Earthlings Through The Eyes Of A Wandering Biker (RTW Photos!)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by strikingviking, May 11, 2004.

  1. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    Approaching Namibia from South Africa

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    After near extermination of the indigenous tribes, southern Africa developed from European stock in a similar time-frame, though on a smaller scale than the US. Roads, terrain and architecture look the same except that cities are further apart with less development in between.

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    Entering the Namib Desert north bound.

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    In Namibia, when I am not camping in the desert, scattered remote farmhouses established by eighteenth century German immigrants provide soft spongy beds in hundred-year-old, but polished clean wooden bunkhouses.

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    Overnights with old-time homesteaders are refreshing upgrades with outdoor stone bathrooms and communal kitchens to cook fresh butchered lamb chops that farmers sell.

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    But the repeating scenery grew old as roads toward the coast remained washboard gravel with endless miles of beige colored sand.

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    Then suddenly Africa erupts into the glory of geological splendor.

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    Approaching the celebrated Red Dunes of Sussusvlei, diesel truckloads of young European overland voyagers rumbled in for their share of tourist gouging. Prices are shockingly high. With southern Africa lacking a competitive industrial base, most goods are imported and heavily taxed while greedy merchants also take advantage by exploiting budgeting travelers who have no choice where to shop. Compared to Asia, this region is unreasonably expensive, so trucking overlanders spend most of their trips camping, with occasional evenings in Backpacker hostels for hot showers and Internet connections. Before the rampage of civil war in Sudan made it too risky to traverse, the common route for these hearty adventurers was through Eastern Africa, beginning from Cairo and ending in Cape Town.

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    But recently, combined with the open banditry of Northern Kenya, the new course has become Nairobi to Cape Town. (Now the genocide in Darfur can continue with fewer witnesses.)

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    #61
  2. PackMule

    PackMule love what you do

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    Breathtaking, Glen. Enjoying the new book, and the pics are fantastic accompaniment. :freaky
    #62
  3. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    With two thousand miles left to Livingstone, Zambia where fresh tires are scheduled for delivery, timing is going to be close. Anyway, the newly paved double-lane Trans-Kalahari Highway beginning from the coast is easier on rubber than the previous long stretches of sharp gravel road. Riding east out of the hot desert sands leads into a cool, pleasant plunge through a heavily wooded landscape. <o:p></o:p>

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    White African cities were interesting but departure was a welcome relief as the last one, Swopkupmund, disappeared behind me into foggy ocean breezes. Once back into the countryside, among the occasional leaping gazelle and black masked Oryx, herds of three hundred pound demonic-faced warthogs stood their ground staring while grazing roadside. Rippling with thick shoulder muscles, and coarse haired swaybacks, double rows of upturned tusks make them the ugliest beasts of the jungle. With every mile, Africa now displays its wilder side.

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    As warnings and concerns of robbery and murder in South African cities faded, the time had come to see how simple jungle villagers live. Swirling orange-purple flares during a primal Namibian sunset signaled that the moment had arrived to seek black Africans in their tribal environment.

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    Riding the first suitable footpath through a tree studded thicket led to a sprawling enclave of random mud huts reinforced with wooden poles. With a worn-out sign painted in English words, one building stood out from the rest. Mbeyo Baptist Church.

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    At the sight of an invading alien, twenty of forty lounging natives fled as the others watched warily from a campfire. Eventually, a hesitant yet curious, tall scraggly elder approached to investigate. Holding forth my hand with a mighty Viking smile eased the barriers.

