We left the Brandberg area on the 1st of December, going a bit north to see the rock engravings at the Twyfelfotein. Only gravel roads take you there. They are in excellent condition so it was really good fun to ride there. Twyfelfotein is Afrikaans for doubtful spring and not twelve springs as one might thought. The german word for “Twyfel” is “Zweifel” which sounds quite alike. This spring was called doubtful, because it is not constantly carrying enough water to survive. Probably this place would have been abandoned and forgotten long ago, if it hadn’t been for the rock engravings. Until now over 2500 individual engravings have been found, most of them are older than 6000 years.
Nearby the engravings there are petrified trees, a burnt mountain and organ pipe like rock formations to be seen.
After a night at the Aba-Huab campingsite we took the route over Outjo and Okahandja to get back to Windhoek. On the way it was now Topher’s fuel pump that stopped working probably. In Windhoek we replaced all tubes and tried to get the same exchange pump that we mounted on my bike, but unfortunately they didn’t have another one. So we tried a different one from a different shop. But that low pressure pump wasn’t so low at all and destroyed the sealing of the carburetor… Okay now that things got serious we went to a Yamaha dealer nearby. The guy was super friendly and very helpful. He managed to fix the carburetor, cleaned it and also took a look at the first pump. It seemed to be fine. We assembled everything again and gave it a try, but after 20 km the engine started to lose power again. The only thing to prevent that was not to drive faster than 80 km/h. So that should be our schedule speed for the remaining route. We realized that time was brutally running down and that we had to skip something to reach Cape Town in time. Sadly we decided to leave Sossusvlei out and to go directly to Lüderitz.
Passing Rehoboth and Mariental we reached Keetmanshoop after 500 km and 3,5 curves and stayed for the night in the Quiver Tree Camp. There you can take a look at Namibia’s biggest quiver tree forest and a place with stacked rocks called giants playground.
Topher decided to dismiss his fuel pump and connected the tank directly to the carburetor. It seemed like using only gravity flow to feed the carburettor was more efficient than the half working pump. To keep the gravity flow pressure up high Topher was fuelling up at least every 100 km. The bike still wasn’t working fine, but we could do now 90-100 km/h without break down and reached the seaside town Lüderitz.
While we were staying in Lüderitz we did a day trip to the Sperrgebiet national park and visited the ghost town of Kolmanskop. Once planed as the headquarter of the Consolidated Diamond Mines, it was deserted in the 1950’s due to the collapse of diamond sales after world war one and the discovery of richer diamond fields near to Oranjemund. The ghost town is now partly covered by sand and a famous tourist attraction.
Now was only one spot left before we had to leave Namibia, the fish river canyon. From Lüderitz we took the C13 south, which leads all the way down to the Orange River, the natural NAM-ZA border. Following the river to the east was probably one of the most beautiful rides of the whole trip. The gravel roads are just perfect to drive on (probably our gravel riding has improved as well;) ) and the eternal rock desert landscape was so colorful and transforming as you can’t imagine.
We turned left on the C37 and went north up to the camping site Ai-Ais. From here we had planned to go to the fish river canyon the next day, but only David made it. All three of us were struggling with a flu like affliction since a week or so. In the last couple of days it got worse for Topher and me, while David recovered. This day 100% of Dribbdebach-Touring stayed in bed, partly knocked out, and David did the 50 km trip by himself. Thus also the fish river canyon remains a destination for our next trip to Namibia.
The following day we were feeling better but still not really in a good shape. Unfortunately time was running and so were we, if 90 km/h can be considered so 😉 We went south until we were back on the C13. After a while the gravel road turned to tarmac and we stopped knowing that this had been the last gravel road of our trip…
Now it would only be getting the distance done without falling asleep and so it was. The border crossing was a drive by and after an overnight stay in Vanrhynsdorp we reached Cape Town.
We took a day to settle down at the Ashanti lodge and did a city tour in a red bus. In the evening we went to the famous Longstreet for dinner and to get a taste of Cape Town’s nightlife. The next day, exactly four month after we set off, we drove to the Cape of Good Hope our final destination…
Time seems to fly by when you’re having a good time and the last 4 month living on the road just passed in a rush. But if we recall any day of the trip it was so full of experiences to earn, friends to meet, fears to overcome, freedom to find, adventures to master, fun to have and tears to cry that every day could count for a whole week.
Topher took a flight the next day to meet his parents and girlfriend in Windhoek. They were traveling Namibia for three weeks and took a flight back to Germany on the 01.01.2015.
David and I spent another week in Cape Town, where we organized the transport of our bikes, did a two days trip to the Cape Agulhas (the most southern point of Africa), climbed the Table Mountain and did some diving in the 2 Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town and in the Atlantic near to Simons Town.
With the end of this trip the biggest adventure of our lives (so far) is completed and it left us with mixed feelings. As much as we were happy that we really made it and were looking forward to see our families and friends again, we were saddened about the end of this phase of life. But be sure there are more trips to come.
