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Old 11-03-2011, 06:20 AM   #196
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10/27 and 10/28 Ride to Morogoro

10/27

In danger of growing moss in Iringa, it was time to move on. As Titho had told us that Morogor was the hottest place in Tanzania, we wanted to get on the road early to try to avoid the heat in the afternoon. I was pleased to find that after blocking the rear wheels on the bikes, there was no hydraulic-ing this morning (which proves nothing, as it's happened only very occasionally). We hit the road by 8:30 and unfortunately had to ride down the road we came up two days ago. After a slow bump, bump, bump back down the hill, we rejoined the main road and started the crazy 200 mile ride to Morogoro.

Crazy because of the traffic and the accidents along the way. The number of buses and trucks traveling the road increased dramatically from the previous days' rides, and so did the insanity of the drivers. The buses race each other to the next bus stop in an attempt to reach the waiting passengers first. The bus drivers will pass anywhere, uphill, around blind curves, through the center of town, at police checkpoints, it just doesn't matter. There is apparently a phrase in Swahili that translates to, “god willing, we will arrive,” and this must be the prayer of every bus driver and passenger in Tanzania. Unfortunately this same sentiment appears to also be shared by every semi driver and passenger vehicle driver on the roads, as they all clearly don't give a fuck. This devil may care attitude shows itself in the four semi trucks we saw wrecked in the ditches today, and in the many scorch marks and puddles of metal from burned vehicles we saw along the highway.



When we weren't dodging other vehicles, we were enjoying the scenery. One stretch of the highway today rode took us through Baobab Valley. Baobabs are giant, ancient trees that we've seen all along our ride in ones and twos, but here they numbered in the hundreds. Re is especially enamored with the baobabs and really enjoyed this section of the ride.



Later, we crossed into Mikumi National Park, which motorcycles are normally not allowed to enter, but they are allowed to transit on the public road. The signs entering the park were especially humorous, as they warned it was illegal to view the wildlife from the public road. Re and I got quite a chuckle out of that and both agreed that we would not look left or right as we rode through. Well, that didn't last long. Cue Judas Priest's “Breakin' the law, breakin' the law.” Over the next many miles, we saw herds of zebras, giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, baboons, several types of antelopes, and one very large stork in its nest at the top of a strange looking tree. I normally don't stop to sightsee roadkill, but we had to make a u-turn to go back and see a completely intact spotted genet on the side of the road. Fortunately we made it out of the park without being arrested for looking at the animals and continued on toward Morogoro.

The other odd sight of the trip were the Masai people. They wear traditional garb, which for men includes a very colorful toga-like wrap garment and (for some reason) white gladiator style sandals. It seemed normal enough to see them herding cattle alongside the road, but a little more odd to see one gentleman talking on his cellphone while riding a bicycle.



We arrived in Morogoro by 2:30 and began to look for a hotel for the evening since Tanzania doesn't seem to have as much camping as other African countries. We had the name of a hotel but no map, and my GPS didn't have a detailed map of Morogoro either. Consequently, it took us about an hour to find the Mt Uluguru Hotel, where we stayed for the night. This hotel was the bargain of the trip, with air conditioning, a comfy bed, and breakfast included for around 15 USD. Since this was the first AC we've enjoyed since southern Namibia, we found it hard to leave the room. We did however, pry ourselves away from the cool air for a quick look around town, a visit to the ATM, and to purchase one delicious watermelon. We returned to the hotel for dinner and a cool night's sleep.

205 miles in about 6 hours, including countless topes.


10/28
Since Morogoro looked like and interesting town and we couldn't bear to leave the AC, we decided to stay another day. While walking around town yesterday we saw several internet cafes, and since we still need to figure out how and where we are going to ship the bikes to India, we spent a couple hours this morning looking for answers (and finding none). Mombasa, Kenya seems to be the best shipping point in the area for Mumbai, but even before we left the US, I was hoping we could do it from Dar Es Salaam. Mombasa has a reputation as an especially shitty town, Kenya has a much higher crime rate, and we would have to pay again for visas and insurance, just to ship our bikes. We now have the extra reason to not want to go to Kenya, in that Kenya has invaded Somalia, and Al-Shabab have promised to retaliate in Kenya. Yay. So our hopes are pinned on Dar. Unfortunately, ADVRider and HUBB have provided no reports of shipping from Dar Es Salaam, and we were unable to find any businesses advertising such services.

