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Africa - Best and Worst Awards
Fanny and I decided to compile a best and worst awards for our trip in Africa. Whilst Fanny and I are in agreement, we realize that many may disagree and so we welcome any comments.
Also translated into Chinese and posted at blog.sina.com.cn/bigbiketrip
MOST ENJOYABLE COUNTRY – Tanzania.
If you are looking for the all Africa experience we feel Tanzania just eclipses Kenya and South Africa as the number one country. Its got it all. Good infrastructure, decent roads, amazing scenery and abundant wildlife. It is not that cheap, but I would say reasonable value for money. Highlights include: the snow capped peaks of Kilimanjaro; the glorious plains and wildlife of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater; spicy and exotic Zanzibar; our second favourite African city, Dar Es Salaam (Cape Town being our first by a long way); a thoroughly enjoyable stay in Tanga on the east coast with our kind hosts, Eric and Pam; and our all time favourite place on our trip, Lake Charla.
LEAST ENJOYABLE COUNTRY – Ethiopia.
We realize that our views about Ethiopia are based on limited exposure and experience, but the country, undountedly rich in history and resplendent in natural beauty, seems completely ruined by its annoying, lazy and overly excitable people. Ethiopians, quite a handsome lot as people go, are incredibly needy and nearly always have their hand out stretched begging for money. They often leap out at you, assaulting the senses, grabbing your arm and shouting, ‘You, You, You…Money, Money, Money’.
‘The children need a good spank bottom and the adults need to get off their idle arses and do some work, tidy up their squalour and start using contraceptives. I blame the likes of Bob Geldoff and his idiot friend Bono for creating such demeaning and pathetic dependence on aid and handouts. The “Cradle of Humankind” does have its fair share of corrupt leaders and kleptomaniac tyrants, much like the rest of Africa, but the usual excuses for economic woes, poverty, wars, corruption and hurt to the collective conscience cannot be blamed on the “European scramble for Africa” because Ethiopia was never colonized.
There are very good roads throughout the country, most built by the Chinese, but on either side of nearly all of them is a seemingly endless village with huge numbers of people milling about and spreading out onto the road with their dogs, donkeys, goats, cows and occasionally camels, making riding a motorcycle nerve wracking and dangerous. When these beasts of burden inevitably stray too far they are brutally beaten and whipped, a sadistic skill perfected by all Ethiopians from a very young age.
On a positive note, the children and teenagers who threw rocks, stones and swung sticks at us while we were riding our bikes now know the meaning of “cause and effect”… thanks to my “Albert Herbert Hawkins” childhood and competency with a catapult. After being hit on my helmet with a stone, swung at with a stick or bull whipped I would occasionally perform a dramatic emergency stop, leap off my motorcycle and rapidly load, aim and fire my catapult at the miscreant(s). My defence weapon of choice was kept in my tank bag along with a supply of small fruit stones (ammunition) and my 1.5 million volt zapper. Whilst I am please to say I have not had to use the zapper on any shiftas or beasties, the catapult has been extremely effective in my Ethiopian youth behaviour modification campaign, bringing about a very satisfying sounding yelp as the pip hits the offending brat’s bottom.
NICEST PEOPLE – Sudan.
Sudan was our biggest surprise. The negative propaganda spun by the Axis of Evil (America and Brussels) is complete hogwash. We were treated so well it was overwhelming and for me a complete re-write of everything I previously thought and had been indoctrinated about concerning Islam and Arab culture. The kindness, politeness and gentleness of many of the people we met was a incredible. That said a cold in the scorching heat would be nice, as would a bacon sarnie with HP sauce, but I guess you can’t have everything. The coffee and the fruit juices were superb though.
Most people were great and treated us very well… except for some excitable types in Ethiopia, all the annoying touts and fraudsters at the tourist locations and border crossings, Somali Shiftas and their ilk, and lets not forget Julius Malema.
BEST CITY – Dar es Salaam
Great city. One of few capitol cities in Africa I could live in outside South Africa. Traffic is quite bad though, but nothing two bikers from Shanghai can’t handle.
