This world has never felt smaller to me. When I tell others that the Husky & I have traveled over 20’000km so far, they are astonished and react in disbelief. Understandably, the distance is inconceivable. Not so to me anymore. The journey hasn’t felt long & our planet has shrunk in my perception.
At the foot of Kilimanjaro I stay at Simba Farm. Vast farmlands & a campsite run by a Dutch family living in Tanzania for a few generations. All the food is homegrown & it is a lovely site to stay for the night. Karina, the mother of the family, takes great care of her guests. What I very much enjoy as a solo long-distance overland traveler, is that I always get the opportunity to have an extensive chat with the owners / managers. I learn about their backgrounds, experiences, challenges & views on current developments. A great way to learn about the countries I am traveling in.
Around the North of Kilimanjaro & back South. A stopover in a hotel built over 100y ago by German mountain climbers. Interesting architecture, but the good times have long past. I’m the only guest & the hotel is empty, dark & slightly spooky. I don’t mind pitching my tent in the garden for 1/3 of the price.
Heading East towards the coastline, we target the Usambara Mountains, bordering Kenya. Two options to get to the peak of the mountains. The GPS chooses a 120km route; I overrule it for a 60km short-cut. At the bottom of the track there is a sign “4×4 only”. Whatever a 4×4 can do is no challenge for the Husky. Riding up the track I soon come to realize that it must have been quite a while since a 4×4 has driven up this route. However, I’m rewarded with great views & loads of fun.
Back on the main track & almost at the top. I stop as a group of 5 GS riders are repairing a flat tire on the roadside. Karina at Simba Farm had told me about a group heading their way. I’ve bumped into them. I spend a humorous evening with these South African gents at Mambo View EcoLodge & get some valuable information on the direction I’m heading to. The best & most current information is always sourced on-route from other travelers & even more so from locals.
I hardly bother doing any research myself & usually simply ride into the day, looking out for a place to stay around 15:00 or whenever I’m tired. This means potentially missing out on some famous sights, but it also means discovering incredible places very few tourists go to. Usually I have the most interesting encounters when taking breaks in villages in no-man’s-land. That’s what I wouldn’t want to miss out on.
Arrival at the coastline of the Indian Ocean. This far North, there is really only one option to camp along the coast called “Fish Eagle Point”. The guard at the gate tells me that they are fully booked. A group of 80 English private school students are occupying the campground. It’s dawning, so I convince the guard to let me through to the reception.
On my way to the reception on footpaths through a jungle like setting, I cross paths with a gent sitting on a GS 1200. First thinking that Steven is an Overlander himself, I find out that he is the owner of Fish Eagle Point. It being advisable to keep a certain distance from the group of 16-18 year-old students, I am allowed to pitch my tent on a patch next to a chicken shack. This place is beautiful, a true little paradise. No other lodges around for several km, just natural beauty.
Steven and Simon (son), both motorcycle enthusiasts, join me for my after-ride beer. 20y ago Steven walked 300km up the coastline from Dar Es Salaam & found this incredible beach. Upon negotiations with the villagers he managed to buy the plot & started building up the lodge 10y ago. Quite an interesting story. Quite an impressive achievement.
1 night, dinner, breakfast & some drinks. I’m only charged the drinks & hit the road South again. What a nice gesture. Once again I’m truly thankful for the hospitality.
My Mitas e-07 Dakar tires now have 18’000km on them. Quite a number, facing the fact that normal motorcycle tires usually last 3’000-8’000km. These tires have gone through 5-48° Celsius on tarmac, gravel, rock, mud & sand. Now it’s time to change them. I’ve been in touch with a Nairobi based tires / lubricants dealer since Egypt. This man imports my products of choice; Mitas tires & Motorex lubricants. Moreover, he has the network to get the tires into Tanzania tax-free at a reasonable price. I don’t ask how.
Riding down the coastline towards Dar Es Salaam, I take a day off. I enjoy the beach & fresh fish at “Mike’s Cottages”, a Tanzanian-Swiss who grew up in Tanzania. I camp directly at the beach with the calming sound of the waves breaking in the background. Excellent sleep but I believe I will likely carry the sand of Pangani Beach in my tent for the rest of my journey.
