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