Chapter 7 – Kenya

Kenya– Chapter 7

The first thing we noticed at the Kenyan border was an elderly couple being towed in a magnificent MGA sports car behind a Toyota pick-up. Whilst we were mingling with the crowds waiting to clear customs I remarked to the owners on what a splendid car it was and inquired why it was being towed. The lady, in an extremely plummy English accent, replied that she and her husband were Kenyan and had been having a wonderful adventure, but sadly their dear old car had broken down, but they were muddling through and confident it was just a minor glitch in their grand plans to drive across eastern Africa.

In the chaos of the border crossing, which in reality was no different to any of our previous crossings, I thought that the image of the classic British sports car and their vintage owners presented a rare snapshot of a bygone era when style and unflappability in the face of adversity were the way things were done. Later, I witnessed the old fellow being messed around by an oafish customs officer who insisted that his stricken MGA be towed back, all of some 50 yards, to an inspection bay to be looked at.  From where it was parked, towing it back was going to be very awkward and the customs officer could very well have got off his ample bottom, walked over and inspected the vehicle where it was already. Nevertheless, the old chap was too gentlemanly to complain and resigned himself to this completely unnecessary and troublesome task.

Fanny and I, armed with passports and the Carnet de Passages for our motorcycles, breezed through the immigration formalities. I made good use of the Tanzanian vehicle licenses that were valid for three months, and the supporting yellow Comesa insurance documents that would cover us for the remainder of the African countries we planned to travel through, after of course I made some minor amendments and circled some additional countries that I thought should have been included on the certificate in the first place.

I was asked by an immigration and customs official how long we planned to spend in Kenya to which I replied about thirty days. He then demanded that I hand over US$20 for each bike as additional import duty, or whatever. “I thought the carne de passage covered all the import costs”, I complained? It seemed not. For any period above seven days an extra charge was levied. I then asked, ‘If I say we are going to spend just seven days in Kenya how would you know if we stayed longer?’

‘We wont’, he replied.

‘I’ve changed my mind, we’ll stay seven days’, I quickly corrected.

‘OK’, he replied, ‘No charge then, ‘Enjoy your visit’.

As I was leaving the official added, ‘Which border will you leave by?’

‘Not this one, Sir’, and with that I scurried off to the bikes that Fanny was guarding and we got going again.

Kenya ... a bygone age

The Kenya/ Tanzania border  … and a car from a bygone age.

Political Map of Kenya

Arriving at the border control point in Kenya

At border crossings one of us had to do the paperwork (usually me) while the other (usually Fanny) looked after and guarded the bikes.

Riding through Nairobi… I am sure 40 years ago it would have been very nice.

Nairobi streets

Looking at the bikes in the Jungle Junction workshop

Looking at the other bikes in the Jungle Junction workshop


Either side of the Tanzania/Kenya border is pretty much the same geographically, but Kenya was clearly influenced by having many more people.  The main north/south road which passed through beautiful African bush lands on the Tanzanian side, now passed through dusty, crowded and very scruffy villages which got closer and closer together until they were just an catatonic sprawl of dusty grey mayhem. The traffic density had multiplied to saturation proportions and the Chinese road construction activity was in chaotic full swing with endless diversions onto appalling gravel roads, across small streams and occasionally open sewers.

When we could we weaved our way through anarchic traffic conditions coming in all directions and coughed and spluttered in the dust and black diesel fumes all the way into the center of Nairobi which to my mind might have been pleasant once upon a time, perhaps when the MGA owners were in their twenties. There were parks and tall building, but like modern day Lusaka, the infrastructure hadn’t kept pace with the growth in human numbers. Too many people and too few who give a damn.

I followed a track on my GPS towards a campsite in town called Jungle Junction (, our intended rest stop while we serviced our motorcycles and applied for visas for Sudan and Ethiopia.  But first, we scanned the centerof the muddled city for a place to stop and find something to eat. After weaving about in the maddening traffic and crowds we stopped outside a Kenyan version of KFC and found a willing “lurking person” to guard our bikes for a few shillings while we had a break.  I don’t really trust lurking people as a rule and so I found an observation spot on a balcony where I kept a constant vigil on our KTMs and our worldly possessions while we munched through congealed oil covered in bits of chicken and lard. Quite tasty, actually,  in a calorie explosion heart clogging sort of way.

We then went back to our bikes which by now were surrounded by dozens of people. Luckily they appeared to be intact and we thanked our bike guard and handed over the agreed fee. A quick blast of our Akropovik and Leo Vince exhausts and the crowd reared backwards and we headed out of the center of the city towards a more leafy part of town.

It is here in a residential area behind tall gates and high fences that we found our small oasis for a few weeks.  Jungle Junction, famous to overland adventurers is owned and run by Chris, a German chap who used to work for BMW Motorad in Kenya. Chris run a very nice lodge and has a well organized and fitted out workshop and garage.

It also had a good sized lawn for camping and a small lodge with rooms for the wealthier guests. The main house had a sitting room, dining room, and kitchen that all residents could use, and there was free WiFi that worked most of the time. Outside in the garden and driveways were an assortment of adventure motorcycles in various states of disrepair, adventurer campers and trucks and other weird and wonderful vehicles that were crossing Africa.

Some had given up, some were in for repairs and some just taking a well deserved break and like us applying for visas or waiting for spare parts to be shipped in from various parts of the world. Everyone had stories of daring do, adventure and misfortune.

Soon after arriving and setting up our camp we saw vehicles limping in from various parts of Africa where the treacherous roads had broken them down into their component parts, often destroying their shocks, suspension, fuel filters, fuel injectors, tyres, bearings, electrical systems  and frames.  Some bikes came in on the back of trucks and were unceremoniously dumped onto the lawn, together with their distressed and fatigued owners.

Chris had seen it all before and I realized that there was a pecking order for his attention. BMW bikes came first, naturally, then other motorcycles, and then vehicles with four wheels or more.  This upset some people who thought that their needs took priority, but Chris had a business to run, a life to lead, and only so much time and was, for all intents and purposes, a bush mechanic. I got to like and respect him very much and he was very good to Fanny and I as we went through what was to become a rather frustrating time. He was a fountain of knowledge on routes, weather, road conditions and general local know-how and with his friendly staff made us feel very welcome.

Camping at Jungle Junction in Nairobi… a trans-Africa adventure travelers oasis

The world record home made adventure 4×4 that has been around the world many times

Almost the perfect combination … an off road 4×4 camper with a Yamaha XT 660 on the back… how good is that?

Chris of Jungle Junction

An extremely nice place to stay in the center of Nairobi and a hub of useful information and advise

Jose and Noah from Spain with their BMW F650GS …and its dodgy fuel pump.

Adventure bikes at Jungle Junction

Other adventure bikes at Jungle Junction

Jungle Junction...A little oasis in the middle of Nairobi

Jungle Junction…A little oasis in the middle of Nairobi


There were already some people at Jungle Junction who had been there a few weeks for whatever reasons. Some waiting for parts and repairs, and some taking stock before heading off again into the bush and deserts.  It reminded me of entering the Officers’ Mess on the very first day I joined the Royal Hong Kong police back in the mid eighties. The more senior intakes at the training school had taken up the best positions in the “Mess” and lorded it over the newbies. Here in the sitting room of Jungle Junction in Kenya the “seniors” had done the same. There was a particularly irksome Australian who had taken up residence who was seemingly the world’s authority on everything to do with adventure travel.  In fairness he did have some credentials to this claim. He was a former Dakar Rally mechanic, had built a very impressive adventure car that looked like a huge Caterham 7 with a tent on its roof and had a diesel engine that could run off old chip pan oil.

He had already entered the Guinness Book of World Records by traveling 250,000 kilometers around the world—the longest for a home built car. What he did though to upset me from day one was to endlessly criticize our bikes and was the prophet of doom about every aspect of our trip and planning. According to Digger, our bikes were going to fall apart, we would not find any fuel, there would be no chance to get Ethiopian visas, and if we did managed to get on the road to north Kenya I would be murdered and Fanny raped, or worse, Fanny murdered and me raped.

He was of the school that believed the only adventure motorcycles were the old style bikes he owned himself, maybe the Honda Africa Twin or perhaps the Yamaha XT 500 and that the modern electronic fuel management systems on bikes like our KTMs were not appropriate for adventure riding. In fact, motorcycles that did not run off steam were totally unsuitable for the task and the only really suitable vehicle was his mutant Caterham 7 thing. According to him, if you couldn’t repair the bike with a flint strapped to a stick in the back end of beyond you were not worthy to be a member of his “Destination Unknown” adventuring community.

His boastful exploits about journeys in the Congo and Amazon rain forest would have been interesting under any other circumstances, but he went on and on until I decided with Fanny that we would have no more conversations in his hearing in English and so we switched to the Mandarin channel until he got bored of me and found a Kawasaki rider to persecute.  He only turned his attention back to me again when he overheard my stage whisper that it was possible to cross the river between north west Namibia and Angola on a rope pulled pontoon which I had done a few years previously. “Hey! Charlene”, he bellowed to his other half who was cooking pies in the kitchens, “this pom reckons you can cross into Angola from the Skeleton coast”…. “Nooo Way” came an Aussie reply from within a cloud of chip fog in the kitchen.

What I had neglected to share was that the pontoon could only take a vehicle with a maximum of two wheels.  I would like to think that one day when Digger of the Bushveld is stuck on the banks of the Cunene River in the north of the desolate Skeleton Coast looking towards the other side he thinks back fondly of me. He’ll be OK, though. No doubt in true adventure survival style he could cook up his wife’s large and prosperous looking buttocks and use one half for fuel and the other for a tasty roast with lots of crackling. Don’t blame me… its the bloody Larium malaria tablets…they give you all sorts of strange thoughts.

One of many strange adventure machines crossing Africa… (or not)

Me on one of my kit tidying up campaigns… checking Fanny’s panniers for contraband hair conditioner

Our home at Jungle Junction for a few weeks while we sort out visas and get bikes  serviced for next leg through to Egypt

Our home at Jungle Junction for a few weeks while we sort out Ethiopian and Sudanese visas and get bikes serviced for next leg through to Alexandria in Egypt

ECU cable


KTM Nairobi

My lovely bike, oh and some other people at KTM Nairobi


My efforts, however, to champion the cause of KTM were not helped by several limping into Jungle Junction with fuel injector problems. They were not alone. In fact, many different types of bikes were limping in with the same problem.  All bikes have their Achilles Heals, and for the LC4 and LC8 engines that power the KTM 640/690 and 950/990 Adventures (respectively) the three main ones are … or at least used to be on the older models:

1)      the fuel filter, and in particular its inaccessibility and difficulty to replace easily in the bush. Also, there is no space along the fuel line to add another fuel filter (as you can do with some other older bikes).

2)      The clutch slave which had a tendency to fail; and

3)      the water pump which also had a tendency to break and allow radiator coolant to escape into the engine oil.

Its a well known and obvious fact that KTMs, and indeed most modern bikes, do not like bad fuel, especially the low octane and contaminated petrol commonly found throughout this part of Africa.  As a rule, motorcycles, and any other vehicles for that matter, do not like fuel mixed with kerosene, diesel, water, or dusty red sand, and sadly that is the cocktail that is commonly served up at most petrol stations, particularly the road side vendors who sell fuel from grubby yellow cooking oil drums.

I was not really aware of the clutch slave issue and we never had a problem anyway, but when we did get to the UK, as a purely precautionary measure, I replaced the standard ones with more robust after market Oberon clutch slaves. Could I tell the difference? Not really, but they looked pretty.

We had not brought spare water pumps with us because they were too heavy and in the end we did not need them either. The water pumps had already been fixed on later models, and many older models had already been upgraded during routine servicing cycles.  I did, however, bring spare petrol and oil filters for both bikes…. and just as well as these would have been difficult to source on the road in Africa and were items that needed replacing during normal servicing and oil changes.

The other thing I had not done and perhaps should have known about was to have sourced an ECU diagnostic and mapping program, installed it to my laptop and had a USB to ECU cable to connect to the bike. Without attempting to go into detail I do not really understand myself, modern KTMs do not have carburetors, but rather electronic fuel injection systems, much like modern cars and so when things go wrong tuning with a screw driver and unblocking jets with a  piece of copper wire will not suffice anymore.

What is required is that the electronic fuel injection system is connected to a computer that will check all the electronics and adjust the mapping to differing conditions …such as type of fuel, octane levels, altitude, and none standard exhaust systems like the Akropovik and Leo Vince cans we had on our bikes.

My view about adventure travel is that one can do it using whatever vehicles one likes, and so called bush mechanics and maintenance will inevitably change with the times. If you can afford to buy and have the space to carry the latest tools and spares, that’s fine. If not one must improvise using whatever one can get one’s hands on, be it a rock or an electronic ignition diagnostic kit. There is no need to be afraid of new technology and modern electronics on motorcycles and cars. We all carry smart phones, ipads and laptops nowadays and these small and light bits of kit can be uploaded with all sorts of useful electronic tools, maps and “how to” guides and manual.

Later, after I had already paid KTM Nairobi an astonishing amount to connect both bikes to their computer for just a few minutes, did I find out about, and download, a free program called “ECU Tune” from the internet. However, I could not use it because I did not have the necessary ECU to USB cable. Later I would get hold of the cable, but in the end we never needed it. The bikes were fine, mostly due to good maintenance and (as I describe later) filtering the fuel before it went into the tanks.

The main reason for stopping in Nairobi was to get the bikes serviced. I can’t think of any other reason to stay there for any length of time as it’s a bit of a dump. Its polluted, dusty, smelly, overcrowded, run down, a bit boring, falling apart at the seams and a bit edgy… apart from all that it’s alright.

Later, when we were in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia we caught a glimpse of some news on the TV that over a hundred people, mostly children had been burnt alive in a ghetto only a few kilometers from Jungle Junction.  Apparently some people had been stealing petrol from a tanker and it exploded, tragically incinerating them as they were scooping it up, probably into dirty yellow oil drums to sell to people like me.

The KTM garage in Nairobi  is run by a man called Ian Duncan, and I had contacted him repeatedly in advance about tyres as we made our way to Nairobi.  When we arrived he was not around and had in fact disappeared off to Uganda to compete in a rally race and the garage was left in the hands of a teenager called Adam. Adam told me they weren’t really interested or geared up to deal with adventure bikes and only really looked after the rally cross and enduro type bikes that KTM are famous for.  That said he was energetic and keen to please and so we did manage to book the bikes in for a service, albeit at an extortionate price for the pair. When we came to collect the bikes later that day I found that the chains had not even been adjusted or oiled. 

‘Oh!’ Adam said, ‘Oiling the chain will be extra’.  So much for a professional bike service, huh?

As for tyres?… we had no luck. We would have to try and find suitable tyres for the tough roads ahead from somewhere else, most likely at enormous cost and delay to our schedule.

Kindly, Fanny’s aunt, Song Feng Mei who lives in Polokwane, north of Johannesburg, came to our rescue and went to a local motorcycle shop, the infamous “KR Motorcycle (Pte) Ltd; Straat 92, Petersberg 0700, South Africa” with the exact specifications and sizes for two sets of Continental TKC80s which are the ideal tyre for our bikes and recommended by KTM for the gravel, mud, rock and sand roads that lay ahead. My good buddy Dan Kaufman from Cape Town managed to call on some contacts that would be able to airfreight the tyres from Polokwane to Nairobi airport.

So, while we were waiting we decided to risk a trip to the Masai Mara on our balding tyres where, in late August, three to four million wildebeest were grazing as part of the greatest migration on the planet.

But first we would go to the baby elephant sanctuary and see some of the rescued elephants and rhinos that had been orphaned, some because the babies had got separated from their herds, fallen down drains, or got stuck, but mostly because they had been orphaned because some idiot Vietnamese and Chinese still have some ridiculous need for ivory trinkets and rhino horn and have killed their mothers. In fact, while we were on the expedition the West Africa Black Rhino became extinct. Dead as the proverbial dodo. never to grace the planet again.

I really hope the Asians (and let’s not beat about the bush .. they are Asian) who actually bought the very last West African Black Rhino horn meet the same fate as the dodo. I am quite sure that if things continue the way they are that I will see in my lifetime the complete extinction of the rhino species. Poaching levels of ivory and rhino horn are increasing exponentially and the solution is not an easy one. Its as if the rhino has 15 kilograms of gold stuck on the end of its nose and wanders around free in impoverished places with poor security, incompetent law enforcement and corrupt authorities. With the economic growth in China and more money to spend of traditional medicines the smuggling of endangered African animal parts is only going to increase. I fear, just like the war on drugs, that the battle to protect these animals will be lost.

Anyway, for now, at this sanctuary in Nairobi the keepers spend all the time with the elephants and try to replicate the socialization they would ordinarily get in a natural environment. They even sleep next to their baby elephants in hammocks. At this sanctuary the infants wean on elephant sized bottles of milk until such time they are big and healthy enough to go to the next stage, an intermediary location away from people before they are finally released into the wild.

The healthy baby elephants are shown to the public for one hour each day, for a small fee to help towards their up-keep and running the sanctuary, but some of the animals are injured and are cared for in the hospital while they recuperate and get well enough to be released back into the wild.