Finally we want to thank you very much for following our blog and for thinking of us from home or somewhere else of the world. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of other people. Therefor we are very grateful and want to especially thank everyone who took a part in our cause.
We are really clad to have teamed up with David who was a great travel companion, a big help and became a good friend, thanks!
Take care and we hope to see you all again or to meet you for the first time in real life
Hey Guys, it’s been a while. We are meanwhile back in Germany, after reaching Cape Town safe and sound. But there is still a lot to write about left. So let’s take it from the last blog entry.
Initially we wanted to visit some good friends of mine in Harare/Zimbabwe. Unfortunately we were running a bit out of time and had thus to cancel the visit. So our only Zimbabwe time was in Victoria Falls and from there to the border to Botswana. Zimbabwe is nowadays infamous for its high corruption and endless check points. During the short time we spent in this country we realized that a travel on the bikes through Zim has the potential to be a massive pain. We got in several check points and everytime our bikes road worthiness was tested. Lights, indicator, horn and documents. Luckily Daniel repaired his broken indicator back in Zambia so we just had the annoyance of the check points but never had to pay a “fee”.
At the Botswana border we went through our first disinfection bath with the bikes and boots. They try to prevent the spreading of the foot and mouth disease, which is apparently a big problem for the mostly farm based industry of Botswana and also Namibia. They also try to prevent the spreading of Ebola by checking the body temperature at the border. We had to put a thermometer under our arms (very hygienic) and note the temperature on an official paper. We all had readings around 35°C. I asked the officer what to write down, since with this temperature we were pretty much dead. He replied “Just write it down”. OK… Effective measures…
We stocked up supplies in Kasane at the Chobe River and had our first look at Namibia on the other side of the river, but first Botswana. The highway down to Nata could be pretty boring if it weren’t for all the elephants and other game standing along the road. The road runs between the Chobe National Park in Botswana and the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, both with large elephant populations and no fences (elephants don’t mind fences too much anyway). So plenty of animals migrate between the two parks and the “caution elephants” signs should be taken serious.
We passed a camp along the road named “Elephant Sands” and decided to spent the night there. What a well named place, they got plenty of sand and even more elephants. When we pulled up on the camp ground we saw several other motorbikes. All overland travelers like us. And a total coincidence as well, like us the other travelers haven’t seen much bikes around Africa. We had a nice night constantly surrounded by elephants.
The next destination was Maun, the gate to the Okavango Delta. A place which I thought while planning the trip of being one of the highlights. It turned out to be to be a major letdown. There was too much water in the river and a boat tour with the high grass would have been pointless. So we didn’t really see much of the Delta and decided to push on towards Namibia also because we needed spare parts which we only could get in Windhoek. While doing a bit of a service on our bikes David found his front sprocket to be worn beyond limit. Three teeth were already missing and we needed urgent replacement. Also, our front tires we mounted back in Istanbul were down and needed replacement. Funny thing with these Mitas tires. The front wears faster than the rear. The rear was also mounted in Istanbul but made it until Cape Town with still some km left on them (according to African standards, not European).
It was a long and rather boring ride towards Namibia. Botswana is extremely sparsely populated, with only 2 million people on an area 1.6 times of Germany. 50 km before the border it started raining and never stopped with temperatures dropping to 16°C. This doesn’t sound too bad but we are used to the heat by now 😀 After the border we were soaking wet and the motivation to camp pretty low, so we looked for a roof and bed that night and found a guest farm along the way. Plenty of farms in Namibia offer rooms and food. This one was called Zelda Guest Farm and probably the worst you can find. The white owners were the most unfriendly people we met in a long time and even tried to cheat us with the bill. If you ever find yourself along the Trans-Kalahari Highway don’t bother to stop at the Zelda Guest Farm. At least we had our first night in a bed since Iringa/Tansania!
We made our way towards Windhoek, the last African capital city of our trip. The last days Daniels bike was acting up again. Constant power losses to the degree that the engine went off and wouldn’t start again for a few minutes. 60 km out of Windhoek it got so bad that we couldn’t get much driving done anymore and I had to tow him into town. Towing with the bike is still no fun… We found a nice backpackers accommodation and spent the next days working on the bikes. Windhoek was the first city since Nairobi with a proper selection of spare parts. We got new front tires and David could get a new chain kit from the local BMW dealer and also replaced his steering head bearings, which also were beyond.
We still couldn’t really figure out the problem on Daniels bike, it was either the ignition or the something with the fuel supply. Replacing the spark plugs did not improve the situation. We tried to leave Windhoek three times in one day and the bike always came down with the same issues some 30 km out of town.
