I may one day, in a moment of reflection make reference to that line!
So what is the plan? That's a bloody good question; about a year ago in a moment of boredom or was it after too much to drink. I thought to myself that there would be nothing better to do than buy a motorcycle, another one, leave work and ride overland down to Cape Town. Not even sure what brought it on, guess it must have been lingering deep in the mind somewhere for a long time. After all we have all at one time or another read or watched the Long Way Round. Personally I prefer Ted Simon's Jupiter's Travels. You can get a really sense of his adventure as the imagination runs wild.
So why travel overland and why on a motorbike?
The former is easy to answer, it enlightens each and everyone of us in some way who have the moral fibre and zest for life to want to explore further than outside our front door. It forms the weave for the fabric that makes us what we are, the essence of not being an arse.
The latter is little less straight forward, other than stating that motorbikes are just FUCKING great. That memory you have of getting astride and setting off on your first bike never really leaves you. For me a Suzuki TS50X. The excitment, the nerves, the anticipation and above all else the overwhelming sense of complete and utter freedom at long last. Never again will I have to cycle to school and surely the girls will love it. I was an over excited, testosterone charged sixteen year old virgin with balls like water melons and a need for speed. I wanted to get laid and I wanted to do it fast. With my new found coolness surely I'll be irrestistable. Funny how one can be so wrong! Needless to say since those early days the girls have come and gone and it's fair to say that not all of them shared the same enthusiastic passion for bikes. Girls; where does one start, enough said for now, you got a mention.
So bikes become part of us, ingrained over the years, I could recite an untold number of biker anecdotes but just don't have the time, may if I see you out on my travels. This then marks the beginning of my adventure into the complete unknown. As with all beginnings there is an end, what that will be and how it will be dealt is all part of the excitment. Just wish for a better result than that of my racing persuits which ended with one RS250 and myself a little rearranged in the gravel trap at Clearways, Brands Hatch after a high speed highside. Anyway, I invite you to follow my tales of this journey of total unpredictability, chaos and hopefully many laughs here as I do my best to recount the events as they unfold over the coming months.
If you have not found your way here from my fund raising page, please visit:
and donate as you feel fit to this worth while cause to help achieve the target.
Many thanks for now.
Holla! Waz up Westwood, you not been round me crib for the bike, it needs some of phat pimp juice. Well not no more, it's had a right going to at Ernie's place. Fanks anywayz!
And here she is in all her lovin' glory, won't be doin' that superman seat grab…..
On reading the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook I decided it best to get the bike down to Overland Solutions for a bit of fabrication work. And as you can see Ernie has done an exceptional job on getting the bike ready so that it has half a chance of withstanding the abuse that it'll be subjected to over the coming months. As you can see my chosen steed is the mighty KTM Adventure. There's been an awful lot said and written about these and I can assure you it is great fun to ride. I just hope that it's as bullet proof as people say they are. I wish that in time she'll become my untouchable!
Before you ask Charley it's a KTM because I paid for it; there is no danger of this trip being taken over by any corporate exec's with ponytails wearing baseball caps as it's all being financed by my good self. No production company here. On that note a special mention to the bank manager for signing off the bank guarantee for the Carnet de Passeages. Nice people at HSBC and why is Egypt so expensive, 800% import duty!!
Just a few little things remain to arrange and sort out then get through Christmas, deal with the last minute panic. Then the big day in January, Elvis leaves the country.
The New Year was seen in, in a slightly drunken state at a house party in Billericay and now draws to a close with me in Benghazi, Libya surrounded by mad drivers and everyone shouting Arabic to each other. Doesn’t mean a thing to me however with a bit of arm waving its surprisingly how well you can get your point across. Which is good as everything here is in Arabic and I have managed to agree transit across the country without a guide sitting on my shoulder. A little bit illegal I understand, but if you don’t tell anyone things should be alright. Does make for interesting navigation as all road signs and everything is in Arabic. So good map reading, a log of mileage and knowing what direction you’re travelling in all makes life a little easier. It is only desert anyway!
