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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by metaljockey, May 28, 2010.
wow.. i love your ride reports.. so laid back but so up front.. keep up the good work and pics
Yes, it lands on the tank and it gets scratched up, but no other problems.
Bush Camp to Hunting Camp
We enter the park at the Milyoti gate. The reason that we are allowed in the park here is that this is a proclaimed public road and it is used by locals on foot and on bicycle.
We quickly learn that sticking to the footpath is the way to go.
Its a leisurely ride and we cruise while standing on the pegs looking for game.
Recycling in action.
Now and then theres a bit of an obstacle but nothing that proves to be a real problem.
What does prove to be a problem is the cotton soil. Where it has dried it is like volcanic rock.
Really unpleasant shit to ride this.
On leaving the park we fill our containers again with borehole water but this time it is yellow, and smelly.
Then we come to the next river, a muddy one.
Luckily there is a circuitous route that leads to a good crossing. One with an excellent run up so you can hit it at speed.
There is something quite impressive about the morning silence being ripped apart by the booming of a big bore motor giving it horns.
Since my rack broke I moved the ATG bag forward onto the seat and the light stuff like the pontoon back onto the carrier. I should have done this from the outset.
A view of the Luangwa.
Nearing the Lukusuzi river, things are overgrown again and we mess around to and fro within 1km from the river crossing but battle to find it.
When we do the whole village had gathered. Clearly this river has a history. When a vehicle comes this way they know there is money to be made.
I insist that I dont want my luggage or bike carried over and give it my best shot.
Not much of a shot. As the bike digs in you can hear the whole village cheering.
Hennie tries another line.
But the Lukusuzi will have none of it.
Here we have the first disagreement with the locals, they are clearly out to make some money off this and they want an exorbitant amount for their efforts. This pisses me off in principle so we pay them enough to buy two beers between the nine of them.
We get to the entrance gate to the Luambe National Park and the warden tells us that we will not be able to cross the Lupita river further on. It is too deep and it is full of crocodiles. We explain the pontoon plan to him but he looks doubtful.
Within two kilometers we get stuck in a long cotton mud section. The warden and his assistant walk the two kilometers and with their help we get through.
When we get to the river we ride up and down to find a place to cross and by the time the warden and his assistant has walked the 7 km there, we have found one place that looks possible. Its too deep though and it is mud in and mud out.
Theres a lot of discussion until Hennie goes in and walks through to check the bottom and to see if there are any crocs that would like a knibble.
When we go in the fisherman that have gathered, flat out refuse to go in. This is normally not a good sign. In this brown water however even the crocs cant see, so they will have to come to the surface to get their bearing, and we have a guy with a gun.
In the end it is just the warden and his deputy that is willing to enter. The deputys head swivels around quite a bit, checking out the water surface.
To be honest my eyeballs also got quite a workout.
The bottom consists of tree roots and the current has a stronger pull on the bike than one might expect.
Exits are tricky because when your front wheel reaches land the rear is still in deep water. So you have to roll the front up the bank until the rear touches ground, before the pontoons can be untied.
The pontoon story takes a lot of time. More than an hour each time, from arrival until we are ready to roll again.
The tsetse fly have also increased exponentially and they more or less chase us through the park. The road through is just cotton soil pocked with elephant, hippo and other tracks, some wet, some dry.
We do not see much game and as it is getting late we do not stop for pics much. Also here we are not allowed in the park at night and we still have to find the ferry, if there is one at all.
When we get to the next crossing I dont have the patience to first walk it and just attack.
With this result.
Hennie takes a totally different approach that I think cannot possibly work.
But hes right and makes it almost all the way, only getting stuck on the top lip.
After we fought my bike out of the mud we are floppy again. And then another river. The Kazikaze. One of the deep ones with crocodiles and we will not make it up the other bank without help.
This pontoon thing gets old really quickly. Crossing this river on a bridge would take 2 seconds, we are in for another hour of work. Think about that the next time you zip across a small bridge.
