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Old 09-03-2008, 07:16 AM   #1
Narri OP
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Joined: Oct 2007
Location: East London, South Africa
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South Africa to Israel with an XT600 and XT500 in 1994


(Please note that I am writing this report really for my own recollection and the fast fading memory. Also, the pictures presented herein were scanned images from slides that I have taken. As my empty slide spools were stolen on my trip, I had only a limited amount of slides that I could take, hence the lack of picture quantity & quality)

I have always thought that I should write something about my trip through Africa, but never got around to do so. I still have one of the three Michelin maps which I took on my trip and realized that I am struggling to remember what little tracks we took in some of the countries.

Another motivation for starting this trip report was when I was sitting on the couch last week watching Long Way Down on National Geographic. Everybody will have their own way of doing things, but Johan and I did it quite differently. All I knew about Africa, is that you need a passport, some money, a map (optional) and enough time. We honestly did no planning at all. Throughout our 8 months of riding, we never could tell you where we would sleep the next night or which road we will take in two days’ time.

How it all started

I think my adventurous spirit and love for Africa were inherited from my parents, old Kobie and Ans. Most siblings, especially when older, appreciate their parents to some extent, but once you have met mine, you will love them. My mom’s eldest brother, Oom Retief Oosthuisen (who is now over 83 years old), was a true adventure seeker. Back in 1954 he organized the first ever overland trip from South Africa across Africa to England and back. It was on this trip where my parents met each other. After returning from this crazy adventure, my Dad opted to stay in Tanzania for another six years as a tour guide where he took tourists around central and east Africa. Not surprising then that I inherited a couple of genes which could easily be triggered to follow some of their tracks left years ago.

So, after spending 12 extremely frustrating years nailed to a school bench, thereafter two as a conscript in the military to fight an enemy that never existed and then another four to obtain a degree which I thought would automatically bring me somewhere worthwhile in life, I eventually found a gap to escape from this cycle of life. Hunting feral cats on Marion Island for a whole year, isolated from most of society for hours/days/weeks to think, reflect and try to find out who I am. Although I never managed to place myself in a definable category, I realized that I needed to start doing things which will make me happy. Sitting on Marion Island – alone – in the middle of the sub-Antarctic, was one of them. One picture, that kept on flashing through my mind was riding over a hill on a little dirt track when the most stunning view would appear of these planes as you go over the crest – miles and miles of short green, green grass with animals roaming on it for as far as your eyes could see, somewhere in the middle of Africa. I think it was a scene from one of the stories my Dad used to tell me when I was a little boy. More of this much later in the report – I will refer back to it.

Because Marion Island was so special to me, I have decided to share a couple of pictures with you – Enjoy!

A group photo on New Year’s Day

Me, the Cat Hunter

A party in the early morning hours at the base camp – it actually started the previous evening

Lots of open space !

And my favourite – lots of time to think, re-think and plan ahead

Some of our friends from the island, who did not want to come back:
Wandering Albatrosses

King Penguins (chicks)

Arctic Skua

And Elephant Seals !!

In 1993, I ended up in a commune with a whole lot of mates in Pretoria. I had no money to go anywhere – not even back to my parents in Stellenbosch. I got myself into this situation after a months backpacking trip to Malawi, which turned out to be much longer than a month - until all my funds were depleted. In Pretoria, I eventually teamed up with one of the commune dwellers selling pots, pans and crockery in the homelands north of Pretoria. We actually made fairly good bucks and I managed to spend only half of that on parties and booze. After a couple of months, I think it was in July, I bought myself a ten year old second hand Yamaha XT600 Tenere for R7000 - regarded at the time as the “ultimate adventure bike”.

I remember phoning my Dad, informing him of the bike. He gave the usual “But why, it is dangerous …..” crappy story, until I told him that the intention with the bike was to cross Africa and all of sudden the whole bike thing turned into a “ ….now that sounds like a brilliant idea!!”.

