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XR650R Borderlands Ride - The Return to Lake Stefanie

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Osadabwa, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Three XR650Rs make a 2000km, 10-day loop to the Northern Frontier of Kenya.

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    Once a year the stars align and a couple of guys have time to do a serious trip. This year, three of us took 10 days to explore the Far North of Kenya. Our mission for this trip was to revisit Lake Stefanie, a dry salt pan on the border with Ethiopia that Panic had visited 28 years ago on his overloaded XT500. He has a pic of him standing on border stone C29 that we used as our inspiration for returning. It was just the kind of mission I love: random, achievable, far out, and quirky, and on the XR650R, it would be a pleasure.

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    Above: The goal of the trip: return Panic to Lake Stefanie.

    Most folks (including me) have always referred anything near Lake Turkana as “going to Turkana”, but after this ride I think we need a new term for the area in the extreme north, East of the Lake where the Turkana are actually few on the ground. The post-colonial name for the place: Northern Frontier District better encapsulates the feeling of the place and lets the Samburu, Rendille, Gabra, Borana and Dasanech people we met along the way not be side-lined. We had a blast. Here’s a nibble.

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    That should be teaser enough.
    More soon…
    Oink
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    #1
    bomose, Sparky Lee, Dacquiri and 8 others like this.
  2. zippy

    zippy Southside of the Sun

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2003
    Oddometer:
    2,577
    Location:
    St Pete
    WOW !! Thanks for sharing !!
    #2
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  3. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Steady there, zippy, that's just the teaser. Much more on the way. Stay tuned.
    #3
    pontier09 likes this.
  4. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 1 - Leaving Nairobi - Nyahururu

    Panic and I left on Friday, kitted and ready for the long journey. We’d meet Neb in Nyahururu later that evening, but first we had some valley blasting to do. The bikes initially felt heavy in their full travel trim, and like the last ride I did, I managed to drop mine within the first hour (Moses, see this trip report from December!). Fortunately, this time I didn’t puncture the radiator, and I quickly got back into the rhythm of the heavier setup, allowing the XR650R to soak up the rocks and ruts, which loaded she handles even better than light.

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    Above: The Ngong Hills wind turbines in the morning

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    Above: Panic and a local giraffe… a good omen!

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    Above: Later, I found a dead thing… maybe not such a good omen?

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    Above: Descending the usual tracks, letting the BRP run like a train

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    Above: Everyone laments the ongoing drought… I can’t help but think maybe there are simply too many people, cows, sheep and goats. Regardless of the meteorological situation, what do we expect will happen?

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    Above: Across the Narok road and heading up the Mau… dusty as hell it was. In the past month, I know of 2 guys on Baluga Bikes that were punished by the fesh-fesh… the Pig isn’t laughing at you, she’s laughing with you fellas, but she just roared through it all.

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    Having zipped through our usual backyard terrain, I was keen to explore some little tracks that might drop us past Soysambu and into Gilgil in an interesting and hopefully greener way. I caught sight of a little track and took it up to a pretty little overlook that seemed quite promising. In the distance, paths could plainly be seen going over the hill. We dropped in and scampered up the other side and were rewarded with fantastic views of L. Naivasha below, but the track vanished into fields and the gorge on the other side looked rather imposing, so we looped back and found a bar to quench our thirst for adventure instead. The Pigs had places to be, we couldn’t be farting around all day.

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    Above: That track wasn’t on my GPS… why? Probably because I could see it would dead-end

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    Above: Panic descends as a donkey cart comes up.

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    Above: Somebody parked their boda on the trail… Panic stalled the Pig getting past!

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    Above: At the top, not caring we were going to have to abandon ship

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    Above: They were lovely views… with less kit I’d be keen to try again

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    Above: Panic gets the hell out of Dodge

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    Above: Later, crawling through a dusty riverbed where yet more livestock eeked out a pitiful existence, I managed to run right square over a baby goat. RIP little fella, the Pig takes no prisoners.

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    Above: Miserably dusty and windy, we found a bar and took a load off.

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    Above: The place had the right idea: we’re on holiday man! Relax and enjoy!

    From the wee bar, we set off through more and more dust and not many trees. It didn’t seem right considering where we were, fairly high up and not far from Eburru Forest which Wry assures me is quite a nice little place. But it’s back to the numbers: too many people, cattle, sheep and goats. Below is a comparison of LandSat images taken in 2003/4 when I first came through Kenya on a bike, and now. I guess it’s pretty clear the direction we’re heading in. In 2003/4, there were 34-35 million souls, now there are 49 million. It’s the way of the world I guess. I read somewhere that Iowa has only 2% native prarie where it used to be 100%, and England is only about 10% forested… change is inevitable, but in Africa, it’s just happening faster and right under my nose and one never has any faith whatsoever in those in charge at any level to do the right thing. Anyway… on the positive side, desertification is great news for XR riders.

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    Above: The track we took overlaid on the formerly green Mau Escarpment vs now. Spot the difference, kids.

    We split down toward Gilgil past Soysambu, through more dusty misery where a few camels nibbled between the thorns for a gob full of leaves. To my complete surprise, I stumbled upon a memory from 2004. When I passed through here on my BMW Dakar (gak) back then, I took a pic of a monument to a Mexican Priest who had died in a car crash at that spot in 1974. Lo and behold, there was the monument again! It’s an odd sensation, like stepping back in time. It would turn out that time and our grasp on it during this trip would be decidedly flexible… this was just the first taste.

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    Above: Soysambu camels probably faring better than the cattle

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    Above: The Mexican Priest’s monument… flashback to 2004 for me HERE is that RR

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    Above: Lunch stop in Gilgil… pretty damn good eats… made me ponder the meaning of life… or I was just worn out already!

    From Gilgil, we tarsmacked it to the Thompson’s Falls Hotel where Neb showed up in time for beers and a hearty dinner. None of us slept worth a damn… too excited for the day to come.

    Stay tuned.

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    #4
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  5. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2003
    Oddometer:
    9,998
    Location:
    Ft Likkertail , USA
    IN! :lurk
    #5
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  6. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 2 - Ngurunit via the Milgis Lugga

    We were keen to get up North as quickly as we could, so after we dinked around at the hotel a bit in the morning and had a full breakfast, we shot up the road to Rumuruti to Mugie and on to Maralal. As riding goes, it’s fairly horrible, and soon the Nairobi super bikers and BMW bandits will be able to test their speedometers there… tarmac cometh. I wonder if it will continue on to Loiyangilani?

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    Above: The hotel at Thompson’s Falls

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    Above: Stopped for a whiz near the Mugie gate and watched lazy zebras out for a drink.