We are lucky though, the previous day poachers shot an elephant about a kilometer from here and they were arrested by the game guards. So all the guards roaming the park on foot are congregated here and it is not long or we get the help we so sorely need.
For their effort I spin them full of mud fighting it up that muddy bank.
And good news too. This is the last river and the ferry is up and running. We are really happy about that. I was dreading having to cross the Luangwa. Hippos and crocs will give you hell there and you will have to sit on the bike and paddle. At the rate it flows you will get washed several kilometers downstream and then have to find a way out and back.
We spend a frustrating time trying to find the ferry and at sunset we finally see this beautiful sight.
Dry grass over logs in a rut looks like bad news to me so I sit and watch the inevitable carnage.
Uhuh, I thought so.
Man powered ferry. Check that bank on the other side. This ferry is one hell of a stroke of good luck coming our way.
This is the anchor.
We are two really grateful souls at this point in time.
Hennie puts his foot on a drum and it rolls giving everybody a fright.
We are damn tired. We should have taken that rest day.
The ferrymen tell us that there is a hunting lodge just up the road and we take a newly made road as it gets dark.
What we see we ride, no stopping to check it out.
When we get to the camp we are met by Ahmed Patel. Its his camp and he offers us a chalet to stay in.
He tells us that it is his ferry and he only set it up three days ago. The reason we battled to find it is that it is moved every year depending on how the river changes over the wet season. Every end of the dry season he takes it down again otherwise it is washed away.
Regarding the hippos in the Luangwa he tells us that just the previous day a hippo bull attacked a mokoro, with two of his workers in, right in front of the camp. Knocking them into the water, he attacked again, luckily going for the upside down canoe and sinking it. Two lucky fellows.
Ahmed is now here in preparation for the hunting season and rebuilding camp after it was flooded and parts washed away. What he does every year is build log bridges over every river that we just crossed so that his vehicles can get supplies from Mfuwe. Every rainy season all the bridges are washed away again.
I get a feel for how difficult it is to get things done here. Most of the lodges are only open for six months of the year during the dry season, when the cotton soil is chopped up to make roads. No wonder the lodge rates are so high. Imagine having a business that only earns income for six months in the year. And every time you reopen you have to build your own roads to get access and then bring in all supplies.
The skill set that Ahmed needs to be able to run this hunting outfit is huge. I am very impressed. And even more so when we get a meal with chicken, chips, steak etc. I get embarrassed by the amount of orange juice I can not stop drinking.
He would not hear of us paying for anything.
What is that floating (or sticking out) of the water in the background??? :huh
I assume that its not a croc as you would definitely have told us .... right?
Did you see any crocs coming to wards you guys during any pontoon crossings?
So far everybody has been a little too helpful, do you have to pay them each time or was it only the one group that wanted money and the rest were just been good Samaritans????
Luangwa to Mutinondo river
Our plan for the day is to cover the 120km corridor route to the Great North Road and then do a quick 200km on tar to get to an overnight spot as we head home to Kasane.
The Corridor road has not been used since last year. Lucky for us Ahmed had cut open the first 20km to the local chief’s village. He warns us that the elephant are very aggressive in this first 20km. Apparently, years ago they were the most heavily poached elephant in the country. It was so bad that there are now elephant born that never develop tusks. All the adults were shot out, leaving the young ones to grow up without their leadership. Now these ‘undisciplined’ ones are running amok. Not a week goes by that there is not an incident.
We are happy to not run into any.
The cut-open road looks like this. It would have been damn unpleasant if it wasn’t. We are again doing this route without the assistance of GPS.
It does not take long for us to figure out that this is going to be a long day. It had rained quite a bit during the night, and although this looks like Hennie hit the deck for no reason, he did not.
Under what looks like a good surface, it is slippery as snot.
We have been paddling this stuff for a while and Hennie believes that he can ride it on the pegs. You can not. Check out the tyres.