My idea was to pack the bike and venture into Africa for as long as I could, that is until my funds dry up. Except for my little 50cc I got from my older brother back in high school, I had never owned a motorcycle. Of all the options considered, it made most sense to ride through Africa on a bike – cheap, fun, not caged in, can go almost anywhere and of course you don’t have to talk to anyone. Can you imagine having to spend a couple of months in a cage having to talk and listen to the same person’s stories and opinions? Even worse, put the cage in 40 degree heat and then shake it violently from side to side! At least on a bike this will only happen when you stop – hopefully with no shaking.

Well, I struggled to convince any of my fellow commune dwellers to join me, so alone it might have to be…. I would have preferred a good buddy to accompany me for safety reasons, but rather alone than not at all. It remains strange how adventurous these things sound and so easily attainable to a lot of people around midnight with a proper intoxicated brain! The next day, it was only me again – no real takers. To my surprise at the end of September one of my mates who was about to write his final exams at the end of the year told me that he is considering doing something like this and that he might join me. I think, as with me, the whole school, army and study thing got to him too – especially after spending quite a bit of time with me during the past few months and drinking lots and lots of beer together. In any case – it worked, because in two months time I sort of wanted to leave and Johan not only had never owned a bike before, but he still did not have one. In October he found an old XT500 for R3500. I was kinda hoping that he would also get himself a XT600 for obvious reasons, the most obvious being that he is a “very long stretch of a fart” – a term used to describe Johan by a not-so-much-lady-like lady a year later after our arrival in England.

By mid November, I was sort of ready to go. That means that I had my bike, a tent, 3 x Michelin maps, organized a Carne de Pessagne, a brand new “Mandela-passport” and R3500 in my pocket. I knew my budget was rather tight, so decided to quite smoking and drinking. To now wait for Johan for another three weeks was getting a bit painful, so I told him that I will slowly head off to Mozambique. There is really only one coastline in Mozambique, so it should be easy to find me and with that I was off.

THE TRIP – November 1993


A few good-bye’s and the next thing, I was packed, on the bike and hitting the road out of Pretoria, east towards Mozambique – Oh boy, what a feeling it was!! Excitement, yes – a lot of that. A feeling of real freedom, yes – a lot of that. Nervousness, yes – a little bit of that.

Back in 1993, Maputo was a fairly wild place. None of the buildings have been repaired or repainted, hundreds of vehicle wreckages were scattered all over town, very little of the essential infrastructure was operational and only a few tough and dodgy characters were starting up (often dodgy) business. Exporting LM Prawns, opening up night clubs, wheeling and dealing with things ……of course, there were a couple of ordinary businesses selling groceries and coffee shops and so on.

A Bar in Maputo – one of the hot spots!

I was sleeping over in the old caravan park. Goodness, now there were a couple of dodgy characters. One lady in particular, called Gloria or something, was running the whole show and she was also the best person to change your Rands into Meticcais. I received my first offer for the bike – he said: “now with that I can go anywhere and nobody is going to catch me!!” But no, not really keen to sell it yet.

Potskerf in Maputo

I stayed an extra night in Maputu just to experience this lovely old city a bit better. I actually bumped into a mate of mine from Pretoria, called Potskerf. He was also trying to make a quick buck with the LM Prawns, but realized that the bucks were not as quick as initially anticipated. O well, I had to stay another night then to socialize a bit with Potskerf, who by then knew quite a bit more about the nightlife and the “hot” spots in town. Must say, prefer this Maputo to the “lovely” stories I was told about the old Lorenzo Marques, before the war destroyed everything. The war could not destroy the real beat that you hear in Maputu. Man, those Portuguese knew how to mix contrete ….. concrete pavements, concrete lamp posts, concrete walls, concrete roofs, concrete stairs, concrete sign boards, concrete bloody everything!! Yes, I drove up these steps with the scooter.

The next day I rode to Bilene and camped there for one night. Absolutely beautiful with no other travelers, no toilets, or water, or any other service – just me, the bike, the lush bush and the lake – this was good. I only saw two people the whole day; the one had a receipt book and requested about R10 for the camping. I told him to come back a bit later as I just want to relax a bit. Five minutes later, another youngster come to the tent and requested R5 for the camping. I obviously paid the R5 and established later that the campsite was actually owned (or at least sold) to two different people. This, I learnt on my trip through Mozambique, would become quite a common phenomenon.

