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Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!

Photo by Igor Djokovic,
camping above San Juan river,
Arizona USA

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Old 25 Jun 2015
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Heavenly Honeymoon

Peter and I are not married, but if anyone asks I introduce Peter as my ‘husband’. First, because “boyfriend” or “partner” sounds a bit funny, but mainly because it is easier and avoids complicated questions. Where it is generally accepted in the Netherlands that we lived together as an unmarried couple and are now travelling together, it certainly is not the case in Africa. When we fill out forms, we can often only choose between “single” or “married.” Anything in between does not seem to exist. In order to share a hotel room we fill in that we are married. And on the streets, when a guy wants to take a picture with me (his “white European girlfriend”), I hold up my ringed finger and I point to ‘my husband’. Although we never officially said “yes” to each other, we are married if any one asks and -in line with that- we even enjoyed an unexpected honeymoon …

From Sipi we drive passed beautiful green hills in the direction of Jinja. In the first larger town we do some shopping. While Peter stays with the motorbikes and as always makes new friends, I walk from one shop to another to find the things we want to buy. In one booth I buy onions and avocado, in the next one I find tomatoes and bread and at yet another one shop I get water and mango. Ross left together with us that morning, but does not ride with us to Jinja today. He goes to look for some adventure in northern Uganda. After we have both finished our shopping, we say goodbye to him in Mbale and see him disappear in the distance on his orange monster.

Peter and I together ride on to Jinja, the town where the Nile leaves Lake Victoria. From Jinja the river flows through Uganda to the North, here still as the ’White Nile’. In Khartoum in Sudan, the White Nile is joined by the Blue Nile. It then continues to flow through Sudan and Egypt and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria. All of these are places we have been during our trip, following and crossing this mysterious river. Just outside Jinja are some campsites and lodges along the Nile. We were advised to go to ‘The Haven’.

At the side of the road we see a large sign pointing us to the lodge. We turn onto a small road and follow the signs to the entrance. When we are almost there, one of the signs says: “The Haven, 264m”. That is very non-African precise. “The owner will probably be German”, we joke to each other. We drive through the gate into a beautiful green garden and park our bikes in the parking lot. We are greeted by several staff members of the lodge, but are so paralyzed by the overwhelming view that we forget to say something in return. Agape we look from the terrace over the wide Nile below us that squeezes itself along the rocks with a lot of violence. The water makes roaring sounds, has white heads of foam and fills the air above the river with fog. Very impressive.

When we ’wake up’, we say a belated hello and inquire after the prices for camping at the reception desk. We wanted to stay a couple of days, but unfortunately it is way above our budget. Somewhat disappointed we walk back to the motorbikes to look up the address of one of the other campsites. While we are there, a tall man comes walking towards us. He takes more interest in our motorbikes than in us. He introduces himself as Rainer, the (German!) owner of the lodge. He himself is a motorcyclist, the proud owner of a Honda Africa Twin and has travelled through Africa on a motorbike just like us. A nice conversation follows. Just as we prepare to leave, he asks us whether his manager had told about the 50% discount he gives to ‘overlanders’ who arrive to Uganda with their own transport. Well, that changes things! Now we can stay here a few days within our budget.

We register and ride our bikes to one of the beautiful camping spots. From there we have a beautiful view over the rapids in the Nile. Just when we are starting to take our stuff from the bikes, the manager comes to see us. “Mr. Peter!” he says, and then with a mysterious smile he says that he has an offer we cannot refuse. With the compliments of the owner he can upgrade us to the HONEYMOON SUITE for the discounted price of camping! What is your answer hereto? “YES!”

We follow him to a beautiful cottage, right next to the roaring rapids. He opens the door and shows us the cottage. It has a huge bed, a beautiful bathroom and a big bath from which you have a view over the river. With a graceful gesture and a big smile on his face he hands over the key. We are speechless! We sit on the porch for a bit to recover from the shock. Fortunately, that does not take long and we fully start enjoying the luxury that now surrounds us so unexpectedly. Refreshed, we take a seat on the terrace at the front desk. The friendly waiter who brings us our cold drinks asks: “Hello, how are you enjoying your honeymoon?” We exchange a brief smirk and then, chuckling, answer that we really enjoy our honeymoon!

