Osadabwa's Retro-Africa Ride Report: 2004 - 2005

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Osadabwa, Feb 13, 2015.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    At the very basic “Palma Hotel”. Under different circumstances, I know I’d be psyched to be here. Descending from the hill you can see past the Frelimo Monument down to an endless sea and a coastline completely covered in palm trees. It’s a bustling place, and surely a very cool one to explore, but I’m not enjoying it much since I crashed Rosie again today. Hard.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Palma’s Frelimo Monument with fresh wreath

    We’d already covered some 360 kilometers by the time we reached Palma. From Pemba, it was tarmac through dense bush, then fast and fun dirt with slow technical rutted ascents and descents north of Mocimba da Praia. Lunch was amazing – prawns and chips at a roadside joint – and basically things were going great until Palma.

    We were pushing our luck and I knew it, but went ahead with it anyway. From Palma, there are 40km to the Tanzania border on a 4x4 track through sandy bush apparently lined with unknown thousands of land mines. We were advised to not even piss off the track in this place, so it seemed pretty serious.

    At 16:00, after a long day already, I looked down the track past Palma’s huge church – sandy already – and wished I didn’t have to go. I should have waited, could have waited, but was weak and gave into 620’s urgency to get to Tanzania. My weakness, my punishment. Sod it, let’s go!

    620 and Katy burned up the sand and vanished. They were having no issues, but I was immediately struggling (heavy bike, smooth tyres, high tyre pressure = bad news). I was fighting to stay on the bike with all my strength and trying all the tricks I’d learned to date for riding in sand: stand up, grip with the knees, give it some throttle, lean back slightly etc… But your head has to be in the game too, and mine wasn’t. I was busy trying to convince myself I could make it when every fibre was telling me I couldn’t.

    60 kph, 70 kph, engine racing, wheel spinning. The bike was supposed to be floating over the sand by now, but it wasn’t. I was being pulled and pushed around and I was getting scared. I tried to focus on a point far ahead, grip with the legs, give it more throttle – a recurring mantra – and to not think about the landmines lying in wait just off the track.

    It happened fast, but not fast enough that I didn’t know it was happening. I was standing, leaning back and giving it more gas, pretending I was in control when I wasn’t in control, pretending I wasn’t scared when I was scared. Then the front tyre climbed up the sandy berm between the tracks and I found myself sideways. The rear tyre eventually followed, but when it did, it lurched, and the front tyre jumped back to the other side. The sideswiping action like a whip. I’d been twisting the throttle more and more with every weave until I finally lost my grip.

    Tossed free of the bike, I landed on my back in the sand and grass. As I flew through the air, I thought I might be blown to smithereens, but landed softly enough and experienced immediate relief that the deed was done. I lay there peacefully, aware as if in slow motion that my bike, still on her wheels but quickly becoming gravity’s plaything, had dug into the sand and flipped forward, landing on her top with a shattering of glass and the hollow crunch of plastic and metal.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Crash site, bike in the grass, wreckage and busted parts

    I lay there a moment, after the motor died, content and serene, completely unharmed and totally clam. Warm and quiet, feeling the Earth holding me. But in Africa, somebody always disrupts your peaceful musings. The crash had villagers running toward me from all sides talking animatedly as though I’d just fallen from the sky. I half wanted to feign death, if only to jump up and shout “bugabugabuga!” at the first person who came close!

    Alas. The bike looked twisted and hurt when I got her up on her wheels. It took an hour to free the handlebars from the munched headlight assembly. I had to bodge-wire the speedometer onto the handlebars to make the bike run, but the headlight was toast. The bike looked like a bombing victim, but she ran.

