Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Our arrival in Nairobi was not under great conditions!  As soon as we settled at JJ's, we started to inquire about the road north and the news was not good: the rains destroyed parts of the road, leaving behind deep ruts; bikers falling multiple times, even though they were much lighter than we were, with reports of one biker fracturing his arm 4 times in the same day in 4 different places.  We then inquired at the Ethiopian Embassy about the visa and they asked us (again) about the Carnet de Passage!!! Without that, they said, no visa is possible.  I cannot believe that I got so much trouble with this Carnet with an African registered bike! 
Now we were virtually stranded, half way through Africa and with not much time to spare, as we were rushing to get to Europe before Christmas.  After all possible solutions debated, I decided to head to Nairobi airport to see what options I have to ship the bike out.  We went to Turkish Airlines Cargo and with tremendous headaches, we managed to find a spot on their Cargo Plane from Nairobi to Istanbul.  The day I took the bike was the worse day of our trip so far: it took me 6 hours to fight with the corrupt officials at the airport to be able to ship this bike out.  First, they said I need to crate the bike, I said no: "Roll on, roll off!" I shouted, pushing my luck.  After a while, they said OK, but I need to pay by volume and told me the volume is that of a car... I started to lose my cool and I took a tape measure and measured it myself, coming down in volume by more than half of what they initially said.  Then, they said I need to remove the fuel and the battery.  I said, there is no fuel and I remove no battery, but just disconnect 1 terminal.  Then they decided that the bike needed to be first imported in the country and pay the import taxes and then be exported.  This is when I lost it: I went to the top officials and started threatening that if they don't let me go I will make sure I go on the news channels and tell everyone how corrupt they are... why import a foreign vehicle that was in the country for a short while only to export it few hours later?  Eventually, when they saw that I am not giving up, the top official from Turkish airline came down personally and told me that things will work out due to my determination and maybe threats.  But, no one from the airport wants to pack my bike.  I told him, I will pack it myself.  So, they gave me a Turkish Airline vest and I went all the way to the plane and loaded and strapped down my own bike on the platform and left the airport.  I was ready to faint...

We flew with Turkish Airlines few hours after the cargo plane, so we virtually arrived in Istanbul together with our bike.  I must say here that among the great corruption and manipulation in Nairobi, we discovered a young lady, a cargo agent who fought for us like a tigress and eventually got the better of the big guys.  Her name is Elizabeth and for reasons that need no explanation I will not disclose her full details, but if any of you are ever in need to ship your bike from Nairobi, let me know and I will give you her email to save you some headaches.

Once we arrived in Istanbul, I was shocked how fast and headache free the process was at the Cargo Terminal.  I was wondering around the area,  not knowing exactly what to do when a couple of Turkish guys saw me and came, took my papers and within 1 hour, my bike was out of the terminal.  There were Customs agents there that helped me and never asked anything in return and they personally took care that I was served with coffee, tea, biscuits, etc while I was waiting.  I could not believe how fast things work there, after the stress I endured in Nairobi.  Thank you Turkey and Turkish Airlines for an amazing efficiency!

Below, you will find some photos of Turkey (although we spent few days, as we were heading for Greece for warmer weather.  From the 40 degrees of Dar Es Salaam, the change was too fast to 4 degrees in Turkey and we literally froze ourselves.  For me, it felt very good, but Carmen was not that impressed!

Entering Greece was  a pleasure: the landscapes, the weather, and most of all, the people, which I think are some of the most hospitable and friendly people you will find in Europe.  I don't think we ever ate anywhere without receiving free drinks and free desserts.  We once were looking to buy some oranges and asked the local restaurant owner where we can buy some and he turned to some of his customers and they said: "Oh, we owned citrus farms, come with us".  Within minutes, we picked 25 kg of oranges, mandarin, grapefruit and lemons and he did not want any money.  He looked at me and he said: "This is who Greek people are and look at what the West did to the Greek people".  I was very sad by his suffering, as we can see how the country is under recession but the resilience and beauty of these people will eventually win back the world to them.  We are in love with Greece so far and we will restlessly tell everyone to come visit it.

Enjoy the photos, we enjoy Europe so far!


 The fantastic Turkish tea, which warmed us up many times in the wet, cold weather

 Entering Greece, towards Thessaloniki.
 4 degrees outside, so bundling was a very complex process, especially for Carmen!

 Few of the many kgs of oranges we ate and the beautiful orchards that are full of citrus even in December

 The great little town of Nafplio, on the Pelopponesse Peninsula.  We fell in love with this place

 Epidavros Theatre, 1400 BC, still standing.  If you stand in the middle of the circle and just whisper, it can be heard all the way to the top.  We tested it!