After a hectic start to the year trying to cram as much as possible in to two weeks I was off to France. Well in fact the first day was a massive; wait for it….12 miles to Billericay. Then on a cold Sunday morning the adventure starts, 2nd day 338 miles a bit more like how overland travel should be.
4 days later and it’s Au revoir to France and Europe with only 22 hours to Africa!
By total chance meeting on the ferry I found myself in the company of someone whom I can only explain at the time as a successful business man from Tunisia whom seemed to have a bit of influence with the captain. As soon after boarding all the restaurants were closed yet we still managed to get food and drinks when all around looked on confused as to quite how. Later this extended to the captain allowing me access to the lower deck to retrieve my documents for vehicle registration. On arrival to Tunis this hospitality extended to being invited around to his house the following day to meet his family and have lunch, which all made the introduction to Africa all that much easier. However this didn’t stop someone’s idle hands from having a go at the bike later on that evening, trying to steal the jerry cans and walking off with the container that the engine oil was in. So the highs of making new friends and vandalism to the bike all in the first day!
After the experiences of Tunis it was time to head south, on route I found this Obi-Wan look-a-like. Here we have two choices, excluding the old man and I know which one I would take.
Later on riding across the salt lake Chott el-jerid, a strange expanse of formed salt surrounded by mountains as if the surface was layered with snow in +20deg heat.
Next into Libya which on the face of it has worked out pretty expensive when factoring in all the bureaucratic costs involved in the transit. All to see some Roman ruins and ride across what seems at times a never ending desert with a very long straight road that goes on and on and…….you get the picture. No hang on there’s a bend ahead, just got to work out what that driver coming towards me is going to do first. There are no rules to the road here; it’s everyone for themselves, and flat out at that! I think that they like the idea of the bike what with all the arms waving out of windows. However when they are coming towards you head lights flashing, horns going and hazard lights on ON the same side of the road I always seem a little preoccupied to notice what they do as they pass by. Tripoli was an interesting experience, I think that I must have gone unnoticed as it’s probably best described as driving in the centre of London with no speed limit and not a care to what anyone else is doing. The trip almost came to an end right there as I rounded a corner to find a capping hole in the middle of the road where a manhole cover should have been and cars either side of me. Shit!! I thought. Got around that one, just.
Finally, after what felt like a short lifetime I eventually got to travel south again to Cairo after ten days riding East. This was a much welcomed change as the last four days from leaving Libya had been spent in the most horrific storm that I have ever had the pleasure of riding in. When only one mile away from my hotel in Libya where I was to meet my travel agent who would escort me to the border the next day the rain really started and I had to take cover on the road side completely drenched and wait for the storm to pass. In only a few minutes a substantial river was developing in front of me and any car trying to drive through was not always making it. What a scene.
First I had to find my way out of Benghazi which I found to be less than straight forward so returned back to the hotel and ask the parking attendant for some more directions. He asked me to wait for five minutes for his friend to direct me out. After five minutes an old XT600 rode past on the back wheel, guess who was to show me to the road I wanted? And in doing so spent the whole time weaving in and out of the traffic on the back wheel and rarely sat on the seat at that. Once at the right road we pulled over and he looked at me as if to say 'and why were you not doing the same?' Crazy, fully loaded or not! however this did get me to where I wanted to be.
On the way to the Egyptian border the crosswind in the desert was so fierce that it felt as if I was riding at a constant angle of 45deg. That was until I was overtaken by a truck doing 110kph and then all I had to do was sort out the resultant tank slapper. By the time I reached the border I was totally knackered and just wanted to rest. This I was to find out would be totally impossibility as to get into Egypt you have to spend four hours being given the run around while the officials, from what I can work out effectively recreate your Carnet de Passeages which costs 250 pounds back in the UK. I defy anybody to come up with a more bureaucratic paper creating process; they even put official stamps on photocopies of photocopies?? Stamp the import slip of the Carnet and the whole thing could be finished in 5 minutes. But then you would not have to part with 605EGP, may be I missed the point!
