Carlo, John Anthony and me in the BMW workshop in Sana'a, Yemen.
After the clutch problem with the BMW we managed to get the correct parts from Germany to Sana'a within 3 days with the help of the guys from BMW Sana'a and Reiner Zimmer in Milan, Italy. I would like to especially thank John who is the BMW workshop manager in Sana'a for his help and support and making all the necessary arrangements considering that the workshop in Sana'a do not normally deal with motorcycles.
Carlo has been travelling for 10 months and has covered 40 000 kms in his travels from Holland to Asia and the Middle East and we are travelling together for northern section of Africa.
Aboard cattle boat from Al Mocha to Djibouti.
The trip from Al Mocha to Djibouti aboard a cattle boat should have taken 12 hours but due to a strong head wind and stormy sea all the way it took 20 hours and as we were located on the foredeck and exposed to the elements it was a very uncomfortable ride.
At about midnight I noticed that the engine was starting to run a bit rough and when I saw crew members disappear into the engine room and a nervous looking captain, I was not too happy myself. The constant rocking of the boat by the huge swells had stirred up the dirt in the bottom of the diesel tank and had clogged up the filter and this was causing fuel starvation to the engine. The only way to resolve this was to switch off the engine and replace the filter which meant that we were without steerage while carrying out this repair.
The boat started rocking violently as it turned and the waves pounded it from the side. I was sure the next wave was going to come over the side when the engine started up again and the captain was able to turn it back into the wind. As you can well imagine we all breathed a sigh of relief when that engine started up.
The BMW being unloaded in Djibouti port.
The emigration and customs in the port was sorted quickly and we were soon heading into town. We had an expensive hamburger and made for the border and Ethiopia.
We found a road leading to the beach but it soon became bad gravel and the KTM went down. No serious damage and we continued on.
Camping on the coast in Djibouti.
Looking forward to a cold beer in Ethiopia.
Crossing into Ethiopia we did not realize that there would be no petrol for almost 400 kmís and although there were many fuel stations they only stocked diesel. Running on fumes and stopping to drain fuel from BMWís to keep the KTM going we eventually came across a fuel station that sold petrol in cans at an inflated price. Needless to say we were happy to pay whatever he wanted.
Maintenance being done.
At the stone churches in Lalibela.
Deciding to turn north to Lalibela we did not realize how remote this area was and did not make contact for seven days and this caused great concern in Dubai and Cape Town. I would like to apologise for any distress that was caused and would like to thank everyone who attempted to locate us. It was also reassuring to see so many people concerned about our wellbeing.
We left Lalibela and made for Gondor in the west. The road we took was the worst I had been on and it took almost 12 hours to cover 200 kmís. By the end of that road my right front shock was starting to leak oil but it did not affect the handling of the bike. I got separated from Carlo and Jerry in the dark and we were only able to locate one another the next morning.
Cow that was struck by Carlo.
After our visit to Gondor we turned south to Lake Tana which is the source of the Nile. It was late afternoon and we had the sun in our eyes when a cow wondered out of the shadows into the road. Carlo who was riding up front did not see the cow and struck it on the neck at approximately 80 km/h. The cowís neck was broken and it died instantly while Carlo continued down the road with the BMW on its side for about 15 meters and came to a stop in a cloud of dust. Amazingly he did not even have a scratch on him although his BMW jacket took a bit of a beating.The bike sustained damage but the most serious was the brake fluid reservoir that had disintegrated on impact.
Soon at least 50 people had gathered around and the negotiations started for payment for the dead cow. The price was agreed at 250 dollars and we arranged a truck to take Carloís bike to the next town. The next day was spent knocking out pannier boxes and straighting out parts on the bike that had moved or been bent. Carlo found a guy that could work with Perspex and gave him what was left off the brake fluid reservoir to try and construct something temporary.
The following day the bike was on the road and we made for Kenia and the dreaded Moyale to Marsabit road.
The temporary Perspex brake fluid reservoir being fitted to Carloís bike.
Looking for a camping site next to the road in remote areas in the dark is not advised. This is me waiting for some assistance after dropping the bike.
The road to Marsabit, 250 kms of it and this is a good section were you can stop and start again without dropping the bike.
The fourth bike in the above picture is SimonPatrick O'Hara from Ierland who joined us for this section on his fuel sipping 640 KTM. He claims to get over 700 km a tank. He has been riding from Italy through North Africa and met up with us on the road from Gondor in Ethiopia.
