The many months of NO posts on our website have not meant we are idle, In fact, I have been busy (thousands of hours’ worth) writing a book of our trip. At long last, it is complete, and has been published as an e-book though Amazon.com, which can be read on most e-readers, including Kindle devices, Galaxy and IPad tablets, and most smart phones. If you don’t have an amazon account, you can easily create one, and preview the book online and then purchase it.
Because it is a travel book, I have included a few hundred photos, with captions. The Kindle which displays in black and white still comes out pretty well, and of course the devices which display in colour come out very well. One could never have that number of photos in a printed version, and still keep the cost down, but in time, we may look into the printed option with a reduced number of photos.
I have used quite a bit of the content from the blog, that Jules wrote, and chose most of the photos that Shan had selected for the blog, so, a big thank you goes to them for all the work that they did while we were travelling. Amazingly, we still get many hits on the blog, from ALL over the world, so, in many ways, although our trip is history (not quite ancient yet), it has an appeal to a wide range of people, not just motorcyclists. We have always wanted to inspire people to dream their dreams, get out of their comfort zone, and realize that ordinary people can do amazing things.
In keeping with our commitment to support the Children’s Hospital Trust, I will be donating 10% of the proceeds to them. The book is available in most countries. I would really appreciate you spreading the word about the book to others, so they can enjoy it, and that the children of Africa can benefit.
As a point of interest, I have published the same book content but under two different titles-the one a rather obvious motorcycle book, and the other, holding a bit of mystique. Whichever one you upload, the content is exactly the same.
We had a mere 250 km to cover today, but considering our experience from the previous day, we decided to leave really early. Our German friends, Hans and Rolf, decided to join us for the ride, as they were also heading to Moyale. And so, at 4 AM, our alarms started sounding. When Dad emerged bleary-eyed from his room, he commented: “I’ve been awake since 2 AM, like a condemned man waiting for the gallows”. After the previous days riding, he was definitely not looking forward to today. Maybe that is why we ended up leaving at 5:30, rather than the agreed upon 5:00.
We started off in the dark riding out of Marsabit. We had heard a comment the previous day that “Marsabit is a good place to live”. Now that I think about it, I think he may have said “Marsabit is a good place to leave”, but it may have just been the accent…
The road it turns out, is due for an upgrade to tar, and so while work is pending, they have created a detour that runs along next to the main road, which actually is in far better condition. The first hour was actually quite pleasant, as much as riding along HELL ROAD can be pleasant. This may be on a par with having your teeth slowly extracted by having your skull vigorously shaken for several hours.
As the sun started to come up, we turned back onto the main road, just in time for Hans to notice that his front tyre was going flat. Not a problem, front tyres are relatively easy to fix. We quickly had the tyre off, located the puncture and had everything back together, just in time for someone to notice that my back tyre was flat. Considering that I had changed a flat tyre just the previous day, no easy feat, this was a bit of a frustration, but with a dawn just beginning to settle across the horizon, we tackled the task with aplomb, and in just over an hour we were back on our way.
Now I need to attempt to give some idea about this road, reckoned by some to be the worst road in Africa. It is the major highway between Nairobi and Addis, and runs through various permutations of desert for almost its entire 400 km length. And during the course of the day, it managed to produce pretty much every variation of terrible road that can be imagined: gravel, corrugations too pitted and steep that ant insects attempting to scale these ruts in the road have to establish base camps along the way, so that they do not starve while making the ascent; sudden holes in the road, deep enough to hide a camel in; camels strolling across the road nonchalantly, thick sand that will send the tyres of the unwary sliding off into the bushes. And rocks, sometimes big rocks just sunning themselves in the middle of the road, sometimes small sharp ones embedded in the ground, hungry for a bite of tyre, and the worst of all, small basalt, which provided absolutely no grip, and required either a headlong rush through, hoping that momentum will carry you through, or crawl along at a snails pace. but truly, one has to travel the road to fully understand its horror.