So we went to lunch. One of the things we like to do while traveling is to eat at local establishments. Unfortunately, all of the restaurant menus here are written in Swahili. Not above pantomiming and imitating the sounds of various delicious animals, we found an outdoor cafe that seemed popular with local diners. As we stared cluelessly at the menu on the wall next to the grill, a kind gentleman, who also spoke English, came to our rescue before Re had to start mooing and clucking our order. John, a Tanzanian forester who was working on his Master's degree at the local agricultural school, stepped in to help us order and then joined us for lunch. We enjoyed ugali (the local version of sadza, nsima, or mealie pap), some beef cooked in foil, and a delicious vegetable medley. We spent the lunch chatting about Tanzanian agriculture and forestry and Re's love of baobab trees, which John found particularly humorous.

After a nice lunch, we returned to the internet cafe to research hotels in Dar and catch up on the news. Later in the afternoon, we grabbed some more fruit from the local market and headed back to the room for a blast of AC. Later that evening we made our way to one of the swanky local hotels and splurged on a delicious Indian dinner. Stuffed, we waddled back to the hotel, grabbed a beer, and settled in for the night.


0 miles.
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Old 11-03-2011, 07:40 AM   #197
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thanks again for taking the time to write all this up for us. Have fun!
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Old 11-03-2011, 11:39 AM   #198
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Hey, if you find yourself spending time in Dar and you decide it sucks, you can ride down the road to Bagamoyo. It's not far at all and it's much, much nicer. There is a cheap hotel I remember (you can park in a secure courtyard and also do laundry etc. there) and there is also the "Bagamoyo Beach Resort" It's too expensive, but you can stay in a mud hut right on the beach for cheap and it includes a killer breakfast. The place is run by a friendly French alcoholic named Jean Domenique (call him John Doe). He's a real nice guy and you can leave your bikes in his house if you want to go to Zanzibar without them (which I highly recommend).

Bagamoyo was the German capital of East Africa and has tons of cool Swahili archetechture and it is totally laid back- a nice change from Dar. John Doe can probably figure out the shipping situation faster than you can too.

If shipping from Kenya is the best thing to do, I wouldnt worry about the "situation" there. It's an easy ride from the border to Nairobi and once you get to Nairobi, just get to Jungle Jims or the campsite out in Karen across from the animal park- the guys at the KTM shp can guide you there. To find the KTM shop in Karen ask people for the Post Office in Karen (it's next door to that). Then leave the bikes there and take public transport around the city to arrange shipping etc.- it's easier and safer than riding all over the city getting lost all day. Jungle Jim or the KTM guys can sort out any mechanical problems you may be having too (though the KTM guys are expensive).

It may be that you have to go to Mombasa to arrange the shipping. The Nairobi- Mombasa road sucks, so be careful if you go that way. If you have time to kill then, you can "kill it" over at Lamu I suppose and skip Nairobi all together.

The best way to get to India would be to ride there, but I don't think that will happen with US passports.

Keep up the good work!

Edit: If you are planning to ship by sea to India, you should check the shipping info over at HU. It could be a nightmare. If there is any way to afford flying the bikes there, it may be best. I suspect it will still be difficult on the India side, but I am guessing it will be much worse by sea.
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petefromberkeley screwed with this post 11-03-2011 at 11:55 AM
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Old 11-04-2011, 12:07 AM   #199
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10/29 Ride to Dar Es Salaam / 3 Months on the Road

Since Dar was only about 120 miles from Morogoro, we were in no particular hurry to get on the road. Our plan was to stay at the Jambo Inn Hotel in Dar Es Salaam, and I found it listed in my GPS, so I set it as our destination. After another delicious breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up the bikes and headed for the nearest gas station. When we pulled in, I saw several men crowded around the pump, and one was holding what appeared to be a filter. As we pulled up to the pump, they waved us by, and as the station only had one pump, we continued down the road to another station I had seen on one of our walks. What I apparently didn't notice at this point was the GPS recalculating our route. We made it to the next station and through some sign language got enough petrol to get us to Dar.



We turned back onto the road and followed the GPS directions. Since there are so few roads in Africa, I normally don't depend on the GPS, but instead rely on the map. However, when we arrived in Morogoro, we got ourselves completely turned around while searching for the hotel, and I honestly couldn't remember the way back to the highway. So, GPS it was. After a few miles I started getting a little concerned, because I thought I had remembered from my cursory glance at the written directions earlier that morning, that it should have been under two miles back to the highway.



