Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Xpat, Mar 6, 2016.

  1. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Intro

    Another year of rat race gone, another Christmas upon me, it was time for another african bushveld shindig (yep, lots of another in this sentence). Previous Christmases I have headed north west to Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, so it was time to check the north-east. I have managed to score a month off so I got ambitious and wanted to loop through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana backcountry.

    Unlike the second Christmas Safari, which went more or less to the plan (OK, I killed the clutch halfway up the Van Zyl’s pass, but in the bigger scheme of things it kind of went OK), this one ended up much more like the 1st one in that the plan went to shit from day one and the trip turned into my usual hotch potch day by day improvisation.

    Which was a shame, as I have spent many a night plotting a killer route on the Google Earth, following little bush tracks through the 4 countries, including many dune fields along the Indian ocean coast, and 100s of kms of national park boundaries with the big 5 supposedly roaming freely. The plan was to ride the sand tracks up the Mozambican coast from Maputo to Vilanculos, then head west to Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe, follow little tracks along the Zim east and northern border to Kariba, cross to Zambia, follow the tracks west along the north shore of Lake Kariba. After Kariba head further west to the southern border of NP Kafue, turn north along the Kafue boundary all the way up to Angolan border and the source of Zambezi. From there follow the little tracks on the western side of Zambezi all the way down to Kasane, Botswana. Then just head back to Joburg on as much dirt as possible travelling Hunter’s road, Kalahari cutlines and Tuli Block. Like so:

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    It was a good plan. The only glitch was, it failed to take into account that I have barely ridden a bike since the last Christmas and spent most of the year farting in the chair in my little Sandton office. I haven’t done any sport/exercise for few years now and have tried and failed repeatedly to quit smoking. Which didn’t stop me to plan about 200 km a day of Mozambican sandy coast few days in a row each of them more than an equivalent of a DeWildt loop. And of course I ignored the season - both prior Christmas safaris were done in summer, so what can possibly go wrong?

    The above was enough to make the plan questionable even if I would have managed to use the full month for the trip, which I didn’t. After 3 years of trying to chisel the perfect adventure bike out of XT660Z, I have decided to move on and bought KTM 690. So far I have stayed clear off KTMs for adv riding because of their iffy reliability record. But assuming that after 6-7 years or so KTM finally either resolved the issues, or rather - they were known and rectifiable, I bought second hand 2014 690 with Omega rally kit and about 2000 km on the clock:

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    After one quick ride I pulled the bike apart to get it ready for the trip and rectify some of those shortcomings, including: new top and bottom tank bolts to prevent the reported collapse of the rear end with luggage on (this one thing is an eternal shame for KTM as the fix is so easy and cheap), Wings pipe that hopefully will not burn my soft bags, Unifilter, rear luggage rack, Mitas E09 Dakar tyres (why KTM sells these bikes with road tyres - Scorpion or some such - is beyond me), and most importantly took the suspension out for set-up by Hilton Hayward (I was unpleasantly surprised what a crap stock WP forks on 2014 are):

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    Things never go to plan in Africa, so I gave myself two months head start to sort everything out. I have managed to source all the things on time except for a rear spring that kept being postponed week after week. Which was problem as I needed the rear shock to assemble the bike - the rally kit tanks are held in place by the top tank bolts that I couldn’t put back in place without rear shock. For once it wasn’t Africa’s fault, but Dutchmen’s. For some reason (some kind of internal company disputes), Dutchies (Hyperpro or Yacugar - I never know who is who in the Dutchland suspension world) failed to deliver ordered springs week after week. They finally arrived to SA on Friday before my planned departure, but then got lost somewhere in the DHL bowels. Eventually Hilton located it in the airport, where I fetched it on Monday evening and Hilton installed the spring on Tuesday. I then immediately proceeded to procrastinate on the assembly and packing for next 5 days (it was really exceptionally hot during the day this year - sigh of things to come), so I have lost effectively 9 days thanks to the late spring delivery and my lazy ass and lack of mechanical proves.

