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Photo by George Guille, It's going to be a long 300km... Bolivian Amazon

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


Photo by George Guille
It's going to be a long 300km...
Bolivian Amazon



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  #31  
Old 4 Feb 2014
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Soon after checking in at the Old Bridge Backpackers in Maun I met Dave and Marly who are riding two Honda Dominator (250cc) bikes. They come from Amsterdam and spent the last 3 years (with 1 years break in between) travelling down the east coast of Africa. It was really cool to hang out with them.



The 3 of us decided to hire a 4x4 (Toyota Prado) and head into Moremi national park for a couple of days. Dave and Marly took turns at driving as I actually don't have a car license only a full bike license As you can imagine at this time of year there was a lot if water so we took it way and weaved our way through towards the third bridge camp. After a while the Prado started to overheat and we could hear the coolant boiling so we let it cool down for a while and proceeded but after a little while the engine began to have a knocking sound which did not sound good at all. Dave checked the radiator and it was pretty much empty! We filled it up with almost 10 liters of water and some coolant which they had with them from the bikes. After that the Prado was fine. They hired us a car empty of coolant!!!

Moremi is full of game and definitely my best national park to date. We didn't see any lions but other groups did. We did see a Serval though which was pretty cool. Here's some of the photo highlights :











We camped at third bridge for 234 pula which is pretty expensive but ok for one night. During the night the hippos were so close I could hear them breathing. Obviously I didn't leave my tent all night after hearing of how dangerous they can be!

The next day we took a different route out of the park which was very difficult driving (top work Dave!) with the main tracks being completely flooded. We had to blaze a fresh trail many times just to make it through. There was the added concern that we were running out of fuel and couldn't afford to back track the way we came. Fortunately we lucked out on our diversions with a little help from our GPS's and the low fuel light came on 10k's outside of Maun. Nice!

To cap off the Moremi experience we found 4 more backpackers and organised a 1 hour scenic flight for 640 pula each which I thought was a great price (Top work Dave + Marly again!). There really was some spectacular views including a giant herd of about 60 elephants! Awesome











It really was cool hanging out at the Old Bridge Backpackers with Dave and Marly but I had to get moving as I needed to get my oil drain plugs from Gaborone. They did mention that they drove across the Makgadikgadi Pan and camped on Kubu island on their way to Maun so I decided to do the same on my way. The Makgadikgadi Pan and Kubu island appeared on the Top Gear Botswana Special episode where they have to cross over in non 4wd vehicles of their choosing. Pretty funny episode.

Anyway... I packed up and said my goodbyes to all the cool people I met and headed for Gweta where I had some lunch at Planet Baobab and had a chat with one of local guides. He told me no... its not possible to cross this time of year. I mentioned that Dave and Marly made it through and one of the managers said it would probably be OK so I thought I would give it a go anyway. I drove through south through Gweta and out the other side where it was very sandy tracks through lots homesteads. The road became firmer but soon I arrived at this :



I started to make my way around and nearly got past until I broke through into the mud and just wheel spun digging myself in deeper :\



Fortunately a nice farmer was passing on his donkey and helped push me through the last part. It wasn't long before I got stuck again and had to drag the bike sideways to get out of this :



Fortunately the CTX is so light that even with my luggage I can haul it out of situations like this by myself without unpacking my luggage. I spent about an hour and a half making very slow progress through heavy mud and only managed to make about 30 km's of the 130 to kubu island via this route so I decided to turn back at 4pm as it was obvious I wasn't going to make it this way. I retraced my track and headed back to the main road defeated by the mud.



I camped back at Planet Baobab where I had lunch. It happens to have a giant concrete Aardvark just next to the entrance off the main road.



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  #32  
Old 4 Feb 2014
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The next day I headed to Nata where Dave and Marly mentioned there was another (main) way in to Kubu Island which I hoped would be easier going. Surely enough it started out good and I made progress across the plains with the odd startled ostrich running away from me every now and again.



I passed some hore homesteads and started to come across the mighty Baobab tree's. They are very cool.



As I neared Kubu island the road started to get more waterlogged and I began to worry that I might not make but I pressed on as it wasn't so muddy like before and the ground was quite firm underneath the water which wasn't so bad. I reached Makgadikgadi adventure camp with about 20 km's to Kubu island and stopped off to have a coke and chat to the manager about the road conditions. Again he told me no I would't make it. He said two Kiwi's in a 4x4 tried and turned back the day before and stayed at his place. He told me the water level was above knee height in a lot of places but I suspected he might be exaggerating a bit in order to get me to stay at his place rather than Kubu island so I set off anyway. I was so close!

The water was deeper the closer I got but it had firm ground underneath and wasn't so slippery which was the main problem that stopped me before. Finally I could see Kubu island but I had to cross about 200 metres of mud to get there. It had also just began to rain. I took it slow and made it across to the staff house where I managed to get under their porch just as the rain came down. Nice! The manager there was quite surprised to see me and impressed I had made it this time of year. I picked a camp site by some baobab's and as soon as I put my tarp up the rain came down even heavier and I had to scramble to keep everything dry and ensure the tarp was tight and secure. It lasted about an hour so I made some video and prepared my standard standard cold beans and pilchards in a mug for dinner. I watched an episode of Bear Grylls on my phone in my hammock and fell asleep happy I had made it.





I got up just after sunrise and it began to rain so I got back in the hammock and began to fall asleep again until I noticed that water was soaking down the webbing and into my hammock. I remembered a little trick where you tie a piece of string to each end before the hammock and it wicks the water to the ground before it gets to the hammock. It works too

I packed up and went on a short drive around the island and took some photos. Its a very cool place! It would have been nicer to have been able to drive on the pans but it was way too wet. Very different from the pictures i saw of a week previous when Dave and Marly had crossed it.







