January 23, 2009 GMT

I can't believe we made to Brazzaville, what originally was 300kms+ of Michelin Map red tarmac road was nothing but a myth! 4 days of very hard work but the sense of achievement was amazing when we dragged our weary bodies and bikes onto the tarmac, kissing it in sheer joy and took a team picture. There were 3 local boys watching us from a ledge overlooking the start of the tarmac, laughing at our silly actions but we didn't care, hey, we've looked strange and silly since we've been here anyhow!
finally! Tarmac

Once in Brazzaville and seeing the mighty Congo river we felt much better. The lack of local money and the chance of an ATM was one of the most pressing points, we were skint! Coming across an ATM that took Visa was great and also we met a few 'whites' offering advice, a place to work on the bike, internet access and general niceties which was really cool, I thank you all! But in reality all I wanted was a good hot shower, a cheap hotel with a comfortable bed and a few beers! Of which I got............ beer! The hotel wasn't cheap at 20,000cfa ($45) a night, cold water if any, electricity failures and the bed sucks. Oh well!
The city is quite a nice place itself, still bearing war damage but repairs are being done and new buildings going up. Bars and restaurants have a relaxed feel and it's pretty safe at night. Albeit the power cuts happen at awkward times typically during internet access but generally not bad.
Due to the time frame of asking for parts sending from the UK, suspension and piston rings I had to consider applying for an extension to my Congo visa as it would run out on the 23rd of January, considering the time it would take for the DRC visa application I had to weigh this up carefully. So I opted for the DRC visa first thinking if the Congo extension was denied I could jump the border and MAYBE get the piston rings sent from DHL to Kinshasa, a big maybe. The bike was in such bad state that I dreaded to think that maybe the bike could fail with a buggered starter motor, shot piston rings and a collapsed shock absorber! I was worried to say the least!
After a night on the piss which invariably happens in a new city, knackered but I can still push myself for a few beers if I really want to! Migo and I applied for visas with DRC, a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and the applications were in, 35 grand, two pics and all's done. Mark decided to leave it to another day seeing no rush. But the rush came when he did the application the next day and found he had no pages left in his passport.......... Oooops!

Migo and I received our visas, bunging the 'Chief' 5 grand for some 'phone call' to Kinshasa..? and I went to the DHL office to see if my shock absorber had arrived. It had in country but not at the office of which I'd paid for. Finally it did arrive not the day I expected but the next. When I outlined I wanted DHL to deal with customs and bring the package to the office, accepting the horrendous charge of £120 because I'd dealt with African customs before and hated it, Mark collected a package for himself at the airport and from the original quote of 240,000cfa ($600) FOR A TYRE..! He got it for 25,000cfa and all smiles! I however picked mine up, got it scanned and what should have been a charge of 84,000cfa was ignored and I left, BIGGER SMILES!! Dancer!
The application went in for a Congolese extension, explaining for 2 hours my bike problems, I love Brazzaville, buddies here, blah, blah, blah, and my application was accepted. “Come back tomorrow and we'll see” The usual African answer again.
In the mean time the bike needed to be dealt with so I cracked on, firstly the shock. Disappointed with the 'Hagon' shock I'd bought (20,000kms and busted!) I had the stock shock to fit and what a bugger it was. When I fitted the Hagon I didn't grease the bottom pin and it had corroded so much that thing wasn't budging an inch! I had to dismantle the entire swingarm (with again, much difficulty. Thanks 'Tony Togo's' for not greasing it as requested and paid for!) and literally beat the hell out of the pin with the bigger hammer I'd bought, if in doubt, hit it harder and it worked. The whole swingarm needed a good clean and regrease and it and the new shock fitted sweetly. 2 days to get it off and a half hour to put it back on! I did some sweating and the locals stopping me every now and again to look at the fat bloke with the tattoos! .
The starter motor was another problem, after opening it up it was as black as the ace of spades! Everything in and around the bushes was full of carbon and I feared a burned out starter motor. When I opened it up in Dakar, Senegal it was as clean as a whistle so the only explanation was I didn't correctly refit it to the aligning marks. So I cleaned it up, following the manual, greasing the bush mounts etc and it now turns like a dream! Lesson learnt......... read instructions you arse!
starter motor

Next job.... piston rings! I'm not looking forward to that one especially in a hotel carpark! One of the things that bothers me is if the barrel is scored then the whole thing is buggered and will need a rebore but I'm optimistic for a change. If it works well then good, it may last till South Africa if not then Hey-Ho! I'll push on as far as the bike will go cos there's no chance I can get a rebore here, DRC or Angola and the only place, maybe will be in Namibia! The way the bike is going, it'll not last another 500kms. The other one bothering me is I'm hoping the rebuild will be okay for if the valves move position once the cambelt is off, a bolt snaps or won't free, etc, etc. If I'm sat in a garage in the UK then no probs but I'm in The Congo! Ha Ha Ha! (slightly nervous laugh!) I have the instructions on paper and PDF so that will be the bible.

prep for rings

Mark has received the extra pages for his passport inserted from the US embassy here in Brazza, good on him but a slight oversee on his part as he readily accepts for the problem in the first place. No DHL package has arrived for me today and the visa runs out today too! If I get my extension then great, if not........... ? Dread to think!

Posted by geoffshing at January 23, 2009 10:00 AM GMT

HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!