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Old 10-21-2014, 12:28 PM   #1
zeeede OP
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Honeymoon Ride in Tanzania

My wife (BostonRider on the forum, though she seldom visits) and I were married in August.




While planning the wedding over the summer, we also were thinking about the honeymoon. Our original idea was to fly to Europe and rent motorcycles in the Alps. One evening we were relaxing and watching Ewan and Charlie ride though Africa on Long Way Down on Netflix. BostonRider looked at me and said "Why the heck are we going to Europe? Let's go to Africa". I couldn't agree more.

I did a little google searching, and quickly decided that, knowing next to nothing about Africa, it would probably be a good idea to go with some sort of organized group. We wanted to visit rural area and ride the really off-the-grid areas. Most of the Motorcycle Safari companies I found in my research had you riding big bikes, which I thought might limit the type of terrain we'd ride. Then I stumbled across Fredlink Tours at http://www.motorbike-safari.com/ and saw that they provided Honda XR250s . Perfect.

I emailed the company though the website, and found that though they're based in Kenya, they had a tour planned in Tanzania, in October 2014, with space for two more riders. Awesome.

A quick note on Fredlink Tours. It's pretty much a one-man show, with Fred, a Frenchman living in Kenya, running things. Emails are a little slow, as he's often in the bush running tours with limited internet access, but the experience was AMAZING, and I would highly recommend the company to anyone who wants to ride Africa.

Anyway, on to the trip. Deposits were paid, plane tickets were purchased, and all we had to do was stock up on dirt-riding gear and wait until October, which couldn't come soon enough.

Our flights went from Boston to Amsterdam to Tanzania, so our itinerary had us departing Boston the evening of Monday, October 6, changing planes the morning of October 7 in Amsterdam, and arriving the evening of October 7 at Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. The tour departed a lodge near the airport on the morning of October 8.

For the return flight, to break of the day and a half of travel and help us get back to reality (or escape from it a little longer) we decided to have a two night layover in Amsterdam.

So on to the report:

As luck would have it, I happened across a couple of tickets to the Sunday night Patriots game on October 6, so we kicked off the Honeymoon in a luxury box at Gillette Stadium, watching the Pats lay waste to the Bengals, and testing out the zoom on our new camera:









Then it was home to bed to rest up for our departure!
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Old 10-21-2014, 12:39 PM   #2
zeeede OP
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Days 1 and 2: Boston to Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro Airport, Tanzania.

Our flight departed Boston around 5 in the afternoon on Monday. We decided not to check any bags, so we crammed our riding gear into carry-on sized suitcases along with a couple of changes of clothes. Our helmets served as our "personal carry on item". I ended up wearing my riding boots to save space. That got me a lot of weird looks.

BostonRider with the luggage at our departure gate:


Showing off my fancy footwear:


I'm 6'4, so I don't fit too well in Economy Class. Fortunately, the flight to Amsterdam was only around half sold, so were managed to claim a row of the middle 4 seats to ourselves.





Plenty of room to spread out. Had a few hours to kill in Amsterdam so we found the airport Starbucks and lounged on their comfy chairs. No pictures of that or the completely full flight to Tanzania, but after many hours travel we arrived in Arusha:



Kilimanjaro airport is very small, with just two international flights per day (our KLM flight from Amsterdam and a Qatar airlines flight). They don't have jetways... just the old-fashioned wheel the stairs up to the plane and let you walk across the tarmac to the building system.

Baggage claim: We didn't have any bags to claim.


Customs involved a process of visa purchases, finger printing, photographs, etc., but after half an hour or so, we made it through, and went to look for the driver.

Found him! Kia Lodge...that's us!


We've arrived:


Made it to the lodge for the first night of our honey moon, only to find separate beds. Ironic, but we were too exhausted from our travels to care.


Had dinner and met the folks we'd be riding with, a quick drink at the bar, and then hit the hay to be up for breakfast at 6 the next morning.



The next day would start our ride!
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Old 10-21-2014, 01:08 PM   #3
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Day 3:

Got up early the next morning, had a quick bite for breakfast, and selected our trusty steeds:


We had 8 of us riding. 7 on the tour on Honda XR250s (Phil, Carl, Danny, and Caroline from the UK, Chris from Tronoto Canada, and BostonRider and I) and the tour leader (Fred) on an older XL250. Joining us in a car would be our luggage, Syd, (also from the UK, who had originally planned to ride but was nursing an injured back), Lynn (Phil's wife), a driver, a mechanic and a medic. For the first night, we would have a second car with camping equipment, another driver, and a cook.