On the way to Bilene

Next day, off the Xai Xai just to really get the feel for the trip in my veins and for the sense of freedom to start settling in. The bike sounds sweet and the country side is absolutely stunning. The new bridge over the Limpopo River is already completed– things are really starting to happen in Mozambique. O yes, how fortunate I was to be on this trip, absorbing the place, cruising along ….. OOOH FAAAK !!! A little boy that was crossing the road miles ahead of me, was now standing on the other side of the road, saw me coming, got a fright and took off back over the road. BANG, straight into my one pannier box. Oh shit, should I duck or turn around ? It is only a little boy, he must have got hurt….dammit, I will have to turn back and make sure he is okay.

I waved down an old landrover and explained in my best Portuguese that this kid has broken his femur badly and needs to get to the hospital urgently. I followed the landrover to the hospital only to hear that the bloody Doctor refused to help the poor little boy until he has some file number from the police – a road accident procedure – oh great, oh bloody great, now I have to hand myself in at the police station. As most low budget traveler would have done, I jippoed the third-party insurance thing at the border crossing into Mozambique – saved a good R30 for a piece of useless paper. Of course, the first thing the policeman asked for was my third-party insurance papers. So, there I was on my fifth day in Mozambique – and in the choky!! The policeman gave the Doctor a file name, but he took all my papers, bike keys, etc… and locked me up in the Xai Xai jail – a mere 10 kms from the beautiful beach at Praia do Xai Xai where I was suppose to be.

To make a long story short – I ended up negotiating with the police “Capitanos” for the whole of the next day and halfway through the next night – I mean after all, it was a fucking accident and no, you cannot charge me 1000 US Dollars, because that is R3000 and that is all the money I have and I am not ending my year-long trip on day five!! It also does not help to argue in English if the Capitanos cannot understand a single bloody word of English, in fact I still do not know why I did not argue with him in Afrikaans, because then at least it would have been easier for me. We settled eventually on 200 US$ and a letter for me signed by the Captain that this 200 US$ would go towards contributing for any additional medicines or medical expenses by the poor victim – the little boy. Well, at least, that was what the Portuguese letter was supposed to read!

The next day and evening was spent at Praia do Xai Xai – relaxing and being happy that my trip did not end on day five, and being pissed off that I have just lost 20% of the budget in one day, which could relate to at least one month of traveling. There were no camping facilities at Xai Xai, so the tent was pitched on the beach and I just loved the cement patterns and paintings on the old buildings that survived the war.

Riding by myself was great and the trip to Praia do Tofo was awesome – a little sand track through miles and miles of Coconut Palms. I was wondering (and hoping) that Johan had left Pretoria and was slowly making his own way up the coast. Tofo was just idyllic. There could not have been more than about 20 locals, mostly fishermen and the odd woman who tapped sap from the Coconut Palms. What must have been cottages were merely concrete skeletons and I opted to camp under the Cassorina trees. The hotel was pretty much intact, but not really functioning. I saw somebody inside the building – either the owner or a watchman of a kind. It was damn hot and the sea was lovely with miles of white beach. I saw the local fisherman catching huuuge Sailfish and Baracuda from the beach. I watched them as they cut the fish up into big slices and cooked it in coconut milk and wine (more like a liqueur) mix – to this day I have never tasted tastier fish than that day.

On route to Tofo

Apart from the little mishap at Xai Xai, that was now slowly fading and being replaced by scenes of these most breathtaking places. No sign of other travelers, such friendly locals….I think I will hang loose here for another day or two.

Camping at Praia do Tofo under the Cassorina trees

It must have been around 20h00 that evening, just before nightfall when I hear that sweet sound that could only be coming from another thumper making its way through the sand tracks – yes, Johan has caught up with me. I was not expecting him for at least another whole week! He drove from Pretoria to Tofo in two days! Why, I do not know – I have never asked, but it was good to have somebody to share these amazing places and experiences with.

We planned to camp for another few days. But then, lo and behold – the good Lord knows how to make rain in large quantities. It felt like the big rains experienced by Noah a couple of years back. When we woke up the following day, it was raining so hard that the water could not even be soaked up by pure beach sand! Everything was wet, including the two of us. We both bought what we thought were very good tents, but they were no match against the wrath of God!! We decided to pack up and ride in the rain – just for the experience of it.