In the end Daniel and I swopped the fuel pumps on a parking lot outside Windhoek in order to find the source of the issue. The problem was transferred with the fuel pump to my bike, thus highlighting the fuel pump as being the source of the problem. The original Africa Twin fuel pump is known to break easy, therefore we already had new mechanical pumps on the bikes. Didn’t stop it from breaking either… We went back to Windhoek and could find a low pressure fuel pump at the Quad and Bike Clinic in town. After the new pump was installed we could leave Windhoek with no problems.
We rode towards Swakopmund and stopped at the Spitzkoppe Mountain, a truly wonderful camping spot. Once you leave the main highway in Namibia its gravel roads. Most of them are in a pretty good shape and riding on them is good fun, especially with new tires!
We had a nice fire at the camp and tried to fry some marshmallows. The marshmallows didn’t really like the heat on the bike and were kind of tough to get out of the bag.
We had a funny bird at the camp who really liked our bikes mirrors.
With Swakopmund we reached the African Atlantic coast. The water is pretty cold here, around 13°C and is having a strong impact on the air temperatures close to the sea. Even though we were riding from shrubbery savanna into the sand of the Namib Desert temperatures were dropping from 34°C to around 20°C. It again felt cold while riding 😀 Swakop is an remarkable place situated in the sand dunes of the desert. The architecture reminds a lot of the old German cities along the Baltic Sea and the German population is quite strong here with many street names and stores in German. We celebrated the reaching of the Atlantic Coast with a fantastic dinner at the Swakopmund Brauhaus 😀
Swakop is pretty touristy and we made use of that by joining a tour into the desert called “the little five” where one gets the small animals of the Namib shown. After this impressive demonstration of survival in this hostile environment we went again into the desert with rented quad bikes blasting over the sand dunes, making the survival for the small animals a bit more hostile… Words cannot describe the fun we had! Our guide constantly tried to slow us down and stop us from goofing off, but no chance, just too much fun 😀
On a daytripp down to Walvis Bay we climbed the Dune No.7 which is a bit of an afford but gives a great view.
We’ve been riding a lot towards south the last months, so for a change we drove a bit north towards the Brandberg Mountain, passing Cape Cross with its very large seal colony of about 250,000 animals. For some random reasons motorbikes are not allowed on the road to the cape, but our combined persuasion skills convinced the gate keeping lady to let us through. We promised her to tell anyone, oh well…
It was the time of the year were the seals get their young and the colony was crowded with seal pups. Sounds sweat? Nope. Plenty of them die, this plus the almost unbearable stench of the colony is pretty disgusting.
From here on we left the cool sea side again towards the hot back country seeing more of the multiple facets of Namibia.
The border crossing into Zambia coming from Malawi was again a piece of cake, easy and quick that’s how we like it 😉
From Chipata we went a bit north to visit the South Luangwa National park. There we spent two nights in the croc valley camp, unfortunately a place that we can not recommend. It’s run down quite a bit, but that wasn’t the problem. They have volunteers, some european teenagers, working at the bar… that’s gone help someone in Africa for sure, but it’s good for their c.v. I guess… Anyway most of the time they were playing pool against the stuff. So you couldn’t play pool or order a beer at the bar… but the most fxxxed up thing was the treatment of the vervet monkeys. They don’t have garbage cans with a lid but a sign that says: “please don’t feed the monkeys”. But that’s exactly what you’re doing if you put anything in that garbage can. So they have plenty of monkeys all over the place that want to steal your food if you don’t watch out. Instead of getting some monkey save garbage cans those lovely pals think shooting stones at them with sling shoots would teach them not to raid the garbage… really
We did two game drives at the south Luangwa NP. First a game walk, where you walk with a guide and an armed security guy through the park. It was really cool, they show you the tracks and droppings of different animals and tell you something about the plants and insects you see on the way. The droppings were so interesting that I bought a catalog for that by now, it’s called the scatolog and will be accessible in my restroom shortly. We also saw a lot of animals and even had a glimpse at a leopard 🙂 The second game drive was a night drive, but it didn’t really pay off. It starts like a normal game drive and when it gets dark they come up with a big searchlight and sweep it from one side to the other. It feels like watching a tennis match. Unfortunately we didn’t see much, especially not the rare wild dogs… but we were a bit dizzy when we left the car 😉
We didn’t take the main road back but went for a dirt road that went next to the Luangwa River and through the park. That was the right choice, we were back in the middle of nature and the road was good to drive. Ok there were some sandy parts and we had to cross a dried out river bed or two. Ok we were lucky that it didn’t rain… like it looked like the day before we left, but everything else was perfect 😛
For the coming night we pitched our tents in the Luangwa Bridge Camp, a nice place with good food.