As I left two of the staff members mentioned that if I did have any trouble there would be a 4x4 coming from the south on the same path I was taking in order to relieve them. They also said I should back track 20 km's and go round rather than taking the direct route south. As I left I got confused about where the path I came in on was and ended up heading down the short cut. Realizing my mistake I just decided to plough a path through the mud and water which was a bit touch and go when the bike ended up in water so deep it was nearly over the exhaust! Fortunately I made it back to the correct track and made my way. It was definitely deeper than the day before after all the extra rain.



There was long stretches of water where you couldn't see any sort of dry exit so you just had to go for it and hope there was no unexpected trenches under the water.









After a while the dreaded mud appeared. I skirted the edge the best I could and tried not to make any turns on area's I had to cross. It was slow going but being by myself I had to be careful not to mess up as I didn't know how long help would be or if there would be any at all!



I was getting tired and I still had a long way to go. I really didn't know what to expect next. I did come across a pan that was mostly dry and decided to have some fun for a bit and took some cool video speeding past the camera.







After the semi-dry pan was more water and mud for a few kilometers where I had one of my more artistic slides :







Eventually there was less extended areas of water. It was soon just large puddles. I wasn't wearing my helmet as i was sweating so much working to keep the bike upright. The inevitable happened and it fell off the back and into a puddle *!



Very tired at this point I only had about 30 km's until I was sure I was going to reach some much anticipated tar. Unfortunately this last stretch was a maze of deep rutted muddy puddles surrounded by thorny bushes. I was shattered when I eventually made it to Serowe so I checked into the first decent B&B I could find and slept in until late the next morning.

The A1 road from Serowe to Gabarone was mostly uneventful apart from crossing the Tropic of Capricorn again :



I'm currently staying at Mokolodi Backpackers*and have the whole dorm to myself and some half decent Internet at last. Sweet! I've been buying some supplies from the "Game City" shopping mall including a new Buff neck scarf, two new K-Way shirts (They have a Cape Union Mart here!) and a new 1.5 meter mono-pod for the cameras.

I dropped the bike into the local Honda dealership this morning for a service and clocked the brand new clean CTX in the window. I call this photo "Beauty and the Beast".



Will report on how the service goes next.
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  #33  
Old 6 Feb 2014
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Just a little update on the service :

I put the bike in for its 12k (actually 13k) service at Honda Gabarone. They were really good and even organised me a lift back to the hostel and picked me up the next day. The driver even took me to some other bike shops so I could get some replacement gloves as I lost mine on the pans. Nice!

When I arrived the bike was ready and looked brand new again . Here's what was done :

Spark plug replaced.
Engine flushed and cleaned, Oil changed.
Sump plug changed and spare (with O ring) supplied.
Rear swing arm cap bodge replaced with original cap.
Chain replaced as mine was very stretched (some wear some my fault for now lubing enough).

As I was next heading to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique I also bought replacement brake pads and shoes as they would probably go soon within the next 10k's. As far as I know this will be the last official Honda dealership before i get back into SA in a few months time.

Here's Allan the service manager (also an MX rider). He was impressed with my journey and the fact I made it across the pan's. So impressed he didn't charge me any labor for the service and gave me a 20% discount on all the parts! Wow!



Thanks Allan, very much appreciated mate!

I also bought myself a mono pod (pictured at the bottom) for using with my GoPro and camera. Should make for some different / cool shots. Will have a play when I hit the road again. I also bought some CO2 inflation canisters and the valve as I really don't fancy using my bicycle pump to inflate after a flat! Incidentally I checked my spare tubes and one had a hole in it from being attached to the bike for the last 13km's. I fixed that up with my kit. Here's my new stuff. Its like Christmas!



So the plan next is to head up to Francistown and cross over into Zimbabwe. I'm interested to see what its like as I hear VERY different views from people. Depending on the weather I may leave Gaborone tomorrow or perhaps the next day. I'm interested on any recommendations for Zim apart from Vic falls. Im tempted by Greater Zimbabwe Ruins and Lake Kariba.

Feeling good I have everything sorted and new supplies.
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  #34  
Old 13 Feb 2014
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I spent a few more days at the backpackers before heading to Francistown as there was a lot of rain. I needed time to setup my new laptop anyway as my old one had broken. A new one (Lenovo G500) cost me 3500 Pula which wasn't bad and I needed it for my work. I'm still lugging the old one around and need to ditch it somewhere.

While at the backpackers I met Alex from Russia on a Namibian registered TransAlp :



After the weather cleared I set off on the long boring drive to Francistown. The only thing of interest that happened was when a lorry tire went straight over a cow pat and splatted me all over with cow dung. Cheers! Arriving late in the afternoon I found some accommodation at a random "Luxury" guest house that actually wasn't so luxury and cost 350 Pula per night. I went out and ate a burger a Spurs for dinner. Nice! my first time in one of those joints.

The next morning I packed up and headed the 100 km's to the border post. Leaving Botswana was straight forward and I also changed my last Pula into Rand (they didn't have any small USD left). Then I headed towards the Zimbabwe Plumtree crossing. You are fist greeted by this not so welcoming welcome sign :



I have to admit that I was unsure how the border would be. Half the people I spoke to told me how dangerous Zim was and they always had a story to tell of a friend of a friend who ended up in jail and had to pay big bribes etc... The other half told me what a beautiful country it was. My gut told me that all would be fine. I usually find countries that are the poorest or have had some issues in the past (Colombia for example) are the friendliest.

The visa and fee's process was very efficient and fast. I paid $55 for a 30 day single entry visa and about $36 for the bike stuff. I got given receipts for all payments and even had a laugh with the guys and girls who worked behind the counters. The whole process took 30 minutes. I was relieved and happy everything was fine and I made it into Zim!. I stopped off at Plumtree town to buy a EcoNet sim card for my phone. It cost $1 and the guy also enabled the 3G and put a 500mb data bundle on there for $20. Internet sorted. Next I stopped for lunch. Chicken, rice and cabbage for $3.20 and very good too.

