05-31-2010, 04:59 AM
Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
Bush camp to bush camp
The next morning as we are packing up, the kids of the previous night appear and bring their parents with them. They bring us a gift of five corn on the cob. How's that, we squat on their land and they bring us gifts. So far we have found every single Zambian to be very friendly, courteous and helpful. We also get a lot of waving and cheering on when we ride past.
And the fantastic riding continues, interrupted every so often by river crossing challenges. Luckily Hennie seems to like wading rivers so I try to keep my fresh socks dry.
Which is of course futile. So, for the third day in a row, it is squelching boots for us.
It's like enduro riding, just with a heavier bike and at a leisurely pace.
By this time I have already made up my mind that Zambia is going to see me again. Day after day of this kind of riding you do not find just anywhere. It is pure pleasure.
When we start finding vehicle tracks we know that we won't be turned around anymore by some river, mud or washaway.
We have a humorous moment where Hennie gets lost amongst some huts in a village and comes out the way we went in and keeps going. For several kilometers he is puzzled that he is now following two sets of bike tracks in stead of one before it finally dawns on him that he is backtracking.
And again we need to get the tow rope out.
You won’t believe how tightly that sand can hold a wheel. It took both of us and several villagers to get the 800 unstuck.
When the track opens up we know that we are close to Chipepo and we take a break to have some of those mielies raw.
We are absolutely delighted to come across a settlement that we did not know existed and they have beer.
And a disco ball.
We are also introduced to Whiskey Black. Double the alcohol content of beer, so we figure if we pack two each it means that we will have four beers each for tonight around the fire.
From here we are riding blind as we do not have any mapping on the GPS. We are working off an old map that indicates a road through to Siyavonga. I have always found it strange that no two maps on Zambia ever agree on anything but the main routes. Being here it becomes clear that on an annual basis the wet season changes everything to the extent that from one year to the next, good, new roads can disappear.
Everybody is very helpful though and we learn that the road is known as the Bottom Road, and that it may be passable for us but not for other vehicles.
It starts out very nicely.
Nice fast riding.
But, if you see a suspicious stick you need to tap off.
It was put there by some Samaritan to warn you of an impending teeth-on-the-handlebars situation.
Fallen baobab. They are giants that live for hundreds of years, but once they topple they disappear quickly into dust as they are fibrous.
Just look at this lovely stuff, now tell me you don’t want to enjoy that yourself.
I hear all kinds of shenanigans from the rear of the bike when I hit whoops and upon checking I find that my home made rack system had broken a weld. Hennie has the allen keys so I wait for him to turn back so we can make a plan.
Which just makes this funnier. He crossed this ditch and waited for me to take a pic. After some time he crossed it successfully again to go look for me. Then, when I'm there with the camera it's third time unlucky and he fucks it up.
All this mud and wet sand is deadly for brake pads. I once did a wet and muddy enduro with brand new pads and within 90km they were down to the metal.
So we brought spare pads and lo and behold, third day of the trip and the 800's rear pads call it quits.
In East London, where we stay, the closest BMW dealer is a 600km round trip away, so the 800 gets bastardized. Thank you Simon (our KTM dealer).
The break also gives me the chance to modify my socks to protect my calf where the top of the boot has worn it raw. One of the things you learn happens when you stay wet for several days in a row.
The other thing you learn is that there is a massively potent and pungent algaebacterialvirusbastard that thrives in wet helmet environments. Not the common variety either, this one only kills off the others on about the third day. Fucking disgusting I tell you.
When the track dries out we don't recognise it as a sign and blissfully go on a substantial trip in the wrong direction.
And still, wet feet guaranteed.
And still just fantastic riding.
We get put back on the right track by locals. During the two days we spent on this track we must have asked "Is this the road to Siyavonga?" probably over 50 times, and every time we were given the correct answer by helpful locals. You try that in the Transkei and see if you get two answers that concur.
It gets harder to believe them though, late in the afternoon and the road is just a voetpaadjie. Several times we take a wrong split and have to hunt around.
When we get to a substantial river, I just feel that we cannot possibly be on the Bottom Road anymore because we reach it on a sandy single track and the other side is just bush. There is a large bridge though that appears to have been abandoned a long time ago and the access to it has been washed away.
After scouting around for a place to cross the river, an old man makes his appearance. I ask him if we are still on the way to Siyavonga. He lifts his arms over his head and casts them forward across the river as if he sees a wide highway and says“"Yes sir, this the main road to Siyavonga". This is the exact spot he indicates.
We have to cross with a circuitous route because a ravine deposited a whole underwater beach of custard-like mud in front of our exit. Powering through is necessary because the bottom is a mess of sand and mud alternating.
Here Hennie has to cross the ditch and turn 90 degrees right up the hill without losing momentum, which looks like a tall order to me.
He manages though.
I think it's all done and I miss the picture of the day. The back wheel slides into the top of the ditch and with Hennie hanging full length on the bars the 800 flips over backward. I can see it is going to crush him down in the bottom of that ditch and catch myself shouting for him to get out of the way. Somehow he manages to get it sideways before it's too late.
Again we get help from the locals to get the bike upright and up the bank.
Then it's my turn and I manage to avoid all the pitfalls only to get stuck in a rut right at the top.
It's late and we are dog tired so we look for a place to camp.
The warm Whiskey Blacks are welcome but we feel well used. Four days of hard riding and the last full day spent on the pegs takes it out of you.
Personally, I'm slowly getting gatvol of wet feet all day every day.
Again we find that the locals keep a respectful distance and again the night air brings the joyous singing of women. It is special to me because it is so Africa, villagers getting together to sing at night around the fire and you can hear the joy in the women’s voices. They really love the singing.
metaljockey screwed with this post 06-02-2010 at 01:54 PM