The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
Gear Up! is a 2-DVD set, 6 hours! Which bike is right for me? How do I prepare the bike? What stuff do I need - riding gear, clothing, camping gear, first aid kit, tires, maps and GPS? What don't I need? How do I pack it all in? Lots of opinions from over 150 travellers! "This DVD will save you a fortune!"See the trailer here!
So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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Achievable Dream The definitive guide to planning your motorcycle adventure! This insanely ambitious 2-year project has produced an informative and entertaining 5-part, 18 hour DVD series. "The ultimate round the world rider's how-to DVD!" MCN UK.
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Ride TalesAn easy way to post your ride reports, whether it's a weekend ride or around the world.
Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is.
See the announcement in the forum for details on posting.
Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
- We: "Bonjour Maman! Ca va?' - "Hello 'maman', how are you?"
Maman: "Bonjour, ca va un peu bien. D'ou venez-vous comme-ça?" - "Hi, We are a litle bit ok. Where are you coming from?"
- We: "Lubumbashi"
Maman: "aaaaaah ?!?!? C'est trop loin! Et vous allez où?" - "aaaaah ?!?!? That's too far! And where are you going?"
- We: "Kinshasa"
Maman: 'AAAAAAH !?!?!"
- We: "Au revoir et bonne continuation!' - "Bye, and a have a safe journey"
Maman: *silence* (eyes and mouth wide open)
They were the first people we met since we started walking. 2 ladies with a kid on their back. It must have been the weirdest sight to see two wite people walking here, coming from apparantly nowhere. With no luggage, no transport, no nothing. And then these white people claim they all the way from Lubumbashi - They did not ask how we got here, so we were not lying! ;-) This must have confused them! I am sure they would understand when they saw a broken down car a few kilometers down the road.
It was a 2 hour hike to Kapia. It had been a while since we made such fast progress.
Kapia was just a small village on a crossroad, we actually walked passed it at first, it was that small. We talked to a few people. The bad news was that nobody here would be able to help us. The good news was that in Dibaya Lubwe, there was a mission. And the father there had a Toyota Landcruiser. The chef du village gave us the phone number from the father. In kapia there is barely any cell phone reception. On top of a little hill in the middle of the village is the only place where - sometimes - there is some repection.
It took us a dozen of attempts to actually make a call (reception kept dropping) and get the father on the phone. It was a very bad connection. We could make out that his 4x4 was in Kinshasa to get it fixed. Then the connection dropped again.
We figured that going to Dibaya-Lubwe was the only way to find help.
30km would be a very long hike. There are a few bicycles in the village and we try to rent them. But they only want them rent them with a 'driver'
So we get chauffeured on the back of a bicycle. The luggage rack exists of nothing more then 2 iron bars. There are ofcourse no steps to put our feet on. I am not sure who suffered most, our drivers or we.
It got tricky on a long downhill when my driver said that we were going too fast because of all the weight. I shouted to him that he should brake. He then replied that he did not have brakes! Nice! They brake with their bare feet on the ground.
Our biketaxi's dropped us off at the Catholic mission of Dibaya-Lubwe were we were greeted by the father (whose name we have forgotten). He did not seemed to be very interested in us. He had received the SMS message we sent from Kapia but he did not reply because he was not sure if we were travelling on a bike or in a car. Strange reasoning.
His Landcruiser had its injectors replaced in Kinshasa at the time and he was about to leave to Kikwit himself for his annual 'holiday' by bushtaxi. He eventually hooked us up with some guys who own one of the few trucks in Dibaya-Lubwe. They wanted to drive to our car and tow us into the mission, but when asked about the price they were vague. "Pas beaucoup" - "Not much" they said. As they looked and acted very dodgy we insisted but this was a very difficult topic apparantely. The father eventually persuaded us that we should trust them. That would prove to be a mistake.
30 minutes later they come to pick us up. We then spend the next hour picking up people and goods. There are not a lot trucks running here and they never leave empty. Many people grabbed the opportunity to transport them or their good as far as Kapia. But this was a paying service ofcourse and the way the drivers handled it was not pretty I must say.
