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Old 04-01-2009, 12:30 PM   #35
metaljockey OP
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Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
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Today is the day that we get to Reservo do Niassa.

Reservo do Niassa is the reason we came on this trip.

The reserve is massive. Twice the size of Kruger National Park. It’s northern boundary is the Rio Rovuma, the border between Moz and Tanzania. It’s western and southern boundary is the Rio Lugenda. Around the park are what is called buffer zones. These zones are hunting concession areas. Check it out.

Aerial surveys have shown it to have 12000 elephants, 6000 lions etc.

It has always just been wilderness and was only proclaimed in the 90’s. Tourists are rarely seen. The ones that do come here get flown in from Pemba by the hunting concession holders. The reserve has only one official entrance, coming up from Marrupa. We are not using that entrance.

The riding is easy, nice hardpacked track with the odd rut. The only thing that upsets the cart are the bridges. Every couple of kms we cross small streams that cut across the path. The bridges are made of raw logs suspended lengthways. Like this.

Of course, I have to be the first schmuck that gets it wrong.

I’m thankful for the axle nuts though.

Every one is different and I have to inch my way across. The bloody logs does not have a flat top, it is round and tend to not only go up and down but also bend from side to side with knots sticking out here and there.

Just like every where else in Moz that we have ridden to date, the miombo woodland has been burned and clear cut in vast areas. The locals build their houses and then start clearing the forest around it until they have to travel about 30km to get to the edge. Then they abandon their homes and move to start the cycle again. What I do notice is that the trees are cut off about a meter above the ground. Presumably so that it can regenerate for the future.

On this picture you can see how the trees are cut higher up.

This is what the virgin bush looks like. Miombo woodland, no thorns, just like Nardus said it would be.

When we get to Mavago we create quite a stir. The moment I remove my helmet a general shout goes up : “Chucky Norris, Chucky Norris!”

I’ve been called Vincent Van Gogh before but never Chucky Norris.

We fetch our fuel drums from the government offices and fill the bikes and 20l containers each.

We try to sit down to enjoy a warm to hot beer but we get crowded so badly that we can’t seem to breathe in the stifling heat. I am very used to drawing crowds in rural areas, but here it is just extreme. Kids crowd right up against us. It seems the only white people that come here are people on organized safaris and they don’t step out of the Land Cruisers.

We are just about halfway through our beer when a local policeman tells us to put it down and follow him to the office. We get ushered into the office of what I gather to be the regional head of the police. Here we are interrogated on what our mission is and which one of us is the leader. Again we find it next to impossible to explain that we are just friends riding bikes because we like to. This goes on for quite a while and I am concerned about our bikes standing in the village unattended. It turns out that they are concerned that we have come to abduct their children! Freaky.

Finally after taking down all our passport and vehicle details we are released and we part on friendly terms. Not wanting to spend much more time in Mavago we hit the road.

When we stop for a break some time later there are hundreds of little midges trying to force their way into our mouths, noses, eyes and anything that is wet.

I find it easier to bear the heat and give the midges the finger.

And the log bridges continue.

I get the feeling that most of them are rebuilt every year after the rainy season. This is what the construction looks like.

Some are better than others.

Late afternoon and we are now well into the park. We start looking for a place to camp, but it is difficult to find an open area.

Hennie is still dealing with the remains of his stomach bug.

And we still cross one log bridge after the other. On the sparse ones like this I walk next to the bike.

Brian though, rides many of them at speed and seems to get away with it. I try to follow suit and I pay the price. As I am just about across the bridge my back wheel slides off a log and gets thrown sideways. I stamp down hard with my left foot to avoid going down and I save it. Unfortunately this move exceeds the design specification of my foot and I am the unhappy recipient of a blue ankle. Brian’s wife had packed some serious painkillers though, and I remain indebted to her.

When we finally make camp in the dark, my hammock comes into it’s own. I have progressively trip after trip become obsessive as far as weight saving goes. Every trip I have paired down and paired down until I am so lean on packing that I have excess space left over.

Look here for instance, that black bag on the rack carries everything except my tent. It has my clothes, personals, food, water, bedding, spares and tools. When on a trip where fuel is not an issue, the saddle bags would have been empty. Here they carry only fuel, 10l a side.

I read a ride report of a solo Trans-Africa traveler once. He mentioned that his hammock was the single piece of kit that gave him most pleasure. That stuck with me and on this trip, seeing as I had loads of space, I packed a hammock and a camp stool. Believe me the hammock is heaven. Especially when you have a sore foot. I will include one on all future trips where possible.

We finally go to sleep in a burned area of forest. Bright moon and deathly silence.

metaljockey screwed with this post 04-01-2009 at 12:36 PM
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