zaire (what is now the Congo). To get there we had to go through the Central African Republic. Not a very exciting part of the journey, but it cannot all be good. We spend some days on a campsite in the capital Bangui where we met three other Germans on bikes. Telling them what we were up to they decided to join us as they were going in the same direction.

    still in northern Cameroun

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    further south

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    bridges on the way

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    In CAR

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    pretty little fellow

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  4. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    I was referring specifically to crossing from Kenya to Cameroon. Impossible, well, that is always debatable, but for sure very difficult and with real dangers these days. Too many guns and crazy ideas in too many places…

    these days you never hear or read from people traveling in these parts, so therefore I find Thomas trip very interesting

    but you sure are right about dreaming of such trips, we should never give up on that! :nod
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  5. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

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    I know of one recent-ish (2010) trip report that involved an interior route through Zimabwe, Zambia, DRC/Zaire, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. It certainly is, well, something. But I don't want to spoil the surprise, you'll have to read it yourself:

    http://www.donkeyandthemule.com.au/April-2010.html
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  6. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Yes your right. that route is possible. Multiple people have done that in the last decade. Sorry I didn´t clarify. The northern route we took at the time has not been done in a long time as far as I know of. As I said: too dangerous and not maintained. That is what I know.(often not very much Sandra says)
  7. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    We all rode to Lisala on the Congo-river and hoped to get a ride. There were three more bikes with us at the time. Austrailians – cannot remember where we bumped into them. We were on a campsite and every day some of us would ride down to the river to see if any larger boats had arrived. And then Frank came. He was the captain of a push-boat that was pushing two pontoons filled with fuel up the river. He spoke perfect English and was willing to take us up to Bumba. He would let us camp on the pontoons during the ride. He wanted to leave the next morning and only had to find a way to get us on board. The next day we all were at the river ready to go. There was a dock-like thing up the river a bit on the ground of a company and we were allowed to use it to get on board. After we all were loaded the ship set off further up the river. It was an interesting ride. Canoes would come to the “ship” from the villages along the river and sell all sorts of things – Maniok, fruit, fish,… In the evening Frank would park the boat somewhere at the shore as it was too dangerous to go on during the night. Too many sand banks. Frank would then walk around all night with a big revolver sticking in his pants guarding the boat.


    In Zaire

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    carrying boards was in order to cross

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    a little washed out

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    The whole gang taking a break

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    stopping in a village

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    Little soft in spots

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    another nice bridge

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    The locals would often bring us chairs when we camped in their village although they were mostly sitting on the ground

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    setting up camp

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  8. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Getting on the boat

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    on the Congo river

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    some were running low on drinking water - filtering the brown river water

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    life along the river

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    the locals had put some alligator legs into the sun to rot. I don´t know if they eat that, but the smell was almost unbearable

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  9. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

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    Unreal Thomas!!! Love these retro reports, especially of Afrika variety. Thanks for taking the time to post this.
  10. Watercat

    Watercat . . . gravity sucks

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    ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ What he said . . . . Digging this report, thank you for digging out your old pictures and posting them with the commentary to go along with them ! ! !
    Reminds me of the piccies in the French magazines we used to peruse in French class back in the late 70's.

