Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’

Whats She Roaring at? (Nogorogoro)

Darren Writes 18.08.11 pics by Darren

Sunrise from the tent on our off road safari

I really couldn’t pass through Tanzania without seeing at least a couple of the big five and with the Serengeti virtually en route I was going to find it difficult to pass by without saying hello to a lion or two. Russ wasn’t too bothered about wildlife watching.. He prefers to see game on his plate but he was happy to come to Karatu, near Serengeti and wait a day or two and catch up on chillin’. 

Ahh... It's just a Hyene (Nogorogoro)

Of course things aren’t that easy. No motorbikes in the National parks! I would have to go ‘organised’ and that was something neither of us was very used to. We first arrived to Arusha which is the Capital of the north and though a few hours away from Serengeti, It’s the place to safari from! Straight to the tourist info office to discover it wasn’t going to be cheap.  I needed to share a vehicle with as many people as I could find. I did find a couple of polish girls but Serengeti wasn’t on their safari itinerary so after enjoying lunch with them, we continued to Karatu to try from there. From campsite to campsite we went but didn’t find luck. Eventually we set up our tents outside a bar and in that bar I met a South African who put me in touch with a company with whom I later joined and though not to the Serengeti, the Nogorogoro creator was soon to be proven to be something special. Nogorogoro is a large volcanic creator, steep and high walled and home to a dense ecosystem of African wild life! It was awesome with Lions, Buffalos, Leopolds, Hyenas and lots of herbivores all making appearances.

Wouldn't like to be between these two (Nogorogoro)

Just taking a stroll (Nogorogoro)

Nogorogoro, Serengeti or whichever park you go to, its great to see these wild animals but there’s something about it being organised that makes it just feel a bit tame and commercial! So we planned from there a bit of adventure and an off road route along the east of Serengeti and then east riding parallel to the Kenya border back to the main road linking Tanzania to Kenya. Didn’t have a clue what was ahead of us or what we would see or experience, but the not knowing bit, is the adventure.

Off roading it

Masai Herdsman (our off Road Safari)

140km in all and it all started on pretty rough track but it wasn’t long before I came skidding to a holt after seeing the heads of some Giraffes poking out of the bush. Camera in hand, into the bush I went and found a herd of a dozen of these strange ‘long necked deer’ (the Chinese translation apparently). Riding on, I almost lost control after my front tire blow out. The inner tube had moved around with ‘tire creep’ and ripped at the valve. Good job we carry spare tubes and after a quick fix, off we continued on our moto-safari. Herds of zebras grazed in the planes and impala bounced about as we passed. The odd Ostrich dotted the savannah and other antelope like Kudu graced us on our journey.

Long necked Deer (off road Safari)

We worked hard for our safari as the terrain became more and more difficult, riding through dry river beds, tufty grass and sections of dust as fine as talc and as much as a foot deep, sometimes disguising volcanic rocks beneath.  The first section led to a lake where a handful of tourists in 4×4’s would venture, but as we travelled east and through the plains and into mountains, signs of tourism were left behind. We passed through a couple of Masai Villages and greeted the odd Masai, herding cattle. The Masai are an incredibly decorated people and good to see were maintaining a traditional life. They were, however, not unaware of the outside world by any means but were still amazed by our motorcycles.

The Masai Hitch-Hiker (Off Road Safari)

After a night camping and waking up to the noise of galloping Zebras past our tents and peering out to antelope and ostrich, it wasn’t long before reaching a rough track and being stopped by a Masai woman. At first I didn’t understand what she wanted but eventually it seemed like she wanted a lift. I unstrapped the bag that straddled the back of my seat and Russ lashed it on top of his. It became obvious she was new to bikes in the beginning as she tried to climb aboard my Dakar like it was a pile of boulders.  The track was pretty rough and I really don’t think I was riding fast but could feel the fear of woman through her strong grip that tightened to my jacket pinching my waist more and more as we rode on. I couldn’t help chuckling to myself with this bizarre situation of a Masai woman chatting away on the back of my bike. I’m sure she got off before her destination, though, and left thinking she had an odd experience too!