    So no, I didn’t manage to ride the planned loop, not even half of it, due to fatigue and lack of time. But I still managed to ride lots of nice tracks that seem to be rarely (if at all) frequented by bikers (or even 4x4s), and confirmed that these countries offer fantastic riding opportunities for people willing to get off the beaten track - much more than SA and Namibia combined as most of the land is communal and freely accessible. So this trip ended up being initial exploration for the future more focused ventures into this part of the world.

    Here are some teasers to whet the appetite - of course, ridding solo, most of the pics will be the bike pictures. So if you don't like 690, you might as well stop reading now:

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    I will add here the GPS tracks as I plough through the report:
    #1
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  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    69,950
    Another great intro! You have 2 africa ride reports on the go! Thanks for taking the detailed report and pics :thumb
    #2
  3. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Day 1

    I have finally managed to set-off on Tuesday, December 22nd. The plan/hope for the day was to make it to Marracuene on the northern outskirt of Maputo, the start of the sandy double track up the coast, cca 600 km away. It was a long liaison stage, most of it boring tar where the main challenge was the Komatipoort border crossing to Mozambique - the only main border post between SA and Moz. In the middle of summer holidays just three days before Christmas it was shaping up to be a character building exercise. And there was a real risk that I’m not going to be let into Moz. I hoped to get Moz visa on the border as I did on my prior trip, but just before my departure there was a thread on WD forum where people in the know advised strongly for foreigners (I’m not SA citizen) to get the visa upfront as the visa issuance on the border seemed to be pretty arbitrary, especially in the peak season. So there was a real possibility that I may just bounce off the border and may be gunning it next day in the opposite direction north west to Botswana.

    To give myself a fighting chance I started early before 7:00. First 15 km on N1 went without a glitch, until I stopped at the Shell garage to fill-up. The bike has 3 separate interconnected tanks and I closed them off to prevent the fuel spilling out of the lower two tanks. However I haven’t taken into account though how deep the filler caps stick into the tanks and ended up with petrol spraying all over me and by now hot engine anyway. So I’ve spent next hour in the parking lot sucking the excess petrol off the tanks with paper towels and waiting for the spilled petrol to evaporate.

    An hour later I was back on N1 reeking of sweat (it was properly hot by now) and petrol. Somewhat intoxicated by the fumes I managed to miss the N4 off-ramp - a real Sandton bushtracker that I am - and had to turn back on the next off-ramp, having to paying toll in both directions getting off and on again. Then I got sprayed again by petrol from the front left tank - I was almost starting to like it. Who says you need to leave Gauteng highway network to have an adventure?

    Quick stop and opening the tap between the tanks resolved the problem and I have finally reached N4 and headed into the sun towards Maputo. The ride was the dull slab enlivened only by antiques of overjoyed swarms of Moz heading holidaymakers and my sore ass. I have stopped for late breakfast in one of those rest points near Belfast and then again in Nelspruit for a refuel.

    On stops the bike draws a lot of attraction - naturally, I have never had a bike with so many letters on it, including first owner’s name, initials and date of birth - in the form of race number. The downside is that it makes you (well me for sure) unwittingly act like a blase elder brother of Marc Coma in front of any spectators, particularly of female disposition. Those nonchalant moves came to bite me at that petrol station as I managed to pull the bike off its side stand while fastening a strap at the back, and the bike come crashing down right next to the fuel point. This came to become far too regular occurrence on the trip - posturing aside, the sidestand is just too long once the sag in the suspension is set-up correctly and the bike is filled up with petrol and luggage, and parking the bike turned out to be pain in the ass. I’ll have to sort that out before my next trip.