The main road north had more potholes than tarmac, which is normally not a big issue for a scooter but when the whole road and potholes are now all under water it is rather difficult to guess how big the next hole would be that you are going to stumble upon.

Taking shelter under a tree

Villanculos had a brand new little lodge and the owners were very pleasant. We bought a couple of really big squid from the locals which we ate that evening.
Cleaning the squid

Cooking the squid

On route to Inhassoro – first of many flat tyres for me

At Inhassoro we met a crazy Kiwi with a beautiful cherry and (of all things) his main breeding male Pit Bullterrier. What the fuck do you do with a Pit Bullterrier in the middle of Africa? Any case, we teamed up and decided to ask one of the local dhow owners to take us to one of the islands about 10km from the coast – I think it was called Benguella. It was really nice and we enjoyed the company, until the Pit Bullterrier got dehydrated (like us). Not a pretty sight – he got very moody and I remember at one point, with no real pre-warning, decided to take on his boss. Being a breeder of these nice dogs, the owner knew he had no real chance, so he backed off until the dog had the last of our water and then he grabbed the dog and hanged him from his choke-chain for at least 30 minutes, whilst beating the crap out of him. Being not really used to treating animals like this, he assured us that this is the way to do it with a Pit Bull if he dares to challenge you !! Okay …..

Dhow trip to the island

Camping – Island style

Well, the deal with the dhow owner was that he would leave us on the island for two nights and then retrieve us from the same spot on the third day. He obviously got involved in some other business, because we were waiting on that beach until very late on the afternoon of the third day. Hanging loose on such an idyllic beach and island is normally rather desirable, but if you have run out of water the previous day, it would have been appreciated if the dhow owner had stuck to our plan. We eventually waved the only other dhow we saw down to take us back to the main land. An interesting experience it was.

Waiting for the dhow to pick us up

Beira was rather eventful with Johan’s bike’s timing chain sprocket coming off as we were leaving. The city itself was also interesting in that it was rather big and located in a marshy area, with no functional sewage system and obviously no effort to do much about it during the war.

Johan, investigating …..

We were in a way fortunate that the bike broke down before we left town, but when the local engineering firm’s best effort was to cut off a piece of 4 inch nail and drive it through the sprocket into the casing and fit the sprocket back, off balance, I wonder whether we were that fortunate. Having said that – this event changed our sort-of-plan to head in a roughly northerly direction (which would have been Malawi), because our only option at the time to fix this fuckup of an engineering attempt was to go to Mutare in Zimbabwe to get it fixed properly. So off we went at about 40km/h ……

On the way from Beira to Mutare we turned off the road to have a look at the Gorongosa National Park. Johan did his Masters degree in Nature Conservation in Pretoria, so we could not drive past a National Park. It was sad to see that big trucks were hauling loads of indigenous trees off to somewhere – a commercial operation. The few kilometer long track to the entrance of the park was rather scary – has not been in use for some time and we were somewhat nervous of land mines. There was not much left of the entrance complex into the park.

A scenic view from the road into the National Park

The remains of the main entrance gate into the Park

We overnight in the bush – this was how and where we slept for most of the trip


To follow soon ...
Let the Snake Slide and the Lizzard Slither - and Let it Be !!

Narri screwed with this post 09-03-2008 at 10:50 PM
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:07 AM   #2
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:56 PM   #3
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We quickly had the cam sprocket sorted out and we decided that we might as well ride through Zim towards Kariba, maybe following the Zambezi River for a bit and so we were on our merry way. We found an awesome spot along the Kariba Dam to camp, about halfway between the town of Kariba and the Matusadona National Park. It was still early, but this is beautiful. We soon realized that the little track we found towards the Dam was leading to a Tsetse Fly Research Camp. All it meant was that there were 2 locals not too far off in their huts, huge herd of cattle that were being monitored and some nets in the bush to catch Tsetse flies.

The friendly folk of Zimbabwe – And who said there are no inventors in Africa ?– Still cannot believe that Mugabe would turn out to be so cruel towards his own people

This one is for Michnus – a water melon !!