As recommended my chrisL I headed to Matabos National Park for my first night which is 30 km's south of Bulawayo. Here's the map at the main gate :



All the rangers seemed to have guns here which was a bit odd considering how little game there is. A few leopards and Rhino and some eagles. The ranger told me most people came here for the scenery. She also said motorbikes were not allowed. Very disappointing I think she took pity on me or got sick of my questions because she made a phone call and the manager was prepared to make an exception and let me stay for one night provided I didn't tour the place and just went straight to the camp site via the Rhodes grave. Result! It cost $15 for me $10 for the bike and $8 to camp.

I rode up to the world view point where Cecil John Rhodes grave was and had to pay a further $10 to see it and $1 for the guide... hmm... To be fair the guide Eddy was very good and well worth the $1. I just resented a fee within a place I had already paid a fee to get into... Anyway... the Grave :



Here's the memorial to the Shangani patrol :





The view up here was amazing! Awesome colours :







The sun was starting to go down so I drove down to the Maleme dam rest camp and set up. There were some horses around and later that night one of them woke me up rifling through my food bag!



Three Austrians (Charlie, Bruno and Fritz) were also at the camp site in a 4x4 and they kindly offered me a and we had a nice chat and a good laugh in the evening.

The next morning I hung around after the Austrians left and took my time packing and riding out of the park. Here's the lake :



Also the Dam :



Nice scenery :



Cool Rocks :



After leaving the park I headed back into Bulawayo. I really had no idea what I would do next. I was in that travelers state of limbo where you have nowhere to go nowhere to stay and no idea. I bought some lunch and decided it was too late to head to Vic falls or Greater Zimbabwe ruins so I was going to have to stay in Bulawayo. I started to drive around first trying to find a Youth Hostel from my GPS that didn't exist then I checked out the local camp ground / caravan park in town which looked good. Only $9 too. I tried the Holiday Inn next. They wanted $150! My last try as the "Hilltop Motel" which is about 8-9km's out of town. I pulled in and it seemed more like a school than a Motel. It was now a school. The "Theological College of Zimbabwe" no less! Anyway... I got chatting to John who works there told him how impressed I was with Zimbabwe and he introduced me to the receptionist and insisted they find me a bed at a good price. So here I am sitting in my own big apartment with kitchen bathroom and 5 beds all to myself and only $20 a night. Result! I just hope they don't expect me to attend classes today! If they do I'm already late writing this ride report...

So I'm staying a couple of nights and my plans are to go to the museums in Bulawayo today and then head to Masvingo tomorrow to visit Greater Zimbabwe for a couple of nights. After that I shall probably head up to Harare then to Lake Kariba. I hope to get the 24 hour ferry down the lake and then visit Vic Falls. I feel that's a pretty good tour of Zim and much better than just going to Vic falls like most other visitors. I'm interested to know anyone's thoughts or suggestions ?
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  #35  
Old 19 Feb 2014
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Bump!
Please keep writing !


-zie egret.
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  #36  
Old 19 Feb 2014
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Just read through your reports for the first time. You have made me so travel sick! Mike & I have travelled through ZA , Namibia and Botswana 4 times since 2004(18 months in total) and visited/stayed in the places you have brilliantly described but on 4 wheels not 2 !!. Like you most people we met were so friendly and helpful like Basil at Uis. We didn't get any further north than the Zambezi but understand it's well worth visiting. enjoy the rest of your rip and keep writing.

Margaret
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  #37  
Old 22 Feb 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by egret View Post
Bump!
Please keep writing !


-zie egret.
I was beginning to think nobody read my ride reports on here! Thanks for tuning in I will indeed keep writing

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsgemini View Post
Just read through your reports for the first time. You have made me so travel sick! Mike & I have travelled through ZA , Namibia and Botswana 4 times since 2004(18 months in total) and visited/stayed in the places you have brilliantly described but on 4 wheels not 2 !!. Like you most people we met were so friendly and helpful like Basil at Uis. We didn't get any further north than the Zambezi but understand it's well worth visiting. enjoy the rest of your rip and keep writing.

Margaret
Hi Margaret! Sorry to make you travel sick I'm glad you're enjoying the ride report. I too have been impressed by the kindness of the people I have met. Africa just keeps getting better the further and longer I travel. I highly recommend you visit Zimbabwe next time if you can. Really impressed by this place. Thanks!

---

Kilometers so far 14,000.

I visited the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo. Entrance was $5 and well worth spending an hour or two. Next I visited the National Art Gallery and got chatting to some local artists for a few hours. *Very interesting conversation and we went for a couple of s at the roof top Horizon bar in town. Nice place with a pool overlooking Bulawayo. Beers were $1.50. Not bad at all!

I also got chatting to the girl who worked at the art gallery cafe and mentioned how I was interested in obtaining some Zim dollars as a souvenir and she kindly brought some in the next day including a 10 trillion dollar note. After having some coffee and early lunch I headed off to Masvingo. After about 33 km's I was checking my speedo and it suddenly zeroed out my speed. Something to fix when I got some time.

300 km's or so later I arrived in Masvingo where I checked into the Backpackers rest. It's not even really a backpackers but more of a crappy hotel. Its a dirty nasty place so stay at the ruins themselves as it's cheaper and better in almost every way. Anyway I paid $25 for a poor excuse of a room and couldn't wait to check out.

About 30 km's south of Masvingo are the Great Zimbabwe ruins. On the way I came across yet another burned out car. There seems to be a lot of these littering the sides of the roads.



I paid $10 to get into the park and started to make my way up towards the Hill Complex.



I kept coming across these weird creatures. No idea what they are ?



Some of the entrances to the Hill Complex





Here's whats on the top.