Still in the storm the ride to Alexandria was at times so bad that I could not even see where I was going due to the rain and amount of oil and diesel on my visor. I feared to wipe it clean as this would have made things worse so just prayed for heavier rain?! As you can imagine this makes for a some what dangerous situation especially as there are pot holes the size of craters and speed bumps just coming out of nowhere at you. At one point all the traffic was slowing down and I had left it a little too late so slammed on the back brake in an attempt to scrub of as much speed as possible, the bike stepped out sideways just before launching my self off of a speed bump. The people in the taxi next to me looked on in astonishment as I battled to regain control of the bike doing 40kph more than anyone else. Afterwards I just acted as if I had meant to do it like that.
On reaching Cairo it was warm enough to finally test out the camping gear that I had been questioning as to why I was carrying it at all. Success, only two hours from arriving at the camp to finally relaxing. I have since reduced this, thankfully. I even cooked my first meal, pasta! The next day it was straight to the Sudan embassy downtown to get the elusive visa which you can not get back in the UK without a lot of hassle. Therefore I was expecting the worst. On passing 100USD, which went straight into a suitcase and my passport to someone behind a desk who could not have look less official even if he worked on it. And less than one hour later visa issued, could not have been easier.
On my return to camp I found that a Land Rover had arrived which was traveling North back to Holland, my opportunity to get the low down. So a couple of nights were spent chatting about their experiences and me picking up a lot of very useful information and good spots to visit and camp. Even got a night free camping in the desert having crossed into Sinai.
After a short holiday or at least that is what it's felt like advancing my qualification in scuba it was time to get back on the bike and head to the mail land and Luxor. But not after the one of the most uncomfortable experiences of a camel ride, never saw that in the PADI manual. Thank you all at Reef 2000 for that one, never again. Mark still waiting on your donation for the training manual?
On leaving Sinai on the ferry I met a German on a Honda African Twin doing a similar route to myself the only overland biker that I have met so far. So it looks like we'll be traveling companions to Nairobi which is good as the next sections of terrain are both a little tricky and known for their banditos. I hope the riding will go a little better than when having to leave the camp at Luxor under an acrimonious departure I fell of in the deep sand just 50 meters up the road. Not the best time to fall off, the sand in Sudan will be fun.
Now in Aswan at a very nice and peaceful Nubian camp where we have serviced the bikes, put on the new tyres and getting ready for the off to Sudan, we leave on one ferry and the bikes on a barge. Just hope that we all become reunited in Wadi Halfa as most things in Egypt are not quite what they may at first appear to be. This is where the real Africa starts and we start to leave much of the Arabic world behind. May the adventure begin.
As I sit here writing this latest installment of the trip in Nairobi I am amazed that I even managed to get here at all. It's been the toughest riding of my life for both me and the bike as you will find out.....
We arrived at Wadi Halfa after 24 hours on the ferry wanting a clean up to be greeted by what has to be the most unpleasant of hotels. There is only a choice of two and they get very busy when the ferry arrives from Egypt and also departs which is a total of three days in the week. Otherwise the place is deserted. The Nile Hotel, not to be recommended. First we were to share a room which was already occupied by two riders traveling north. They were not in at the time of our arrival however we did met them in town later to inform them of their new guests, it is has to be said that they had done an admirable job of exterminating all manner of cretins from the room. A shower was offered which comprised a bucket of cold dirty water from a 45 gallon drum, pass. You knew your luck was in when not receiving an electric shock on turning on the light. The toilets did not get any better; barley a hole in the ground with many indescribable occupants such as cockroaches and the stench was unbearable. On waiting for long enough the following morning to touch cloth a hole in one was achieved in a significant short space of time. This is to go down as one of life’s great achievements! A very quick decision was made to ride out of town as soon as the bikes arrived on the barge that afternoon, the desert can only reward us with better accommodation options, a tent.