Group shot before departure. I'm in the red Bilt jersey, BostonRider in the pink and black.



Me and the trusty steed:


BostonRider and her black beauty:


And we mounted up and off we went. The first 40 or so KM of the ride was tarmac, as we had to pass through the city of Arusha. We ended up hitting some rush hour traffic in the city, which made for some epic riding in its own right.

On the road to Arusha:




Chris the Canadian (also an inmate, I think, but I don't know his user name):



Traffic was crazy enough in the city that I didn't snap any pictures (needed both hands on the bars), but I had the GoPro running, so here's a little raw video. I had the waterproof case on the camera the whole time, so the sound sucked, so I just turned it down.



We stopped at an ATM at a bank with armed guards to get some local currency. The only place you see someone open-carrying like this in the US might be Arizona.



The group after we made it through Arusha:


We stopped along the side of the road for a quick bathroom break:


Before continuing on to the Petrol station:





We had to wait for the cars at the Petrol station, which should have been just behind us. But we waited...and waited. Meanwhile we snapped a few pics:

Pedestrians:


Fuel delivery:


Zebra:


Eventually we got bored and hit up the shops across the street for some snacks:


The cars got stopped by the police and issued a speeding ticket. Then they got caught in traffic at the scene of an accident where a woman on a bicycle was hit by a truck and killed. Then they got in an accident themselves when one of the cars was t-boned by a bus. But eventually they made it to the petrol station, gassed up, and we hit the road again:





We were heade passed Monduli Hill and down into the heart of the rift valley. We made it off the Tarmac!








The countryside was incredible:





And the roads were epic:




Here's a typical road on the morning of the first day of riding:




It was amazing what the locals could ride on their little 125cc chinese made bikes:


Back on the road. Rift Valley ahead!







We encountered a little traffic along the way:


And amazing scenery:




The road ahead:




Not too long into it we had our first animal sighting:


I've got some video of those guys, too.




Around 1 in the afternoon we stopped under the shade of some trees for lunch:





The trusty cars:


A couple of visitors to camp:




We found of the course of our trip this would be a regular occurrence . We found that no matter how remote the location, we'd stop for a break and a Massai guy or two or three would come wandering up seemingly out of nowhere to hang out. Very friendly folks, and we got along swimmingly despite the language gap.

The boy's herd:


After lunch it was back on the road again:


Riding selfie:


To be continued!

zeeede screwed with this post 10-22-2014 at 04:31 AM
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Old 10-21-2014, 01:26 PM   #4
zeeede OP
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Day 3 continued:
After lunch we continued through the rift valley. We encountered our first Ostrich, which I didn't get a picture of, but I certainly have video of, so I'll get that up shortly. We stopped for an afternoon water break in the shade of an Acacia tree and low and behold met a few more Maasai.

They were a little camera shy at first. Only this guy would let us take his picture. He seemed to be the boss.




Then we showed him the pictures on the camera so he could see himself, and suddenly his buddies wanted in on the action:





THEN BostonRider showed him how to use the camera to take a picture, and then look at the picture, and he was thrilled! He'd never used a digital camera (or any camera for that matter) before, so he took a few pictures for us:

Carl, Chris, and Danny:




Me, Chris, and Carl:


Me and one of the Maasai guys:


BostonRider and one of the Maasai guys:


Me and BostonRider's helmet:


And about a dozen more pictures. He was having a blast. Alas, though, it was time to go, so we got our camera back, said our goodbyes, and hopped on the bikes once more. We were headed up a long steep hill to pay a visit to the Kitumbeine School, where Fred had helped raise money to build toilets.

We passed through a town on the way:




And headed up the hill:


The school was pretty amazing. 6 classrooms. 50 students in each classroom:









There was an English lesson on the chalkboard, so I couldn't help but leave some words of encouragement for the kids:





Back on the bikes again, and back down the hill to the campsite we'd be spending the night in. Got into the campsite around 45 minutes before sunset. Dusty and dirty.



Fortunately the cook got right to work:


Not a bad place to spend the night:




In the kitchen:



Watching the sunset:


And the moon rise:


We slept very well that night, and woke to the distant sound of children in a nearby village singing at the top of their lungs just after sunrise (must have been the start of a school day).