The walls were up to 5 meters tall and have used no mortar.



The view from the top is impressive :







Here's one taken with my GoPro looking out in the other direction.



Also the lake in the distance.



I took a walk down to the great enclosure and the Shona village.



I spent roughly two hours exploring the ruins and wish I had stayed there rather than in the crappy Backpackers Rest in Masvingo. I think I remember the price of accommodation being about $20 for a single chalet at the ruins.

After leaving the ruins I headed towards Mutare after the recommendation from Chris (1up4adv). At about the halfway point I crossed the old Birchenough bridge. They have banned heavy vehicles as I think the bridge is a bit worse for wear.



Zimbabwe's eastern highlands have some awesome scenery. A real nice change from the flat lands of Namibia and Botswana. Lots of nice twisty roads and peaks with awesome views. Perfect biking country. The photo's and video I took doesn't really do it justice.



When I arrived in Mutare I went straight to Ann Bruce Backpackers. I was welcomed by Ann who has been running the place forever it seems. Its her residential house right in town with 4-5 rooms converted into doubles triples and dorms from $15 per night. A very comfortable and chilled out place to be. Ann is very sociable and full of stories and advice. A great place to get some down time. In fact I spent the last 6 nights there!

Now I had some time I started to look at the speedo problem and soon figured out I had snapped my speedo cable. It had rusted. Probably from the Makadikadi pans crossing. I headed off into town and found two! bike shops. I managed to pick up a replacement for $18. Whilst in the bike shop I came across these Chinese GY3 bikes.

This 125cc was $1750.



This 200cc was $2250. I wonder what the quality is like on these bikes... I would be interested to see a long trip done on one of these.



The second bike shop offered repairs and services. Its nice to see that bikes are more popular in Zimbabwe than they have been in Botswana and Namibia. I had a chat with the guys and they offer a full service for $80. I'm not in need of one for another couple of thousand km's so I didn't bother.



They had 3 XL 200's in for work which is essentially what the CTX 200 is but with less protection and racks.



Whilst staying at Ann's I met a really interesting guy called Steve who used to live in Mutare and he was back meeting up with old school friends and generally being nostalgic about the place. He offered to give me and a backpacker called Emily a lift with him up to Bvumba as he was planting a tree on behalf of another ex-Rhodesian. We thought this was a nice idea so Emily and I bought tree's too.

First we visited the Ornamental gardens ($10 entry) which were still open but not the Tea rooms.



After a wrong turn we managed to backtrack and visit Leopards Rock Hotel. According to Steve the semi-circular balcony was built especially for the Queen and mother. We had some tea and lunch on the other balcony for a very reasonable price.



This is the residence of the former owners which was up on the hill overlooking the hotel. Apparently it was fire bombed during the fighting.



Finally we got round to planting our tree's. We found a nice place near a school that had a good view and wasn't to enclosed by other plants. I have the exact GPS location so it would be interesting to see if they took hold in 10 years or so.



We carried on down a dirt track closer to the school and there was an amazing view point overlooking Mozambique. Steve was asked by a another friend back in the UK *to get a photo as this was the place she got engaged.



The lake.

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  #38  
Old 22 Feb 2014
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I finally got round to installing the new cable. I imagine that had I been near a Honda dealership it should still be under warranty. Hopefully when I get back to SA I will get a proper Honda one installed. The aftermarket one I used is about 15 cms longer and isn't so water tight but I made it so with some duct tape. I did take the speedo apart to see if I could add on the 700 or so Km's that were missing since it broke but its all pretty well locked in which is understandable as it should't be easy to manipulate the mileage. I will see if Honda can do it for me as i liked being able to see and show people my total km's so far without having to add 700 on each time.



I'm not sure I mentioned it before but my laptop finally gave up in Botswana. I think the motherboard is at fault as even known good hard drive's (my original suspect for the problems) were causing it top just power down randomly until eventually it just didn't switch on. I bought a new one (Lenovo G500) for 3500 pula in Gaborone. Although its a bit bigger its important I have one so I can continue to work and write these ride reports of course! *I had been lugging round the old one but I finally got some time to get rid of it and sold it to laptop repair shop for $40. Result! I was sorry to see it go mostly because of all the stickers I had accumulated on my travels (including a wild dog one) but I took a photo before I let it go :



A couple of days later I decided to take a day trip to Nyanga national park via the Honde valley.

I passed Redwing Mine.



Beautiful rock formations on the way.



I took the non tar roads into the Honde Valley and fortunatelt it hadn't been raining too much as this mud was still quite slippery in places.



I passed lots of home steads as the valley began to come into view.




The Honde Valley. The photo's don't really do the view justice. You can see the road on the right and the two waterfalls on the left. An awesome twisty drive.



A zoom in on the waterfalls.



I stopped off at the Rhodes Hotel and ate some local trout for lunch. $15. not bad

I finally made it to Nyanga National Park a bit later than I had hoped and paid my $10 entrance fee. Below is possible one of the worst maps I've come across. Its so vague, and looking at my GPS trace of the trip, not much like the actual shape or distance of the roads.



Nyamziwa Falls.



I was on the circular drive around the park and at its farthest point is Mount Nyangani which is*highest peak in Zimbabwe. A visitor went missing up there last month*and still hasn't been found.



The road isn't so great. Wouldn't fancy doing it even in a 4x4. Fine on the bike of course



Towards the end of the circular drive is Udu Dam. There's a guy fishing in the middle. Lots of trout I expect.



Here's a picture of Emma, her daughter Deborah and an Angolan student also staying at Ann Bruce Backpackers.



Whilst in Mutare I noticed a vinyl graphics shop around the corner of the backpackers. Its the place that all the mini van's get their bizarre graphics done. Things like "2 Bad 2 Fail" or "4WD OVERDRIVE" or whatever put on the side of their buses. I was chatting to Costa the Cypriot owner and he got one of his girls to make a union jack flag and my "whereisjames.com" website address. Only cost $5 and looks pretty cool I thought!



