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:
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    October 16, 2004 – Warda, Kenya

    As expected, I didn’t sleep much at the Sunshine Hotel. The winding tar road through the throngs of animals and humans was a nightmare without a working horn. Mountains thick with enset and banana trees, very green, misty, mysterious. Then it gave way to the desert again. The perspective lengthened and I was happy to see a far-off horizon after so much hill and mountain, but soon enough the rain blotted it out again.

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    Above: Homage to my friend, off somewhere in Eritrea

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    Above: Me and my new riding pal, Taka

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    Above: The open desert returns… anthills pointing at the brooding clouds

    Unable to convince Taka to get moving early, we didn’t start off until it was raining steadily and well after 10:00. The road that I knew from the ride up from Kenya and was expecting to be dry, dusty and riddled with stones was replaced with a black snake, shimmering and evil. It seemed the rain had been continuous for two days. This meant bad things for Taka and me. He, though a more experienced rider, was so slow in the mud that we made less than 25 km/hour even in the good stretches. And his addiction to cigarette smoking meant that we took a lot of breaks. Add that to his lengthy hesitation at a detour around a culvert where road crews were working and we were making very poor time.

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    Above: The dark side of the desert

    I kept pressure on, though because I didn’t relish the idea of sleeping in the rain in bandit country, so I kept moving us ahead, aiming for Turbi. In Sololo we were informed that there was a section of black cotton soil ahead that had trapped a lorry. Sliding down the road, we saw that the story was inaccurate: Seven lorries waited, blocking the road in all manner of angles of attack and degrees of stuck. It took some arguing, but I convinced Taka to ride around them through the muck.

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    Above: Slow going on the main Moyale – Marsabit road

    The cotton soil was amazing. Much longer than I expected, it was every bit as miserable as I’d feared. Tires don’t want to spin or track in it and it collects so heavily on your boots that it’s like wearing concrete loafers. Meanwhile, I needed to constantly stop to wash my radiator which was clogging as the thin slurry of muddy water hardened on the fins.

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    Above: Stuck lorries ahead

    It took an hour to do a kilometre, mostly because Taka was weak and moving so slowly. At the end of the worst stretch, he rested with two cigarettes, panting, his thin frame heaving. I was just watching the skies loom ominous.

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    Above: The Taka twostep

    The road was better and worse as we went, but Taka never rode fast, even when we could, so we didn’t even manage to reach Turbi. What we found was a police barrier in Warda – the site of an old refugee camp. The police were accommodating to a degree. They let us use one of the rotting wooden shacks as a lean-to for our tents and then left us alone. It was then that Taka became a star. There was no food to be had in the village. Nothing. And I was starving. Just then, Taka produces rice and tinned fish, to which I supplemented a can of sweet corn, a gift from the girl at the Desert Rose, pineapple, and chocolate some Chinese guys gave me out of pity back when I had my puncture. We sat in the little cabin on the crumbling frame of an old bed and cooked and ate and worried about the continuing rain. Every muscle ached, especially across my back and shoulders, and after while I gave up and went to sleep.

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    Above: Brief sun at the abandoned Warda police huts
  2. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
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    624
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    18 October, 2004 – Nanyuki, Kenya

    Today was a mix of highs and lows, arrows tipped with sweetness of nostalgia and the poison of worry. Blended though, it was a nice cocktail.

    I shot pool late into the night with the Kenyans at the sparsely decorated bar. ?nothing but Tusker ads. “Baada ya kazi!” and “Bia yangu, nchi yangu!”. Classics. The red felt pool table was alive with little beetles falling from the light above and sprawling on the surface to be plucked or flicked away by the attentive local pro. Taka was rubbish company and didn’t hang around long (beer was too expensive). I rather think we’ve exhausted our common ground. As soon as we’re out of the mud and bandit territory, I’ll bid him a hearty sayonara

    I slept wonderfully, like a man who deserved it. I dreamed of home, of Ana… good things. Awaking to heavy rain was a rude reminder of my situation though: I was on a muddy volcano in the fog, 275 km from tarmac. Taka’s painful slowness to pack and get moving was astonishing. In 20 minutes I was ready. It took him a full hour and a half. We didn’t leave til 8:30.

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    Above: Taka coming off Marsabit Mountain

    Fortunately, the descent wasn’t too sketchy, apart from some very notable sloppy, slick spots. Wet for 50 km, we made seriously slow progress, averaging 20kph down the flanks of the volcano. Through the thick, cold mist, Rendille wandered here and there with their animals. A rainbow sat low, matching the curve of a hill with so much red in the upper end, I think I saw maroon. The sun made the grass shimmer like diamonds where it was wet.