 Unreal landscapes in a splendid country.
 Changing of the guard at the Athens Parliament building

Saturday, 7 December 2013


After a short rest (although we were planning a longer sejour, but due to the humidity and mosquitoes and over population and many other reasons, we decided to move on) we are heading to Nairobi.  The road winds now beautifully towards Northern Tanzania, upwards towards the majestic Kilimanjaro and Meru.

It took us 3 hours to get out of Dar Es Salaam at 6 in the morning.  As we pack the bike around 5:00 in South Beach, we are sweating already as the humidity is very high.  I hate every second of it... dressed with bike boots, pants and jackets is not a pleasant thing in any conditions, but much more so in 100% humidity.  Finally we load the bike and we head out... Few hundred meters later, Carmen tells me that we are missing a bag; I stop, look and discover that the bag with our DJI Phantom quadcopter and 360 camera is not there anymore.  "But I packed it myself" I shout at Carmen.  She looks at me confused... I look around and see that the netting that I tied the bag is loose, hanging between the muffler and the side case.  I go back and find the bag, full of dust, somewhere in the bush.  I pick it up, while the river Nile is flowing under my jacket, leaving traces of salt on my skin.  I throw the bag under the net and open the throttle so I can get out of this place.
We jump on the dirty ferry from Kigomboni to Dar, it is full of vendors and bikes and people and everyone is gathering around our bike to examine closer.  The stench is spectacular: between the sweat of the poor people, the fumes of the trucks and buses that never stop their engines, the rotten fish from the fish market nearby and the fact that I didn't brush my teeth make me want to throw myself into the Indian Ocean.  It was the longest 9 minutes of my life.

Once on the other side, we jump on the bike and slowly make our way out of Dar;  by 9:00 am!!! :(, three hours later.

As soon as you leave the coast, the road becomes windy and the air fresh and crisp.  As we approach the mountains, humidity disappears and although still in the high 30's, it is a very pleasant ride.  Northern Tanzania is extremely beautiful, with great aloe vera plantations, pineapple fields and lots of Jack fruit trees.  The villages are cleaner and spread all over the hills and slowly we start seeing the great plains of the Masaai tribe with their great herds of cattle and amazingly colorful dresses.

Suddenly the road becomes bad with lots of deviations through soft sand and deep mud in places.  It is getting cooler, as we see the clouds hanging on top of Kilimanjaro about 70 km away.  We fall in mud, twice, I pick the bike and walk it out with the help of my engine and an old man that came to our help.  Carmen is filming me deep in the mud while shouting at the old man to push.  The poor guy is so small but he nevertheless pulls up his pants and helps me get out.  I give him 1 dollar and he is ecstatic.
After 5 hours of negotiating the deviations, I am getting very tired.  By the time we reach Arusha, it is 11 hours since we left Dar and we only made 650 km.  As I pull into the hotel in Arusha, I shake so badly due to fatigue that I drop the bike on top of me in the middle of the road.  People rush to help me but I just get out from under it and start kicking it like a mad man.  Carmen, luckily, was already away from it, as she got out earlier to take some photos and she just witnesses this outrage.

We rest that night, sticky from the humidity in Dar and dusty from all the roadworks.  Looking back to this now, we smile and keep all this as a fond memory of East Africa, but it wasn't so pretty at the time.
I spend some time alone in the balcony, while Carmen is taking a shower... How many unknown days ahead of us now?  I am thinking of the road north of Nairobi, the road to hell as they call it.  It is rainy season in Kenya and I am already reading blogs of other bikers that had major problems there.  I love life on a bike... I think as I look at the beautiful Mt. Meru hovering above my head.  I love the hustle and bustle of it all and I love the surprises that the trip throws at us every day.

Early morning, as I pack the bike, a few of the hotel guests are gathering around me, curious about the bike and us.  Most of them are rich Somalis, dressed in fancy clothes and wearing great jewelry.  They all took photos with us and displayed them very proudly on their phones.

We head out of town towards the north for the Kenyan border; 4 years ago I crossed the same road from Nairobi in two 4X4 cars and the road was terrible.  It was under construction and we were forced to drive on the rocky side- road.  Now, it is brand new: beautiful tarmac, winding through the majestic mountains and Masaai plains.  It is 17 degrees now and I love the cold feeling of riding the bike.  The bike loves it too.

We arrive quickly at the Kenyan border and while we got the visa fast, the customs is killing me over my bike.  They are asking me for a Carnet de Passage and I keep telling them that being registered in Africa, my bike does not need a Carnet.  For almost 2 hours we hassled in the Customs office and eventually they give me 7 days to get on the other side of the country at Moyale, Ethiopia.