There are two options to get to Khartoum following the Nile or the rail line through the desert, as my German friend had some photos from a previous trip to deliver the Nile route was chosen. I had my reservation as I had previously been told how bad this road (term to be used in the loosest possible way) was. It took four and a half days, two punctures, three falls, a bent and broken bike and dehydration to ride to Khartoum. We rode for plus 10 hours a day only to have traveled just over 100 miles, hard, hard, hard. However on route we did encounter the most friendly and hospitable people you are ever likely to meet. On delivering the photos to the families living on the Nile we were offered food, drink and somewhere to sleep from people who have nearly nothing at all in comparison to ourselves. It was surprising to find that what at first appears to be a very quite village with scarcely any population from the outside are in fact a hive of activity behind the walls. There is no formal post here so once word got out that a delivery had been made people came from who knows where to be a part of the action.
Got to watch my first Arsenal football match of the trip while in Khartoum. It took some convincing the locals that the game against PSV would be better than watching Real Madrid. Arsenal lost and consequently got knocked out of the Champions League, didn’t make many friends that night.
Having been re-energized we left for Ethiopia the following morning in positive mood for the ride ahead. We were met at the border by a significant number increase in the population, more dirt and gravel roads and a noticeable hike in the temperature. Riding with the visor up it was comparable to standing in front of a hair dryer set on maximum, quite unpleasant, this soon dropped away as we gained in altitude.
First lesson in Ethiopia, don’t order meat during the fasting, result chronic bout of diarrhoea that lasted for two days and dehydration again. On recovering it was off on the bikes again on one of Ethiopia’s only asphalt roads which you soon realise is used in the main by the locals to walk from one village to the next. We are talking hundreds of people along with their cattle walking significant distances to trade at market. It makes riding more dangerous than with other vehicles on the road and they are not the best drivers.
When in Ethiopia it would be a disappointment not to visit Lallibella and the rock-hewn churches although it is even more riding on gravel and not being at all religious. It is a specially place and does give you a better understanding of the country.
The good thing with Ethiopia is that they are Arsenal mad so in Addis I got to watch my second game in the pub along with many locals; only European in the place. Everton beat us, this is not going well.
While riding south to the Kenya border we meet a group of five South African bikers also heading the same way so we grouped up to ride the notorious road from Moyale to Isiolo together. Having been raining heavily and the road being in places mud we all agreed that we would help each other as and when required. Additionally there is believed to be bandits operating in the area and what with stories of a recent robbing on this stretch of road. This road would be the last of desert riding for the trip so I was determined to get through it without a falling off no matter what. Having been in the situation in Ethiopia where the bike and myself were sliding down an extremely muddy section of road completely out of control and managing to stay upright. I did not think that it could get any worse so I was confident.
What I underestimated was how bad the road would be in places where we were riding over larva rocks the size of footballs. The bike gets thrown all over the place and the vibration is shocking, the bike gets a hammering. The result of all of this was realised early on in the second day having left Marsibit leading the ride at a steady pace there was an almighty noise from between my legs and the seat dropped down. The rear subframe broke in half. On removing the seat and fuel tank one of the bolts was found to have vibrated out and consequently the remaining metal was not enough to support the load. Bolloxs, in the middle of nowhere. And the pannier frame was broken resulting in an extremely loose pannier box. Got to work in 40deg ambient temperature sweating my arse off strapping the subframe back to the main frame and set of again now having to ride stood up for the remaining 150km of gravel road. Two punctures in the front tyre later I finally nursed the bike to Nairobi for welding and there is even a KTM dealer for any necessary spare parts. So bike and myself have crossed over into the Southern Hemisphere.
I am finding the best thing with being in Kenya is that you don’t get woken up at an unsociable hour by a mosque or church blaring incoherent noises out of load speakers all of which with the sound quality a railway announcer would find unclear.
As you know I am riding to raise money for the charity Riders for Health so if after reading the latest installment you feel a little sympathy for me please donate at the URL below.