Elephant numbers have been actually rising due to successful conservation efforts, but the increase in both elephant and human populations has and will inevitably lead to conflict, a conflict in which the elephants will lose.  Elephants only have a few calves in their long life. The population of African humans, on the other hand, fueled by AID from the West and do-gooders like Bob Geldof are rising dramatically, with each family being artificially aided, regardless of resources and sustainability, to produce 7-9 off-spring, who in turn multiply again putting a strain on finite resources, space and food.

Tribalism continues to place loyalty to kith and kin before logic and efficiency. Tragically, Malthusian population checks such as war, disease and famine will continue to make life miserable and tough for Africans. And what of all the African animals and natural resources?  Traded with the Chinese for tarmac roads and concrete hotels in a seemingly inescapable new era of dependent colonialism.

You have to ask why Africa has to import everything from China. Why can’t they build bicycles and plastic bowls themselves?  The raw materials come from Africa and there are enough people idling about everywhere without jobs. But I may be wrong and Geldof and his rich hippy friends correct. Heart strings will be pulled and guilt manipulated by Sunday afternoon TV campaigns in the west to “spare a pound” to feed all the starving Ethiopian and Somalis babies so they can grow up to beg for money, throw rocks at motorcycles, kidnap hostages and extort money from shipping companies. Do I sound contemptuous?  Perhaps I am. TAB.

I am sure most people who read this couldn’t care less about my ramblings concerning environmental conservation and the evil secrets behind the Chinese R5 shops that have sprung up across South Africa. After all, “Here comes Honey Boo Boo” is about to start on the telly and the delivery man is due with a family sized KFC bucket of tikken and tips…ho ye!. Anyway, too much thinking and fretting, back to the big bike trip. We decided to set off to the beautiful Masai Mara for some happy thoughts and a chance to see something natural and special before its turned into “glorious peoples number one” Africa world adventure park with polluted grey/green lakes to peddle fiberglass swan boats on, live chickens for little Xiao Long to throw to the dog that looks like a lion, and a garish parade with loud canto pop and people dressed in cartoon rhino, dinosaur and dodo costumes. I told you, its the Larium wots to blame.

Jungle Jungle common room and dining room.

An assortment of vehicles and an eclectic mix of adventurers

While we were staying in Nairobi Fanny taught herself to cook. Prior to this I had never seen her cook. This was to come in very useful when we got to Europe. Not only could we have healthy Chinese food,  save costs, and clear a camping space with chili pepper fog.

KTM Nairobi …… I will concede… KTMs are not cheap to service, especially here.

Stella without her wheels

Stella without her wheels

The main man called Duncan was not at his workshop while we were in Nairobi and had gone off to compete in some Rallye races in Uganda

Baby elephants at rescue center in Nairobi

Nellie and Ellie

Nellie and Ellie

They move very quickly when its feeding time and drink out of elephant sized milk bottles. They have very coarse hair on their heads, but surprisingly their skin is much softer than it looks.

A sick rhino …

Milky time

Milky time

Riding along Masai herdsmen paths in the Masai Mara … enormous fun and very close to the animals that happen to make up the great migration between the Serengeti and Masai Mara, such as Wildebeest and Zebras. We were not allowed to ride in the game parks themselves, but it seemed the animals were free to go where they liked anyway and we saw a lot.

Waiting while the BMW guys who traveled with us tried to repair their bike. One hour later they gave up and I towed the stricken BMW F650GS over 35 kilometers to the nearest town. It was a challenge and not that good for my clutch given all the streams and banks we had to cross… but I feel a sense of achievement that we made it. KTM 1 – BMW 0

Fanny and I in Masai Mara

Swollen rivers and streams … the smaller ones we crossed


A twenty liter battery acid drum on the back of my KTM for more fuel. Just above the Akropovik exhausts that occasionally spit blue flames. Very healthy no safety.

Packed up and ready to go with an extra 20 liters of fuel in an old exide battery acid drum… Not the safest thing to do… but necessity and improvisation etc… A bigger fuel tank ?  Good idea.

Another KTM rider in the Masai Mara

Another KTM rider in the Masai Mara


The distance between our intended destination at Aruba Bush camp at the Masai Mara gate and Nairobi was only about 350 kilometers but the road conditions to get there were tough, and because of the heavy rains some of the routes were blocked because the river crossings were too deep.

We decided to ride there with reduced luggage which I would carry on my bike and together with a couple of Spaniards, Jose and Noa who arrived at Jungle Junction with their BMW F650GS on the back of a truck having broken down in southern Ethiopia. Jose and Noa had had a terrible journey to Nairobi in the back of a truck for four days and on one night been abandoned without food while the driver disappeared without explanation to nearby villages to rest.

This road from Moyale that straddles Ethiopia and Kenya, which we were to travel along later, is notoriously bad and renowned for having bandits and highway men who allegedly set up ambushes along the remote desert track. A story was circulating about a French couple who refused to hand over their goods at an ambush and the man was shot in the face as he tried to escape. Then again I have heard the same sort of things happens in places like London, Bristol, and indeed Burton on Trent on market day. There are bad people everywhere, but I will concede that Somali and north Kenya probably has more than its fair share of them.

With the Spaniards’ BMW now fixed by Chris at Jungle Junction we all set off out of the grime and decay of Nairobi towards the stunning Rift Valley escarpment and down a thousand or so meters into the Masai plains and villages that stretch out towards the unmarked boundaries of the game park.

For the first 150 kilometers we rode on decent tar roads and by midday we stopped in a small town for a spot of lunch at a local restaurant. In time honoured fashion we pointed at someone else’s food and said we’d have that… 2 kilograms of Chomba, (roasted goat meat on the bone) and chips…very delicious, but perhaps not for everyday unless one wants a Diane Abbot like bottom.

After our carnivorous lunch we went for a ride in the town to look for the petrol station less likely to serve up the usual kerosene/grit fuel mixture that ruins our engines.  As normal, while re-fueling we attracted a huge crowd who would ask the same questions about where we had come from, where we were going and how fast the bikes could go. Our answers of South Africa, China and 240kph were usually met with incredulity and disbelief.

After about 10 kilometers we turned off onto gravel tracks that got progressively more challenging as we headed further into the Masai Mara. Fanny had been improving her riding skills all the time and we considered this a training exercise in preparation for what was about to come. What we had not banked on was thick gooey mud and long stretches of deep puddles, and in one particularly bad section Fanny dropped her bike and got absolutely covered causing both her and her motorcycle to remain a reddy brown colour for the remainder of the trip. A suitable baptism to “off roading” I thought.

Often when the track was very bad we would ride up over the banks and onto the herdsmen tracks that would weave through villages, woods, bushes and grasslands. This was what adventure motorcycling is all about and it was enormous fun.

About 35 kilometers away from our destination the Spanish crew’s BMW stopped and never started again. Their fuel pump was apparently broken again and after a futile hour of trying to make a multi-meter out of bits of wire, a battery and a bulb they admitted defeat. I suggested I towed them to Aruba Bushcamp where at least we could camp before it got dark. It was apparent that the animals, including the many lions and hyenas did not recognize the man-made perimeters of the national game park and so it was definitely not a good idea to be out in the open after dark. This meant that I was now to use the tow rope which up until now had remained coiled and strapped to to crash bar, and also employ the towing skills I learned from Leon and Wayne at Country Trax in South Africa on my big bike sand course (highly recommended for anyone who is thinking of riding a BMW 1200GS, Ducati Multi Strada, Triumph Explorer, Yamaha Super Tenere, Kawasaki KLR or KTM 990/1190 Adventure on anything vaguely off road).

After a briefing to Jose about keeping the rope tight and securing the ends offside to nearside foot pegs on our respective bikes we edged forward, sliding and weaving in the gravel and mud. Occasionally we would have to descend into muddy streams and power up out again, keeping the speed constant and the rope taught. On one occasion we got it wrong and I catapulted Jose and 200kgs of BMW off the side of the road, through the air and into a ditch. Both bikes fell leaving Jose lying prostrate in a ditch. I inquired if he was OK and he just said that he’d like to lie there for a few minutes staring at the sky.  After what seemed like an age I inquired again and he said he was ready to go on, and so I hauled him and our bikes out of the ditch (not that easy in mud) and set off again, both of us getting better at the towing and being towed experience all the time.

At one location the road was too muddy and we rode off road in the middle of the plains alongside thousands of wildebeest and I managed to take some video whilst towing the BMW. It was very tiring and very technical, but I found some time to look around and reflect on what we were doing. I certainly wasn’t going to forget that it was a KTM towing a BMW and I was going to enjoy gloating over this for some time to come.

As we were getting in our stride and I was getting used to my bald front tyre being yanked sideways every now and again I noticed in my mirror that Fanny was no longer behind me. I had been keeping to a pretty steady 30 kph, with all of our luggage, a Spaniard and his BMW tugging on my LC8 engine and its clutch. The sun was going down and I was not entirely sure where we were as the GPS just showed our position in the middle of no where.  No indication of the road, or our destination. The GPS just showed a green background with a bike symbol in the middle.  Dilemma…do I carry on with Jose, or go back and find the others? In the end I discussed with Jose whether it was OK for me to leave him and his stricken bike in the middle of lion country as the sun was setting and he replied with a southern European shrug and said, ‘no worries’.

So I turned the bike around and rode rather anxiously—perhaps at reckless Dakar Rally pace of 120kph plus– along the mud and gravel tracks. After a few kilometers I saw Fanny’s orange headlight weaving in the fading light through the bush and when I came alongside her I could see she was head to toe in wet mud again. I was relieved she was OK and making progress, but I was my usual terse self and reminded her in no uncertain terms the situation we were in and the urgency with which we should get to camp before it gets dark. Fanny was a little annoyed with me and said she was doing her best. ‘Well make your best a little better’, I said rather too harshly.

TA MA DE’, she yelled back, quite rightly.

I theatrically skidded my bike around and tore off back to where I had left the Spanish Omelette stranded in the bush at dusk surrounded by one of the largest concentration of predators. Luckily I found him uneaten and wandering about taking sunset pictures of the Masai plains and wildebeest and so I finally relaxed a little. In fact, we were only three or so kilometers away from the relative safety of Aruba Bush camp and its human settlements which was just as well as within a few minutes it was pitch black and the air filled with the sound of various beasties and birdies howling, growling, squawking and squeaking.

When we arrived at Aruba Bushcamp we were warmly welcomed by the staff who had been expecting us and I felt a mild sense of cheng jiu gan (sense of accomplishment) and quite a bit of ru shi zhong fu (sense of relief) as Fanny reminded me, keeping up my Chinese lessons and practice. After our now extremely well practiced and fast pitch of our tent and tidy up of our kit and bikes we went to the very nice game lodge restaurant where we had a superb dinner alongside various people who were on their safari holiday and who had arrived with Gucci style suitcases and luggage, wearing kharki green and leopard skin pattern “Out of Africa” ensembles, and no doubt having had far less exciting journeys to Masai Mara on Virgin Atlantic or private charter flights. I reflected on this and on the fact that its true… money can’t buy you everything.

The food and cold beer was very welcome and we ate in exhausted silence until a very muddy Fanny suddenly piped up with, ‘I think I’ve mastered this off roading now’.  Indeed, she had done extremely well, but still had a lot to learn and she still kept dropping her bike unnecessarily and making me mad as I would have to keep repairing the damage and banging out the dents in her panniers. But really, she really had done very well and made a lot of progress and I was very proud of her. Not bad for six months riding experience and on top of a thousand cc best of breed adventure bike.

The next day we went off in search of a vehicle and driver who could take us for a game drive into the Masai Mara park. Motorcycles, as we learnt trying to get into the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania, are not allowed in game reserves. I have actually ridden my bike in a game reserve in South Luangwa in Zambia and I have to say on reflection it really isn’t a good idea. It does scare the animals. Elephants in particular hate motorcycles, and stating the obvious, it isn’t very safe.

After wandering about the local village and inadvertently running into a pitched and very noisy battle between a pack of village dogs and a troop of baboons we found a driver who was willing to accept a lower fee than that offered by the drivers in Aruba camp.  He showed us his Land Cruiser which looked perfectly up for the job and he asked, as it was just the two of us, whether he could bring his friend, a Masai herdsman who was a great game spotter. Perfect.

The safari was awesome and lived up to all our expectations and more. We drove with hundreds and thousands of wildebeest and zebras which could be seen as far as the eye could see. The plains were spectacular, surprisingly lush green in colour and teeming with life. It is real “Lion King” country and must have influenced the animators of the movie with the scenery and atmosphere. I really liked the Kudu and Eland antelopes which were in huge numbers and looked very shiny and healthy.

Stopping off for lunch in Kenya with other bikers from Jungle Junction

It was very muddy on some of the trails

We literally ran into this lioness that was sleeping under a bush


What a strange creature.

My bike with an extra 20 liters of petrol in a battery acid drum I found in Nairobi. This provides about 280- 350 kilometers depending on how fast and in what conditions we are riding. I’ll admit, not the safest way and if I had the money I would have invested in the after market 45 liter tanks for both bikes. That said it worked.

Lots of mud and puddles. The great migration follows the rains and now these rains and the lush grasslands was in Kenya

Our camp site at the gate of the Masai Mara game reserve. Tea anyone?

Some of the Wildebeest that often stretched out as far as the eye could see. Definitely something to see on life’s bucket list.


I believe this is now called a “selfie” … a horrible new word that sprang up while we were on the road.

Good fun on the dirt roads

A cheetah lolloping along …. one of my favourite animals and the fastest mammal on the planet.

Our campsite and a fire ready to be lit when the sun goes down

Fanny and our Masai guide in front of dozens of hippos in the river

Going for a game drive and crossing one of many water ditches left by the rains

Beautiful antelope

There were lots of very well fed lions … not surprising given the huge number of game everywhere


Fanny was really taken with the warthogs and how they ran along with their tails up like aerials with the babies following behind in single file.  We followed a mother warthog and her babies into the bush and were surprised when they suddenly doubled back towards us in alarm. We immediately saw why. They had literally run into a lioness and roused her from her sleep under a bush. She seemed a bit put out by this and was looking left and right in a confused manner as if dinner had just landed on her plate and then disappeared.

We looked at the lioness for a while and she looked back at us and then we reversed away and immediately got a puncture. Fanny and I looked at each other with amusement and with a little bit of apprehension, ‘Now what?’  We were a little surprised when our Masai guide jumped out the vehicle right next to the lioness, kicked the tyre, muttered something in Swahili, threw at rock at the lioness and then asked us (from our lookout on the roof of the Land Cruiser) to keep an eye out for her mates while they changed the wheel.

A bit of fun and drama added to the tour, after which we carried on, spotting cheetahs, buffalos, hippos, giraffes, eagles, vultures, jackals, and of course thousands and thousands of wildebeest and zebras.

There was a leopard up a tree across a river, but there had been a lot of rain and it was flooded and we couldn’t get across the swollen river to get a better look. The high waters also took a few human victims and on several occasions we rescued fellow tourists who were stranded in their two wheel game mini buses in the middle of rivers, their occupants looking anxiously and nervously out of the windows.

I think it was one of the best game drives I had been on. Our driver and guide were great fun and very knowledgeable, we were at the right place at the right time to see the great migration and the weather was kind to us. We got up early the next day, abandoned Jose and Moa to get their bike transported back to Jungle Junction, to get repaired yet again and we headed off along  Masai herdsmen trails and across the vast grasslands and bush back towards the human settlement and detritus of Nairobi.

Fanny was going from strength to strength and at one stage we rode off road together with thousands of running wildebeest twisting and turning like a large flock of birds. We decided to stay off the dreadful road as much as possible and followed trails inaccessible to cars and four wheeled vehicles through village after village and across lush mountain pastures, navigating through zebras, antelope and Masai domestic cattle and goats.

Fanny and I on a game drive in the park

The things you see. Fascinating.  Here a western hemisphere Homo Sapien family in a two wheel drive minibus getting stuck in a mud pool … also being watched by local Masai herdsmen and, for all we knew, some predators.

Two lionesses and about seven lion cubs “lion” in the sunshine

Buffalo … one of the most dangerous animals you can encounter in the Africa bush.

This cheetah tried to catch some prey and failed and so it has slumped down on the grass panting. It seemed unconcerned when we approach it

Its difficult to get a feel of the place from a picture, but we rode for hundreds of kilometers along mud/gravel roads like this in the bush

You have to keep your eye out. There are three cheetahs near this tree

Fanny getting to grips with riding the KTM on mud and across streams and ditches

Fanny in the Masai Mara among zebras and wildebeest

Fanny in the Masai Mara among zebras and wildebeest (background). Love this picture.

More meat …..

Fanny tucking into a kilo of chomba


We decided on a second helping of chomba for lunch when we got to the first town and then carried on through the Rift Valley plains that were churning with dust devils and mini tornadoes in the early afternoon heat. We had been lucky with the weather so far, but as we ascended the great escarpment the sky turned black, the heavens opened and we got truly soaked.

When we got back to Jungle Junction we learned that our passports, which we had to courier to Beijing for Fanny, and to London for me in order to get Ethiopian visas had not returned yet. Always a worry being in a foreign country without your passports. But no choice. The tyres, however, were en route and the next day I went to Nairobi International airport to get them.

