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Old 08-14-2014, 12:25 PM   #526
Trogon
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I like the black and white shot of you on the hammock Gary, it reminds me of those photos you see in history books of those African explorers of old, something about that expansive view..
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Old 08-14-2014, 08:14 PM   #527
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The amazing thing (well ONE amazing thing) about this trip report is that it just keeps getting better and better! I'm really excited that Jamie has joined you! That's pretty special.

As an aside,
I sometimes get fair-trade, or organic coffee from Malawi and Tanzania. I hope it truly IS "fair trade"... that the folks who grow it are compensated adequately.

I'm on the edge of my seat. (as I have been for months! )
Rock on.
Ride safe.
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Old 08-17-2014, 10:22 PM   #528
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thanks again guys - weird how a long trip evolves over the months. never know how it might go..

the folks up in Livingstonia were growing coffee, and would send it to Mzuzu for roasting and processing. In Malawi in general they seemed pretty savvy about the importance of getting some portion of proceeds directly to local villages, hopefully it works how it is supposed to with the coffee.
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:34 PM   #529
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Great stuff, as always!
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Old 08-22-2014, 09:03 AM   #530
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Great pictures
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Old 08-23-2014, 10:37 AM   #531
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Sliding Zanzibar



The Chinese Dream had seen better days than the one we rode out of Baobab Valley headed for the Tanzanian coast. Within a few hours of riding Mike dropped his chain another couple of times and it looked as droopy as could be. We stopped at every motorbike shop we saw, but couldn’t find a chain the right gauge and length for Mike’s bike. It was only 300 miles to Dar Es Salaam, so the Chinese Dream was just going to have to suck it up.





The ride into Dar Es Salaam was death defying. I’d forgotten what it was to ride a motorbike into a crowded, seething, cook pot of an African capital city. I was quickly reminded with the first few near misses by trucks and buses careening along. There seems to be a direct relationship between the degree of flamboyancy of the bus paint job and the risk tolerance of the driver. I hate having really sparkly busses behind me.


The road was utterly filled with huge trucks and buses and hardly anything else. For hundreds of miles the asphalt had deep depression tracks that look like a really heavy truck drove on it before the road was finished. The deep tracks and adjacent ridges make it really difficult to move laterally in a lane adding to the peril on a motorbike. It feels dangerous for me on the 650, so I can imagine how it feels for Mike on the 250 with a dodgy chain. As we neared Dar Es Salaam and traffic slowed, we passed trucks on the road shoulder, the adjacent roadside market, or anywhere else that would allow us to get out onto open highway and avoid being a semi-truck sandwich.





Dar Es Salaam means ‘Place of Peace’ in Arabic, but we found the congested city to be nothing of the sort. Mike, Jamie and I all tucked into a single dingy room in a hotel nearby the ferry port and locked our bikes away in a steel gated area outside. As we wandered the heart of the city, some charm became apparent with Indian street kitchens and restaurants preparing and serving delicious dishes right on the sidewalk.





The next morning we found the ferry to Zanzibar Island and rolled our bikes into the cargo hold amidst the chaos of large wheeled luggage movers thundering up and out of the ship to the rowdy shouts and cart riding antics of the porters hustling about. We sped across the channel that separates Zanzibar from the mainland on a course that had us slicing through the ocean swells at an oblique angle and giving the boat a good roll from time to time. At the port of Stone Town we quickly found ourselves in a maze of narrow alleyways with no indication of the way out. Before long, we were putting along through a crowded marketplace and feeling as though we’d ridden into a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.





Zanzibar’s Stone Town has a gritty neighborhoody feel to it in a way that makes a stranger comfortable wandering around. A tangled network of narrow streets and alleyways connect small stores, bazaars, mosques, workshops, restaurants and squares. Windows are so close to one another on opposite sides of the streets that you could borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor without coming downstairs.





Stone Town was historically a center of spice trade and slave trade during the 19th century and became a British protectorate in 1890. Diverse elements from Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African cultures are apparent in the architecture of the city and led to a designation as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000. The main construction material is coral, which is very friable, and most of the buildings are in deteriorating condition.








There are more than 200 carved wooden doors constructed and ornamented in Indian or Islamic styles.





Kids ran by us chasing after one another and laughing. They ran like they know every blind alley and turn and in this labyrinth that we quickly found ourselves lost within.








