XR650Rs to the Little Lake in Greenest Kenya

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Osadabwa, Jan 12, 2020.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    708
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    There had been nine whole days of 2020 and we still hadn't gone riding. That had to end.

    But first I needed to prepare the bike. And let me tell you, I’m a hell of a mechanic. I deftly stripped the bike down to check the valves (they were perfect) then manhandled my unwieldy tank back into position (no small feat of plumbing and nonsense). But, after reinstalling everything, and feeling smug about it, I looked on the workbench and staring back at me was the spark-plug I removed when doing the valves! Oh yes, top notch mechanic am I!

    Meanwhile, I realize my sub-frame is broken (again), probably after a very hard hit on the last ride so I had to swap that out with my spare (thanks again, @Faceplant, you're not half the jerk everyone says you are). Now two days later, after hemming and hawing about whether I should put new rubber on, I finally decide to bite the bullet and literally 500 bloody meters later my brand new Bridgestone Gritty ED78 has picked up a big, rusty bastard nail. Half a kilometer!

    I mean what the Hell, 2020? You want a piece of me?

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    Above: Elation, destruction and rotten luck… Osadabwa in a nutshell!

    At last, Panic and I christened this new year with a 3 day overnighter down to some of our usual haunts. We managed to explore one or two new tracks along the way, but it really didn't matter where we went as long as we went. The next ride is always the best ride, and you never know when it might be your last, so go!

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    To be continued...
    #1
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  2. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    708
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 1 - Little Lake Magadi

    Friday morning. Bikes loaded, tanks full, we weaved through Nairobi’s nonsense and popped out at the Ngong View entry to the Great Rift Valley - former home of a huge euphorbia candelabra, now just another bare stone quarry left behind by the railway - but I digress. The morning was brilliant, cool and ripe for the braaaping. We had a long day ahead of us through some familiar terrain, so we just twisted it on and flew to Najile for a Coke, then onward toward Mosiro where I was in search of a potentially tasty new track I’d spotted on Google Earth.

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    Above: The entry point with the Ngong Hills (there) in the distance and it’s new tarmac road snaking into the valley bringing people and heartache along with it.

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    Above: Traffic jam at the SGR underpass… off to dig up a tree or two no doubt

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    Above: These mzungus are flying! I was too quick on the shutter, but you get the idea… it was happy Pig territory.

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    Above: After Najile, exploring riverbeds to see if they link up with my new road, Panic tries and fails to roost me, ending up ensnared by his own meanness. Sucka!

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    Above: Dry riverbeds… they won’t all be dry this trip!

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    Above: The XR is very capable, but I don’t think we should try to hop off this ledge. Time to head back to the road bound for Mosiro.

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    Above: Maybe someday I’ll try to navigate around this drop-off to see what lies beyond, but usually these riverbeds just vanish into a thorn-tree delta.

    Continuing on to Mosiro, we passed terrapins splashing around in mud puddles that only come around once a year, and also probably the track I was looking for. It just seemed too small and stony, so we gave it a miss in favour of looking for another entry after Mosiro. Mosiro, by the way, is on my shit list. It was noon (somewhere) when we arrived and it was certainly a good time for a beer, but the little village was dry! Fine. We’d head out and have a snack under a shade tree with parched throats. The road was trashed leaving town. Only a few rides ago, I was lamenting how good it was. I thought maybe they planned to add a layer of tar. Apparently not. I don’t know when they’ll learn. You can’t just put in a concrete culvert in and expect the road to stay in one place. There are concrete pipes in the middle of ditches in the path of roads all over this place. Now there are a few more. Makes the biking more interesting on the way to Nguruman.

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    Above: South of Mosiro, we found the road I was looking for in an extremely sorry state. Photos fail to show just how bad an idea it would have been to try to navigate that little goat path along the edge, so again we pressed on down toward Nguruman. After a herd or two of goats and a boda or three have descended, we’ll try again.

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    Above: The road which was I just recently declared to be almost too good is now a total wreck. Stoney sections have become much trickier and the rest of the track is essentially a dry wash riverbed. It’s great riding if you like that sort of thing… and we do.

