Jou Ma Sai Mara – SA2Kenya

| September 23, 2010 | Comments (8)

Jou Ma Sai Mara –the trip to the Masai Mara to see the migration by motorbike.

And it was a mother of a ride beginning with the long boring straight cop filled road through Zimbabwe, across the short corridor of arid Tete in Mozambique, along lovely clear overpopulated Lake Malawi, through surprisingly pretty Tanzania to getting lost and following a jeep track around the fantastic Kilimanjaro with its white ice cap and into the traffic nightmare of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.  Then to the delicious comfort of luxury tents on the pink flamingo lake of Lakuru before parking our bikes and flying in style to the Masai Mara and 5 star migration gazing!

As alsways happens home called and it was a rude shock to the bum and system as we clambered onto our bikes from Nairobi to Arusha in Tanzania and then across hells highway (a shortcut!) through Tanzania and back to lake Malawi, a more scenic route into Mozambique across the Chimanimani mountains and a brief stop at the great Zimbabwe ruins before returning to the good old RS of A 8654 km’s and 3 weeks later!!!

The initial plan was to be three bikes, GS 1200 adventures,  my wife Sue and myself, Jake Brink and Pierre Radley. Our kids and Jakes wife would fly into Nairobi.  BUT then Pierre was taken out by a BMW car which did an illegal U turn in front of him. Net result he and bike flew 14 metres through the air landing in hospital and in the scrap heap respectively.  Lucky to be alive and leg in a serious brace Pierre nevertheless insisted he was coming and chose to drive behind us – bonus cold beers and some thick steaks and more than 3 sets of re-washable underpants!!!

This is the group, as you can see in this picture I’m the one who never gets lost – Jake on the left and Pierre on the right – well as you will see they don’t like shortcuts!

Sue wields her camera like the paparazzi,  would have emptied the curios markets if they took Diners and you know what they say about redheads ..

And that’s not all,  we were joined by 2 British “hitchhikers” Hanna and Kora as far as Nairobi and Pierre’s cost of using my bukkie was babysitting my daughter Zandi as she happily sang him nursery rhymes and Nkosi Sikelele across Africa!

Day 1: To Harare – 670km’s

So we set off – Our trip really only started in our heads when we crossed into Zim so I will start there. Zimbabwe was a long boring thin snaking tar road with police lying in hiding with radar speed detectors every 50km’s.  Their only source of income I guess and very friendly as I discovered bombing through an 60k zone at 105 km’s an hour.  “This is a motorbike not an aeroplane seh, why are you flying?” grinned a radar toting cop!  Its 10 US dollars for a spot fine with no receipt or 30 – 50 dollars if you want a receipt.  You do the maths.  A brief overnight at pretty Boulders backpackers on the edge of Harare and the grim reality of Mugabe’s policy is clear.  The cheerful Malawi cook described the vibe and the music of a place filled with travellers, we looked around glumly, today it was only us!

Impromptu roadblocks have been set up by locals to raise money – bikes are free but $1 per car and going up depending on the size of the vehicle!

Apart from that a long straight reasonably good road to Tete.

Day 2: Harare to Senga Bay Malawi – 850 km’s

Despite the urban legends, every border was a breeze, even Beitbridge, then crossing the great Zambezi across an equally impressive bridge in Tete Mozambique.

The heat was now unbelievable and we were forced to take refuge in a host of 2M beers and some Prego rolls!

The beers kept us in the shade for a little too long and 850 km’s later the dark caught us in Malawi riding the last 200 km’s in the dark! The reward was arriving at Cool Running’s campsite and a well stocked bar with volumes of ice!

Day 3 & 4: Lake Malawi – 600km’s

And so the next three days we slowly made our way across Malawi – while the lake is beautiful and some of the twisty tarred roads incredible motorbike riding, the lake is incredibly overpopulated and overfished.  I hiked through here 15 years ago and there were thousands of capenta, little carpets of fish drying in the sun! Today the little buckets of capenta and undersize tilapia are testament to how too much humanity is trashing the place! Every day and night the fishing boats go out and return with increasingly smaller catches!  Nice picture opportunities though!

When the fish are finished even the mice better watch it!

These were for sale all along the road already on a sosati stick!  Yum yum just heat and eat!

And little birdies!  Fried add your own salt or chilli!

And for those who did not read the signs!

Malawi (and in fact parts of Tanzania) has little or no fuel and queues form whenever fuel arrives.  More than once I was grateful for my huge33l tank on the trusty BMW Adventure.  More than once we rode on fumes squeezing the last little bit from the fuel we could find!

Jake found a cheaper ride from a local, but the cops were the same.  Here I paid my fine “put the money on the dash seh”  while my paparazzi wife Sue sneaked the pic!

What great riding, through rubber plantations and twisties that seemed to never end – bike heaven!