My contact in Dar Es Salaam is Hussein. Hussein has received the tires & is awaiting my arrival. We agree to meet-up in Bagamoyo and ride into Dar Es Salaam (Dar) together. In Bagamoyo I’m greeted by a group of 4 bikers & we ride into Dar as a group. Though widely famous for its hectic traffic & congestion, on a motorcycle this is not too big of an issue. Left, right & in-between cars. Wherever there is room, a motorcycle goes. I’ve easily adapted to this custom & we fly into town.
Hussein buys lunch & we get the tires changed “African Style”. These men even change truck-tires easily by hand. I wish I could do it that easily, but this is clearly a thing of practice. Fortunately, so far I haven’t had any occasion to practice this skill.
The initially roughly sketched route from Zurich to Cape Town would have been slightly more than 16’000km; with some buffer around 20’000km. I’m now already well over the upper mark & will have to service the Husky on-route. I still have most service parts with me, but would like to stock up on some parts which may start failing above the 20’000km mark (clutch discs, fuel pump, brake pads).
No KTM dealer in Tanzania. Not receiving a response from KTM Lusaka Zambia for weeks. I get in touch with the “Zambia Motorcycle Riders” club. Norman informs me that KTM has closed down in Zambia & tells me to get in touch with Dale. Dale directs me towards Jean Luc who runs a workshop in Lusaka. Jean Luc is willing to help, but has no spare parts whatsoever. What shall I do? A 2’000km detour to Nairobi & back or is there another solution? I continue my travels South & keep networking & checking my options.
I pass through Tanzania staying at a lodge run by Josef (Swiss living in Tanzania) to the “Old Kisolanza Farm” (Owner with Swiss background) to the “Utengule Coffee Lodge”, only to find out that this lodge is owned by a Swiss family. These Swiss really are all over the place.
All lodge owners / managers know one-another. Almost all overlanders I meet, have met other overlanders I’ve also met somewhere on this continent. Everyone seems to know everyone.
At Utengule I chat with Simon, who is traveling from South Africa (SA) to England on a GS 1200. I tell him about my challenge of organizing spare parts for the Husky. Simon says his fiancee’s father (Ian) lives in Lusaka & may be able to help. Ian immediately gets in touch with me and tells me that his friend (Gordon) will be traveling up from Johannesburg (JHB) to Lusaka. Gordon is willing to transport the spare parts for me. True courtesy.
Not initially planned for, the Husky and I charge towards Malawi. I’ve heard so many good things about the “Warm Heart of Africa”, I must discover this country. Immigration & customs leaving Tanzania as well as entering Malawi (incl. Visa) take less than an hour. Paying road tax of USD 20.- for Malawi takes almost another hour. Paying tax is one thing, queuing to do so is another.
I’ve decided on buying COMESA insurance, a standardized & regulated third party liability product for Southern & Eastern Africa. Local insurance bought at borders is usually simply useless paper. Frankly, I should have purchased this cover a while back to safe time & money. It simply creates peace of mind and I want to stop having to think about this issue as it is often mandatory.
In a crowded, messy little insurance office I inquire for COMESA. Upon stating the 3 months & 5 countries I would like the insurance for, the lad replies “100.- USD” w/o any further checks and hesitation. Strange; within 9y of experience in the insurance sector have I never experienced such a quick & simple quotation process.
I leave the office to make a plan, drink a Coke & re-enter the negotiations. Leaving the negotiations I hold the yellow COMESA insurance policy in my hand for 6 months (vs. 3 months) & 13 countries (vs. 5 countries) having paid USD 80.- (vs. USD 100.-). During the waiting time I’ve exchanged my Tanzanian Shilling (TSH) for Malawian Kwacha (MKW) at the selling rate vs. the initially offered horrible rate.
I’ve learnt a thing or two about negotiating & made quite a bargain, though I almost feel sorry for these lads. They seem totally demoralized as I leave. Nonetheless, had they made a fair offer to start with, they would have gotten much a better price from me. It seems these rip-off Mzungu offers tend to turn me into a stingy Mzungu negotiator.