My suspicions were confirmed when the road turned to hard-packed dirt. I'm pretty sure I would have remembered riding on a dirt road coming into town. We pulled over, and I took a better look at the route and realized that yes, in fact, the GPS recalculated our route due to our side trip to the petrol station. It appeared that the dirt road would last for about 6.8 miles before rejoining the highway. Re and I discussed it quickly and decided that (in light of my hatred of backtracking) we would continue down the dirt road. The road was very rough and rutted and became more so as we rode on. Our average speed fell to under 20 mph as we picked our way through the rocks and ravines.

After about 5 miles, we came upon a crossroads and an odd road feature. It appeared that someone had planted a row of stones across the width of the road. These stones stuck up about 8 inches out of the dirt, but there were a couple of motorcycle size gaps between them. I aimed for one of the gaps that was about 10 inches wide and did not make it. Re however, made it through with no problem. As I passed between the rocks, I felt a sharp impact, and the bike lurched sideways. After clearing the gap my bike slowed drastically. Well now, this can't be good.


(This is what it looked like after I pried it off the footpeg)

Before I even hopped off the bike, I looked down and saw the damage. I'd hit one of the rocks with my rear brake lever, and it bent back so far that it was now caught on the footpeg. This was also causing the rear brake to bind, hence the slowing. We hopped off the bikes and looked underneath to see the deep gouge in the rear brake lever. As we were on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, we needed to effect a quick repair. Not wanting to remove the rear brake lever at the time (and not really knowing how to remove it) we did the next best thing and got out the hammer. I pounded on the brake lever, trying at least to free it from the footpeg, but was only able to move it about 1 inch. As it was now at least 4 inches farther back than it was supposed to be, it made for a difficult ride. After stowing the tools, we got back on the “road” and made our way to the highway.


(This is what it should look like, as seen on Re's bike)

Back on terra firma, we pulled into the first layby and inspected the bike for any more damage. It seems the lever took all the impact and was just deformed. The good news was that the brake was not binding, the bad news was that I had to ride the next 115 miles with only the very tip of my boot on the footpeg. If I shifted my foot any farther forward, it applied the rear brake. When you're a big man on a little bike, you don't need your riding position to be restricted any more than it already is.

Fortunately, I did not remain focused on my brake problem for too long, as traffic today was even worse than the ride to Morogoro. As we frequently took to the hard shoulder to dodge oncoming traffic and to pass slower vehicles in order to prevent being run over from behind, we decided this was good practice for our upcoming rides in India. The closer we got to Dar, the more insane the other drivers became. At one point in time, I was “passed” by a UN Toyota Land Cruiser that came within two inches of my handlebar as he jammed in beside me. As I was already at the edge of the pavement and there was about a 6 inch drop off to the dirt below, I was a little irate. I'm glad to hear that the US will be withholding some funds from UNESCO. To add to the excitement, there were suicidal baboons everywhere.

We lived in California for about 18 months many years ago, so I'm fairly comfortable with lane splitting. Re however, never got used to it and doesn't enjoy it. Once we reached the outskirts of Dar, lane splitting was the only way to go. Dalladallas are what the local minibus taxis are called here, and they are many and aggressive. Also, many of the intersections are uncontrolled (or at least people treat them that way). If the traffic signals are working, no one seems to care what color they are, they just go. So we ducked and dodged, weaved and wiggled the next 10 miles into town. We found the Jambo Inn Hotel on Libya Street and liked it except for the lack of motorcycle parking. Re spoke with the manager, and he agreed to let us park the bikes behind a locked gate at night. She has discovered that in Tanzania, the best negotiating tactic is to walk away. It's amazing how many times that has resulted in better service or a lower price. We sprung for the air-conditioned room, and as an added bonus, the hotel has wifi from noon until 11:30 pm for 3 bucks a day. As today's ride was especially hot and sweaty, we collapsed into the room, turned on the AC and set the ceiling fan for takeoff speed. After we recovered, we headed downstairs to get some lunch and have a quick walk around the area. Back to the hotel for some more AC and wifi before dinner, and then off to bed for an early night.

120 miles in 4 hours. I'm going to need to fix that brake lever.

On our journey so far we have covered nearly 11,000 miles, 18 US states, and 9 countries. Not too shabby for two little Taiwanese underbones. After 93 days on the road, our average daily cost is 62 USD total (not per person). This does not include air freight, air fares to Africa, and health insurance, but it does include every other expense incurred on the trip.
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Old 11-04-2011, 05:38 AM   #200
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10/30 “Shipping Motorbikes to India? Talk to This Guy”

We spent the morning looking at the map and trying to plan our time in Dar (and maybe beyond). Unable to locate the shipping port on the map, we walked down Morogoro Road to the water. Lo and behold, it was the port! We walked north along the water, past the docks for the ferries to Zanzibar, and around to another local ferry dock. I was extremely disappointed to see one particular boat in the harbor. We stood and watched one of the Hoegh Autoliner RORO ships back away from the jetty. I had found out that this ship comes to Dar once a month, and eventually makes its way to Mumbai, but couldn't find the schedule. We watched as the one option I knew of sailed away. Well, crap.