We end up staying three nights in the honeymoon suite and enjoy the delicious food, the huge bed, the rain shower, the bath for two, the hammock, the animals scurrying around the cottage, the never-ending thundering river and the splendid sunrise. It was heavenly at The Haven!

Fully recovered from the long nights at Jungle Junction we drive to Kampala. The road to the Ugandan capital is busy, especially with lots of truck traffic. The city itself is even busier. In the burning sun we end up in a traffic jam of minivans and motorcycle taxis. After a long hot ride we arrive soaking in sweat at the Red Chili Hideaway, a huge backpackers hotel that is more like a factory than a hostel. We pitch our tent next to the pool, take our laptop to the noisy restaurant and take a seat among young gap-year backpackers. After a meal of rice and beans we crawl into our sleeping bags with earplugs. After the luxury at The Haven, we are now back to reality. But hey, that is actually quite nice as well!

Distance travelled to Kampala: 15,585 km (9,684 miles)
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Old 26 Jun 2015
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Motorcycle safari in Uganda

Grand waterfalls, white beaches on an azure ocean, tropical forests, gurgling volcanoes, blistering hot deserts and raging rivers. All this we saw during our trip through Africa so far. And chances are that we will see such beauty again on other continents. However, one thing is unique to Africa: the vast savannas with the ‘Big Five’. Africa is the only continent where lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and African elephants still exist in the wild. They can be seen during a safari in one of the many national parks. And now we’re here…

We have to drive past most of the parks, because we are not allowed inside on the motorbikes. In Uganda they are more flexible, because here we can enter Murchison Falls National Park on the motorbikes to go on safari! The park is located in the north-west of Uganda on the banks of the Victoria Nile and is named after a spectacular waterfall where the Nile is pressed through a gap of only seven meters wide. The park is home to many different animals, including the ‘Big Five’. We decide that this will be our next destination, because how cool would it be to see elephants or giraffes from the seat of our motorcycles? “Or lions!” Peter then adds…. Well, we’ll see.

Before we go on motorcycle safari, we first stay a few more days in Kampala at “Red Chilli Hideaway.” The huge backpackers hostel has a good kitchen, a swimming pool and high-speed internet. There we meet Mélu from Paris, who, like us, is working on her blog at the bar. She travels by herself on her motorcycle (a Triumph Tiger 800XC) through East Africa. She started in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and drove through Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya before arriving in Uganda. It is not just a holiday trip, because she makes a documentary during her trip that will be broadcasted on French television. Armed with a camera, she takes off to capture extraordinary stories of the people she meets along the way. We had already heard about her and had just missed her in Kenya at Jungle Junction. Great to now meet her after all.

We share stories, drink a and agree that she will join us when we go to Murchison Falls. Great! Mélu has already been in Kampala a few days and now knows her way around. The next morning we follow her to a large supermarket to do some much needed shopping. Back at the hostel, I work some more on the website and Peter does some maintenance on the bikes. While I stare at my screen and think of the next paragraph, I suddenly see a very familiar silhouette in the corner of my eye. Our friend ROSS! His adventures in Uganda have today taken him to Kampala. This is the fifth unexpected encounter! The laptop is closed, the tools are put back in the bag and a great evening with friends, , pizza and cool stories follows.

The next morning Mélu, Peter and I are up early to tie all our gear on the bikes. Although we do not carry much stuff, the motorbikes are still quite a lot heavier once everything is on there. But the weight of our bikes is nothing compared to the weight of the fully packed motorbike of Mélu. She not only has a much heavier bike, but also carries a lot of stuff. And heavy stuff too, like her recording equipment. So heavy that the bike even falls over while she is packing and three people are needed to lift it. I can only imagine how it must have been to ride through the desert in Djibouti and Somaliland with all that. Once all three of us are ready to leave, we say goodbye to Ross -who has already been on safari in Murchison Falls- and we drive through the gate of the hostel.