Jamie and I walked around and soaked it all up.












































A busy marketplace pulsed with the business of the day.



















We stopped at one busy square full of men of all ages milling about. Some of the old fellas have been coming to the same square, drinking coffee and playing dominoes for decades. These old guys had a distinguished air to them and you could sense a hierarchy of sorts amongst them.








It was one of those places that it feels like you have no right to intrude upon and feel a bit of a voyeur. We were grateful for the brief welcome that we was extended to us gawking tourists.







After stopping at a few motorbike shops to no avail Mike finally got a new chain in the nick of time. He was barely able to convince the old one to stay on the chain ring for more than 20 minutes at a stretch by the time we limped into the bike shop. While the shop didn’t have a chain that was long enough, they were able to cut some extra links into one that they had on hand.





From Stone Town, we made for the far side of the island which is exposed to open swell from the Indian Ocean. We were far north enough that the swell shadow created by Madagascar should no longer be a problem as it is for much of the Mozambique coastline.





We found the east side of Zanzibar the exclusive domain of kite surfers rather than the wave riding type. A barrier coral reef a couple kilometers from shore created a perfect, shallow zone of beautiful turquoise water with very little swell energy to deal with. On the horizon, we could see the whitewater where waves were crashing, unloading their full power long before they reached the shoreline.










Jamie and I spent our nights in a sand floor bungalow with walls of woven dried palm leaves and a thatched roof. The white sand was so fine that it created this wonderfully soft, milky slurry as tiny waves stirred the water at the shoreline. When I scooped up handfuls of sand I it was so sticky due to the fine clay-size particles that I could press it into a ball in my fist.





Jamie and I explored up and down the beach on the bike and wandered the tidal zone at low tide looking for treasures in the endless rippled sandy flat as local folks went about their low tide business. Zanzibar is a very friendly place to visit and a far cry from the hectic nature of Dar Es Salaam on the mainland. The phrase Hakuna Matata (no worries) is always quick on the lips of locals as they deal with the European tourists that swarm about the island.





There is something incredibly free feeling about flying along a strange beach on a motorbike. It feels like the little machine thumping along beneath you could take you anywhere you might have want to wander.








The whole setting was idyllic and very relaxing but I was consumed with the thought of searching for waves out on the reefs that teased us with each look to the horizon with billows of whitewater. The local kite surf shop had a couple of surfboards kicking around that we could use and the guys who worked there tried to describe how to find a break out on the reef about 45 minutes away by boat. Unfortunately, all of the kite surf guys were busy teaching lessons every day, so Mike and I were on our own to find a boat and the way to the surf spot. I talked to half a dozen fishermen over the course of two days and got a mix of misunderstanding, empty promises, and hakuna matatas. I finally employed the services of our host at the Bungalows, Simba (I swear I'm not just making up names and words from the Lion King). Simba found us a guy who could run us out the reef for a reasonable fee the following afternoon. I was stoked – after days of looking we now had boards to ride and a way to the surf.





The guys with the boat were an hour late after having to deal with getting some water in the petrol and they hardly spoke a word of English. No problem, I thought, I’ve got Simba who speaks perfect English and he can explain them what we want to do and where we want to go. After a lengthy back and forth on the sand, I was confident that we were all on the same page and off we went.





It didn’t take long after setting off to find out that we were not even reading the same book. They ran us straight out eastward to the reef, stopped the boat and looked at Mike and I to do something. The directions that we’d communicated to the surf spot were to motor about 45 minutes south along the reef towards a narrow pass, where two big blocks of coral sit atop the main reef. Sitting in the boat, Mike and I looked out at a chaotic mess of waves breaking every which way on the shallow reef, and then we stared back and the guys and put our hands up. During the next hour, we pointed, and drew pictures in the air with our fingers, and called Simba on their cell phone to try to communicate where we wanted to go. They finally seemed to get the picture with smiling nods of understanding. Then one of them pointed to the gas can to indicate that there wasn’t enough fuel to make it where we wanted to go. Fantastic. We were feeling defeated as the new plan seemed to be to simply head back to shore and we knew that ther wouldn't have enough time to find gas and go back out again.