    Once filled-up I continued on N4 towards Komatipoort, but I was feeling some serious misgivings about what laid ahead. There was a mass of traffic heading that way and I wasn’t keen to face the resulting mayhem on the border, including possible visa rejection by too busy officers. Quick check of the map brought up a possible solution - I turned south and headed to Swaziland about 30 km away. I have made it across the border to Swaziland without a glitch in less than half an hour where I turned east again heading along the SA/Swazi border for the Namaacha border crossing to Moz. By now the sun was getting low and I thought they may close the border for the day, so I was pushing to get there before border closes. I made it to the border on time and even better - there was no traffic whatsoever. I fully expected it to be pretty busy, surely I couldn’t be the only one to figure out this way around Komatipoort only about 30-40 km to the north. But I was, which amazed me even more when I was told later that the line in Komatipoort was 4-6 km long. Those people waiting in those line must have been comatose not to see the obvious workaround.

    The officers were friendly - they gave me a cursory pep talk about how dandy it is to get visa upfront in embassy, but then proceeded to issue me one without a problem. Score! They even had official price list for it, so I guess it is still legally possible - I wouldn’t try it in Komatipoort in peak season though.

    Once in Mozambique, the urban scenery immediately changes into a Brazilian favela with bright colours and plaster peeling off the decrepit concrete buildings - the portuguese influence is clearly visible, as are the scars of the civil war. Nevertheless, to my amazement, I was able to withdraw Meticais from the only ATM in town (and to my much bigger amazement it turned out later on that you can pay almost everywhere with payment cards - even in remote villages hundreds of km from tar) and afterwards pushed hard down the serpentines off the mountains towards Maputo racing the setting sun.


    At the bottom of the hills I came to a T junction, where I had a decision to make. Left going north to Moamba on my original route from where I had plotted dirt roads all the way to Marracuene, bypassing Maputo completely. Right would take me straight through the middle of Maputo. Normally I would turn left without a second thought, but it was almost dark by now and the Maputo route was only half the distance, so I made up a theory about most of the Maputan’s already out of town in their beach houses up the coast and turned right. That lasted for few kms until I hit the peak traffic head on still way out of the Maputo proper and had to switch into full street-fighting mode. Unlike most westerners I do enjoy a bit of the trademark African traffic chaos and disregard of rules (SA, Botswana and Namibia do not qualify as Africa as people follow the rules more or less there) and soon got into the swing of things riding like an idiot swaying around stationary traffic alternating between the dirt riding on the shoulder and lane splitting against the oncoming traffic. It was fun, but with 550 km and two border crossings under the belt for the day I tired soon and persevered in the dark through the heat and fumes driven only by fantasies of medium rare stake and nice bed in Jay’s lodge in Macaneta.

    The slow, stop and go traffic and the tropical heat were ideal for the KTM to show its character. The rev meter started acting erratically and eventually quit completely, the fan was on more or less all the time, and I was getting cramps in my left hand clutching my way through the choke a block traffic thanks to that truly stupid close ratio gearbox. Oh and my speedometer quit already in Joburg – I was sure it was blown fuse, but didn’t bother to change it as it also disabled permanently ABS, which is how I like to have it. I eventually came to like this bike a lot with all its ‘character’( especially as it didn’t leave me stranded which is all that matters at the end of the day), with exception of that stupid close ratio gearbox, that IMO is an epic KTM fail.

    It took about two hours of intense urbane fighting to get me to Marracuene which I’ve reached at about 7:00pm. I still had to cross the Incomati river to reach the bliss of cooked meal and bed and was greatly relieved to see that the ferry was still operating. Normally they close at 6:00pm, but due to high holiday traffic they kept operating longer – bless their soul. Being on bike I jumped the long queue of cars (the ferry has limited space and according to locals it takes regularly about 4 hours wait to get car to the other side) and took the next ride to the other side. Then it was quick dash of about 5km or so on a good dirt road until I reached turnoff to Jay’s Lodge another 5 or so km away. I’ve been here before and knew that the double track to the lodge is one of the most brutal sands you can find even in Moz as it crosses the coastal dune field. So uncharacteristically for me, I have stopped and lowered the tyre pressures to about 1.3 bar and set-off. And I battled, battled bad. Tired from the long liaison and checked out mentally too early assuming I’m already there, I even had to resort to a duck-walking in places – not a good sign for the next 600 km or so of the same shit I had planned for me.