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    Above: And look at that green! The Ngurman escarpment lording over a valley that hasn’t seen so much water in a long time. It was humid and hot (100F/37C), but it was gorgeous.

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    Above: Panic accidentally bypassed a nice work-around to this steep, loose descent, but it just makes for good practice and the Pig eats it up.

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    Above: Roads turn to washes and vice-versa around here. Two years ago at this spot, Panic managed to hit me with a sandy roost that went on so long I thought I was going to be buried alive in my boots, so I posted up in anticipation of returning the favour, but the cunning buggar saw it coming a mile away and evaded my trap.

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    Above: Out of the rocks and down in the flats among the big anthills. We raced through what is usually a bald, feshy plain over to Ol Kirimatian where I happened to spot a place boasting solar-powered fridges. They had mbeers, so we enjoyed one (not very cold, by the way) while sweating in the shade for a bit, resting our bones before heading out to our second objective of the day.

    Little Lake Magadi. It’s been on my list of places to explore for ages. I love Magadi and the deepest parts of the Rift Valley. They’re hot, inhospitable, surreally beautiful and full of excellent biking. Each time I go anywhere near it, I put in a track for Little Magadi, a smaller soda lake North of the big one being plundered by Tata for its trona which it turns into Soda Ash. I include a link to a very insightful video of a man in a cowboy hat explaining the whole thing from my home state of Wyoming, where, it just so happens, there is a motherload of trona to be had. I wonder if that’s why I like Magadi so much… anyway.

    Little Lake didn’t disappoint. The track in was more like a million tracks trending the same way, but when we crested the final hill they all coalesced into one and brought with it an amazing view made more spectacular by the uncharacteristically green grass everywhere. Completely still, hot air made the lake a perfect mirror and we spent a fair bit of time admiring it before continuing North to explore the rest of the area. At the same time, a research helicopter was hovering over the flamingos at the northern tip. I hoped they’d land near us and open a cooler of cold ones, but they were obviously busy.

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    Above: Little Lake Magadi from above and at water level

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    Above: Panic rides the shore of the mirror lake

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    Above: Green and blue… I break up the reflection with a perfectly executed skip of a stone

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    Above: Coming up with the lake behind. That short grass hides a lot of little, rolling baby heads and some bowling balls too. If you are gawking at the view, you’re going to drop the bike (Panic did! Panic did!)

    Separating Little Lake Magadi with the larger lake is a rocky crest running due North. On the East side of the crest is the muddy salt-pan and northern reaches of the main lake. Some day, when the place is back to its usual dry self, I’ll ride in that pan and explore further. This time, we took the peninsula all the way to the top of the lake till the road petered out. By then, it was time to rip it out of there for the genuinely cold beers of the Magadi Sports Club bar.

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    Above: Looking down at the mud salt pan and the razor rock in the distance.

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    Above: Having gone all the way to the top, now heading back on the stoney track

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    Above: Such good riding

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    Above: That lake is beautiful. Too bad the water is caustic, otherwise it would be a brilliant place to camp.

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    Above: Some serious anthills out there

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    Above: Over the mud salt pan, the thunder rolls…

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    Above: And we rip! Only caught the shadow of Panic racing past me

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    Above: My pretty piggy enjoying the view

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    Above: Leaving the lake, we found the main track. It was almost all flat, sand, ash and pebbles. Absolutely flat-out kind of stuff. Perfect for the XRR, and a great way to end a great day.

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    Above: Blasting the main road back down to Magadi, it’s white-encrusted factory rumbling in the distance across the (often flooded) causeway

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    Above: Burning for the beers!

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    Above: The tented camp was empty apart from us. As usual, it was a great stay. Good food, cold drinks and AC in the tents.

    More to come!
    #2
  3. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    708
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Day 2 - New Tracks from Torosei

    New day, new challenges. Our destination for the night, Selengei in Kajiado County, would take us up the valley on new tracks I hoped existed, but first we had to get off the valley floor, a prospect more challenging than usual. Last October, Panic and I found a shortcut from Magadi to Torosei that cuts through the lower lake pans and bypasses the extinct volcano we usually ride through. But that was October. What we found when we started following the track was slick mud, corrosive rivulets of salty water and eventually a swampy soda lake. It meant we had to change course and take our usual route through the volcano. I’m glad we did. The rains had turned it to a green paradise and the track was so overgrown in spots we’d have gone round in circles without the trusty GPS. It was a treat, and we roared into Torosei for a true-noon mid-day mbeer to celebrate.