After much discussion between our two boatmen, we made a turn south. They’d decided to chance it on the gas we had. Mike and I scanned the horizon hard and from time to time we’d imagine that we saw a peeling wave. You start playing a game with yourself of ‘maybe that’s it’ as one surf mirage after another rolls by. Others had surfed here, so we weren’t exactly in uncharted territory, but to us every chunk of reef was new. We were just following a few clues and it felt like the stuff of real surf exploration. When two square-looking dark shapes appeared far off in the distance, our hopes grew that we were in the right vicinity. We were sitting so low in the little boat, it was really difficult to identify which way to paddle.





Mike and I jumped out of the boat and paddled toward the reef, having very little idea what we were headed for. There was no clear channel on the inside and we battled our way through whitewater. It’s always a bit unnerving jumping out of a boat miles from shore and paddling into the unknown. The primary danger was that we could be sucked onto a shallow part of the reef before we knew it to find head-high waves breaking on us in knee-deep water. What we found beyond the reef was about as good as a mediocre 5-foot day at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. The wave had plenty of power an you could find a section or two to do a couple turns, but it really didn’t feel like we were in the right place. It just didn’t seem like a surf spot that anyone would venture 15 kilometers in a boat to ride. In fact, we wondered whether we were the first people ever to surf this piece of reef entirely.





We came back to the boat and pointed the guys to the other side of the two big blocks of coral. After motoring about half a kilometer north, a fairly defined shoulder of a wave peeling to the right came into view with something of a channel running alongside it. We watched a few waves, and while our vantage point was still poor, I became convinced that this was the wave we had been seeking. Somehow we’d missed it on our first pass by headed south. Mike and I jumped out of the boat and paddled out to have a closer look.





The paddle out was easier than the last attempt with a channel of deep water to use. The wave peaked up near the two exposed coral blocks and peeled for about 50 yards before closing out on a shallower part of the reef. There was lots of junky short-period windswell mixed in with some longer period lines that showed the real potential of this slice of reef. On the lined up ones, you could run down the line and do a couple of good cutbacks along the way. Mike and I surfed until the sun was on its way down then made our way back to the boat, happy to find the guys on the boat pretty close to where we’d left them. We’d nearly failed, and this was as much effort as I’ve ever put into getting a halfway decent surf session. We never actually ascertained whether or not we were surfing the break that had been described by the kite surfers, but that didn’t really matter. Half the fun was just finding some waves to ride in a strange place.





Mike had to be off on a flight from Dar in two days, which meant catching the ferry back to the mainland the following afternoon. We arrived in Stone Town on the other side of the island 2 hours before the last ferry of the day was to leave port. We rolled up to a guest house, chatted to a guy who happened to be sitting outside about having a bike to sell and within 20 minutes there were half a dozen dudes there arguing about the who was going to buy it. Within an hour, the bike was sold, papers signed, and money changed hands, and Mike was off to the ferry. Gosh I love Africa.










Mike had flown to Cape Town the day after he finished teaching school, bought a cheap Chinese-manufactured 250cc dirt bike, bungeed his backpack to the seat, and rode the thing to death across 8 countries in southern Africa. Everyone who knew anything about bikes swore that he’d never make out of South Africa on such a cheap ride, yet there we stood on the island of Zanzibar, 6 thousand miles and two and a half months later. He even rode the original knobby tires the entire way. I don’t know anyone else who would have made it happen. The guy has a high adventure threshold. It’s a long way back to Europe and I’m going to miss seeing his headlight in the rear-view mirror.


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Old 08-25-2014, 10:03 AM   #532
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Awesome RR Gary,

So now begins another part of your trip, 2 up to Europe across Africa,
Keep going and showing the beatiful things Africa has to offer and living a experience of a life time
ride safe
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Old 08-25-2014, 12:25 PM   #533
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Add me to your legion of fans! Awesome ride report!
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Old 08-29-2014, 01:59 AM   #534
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Awesome RR Gary,

So now begins another part of your trip, 2 up to Europe across Africa,
Keep going and showing the beatiful things Africa has to offer and living a experience of a life time
ride safe

Thanks brother - it would be tough going without some help along the way from guys like you and your crew...
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Old 08-29-2014, 08:49 PM   #535
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Stumbled across your trip report today, totally enthralled. Good on you for living out your dream, inspires me to do the same.
-Alex
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Old 09-04-2014, 12:11 AM   #536
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Think of you guys, trust it's going well
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Old 09-06-2014, 09:36 AM   #537
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The North Shore of Mozambique