As we walked back to our hotel, we once again passed the ferries to Zanzibar. This area is full of touts who want to “help” you get a ticket to Zanzibar, or if you're not interested in Zanzibar, they have the safari “just for you.” after repeating no Zanzibar, no safari a few dozen times, one tout asked us, “well then, what do you want?” Figuring it would get him out of our faces, I told him we wanted to ship our motorbikes to India. I almost guffawed when he said, “India? You need to speak to this guy.” He grabbed me by the hand and led me to a tiny office that “unsurprisingly” sold ferry tickets to Zanzibar and to safaris. The tout said something in Swahili to a person in the front office who then led us to the back office and to Mr. Msuya. We were motioned to sit down in his chairs, and he asked us what we wanted. I said we needed to get to India by ship, and he laughed and replied in very good English that there were no passenger ships to India. I explained that we actually wanted to ship our motorbikes to India, fully expecting the same laugh, but instead he said, “we can do that.”

Surprised and suspicious, I asked how they would go about doing that, and he proceeded to explain that he works with cargo consolidators who could “stuff” our bikes in a consolidated container and get them to Mumbai. They would simply need our documents and a deposit, and he could get to work. I asked how much this might cost, and he said he figured maybe 300 USD per bike based on the fact that he had shipped a Land Rover some time in the past, and it was around 1200 USD. Intrigued, I said we would think about it and talk with him tomorrow. He said he would check further into prices and the schedule before we met. Re and I left excited but a little nervous at how irregular this seemed.

As it was nearly 12 noon and we would have wifi, we headed back to the hotel to try and get some quotes on air cargo rates. Since it was Sunday, we didn't expect to get a response from the airlines but hopefully would hear something on Monday morning before we met with Mr. Msuya again. We also found the location of the India High Commission, as we need to apply for visas tomorrow as well. We spent the rest of the day reading about India and a possible trip to Zanzibar.

0 miles. At least we may have a shipping option.
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Old 11-04-2011, 05:40 AM   #201
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10/31 Researching Other Shipping Options

The first order of business today was to procure our visas for India. There is no point in shipping the bikes there if we can't get there as well. The High Commission of India branch in Dar Es Salaam is approximately 3 miles north of our hotel. We did discover one problem when reviewing the visa requirements, namely, our passport photos. Knowing that we would need a bunch of passport photos on this trip, we snapped some photos before we left home and had them printed at the local Ritz Camera. According to the US State Department website, glasses are now okay in passport photos, but according to the High Commission, they are not. Of course in our photos, we are wearing our glasses. But this problem was easily solved when reception pointed us to a local film processor and camera store. For about 3.50 USD we had new pictures taken and each received four prints. If I ever look as bad in real life as I do in the photo, it's time to cremate me.

New photos in our grubby hands, we hopped on the bikes and headed north. The High Commission only accepts visa applications between the hours of 9:00 and 10:30 am, and we arrived at 9:35 am. They apparently only allocate 25 slots per day, and we were fortunate enough to be 22 and 23. After surrendering our helmets and my Swiss Army knife (whoops) to the machine gun-toting guards, we made our way inside the building. It was when we began to fill out the visa application form that we got a little nervous. The application for an Indian visa wants you to provide the names of two referees from the country you are leaving (in this case, Tanzania) and two referees in India. Of the four total required, we had exactly zero. When you submit your application, you are also supposed to show proof of an onward ticket (proof that you will leave the country). Since we are traveling by motorbike and plan to ride out of the country and into Nepal, we also don't have onward tickets. We also discovered when looking at the application fee chart, that since we are American, we are citizens of the only country lucky enough to get to pay an extra fifty percent for our visas. Yay.