    We crawled under the darkblack clouds, passing occasionally a 4x4 coming the other direction. They said it was dry farther along and they were right. In 10 km, the mud was behind us and I celebrated by pulling into a tiny little village for a chapatti and chai. A cluster of old men, bedecked in robes and hats, nickel ear rings pulling down their lobes, tobacco snuff containers and knives and beads hanging off necks, knuckled hands clutching sticks displaying all dignity and style. One question on everyone’s lips: “Kijana, how are the rains?” They all wanted to know where it was wet and the men arriving as I was talking paid close attention and made knowing murmurs as I described the trucks stranded in the mud near Sololo. “From Turbi all the way down, very wet” I said. They listened as if their fate was tied up in my words. Being pastoralists, perhaps it was.

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    Above: Early rainbow

    Taka finally arrived, smoked 2 cigarettes, tried to take pictures in a very touristy way – kind of just <snap> turn <snap> - and was finally ready to go again. Not 20 km later, he stops to put air in his tires, having refused to do so while we were already stopped. It took a good 20 minutes for him to tuck everything back into his bags and fill his tires. On the bright side, once he had pressure in the tires, we flew.

    Now it was my turn to follow. The road cut through thorn scrub and open plain. The corrugations were serious now, but beautiful: the rain had colored the sand and when a vehicle skipped across the crowns of the washboard, it left a long dashed line to follow. Dots flipping past like a moving film. Taka rushed ahead and soon I was stopped, sorting out a loose fairing. Off again for awhile happy to be making time at last.

    I was daydreaming about distance, time, music, the colors of the sky and clarity of the air when something exploded beneath me. I was losing control, wobbling across the road, panicking and remembering not to panic all at once. I figured: Blowout! Don’t hit the brake!

    When I came to a stop at last, I saw that it wasn’t a blowout, but a blow apart. The webbing that tied my left Touratech pannier box to the back had finally cut and the elastic rubbers binding it to the front whipped the box around and down where it exploded, sending my paltry possessions splattering all across the road along with some bits of metal. I spent an hour hammering the box back to approximate rectangularity and collected my particulars from the km of sandy road, ate a cold chapatti and a bit of chocolate, tightened some loose bolts on the bike and ignored a widening hole in my rucksack.

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    Above: Pannier explosion

    As the day worked along, the world became too much to bear. The clouds looked like oil paint squirted straight onto the palette of sky and the trees were green in an impossible way and the cool smell of rain rushed out of the bush onto the road like a cool hand on a feverish cheek. No dust meant perfect views of the few high stone bluffs, like fortresses alone on a plain. Awesome.

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    Above: Backs to the bluff

    Then I damn near hit a duiker. That would have left a widow, you know.

    In Nanyuki. To sleep.
  3. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    624
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    October 19, 2004 – Nairobi, Kenya

    The end of the line.

    From Nanyuki, a surprisingly early start for Taka, particularly since I’m sure he slept as poorly as I did in the grungy hotel we were in. In the middle of the night, some guy with what I pegged for a Scottish accent (though I could be wrong) began shouting at the top of his lungs: “I want my foookin’ moooney! Waaar is that whooor? I waan my fookin’ moooney!” which was right classy. We hit the tar and belted it, buzzing along comfortably enough over the myriad potholes and speed bumps adorning that stretch of Kenyan infrastructure. I was numb. The idea of ending the ride was just sort of sitting on me. I just kept riding. At some point, Taka and I parted ways in the pouring rain. As I had no rear brake pads, it made it harrowing when Matatu drivers would rush up behind, overtake and then brake on the other side of me. I imagined a nice, slow front end slide to cap off the trip.

    But, nothing of the sort. I arrived, soaked, back to my friends’ house in Loresho. And just like that, the ride was over. That very day I began to deconstruct Rosie and reconstruct a bog-standard F650 Dakar, 2003. All personal signs and juju were scrubbed and scratched off, the baked-on dirt (our hard-earned patina) was scrubbed with cleansers. No decals. No 3M reflective tape. No more OSADABWA.

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    Above: My K&N air-filter… at least it kept out the large bits!

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    Above: Good-as-new BMW F650GS Dakar 2003. 50,000 KM. For sale. $5000. Panniers included.

