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Old 07-10-2013, 11:44 AM   #28
Osadabwa OP
Don't be Surprised
 
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Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Oddometer: 192
Thumb Day 3: Rungwa to Inyonga - Bye bye Billyboy

Awake early but on the road late. PhatBilly announced he was calling it quits before breakfast, still in agony from his banged up ribs and perhaps suspiciously worried about the absence of feeling in his arse. The Dar Biker reaction was to accept this setback with composure, not get overly emotional about it, and point his broken carcass back down the road to Mbeya alone. Like some primitive band of roaming hominoids, we instinctively set in motion a plan that benefitted the group’s survival and exiled our wounded elder, stripping him of any useful items in the process and saddling him with worn goods and unnecessary articles. We dumped the ancient XR 600 on him, a bike that had already proven to have little to no braking ability and handled like a tugboat in a sea of molasses. Then Mr Bean enhanced the bike’s sorry state by looting the half decent front tire it wore and swapping it with the bald, cracked, egg-shaped slab of rubber off of his bike. So, after stiffly mounting the steed (kick-start only, mind you) off went Billy on a 300 km ride to Mbeya on the worst bike we had with no map or GPS to guide him, alone. We Dar Bikers are a band of brothers.


Above: Boiled eggs and chapati again, preparing PhatBilly’s funerary motorbike

As the dust settled, the rest of us went for chapati and tea before lighting up the bikes and launching them at the big dirt from the day before. It was a necessary evil, a small price to pay for the promise of a 150km of small track that lie between us and Inyonga, our next stop. At the bar, the XR400 was slow to start and blew one hellovalot of blue smoke once it got going, but being a Honda, nobody paid it much attention and everybody blamed it on PubQuiz’s inability to work a choke. Afterall, Billy never mentioned it had an issue, so off we went. Assumptions. Omens. Portents of ill winds of bad things to come. Good thing we ain’t superstitious (though everybody who lives in Africa too long is a little ‘stitious).

Retracing steps is anathema to bikers, particularly if it’s big dirt, so we were all basically asleep at the bars when one by one we were snapped awake by a hump created by the recent installation of an enormous culvert that sent us all flying like overweight supercrossers. Then not long afterward, a very unexpected sight: PhatBilly! Broken ribs, rattle trap bike, long solo ride ahead… and he rides the wrong bloody way. I began to wonder if he had a brain injury in addition to broken ribs, but the guys assured me that wasn’t it. Still, as he rode off, again, in the right direction this time, I wondered if he’d make it alone… hell, I wondered how he managed to get his boots buckled alone.

And then:
Q: “Where the hell is PubQuiz?”
A: “Looking for his fuel cap”
Q: “WTF?”
A:
He’d hit the big culvert and the thing had gone “POP!” off into the bush. We spent 15 minutes riding slowly up and down a 100 meter section of road, but gave up. I felt like I was riding with some sort of traveling freakshow.


Above: PubQuiz’s new fuel cap of plastic bags, inner tube rubber and zip ties; PhatBilly reincarnated on the wrong road to Mbeya

Finally off the big dirt, we were ready to start the day. The track was similar to the previous day; tree-lined doubletrack with sandy dusty sections and a million tsetse flies per square foot. It was excellent and tricky in areas, but I spent the morning lumbering along clobbering roots and repeatedly losing control instead of enjoying myself. It was like my brain was sending messages to my body at the speed of an African internet connection. Reflexes like a drunk’s and no sense of urgency to turn or brake, I rode in a mental fog all morning just trying to keep it on the track.

Not riding worth a damn, I stopped to take photos and to test if the 100% DEET I’d sprayed on myself shielded me from tsetse attack but was distressed to discover that while the tsetses seemed repelled enough, it seemed to positively fascinate the bees! And there were thousands of bees. All along the track, locals had hung traditional tree bark beehives high up on the canopy directly over the track. At one point there was one hung low enough to explore, but it was audibly buzzing, so I gave it a wide berth and let Ajax explore. It gives one pause to blast noisily under these buzzing cylinders, hung with nothing more than a bit of vine, particularly if one recalls the phrase “African Killer Bee”. So, my plan for the day was simply not to stop, and I didn’t much.


Above: low-hung bee hive in the forest

We rode by sad looking tobacco fields with plucked stems yellowing in their rows. The drying huts – taller versions of mud houses with racks inside to hang tobacco leaves on and a place to light a wood fire – stood smoked-out in the fields, some new and others in utter disrepair. There was a noticeable reduction of trees in the areas around the tobacco fields as most of them were cut for tobacco drying. My idle brain thought it typical: another example of the types of externalities common to a cash crop in Africa that makes raw materials (like tobacco, cotton, pineapples etc) appear cheap and beneficial since they can raise poor farmer incomes but that have irreversible ecological consequences. Everything has a cost.


Above: bushfire and bikers

Around 1:00, we stopped in a relatively tsetse free patch for our typical bush lunch of droewors and battered cookies from our Giant Loops (imho: GL’s the best GD saddlebag ever made, hands down). The boost of fat and sugar was enough to snap me out of the daze I’d been in. For the rest of the afternoon I was riding high, blasting along side-by-side with Ajax, branches whacking us on all sides, happy as a monkey in a tree. It salvaged my day, and by the time the big dirt came, I was smiling ear to ear. We stopped on the big road for a Passion Fanta (worth the trip all on its own) and blasted it down to Inyonga in 5th gear, punishing ourselves on the potholes and eating eachother’s dust.


Above: Fantastop and a faded Obama t-shirt

At last, Inyonga. A decent sized town with many guest houses, we did several noisy circumnavigations before settling on accommodation (there was no room at the Hilton). Showered up, we set out for the bar where I sampled my first (and last) Balimi Beer, a regional favorite and high in booze points. As night fell, the bar came alive. First the ungodly sound system crackled to life with local favorites like “Kigoooma!” which had the drunks singing at the tops of their wavery tubercular lungs, and then quiet temporarily fell as they tuned in for the nightly news. Amazing really. Electricity is a new thing out in places like Inyonga, and they’re making good use of it. I juiced up my camera batteries in a shop dedicated to charging cell phones for a little less than $0.50. Not possible 10 years ago.


Above: Monster checks the map, Ajax thrilled by the speakers, a Balimi in the capital


Above: Monster checks the map, Ajax thrilled by the speakers, a Balimi in the capital


Above: Our too-cool-for-school guest house attendant and the bar’s hopping and utterly unoriginal chips mayayi and mishkaki grill

That night, we slept like the dead. Cold air and clean sheets plus a blanket and relative silence did us right.

Once or twice Ajax and Bean awoke in the silence, conscience stirring. Where was PhatBilly, they wondered. I sure hope he’s okay out there all alone… Ha! Just kidding.

More to come
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I used to have a link to my African rides in my signature line, but every time I check it doesn't work. So, if you want to see Kilimanjaro, the Kilombero Valley, a bunch of short trips around Dar and another long one to Mozambique: go to my profile.
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