Our numbers were finally called, and we headed to the counter. There, the officer questioned our lack of referees, to which we lamely explained, we're riding motorcycles...we don't know nobody. And when asked for proof of an onward ticket, we explained that we don't have them because we will be riding into Nepal. Met with a raised eyebrow, we explained that we could show that we had sufficient funds in our possession for the duration of our trip. At this, she made a cryptic notation on each of our applications and sent us to the next window to pay. Feeling rather unsure at this point, we went to the next window, where the cashier could answer none of our questions and simply took our money. She was able to tell us that the notation was an instruction to collect and extra 9 USD from each of us since we didn't have any referees. I was glad I brought some extra shillings with me in the morning. We left that morning expecting to pay 82 USD, but when all was said and done, we left with our wallets 142 USD lighter. We were instructed to return on Friday between 4:00 and 4:45 to retrieve our passports and hopefully, our visas as well.

We rode back to the guesthouse to pick up some more paperwork and then rode down to the ferry dock to see Mr. Msuya. Mr. Msuya was not in, but he had left instructions with an associate to have them call him when we arrived. I was having a hard time understanding Mr. Msuya over the phone, but the one fact I was able to understand was that the ship would not leave until November 10th, which is 10 days from now. I also understood that the transit time would be 21 days. Bad news, everyone. That means our bikes would not arrive in Mumbai until December 1st. We thanked Mr. Msuya for the information and said we would be in touch with him tomorrow.

By the time we returned to the guesthouse, it was nearly noon, which meant that wifi would soon be available. While Re walked out to get lunch, I got the wifi activated. We checked Re's email and found that she had received a couple of responses from the airlines she contacted. Qatar Airways had a maximum height of 84 cm, which is too low for us. Emirates Air had no problem with the size but gave us a quote of nearly 4 USD per kg. Mind you, we paid 6.52 per kg from Toronto to Cape Town, which is almost three times the distance. Including all the fees this would make shipping on Emirates almost 1500 USD (not including a crate). We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the new reality of what to do for the next ten days, and more importantly, what to do without the bikes for 21 more days. We decided that we would head to India shortly after our bikes left and spend a couple weeks as backpackers while we wait for them to arrive.

For dinner, we tried a new restaurant called Mamboz Corner BBQ. We had walked by last evening and saw them cooking hundreds of pieces of chicken on giant charcoal grills. It smelled delicious, but we'd already eaten, so tonight we gave them a try. It was delicious! We got the combo plate that included a quarter chicken and three types of beef. We also got an order of the deep-fried fish and shared it all. Everything was delicious, and we vowed to return.



8 miles of crazy lane splitting.
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Old 11-04-2011, 05:44 AM   #202
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11/1 Shipping Confirmed (?)

After breakfast we walked back toward the ferry dock to see Mr. Msuya and find out more about shipping our bikes with him. Along the way, we spied the office of a freight forwarder bearing Hellmann logo, which Re recognized from her days in cargo. To compare prices, we stopped in and inquired about shipping our bikes with them. The agent we spoke with said it could take up to 45 days to locate a shipment with which he could consolidate our bikes and could not estimate the cost without more information. I asked what it would cost for our own 20 foot shipping container, and he guestimated it to be around 1500 USD to Mumbai, not including any wharfage, other port fees, or document preparation.

Knowledge in hand, we continued on to see Mr. Msuya. Mr. Msuya had done further checking and had prices for fumigation, “stuffing the bikes,” document preparation, and port fees. I had expected the 600 USD we were quoted to go up (obviously), but when he gave us the grand total of 1300 USD, we were a little shocked. Seeing our faces, he assured us that some of the things, like “stuffing,” were negotiable. So negotiate we did. I pointed out that for that price, we could very nearly ship them by air and gave him the Emirates quote details. Of course, I failed to mention the crating, dangerous goods fees, documentation fees, and delivery to the airport fees. Somehow, they slipped my mind. At this, Mr. Msuya pulled out his phone, made a few calls (of course, in Swahili), and came back with his rock-bottom price of 850 USD and the assurance that it would take less than 21 days to get to Mumbai. He was unable to say how many days less, but less he assured us. Re and I stepped outside to discuss the new deal and decided to commit to this. I will say, Mr. Msuya seems like a very honest and straightforward man, but it was with some trepidation that we left him our Carnets and motorcycle titles in order for the export documents to be prepared. We also left him a deposit of 425 USD, which honestly, was the least of my worries. Re and I walked back to the guesthouse, both feeling a little unsure about what we had just done. But Mr. Msuya provided us with multiple ways to contact him and a receipt.

Later in the afternoon, Re emailed Alan and Maggie (fellow travelers from our time in Malaysia) for advice on India. Alan and Maggie are an amazing couple who have traveled extensively over the last 20-plus years and have spent a considerable amount of time in India. After returning from dinner, we found a return email from Alan, and shortly thereafter got an incoming Skype call from him as well. I spent an hour or so catching up with Alan and Maggie, telling them about our travels, and getting advice on all things India. It was a nice way to end the day. We headed to bed with visions of thalis dancing in our heads.