    I have made it eventually to the lodge, where I inhaled in quick successions few sodas and beers, followed by some kind of meal that I don’t remember. Somewhat recovered – or so I thought – I still had to brave about 1,5 km of brutal sand to the chalet following the two ladies from the lodge leading the way. It was easy for them in their hard core Daihatsu Terrios 4x4, but me and my Dakar replica suffered badly in the deep uneven weaving sand and they had to wait for me couple of times. To say that I was relieved to see the chalet would be a gross understatement. I was tired like a dog and hit the bed straight away.

    Sorry I have no pictures from this day - it will improve going forward. Route for the day:

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    #3
    RussellM likes this.
  4. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Day 2

    I woke up early before sunrise still sore from the prior day liaison and decided to take the day off - a record of a kind for me, a rest day after just one day of riding.

    Me casa:

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    I went for a walk on the beach, where the local fishermen were getting busy to rope their daily catch in.

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    This little girl picked me up at the chalet and accompanied me staying always exactly out of reach:

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    The fishermen playing the tug of war with the sea:

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    They used boats to get the nets out to the see and musle on the shore to pull it out:

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    Biggest catch of the day:

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    Not much actually for all the effort, but good enough for me - I have a suspicion this one ended up being my dinner:

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    Yesterday in the mad dash to make it to the ferry before it shuts down I didn’t stop to refill, so one chore for the day was to go back to Marracuene for a fill-up. Still painfully aware of my yesterday’s struggle in the sand I took the luggage off and set-off in shorts and t-shirt for the 20 km round trip, stopping for a breakfast at the lodge. I hit the sand with apprehension remembering yesterday’s fiasco, but well rested and without the luggage it was a breeze and I was able to sail the double track mostly in third sliding rear into the corners. My sand riding mojo was back! Which was a good news considering I had about 600 km of sand to cross to get to Vilanculos.

    I’ve made it to the ferry in no time, jumping the queue again. With all the developments on the beaches around Macaneta, the ferry is a major choke point causing serious delays. So it is probably a good thing that Chinese are busy building a bridge across the river, though I shared the lodge manager’s concern that this will bring in crowds from near by Maputo with all attendant issues destroying current tranquil vibe of the place.

    Ferry across Inkomati - note the bridge on the right being build by the Chinese:

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    Once in Marracuene I have filled up and withdrawn more money as a reserve, and made it back to the lodge before lunch to the amazement of the staff, for whom this 20 km round trip usually takes whole day due to the delays at the ferry.

    Back at the lodge's parking lot:

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    After yesterday’s mad dash I’ve spent rest of the day feeding at the lodge and chilling in the pool next to the chalet. Relaxed, not even the playlist at the lodge consisting from the Afrikaan’s folk-pop (or whatever is this curious genre called), Brian Adams, and Modern Talking could destroy my inner peace - at the end of the day I still have sweet memories of shaking vigorously to the tunes of Cherry, Cherry Lady as part of the early mating rituals in the late 80’s. I also chatted to the lodge boss-lady who saved my ass on my first visit 4 years ago, when the subframe bolt on my TE630 snapped and she managed to fabricate one from an old bolt we found in her shack. At the time my mate and I were the first people who made it to the lodge on bikes and not much has changed since – they had probably handful of people in plastics there since, but no adv bikes. So if you are looking for an initiation ritual, just take your GS to the Jay’s lodge, you won’t be disappointed 8).