After being in Mutare for 6 days I decided to head to Chimanemane as I had heard from several people how nice it is. It's an awesome 150 km ride of great twisty roads and impressive vista's over the valleys. Great motorbiking country. I'm currently staying at The Farmhouse for $20 a night. Its one of the oldest buildings still standing in Chimanimani.

Kilometers so far 15,100.
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  #39  
Old 5 Mar 2014
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I forgot to mention before I left Mutare I knocked up some small flyers to hand out as people are constantly asking about my trip. I had them photocopied for $1 for 20 sheets with 8 to a sheet. I think they look pretty neat *:



Ann Bruce from the back packers recommended I read*Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa. Its a great book with an interesting insight into Zimbabwe. Kindle's are essential for travel in my opinion. 1000 books in your pocket and when you get a recommendation you don't have to hunt round book shops and pay crazy prices. I even have the Honda XL 200 workshop manual on it along with phrase and guide books. Handy!



After staying a night at The Farmhouse*they had some guests who booked the whole house so the other guest Stefano (from Italy) and I moved up the hill to a new place that was being managed by Tempe the Farmhouse owner. We had the whole house to ourselves and all for $20 a night! The house seemed like it had been furnished in the 70's and then never lived in since. Apparently the owners moved to South Africa and the house has been used by their children and the occasional guests like us.



The kitchen :



The weather was very temperamental this time of year in Chimanimani and so I added my waterproof layer to my jacket and trousers just in case. When I spoke to the national parks guys he told me that normally bikes weren't normally allowed but he didn't seem too bothered so I paid $10 for my permit (no charge for the bike!, cars pay an extra $10), filled up with fuel and set off exploring. My first stop was the Bridal Veil falls which were impressive. There's a nice camp site right next to it where you can stay for about $8 per night.



Next I headed to a place called "The Corner" which I think is named because it protrudes towards Mozambique kind of in the shape of a corner. Not sure! You head out of Chimanimani along "Scenic Dr" which soon becomes mud. It began to rain lightly for the first 10 km's but soon the sun came out again.



The area around Chimanimani has stunning valley views that are hard to do justice with a photo. This view reminds me of my time hiking around Salento, Colombia *two years ago.



Obligatory bike pics. Its amazing how many pictures you take of the bike when you travel by yourself!



Still liking my new graphics. Very cool *



Still videoing too. I think I have around 60 GB of footage so far. All filmed at 720p High Def. Its going to take some editing!



I had quite an odd experience when I got a bit lost after some lady on the side of the road waved me down and told me to go in the wrong direction. If I had carried on the way I was going I would have been fine. Anyway, I ended up in a small village and started asking around for some directions and was sent over to a man carrying a 4-5 year old. At the sight of me the child started screaming and desperately trying to escape. It was very odd and I wonder why he reacted this way. Had he not seen any white people before ? I was off a track off the beaten path so its possible I guess. Or perhaps his parents had threatened him when he was naughty that the Mukiwa (Shona for "white person") would come and take him away if he didn't behave!

I found my way again and followed an increasingly narrower dirt track that rose over the top of the hills. The weather was worsening the higher I got and the path became loose rocks like below. There was a camp site there and i was literately 400 meters from the border with Mozambique.



I made my way back and the weather was still sunny. Lots of small homesteads growing maize meal can be seen from the track. I notice that generally the rural Zimbabweans seem like very tidy and self sufficient people.





After getting back into Chimanimani town I headed down to Tessa Pools which are at the end of the main tar road that heads down in to the valley past a saw mill and through the Outward Bound school. Not as impressive as Bridal Veil falls these are Tessa Pools :



I still had some daylight left so I headed to base camp where most of the hiking starts from. There's a nice camp site there and a particularly friendly caretaker. Its below the mountains and you can see the road leading up to it and the camp itself to the right of this photo :



The next day I left Chimanimani for Mutare as my Visa was expiring soon and I wanted to get over to Vic Falls asap. Below is the view up to Chimanimani on the road out. You can see smoke rising from one of the many saw mills in the area. The small winding road you can see is the one you take and its great fun on the bike.*



About 5km's outside Mutare I came across this fine eating establishment... I decided to wait until Mutare and had a Nando's instead!



I spent 2 more nights in Mutare and gave my gear a good clean as 4 months in they were beginning to stink! This RST adventure pro gear has been pretty good although I have to wear it without the waterproof layer as its just way too hot otherwise even with all the good venting. This means that every once in a while I get a good soaking but fortunately the Africa sun and the wind dries me out pretty quickly.

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The next morning I drove from Mutare to Harare which was only 250 km's. I arrived mid afternoon and headed straight for the Small World Backpackers*which is a good backpackers to stay in. I got on the phone and called Honda Harare to see if they had a service center for the bike which they did and they even managed to book me in for the next morning. Perfect timing!

I took the bike in and had a chat with the mechanics. It was the 16000km service so the valves needed adjusting. I could hear as of a couple of thousand km's ago there was a slight tinny sound to the engine. I got a lift in the courtesy car to and from the backpackers which was a nice touch. The service cost $136. The guys did a good job and the bike sounds normal again. I also gave them all some flyers and when they looked up whereisjames.com on the computer they were amazed that my gps location on the web actually showed their service center right now (as it should)



Back at the hostel I met some nice people including a fellow British guy called Andrew who is doing some sort of medical volunteer work in Harare. He told me a story of how he spent a night in a cell after being accused of interfering with the presidential motorcade! A big misunderstanding of course but pretty scary stuff I imagine. Especially when you are being told by fellow inmates that endangering the life of the president carries a 20 year sentence! We all played a dice game called Dudo that evening which as good fun.