After the events of last month the pace has slowed down dramatically as I have only traveled as far as Uganda during April. The majority of the month has been spent exploring what Uganda has to offer for the independent traveler and it has not disappointed. Turning out to be a gem of a country with many exciting adrenalin activities to keep one occupied; this extends further than the obligatory boda-boda rides or dodging live ammo from the open fire in Kampala during the deforestation demonstrations. There are also the National Parks, stunning landscapes and safari game drives that have kept me busy. After a weekend in Kampala you soon realise that the Ugandan's also know how to party. It turns out that Mandy Cohen (in voice only) from Life of Brian has turned up at a backpackers in Kampala masquerading as an African wearing overalls and wellington boots operating the main gate. So we now have him saying, “He’s not the messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!” This is of course childish but bloody funny.
No trip to Uganda would be complete without a trip down the grade 5 rapids of the source of the Nile. Which in the main is performed on a raft however as this does not present quite the same exhilaration as the offer of a tandem Kayak ride the latter was decided upon. As we pushed away from the bank that morning a thought of absolute horror crossed my mind; what the hell was I about to let myself in for. This was the first time that I had ever sat in a kayak. After a few practices of capsizing and performing a couple of other key maneuvers it was time to set off for the first rapid. There is nothing quite like the experience of accelerating down three meters of water approaching a ten foot wave with only three feet of plastic in front of you. A lot of Nile water was consumed throughout the day and we only capsized twice in the rapids which is quite a different experience than the practice runs in the flat water.
Later in the Rwenzori Mountains I embarked on a bit of mountain biking. However this was not to be your ordinary biking trip, this is mountain biking Ugandan style. Any thoughts of a tricked out full suspension bike with disc brakes and multi gears were soon quashed once the bike was delivered in the morning. However as I had parted with my money the previous day I just had to go with it. Having been in Africa for more than four months now I should really have know better, nothing is quite as it is sold at the time. It got even worse once in terrifying motion. The thing could just about perform one function at a time and the fact the wheels were turning pretty much maximized its full potential.
A few pictures from a recent game drive.
On having been in Uganda for so long it was finally time to move on to Rwanda crossing the Equator for the last time until heading home. The route that I decided upon took me across the Virunga volcanoes in the south western part of the country. This was rewarded with some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve so far seen with views across the lakes and terraced hills of the local villages. This was again all off road riding on tough tracks. Having got lost a number of times taking the wrong tracks to find the border crossing into Rwanda as the locals and police give conflicting information. I stubble across the most obscure immigration office location ever, well and truly hidden down a side track with hardly anyone around who looked official. Would have made for a good picture however common sense got the better of me if I wished to leave.
Having crossed into Rwanda the first thing that strikes you is the abundant colours that are everywhere. As the saying goes, Africa is full of colours and there is no place where this is truer than here. A photography’s wet dream. This may well be down to the fact that there is no rubbish strewn all over the place as is the case in many parts of Africa to distract the eye. The first stop was to go and visit the cousins in the Parc National des Volcans, Diana Fossey did not get the name ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ by chance as the densely forested slopes are perpetually covered in rain cloud. However, the trekking to and the one hour spent with the Umubano group of gorillas will be one of my life’s unforgettable experiences.
More off road riding on beaten up tracks was encountered on my way down the side of Lake Kivu to the Nyumgwe forest. Again as when riding across the volcanoes in Uganda the scenery was nothing short of spectacular with panoramic views that would not have looked out place in the Hobbit. At one of my evening stopovers I got the chance to watch the must anticipated match with Chelsea, of which Arsenal’s involvement in the title race was to hand Man Utd the title after a 1-1 draw. Thrilling! There is always next season. On a more serious note the people whom I was watching the game with, all which were of a similar age to myself, were, given the country’s painful past fortunate to have been there at all. Of which the full scale of the horrific events that unfolded during 1994 can be taken in at the national genocide museum in Kigali. A very disturbing and moving exhibition.
