From Kampala we were heading north to see the Murchision Falls. The road was perfect tarmac and we could do the ca. 400 km in one rush. On the way we came along the Karuma Falls. They are directly next to the street, so nothing to pay here, and you even cross a bridge from where you have a really good view. We entered the Murchison national park with our bikes, which is allowed, but they charge you 40 $ per person and 30 $ per bike… but it was fun to ride there. The park is quite different to the last two we visited. It has not so much wild life and seems kind of quiet and asleep. A big part of the road is surrounded by 2 m high grass, so we drove standing to get a look at the landscape and the animals.
After a while a car came from the behind and when we gave way to let it pass it stopped and we heard a cheerful “Hey Deutsche in Uganda”. That was Ingbert, he works for the Cap Anamur and was on a short trip to the falls, so we joined forces ;). Since we entered the park from the Tangi Gate in the north we had to take a ferry across the Nile to get further south to the view point of the falls. Ferries a somehow always fun to take with a bike.
We stayed the night in the Red Chili campsite (yes, it belongs to the Red Chili in Kampala) and had a really boozy evening with Ingbert and some third-generation-indian ugandan guys. Late in the night there was a little agitation, cause a hippo was standing in the middle of the camp. So we got quiet and took a cautious look, these ones can be quiet dangerous. The next day was very hot and on the way to the falls there were hundreds of tsetse flies on the road. Whenever we wanted to stop or to get a little bit slower these pearls of mother nature were trying to eat us up alive. That was especially unpleasant, because the road condition wasn’t that good anymore. But we reached the falls with only a few bites and they were amazing. The power with which the Nile goes through this narrowness is just unbelievable.
South of the falls the landscape changed again and suddenly we were driving through a (rain)forest from a fairytale. It was so beautiful with butterflies of every color all over and some hawks flying directly in front of us. At some time we were wondering why there are so many cables spanning over the road. Then we saw the spiders, which had the sizes of a small hand… well why not drive a little faster, keep the head down and the visor shut.
When we left the park we had two options to reach Fort Portal, take the direct dirt road or take the tarmac back to Kampala and from there to Fort Portal. We went for the dirt road, but after 10 km it started to pour down like in a rain forest 😉 The red dirt roads get very slippery when wet so we turned back and drove the 500 km tarmac.
From Fort Portal we did a fabulous day trip to Bundibugyo and back. Just to enjoy riding the beautiful mountain road and passes over the Ruwenzori Mountains and to have a look at the breathtaking landscape and had a look into DR Congo.
The next day we started south and crossed the equator for the third and last time of our trip. After an overnight stay at a camping site in the Queen Elisabeth national park we headed on direction Kisoro, passed it and reached Cyanika, the border town to Rwanda. The road to get there was again great fun to ride, with countless curves.
The crossing was quite easy and the customs officer could fix the mess with the carnets his colleague had done when we entered Uganda. We were a bit nervous because we had heard it is not allowed to bring plastic bags to Rwanda and that they would search for them at the entry. Nearly everything we transport is wrapped in a plastic bag. But no one wanted to have a look at the bikes, they even didn’t check the chassis numbers. The only new thing was, that they took our temperature and asked if we’d been to west Africa…
We went on to Ruhengeri, it’s about 25 km from the border. Here in Rwanda the streets are full of people walking on the road again. You find much less cars and boda bodas than in Uganda or Kenia but more bicycles. The traffic is quite moderate and it seems that they stick to some rules, which we can’t remember anymore ;). So far Rwanda has been really lovely from the beginning. The landscape is still tremendous and everything feels very friendly. We stayed the night at the Red Rocks backpackers inn and campsite (redrocks-rwanda.com). It’s a cool place with super delicious food you’ll have a great time when you go there. Unfortunately we had to move on the next day to Kigali the capital of Rwanda.
After the great time at the Kilima Camp we had to push on. The next days we wanted to drive to Lake Victoria. From there we planned to take a short ferry trip from Mbita and drive towards the Ugandan border. The gravel road from Masai Mara started out great and we reached the lake around midday.