    In Maralal, we did a quick fill-up and turned down the track that falls off the escarpment. It was only a few months ago we were here, but I still got caught out by a deep dip. I’ve done it before and it punished me badly this time: I approach something fast and decide I’d better not hit it full speed (usually a bad idea, but saves you breaking stuff), so I slam the brakes and downshift. On hard-pack, this sometimes stalls the engine and locks the rear wheel. A bike moving at 50-60kph with only one rolling wheel is in deep shit when it hits the obstacle, and when I hit this one, I went flying. Hit hard, smacked my noggin, rolled around a bit, but was absolutely fine (cheer, AGATT warriors!). Not even a bruise, but the lingering sensation that I am doing something dangerously wrong nagged me most of the trip. Public Service Announcement: Cover your clutch folks! I probably don’t have to tell you, but my stupid ass needs reminding.

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    Above: See that huge dip? Me either, hence the surprise. Bike melted plastic against the dirt on impact.

    On with the show, we scooted down the concrete slabbed road to a nice look-out spot for a picnic that included cheese (thanks Neb! But what, no butter?) and some tasty sardines and bread. From there it was a shot straight to the Milgis on an ever-improving road. The first time through there, it was a challenge to find it. In December, it was twisty and tricky. Now, the motor patrol has made it mostly arrow-straight, if still quite whoop-y in spots. Anyway, in Kenya, a dirt road always tends toward entropy. It’ll be shot in a couple of seasons.

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    Above: Neb gets it up

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    Above: Descending the valley

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    Above: Our lookout lunch spot

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    Above: Troglodytes at table, and remnants of a child’s game on the stones

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    Above: Post-prandial braaping - it’s quick going from the hills to the riverbed

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    Above: Those two guys, I’m thinking, are not right in the head.

    The Milgis was sandy and dry and we were gagging to get tracing. In December, we rode the riverbed to the top of the Mathew’s range, this time we’d be taking her all the way to Ngurunit, 80km away. On the pigs, that was accomplished in very short order, even with stops to admire the scenery. It was quick, and loud, and very, very enjoyable as always.

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    Above: Panic comes around the rocks a bit askew, as you do

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    Above: The Milgis. It’s a blur

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    Above: My weapon of choice

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    Two thirds of the way down the Milgis, past the turn to the Mathews is the riverbed’s only impassable feature. The stone barrier several meters high must be an impressive waterfall when there’s rain. It forces you out of the riverbed under a nice shady tree where you can watch the goings on below. We rested for an hour watching herd after herd of livestock walk slowly up the hill and around behind us. Herders were interested but mostly left us be. One guy had a modern rifle, another carried a tanned cow hide in a roll. The heat was pretty serious, being early afternoon, so watching the moving matinee was just the thing to do.

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    Above: Panic and I under the sit and wait tree

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    Above: Samburu fellas watching the wazungu watch the riverbed

    Dropping back into the riverbed for the last half-hour of blasting, we were treated to great views of the Ndotos in the background, and some big, soft, white sections of sand interspersed with the more common brown, cracked clay from above. In a couple of spots, there were fairly high drop-offs where a cross current had cut a channel in the sand that caught us all by surprise, but the solution was throttle open, lean back and launch. So much fun. On our return trip, we’d find out that the Milgis isn’t always so forgiving…

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    Above: Neb drops back in for the rest of the ride

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    Above: The Ndoto mountains are spectacular things

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    Above: The Milgis is so wide in places you can lose track of the other riders

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    Above: That soft, white sand is fantastic

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    Above: Out of the riverbed for the 10km clip into Ngurunit. A very lovely way to end the day.

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    Above: Ngurunit town entrance

    We arrived to our usual spot, the container shade camp. It’s great because you don’t have to fiddle with your tent, you just put your sleeping mat down and they provide a mosquito net. Neb skipped that step as well and just tossed his mat on the ground. We lighted up Panic’s East German Jewel stove and hammered a huge pasta dinner Neb organized while sipping fancy infused vodka some ex girlfriend had gifted him. It was a pretty cosmopolitan night, and would kind of set the standard for what to expect, even as we ventured farther and farther into the remote north.

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    Above: Ngurunit container camp

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    Above: Warm beers and crusty bikers… can’t guess why we weren’t swarmed by the local ladies while we were there. I guess, unlike our wives, they have high standards.

    It's probably worth watching the re-cap video... it was certainly fun to make.


    Tomorrow - The Chalbi Desert
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    #6
  7. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2003
    Oddometer:
    9,998
    Location:
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    Amazing landscape!! What a great experience that must be.:nod
    #7
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  8. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,593
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    In for this one @Osadabwa :thumb:thumb

    LOL...my pride is wounded.

    Good to see you back out on her, hope the subframe woes of late do not come back during this adventure.

    Going to watch the vid from day 2 shortly :ricky :ricky
    #8
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  9. Diddly

    Diddly Bored of Directors

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2015
    Oddometer:
    588
    Location:
    Indiana
    Long live the Big Red Pig!

    Great looking trip.
    #9
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  10. blues bob

    blues bob Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Oddometer:
    206
    Location:
    salida,co
    bwana sahib, you guys and your big red pigs rule. Always a treat!!!! wind turbines on top of the Ngongs are shite. That used to be a great single track, all grown over with buffalo hanging out.
    #10
    Osadabwa likes this.
  11. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 3 - The Kaisut, Koroli and Chalbi Deserts

    We slept soundly despite the heat and were up at dawn to a cacophony of bird song. Quick coffees, ablutions, some bites and we were on the road again, blasting toward Korr and Kargi gutting the Kaisut desert on the way to the Chalbi and Kalacha beyond.

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    Above: Monkeys above and monkeys below, leaving the Ndotos behind

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    Above: Leaving Ngurunit is always fast and beautiful

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    Above: Near the junction to Ilaut, camels, camels everywhere.

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    Above: Quick going in the early morning – check out the Kori Bustard in the lower left… largest flying bird.

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    Above: Through an open, flat plain, we arrived to Korr where a line of Rendille igloos hunkered behind a beautiful riverine tree.

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    Above: Korr – Yes – O K. Wheelie Neb!

    It was only about half an hour from Korr to Kargi, but it was good fun. The road kind of spluttered and vanished at times and we were left to braap over dunes til we found it again, and then there was a large, empty reservoir which afforded a great opportunity to do some track racing. In hindsight, I think we should have had a 3 way race. Next time, boys.