I knew they were being held by customs and I was prepared for some hassle and delays and to part with some cash to release them and that is what I got. Five hours faffing about filling in forms, explaining to officials, pleading that the tyres were not being imported permanently, and negotiating with whom I should part with cash and how much. Eventually I was taken into a warehouse where two boxes were opened up. Like a parent who gets red headed baby, I nearly fell off my perch when they came out. Not only were the tyres not the Continentals we ordered and needed, they were the sort of tyres unsuited for anything but driving on tar roads and we had the worst roads just ahead of us.


Extremely annoyed and frustrated, I paid the duties and custom fees for the unwanted tyres and returned through the crazy traffic of Nairobi city centre directly to KTM.  They said they were experts at fitting tyres and I was very much hoping I could exchange these tyres for anything remotely off road orientated.

Soon after I arrived at the KTM garage Fanny joined me, having ridden solo through the city, and we pleaded with the KTM Nairobi staff to part exchange the unwanted road tyres for anything with a tread.  They refused, and so I had no choice but to buy whatever tyres they had in stock that fitted our wheels. Despite going against Adam’s recommendation, I bought Pirelli MT/21s for the front and fitted the standard Pirelli Scorpions MT/90s to the rear. A wise choice as it happened and despite everything a bit of luck.

Sadly, in the process of fitting these new tyres, KTM did a Friday afternoon job (which it was) and scorched and scratched all our black wheel rims in the process. So much for the professional tyre fitting service KTM Nairobi promised. I would have done better myself with three kitchen spoons, a blind fold and a bowl of soapy water in the bush. Later I would become very accomplished at tyre fitting and puncture repairs in BFNW, but now I was just plain annoyed at their incompetence. As the adage goes… if you want a job done properly ….. !!

I remembered the Long Way Round series and the guys getting let down by KTM back in 2004 and it seemed they still haven’t learnt about increasing their market share of adventure motorcycling by supporting their customers. BMW have decent enough adventure motorcycles, not as good as KTM to my mind, but where BMW excel themselves is in after sales support. KTM? Could do better… says the school report.

The reality is following the “Long Way…” expeditions, that the BMW R1200GS is now the all time best selling bike – ever -, having sold half a million in the last few years. Ducati, Benelli, Aprilia, Yamaha and Triumph are also pushing hard in the growing adventure bike space and I really hope KTM will not only make 650, 800, 1000 and 1200cc adventure bike versions, but think carefully about their marketing, brand image and after sales service.  BMW definitely have a lead on KTM in this respect.  We intend to go to the KTM factory in Austria next year and I am wondering if there will be any interest in our feedback (post note from May 2013 Post note….the new KTM 1190 Adventure and R version are looking like awesome globe trotting machines, as for KTM marketing and after sales service we wait and hope.

Anyway, I lugged the unwanted tyres back to Jungle Junction teetering in a tower on the back of my bike, together with the old front tyres which still had a few thousand kilometers left and so they were salvaged for use by other adventurers whose 21 inch front tyres might be even worse. I told our sorry story to Chris Handschuh and he didn’t sound surprised.  He very kindly offered to buy the Dunlop road tyres sent erroneously from South Africa and we kindly accepted. Chris had earlier offered to fit the tyres for us and I wish we had had the BMW Nairobi guy do the job rather than KTM Nairobi. We contacted KR Motorcycle (Pte) Ltd in Polokwane who sold the wrong tyres to Fanny’s elderly aunt, but they were uninterested and unapologetic.  Like a lot of sales and business people I have encountered in South Africa they couldn’t really give a damn once they had relieved you of your cash. Or in this case Fanny’s aunt.  Mei banfa, you zhe yang zao gau de Nanfei shengyi ren.

We were still waiting for our passport to be sent back with Ethiopian visas via an agency ( The reason why we had to take the risky option of sending our passports out of a foreign country back to the capital cities of our respective countries was that the Ethiopian High Commission in Nairobi refused to issue visas to anyone except Kenyan citizens and residents and our attempts at persuading them otherwise were unsuccessful. We attempted to get support from the British and Chinese Embassies in Nairobi, but they were both uninterested to help us.

The British officials were truly disappointing and unhelpful.  They wanted eighty pounds just to issue a standard verification letter … a letter you can print off the internet for free and which is actually of limited value.  “One should of got one’s visa in London, shouldn’t one?”, I was told with a sniff.  “Well one has ridden one’s motorcycle from South Africa hasn’t one”, I replied, but already Ponsenby-Smythe or whoever had turned on his heels and gawn. Clearly under achieving British diplomats were sentenced to Nairobi in much the same way as sheep thieves used to be sent to Australia.

The Chinese officials at the embassy in Nairobi were equally as unhelpful, in fact worse.  I find British officials are rarely corrupt….at their worst just they are just snooty and gormless. However, at the Chinese embassy we were dealt with (unusually I might add) a particularly corrupt, repulsive and nasty individual who made it clear we would have to part with a lot of cash to get him to do anything… that I would describe as “consular”.  Ta zhen shi yi ge shabi  – not a phrase I learnt at Tsinghua University I might add, but an accurate description of Mr. Fubai.  Luckily the letter we got from the very supportive and professional Chinese Consul General in Cape Town, the lovely Ms Li Li Bei, was very useful and this allowed Fanny, and strangely also myself, to successfully apply for our Sudanese visas there in Nairobi.

We later heard that some people found a stamp maker who made up Kenyan resident chops for their passports, with which they successfully applied for visas from Nairobi. Given my previous profession I am not a big fan of forgery, but nonetheless marveled at this ingenuity. Being long time adventure travelers, these (lets just call them resourceful travelers) advised me that one should always carry a date stamp and an old coin to make up official looking entry and carnet de passage stamps when traveling through third world countries with ridiculous red tape and unreasonable procedures. Necessity prevails I suppose.

Jose and Noa off again on their repaired BMW… Via con Dios

Fanny cooking our dinner on the fire

Fanny horse riding in foothills of Mount Kenya

Our camp in lush fields at Mountain Rock on the equator near Nanyuki

Our friends from South Africa camped up in their safari caravans

The famous “Wobbel” from Holland … been around the world

Fellow creatures who shared our camping filed...

Fellow creatures who shared our camping field…

A peaceful place to live right on the equator

A peaceful place to live right on the equator


While we were mooching about waiting,  Fanny had started doing something I had never seen her do before. Cook. In China, where we normally live and work, great food is found everywhere, is absolutely delicious and is cheap. There is no point cooking in a city like Shanghai, nor indeed Hong Kong or Beijing.  Fanny subjected not only me to her experiments, but also any other hungry lost souls at Jungle Junction. In fact she got very good and said she thoroughly enjoyed cooking, which was a good thing because we were going to have to do more of it later on.

Whilst on one of her shopping expeditions to “Nakumatt”, the ubiquitous supermarket chain found throughout Kenya, Fanny bumped into our friends from Cape Town, George and Alice.  We first met them in Malawi when they rescued us by giving us some fuel and then later in Tanzania. After catching up over coffee, they invited us for a barbeque with them at their nearby campsite, Karen Lodge and we braved the awful traffic in the dark and rode over. Riding at night is a big “No No” and I was repeatedly alarmed along the way at three abreast sets of headlights coming straight towards us. One vehicle in the lane it should be in, one in my lane and the other on the verge that I really needed to swerve off onto.  Having miraculously made it to the camp it was with great relief when George kindly paid for us to stay at the lodge overnight, which also meant we could have a few toots together and ride back in the daylight, soberish.

Thank you, George.

George and Alice having finally woken up at camp 2 on Mount Kenya. I had already climbed to the summit early that morning and was now on way back to camp site as I was cold and wet and not keen to hang around.

Mountain Rock … our camp. I seem to be mincing about … unintentionally of course.

Climbing Mount Kenya


The next day we bumped into several British guys who had been driving a German fire engine from Cape Town, but had given up on their intended destination in Germany because of worries about safety, visas, quality of roads, and how to cross from Egypt to Europe. The same challenges everyone has I thought. The fire truck had originally been driven down to Cape Town for the World Cup in 2010 by some young Germans and now five out of the six British guys, all in their sixties, had thrown in the towel… much too early in the view of George and myself. All that was needed was for two mechanically minded and adventurous Brits to fly down to Nairobi and join the remaining chap to carry on what would have been an awesome adventure. Takes all sorts I guess, but what a missed opportunity.

Fanny’s passport arrived back from China with a month long visa for Ethiopia that had already started on date of issue in Beijing, but mine was still missing. Fanny had got a Control Risk colleague of hers, Brenda (she was also an ex-colleague of mine from Downhill & Associates days) to help her in Beijing, but I had no one willing or able to help me in London, my family are useless, friends too idle etc.. and so I had to use a visa agency called Visa HQ.  However, because of weekends and UK public holidays I could not contact them until the following Tuesday and when my passport was eventually tracked down it had been found to have been placed in the safe at Jungle Junction the previous week, having been addressed to a female who once stayed at Jungle Junction a year ago and must have been on the Visa HQ database at the same address.

Anyway, we had the bikes serviced (sort of), had new tyres (sort of) and had our visas (eventually) and so we could not wait to get away as we had stayed in Nairobi far too long. Our plans to go to Lake Turkana and Omo Valley were scuppered by having the wrong tyres and by reports of heavy rains which had turned the trails into streams and mud. In fact, we had been advised against this route by several locals, including Chris who said we would also struggle with fuel. That said, in retrospect I wish we had taken this remote and interesting route and just “gone for it”.

We heard our Dutch friends, Paul and Marja aboard their Mercedes truck/mobile home, the “Wobbel” were going to head north to Moyale via Mount Kenya and they had offered to carry some of our kit for us to lighten our load and also carry some extra petrol in proper Jerry cans.  Paul and Marja and the “Wobbel” had been on the road for two and a half years and already driven through the Sahara and southwards through the west of Africa. Nothing seemed to faze them and they were in no hurry and so they seemed the perfect team to travel with.

I told George and Alice ( that I would consider climbing Mount Kenya with them provided I could find some suitable clothes, a pair of boots and that it was not too expensive. Fanny had absolutely no intention of getting wet and cold, nor paying good money for the privilege of doing so. She decided to relax and guard the camp.

I was delighted to be escaping from Nairobi and its grubbiness, dust and road diversions and we were soon climbing up into the foothills of Mount Kenya and back into lush African bush. In fact, we were in lush rain forest as we had now reached the Equator.

We decided to set up camp at a beautiful lodge, “Mountain Rock” near the town of Nanyuki where the British Army have a base and prepare for operations in Afghanistan and train the UK special forces in rock climbing and whatever else they do.

Nanyuki is also notable for two other reasons: firstly, the equator passes through it; and secondly, every sign or name of business has a religious connotation. Shops have weird names like the “Blood of Christ Auto Repair”, or the “The Lord is Merciful butchers” .  It seems if you want to make money in Africa you are either a mobile phone operator or a Christian church.

When we got to Mountain Rock, Paul, Marja and the “Wobbel” were already in residence on a green pasture next to the river. So too were the South African off road caravaning club: George and Alice from Cape Town; and Steve and Paula, the Brits from Durban. There did not appear to be anyone else, except for a troop of baboons, including an alpha male that had been spray painted blue and had a bell around its neck. This sentence was imposed upon him because he was repeatedly convicted of stealing and fighting and had lost on appeal.

There was also a large troop of black and white Colobus monkeys in the trees; an assortment of frogs that produced a cacophony of warbles, croaks, clicks and burps and often got blamed for repeated farting noises; a herd of cattle, the bulls of which would often ruck and jostle into our tent; a flock of sheep /goatie things, an eerie of eagles, a river full of brown trout and several termite mounds of ground sheet eating insects.

We put up our tent very wisely on a small mound as each afternoon it would rain very heavily and flood the pasture and leave a small island on which our tent was pitched. After the down pour the water would drain away quickly, the sun would come out and it would be very pleasant again. Occasionally the river looked like it was going to burst its banks and wash us away. It was evident that it had done so in the past, but we were assured by the lodge staff a lot more rain would be needed before we would float down river in our Vaude Mk II tent. Nevertheless, Steve and I set up marker sticks in the bank which we monitored like hawks.  I also made a large and impressive fire that lasted the whole six days we were camped up, often bringing it back to life after the heavy rain with a cup full of Kenyan petrol mix.

Nanyuki … equator

Our campsite was also home to sheep, goats, horses, cows, daft clumsy bulls, and thieving baboons and colobus monkeys… among others


Trout restaurant up a tree above trout pools and rivers in Nanyuki


Despite me being less than enthusiastic, George seemed very intent that I should join them on their climb up to the peak of Mount Kenya and had arranged with some local guides for a five day hike. I met the chief guide, Joseph, a former Kenyan Olympic boxer, at Nanyuki. My attempts to talk my way out of the ill fated expedition by claiming lack of kit were countered by being coerced to hire a very well worn pair of Hi-Tech size 12 boots and a Chinese made day backpack. George maintained that my motorcycle jacket would be more than adequate to keep me warm and so I was set up to climb a 5,000 meter mountain on the equator with snow on the summit. Mount Kenya is just a few meters shy of its more famous brother, Mount Kilimanjaro.

I couldn’t help remembering my last snowy hike early in the year with Andrea and Gary Corbett on Kinder Scout near their home in High Peak, Derbyshire and the very professional kit I borrowed from them that kept me warm, dry and cheerful. There is no bad weather, just bad clothing was their mantra. The same when I hiked Snowdonia the previous year with my old Metropolitan police colleague and good friend, Alan Jones.

Both the Corbetts and Alan Jones were ex-mountain rescue team members for their respective areas and kit freaks with the very best togs.  I also remember paragliding off the summit of Mont Blanc in Chamonix many years ago and being very ill from altitude sickness on the way up. I was decidedly unprepared and under equipped for this expedition and a little apprehensive, but as always up for doing something new and a challenge.

The beginning of day one did bode well. The mini bus taking us to the Mount Kenya park entrance got stuck in deep mud and after forty minutes of rocking the van to and fro it continued on its bone shaking and bumpy ride before dumping George, Alice, myself and several porters at the start of the hike. After 10 steps in my hired boots I realized that the seams were cutting into my heel and so I repaired them with the remainder of the duct tape that had not been used on Fanny’s bike.

I was also a little uneasy about the porter’s bags which were to carry all the provisions to various camps … plastic shopping bags!  Lack of professional kit aside, we started off and I remember from ‘O’ level geography that Mount Kenya is wet and has very different types of vegetation and climate as you ascend. At the base there was tropical rain forest and it rained. Half way up it was very boggy with large cabbage-like plants everywhere and it rained. The last bit to the peak was steep, icy and snow covered rock and bitterly cold.  Nevertheless, each stage was quite interesting. The rain forest section had huge deciduous hardwood trees and bamboo forests and was home to various animals such as elephant, buffalo, leopard and monkeys.

I found the going a bit slow and so I abandoned George and Alice and teamed up with a young racing snake porter called Stephen, a 6 foot 6 inch university student who was earning money portering during his holidays to pay for his college fees. Later I found out he was born and brought up on a small farm by his elderly grandmother at 3,600 meters. His tolerance to altitude and the fact he was 30 years younger than me kept me on my toes, but even so I was huffing and puffing like a fat chick at a cup cake sale.

The lower levels of Mount Kenya

Unloading the kit

Rain forest and jungle in foothills of Mount Kenya

Looking chirpy at 1st base camp

A bit bleak.. and very cold and damp. My clothes and boots were soaking wet the whole time

Camp 1... damp and cold and a bit bleak

Camp 1… Old Moses


The first camp, called Old Moses was at 3,300 meters and was bleak. There was no electricity, no heating or fire, basic bunk beds, and it was perpetually cold and damp.

The only place even more miserable was the next camp further up called Shipton camp. At 4,200 meters it was as bleak as Old Moses, just colder and even damper. As I raced there too quickly I had to hang about in freezing cold and wet clothes with nothing to do and no way to get warm. Fires were banned outside and the only wood from the big cabbage trees was toxic.. allegedly. One of the guides suggested I hang my wet clothes up and after 6 hours they were just as wet, only colder. I smelled pretty badly and had no choice other than to have an icy shower of the smelly parts and put on the only semi dry things I had left which made me look rather odd.

I decided I was too cold and miserable to acclimatize to the altitude and would move forward my plans, ascend the peak at 3 am the next morning and then leg it in my damp clothes 55 kilometers back to the gate…all in the same day.

At 2 am I woke up, had some coffee without milk (because milk makes you more nauseous at altitude), stuffed some biscuits in my face and some in my pocket and put on my uncomfortably damp clothes and got on with the ascent with Stephen. He was promoted from porter to guide as it would be me who carried the rucksack and it was Stephen who knew the way. It was pitch black and fortunately all I could see when I climbed was a circle of light from my Chinese made head torch which illuminated about 2 meters in diameter and nothing else.

I was going well but as we started to climb the rocky bits near the top I had to walk 10 steps and then stop for 10 seconds to catch my breath and then start again. I got to the peak well before anyone else in less than two hours and sat huddled in my motorcycle jacket with my sleeping bag liner as a scarf with frozen solid boots and numb nuts wishing the time away for the sun to rise.