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    “Greetings from America. Is it okay if I camp with you tonight?” <o:p></o:p>
    Answering in British accented English, he sounded so proper, “Yes, of course you may sleep wherever you please, all visitors are welcome in Mbeyo.” <o:p></o:p>
    “So, why then have those people run away?” <o:p></o:p>
    “When some of us see white men, we are afraid that you have come here to kill us.” <o:p></o:p>
    “No, I am only a friend who has traveled around the world for one and half years to learn from your village.” <o:p></o:p>
    “But you are from a great country, what can we teach you?” <o:p></o:p>
    “We are both from great countries and can learn from each other. Maybe you can remind me of what’s been forgotten.” <o:p></o:p>
    “We are the Kavango and this is our church. We are Baptists but others here are Catholic and Evangelicals. Can you help us contact American Baptist missionaries?” <o:p></o:p>
    “Well, I don’t know any but if you write a letter, I’ll photograph the page and post it on the Internet. Why do you want to contact them?” <o:p></o:p>
    “Because the missionaries will come and make electricity for us.” <o:p></o:p>
    “Why do you want electricity?” <o:p></o:p>
    “So we can have computers and Internet.” <o:p></o:p>
    “And televisions and stereos too?” <o:p></o:p>
    “Yes, yes, of course, we want everything just like American people.” <o:p></o:p>
    Pointing to a single room mud hut, I ask, “But if you acquire those things, you’ll need a bigger house and an extra job to pay for it all.” <o:p></o:p>
    This confuses him. “But if the missionaries come, unemployment will end and everyone will have lots of money.” <o:p></o:p>
    Pointing to groups of idle men standing next to women busy tending fires and stacking wood, I ask “What do you do all day now?” <o:p></o:p>
    “There is nothing to do for many months while we wait for the rains. Then we will plant seed. Anyway, you are in time to hear our choir practice.”

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    The Mbeyo Baptist Church was built with the same mud and pole materials as the rounded huts, only bigger and square with a hard-packed dirt floor and rows of uneven sawed wooden benches. Inside as two young boys warmed up on goatskin drums, the low humming choir began to shuffle with gyrating hips, matching the rhythm of a hollow barrel beat. <o:p></o:p>

    Between powerful harmonizing vibrations and subtly stamping bare feet, a fine dust filled the air, almost obscuring the undulating slow-motion dance. Clear, alternating octaves from converging voices gave me tingling goose bumps and shivers with hairs on end. Although airborne swirling particles made breathing difficult, it was impossible to rise or resist the hypnotic lure of entrancing upbeat hymns. As the Mbeyo Baptist Choir erupted into spellbinding synchronization of explosive melody, I found myself sucked into layered extremes of primordial life emerging in African song. <o:p></o:p>

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    #63
  4. PackMule

    PackMule love what you do

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    Glen, I cleaned up some HTML code in one of the posts that was keeping the following posts from appearing (and blocked the "new reply" button). :scratch



    Feliz Navidad, Amigo. Seeing your pics again is the perfect present. :freaky
    #64
  5. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    Exiting Namibia for Zambia[​IMG]

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    As one of Africa’s poorest countries, Zambia still holds its head up from primitive villages accepting roving strangers who happen by. Lacking the fanatical friendliness of Asia, acceptance here requires explaining this journey with photographs through fire-lit evenings winning hearts and hesitant smiles from wary natives. Histories of slave trading and genocide may be old to Westerners but not to Africans. Over the centuries, during lulls in exterminating or enslaving each other, colonialists arrived to take up the slack. Today, if not soldiers, other foreigners in Africa are aid workers living here to tie assistance to converting to new religions.
    Africans should be grateful that thirty-seven separate Christian and Muslim sects landed in time to explain to them that for the last ten thousand years, they have been worshipping the wrong Gods. Yet, less populated and poorer than other African countries, Zambia’s future is promising.

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    Still underdeveloped in hotels and lodges, two main asphalt roads connecting borders east to west make it possible to cross the country in any weather to discover what is in between. Run by European ex-patriots, backpacker hostels continue as the slums of adventure travel with greedy owners exploiting the unsuspecting.
    Cramming tiny rooms with rows of narrow bunk beds and one hallway-broken-down bathroom for twenty or more, these pitiful hoaxes appear at first as bargain accommodations for ten bucks a night. Lacking private transportation, a captive audience of trucking overlanders gets hoodwinked into paying over-inflated prices for food, Internet and laundry. Vagabond motorcyclists dodge the gouging by venturing around town to determine where locals eat and shop services.

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    It has been over a year since encountering another long-rider so I was surprised to meet a trio of bikers touring Southern Africa. No matter the nationality, motorcyclists share a common bond. Just as these German bikers had assisted in my parking lot tire mounting,
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    we noticed a missing bake plunger pivot bolt. Never mind, a metal pin dug from of their spares along with electric tape made a decent substitute.

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    Benefiting from Mugabe’s chaos in neighboring Zimbabwe, tourists exploring Livingstone have stumbled onto superior views of Victoria Falls and less commercial game parks much richer in animal life.