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    Above: Colourful, mineral-rich waters coursing around what is usually a white-hot, bone-dry frying pan.

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    Above: Innocuous looking water crossing… one second later and Panic was roosting black muck and nearly coming to a smelly and undignified halt. I didn’t heed his warnings to gas it and nearly got stuck as well, resorting to putting a boot down in that stuff to keep balance in the unexpectedly grabby guk… the smell from which would haunt me the rest of the trip.

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    Above: The weird formations of the pan

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    Above: What biker can resist trying to swing a drifty donut now and then? Answer: A wary biker. This surface seems uniformly grippy, but it can drop you like stone when it’s wet. I stuck to wide arcs.

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    Above: We’ve’ climbed this hill before, but never through knee-high grass!

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    Above: Another water crossing, blessed by a flock of birds, looks like it could be a fishing stream

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    Above: Super aggressive stance for what turned out to be an ankle-deep drip and a solid surface

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    Above: On the Shompole road, admiring Magadi’s flamboyance of flamingos

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    Above: The last of the sickly-green water crossings, but not of the water. It re-emerged from Panic's tires in a slow bubble all evening long. We waited for a boda boda to go through first rather than find out half way across it’s a 4-foot-deep mud hole. I came across this pan a few years back when it was totally saturated and every inch was muck… it didn’t go well for me!

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    Above: Up on the old volcano track, the brush had crept close and every stone was a loose tooth in the track’s long, crooked smile.

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    Above: Stopping for a break, we met an old mzee who was on his way to Oloika from Torosei… it would take him 2 days to walk what it would take us 1 hour to ride. I told him we were going to Torosei and he said it wasn’t possible… oh mzee, on a Pig, everything is possibo!

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    Above: Green grass, red bikes and singletrack

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    Above: Outside the bar in Torosei, Panic suddenly whips out a bag of sweets for the kids. Will wonders never cease? Who knew Panic had a heart?

    From Torosei, it was time to explore again. I had a quick track to get us over to the Namanga Road as expeditiously as possible, but today we wanted to try something more challenging. I’d put together a mess of tracks, riverbeds and goat paths that appeared to climb the low mountains near the TZ border to take us over north of Meto. After a quick bite under a lonely tree in the middle of a dry sand river, we spent some effort bushwhacking to find the paths up the hills (there). My tracks weren’t perfect, and we panya-panyad around till we were getting sweaty, so I started seeking out help from folks we ran into. Everyone was keen to help, and in no time we were put straight and the track was a joy. Hard, steep scrambles on scree brought us to the top and back down again.

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    Above: Setting up for a quick bite under this tough little lonely tree

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    Above: The track was a blast. Sometimes narrow and sometimes wider singletrack crawled its way over the top and down again. Lots of loose scree to scramble up.

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    Above: Never got in position in time to catch Panic on the steep sections. Too quick, our Panic.

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    Above: A variety of odd terrain found us on the top

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    Above: Then it was a steeeep descent to the other side, made more difficult by a small herd of cows getting in the way

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    Above: Okay, here I go... Gah! There's cows down there!

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    Above: Panic makes it down the last steep section

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    Above: Sheep breaking into the churchyard on a Saturday, led astray by the goats, naturally.

    Half of the new tracks behind us, I set us on a course to connect to Ngataetek on the main road, but it was easier said than done. We rumbled through heavily rutted foot paths and onto what used to be a road but had been returned to nature by neglect and repeated washouts. We finally had to turn around when one wash proved too deep, steep and narrow, forcing us to re-cross one that had nearly killed me just moments before. It was a steep descent and I realized half way in and well committed that the angle meant I couldn’t cover my rear brake. I froze up and basically tumbled into the hole with both levers fully pressed, not using the engine brake and nearly going over handlebars thanks to the death grip I had on the front. Recrossing it was more civilised, fortunately, and we even had a nguy there who videoed the whole thing. He loved it. How times have changed.