The road to Kariba

The next morning when we woke up, I saw a Narina Trogan sitting on the tree trunk right in front of my tent. The mozies were really terrible especially at dusk and dawn. In fact, I remember waking up in the morning, hardly being able to see through the tents’ mosquito net at the door. Each one had its straw protruding through the holes of the mosquito net.

The perfect camping spot – between Kariba and Matusadona

We had food for only two days, but it was such a spot that we ended up staying for 5 days. I had a packet of pre-mix pronutro, powder milk and sugar. We ate that for 3 days and it was actually great.

Yes, we did wash from time to time – do not know what my finger was doing in my ring-piece ?!

The Dam, or Lake Kariba as some call it – it must have killed millions of trees and other wild life

We were invaded a couple of times by huge herds of elephant - one night a herd of well over 30. I have to admit that I felt very vulnerable and often plain shit scared. Johan, who grew up in National Parks and the like, handled these situations much better and I was often very glad that I had him as a comrade rather than another scared moegoe like me.

This one surprised me on the way to fetch water

We found a link through to the main gravel road heading south to Victoria Falls. This was really a nice ride and we were slowly getting the feel for the bikes – these roads had those 2 to 4 cm marble like stones and which were rather slippery when any quick maneuver was attempted.

The A1 road along the dam was awesome

I also remember going for a crap (veltie) in the bush (we often did this together) and whilst pushing out that last terd a couple of dung beetles would make a crash landing next to you and would start hacking away at your droppings. This was generally fine if it was of a firm substance, but more often it was not. Very amusing to watch them though.

We found another lovely little track that appeared to go into our desired direction. We could see that it was not used often and slept there in the middle of the track. That night we heard a lion or two roaring far too close to the tents for my comfort. You can actually feel the tent vibrating as it roars. Again, Johan kept his cool and we survived. As I have expected throughout the night, we found lion spoor a mere 20 meters away from our tents.

Wow ……..

As we drove off, nothing more than 5 km, we arrived at a homestead with a local guy approaching us and looking very pissed off. We were in some hunting concession area and not actually allowed to be there. He reminded us that it was X-mas day, after introducing himself as Christmas (obviously being born on this great day his parents decided to call him that). He then invited us over for a delicious breakfast – bully beef, tomatoes and a touch of curry powder with “stywe pap”. What a nice guy and an awesome view of the Zambezi river. He convinced us to stay another day and then we were off, heading for Zambia – by now we had decided to follow the Zambezi a bit longer. She really gets prettier and prettier the longer you follow her ……..

Johan and Christmas – notice how thin Johan is – he lost almost 20kg already

We all have one of these –


To follow soon ...
Let the Snake Slide and the Lizzard Slither - and Let it Be !!
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Old 09-04-2008, 05:09 AM   #4
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What a great adventure!! Thanks for the detailed report and pics!!

mo' butta'

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Old 09-04-2008, 05:46 AM   #5
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A magnificent report
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:29 AM   #6
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We actually had to first cross into the Caprivi Strip, part of Namibia, before crossing over into Zambia. I still cannot figure out why Namibia has this loooong protrusion wedged in between a number of other countries.

Ferry crossing over Zambezi River

This part of our journey was fortunately not very eventful, but it surely had some of the most beautiful parts of this continent. The people were extremely friendly, especially towards South Africans. A vibe us white African fellows were not used to experiencing. We would often drive off the road, into the lush bush for a couple of hundred meters, pitch the tents and just sit around with a binocular doing some serious bird watching.

Camping, bird watching, this was life – this was great !!!

Friendly Zambian Kids

Zambezi sunset ….

Cleaning pot and brushing teeth

We followed this road all the up to Mongu, a couple of kilometers from the Angola border and then all across via Lusaka to Patauke, heading for Malawi.

A rapid – upper section of the Zambezi

The planes between Mungu and Lusaka

A restaurant in the outskirts of Lusaka – the original one !