We stopped for another break for breakfast, packed sandwiches and boiled eggs, washed down with some water. As we climbed back on the bikes, Rolf pointed to my bike, and lo and behold, another puncture. Still maintaining a semblance of good humour, we tackled the tyre, yet despite trying to do it in under 30 minutes (we did have quite a bit of practice at this stage) we only managed it in about 75 minutes, due to some problems with reattaching the brakes. At some time during the task, a crow came to inspect us, but unfortunately for the crow, no-one was about to die yet.
We still had no clear idea about what to do regarding the tribal conflict that had been taking place, and so when we finally rolled into Turbi, a tiny little town 150 km from Marsabit, we collapsed into a local shop and soon were downing bottles of water and cold-drinks, while asking the locals for their thoughts on whether we should acquire a police escort for the last 100 km, which we would have had to pay for, as well as having to hire a vehicle for them to drive in. The general feeling seemed to be that things had calmed down, so we decided to brave the last bit of the road without an escort, with the understanding that we would stick together if there was trouble.
Although we had heard that that the road was slightly better from Turbi onwards, whatever difference there was was negligible, with many sections of the road consisting of heavy sand, one of the hardest road surfaces to drive in. At one point, driving into a town, a red cross vehicle came screaming around the corner, driving in the left hand lane right towards me. I swerved right, as did he, and so I had to high-tail it off the road to avoid being laid out. The irony of being taken out by a Red Cross vehicle was not lost on me.
Driving through this potentially hostile environment definitely puts one on edge. Plastic bags seem to glare at you with sinister intent, and menacing trees try and grab at you with thorny fingers. The sight of people on the road ahead of us would generally cause us to cluster together, although no danger ever materialised.
As we had been riding, I had been struggling with my bags tending to list off to one side. I would stop and readjust them, then continue onwards, only to stop again a few kilometres later to redo the process. Eventually, about 40 km form Moyale, I had a closer look and noticed to my consternation, that two bolts, the ones holding my luggage support onto the bike, had rattled loose somewhere along the road. The team assembled after a few minutes to inspect the situation, and we eventually managed to make a plan with a few bolts that we had, although this would require some attention at our destination. So during the course of our ride, I had managed to lose some very important bolts and acquire two punctures. Not a great tally.
As I drove through a small settlement, a small, sweetly smiling child threw a stone at me. I sighed, and drove on. The same bastard got Shan on the helmet too.
Finally, with the shadows lengthening across the road, we headed for the last few kilometres to the end of the hell road. Along the way we saw tiny antelope that would stare at us from the side of the road, watching our approach with a mixture of trepidation and fascination, and then dashing back to the safety of the bushes as we passed, like elderly spinsters watching from their doors as a streaker runs down the street.
We arrived in the town centre just as dusk was settling in (a mere 13 hours after setting out, same as yesterday), where, true to the tone of the day, Johns bike had a puncture in the rear wheel. At this stage, all we cared about was finding a place to sleep, and after settling in, we washed up (buckets with hot water) and then headed down to the local pub where we washed down a few beers and had some chicken. After trying his chicken Hans commented, “This chicken has won a few races”.
And so we have conquered (or at least survived) the Hell Road to Moyale, and, provided we can find some bolts and can change the tyre in the morning, we leave Kenya behind to head into Ethiopia.
08.08.2011 Mal writes:
Over a month has passed since our last blog entry, and we have seen an increasing number of people subscribing to the blog, for which we are grateful. Please take time to register, and tell your friends to sign up to WORDPRESS.COM as well. It is not about US, but about raising awareness for the hospital. Carol and Shan have produced what we think is a very nice letterhead which is being used as our header page for the blog. The blog is now functional and doesn’t need too much more development, just some real bike riding blogs, instead of these “preparation” entries.
John’s citizenship has at last come through, so, after about forty years inSouth Africa, he is “one of us”! He is now waiting for his passport to come. The rest of us have our passports up to date so that we won’t get caught out with a date that expires while travelling, or with too few pages in the passport.
The pannier bags and racks are under construction, and the bash plates which protect the engines from damage underneath, are also with the engineer who is making up a set for us. We have compiled a comprehensive “Kit List” of items to go into our luggage. That list has been based on the experience of other riders who have tackled long distance bike rides, and we are especially grateful to the blogs detailing their rides up toCairo. They are: “3 Farmers and a Greek”, and “Tea forAfrica”. Both Rufus Dreyer and Charl Wessels have been very kind with their time and expertise. We learn from the masters.