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    Above: The guys bundu bashing

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    Above: Me in the reservoir

    In Kargi, it was noon somewhere, so we rousted around for a cold one. Failing that, we settled for a warm one at the absolutely fantastic Makuti Bar. Why was it fantastic? Because it was far away from the town centre, there were no kids or mentally ill around, and the clientele were fascinating. I spent an hour chatting with an old fellow who had been a peace keeper in Yugoslavia in the 90’s, had fallen in love with and American bird, but alas the cultural/political/passport issues separating a mzungu from Minnesota and a Rendille peacekeeper from Kargi proved insurmountable. So there he was, sharing a beer with his Christian friend (he was Muslim), and his bag of Khat with me (mild stimulant, no big deal). It was the best bush beer I’ve ever had.

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    Above: Ta-daaaah! The Makuti Bar in Kargi! Come one, come all!

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    Above: The boys and I and the wazee.

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    Above: Me with my Khat leaves, the Muslim mzee Sandap from the Peace Keepers (he was also a paratrooper) and his Christian mate, and former Chief of Kargi, Mr. Wambile. Take note, world. This is how you do it. I took their numbers for the next time I pass by, and we bought a round before saying adios.

    The beers made us peckish, and it was still hotter than the hammers of Hell, so we asked the wazee where we could grind some goat. Sandap whips out his phone and calls up one of his wives and directs us to the Bismallah Hotel, a place we would definitely not have taken seriously otherwise… it looked a bit like a goat shed. We chowed some delicious mbuzi stew with potatoes, fresh chapos and cabbage, had a cup of pre-sweetened, smokey tea and were geared up to head out into the unknown. I had planned an off-piste section to get us to the Chalbi Desert that would be, possibly, kind of interesting.

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    Above: The Bismallah in Kargi

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    Above: Happily chowing down

    The track out of Kargi started out very clear. It was a big, dusty double-track that led through the fesh to a black stone-covered island in the middle of the Koroli Desert that borders the bone-dry and flat Chalbi. My track petered out at the stones, so I followed the compass north to find where we were headed. The Koroli is white-sand with little dried flat-spots in between. It all winds through thorn bushes that leave just enough space between for a bike, but you still need to watch out for thorns if you’re running tubes. I loved it, the oppressive heat notwithstanding. It was fun to wind your way through the soft stuff, hit the pans and open it up, slam it back down into a dune… magic. Not sure the others liked it as much as I did.

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    Above: The black stones start, Koroli is on its way… yes that rim is as bent as it looks

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    Above: Primates make extensive use of body language to communicate: Panic, the largest gorilla on the trip, is displaying clear body language in the photo above. My years of riding with him tell me he is conveying a particular message to me. It says: If I get a puncture, I’ll have your nuts.

    It was hot, so it felt like forever, but quickly we were on the white sand dune that borders the southern edge of the Chalbi, that empty lake-bed maybe 20km wide and 100km long that has long fascinated, and sometimes swallowed visitors. From the dune we could see what at first looked like black stones shimmering in the distance, but Panic’s eagle eye said: that’s green… there is an oasis there. Sure enough, it was. As we approached you could make out the daum palms eeking out an existence in the salty soil. Four or five wells had been dug, each about as big around as a really big hot-tub. Two were dry, but with mud just below the surface, one was full of brown murky water, and the last was full of beautiful, clear green water. The green pool was the most appealing, but very salty. We ladled a bit out just to cool our necks, enjoyed the weirdness of the place and pressed on. I wanted to bee-line it for Kalacha, but Panic has seen what the middle of the desert can hide: mud just below the surface, so we stuck close to a pre-existing doubletrack and flew.

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    Above: From the white border dune, looking out to the Chalbi

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    Above: Neb approaches the Chalbi, the oasis a black dash-dot-dash in the distance

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    Above: Panic drops in

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    Above: At the oasis, a muddy pool

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    Above: The sense of space here is surreal… you couldn’t be more exposed. And it was oven hot, set on convect with a steady wind. According to Butterball, our three turkeys should have been cooked in 4 ½ hours or so, basting with the juices every 30 minutes to keep moist.

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    Above: Left – I stepped into one of the “dry” holes only to sink to my ankles in mud. This is what Panic predicted we’d find in the centre of the lakebed

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    Above: The green pool. Obviously at some time in the year people water animals here, but the water was very brackish when we visited. I badly wanted to swim in it too, but the idea of diving in there kind of gave me the heebie-jeebies… it looks like a porthole to another dimension, and I imagined myself crawling out covered in clay I had no way of washing off.

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    Above: Crystal clear jade water, salty, but good for a splash bath.

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    Above: This is the iconic Chalbi… cracked clay as far as the eye can see.

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    Above: Try to take a pic of guys riding and they just vanish into the heat-shimmering distance

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    Above: Turning toward Kalacha, we stuck to the double-track and flew. Neb hit 148kph just because

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    Above: Most of the time in the North, a wicked wind blew constantly, like an industrial hair dryer on you all day. The only positive side: the dust was usually blown laterally out of the way of the next rider.

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    In Kalacha we found suitable digs run by a nice chap near the now very run-down AIC camp that used to have a pool which is now dried up. The place had a solar fridge that they switched on only when we arrived, but it was full of beer and water, so it won our hearts (also, it was the only option). They made good grub and the huts were breezy enough. There was plenty of water in the showers for a periodic cool-down too. Soon there will be a place near the entrance of town among the palms that has a pool, but also boasts a hearty pong of cattle and camel shit, since it’s right next to a massive watering hole, and it no doubt buzzes with mozzies. If I’m honest, I’d give Kalacha a miss next time, knowing what I know now.

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    Above: Our digs. Comfortable enough to be sure. We slept like the dead, despite it being on the main road.

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    Above: The AIC church wire fence makes beautiful modern art in the evening light… that’s me trying to spin the fact that there was garbage everywhere

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    Above: We were in Gabra country now, but the cloth, cardboard and plastic igloos remain unchanged.

    It was another fantastic, rip-snorting day... see the vid for a sense of the space out there:



    Next up: The mysterious Huri Hills...
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    #11
  12. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
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    Great update @Osadabwa :thumb

    Quoted this statement as I really like it - great sentiment and one of the fantastic benefits we experience when getting out for rides such as yours. I'm not a people person, but have enjoyed meeting lots and lots of great/interesting/quirky folks when out on rides like this. Granted, some people have sucked, but those are minority - most have been gracious and engaging.

    Enjoyed the video, could tell it was windy as fack. Liked the closing shot - whoever that was buzzed you pretty closely :lol3 :lol3

    Looking forward to the next update man :-) :-)
    #12
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  13. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    @liv2day, for sure the good folk outnumber the bad in the world. This trip was full of good ones of all religions, tribes and skin tones, and its nice to remind folks of that.