    How will I sort this out in the middle of Nowhere Mozambique? How will I face that sandy track again tomorrow? Maybe I’ll find it funny tomorrow.
    #81
    Dacquiri likes this.
  2. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    4,014
    Location:
    LacLaBiche Alberta Canada
    #82
  3. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Hey JustJeff. Glad you're enjoying watching me fumble my way across the continent! It's odd writing about it so long after the fact. I'm trying to relay the feelings I felt back then, even if now I see the situation differently. I'm a much better rider now and have internalised all the tricks (including the rear brake drag). Sand doesn't worry me any more, but back then it was my nemesis... it would keep me up at night thinking I'd have to fight it the following day. The ironic part of this particular crash is, I went back there in 2010 on an XR400 and the sandy bits were the best part of the trip! Here's that RR... it was my first on the forum. Cheers

    Back to it

    ---------------
    Another country. That makes six, counting Zambia. Time is really flying, but it’s because there’s never a dull moment. Anyway, I awoke slowly on the porch of the Palma Hotel, a subtle smile on my lips from a nice dream. Then I remembered my wounded bike and the ride ahead of me and my smile went serious in a snap.

    I spent an hour bending back the pannier boxes and hooks, tying up loose wires, and lashing the speedometer to the handlebar. We had tea and mandazi with some of our last Mozambican meticais and I let the air out of the tyres to 20 lbs (note: the guys at Cytech in Joberg had me convinced I should roll mostly sick tyres for the entirety of the ride and suggested I ride 3 bar… which is what I had in them when I crashed. That, kids, is shit advice. Sure, the tyres would last forever, but at what cost?). Off we went, and amazingly (or perhaps not), it was no trouble at all. I cruised by the crash site shaking my head. I knew I could have avoided it all just by lowering the tyre pressure, though waiting a day probably helped too. I shook away a dawning depression, accepted what was done and enjoyed the struggle through the sand.

    It was deep almost continuously, and consequently I was crawling. It occurred to me that with a bike this awkward there are times when it should be ridden like a truck carrying precious cargo. Sand and mud are two of those times, I now knew. The track hugged the bush, denser than I’ve ever seen, scratching the panniers and smacking my handlebar as I went. We passed a sign for the Halo Trust that gave us an explanation for the dense foliage: land mines.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Halo Trust – NGO de-mining group – on the way to the Ruvuma

    Now and then a cassava field would precede a village lined with palm trees and surprised villagers going about their lives. The trail also had its share of elephant dung and though it was not fresh, I remembered that during a trip to Lower Zambezi I saw how elephants could vanish into the bush and be only meters off the road then come charging back in again, trumpeting away and ears aflair. Consequently, I rode with extra caution.

    The customs and immigration guys were easy and waved us toward the final 5km to the Ruvuma River where we haggled with a mob of characters for a place on their boat. In the hot sun, we walked the bikes down the hill, onto a plank and over the gunwales of the boats. Rosie and Katy sat side by side with a half dozen guys and one fat official taking the afternoon off. Not 20 feet off shore, the boat driver started begging for petrol from one of the bikes and right on cue, the engine cut out. Cheeky. We gave him the dirty dregs from 620’s jerry can and off we spluttered. On the other side of the river, it was the same procedure in reverse: gunwale, plank, riverbank, haggle and bargain and pay. Welcome to Tanzania!

    [​IMG]
    Above: Loading Katy

    [​IMG]
    Above: Loading my defaced Rosie and crossing the Ruvuma
    #83
  4. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    I gave the guys at the VETA Vocational Education school 80,000 shillings for three days of almost continuous, tedious work reshaping my headlight subframe, bending back the boxes and supports, riveting the plastic beak back into shape, fixing the mirrors and fabricating a mount to hold a 50 Watt truck headlight that would get me past the police. They were chuffed.

    Now, Saturday, having shared two dozen chapatis with the guys, paying up and saying farewell, I took a few cautious rides around Mtwara town to see how well they’d funga-fungua’d all those little fiddly bolts. Tomorrow, I could hit the tarmac coastal road (the way 620 did, several days ago on his way to Dar and Nairobi) but instead, I’m going inland on dirt… I shall cross Tanzania clockwise from 4:00 O’clock to Noon… if the bike holds together!
    #84
  5. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    I’m completely exhausted. Up at 6:00 and on the road by 7:30, I didn’t arrive to Tunduru until 18:00, 450 odd kilometres of gruelling dirt road later. I think I should have my head examined. I intentionally shunned the tarmac road to Tunduru this morning. Nine times out of 10, that would have been the best choice. Small roads are far more interesting usually, and the riding’s more fun. Not today!