Nkatha Bay

Sangilo sanctuary where Ewan and Charley stayed. I guess thats why the drinks were so expensive..not that, that stopped us!

Day 5: Karonga Malawi to Crocodile Camp SE Tanzania – 600kms

And then Southern Tanzania – what a surprise.  The road twists beautifully through huge Banana plantations and markets up to 2600 metres (the lake is at 600m) into golden fields of wheat and green lush potato country and then drops again down to arid red soiled Baobab filled valleys.

On one section we did just under 700km’s on one tank.  Petrol was short in Tanzania, Diesel in Malawi!  Jake and I rolled into one garage with our range computers telling us we only had 5k’s to go!

Motorbikes are everywhere in Tanzania, little Chinese 125cc’s loaded beyond imagination! Ewan and Charley couldn’t load more!  Doba Doba’s we were told, local motorbike taxis. Oh and every hospital has a Doba Doba ward as well!

Pierre reckons even a doba Doba in Tanzania is better than a Beemer in Joburg! Actually he’s just missing having something throbbing between his legs 🙂

We wondered if there was a bus ward next to the Doba Doba ward – these huge gaily painted bus’s with prayers to God or Allah rocket along at terrifying speeds hooting madly as they overtake on blind rises and hairpin bends.

The only respite from the buses is the odd shebeen, in fact not so odd, we find them every day from 11am onwards and settle into local hospitality with ease!  This spot promised a serious nightlife, but Kili becckoned!

Day 6:  to Kili – 850 Km’s

50 km’s from Moshi, the town at the foot of Kilimanjaro we see Kili.  It is a sight which pictures can do no justice to.  We come across the plain and suddenly in the haze 50km’s away the distinctive shape towers above the clouds! We stop and stare – “too high”, says Jake “must be a cloud!”.  But it is Kili and Hannah who is riding with me for a while wants to cry.  Closer and closer and it just gets higher.  A highlight, a beautiful majestic peak difficult to describe! Little did we realise then how much of it we would get to see! …

Day 7: Nairobi via Kili! – 350 km’s

Today my daughter Consi and Jakes wife Anita land in Nairobi at 3.30.  So we are going to just ride straight down the main road from Kilimanjaro to Nairobi. We hit shortest route to Nairobi on the GPS – 3 hours ride it says. Off we go, the mountain is covered in cloud so we ignore its mass on our right shoulder.  Soon we take a little side road, clearly a shortcut.  Pierre in the Toyota is not so sure this is a shortcut.  He is following a Tracks 4Africa route on his GPS and it says goat track!  But he follows grumbling to himself.

The mountain starts to clear and the snow is reflecting the sun, “pretty” we mumble a little concerned as the road disappears! A little rocky track appears! Jeez I think some shortcut!  Then the rocks fade to sandy tweespoor (jeep track) and we twist and turn through little villages of Masai herdsmen who stare at us curiously even maybe angrily.

I am ahead and each time I stop and ask for directions I get waved on cheerily, “yes the border is in front”.  Little do I know that it’s not the border I am looking for! Soon we end up in a beautiful forest the cloud is gone and we are riding along the base of Kilimanjaro, the views are exquisite!

Jake swore he would not do any gravel on this trip, he is cursing me and he disappears behind in my mirror.  I like sandy roads and I gun it half of me does not want to know what Jake will say and the rest says hey it’s almost 11 and we are nowhere near a border or civilization!

My GPS is lost and it looks like we are heading around the mountain it’s time for help so I stop a bike rider on a battered Yammie 200.  He speaks fluent English.. “you are velly velly lost seh” he says dusting the red dirt off his clothes and eyeing my beamer!  “Ah the border, yes there is a small one ahead but first you must closs this game leserve, then past the army loadblock ahead, then the border is Le Tok Tok. Normally I would say go alound but I see this motorbike she can get there so cally on.”  Thank god Jake hasn’t heard him I grin as my new found guide draws me a map!

We find Le Tok Tok and make it through the dusty little border in no time.  Some terrible road works and washed away road for 15km’s and then we are on a wonderful new tar road.  The odd ostrich runs in full stride racing us, an Impala ram leaps into the middle of the road staring us down for a few seconds and the Masai wave as they stand on one leg leaning against their spears as we thunder past, intent on Nairobi Airport. the bikes have made it without a hickup – 4 300 km’s later – grubby but the monsters still purr along!

The traffic is unbelievable, first we hit the Mombasa “highway” and we all tell stories of frightening near misses!  I cannot believe it as trucks and taxis aim at me, nearly find me, miss by centimetres and thunder by letting the next one try their murderous game.  I ride for countless times on the shoulder swearing and waving with one hand as I cling to the bike with the other!