WORST CITY – Addis Ababa.
What a complete 狗屎的地方 （gou shi de di fang- look it up). The decrepit and forlorn looking train station from a bygone era sums up Addis Ababa ‘s decline into squalor and poverty. Again corruption and inability to use a condom are to blame. Aggressive touts, annoying kids, unfriendly and hostile looking soldiers and policeman, and crumbling and decaying infrastructure. Fortunately we survived in a little oasis in the middle of this complete karzi called Wim’s Holland House. Not the greatest backpackers in Africa by a long way, but the Dutch owner, Wim runs a place that serves more than the Ethiopian staple dish of Tibis and sour pancakes and has a bar with draft St.George’s .
WORST FLEAS, TICKS & LICE – Ethiopia
I hate fleas and the mangey cats and dogs throughout Ethiopia are covered in them, as are most of the carpets, furniture and bedding. The lush grassland, especially after the rainy season is also home to ticks. As we were camping we had to remove quite a few of these little blood suckers that somehow found their way into various nooks and fannys.
(no Best flea category)
BEST DRIVING – South Africa (Western Cape)
A high standard of driving throughout the Western Cape except for all BMW M3 drivers and the black taxis.
WORST DRIVING – Egypt
Ethiopia could be the worst if there were actually any cars– it has the potential. Tanzanian truck drivers are also pretty bad judging by how many trucks we saw on their roof, but Egypt takes the “worst driving” award by a mile– even from India or China. They are absolute shockers. Maybe the ubiquitous Peugeot cars are to blame or maybe its because everyone is too busy shouting into their mobile phones all the time. I even saw a taxi mount a curb as the driver attempted to tackle a roundabout with one twisted arm. Rather than put the mobile phone down and use both arms to turn the wheel he preferred to veer off and mow down some pedestrians.
White lines are for aiming along rather than delineating lanes to drive in, and vehicles always swing left before turning right and visa versa. There are young children recklessly driving old fiats and peugeots with their foot constantly buried into the accelerator and their hand glued to the horn.
Often vehicles would draw up along side our bikes while we are nervously riding with inches to spare and just grin like idiots at us through the window and ask us questions that we can’t hear in our helmets. And yes… our headlights are always on… no need to keep telling us. We call it a safety precaution in developed countries. It seems if its Allah’s will that one should crash and die–then so be it. Insha’Allah (إن شاء الله)
BEST MOTORCYCLING – Namibia/Tanzania
We have a difference of opinion due to our different levels of riding experience. Fanny goes for Tanzania for the same reasons as for best country and I go for Namibia, to my mind the most awesome motorcycling country… anywhere. Challenging, technical in parts, mind blowing scenery and importantly very few people and other vehicles. Its got sand, gravel, rocks, hills, deserts, salt pans, seascape, bush, wild animals, birds and fresh air…. AND no road blocks, no speed bumps, no cops and no speed cameras. Wahoo! I also liked the Nubian deserts of Sudan. Clean, spectacular and awe inspiring.
WORST MOTORCYCLING – African cities
Riding through any of the African capitol cities was tiresome, annoying, stressful and decidedly dangerous… in particular Cairo, Nairobi and Addis Ababa. Whilst the road from Mount Kenya to Moyale in north Kenya was shockingly bad it was the sort of challenge bikers relish and we confronted and overcame it… with a huge 成就感 cheng jiu gan (sense of achievement) and enjoyment.
BEST CAMPSITE – we have to mention three and attempt to place each in some order, although very difficult to compare:
1. Lake Charla – Tanzania.
What a gem. Perfect climate, stunning views of Kilimanjaro, hundreds of elephants, unspoilt bush, spectacular volcanic crater lake, great bar, lovely hosts, and of course the famous roasted goat dinner.
2. Makuzi – Malawi. Peaceful paradise on the shores of Lake Malawi.
3. Mountain Rock – Kenya. A lush enjoyable grassy campsite next to a trout filled river on the equator in the foothills of Mount Kenya.
