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Old 08-13-2013, 10:33 AM   #46
L.B.S.
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I can't say anything that hasn't already been said, but bless yer guys' hearts for transporting me away once again, from my deadly dull and drab cubicle working existence, to a wonderful and awesome motorbike adventure in a far off land

5 Stars!
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Old 08-13-2013, 10:49 AM   #47
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Reading the bike towing "testimony", I just about drowned the computer with the slug of coffee I'd just taken. Superb stuff!
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Old 08-13-2013, 01:09 PM   #48
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Stuff of legend.
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Old 08-13-2013, 08:35 PM   #49
ADVer
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Unataka sabuni?
Priceless failed water crossing quote!
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Old 08-15-2013, 07:32 AM   #50
Faceplant
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Question

Lini Bwana?
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Old 08-18-2013, 06:29 AM   #51
ClearwaterBMW
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another EPIC RIDE REPORT
wow...
incredible journey... an incredible read with wonderdful images
i cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share with with us
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Old 08-19-2013, 02:35 AM   #52
Osadabwa OP
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Thumb Day 8: Escarpment, Crazy Bridge and Wedding

The day began like all the others – eating eggs. Spoiled from the Lake Shore Lodge, we thought we’d try to do better than hard-boiled. I was in the restaurant first and asked for fried eggs “Soft, don’t flip them over”. What I got, not surprisingly, was fried eggs durable enough to use for brake pads if they weren’t so oily. Next up, Ajax, with his infinitely superior Swahili. The result? Same story – eggs you could play Frisbee with. Finally, Mr. Bean arrives. He’s been in TZ so long, he has a special name for eggs sunny-side up: “macho ya ng’ombe” or “eyes of the cow”. Result: Success! The eggs arrived absolutely wobbling with liquid yellow yolkiness. Ajax and I were equal parts jealous and impressed, but the first thing Mr. Bean does is ask if the guy can throw them back in the pan a bit longer… Benny Boom-Boom strikes again.

Breaks fasted, bikes loaded, we rode south out of Sumbawanga through an hour or more of construction zone. The previous day’s adventure meant that now we needed to make up some time. Our plan was to slide down the escarpment into the Rift and see how far south we could get with the two ailing bikes. We still wanted to reach Lake Nyasa (Malawi) before returning to Mbeya.


Above: Macho ya ng’ombe, Ajax and Bean on the big road out


Above: Petrol station, hardware store, human vending machine

None of us relish the big dirt so it was a relief when Ajax pulled us off of it at last. The road down the escarpment was still fairly big, but it was twisty and dusty and afforded some stunning views of the valley below.


Above: Sugarcane at the turnoff, Mr. Bean takes an easy lefthander


Above: Dusty riding on the curvy escarpment road

As with other times we’ve come upon a switchbacked, dusty track descending a 3000 foot hillside, we basically just cruised on down. Easy does it. Nobody was racing. We were all just taking it in. The tricky part of course was to not get complacent and coolly slide your casual-assed self right off the edge somehow. Particularly treacherous were the concrete hairpin sections that have a nice thin layer of gravel on them. They’ll take you out if not respected.


Above: Snapshot from Google Earth (I count maybe 11 hairpins…) and some views from thereabouts


Above: Descending into the semi-arid landscape, PubQuiz as seen from above


Above: Hey, now my high-beam works!?, Monster navigates a righthander

Stopping high above the valley floor, I could hear the other bikes’ engines groaning in the distance. I knew they’d reached the bottom when the revs increased to a far-off scream and Dopplered away. We didn’t have any tracks to follow, so we just stuck with the road we were on, even when it took us much farther east than we thought we needed to go. From years of this kind of trip, we know that sometimes you have to go wrong to get right. It was fesh fesh all the way: deep and grabby and completely unearthly.


Above, some of the dust on the long valley road


< < < STOP > > >


Before you go any further, have a look at this video (it's worth it).


Above: The footbridge at the end of the road

So needless to say, that was pretty crazy. Ajax and Bean had been over the Kamsamba Bridge in the past, but the sensation of wobbling across that many uneven planks on a suspension bridge that high and narrow built God knows when was pretty exhilarating. It set us up well for the remainder of the afternoon which, though basically just eating up kilometers on a dirt road had enough scenery and distance from the norm to be memorable.


Above: The Kamsamba bridge from the other side


Above: The Kamsamba bridge from the approaching side


Above: The Monster


Above: PubQuiz

Spirits high after the bridge crossing and heading in the right direction at last, we were screwing on the throttles and letting the dust fly. Still keen to make time, we spread out along the road and gave it stick. I stopped along the way to take a few shots of the scenery and whatnot, and enjoyed myself plenty while riding, despite the many nasty and invisible potholes and stones along the track.