Passing Lusaka the capital of Zambia we went for the Lower Zambezi National park the next day. In Lusaka we visited a reptile park that also had a swimming pool. It was a rather small pool, where 10 children would fit in and 30 did 🙂 Anyway a good combination kids, crocodiles and snakes… what could possibly go wrong. Reptiles are gorgeous animals and it was a nice experience to see some of the most deadly creatures of Africa. They also sell different crocodile articles like leatherwear, jewelry and meat. That was the first time on our journey that we had the chance to taste an animal not common in Europe. Dinner that day was one kilogram crocodile tail for barbeque. The meat had a light but good taste not fishy at all, although the composition of it felt more like fish than mammal.
In the Lower Zambezi Valley we stayed in the Kiambi Safari campground from where we did a canoeing safari. It was really beautiful and one of the best “game drives” we had. The canoes get pulled up river by a motorboat and then you paddle back with the current. You move so quietly and calmly that you’re a much less disturbance for the nature then with any other vehicle we had so far. That way you see a lot of animals and can get quiet close to them. Except for the hippos, we were very clad that our guide stopped us several times from cruising straight into a hippo group or between them and the deep water. Because that’s where they want to hide and if you’re in the way to their save spot they will come for you, luckily we weren’t 🙂
The next and unfortunately already last step on our Zambia tour was Livingstone, the zambian town next to the Victoria Falls. The falls are situated directly at the border to Zimbabwe and it is possible to visit them from both sides. The sight on the falls is much better from the zimbabwean side especially out of the rain season. That’s why we decided to do some fun activities in Zambia before we go dribbdezambezi to have a good look at the falls. They have a huge range of activities that are all going to kick up your adrenalin level e.g. white water rafting, bungee jumping, kayaking, climbing and so on. David and I went for a whole day to the Gorge, Topher joint us but didn’t wanted to do the deeds, because of a lack of height tolerance ;). We started with almost 100 m abseiling (yes, that‘s how they call letting you down on a rope) at first with the face towards the mountain like you would do after a climb. The second time you do it face down, that enables you to enjoy the view down the cliff while you descent.
Next was the zip line superman, where you are attached to a wire that spans from one side of the gorge to the other. Now you run as fast as you can (the faster the wider you will go) towards the cliff and then slide along the wire over the gorge. That one isn’t too thrilling but you get a great view.
The highlight of the day was the gorge swing. Here you jump of the edge of the gorge and fall for 50 m before the safety wire spans and you begin to swing through the gorge. What a big fun that was. While falling you forget to breath and when your swinging your body is flushed by endorphins so that you’re smiling like a sloth on drugs.
For our last breakfast in Zambia Topher and I went to the devils pool. It is a natural pool in the middle of the Victoria Falls, right at the edge where the water drops down over 100 m. It can only be used while the Zambezi has a low water level, otherwise you would just get flushed down. It’s not cheap, they charge you 90 $ for a swim and a 5 star breakfast (you had to watch out not to inhale the whole thing accidentally). But it was really cool and it’s a thing you only do once in your life… well I’ve heard that before 😉
The border crossing to Zimbabwe was a bit annoying, because the zimbabwean officials wouldn’t accept our insurance, the COMESA yellow card. They told us that it was only valid for vehicles that belong to one of the countries that take part in the yellow card, but not for foreign vehicles… After 2 h hours sitting and discussing with the station boss we had no choice but to buy a new insurance for Zimbabwe. Finally we made it dribbdezambezi and reached the town of Victoria Falls. They also have lots of possibilities to make your heart beat faster. The town is much more commercial then Livingstone, in fact it was artificially build just for the tourism of the Vic Falls. Never the less it’s the first place we went since we are in Africa that I’ve already been to 🙂 about 17 years ago. The Falls are amazingly beautiful even now in the dry season when there is not too much water coming down. But just have a look for yourselves.
P.S.: Stay tuned we’re really trying to catch up with the blog but there is just too much happening all the time. And they have lots of really good beer down here, someone’s got to help them with that. Especially as a german you’ve got a high reputation regarding that and therefore it’s the responsibility for our beloved father and/or motherland and every single one of you to keep those extraordinary standards up. Prost!
During a hundred days between April and July in 1994 one of the largest genocides of the last century took place in Rwanda. To date 1.1 million dead are counted. The exact number will never be known since entire villages where wiped out without a single soul left to tell about the killed. Like most people we didn’t know much about the events leading and during the genocide and thus visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali where about 250,000 victims of the mass murder are buried in mass graves.
It all started in the 19th century with the colonization of Rwanda by the Germans. The established an artificial separation of the people in Hutu and Tutsi. The 10 % of the population owning more than 10 cows where Tutsi, the rest Hutu. After the first world war Germany lost all colonies and Rwanda was from then on controlled by the Belgians. They pushed this separation to better control the population and only Tutsi where allowed to get higher education and in higher offices. Naturally this lead to a strong imbalance in the society which summited in the well planned and fast genocide in 1994. The international community failed to intervene and even withdraw their troops from the area as the slaughter started. After the genocide the UN and the “first world” countries promised to never let such an event ever happen again. The value of this promises can plainly be evaluated when looking at the events happening right now in Syria and Iraq.