Jamie and I had decided to slow our traveling pace down a bit, so much so that we were now headed backwards. We’d come north through Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi rather than along the coast of Mozambique. In addition to wanting to see some the places along our alternative route, the middle latitudes of Mozambique have recently erupted into fighting that could make travel inconvenient as militant groups have been active along the roads. The hearsay that we received was that groups aren’t targeting foreigners, only military convoys of the central government. The problem is that the Mozambique government is requiring travel for some stretches within these convoys for tourists, so you get to be part of the target. You might be better off riding down the road with an American flag streaming behind your bike waving fists full of greenbacks in the air.





Jamie and I planned to enter Mozambique from Tanzania and stay far north of any of fighting. After what seemed like an hour in congested streets, we finally broke from the traffic and headed south from Dar. Free again! We sailed along the highway for hours passing small villages and waving at kids until we found a section of road construction that we were diverted around. We ran into long stretches of fine, deep sand. Blast - our nemesis! We flailed around for 10 miles or so and I was getting exhausted in the heat, wrestling to keep the bike upright with all of our weight behind it. Jamie even had to get off to walk one super deep section. The shame!


We stopped for a break and considered the situation. We didn’t have very good information about this stretch of the journey and for all we knew, the deep sand could continue for hundreds of miles. In that case, we just weren’t going to be able to pull it off very easily. We decided to carry on for another 20 miles or so and if nothing changed, we would discuss our options again. To our delight, the sand ended and the road returned. I breathed a sigh of relief and rolled on the gas whizzing by the landscape studded with thorny trees scratching at the clouds above.



We had fast food for lunch.



We spent the night at a place called Kilwa Mosoko and motored towards the Mozambique border and the river we would need to cross to get there. We arrived too late for the ferry, which could only run at high tide so we had to stay another night just near the border. Living on a motorbike is no excuse for being disorganized.

The next morning we made our way towards the tiny immigration and customs offices. About 10 miles from the boarder the road turned to very rough ride with big protruding rocks and lots of sharp edged holes that were hard to see.

We were getting rattled to bits, but all we cared was that it wasn’t deep sand. We arrived at the river and spent a few hours staring at the water level waiting for it to rise high enough to allow the ferry to cross. As the tide rose, the riverbank began to come alive with activity: mini-bus drivers vying for position to get on the ferry, taxi drivers fighting over passengers arriving from the other side, and kids push poling small boats around. We watched two grown men have a wrestling match over the rights to a single passenger. The poor passenger didn’t seem to know what on earth to do, and no one else seemed to take any notice as this was just business as usual. Jamie kept a smile through the madness of it all.



They weren’t kidding about the water level – on the hour long crossing, we could hear the bottom scraping the sandbars below. There was barely enough water in that river to float the ferry and the driver had to pick his line very carefully to avoid getting stuck somewhere. Meanwhile Jamie and I did some ferry surfing.

It was dark by the time we got across the river and we found a family at the border village with some very basic rooms where we could pass the night. There was nothing but a candle for light, but they had cooked rice and fried some fish for dinner and had plenty for the weary travelers.

We rode some more rutted track on the other side of the border headed south. After four days journey, we finally arrived at the beachside town of Pemba and found our camp spot for the week. Unfortunately our camp spot also turned out to be the party spot and we endured some all-night dance music sessions in our tent. Very bad dance music; the same overplayed mixes that you’ve heard a million times. It literally sounded like our tent was right in the middle of the party even though the party was on the beach across the road from us. When the first rays of dawn began to shine through I thought, awesome, they’ve made it to dawn, now its time for everyone to go home and we can get a couple hours of sleep. But the dawn didn’t send anyone home. In fact the music continued at the same quaking volume until 11 that morning.

Aside from the nightlife that we just weren’t up for, we found Pemba a beautiful place with pretty beaches and fishing villages.


I even found some waves. If only I were 3 inches tall, I’d be out there. Suffice it to say, we found no waves to ride on north shore of Mozambique, which is just as you’d expect, given that Madagascar, the Comoros, and the Seychelles all sitting pretty much right in the way of anything that would be coming from the Indian ocean.