I tried to take some pictures of the summit but my fingers would not operate the camera controls and I put them quickly back in my winter bike gloves where the feeling came back several hours later. As soon as there was a glimmer of light on the horizon I agreed with Stephen that as we were freezing we should go and so we hurtled off back down the peak passing people still ascending.  A few asked me, ‘Aren’t you waiting for the sunrise?’

‘No’, I chattered inaudibly with my sleeping bag liner wrapped around me like a scarf.

very interesting flora and fauna on the mountain side. I remember studying about how the vegetation and soils changed on Mount Kilimanjaro and Kenya when studying geography... and now I was experiencing it for myself

very interesting flora and fauna on the mountain side. I remember studying about how the vegetation and soils changed on Mount Kilimanjaro and Kenya when studying geography… and now I was experiencing it for myself

Believe it or not... this is the elephants closest relative

Believe it or not… this is the elephants closest relative

Camp 2 … improvising with whatever clothes I can find.

Strange large cabbage plants on the slopes of the mountain

A strange world up there

The summit .. at 4.30 am…. really really cold on the equator

Frosty and cold… using my sleeping bag liner as a scarf

Stephen…my racing snake guide to the summit…

Mount Kenya … on way down from the summit

Someone else’s boots … don’t quite fit, seen much better days and now soaking wet

Not a bad view though


Josef .. my chief guide and owner of safari company …If anyone is looking for a great guide in Kenya or Tanzania give Joseph a call. +254722853625 (

The summit of Mount Kenya ... first ones of the day (early morning) and I am bitterly cold.

The summit of Mount Kenya … first people of the day (early morning) and I am bitterly cold.


We got down very quickly, trotting down the paths like fell runners and I was back at Shipton camp before it was properly light. I did manage to get a few pictures coming down and was grateful I could not see the sheer cliff drops on the way up.

Back at camp George and Alice were still asleep in their maggots and so I decided to wake them and tell them of my revised plan to get off the mountain as quickly as possible as all my clothes were wet, I was freezing cold, nauseous from the altitude and generally miserable and grumpy.

George, clearly pleased that I had woken him, said, ‘What about the hotel on the other side?’

‘I’m afraid I’ll miss it…. you guys enjoy it’, I replied ‘I have to keep moving, see you back at the camp’

Joseph, the head guide said that I was a bull elephant, a compliment I think and congratulated me on my quick ascent and gave me some encouragement for the hike back, not that I needed much to get off that damned cold mountain.

I tried to eat some breakfast with the others but felt sick and so after a swig of something hot I motored solo back along the boggy paths, across the streams and lose rocks, up and down valleys and ridges, passing miserable Old Moses camp and back down through the rain forest to the park gate.

Having started the yomp at 2 am, ascended the peak of Mount Kenya and hoofed it all the way down I got back to Nanyuki town by mid afternoon. A real mountain marathon of about 55 kilometers.

I was still wet, but felt much warmer and after a coffee and a cake I returned the remains of my boots to Stephen, gave him as handsome a tip as I could afford and then discovered that nobody was at the camp. Never mind I thought, I will have a warm shower, but alas no, the fire under the boiler had not been lit yet.  Dooh!

When Fanny and the others returned to Mountain Rock an hour or so later they were surprised to see me as I was not expected for another 72 hours, or it might have been that I was completely naked. Either way there was a lot of commotion. I was very glad to be back and eventually did get a hot shower, a change into dry clothes, a warm by the fire, but still had a headache of note.

Fanny broke the bad news that while I was away the baboons had raided our tent and eaten all the Paracetamol, a tube of Germolene antiseptic cream, all my vitamins, including a packet of cod liver oil tablets and some of Fanny’s face cream.

If that’s not enough to turn your fur blue I don’t know what is.  The damp and cold of Mount Kenya had also helped give me a very bad chest infection and luckily our neighbour, Paula Thomas from Durban had some very good antibiotics that cleared it up in a few days. She also added that the tablets will clear up any venereal diseases I may have. So that was good.

The remainder of our time at Mountain Rock was spent preparing for the most difficult bit of our trip, the road to Moyale. Steve Thomas had been working hard making us a fuel filter out of a Milton disinfectant bottle, a washer made out of an inner tube and an old Lister petrol filter he found in town.

This piece of improvisation was to prove an extremely important aid to our expedition as I could now filter all the fuel before it went into the petrol tanks. The design of the KTM 990 Adventure does not allow for additional filters to be placed along the fuel line and my earlier attempts to make funnel filters out of stockings, gauze, socks and anything else were rather disappointing.  I also managed to source several bottles of octane booster and some bottles of injector cleaner. zhong zai yu fang.

Fanny Craddock, now an expert with a fire and pan was preparing our food and provisions for the next few weeks in the middle of nowhere. Noodles with veggies, noodles with meat, noodles with ginger nut biscuits, and noodles with noodles. We did take a break from Fanny’s mian tiao and went to a nearby restaurant called “Trout Tree Farm”.  So called because all they served was trout from their farm which you ate in the dining area up a huge tree with views of the surrounding trout lakes and the rain forest full of Colobus monkeys.

This would be the last larnie place we would enjoy for a long while and two days later Fanny and I set off towards north Kenya. For the first 280 kilometers the road was perfectly built Chinese tarmac, weaving through stunning mountain scenery not unlike remote parts of Namibia. The weather also got warmer as we descended from the foothills of Mount Kenya, the bikes were handling really well with the knobbly Pirelli MT21 Rallycross on the front whistling slightly on the tar. Then suddenly the road turned from perfect tarmac to dreadfully corrugated mud and stones as we entered a very African looking village with people wearing very colourful tribal clothes and jewelry . It was here where we saw the Wobbel again and were greeted by Paul and Marja.

While I am climbing, Fanny is looking after the camp

While I am climbing, Fanny is looking after the camp with Paul and Marja.

Hiking with my guide up to camp 2

Hiking with my guide up to camp 2.. these guys have a tough job

The Summit, which I had just descended and was now hiking back down to Nanyuki

The craggy summit, which I had just descended and was now hiking all the way back down to Nanyuki

Back down… I  jogged down mostly by myself. All in all about 14 hours solid hike to the summit and back down again to Nanyuki and our camp

you looking at me?

The making of the Steve Thomas petrol filter

The making of the invaluable petrol filter. Someone needs to manufacture a really good one for adventure travelers.  I would even invest myself if someone could make a 100% efficient filter that could take out water, grit, and dust

The making of the invaluable petrol filter. Someone needs to manufacture a really good one for adventure travelers. I would even invest myself if someone could make a 100% efficient filter that could take out water, grit, and dust

The "Steve Thomas" petrol filter ... it worked really well.

The “Steve Thomas” petrol filter … it worked really well.

Steve repairing our mud guards that had been been badly bashed on both our bikes… getting ready for rocky roads to Moyale at Ethiopia border

Paul and Marja and Fanny … last stop before venturing into the wilderness of north Kenya

Fanny and Marja

Fanny and Marja having a last tab before we set off…

Bikes just before we set off towards Moyale

Bikes and The Wobbel just before we set off towards Moyale


Paul and Marja had already gone ahead of us in the “Wobbel” with our extra fuel and water. They had bush camped the previous night while waiting for us and had got to know many of the people in the village already.

After we arrived we had some local food and prepared our bikes. One of the prudent measures was to reduce the weight of our bikes as much as possible and since we were camping each night with Paul and Marja we decided to take off our metal panniers and store them inside the Wobbel. The panniers and bags would have caused even more wear and tear on the bikes as they bounced and crashed along the corrugations and rocky road surface.

I guess we could have carried them but there was no need as for the next three days we would be traveling, or at least camping with our Dutch friends and could therefore take advantage of their assistance off-loading some of the weight. We then pointed north and tried to keep just ahead of the Wobbel (the globe trotting Mercedes bread van) and set off at the racing speed of 25-30 kph and sometimes were reduced to even slower as we tackled a surface that looked more like a dry river bed strewn with rocks and sand than a road.

Fanny was doing really well until she hit a bank of sand and went completely out of control, narrowly missing one of the few trees we saw for the next 500 kilometers. During the crash her windscreen and mirrors came off and we decided that from then on “Stella” should be ridden topless for the remainder of the Moyale road section as it would be cooler and safer and I couldn’t be bothered to put it back on again.

I had to admit that the riding was tough and I was nervous the violent shaking was dismantling the bikes to their component parts and perhaps even smaller. On my own I could perhaps ride very much faster along the corrugations and hit the sweet spot where you glide over them, but doing so presented a risk of seriously damaging the bike when eventually the front wheel would clang against a sharp rock sticking out of the road, possibly throwing me off, and possibly damaging the wheel rim and tyre walls. We had seen a KTM 990 Adventure ridden by an Australian who said he had done the whole section in a day at over 100 kphs, but despite his undoubted riding skills his bike was severely damaged due to several serious falls and his tyres? Well they were completely shredded and in all had lasted less than 2000 kilometers. Nope. Slow and steady was the name of the game and I had to get Fanny and her bike from one side to the other intact and look after our bikes until the next service in Egypt, and potentially another set of tyres in Europe.

Fanny had one more fall in deep sand and the bike went over the edge of an embankment and was incredibly difficult to get back up the sandy bank again. With a huge amount of effort the bike was manhandled back up the bank and righted. Those KTMs are tough bikes and so is Fanny. She dusted herself down, got back on the bike and we carried on.

Sometimes I would ride with earplugs in to drown out the racket of wind and other worrisome sounds caused by being thrown about on rocks. Rocks would constantly “dink” off the belly plate, wheel rims and frame.  Often hitting our footpegs and boots with clunks and pings.  Other times, I would listen to my Chinese lessons or music. Joy Division, New Order, UB 40 and Faithless would be common albums, sometimes the Tiesto podcasts and sometimes Vivaldi and Albinoni, although the latter classical music would often make me ride too fast and not concentrate as carefully as I should.

I reckon 99% of all motorcycle riders would really struggle on this road for so many days in the blistering heat and unrelenting dust. Not to mention shy away from riding through an area where there is a real risk of bandits shooting you.  Only a few days later when we reached Addis Ababa did we see the news on the TV that a British tourist had been shot dead and his wife kidnapped in north Kenya by Somali thugs, not too far from where we had been riding.

sandy gravel roads … not so bad


Up on the pegs all day …. I loved it. Tiring on the wrists though

Fanny … you have a very dirty face. Where have you been?

The Wobbel gets a puncture so I ride back to them to help them fix it… but Paul and Marja are experts and have spare on by time I get back

Meeting the locals

Shake, rattle and roll

Iconic picture of Fanny in the middle of nowhere… very gnarly road.. lots of rocks. Wonderful, actually.

video 3

KTM 990 Adventure in its element. Still taken from the wobbel of us on the go. We didn’t go fast and we never got a puncture… unlike everyone else.

video shot

Scooting along

Scooting along

sandy bit of road

Fanny and the Wobbel on a sandy bit of road

The bikes were superb … I could have ridden at 100 kph… How long I would have stayed at 100 kph is another matter. Lots of rocks to knock you off or clang the rims. So we took it steady at 40-60kph.

Me coming back to look for Paul and Marja who had had a puncture.  very barren and rocky stretch of road

Me coming back to look for Paul and Marja who had had a puncture. very barren and rocky stretch of road

We would pass or come across these trucks with livestock in the back and people perched up on top .  Sometimes we would see them repairing punctures somewhere along the 450 kilometers of rocks and sand and gravel. The roads were awful and most vehicles got at least one or two punctures along the way.

Eat my dust



When it got to about five O’clock each day and we still had an hour of daylight we started to look for a place to camp. As we had started late the first day we did not get as far as Marsabit as we originally intended and so as we entered a small village we decided to ask the local police if we could camp on their grounds and they agreed. Fanny and I were absolutely filthy but we dusted ourselves down as best we could, put up the tent, and then had a very welcome cold beer with Paul and Marja whose 15 second camping preparations extend only to putting their table and chairs outside so they can crack open a beer.

Marja cooked a delicious Indonesian style meal and Paul and I later took a bottle of whiskey over to the police station to express our gratitude and numb the aches and pains with our new neighbours.

The village was interesting in a “never seen it before” sort of way, but this particular village was blessed with more than one idiot. In fact it had three who would not leave us alone as we prepared our bikes and tents for the night and bounded about like the Michael Palin character in the movie, “Life of Brian”. They did this for hours and despite threatening to shoot them with my catapult, electrocute them with our zapper or pepper spray them they just carried on jumping about saying daft and annoying things until one of the police officers came up and threatened to shoot them. I could really do with a Kenyan police issue AK47.

The next day we packed up, had a look around the sprawling scruffy village for anything that looked like food, but there wasn’t any and so we had some of our supplies and got going again.  The unrelenting road continued from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm with half an hour break in the dusty and slightly threatening town of Marsabit. A sort of half way point. We had a very welcome lunch, refueled our bikes and got some water for the days ahead. The only hassle we had was from a “chancer” who tried to charge us for stopping in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t have to tell him what to do, Paul and Marja did a good job of expressing what we all thought of his entrepreneurial parking fee business plan. We had originally intended to camp in Marsabit as there is actually a game farm and a good place to stay, but we had arrived there far too early given the previous days delays and so we carried on.

The scenery on the route, I expect, was absolutely stunning, but I could rarely take my eye off the road, such was the concentration needed where we had to fight every meter standing on the foot pegs absorbing none stop shaking and rattling and twisting. Occasionally we would power the bike through mounds of gravel and huge sand pits with the back wheel snaking about violently. Huge sharp rocks would often threaten to puncture our tyres and did so on two occasions to Paul and Marja’s Wobbel, in addition to a number of trucks and buses we saw changing wheels in the middle of nowhere. At one stage in a very remote and barren section of the road that looked like an alien planet the Wobbel went missing and I elected to ride back to find them. 

As I cruised back the way we had come about 5 or so kilometers I could see the stricken wobbel, starkly contrasting against the surrounding nothingness in a sea of fuzzy heat haze in the rocky desert. As I got nearer I could see Paul bent over the rear wheel mending a puncture and Marja videoing taping me riding back towards them. They didn’t actually need any help as they were experts at mending punctures, but the incident allowed us to get some rare video footage of me riding in this amazing bit of the planet.

As they were perfectly alright and having a beer while the tyre inflated with a very slow and pump I decided I better ride back and make sure Fanny was OK and having ridden the same rocky stretch of the road to Moyale for the third time in the day I saw her and her KTM far up ahead in the heat haze, completely surrounded by a vast expanse of desert and looking every bit the quintessential round the world adventure motorcycle rider. Covered in dust and sitting by the side of the road having a tab she looked the part and I was very proud of her. She was doing fine. In fact, like me she was thoroughly enjoying herself.

This stretch of road was very isolated and we passed though a massive desert of strange and rather hostile looking volcanic black rocks embedded in sand. As we got further on we occasionally had to avoid trucks charging down the road with livestock in the back and human passengers on the roof. These trucks created huge plumbs of dust behind them that lingered in the windless conditions. Despite the harsh road and challenging riding I managed to take quite a bit of video and a fair few photographs. On the whole I was relishing the challenge and really enjoyed riding a superb motorcycle in a location very few people know about, let alone venture to.

Our hydration packs were a God send and we both had to make a concerted effort to take small sips the whole time. We were both getting in the rhythm and again Fanny was riding really well and riding at just the right speed, taking it in turns with me to lead. It was difficult to choose the correct track on the road as all options were equally bad. One could fight the thick sand at the sides of the road or bash on through the rock fields, troughs and ridges. Any good track we decided to navigate along quickly petered out and we would then have to ride up over a sand bank or gnarly rock to find another.

As it got near to our “find a place to camp” time we entered a small village called Torbi where the road passed over a small mountain range and again we asked at the local police post if we could camp up for the night. Again they agreed. Unlike the previous police camp this one was amazing and located on the hill side with panoramic views across huge expanses of desert. It was Fanny’s turn to cook for everyone and both of us managed to get some water from the police station well and fashion an outdoor shower to wash off some of the grime and smell before we climbed into our tent and collapsed. We were at the exact site, (incidentally shown in the Long Way Down TV program), where dozens and dozens of little school children were massacred by “brave” African men with machine guns and machetes.  TAB….That’s Africa Baby

In the morning I had a chat with the outpost commander and shared a few police stories and watched the police officers doing their morning drill. As a former Royal Hong Kong Police Drill & Musketry Instructor I recognized that all the commands and drill movements were the same as those in Hong Kong, the link being that both were former British colonies. They did seem surprised that I knew the drill commands, but I resisted the temptation to bark out, ‘As you were’. We are very grateful to the hospitality shown to us by the police in Kenya.

Day three of the road to Moyale was more of the same, except that there were loads of camels everywhere and very remote African tribal people going about their business in the middle of seemingly nowhere wearing beaded collars with ornate piercings and colourful face paint. It was like something from the Discovery channel. I guess due to the remoteness and harsh conditions that things had not changed for centuries.

Again Fanny and I ploughed on, with the Wobbel following up behind us.  Another long day on the foot pegs and the webbing between my forefingers and thumbs were beginning to throb and ache quite badly. Fanny had been riding superbly and it proved the wise advise given by Leon from Country Trax that extreme off road riding is a mind game. My confidence in the ability of the KTMs was vindicated and despite the aches I was loving it.