Above: A pic for 620: me in the sorghum, a stuck truck


Above: Salt evaporation system, maybe?, FundiPhil rocking down the track


Above: My XR400, the perfect African bike

The track wasn’t the most amazing, but just being out in the bush where the trees are still tall and the people are just getting on with growing crops and such was invigorating, particularly as the afternoon sun took on its copper tone. Snippets of memory from the afternoon: badly painted lorries, leafless white-barked trees standing amid the dried and yellowing foliage of scrubbier species, thatched roofed houses and humble farms, sleepy villages without much to offer, and a funeral parade. Life, basically. Tanzania pura. That feeling of moving through a timeless scene that is best captured, I’m convinced (and I bet I’m not alone here), from behind the bars of a motorcycle.


Above: White barked trees, thatched houses, ruined churches


Above: PubQuiz’s blue smoking Honda and the late afternoon oil top-up

The afternoon was snuffing itself out as we thundered into Mbozi. As with the approach to Sumbawanga, the construction outside town was in the most dusty and chaotic phase, so as soon as we were clear of it – and the very lively section of tarmac that led into town; a colorful explosion of salespeople and shoppers mingling along the road – we found a place for a drink to regroup. The day had been a success. We’d made good time and were well within reach of Lake Nyasa. It was time to find digs and call it a day.


Above: Arrival in Mbozi, dusty faces, proof that PubQuiz probably did kill a chicken, and a Starbucks Coffee smallholder farm… now you know where your latte comes from

We located a guest house and ordered a round of beers and arranged chairs and tables out in the open among the resting bikes. It was quiet and lovely, shady and cool. And then, a distant clamor. A high-powered thunderstorm of a sound system was approaching. A moment later a pickup truck stacked with amps and blasting Swahili music rolled into the parking lot of our formerly tranquil watering hole, followed by several cars decorated with streamers, out from which piled a half dozen turquoise-clad bridesmaids and an equal number of much less festively dressed menfolk. It was a wedding party looking for a place to take their photos. And seemingly, in Mbozi, the hotel we’d chosen happened to be a prime spot for such activity.

So there we sat, beers in hand, dust on our faces from the ride, kit scattered about and motorbikes still cooling off from the day as the mob gathered and the show began. The portable DJ parked near enough to ensure that the music could be felt, not simply heard. Kids danced to the beat. The turquoise birds preened and arranged themselves around the bride in a series of stylish poses on the tiny grassy area where the hedges grew along the wallfence. It was good entertainment, but little did we know that audience participation was required. After a while we were asked to join them for a group shot. Only in Tanzania.


Above: Bikers, beers, boom-boxes and bridesmaids


Above: Dar Bikers add a bit of exotic flair to a Tanzanian wedding photo

Being incorporated into the wedding photos was a nice reversal of roles. I’m glad our ugly mugs are in an album somewhere in Mbozi and I hope our unaccountable presence there makes for a good story for the bride and groom later.

After the noise abated and the wedding moved on, we tucked into our dinner and relaxed. It was our penultimate day. The trip was winding down. It was almost a melancholy feeling until Ajax received an SMS from PhatBilly that was something to the effect of:

<< Been to the clinic in Dar. I’m all blue and black.
I broke a couple of ribs during the crash.
Got a very badly bruised bum and still can’t feel anything there.
A lot of nerves run through that area apparently… >>


That put a smile on everyone’s faces. (Ajax in particular.)


Above: A fish head and a meathead


Above: a hodgepodge of fast riding, local color, road art and the wedding party

The plan for the next day: Ride through the cream of the Southern Highlands through fields and forest down to Lake Nyasa and back to Mbeya.

You've come this far, might as well stay tuned for the last day.
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Osadabwa screwed with this post 08-19-2013 at 04:24 AM
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Old 08-19-2013, 05:13 PM   #53
tmotten
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Fuck me!!! You didn't even hesitate to walk the bridge to check for gaps. We need smilies with big balls for this one.
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:34 PM   #54
Osadabwa OP
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Thumb Last Day: Meteorite - Malawi - Mbeya

The Mankonde Hotel had right by us. Heck, they had complimentary toothpaste and toothbrush in the bathrooms as well as a single-use Vaseline-like substance for moisturizing skin (one presumes) plus hot running water. I slept like the dead. In the morning though, I noticed that something was funny about the bathroom... apart from the fact that the toilet and the shower were in the same place, which is pretty common. My special waterfall tiles had been installed upside down. It boggles the damn mind.


Above: Which side up?

I won’t go into breakfast. Suffice it to say, we had eggs. While masticating, we mapped out a monumental means to meander to Lake Malawi and back to Mbeya, momentarily meeting up at the eminently mystical Mbozi Meteorite and moseying through magnificent moorlands along the way. It was going to be a long day and probably not technically challenging since we were trying to make decent time and wouldn’t try to explore much, but it promised some of the most beautiful scenery and hilly, curvy roads of the trip.