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    Above: Going back up the hole that almost ate my lunch. Of course it looks like nothing in the pics, but it was steep. Hey buddy, it’s cool. Don’t help, just film!

    We eventually found our way over to Ngataetek, roaring up to the tar in a cloud of dust just in time to see a guy on an immaculately clean, slate gray GS1200 roll by. He gave us a sheepish little half-wave and continued slowly on his way. Must have been out on a big tarmac outing to Namanga, the shittiest little border town in Kenya. Was he wearing one of those lame-ass “P O L I T E” reflective vests, or am I making that up? Shame. Anyway, the afternoon was getting long in the tooth so we ripped back onto the dirt and linked one rip-snorting, hard-packed dirt road mayhem maker after another together to Selengei. It was 5th gear flat-out stuff, but not without perils. I was sure I could see a perfectly flat stretch ahead and twisted it on, loving that sweet, sweet power band that creeps in around 110-120kph and keeps going maybe forever, when I saw a culvert ahead. Much too late to brake, I doubled-down on the throttle and sent her flying, landed and kept it pinned. What a bike!

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    Above: Not a single shot of us racing like an Australian wildfire on those fast roads, but here’s one of a cool bar in the bush.

    We arrived at Selengay Safari Camp and were puttering to the tents when I fell down hard. Surely a giant had slapped me from behind like a good-for-nothing coward! No! Goddam rut took out my front wheel at 10kph. Honestly… it makes me so damn mad! It’s worse than biting your lip. It’s worse than biting your lip right after you’ve bitten your lip! Slammed into the dust whacking both wrists hard on the ground and just 100m from my tent and a not-too-hot beer. Come on now! What a gumby move! Another reminder that the ride ain’t over till it’s over.

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    Above: My accommodation for the night. Selengay Safari Camp. The owner, Leonard is the most switched-on Masai guy I know and I love giving him business. His place is basic but good for passing bikers like us, and the food was amazing and abundant.

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    Above: Night time in the not-yet-finished mess hall. Starving, Panic and I annihilated a buffet meal that might have been set for 10 people. Later, by the bonfire, we watched the full moon climb the eastern trees, listening to the herd of zombie camels clambering at the gates while doing a number on a small bottle of Single Malt I brought along. You’ve got to treasure these moments.

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    Above: My piggy ticking herself to sleep, dreaming of rocky climbs and screaming hard pack...

    -----

    Just after arrival, I switched on my phone to horrible news. A friend of mine living in Livingstone, Zambia had just died in a microlite accident the previous day near Victoria Falls. He was a biker who had crossed Africa north to south twice and was very helpful and encouraging to me when I was just starting to ride 18 years ago. His adventurous nature and positive attitude were contagious and his love for family and friends wholehearted. RIP Heiko, you will be missed.
    #3
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  4. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    708
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Slept fairly well, all things considered, and despite having a short discussion with an invading mouse in which I asked him politely to piss off and let me get some shut-eye. We slammed breakfast and jumped on the bikes. Skipped for 20km up the newly tarred road which Leonard worries will bring outsiders who don’t value or understand the area’s environment. Despite the green this year, grazing land is the place’s best use, but non-pastoralists will try to convert it all to crops, chopping the trees along the riverbank to make space. Good luck fighting it, Leonard. From Mashuru petrol station, we jumped back into the bush following a go-to track for getting us back home. It’s rough and steep and gives wonderful views of the bushy landscape below.
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    Above: Kajiado at its best

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    Above: Panic makes friends with a sizeable Leopard Tortoise. Much like Crocodile Dundee, our Panic can talk to the bush creatures... but he prefers to shout obscenities at his mates.

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    Above: The narrow part of the track. Soon it kicked us out onto an invigorating, quick blast of a thing that sprinted over to the tar.

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    Above: On the fast section, somebody has had the brilliant idea to build a whopping concrete bridge. It’s still topped with rebar at the moment but we rode over it anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first and last time we ride over that bridge. Before we know it, both sides will be washed away and the thing will stand like a concrete island in the river.