WORST CAMPSITE – there were no really bad campsites in Africa. To our mind the simpler the better and there should be more. Clearly countries like Egypt are trying to push and upgrade their tourism industry and don’t want any riff raff like us with meagre budgets. Sudan has lots of free camping places as its huge and the people are friendly and none threatening, but Egypt is heavily controlled by the military and police and our attempts to free camp were fruitless.We were chased off seemingly remote places in the desert and along the Red Sea by police, army and security people. Many places look like a construction site and resorts and tourist villages with names “Hacienda”, and ” Tropicana” are springing up in any place that is vaguely pleasant. It seems the developers have taken the names for all these developments from grubby nightclubs in England.
We did stay in some rather ropey (because they were cheap) hotels in Sudan and Ethiopia but you get what you pay for and we didn’t pay very much. The Kilpatra hotel in Wadi Halfa had the worst bog and shower outside China… a true shocker.
BEST FOOD – Egypt
Apart from the Chinese food we had in various places, Egypt probably just passes South Africa as the country with the best food. Fresh seafood, spicy curries, kebabs and falafel, roti, dates, fruit, salads, tasty bread… and
WORST FOOD – Malawi … the lakeside resorts run by foreignors had decent enough food, but unless you like eating a diet consisting of 99% cassava (which has the nutritional value and taste of a flip flop) you will starve in the rest of the country as indeed most of the people are doing. There is no excuse for this as Malawi has fresh water, untapped resources and shares nearly the same geology and agricultural potential as Tanzania which grows coffee, tea, fruit and vegetables in abundance. The problem lies with the government who are greedy, corrupt and useless …and the people who put up with such tyrants who keep them in the stone age.
BEST BEER – Namibia – Windhoek .
WORST BEER – of course there is no worst award, but perhaps Sudan should get a mention for not allowing . In fact the punishment for alcohol possession is 40 lashes.
BEST GAME PARK -
1. Masai Mara (Kenya) (in late August)
2. South Luangwa (Zambia).
Again difficult to choose between the two. We had an awesome time in Masai Mara. Great guides, reasonable entry fees (compared to Tanzania), the great wildebeest migration… true Lion King country and a terrific motorcycle ride to get there and through the Masaai villages and plains.
BEST DIVING & SNORKELING – Ras Mohammed, Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, Sinai, Egypt.
I don’t actually like diving very much, traumatised, I think, by phobia tests during a police counter terrorist unit selection 25 years ago, but I recognise a good place when I see it and we quite enjoyed snorkelling and wallowing about looking at the amazing sea life. The Red Sea in Egypt, especially in the Sinai is spectacular. Crystal clear warm waters, amazing tropical fish and coral reefs and decent infrastructure to support it all. That said, it could be done so much better, but then the Egyptian tourist industry is reeling from the Spring revolution, the world economic downturn and the negative effects of blowing up tourists with fire-bombs.
BEST MOUNTAINS & VALLEYS – Ethiopia and Lesotho. Whilst we thought Ethiopia was spoilt by too many of its loutish inhabitants, it does have spectacular mountains, rivers, pastures and valleys that look a bit like those in Switzerland or Austria. BUT if that’s what you want… go to Switzerland or Austria is my advice.. or to Lesotho which is an awesome place to visit, albeit a bit chilly in winter.
Ethiopia’s proximity to some very dodgy African countries and some very wet weather while we were there prevented us from exploring the amazing Danakil depression and Afar region in the east of the country which are said to be spectacular.
We did go to Lalibela to see the rock hewn churches, and they were fairly interesting. But unless you are an archaeologist or Christian pilgrim you’d be better off visiting Salisbury Cathedral, and indeed any Norman church in England as they are far more impressive and have less fleas.
Am I giving Ethiopia and Malawi, Somalia, etc bad review? Don’t worry …they don’t care… so long as you keep sending them more money and more aid at the expense of your own community and kin. C’mon on Britons,you can afford more than 72 million pounds in disaster relief. You’re nobody in Africa unless you have at least seven children. Also, the country’s leaders, their families and cronies really need new private jets, yachts, palaces and luxury cars for their motorcades.