    THE END.
    RedDogAlberta likes this.
  4. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

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    Well I am sad to see such a great ride report come to the end but such is life! Thank You for taking the time to share it with us. I would love to read any of your future reports if you write any! Ride safe Osadabwa.:clap:clap:clap
    Best Regards....just jeff
  5. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
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    Thanks Jeff,

    It just so happens that tomorrow I am heading into the wilderness again. We're aiming for Lake Turkana, but that's about as much planning as we've done. The XL600R is packed and ready to roll. Writeup should be ready sometime before November, inshallah.

    Cheers
  6. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

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    Hey Osadabwa!
    Hope you have a great trip! Ride safe :muuttand post a link here to your new report when you can.:happay
    Best Regards....just jeff
  7. Caymen8

    Caymen8 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
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    Rocky Mountain High
    Great ride report! Thanks for taking the (extensive) time to post it. I've got you bookmarked so I can follow your next adventure!
  8. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
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    closer to Baja
    Thank you !
  9. sasho

    sasho Dual Personality

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    MT/Bulgaria
    What an awesome, interesting, unique ride report...
  10. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Hey guys, thanks for the messages,

    I returned to Lake Turkana a week ago with a group of guys from Nairobi. All in all it was a great ride, but it was fraught with interpersonal issues that brought the whole thing crashing down in the end. Pretty sweet to be back in that place, but I'm learning that nothing can touch the uniqueness of that first visit.

    Anyway, the LINK IS HERE.

    And here are a few teaser pics:

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    Okay, that's enough. Go check it out!

    Cheers
  11. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

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    AWESOME!! See you all over there!!!!!
    jj
  12. OnTheWay

    OnTheWay Rock Liu Supporter

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    So much information. I really appreciate the time it took you to prepare it.
  13. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    624
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Nostalgically looking back at my ride that ended in 2005, I find @richeyroo putting together a retro report from 1995! I love it! When I did my trip, ADV didn't exist (at least I didn't know about it) but when he did his, the internet was using Netscape and was next to useless... and in Africa, non-existant!

    So for a trip farther back in time, see @richeyroo over at his ANALOGUE AFRICA RR!
    just jeff likes this.
  14. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Outstanding! Thanks for that.
  15. Dacquiri

    Dacquiri n00b

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2013
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    9
    Fantastic report Osadabwa!!! It really makes me want to explore those areas. What a magic once in a lifetime journey you were able to experience and beautifully record. One just hopes that it remains as untouched as you experienced it but I guess that is wishful thinking and in a way progress of sorts... It seems like it left enough of an impression on you that you never left Africa though (and we are the richer for it with your subsequent beautifully written RR’s)! I remember that dirt road to Marsabit, the corrugations that were made by big trucks and they just shook you to pieces as the smaller wheels didn’t quite fit them properly and it had the terribly high median that caught you out if you weren’t concentrating when there was oncoming traffic and that feshfesh and volcanic dust that just gets in everywhere!! Magic!
    Osadabwa likes this.
  16. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    624
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Well @Dacquiri I certainly am still enjoying riding out here. Glad you enjoyed the report. Keep your eyes peeled because tomorrow I set out for my White Whale. The place I've been planning to try to reach since I arrived back in Kenya 5 years ago. It's the valley below Lake Turkana, Suguta Valley, and it is the most desolate place in Kenya, only accessed by helicopter normally. Here is why I have to go:

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    Above: The bottom of the valley has a sand dune field with a black volcanic cone in the middle of it. I found it on Google Earth 5 years ago and have been hoping to get there since. The temperature down there is often 50C/120F, and the approach is rolling rock (so I hear) so it's been hard to find people who want to go. This time, I've got a team together and I want to ride those dunes on my XRR

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    Above: From the cone looking down on the dunes. If we succeed in getting down there, we'll play in the dunes and get a photo of the bikes with the cone in the background. Then we'll see what other treasures the place has to offer. But in truth, it's probably dangerous to be there in the heat of the day, and it's dangerous to be there at all since the valley is a well known bandit hideout. Still, I'm going.

    Stay tuned.
    squadraquota likes this.
  17. GoatOfDoom

    GoatOfDoom n00b

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    5
    Commenting in the "far" future of 2019 as would be seen by your 2015 self and even farther 2005 self, I'd like to express my deep gratitude and admiration, Osadabwa, for all your hypnotising reports.
    Thank you for all the dreams and kicks!
    Amphib, Osadabwa and Suncoaster like this.
  18. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
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    624
    Location:
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    Cheers @GoatOfDoom

    By the way, we did make it to those dunes. Here's the RR: LINK
    Amphib likes this.
  19. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    SW. Idaho
    this ride report was a great way to see places we seldom have reports on, thanks looking forward to the latest .