At this pace we were sure to reach Mbita in one day. But of course this didn’t work out. The roads on the maps and GPS weren’t existing, but since we knew if we keep the lake to our left we will go north and eventually reach Mbita. The “road” was hardly existing and mostly loose stones and rock formations with steep ascending and descending parts. Very tough to drive on. On one descend David hit a rock and we heard Daniel over the intercom “David, you are leaking”. From the impact Davids BMW took a hole in its oil pan and lost all its engine oil. This could have very well meant the end of the trip for David and the start of some proper type III fun.
We were still on a hill and David rolled without engine power to the bottom where some fisher huts where. Lacking any alternative we asked the locals if we can pitch our tents near their village and work on the bike. Unfortunately, the majority of the adult population was drunk but friendly and we could stay the night. Daniel and David removed the oil pan while I entertained the 50 kids gathering around the bike so the guys had some little space to work.
We had some liquid metal epoxide glue from home. With this we got the oil pan tight again and could reattach it. One sober guy got David some new engine oil. He drove the hill at night on his small chinese bike… But, David is now leak free! The drunken villagers were a bit of a pain and we didn’t sleep much that night. Also thanks to the kids who came around 6 in the morning again to tell us “Wake up muzungo! Good morning muzungo!”…
The rest to Mbita promised to be a rough ride again but it was worse than we thought. It was probably the most challenging ride we had so far at a very high temperature and we promised our self to do less off road in the future since we all want to get the bikes (and the riders) to the Cape in one piece.
The 50 minute ferry ride from Mbita was a nice change in pace and we had a fun time with the ferry stuff. They told us we were the nicest white people they ever met. We think they don’t meet many white people around here 😀 Plus it was only some 2 € for us with the piki pikis (motorbike in Kiswahili)
From the ferry port the road was supposed to be all tarmac up to the Ugandan border, except for one unknown stretch of around 25 km. Since it was starting to rain we were uncertain about the road condition. We asked some locals and a very helpful lady explained us the way. Confronted with the question about the road condition she just replied ‘”The road can be disturbing”. We liked that. The morning wasn’t disturbing enough… She also told us that we actually will pass the village where Presidents Obama family is from. How cool. Their home is right north of the equator (we crossed the equator again). The disturbing road was in no way disturbing and maybe only 2 km gravel. A good end of the day!
We slept some 40 km before the border and entered Uganda the next day. The border was pretty annoying. For some reason you’ll find the biggest idiots of one country working at the customs. After 3 hours the ugandan customs rocket brain managed to wrongly stamp our carnets. Not again… Let’s hope it’s not going to cause problems on the way out.
From the border we made our way direction Kampala. On the way we crossed the Nile, again, that river is everywhere! We went to see the source of the white Nile in Jinja.
The highways in Uganda are mostly in a perfect condition, but the bit between Jinja and Kampala is quite heavily frequented and you have the crazy minibus drivers again. Kampala city traffic was madness as well, but we got used to third world capital traffic. It’s just full of boda bodas (motorbikes in Ugandan). There are no traffic laws for motorbikes. It’s strange in the beginning but once you got used to it actually pretty cool! We often race past the traffic police, wave politely, they are happy and wave back 😀 We really have to take care not to drive like jack asses once we are back in Europe 😀
We stayed two nights at the Red Chili in Kampala and made good use of their pool while David had his rear suspension checked. He established contact with a very nice Danish guy, Micky, who fixes bikes in his spare time and is currently rebuilding an Africa Twin. Micky told us about the great Ugandan road side fast food “chicken in your face”. Basically, when you stop at an intersection you instantly have 10 guys waving grilled chicken on a stick in your face. It also comes as “beef in your face”, “liver in your face” and, if you’re near the lakes “fish in your face”. That stuff is super tasty and we frequently stuff our faces with all kinds of grilled “whatever”.
We stayed the night at the wonderful Tawi Lodge near the Kimana gate at the north east part of the park. Here you have a wonderful sight over the Kilimanjaro, from everywhere … even from the toilette :). It’s a very beautiful place to be and we enjoyed every moment in this piece of paradise.
As you know we already paid the entrance fee for the Amboseli national park, so why not go for a real and legal game drive in a 4×4 😉 That’s what we did the next morning and it was good fun. You just can see a lot more when you’re not riding a bike and don’t have to watch the street 😉
Cheetas and a few tourists
Happy and flashed from all the wild life we went back to the jungle junction in Nairobi to pick up our luggage and to stay for another night before head on to the lake Victoria. We heard that the Maasai Mara national park, which we would pass anyway, would be even more fascinating. So we decided to go there and to take Axel’s offer and visit his second lodge, the Kilima Camp. And what should I say it was tremendous. The lodge itself is situated on a cliff so that you have an amazing view over the Maasai Mara plane. This time we pitched our tents and were allowed to use the shower and toilette of one of the big bungalow like tents.