There is still a debate as to whether to take camping equipment, which occupies space and will weigh us down, but offer accommodation anywhere, or, to dispense entirely with camping and look for B and B’s, which will be more costly, but offer some degree of comfort (hopefully) and give us better chances of internet access for keeping up our blog posts. The debate will continue till the decision has to be made.
We want to take our kit list and approach potential sponsors/ advertisers who may catch the vision with us for the trip and assist us with certain items, in that way trying to reduce costs where we can. These are such items as Notebook computers, external hard drive, Kindle reader, helmet mounted video camera and intercom device, Garmin GPS, motorbike spares/ tools, first aid kit, etc.
Finance-wise, we are doing our best to save up for the trip but are sometimes left feeling that we wonder if we are out of our minds! Maybe that was never in doubt.
The following is a list of the countries that we have in mind passing through: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Northern Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. Do a quick count and figure out how many of those countries are beating the tom-tom drums of war and strife! Add to that the countries where fuel is hard to get hold of, and you have an interesting route! But aaahhh, the sweet anticipation of very cheap petrol inIranwill be the flip side.
The date of departure has been set for Friday morning, December 30th. That is 143 days. There is still lots to be done, but we feel we are on track.
Thanks again to everyone for their support and encouragement.
Don’t take our silence on the blog to mean that nothing has been happening. On the contrary, our last entry (under “Preparation”) in May described our trip to the Eastern Cape, testing our bikes, equipment, and our own endurance.
This past month has finally seen a partnership being forged between ourselves and the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust. We will be raising funds for the Paediatric Infectious Diseases Unit (PIDU). We are very grateful to them, as they will offer us much support.
It is so gratifying to hear of people who are already excited about our trip, and willing to donate to the Trust. We are sure that this trip will generate much interest, and hopefully, many people will be moved to help the children.
Another hugely exciting development is that we have made contact with a gentleman in Iran who will be able to help us with the carnet document, which is vital in order to bring vehicles into any country. Iran was the only one that we were battling to get. Without this, we would have been faced with having to fly ourselves and ship our bikes from Istanbul to Kathmandu. This is a huge hurdle that has been overcome. Iran, which was ancient Persia, is rich in heritage and culture, and from what we have heard from many people, a most interesting place to visit. This means that the only time we will have to ship the bikes, and fly, will be going from Kathmandu to Bangkok, and then of course, flying home from Singapore. We heard from a contact of mine that we should be able to bring the bikes back in a container with goods that his company imports from the Far East.
John and I have made contact with a factory in Kommetjie who are making up soft luggage systems for us as a reasonable cost. John has made contact with two engineering firms, who are prepared to provide us with bash plates (strong protective metal plates that go under the motor, protecting it and the oil pump), racks for our luggage, and crash bars (let’s hope we don’t have a lot of use for them!!!) We will mention their names once we have sorted them out, but it means a lot to us to have such support. We will try and get support for such things as motorbike spares, i.e. tires, chains and sprockets, cables, etc., a good quality Garmin GPS, an easy to use helmet mounted HD video camera, helmet mounted communication devices, camping equipment, a decent notebook computer and backup external hard drive so we can keep our blog going en route, helmets, jackets and protective gear.
Jules has been busy looking at visa requirements, as we can’t be caught napping and run out of time at the end. It will be handy having Jules in Joburg, being close to the embassies in Pretoria. We will start having our vaccinations by October. It is not easy on the other hand with Shan in East London and Jules in Joburg from the point of view of having the bikes on hand to get serviced and prepared for the trip, but we will get through all those logistical problems in December, which is now less than six months away. Though all of this planning, our other daughter, Ashlea, and her fiancé, Rob, will be getting married on December 10th, so we will have a busy time between now and then.
The posts may just start getting a bit more regular. If you sign up for our blogs, you can be notified when new blogs are posted.
Thanks again for your interest and support.