By early afternoon we started climbing up into the mountains that separate Kenya from Ethiopia and we knew that our destination, Moyale was not too far away and indeed within an hour we started riding through the outskirts of a noticeably Islamic town.

When we got to the very busy centre of Moyale we seemed to be the only foreigners around. We didn’t want to draw attraction to ourselves while we waited for Paul and Marja to arrive at the border town, but being in the state we were in and on two dust covered huge motorcycles we could not anything but. Not that we cared much. We had made it and we both had a strong sense of cheng jiu gan and relief.

We had some local street food to eat and some fruit juice and then sat by the side of the road until we were reunited with the Wobbel as it wobbled up the road. Moyale spans the border and after some failed attempts to find a suitable and safe place to camp up, we decided to suffer the hassles of a late border crossing while fatigued and ride into Ethiopia.

Getting ready to camp in a small village

I take Fanny to all the best places… look at her happy face.

Marsabit … a bit of a wild west town

We saw lots of very interesting people and each tribe had ornate necklaces, or earrings, or discs in the lower lips…


Scenery becoming a bit more sandy and mountainous

You can see Fanny’s tyre track meandering across the road to find the best route through the rocks and sand

Its like a moonscape … not that I’ve ever been to the moon. Lots of dust devils and whirly winds in the heat of the day. No vegetation at all for long stretches.

We camped at a Kenyan police post. Very kind and friendly officers

The police did drill in the morning … exactly the same orders and drill movements as the Royal Hong Kong Police in the day. British colonial legacy I suppose.

I prefer the traditional look … or perhaps a Chelsea beanie

Lots of camels as we got further north

“Hey Fanny… can you believe where we are??”

” You OK?” .. “Good, let’s gooooo”

Last camp with the Wobbel …. not far to Ethiopia now

My wonderful KTM

My wonderful KTM in north Kenya

We all made it….. a real sense of achievement


Next chapter………..ETHIOPIA ….

.Stone throwing kids, rock hewn churches, Wims Holland Guesthouse, excitable aggressive people, Ethiopian New Year, coffee ceremonies, the biggest turd hole  in world (Addis Ababa), stunning mountain vistas, lush valleys, twisty mountain passes, bowls of  Tibis, Man U vs. Chelsea in a boisterous cinema, ticks & fleas, ‘ YOU YOU YOU, the catapult comes out the bag and is used in retaliation….

Chapter 6 – Tanzania Part 2

Tanzania– Part 2

One of the highlights of our 53,800 kilometer ride

One of the highlights of our 53,800 kilometer ride

Lake Chala

Lake Chala

Elephants at a watering hole near our camp at Lake Chala

Elephants at a watering hole near our camp at Lake Chala

Ministry of Home Affairs … Tanzania

Kilimanjaro... on a good day

Kilimanjaro… on a good day


The trip is one of ups and downs and unexpected surprises and disappointments. One thing that is constant is bumping into interesting and generous people. We were overheard at Lake Chala by a Dutch couple who lived in Moshi (on the slopes of Kilimanjaro) discussing our next route and they invited us to stay with them and break up our journey to the Serengeti. This we kindly accepted, although we were not sure we would be able to find them again as we did not carry any SIM cards other than an emergency Chinese one in a cheap phone.

People always ask us of all the places we have been which is one of our favourites, well Lake Chala is definitely one of them.  Super hosts, great campsite, not particularly commercial, very reasonable prices, a bar with one of the best views in the world and smack bang in the middle of unspoilt African bush.  We had a very happy and relaxing time there. Website:

As we rode away along an obstacle course of elephant poo and other debris that the big animals leave in their wake I looked over my shoulder and made a mental note to return one day. It was a Sunday and as we made our way along dirt roads through little villages we rode past hundreds of Tanzanian’s in their beautiful clothes walking to and from church. It’s quite strange and almost surreal seeing people wandering through the African bush in their Sunday best. Everyone waved and greeted us with Jambo or Karibu.

Moshi was only 54 kilometers away and we got there fairly quickly, but all the time I was craning my neck looking up towards where I knew the tallest mountain on the African continent should be. It is usually covered in cloud and for just a few minutes we caught a glimpse of the snowy summit of Kilimanjaro, and then it was gone again and we never saw it again. It is quite a sight being one of the tallest free standing mountains in the world and the seemingly perfectly formed conical snow cap really stands out from the surrounding African bush plains.

We were keen to go into the Serengeti national park and also down into the Ngorongoro Crater, both of which are said to be teeming with wildlife, but the tour operators in Moshi and Arusha, the so called gateways to the parks, were asking for US$150-200 a day “each””  to join their tour groups. A fee way beyond our budget. However, Tanzania is very strict about not letting motorcycles into game parks and so if we wanted to see the Serengeti we would have to think of a plan and somehow independently get in using someone else’s four wheels. .

In Moshi we found a nice cafe on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and stopped so we could ponder over the options. While we were having our drinks we noticed a sign for a Chinese restaurant called “The Panda” and Fanny decided to go there and ask the owners about the lay of the land, visas, routes and do her usual due diligence inquiries and find out what the foods like.  I decided to go shopping and stock up on some food and supplies as we might be bush camping over the next few days.

Fanny came back after a short while with her new friend, Chen Yuan Yuan who invited us for dinner at the restaurant but admitted the cook couldn’t cook and the food was lousy. She was a very friendly girl and both she and Fanny seemed happy to have met each other and chat in their mother tongue. Chen had met the owners of the restaurant while she was cycling in Tibet and they invited her to stay with them at their restaurant, The Panda in Moshi and she decided to stay and  now she was in charge of the restaurant while the owners went back to China.

By her own admission she knew nothing about the running of a restaurant, but she seemed a nice person and so we accepted her offer and later went back to the Panda with our hosts, Mathe and Pauline, the couple from Holland we met at Lake Chala and who put us up for the night at their nearby house. The food was indeed bloody awful, but it was free. Even the other diners said the food was shocking and one Chinese couple actually cooked their own food in the restaurant’s kitchen, which they shared with us, so at least we had one decent dish. The Panda Chinese restaurant in Moshi would make a very entertaining challenge for Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. .

We set off towards the Serengeti bright and early the next day after a superb breakfast with Pauline in her garden with views of the mountainside.  We had heard stories about bad fuel along the way and were advised to only get petrol from BP or Total garages. Luckily we found a BP garage in Arusha and our KTM LC8 engines were happy again. Our KTMs do not like low octane petrol or fuel mixed with kerosene or water at all, and if we put any in the engines backfire badly like I do after eating onions and I cringe at the thought of the damage being done inside.

Our target location for the day was Mto Wa Mbu, which I never learned how to pronounce properly and so I simply spelled it out whenever it was mentioned.  The ride through the north Tanzanian bush was spectacular and we started to see a lot more Masai villages and herdsmen.

We also caught our first glimpse of Lake Manyara with its white soda pans and huge plains. Also, across the huge valley floor were dozens of fairly large red dust devils swirling hundreds of meters upwards into the sky. It was as if we were in an unearthly land and the surface was boiling. This was exciting stuff. I saw the entrance to Twinga campsite as we rode by and remembered its name from one of the tour companies I inquired about in Moshi. It is one of the first camps that people stay at just outside the parks before they continue on their safari packages into the Serengeti.

Our plan remained to try and find other people to share the cost of a vehicle and fuel, but the mathematics would just not work out as the entry fees to each of the parks was US$50 a day and to descend into the Ngorongoro Crater was another US$200. Again, we were on a sort of thousand holidays in one go experience and so our budget could just not extend to going into all the tourist attractions we came across. But its the Serengeti … we can’t ride all the way and not see it. Can we?


Tanzania… the dark round shape near the border with Kenya is Kilimanjaro… highest mountain in Africa and highest free standing mountain in the world at nearly 6000 meters.

Not Kilimanjaro, but Mount Meru …

Typical scenery in Tanzania

Masaai herdsman

Masaai herdsman

And lots and lots of elephants

Fanny on slopes of Ngorogoro Crater with Lake Manyara in distance

Fanny on slopes of Ngorogoro Crater with Lake Manyara in distance.

Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara

Going for a walking safari in the valley and seeing not only animals, but also Masaai people living right amongst them


Stopping off for a break somewhere

Stopping off for a break somewhere

Our hosts house in Moshi

Our hosts house in Moshi on slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro


We did not like the village beginning with M very much, we did not like Twinga camp and we definitely did not like the prices and all the pushy touts. “WE ARE NOT TOURISTS – WE ARE ROUND THE WORLD MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURERS”.
There is a difference you know, but apparently not to the touts or anyone in Mmmm Toe Waaah Mmmm booo .. to them we are just another bunch of mzungos who need to be relieved of our cash.

We were torn between continuing to Kenya and perhaps going into the Masai Mara where the great migration had actually moved onto by mid August, or continuing to find a solution to get into the Tanzanian parks.  Fanny and I rode with all our equipment to the very last village, Karatu which is just outside the Ngorongoro Crater entrance. Our friends from Tanga, Eric and Pam Allard, had suggested that we should try and stay at Gibb’s Farm, ( ).

I can categorically state that this was one of our biggest mistakes. Not only was the search for Gibbs Farm a difficult one, extremely difficult to get to due to thick sand and road building material piled up every five meters for five kilometers, but when I eventually got there sweating, dusty and exhausted the lodge staff told me that rooms started at US$350 a night. What the…..?

Agitated and annoyed I turned my bike around just as Fanny pulled up to Gibb’s Farm and then I noticed that her back tyre was completely flat. Not only was it flat but she had ridden it flat for at least a kilometer. The clouds turned black, lightening struck the ground and Captain Grumpy Bastard had been released from his cave.

I am not proud of my tantrums and I vaguely remember on this occasion various people running for cover, especially when I took a wheel wretch out of the toolbox. Fanny has witnessed a few, she does not particularly like them, but she is the best person in the world at handling me when the red mist comes down. Luckily, if there was any luck to be squeezed out of the situation, the lodge had a garage and I was offered the facilities which I was told were only a few meters away. I should have known better. An African’s ‘its only 50 meters away’ is almost identical to an African’s ‘it’ll only take five minutes’.

After a counter terrorist unit selection like yomp up a steep hill (i.e. the outer rim of the crater) for half an hour with a KTM back wheel, tyre and toolkit on my shoulders the anger had been sapped from me and any audible expletives had been reduced to animal grunts and undignified squeaks. At the garage I was met by the head shed who rattled on in Swahili and said the word Piki Piki a few times which I had learnt means motorcycle. He also kept saying that annoying phrase Hakuma Matata from the movie, The Lion King.. No problem be happy!!!.  Do people really say that? Apparently yes and I wish they wouldn’t. Its too bloody happy and cheerful by half.

Well I did have a problem and I wasn’t happy in the slightest, ‘The effing piki piki tyre is flat’…. I squeaked,  ‘please can I use your garage?’

The tyres had been fitted with heavy duty inner tubes and I guessed correctly that when the tyre came off that the one and a half inch tack that was firmly embedded in the worn tread had not only pierced the inner tube once but repeatedly as the tyre crept round the rim whilst being driven flat. Luckily, we had brought the spare, which was the standard normal gauge inner tube, but it would have to do. I kept the damage tube that was quite a mess and planned repair it at a later stage when I had time and more patience, but for now we were to begin battle with the tyre and remove it from its wheel.

I am not going to dwell on the details, those who have changed a bicycle tyre know what’s involved, albeit with a motorcycle on a bigger scale. Suffice to say it’s a bugger. The more times you do it the better you become, but it is awkward, especially in the middle of nowhere.  The holy than thou adventure motorcycling gurus say its all part of the fun. It is not. It always happens when you least want it to and the tools you carry with you are never quite adequate for levering off/on the beading without damaging the rims.

I should have known that mechanics who regularly change tyres on Land Rovers and Land Cruisers that go off road on safaris are not going to be sympathetic to the lovely black powder coated rims on a KTM motorcycle, nor have any realization as to how “precious and delicate” the bearings in the centre of the wheel are, especially when thrown 20 meters across the length of the garage into a bucket–which is what they did.

I had recovered sufficiently from my exertions to plead to the nice men to stop eefing up my wheel and allow me to take the tyre off myself…. Ansanti sana.  I was appreciative of the kind help, but please let me do it myself.  I was OK getting the tyre off and replacing the inner tube, but I was struggling getting the beading back onto the rim as there was no soapy water to prize the tyre back on and the high pressure pump in the workshop was not helping.

I then decided to go and look for some soapy water and started off in the direction of where I thought I could find some, but as soon as I was outside I was distressed to hear some unsympathetic and heavy handed hammering coming from the workshop and was  immediately called back by one of the mechanics who said the tyre was now on. When I got back I could clearly see shiny new scorch marks on the rim, but there was no point crying over spilt milk and so I thanked them, rather sullenly.

I am blessed, or maybe doomed with a perfectionist streak and was brought up with the mantra, if a jobs worth doing its worth doing well, but in my later life where I have spent most of my time in China, Hong Kong and Africa, the mantra is quite clearly, fuck it….that’ll do. Deep breaths and think of happy thoughts….

This time instead of hauling the wheel and tyre back down the hill on my back I ran down the hill, got my bike, rode up the hill and then hauled the wheel back down again on the back of my bike to fit back onto Fanny’s bike.

After I had re-fitted the wheel, adjusted the chain tension, re-oiled, greased bearings and generally cleaned up both bikes I realized I was completely filthy from sweat and grime and I took a good half hour pretty much naked at one of the posh lodge’s hand basin trying to get clean. I realized afterwards that the guests, some of whom had paid upwards of US$2000 a day for the “Deluxe Ngorongoro Crater Safari Experience”, had had the rare privilege of watching homo erectus washing his nuts in their sink.

As is her way, Fanny had done some research about where to stay while I was tyre wrestling, made lots of friends and I understand the staff were quite nice to her and gave her some refreshments while she was waiting.

‘Did they give you any juice?’ Fanny inquired of me.

‘No’ , I replied.

Fanny realized I had had a wretched time and that my spirits were pretty low and so she gave me a hug and we put the matter behind us. A lot can go wrong on an expedition and the best made plans can fall apart. It’s best to just regroup and soldier on. In retrospect, these dramas were not as bad as they seemed at the time. No doubt tiredness, stress and the irritation of not making the progress you thought you should compound things.  Later when you reflect back and write about it you feel pretty stupid for over reacting and making a mountain out of a mole hill. I do think though that experiencing these hassles and working your way through the solution to a problem makes you a better and stronger person.

With the tyre repaired and back on the bike, albeit with some irritating new scratches I did feel a mild sense of accomplishment, but only very mildly. We then turned on our tracks and set off back down a five kilometer sand pit and obstacle course. I rode behind Fanny’s bike carefully checking  my handiwork and making sure the wheel didn’t come off as I had not torque wrenched the nut that secures the back wheel. Later on in the trip I will be able to repair a puncture in a fraction of the time … and as for torquing the nuts … when you’ve taken the wheel on and off enough times you can gauge it pretty accurately without a torque wretch. But at the beginning when you first do these things you always worry more than you should,

The jewelry and especially ear rings of the local people were amazing

We came across these guys on the way to the Serengeti. They were dressed in black and had their faces painted like skulls. A rather eerie sight when you don’t expect it. We were told they were teenage boys who were undergoing an initiation ritual by having to fend for themselves in the middle of nowhere.

Shopping in the local market for provisions for our drive to the Serengeti

The fabrics that the Masaai herdsmen wear look like Scottish tartan.. very beautiful patterns and vivid colours

Ngorogoro Crater .. full of wildlife

Fanny’s bike … minus a wheel that I am working on

Many types of banana .. even red ones.

Fanny riding up the outer crater road at Ngorogoro

Fanny riding up the outer crater road at Ngorogoro. You can see some of the dust devils in the valley to the right of picture.

Fanny looking down on the salt pan lakes

Fanny looking down on the salt pan lakes

Masaai herdsmen walking by the side of the road... a very common sight in north west Tanzania

Masaai herdsmen walking by the side of the road… a very common sight in north west Tanzania. Again more dust devils in the background.

Stalls by the side of the road

Stalls by the side of the road

Masaai Cattle crossing the road..

Masaai Cattle crossing the road..


We had no choice but to return to Twiga Camp in Mto Wa Mbu and after we set up camp we went out as the light was failing to look for some food. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast and all to eat were various types of banana being sold at the road side stalls. The touts descended on me and I foolishly told them I wanted to buy some bananas. ‘Red bananas’, they shouted, ‘very special’.

‘No, all I want is regular yellow bananas, about four’. I had had a tiring and frustrating day and I really wasn’t in the mood for banter. I selected four Tesco looking bananas and said ‘these’.

‘Ten dollars’, he said.

Light the blue touch paper……and stand back…‘What?’ I yelled, ‘how the hell can four goddam bananas be ten fucking dollars’. ‘This isn’t fucking Monty Python, just tell me the proper price for four fucking bananas’.

There is completely no point in such an exchange nor losing one’s temper, it just fans the flames and the locals love seeing an Mzungo lose his temper and make a scene. And I was providing the street side entertainment.

‘Eight dollars’

‘Right, that’s it, I don’t want your fucking bananas’, and with that I stomped off down the street.

‘OK a dollar’ I heard in the distance, but by then I had already walked into the camp and had already earned my new name, “Mr. Banana” with which I was greeted every single time I went in or out of the camp gates, for four days solid. It was entirely my own fault. Tact, diplomacy and good humour is the name of the game…. ALWAYS.

