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Old 10-05-2012, 02:57 AM   #1
Osadabwa OP
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Thumb Tanzania: The Full-Moon-Last-Chance-September-Ride-or-Die Ride

It was a muggy, moonlit night. Three bikers waited impatiently, sipping luke-warm beers and swatting mosquitoes. The atmosphere in Dar es Salaam was electric with the full moon’s early yellow promise of hooliganism, and the boys were ready to get on with it, to kick off the ride to Mkuranga. The minutes passed by like hours, the hours crawled past like eternities, and still Ajax farted around upstairs, gathering his kit and taking his sweet time about it. “Hurry up fafaksake!”, someone blurted, just as his shiny bald head (shaped much like the moon, actually) rounded the corner of the building. Let the ride begin.

Above: The four nightbikers of the Dar-pocalypse: me, Ajax, Wry and Tigo

Leaving Dar on a Friday night can be harrowing. Every nut with a car is out, and they’re all trying to get somewhere at the same time on roads woefully inadequate for all the traffic. It’s headlight-blinding madness on the tar road and constitutes an adventure all to itself. We followed Old Bagamoyo up to the Mbezi Tank petrol station. It’s less than 10km, but we must have overtaken a thousand cars. The video does it some justice, actually:

Above: Four minutes of badly behaved nighttime riding

Off of the tar and onto the big dirt, we were not yet rid of the cars and we just added ourselves to the crazies. To have gravel under the wheels in the dark was an intoxicating feeling, and the gloom transformed all the familiar bends into a sinister serpent of dust and rock. With no horizon and no landmarks, only the glow of the GPS promises you you’re on familiar terrain. We got some speed going in places, and roared our way through little roadside shopping areas still very much alive at nighttime. The variety of random stuff you see on the roadside at night… it’s like riding through a circus.

Above: Four minutes of fast big dirt and oncoming trucks

At the junction where big dirt meets bushtrack, we paused to take in the night, Dar city flickering off the clouds to one side and darkest Africa looming on the other. We were off into the darkness.

Above: Night on bikes makes you happy to be alive

With the big roads behind us, the serious fun could begin. In the daytime, it is a fantastic track with deep washouts and surprise bends through thornbush and dust. At nighttime, it’s a mental labyrinth and physical rollercoaster. The headlight danced ahead leaving brilliance in places and bottom-of-the-sea blackness everywhere else. It was riding on experience more than anything, and left the nerves jangling and asking for more.

Not surprisingly, the video is less than stellar, but it captures the sense of otherworldliness and shows how quickly you can be surprised by a washout.

Above: Four minutes of dark, tight tracks and close calls

Above: Ajax and two unidentified glowing orbs

Above: Ajax at night

Shortly after 9:00 PM we arrived in Pugu and rumbled up to our favorite bar for a bite and a beer. We ordered chips mayayi, as usual, and two portions of goat which blew our socks off and had us hissing at our waitress (in more or less acceptable fashion) for more. In the dark, our hungry fingers latched on to any bit of meat (often just fat, lovely, flavorful, energy soaked fat) and greedily stuffed it in our mouths. We were starved and thirsty.

Above: Pugu arrival, relaxation and libations

Above: Pugu Bar by night

Far from the city by this time, the tracks in the bush were ghostly quiet apart from the thunderous bikes. We rarely saw another person, let alone another vehicle on the powdery white tracks to Mkuranga. I was shocked to see that our speed wasn’t much reduced from our usual daylight rides, largely due to the excellent Baja Designs headlight my XR now sports, and the above average KTM 690 one that Ajax was using, and the fact that we were just freaking loving it! Ajax and I blitzed along basically side by side around blind corners and over natural whoops and burms, the dust-cloud so thick the other two had to wait until it settled to follow suit. Fantastic. I felt 100% focused on the moment, on the sensation of weightlessness and on the uniqueness of the experience. I literally don’t think I blinked for half an hour. Within a year I’ll leave Tanzania for good, but I hope I retain the memory of that feeling as long as I can.

Above: The sweet stuff: Four minutes of fast sand tracks in the dark

Arriving at the Mkuranga guest house well after 11:00 PM, we settled in to recap the ride around a couple more cold ones. The moon was high by then, and white, and looked very far away. There was no breeze, no heat, no cold, and no sound… just the buzzing in our bones from an excellent night out on bikes.

Tomorrow: Daylight comes
Don't be surprised.
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Old 10-06-2012, 08:57 AM   #2
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Old 10-06-2012, 11:43 AM   #3
where are the pedals?
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I thought lane spltting was tricky in California. At least we split traffic that is all going in the same direction.
Thanks for sharing that crazy stuff.

Check out the Baja Designs Squadron LED headlights. Make rides like that a lot easier!