It is busy in the city. The streets are full of long lines of cars and vans. Like the motorcycle taxis we zigzag between the traffic, something that goes a lot better now we have been in Africa for some time. Today it is my turn to ride in front. We have set the GPS to point us to the entrance of the park. It is a useful device, but it cannot hurt to keep using your common sense as well. The thing sometimes sends us onto the strangest roads if ’he thinks’ that it is faster. The same happens today. The GPS seems to ignore the tarred motorway around Kampala and sends us to various small roads in a straight line to the north . After Mélu gets stuck on one of those small roads in a deep ledge (and again five men are needed to get her motorcycle back on the road), it is enough. I turn off the GPS and find my way north using the scarce signs and the road map.

We want to be at the entrance of the park in the mid-afternoon, so we have enough time to drive to the campsite. From the entrance of the park that is still about 30km on a dirt road, which we want to ride before it gets dark. In addition, the ticket for the national park is valid for 24 hours from the moment we enter the park. The later we go in today, the more time we have for the safari tomorrow. It is a long journey of nearly 400km so we only stop for gas and some food.

At the beginning of the afternoon, the “highway” stops and we drive onto a provincial road. The GPS is now back on, but due to the adventures of that morning, I still do not fully trust the thing and the designated route. He points me to several small sandy paths, which I pass because I know there will be a tarmac road leading us all the way to the entrance of the park. Unfortunately, I manage to also drive past that paved road and end up at a sandy track 20 km further. No problem, except that it has been raining and the road has turned into a slippery mud path. Several cars are backwards on the roadside and cyclists walk with their bikes on hand. After one kilometer slipping and sliding the ladies decide to drive back to the asphalt road, even if that is more than 20 kilometres back. Peter thinks it is all nonsense, but this time he is in the minority so he rides back with us anyway.

Due to the delay in Kampala, the many kilometres and this detour, we must now really hurry to arrive at the campsite before dark. Moreover, the sky above us starts to turn rather dark and it seems like it can start raining any moment. That would change the dirt road in the park into a mud road. We hit the gas and try to stay ahead of the rain.

At four o’clock we are at the entrance of the park and we start the ride to the campsite. We are only a few kilometres along the way as we spot our first ‘wild animals’. Impalas shoot off the road in front of us, in the distance a troop of baboons sits on the road and next to us a warthog runs back into the tall grass with its tail up in the air. We stop to take pictures, but after one look at the dark sky we quickly drive on towards the camp. At the turn off to the famous falls that gave the park its name, we decide to keeping riding towards the campsite. We prefer to go to the campsite now it is still dry, we can still go there tomorrow.

After half an hour we reach the campsite. In the last light we pitch our tent and from the terrace we see how the dark sky lights up in the distance by lightning. It is still dry when we crawl into our tent, but halfway through the night it starts raining exceptionally hard. As if buckets of water are thrown on the roof of the tent. When the alarm goes off the next morning, it is still raining. In the pouring rain we pack our stuff. Peter and I first want to drive to the falls before we drive to the north with Mélu. We leave our big dry bags on the campsite, let some air out of the tires of the motorbikes and drive off the campsite in the pouring rain.

The road that was so dusty yesterday, has now turned into a shiny strip of thick mud. We drive slowly and still slip and slide in the tracks that were made ​​by cars. We are less than two kilometres on our way when my bikes starts to slide and I drive off the road up onto the steep side. I am covered in red mud from head to toe, but otherwise okay. It was riding so slowly that both I and the bike are in good shape. After much effort, we get my bike back on the road and we continue in the direction of the waterfalls. After one kilometre, Peter makes a pirouette with his bike and also lies in the mud with the bike next to him. No damage or scratches, both just really dirty. The profile of the tires is completely filled with thick red mud and at the slow pace we are driving at, we cannot get it out. Once we have also lifted Peters motorbike, we decide to drive up to 10 kilometres, and turn around if the road is not better there. But we do not even get that far. At kilometre six Peter makes another perfect ’360°’ in the mud. We are not getting anywhere this way, we will go back to the campsite. It is not very promising for the rest of the day, especially with Mélu on her heavy bike.

Back at the campsite we tie the dry bags on the bikes and drive with Mélu to the ferry that will take us across the Nile to the northern part of the park. While we are waiting for the ferry to arrive, we see hippos stick there heads above the water. They flap their ears and then disappear again under the surface with a sigh. Behind the hippos a huge crocodile moves smoothly through the water. Ferries are not as special to us Dutchies as to the other tourists because they are quite common in the Netherlands, but it is not every day that you see hippos and crocodiles from the ferry!