It was a rough ride and they ride these old truck hard. Very hard. It's hard work for the driver. The seat had long desintegrated and this gearbox required doubleclutching trough A LOT of gears. Cool truck though. I don't want to know how much this beast consumes. Actually I did want to know as we would be paying for the diesel!
When we arrived back to our truck papa Likas was waiting for us. He had brought us water and a branch of a banana tree full of little banana's. He also wanted to talk to me about what we thought was best. Whiskey, brandy or cognac. This flabergasted me. I could not produce an answer to that question at that time. At least we knew what he was planning to do with the money he earned from us..
Fortunately the truck too was 24volt, so they could jumpstart us with our leads. We would need a running engine to power the steering.
Ever since we arrived in Kapia everything went very quickly. We had been lucky to find a vehicle that could tow us so smoothly. We just hoped we could trust these guys as they were very dodgy. The fact that they owned a truck was obviously a status symbol. They showed of their power and wealth too. Smoking a lot of cigarettes, flashing their new mobile phones.
We told the truck driver not to drive too fast on the way back. "Polé-polé" (swahili for slowly-slowly).
He might not have been the most pleasant person, but he did know how to drive his truck. At a slow tempo he towed us all the way into Dibaya-Lubwe and dropped us off at the catholic mission. We used our kinetic strap for the tow, that reduces the jacking about when he takes off. It was a scary ride at moments. Driving a few meters behind a truck, with no brakes.
It was close to midnight when arrived at the mission, but there was still a lot of action going on. We obviously drew a crowd. But at the same time the weekly bushtaxi to Kikwit was about the leave. It's a regular Toyota Landcruiser, like ours, who does this run - loaded to the brim. The only person we 'knew' here - the father of the mission - was about to leave with this taxi.
Then the discussion about the money started. The drivers of the truck were still very vague about how much we owned them. They eventually told their price: 650$US !!
At first I thought I misunderstood them, after all their French was not that good and mine is far from perfect too. But no, they really meant 650$US. This made me angry, very angry.
We had to make a split second decision here. If we hestiated too long, they would think we were considering the amount and talking the price down would become very difficult. If we pissed them off too much we were making ourselves very vulnerable. We very well knew we had nowhere to go and we would be needing the help of the people here to get us going again.
0.1 seconds later I started shouting in a very African way. Gesticulating with my arms. Clearly indicated that their price was completely ridiculous (it was!) and we would never pay this.
A heated discussion started. This drew an even bigger crowd. It was pitch dark and we were in a city we did not know. Several hundred people were around us and some of them were getting quite upset. They saw an opportunity to earn a lot of cash. We could not give in to it now, it would make our situation impossible if we ever wanted to get our car repaired here. Josephine would later tell me that this was a very scary situation. I was too much in an adrenaline rush to even notice at the time.
The father - clearly very annoyed as he wanted to leave - eventually came to negotiate before things got out of hand. We had calculated that the the truck used 50$US in fuel. We offered to pay 75$US, still way too much. The driver was very dissapointed, he probably had visions of what he'd be able to buy with 650$! It took the father an hour to talk the price down to 100$. We agreed.
We saw the father off and thanked him for his help. He gave us permission to camp in the - unfenced - garden of the mission. There was a small workshop at the mission. The only one in town apparently. We could make use of that to get our car fixed.
Still with a big crowd around us we set up our tent and tried to go to sleep.
It was a miracle that we were able to get our car towed to the mission in one day. We were glad we could sleep in our own tent that night and that we did not had to leave our car in the jungle overnight. Getting our car going again would be another story. We might be stuck here for a while.
We did not make any friends in Dibaya-Lubwe today.
We did not feel like getting out of our tent today. It was very unlikely that this would be a fun day. We had to arrange to get our car fixed here and I had no idea where to start. There was nobody we knew here that could help us.
When we opened our tent the crowd was there already. Approximately 100 man and children. They crawled in eachothers necks to get a better view inside our tent. That is not a pleasant way to start your day! Even before we are good and well out of our tent the truck driver we had a fight with last night approached us. He was shy now and friendly. He told us he was a very good mechanic and that he wanted us to hire him to fix our car. Sorry dude.. no way!