The weather was closing in and I had to get to Tanzania over the mountains for the start of my volunteer work before the roads become impassable. I soon found out that I had probable left it far too late to ride the road over Mt Hanang which was actually a mud and sand track that was fast becoming a bog mare with the continuous rainfall. I will now revise an earlier statement and proclaim that this is the hardest riding that I have ever encountered. I have never seen so much carnage on one road as this. Trucks were broken down, stuck on ascends due to no grip resulting in hold ups of any vehicle with four wheels for three days plus. Buses sliding at 90deg to the direction of travel blocking the road. All male passengers were outside doing their best to dig the bus out but only resulting in mud being thrown all over the place and on themselves. Consequently there were great big potholes being created that just filled up with rain water. I managed to fall off twice and get completely stuck on a number of occasions; one of which required the local Massai people to start digging up the road to get me out of a ditch that I had unfortunately fallen into. I was covered in mud as was the bike and at near breaking point and exhausted with only another 100km of track in front of me before hitting the sealed road. If a truck had offered a ride there and then I would have taken it which is something that I promised myself I would never do before leaving on the trip. No matter how bad things got, Africa bites back. TIA! I did finally get to the sealed road at a pace of 15mph!
On arriving at the school where I was to coach football with the first team I found that the school kit was in fact the Arsenal home kit, a good omen. After a number of sessions and me concluding that any exercise in 35deg heat and high humidity was not appropriate an inter-school match was arranged. The school won 4-2; it was just like watching Arsenal play as the majority of the team were yet to break out of their teens. My tenure as first team coach was over, which makes my stats impressive reading. One game, one win, a 100% record; watch out AW I’ll be looking for a job on my return.
Next stop, the roof of Africa.
The roof of Africa and for all that effort of trekking for four and a half days to see the spectacular views of precisely……..nothing! We almost walked straight past the sacred sign post at 5895M due to the lack of visibility in the ensuing snow blizzard. High winds, a temperature of -20degC and poor visibility, what a strange way to see in a new day. This was one hell of a surreal experience. To start with you get up at midnight to start walking, very slowly, up the final ascent to Gilman’s point at 5681M in total darkness on a path that can be best described as unsure with all the packed snow on it. Then comes the altitude sickness which is equivalent to being drunk to the point of passing out, splitting headache, vomiting, the lose of balance and consequently no coordination. Not good when you’re just about to walk the snow covered craters edge in gale force winds. One slip and you could find yourself sliding down 3000ft into the crater or worse; off the mountain altogether. All makes you feel a little……………
The best part of the whole trek is the descent which takes one fifth of the time and you start to get some good old oxygen back in the lungs; very welcomed. I will have to change the name of the trip to Chelmsford to Cape Town via the roof of Africa. So if you have been sitting there thinking of donating but not sure when to or even wish to donate more. Then there’s no better time than now. Congratulate me in getting there; a lot of people who do try do not make it.
After all that excitement a rest on the beaches of Zanzibar was in order to take in the infamous sunsets and hot weather. Managed to get in a bit scuba diving, however this turned out not to be all that it is cracked up to be. A big disappointment.
Back in Nairobi and the bike is apart again getting fixed after the rough roads that I encountered on entering Tanzania last month. Also a service and new tyres to make it feel like new again, the last set have long past their best having covering over 6000 miles.
Encountered my first real breakdown with the bike during the transit of Tanzania from Kenya on the way to Malawi. This was the consequence of picking up a tank full of bad fuel and resulted in a truck ride back to the nearest town. I got to experience first hand why it is that these trucks are seen on their side in the ditch on the side of the road. It was a frightening ride at some speed for something weighing many tons and controlled by someone scarcely old enough to have a driving license.
With the fuel draining and some proper gas in the tank I set off for a second attempt to reach Lake Malawi. You get a good impression of how poor this country is as there are no other vehicles on the road for miles after mile. This is true for the most part until you reach a city. Had my first running with the officials on the ride and placed under arrest for violation of a traffic law. Not stopping at a police check point, apparently. Fortunately this did not last for too long on the arresting officer being handed a book that I had recently finished reading. This is the flip side and for the benefit of myself the better element to the well know fact that African officials are corrupt.