A buffalo carcass … there is only one animal that brings down buffalo and I wondered where they were NOW

A Masaai enclosed village

Manyara lake … with a log canoe a long way from where the water was now



Big country

Big country



Wandering around the market

Wandering around the market




Attempts to find a car to hire or a bus to share were not going well. People came in and out of the camp to and from seemingly interesting and fun Serengeti safaris and we were not going anywhere, until now (said in a Top Gear fashion).

On the second day we met Jorge and Daniella from Chile at the camp whose intention was exactly the same as ours and together we hatched a cunning plan to find a car. Jorge and Daniella were traveling across Africa by any means. They had just spent US$1000 each to climb Kilimanjaro and had budgeted another US$1000 to see gorillas in Rwanda and were trying their best to keep further costs down.

We also wanted to see the gorillas and I remember fondly “Guy the Gorilla” from London zoo when I was a kid who also used to appear regularly on Animal Magic, the 1970s children’s TV programme with the late Johnny Morris.  The Long Way Down guys had seen the gorillas on their trip, but a thousand bucks each? I asked Fanny how much she wanted to the gorillas and she replied, “Äbout US$100 much”.

So that was that … The gorillas would have to be seen on the BBC’s “Life on Earth” DVD from my home in Arniston with a bottle of wine.  We did, however, want to ride our bikes on the grass plains with hundreds of thousands of charging wildebeest, and the great migration had now moved north to the Masai Mara over the border in Kenya and so we would need to put aside some funds. That was now the revised plan .

Early in the morning Jorge and I set off into the heart of the village and he was positive we were not going to come back empty handed. I was not so sure that empty handed might not have been better. We sent the word around the touts that we were looking for a car and that we were ready to go into serious negotiations.

The first car we saw was a Toyota Land Cruiser with bald tyres and no documentation and we were told the owner wanted US$75 a day.  We asked to see the owner to try and negotiate a cheaper deal and he turned up in a denim jean ensemble with three quarter length very baggy trousers and a very odd haircut and daft expression. He also looked the spitting image, apart from being black obviously, to a lad called Russel who lived in Abbots Bromley where I grew up as a kid.  In fact Russel still does, and still wears the same Status Quo 70/80s denim jacket and jeans that he did 35 years ago with a do it yourself  bog brush haircut. He is the same guy who used to stalk our lovely website manager, Andrea when we were all much younger and went to school together. They often say we all have a double somewhere, but I bet Russel doesn’t know his is in the Serengeti in the middle of Africa.

Anyway, Tanzanian Russell said he would accept US$50 a day and that appealed to Jorge. I was not so sure, but it might have been the Man United sun strip that put me off, or the out of date licence and tax disc (that had expired sometime in the early 90s) that might cause problems. Either way, I persuaded Jorge to keep looking.

We then found a very good looking and appropriate Land Cruiser game viewer, much like the ones taking the safari guests into the parks. This was being asked for at US$150 a day and we negotiated down to no less than US$130. A good car, but still too dear.

We then met Isaac, a Masaai walking safari guide who then found us a Land Rover that looked the part and was only a staggering US$100 a day, but we had run out of choices and decided to take it and head off in the morning.

It was clear when we set off that the landie had some issues, brakes were one of them in the sense that it didn’t have any. I enquired whether descending into the Ngorongoro Crater might require them. Apparently not in the hands of Jorge who said in Chile they had big mountains and he could handle anything. That was that settled. Jorge was driving and I was keeping my hand on the door handle and the other on Fanny. We also noticed that there were some wheel studs missing and the owner gave us the ‘In Africa this is normal’ speech.

We had bought food from the market, Ben Shou Ben Jiao Fanny had carried a whole tray of eggs back from the market without breaking any, we had paid the deposit, and days were passing by and we either got on with it or headed to Kenya.

We filled up with diesel at one of the few filling stations that had any, but did not have any spare jerry cans and were not entirely sure whether we would find any more fuel in the Serengeti.

I was told there was none and so we had to be careful en route and be careful about fuel consumption. As we entered the Ngorongoro Crater park entrance, a place we had got no further on our motorcycles, we had to part with US$50 each for the entrance fee. A bit steep, but no choice.  The road was really bad and took us around the rim of the crater in mountain mist and then we descended down towards the plains of the Serengeti.

The wide expanses of the Serengeti are breath taking and we saw many animals, both domestic Masaai goat and cow herds and African wild animals. We also saw the young Masaai teenage boys in their black shawls and faces painted white with white soda from Lake Natron. These young boys wear this scary skull like face paint before they are circumcised and initiated into manhood and after that they wear the traditional Masaai red tartan.

We also passed a few high fenced Masaai villages in the plains, quite spectacular, but it was apparent that the heavy “safari’ commercialism of this area had impacted upon them greatly and I was a little saddened to see them performing like seals at an Oceanarium, jumping up and down and singing with tourists. I suppose we all have to prostitute our values to earn a crust, certainly the case in the legal and accounting professions I work in and so perhaps I should not be so judgmental  Still, jumping up and down with fat white chicks, reminds me of school in the Midlands..

As we were nearing the gates of the park the back door of the landie flew open and so I got out to secure it and noticed, with a fair degree of alarm, that diesel was leaking from the fuel tank. We tried to see if it was repairable, but not with what we were carrying. I checked the fuel gauge and it was about three quarters full.  Jorge and Daniella were keen to press on but without fuel or a repair it will drain away within 12-24 hours and we had a few hours before we have to be into the park and make camp, after which we can’t get out of the park until the morning, and so it would be unlikely we would make it back, making a bigger problem for us.

We discussed the options and decided to head back.  We had had a pretty interesting day in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater area and secretly I would rather be riding a motorcycle than bumping about in a tatty 4×4. I think Fanny was also pleased we were heading back and that we would save some money. The great migration had moved north to the Masai Mara over the border in Kenya after all and as it turned out we would later have an awesome time over the border and see some amazing sights.

We got back to our starting camp as the sun was going down and also as the needle on the fuel tank registered one eighth. We had made the right decision, there was no fuel in the national park and we turned around at the optimal time. I called our Masaai friend, Isaac and he arranged for the owner to return the deposit in full. A result I would say. Although the owner came back drunk in the evening and asked if he could have US$50. I sneaked off and left Jorge to use his Chilean negotiating skills. The next day I asked Jorge how things went.

“Bastardo” , he replied.

Wandering around the market getting provisions for trip in Serengeti

Wandering around the market getting provisions for trip in Serengeti

The locals going shopping

Shopping with the locals

Black Russel's car.... don't think it would have passed an MOT

Don’t think it would have passed an MOT or driven far out of the village

Fanny on the leaking Landrover

Local people wandering right through where all the animals roam

ban ma … stripey horse

Cooking up Nshima

We are on the safe (r) side of these hippos… one of the most dangerous animals in the world

AND importantly we are down wind of this buffalo otherwisewe would be in big trouble… relying on the expertise and experience of our Masaai guide

Hiking through the bush

Hiking through the bush… we are not alone

Fanny ...

Fanny … and wildebeest in distance


And me

Something else's lunch

Something else’s lunch

Boxing training

Boxing training

Local villagers in Mto Wa Mbu

Local villagers in Mto Wa Mbu

Village houses

Village houses



I negotiated with Isaac to go on a walking safari for the four of us the next day in Lake Manyara Park and afterwards have a traditional lunch.  The whole cost for everyone including food was less than the park entry for a single car using the official gate. The reason for this is the Masaai people get dispensation to cross park lands, graze their cattle and run heritage walking safaris.

I have to admit I was quite excited about the walk. I guessed correctly that we would avoid expensive park fees, spend a day getting good exercise and I had already reconnoitered the lay of the park from the high viewing point on my motorbike and wanted to see the large number of flamingos that feed in the lake. We also wanted to see all the wildebeest and zebra. Little did I know that the safari would allow us to get up close and personal with buffalo and hippopotamus, arguably Africa’s most dangerous mammals.

Our guide, Isaac, is a very experienced guide. He took us all morning on the walking safari which was in total about 20 kilometers through Masaai villages, across extensive grass plains, to the edge of the lake and salt pan and back to a local village. Isaac was very proud of his Masaai Heritage guide uniform and only wore his tradition red Shaku clothes when he was off duty. He had the Masaai ringed ears and facial tatoos, but one of his ears had been torn by a cow horn he told me.

In the afternoon he had another walk arranged for another group and the next day a hike up the Masaai paths to the rim of the crater, about a 40 kilometer in total. These guys can walk.

We set off across very exposed grasslands and I spotted the buffalo well before the others, but not before Isaac. I had heard from South African and Zambian friends and relatives that buffalo are extremely dangerous beasties and now there was nothing between us and a large solitary male. He was about 100 meters away and we were at least 2 kilometers into the middle of the plain.

I shared my concerns with Isaac and he said that the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. ‘What if the wind is blowing in the right direction’,  I enquired?

Well the buffalo would certainly have us… there would be no escape.  He can suddenly move very very fast, is very very powerful and extremely grumpy and will not be content until he has gorged all of us.

Great! So, our survival was based upon the direction of the wind….. a bit like paragliding then.

We then came across the carcass of a buffalo and not long afterwards the remains of a wildebeest. I am no expert, but you did not need to perform a CSI post-mortem to realize that the bones had been chewed by a large carnivore. A hyena perhaps, maybe a lion,  and so I asked Isaac.  He gave a rather illogical and certainly unconvincing answer that the lions only stay in the forest. Can that possibly be true I asked myself?  I think both Isaac and I knew that it was not. The warning to stick together so we appear bigger was the clue. So there are lions, let’s hope they prefer Spanish Omelette to Chicken Chow Mein or Shepherd’s pie!

To add to the excitement we walked up to about 30 hippopotami and Fanny gave out extremely loud and characteristically Chinese “WAAAAH” which prompted them all to look up and towards us standing in the middle of the open plain. It also caused Isaac to politely and firmly tell her not to go “waaah” any more.

Jorge wanted to go nearer to take more photographs and was immediately reprimanded by the usually calm and placid Isaac who was visibly more cautious now and reinforced his point with some fatality statistics. I ever so slightly quickened my pace and then realized that on the other side of the river, not 300 meters away, were several game viewers with tourists safely aboard peering at us through binoculars. I suddenly felt like the goat on a leash in Jurassic Park that doesn’t make it to the end of the movie.

I was very relieved as we neared the trees and the Masaai paths back to the village and this was noticed by Fanny who called me a “woose”.  True perhaps, but an alive woose none the less. I have to say it was exciting and I understand you can do the same route on a mountain bike if you wanted to.

We walked a long way back through banana plantations and back into the village where a feast of note was prepared for us by “Mama”.  It was really good food. Our Chilean friends complained about the hotness of some of the chilies, which can’t be right as they come from Chile, surely, but Fanny and I were in our element and I believe Fanny ate three full plates before declaring defeat with a satisfying sounding announcement of ‘bao si le‘ (full to death).

After the meal we settled our bill with Isaac at the Masaai Heritage offices and parted with less than US10 each.

After this trip Fanny and I will compile a Big Bike Trip Top list of things to do and this walking safari will definitely be one of them, including:

– Skeleton Coast in Namibia

– Lake Chala in Tanzania;

– Makuzi Lodge in Malawi;

– Masai Mara in Kenya;

– South Luangwa in Zambia;

– Meroe Pyramids in Sudan;

– Ethiopian Highlands;

– Tibet/Qinghai Plateau;

– St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai;

– Blue Mosque in Istanbul; and

– Egyptian museum in Cairo

Wildebeest skull …. with bite marks on the bone

Salt lake

Big Mama’s big spread … and it was absolutely delicious and very welcome after a days hiking in the bush.

Fanny at the local market


The next day I was really pleased to pack the motorcycles and be back in the saddle. I think we squeezed the maximum out of Serengeti for the minimum expenditure, but I was keen to get going and head north to Kenya, get the rest of visas sorted out and get the bikes serviced and re-shod with new tyres.

The road was awesome and got even better after we passed through Arusha and headed north towards the border. We had filled the tanks with seemingly clean BP fuel and were now on the smoothest road of the whole trip, stretching across the Masaai plains and bush lands and straight to Kenya. Mount Meruwas majestic in the evening sun, but being on the west side of Kilimanjaro was obscuring any last view we might have of the snow capped peaks. We rode for about 400 kilometers, the KTMs were handling brilliantly and we were just short of the border when we thought we should look for a place to camp and postpone the joys of immigration and customs until the next morning.

I was thinking of camping in a Masaai village or even in the bush, but in the foothills of the volcano above Longido I spotted Chinese writing on the gates to a road construction camp and stopped and asked Fanny if we should enquire as to whether we can camp in their grounds. She was very keen and so we rode up into the camp, introduced ourselves to the Chinese engineers and were very warmly welcomed.

We were given a room for the night and joined them for a very re nau dinner. I practiced my Chinese, ate very good food, rehearsed and fine tuned my bai jiu drinking skills and toasts, and made some more good friends. It was a great party and a great send off from Tanzania.

Look at Fanny's happy face. Food. That's all it takes.

Look at Fanny’s happy face. Food. That’s all it takes.

Delicious Chinese dinner... I must say better than the prospect of blood and milk in the Masaai village.

Delicious Chinese dinner… I must say better than the prospect of blood and milk in the Masaai village.

Inside a Chinese road engineering camp near border with Kenya

Good food… and BEER at the Chinese engineers camp

Thanks guys

Onwards to Kenya

Onwards to Kenya

Chapter 5 – Tanzania part 1

Tanzania – Part 1

Tanzania encapsulates many people’s ideas and impressions about Africa: the snow capped peaks of  Kilimanjaro; dhows sailing on the turquoise tropical waters of the Indian Ocean; elephants and rhinos grazing in the Ngorongoro crater; the great wildebeest migration of the Serengeti grasslands; Arabic bazaars and spicy food in Zanzibar; tall Masai tribesmen resplendent in their red tartan shawls; and let’s not forget — the late Freddie Mercury of Queen.


Fanny goes for a local look in Tanzania.


The border crossing into Tanzania was fairly smooth as we had already got our visas in Lilongwe, and our carne de passages for our motorcycles meant we did not have to fill out reams of forms, nor have to pay any hefty customs import taxes.

As usual the border was a magnet for annoying touts and we were pursued by many dodgy looking characters who insisted that we must buy insurance and road tax from them. I was pestered by a particularly irksome character who I couldn’t help but notice was wearing the type of glasses favoured by young Hong Kong accountant types with daft bog brush haircuts and black suits.  He had decided that we were going to be his prey and was constantly hovering about in the background, so as soon as I got the carnes and passports stamped we roared away from the border causing any people and animals on the road to scatter, and others elsewhere to stop what they were doing and stare at us. A little joyous wheelie perhaps?

Unlike neighbouring Malawi, the school children in Tanzania were very smartly turned out in their uniforms


I could see in my mirror as we weaved through various scattering creatures that the dodgy man was in hot pursuit on a Lifang (Chinese brand) 125 motorcycle and so after a couple of kilometers we stopped by some traffic police officers at a road check and I asked them what the law was concerning motorcycle insurance and road tax in Tanzania.  Lifang man was suddenly in the middle of theconversation that didn’t concern him and was constantly interrupting and so, rather petulantly, I asked him if he was a police officer and to my surprise he replied, ‘Yes’.  Being a little off guard and surprised by this I demanded to see his identification and he said he didn’t have any. Aha!

I asked the uniformed officers if he was indeed an officer and they shuffled around nervously and I don’t believe I ever got a straight answer, so in the end I took a punt and told him to fuck off, adding that he should go and get his warrant card and not to bother us again until he does so. I suspect lost in translation, the warrant card bit not the fuck off which was without doubt universal in understanding. He then sped off in a huff, much to the amusement of the traffic officers who were suddenly very friendly and helpful. All very odd.

Immigration at border between Malawi and Tanzania… actually I am just messing about for Fanny. This official was very courteous and professional.


It turned out in the end that we would have to buy vehicle tax and insurance for a minimum period of three months for each bike, but I was reluctant to go back to the maddening border post and the police kindly said they would call up a broker who would come out to the police post and sort things out.

Unbelievably, Officer Lifang was not giving up and suddenly returned, but this time with his own tame insurance scammer who looked as untrustworthy as he did. No doubt both of them in the business of relieving tourists of their cash. Fortunately, however, another more respectable and business-like insurance salesman had also arrived in a car and so we set about processing the documents by the side of the road and I handed over 80,000 Tanzanian Shillings (US$50) for two motorcycles in exchange for a wad of certificates and rather impressive official license disks to stick on our windscreens (which we still have as souvenirs).

Officer Lifang was not happy at all and was having a hissy fit, arms waving, shouting, and clearly threatening our preferred insurance salesman, who to his credit remained calm and impassive against an obvious torrent of threats and abuse.

After our license disks were meticulously peeled away from the perforations around the edges they were stuck to the centre of our windscreens. It was handshakes and smiles all round and we blasted off along a winding and good quality tar road up into a beautiful mountain range with tea plantations and lush tropical flora. I could not wait to reach the next police road block so that I could point at my tax disk and shout, ‘LEGAL’.