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    Still on target for following the sun, southern hemisphere rains have begun with ferocious evening thunderstorms lasting until midmorning. Crossing the equator again next month in Kenya marks the beginning of dry-season and a clear, although rugged journey north. Even occasionally drenched, the ride across Zambia was pleasant with sporadic stops to chat at dilapidated roadside produce markets.

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    Across the road, licorice-skinned women in colorful long dresses balanced reed-woven baskets high on their heads while they chattered and bargained for shriveled vegetables. Vivid patterns of blues and reds contrasted with their shiny black skin.

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    After quizzing loitering truckers about their homes and families, I asked for a picture and received an unexpected reply. “How much are you going to give me?”
    Surprised because cheerful natives are usually first to ask for photos, I countered, “How much is it worth for a memory of meeting a friend?”
    Embarrassed with head hung low, the barefoot young man clad in ragged, brown shorts shuffled away only to return moments later with handfuls of soft yellow fruit. “I am sorry, please take these mangos and always remember the people of Zambia.” In the heat of an afternoon tropical sun, we joked about life on the road and shared sticky succulent pulp.

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    Unlike Asia, camping in Africa has been convenient and economical, but wildlife threats on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia now made that questionable. At night, the jungle is an aggressive world of predators battling up the food chain. Survival is the only given. Although strict herbivores, in Africa, more unsuspecting people are killed by hippopotamus than scorpions, snakes and lions combined. Standing between a hippo and its water refuge results in a stomping, crushing or tossing into the air. With that in mind, it was better to sleep in a farmhouse campground while deciding where next to proceed.

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    #65
  6. Bryn1203

    Bryn1203 Dances with spaniels

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    Hi Glen

    Your road trip is fantastic ! Simply amazing. Or are you just crazy ? :evil

    Have you considered offering your books downloadable for cheap skates like me ?

    Keep it coming. The only bit of Africa I know is Morroco - which I backpacked in the early 80's. I bought a carpet. I was back packing & had to lug it about on my back ! They can be great salesmen :lol3 I look forward to learning about your exploits there.

    cheers

    Bryn
    #66
  7. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    SV,

    Just ordered the book. I got away from the thread for a while.

    Timmer
    #67
  8. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    Thanks amigo. If anyone else out there reads the book, please post a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
    #68
  9. ElReyDelSofa

    ElReyDelSofa Desubicado

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    Found this book under my Christmas tree this year (maybe the blatant emails with an Amazon link helped :D ). I am really enjoying reading it as well as Ted Simons second Jupiter book, I had not realized you and he crossed paths in S. America until now.

    Thanks again for writing it, provides great inspiration for my eventual launch South.

    Saludos,

    Martin

    #69
  10. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    Hello Glenn.

    I met you at a presentation you did at Cliff's BMW in Danbury CT about 4 or 5 years ago. We later went out for beers with a bunch of us FF's.

    I just stumbled across this thread again, and once again I'm awed by your humanity.

    It's New Years Eve and I wanted to wish you a happy one. :thumb

    Peace.
    Q~
    #70
  11. Durangoman

    Durangoman Yeah its me!

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    Great Pics of an Awesome Adventure...

    :clap
    #71
  12. Tomos

    Tomos Adventurer

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    Happy New Year Glen :clap
    #72
  13. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    Yes and yes.
    #73
  14. JaxObsessed

    JaxObsessed American Anti-FAscist born and raised. Supporter

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    Hi Glen, Damn man it's like we're exactly the same except for the being in a biker gang, traveling the world on a motorcycle, doing martial arts, being brave, getting through being a political prisoner, being an extroverted people person, uh and wanting to get my ol ass off the couch. :lol3...ceptin for these things it's like we;'re fuc$ing twins!!! :thumb

    Great Job!! Thanks for letting me live a more adventurous life, vicariously.
    Jack
    Ps I'd buy the book if I could get someone to read it to me.... Dyslexic. Any plans for an audio book?
    #74
  15. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    Ask and you shall receive. Here it is.
    #75
  16. Jedediah

    Jedediah Been here awhile

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    Of all your great photos, and there are many, I like this one.

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    Jed.
    #76
  17. Oldwin1

    Oldwin1 Long timer

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    Glen
    I guess I quit following you after you gave up the Mexico scenery pictures. :lol3
    Just ordered the new book. Can't wait to read it.
    Ron
    #77
  18. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    Wandering eastward across southern Africa from Zambia into Malawi, lush tropical fields waver in warm afternoon breezes.