    The end of the video is Neb going by at somewhere around 140 kph or 85 mph. Puts the guys who race into perspective... that wouldn't be race pace at all, but it was blistering for us!

    Next update coming soon.
    #13
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  14. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Huri Hills, Forolle and the Stone Racetrack to Dukana

    We crawled out of our huts at dawn and right away Neb noticed an issue with his bike: one of the puny ass 6mm bolts holding his rack and 25kg of kit had snapped. Panic, I’m not positive, but I think I remember suggesting Neb replace those with larger, 8mm bolts last time we were with him? Or? Or? Or? Anyway, we knew this would delay us, but because Kalacha had options for help, it wouldn’t end the ride. Neb zipped off to the Catholic church to pray for redemption and forgiveness. While he was there, he met a German priest who had a massive workshop and opened it for our use. He said “I’m here to save souls, but I probably save mostly travellers! The Chalbi breaks everything.”

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    Above: Me, doing my best visual representation of schadenfreude… Neb, look it up

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    Above: The workshop in Kalacha is as big as the church, and very well stocked. Many thanks for opening your doors for our little brother!

    Neb drilled out his 6mm bolts and tapped in 8mm ones (finally) and we were on our way. It was approaching noon when we left, but we didn’t have too far to go. The plan was to ride through the Huri Hills to Forolle at the Ethiopian border, then cut west to Dukana where we would stay at a mission station manned by Neb’s friends. It was 100% new territory for all of us, and it turned out to be a fantastic day.

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    Above: Neb admiring a bit of volcanic art

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    Above: At first I thought these little towers of stone were grave markers, but later I saw them put to use as mini baby goat corrals. Clever.

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    Above: The approach to the Huri Hills was all loose stone, very rideable, but treacherously sprinkled with those rim-bending, bar-wrenching embedded buggars that for some reason you can never see until it’s too late. Probably a good idea to slow down a bit, but we didn’t.

    The higher into the Hills we rode, the cooler it got. Coming from the blast furnace of Kalacha, it was absolute heaven. The place was serene. Bright, dry, yellow grass carpeted the scene. Big, funky trees huddled in groups along ridge lines, and the breeze was almost what you’d call cool. We were sight-seeing properly here, toodling along and taking it in. In future, I’ll fuel up in Kalacha and ride up here to camp.

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    Above: Panic! You forgot to turn on your beauty filter… and the enigmatic Huri Hills

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    Above: We parked under a tree for a noonish nibble

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    Above: These trees all had white bands around their trunks and had signs indicating they were protected. Now that’s a crazy assed idea in Kenya. Think of all the charcoal you could make instead!

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    Above: I’d happily return to the Huri’s to figure out more about the sacred landscape. For whatever reason, it was really endearing. Probably because it was a little island of cool air above all that Northern Frontier District heat

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    Above: Neb believes he can flyyy!

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    Above: These purple flowers were a nice break from the bleakness around.

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    Above: Sacred to whom? Sacred for what? Qalqach Gandille sounds like something out of DUNE

    Exceeded the fun limit... to be continued.
    #14
    squadraquota, kiwial, liv2day and 2 others like this.
  15. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    We were descending the Huri Hills and trundling down to the superheated plains once again. Soon the Forolle Mountain marking the Ethiopia border loomed into view. On the way down, we saw the first of only maybe 3 vehicles on the roads for the entire trip. This place is that remote. High from the riding, we made a plan to find a cold one in Forolle to celebrate. Again we had a great experience at the local bar. The piss warm beers were Harar from Ethiopia, and the drunks were all very pleasant. Neb went inside to chat, and Panic and I held court by the door, joking and laughing with a guy who turned out to be the local police sergeant. I asked why he was pissed on a Wednesday afternoon, but he assured me it was fine because he had sent all the rest of the police to Marsabit for work!

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    Above: Neb descends toward Forolle, the border of Ethiopia

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    Above: Neb and his drinking buddies in the Forolle bar. Of course we bought the house a round.

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    Above: Harar beer and a lady from the Borana tribe that criss-cross the border region

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    Above: Right, our friendly police sergeant points accusingly... he was funny


    We were bouncing from good experience to good experience up there in the North. Just loving it, and so happy the US Embassy keeps telling everyone to stay away for their safety… So after the pit-stop, we were exactly half-way to Dukana and it was getting on in the day. Fortunately, we were on the time machines and keyed up for a trace. The road was a bull-dozer track pushed through endless miles of basket-ball sized basalt boulders, leaving only baby-heads and marbles on the track. We just went for it. Overlapping each other every 10 km or so, we kept everyone together without needing to stop, and it was excellent.

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    Above: Leaving Forolle… hope to return again soon!

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    Above: In the background, under the tree, you can just make out Neb, nearly going off the track… his ambition exceeding his abilities

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    Above: These two knuckleheads picked the exact same spot to nearly ride into oblivion, just by that tree in the distance. I was on the hill waiting to take a pic and saw them both hit the brakes and skitter off the side… hilarious! Full moon was already up… maybe that’s what had gotten into us.

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    Above: The rocky track was so much fun, Panic’s leg tried to race him around every corner.

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    Above: Neb

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    By the time that magic afternoon light had gold-plated everything, we were within view of Dukana. I pulled off to admire Gof Dukana, a big volcanic crater. We organized a selfie and slipped past a really long camel train into Dukana where Neb took us the back-way into the mission over a rockfield and we were warmly greeted. That night, we were invited to either pitch tents on the stony ground, or put mattresses in the church. We chose the latter and it was fantastic. The wind never stops up here, so we cooked inside among the pews and spent the evening watching the moon and stars on the porch. Neb and I put mattresses on the porch and Panic slept inside… I think it was the best sleeping of the whole trip.

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    Above: XRRs, happy bikers and Gof Dukana

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    Above: Keep your Marlboros. This is Camel Country

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    Above: Neb asking for the kanisa

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    Above: A kid, his sheep and his igloo

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    Above: Arriving at the mission in the stones and wind.

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    Above: Panic, our happy chef, whipping up Rat Pack #13, Lamb Rogan Josh… oh man, that is indeed heavenly.

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    Above: Clever makeshift stained-glass cross. I love the ingenuity of people in these places.

    That was a fantastic day. Have a gander at the moving pictures:



    Next time: Ileret

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    #15
  16. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Rested from our night in the church, we kitted up and blasted off early before the church resumed its former duties, but not before this fateful discussion:

    Our host: Do you have enough fuel?
    Me: [Confidently] Oh yeah, totally. Let’s go.
    Panic: [Sotto voce] Maybe we need fuel, or?
    Neb: [even more Sotto voce] Yeah, umm, maybe we need fuel, nguys.
    Me: [Confident AF] Nah, we’re good. Let’s go.
    Panic, Neb: [Shrugging meekly] Sawa…

    And just like that, a German Master Mechanic and a mechanical engineer allowed a guy with an arts degree to do the math for our fuel needs. This is how you end up with the Holocaust people! Smart people listening to idiots! Off we braaaaped... Dumb, Dumber and King Doofus.