We had barely done 10km and Hennie is not feeling well. I think that once you have used up your body’s reserves, you don’t just get it back with one meal or a night's rest. We are just not in the best of shape anymore.
Crashing while on the pegs is not making things easier, I can see Hennie is less than happy.
From here we both ride in first and we slide around for the next ten kilometres. You would have the bike snake off into the bush arbitrarily, you then hit the brakes and nothing would happen, the bike just keeps going with locked brakes.
And I keep on reading the track wrong. I would see the clay surface in the left track and the right track would be covered with dried grass. So I go for the extra traction of the grass. Wrong. The grass is just preventing the snot underneath it from drying so it is way more slippery than the exposed clay on the left.
We slip and slide in this shit until we get to the village.
Twenty kms in and we have already finished our water and we are sweating copiously.
Luckily the water problem gets sorted immediately.
By the way, have a look at these tyres. We knew we were going to need a lot of grip because this was going to be a muddy trip. I was also planning to ride the bikes back down to East London from Zambia, so we needed something that would last.
I opted for the Michelin Desert, a tyre I have used extensively and that I trust. Hennie is also a Desert fan and wanted one, but it seems Michelin does not import the 17 inch Desert. What he fitted instead is a Mitas E09. The tread pattern is actually quite close to the Desert, have a look.
Hennie was very pleased with the grip of the Mitas. I might well try one of those in future, it certainly looks like it will give better mileage than the Desert.
When we leave the village everything changes, no more mud and the villagers had started reconstructing the road for the dry season. Immediately the tsetse fly start chasing us though.
As long as you keep your speed up the tsetse fly can not keep up, but the second you stop they catch up and lay into you. We do not get much of a chance to enjoy the scenery.
And our luck doesn’t last, the road repairs last maybe 5kms and then we cannot outrun the tsetse anymore.
When the tsetse gets in under your shirt they just go into a feeding frenzy, well, they are always in a feeding frenzy, they just get better opportunities. Check out Hennie’s back.
The moment the road repairs stop the riding becomes very difficult. Long grass and ruts messed up with elephant tracks. Very technical.
We spend most of the time trying to balance on the centre ridge to avoid the deep ruts, but the grass hampers your sight so that you often cannot see where your wheels are supposed to go. We ride in first gear on the clutch all the time. Meantime the tsetse is eating away at us. It is hot, there is no airflow in this grass.
Where ever there is a little open area you pull up to get some air.
When you pull off it’s into the thick of it again. In this heat you are forced to ride with your visor closed because your face is used as a tool to part the grass. You can’t see shit where your wheel is supposed to go. So you ride blind feeling your way.
The grass seeds are making life hell. This is not enjoyable riding, not enjoyable at all.
When the savannah grass periodically opens up to something greener and softer it is bad news. This is, or rather was a wet area. Under that grass is a myriad of deep elephant tracks that have now turned to stone. But you cannot see them through the grass.
The road is just plain fucked. Everywhere, with no letup.
Hennie tries again to do the second gear thing and falls hard. Proper separation and all. Again his footpeg bends up, as well as his brake and his hand protectors. We get it sorted with tyre levers.
Look closely, this pic is of my bike, 15m away.
We fall over often. And we do not have the strength to pick up our own bikes anymore. You just hit the hooter and the other guy makes his way back to you on foot. We haven’t seen any locals for hours now.
This is not fun. It just gets worse until we cannot manage more than 2km at a time, then we stop and drink one liter of water and rest a little right there in the sun.
Pulling away again takes a lot from you because you are pulling off into a wall of grass. Two km on you are spent and forced to stop or fall down, and again drink a litre of water. I count 4 consecutive stops where we down a litre.
We have done by now maybe 40km of the 120km Corridor road. We misjudged quite substantially here. This hell may last for two days if we are lucky, three if we are not.
And then we come to this. In the state we are in this is insurmountable to us. The end of the road. We are not getting across here today.