Then we hit Nairobi traffic, km’s of vehicles in 3 sometimes 4 lanes all standing still.  Not even my bike can weave through cars are so tight.  I resort to either bending their mirrors out of my way or at one stage drive onto the island and thunder down the pavement hooting at pedestrians who casually let me pass quiet casually used to this mayhem!

If there is traffic in hell it’s the same as in Nairobi!

Day 8 & 9: Killer Highway and Lake Nakuru

“Ah that road, it is killer highway” says our taxi driver days later, “10 people die every day on that road, it is too bed”!  No shit we murmur remembering the frightening ride past very beautiful Rift Valley views and blue lakes pink with flamingos.

We stay in Flamingo Hill Camp, a luxury lodge on the edge of Lake Nakuru and drive along the lake edges buffalo nestling on edges of pink flamingo flocks as green fever trees jostle over the waters edges.  As we walk closer these pink masses separate and with flapping wings flap up and away landing in a circling swarm of pink mud just up the shoreline.

We head back to Nairobi ducking the killer drivers and stop from time to time as the girls chatter like starlings over the curios and buy “bargain” Masai rags and woven handbags at ten times the local cost. My daughter the biker babe Consi rides back commentating in her sweet way about “the silly drivers” – “Stupid Fucking Idiots I curse” ! “Daddy language ! That will be R 4!” says Consi. Sometimes I curse rider to rider headsets as well!

We recover from the ride over Kilimanjaro and Tusker beers, with a great curry lunch in Karen, Nairobi with our close friends locals Pete and Ali. We follow them to our B & B called Whistling Thorns where we watch the All Blacks murder us and dream of killer Matata’s (taxis) as the Gin lulls us to sleep.  Tomorrow the Mara, no bike, no numb bum, lots of vely good seh, more Gin seh?  Zandi waits for the plane at Governors “airport”!

Day 10  – 14; Jou Ma Sai Mara, Zero km’s!

The Wildebeest migration is one of the wonders of the world.  Around a million wildebeest and 500 000 zebra cross from the Serengeti in Tanzania onto the Masai Mara in Kenya crossing the flooded Mara river in a spectacle of animal wonder or tragedy depending on whether you are a Lion, Croc or Wildebeest.

Governors Camp lacks for nothing, we eat like hungry Ethiopian refugees and drink like Pondos on Payday.  Pete and Ali’s daughter Chala is working at Governors and takes us under her very efficient and cheery wing.

Sue and I were here 10 odd years ago and we have told everyone what to expect … millions of Wildebeest thundering across the Savanah …except on our first drive we see very little.  Odd!

We awake early the next morning and still we see nothing again as we bounce across towards the Mara river.  “Chala have the numbers come down we ask?”

“You know your memory always makes things bigger” mutters Jake from the back looking a little despondent with his 2 tons of camera equipment.  Ah some elephant! They walk past so close we can touch them, but Sue and I are still troubled.  Japhat our driver drives down to the Mara river, “there have been no crossings” he says shrugging, “maybe today, maybe tomorrow”.

Then we realise what General Custer must have said…. “WHERE THE FUCK DID ALL THOSE INDIANS COME FROM?”  From every conceivable side wildebeest and zebra came, the horizon turns black, long thin ant like lines grow larger and larger and gather honking and prancing on the river! And then they cross!  Nothing on earth prepares you for the scale of the crossing, the leaping surging animals,   the dark velvet Wildebeest mixing and merging with the black and white crazy patterned Zebra.

Check the croc here between the Zebra!

We see amazing scenes, the lion chasing the wildebeest a few feet from us, the hippo chasing a wildebeest calf out the water, chomping at him in the process, the endless lines of animals stretching to the horizon, Leopard, lion, cheetah, giraffe, elephant, buffalo, giant crocs and fat herds of hippos.  The scale is hard to photograph let alone describe!

An amazing balloon trip and breakfast on the savanah, ah its ASDA – Another Shit Day in Africa!

Pierre missing his landrover at home even gets to fix a luxury landy on the Mara!

And then it was time to go, time to drop Consi and Anita at the airport,Consi dragged herself off towards school again …

For  Sue, Jake, Pierre, Zandi and I, it was time to climb on our bikes and bukkie and head for home!  We were in for fun, that bloody oil seal, and punctures on Hells Highway, one of the worst gravel “highways”  in Africa … part 2 to follow..

Category: RoAfrica, TRIP REPORTS

Comments (8)

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  1. Guy Bragge says:

    What a trip. who needs to work?!1

  2. Lisa says:

    wow, some stunning and hilarious pics G, looks like a FABULOUS trip, what a fun blog
    x

  3. My life seems small now…

  4. Great writing! I want to see a follow up on this topic!?

  5. joshua says:

    amazing story dad wish i had gone with. next time not getting left behind!!!!!haha going to work hard.

  6. Ronell says:

    Breathless…. totally Breathless…..

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