Having spent too many days relaxing on the lake which is so vast that it confuses you in to thinking that you’re at the sea it was time for the obligatory stop over in the capital city on the road to Zambia. To avoid those famous riders on their Long Way Down, this seemed to be on everyone’s lips that I spoke to during the last month. Have you seen them, are you part of the trip, do you know where they are? etc, etc, etc….
The decision was taken to spend a few nights at South Luangwa National Park, more off road riding. The campsites there are open for the wildlife to freely roam which is all well and good until being awoken early one morning to the sound of an Elephant eating the tree that my tent was camped under along with the bike. I don’t remember getting much sleep for the remainder of the time there. Must have met the same animal again on leaving the park as it chased me down the track with ears flapping for some 30 meters. An exhilarating few seconds of riding, these things can run fast through the rough bush when they want to.
Next stop was to Victoria Falls which is some distance. Consequently we did one of the most stupid things on the trip that is very much advised against doing; riding at night. It was fucking scary, trucks blinding your vision, your eyes playing tricks on you and the local wildlife deciding to be kamikaze and run out across the road in front of you. A Kudu in this instance; don’t do it! On the second day with daylight diminishing we took up the offer of a free house on a farm that is being converted into a game lodge. Ended up being there for a few days being put to work, not so much the free house that was initially offered to us.
At Vic Falls took to the skies in another form of transport to see this great spectacle and later at night under a full moon to see the lunar rainbows.
It is easy to become complacent of just how fantastic things are in Africa as you get sensory overload. The falls under full moon is nothing short of spectacular.
Heading south and the temperature was starting to get noticeable colder and news was that SA was not any better so the trip headed back to the East coast, crossing over into Zimbabwe to visit Riders. First we had to get supplies due to the problems there; loading up with 50lt of fuel should see us get at least half way through the country before trying to source some on the black market. From what was already seen of Vic Falls it was thought that it could not get much better however on the Zimbabwean side the water seems to fall in much greater quantity making for an impressive showering from the splash.
The roads in Zimbabwe are all but deserted of traffic there are more donkeys pulling carts than anything that is propelled with an internal combustion engine. Arrived in Bulawayo before it was necessary to top up the fuel reserves, the hunt for black market liquid gold took us to a guy called Fuzz. Name aptly given on meeting him at his house, just slightly crazy, however he had the necessary stuff hidden in his garage and even at the black market price this was cheaper than in Zambia. After headed for Harare to visit the Riders organisation where the money that has been kindly donated is going too.
At their head quarters I got shown around and was impressed by the number of bikes they have in the workshop waiting to go out to support their operations in Africa. The money that is being raised from this ride is going to be used to support the purchasing of much needed tools in the workshop. This will enable the bikes to be prepared ready for distribution to their designated projects over the coming months.
From the head quarters it is a short trip out of town to the training facilities where they teach those who will be using the bikes how to ride, service and maintain their bikes. This training facility is situated nicely in the middle of a karting circuit, motocross track and a 4x4 off-road circuit so the rider training is very comprehensive.
As fuel is in short supply in Zimbabwe it is best to ride at a slower than normal speed, so you could imagine my surprise on leaving that I was stopped for speeding. 120kph apparently ‘Would you like to contest this sir’ I was asked, ‘bloody right’. ‘Well then you can go’. Easy as that; off of paying any fine.
Got to the Mozambique coast which was as expected hot so time to relax for a few weeks, filling in the time doing some impressive diving. All the usual suspects expected along this coast were present, when diving with such big sea life as whale sharks, humpback whales and manta rays you feel very small. The experience is similar to that of visiting the gorillas in Rwanda.
In Swaziland ventured off in to the hills with the bike unloaded which for a change was nice to ride. This did involve getting a little lost and having our path cut off by a few boulders and river crossings. This made for a challenging ride, at times fun with both wheels off the ground.
Might even make it to Cape Town next month!