No respect for the dead (Vervet monkey sat on Bufalo skull, Nogorogoro)

By early afternoon we arrived to the road 15km south of the Kenya border and back to normality. Normality continued with the normal border crossing with its touts and immigration/customs bureaucracy. A few hours later of steady riding brought us to the traffic jams of Nairobi and a world away from our off road safari and unique experience. We are now at a camp called Jungle Junction in Kenya’s  Capital with our kit and bikes in need of a good clean and some TLC.

Veiw from the other side of the tent (Off road Safari)

From here we will go north but which way, we are still not sure. But it is good to be back on the road and adventuring again!

Russell writes 16.08.11

Actually, our journey hasn’t continued for a while now but our knowledge of bike mechanics continues to grow in leaps and bounds. With both bikes in need of serious work, parts to order from the UK, route issues through a drought and troubled countries, the prospect of arriving into Europe during winter, shipping the bikes home from the port in Dar es Salaam was never an option for either of us. Even though our families want us home sooner rather than later, and so do we, we’d both rather completely disassemble our engines, diagnose and fix them than give up this far into our trip. This is exactly what we had to do with my bike. After replacing a part in my engine it ran for a while and we thought ‘job done’, however, we hadn’t got to the route cause – swarf!


These little metal menaces destroy engines; they run around like London looters damaging everything they touch. The swarf from a worn out bearing circulated in the oil system scoring key metal on metal surfaces in the cam shaft and piston. They then congregate around a magnetic terminal causing a short in the starting circuit – time to get your spanners out! And we love our spanners now, especially the 13, you can press valves into a cylinder head with that one. The good news is that our spanners worked and both bikes are now up and running, well, nearly;  300 miles north of Dar, Darren was Q-bonding  an oil leak from my engine shell around the gasket, it worked wonders by the way.

The 3 Fantastic kids of Lulu and Malcom

Wedding Dance

We arrived one last time at Mama’s to say goodbye and a huge thank you to Mama, Malcolm, Loulou, Natasha (10), Natalia (4) and Nathan (2) who have helped up, fed us, played with us and tolerated us for so long; it really is appreciated. This time though we must say goodbye to our family in Dar, we will miss them though, it’s so nice to finally have working bikes and to be on the road again heading towards home. Although after leaving Dar it only took half an hour before we saw a motorcyclist lying on the road, Darren thought he saw him move, I thought he was lying in the ‘dead’ position, but either way it was a timely reminder to switch our wits on and pray for protection as we push on

Russell writes, pics by Darren & Russell 6/7/11:

Well, normally, we quite enjoy crossing a border seeing the change that happens when entering into a new country, but Tanzania would soon prove to be bittersweet. Just when we were wondering where the adventure was on the east side, we found it in Tanzania, but not from anything we had expected. The first of the unexpected was being conned at the border by money changers. The trick they pull is to agree a rate, exchange the notes, change their minds and ask for the money back, then disappear. You look at your note and find they’ve switched it for a much smaller denomination and it’s too late, they’ve all gone. Trying not to feel bitter we rolled through the beautiful countryside all planted up with tea into the next unexpected turn.


Boom… a combined impact of at least 120 mph into the side of Darren’s right pannier, kicking the back of the bike out sending him into a huge wobble before eventually sliding the bike and himself 40 m up the road. I was a few meters behind as we headed round a left bend, Darren was hanging off the back of a truck trying to peak round when a Land Cruiser came by cutting the corner. I thought ‘this is going to be tight, but Darren knows what he’s doing’. Not this time and thankfully it only resulted in damage to the pannier and the shredding of his jacket and trousers. Actually the impact destroyed the pannier and sent the contents all over the road. Crashing at 60 mph has never been good for the panniers, as we found in Angola, and it shouldn’t be good for us, but in the mighty hand of grace we are protected. Dusk was upon us and we pushed on to the large town of Mbeya where we could find accommodation and possibly someone to fix the alloy pannier.  Tanzania started tough, and tough it would continue to be.