Despite some beautiful beach scenes, Pemba just wasn’t our place. Drainages from the fishing villages were overflowing with trash that spilled out onto the beaches and most of the accommodation and restaurants were out of our price range. Some expats found Pemba a long time ago and made it their place and we’d crashed the party. After a few days we decided to start the return journey north.

We rode a long day to get to the last town before the Tanzanian border, called Palma. It was already dark and I was nearly out of gas when we arrived. I had stopped in a village to buy just enough fuel in plastic bottles to get us to Palma, but unfortunately the single station was out of petrol, and Palma had no affordable accommodation for us. We were exhausted and hungry and were running low on options.

We rode the length of the town a couple of times before we returned to the petrol station. This time, we met the manager of the station, a very nice Indian man named Vijay. We chatted for a bit and asked if he thought it would be safe to bush camp just outside of the town. He invited us to camp right there on the lawn of his gas station where he had a security guard all night. He also let us know that he keeps some petrol in reserve and that we were welcome to some of it. And just like that, after a friendly conversation both of our problems were solved. We set up our tent and got to making some pasta for dinner while Vijay went about cooking some chapatti and dhal in his little cookhouse that he had set up on the same lawn. He had only been in this little town for a year from India running the station for his uncle and still felt very much an outsider there. We set up a table of milk crates on the lawn and shared our meals together and talked all about the charms and frustrations of living in Africa.

Arriving at the river the next morning, we learned that the tide was too low for the ferry to run and would not come high enough for three days hence. We couldn’t have screwed the timing up any better than this. There was a bridge over the river about 100 miles away, but by all accounts the road was deep sand much of the way and I didn’t think that Jamie and I would still be smiling at the end of such a trip. But we certainly don’t want stay here for 3 days waiting! Options were looking slim until an alternative presented itself: one of the boatmen could motor us across in one of the small boats. His craft looked seaworthy enough, but the trick would be getting the bike in and out of the boat.

There was a steep sand bank down to the water level and it took four of us to hoist Dyna Rae over the rail and into the boat. It was precarious, and she could very well have ended the morning upside-down in the river on the traverse from the bank, but slow and steady, we managed it. Our captain motored us safely across the river and the crew helped us hoist the bike up and out to solid ground once again.


On the opposite bank, we met a Dutch couple driving a Toyota 4-Runner who also wanted to get across the river. The solution that the local crew came up with was to build a raft using beams to tie three of their boats together. They were mid-way through the construction when we arrived and so far the craft didn't look terribly confidence inspiring. The Dutch couple looked on, mildly concerned with the plan to keep their vehicle off the bottom of the river.

The ride back across southern Tanzania towards Dar was just as long as it was on the way south. We rode 350 miles, which made for a very a long day since we’re constantly slowing way down for villages along the way. The deep sand section was easier this time around, since we knew that the end wasn’t far ahead. We spied some perfect pointbreak setups in southern Tanzania that would never be.

Back in Dar, Jamie and I took care of logistics for the next leg of the journey to come. We found the Kenya High Commission and managed to get an East Africa tourist visa the same day. A single visa that covers 3 countries and took 3 hours to get, unbelievable!

We also paid a visit to the American embassy to have pages added to our passports as they were filling up quickly with colorful visas. My passport was blank at the onset of this trip and now was completely full up. I’d managed to procure a second passport from the embassy in Freetown and space in that one ran out with the Mozambique visa and border crossing stamps. Thanks to the friendly folks at the US embassy in Dar, I now had two extra-thick passports ready to roll.


There’s something truly satisfying about getting through a couple weeks on the road and meeting the little challenges that the journey brings. Compared to the day to day back home, out here we have such basic problems to solve: find some petrol, find some food, find a place to sleep. The magic of the journey is that in the course of their resolution, we’re often led to unexpected places and find things that we had no notion to look for in the first place. The next stop for us has loomed large in my imagination since forever. Jamie and I spent some time online researching climbs and costs in the mountains and made ready to ride north, dreaming of the snows of Kilimanjaro.
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Old 09-06-2014, 02:35 PM   #538
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How will it be possible to re-enter American society after a journey like this?
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Old 09-07-2014, 11:42 AM   #539
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How will it be possible to re-enter American society after a journey like this?
very carefully. maybe start by living in my pickup truck for a while. ;-)
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Old 09-08-2014, 07:00 PM   #540
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This is an amazing report, man. Truly inspiring.
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