Almost in Cape Town, I got the first sign once I crossed over the border into South Africa. Only 679Km a short run down the home straight.
Over the past month I have however traversed the continent to the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia. Crossing through Botswana with its limited roads and vast flat open desert this makes for a very dull country to ride across. The only entertainment is to avoid the many Ostriches that occupy the side of the roads. I did take in the impressive sight of the Okavango Delta. Having been in areas of Africa where water is like a liquid gold commodity it is absurd to see such an abundance of water in this desert, which are effectively the rains from Angola .
Moving onto Namibia was with much anticipation with its natural beauty and gravel roads. This country is ideal for motorcycling with some of the most spectacular landscapes that I have witnessed in Africa, the gravel roads are well maintained so can be fast if you wish. This is probably why I see so many other motorcycle groups on these tracks. The only concern you have is that you can ride all day and only see a handful of people hence you don’t want to be breaking down. Then there are the high temperatures and strong crosswinds that are relentless.
A reference to your position of latitude in the middle of the desert on the way to Sesriem; useful?
Took to doing some sandboarding in the Namib Desert, this may be on a snowboard however this is nothing like riding on snow. The idea being to go as fast as you can and keeping the board as flat as possible.
The highlight being an 80kph run down the dunes on a high tech sheet of ply wood.
In the middle of the ephemeral pan at Sossuvlei amongst the high red sand dunes getting hot and it was still only half past seven in the morning. An incredible dry and intimidating place.
On the road to the Fish River Canyon with the Schwarzrand mountain range in the background.
The Fish River canyon, not as grand as what North America might have to offer but in it's own way more beautiful from the vast array of different colours from the flora. The Fish River (bizzarely enough) has gouged out an impressive canyon as it has twisted its way down to the Orange River. Living up to the san people's believe of the work of an escaping snake being chased by hunters.
Cape Town, only days away…………
…………..259 day, 18,572 miles, 18 countries, a fuel bill of £827.24 and no GPS just maps I finally get to see my chequered flag. Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa. Unfortunately it was only a mere glimpse as Mother Nature had decided to be cruel on crossing the finish line by shrouding the land mark in substantial cloud cover. A couple of hours later and its raining, my first rain in over a month. Thanks for the memory.
The final miles in to Cape Town riding down the R27 were terrifying; listening and feeling every new noise and vibration from the bike, having the fear of an imminent breakdown so close to the finish. Having ridden the bike for so long it has almost become a part of me, I was worried for it. Having crossed the finish line I think that it fair to say that both the bike and I have performed admirable well over the past nine months. Looking at a map I am amazed and in many ways can not believe haw far we have gone together. From the top to the bottom of such an expansive continent, on good roads, on bad roads and on no roads at all. What was I thinking; it has been an awesome trip.
And the best of all, from now on when some asks me, ‘where are you going?’ I can say, ‘nowhere, I am already there’. No more, ‘to Cape Town’, ‘where’, ‘South Africa’. Once this is established the normal response would be, ‘on this bike, on your own, it’s not possible on these roads, do you have a gun?’ Generally after a bit more gibberish about travelling further south they finish with, ‘you must have a lot of money?’, ‘no not really, not anymore’. So don’t ask for some I am not a mobile ATM!
So what now? Well it’s my birthday soon so I think a celebration is in order and once I have got over the fact that I no longer have to think of where it is to next I’ll take to exploring the Western Cape before heading back to working for a living, again.
Africa at times is difficult to describe in words so I don’t think that I will try here. Never the less I will say that my best experience has been all of it and that what I’ll miss most of all is the experience that Africa offers to anyone willing to come here.
For now I am signing off, leaving you with some random photos of the trip. I hope that you have enjoyed the read, laughed at some of the stories, even possible been inspired yourself. A big thank you to all those of have donated to Riders, from my experiences throughout this trip and having visited the organisation I know that your money will be going to make a difference to the people here in Africa where it is needed.
Ten months in Africa travelling slowly overland and soon what will be a short flight back to London. That will be a culture shock!!
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