To be continued with Day 4!
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Old 10-21-2014, 01:53 PM   #5
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Looking forward to more ! Not been to East Africa since '89 , this makes me want to return
Keep it coming
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Old 10-21-2014, 01:54 PM   #6
zeeede OP
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Day 4 dawned and we crawled out of bed to find a hearty breakfast waiting for us:



And the mechanic hard at work:



The drivers had hired a local Maasai guy to keep watch over the bikes and the camp that night, and he invited us to visit his village that morning. We couldn't say no to that offer!



One of his wives and child:


BostonRider was invited inside one of his daughters' huts:


The "Bed", basically a platform of sticks covered with a goat hide:


The cooking pot. They keep a fire going inside the hut at all times, because the smoke keeps the mosquitos at bay.



Villagers:






A pen in the middle of the village where goats are kept overnight:


A VIP in the village. She has the village cell phone in the pouch around her neck.




A few of the women in the village sell beaded jewelry to make a little extra income. Here's BostonRider negotiating the price for a bracelet for her mother.


And our driver, who spoke a little Maasai, translating:



Home under construction?


While the hubub was going on around the jewelry sales, I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures. The nice thing about a camera with a decent zoom is you can get some good portraits without being intrusive.




















This little guy was curious what all the fuss was about:




Then it was back to the bikes and back on the road:
















I've got tons of pictures like this... the scenery was epic. I kept a digital camera in a picket on the waistband of my CamelBak, connected with a lanyard, so I could take shots while riding and drop it if I got into trouble.



We saw this guy:






Gave a little chase:




And hit a traffic jam further down the road:








Took a few panoramics to try to capture the stunningness. Pictures just don't do it justice:






Down the road a ways and we came to an intersection. We didn't know which way to go, so BostonRider and I took a break under a tree to wait for the group. Low and behold, look who showed up:



I showed these two the GoPro app on my phone, then took the camera and walked around with it while they watched themselves on the phone. They were pretty impressed by that.



Then Fred showed up, consulted his GPS and pointed us in the right direction:





Bye guys!



We rode down the road a ways and I happened to notice... off in the distance...is that? yes! Our first Zebra sighting.

Picture taken with a 60X zoom.


We decided to ride out and investigate.

Turns out there was a whole herd of them in the shade among the trees! Pictures taken while giving chase at around 35 or 40 mph across the grasslands riding one-handed, so forgive that the horizon isn't exactly level!





BostonRider on the hunt:










There's some pretty epic GoPro footage of that, too.



After the zebra chase, we met up with the car and the rest of the crew for lunch:




Topping up my CamelBak. It was HOT and DRY. I had a 3L water bladder and I filled it twice a day, so I was drinking a gallon and a half of water a day.





That's the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in the background. It's an active volcano, which the Maasai believe is the home of their gods.

Day 4 will continue with my next post...

zeeede screwed with this post 10-22-2014 at 07:45 AM
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Old 10-21-2014, 05:57 PM   #7
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Fantastic!! and congrats.. lucky guy / gal!

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Old 10-22-2014, 02:48 AM   #8
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Read a lot about Africa, what they say about it being very much like Australia is correct, though we have more trees :-)
One question........... Ebola ?
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Old 10-22-2014, 04:26 AM   #9
zeeede OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pezza View Post
Read a lot about Africa, what they say about it being very much like Australia is correct, though we have more trees :-)
One question........... Ebola ?
People back home in Boston were closer to Ebola (patients being treated in Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia and just outside Washington, D.C. than we were to Ebola in Western Africa than we were in Tanzania. No concern there.

Rift Valley Fever, Lassa Virus, Typhoid, Malaria... all concerns. Ebola? Nah.
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Old 10-22-2014, 04:35 AM   #10
zeeede OP
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I updated the above posts with some embedded GoPro footage, so be sure to scroll back up if you've already read to this point.
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Old 10-22-2014, 04:57 AM   #11
zeeede OP
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Continuing Day 4...

We left lunch under the Acacia tree in the middle of the savannah and headed toward Lake Natron down a fast, dusty road passing the Lengai volcano toward the day's destination, Natron Tented Camp.







We had to stop and pay a toll along the way.




Checking out some local merchandise:





The gate went up and we hit the road again:


Canadian Chris and BostonRider:


Getting on it:



Another high-speed selfie. You can see the lanyard system I was using for the camera - a retractable ID badge holder clipped to the chest strap on my CamelBak. I love these things - I use one to hold my CamelBak drink tube as well.