    Across the tar, up the goat paths, past a deep water hole and along what was a surprisingly tricky road to the Kenya Marble Quarry due to a recent rain leaving black mud everywhere. We were just interested in getting home. We deviated briefly to see if we could ride the riverbed past Mi-46 for a change, but the surface was deep, soft and wet and there was at least a kilometre of very rocky stuff ahead, so we gave it a miss. Panic then decided to fall over in a rut, and to cuss a bit, and to kick things as you do. Fortunately, from there, it was all melted rocks and scorched earth. The road from Mi-46 to Olepolos was a total wreck, but somehow one that inspired a heavy throttle hand. After kuku choma and a couple of mbeers, the lick under the Ngongs totally followed suit. Fire and brimstone I tell you. I love that XRR!

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    Above: Very deep waterhole for cattle… couldn’t believe that little black dog managed to crawl out of there. Thought for sure I’d watch him take a swim.

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    Above: Down in the riverbed for a second. Thought better of it and hit the road.

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    Above: Cheers, Panic! Like it or not, we’re both 5 years older than when we started this shit. Here’s to many, many more!

    Oink

    P.S. Just to acknowledge a few things. These RRs represent a subjective feeling of speed and difficulty. When we get home, worn out and secretly happy to be off that cursed motorcycle, it often laugh at how little we actually did. Three days of riding for us equals one stage of the Dakar or the Eco Challenge; "fire breathing, rip snorting fast" for us is so slow we wouldn't even finish 1/2 of the Baja 1000 before dark; and "steep, rocky climb" would be like warming up in the parking lot for anybody who does enduro.

    That said: THE XR650R RULES! BRAAAAAAP!

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    #4
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  5. vector6

    vector6 slipstream

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2018
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    Texas
    Awesome, thanks for sharing !
    #5
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  6. NAVIGATOR

    NAVIGATOR Wanderer

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
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    1,923
    Location:
    SOUTH OF THE USA BORDER(friendlier Mexico)
    Brilliant as always
    Nice scenery you got there
    Sorry about your friend….. sadly it´s the risk of our dangerous hobbies
    #6
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  7. The Virginian

    The Virginian YouTube n00b Supporter

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    Spotsylvania, VA
    Outstanding!
    #7
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  8. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Jan 11, 2012
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    Location:
    Kingsmill Corner Ont.
    Superb. Thanks.
    #8
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  9. croxx

    croxx pjcroxxing

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    11
    Location:
    France
    Brilliant tonic for my soul this mild winter. Sorry about your buddy Heiko - RIP...
    #9
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  10. Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie & Clyde Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
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    4,156
    Location:
    Gardnerville NV
    :thumbup
    #10
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  11. Wanderlust 701

    Wanderlust 701 Texan and aspiring RTW rider living in East Africa Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2019
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    East Africa
    Great ride, looked fantastic and really sorry about your friend Heiko. RIP
    #11
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  12. GoatOfDoom

    GoatOfDoom n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
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    6
    Great stuff as always!
    #12
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  13. SIF

    SIF Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2015
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Nairobi
    Great read as always, sorry about your friend RIP with the Eagles.
    #13
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  14. oldmanb777

    oldmanb777 Just say NO to socialism! It's a bad drug!

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2006
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    8,879
    Location:
    Peoples republic of Kalifornia, East...Kolarado
    Wow! Absolutely amazing trip.
    #14
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  15. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Sherwood, Oregon
    @Osadabwa - you've posted some awe-inspiring images in your reports, but the one above is truly spectacular man. Reflection of the lake, Panic riding way, the green grass and hills behind...fack man, I'm envious.

    Really glad I came across this report, looking forward to catching up on what you guys did during the 2nd and 3rd days :thumb
    #15
  16. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Really sorry to hear about your friend, learning something like that while out on your ride would reinforce how short our stint is on this globe for me. Condolences for your loss :( :(

    Thoroughly enjoyed the report; sad note and all. Appreciate you taking the time to get the pictures posted and take us along. Haven't ridden myself for several months now, reports like this help keep the bad demons away :lol3.

    Knobby side down until the next one.
    #16