0 miles. A little nervous about surrendering our Carnets and titles (at least I have a receipt...).
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Old 11-04-2011, 05:58 AM   #203
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Originally Posted by petefromberkeley View Post
Hey, if you find yourself spending time in Dar and you decide it sucks, you can ride down the road to Bagamoyo. It's not far at all and it's much, much nicer. There is a cheap hotel I remember (you can park in a secure courtyard and also do laundry etc. there) and there is also the "Bagamoyo Beach Resort" It's too expensive, but you can stay in a mud hut right on the beach for cheap and it includes a killer breakfast. The place is run by a friendly French alcoholic named Jean Domenique (call him John Doe). He's a real nice guy and you can leave your bikes in his house if you want to go to Zanzibar without them (which I highly recommend).

Bagamoyo was the German capital of East Africa and has tons of cool Swahili archetechture and it is totally laid back- a nice change from Dar. John Doe can probably figure out the shipping situation faster than you can too.

If shipping from Kenya is the best thing to do, I wouldnt worry about the "situation" there. It's an easy ride from the border to Nairobi and once you get to Nairobi, just get to Jungle Jims or the campsite out in Karen across from the animal park- the guys at the KTM shp can guide you there. To find the KTM shop in Karen ask people for the Post Office in Karen (it's next door to that). Then leave the bikes there and take public transport around the city to arrange shipping etc.- it's easier and safer than riding all over the city getting lost all day. Jungle Jim or the KTM guys can sort out any mechanical problems you may be having too (though the KTM guys are expensive).

It may be that you have to go to Mombasa to arrange the shipping. The Nairobi- Mombasa road sucks, so be careful if you go that way. If you have time to kill then, you can "kill it" over at Lamu I suppose and skip Nairobi all together.

The best way to get to India would be to ride there, but I don't think that will happen with US passports.

Keep up the good work!

Edit: If you are planning to ship by sea to India, you should check the shipping info over at HU. It could be a nightmare. If there is any way to afford flying the bikes there, it may be best. I suspect it will still be difficult on the India side, but I am guessing it will be much worse by sea.
Thanks for the advice and tips. As you can see in the posts above we have (hopefully) already arranged shipping from Dar. The ship will go to Mombasa before heading to India, so we can avoid the travel and border expenses. I also really don't want to go to Kenya at the present time. I don't know how much of the Kenyan attack on Somalia is making it into the news in the US, but it is big news here. The Somalis have threatened to attack in Kenya and there was just a grenade attack on a bar in Nairobi on Monday. Today the news is that the Kenyan military is warning its citizens not to sell donkeys(!) to Somalia - I have no idea why (transportation, I'd guess). I prefer the donkey in a suicide vest scenario, with John Stamos' brother Richard somewhere in sight trying to hit the high F in "Loving You." (Sorry for the gratuitous South Park reference, but that was all I could picture this morning while reading the news!).

We have spent time reading about the import situation in India. Customs in India is not something we are looking forward to, I am planning for it to take two days at least. We will also be armed with as much patience as we can muster and some extra "tea money." I hope that the actual retrieval of our bikes from the container won't be as problematic (or expensive) as we are in a consolidated shipment. We shall see. Wish us luck!

We'd love to go by land but, as you point out, there is that pesky Iran in the way. We have spoken to several people who have travelled in Iran recently and they all gave it glowing reviews, so we are sad to miss it.
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Old 11-04-2011, 06:42 AM   #204
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Wow! Well, you two did want an adventure didn't you?