The degree of violence erupted in 1994 is described in detail in the Genocide Memorial. Killer squats with blunt weapons applied methods of cruelness I don’t want to get in detail with but showing the deep hate in the country. Apart from murder and mutilation Tutsi women were systematically raped by HIV positive man leaving 500,000 million women raped, and this is only the confirmed number!
The visit to the Memorial left us in a shocked stage. To this day I think back a lot to this visit. We still cannot figure out how the country could recover from this events. Statistically every fourth man over the age of 40 is a murderer. But surprisingly enough the country is developing very well and everywhere is a general friendly and very cheerful atmosphere. We talked to Rwandans and they said “We are all victims of the genocide, regardless of the deeds”. This seems to be a good approach to form the new Rwanda.
We returned from the Memorial to the Discover Rwanda Hostel and had a rather funny incident with our laundry. We gave them our dirty laundry the day before and where assured that it will be ready the next day. Keep in mind that it is still rainy season in Rwanda and there is at least one biblical downpour a day. We enquired about the dryness of our laundry and got the confusing reply that its wet again. Again? Yep, they hanged the laundry outside and the afternoon rain got it. We asked how they imagine the laundry to ever get dry before dry season and why they try to dry stuff in the rain. The clever reply was “the trainees did the laundry and didn’t know that they should dry it in the rain and anyway there are sometimes days without rain”. I guess one has to pick up the trainees from a very basic level…
The laundry incident had us stay a day longer at the hostel. We used the time to drive the perfect mountain road in Rwanda with the empty bikes to the Lac Kivu (Rwanda is the only French speaking country on our trip, also the only with right side traffic since Ethiopia, all the remaining countries are left side again).
The 140 km ride to the lake was probably one of the nicest rides on this trip. Perfect mountain roads, perfect tarmac and no traffic. This was in sharp contrast to the ride back, which was one of the worst during the trip. The rain hit us with thunderstorms in the mountains. No visibility since we were up in the clouds and the temperature dropped to 12°C. Since it was so hot during the day we didn’t bring any warm gear. We had to push on to reach Kigali before sunset, which didn’t work out. We returned after dark to the hostel with blue frozen hands and lips and enjoyed one of the best hot showers ever.
The next morning we left towards Tanzania. We were surprised the city which was so full of life and chaos the night before was empty just like in a zombie movie. No car on the road, almost no people to be seen. It was the last Saturday of the month, this day is a special day in the Rwandan culture. Everybody has to work on this day for the community or the family. We saw on our way out plenty of people collecting garbage, cleaning the road or the garden or doing maintenance work. Amazing. Especially when you have the fantastic roads all to yourself! On the way to the border we of course hit a big storm again. Luckily we came through after the worst was over but the freshly collapsed trees blocking the road gave us a good impression on what we missed out…
The crossing into Tanzania was hassle free and fairly fast and we did a good distance this day. With reaching Tanzania we were supposed to leave the rainy season behind us. Yet, someone forgot to inform the rain about that.
Soon our tanks were running low and we had to find an ATM and gas station. We only changed our Rwandan Francs into Tanzania Shilling at the border, which was not much. An ATM was not to be found just like something an European would call a gas station. We did get some black market gas which ensured us to be able to reach the next town with an ATM and a gas station. The town of Ushirombo was our destination. Daniel tried the ATM which unfortunately decided to switch to “out of order” with his VISA card still in. Crap! It is Saturday evening in a strange country, what do you do? The only sensible thing, ask the guy with the Kalashnikov. He politely pointed us to a man who was from this bank but obviously at this time not on duty. He went into the bank, restarted the machine and Daniel got his card back. Money though could not be obtained with foreign cards in this town. The nice guy from the bank took us to a good guesthouse for the night. To make matters more complicated it could only be paid in Tanzania Shilling, which we didn’t have. The not existing English skills of the lady weren’t exactly helping either. In Tanzania we for the first time have language issues, many people don’t speak English. Well, it’s their right, we are the guests and should soon learn some basic Swahili. Another helpful gentleman overheard us struggling with the lady and offered us to change our USD into Shilling. There are so many helpful and nice people here!
Our plan was to get fast through Tanzania and spent some time in Malawi. So the next day was a 550 km ride on the in general good highways. Only issue in Tanzania are the countless speed controls and the uncertainty of how fast we are actually allowed to go. With their old Star Trek like radar guns they are only able to measure the speed of the first of us three. So only this one has to pay even though we are obviously going the same speed. Daniel was the first to be caught. We were going 116 km/h were only 50 km/h were allowed, Whoops… In Germany you wouldn’t drive a vehicle in a long time again but here every speed offence has the same penalty, 30,000 shilling, which is 15 €. Since we all go the same speed we split the bill 😉 After this we spent the night in Manyoni.
