Travel Log Tales - Africa

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MotoCP
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Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by MotoCP » Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:59 pm

Had a bit of a new year clear out this weekend and found my old travel log diary.

Whilst flicking through the pages my mind rolled back the 24 years and I though the following tale might be worth telling;


‘Sole’ Searching.....

Back in 97’, I embarked on a trans-African trip with my life long mate Richard (I call him ‘Dick’).
We were around three months into our overland journey and heading West through Tanzania to visit the Ngorongoro crater aboard our Yamaha Tenere’s.

After studying the trusty Michelin map earlier that morning, we were excited to see that the road would take us within spitting distance of Kilimanjaro, but due to low cloud it had been completely obscured all day.

We were therefore somewhat disappointed to be passing by without seeing it, especially as we’d considered taking a week out of our journey to trek up the giant but decided to keep on riding due to Dick suffering with increased bouts of fatigue.
A few days later his health deteriorated rapidly and was diagnosed with malaria so it’s fortunate we didn’t attempt the 19,341ft accent.

Anyway, after riding miles of broken, badly potholed tarmac, we were enjoying the unusually good road surface that allowed us to drop our guard, but still remain cautious of the reckless coach drivers that were heading to and from Dar es Salaam.

Whilst having a road side fag break earlier that morning we witnessed a ‘near miss’ when a fully laden coach came barreling down the hill towards us.
He drafted past so close we had to stop our bikes from tipping over before watching in horror as the vehicle started weaving across both lanes just as another coach approached from around a corner in the distance.
The anticipation of being the only witnesses to a multi casualty head on crash, we both stood hands on heads fearing the worst.

Using gravity, the driver managed to find a bit more speed to pull the vehicle back in line just seconds before passing the other coach with barely a visible gap between them.

Whilst speaking to a local chap later that day, I asked why the drivers put themselves and their passengers at such risk to which he responded with a shrug of the shoulders and said “insha'Allah’.

This reinforced our opinion that the drivers must consider their actions inconsequential if they were destined to die that day.

It was passing one of these coaches that our relaxed ride turned into a serious situation in the blink of an eye.

Following Dick past a small village, we viewed the empty straight road ahead so both accelerated to overtake the vehicle.

After completing the maneuver we pulled back onto our side of the road and sat at around 60mph a few hundred feet ahead of the coach.

It was at this point that Dick’s front tyre exploded, causing the biggest tank slapper I’ve ever witnessed.

I watched in horror as his handle bars whipped violently from side to side, leaving a trail of front tyre skid marks that resembled the pattern a snake leaves when traversing sand.

Recounting the incident later, Dick said his perception of time slowed down, allowing his brain to process the life threatening situation and decide upon a fight or flight reaction.

As fight was his only option, he had no choice but to wrestle his overland laden machine to stay upright whilst gradually slowing down without touching the brakes.

His grip was no match for the rapid oscillation of handle bars that whipped back and forth, smashing the clutch and brake lever into his fingers, leaving bruises that remained for several weeks after the event.

On seeing his predicament, I dropped back slightly in an attempt to shield him from the coach that was bearing down on us whilst shouting to myself ‘HOLD IT, HOLD IT, HOLD IT’ as events played out.

After what felt like an eternity, he brought his bike to a wobbly stop at the verge just as the coach, horn blazing, swept past without slowing down.

Dick immediately dismounted, whipped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground in a fit of rage before reaching to his breast pocket for a calming roll up whilst shouting a string of expletives.

We inspected his bike to see what had caused the blow out and were shocked to see a badly ripped tyre, buckled front rim and a number of snapped spokes.

He said, after checking his mirror he’d glanced down at something in the middle of the road just feet ahead but couldn’t react quickly enough to avoid it.

I therefore jumped back on my bike and went In search of the item causing ‘foreign object damage’.

On returning a few minutes later there were three young lads observing the ‘Mzungu’ removing his wheel at the roadside, so I presented them with my finding In an upturned hand whilst gesturing with a shrug to see if they knew what it was.

On producing a metal cylinder that was around 2” diameter and 5” long, Dick shouted “yes that’s what I hit. It was stood vertical in the road”.