Hope it all works out well for you. Too bad you can't go the overland route, sucks to be a passported American on trips like this...
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Old 11-04-2011, 07:11 AM   #205
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I have been following this since you set off some weeks ago. While I prefer to not muddy up RR's with superfluous comments, I find your journey and the way you tell the story to be quite compelling. Hopefully all works out well with the "bike stuffing" and shipment to India, along with your visas. You are special people.
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Old 11-04-2011, 07:58 AM   #206
Underboning OP
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I have been following this since you set off some weeks ago. While I prefer to not muddy up RR's with superfluous comments, I find your journey and the way you tell the story to be quite compelling. Hopefully all works out well with the "bike stuffing" and shipment to India, along with your visas. You are special people.
Thanks for your good wishes. The good news is that we just returned from the India High Commission with brand spankin' new 6 month visas in our passports! Bike stuffing is scheduled for Tuesday, so fingers crossed.
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Old 11-04-2011, 12:51 PM   #207
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..... After 93 days on the road, our average daily cost is 62 USD total (not per person).....
looks like you guys are doing well on daily cost, impressive! enjoy the down time and backpacking, looking forward to the next chapter. :)
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Old 11-05-2011, 12:22 AM   #208
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Thanks for the advice and tips. As you can see in the posts above we have (hopefully) already arranged shipping from Dar. The ship will go to Mombasa before heading to India, so we can avoid the travel and border expenses. I also really don't want to go to Kenya at the present time. I don't know how much of the Kenyan attack on Somalia is making it into the news in the US, but it is big news here. The Somalis have threatened to attack in Kenya and there was just a grenade attack on a bar in Nairobi on Monday. Today the news is that the Kenyan military is warning its citizens not to sell donkeys(!) to Somalia - I have no idea why (transportation, I'd guess). I prefer the donkey in a suicide vest scenario, with John Stamos' brother Richard somewhere in sight trying to hit the high F in "Loving You." (Sorry for the gratuitous South Park reference, but that was all I could picture this morning while reading the news!).

We have spent time reading about the import situation in India. Customs in India is not something we are looking forward to, I am planning for it to take two days at least. We will also be armed with as much patience as we can muster and some extra "tea money." I hope that the actual retrieval of our bikes from the container won't be as problematic (or expensive) as we are in a consolidated shipment. We shall see. Wish us luck!

We'd love to go by land but, as you point out, there is that pesky Iran in the way. We have spoken to several people who have travelled in Iran recently and they all gave it glowing reviews, so we are sad to miss it.

Some of these notes might come in handy. Enjoying the adventure with you!
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Old 11-05-2011, 12:34 PM   #209
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A true 5 STAR Ride Report!!!!!!
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Old 11-08-2011, 01:23 AM   #210
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Gear Review

While we have too much time off in Dar Es Salaam waiting to ship our bikes, I thought I would do two special posts about our gear and our impressions of Africa. As the gear requires some less thought, I decided to start with that.


This is not another gratuitous bikini shot, if you look very closely you can see how fast the rear tire is wearing...

SYM Symbas. Life in Africa has not been easy for the Symbas. The roads have been rough, and we've spent most of our time at or near wide-open throttle, but the bikes continue to chug along, asking only for petrol and periodic oil change. Overall, we've been happy with our choice. They have made the trip entertaining, to say the least. The drawbacks have been the occasional hydraulic-ing issue (which we've hopefully figured out), the sprocket carrier bolt problem (which Loctite seems to have fixed), and the limited fuel capacity (which our bigger jerrycans solved). Additionally, a little surface rust has begun to show in some areas on the exhaust and on other areas where the chrome or paint has cracked. Some of the bolts and other fasteners are getting a little furry from corrosion. Re's factory front rack bent under the weight of the 10-liter jerrycan to the point where it contacts the front fender, but surprisingly, none of the welds have cracked. The paint and plastic have done well, with just a few wear marks and scrapes that were mostly our own faults. The white plastic leg shields show some staining and marks from our boots that don't wash off. After replacing the crappy stock chains in the US, daily maintenance has dwindled to checking the oil level and tire pressures. We are still running the stock front tires and they have yet to reach the end of the wear bars with over 11,000 miles on them.

Michelin Gazelle M62 tires. These are the tires we used to replace the stock rears. While handling and grip have been good, the wear has been poor. Whereas we got more than 5,500 miles from the stock rears, the first set of Gazelles only yielded 3,300 miles, and the second set appears to be wearing at the same rapid pace.

Garmin GPSmap 60CSx.
The surprise of the trip for me. Initially we did not plan to bring a GPS and only bought it two weeks before we left. I'd never used a GPS before and found the learning curve a little steep. But after using it for a couple of months, I can't live without it. It has made our lives easier many times, finding fuel stations, guesthouses, and campgrounds. Our maps are the freebies from OpenStreetMaps.nl, and they have been pretty good. There were some problems in Zimbabwe, but we muddled through with paper maps. It is also durable, as I have lost count how many times I have dropped it.


Pelican Storm iM2600 top cases. Work as advertised. So far, they are 100% waterproof and dustproof. The two padlocks have given us peace of mind when we are away from the bikes. Re's suffered some scrapes and gouges in her 30mph desert oopsie, but they continue to work perfectly.

Ortlieb 49-liter waterproof duffel bags. Very happy with their performance, also 100% waterproof and dustproof so far. White, however, might not have been the best color choice, as they have discolored a bit where the spare tires rub. Combined with the Pacsafe covers they have given us secure storage.