With all the onlookers still there we talked to the driver of the father of the mission (temporarily out of work due to lack of car). He was a mechanic too (everybody is a mechanic here) and wanted to help us. To us that looked like the best bet. In a city where there are no cars it is very hard to find a mechanic that has some experience with Landcruisers. At least we were sure this guy had seen one of these from closeby. with our experiences from last night fresh in our memory we first discussed about the price. It is quite common to pay 'per job' for these kind of things.
The idea is that we would try to get the rear axle fixed so we can drive to Kikwit, we would try to get the front axle fixed there or in Kinshasa. For this the mechanic asks 200$US. That is more then he would earn in a year. He explains that he would have to rent tools and it's not just for him, but for an entire team. Eventually we settle on 50$US for the labour. We are still grossly overpaying them, but we feel we have no choice.
After the negotiation I plainly ask them if they had asked so much money just because we are white. They felt uncomfortable with the question but confirmed.
I am not a mechanic. But neither were these guys. They had the skills to make everything work, but they did ugly things. They only knew two tools: a hamer and a screwdriver. And the screwdriver was mostly only used in combination with the hamer. The entire process I had to keep watching them to make sure they did not round any more bolts or hamer my axle to pieces. The moment I turned my back I could hear them banging away.
Once the hub on the rear axle was removed, they had to remove the broken bolts. There is no electricity in Dibaya-Lubwe. The generator of the mission was broken. They did not have an electrical drill anyway. But they did have a manual hand operated drill. It must have been quite the tool 100 years ago, but nowadays nobody would even consider to use this to drill into metal. Needless to say the the drill bits were not of the best quality either. They would drill out the holes and tap new wire into them (1 size bigger). Our hub was buggered anyway so I let them do it. It took them an entire day of turning that drill!
By the end of the day all bolts were cleared, new threads were tapped and fitting bolts (of horrible quality) were found. It had gotten too dark already to re-assemble everything. Tomorrow morning they would be able to fit them and by noon we would be ready to go again! Great!
I wish I could say that we got used to looking into 100 faces first thing in the morning. But I can't. It annoyed us immensely to have this crowd looking at us. From the minute we opened our tent in the morning until we close it again in the evening. They 'work' in shifts so they do not miss any action.
We really looked forward to drive out of here again. It was just a few more hours of work to get everything assembled. The hub was fitted again and the oil on the diff changed (lucikily we had bought diff oil in Zambia!). At 11am sharp we asked our mechanics to give us a push and the engine promptly sprung to life. That is a good sign already!
Carefully I drive backwards a bit. Ok!
Forwards a bit. Ok!
I tell the guys I am going for a quick test drive around the mission. We drive out of the gate (the mission had a gate, but no fence) and...
Josephine and I looked at eachother. We laughed. That would have been too easy, wouldn't it?
The mechanics pushed us back into the mission. The fixed hub was still ok, but our little mishap had probably damaged something inside the differential as well. That is bad news as this meant we had to replace parts. A manual drill would not provide a fix here!
So be it. The mechanics took out the differantial. The planetary gears (do you guys know what I talking about when I use those terms? not sure of the correct terms in English) were completely shot. The sun gears had some chipped teeth but could still be used (hopefully).
We needed two new gears. They did not have two new gears in Dibaya-Lubwe.
We called up the father of the mission, who was on holiday in Kikwit. In the mission in Kikwit they had a bigger workshop and had better access to supplies. I eventually talked to a mechanic in Kikwit. He promised me to call me back in an hour. Two hours later I called him back... he had forgotten. Another half hour later came the news: no such parts to be found in Kikwit, but they could be ordered from Kinshasa. It would take 2 to 3 days to get them to Kikwit(by air). And then we had to foresee transport from Kikwit to Dibaya-lubwe. The cost of the transport alone would be immense and it would probably take in excess of a week. Plus, how do we get the money to Kinshasa? You cannot buy things on credit here!