Remaining silent, one of the kids pointed up to a telegraph pole and we realized it was some sort of sleeve/spacer for the cable mounts.

Under a cloud of suspicion, we set about removing the damage tyre, thankful that we were both carrying a spare.

As Dick threw the knackered tyre to one side, the crouching kids leapt to their feet and pursued the tyre as it bounced and rolled down the verge.
We then observed a tug of war before they were interrupted by me asking why they wanted the tyre?

One by one they lifted a foot to proudly show me their home made sandals shod with shredded coach/wagon tyres.

Despite seeing my eyes widen with realization that I was looking at the culprits, they seemed totally oblivious to how I might react and were more preoccupied with their newly won rubber sole material.

Like a headmaster reprimanding naughty children, I held up the offending item and said “YOU LOT nearly killed my friend with this. That was very dangerous!”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote “Language is the source of misunderstandings.’ and looking through the lens at these kids smiling for a photo before walking off to ‘up-cycle’ the knackered Pirelli, we wondered if they had any notion or care that their basic needs had put us at great risk.
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Our attention was then drawn back to the task in hand as Dick crouched over the wheel and said “I hope this new tube doesn’t balloon out between the tyre and dinted rim!”

On approaching to assist, I was stopped in my tracks by the backdrop. “Wow Dick! Look behind you!”.

Standing together, we gazed in awe, as once again this magical continent dealt another unforgettable moment.

There, rising up from the plain beneath a silver lined halo of cloud, was Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world.

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boboneleg
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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by boboneleg » Sun Jan 03, 2021 9:33 pm

That's a great story and obviously one you'll never forget .
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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by zimtim » Sun Jan 03, 2021 11:11 pm

Good read. thanks for sharing
I had a pair of flip-flops made from old tyres fantastically comfortable and lasted years.

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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by Hall » Sun Jan 03, 2021 11:41 pm

I had a pair of tyre soled veldskoen they were so comfortable until I fell asleep next to the fire after a load of kipping and coke ,it was on simon fouries infamous desert runs :shock:
Aka "jkay"

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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by dibbs » Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:52 am

Great story Chris! you do have a way with words and should consider a book of your trip, I'm sure a lot of people would like to read your escapades.... Now tell us the one about Dick and his candle lol... I'm still laughing about it these days (shouldn't really) :D

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mark vb
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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by mark vb » Mon Jan 04, 2021 5:18 pm

Can you tell us a bit more about the Tenere/s (3AJ by the look of it)? In fact, as much as possible regarding ownership, reliability, issues, and indeed anything else. I last saw a 3AJ exactly a year ago in India, and sometimes wonder if the owner ever got back to France before the first lockdown.

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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by MotoCP » Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:16 pm

dibbs wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:52 am
Great story Chris! you do have a way with words and should consider a book of your trip, I'm sure a lot of people would like to read your escapades.... Now tell us the one about Dick and his candle lol... I'm still laughing about it these days (shouldn't really) :D
Eh Up Phil.

Thanks for the kind words mate but I lack the skill, patience and time to write a book (Even during a lock down!).

Your suggestion reminds me of a brief conversation we had with a Canadian chap as we were just about to leave the municipal campsite at Victoria Falls.
We were running late leaving that morning due to beer induced lethargy from celebrating the previous evening after surviving white water rafting and a bungee jump.

Bikes loaded & engines running we were just about to release the clutches in desperation for some cool flowing air after sweating the mid morning sun whilst braking camp.

Our progress was halted by a tall Canadian chap, supporting a porn star mustache, who on noticing our GB license plates said;

“Are you guys from the UK?”
We nodded.
“Have you ridden here?”
I replied, “Yes, were just about head for the border into Botswana”.
He looked at his wife and becoming more excited said “Whoa there boys, ya gotta tell us about your adventure”.
“I’m sorry mate but we’re really pushed for time as we’re late leaving”.
Standing to one side he said “Well I hope your going to write a book about your journey?”

“Errr....we not planning to”

Looking disappointed he said “Well you need to write some magazine articles!”.