Above: Caution: Wide Load

Right outside Mbozi, the hills rose up and the richness of the soil became evident. It was a pleasure riding in the cool air up to the Mbozi Meteorite – the triviata of which PubQuiz managed to elucidate details as only he could:

“As any amateur meteorite hunter knows, your meteorites vary in value from $0.50 per gram up to about $50.00 per gram depending on composition and circumstance. The Mbozi is an “iron” meteorite which is worth much more than your “basic / common” ones. So, in theory this puppy is worth more than $0.50 per gram. Now the little brochure they gave us (well, they let us look at, since they only had one copy) said the Mbozi was estimated to weigh about 16 tons. So, there’s 1,000 grams in your standard kilogram, and 1,000 kilograms in a metric ton which works out to be… well a truck load of money, especially for dirt poor Africa.”

He went on: “The most amazing thing about the Mbozi though is the fact that it sits there – all 16 tons of above-average meteorosity – and but yet it is only a Tsh 10,000 ($6.25) fine for damaging or stealing part of the damn thing. It makes you wonder about the logic (or is it ignorance) of the Tanzanian caretakers.”

And he continued: “Interestingly Dr. D. R. Gratham of the Geological Society in 1930 used a hack-saw too [sic] cut out a specimen of about ten centimetres. This little operation took the good doctor ten sweaty-palmed hours. And now the piece is kept at the British Museum in London. Not sure if he paid his Tsh 10,000 fine though…”


Above: 16 tons of heavenly body… five bikers and a beauty contestant (I’m looking at you, Monster… like a bikini-clad chick at an auto show for Pete’s sake. Leg all draped over the thing, hand caressing its intergalactic ferrous-ness. Damn!)


Above: Dr. D.R. Gratham’s cut I presume? The view from the Mbozi meteorite

Having checked the Meteorite off of Mr. Bean’s bucket list (he was so excited), we made our way back out onto the roads while the shadows were still coming in longwise. The dirt roads were in good nick, if a bit rocky, and took us quickly up and around the topography affording us ever more attractive views of multicolored fields and patches of forest on the hillsides below.


Above: Starting off up the hills


Above: PubQuiz tops up oil… again, some kids in Sunday best, Mr. Bean making dust

The dry season was well underway so many of the crops had already been harvested, leaving behind a stubbly tan- and earth-toned patchwork behind. Some of the vegetable crops though were still in-situ, leaving bright emerald and lime polygons that seemed to have the vibrance and saturation levels turned up to +40. Combine that with the distant hills flirting in and out of view and the multitudes of people on their way to or from church and it was a lovely colorful morning ride.


Above: Washing and watching


Above: Horizon and junction


Above: Picture postcard

Closing in on noon, as we creeped closer to Lake Niasa/Malawi, the ecology changed abruptly from high altitude crops to tropical ones with bananas and cocoa making an appearance. It was clearly an area that sees a lot of rain and was as fertile as any place on Earth. In one section, we passed through a sliver of pristine forest (a rarity) that showed itself to be every bit as impenetrable as the one in Bwindi, but probably hadn’t seen Gorillas in centuries. As I was thinking this, the clouds moved in and give the scene a misty quality, a visible touch of mystery and oldness.


Above: 180 Degree junction, pristine forest


Above: Banana views, vegetable plots and bikers


Above: Maize and bananas and Cocoa oh my!


Above: Bikers watching bikers looking lost

The sun was ducking the clouds like a prizefighter, but only managed to break into view for part of the trip down to the Lake. We cruised the corners and slid up and down the hills, not stopping much apart from the occasional junction. I took a lot of helmet cam of this area thinking it would capture the colors and bigness of it, but it’s a flop. I won’t waste your time and mine.


Above: Decent bridge in high potential area


Above: Taking in the scenery

By three or so, we reached the lakeshore at Matema. It’s the third country I’ve seen Lake Malawi from and I think it’s in contention for most beautiful view. With the tall hills dropping themselves directly into the water and the long beach lining the northern edge, it was definitely worth the effort to see.

Topical Current Event: A quirk of colonial madness has resulted in a funny turf-war here where Malawi claims ownership of the lake right up to the shoreline and Tanzania claims (sensibly) that they should share the lake’s abundance with Malawi and Mozambique – as is the custom everywhere else – stupid former white masters’ maps be damned. If Malawi has their way, Tanzanians washing in the lake will be trespassing. It seems the Warm Heart of Africa has a cold, bitter streak.