We were sitting under the trees for a while before the two guys you saw in the previous pics showed up. We had not seen any people for about two hours already, yet when you stop long enough, someone comes to check on you.
And again, here where we are at our wits end, the good people of Zambia lend a helping hand, or rather, axe. We can get the bikes into the bush at the top of the wash-away, and there is a line for the wheels right on the edge of the wash, where the closest guy is standing.
Unfortunately, the branches will topple us over into the ravine and fortunately these guys know how to wield an axe.
They quickly chop the tree back and with some effort we get both bikes to the other side.
I am not doing well though, we again started without breakfast and the water we had been chugging seems to have washed all the good stuff out of me. I am dizzy and no amount of standing around waiting for it to wear off seems to be helping any. I feel weak, really weak.
Hennie is also not in good condition. We figure out that we cannot drink water anymore as we have very little left over, we have to save it for emergencies. So we decide to lie under the bushes in this ravine until the worst heat of the day has worn off. This is the first time ever on a trip that we take a siesta.
Hennie has some peanuts and I try to eat a handfull, but without saliva I cannot get this lot swallowed. So in the end I spit out what looks remarkably like a baboon turd.
While we lie there we get stung.., no, sting is not the right word. We get punctured by these.
When the worst heat is over we head out again. And things are just the same as the morning but worse. So much worse that between the two of us, we have only one picture to show for the whole afternoon.
Some arsehole had been here in the wet season with a vehicle; so the center ridge is flanked by two wheel ruts deeper than what my belly plate is off the ground. When you donner in there, the bike has to be physically lifted up because the back wheel does not reach the bottom.
Pulling on that bike with all I have, I fear that I will pop a vein in my anus any second.
The grass is still an impenetrable wall, we ride the clutch for hour after hour and my radiator fan never turns off. Sometimes I have to let the bike cool down when the warning light comes on.
The elephants have also more or less destroyed all of the road. Their muddy tracks, that had dried, makes it virtually impossible to ride, especially because you can’t see them in the grass. They are wide enough to take your complete wheel, so when you drop into one the bike slams to a dead stop and you topple over. I just do not have the strength anymore to try and stop the bike going down.
I get so gatvol of elephant tracks that I swear that if we run into a herd I’ll fucking assault them.
The tsetse situation in the meantime had escalated into a full blown slaughter. We are riding seriously technical ridges, standing on the pegs with one hand on the throttle, and the other hand crazily slapping away at your backside like someone being attacked by a swarm of bees. The second you stop, they swarm around front and come inside your helmet, trying to bite you on the face. Both of us get bitten badly.
Here is the one pic we took. Elephant tracks, some as deep as your knee and wide enough to take any of your wheels. Try to put your foot out and it disappears down another hole.
We emerge out of the grass to find ourselves in a village, and at a gate leading into South Luangwa National Park again. We pull up, order water, drink it, order more, drink that, order more, drink that and order a last one and when I’ve finished that I panic because I'm really close to puking it all up again because it feels like I might have overdone it.
We also fill up a 5l container. We must be looking pretty bad because all the faces staring at us have that “what the fuck?” expression.
Reaching a village is a hell of a thing for us, and these okes confirm the worst is over. Another 6km of the same grass, then 6km of good road and we should reach the Mutinonda river, where there is a community camp. We can sleep there. We ask if there is a bridge and the answer is; “There is a magnificent bridge sir.”
So we head off into the same shit, but knowing it is limited to 6km, makes it totally different. When we join a proper path we see fresh vehicle tracks and we know our world has changed for the better. The road is twin track with stretches of fine white sand periodically that lasts for a couple of hundred metres at a time. The center ridge is black mud that had hardened, with an edge like a 90 degree curb where the tyres of vehicles have shaped it.
The sandy bits are somewhat tricky because they are a very narrow V, trees to the outside and the curb on the inside. Hennie seems to struggle more and drops back and I try to get more stability by going faster.