    I wrapped the day with hearty dinner and few beers at the lodge, hiked back to the chalet, and packed up for an early departure next morning and hit the bed early.
    #4
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  5. PapaLazarou

    PapaLazarou Adventurer

    Joined:
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    UK
    This is great... What a beautiful place :-)
    #5
  6. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Looking forward to this one!
    #6
  7. goodcat

    goodcat Changing latitudes, altitudes and attitudes

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    Fabulous report !!!!!!!
    And it's lucky I am a big fan of the KTM 690 w/ the rally kit ..... so I am more attracted to this RR hahaha
    #7
  8. IndiBiker

    IndiBiker Been here awhile Supporter

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    Sounds good. :lurk
    #8
  9. DesertRatliff

    DesertRatliff Tinker Tinker Ride Ride

    Joined:
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    Alright!! I've enjoyed your previous reports immensely, but this year you're on my dream bike. Definitely in for this one...
    #9
  10. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Day 3

    I woke up before 5:00 am keen to start early while the temperature was still bearable. Still on my Sandton inner clock, it took me a whole hour to get ready to go.

    As I’ve said in the intro I spent a lot of time planning this trip. By that I mean squinting for hours at the Googlemaps satellite images zoomed in to the max, and clicking every 20-30 meters at anything that resembled some kind of track going more or less in the desired direction. I didn’t spent any time planning where to stay as that seemed pretty obvious: Day 1 – still fresh for a nice ride from Jay’s lodge to Zavora, day 2 from Zavora to Tofu beach, a day of rest and ride up to Vilanculos on day 4. To put it differently, 350 km for day 1, 100 km for day 2 and about 250 km on day 4. Navigating winding double (and single as it turned out) tracks across one big coastal dune field all the way to Vilanculos, in the middle of one of the hottest recorded summers. Somehow I missed that in the plan.

    So the objective for the day was Zavora 350 km away, most of the route following the sandy coastal tracks, with the exception of about 30 km in Xai Xai where I had to hit tar to cross the Limpopo river bridge. Delusional, of course, but I didn’t grasp it yet. Buoyed by yesterday’s good form I set-off, realizing very soon that it wasn’t a mojo I found yesterday, but the luggage I lost that made all the difference. Fully loaded I was battling from the get go - the bike front end was very flighty and unpredictable throwing me off the balance – I just couldn’t get into the rhythm. To make things worse, unlike yesterday when the morning was nicely overcast and cold, today the sky was clear. As soon as the sun was up it was getting unpleasantly hot even though it was still before 7:00 am. It took me undue long time to backtrack 3 km back to the village on the verge of the dune field, where I turned right onto the sandy double track running between the coastal dunes and inland flat fields heading north towards Bilene.

    I’m quite used to having to find my foot in sand after a long break, so I pushed on. The problem was by now very evident lack of fitness.I was losing my clearly small energy reserves way faster than recovering those forgotten sand riding muscle memories. Lacking the energy I was riding tentatively which inevitably led to the bike/sand bossing me around, rather than the other way around, sapping my energy further. I had to stop every km or two to recover, losing precious early morning riding time, getting hotter and hotter, losing more energy, resulting in more frequent stops … the usual snowball.

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    I’ve ridden this particular trek before and knew within about 10 km from the village I will have to cross another 10-15 km of a dune field. By the time I made it to the entrance to the dunes I was more or less wasted - about 13 km into the 350 km planned route. A bit delirious I have made half-hearted tentative attempt at the dunes - never good in sand which requires nothing less than total commitment. Within few 100 meters I was defeated, not having an energy even to attempt the duck walk. I laid down in the shade of the bush contemplating the situation. It was exceedingly clear that I will not see Zavora that day and the chances of making it at least to Bilene 80 km away seemed very remote. What was worse, this whole trip was in balance as I seemed not been able to make it even through the very first dune field (Jay’s approach excluded) I faced – there were 100s of kms more ahead. What made it especially depressing was that I have ridden this very same track 4 years ago on TE630 and it was a joll - admittedly after heavy rain though.

