April 05, 2009 GMT

Over four years ago, BCE, I decided it would be quite a good idea to climb upon my motorbike one day, nip down to Dover for the ferry, and head off for Cape Town.
(Note: BCE – Before Charley and Ewan).

About a year and a half ago, that idea had distilled into a departure date, September 2009. It seemed, from reading the HUBB, that the English Autumn was the best time, weather-wise, for departing England for an over-land trip to The Cape of Good Hope.
So I needed to tell someone – that is, my two children, Richard and Caroline. Attempts to disappear without warning aren’t received very well and I guessed at what the responses would be when I broke the news.
Richard: “What????? Another crazy trip!!”
Caroline: “Can I come too?? Pleeeease!”
Well, my guess wasn’t quite right.
I told Richard. “What????? Another crazy trip!!”
I told Caroline. “Can I come too?? Pleeeease!”
But sometime afterwards, down the phone line, I heard this. (I was in Ottawa at the time, she in Toronto).
“Dad, errrrr, maybe you could get to Toronto a bit earlier....... it’s just that....... errrrr....... I’m getting married...... in two weeks time! His name is Beau. And, errrr...... by the way....... Beau wants to come with us to Cape Town. He’s having riding lessons and takes his test just after the wedding. So he’ll be OK. Can he come with us???? Pleeeease!!”
So there you have it. My solo adventure, over an unspecified timescale but at least a year, instantly became a party of three, with defined end dates for two of them who have jobs to do and livings to earn.
Caroline and I had done ‘trips’ before, chiefly to Ukraine and Russia on a Ducati 900SS in1996:


And also to Istanbul on the same bike in 1997.


I then took a three-month trip by Yamaha Serow to North Cape,


and Eastern Europe (Lapland, Baltics, Poland, Hungary and Home, 1999)

(Sobibor Nazi Death Camp)

This tour taught me that little bikes have quite some advantages over big bikes on long journeys where time is not of the essence.
With this in mind, in 2001 I thought I’d try an even little-er bike for a longer journey. I bought a bicycle in my cousin’s home town of Calgary, Canada, cycled up to the Athabasca Glacier, then headed south not knowing where I would go or end up. Four months later I found myself somewhat surprised to be crossing into Mexico having cycled into Yellowstone Park, across the Painted Desert, up to the Grand Canyon, and dodged the bullets at a re-enactment of the Gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. After leaving the Icefields Parkway, where no camping was allowed owing to bear activity (lots), I lived in my little tent for 101 consecutive nights between Canmore, Alberta, and El Paso, Texas.
Further research into little motorbikes, including Lois Pryce’s books, led me to select the Yamaha TTR250 for the planned Cape Town carnival.

(Bicycle used for the Canada to Mexico odyssey is just behind, still going strong)

I bought it in May 2008, took it to the Baltic coast of Germany for a summer visit, and have been tinkering and preparing ever since. It now looks like this:

(The very first Dress Rehearsal)

Caroline found my TTR too high, despite being lowered with a Kouba Link. She stole my Serow once, after I returned from the East Europe trip, and gallivanted off with it to Spain for three years, so she decided on another Serow for this trip.
Beau, new to motorbikes, settled for another TTR250. So we are almost equipped, if not yet prepared.
A question asked frequently is - what will be our route?
That's a bit of a moveable feast, but here goes: A basic knowledge of Whyteleafe and Africa is assumed here.
We leave Whyteleafe Hill, over the level crossing, and stop at the main Godstone Road.
Turn right here, then almost immediately right into the petrol station for the last fill-up in England for what hopefully will be a long long time.
At the cash desk we realise that Beau doesn’t have his baseball cap, Caroline has forgotten her camera, and I’ve left the gas on.
From the petrol station it’s left onto the Godstone Road, then almost immediately left into Whyteleafe Hill, over the level crossing, up the hill, and back home already……… We hope the neighbours don’t notice.
Now, we have everything - we hope.
Back to the Godstone Road, Caterham Bypass, M25, M20, Dover, Calais, Austria, Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Aqabah, ferry to Sinai, Suez, Cairo, follow the Nile to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Aswan, take ferry across Lake Nasser, past Abu Simbel, to Sudan, continue alongside the Nile to Khartoum, Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Kenya, Nairobi, Masai Mara, Kilimanjaro, Mombasa, Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Maybe Zanzibar.
Then perm any route from.......
Hold on....... That reminds me!
I left the maps behind, in that waterproof plastic bag behind the front door.
………. left into Whyteleafe Hill, over the level crossing, up the hill, and back home already……… We hope the neighbours don’t notice. Again.
On the road again in Dar es Salaam, we perm any route from:
Malawi, Lake Malawi, Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zambia, Luangwa National Parks, Lusaka, Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, Bulawayo ,Great Zimbabwe National Monument, Kruger National Park, Mozambique, Maputo, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Cape Agulhas. And hope we didn’t leave anything behind this time.
Then, we don't really know right now. Into the unknown: The Kalahari, Botswana, Windhoek, Namibia, how do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans!
The kick-off for this adventure is still five months away, and still a lot of preparation to do. I've noticed that most trip reports don't say much about the time leading up to departure, and while I was researching this trip, it was that sort of information I looked for. What did travellers do to their bikes? How? Where do you find out about red tape? And maps? What thoughts go through your head when deciding what to do to the bike and what to take? Apart from 'too much'.
So my next entries may become a bit of a ramble (like this one) about work on the bike, ideas about work on the bike, putting off work on the bike, tackling paperwork, sifting advice (there's lots of that), and chucking stuff in the big box I now have in the hallway as a repository for all things that come under the heading: "Think I'll take that." So far, it mainly contains mundane items like ball-point pens, elastic bands and paper clips. Necessary things that I have shed-loads of. But always, when I ride onto the ferry at Dover at the start of some jaunt, I find I don't even have a biro to write notes with, nor note paper, and have to purchase all that stuff on the boat that I already have huge supplies of at home.
Not on this trip, I hope.

Posted by Ken Thomas at April 05, 2009 11:20 PM GMT

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