Rok-straps. 100% bombproof, even when muddy or sandy. Just make sure they're cinched tight.

Darien Lights. Can't say enough good about them. They are waterproof and comfortable for extended wear in a variety of temperatures. Re discovered that they crash well, with no damage from her 30mph faceplant in the sand. They armor is stiff when it's cold, but that hasn't been of much concern in Africa. The amount of air they flow when riding has made the very hot days tolerable, but they do get sweaty when standing in them for 1.5 hours at a border somewhere.

Nolan N90 helmets. Overall, we're happy with the helmets, though they are noisy at higher speeds (which usually isn't a problem for us!). The built-in sunshield is great, and the flip-up chin bar has served us well at petrol stations and police checkpoints. The liner is easy to remove and wash, and it dries quickly too.

Vasque hiking boots. We opted for these boots in lieu of specialized motorcycle boots due to our limited carrying capacity and the amount of time we plan to spend off the bikes. They have worked well as riding boots as they have relatively stiff soles and are Gore-tex. They are also comfortable for walking but can be a little hot for extended hikes.

Gloves. My Aerostich elkskin ropers have held up well but are getting rather dirty. Since the Aerostich gloves do not come in a size small enough for her, Re bought a couple pairs of gloves at a local motorcycle store. One pair of deerskin gloves lasted less than 3,000 miles before the leather wore through. She has had better luck with a pair of Tourmaster summer weight gloves, but even they had a few stitches pop loose (easily repaired with her sewing kit).

Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2 Tent. We chose this tent for the small size and claims of 100% waterproofness. The size has been a positive and a negative. It certainly packs small and is lightweight, but it is also very small inside. Essentially, the tent is wide enough for our bags and pads but no more. We have enough space at our feet for our daypacks and helmets, but that's it. The cramped quarters give us no room to bring anything else in out of the weather and require us to be creative with other “endeavors.” Other than the size issue, the tent has been great- 100% waterproof and good ventilation with or without the rainfly. If we had to do it again, we would upgrade to the 3-person version of the tent, the Drifter 3.

Big Agnes Yampa sleeping bags and Air Core pads. Love the system. The bags are an oversize mummy design, which gives a little more room to roll over. We ordered ours so that they zip together on chilly nights. They pack extremely small and are lightweight to boot. We had an issue with Re's pad very slowly leaking air, but eventually found an outdoor bathtub(?) in which to submerge it, where we located an apparent weak spot in the material. We used the included patch kit to fix it- so far, so good. We tried to get the Big Agnes Air Core pillows before we left, but they were out of stock everywhere, so we ended up with the REI dogbone shaped, inflatable pillow, which is not great. It's too small for either of us, and we've taken to wrapping our polarfleeces around them to give them a bit more size and fluff.

Sea To Summit silk sleeping bag liners. Shortly before we left, we sprung for a pair of these bag liners and are very happy we did. They pack to the size of a beer can but unfold to a spacious size. On hot nights, we've slept inside of these on top of our sleeping bags, and on cold nights have used them as an extra layer inside the sleeping bags. They are definitely worth the money.

Coleman Exped 442 stove. Has worked well, but doesn't simmer as well as we'd hoped. It seemed to work better in the US, so it may be due to the variable quality of petrol in Africa.

MSR Quick 2 cookset. Disappointed in the quality. Overall, it's worked okay, but the nonstick finish on the one pan is flaking and peeling. The bowls are getting discolored where they rub against the nonstick pot, and the cup lids stopped fitting tightly after only half a dozen uses.

First Need XL water purifier. Extremely easy to use and fast. We can fill our 10-liters of capacity in less than five minutes, and no drops are required. Screws directly to our MSR Dromedary bags and Nalgene bottles. It removes everything from the water, including bad tastes and odors.

MSR 4-liter Dromedary bags. They work great and are easy to strap to the top of the pile. Re's developed a small leak as a result of her oopsie in Namibia, but she was able to turn it inside out and repair it with the patch kit from the Big Agnes pads. Over a month later, there are still no leaks.

All in all, we are happy with most of our choices in gear. We are especially glad that we brought good quality binoculars, a hammer, flashlights, extra passport photos, Cipro, clothesline and clothespins, and a laptop. There are a few things we wish we had brought, including a bigger tent, a DSLR camera, and waterproof gloves. We could have left behind our Big Agnes chair kits and our poop trowel (we fortunately have not needed it (yet!)).
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