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    But there weren’t many options left – yes I could turn back, but even in my state it was still too early to throw the towel in, I had almost 3 weeks to kill. Once my body temperature and associated monkey-mind settled back to operable levels, I checked GPS and noticed that there was an alternative track on T4A swerving inland and then back looking like it may be bypassing the dune field. As far as I remembered from the last trip, the track became much easier on the other side of the dune field, so it seemed like a plausible solution. So when I was able to muster enough energy to turn the bike back I backtracked to the start of the dune and turned right following the GPS track inland. It was sand of course but more manageable as the track was flat and mostly straight, with no bushes trying to fight with. I was able to ride again, and didn’t have to stop all the time.

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    Eastern European thrilled by the unlimited sand riding opportunities:

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    The point where the T4A track turned back to the ocean – which I assumed was on the other side of the dune field – turned out to be just another entry point in the dunes, albeit at least few km further up. This one was less steep and better-trodden, I could see tracks of heavy truck which conveniently flattened the track a bit. By now I didn’t care anymore, so I hit it with reckless abandon resulting in my first wipe out about 200 meters up the dune – no biggie, soft sand is nice to fall into. I took a breather waiting for the radiator fan to switch off. So far, KTM was taking it in its stride. I had to stop regularly to let it cool down, and when hot it did hesitate to start – took usually two tries, but otherwise OK. But I had an uneasy feeling in my gut as it had to take a lot of abuse to compensate for my lack of talent. One thing that didn’t help was that stupid close ratio gearbox I have moaned about yesterday. So far due to the lack of talent I have spent most of the time winding my way through the bush lugging in 2nd and way too much time in wound up 1st in dunes. Only occasionally I managed to lug it in 3rd as it was just way too fast for comfort on the tightly wound track. And I had to clutch my way through many tight spots adding to my fatigue and worries about possible clutch burnout. I cursed myself for not swapping the 15 front sprocket for the 14 in Jay’s lodge – I considered it, but got complacent after the false success of the prior day’s round trip to Marracuene. And I couldn’t help to ponder how much easier this would be on the TE630 – partially due to its wide ratio gearbox and partially due to its Enduro form, better suited for this shit than rally IMO. But then I may have been just delusional.

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    Anyway, without many options left I have resigned myself to the fact that I have to make it through the bloody dunes one way or another, and as it usually happens I finally got my mojo back and started making good progress (funny that the surrender so popular in religions seem to work really well for sand riding too). I moved on gear up and managed to swerve around bushes most of the time in 2nd and 3rd. I had one scare when I came too fast into a right corner, and the momentum thrown me straight in the air, narrowly missing a tree and landing in somebody’s garden.

    The breakpoint came on the other side of the dunes. I have fully expected the track to ease up significantly and was very unpleasantly surprised that it didn’t. If anything it got worse, turning into the bottomless powder pit. Funny how much difference a rain or rather lack of can make here. I still had about 60 km of possibly same sand to Bilene, and my heart was not in it anymore - especially as I there was a much easier alternative (no not crossing the dunes back). There is a mud road heading inland across the fields in one of the villages ahead, crossing a bridge over Inkomati in the middle of sugarcane plantation and then joining the main tar road in Manhica.

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    Refreshment stop in the village where I was to turn inland for a dash to tar. Not in my best shape I first laughed at this pretentious guy clad out all in white - unitil I realized that he indeed is a doctor:

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    But I still had to navigate about 10-15 of deep powder to get to the village, which took me with one long pause about an hour/hour and a half. From there it is easy10-20 km on compacted mud roads to tar in Manhica, where I stopped at a garage for drink and a brainstorm. Initially, feeling defeated I just wanted to give up on this whole sand riding and just ride up to Zavora about 300 km away on tar – it was about lunch time, so it was perfectly doable. Few cold Cokes later some of my original resolve cropped up again and I decided to head for Bilene about 100 km away (tar loops inland so it’s much longer than the sandy track), recuperate on the beach for the rest of the day and pick the track up again from there tomorrow morning.