The next morning I headed towards Vic Falls. Being over 800km's away I knew I would need to take two days to get there and decided to go through the midlands versus the normal highway route via Bulawayo. On the way I stopped at a Chicken Inn for some quick lunch and met some nice locals who asked about the trip. About 2 km's out of town I felt for my passport, check, then my camera's. NO! I had that horrible sinking feeling and immediately thought that I had been pick pocketed in the Chicken Inn as my coat was on the back of my chair and possibly pickpocket-able. I spent a few seconds swearing and contemplating driving back when I remembered I had put them in my waterproof bag as it was raining earlier. Phew!

I drove on and came to Kwekwe where I headed west to take my short cut. The road started out fine then it went to a single track then gravel then sand. I was kind of regretting my decision but the road soon became firmer to my relief. After a while I came to a road closed sign where the bridge had been washed away.



As you can see its not too much of an issue for my bike .



As I had all my luggage I got off and pushed the bike to lower its weight in this deep sand. I made it across with ease.



According to my GPS there was a town in the middle called Nkayi with a petrol pump and therefore hopefully some accommodation. I filled up with fuel and came across the Panke lodge which was $15 per bed. Sorted! I was unsure whether I would need to bush camp that night. To be fair there were plenty of places you could.



Nyaki is a small town with a large green square in the middle. At least a quarter of the establishments were bar's. This seems to be the case in most small towns. I ate my standard beans and pilchards that evening and watched some TV shows on my laptop.



The next morning I headed towards Lupane. Stopping for a water break I noticed my monopod was missing off the back! After loosing my last two tool kits and going back to look with no avail I was tempted just to drive on but decided I would drive 10 km's back and if I didn't find it then it was lost. Fortunately it was 2 km's back. Result!



Past Lupane and back on the main highway I stopped for a salad lunch at a restaurant on the side of the road and noticed on my GPS that there was a broken suspension bridge so I headed down a small dirt track for a look.*



I arrived in Victoria Falls mid-afternoon and checked into Shoestring Backpackers for two nights. Cost $10 per night. Its a rowdy place with a big party atmosphere but not the best hostel so i moved to VicFalls Backpackers where I'm currently staying. Cost $15. Its much nicer here but a little out of town.

I headed to see the Victoria Falls on a cloudy (but not raining) day. I paid the $30 entrance fee and spent a few hours wandering around the view points taking photos.











At the end is the Victoria Falls bridge which I will be crossing when I head into Zambia soon.



The weather had been really sunny in the mornings here and I'm tempted to visit again (and pay another $30) to see if i can get a better view and some better pictures. I'm also probably going to head for some "high tea" later at the Victoria Falls hotel.

KM's so far 16,500.
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As recommended be several people I headed to the Victoria Falls Hotel for high tea with my friend from Katima, Namibia who was also visiting Vic Falls. We bumped into two Canadians from our hostel who were very early for the high tea (3pm to 5pm by the way) and had been working their way through the cocktail menu for the past couple of hours. The high tea was great and it was amusing watching the cheeky monkeys go for the scones on the neighboring table. There was also a slow but steady stream of different animals that would appear from the side of the building and graze on the lawn. I speculated they kept them in cages round the back and periodically let them out for tourists to photograph.



The view was excellent with a rainbow appearing about 4pm and slowly rising above the bridge.



We visited the falls again a couple of days later as the sun was shining but it wasn't really worth it. The views weren't any better. If anything they were a little worse. I was getting tired of Victoria Falls town and being offered crappy trinkets and billion dollar Zimbabwean notes so I decided it was time to cross over into Zambia. My 5th Country so far.



Exiting Zimbabwe was quick and easy and I got to cross the bridge which was cool. The Zambian border post was pretty hectic and as soon as I pulled up I had a few guys hassling me to park here or there but I largely ignored them and parked by the building. Nobody seems to care where you park a motorbike which is good. The Visa was quickly issued and cost me $50 for 30 days (they wouldn't give me 60) then I headed to customs who told me to visit some examiner. I knocked on his door and behind it was a fat man stuffing a huge lump of nshima (maize meal) into his fat face. He was not impressed about having to deal with me so told me to go back and get the woman who sent me. She wasn't interested either so told me to tell him I needed a temporary import permit for the bike. I did this and the guy just stared at me and told me to come back later as he was eating. Fair enough I guess. After about 25 minutes of constantly checking my bike and trying to avoid the "helpers" he came out and inspected my documents. He seemed friendlier now he had filled his fat belly and asked where my South African residency certificate was. Of course I didn't have one although technically I should have had one to have been given my Traffic Registration Number so I just confidently mentioned my SA visa was in my passport and pointed out ownership document. He didn't seem too bothered and issued me my import permit for free. Next I had to pay $20 road toll and 50 Kwacha ($8.30) carbon tax. As I was about to cross through the last gate I was informed I also needed insurance which was purchased from a small building by the gate for 116 Kwacha ($20). Finally I was through! It took about an hour. Not too bad I guess.

The guys on the bicycles make the crossing several times a day ferrying orange juice and maize meal across the border to sell for a profit. Some of them seriously load up their bikes.


Welcome to Zambia! Except there was no sign to take a picture of the bike next to *Instead there is a commercial advertisement saying welcome which isn't the same. Come on Zambia sort it out! Every other country so far has had one. I headed to Fawlty Towers Backpackers first but this was full so I moved on to Livingstone Backpackers which was only a couple of streets away.

The next day was good weather so we headed down to the Zambian side of the falls which was only $20 entrance and better in my opinion*at this time of year. You will get absolutely soaked though as the viewpoints are much closer to the falls. I rented a double layered rain mac and still got soaked.



The bridge from the Zambian side.



I took my GoPro to try and take some photos but it was difficult with the amount of spray.