    Brilliant ! ! !:beer

    :clap :happay :clap :happay :clap :happay :clap :happay :clap :happay

    Thanks again.
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  11. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    thanks for that, good read! :thumb
  12. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    After some days we arrived in Bumba where we got off the boat and said fair well to Frank. We then followed the tracks bringing us to Kisangani – our next stop. We were lucky because it hadn´t rained in a while and the tracks were in good shape. We made good time and arrived on the campsite in Kisangani ready for a couple of days rest. We had one big task. We needed fuel and a lot of it. After asking around we found a guy that could sell us a whole drum of fuel – 250 liter. We let him bring the drum to the campsite, unloaded it, and let it sit for some time. Then we would take a hose, stick it to the bottom of the drum, and suck some out to see if water had set at the bottom because it is heavier than the fuel. Mixing fuel with water was a common scam in Africa. All was good, we paid the guy, and filled all the bikes evenly. And then the day before we wanted to leave it happened. It rained. But it didn´t just rain. It was almost solid water coming down and that for hours. I was sitting in my tent with a rag and soaking up the water that was coming in through all the small and tiny holes in the floor from the thorns and sharp rocks I had laid on. Looking outside I could see that the tents were standing in a large lake that filled the campsite. Then the rain stopped and we could at least sleep during the night. The next morning the sun was shining again, but the earth was wet and muddy. We all got up and discussed what to do. Some of us had a timeline they had to stick to – me included, and we were eager to get moving. We decided to ride to the end of the new tarmac road and see what the route further looked like. Off we went and were soon on a perfectly smooth road. A quality we hadn´t seen in a long time. Reaching the end there were several camps from the Germans building the road. We asked the first guy we saw how the stretch in front of us was. He said: the water is so deep, holding his flat hand to his neck. Great. We went to the next camp where we asked for a place to camp. I asked a guy there if he thought we could get through. He told me that there was only ten kilometers missing between the two tarmac roads and that they had been through there with a bulldozer a couple of days ago. He said a 4-wheeler had no chance, but with the bikes it should be possible. Now that sounded better. The next morning we got up early and left the camp in the hope to get through. We did, but it took us the whole day to do those ten kilometers. There wasn´t much riding. It was slipping from one mud puddle to the next where at least one of us would get stuck. It was a team effort. One of the guys had a rope with him that we would often tie to the stuck bike and some would pull while others would push and the owner would rev and let the wheel spin. In the late afternoon we finally made it to the other side and even found a shop that sold beer to celebrate. Believe me we bought quite a few bottles.

    And off we went

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    and the mud started

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    That´s how it went the whole day

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    The bikes were a complete mess

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    and we didn´t look much better

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    We made it - the other side

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  13. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    I would imagine 10 kilometers of mud made you guys bond together. Have you ever had a reunion with these guys since then?
  14. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Nope, never saw any of them again. When traveling you sometimes team up with people for some stretch for different reasons and often find out that they are ok for the time, but are too different from you to make a friend. I have made life long friends while traveling, but these guys don´t belong to them. We had a great time together, worked as a team in the mud, and went our separate ways.
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  15. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    great job Thomas and really digging this report. it seems like back in my younger years, found some old National Geographic magazines in my uncle's house. same feeling of excitement digging in the good old past.

    thanks for posting them here. truly you are the past and present....:bow

    what's for the future?
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  16. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

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    each and every post makes me more regretful for not taking the day off for a meet and greet in Vancouver. :muutt
  17. HandCanonShootr

    HandCanonShootr Been here awhile Supporter

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    Ahh, great memories, pics, old(er) bikes, less political strife, open (muddy) roads.

    Thanks Thomas for this...

    Would love to see "Before & After" pics of these areas, if anyone else was thru these parts recently.

    Thx again
    Mike B
  18. NoelJ

    NoelJ Long timer

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    Google Maps satellite view, as well as the tagged pics they provide, often reveal a lot about the state of an area.
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  19. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    The next morning we all would sit beside our bikes with a screwdriver and free our caked cooling fins from the stone hard mud that had dried between them. Took us quite some time, but was necessary for good cooling. Then we parted from the rest as they had other plans than we and headed to lake Kivu that is on the border between Congo and Rwanda. Along the Virunga mountains we then headed north to the border of Uganda. Because I was running short on time the rest of the trip went in a pretty direct line to Nairobi. I still had to figure out how to get the bike back to Europe.

    somewhere on the way

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    lake Kivu

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    crossing the equator in Uganda (some may recognize the sign - place looks a little different today although the sign is still there)

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  20. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Thanks for the kind words. Having done motorcycle travel since I got on my first bike in 1980 its hard to stop unless you have to. I´m not there yet and always have a lot of plans in my head. Lets hope this bug thing is over soon and I´ll be riding again. Where to first? Who knows? Its often a very sudden decision.

    Yes, you should have taken that day off and met us. I am still grateful for you letting me do an oil change at your place and the girls had a nice chat I think.
    Who knows - we might be passing through where you live in the future. Maybe we can meet then.


    Your welcome.
    Don´t think anyone made it through eastern Congo lately and if so I would like to see what the tracks looked like after probably years without maintanance.