    [​IMG]
    Above: Sand to Masasi

    For the first 250 km, to Masasi, the dirt was either rapid-fire potholes or deep and awful sand. Given that three days of work were required to repair my bike from my previous adventure in sand, I was understandably gun-shy… and yet still, even after what I’d been through, was unwilling to drop the tyre pressure as much as I needed to.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Better dirt

    The road was hell. Continuous bumps, constant rattles : “Was that the weld breaking? Is my headlamp falling apart?” No interesting scenery at all, just village after village and the road swarming with people – usually the highest concentrations of whom were there as I lost control in the sand and dropped the bike or got stuck. Or, if nobody was around, I’d drop the bike just as a lorry was plodding toward me, honking. Rotten riding!

    [​IMG]
    Above: Road was kinda chewed up here

    At Masisi I chowed some roasted cassava and bananas after a Catholic priest at the petrol station indicated I could reach Tunduru before nightfall. It was a tight squeeze, but I made it. The first bit of road out of Masasi was promising enough, and while for the morning I’d averaged a measly 40 kph, I was now able to push it closer to 60. There were longer stretches without potholes and the sand was less grabby. Still, though, I was concentrating so hard I hardly had a moment to look around to appreciate that the scenery had opened up to vast vistas in spots.

    At some point in every ride of this length, everything comes together and starts to click. You start riding like the bike is an extension of your own body, lithely shifting weight, pushing the throttle fast and nimble and easy across the open World! For me, today, that feeling lasted about 20 km, approximately the length of time it took me to digest my cassava and bananas. Then it just got worse and worse. I’d start making headway and then I’d have to stop to fix something before it fell off or eat something before I fainted. As the sun sank, I started feeling critically fatigued, and sure enough that was when the deepest sand hit. I finally let the air down in the tyres, but by this point it was little help.

    I limped into Tunduru and found a guest house. After a bath, I pulled the bike onto the porch and walked into the dark streets in search of food. Lots going on out there in the night: shops are open, hawkers are selling their wares, guys are gambling, drinking, loitering in doorways. I chose a Muslim joint for good meat and a bit of football on the television. Switzerland v. Croatia. Eurocup ’04. It’s good to watch a cup in Africa.
    #85
  6. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    I was awakened by a knock at the door: “Immigration!” they yelled.

    I thought I was in for it, or maybe the bike had been stolen. Nope. Just being nosy. So I got rolling, lubed the chain, pushed Rosie off the porch and made tracks following my nice oily chapatti breakfast. At the petrol station a guy told me the road ahead would be bad, but added “aren’t you afraid of the lions”? That hadn’t crossed my mind, so I said I was more concerned about the road.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Funky flower closeup in the Wildlife Corridor

    For 20 km the road was fine, then it was sand, then it was fine sand. Not in a rush, I decided I would let my pressure out and go slowly. There were no stones, just sand, dirt and potholes with dirt around them. It was still rough going. Later on, the lion warning became clearer as I entered a signed “wildlife corridor” linking Niassa National park in Mozambique with Selous Game Area in TZ. The road was rough, but the views were spectacular. No lion sightings though.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Southern Tanzania wildlife corredor

    In Songea well before dusk, after at least 3 Jockey staining close-calls with oncoming jackasses, I found digs and took to the streets on foot. Fast internet meant I could catch up back home, and I met a man working in a closet on radios and VCRs who owns a beautiful old BMW. In Songea.