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    Above: Panic counting his bressings.

    The ride out of Dukana in the early light was simply splendid. The road is BMW worthy at first and the views are spectacular. The mountains in Ethiopia lord over the scene here, as we skirt the border area. We rode fast and loose for about 50km. At a lovely spot where the road starts to get a bit rocky, Neb says: Um nguys, we shouldn’t be too macho about this fuel situation… once the level ngets down where it is, it ngoes fast. And only then did I realize we weren’t going to make it to Lake Stefanie and on to Ileret, and it was my fault. Shit. Grim faced all around, we decided (again idiotically) to ride to Sabarei police post to see if they have fuel (they didn’t, of course they didn’t) and then on to Ileret in safe mode, rather than turning tail and going back to Dukana then and there. We decided if the levels got too low, I would poach their fuel, leave them in the bush, fill up in Ileret and come back for them. Thankfully, as we got closer, it became clear we’d make it, but only just.

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    Above: Early light on parallel with Ethiopian border

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    Above: The road cut through a lot more greenery than I thought we could expect up North

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    Above: The a-ha moment for me: Neb says we’re screwed, fuel-wise and it finally sinks in.

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    Above: Down we go, rather than turning back to Dukana for petrol like clever people would have

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    Above: At least the scenery was lovely

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    Above: Puttering slower than a 990 through fesh-fesh with a bubbling clutch, we crawled towards Ileret. I felt just like this cow… if the Pigs can’t fly, they make you cry.

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    Above: In Ileret, we found the most expensive fuel in Kenya: 200 KES/L, and we were thankful to have it. Panic’s red tank was totally empty as we ploughed through the deep sand.

    Thankfully, spirits quickly revived. All of us jointly owned up to being morons for not sorting out the fuel situation in Dukana, and it made me feel a lot better. We found first world digs at the Turkana Basin Institute and were promptly fed a hearty lunch with cold beers to boot. Settling in to a half day rest period, we got into the right frame of mind. After a nice little afternoon nap and several showers (hot, I tell you, hot), we set off in the afternoon for a little recce of the border. The semi-permanent Kenyan researchers we met indicated there may be Ethiopian beers in the villages up the way, so we went for a lookysee.

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    Above: TBI makes Ileret a fantastic place to be.

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    Above: Views from the dining pavilion over L. Turkana. This place hosts dozens of students and researchers each year, and has a full-time staff that were super organized and accomodating.

    In cruising trim, we set off for the lake and the border. A big raincloud was sweeping the area ahead, and the light was amazing. We passed by Lake Turkana, but here there were high reeds that precluded a good view. At some point, I was riding along through a village, looking for a bar, and I hear Neb hoot somewhat insistently and a little testily I thought. I see him roosting back the way we’d come, and quickly realized why: we’d entered Ethiopia by mistake. Amharic writing on signs, Ethiopian flags ripping in the wind… it was time to head back.

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    Above: Panic in his day-glo green cruising shirt. This man is a fashion icon.

    As usual, I stopped to take a pic of the guys riding by. Neb takes it as his cue to pull a wicked wheelie, and I’m ready to capture the moment it all goes horribly wrong. Braaap! Up goes the nose…. Out come the feet… down goes Neb… here comes his bike! The whole thing happened in slow-motion, but I was pretty sure he was going to take me and my bike out as well. Thankfully, he missed, but he did manage to break his rack (again). After that, we cruised home, got more 200/= fuel and watched the sunset over L. Turkana with some very refreshingly cold beers.

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    Above: About as far from home as you can get, Neb sends it and bites the dust.

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    Above: Dust still settling, we were happy to see Neb wasn’t hurt despite not wearing his gear (AGATT fanatics, sharpen your pitchforks).

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    Above: More extortion at the fuel spot

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    Above: I don’t know why, but in Ileret, all the Igloos are made out of corrugated iron sheets! They must literally be like bread ovens in there! This must be proof that the Dasanech are the baddest ass folks in the region…

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    Above: Good night, you yellow burning ball of plasma. We’ll meet again.

    Tomorrow - Lake Stefanie and the best ride of the trip

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    #16
    squadraquota, zippy, kiwial and 2 others like this.
  17. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 6 - Lake Stefanie and the North Horr Surprise

    That night, the heavens opened and a whipping rain pelted down. I had pulled my bed outside on the veranda and it was like sleeping in a hurricane, but the cool air was fantastic. We awoke to clear skies and the makings of a fantastic and surprising day. We’d passed by our ride’s stated objective the day before, but we’d go back and make up for that. The downside was, we’d have to backtrack, and we’d miss out on riding through Sibiloi National Park. Neither issue bothered me too much because a) the riding was fantastic, if you didn’t have to nurse the throttle b) this would give us more time in the extreme north and c) who are we kidding? Sibiloi ain’t all that great… it’s a stony, bushy mess. So lets go!

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    Above: Morning pastels over Lake Turkana

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    Above: My bike and I had a nice, if windy, night at TBI

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    Above: A bit of deepish sand to get the morning going. I remember how sand used to make me tremble. After 5 years in Dar es Salaam and 5 more in Kenya, I've been inoculated.

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    Above: Double-take

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    Above: Nice to see Neb didn’t get put off by his recent wheelie whoopsie.

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    Above: Drifting, blasting and beautiful scenery

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    Above: Just out for some rock chucking

    In no time we were at the junction leading to Stefanie. We started down it, but realised that there was a perfectly lovely riverbed there, so we took it instead. Since coming to Kenya, I’ve been in a dozen riverbeds, big and small. This one is my favourite. Black sand interspersed with different sizes of embedded river stones made the riding interesting and fun. It was wide enough to choose your own line, but flanked with big green trees, it really felt out there. We rode happily along until the bed began to vanish into the bush, coaxing us back out to the 4x4 track where we quickly found what we were looking for: border post C29 in Lake Stefanie.

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    Above: Neb does a bit of driftsplatting

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    Above: Very funky geology around here… couldn’t guess what earth-shattering upheaval created this formation

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    Above: The mix of sand and stones was really good fun to ride.

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    The track was hard to spot and farted around in the bush for awhile. Then we spotted a border post, but it was C28. Panic knew C29 was out in an open plain (remember, it was 28 years ago he visited), so we pressed on, ignoring our GPSs which indicated we were straying well into Ethiopia. Carefully crawling around the dry lake shore, trying not to get caught in slippery mud, we spotted it. Standing lonely in the middle of the lake bed, there was C29.