BEST BORDER CROSSING – South Africa. Quite simply modern, efficient, quick and fair.
WORST BORDER CROSSING – 1st Egypt and 2nd Sudan.
The opposite of modern, efficient, quick, or fair. The further north we went the worse the borders became.
I don’t remember much about my grandfather, but what I do remember as a little boy is him telling me about serving in north Africa during World War II. Modern day political correctness is such that it prevents me from reiterating what he said about his Arab comrades, but if you think about headless chickens who faff about and get easily excited you get the idea. Fast wind forward to 2011 and the Egyptian customs, police, army and immigration seem to be of the same ilk. Sudan is not much better, but at least they are friendly and easy going in their inefficiency and unnecessary red tape.
LEAST CORRUPT COUNTRY – Botswana
MOST CORRUPT COUNTRY- Egypt.
Most countries we went through could very fairly be described as corrupt. Some more than others.
Having spent considerable time and parted with a huge amount of cash at customs and immigration at the Egyptian border in Aswan, we were stopped at a road block and a policeman with AK47 variant of assault rifle looked us up and down and then asked, ‘Where you come from?’
Me (clearly thinking this is stupid question at Egypt/Sudan border) ‘ Sudan’
Policeman ‘What in bag?’
Me ‘ Our things’
Policeman ‘ Open up’
Me ‘OK’…. ‘It’ll take a bit of time… hang on a bit’
As I was getting off my bike to open the panniers the policeman said ‘ Ah.. no need, haha… anything nice for me?’
Me ‘ I don’t pay bribes’ (eye to eye), ‘Actually I used to be a policeman and think policemen like you are an insult to the cloth, you make the job of honest, conscientious policemen more difficult and more dangerous’ rant rant…
Policeman (grinning like an imbecile and waving me on) ‘ haha .. you can go’
Policeman to Fanny ‘Where you come from?’
Policeman to Fanny ‘ You got present for me?’
I turned around and shouted ‘ HEY! – I TOLD YOU’
Policeman ‘Haha.. OK you go’ and we went.
Best Chinese Restaurant – Xiao Long (Laughing Dragon) – Livingstone, Zambia (but I suspect only if you insist on the genuine stuff… in Mandarin)
Worst Chinese Restaurant – The Panda – Mosi, Tanzania (Lovely girl who was left in charge while the owner went back to China admitted she couldn’t cook and neither could the chef)
Noisiest country – Sudan
Sudan is a strictly Islamic country and so requires its Muslim population to pray five times a day among other rituals. The density of mosques and minarets in Sudan is very high and the call to prayers starts at 4-5 am which is rather early and a very loud wake -up alarm call where ever you are. I vaguely remember bell ringing on Sunday mornings from the church in the village I grew up in England, and even that annoyed me after a few peels. As a Roaming Catholic of the lapsed kind I am a firm believer that anyone can believe in what they like, but object to other people inflicting their superstitions, faith, religion and unprovable beliefs –on others. My helpful suggestion that calls to prayer should be made using mobile phones on vibrate mode was not met enthusiastically by anyone I met, nor was the suggestion that ”All Things Bright and Beautiful” might be more cheerful.
Most peaceful country - Namibia
To the motorcyclist who like a bit of technical off road riding, stunning scenery, quiet roads, good camping sites, African animals and birds, decent petrol and getting close to unspoilt nature then Namibia is the country to go and disturb the peace with your Akropovik or Leo Vince exhausts.
Best Motorcycle to cross Africa -
Any bike ...what ever makes you happy. To me that is the KTM 990 Adventure R. I have crossed Africa three times now on KTM 990 Advs, the latest stint on an R version that gave me no problems whatsoever. I even towed a broken down BMW in the Masai Mara for 35 kms... now that's something to gloat about.
And Fanny with total of total of 8 months motorcycling experience on the 2008 version? No problem whatsoever.