    [​IMG]
    Above: In Songea

    [​IMG]
    Above: Southern Highlands
    #86
  7. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    100 years ago today, Leopold Bloom took a walk around Dublin in Ulysses – or so the BBC has reminded me. I should have brought that book with me on this trip…

    [​IMG]
    Above: Leaving Songea

    The trip from Songea was tarmac of the very best sort. I used every angle of my tires on the turns and twists. It went on for hours, hill after hill, long views of fields and village and bush. Quite pretty and very very easy.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Njombe

    After a lazy, gray afternoon wandering the market stalls and backstreets, I returned and found two PCV’s at the hotel. They were keen to chat and good for a laugh. Another girl I met earlier seemed stressed out. She was bustling around, no time to talk, and in a rush to call her mother in the US on her cellphone. Poor girl doesn’t get it… you gotta leave the USA if you’re going to do the Peace Corps. Technology is making that harder.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Njombe kids

    So, chatting away the evening over Tuskers, I was convinced to stay another day and ride around the farms before climbing the Livingstone Mountain track I’d settled on to Mbeya. That's tomorrow's plan settled. Now to bed.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Sugarcane and draughts

    [​IMG]
    Above: Spoons and grain, Njombe

    [​IMG]
    Above: Market women (check the one on the right, ha!)

    [​IMG]
    Above: Cane seller
    #87
  8. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Yesterday I went in search of a flower farm owned by one of the PCVs’ friends, but got bumping down a maze of dirt roads and got lost. Actually, I never even knew exactly where I was going, so I didn’t mind. The whole village scene outside Njombe is fascinating. The hills and the long views, fields, plains and very little forest with houses hugging the roadside was something I’d never seen. Where did the trees go? Why so few cattle? I was going slowly and taking it all in, the sunshine was warm and the path narrow and bumpy. I realized the bolt holding my sub-frame had fallen out and even after replacing it, it was clear I need further repairs.

    Back at the Hotel, I met with the PCVs, one of whom, amazingly, was from Greybull Wyoming, 45 miles from my hometown. What were the chances? We drank the evening away at the local club and then came back to the hotel to shoot stick. I woke up pretty puny, but it was worth it. I intended to leave early, but was in a lingering mood. I think I’ve been starved for company, talkative, easy going company. The PCVs had made the stay memorable – a well needed break from the lone biker’s life.

    I finally started up and rattled out of town on the road that would take me the long way to Mbeya through the mountains cupping the Northern edge of Lake Malawi. I was taking my time. The scenery was stupendous. The hills just kept rising before me. I twisted and turned, the villages in the distance rolled below me, then up to meet me, then behind in a cloud of dust.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Views

    Around noon, I was tightening that ever-loosening sub-frame bolt. When I stood up, there was a Mzungu on a BMW R80 staring at me. He was German, on the lookout for a place to live. I envied him that. Unfortunately, he was riding it the opposite direction, so after some nyama choma and a coke, we bid farewell.

    [​IMG]
    Above: More views

    How had it gotten to 15:00 already? That made me nervous. The hills were just climbing steeper and steeper, the air colder and colder. Higher I climbed into a cloud forest, deep and misty and lush. The fields were a blanket of patchwork greens. As I climbed farther, the oclors vanished with the thickening fog. I had less than 10 meters visibility –at times much less – and was crawling up the steep, rutted hills in a misty drizzle. In no time I was frozen to the bone and the time had gone past 17:00.

    [​IMG]
    Above: The fog

    I stopped in gloomy Kikondo, a place that doesn’t show up on my map, where I quickly became the talk of the town. The flophouse I found was a dump, but they had beers, and inside I met two women (Gift and Rachael) from Zambia! They are buying potatoes to transport back to Lusaka. It’s a long way, and the stories of corruption and hassle are legendary. We spent the evening talking Nsenga and business and Zambia. Unbelievable. It has capped a very interesting, wonderful, and surprising day.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Gift and Rachael
    #88
  9. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    It’s been a crazy day, as they all have been I suppose, and as usual it was different from what I expected.

    I awoke and looked out the window: still murky as used bath water and cold as a morning of hunting. I hadn't slept all that well due to the courtship of one drunk man with (I believe) one of the Zambian business women in the room next door. At first, she was firmly rejecting his proposals, but it became clear he managed to persuade her. The constant reggae music into the wee hours didn’t’ help my slumber either. Anyway.