On the day after we wanted to reach Mbeya. On the way we had to pass through Dodoma, the small capital city of Tanzania. We drove towards the Mtera Dam, where you need a special pass to be allowed over the dam. Only single file traffic is possible over the dam, so we waited at a traffic light to signal us the OK to go. When it turned green Davids bike made no sound, the electric was entirely gone. We tried to start the bike with a jumper cable. It started but would die at idle RPM. David tried to keep the engine running at high RPM and to move on but this proved to be impossible. We were 110 km away from the next town where we might have the small chance to get spare parts and especially the urgently needed internet connection to try to find the problem. The only option getting there was towing David on his bike. So we connected his bike to mine and I started towing him. I never towed anything on the bike before and it was not that easy since we soon came to a mountainous region with many sharp turns and on top of that loose gravel on the tarmac in the corners. On the way we got into a speed control. Not a joke. We were going 66 km/h in the middle of nowhere were only 50 km/h were allowed. This time we luckily could talk us out of the ticket with the argument that it’s very hard to break when towing someone…
In a special sharp corner with no visibility and gravel in the mountains a lorry cut the corner, David and I had to swirl and get slower, this lead to the towing robe getting tangled in his front wheel which instantly blocked. David had a slow speed crash, cracked his clutch lever, bended the steering a little, scratched his bike and his helmet. Helmets are really a good thing to wear. He was luckily not injured. We had to push on to reach Iringa, the next city. The last 20 km where off road with gravel and bits of sand. Really unnecessary! It was tough but we made it before sunset. Rough day.
We got a triple room in a hotel with a good yard to work on the bike and started the work. The battery was obviously totally fried but weirdly enough we couldn’t start the bike with the jumper cable or with rolling on. It looked very serious. We disassembled a lot of the bike to find the issue, but everything looked fine. On the second evening a very dark and sad “Davids journey is over” feeling got over us. David phoned many mechanics and one from BMW in Germany said, just try a good new battery. We tried it with Daniels battery and voila, the bike fired up. Strange, but who cares? Now just the problem of getting a new battery. Batteries strong enough to start a big bike are not easy to come by in Africa. One could use a car battery, but they are quite big and heavy. So we got two Boda Boda batteries, put one in the original compartment and the second in the top case, wired to the first one. This worked out. Now David has the biggest battery of us 😀
Relieved in a very good mood we started towards the Malawi border. After passing the town of Mbeya we headed south and spent the night some 40 km before the border at a nice small campground. The Bongo Camp is a community project, where the income of the camp is financing the local school. The “dinner hall” is during day time the school hall. Nice project and since the town is in the mountains we had a good temperature to sleep. We didn’t know at this time that this would have been the last cold night for a long time.
The crossing into Malawi was hassle free and free of charge for Germans (nice!) but the first time we got our vaccination passes and fever checked. The fear of Ebola reached the east. Of course you could just avoid the temperature taking by leaving through another exit or immigrate while the “doctor” is taking his 2 hour lunch break. Very effective measures.
Temperatures in Malawi god soon very high and we easily reached the 40°C plus range during day time, with the high humidity anything physically had to be avoided.
We had a short stop in Karonga and visited the Museum where some fossils from this region, including the Malawisaurus are displayed. The place is partially run by Biologists from Frankfurt, where I studied and I remembered the first semester lecture from Prof. Schrenk who is a Paleoanthropologist and discovered fossils of human ancestors here in northern Malawi.
After rushing through Tanzania we wanted to take it easy in Malawi, so we spent the next three days at the Sangilo Sanctuary directly at the Lake. The small place is run by the British man Marc who keeps plenty of animals around to not be so alone. The small zoo includes two gigantic dogs, Samson, the bigger one, weighs 78 kg, a large boar, a giant turkey, some ducks and cats.
Funny enough Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman stopped here during their “Long way Down” TV-show and Marc had some funny stories about the guys.
I heard before about the beauty of Lake Malawi but standing in the clear warm water at the sandy beaches was better than expected. Plus we had a good time with the Malawians who are in general pretty relaxed and friendly. A good place to hang out for a while.
We used the time at Sangilos to do the necessary oil and filter change on our bikes, the last one on this trip… Since we just can’t not drive our bikes for a day we took the bikes without luggage up a bad gravel road to Livingstonia, an old mission town in the refreshing “less hot” mountains with some tall water falls nearby.
We heard that the lake is also great for diving. Daniel and I wanted to get the scuba diving license and David wanted to dive as well, so we drove down to Kande Beach and started the course right away.
After three days, four open water dives and one exam Daniel and I are now certified divers! That was a fantastic experience. The lake is so warm that no wet suit is needed. Plenty of the small colorful fishes you can buy for your water tank at home originate from Lake Malawi. Diving in this lake is like diving in a warm aquarium!