    Bilene, overseeing postcard lagoon, turned out to be this beach resort kind of place with one strip surrounded by lodges, restaurants and souvenir shops. After being rejected in two different backpackers that were full I resigned myself to stay in something called Complexo Palmeiras. I thought it to be one of those pompous beach resorts, but it actually turned out all right with good restaurant and relaxed non-pretentious atmosphere. I have settled in one of the chalets and spent most of the afternoon in the lagoon cooling down. Sufficiently soaked I went for dinner in the restaurant full of family holidaymakers (it was Christmas Eve) and then headed back to the chalet to prep for the next day.

    I decided to make few changes, to give myself a chance after today’s fiasco: I swapped the front sprocket from 15 to 14 to get more manageable gearing and lowered the front end in the triple clamps about half a centimetre. Now it may seem counterintuitive as that would normally make the bike less stable, but I felt that my front end was just too light (especially with about 35 kg of luggage at the back) and therefore lacking traction and unpredictably flighty. The theory was more weight upfront equates more traction. We’ll see.

    Good rest and food did miracle for my mood and I felt cautiously confident that with the better gearing and traction I might be still able to salvage this trip. Universe also seemed to agree, as it started raining. I was probably the only one in that resort who really rejoiced at that.

    Bilene - Complexo Palmeiras:

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    Route for the day:

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    #10
  11. goodcat

    goodcat Changing latitudes, altitudes and attitudes

    Joined:
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    Location:
    British Columbia
    Great report.... and your detailed description of fighting the sand came through loud n clear. I can feel your pain.
    Nice beach villa to recoup at.
    #11
  12. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

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    Oddometer:
    799
    Location:
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Thanks for the comments, appreciate them.
    #12
  13. LivnLif2TheFulst

    LivnLif2TheFulst An Adventurous Soul

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2013
    Oddometer:
    597
    Location:
    Columbus Ohio
    Great stuff… :clap... look forward to following your RR... it's certainly a bucket list of mine to someday ride through Africa…
    #13
  14. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    799
    Location:
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    #14
  15. goodcat

    goodcat Changing latitudes, altitudes and attitudes

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Oddometer:
    4,768
    Location:
    British Columbia
    Thanks for posting those RR links.
    They look fantastic.
    As if I don't have enough reading on my plate haha :imaposer
    #15
  16. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    799
    Location:
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Day 4

    I woke up to the heavily overcast sky. My heart has flooded with joy and hope - the weather gods were clearly on my side. A beautiful grey gloom - none of that stupid turquoise blue sky with the bloody sun trying to boil you alive! Yep, riding a deep sand in Moz in the middle of summer leaves one somewhat at odds with the rest of the humanity.

    The track headed from Bilene north east along the coast and then about halfway turned north following Limpopo to Chicumbane where it joined tar on EN1 tar about 80 km away, just ahead of the bridge over the Limpopo river and Xai Xai (I couldn’t find any other way to cross Limpopo so had to take tar for 20-30 km here). The track was bit of a mystery. No one, including locals in Macaneta and Bilene, seemed to have heard about it, yet it was clearly visible and routable on Googlemaps – I didn’t have to plot this one myself. Well I was about to find out if it really exists.

    The objective for the day was simple, yet crucial for the fate of this trip: try to ride the whole track all the way to Chicumbane. Once there, I would figure out where to next depending on the daylight left. However, if the yesterday’s fiasco happens again and I wouldn’t be able to make it, I would have to rethink seriously this whole trip.
    I didn’t bother to raise too early as I found yesterday that the bikes/quads are not allowed to enter my track before 7:00 am. The track initially passes by few upscale private beach properties and the fat cats clearly don’t enjoy sound of a four stroke in the morning. Bloody private investors screwing it up for us, adv riders! (Should I own one of those properties I can assure nothing would be allowed past at least till 8:00!)