I think she's telling me to try to keep up?



She's a little ahead of me here:





Came across some more Zebras, but since we were in a protected area, we didn't ride out to say hi this time.

BostonRider and Caroline:


Yours truly:


With Canadian Chris:



Oh Hai:


"Nice bum, where you from?" Uh, Africa.


Panorama:



We continued our ride:


And quickly met the group again, huddle in the shade of another toll house:


While we waited, I snapped a few pictures.

The volcano:



Some informative signs:




Lake Natron:


Grab a seat:


Our mounts:


We were waiting for the car to catch up with us before we proceeded through the gate. Here it comes!


Massai Villages:



It was HOT here by the gatehouse. It had to be well over 100 degrees F, DRY, and brutally sunny. I started suffering the beginning symptoms of heat exhaustion just from standing around taking pictures. Fortunately at this point we were close to the camp, so I sucked down some water and we hopped on the bikes and off we went.

We've arrived!


Were assigned our tents:


The door was hung a little crooked, and the posts and rails on the porch weren't very straight.



Unfortunately, there's no rest for the wicked! I had a quick rinse under a cold shower to get my body temp down and then we hopped in the car to take us to a spot where we could hike up and swim in a waterfall.

The canyon we hiked up:


Waterlines. This is how they provided running water to the villages and tented camp below:


Hiking up river:


This is not the waterfall we're looking for:



Helping hand:


The River:


We got to the waterfall, which was a pretty fun swim. I put the camera away so it wouldn't get wet, but I did bring the GoPro, so I'll put some footage up tonight.

Then we had to hurry back down the mountain before sunset. At the bottom, BostonRider made a friend:





On the way back to the camp, we saw a fire in the distance:



Then it was back to the tented camp, dinner of pumpkin soup, "beef" in brown sauce, and rice, which would end up being a trend. And retiring to the tent for the end of day 4.
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Old 10-22-2014, 05:17 AM   #12
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Start of Day 5 and we were up for breakfast with the sunrise. Today would be our longest day, so we wanted an early start.

One complaint I have about Africa is that any place we went that westerners visit, the locals were constantly trying to sell us stuff. Lake Natron was the worst for this. There were Maasai women everywhere we went in this area, and they were very pushy about it. At one point they were calling our tour leader an "evil man" because he told them in their native language that we didn't want to buy anything. When we were in the more rural, less-visited areas, it was more people just wanting to hang out, as opposed to sell things.

Sunrise, with Massai people shouting at us to buy something in the background.






Morning coffee:


Breakfast:


And off we go. First stop, Lake Natron to see the Flamingos:







She's wearing pink, after all:




The water level in all the lakes in this part of Africa is very low, from water being diverted upstream for agriculture.

Parked on the lake bed:


The team:


We took the opportunity to hoon a little on the dry lake. Practice our power slides and whatnot.

Canadian Chris gave a local boy a ride:




I got a little GoPro of the Lake hooning, including the only one of my falls I caught on the GoPro.

We headed off down the road again, but half an hour down the road or so Fred's chain came off. Quick road-side repair:


Every plant we came across in Africa had giant thorns on it. EVERY SINGLE PLANT. You had to be careful not to brush against them while riding. Case in point:




Back on the road again:




Uh, BostonRider? Road's over here:


Next stop was a small calera (a "crater" caused by a collapsed volcano) called Shimo La Mungu, or "God's Hole".




As I posed for the picture, I did a little pratfall, pretending to fall into the crater. BostonRider is used to my antics, but the Maasai women that were trying to sell her stuff FREAKED. They though for sure I was going down the hole. The look on their faces were priceless.






Anyway, off we go.

Where the road was decent it was very, very washboarded from the trucks and buses traveling at high speed:


The road ahead. Can you spot BostonRider?


We came through a few "sandy" bits of road, but more like bottomless talcum powder, it was so fine. When BostonRider went through them if I was too far behind, the dust made the road invisible to me, so I'd just stand up, throttle through, hold on, and pray I don't hit something. I tried to stay just behind and to the side of her, to keep ahead of her dust cloud. This almost did us both in... In one of the sandy bits, BostonRider had a good wobble with a nice save, but it brought her across my track. Luckily we were spaced safely enough that we didn't collide, but it was good I was indeed staying behind her. GoPro video of that to come.