After my friend left I moved to JollyBoys Backpackers*which has some of the best WiFi I've had since Cape Town. Gives me a good oportunity to backup and pull down some music and videos I've been after. The place is well run and very popular. I stayed for 3 nights in the dorm and met Jacob who has driven all the way from Holland on his Africa Twin without a carnet! Impressive.



After Jacob left Gill from Belgium turned up on a BMW and we decided to head towards Lusaka together but stopping off on Lake Kariba to break up the ride. The drive was about 280 km's and we set up camp in Sinazongwe at Kariba Lake View for 30 Kwacha a night. The food here is great so we decided to stay for a while and chill.



Fishermen on the lake.



On one of the days we decided to explore some of the area. We ate nshima and beans (10 Kwacha) in a town just outside Sinazongwe and chatted to some locals until the inevitable drunk turns up asking for money because he's hungry. These guys really do my head in. You have a nice chat and a laugh with some friendly locals and then we leave early after the drunk won't stop hassling us for booze money. To be fair the guys we were chatting with did have a word with him.



We headed to the lakes edge after following some bad roads but decided not to go any further as the scenery isn't that spectacular and the roads were pretty bad.



We came across these fishing vessels.





So tomorrow we head to Lusaka to try and get out Malawian visa's as we have heard its cheaper to do in Lusaka than on the border. Gill will head south into Zimbabwe and I will continue north east and possibly visit South Luangwa national park and try and do a game drive and see some animals. I've heard Zambia has some of the best safaris. I'm not too sure after that. Probably work my way towards Malawi and cross the border in the north somewhere.

As always I'm open to advice an suggestions

KM's travelled so far 17,000.
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I assure you, there are humans reading this! Please, keep it coming.

I had a CTX200 for a short while in Australia, and wanted to do a big trip on one. But, shipping was too dear and getting one in South America proved to be more difficult and expensive than anticipated! If only they made a big tank for them!
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Old 16 Mar 2014
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less is more

Hi Techno,,,

very interested in your steed ,,,,,,,and wanderings ..good stuff.


I have owned ,, all manner of advs ,, from the big twins to big singles,,,

and have been toying with the small bore concept for a good while...

can you tell me what gearing you are running on the bushy,please.??
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  #44  
Old 24 Mar 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turborob View Post
I assure you, there are humans reading this! Please, keep it coming.

I had a CTX200 for a short while in Australia, and wanted to do a big trip on one. But, shipping was too dear and getting one in South America proved to be more difficult and expensive than anticipated! If only they made a big tank for them!
Awesome! I will take non-humans reading this too. I'm not fussy I have another report below ready for your eyes.

My CTX was built in Brasil and I know they sell them in Chile so you could buy one over there instead and probably save some money. I'm very much in to buying locally because you don't need a carnet etc...

Quote:
Originally Posted by trailcutter View Post
Hi Techno,,,

very interested in your steed ,,,,,,,and wanderings ..good stuff.


I have owned ,, all manner of advs ,, from the big twins to big singles,,,

and have been toying with the small bore concept for a good while...

can you tell me what gearing you are running on the bushy,please.??
Thanks Trailcutter! I'm using standard gearing. No modifications. In fact the whole bike is stock apart from the tyres which are Mitas E07's (back) and Heidenau on the front. I do hear of a few people changing the front sprocket and adding one with an extra tooth to increase the top speed a bit. As its stands I can only get about 100 km's per hour max and the sprocket mod gives you 120 without much loss of torque.

Thanks for tuning in!

---

The drive to Lusaka was about 320 km's but we were low on Kwatcha as our bill of T Bone steaks and camping had cleaned us both out. The ATM's were also conspiring against us. For some reason only Barclays banks work with my Mastercard and the ones I tried were out of service. I was also low on fuel but I found a petrol attendant who would give me a fair rate in dollars for some fuel and gave me change in Kwatcha. Result! I bought Gill and I some Nishima, vegetables and tea for lunch. We were pretty hungry.



After arriving in Lusaka Gill and I checked in at Paseli 7 Backpackers*which seemed like the best backpackers in town according to trip adviser. The next morning Gill and I visited both the Malawi and Mozambique embassies to inquire about visa's. Both told us that yes we would need to apply for them but they would take 3-5 days unless you pay a premium so we decided it wasn't worth it and we would get them on the border. I have now learned you don't even need one for Malawi if you are European despite them advising us you did!

Gill left for Harare, Zimbabwe intending to stop for a quick look at the Kariba Dam on the way. I headed towards*South Luangwa National Park. As I got ready to leave I noticed this praying mantis on my luggage. I guess he was headed that way too.



I had a long drive ahead (407 km's) and wanted to get away early but I got a text from my local mobile provider MTN informing me they were going to cancel my SIM unless i registered with them so I stopped off at the local shop to sort it out. It took about 45 minutes which I could really have done without but seeing as I was late I also decided to pop into the Game store and replace my 10 Liter fuel can too. It had been leaking slowly for the past month after a thorn somehow penetrated the plastic. I had tried to repair it many times but it always leaked again after a few days. I gave the old one to a random guy on a bicycle who seemed very pleased despite it being broken. I guess he will repair it properly and perhaps get something for it.



I finally got going and expected to have a fuel stop or two on the way but there was none and I was running low so I stopped and asked a lady called Doris who was waiting for a lift to Lusaka. This family provided me with 5 liters for 75 Kwatcha (normal price 50) and I was on my way again.



I should really have bought 10 liters as I had to pay 85 for another 5 a bit further on. I was still expecting a fuel stop but there wasn't any. This is the first time I've had any difficulty getting any fuel from petrol stations (or lack of). From now on I am keeping my main tank and extra can full. I also ate some Nshima and fish for 12 Kwatcha (2 USD) in a small restaurant by the side of the road much to the curiosity of the locals especially as I was eating local style with just my hand. Heading off again I crossed this bridge and was going to stop and make a little drive by video on the GoPro when I had 7-8 children descend on me demanding pens. Instead I just pointed at my ignition switch on the bike and one of the kids tentatively pressed the button and the bike fired up. They loved it. Kids get a real kick out of it when I let them start the bike.