We had a couple of thousand kilometers to ride through southern Tanzania, often through dusty, polluted and run down towns, but also through lush and colourful countryside, mountains and pretty villages. We had tackled the traffic in an extremely dusty town called Mbeya not far from the border with Malawi where we withdrew some Tanzanian Shillings from an ATM, ate some of the chicken and chips being sold everywhere, refueled our bikes and unsuccessfully managed to explain to a dozen or so hardware stores what gaffer/duct tape was, let alone actually buy any. Fanny’s repairs on her bike would have to wait.

People picking tea in the plantations by the side of the road.

Tanzanian tea plantations

More  tea plantations

Beautiful Tanzanian Countryside

Typical Tanzanian roads and countryside

Up, down, left and right through the forested mountains

Up, down, left and right through the forested hills and valleys.

Stopping for a rest at side of the road and drawing a crowd

Stopping for a rest at the side of the road and drawing a crowd


The roads were really good, but spoiled a bit by hundreds, if not thousands of speed bumps and traffic calming systems throughout the whole country– on both tar roads and strangely on gravel tracks as well.  Before and after you enter any village or town you have to ride over several sets of bumps, humps and ridges that are actually good opportunities for motorcycles and donkey drawn carts to overtake the heavy traffic, albeit bone jarring and suspension juddering in the process. The traffic is very bad in Tanzania and the drivers are a bit reckless, especially in heavy commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses.

We had been head to head with many overtaking buses and trucks hurtling towards us, some forcing us to swerve or even drive off the road into what ever we could.  We had seen many road accidents, some of them quite serious and I dare say a couple of them fatal. Many of the lorries were seriously over laden and in poor condition, belching black smoke as they laboured at 3 kph up Tanzanian mountain slopes whilst being overtaken by another overloaded truck at 4 kph!. Often, it seemed, many of them crashed or broke down as their brakes failed coming down the other side.

Old Farmhouse and the family Maui, Iringa

Old Farmhouse,  Iringa

Campsite at Old farmhouse

Arriving at our campsite for the night at the Old Farmhouse just outside Iringa

Stopping for the night after nearly 900 kilometers of riding.

Stopping at a clearing that will be our campsite for the night after nearly 900 kilometers of riding.


For our first night we stayed at an organic farm called “The Old Farmhouse”, recommended by our friends, George and Alice from Malawi who said it was only 300-400 kilometers way.  After nearly 900 kilometers of riding that day we had still not reached it, but in the dimming light as we were racing through magnificent coniferous forests on good surfaced roads I caught a glimpse of a small sign post just outside the town of Iringa and went back to check it out. It was indeed the entrance to the farmhouse.

As we rode down the windy stone surfaced track in quite bad light Fanny had a small fall on a sharp left hand turn literally 300 meters away from the campsite gates and I am quite sure everyone in the camp heard what I had to say about throttle control when turning on loose road surfaces. In retrospect I feel very sorry for giving Fanny a hard time on such occasions and in fact I am immensely proud of what she had achieved.  But when I’m tired and stressed these minor disasters seem blown out of all proportion and I could really do with a zip on my mouth. Fanny usually doesn’t take any notice anyway.. water off a mandarin ducks back.

The Old Farmhouse was a really good campsite, well looked after and clearly managed by people who know what they are doing and care. After we had set up the tent on a nice grassy spot, set up our bikes and kit for the night in the usual configuration, showered and attempted to wash away layers of grime and dust we were greeted by one of the camp workers who said that they had prepared dinner for us and that it was ready in the dining room.

It was quite surreal, but very comforting to find such luxury after such a hard day’s riding. Often in Africa I had nagging doubts towards the end of the day as to whether we would actually find a decent and safe place to sleep. Now, we were in a charming dining room that was decorated in a style I can only describe as African bush chic. We had huge steaks and a selection of locally grown organic vegetables, which the camp was famous for. Delicious. Our bikes were safe and the tent was ready for us to climb into and have a good night’s sleep.  What joy.

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The next morning we had an excellent breakfast and on the table next to us met a German guy who was cycling across Africa. The strange thing was he was rather large, in fact it would be accurate to describe him as obese.  This was strange because many of the cross continent cyclists we had bumped into or were to encounter later on had pretty much reduced their body weight by half due the the physical demands of peddling themselves and their kit across Africa every day for months on end. This guy had apparently done the opposite. Some how calories in had exceeded calories out. How is that done?

After thanking our kind hosts and bidding our fellow travelers farewell we set off towards Mikumi National Park through which the main road to Dar Es Salem passes. On the way we rode along stunning mountain roads and though a town called Mbuyuni which is surrounded by a huge baobab forest. This is quite unusual as the baobabs we had seen thus far were scattered sporadically and majestically here and there. Mbuyuni, however, was in a huge forest of baobabs of various sizes and age and nothing else. I was very impressed, but Fanny later told me she found it rather creepy and unearthly. I suppose it was. We had never seen anything like it.

The other noticeable thing along this section was the huge numbers of lorries on the road, lorries broken down, lorries on their side and lorries upside down. The reason for this is obvious to anyone except, clearly, lorry drivers. Many of the trucks were seriously overloaded and so they crawled up the hills laboriously and very slowly and then charged down the other side at breakneck speed. Of course, many crash as their brakes fail under the overloaded stress, or the drivers just lose control. These trucks cannot drive over speed bumps very quickly, which is of course why the Tanzanian government has put them there in the first place. However, this does not stop lorry drivers from trying and sometimes the impact of hitting the bumps at speed can turn the trucks over on their side, break the axles or jack knife them off the road.

When vehicles have crashed or broken down the local custom is to spread broken branches on the road before and after to warn other road users that there is an obstruction ahead, but as far as we could work out every kilometer of road was covered in broken bits of forest and so this was not quite as effective as it should be and we were never really sure if a broken down truck was just around the corner or over the crest of a hill. It seemed all other drivers just ignored them as well.

Swiss Family Tan

Tan Swiss Lodge… or is it Swiss Tan Lodge … anyway a nice but ever so slightly odd campsite. It reminded me of the occasions when I would go to someone else’s home and wonder why anyone with their five senses intact would choose the gopping wallpaper they put on their walls. Still it takes all sorts and we are all richer for the experience variety brings to our lives.. I think!


After a very enjoyable stretch of riding on decent roads and through beautiful mountains we descended down through a valley into a very ugly town at the entrance of Mikumi National Game Park. It’s difficult to describe it other to liken it to a dusty 3rd tier Chinese town in Shanxi Province, but without the charm or good food. The only place to stay without risk to life and soul was the Swiss Tan or was it Tan Swiss Lodge. A rather odd place that had murals of Swiss scenes on all the walls, such as the Matterhorn, but with giraffes, zebras and other Africa animals roaming around in the meadows instead of Julie Andrews. The European staff were friendly and the site was clean enough, but a bit basic, dull and expensive for what it was, a bit like Switzerland really.

I think I saw the Swiss owner wandering around and then he disappeared. Unfortunately, he had an uncanny resemblance to Fritzl, the Austrian guy who kept a secret family in a bunker under his house and fathered children from his daughter. I know its not his fault, and I found no evidence of any bunkers, nor any children with big foreheads, but the thought, now firmly in my mind, was unsettling me, perhaps magnified by the anti malaria medication and so I was quite pleased to get the ‘frig’ out of there the next day and get back on the road with the mad lorry and bus drivers.

Fanny and I went for a walk through the town which was very run down and dusty and saw a European guy emerge from one of the rather tatty local shops. He turned out to be another German cyclist and unlike the one we saw earlier looked very lean and fit. He told us he needed a shower and just rocked up to a local shop and they let him use their water and a jug. He was also cycling through Africa, but on the super cheap, roughing it along the way and eating whatever he could find. He had one set of clothes, the ones he was wearing, virtually no luggage and according to him no money either. Borders it seemed were obstacles to find a way around and he would rely on the generosity of Africans he met for water, food and clearly getting cleaned up every now and again. I was curious about how he got through the Mikumi game reserve and he simply said, ‘I just cycled through it’.

‘Well what about the animals?’, I enquired.

‘They were great’, he replied matter of factly, ‘saw lots of them, even lions’.

As we walked away, Fanny started a barrage of questions. Whats does he eat? Isn’t it dangerous? What if he gets caught sneaking across borders? What if he hasn’t got a stamp in his passport? Did I think he was mad?  Would I do it? If a stranger knocked on our door and asked for a shower would I let him in?  Clearly this had made an impression on Fanny.

Early the next morning we packed up and drove through in Mikumi.  I expected it to be like any national park you are allowed to drive through for free– i.e. rather devoid of game and interesting things to look at. However, it was anything but and was positively teeming with giraffe, zebras, monkeys, buffalo, various antelope, elephants, lions and leopard. Not bad at all. Something for nothing… we had joined Africa’s favourite pastime.

We sauntered along the 55 kilometers of road that passed through park at a very steady pace of less than 20 kph so that we could game view whilst riding without our helmets on. On exiting the gates of the park we put our helmets back on and moved into more open bush where we saw our first Masai cow herder, resplendent in traditional tartan like garb and carrying a spear with a blade at one end and a sharp point at the other. Very impressive and rather elegant I thought. Soon after that the villages became more frequent and we started riding through urban sprawl and into the worst traffic jam so far, a smoggy and maddening 35 kilometers of mostly stationary vehicles all the way into the centre of Dar Es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Even with panniers on our heavily laden bikes we were able to weave our way through the cars, lorries and buses, although we did still managed to inhale Chinese levels of diesel fumes and various other pollutants. Fanny was in her element though, and had no problem keeping up as we overtook long queues of traffic and narrowly avoided pedestrians, goats and dogs leaping out into the traffic. The GPS is a godsend in such cities and gave us a track towards the estuary ferry and to our destination at Kipepeo Beach Camp

Website : (

We chose this site based on a recommendation from the young manageress at Tan Swiss campsite.  We did not want to park the bikes in the middle of the city where we had been told security was not that great, but far more importantly the idea of camping on the beach next to the warm Indian Ocean was very appealing.

Valley of Baobab trees

Valley of Baobab trees

Lots of speed bumps on the roads in Tanzania

Mikumi National Park ... free and we can ride through it too.

Riding through Mikumi National Park which was free and actually full of wildlife.

Camping at Kipepeo  Beach near Dar Es Salam

Fanny on the ferry boat to Kipepeo

Fanny on the ferry boat to Kipepeo

Dar Es Salaam from the ferry boat... one of my favourite African cities

Dar Es Salaam from the ferry boat… one of my favourite African cities

Kipepeo Beach,

Kipepeo Beach,

Writing this diary at Kipepeo Beach Lodge

Fanny, being from Shanghai, had no problem navigating through the heavy traffic of Dar Es Salaam

Fanny with the lady who did the African braids in her hair.

Fresh coconut was a favourite with Fanny and I. There were lots of street vendors in Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar and they skillfully prepared the coconuts with large machetes.

Fanny looking a bit seasick on ferry to Zanzibar

Fanny feeling a bit better.

Fanny feeling a bit better.

Its almost like being on holiday

Its almost like being on holiday



Sailing towards Zanzibar

Sailing towards the harbour in Stone Town, Zanzibar.


I like Dar Es Salaam very much. It’s got a nice mix of Arab and African cultures, a climate not unlike Hong Kong in autumn and better food than the rest of Africa we had been to so far. It also has a great vibe and I thought even the touts, of which there were many, had a particular charm about them and seemed not too upset when we declined their offers for whatever they were trying to sell. It was also in Dar where I developed a particular like for fresh coconut.

This might sound odd since I have lived and holidayed in South East Asia for decades, but I think I tried it once in Thailand and did not think much of it. However, after seeing one prepared for another passenger on the short ferry ride to Kipepeo I thought I would try one and it was delicious. The vendor had about fifty green coconuts on his bicycle and a big machete knife. He would chop off the end of the coconut very skillfully with this large weapon, careful not to remove any of his digits and the opened cup of fresh coconut milk would be handed over to the customer who would drink the very refreshing, cool and transparent liquid. Once the milk was finished the customer would then hand it back to the vendor who would then loosen the soft white coconut flesh and fashion a spoon out of the coconut body with which the customer would then eat the remainder of the contents. A very cheap and refreshing drink and snack all in one for about 200 Tanzanian Shillings which is just a few pence in UK money.

I would spend quite a bit of time whilst on the coast of Tanzania scanning for such coconut vendors at the side of the road and performing emergency stops as soon as I saw one. This was good for Fanny because she was still struggling to perfect her u-turns and emergency maneuvers and so I gave her lots of practice.

We found the camp site at Kipepeo which was extremely nice and set up our tent and parked our bikes on the beach. It was a fairly popular site and again a destination for the overland trucks and their chubby contents. It also had free Wifi internet and fairly decent food and so we stayed there for a few days before we set off to Zanzibar.

It is here at Kipepeo that we encountered our first fake Masai warriors. These guys lurked around on the beach and lured lonely western women tourists for a close encounter of the ethic kind, and of course to squeeze a bit of cash out of them. A reversal, I suppose, of what goes on with western men and Asian girls in Thailand and the Philippines. These “ducks”, as they are called in China, would abandon their red tartan “Shukas” at the end of a tiring day of fake Masai “pogo”ing and spear fighting on the beach and put their shorts and Man United and Arsenal T-shirts back on and go home to their mothers homes in Dar rather than to a lonely cow herd in the middle of the Serengeti.

We also met Eugene at Kipepeo, a fellow motorcycle adventurer whose mid life crisis made mine look rather dull and insignificant. He was riding a rather old, but characteristic BMW R80 Dakar edition and was having a journey of misadventure and bad luck. He told me after a few rum and cokes how he left his home in Pretoria to go biking because his wife ran off with another man, had lost all his money and was too old to run back to mummy for a hug, so he had ‘fooked oooof’ on his bike and wasn’t sure what he was going to do other than spend a few months idling about in Zanzibar.

A fellow bikers bike

A fellow biker’s Africa Twin


Like many bikers we met, he was quite taken with Fanny and would say things in his strong Transvaal accent like, ‘Who would believe that a woman could ride a motorcycle’, ‘MY GOD, respect woman’.  Later, on receiving news that his wife had just been diagnosed with cancer he remarked, ‘ I don’t wish that on anyone, but I hope with the hormone treatment she grows a mustache’. His one liners were classic and he kept us amused for many hours in the bar.

Our efforts to get our bikes to Zanzibar and perhaps even to Pemba Island and back across to mainland Africa at Tanga proved doable, but far too expensive and so Fanny and I decided to leave our bikes at Kipepeo in Dar Es Salaam and pack very lightly and take a fast ferry over to the island and perhaps hire a scooter to look around. And this we did. The fast catamaran ferry from Dar port to Stone Town in Zanzibar took only two hours, but Fanny was severely sea sick throughout.

I realized on this trip that Fanny suffers badly from motion sickness. She did not enjoy going paragliding with me on my tandem at Hermanus in South Africa several months before and she definitely hated the ferry ride to Zanzibar, turning a pale shade of greeny grey and looking very poorly indeed.  She also hated the flight over the Okavango Delta in a light aircraft and felt dizzy and disorientated as the plane took off and landed or when in mild turbulence. Oh dear.  She’ll have to stick with her feet firmly on the ground from now on and hopefully manage the twists and turns of rubber on the ground with her huge adventure bike.

As its says… Welcome to Zanzibar

Fanny walking about in the narrow streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar.

A Dhow seen from our hotel


Wandering about in Stone Town

Exploring the backstreets of Stone Town.

Colourful markets.

Colourful markets.

Skate boarding in Zanzibar.

Skate boarding in Zanzibar.

Leaning around

Leaning around.

"And then FTI tried to discredit me, refused to pay me what they owe me, and when I was on the other side of the world blamed me for their own incompetence... I ask you".

“And then FTI tried to discredit me, refused to pay me what they owed me for the projects I won, and when I was on the other side of the world blamed me for their own incompetence and mistakes… So I ask you… what have the Australians ever done for us?”  And another thing… blah blah!

A lot of history

A lot of history

Lots of market stalls

Lots of market stalls

Local children in their classroom

Local children in their classroom


Stone Town is very charming with little alleyways and a mixture of British colonial and Arabic architecture.  It is very strictly Islamic and we arrived just at the start of Ramadan and so day time fasting was in progress by most people.  Food looked at lot better and a lot more Middle Eastern influenced and so we ate well and could find all sorts of fruits and vegetables, including delicious figs and pomelos in the markets which were teeming with activity and very colourful. There are some very nice hotels, but our meager budget meant we stayed at a rather modest place along with several million bed bugs and a substantial number of mosquitoes that managed to squeeze through the tiny cracks and holes in the net above our bed.

We intended to hire a scooter to explore more of the island but got messed around by touts who made us wait for hours and then appeared with some very dodgy Vespa at a ridiculous price and so we decided, since we spent most of our time riding, that we would  just walk about and take a Dhow trip to one of the islands to see the huge tortoises that roam about freely. These huge reptiles originally came from the Seychelles as a present to the British occupiers of Zanzibar some hundred or so years ago. Quite probably some of the tortoises were about that old, they were certainly very big.