The Kande Camp is heavily frequented by overland trucks. An interesting way of travelling. People book them self into such a truck and ride usually from Nairobi to Cape Town, or only a part and get off. The drivers cover very long distances in one day and long hours are spent on the trucks. The trucks tend to stop at the same places and are mostly frequented by younger customers. The commercial overland experience without any self-planning or cooking. Strange.
After 10 very nice days at the lake we had to leave Malawi. A place we definitely want t visit again!
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 😉
After working an entire day on the motorbikes I couldn’t see a screw driver anymore, which is not a problem at the beautiful Tim and Kim village since there are plenty of other things to do. I brought some fishing equipment from Germany and thus we went to the lake for a nice and relaxed fishing day. Apparently they have only Catfish, Tilapia and Brasses in this lake (except of course for the Hippos, Snakes and giant Warans, also known as Dragons or Monitors).
The plan was to first catch some Brasses and use them as a bait for the Catfish and Tilapia. Catching the Brasses was easy but we got nothing else. Kim said she could make fish cakes from the 8 Brasses we caught. Nice! It was a great spot at the lake and we were visited every now and then by a rather large Snake in the water which checked out if we were still around, saw us and left again. I guess we were in its favorite exit spot. Kim said it was probably a Cobra, which are found in this area.
As the only guests we had every evening dinner with Kim and Mabratu, who does a lot around this place.
The next day David was supposed to come, but we didn’t know exactly when so the two of us scheduled a canoe trip around the lake with Mabratu. Just when we were about to leave David arrived and joined us for the trip. We saw some Warans on the rocks and visited one of the twenty monastery’s on the lake Tana. Only males are allowed to set food on this island, this goes to the extent that only male animals are kept on the island, so now omelet for breakfast. They are still not sure what to do about the birds flying over the island. The low living standard of the monks was impressive. No electricity, not a single machine, their church bell is an old artillery shell from the days of the italian occupation. People in Europe pay thousands to escape civilization. They should spent two weeks working on one of these islands. One of the monks told us he was attacked by two Hippos an hour earlier on the way in. We (luckily) didn’t see a Hippo.
The next morning we left the village direction Gonder. We had a great time at this place. If you are ever near Gorgora make sure to drop by the Tim and Kim village.
We took a longer but way better maintained dirt road over Aykel which was pretty easy except for one deep river crossing. It is still rainy season in the north, so there is a lot of water and we certainly get wet at least once a day on the bikes.
We reached Gonder on the 15th of September, the day before my birthday but on this trip we go to bed so early that we weren’t able to stay up until midnight 😀
The next day was fully packed. We went to see the old castle in Gonder, build by the Amharic kings some 400 years ago. After that we mounted our bikes and headed direction Lalibela, which I liked to see on my birthday. But, the ride was too long and the last 60 km were offroad of unknown quality. The opinions ranged from easy going to close to impossible. So we decided to spent the night in an hotel completely occupied by Chinese workers. They build the roads in Ethiopia and are all over the place (which will come in handy at some point, but more later). The road took us up to 3300 m and we even had some snow along the road. A nice birthday present, with the amazing winding roads and breathtaking views in the Ethiopian highlands. Just the engines lose a lot of power in the thin air.
We pretty much only average 50 km/h on the good roads. We always have to search a lot for fuel, most gas stations have non or only sell it to locals. Forengis (this is how white people are called here) are directed to the black market to pay up to 3 times the regular price. This is very unnerving. In general we are considered as a wallet on wheels. Everybody asks for ridicules prices and most don’t haggle, so no deal. We have been approached countless times by completely healthy, well-dressed man in their twenties demanding money because we are white. This attitude is unfortunately tainting our in general good view on this beautiful country. The second, even worse habit here is the throwing of things at forengi vehicles. There are many people along the street and many pick up stones and sticks and either pretend to throw them, which is scary enough, or actually throw them at us. Daniel and I got hit already once each, luckily nothing serious, since we always wear the protective gear. I never thought it will protect me from mentally insane Ethiopians… Another “sport” is to pretend to jump in front of the bike. This is always a bit shocking. The weirdest thing is, they are super happy, laughing, smiling, waving and the next second they do these things. It’s very hard for us to understand.
There are very much children in Ethiopia, many stand along the street, watching the cattle or doing work on the fields (or just throw stuff at motorbikes). You honestly cannot stop in this gigantic country without a second later having a bunch of kids jumping out of the next bush screaming “youyouyou” and “give me money”.
The next morning we challenged the unknown 60 km off road to Lalibela. They were just super fun and we blasted along the dirt track, which was in general in a good condition, taking us from 3000 m, down to 1800 m and up to 2500 m again.