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    Wary natives greet me with mild suspicion, wondering about this strangely-dressed foreigner's intentions--am I there to convert them to a new religion, to kill them or feed them?

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    As usual, curiosity prevails amongst the youngest.

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    With English spoken as a first language, communication everywhere was easy. After selecting a dirt road entering the forest leading toward the mighty Lake Malawi, I sought refuge for the night.

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    Villagers seldom refuse a stranger shelter for the night

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    But there are always questions first. Who am I? Where do I come from? And why am I there.

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    After explaining that I've come a long ways to meet them and to learn from them, the mood changes.

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    Relaxing along magnificent Lake Malawi for a few days was the perfect way to recuperate and study maps revealing the route north into Tanzania.

    An elongated body of water covering half of the country, life centers around gigantic Lake Malawi for fishing and maintaining surrounding rubber tree plantations. A long tiring day ended at the edge of darkening blue waters lapping at pebbled beach coves. Ringed by simple huts hidden in shaded forests, this scene has likely not changed for a thousand years. Camping in native villages evolves into a deeper experience as the lives of locals unfold. Crowded and lively, after sundown every hundred yards another group of laughing youngsters kicked up dust as they practiced singing and dancing for upcoming tribal festivals. If lacking a drum, they clapped in encouraging beats as performers in the middle shimmied and pranced to chanted rhythms. Wandering through the smoke clouded village, fire lights and a full moon reflected off shiny black faces flashing dazzling white teeth. While passing in between huts made of simple material, teenage natives grabbed my arms, guiding me into their circles to see the clumsy white man flail.

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    At dawn, with a last glimpse backward at an east African sunrise scene to be remembered, I bid farewell to new friends who I will never see again.

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    #78
  19. PackMule

    PackMule love what you do

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    Bump, for one of the best photo essays on humanity ever recorded. :freaky
    #79
  20. strikingviking

    strikingviking Long timer

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    With its sharp rise in socioeconomic status from Malawi, eastern Tanzanian countryside became a worthy distraction bursting alive in vivid natural colors and wild animal life. From a half-mile away, women were easily visible, reflecting sunlight off soft cotton fabrics of brilliant ruby reds and dandelion yellows coming into focus from distant blurs across the canvas of African savanna earth-tones. <o:p></o:p>

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    In a scene out of Star Wars, silhouetted against the pale blue glow of an early sunrise sky, towering, long-necked giraffes paused to consider the intruder. Once violating their safety zone, a half dozen magnificent spotted beasts casually stepped across the meadow into graceful slow-motion strides, vanishing into forests of Camel Thorn Trees. <o:p></o:p>

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    Animals accustomed to the rolling thunder of speeding diesel rigs panic at the sight of any slowing vehicle. Even when cutting the engine to coast in silence, herds of grazing gazelles with sweptback corkscrew horns immediately bolted in methodic sprints for the security of faraway tree-lines.

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    With hairless pink butts thrust high in the air, roving families of arrogant baboons sauntered fearlessly back and forth across the road. Roguish creatures known for unpredictable behavior, they are a force to reckon with. Sinister dog-like faces baring sharp curved fangs confirmed warnings that close-up encounters could go either way. <o:p></o:p>

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    Curious, black and white striped zebras grazed in nearby fields but always at safe distances, warily eying a two-legged trespasser on a shiny rumbling machine. After spooked into short dusty gallops, they stopped to return my gawking amazement.

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    Every hundred yards, more wildlife scenes commanded a halt, yielding either to trumpeting bull elephants trampling highway shoulder grasslands or wondering at the groan and growling from within quivering underbrush.

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    Back in the cities.
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    Nearing the eastern coast, traditional Islamic garb replaced Western pants and button down shirts for all but Africa’s most noble tribesmen.

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    Evidence of past invading cultures contrasts with traditional Masai, erect in royal postures clutching trademark long-handle herding sticks. Tall and thin with beanpole legs sprouting from beneath baggy Roman-style tunics, these princely, jungle warriors now contend with tourism and twenty-first century technology while battling to survive government relocation plans.

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    Between pressing cellular telephones against gaping, pierced earlobes and controlling vast herds of cattle, they hold an eye to maximize any circumstance.

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    All my suspicions are confirmed—this mighty landmass is more a separate universe than just another continent. With a day left before Christmas, a mesmerizing plunge into Africa continues in an evolving alternate saga a million years old.
    #80