The ride to Nairobi is eventless and we ride into Jungle Junction Camp around 4 pm.  We set up camp and I go inside to meet the other overlanders: it is quiet here, compared to other times where you can meet here up to 60-70 people that from all over the place.  Now, there are two South Africans that are coming from Europe with their Land Rover, an elderly couple with a large truck (he is Swiss and she is South African), 3 Japanese young people walking around the world and we find out that we just miss our friends from Finland, Heikki and Ulla that just left for Moyale on their BMW 1200 GS.

We speak a little bit with everyone, just to introduce ourselves and hit the mattresses.  New country, new challenges.

1000 km, no accidents (other than dropping the bike and falling a couple of times), no issues with the bike, nothing seems to rattle or be loose on the bike, so I am content.

 Aloe-vera plantations in Northern Tanzania

 Talking about dedication to sell something: while the buses are moving people are still buying fruit
 the beautiful mountains in Northern Tanzania, approaching the Kili and Meru Peaks.  Kilimanjaro was, unfortunately under cloud, but Meru was a beauty to behold.

The incredible Masaai Plains (above) and its proud people

Saturday, 30 November 2013


5:00 AM, Thursday Morning; it is already 28 degrees as we load our last packs on the bike.  As I strap them tight to the side cases, I wonder how the bike is going to perform.  We are way overloaded: the manual strongly insists to not load the bike more than 469 kg, including the weight of the bike, the accessories, the passengers and the fuel.  We are somewhere at 490 all together.  Hmmm... I wonder!

We say goodbye to Maramba, it was our home for 4 months now and we head out slowly, wobbling around, trying to find our balance as we exit the gates of the lodge.  It is 5 in the morning and I am sweating already; I hate it.  We stop to fuel up in town and head out of Livingstone... the odometer shows 30300 km as we leave the town.

Soon we are settled on the road, making our way North East towards Lusaka, through Zimba, Kalomo, Choma, Monze, Mazabuka, Kafue and heading towards Fringilla Farm.  The road is perfect to start with, good warm up for the bike and us, no issues whatsoever.  As we ride on, I noticed that the fuel consumption is getting better instead of worse.  With an overloaded bike we use 4.8 l per 100 km. I rode the bike empty many times and the best I had was 5.0 l per 100 km.  I think the Japanese have got it all wrong and I love them all the more for their strange technology!

As we approach Lusaka, from Kafue on we see the diversions and the roadworks.  Lots of vibration as we hit the gravel.  The Chinese company that is building the road decided to dump molasses on the gravel to keep the dust to a minimum.  The bike and our boots are black of molasses and sand and we smell like rotten sugar...  However, the bike does not even blink, it plows through without any complaints.

We reach Lusaka, get some money from ATM at Barclays and head out from the craziness of the city to the peaceful and beautiful Fringilla Farm, 50 km outside of the capital.  I love Fringilla; it is owned by a very old South African man that is very loved by the locals.  The food is beautiful, mostly grown on their farm, the meat comes from their own butchery and the natural setting is splendid.

 As we set up the tent I noticed next to us an interesting looking tree with some kind of apples.  I ask the guard what is it and he says: "African green apple".  I knock a few down and we both taste them;  they are extremely sweet and filling and of an excellent flavor.

Early in the morning we have breakfast (coffee, tea, cereal) then we pack and head out.  We learned in all our camping past to know how to pack everything quickly and efficiently.  In 15 min the tents and the rest of the belongings are on the bike.  We have a storage tent and a sleeping tent; this way the camp looks clean.

We are heading to Mpika today, few hours from Tanzania border.  There are no issues again with the bike, just with the roads up there.  They have built a brand new road to Mpika, but so badly engineered that it is worse than the old one.  It has so many uneven surfaces that the bike rattles worse than ever before.  I am certain it will break apart any moment now.  Our bones are shaken heavily and soon I get pissed and Carmen tells me to relax, not much we can do about it.  As we approach Mpika, as if there wasn't enough stress, we find that the road people in front are dumping small rock pebbles on the road.  We start getting hit by the passing trucks that drive like maniacs and the rocks are hitting us like bullets.  I get one in the left arm and start yelling in my helmet.  The bike is getting hit on all sides. I slow down... Few kilometers from Mpika we find the road truck dumping the rocks right in front of our bike.  I start yelling again, this time for them to stop while I pass.  They don't understand what is wrong with me...

We stay at Melodies Lodge, eat some crap from the next door restaurant (chicken and chips is the safest thing to eat once you enter Central and East Africa) and go to bed.  Early morning we head out after a brief coffee cup and a biscuit.  We think we will make the border by 10 am; we are wrong...