Filling up with water on the way

One of the local residents, Abel, in town spotted us when we were refueling and invited us to sleep at his place for the night. We had done a couple of hundred kilometers on tarmac and it was time for some adventure again. We noticed that the map showed a track running past the South Luangwa National Park and enquired about it. Abel felt very strongly that we should not attempt it. According to him it has not been used by a vehicle in eight years. Apparently the locals warned the uninformed French tourist with a Landrover that he should not venture on that route but he did so in any case. It took people over 2 months to get the Frenchy and his Landrover out of the mud. We, on the other hand, were on motorbikes and obviously much tougher than a Frenchy. Abel said that we could try, but if it rains we will also get stuck in the mud. “No, Abel, look the sun is shining and it will only take us a day or two” were my words.

So off we went. Well we were nothing more than 20 km from Abel’s house when some strange dark clouds appeared from nowhere. About fifteen minutes later it was pouring buckets. We were fixing a flat tyre when 3 local fellows came past on bicycles and they warned us: “You better ride while it is still raining, or you will struggle in the mud. Surely I thought, riding in the rain was not so nice, it can only get better once the rain stops. Well, we must have done another 5 km and then the rain stopped. We were slipping and sliding and were all over the place, but not often in the track. I will never forget how Johan started kicking his bike with all his might – he was so angry, frustrated and generally pissed off from all the struggling, almost in tears!! The black mud was slowly turning into a very sticky putty that would clog up both the front and rear sprockets, so much that it stalled the Tenere’s engine – not even full throttle in 1st gear could get the rear wheel to turn. It took about 15 minutes to fish out all the mud with a stick and as you were going again the front wheel would stop. It picked up so much mud that the wheel got stuck between the two forks. Needless to say, the 3 locals on their bicycles came walking past us and we never saw them again. We then decided to pitch our tents in the road and wait for the mud to dry out. Two days later we packed up our tents, got on the bikes and rode on. We obviously did not plan for this delay, so we were eating mielie pap mixed with a bit of Bisto sauce for five days!!

This is where the rain started. I hope you have noticed the luxury chair on my handlebars !

We left the bikes 50m apart and pitched the tents in between for 2 nights

Note the clogged up front wheel

By the third day, most of the roads were negotiable, until we got to the place where the Frenchy got stuck. Yes, his 8 year old tracks were still there. His tracks were so deep in the mud that our pannier boxes would rest on the sides of his track and the wheel would hang in a puddle of water. The locals helped us to push the bikes through. We gave them our Malaria pills, as we had decided to stop taking them – cannot keep on taking them for so long - can’t be healthy.

Pushing our way through in the Frenchy’s tracks ….

Apart from loosing some sweat and struggling a bit in the mud, it was exceptionally beautiful in this part of Zambia. It must be worth coming back to stay at this National Park one day…… (which I did, in 1996)

Safe at last!!

This was close to the National Park entrance gate

And our last nights’ camping at a Rhino Camp before heading off to Malawi


To follow soon ....
Let the Snake Slide and the Lizzard Slither - and Let it Be !!
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Old 09-04-2008, 07:08 AM   #7
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Incredible report & photo's Narri

Inmates; tell your friends about this one, I can tell its going to be phenomenal, and not everyday we get a retro ride report!

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Old 09-04-2008, 07:51 AM   #8
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Narri - keep it coming!!
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Old 09-04-2008, 02:36 PM   #9
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Just amazing! Please keep it coming... I need more!
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Old 09-04-2008, 03:53 PM   #10
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Old School! That's what I'm talkin about

Nice work
Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride. Hot as a pistol but cool inside.
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Old 09-04-2008, 03:54 PM   #11
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Oh man, some crazy times and rides you've done Narri

Thanks for the time to write the report and to show some amazing pics
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Old 09-04-2008, 04:45 PM   #12
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A Classic!
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Old 09-04-2008, 05:26 PM   #13
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Thumb 1994??? Like yesterday, it seems.

WOW! Many adventures to come, I bet. More please and thanks for taking the time to post your memoirs - fantastic.

"Enough Robert Pirsig-esque philosophizing. My bike didn’t need maintanenece and my Zen was around the next corner. Time to ride." Sly-on-2
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Old 09-04-2008, 05:40 PM   #14
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Very very cool, guys!
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:13 PM   #15
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Baie mooi ou kerel, baie mooi!!

Look forward to more
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