I exit another sandy stretch at about 70 km/h and I must’ve tapped off just a second too early. The front wheel slips two inches to the right and starts getting intimate with the curb. Trying to jump it would lead to a nasty cross up and high side so I don’t even attempt it. At 60-70 km/h we go down. I make sure I get rid of the bike, because the last time we went down at speed the X spent the best part of 40 metres sliding on top of me.
I get up quickly to check if all is working and walk off in the wrong direction for a second or two until I recompose.
I get off extremely lightly. I have bruises and abrasions on my left leg, hip, arm and shoulder but I break nothing. The bike loses a mirror, my GPS holder breaks and the tank gets some roughing up, but everything else can be straightened and re-tightened.
Just like the first day, three km from the end.
After getting things up and working, we, and our tsetse cloud, work our way gingerly to the Mutinondo river, which turns out to have a nice new big bridge. Very beautiful river too. You can see straight to the bottom, yet it runs at a fierce speed. We appreciate all this while swinging shirts around us to keep the tsetse cloud humming.
The camp is right next to the bridge and we waste no time to get a rinse down in the river. We did 70 km for the day and we had to work hard at every single one.
We are told that we can have a bungalow, but that they do not have mattresses and bedding as they are not open for the season yet. How much for the bungalow? “No sir, it is free, we cannot charge you because we are not open.”
I get my tent and stretcher set up, but when I lie down I go into a feverish type of shutdown. I hear Hennie later, making food, but I cannot move.
Late that night I force myself up because I am concerned at having not had anything to eat the whole day, but when I swallow the first mouthful I know the next one will have me puking so I leave it.
I sleep very badly because of back pain.
I have always maintained that there is no such thing as a bad day’s riding. I was wrong.
This has been the worst day of riding I have ever had, by a long margin.
For example, there was a day, some six years ago, where it so happened that I raced flat-out into a field of semi submerged rocks. The surprisingly violent off that resulted, broke my forearm into six pieces. This was at about eleven in the morning. It also turned out that I could not get to a hospital until the day thereafter.
Now, if I had to choose between re-living that day, and re-living today, I would choose the broken arm day with no hesitation. I still have some good memories of that day. Before I crashed I was having the perfect ride, fast, in control, I was so in sync with that bike. It was fantastic, it still makes me smile.
There was nothing good about today however, nothing at all.
No, not a croc, in fact we never saw any. But if the fishermen won't go in the water you can bet your ass they are there.
These Zambians are the most helpful lot ever. Except for the Lukusuzi river, no one ever indicated that they expected payment.
But if a grown man wades a river, pushing your bike, and works up a sweat getting it up the bank, it is just the decent thing to do to offer a couple of bucks in thanks.
Hard. As. Nails.
Shit that sounded like a real nightmare.... total respect to you two
Another fantastic RR from MJ
LEGENDS. And beautifully presented. Thanks muchly.
If I make it to SA, I'd love to have abeer with yuz. Or six. My shout.
WOW! absolutely incredible.. You have a great way of writing, I was right there with you guys, I am exhausted just reading this last part of the ride, I can't imagine how you guys are feeling. Be careful and get through this in one piece. I will be looking forward to some more of your adventure.
Thanks for a great read. Longbow
you guys just busted the adventure meter...simply epic....when i grow up i want to be just like you guys!
the best I have read. you guys are to much
You and Hennie are some tough hombres there MJ. thanks for taking the photos -- your RRs are the perfect getaway for american desk jocks like myself. nice work
Ouch. Great stuff. Keep it coming.
The bug bits, yea... I can't deal with just two skiter bits.
Yea your tough guys... and that's a complement... realy.
Holy shit ....... that looked tough from the pics and story, can't imagine how tough it really was, but its the 1st time I have heard you complain about a challenge .... SO I KNOW IT HAD TO BE TOUGH.
What make is your stretcher? Where did you get it?
And you guys don't even have 3K in Touratech "Protective parts" and still made it. All that shit is such a waste of money, glad your guys bikes aren't loaded with that crap. Hell of a ride!