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    Above: Mission accomplished! We brought Panic back to C29!

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    Above: I guess it’s obvious we think the XR beats everything for this kind of thing…

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    Above: Once Panic had had his moment, Neb and I posed with the stone as well

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    Above: One tire in Kenya, one in Ethiopia

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    Above: Triumphant at the top of the country!

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    We stayed awhile at the border post watching the world and the goings on. I made a quick foray out onto the pan to write a message for anyone passing by in an airplane, marking our territory… Then we went fossil hunting along the ancient shore and found a number of unidentifiable marine shell or coral structures and several large, petrified black fish vertebrae. It really put a cap on the feeling of stepping back in time. There was a surprising amount of activity around as well, with huge herds of goats passing by with their herders and families in tow. One very old mzee parked himself near our spot, laid his rifle at his feet and casually greeted us. Neb tried to chat, but there was no common language between them. He showed us a few neat rocks from his pouch, and that was that.

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    Above: Our signature written in dirt on the Kenyan side of the border

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    Above: Tough guys up here. Borana maybe? Dasanech? An Ethiopian tribe?

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    Above: the men pushed the goats, the women walked ahead with gourds. The old Mzee would walk along, sit and wait, and walk along again. We felt like time travelers.

    Reluctantly, we set off again, heading to Dukana and on to North Horr where who knows what rotten accommodation awaited. Happily though, we could first ride back up the riverbed and the road to Dukana which was pure pleasure.

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    Above: Back in the riverbed… sometimes the water comes through here in torrents

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    Above: Re-crossing the Sele Gublo pass toward Dukana

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    Above: In Dukana we hit gold at the Jaribu Dukana Central duka and hoteli. Awesome mbuzi with njera and decently cold Cokes.

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    Above: This time, we didn’t fail to fill up the tanks…

    We left Dukana in the blistering, wind-blown heat of afternoon. It was thermonuclear. It was miserable, and the riding was like being stuck in an infinite feedback loop. Once we passed the purple mountain, it was just mile after repetitive mile of straight, rocky, sandy road and mile after mile of brownish yellow sand and dirt and mile after mile of camels and blue skies. Finally, we saw a nice dry riverbed lined with big trees, and I offered to take a break in the shade but the guys just wanted to push on. I kept thinking, “What’s the rush? North Horr will be worse than Kalacha!”, but we kept at it. I swear I passed the same lonely tree with the same overheated camels under it a dozen times.

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    As we neared North Horr, the riding improved to sandy tracks. We pulled into town in a flash and a plume of windswept dust and began the hopeless quest to identify a decent place to stay. As a joke, Neb asked the guy where the swimming pool was. I chortled in my helmet, then I heard him reply: “Oh, you head out of town toward Loiyangilani, past the oasis where the water crosses, and turn right. Can’t miss it.” I’ll be damned if he wasn’t dead on!

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    Lo and behold, there was a swimming pool! And lo and behold, they had a bar attached with really properly cold beers in it! I felt like we’d hit the jackpot! We stripped the bikes and dove right into the pool. The beers piled up and we laughed and drank well into the night. The creator of the place (the jovial Kenyan Catholic priest from N. Horr!) came by to chat and gave us his blessing to stay. Swimming under a full moon with nobody else around and zero light pollution was fantastic. We put mattresses on the makeshift concrete sunbeds and slept al-fresco with bats clicking around our heads and a hyena giggling the night away just outside the fence. And all this because we were too dumb to fuel up in Dukana the day before. That’s why I say: Osadabwa.

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    Above: Three, two, one! Touchdown!

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    Above: Happy bikers at the oasis

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    Above: Just loving it.

    Here's the moving picture for you, folks:



    Next time: Mt Kulal

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    #17
    squadraquota, zippy, kiwial and 3 others like this.
  18. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 7 - Up to Gatab on Mt. Kulal

    Dawn hadn’t broken yet but I was up. Bats by the dozens were whipping willy-nilly around my head snapping up a few last dudus before calling it a night. The pool must attract some good grub, but it was so dry that we slept outside unmolested by mozzies. After a quick whiz, I was in the pool again, cooling off from the sweaty night’s sleep. We planned to get to Gatab atop Mt. Kulal where it would be considerably cooler, then decide how best to proceed from there. So, coffee, ablutions, fix something broken on Neb’s bike (chain slider I think) and we were off again.

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    Above: Serene morning at the N. Horr Catholic Community pool

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    Above: Panic and Neb organize coffee

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    Above: The actual N. Horr Oasis… I think I prefer the pool

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    Above: N. Horr Petrol Station… you think it’s windy? Check out the reinforcing bars on the awning.

    Now years ago, getting from Gas to North Horr was an adventure all to itself. You could easily get lost out there trying to follow a track through the dust that just simply disappeared, as I did back in 2004. Now, though, the mystery is gone. A very wide sand track gets you from point A to point B, so I was happy to ditch it in favour of a little, rocky thing that led down the East side of Mt. Kulal.

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    Above: Can’t get lost getting to North Horr anymore!

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    Above: The little track was much more our style

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    Above: A few rocky/sandy riverbeds…

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    Above: Some funky natural stone masonry…

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    Above: And spectacular trees made the ride very pleasant

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    Amazingly, out there in the middle of nowhere, Panic decided to make a friendly house call to one of his customers, a fellow German doing mission work out in Arapal. We rumbled in, were treated to a wonderful lunch, and then guided a ways down the track to meet a fan, if you can believe it, of these Ride Reports. Moses, running a clinic in the next village, has been following along with us for quite a while now and was keen to see the Pigs up close. Rawlence, he asked about you!

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    Above: In Arapal. Thanks for the lunch you guys!

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    Above: Firing up the CRF230… helmet yes, trousers, no. AGATT guys, have at him!

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    Above: Down the track a ways, we met Moses and talked bikes a bit.

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    Above: Moses astride my little Piggy… I admit it made me nervous, usually people underestimate the clumsiness of a bigger bike, but Moses knew what he was doing.

    Bidding farewell to everyone, we screamed up the hill to Gatab like our lives depended on it. The road had been improved by hand all the way to the next village, so it was like a rubbly hillclimb race, and I loved it. Farther on, we reached the forest and the track became overgrown by large, shady trees. The track fizzled out and we began to wonder if we were on the right track. Stubbornness prevailed, however, and after some log jumping (of various abilities, mine being the weakest) and light enduro work (where again, my skills really shined… see the vid), we made it to Gatab and found our digs at the AIC mission guest house.