We were told upon arrival at Moyale the road had been graded 2 weeks before but this turned out to be a vicious rumour and it seems the locals like playing these games with unsuspecting motorcyclists.
This section of road has a lot of loose gravel and deep ruts and one needed to focus on staying on an existing truck tyre print to prevent the bike from being sucked into the deep gravel on either side of you and just to complicate matters further there are plenty of large stones lying about waiting to direct that front wheel into the loose stuff. A momentís lack of concentration ensured that all of us dropped our bikes on this section, fortunately without any serious damage or injury.
Will this road ever end ???????????
The road from Marsabit to Isiolo is almost 300 kms and although there is not as much loose gravel it is heavily corrugated for the entire 300kms and you and your bike will take a pounding. The temptation was always there to ride it fast but without fail a very large pothole would appear and would force you to slow down. I know of many motorcyclist who have destroyed there suspensions on this stretch of road and would advise a slow but steady pace and prepare yourself for a long day.
Repairing Simonís tyre on the way to Isiolo.
As we were repairing Simonís tire we were unaware that Jerry had been involved in a collision with a vehicle a couple of kms ahead of us. Once we had the tyre repaired and set off we found Jerry and the vehicle waiting for us. He had been very lucky and narrowly avoided being run over and seriously injured. The vehicle had hit the back of the bike and bent the sub frame and exhaust. The luggage straps had also broken and we had to improvise to get the bike on the road again. Jerry was able to continue and we needed to get to Nairobi to check out the bikes and repair the damage they had sustained.
Absolute relieve by all at making it to asphalt after two days and almost 600 kms of the worst road I have ever encountered. It was great teamwork and support that got us through and I would like to thank you all for a great ride.
Crossing the Equator in Kenia.
The KTM stripped down to access the damage.
The four of us have split here in Nairobi as we all have different schedules and routes.
There is a possibility we may meet up again along the road and will be keeping in contact and following one anotherís progress.
Rossi joined me in Arusha, Tanzania for a safari to the Ngorongoro crater and a two day ride on the bike to Dar Es Salaam and then spent 3 days in Zanzibar seeing the sights.
At the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania.
Rossi been taught the finer points of Masai dancing.
Lion kill in the Ngorongoro crater.
Ready for the road to Zanzibar.
Rossi and I joined John, Kimmo, Jim, Ambrose and Phillip for the safari to the Ngorongoro crater and after this they were riding to Gaborone in Botswana while Rossi and I were heading for Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar. BMW's all over the place!!!!!!
Sunset in Zanzibar.
After three great days in Zanzibar Rossi has returned to Dubai and I will be continuing on to Malawi tomorrow.
Campsite in Tanzania after heavy rain.
On my ride from Dar es Salaam to the Malawi border I encountered my first rain of the trip. It was late afternoon and I was about 10 kmís from the camping site that I had identified as my overnight stop on the GPS when it started to rain heavily. I had to slow down as the visibility became very poor due to the heavy downpour. I eventually found the turn off to the camp site and proceeded to make my way down a dirt road that had started to turn into a small river and as I progressed, the road turned into two ruts with water rushing down them. I was expecting to hit a submerged rock at any moment that would send me and the bike crashing into the water and mud. By the time I thought of turning around I was on a steep downhill and there was no way I was going to be able to turn 300 kgís of bike around in those conditions.
I continued on in the pouring rain until I reached what under normal conditions would have been a small stream that crossed the road but had now turned into small river and tried to stop but the bike skidded and hit a submerged rock and I went down. Fortunately I was traveling slowly and there was no serious damage but I was now standing ankle deep in water with the bike on its side in ankle deep water, rain pouring down and not sure that this camping site even existed.
I proceeded to unpack the bike as it was too heavy to pick up fully loaded and managed get it in the upright position and then walked over to the small river to try and establish the depth of the water. I did this by placing my one boot in the water and slipped and ended up standing knee deep in this stream with water pouring into my boots. As you can well imagine I was pretty fed up by this time and decided to stay where I was and pitch my tent and get out of the rain. I manhandled the bike off the road and identified a place where I could pitch the tent.