Why will you be leaving Tanzania? Where are you going?
where does that road go?
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Old 10-06-2012, 03:05 PM   #4
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You guys know you are insane right?

Just hope you don't hit a wild animal is all (super high risk of that at night). Africa is not for sissies.

Its nevertheless comforting to see someone else taking risk in traffic like I do here in Peru.

Thanks for posting!
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Everyone has a max speed, 90% of that max speed is much safer and easier, and if that 90% speed isn't fast enough at Dakar, you enter the snowball. - neduro
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Old 10-06-2012, 05:24 PM   #5
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Nice. I'll have to call in when I get there.
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Old 10-07-2012, 12:42 AM   #6
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Always enjoy these ... waiting patiently for some more of the good stuff!
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Old 10-07-2012, 09:14 AM   #7
...Stays in Vegas...
Joined: May 2009
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Thumb Love it

Your RR's bring back memories of my trip to Dar in '08. Traffic is just like I remember it. We made a trip out towards the Pugu Hills then, too.

Our stay was split between Hotel Alexander and the Blue Pearl. That was a good trip, to say the least.

Keep up with the pictures, stay away from the bushmeat and sip on an Amarula for me.

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Old 10-07-2012, 10:37 AM   #8
Osadabwa OP
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Thumb Cheers all! Next segment is coming soon.

TCSVN: Dar would surprise you now... it's one of the world's 10 fastest growing cities and has become a traffic nightmare. The number of high rise buildings in the city centre has grown even since I've been here, as with the peninsula where the Hotel Alexander hides in a shady corner.

westfrogger: Cheers mate, coming right up! The pics and write up have been done for days... it's the videos that take an eternity to edit... so somebody watch 'em, dammit!

Bluebull2007: I'm definitely more worried about big cars than big cats in this part of TZ, though it has crossed my mind that startling an elephant or lone Cape Buffalo would be bad business. Would love to visit Peru on 2 wheels one day.

tmotten: Please do call when you get here. Beers every Wednesday, rides most Sundays... or that used to be the way.

WHYNOWTHEN: Yeah... the lane splitting on 2 lane roads is probably not the wisest, but it's the only way to go in this town. Unlike in the US, it's not frowned upon by the police (usually) and the cars seem to mostly fear the mega paint loss they'd face if they tried to put the squeeze on an oncoming bike. So far, so good... touch wood. I like the idea of the LED BD setup... have to put that on my wish list. I'll be leaving TZ in a year when my wife and I move for her job... hopefully somewhere else in Africa so I can keep riding, but you never know.
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Old 10-07-2012, 10:50 AM   #9
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Thumb Day 2: A long muddy, sandy, dusty, big trail, small trail day.

After plenty of haggling the night before about what time we would set off, I was sure I’d convinced everyone to be on the bikes no later than 8:00. Predictably, we ended up leaving late (I blame the Frenchman. Hey Tigo, saboteur is another great word you don’t have in French!) but the air was cool and we were fuelled by the wholly uninspired egg on white bread with instant coffee breakfast we were served at the guesthouse. At the petrol station, we loaded up on gojuice and other essentials…

Above: Tigo proudly displays his Ralli cancer sticks, guaranteed to kill you fast, but you’ll enjoy it

Above: The little petrol station’s well stocked larder… while I filled up on water, Ajax put back two Red Bulls

Above: The Big Six: me posing before the petrol shop mural on Kilwa Road in Mkuranga

We headed west out of Mkuranga toward the north/south Maneromango road that cuts into Selous. There had been rain in the night, and a slight drizzle persisted that kept the sandy bits very tacky and the muddy bits very slick. Tigo was the only one to see his ass when the big 690 misbehaved in a puddle filled rut, but we all had our near miss moments. Wry pulled up to me pale after experiencing a substantial sideways slide, and I had nearly tasted dirt the same way myself. It was a great way to warm up to the day ahead!

Above: A minute and a half of slopping and splashing all over the show

Above: Tigo’s mudflop

Apart from the early muddy sections, the track was very decent and quick. Even the stretches of bigger dirt were enjoyable with the cool air and puddles keeping you fresh.

Above: A bit of mud for your troubles, bikers in their element

Deviating off the larger dirt, we found a few older roads that had been eaten away by years of neglect. Those are the kind of tracks that mix high speeds with potential for disaster which keep a guy quick on the throttle and quicker on the brakes.

Above: Ajax gets our 20, riding the old dirt

Above: A minute fifteen of faster, fun stuff

Above: A quick pit stop: Papaya view, cassava view

It was just a fantastic start to the morning: the riding was good, the scenery varied, the weather cool, the clouds looming ominous… While resting and fertilizing the flora, we were approached by a guy with a very cool mudflap on his cheap Chinese crapper. It’s a monkey stealing fruit and says something to the effect of: You know who’s boss. I gotta get me one.