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    Above: Racing up the backway to Gatab.

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    Above: The whole valley behind, views stretched all the way to the Ndotos

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    Above: In the trees, feeling the cool air

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    Above: Can this place really be so close to that sweltering hole called Loiyangilani?

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    Above: At this massive strangler, we had to jump a fallen log to continue down a small path or go back… we don’t like going back.

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    Above: We eventually popped out to a wonderful view down on Lake Turkana, but the trials weren’t over yet.

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    Above: Neb led me down a mini enduro pitch and was kind enough to film me flailing down it as well. Cheers for that bit, Neb, you enduro stud! How’s your frame?

    Arriving at the guest house and settling in, it was early enough that Neb and I went out exploring town. We wanted to see what is meant to be Kenya’s trickiest airstrip, one only a handful of folks (his dad included) are pilot enough to handle. I’m not a pilot, but as a passenger, I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. The wind blasts straight down it, which is good, but the thing ends in a drop-off that would pucker your bum on a good day and would kill you straight if you got it wrong. Kudos to the mad AIM pilots who used to service this place. Neb, you ain’t there yet!

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    Above: The end of the runway launches into infinity

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    Above: You’d best not get it wrong…

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    Above: Gatab airport, lounge and hangar

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    Above: While hunting for Cokes and mbeers, we ran into an old Mzee who was watching/helping/praying for us to get down that tricky section. We bought a round of Cokes.

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    Above: Evening is spectacular in Gatab

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    Above: Our digs for the night

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    Above: Cool air, a nice view, a couple beers and a few sips of whiskey and we were in heaven.

    Enjoy the following video... it'll make you feel good about yourself



    Next day: Back to Ngurunit the rocky way

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    #18
    squadraquota, liv2day, zippy and 3 others like this.
  19. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 8 - Back to Ngurunit, the rocky way

    Curled up under the blankets, I was in no rush to get up, but by 7AM I was awake anyway. The day’s plan was not overly ambitious, so we didn’t rush. By 9AM or so, we were gazing off the top of the mountain down at Nyiro and Lake Turkana below. Then we blasted over to the wind farm for a bit of go-juice (thanks to some help from our friends, we were allowed) and aimed down the superhighway to the turnoff for Tuum. That area is dead boring now that the wind farm is installed. Bring your Burgman Scooters if you wish.

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    Above: Looking down on it all from atop Mt. Kulal

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    Above: At this time of day, the clouds whip past like airplanes

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    Above: going down was lovely, though I did manage to fall on my butt while Neb was filming. Dammit Neb, you knob!

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    Above: Some of the canyons on Kulal look like they hold dark secrets.

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    Above: The wind farm is now operational. Some 400 turbines are out there soaking up the breeze.

    At the turnoff to Tuum from the North side, we were greeted with the very badly bleached “Land of Peace” sign and its AK-47. The parish should really get out there with a lick of paint one of these days. Fortunately for us, the road around the back of Nyiro was really fun. Far rockier and more eroded than I remembered, and stunningly beautiful with views down to the Suguta Valley, my White Whale. I’ll conquer you yet. We stopped in Tuum for a nice bite to eat and a beer before taking the back way to Ngurunit.

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    Above: To Tuum

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    Above: The Letuno Butchery and Hotel boasts Tuum's coolest mural

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    Above: The boys and their spirit animals. Mine is the He Goat

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    Above: A lunch beer makes Panic chatty

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    Above: Who's got two thumbs and wants to braaaap? This guy.

    My plan for getting us to Ngurunit was to explore little tracks and to see if there was a way over the Ndotos. On Google, the track looked pretty reasonable, but in real life, the thing was far steeper in places and rock-strewn enough that we decided we’d save it for another time. By this time Neb’s rear tire was almost completely bald… ask him why… and it was the dead heat of the day. We had some friends waiting in Ngurunit who had come up from Nairobi, so we bailed on the goat path and ripped flat out to the camp where cold beers were waiting. That night, we slept on beds under nets under the trees. Fantastic.

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    Above: Cool construction technique. Just wedge stones in for walls and plaster them later

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    Above: The backsides of the Ndotos are begging to be explored. Maybe ditch the kit in Ngurunit and do a harder day ride out. We always say that and never do it. Truth is, we like to feel the XRs eat up the long days. They're trophy trucks, not rock crawlers after all.

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    Above: On the goat path… very beautiful, and rideable too if you’re rested and patient, which we weren’t, and if it were a nice cool morning, which it wasn’t. It was beer-thirty.

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    Above: This is where we called it quits

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    Above: The scenery alone twists the throttle

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    Above: Permission to buzz the tower...

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    Above: Now that’s purdy.

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    Above: But that ain’t purdy! Believe it or not, Neb broke his frame, the big, thick, aluminium section under the engine… and he managed to blame me in a roundabout way! He says: “I was chasing you after the rocky section, jumped off a lip and landed on a stone.” As far as I’m concerned, I’m not even an accessory to this crime, but lemmings love a scapegoat. I break my own stuff just fine without being implicated in breaking others' thank you velly muchi. Happy welding, Neb!

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    Above: At Ngurunit, there was a party waiting. Plenty of beers, a huge meal including sausage, pasta, foie gras on rustic bread and some whisky later, we collapsed under a completely full moon and snored the night away, some of us sleeping peacefully knowing we hadn’t broken our bikes… others, not so much.

    Tomorrow, we'd have a new experience...

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    #19
    squadraquota, liv2day, zippy and 4 others like this.
  20. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    715
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 9 - The Mighty Milgis bites back

    The state of Neb’s bike cinched it for us: We needed to start heading back home in a rather direct fashion. We’d already had to ditch climbing the Borana escarpment to Timau, but Neb had organized a desirable alternative: a pilot friend finagled a place to crash at the Loisaba Conservancy’s research tents. We had our plan: Bust out of Ngurunit, ride up the Milgis Lugga to the Mathews Range for one last bit of interesting dirt, and zip up to Loisaba. Following day, slab it home. It almost went according to plan…

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    Above: Leaving Ngurunit was challenging with all the rush hour traffic

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    Above: Ndotos make a great backdrop for any XRR

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    Above: In the Milgis again, throttles were opening, but not as much as before. Going upstream meant we’d be hitting sandy lips from below, so we were being fairly cautious

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    Above: Stopping to tighten bolts or something on Neb’s bike, we parked up next to fresh elephant prints. I love knowing those creatures are out there.