We were guided through the Mbeya dark to a friendly, cheap, church hostel by ‘James Bond’, the first of many Tanzanians characters who would come to our aid. The next morning he helped Darren find a welder to patch up his pannier and a haberdasher to patch up his trousers. We also put on our nice new tyres which meant we could finally lose the old ones from Hereford and save some weight from the back of the bike. Here we met Mhini, a sweet guy, and Muslim gentleman, who was also a guest and working in Mbeya. Meeting him was no coincidence as we made friends, went for meals, drinks, exchanged numbers and headed off towards the dirt roads and Burundi.

Leaving Mbeya we travelled 290km up the dirt road to Chala, a small village in the west of Tanzania, not too far from Lake Tanganika. By 10 am the following morning as we continued northwards – both bikes were dead!

Broken and beaten

We’d left a tiny village, with no electricity, heading for some time out in a national park that was en route. Minutes after leaving, my bike had a spasm and stalled while riding along. I pulled over to avoid the crazy busses from behind and tried to start it – nothing. I tried to do what I could, but Darren had the tools so I waited for him to realize I’d broken down. Eventually a teacher on a push bike said ‘your brother is 2km down the road pushing his motorcycle’! What was going on? Within a few minutes both bikes were completely out of action! Darren had turned round to come back to me, worried I’d crashed, but had dropped his bike. He picked it up and carried on, not realizing a stone had smashed the radiator and fan, as he sped back towards my stricken motorcycle. Minutes later he was pushing his bike! All the water had come out of the radiator, the engine overheated to the extent that the engine casing had started to melt, the piston had cracked and all the piston rings had broken. On top of that the engine valves were leaking, the ignition relay broke and the clutch adjuster snapped.

The rescue begins

Darren spent most of that day pushing motorcycles, he met up with me after 12 km and together we pushed another 6 km back to the village we’d started from. Exhausted and defeated our route north had been blocked, like someone really didn’t want us to go that way. I reached in my tank bag and got out Mhini’s number and gave him a call. The next day he’d called in a favour and got us on the back of a pick-up to go to Sumbawanga, and was instrumental in our rescue journey to Dar es Salaam where we could get help to fix the bikes and order parts.

Guess we're going to Dar then

In Sumbawaga, Julius, the human resource manager of a power companywho’s truck we’d been in, a lovely guy, helped us to arrange transport on a lorry to Dar. In the meantime Mhini contacted his colleague in Dar who would be able to assist us in fixing the bikes and look after us as we got back on our feet. The 52 hour, 1400km, journey in the cab of a Scania truck wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the truck from hell in Angola, but we were comforted by sachets of the local liquor, Konyagi, sleeping tablets and episodes of Heroes. Our driver was comforted by joints of dope, surprisingly, but thankfully they weren’t too strong and we made it safely to Dar es Salaam. This is where we met Malcolm and Loulou Doherty, our new Tanzanian BFF’s, a lovely family who are helping us in our time of need, and have been a real blessing to us.

Tanzania has been really tough; with unexpected twists and turns we’ve been brought to the end of ourselves and have had to rely on the grace of God and the blessed help of others.

Mhini and Malcolm, thank you!

From having no hope within our own abilities on dirt track miles from anywhere, to no hope in our own abilities figuring out what was wrong with one of our bikes, we have been assisted externally all the way. This we have needed and God has blessed us with the right people all along the way. My bike’s problem has now been diagnosed (thanks to Malcolm’s research and persistence) and fixed while the parts needed for Darren’s are on order from the UK. Whilst here at ‘Mamas’ (Malcolm and Loulous mum’s house), Natasha, the 10 year old daughter, wrote us a letter which has made us laugh. Quote: “The Story of Darren and Russell. One upon a time there was a man called Rusle, he had a girlfriend called Suzie. Apparently she broke up with him and there was his friend Deroen he had a girlfriend called Christina he left her. And at the end of the day they had the girls but they still lose them like a needle in a hey stack.” With thanks to Malcolm, Loulou and family, we are back on our feet, sense of humour restored, ready to face the next part of our adventure.