We went for a full day game drive and were so lucky. The Maasai Mara is the kenian part of the better known Serengeti (Tanzania). And just now the migration took place. It’s the biggest migration of land living animals in the world, so they were all over the place.
We’ve been a bit behind with our updates. Sorry for that. We just did too much every day and hardly find time to write the blog entries.
From Marsabit in northern Kenia we still had a lot of gravel to go. We spent the night in a very small place along the road by the name of Laisamis. A very hot place with our first (warm) kenian beer.
We left early the next day heading towards Nairobi. The tarmac was supposed to start some 20 km after the town. The gravel roads here can be quite tricky. If you stay in the line where the cars drive you’ll find relative solid gravel. OK to drive on. Between those tracks the gravel is forming small hills and is very loose. Getting into that leads to terrible swimming of the front wheel. To get out you must not get slower but get the weight into the back of the bike and accelerate. 3 km out of town Daniel got in the loose gravel and even with trying these tricks couldn’t get out anymore. I drove behind him and saw him wobbling badly until he crashed. Luckily he wasn’t hurt, even though we were doing around 50-60 km/h. The bike though took some beating since it landed on the left and flipped to the right. The right mirror was broken off, the break leaver badly bended, the wind shield and plastic body cracked in some parts and the luggage rack broken again. So another welding it will be… Daniel took it quit alright and I think seeing this happening left me more shocked than him. After this we continued at a slower pace until the perfect tarmac started.
Every day we like Kenia more and more. We stopped at the first gas stations asking if they might have petrol, still working in the Ethiopia mind set. They just look at us as if we are idiots and said “of course we have petrol, this is a gas station.” Great! Also you don’t get very often forengi or muzungo prices, as white people are called here. And if they ask for too much we were told that these prices are “very open to negotiation”, which is definitely the case.
On the way to Nairobi we passed the 5200 m high Mount Kenia and crossed the equator for the first time during this trip. We decided to take a detour on the way south around Lake Victoria, thus crossing Uganda and Rwanda, where we will cross the equator several more times.
We also decided to allow us more time. I will meet with my parents and Vanessa in Windhoek on the 11th of December and we will spent Christmas and New Years in Africa. Daniel right now plans to be back shortly before Christmas but this still can change.
Due to the events in the morning and the decision not to enter African capital cities at night anymore (remember Addis?) we stopped for the night before reaching Nairobi at a small hotel along the road. They served great mbuzi (goat) and we celebrated the equator crossing with some good Tusker Lager, this time even cold! Here you have to specifically order a cold beer, I guess that’s one of the negative aspects of the British colonization.
The next morning I found my front wheel flat. We took it apart and checked for a hole in the tube but couldn’t find any. So we put it back on and were off to Nairobi.
With reaching the outskirts of this massive city the traffic got really bad. Especially the bus and mini bus drivers here are totally insane. They overtake everywhere, but especially love overtaking before corners and hills. When they see traffic coming ahead they don’t attempt to get back into their line. We often have to break until stop and get the bikes to the side of the road in order to not get hit. There are times were we just want to pull these guys out of there busses and teach them some manners.
We reached the famous overlander camp Jungle Junction in Nairobi in the afternoon. A great place to camp with a proper garage. Chris, the owner of this place is a motorbike mechanic and one of the few people along the trans Africa track who has suitable tires in stock, which were badly needed by David. We also met other motorbike travelers for the first time since leaving Khartoum. They were a bit stranded here since it apparently got very difficult to get Ethiopia and especially Sudan visa out of the home countries. Good thing we left those countries already behind us. One couple was waiting already for a month to get their Ethiopia visa sorted out.
The next days we had to do a lot on the bikes. My front wheel was flat again and this time I found the hole and could fix it. My left pannier was still badly bended by the crash I had with the tree stump along the Moyale road. Using highly sophisticated technics involving the biggest hammer Chris has in his workshop I could get it back to almost its original shape. Good enough to get me to Cape Town. Daniel worked all day on his bike and did a magnificent job getting it back into shape! Unfortunately his carburetor was leaking petrol and the gas pump stopped working, so we had to take pretty much everything apart but now the bike runs like clockwork again.