We had a bit of 230kph hooliganism blasts through the deserts to make us smile, The dreadful road from Nairobi to Moyale on the pegs .. no worrys ...thats what the KTM chassis is made for. And reliability? Only problem we had was Fanny's starter relay went in middle of Nubian desert in 50 degrees heat and we replaced it with a Chinese generic one with a bit of imaginative wiring and off we went again.
As a preventative measure to protect the fuel filter and injectors we used the " Steve Thomas fuel filter" every time we filled up and added some octane booster in the minus 70 octane land. Chain and sprocket maintenance? ... just clean often and lightly oil, will extend life.
Also forget the "carburettor is best " advise, the EFi was faultless, but a cheap laptop or smart phone with free ECU Tune program (off the internet) and a cable (make one up) can reset ECU mapping and do any diagnostics you will ever need on the road. We never needed to do anything... the bikes just kept going and we kept smiling
Recommendations for tyres:
Rear - Pirelli Scorpion M/T 90s ... even off road as the traction and balance is good and we got over 12,000kms out of each ... longer if you fill with nitrogen gas
Front -Pirelli Rallycross M/T 21s for technical off road bits, rocks and gravel... otherwise stick to M/T 90s
We carried an extra 20 litre fuel cans (to supplement 19.5 litre tanks) on back which when we filled would give us a range of 650 -700 kilometers.. enough for anywhere really.
Last edited by rupertu; 7 Nov 2011 at 20:47.
Interesting read, I am sure that many will agree with the awards. Spot on.
To those who say it can't be done - stand aside for those who are already doing it.
Just goes to show how different peoples trips can be..
I found Tanzania touristy and totally geared up for a tourist rip off where I totally loved Ethiopia and had a great experience with it's people and found Addis simply ALIVE and full of decent good people.
Ethiopia could be the most beautiful country in all of Africa too.
I suppose it depends who you run into and how you open yourself up to other people.
Technician, BMW Chester Motorrad.
2001 NX650 Dominator.
Now that's more information than I care for interpol to know :/
excellent info, so much to look forward to between March and May next year
thanks and all the best for the rest of your journey
Yes .. Thats true Ted. Ethiopia was a funny one because we met some people who loved it and had no problems and others who absolutely hated it... its a strange old world. What I would say is definitely see for yourself. Don't miss any of the countries out because of a negative review.. just bear in mind the risks. A tip is to wave at the kids as they are picking up a rock and they smile and wave back and forget to throw it. As for all the animals on the road, it could be described as fun if you're not in a hurry and are particularly fond of donkeys and goats... and we heard great reviews of Afar and Danakil depressions .. just we were short on visa time, it was raining heavily and I didn't want to risk taking my rather inexperienced riding companion to the eastern borders which were a bit dodgy at the time.
Also, we never rode the Lake Turkana route in Kenya (east or west of lake) for same reason.. that is something I would like to do. Heard many good things about the riding and the amazing scenery and people.
Now we are trying to see how we can get through Syria and see if visas will start being issued. There is always an upside... instead of a wintery Europe .. we are enjoying the sunshine and Red Sea in the Sinai.
You have to love motorcycle adventuring...
Like Ted, I'd say my main disagreement is with Ethiopia, and Addis. Wonderful experiences for us. Don't remember how much visa time we had but we departed into Kenya on the last day of its validity.
Would probably have extended if the rains weren't approaching.
I'd agree with Rupert about Tanzania even though he and I travelled through completely different parts of it - it's a BIG country.
Although really, in my memories, the whole continent that I saw was equally enjoyable.
As far as "worst people", I wouldn't judge such a category.
I think this is a good notion to judge all foreign people and places and customs by:
"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable." (Clifton Fadiman)
Back to Ethiopia, anyone travelling there would do well to visit one of these places on the way, or at least get a clear idea of what a Woonerf is and get it firmly in mind that the whole of Ethiopia is an African version of one.
"Eye contact and human interaction are more effective means to achieve and maintain ......... safe areas than signs and rules."
Will look forward to reading when and how you reach the European side of the Mediterranean, it may be the biggest adventure of the whole trip(!)
TTR250 - London to Cape Town
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