I eventually made it to Petauke which is the half way point between Lusaka and Mfuwe (the entrance to South Luangwa National Park). It had just begun to rain so I headed into the first lodge I found which was Chimwemwe Lodge. It's a very well looked after place. Rooms were 300 Kwatcha and I was tempted but decided to go for camping priced at 50 Kwatcha. I waited for the rain to slow and headed to the campsite and unloaded my stuff into the abolution facilities. Whilst I was waiting for it to stop raining again it started to get dark so I decided I would just sleep on the floor in there. It wasn't the best night's sleep to be honest as I was constantly bothered by mosquitoes but I got some rest.



The next morning I ate some bran flakes and used one of my 250 ml long life milk cartons. These things are essential when you are on the road and want milk but don't have refrigeration. I always carry two or three. Great for tea too. The road was pretty good and started become more hilly as I proceeded east.



I passed through some more towns but still no fuel. Fortunately I had topped up in Petauke and had enough to make it to Chapati where there is plenty. I also noticed that
how popular cycling is in Zambia.



Arriving in Chapati I filled up my tanks again but the pump broke mid way through so I had to wait until they could get it working again so I could pay. Bit of a pain especially as I attracted the attention of a beggar who kept hassling me for 2 Kwatcha which I always refuse politely (I never give to beggars, ever). He became quite angry and kept pointing at my Honda and then mumbled about how angry I was making him and how he was going to get a gun and shoot me. Crazy guy. The petrol attendant had a word and he soon left mumbling to himself. I had lunch at a Steers branch in town and headed north towards Mfuwe. The road was excellent and had recently been tarred except for a few small stretches.



Getting close to the national park entrance where I intended to camp I drove over a hill with a nice view of the land below.



I was driving through some small villages about 10 km's from the park entrance when I came across a road block which seemed quite suspicious. There were no police, just a gang of about 20 young men and boys who flagged me down and immediately surrounded me. There was one guy who was sweating profusely and standing right in front of me with a machete in his hand trying to look mean. One of the boys explained there had recently been an accident and they wanted money. I argued that the accident was nothing to do with me but they insisted I needed to pay something. Next a car just drove straight past the road block and I questioned why they were allowed to pass. They told me they had already paid 5 Kwatcha (less than 1 USD). As it was less than a dollar I decided to just pay them rather than risk getting hit with a machete. They were really happy with their money and let me pass.

I went fo Flatdogs camp first but they don't offer camping anymore so they sent me to Croc Valley Camp a couple of kilometers away. This time of year their camping costs 72 Kwatcha after they add VAT and their 10% service charge. I set up my hammock under the rondaval overlooking the hippo and crocodile infested luangwa river. I had a bench for all my stuff, power outlet and even room to park the bike. Perfect!



Also staying at Croc Valley were two families. One from France who had been on the road for 4 years and another Dutch family who were traveling for 6 months. Here's their impressive trucks :





I saved a bit of money by buying a package deal for the next day. For $120 I got camping, 3 meals, 2 game drives and laundry. We left at 6am for our morning game drive along with a group from an overland bus that pulled in late in the evening. I'm so glad I didn't do an overland tour as they seemed mostly miserable as hell. The morning drive was OK but I didn't get to see anything new. Plenty of Elephants, Zebra's and Giraffes etc.. I still hadn't seen any cats...





After some tea and cakes we headed out in a smaller group of 3. Myself and two Swedish backpackers. Withing 30 minutes we spotted a Leopard on the road. He was marking his territory as he progressed towards us. He passed right next to our vehicle.



We followed him to a clearing and watched him survey the open grass lands for about 20 minutes uninterrupted.



Then he moved on towards a herd of Impalas.







Eventually a second vehicle (full of the most deadly predators of them all) turned up to disturb the peace.



Later on during the drive we spotted two hyenas, a pack of wild dogs and this baby Leopard in a tree :



I decided to use the next day to explore the old petauke road which I was tempted to take instead of coming from Petauke via Chipata on the tar road. I was quite glad I didn't as the 40 or so kilometers I saw was pretty washed out and would have been tough with all my luggage.



As you can see a lot of the bridges were washed away.



The old petauke road follows the river and has some excellent views. I spotted these two elephants on the other side.





There were plenty of interesting tracks on the way too.

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After driving about 40 km's I decided to turn back as I was considering a second night drive. I was also told by some locals that the next 40 or so km's was just boring bush driving with the possibility of angry elephants.



I managed to fall off into this mud puddle by spending too much time looking out for elephants instead of keeping my eye on the road.



Apart from a few patches the road really isn't too bad and rises up every now and again to give excellent views of the park.



I tried to take a deviation on the way back but had to pull the bike out of this mud. Having a light bike makes it much easier to get myself out of situations like this on my own.*



The road was really fun to drive and I imagine being able to travel the whole length in the dry season is awesome.



The next evening I decided to do one more evening game drive before leaving.*





Just before we were about to head back we heard from another truck that there were lions ahead! A herd of about 15 were on the road and finally I got to see a wild lion. This is the best picture I took as inevitably the batteries run out on my camera. hmm! bit annoying but still impressive to see. They were so close to us. I got within meters of this male as we drove past.



Today I cross the border and head to Lilongwe, Malawi.

KM's so far 18,000.

Here's some bonus pictures I got from Gill on the BMW :'

Checking out nature reclaiming this digger near Sinazongwe.



Our camp by Lake Kariba. You can see my foot poking out from the hammock.



Enjoying some "Africa TV" with fellow traveler friends in Lusaka.

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