Nairobi has a lot to offer. This might sound strange to you at home but we were stunned by the shopping malls. You can buy everything! We forgot about this during our time in Sudan and Ethiopia.
We took an idle day and visited the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi. Jung elephants who lose their mother before the age of three are doomed to die out in the bush. Many lose their mothers due to ivory poachers, who sadly still have a marked to sell the ivory the other common reason are so called “human animal conflicts” which basically means villagers killing the elephants when they get too close to their settlement. If the calves are lucky they get rescued by the orphanage and brought to Nairobi where they are hand fed every day until the age of three before they slowly get reintegrated into wild elephant herds.
After some good days at the Jungle Junction we were anxious to get back on the bikes and see more of Kenia. The plan was to leave almost all of our luggage at Chris place and do a two day trip to the Amboseli National Park in Southern Kenia facing the Kilimanjaro. We wanted to do some offroad driving but weren’t certain about the rout and where to stay at the park. The normal Safari Lodges are with 300 USD per night (not including park entrance fees) slightly over our usual price range. As so often the best things in live just happen. I went to the neighbor table at the Jungle Junction and asked the guys if they have experience with the Amboseli Park. One replied “Sure, I own a lodge there”. Axel, also a German, offered us to pitch our tents for free at his lodge and showed us a good way through the Masai land where are almost no roads are and it’s supposed to be like Kenia a 100 years ago! Perfect! So we left towards the Tawi Lodge the next day. We could only leave at 1 pm since Davids tire still wasn’t there and needed to be mounted.
After some hours in the bush it became clear that we won’t make it to the lodge in one day and we had to look for a bush camp. We found a Masai farm and asked the guys if we could build our tents on their land. They were extremely friendly and hospitable and we had some protection from the hyenas. Like many Masai they are cattle farmers. The one guy asked me if I could help them getting a pregnant cow out of the bush which was too tired to get up again. This promised to be interesting. So I went with them, we found the cow, the one guy put the tail of the cow in my hand and said “pull”. I remarked that I have no particular experience in pulling up pregnant cows on the tail but that was regarded as insignificant. So we pulled the cow up. As soon as she stood she could walk, just getting up was impossible to her. Leaving her out in the bush would render her an easy prey for the hyenas and leopards. They asked me how it was and my response “not much different from lifting the fully loaded motorbike” was well received.
The next morning we left early and the road got from bad to total nightmare. Remember the liquid dust in Ethiopia? It’s called “fech fech” and we had plenty of it. In addition the road was extremely bumpy under the fech fech, not making the ride any easier. Thus started the 3 hours of the first gear where we only covered 20 km. The road just never got better. David had a wobble, put his food down and got stuck between a rock and his left pannier. His food was bended and hurt. Luckily nothing seemed to be broken, still he had a limp for a few days and a good brusing.
At some point we were really fed up and saw a good gravel road pointing south. The direction we needed to go. It wasn’t on either our GPS or paper maps but definitely preferable to the fech fech. So we made our way south along the magnificent kenian country side. We climbed a hill and after that lay the Amboseli plain with the gigantic snow topped Kilimanjaro!
We continued south, knowing that we can’t enter the park with the motorbikes. We were looking for the entrance gate or signs. Worst case would be that we have to turn back. Approaching the park the wildlife got pretty impressive. Plenty of Zebras, Gazelle, Gnus, Giraffes and Elephants were to be seen along the road. We had a brilliant time and joked “who would pay the 80 USD entrance fee when you can see all the wildlife outside the park for free?” Well, this is where we’ve been wrong. Soon after we were flacked down by the armed parked rangers who very polite and explained to us that we are infect in the park, illegal trespassed, went their against the law on motorbikes and didn’t pay the entrance fee. Ups… But he added, “no big problem ,you might have to go to court and might go to jail, but no big problem” I guess it was no big problem to him…
We were escorted to the ranger HQ with a certain “shit hit the fan” feeling. There our luggage was searched for illegal things, I don’t know if they thought we are poachers. Our passports were collected and the penalty discussed by the bosses. Luckily Axel gave us his mobile number back in Nairobi and we called him for help. He immediately pulled some strings and we got off with paying the entrance fee and around 3 € fee for using a private vehicle in the park 😀 Many thanks Axel!!! The entrance ticket was valid for 24 h so we decided to do a real guided safari the next day with the Tawi guys. We went to the lodge and can’t explain the greatness of this place. Honestly, if you want to go to Amboseli visit this lodge. You don’t even have to enter the park since all the animals just show up at the lodge waterhole!