    I was on the road by 8:00. The terrain was just as steep and rocky, but a clearing sky brought with it the ability to see the stones before I ran over them and I was making good time. Considering how much I was gawking at the beautiful morning scenery of green fields and hillsides, it’s a wonder I didn’t crash.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Dusty roadside flowers

    In no time I was in Mbeya, but didn’t stay longer than needed to buy insurance and fill my belly and bike with fuel. It was tarmac to Tunduma and dusty, corrugated road to Mpui where I now sit at the Catholic Priest’s invitation, sipping a Safari Lager and swatting mosquitoes in the long gone daylight of this lovely Friday in Africa. A hammermill rumbles in the distance. A few birds chirp. I feel at home.
    #89
  10. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    A belly full of Tanganyika fish at Oscar the aquarium fisherman’s house in Kasanga. By the light of a weak solar bulb and my headlamp, I scratch out a few memories from a great day.

    I left Mpui after bidding the Father farewell and enjoying a couple of chipatis with my sweet, milky tea. He firmly refused payment for the accommodation, food and beers insisting that good conversation had been payment enough. We’d stayed up after a wonderful beef meal, chatting by candlelight about my proposed bike route while the president, the Pope and two Zebras looked from their frames on the wall. The Father was gentle and kind – if a bit sauced by the end of it – and made me feel very welcomed.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Morning at the Father’s humble abode – scene of beer drinking the night before

    The cold air of the morning didn’t hold down the dust much. The scenery as usual was vast and quietly agrarian… all yellow and brown as far as the distant, hazy mountains. I pulled up to Sumbawanga (linguistic aside - the Father says Sumbawanga means “Throw out Magic”) about 10:00, to the most thorough police checkpoint yet and was happy I had insurance papers I could produce on the spot. They were so serious I decided I had better fix my buggered tail-light before proceeding.

    After fuelling up, I went in search of a Land Rover parts dealer, happy that back in Zambia I had replaced the Dakar’s useless-as-tits-on-a-boar taillight and number plate assembly with a steel rack and Land Rover tail- and indicator-lights. Makes finding spares a cinch. At the first shop, I found what I was looking for and the owner, an amiable Tanzanian of Indian descent, invited me for lunch. We talked about motorbikes and holidays and how he’s inherited the typical Indian shopkeeper’s genetic propensity to workaholism – he stays open during holidays and never takes a vacation. Good guy… insisted on buying my lunch.

    The road continued through rolling hillsides and eventually crashed off the escarpment. I took a detour that dove deeper, finally arriving on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second deepest lake and a sight for sore eyes. Kasanga village was indeed a village, so it took me a bit of bumping around before I found suitable digs for the night. It was sauna-hot and I was starting to lose my patience when I saw an unmarked place close to the water that looked clean. Oscar, the owner showed up – a well-spoken Tanzanian guy in his 50’s – and immediately had me in better spirits. The evening just got better too. I unpacked, took a dip in the lake and while drying out managed to capture some of the tranquil beauty around me with my little point and shooter.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Evening on L. Tanganyika – Kasanga Village

    [​IMG]
    Above: Incredulous youths

    [​IMG]
    Above: Kasanga Village sunset – L. Tanganyika

    [​IMG]
    Above: Returning fishermen, Kasanga

    Then, back at the guest house, Oscar had prepared a kick-ass meal of fish (he’s a trained chef, I learned) and we had a long chat about investing in Tanzania. I think he wants me to fund a guest-house/backpackers at Kalambo Falls. Not sure about investing, but I’m definitely going to have a look at the falls tomorrow.

    Another great day… hope my chain doesn’t break!
    #90
  11. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    836
    Location:
    closer to Baja
    :clap:clap:clap
    #91
  12. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Bloody Guinea Fowl woke me up this morning. A new tactic, they hopped around on the steel roof above my bed rather than squawking as usual. I woke up feeling a bit out of sorts, mildly light-headed, and hung my hope on chai and chapati to bring me out of it. I read a bit, took it easy, cleaned the bike chain (which has been clunking in a most distressing manner for the last 1000 kms) and finally struck out for Kalambo Falls.