I gave the throttle a blip and with a smile said “Well....maybe.”

He causally glanced over his shoulder to check his wife was out of earshot and leaned closer to say.
“Listen man. You must write about it because it’s guys like me that are sat at home jerking off on this sort of thing”

Pulling away, we nodded a good bye and both laughed as he skewed his mouth to one side and gave us both an exaggerated wink.....

Yes your right Phil, the candle story should be told at some point.

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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by MotoCP » Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:24 pm

mark vb wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 5:18 pm
Can you tell us a bit more about the Tenere/s (3AJ by the look of it)? In fact, as much as possible regarding ownership, reliability, issues, and indeed anything else. I last saw a 3AJ exactly a year ago in India, and sometimes wonder if the owner ever got back to France before the first lockdown.
Hi Mark,

Yes we both bought second hand Tenere 3AJ’s for the trip.
At the time they were around 7/8 years old with approx 12,000 miles on the clock when we set off.
I bought mine with a £1400 redundancy payout.
They were a solid choice for over-landing due to renown single cylinder reliability, comfy seat and standard 23 litre tank.
We picked the same model of bike so we could split one set of tools & spares between us (Clutch plates, throttle & clutch cable bought for peanuts at a scrap yard) but didn’t need any of them.
We didn’t upgrade anything, just added home made racks/panniers and jubilee clipped a cut down section of black soil pipe with a stop end & lockable rodding eye to the bash plate to carry our tools, tyre levers and foot pump.
We had no major mechanical issues, just a few niggles. That’s the beauty of old bikes that aren’t full of electronics. If it won’t run, you just check for fuel/air/spark.
My bike cut out twice during the six month trip. The first time was on a desert road in the middle of nowhere and when I opened the petrol cap I heard the tank suck air in, so it was a vacuum issue. It was just ‘bull dust’ that had blocked the breather in the petrol cap
The second issue was a broken battery terminal so I just used a cut down piece of inner tube as a large rubber band around the battery and live cable which lasted the rest of the trip.

The biggest issue on my bike was that the rear shock was under sprung so constantly bottomed out as the terrain got rougher whilst riding through Egypt. This caused the chain to contact the swinging arm and started wearing a deep groove into it.
We therefore found a camp site in Giza (near the pyramids) so I removed the shock and jumped on the back of Dick’s bike to head into Cairo to find a back street fabricator.
He cut and punched a sheet of metal making a dozen large diameter washers to pre-load the shock spring and bring the rear of the bike back up to height.
Whilst waiting in the heat of his workshop he sent his lad off to treat us to a nice cold bottle of coke each and then on completing the job, charged us the equivalent of four quid. He was happy with the profitable job and I was chuffed to cure the issue, allowing us to continue with the journey.

We travelled through fifteen countries and rode nearly 14,000 miles before shipping the bikes back to the UK from Cape Town (to satisfy the requirements of the carnet).

On returning, I held onto the bike for a few months but reluctantly had to sell it (for a grand) to help pay off the 7k loan that the total trip had cost (mostly on beer!).

If you’ve any questions just shout.

Regards Chris
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Tonibe63
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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by Tonibe63 » Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:43 am

Thanks for the thread and the latest update Chris ..... much needed. Often I read ride reports of far off trips and immediately go to the practical questions about finance, time, work, family etc etc but your latest update gives the answer ....... making the most of an opportunity and worry about the money when you get home 8-) 8-) .
Open your eyes and you see what is in front of you, open your mind and you see a bigger picture but open your heart and you see a whole new World.

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mark vb
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Re: Travel Log Tales - Africa

Post by mark vb » Tue Jan 05, 2021 12:42 pm

Thanks, Chris, for that comprehensive run-down on the 3AJ's. Fascinating reading - for me at least - and goes to show adding umpteen 'essential' extras/mods is far from necessary. I've always fancied having a T6 but halfway decent ones are becoming hard to find, and expensive - the nearest I got was an XT600E some 20 yrs ago. The search goes on! I wonder what bike you'd take for that trip if you could do it again now (notwithstanding virus issues, of course)?

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