Axel also runs a lodge in the Masai Mara, guess our next destination
The safaris we did in Amboseli and Masai Mara will come in a different post mostly consisting of photos and videos. We saw A LOT of great wildlife. Just fantastic. Kenia is amazing!
Addis Abeba was the first big city we saw after leaving Khartoum. The thousands of peoples, cars, minibuses, tuktuks, bicycles and animals just merge together in a big humming something. I think they still call it traffic. It’s like driving in Istanbul just double the amount of vehicles, throw in some animals, destroy some roads and remove the last traffic rules there are… but again after a while you get used to it and it works just fine. The first nights we spent at Wim’s Holland house. Topher and I had to get the visa for Kenia and an extension of our Ethiopian visa. It expires on the 30th what would be ok, but we wanted to have some extra time, if something should go wrong. So we got that done and another very important thing. We got our first hair cut since we left 🙂 For dinner we went to a small restaurant called African queen. The restaurant is run by an ethiopian lady who lived for over 30 years in Freiburg and learned cooking there. Unfortunately they couldn’t make the Sauerbrauten, which is on the menu, but we got some very good food and some Spätzle 🙂 It was a very nice time at Wim’s and we met a lot of interesting peoples and learned some good advices and stories. We got in contact with Seid because my luggage system was broken … again and needed to be welded. Seid, an overlander himself, is a very friendly guy and known for helping and supporting overlanders that come nearby Addis. We moved over to Seid’s place and he offered us to help us with some maintenance on the bikes. So we changed the oil, cleaned my carbonator, got the welding done and wanted to change the spark plugs on my bike. That worked fine with the first one, but the second came in wrong and messed up the thread… A broken spark plug thread could definitely be the end of your journey. The next morning a friend of Seid with more experience came over and with him we got the spark plug in, slowly forcing it in and out, bit for bit. It worked and I really hope it lasts till I am home again 😉 We headed on and had a look at the stele in Tyia, before we found a small hotel a little further down the road. Today was a big ethiopian holyday, the day of the cross. At night everywhere small bundles of bush where set on fire. We took a walk around and it was just a beautiful atmosphere. Our next stop was the paradise lodge in Arba Minch and yes it’s like a small paradise 🙂 From the bar you have a gigantic view over the Nechisar national park, the lake Abaya and the lake Chamo.
The food was also really good and we could spent some time at the pool. We took the bikes and visited the local crocodile farm. Here they breed Nile crocodiles for their skin and you can see them in different ages and sizes. After two nights the paradise time was done and we were on the way to Moyale, to cross the border to Kenia and to take the so called hell road to Marsabit. The last 50 km to Moyale coming from Mega, where we spent the night, were already quite tough because there were constructions everywhere. So every 500 m there is a diversion from the tar mark which consist mainly of sand. Very very soft and light red sand that behaves more like a fluid than something solid. It took us awhile to master this part of the track, but I think with a smaller bike and without luggage it can be a lot of fun.Roter Sand from David on Vimeo. Road Closed from David on Vimeo. The border crossing was no problem and we were on the hell road. The first 70 km were as promised tough. A mixture of loose gravel, sand, wash board, pot holes and stones was demanding a lot from the bikes and from us. But we made it without any loss ;). Then out of nowhere it came … tar mark, for the next 50 km. The road was in a perfect condition and we just blasted over it. Tonight’s accommodation was bush camping at a nice remote place near the road. On the way through the bush Topher unfortunately hit a tree stump with his left side case. The case got deformed and tore up at the bottom, but we managed to bend it back to a certain level and closed the gap with tape. That should work till we find a better place to work on it. The rest of the Moyale road was a short run on gravel and 100 km tar mark all the way to Marsabit. Seems like this hell is slowly freezing in. So in the end we were glad about all the tar mark but also a bit disappointed. At least we got a taste of what it used to be 😉