We reached Lalibela quite early and did the tour around the rock churches. Its 50 USD for forengis and free for Ethiopians (they are a bit racist around here). Anyway worth every penny. These 11 buildings, carved out of the rock during the reign of king Lalibela with the help of angels almost a 1000 years ago definitely belong to the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. And they are all in use, still every day services are hold in every church. A very special place. Since back in the days of King Lalibela the voyage to the Holy Land was very dangerous the smart King decided to rebuild the Holy Land in Ethiopia. You find everything significant symbolized, like the river Jordan, Nazareth, Jerusalem or Mount Ararat here.
Our guide in Lalibela strongly suggested us to also visit the oldest church around here, Yemrehanna Kristos, some 40 km north. So the next day we took the dirt road there and it was worth it. Again a very nice and spiritual place in the mountains. Around 500 human skeletons of people who wanted to be buried here are scattered around the church.
We had to take the same road again, plus the 60 km from Lalibela to the main road. We start to really like the dirt tracks 🙂 Our next destination was Bahir Dar, at the south end of the Lake Tana, but this couldn’t be done in one day so we slept in a Hotel on the road again. While unloading the bikes Daniel noticed a broken connection of his luggage system. That’s what you get from the fun on the dirt tracks 😀 Luckily we found a guy who get this part welded and he charged only 30 Birr (around 1 €, finally not a forengi price). With the fixed rack we made it to Bahir Dar where we found a nice place to sleep directly next to the lake.
From Bahir Dar it’s not far to the Blue Nile Falls. Surprisingly this was a very bad road again and on the way back it started to heavily rain, thus making the road not any better… We are very happy about our nice off road tires. They do a pretty good job. Who ever said you can mostly travel through Africa on tarmac must have used a different route.
From the falls we headed in the direction Addis Ababa, since we only left at 2 in the afternoon it would have been impossible to reach there in one go. The area was pretty remote and only dirt roads for the next 200 km. Luckily Daniel hat a hotel along the route in his Tracks4Africa GPS system. Like I said, bush camping is very difficult with all these people around. We reached the location of the hotel some 30 min before sunset. Unfortunately there was no trace of any hotel or anything comparable, just corn fields. Bummer… Opportunities were running out with the setting sun. Driving at night on the dirt roads is suicidal and the next hotel was some 80 km away. We continued riding in the hope to find anyplace suitable for a bush camp. Than we passed a Chinese road workers camp. They didn’t speak any English but we could make them understand that we would like to pitch our tent in their compound and that was ok. Daniel and I slept in a small hut and David preferred to pitch his tent. At night the gates were closed and only some prostitutes came in and out but obviously they knew the way to which rooms they want to go. At night a strong thunder storm hit us rendering the small hut as not the most suitable place to sleep since the rain found its way through the roof. Daniel and I quickly pitched a tent inside the hut and could get some rather uncomfortable sleep.
We left pretty early the next morning to reach Addis. First we had to tackle some 170 km of dirt road with changing grades of badness. Additionally, plenty of animals and people were on the road again. I said over our radio intercom, which we all use, that at this point I just want to get out of Ethiopia without killing someone or something. 10 min later David hit a rooster. That poor guy was done. No chance to avoid the animal. We stopped, the locals were just shrugging their shoulders. Seamed to be no big deal. David gave the owner 100 Birr, apparently more than its value and everything was fine. Sadly, this animal died for nothing. If an animal is not killed in the religious right way it will not be eaten.
The road got worse, at some point we reached a pretty deep river. Daniel just blasted through while David and I watched. Daniel somehow made it through and got almost stuck on the underwater rocks. It looked in no way like we would like to do the same. We found a way on to the bridge which was constructed over the river and crossed the river on that bridge. Not easy either, but still better than going through the river and get stuck there.
Finally we found some tarmac and continued towards Addis along the Nile Gorge. An amazing place. The road descents from 3000 m to 1200 m up to 3200 m again. At the bottom it’s pretty warm and baboons are all over the place.
The drive took a lot of time and 100 km out of Addis we had two hours before sunset. Doable, right? Nope. We should have just called it a day and find a place outside Addis to sleep. But we were so eager to make it to Addis that we pushed on. We reached the city boundaries at sunset and it started to rain (of course). We were looking for the “Wim’s Holland House”, a famous overlander place in Addis. The city is a mess right now since they build a new train track crossing the whole town. Many streets were not existing anymore or in an even worse condition than any off road we’ve done so far. That’s not a joke. So in the rain, the pitch dark, on the worst streets ever with no proper navigation and after 13 hours on the bikes, in an 7 million city we managed to find Wim’s at some point. What a great moment! We had a good dinner and a beer and went to bed right away. My advice, enter Addis at daylight!
Here in Addis we have some stuff to do and try to leave towards Kenya on Friday the 26th.taking the infamous Moyale route. Supposed to be the hardest off road on this trip. Let’s see if this holds true against Addis at night. Internet is hard to come by here and mostly too slow to update the blog. You’ll find some additional infos, pictures and even videos on our friends site www.motorrad-tour.info