In the North of Malawi, situated on the shores of Lake Malawi, lies “Floja Foundation”. A pre-school for underprivileged children & orphans, with a small campsite on the compound. Rian, a Namibian traveling through Africa with his 4y old daughter (Nina) for 1y, is also staying at Floja. Later in the evening a SA couple joins, whose path I had crossed in Uganda. We’re invited to a celebration the next day. Some of the children will be leaving for primary school & all parents are invited to the farewell celebrations.
Immediately taken by the hand by children we’re shown around the school. Throughout Africa the children have just been heart-warming. Playful, curious & funny. It is truly a joy to spend some time here & discover the cause this foundation is working for.
An excursion to “Lukwe Lodge” in the mountains around Livingstonia, looking down on Lake Malawi, is well worth it. This time managed by Eli, a young Swiss girl. I spend another day here before heading off to Nyika National Park. Malawi, said to be one of the poorest countries globally, has among the friendliest & most welcoming people. Crime rates are relatively low. The country is one of the most divers & beautiful ones so far.
Albeit the uprisings in the 3 largest cities (Lilongwe, Blantyre & Mzuzu), I plan on spending some more time here. If the demands of the opposition are not met by 26th August, the borders may be shut. I shall leave the country before this ultimatum & stay away from the large cities.
“Scotland of Africa” is what Nyika National Park is known as. Hilly, pine trees & lakes, just like what Scotland has to offer. However a Scotland with Zebras, Antelopes, Elephants, Lions & Leopards it is.
It is only 60km from the gate to the campsite. Tired and not focused enough anymore, the Husky & I slip on a sloping sand stretch just 30km before the campsite. While skidding over the track, my foot gets caught under the luggage & I twist my ankle. The Husky takes a beating. Her handle bar is crooked & the foot-brake bent severely. I ride the final 30km across bumpy tracks to the campsite. After pitching the tent we target a lodge close by. I treat the Husky & organize some ice to cool down my now swollen foot. Some cream, a magic pill & I sleep 12h.
It’s cold here at night. Around 5 degrees. Around the tent several glowing eyes can be seen in the woods around the campsite. Only the sound of trees in the wind & animals chirping, howling & grunting.
I’m limping, so walking is not a great option. The Husky is okay again though. I tighten up the boots & give it a try. Riding works & we hit the tracks for a spin around the park. Not too much game but what a place this is.
I’ve managed to organize 5 of 6 of the needed parts in JHB. In the middle of nowhere, in Nyika National Park Malawi, I confirm my order & settle the payment online with the dealers in JHB SA. I’ll just have to do w/o 1 of the 6 spare parts. The clutch will have to last despite all the off-road riding with luggage. Touch wood it will.
Riding back out of Nyika, I can’t identify the place anymore where I had crashed. The Husky and I glide out of the park. Riding when exhausted just shouldn’t be done. Unfortunately, it cannot always be avoided & luckily we got away again w/o too much damage.
It will be camping next to the hippos & elephants tonight. A strong woman in camouflage clothing welcomes me at the gate of Vwaza National Park. The ranger orders me to enter the hut to make the payment.
The procedure goes as follows:
She: “You are staying one night?”
She: “You are not a foreigner, but Malawian?”
She: “This is not a vehicle, but a bicycle?”
She: “Do you have any spare cash?”
Nationality & vehicle type make a big difference in price. Sometimes simply no negotiations are needed.
I enjoy a night at the lake before continuing to the South Vipya Forest Reserve. We don’t take the planned back route but unintentionally the back-back route through no-man’s-land. The GPS has reset itself & configured itself to “shortest-distance”. In addition, I haven’t checked the proposed route well enough. While taking breaks in small villages I chat with local teachers & teenagers. Not that bad a route after all; we enjoy the journey.
Days & kilometers have passed by quickly. Contacts, community & courtesy, combined with technology have allowed me to solve many issues with help from people spread across this continent. Everybody seems to know everybody & it has become easy to build & maintain contacts.
More & more this world really is becoming a smaller place.