    I took my time on the bike, trying to shake the fuzziness from my head. In time I made it to the last village in Tanzania – literally the end of the road. A throng of kids, at least 150 strong, started chasing me around. Not knowing where I was going, I pulled one of them up on the bike to escort me, but this opened a can of worms: every one of the damn kids tried to catch a ride, jumping on my panniers and clambering up on the passenger pegs. I nearly bit the dust, and shouted with all my might to get them to hop off.

    Finally, I chucked the little kid off the bike and hired 4 secondary-school aged kids to show me the way to the falls. We tramped through fields and over a log-bridge, cursing and chasing the throng back as we went. At last we were at the edge. It’s a commanding view. Although not much water was going over the edge, the sight of a 700+ foot single-drop waterfall overlooking a virgin rainforest and L. Tanganyika can take your breath away.

    Not content to look at it from above, I convinced the kids to take me down into the canyon so I could see the falls from below. They clearly didn’t want to, and I could see why. The going was steep, very steep. Rocky and dry at the top, the deeper we got, the greener it became, bathed as it was by the spray of the unending falls. The four of us shared a pack of biscuits and splashed some river water in our faces before ascending the way we’d come.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Kalambo Falls from below

    [​IMG]
    Above: Accumulated mist from Kalambo Falls

    [​IMG]
    Above: Wild, green Kalambo gorge

    [​IMG]
    Above: My fearless guides

    I was feeling tired but good riding back to Kasanga until I wiped out. No good reason for it, just lost the front end and did a lowside slider. Dust everywhere. But two nice swims in the Lake, some idle chit chat with Oscar and a gorgeous sunset and I’m right as rain.


    Above: A bit of video from Kalambo Falls and Kasanga Village
    #92
  13. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Yesterday I retraced my steps from Kasanga to Sumbawanga without incident, fuelled up and aimed Northward again. I was stressed out about the roads being deep sand, but once on the way I realized the Mpui Priest had not differentiated between the tire-grabbing, death sand of Mtwara and the gliding, hardpacked kind of sand that actually comes as a relief after so many hours of bouncing over potholes and stones.

    I made great time (though my bar is pretty low by others’ standards) and arrived in Namanyere sometime around 15:00. The outskirts tempted me to bush camp. The place was open and bare save for acacia trees and some patches of long grass, but practicalities (food and water primarily) pushed me for the town. Not a big place, Namanyere, and I upon looking around awhile I was sorry to learn that all the guesthouses were full! After much fussing about, I eventually quit looking and asked the last place if I could put up my tent somewhere on one the compound for the night. Shamed by the thought, they made an effort to make space for me. In the end, I pitched my tent inside a drinking room adjacent to the bar which served my purposes well enough.

    I arrived too early. I showered, read awhile, ate something and the sun was still shining. Bored, I chatted with a drunk government official who clued me in on the lack of vacancy in the town: it’s nearing month’s end so all the district bureaucrats are in town waiting for a paycheque.

    Finally, the sun died and I started drinking beer and chatting with another government worker who was good for a laugh. I was getting drunk and he and another guy kept plying me with suds. I ended up compensating by donating a few litres of petrol from my jerry can to run the generator that would power the TV. Footie was on. England v. Croatia in the EuroCup. I loved the scene: generator starts up, lights come on, place fills with people (men, mostly) and the commentary never stops.

    Knackered, I turned in early. Despite my “bedroom” being only feet from the noisy bar, I slept like the dead.
    #93
  14. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Not an early start today, but then I only planned to cover 150km.

    The road was rough but tolerable and not foremost in my mind. I was about to pass through Katavi National Park and I was mindful of lions, elephants and lone bull Buffalo. I figured to a big cat I would resemble an ugly antelope, and to an elephant and buffalo maybe a turf grabber of some sort. As a result, I just put my head down and ploughed on, mostly, stopping only for a few pics of the scenery and hippos before cranking on.