Fanny was reluctant to take a small boat on choppy waters to the island and so I made a plan with an American we met to share the cost and go together. At the last minute Fanny changed her mind and decided to join us and we had a very pleasant ride out to the small island, once intended a hundred or so years ago to be a prison, hence its name Prison Island, but now a smart resort with hundreds of giant tortoises wandering about and with a very nice reef to snorkel around.

Taking a Dhow to beautiful ”Prison Island” that was full of huge tortoises

Giant tortoises on Prison Island

An old wrinkly thing and a tortoise.

An old wrinkly thing and a tortoise.

The engine had broken down and the the dhow was lurching about in very choppy waters as the wind picked up. Fanny was not feeling well so I put a life jacket on her and lay her down.



As the sun was setting the wind picked up and the water became very choppy and I was trying to hurry up the chubby American with his huge camera from taking his thousandth picture of the tortoises and get back to Zanzibar. By the time he waddled back the sea was rough and getting on the small Dhow was tricky, but we set off and not long after the small Yamaha outbound engine stopped and refused to start.

Without power the small Dhow, minus a sail which would have been useful now, was lurching about and starting to fill with water. The American thought this was all good fun, but Fanny was now serious sick and so I placed her in a life vest and lay her down.  Another Dhow was summoned after about 20-30 minutes and to our alarm our driver just leaped over board and swam away without warning to the other boat. I was wondering whether we should start paddling when the other Dhow’s driver did the same and swam back to us and climbed aboard and started working on the engine. Clearly he was the more experienced Dhow driver and soon after he managed to drain water from the engine and get it started and we chugged back to Zanzibar. Another drama to add to our adventure.

Zanzibar market place and food stalls… a bit expensive for us.

Fanny happy to be on dry land


Having a drink at a Zanzibar version of Starbucks… much better coffee though

Fanny at one of the colonial style hotels

Fanny at one of the colonial style hotels

Different styles

Different styles


We tried to get a ferry ticket to get back to Dar Es Salaam but they were all sold so we bought one for the next morning and spent the rest of the day just mooching about the back streets of Stone Town, drinking Arabic coffee and tea, eating local food and relaxing.

We decided not to explore the rest of the island as we were already camped on a lovely beach and did not really want to waste money seeing more of the same, albeit on Zanzibar. That said Zanzibar would be a great place for an annual vacation and it seems that it is a very popular destination, for reasons I never fathomed, for Italians who were there in their droves. There are spice forest tours, swimming safaris with dolphins at the south of the island, very plush and “larnie” resorts to relax at, very charming hotels in Stone Town, the Capital, amazing coral reefs to snorkel or dive through and many activities such as historical tours that take you back to Zanzibar’s more unsavory past when it was the epicenter for slave trading for many centuries.  We decided to let Fanny recover from her near death experience on the Dhow by having “a” cocktail in the Mercury Bar so called after Zanzibar’s most famous son, Freddie Mercury of Queen.

We stayed at another hotel that night as we could not face the nocturnal battle with millions of bugs and other creatures and the next day took the early ferry back to Dar Es Salaam, getting onto the ferry first using Chinese pushing and shoving techniques well practiced in Hong Kong. Being the first to board we were then able to relax in huge bean bags on the open deck. Fanny slept the whole way which was probably best as she was dreading the journey and some local guys, doing their Ramadan good turn of the day, gave us a ride back to Kipepeo Beach where we were pleased to find our KTMs in the same state we left them.

We will we will rock you… Freddie from Zanzibar

Back on the car ferry

Dhow on Indian Ocean

Boys doing gymnastics on the beach

Fanny’s panniers.. taken a bit of knocking but still going strong


We had met some other KTM riders while exploring Dar and they recommended we stayed at a small village just south of Tanga, about 300 kilometers north of Dar. To get there we could backtrack the way we came and take the tar road all the way there or explore the coastal villages on more off road tracks. We decided on the latter and escaped Dar with relative ease and drove along some gravelly roads to some villages. Soon enough the coastal tracks stopped because of large estuaries and so we followed a track for 80 kilometers to the Tanga main road. I was really impressed with Fanny, but on a particularly rutted and inclined bit of road with lots of sand Fanny came off and bounced to a stop, but her bike pirouetted on one pannier and then bounced over onto the other. Fanny seemed OK, although was annoyed with herself for coming off again after making so much progress, the panniers were however quite badly damaged with a huge graze through the aluminium that would require more than panel beating to fix.

When we got to Tanga first impressions were not what I expected at all. Tanga is a small working town and very much off the tourist route. It is situated on the east coast just south of the border with Kenya, the next big coastal city being Mombasa further to the north.  As we arrived in the town and jumped over the many speed bumps and over several roundabouts, over being the safest route as traffic passed both sides, we continued on our GPS heading towards the only campsite shown in the Garmin database and this took us to a very rocky and broken up road that was routing us back south. This was annoying.

I decided to stop in the road and consult Fanny and ask whether we should carry on going south for 20-30 kilometers on tyre chewing roads or head back to Tanga and look for a place to stay. Why I decided to stop at that point and at that exact location I will never know, but it turned out to be very fortuitous as a European looking chap turned up on a BMW GS1200 and asked after us. I explained our predicament and he said he had a house nearby with some garden cottages and as luck would have it one was empty and we could stay. I explained, as was the truth, that we couldn’t really afford anything other than camping, but he was very generous in offering it to us for as long as we liked for free. This was one of many generous and spirit lifting gestures we would encounter from entire strangers along our big bike trip.

So began a very pleasant and enjoyable chapter in our adventure with Eric and Pam Allard at their beautiful house on the cliffs above the mangrove swamps and Indian Ocean in Tanga. Eric was born in Kenya of Italian and French parents, spoke fluent Swahili, English, Italian and ran a local fish export company and also an extreme spear fishing business. Pam was born in the USA and came to Africa with the Peace Corp and stayed and was now involved in alternative medicine and voluntary work in Tanzania.

Fanny and I spent our few days with the Allards, wandering about basically, exploring the coastline, going on what we called “beach safaris”, which to my mind were as equally interesting as sitting in a game viewer in an African national park ticking off which animals one could spot and getting extra points if they were actually killing each other.

Fanny, being Chinese of course, would categorize each animal as to whether they were edible or not. The edible category was clearly very large, at least as far as northern Asians are concerned.

When we arrived the sea was lapping right up to the vertical cliff walls that separated the houses’ large gardens from the ocean, and the daily high tides were clearly eroding into the Allard’s and their neighbours’ beautifully manicured lawns. In the morning when we woke up the tide had gone out about a kilometer or so, exposing rock pools and mangrove channels full of an assortment of starfish of all shapes and sizes, urchins, crabs and fish and fields of equally well manicured seaweed beds. Seabirds were hunting among the pools and the local ladies were harvesting the seaweed which is used, apparently, as an ingredient for cosmetics in the west.  As is the case in Africa, we mzungos (foreigners) are viewed upon by the locals as oddities.

Eric’s BMW 1200 GS outside his home in Tanga

Going for a marine safari in Tanga

Hot dog

Hot dog

Harvesting seaweed

Harvesting seaweed

Fanny wading about with the local wildlife in Tanga

Fanny at our cottage at the Allards in Pemba

Fanny at our cottage at the Allards in Pemba

Fanny exploring the mangrove swamps

Fanny exploring the mangrove swamps



Relaxing with the dogs on the cliff edge at the Allard’s home

Tanga daze

Tanga daze

The Allards house in Tanga

The Allards house in Tanga

Local dugouts on the beach in Tanga

Local dugouts on the beach in Tanga

The rising sun over the Indian Ocean

The rising sun over the Indian Ocean


Only mzungos wander about in the bush, swamps, beaches and mountains without apparent purpose. The local Africans seem to exert energy and burn off useful calories only in the pursuit of finding more calories. Running, which I try to do everyday, is viewed as an extremely strange activity, except by children who would often run alongside me smiling widely and shouting ‘MZUNGO’.

Adults on the other hand would look up, and either look aghast or smile embarrassingly at each other. Of course, I look like any other regular mzungo, pasty white, occasionally red and clearly European. Fanny on the other hand would often create an open debate as to what she is. She doesn’t look very Chinese, even to other Chinese. At this particular time in Tanga she was very tanned, rather muscular and had her hair braided with African beads. She is also quite tall and most of the time very loud and boisterous. She was also now wearing her new MC hammer trousers with the crotch by her ankles. These were given to her by Pam who suggested that Fanny’s de rigeur mini skirt was inappropriate for the local scene, especially now it was Ramadan and so she had made her some Trousers in KTM orange fashioned out of a sarong wrap. Fanny actually really wanted a local sarong fastened the traditional way, however with the motorcycle riding and Fanny’s usual hooligan behaviour it would not remain modestly fastened around her “not to be seens” for very long and so the MC hammers became a staple item in her limited wardrobe.

Not a bad view to have from your living room

Not a bad view to have from your living room

Fanny and Erics bikes .. going to get the panniers fixed

Fanny and Erics bikes .. going to get the panniers fixed

Fanny with the mechanic who repaired her aluminium panniers

Babu … our African Grey Parrot friend. A very funny creature.


Along with some unwelcome mosquitoes, amusing wall tigers (geckos), strange lizards and exotic birds, we shared our cottage with “Babu”, an Africa Grey Parrot.

I had not encountered many parrots before, but I now want one. It is said that this particular type of parrot is the best imitator in the animal kingdom and Babu had a repertoire of  human languages, animal sounds and odd noises that was second to none. Not only could he imitate the dogs, the gate guards and whistle various tunes, he could also imitate the sounds associated with computers and mobile phones. This would always create a bit of confusion and we were never sure if a sound was coming from Babu or from one of our phones.

Babu could not fly because he had his wing clipped to prevent him flying away too far and getting caught by people who might harm him. However, this did not handicap his ability to get about and he could climb and walk long distances and had the entire house and huge gardens to wander about in. He would bark at the dogs if they got too near or annoyed him and he could also answer if anyone came calling at the gate causing a fair degree of confusion and hesitation. He could also dance, sing and whistle, but clearly only when he felt like it and never on demand.

I spent more time than a normal functioning human should trying to teach him to sing the Chinese National Anthem and only as we were leaving did I hear a rendition being whistled by an unknown talent. Perhaps it was Babu, perhaps by the gardener.   Babu’s Pièce de résistance was his ability to scratch the unreachable itchy back of his neck by using a pencil. This was so comforting to Babu that he would close his eyes in ecstasy and wobble off his perch.  If that is not intelligent use of a tool by an animal I don’t know what is. Chimpanzees using sticks to eat terminates? Tom Bloor using rocks to break open nuts?  No comparison.

While we were in Tanga I had to do some bike maintenance, not least fix the holes in Fanny’s panniers. Again Eric came to our rescue and we took the panniers to his workshop at his fish packaging and export factory where his talented workers did a brilliant job patching up the holes with aluminium sheeting and strong rivets.  I wondered if they could make some stabilizers that came down each time she did a u-turn? I shared this thought with Fanny who then taught me a new Chinese word I could not find in the dictionary.

We really enjoyed ourselves with the Allards and sincerely hope they will enjoy staying at our home, the Weaver in Arniston during their upcoming Mozambique and South Africa touring holiday. We had a great “final” evening at the local swimming and boat club in Tanga where we had Indian curry, Kilimanjaro beers and laughs with new friends. The next day Eric got up early as the sun was rising and he set off on his diving boat to Zanzibar to pick up clients and take them extreme spear fishing and diving. What a job.

Babu scratching his neck with a pencil.

The mangrove trees on the coast of Tanga

Saying goodbye to our kind host, Eric as he sets off on a spear fishing expedition off the coast of Zanzibar


We then said goodbye to Pam who rode on her BMW Dakar to the local petrol station with us (video’d)  and headed off, as per their recommendation, to Lake Chala in the foothills of Kilimanjaro (

The route to Lake Chala was awesome. Great roads, superb scenery, and perfect weather. The bikes were handling beautifully and although the Pirelli Scorpions were beginning to look a bit worn, they had done 10,000 kilometers and could probably do another 2-3,000 kilometers on the back and another 10,000 kilometers or so on the front. Not sure if it is testament to our riding style or the nitrogen that we filled them with in Cape Town. Either way they were doing well.

I tested out  Fanny’s bike and it was fine, although the front brake could perhaps have done with bleeding, but nothing was urgent. The panniers were fixed and both of us were enjoying what the trip was all about, riding superb motorcycles in new and exciting surroundings.




Stopping of on the route to Lake Charla for a break

Our camping spot at Lake Charla with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background

Our camping spot at Lake Charla with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background

Lake Charla

Lake Charla


Lake Chala was not on our Michelin map, nor marked on our GPS, strangely, but I knew it was just to the east of Mount Kilimanjaro and that we should turn away from Moshi and towards the Kenyan border, across which the crater lake caldera spans.

As we got nearer I knew that Mount Kilimanjaro was right in front of us, but it was obscured by cloud. I could see Mount Meru in the far distance beyond the huge Masai plains and it was magnificent, but “Kili” as its known remained shrouded in mist. I could tell from the GPS we were ascending in altitude and it got noticeably cooler as we rode into the foothills. As I had no idea where Lake Chala actually was we stopped for directions and were pointed in the direction of a mud road which after 15 kilometers eventually led us to Lake Chala camp. Along the road I could see a lot of elephant poo and evidence of elephant tree damage. Clearly, as we were told, there are hundreds of elephants, even if we could not see any yet.

We were welcomed by the owners of the camp and set up our tent, prepared our bikes and after a welcome beer at a bar that had brilliant views of the crater and lake we went for an evening walk to the water hole to see if there were any elephants. There were none, but the other tourists, mainly volunteer workers from Arusha having a weekend break told us that there were dozens the day before. Typical. It is just like when you go paragliding to a new site and when you arrive it’s blown out and the locals tell you, ‘It was perfect yesterday, I flew for hours’.

The Lake Chala area is not yet designated a national park and so no park fees are required, we just paid the US$5 a night camping fee and could freely explore the stunningly beautiful area, with Kilimanjaro to the west, Lake Chala to the east and everywhere else surrounded by unspoiled African bush.

The elephant drought did not last long and on a walk around the rim of the crater we saw a herd of about 80-100 elephants, and also the rather strange looking black and white Colobus monkey. I never managed to get a picture before they disappeared but …

Lots of hiking around Lake Charla

Lots of hiking around Lake Charla… a herd of 80-100 elephants in the distance

Elephants at the local watering hole.

Elephants at the local watering hole.

The lake itself... quite possibly one of most beautiful lakes I have ever seen

The lake itself… quite possibly one of most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.

Mount Meru with Kilimanjaro behind

Mawenzi Peak of  Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro .. the highest mountain in Africa

Stunning views from the campsite


We signed up with some others for the barbeque goat which was being offered at the camp and not long after ran into our dinner tied up behind the kitchen looking understandably nervous. I am a meat eater and so is Fanny and so as unnerving eyeing your prey in the eyes actually is, it is clearly hypocritical to be squeamish when your meat is presented to you with a pulse, rather than in cellophane wrapping at Tescos. Our resolve and nerve was further tested when we ran into, well let’s call him, “Dinner” having his throat cut, blood drained and innards removed.

I remember ordering gong bao ji ding in a rather remote restaurant on the Sichuan and Yunnan border in China some years back when I was studying chinese and the fuwuyuan brought me my chicken to stare at in the eyes and asked me if it met my approval. I replied in the affirmative and instead of taking “chukkie” back to the kitchen he was dispatched by a long and rotating twist to the neck at my table while the waiter asked me if I was enjoying my stay. When chukkie came back with chili and peanuts I was quickly reminded of what he had looked like pre-wok because more than a few feathers were still sticking out the meat. Here at Lake Chala I was hoping that “Dinner” would not have any white and brown fur still attached.

I can report that “dinner” was absolutely delicious and that when humans are hungry they will eat anything, even deep fat fried pizzas, allegedly.  Also, nothing went to waste. Mzungo guests ate barbequed meaty bits and the locals kept everything else– Jack Sprat style.

Little friend

Little friend

Let’s just call him “dinner” just to save time.

Watching the elephants at the watering hole.

Watching the elephants at the watering hole.

Still watching the elephants at the water hole

We went on lots of long walks ... and I did some running in the baboon and leopard hills

We went on lots of long walks … and I did some running in the baboon and leopard hills

Herd of elephants... of course we have.

Herd of elephants… of course we have.


Fanny and I did a lot of exploring and climbed down the crater to the lake which no longer has the rare dwarf crocodiles. They chanced their luck by eating a tourist a few years back and the locals decided this was bad for business so they are no longer, allegedly. We hiked around the crater rim and I did quite a bit of running. We did eventually see a lot of elephants, hundreds of them in fact and it was quite amazing to be so close to them.

On one run I decided to run through the elephant bushes, around the back of the tallest rim of the crater, over the top of it and back to camp. An 8 kilometer run and an unexpected game view all in one. I narrowly missed stepping on a rather beautiful, but deadly puff adder; ran into a troop of baboons that were being guarded by a very large alpha male that barked at me, and had some more close encounters with colobus and vervet monkeys. Did I see any leopards I was asked when I staggered back.

‘Leopards?’ I replied, with a bit of a squeaky voice.



Taking a snooze

Taking a snooze

Mount Kilimanjaro ever present where ever you went

Mount Kilimanjaro ever present where ever you went