Time for plan B: we started inquiring if there wasn't another Landcruiser close by, from whom we could 'borrow' some parts. It appeared that a remote mission, some 40km from here had a Landcruiser that had engine problems. We might be able to source some parts from them. Unfortunately they could not be reached as they do not have cell phone reception there.
It was our best bet so we made a plan. We would rent a little motorbike for our mechanics, they would ride to the remote mission and hopefully they would be allowed to dismantle the axle of that landcruiser to 'borrow' the parts. If that would not be possible, they would ride on to Kikwit and try to find some secondhand parts there. In the best case they would be gone for 2 days. In the worst case it would take weeks.
Between the time we knew which part we needed until the time we had finalized our plan with the motorbike was 4 hours Time flies when you are improvising.
We had the great prospect of spending some leisurely days at the mission. Our crowd would be thrilled!
How many kilometers has the car done already, it probably wasn't new when you started this trip? Do you have an explanation for the diff breakdown, and could you have prepped it better beforehand? In short, is there anything to learn here for future expeditions?
Keep up the good work, love reading your adventure (and I'm probably not the only one)
We had bought the Landcruiser in Belgium with 280.000km on the clock. By the time we arrived in Congo it had done 400.000km. I'll include some more details on the reasons of the breakdown in the following installments..
That night we felt like we had deserved a . We found the in the other catholic mission, the one from the sisters. Upon entering their mission it was like entering another world. They had a nice vegetable garden and flowers. Their house was clean. The sisters did a lot of work here, mostly as nurses in their hospital and orphanage. They made some extra money by selling . They were the only place in town that had a regular supply and, most importantly, they had a fridge(on gas)!
It was heaven to be there. The sisters were really nice and smart ladies. Good mannered with a healthy dose of humour and interest. It felt so good to be able to have a normal conversation for once. A conversation that did not leave us guilty as would normally be the case. A conversation the not lead to begging. A conversation where we did not have to think about every word we said.
We crawled in our tent. A 100 people made sure that we would not feel too much at ease.
We did not have anything to do today but to keep out of trouble and wait for our mechanics. We slept until the sun transformed our tent into a sauna. Upon opening our tent we were greeted again by the looks and laughter of our crowd. The first thing we heard today was somebody shouting from a distance "Eh Mundele -Donnez-moi de l'argent!" -"Eh mundele - give me money". A very good morning to you too!
We would move our chairs regularly around the car, trying to escape the onlookers. Minutes later the crowd would then move too so they could see us again. They always kept a distance of 20meters or so, but nobody talked to us. From time to time they would shout something (usually begging). We tried to be as uniteresting as possible...
After a while I got really fed up. I took my chair and put it close to them. I sat down, facing them. I looked straight into their eyes. They looked straight back. I just sat still for half an hour, hoping they would get bored of looking at me. Or possibly even embarrased. But I lost. They did not loose interest.
I tried talking to them, explaining that we would really appreciate if they stopped looking at us as we would like to get some rest. I avoided the word privacy as it an unknown concept here anyway. I only got blank stares in return. From the back of the crowd I could here somebody shout "Donnez-nous de l'argent!" -"Give us money". Shortly after followed by "Ce n'est pas vorte pays!" - "This is not your country"
This made me so angry. He was right ofcourse, this was not my country. I was nothing more then a visitor. I had no other intentions but to explore their country and meet the people. But they did not want me here. They wanted my money, but not me.
We did meet a few interesting people though. A teacher from the local school came to see us. It was a math teacher. He had heard that I am a computer engineer. He had a question for me. He had heard about Internet and how it was such an interesting tool. But what is Internet exactly? I asked if they had computer here. They did not. He knew there were computers and Internet in Kikwit, but that is several hundres of kilometers from here.
He kept me busy for many hours. I tried my best explaining him all the different components and concepts. Everything from a modem to a webpage. I drawed him diagrams and everything. But I am a bad teacher I guess.. I could see he had difficulties understanding it all. How do you explain Internet to somebody who has never seen a computer? He took my notes and said he would teach his students about 'Internet'.