    [​IMG]
    Above: Hippos in the Katavi National Park, Rosie in the deep sand

    [​IMG]
    Above: Cactus and Rosie in Katavi

    [​IMG]
    Above: Cacti

    [​IMG]
    Above: Watchmen

    Here, I’ve killed half a day washing, walking about, sleeping a bit, reading a bit and generally taking it easy. My body is a wreck. I noticed it today. Gripping the handlebars puts pressure on the shoulders and wrists on the best of roads, adding the stones and sand just makes things worse. So, a rest before a long push farther North. Planning to do 260km tomorrow – assuming bandits don’t get me.
    #94
  15. Brash

    Brash More ride less work

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3
    Location:
    Sunny qld,
    Keep it coming mate. Love it.:1drink
    #95
  16. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    I am wrecked. Today turned out to be an epic ride. I guess it makes up for me going pole pole earlier on. That’s not to say I was moving rapidly today, either. It was pure drudgery and hammering almost all day long.

    I left Mpanda by 8:30 on a little back road linking town to the road North. I was to assume that the road was good, but I was paddling through sand before 9:00. Occasionally, for the first 100km, there would be a chance of whipping up speed to 60kph, and when I did, it was big news! If I reached 80kph, I thought I’d gone crazy!

    100km or so along, I found a Burundian Refugee camp a guy had told me about the night before. It had apparently been there since the 70’s but the UNHCR and NGOS had left long ago. The TZ government was neglecting them badly, apparently, probably wanted them to shove off for home.

    After the camp, the road got worse. Much worse. The remaining 80 km or so – I lost track – was hell on earth. Hot, tsetse fly infested, sandy and stoney all at once… it was rough as hell and hard on Rosie and me. I couldn’t believe how soft the sand was and then how sharp the bloody stones! Didn’t want to earn a pinch flat, so I held off from lowering pressure and skidded the old feet like outriggers much of the time. The bike would bog down and I’d jump off, hand still on the throttle, to run alongside and push… in hindsight, it was a good thing I didn’t trap myself under one of the pannier boxes.

    At Uvinza, I was beat, but wanted to reach Kigoma come what may. Pressing on, the road was less sandy, but more potholed and rocky. Within sight of Kigoma town, I fell down, sliding on top of the bike as she went. Damn. In town I found internet and some great news to compensate for the brutal day. My Anthropology professor from CU Boulder, Dr. Terry McCabe would be in Arusha soon. I now had a reason to get over there sooner. I had planned to maybe see the Chimpanzees at the sanctuary on the lake, but it costs $600 and I’m not that keen anyway.

    So, given the news, I’ll kill the day here, make sure the bike works and aim my wheels East!
    #96
  17. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    "Make sure the bike works" - that's irony right there. 21 km out of Kasulu, the bike stopped. Dead. And I had no idea why. There were very few bumps, so I doubted the battery terminal had come loose again. It was very dusty, but that was nothing new. I was just cruising along and she stalled, caught and stalled again before dying completely. Maybe fuel? It didn't look like electrics since the lights were still working. Had to be fuel... shit... the injectors!

    Calmly, I sat in the dust, being pelted by gravel as oncoming trucks from both sides blasted past at 120 or more, waiting for someone who could lift me and my bike back to Kigoma. After 30 minutes or so, a Land Cruiser pickup crested the hill and I waved them down. WFP. The pickup already had two 90kg sacks of charcoal in there, so we decided we should try to find a better solution. With their help, I flagged down another pickup, this time from Red Cross who gave me a ride to their camp but their boss refused to let them take me anywhere (d*ckface). So, it was back to the WFP guys. In no time, it was me, Rosie all my gear, two huge bags of charcoal and a spare tyre in the six foot bed of the pickup barreling down the road.

    We begged the GTZ/UNHCR logistics unit/workshop manager to let me store the bike. He begrudgingly agreed, and then the WFP guys showed me to a nearby guesthouse. There, I used a pay-mobile phone to call Bavaria Motorcycles in Pretoria (where I bought Rosie) to see if I could figure out what the problem might be. The mechanics there confirmed what I thought - bad fuel, water in the line probably, or something electrical. I hung up, with a plan in mind to clean out the tank etc, but had first to engage in a death match with the kiosk owner who wanted to charge me nearly $50 for the phone calls which had in fact only cost $15 (I could see her adding the money as I went... the dope). At the end, I gave her $30 and a few choice words as tip and slouched back to the guesthouse.