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    Above: The Breakfast Club pose

    We really were taking it easy by our own standards, but we got hit by an unexpected turn of events. I was ahead, keeping it around 80kph and was about to exit the riverbed at the big rock waterfall. I stopped to take a pic of Neb roosting his way up. Panic arrived, but Neb was nowhere to be seen. We had just stopped together, so this was odd. Looking back into the sun down the river, we couldn’t see anybody. Then, a tall silhouette appeared, like something out of the Wild West, but sans cowboy hat. Uh oh. Panic went back first and I followed. As I got closer, I could see churned up sand and knew he’d gone down hard.

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    Above: Toodling along, singing a song, getting knocked silly.

    Neb was up and talking, so I started taking pics and shooting the shit, teasing. After being recorded by him in less than flattering ways in Kulal, I was ready to repay the favour! He pointed to his zig-zagging tracks coming along, where it hit a little sand lip and a bike length later it hit a stick in the sand. Frankly, I couldn’t see why he crashed, and he couldn’t either. He said he just started to lose control, like he’d had a blowout, but it went beyond what he could handle and he bailed. Weird as hell, but it got weirder… He started repeating himself, telling the story again from the beginning. Then he said: “I have this feeling I broke my frame…” as if that wasn’t all we’d talked about in Ngurunit last night. And when he saw it, he said: “How the heck did I do that?” Then, “I don’t remember where we slept last night.” Obviously, he’d hit his head, hard. I looked at his face then, and could see the whites of one eye was bloody. He later reported that seeing me look at his eye was the first thing he remembered after the crash.

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    Above: The scene… so innocuous… that little stick took him down? No way. Sand snakes maybe. Knocked his glasses clean off his schnoot.

    I shot Panic a glance and he shot me one back. This wasn’t funny. Neb said for the fifth time: “Well, I’m up and I’m talking, so I’m okay.” And repeated again how the biggest bummer for him was breaking his GPS. “I love that GPS”. Then he went through the crash details again, talking about feeling like it was a blowout. I walked out to the zigzagging tracks that were a meter or less off from where Panic and I had ridden (our tracks were straight). I kicked the sand and lo and behold there was the greasiest mud you’ve ever seen hiding just under the surface. Still, it’s not like the tracks broke the surface. Anyway, this mystery would have to wait. We were now worried about Neb. Panic and I decided that I would ride ahead to a nearby camp I knew of to see if I could phone the flying doctors for advice, and he and Neb would find shade and wait. I didn’t want to blow it off and find out it was something really serious, so off I went… not so casually this time.

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    Above: Neb’s broken GPS after the big off

    I rode 10km up the Milgis, found an exit, and climbed a scrabbly hill to the camp (beautifully situated, by the way… I’ll definitely stop there next time! They even had cold beers!) and found a chap from the Milgis Trust with a radio. Sadly, no cell reception, and his sat phone was not working. He pointed up a valley in front of us and said: Go to that mabati roofed building and look for a guy with a car, I’ll radio him. He will take you to a tree that gets cell coverage. So I did. Fun riding too, if you’re in the mood for it. I wasn’t. I found Moses (another Moses), we climbed in the 4x4, drove down the lugga, and crawled our way up the hillside in the blasting heat to the famed cell phone tree. No bars. By now, I’d been gone an hour and was anxious to check back in with the guys, so I was preparing to go back when the radio crackled to life. Neb and Panic had ridden to the camp and he was feeling better. To quote Panic: “Well, at least he’s not babbling anymore.”

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    Above: Some fun exploring to be had, if you’re not worried about your mate’s potential vegetative state.

    At the camp, we chilled a while longer, had a Coke in the shade and re-assessed. Neb could almost tell us the places we’d stayed during our trip without messing it up, and he did seem better, which was relative anyway, so we decided we’d get moving. He lamented breaking his GPS a few more times for good measure, though. Given our ordeal, we ditched the Mathews in favour of a more direct route on a very good and scenic all-weather dirt road. In no time we were in Maralal, and the trip was nearing its end.

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    Above: Neb was fine, just fine, enjoying the view from the camp

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    Above: Scenery on the good road out of the Milgis – looks like somebody done been preachin' my sermon!

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    Above: Neb could ride well enough… we’d test his spelling later

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    Above: Back in the trees below the Maralal escarpment road

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    Above: Last little lick up to Maralal – Panic reminded me to watch out for ditches, and I did

    We fuelled up, had a big, late lunch in Maralal and set off for Loisaba. Half way down the long, seemingly endless, flat dirt road, I noticed Neb’s rack was falling apart again. We paused for him to put new bolts in, and I noticed I’d broken one of my tank brackets. Panic saw that his rims were cracking in numerous places as well. I always say Africa’s hard on gear, but it’s the only place in the world I wanna use it.

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    Above: A few giraffe, zebra and even an Oryx or two greeted us as we farted around looking for the entrance to Loisaba (bikes are not usually allowed, but we got a special pass… this meant we’d have to come in the servant’s entrance, so it was not exactly well marked).

    At the researcher’s camp, we were greeted heartily and shown our lovely safari tents. Neb, rather than lying down and resting his concussion, ran around like a booboo gawking at the SuperCub that was parked in the hangar, which truly is a beauty, while Panic and I sipped whisky on the veranda and rehashed the day like a couple of contemplative old farts.

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    Above: the SuperCub… Neb’s real reason for coming to Loisaba

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    Above: Safari tents are always awesome

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    Above: Me feeling ragged after a long, worrying day…

    We had a great meal, a couple of Tuskers, and called it a night (after a nightcap of course). It was dawning on us the trip was over. The following morning, we kitted up and lit out for the tarmac to get us home. On the way, we passed a little trio of elephant as a nice farewell. The tar was awful, but we were all eager to be home at a reasonable hour, and we were. Now its time to repair bikes and start planning the next one!

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    Above: Hornbills doing the funky chicken

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    Above: Our farewell from Loisaba

    Well, that’s all folks! Thanks for following along. Panic and Neb, this one goes down as one of the greats! We know what we’re doing, but we learn something new every ride. Lets fix up the bikes, rest our bones and get back out there soon!

    The End
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    Epilogue: Here’s what Panic and I think caused Neb’s crash: His steering damper. This little toy is new to Neb, and he was enjoying cranking it up and flying down the riverbed. At the time of the crash, he had it on full… as if he’s a Dakar Racer or something. We reckon, with the damper cranked up, a bald rear tire on 30psi (he’s so stubborn about that… didn’t buy new rubber before the ride and ran it stupidly hard in a half-assed attempt to save tread wear instead…) and that little greasy bit of mud under the sand were a perfect combo. He started weaving, hit the grease, got off balance and because the damper was maxed, he couldn’t make the natural little corrections to save his ass, so he saw it instead. That’s our two bits.
    #20