I was about to unpack the tent when I heard the unmistakable sound of a diesel engine making its way down the road. It was the owner of the camp site and he informed me that the site was 500 meters further down the road. We decided to leave the bike next to the road and return when the rain had stopped and the water levels had dropped. Phillip, the owner took me down to his campsite and put me up in the tent on the photograph that had a dry bed with sheets and blankets and invited me for coffee and a great meal. We returned to the bike just before dark and with the help of a couple of Phillipís workers managed to maneuver the bike across the stream.
After a good nights rest, a hot shower and dry clothes I was in a much better mood and ready for whatever the day would bring. Phillip took my luggage up to the tarred road for me while I rode the bike back up the dirt road without any mishaps and proceeded on to Malawi.
Relaxing on Lake Malawi.
As I crossed into Malawi I had to slow down as the people and animals lived on the road and you had to be very vigilant to not be involved in an accident with the local inhabitants. In the above photo I had reached my campsite for my first night in Malawi and more importantly they had cold beers. You will also notice me still trying to dry out my boots from the episode in the river.
What struck me the most was how green everything was in Malawi.
Striking camp at the golf course in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi were I spent an evening.
Victoria Falls in the backround. Notice the permanent cloud above the falls.
The real thing.
Not so good road.
The roads in Zambia are generaly in very good condition but the bad sections are really bad. It was sometimes beter to ride next to the road rather than on the potholed asphalt.
Crossing the Zambezi by ferry to Botswana.
The mountains in Swaziland.
I rode through Botswana without any problems and was suprised to see elephants along the road in areas that I thought were not national parks. I felt a bit exposed on the motorcycle as when I stopped to look at them they seemed to move closer and my thoughts were, do not have a flat tire or a breakdown.
On crossing the border to South Africa it felt like I was home. I made for the north of the country as there was much of South Africa I have not seen and I visited with some friends in Nelspruit. We did a day trip to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique and also saw some of the sights around Nelspruit.
On leaving Nelspruit I made for Swaziland and rode through some stunning mountain scenery and as it is a small country and I was able to do the ride within a day. After crossing the border back into South Africa I made for Johannesburg to visit with another friend and left the next morning in the pouring rain as I headed south on the N1 to Bloemfontein to meet up with Andrew who was joining me for the last couple of days of my adventure.
Andrew and I in Fouriesburg
Andrew had ridden up from Cape Town on the N1 to join me in Bloemfontein and we were going to explore the Drakenberg and make our way south along the coast.
In the foothills of the Drakensberg.
The scenery around the Drakensberg was stunning and I realised that there were many parts of my own country that I have not explored and that many of the best sights that I had seen on my journey through Africa was in South Africa.
Stopping for some refreshments after a long cold wet day on the bike. I am sure many of you know how good this one tastes.
Having tea and milktart after crossing Prince Alberts Pass.
Packed and ready to go.
We spent a night at my mom,s holiday place in Wilderness and made our way to Oudtshoorn.
On top of the Swartberg Pass.
My friends in Cape Town arranged a welcome home party for us and this was officially the end of my trip through Africa. Thanks Grant and Marlene for a great party.
The gps was zeroed when I left Dubai and this was the reading when I stopped and the ride was officially over. I had left Dubai on the 18th January and arrived in Cape Town on the 20th March, a total of 61 days and had covered sixteen thousand six hundred and sixty six kilometers.
A ride up Chapmans Peak in Cape Town.
When you have completed a journey/adventure like this people tend to ask you what it was like and the best way I could explain it is a continues bombarment of your senses by the elements, the landscapes, the people that take you through the full spectrum of emotions that you could experience and therefore remind you that you are alive.
I would urge any of you out there that have been considering doing a similar trip to get out there and do it as the longer you postpone the more difficult it gets. You could ask any of the many travellers we met in Africa and they would all say it was worth the sacrifices that had to be made. Africa is changing and I think that the days of true adventure are numbered on this continent.
It was a great experience and who knows I may be out there again in the not to distant future.
This is me signing off till the next time.
Safe riding !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!
Next HU Events
- Germany Autumn: Oct 23-26
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! USA Virginia: Apr 9-12, 2015
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
- Canada West: Aug 20-23, 2015
- USA California: Sep 24-27, 2015
- Aus Queensland: Sep 24-27, 2015
- USA North Carolina: Oct 8-11, 2015
- Aus Perth: Oct 9-11, 2015
Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!
Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).
"Inspiring and hilarious!"
"I loved watching this DVD!"
"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.
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
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!
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 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.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.
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 © 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!