We constantly had the company of Anton. People called him "Le fou" - "The village fool". He was no fool though. Apparantely he was a very intelligent guy who had studied. It could be told from his vocabulary. But he kept talking and talking and talking. Always in a very dramatic way, swinging with his stick and jumping around. He would sometimes drop dead on the floor and stay put for 10 minutes and then he would jump up shouting loud. The kids loved him and were scared of him at the same. Children would sometimes throw rocks at him.
He was truly very annoying (and he had an incredibly smelly breath) but I took a liking to him anyway. At least he was honest. He dared to talk to us. We appreciated that. But he was still very annoying.
We will never forget his words: "Les blanc, les noirs, les rouges, les jaunes, nous avons tous le même sang" - "The whites, the black, the red, the yellow, we all have the same blood"
Another guy comes to visit us "Venez avec moi. Police!" - "Come with me. Police!"
I feel ill at ease flying a plane from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa - simply because of the hassles and corruption that I have to put up with at the airports at each end of the journey (not to mention the thunderstorms as well...) - and you two drive the route by road? I am speechless.
For me - after almost 20 years of working as a pilot in war relief in many different countries in Africa - it is fascinating to hear that the hostility and constant exploitation that you have experienced exists not only in the 'big cities' where all the relief agencies and the NGOs are, but also in remote parts of the country where it is rare for the local residents to see a foreigner.
Often, I have wondered whether my perspective on Congo is distorted as a result of too much time spent at airports and at NGO offices. Now, I see that this is not the case.
I look forward to reading the conclusion of your journal. Thank you very much for taking the time to write it, to post all the pictures, and to share your unique and invaluable experience with all of us. I am quite sure that this post will become a 'classic' on HUBB.
Another guy comes to visit us "Venez avec moi. Police!" - "Come with me. Police!"
It's a guy wearing slippers and tatty clothes. We are not impressed and ask who he is?
"Chef de la police de Dibaya-lubwe"
We know where this is going to lead to so we tell him that everybody can claim they are police, does he have anything to prove his function? He hasn't. We tell him "au revoir" and ignore him. This annoys him tremendously. The look on the faces of the people around us tell us he was probably right and they can't believe we just turned our back to the chief of police! He leaves again. He was furious.
We befriend Monsieur Shinandi. He is an older man in a lovely old-fashioned suit. He is the school prefect of the area. A very clever and friendly man. He actually apologizes for the attitude of the people towards us, he tells us he is embarassed about the situation. He also ask us to try to understand how hopeless life is for people here. That is the reason they act this way. We do understand, but we also explain that is not the same as accepting it.
Mr. Shinandi accompanies Josephine to the town's market to make sure we get honest prices. It's nice to have some fresh food for a change. Eggs and tomatoes. Meat is available but it did not look very tasty so we skip it. Mr. Shinandi tells us a lot about the poor condition of the schooling system in Congo. There are almost no funds and the little funds there are dissapear before they reach their destination. Education is supposed to be free, but parents need to pay the teachers as the teachers are not being paid by the goverment. Most families can only afford to send a few of their children to school, not all of them. He was genuinely worried about the future of his country. Without education the new generation is lost. These youngstes are the future rulers of Congo, and the only thing they learned is corruption.
He also tells us about the abusive nature of many teachers, mostly in rural areas. Young girls are regularly forced to have sex with the teacher in return for good results. There are massive amount of child pregnancies. These children barely have enough to survive, let alone to raise children. Their parents send them to school with the hope of having chances on a better future, but instead their lives are ruined. They don't stand a chance.
Mr.Shinandi also takes me to a bank to exchange some US$ into Congolese Franc. Most things can be bought with dollars, but eggs or bread and small consumables are paid in CF. In the bank they cannot help us... they have no
money. :roll: We eventually end up at the farmers organisation. They provide micro-loans to farmers. They wanted us to go trough a mountain of - self-produced - paperwork first but eventually give up and change the money. At a horrible rate for us. It is strange how people try to give the impression that everything is organized. They try to give that impression by using as much paperworks as possible.
Walking around town with Mr. Shinandi is a pleasant and interesting experience. He is well respected here and because of that we are left alone.
When we return to the mission a man in a police uniform is waiting for us. It's an impressive uniform with several stars on the shoulders.
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