Once we are on the other side the roads are luckily somewhat better than south of the river. No thick sticky mud, but hard-packed gravel roads. Although these are also quite muddy due to the rain, we can still ride on them. Mélu does not want to be in the park on these roads much longer and decides to take the shortest way to the exit. She assures us that we do not have to drive with her to the exit, because she has already driven a lot of days by her self. We say goodbye and agree to meet in one of the hotels in Gulu that evening.

And then we are off, on safari on our bikes! We follow a path to the east and look out over the vast plain in front of us. It is still raining very hard, but the view is amazing! Peter, the best spotter I know, soon sees the first wild animals. In the field next to us is a group Hartebeests, a large antelope with a strange shaped head that looks to be a crossing between a horse and a deer. Once we slow down and stop to take a picture they run in all directions, away from us. Once we drive off again, they stop and we can actually see them much better.

The roads are a lot better and we have no trouble keeping our bikes upright this time. Great, because the wildlife is already exciting enough. We drive a little further and see a group of elephants. They just crossed the road and trudge down the valley. When we stop to take a picture one of the elephants sticks its trunk in the air. Not long after, he turns towards us flapping his ears, the sign for us not to come any closer. He turns back and trudges after the rest of the family. We look at them until we cannot see them anymore and drive on, while Peter scans the area. And we are lucky, because after this first group of elephants, we see yet another group of those gray giants, a group of giraffes with baby-giraffes, buffaloes and many, many antelopes. No lions (to the disappointment of Peter and Leonie her relief), but we will probably still see them somewhere in Africa.

Around noon the rain stops and the sun comes out. It is immediately warm and the road dries off before our eyes. With the sun also the Tsetse flies come out again, they are some sort of horseflies that can sting. They are attracted to our dark gloves and even manage to sting through them. We cannot stop too long to take pictures because before you know it 15 flies are buzzing around our helmet. We drive on slowly, with just enough speed to keep in front of the flies. Eventually we arrive at the gate of the park at two in the afternoon. Earlier than we had expected, but at least before our tickets expire. We drive out of the park, giving a lot of gas to sway the last bits of mud from our tires and put some more pressure in the tires once we are back on the tarmac.

At the end of the afternoon we arrive in Gulu where we find a room in a small hotel. Mélu is not there yet. Strange, because we expected that she would be there before us, because she took the shortest way to the exit. We leave a message for her at the other hotel we had spoken about. We hope nothing has happened to her! All kinds of horrible scenarios with a fallen motorcycle, broken legs, elephants and even lions shoot through my head. We feel a bit nervous and with a knot in my stomach and a light feeling of guilt because we did not ride with her to the exit, we walk to the center of Gulu. We eat a typical African meal of rice, ugali and fish. When we arrive back at the hotel, it has been dark for some time. Just at that moment, we see a motorcycle driving up the driveway: Mélu! I am so happy to see her that I run off to give her a big hug.

She had indeed fallen when she was still in the park, but she only had to wait two minutes before the passengers of a passing car could help lift the bike. After that she reached the exit without any difficulty. When she arrived there, there was a large group of elephants right beside the gate. She parked her bike and started filming as long as her ticket was valid. Only at the last moment, she left the park to ride towards Gulu. So everything OK, she didnot get eaten by lions. We order a and toast to quite an adventurous motorcycle safari in Uganda.

Distance to Gulu: 16,122 km (10,018 miles)

Small bikes, big adventure --> www.amsterdamtoanywhere.nl
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Old 5 Aug 2015
c-m c-m is offline
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Awesome trip. Makes me consider the CRF250 as a bike for solo tours in less developed countries, though it's not any lighter really than a 400 or even the KTM6XX. Much better on fuel though. Glad yours are serving you well.

Ah yes African flies are a right pain. Had to deal with those in Morocco. Fortunately no Tsetse flies though.
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Old 13 Jul 2016
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adventure spec magadan bags - buy again?

Can you give us a review of the Adventure spec Magadan bags panniers.
Would you buy them again? Worth the money?
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africa, crf250l, honda, rtw

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