    I'd just arrived at the guesthouse when Ernest Yongolo, one of the guys who rescued me off the road, pitched up to see how I was and to invite me to his home for dinner. We sat with his old, quiet father and two kids, ate a wonderful meal and watched a great football match on the TV (England v. Portugal... Portugal in penalties!). Those situations are priceless. People's - individuals - goodness is often pure and when it's not, it's obvious. Ernest's was pure. A genuinely nice man.
    #97
  18. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    4,014
    Location:
    LacLaBiche Alberta Canada
    :DStill following along!!:clap
    JJ
    #98
  19. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Today was long. I got moving late, bought a sparkplug (they had the right one in Kasulu!) and oil to use on my filter, changed money (always a slow and painful procedure) and walked to the GTZ workshop. The manager made me wish I’d just skipped this courtesy… he was so worried he would get in trouble for letting me work on my bike in his workshop (a massive, open area by the way, not some proper garage… and I was tucked away over where the drivers eat their lunch) I thought he’d have a fit if I changed oil there.

    Before long, I got down to business. I stripped the bike with the help of a pair of idle drivers watching me, drained the fuel out and began swabbing out the tank with a clean rag. I oiled the air-filter, reassembled everything, pushed the ignition and she came to life! Elated, I donned my kit, bid everyone farewell and sped out of the gate, smile as big as a boa constrictor on my face… for one whole block. Dead again and me pushing her back to the workshop. Seeing my face, the drivers said “pole sana” and invited me to eat pilau with them at a nearby shack. It was really nice, with meat and pineapple and spices… I needed it.

    Back from lunch, I sent one of the drivers to a welder with my spare fuel filter – a big cylinder of a thing that I hoped, once installed, would help sort me out – since it had developed a hole from the vibrations in my pannier box. Meanwhile, I stripped the bike again and started cleaning and waiting. An electrician came and started poking around, checking the wires for life. Apparently the Manager had lightened up and asked him to help me get back on the road (probably something like: get that damn mzungu off my lot, whatever it takes!). While he was there, I noticed something: when I turned the key on, there was no “bweeee!” sound coming from beneath the seat… Fuel Pump!

    As I sat there sweating, and not from the heat, the electrician dismantled Rosie’s oversized, plastic and rubber fuel pump – open heart surgery it might as well have been. Sure enough, there, where a tiny cable tie tidied up a rainbow of colourful wires, lay the problem. The brown wire had snapped. That was it. Eu-re-ka! Off went the electrician to have it soldered.

    I’m really lucky. At the end, Rosie started first twist and took me back to the guest house without a hiccup where I now wait for the guys from the shop to pass by for beers (I owe them a few) and football on the TV. Tomorrow I’ll commence my journey, bound for Arusha. What a crazy mix of emotions. Fear, elation, cool pleasure and contentment. The good wins again!
    #99
  20. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    There’s a mobile phone commercial on local TV that shows a beautiful Tanzanian girl talking to her father. “I’ve met the man of my dreams” she says. Cut to a stupid mzungu, face painted in ochre, camera out, dancing eagerly while watching a troupe of Maasai morani performing – subtitle reads: Social Anthropologist. Next frame: a studly Tanzanian TV producer walking away with the cute girl. Ha! Sorry mzungu!

    The road from Kasulu came and went. Sometimes it made me crawl, but mostly I motored along smoothly enough. The night before I left, I met the UNHCR security guru and spent an hour chatting with him (and as a result, missed saying good bye to Ernest, which I regret) about the security situation where I was headed. Since I showed little concern, he backed down about it. The road didn’t feel unsafe to me.

    For 200 km it was tarmac, then it turned into a construction mess, but since the contractor was South African (as opposed to Chinese) even the detour was fast, smooth graded gravel. The land flattened and the baobabs – different from the Malawian ones – were virtually the only large trees around.

    Nzega’s not doing much for me. All I ask from it is a good night’s sleep. I’m too tired to even watch the football match.