Above: As close as I got to Malawi this trip – didn’t want to tick off immigration


Above: Dar Bikers at the Matema Lodge

Having pitched up unannounced at the Matema Lakeshore Resort which is not really on the tourist circuit, I was astonished how quickly they managed to throw together some spaghetti bolognaises and that they could offer cold drinks. Quick service plus the long stretch of lovely beach was a big plus for Matema Lodge. I had a look at the rooms though… not exactly the Hyatt if you catch my drift, and a lot less rustic-African-quaintness than similar places usually offer.


Above: Lake Malawi/Lake Nyasa views from Matema

Leaving Matema felt like the end of the trip. It was getting on to late afternoon and we still had a lot of riding to do to get to Mbeya before dark. Earlier in the journey, I wouldn’t have minded arriving after sunset, but over the course of the 2000 kilometers, both of my 55 W Baja Designs Headlights were dead due to shoddy connections. I didn’t much like the idea of riding blind into Mbeya.

We reluctantly set out and were retracing our steps a bit to get to Tukuyu when Ajax spied a smaller track heading off west that he wanted to explore (could be a shortcut). It was the width of a doubletrack, but surfaced like a decent dirt road, so not exactly a technical challenge but the bunch of us somehow got inspired and really raced through that section, totally heedless of the heavy foot and motorbike traffic along the way. We had a mini rally going through there with the lead places being fought for by Ajax and PubQuiz. While they were occupied with each other, I snatched the lead on an inside corner overtake that was pure brilliance I thought. Of course it was short lived. Then they wasted me on the straights.


Above: Scenery and spectators for the rally


Above: An un-registered bovine quadruped captured by my helmet cam’s 1 minute timer


Above: The very moment before I embarrass PubQuiz and Ajax by snatching the lead on the inside

The little track wasn’t long, but it was memorable. After that, we needed to settle in and make up some kilometers, so we found the main dirt road and aimed for the tar. Inexplicably, at the junction where the dirt met the tar – right where the little triangle of dirt builds up from people turning left and right – there was a Tanzanian dude dressed in pegged jeans and what I suspect he thought was a hip T-shirt, lip synching and dancing while two other dudes filmed him. We rode right through his scene, engines roaring. For all I know we feature in his music video and are playing on Channel O right now. Why the hell didn’t I stop to get a photo? Why didn’t I stop to get an autograph?


Above: The last of the dirt and the tar ribbon back to Mbeya

Naturally, the last 100 km were the hardest. We were tired and nobody relishes the tar. PubQuiz’s bike was now sucking down oil at a truly ridiculous rate and we were all wondering if it would make it back without melting down. The group dragged itself out into two groups that would blast along, stop, be overtaken by the other group and blast along again. Ajax said when PubQuiz, Bean and I came thundering in tight formation through the late evening light and quiet hills and fields it looked just like the riders of the apocalypse. By that point though, we were more interested in a hot shower and a cold beer than anything else. We had the throttles pegged.


Above: The area near Tukuyu is truly gorgeous; if you go there, get off the tar awhile and explore.

I was surprised to find that Mbeya, a town I remember from the late 90s as having no ATM machines, was now sprawling and absolutely crawling with traffic. Darkness was upon us and Bean was hell-bent on getting to Utengule as fast as possible, so PubQuiz and I just hugged his tailpipe and prayed as he positively flayed traffic laws and common sense, cutting between lanes of traffic going both ways, ignoring streetlights and playing chicken with oncoming lorries.

It was a relief when we arrived alive. The shower was excellent and the beer tasted gold-plated. We were tired and satisfied from another excellent adventure… and already plotting our next one.


Above: Me and my trappings, retired for the time being… until the next time

Cheers to the boys for another great ride, and thanks to all you ADVers (and cage-driving lurkers) who followed along.

Keep the rubber side down!
(I’m talking to you, Billy!)

Osadabwa
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I used to have a link to my African rides in my signature line, but every time I check it doesn't work. So, if you want to see Kilimanjaro, the Kilombero Valley, a bunch of short trips around Dar and another long one to Mozambique: go to my profile.
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Old 08-22-2013, 07:32 AM   #55
Faceplant
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I was starting to despair, but you eventually made it!
We need to start planning the next planning meetings.
Well done
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Old 08-22-2013, 11:29 AM   #56
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Thumb

Thanks so much for posting
Really enjoyed this, & have done some reading through your other RR s too..
Most excellent stuff, you are truly adventure riding..
( Btw , myself & 2 mates traveled much of your route between Pemba &
Lake Malawi ( Covered in an earlier report ) in 2009 on 640 ADVs..
Recognized some of the areas from your pics... )
Well Done, looking forward to the next one..
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:20 PM   #57
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well done
thanks for sharing
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Old 08-22-2013, 06:21 PM   #58
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Awesome.

Thanks.



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Old 08-24-2013, 04:22 PM   #59
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You've raised the bar

The bridge crossing was all time
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