Above: Slaloming palms, Mr. Mudflap

After our little break, Ajax took us down a footpath into the unknown. As is common on these rides, we often deviate from known tracks to see if we can find an alternative route that is more challenging or tricky. This one quickly led us into thorny brush that swallowed the trail. After some hunting around, we relocated the track just in time for Tigo’s 690 to put on a show of “Race Readiness” in which the air intake tube from the airbox comes disconnected from the bike.

Above: Convincing goat-stopping thorns, Tigo fixes his fancy orange bike, a drywors’s eye view of the scene

Minor technical faults rectified, we proceeded up the footpath, climbing up a nice hill through dense forest that dead-ended at a field and a hut… as many trails tend to do. We quizzed the guy awhile to find the likeliest way out of there and he pointed dubiously down the hill, back into the bush. Ajax and the others slid down to investigate and I continued to dig for info. He seemed 100% sure there was a 4x4 track down there that would lead us out of the valley, so we went for it. Sure enough, the escape route lay just at our feet.

Above: Four good minutes of searching, finding and rocking on the little tracks

Above: From field back down into forest

For the rest of the morning, we linked excellent track to excellent track. There were 2 tracks with grass in the middle, big dusty sandpot roads, ridgecrest viewpoint roads, you name it. It rained a bit, but never got slick, and we just blasted our way up the escarpment to Maneromango where we pitted again for some plastic jugs of fuel, young coconut and banana snacks and Mountain Dew and Ndovu Shandys. We snacked in lieu of eating a proper lunch in order to avoid falling into a food coma, and it paid off later in the day.

Above: Forest, village and deep bush

Above: Deep sand tracks and 4x4 doubletrack fun

Above: Orange onslaught

Above: Escarpment overlook road

Above: Maneromango views: Coolest kids ever, Wellies by the dozen, your one-stop-shop for all your Honda needs, chips in a bucket waiting to be fried

Above: The riders at ease clockwise from top left: Tigo (French maniac: KTM 690), Wry (Polite but dodgy Limey/Kenyan: KTM 450), Me (Yakity-Yank: XR400) and Ajax (Danish Lesbian Refugee: KTM 450)

Above: The chips take a hot bath, Wry wrangles some coconuts, I taste the nectar

Next up: an afternoon of exploring West to Wami: Big dirt, dusty dirt, an evening trail ride, and a night approach.
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Old 10-07-2012, 05:51 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bluebull2007 View Post
You guys know you are insane right?

Just hope you don't hit a wild animal is all (super high risk of that at night). Africa is not for sissies.

Its nevertheless comforting to see someone else taking risk in traffic like I do here in Peru.

Thanks for posting!

You'll never leave Africa...any Expat will you that. Damn I miss the wild freedom of Africa.

As Bluebull stated....Africa ain't for Sissies!!!
Great ride report by the way...bring it on!
KTM 1190R / XR500 Street tracker project/ KTM 500XCW / KTM 300XCW / Sherco 2.9 / Honda ZA50,Ural Patrol, Honda NSR250 ...Yamaha Wave Blaster 1200.
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Old 10-08-2012, 03:11 AM   #11
gilles b
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Hey Hunter,

Nice pics and video!
I'm missing all those trips.
My first trip in Tz was night starting to, I'll never forget it.

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Old 10-08-2012, 03:12 AM   #12
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Pissed Weekend ride

A grudging thumbs up...and don't leave me behind again.
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Old 10-08-2012, 03:15 PM   #13
where are the pedals?
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Lights! This is what you need!

These BD Squadrons have completely changed my night rides.
where does that road go?
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Old 10-08-2012, 04:45 PM   #14
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Great report + pics.


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Old 10-09-2012, 10:11 AM   #15
Osadabwa OP
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Thumb Lights 'n' stuff

Cheers everyone,

jmcg - Thanks for the encouragement, more coming right now.

Man Whynow, those are some serious lights. It would be amazing to go for rides with that kind of illumination. Put it on my wish list for sure!

Johnny Africa - if I leave it won't be for lack of trying not to. It's definitely become part of my life staying here... been here longer as an adult than I've been in the US.

Faceplant - I'm not feeling comfortable with your comment. You must be ill or something. After the next post, please berate me for faksake. And if you recall, we asked, nay, pleaded for you to come on the trip. You told us you had to wash your hair...

Gilles - Get your arse out of that neck brace (yes a motorcycle related injury) and get back out here already! And see if you can drag your ugly Uncle Bean along with you! Cheers for following along... I think the next vids are the best of the bunch.
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