    I set-off soon after 7:00 and straight away had to get up a big dune raising inland from the lagoon. It turned out the whole section from Bilene to Limpopo river about halfway through, was one big dune field. The dunes were very different from the ones I rode from Macaneta. Macaneta dunes were low white sand heaps, overgrown with thick coastal bush and the track had to weave in-between the heaps and bushes. The dunes today were much bigger - more like small mountains of thicker reddish sand, with some grass but very little bush and the track crossed them more or less in the straight line.

    The clouds, kept the temperature bearable, sand was nicely compacted by the rain yesterday, short gearing and straight faster track definitely helped and I was able to stick to the 3rd for relatively long sections. Yet, I still couldn’t get into the flow and was constantly finding myself on the wrong foot when the bike bucked underneath me. Again I was losing way too much energy way too quickly and had to stop for a breather every km or two. It was kind of like trying to swim 50 pool lengths under water: Psyche yourself up, set off, hold on for dear life until the things are more or less out of your control (almost drowning in the water to stick with the analogy) and then stop within km or two exhausted trying to regain your breath for next few minutes. Repeat.

    It was depressing business realizing how useless I became, and after about 10 km I was ready to throw the towel in. The fact that that I haven’t made it yet out of the gravitational reach of comforts of Complexo Palmeiras aircon chalets and restaurant didn’t help. Few cigarettes later I calmed down sufficiently to be able to see that it was way too early to give up – I had plenty of time left, the sky was still nicely overcast, the sand was still much easier than yesterday. Remembering advice from Bill the Bong on WD I have lowered the pressures in my E09 Dakars to about 0.8 bar. That sounded quite radical - I have used these tyres on most of my prior trips and usually run them at about 1.3 front / 1.5 back, admittedly on much heavier Tenere (well, and on about the same weight TE630). But who am I to argue with someone who spent few Amageza’s figuring this out, so I just followed the advice. I wasn’t riding any rocks so the risk of snakebite seemed pretty low.

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    Those mountains on the horizon are just bigger dunes:

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    It seemed to help and things eventually started to come together. I was able to ride more consistently, conserving energy, extending the stops to about every 4 – 5 km. Finally I was actually riding, rather than just trying to make it through, which really did helped to raise my mood melting the snowball that seemed to build up again earlier.

    First about 20 km were running more or less straight across red dunes following telephone cable with relatively little growth and no settlements or villages - probably just a service road for the cable:

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    To be continued.
    #16
    twflybum, markgsnw, mbanzi and 2 others like this.
  17. goodcat

    goodcat Changing latitudes, altitudes and attitudes

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Oddometer:
    4,768
    Location:
    British Columbia
    If your sidestand can support your bike then it looks like that path is much better than the previous day?
    How did the tire pressure drop work for ya.
    Off roading is all about tire pressure. No matter what vehicle. We all learn that lesson sooner or later.
    #17
  18. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    799
    Location:
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Yes, it was much easier than prior day. The thing is I was just horribly unfit, haven't ridden bike for almost a year and haven't done any exercise for probably 2 years. And the prior day extersion didn't help - but it got better eventually as you will see.

    I was ridding at the time about 1.1 - 1.2 bar front and about 1.5 back (normally on tar I would be ridding 2 - 2.3 front and 2.5 - 3 back). But it also depends on tyres - I had Mitas E09 Dakar (not standard E09) which are very stiff and hence required to go even lower - I ended up riding them at 0.8 bar front and 1.1 back. And the front E09 sucks (back is great for dry riding and lasts for ever for a knobbly).
    #18
  19. kalahari-k

    kalahari-k Kalahari-K

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    202
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    That track looks like my nightmare if I had luggage, even without on my DR650. I'm looking forward to seeing how this unfolds! Did you have a satellite phone again? I was in Villancoulos in 1960 as a kid - hope you have some pics if you got there! This is another interesting, very remote trip. Thanks for posting.
    #19
  20. beltipox

    beltipox Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Sicily, hearth of Mediterranean Sea
    Whoooa fantastic...i can just dream of Africa for this Life...
    #20