Soon after passing Mpika we hit terrible potholes and the road narrows to one lane with broken sides and deep ruts.  On top of this we meet the crazy petrol tankers coming from Tanzania to deliver fuel to Zambia.  I think we have passed over 100 fuel trucks in a space of 2 hours.  They come towards you with speeds over 120 km/hour trashing everything in their paths.  They do not care if there are potholes, or people or donkeys and especially motorbikes like ours.  We are forced many times to run almost in the bush as they are passing each other at great speeds and leave no space for incoming traffic.  You will see in the pictures below some of the accidents we saw (and we saw many).  It was the single most stressful day of all my African riding so far ( and at that time I had already 50.000 km of riding in Africa alone).

As we approach the border the road becomes shattered with deep potholes and soft sand. We are anxious to get out so we hope to see the border any minute.

We arrive at the Tunduma, Tanzania border at 1:00 pm, 7 hours from Mpika, and we did only 290 km.  Exhausted, heated up and sticky, we head to the mayhem at the border, harassed by "agents" that tell you what you have to do as far as paperwork is concerned.  Thousands of people roam to and fro selling everything from sim cards to couches and shoes.  Everyone wants our business as we are pretty much the only Muzungus (white people) there that day.  We are instantly surrounded by hundreds of people.  2 hours later, with all the paperwork done, we leave for Mbeya. The roads are great, the villages large and landscapes, fantastic.  We breathe a little bit.

We stay at Tughimbe Imperial Hotel (sounds pompous but it only cost 15 dollars for both of us including breakfast)
We rest that night and in the morning we head towards Morogoro, 650 km away.
We ride through good roads but now another great obstacle awaits us in Tanzania: the famous, or I should say infamous, speed humps.  Tanzania has 4 different kinds of humps: 3 small, closed to each other, bumps, followed by 6, also small but sharp edged, bumps, then a very large one, like a hill but sharp (I hit my bike underneath countless times) and finally a series of high and sharp ones.  Once you cross the whole country, you want to kill yourself.  It is the single most disgusting thing I have seen in Tanzania.  But it is the only way to slow down the maniacs that are driving in that country.  The buses are called the Buses of Death, they are involved in the most accidents, traveling at speeds up to 160 km per hour with overloaded capacity.  When they overturn or hit something, the death toll is great.
After 11 hours of hell, we arrive in Morogoro.  As you approach Morogoro you have to go through the Valley of Death, a steep, narrow gorge, with absolutely no visibility and full of trucks and buses that are passing each other regardless of who might be coming in front.  Then you go through the beautiful Baobab forest and through Mikumi National Park and then you hit Morogoro.  We arrived again dirty, sticky from the humidity and exhausted.  All we do is jump into the shower and go to bed.  Tomorrow, our final leg to Bagamoyo.

Early morning we have a quick breakfast and head out.  Dar Es Salaam is in front and I have been there before, I know what is awaiting us.  I don't tell Carmen, otherwise I worry her for nothing.  We will deal with it when we see it.
From Morogoro the landscape changes dramatically, from mountains to large coconut plantations, aloe vera farms and rolling hills.  Few kilometers from Dar Es Salaam, the mayhem starts...  They are doing roadworks, so if it was bad before, now it is beyond imagination: thousands of buses, trucks, cars, stuck for hours, intermingled with carts with bananas pulled by people, and many motorbikes.  I squeeze our bike in between trucks and buses, millimeters away from their wheels.  Carmen is stressed and pinches me from the back once in a while.  I keep quiet and focused.  After many close calls, we find the road north to Bagamoyo and head out of Dar.  Half an hour later, we pitch our tent at Travelers Lodge.

No accidents to report yet, no issues with the bike, we dodged several close calls, but our first leg of 2500 km went slowly but OK.

 leaving Livingstone at 5:00
 somewhere on the road...
 Fringilla Farm camping
 Local markets that supply us with our fruit and bread
 the terrible road to the Tanzanian border

 at Tunduma Border

 passing through the Sad Hill Eucalyptus Forest
 somewhere, at the bottom of that white eucalyptus you can see Carmen

 Few of the many accidents we saw on the road

 Mikumi River, winding down through the Mountains of Tanzania
 Fellow bikers, in all villages we were very well received and greeted

 the mayhem of Dar
 Bagamoyo camp
 The beach on the Indian Ocean at Bagamoyo
 David Livingstone's church in Bagamoyo

 More mayhem in traffic and on the ferry to Kigomboni beach

 Some of the great fruit we ate: the jack fruit (weighing a whopping 7kg) and lots of local pineapple