Shortly after the sand, we came across a couple of riders ahead of us taking a break under a tree near a village. Turns out Caroline had went down pretty hard in the same sand hole BostonRider had the wobble in. She caught a handlebar in the chest, and was sporting a nice bruise over her left lady part for the rest of the trip.



While we waited for the rest of the group, BostonRider and I explored the nearby village.



I've got some GoPro footage of riding around the village.

In our ride, we came across a small store with a sign out front that said "Cold Drinks". Since it was 100+ degrees we were thrilled!

The guy led us inside. The only English he knew was "Yes. Cold drink. Yes, yes. Come!". We went into the back room, where there was a 1960's era coca cola refrigerator. There were two padlocks, and his partner unlocked them. This suspense to wait for an ice cold cola was killing us. They pop the lid on the cooler and the cooler was stocked with drinks.

WARM drinks.

Turns out the village doesn't have electricity. So even though they advertise cold drinks, and keep them in a refrigerator, they were warm. Whatever, we were thirsty enough we bought four anyway.

We hit the road again. 20 minutes or so out side of town, we're climbing a hill, and my bike stops DEAD. WTF? Hit the starter, nothing. Turn the key on and off, nothing. Hop off the bike to investigate. Look under the side panel where the batter should be and all I see are some wire hanging down. WTF?

Turns out what really happened is the rear subframe cracked on my bike from pounding down the washboard roads. Since this put all the weight of everything on the plastic rear fender, it allowed for a lot of flex, which in turn caused the battery box to fail and the battery to fall out. The bike can still run without its battery, but eventually a couple of cable connections rattled loose as well, causing the bike to stop dead.

The mechanic in the car caught up and went to work.




They spliced some wires together, wrapped a fraying piece of rope around the rear sub-frame to hold it together until they could weld it together the next day, push started the bike for me, and I was off and riding again.

Caught up with everyone waiting under a tree:




We regrouped and headed into Mto Wa Mbu, where we picked up Tarmac and stopped for gas and then lunch at a lodge.

Local traffic at the gas station:




Lunch at the lodge:


BostonRider cooling her feet.



I snapped a few pics of some birds:








Lunch was a nice break, but we still had a LOONNGGG way to go today. To be continued!

zeeede screwed with this post 10-22-2014 at 05:40 AM
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:03 AM   #13
zeeede OP
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Day 5 continued:

After lunch, we headed out on tarmac on a nice, smooth, winding road out of the rift valley.



Some local bikes:








We stopped at an overlook to check out Lake Manyara National Park:





Then picked up another fast washboard road toward Lake Eyasi. This road was a little boring. Almost flat-out on the 250s, straight and wide, so it wasn't technical riding, not a lot to look at, BUT very washboarded, so you couldn't sit and relax... you had to stand almost the whole time. And it was dusty.

Got onto a little bit less-traveled road and took a break by a coffee plantation:


Then hit the road again. I didn't take many pictures from this part, but I probably have some GoPro footage to dig up. We made it to Lake Eyasi, but before we went to the lodge, our guide took us to visit the Hadzabe, a tribe of bushmen who still hut for their food with bows and arrows.

We met a local guy by the Lake Eyasi Girls Vocational Center, who would take us to the tribe.



Hi there, tribe!




Some pelts and meat hanging in a tree to dry:


Yum. Dinner.


The fella who provided that leg:


Trophys form past hunts, and the armory. Notice the huge python skin?


Some more candids with the zoom lens.








The hunting instruments. Different arrow heads for different types of game. They don't possess metal-working skills themselves, so they trade for the arrow heads.





They showed us how to make fire:





The kids had fun playing with the buckles on our boots:




A hut:


They sang us a song:


The men and women live seperately.







They had a good laugh when I tried my hand at archery:




As we were leaving, one of the Hadzabe showed up with a bunch of honey from a bee's next. The others were thrilled, and dug right in.





Alas, the light was getting long, and we had to get to the camp, so we said our goodbyes and rode off into the sunset. We were racing the sun, so I don't have any pictures, but I did capture some excellent sunset GoPro footage, to come.

We made it to the Tindiga Tented Camp after sunset, and not a moment too soon, since some of the bikes didn't have functioning headlights. 5 minutes after we arrived, it was DARK. Got checked in, had dinner, hit the hay, for the end of day 5. More to come!
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:30 AM   #14
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The huts they live in are short because that is how high the women can throw the mud on the wall. Men don't build the huts, the women do.
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:35 AM   #15
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Wow......incredible! . Congrats on the marriage.

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