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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Month: August 2014 (page 1 of 3)

Time to ride

My passport arrived back from South Africa this morning , so it is now official I have all I need to travel non stop and non direct to Italy , so Kenya we are on our way. I just realised Victoria and I have been on the road for over 90 days , it is really hard to believe, it still all feels new and fresh as the day we kicked off . The only difference is I get my camp ready in a tenth of the time and I feel like a road warrior on a scooter.

According to my rough calculations we are not halfway yet in distance  and still have six countries to tour , and the days seem to fly by , so I will have to ride a little harder and shorten my stopovers  to make time for the rest of Africa.

I have spent the last couple of days in Kampala getting the scooter prepared , doing oil changes to both the engine  and the transmission ,  cleaning the filter and doing  a general nut and bolt check .  I am hoping to get all the way to Italy with only having to do minor stuff like keeping the filter clean and the oil topped up.

I know a lady never reveals her age , and Victoria being a  lady , this holds true for her , but she has no objection to me revealing her mileage , after all it is displayed for the world to see on her dashboard. She  passed the 40 000km mark a few days ago meaning that we have travelled just under 12 500 kilometres to get this far , luckily with the only mechanical issue being the bearing way back in Tanzania , it really is amazing what this scooter has pulled off and the kind of conditions she has had to endure .

 

Scooter spa , oils changed and filters cleaned

Scooter spa , oils changed and filters cleaned

 

So with six border crossings under our belt we set off  once more for our seventh crossing into Kenya , I have decided to travel through Kenya fairly quickly and will try and get  to Ethiopia by next weekend , which I am looking really forward to , for me it  seems to be the beginning of a  different African experience and a whole new adventure .

With the time out in Kampala and the slowing of the ride it has given me time to reflect back on the journey thus far and if the truth be told it still does not feel real , the experience still so overwhelming with so much to take in that I am still unable to distil my thoughts or experiences for that matter , I still ride wide eyed either with shock or wonder , I might only find some form of clarity once the ride is done ,  so below are a few random thoughts that have popped into my head while riding .

Africa lives so hard , yet smiles so gently .

The world so complex , yet parts of Africa just focuses  on staying alive .

Hard work is a way of life .

Africa touches you with everything she has , no veneer here , the truth walks naked , no place to hide.

The service  slower , but the effort renders time irrelevant .

Every country has one of those half naked guys walking next to the Hi Way .

The people , the people , the people , the people , the human spirit is alive and well .

The  children , I love the  smile , the  wave  , the sprint , the scream . The simple joy .

Such pride and effort in the  roadside markets .

Excitement uncensored and unchecked .

Nothing stops us , we find our own way , obstacles are our way of life.

Curiosity .

Community .

Space .

Not all roads are TAR and not all asphalt are roads .

So Little , So much , so it is.

Sincerity .

The human in human spirit .

Some things seem funny yet you cant bring yourself to laugh .

One bicycle holds two scents , one of hard labour the other , the clean freshness  of the passenger on her way to church .

Overloading taken to a level of absurdity .

Blood, sweat and tears yet the broadest of smiles .

Gentle so gentle the people , so hard so very hard the life .

I love the way you welcome me and the way you say goodbye .

The outdoor purveyors of fine fresh meat , dressed in white splattered with red .

The acts of  kindness just touch your heart .

Inhibitions  , a western shackle .

Dress , the vibrant colour of tradition walking  the streets .

labour sculpts the youth , but breaks ands bends the aged .

A beard is practical , saves on moisturiser and bugs cant get to your skin , oh and it makes you wiser .

I still get a tight knot in my stomach before the days ride , but now it unwinds faster.

Riding solo no longer feels lonely , just free and epic .

A Journey through Africa changes the shape of your eyes , you see the world differently .

Africa opens your mind , your heart and gifts  you with humility .

The scooter amazes me , daily.

Africa Amazes me , daily .

Until we meet again .

 

 

 

 

 

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Rider from the storm

The last couple of days have been those long and only satisfying after a hot shower days , spent on the road . The weather has changed dramatically from what I have been used to while riding cross country to and through Kenya.

The border crossing was fairly uneventful with the usual chats and laughs about crossing Africa on a scooter and a chance to hang out in offices with officials getting all my documentation done . Once I had changed some schillings for some schillings I was about to cross into cross into Kenya , I stopped for a security check of all documents , only to be told that the insurance that I had bought in Tanzania to cover all the countries I travel through was not valid , that this COMESA certificates  I had been issued , expired in December 2013 , so in actual fact I was riding with a “fake” certificate that had been replaced by the new certificate months ago . So off I went to try and sort it out , when I arrived at the office of the provider , I  burst out laughing , comparing this office to the one I had purchased my cover from in Tanzania , that required me to  walk through a shop and  then down an ally to be squeezed into a tight 2 chair half a desk office , I then realised  I had definitely paid and additional non refundable  toll to travel these beautiful roads . The official poster on the wall showing the old and new certificates displayed with pride . So I bought my new , new certificate , a couple of bananas and a Kenyan flag from a young boy , sat on the sidewalk , enjoying the sun and company from my usual scooter groupies.

Then off I rode , now legal I hope off into Kenya , this crossing was a dream , 8 minutes all done. Then the ride to Eldoret started , within a few kilometres I had to put on my Tanzanian road armour , those killer busses back , the trucks with the smell of fight from their burning brakes and abused mechanics . The road conditions varied from living in purgatory to heaven on earth , and all the while those menacing clouds hunting Vic and I .

We tried to out run the storm , the 300 cc no match for mother nature and the next couple of hours we shivered , shook and got discoloured by flying mud passing through every small town . Arriving in Eldoret was the worst , the roads a wash with red angry water trying to find a way out . Through the town it was about 20 kilometres to my over night stop , Naiberi overland resort . Only two obstacle’s keeping me from my hot shower , by now I was blue with cold and soaked like a white river rafter . The mud we navigated , the washed out river crossing  stopped us in our tracks , was I to take shoes and socks off and wade to check ? I should have , but I just lifted my legs and watched as Victoria’s front wheel left my sight , gave it full throttle and we made it , just .

Hot shower , hot  meal and then off to bed only to be woken by a group of drunk over landers , that found it difficult to walk and talk , never mind other activities attempted . So the night a long one , with a short sleep , up early to ride east to then ride North.

 

Nightmare Naiberi

Nightmare Naiberi

The ride long , beautiful and once again we could not outrun mother nature and her intermittent down pours , that said nothing more spectacular than riding the great Rift Valley on a Vespa , mother nature in agreement gave me dry times and sunsine to admire her in the right light.

 

Great scenery , the price of it , the road.

Great scenery , the price of it , the road.

 

Same line different currency.

Same line different currency.

 

The unstoppable beauty of the valley.

The unstoppable beauty of the valley.

 

The map , the route .

The map , the route .

No Rift between Vic and I.

No Rift between Vic and I.

The Kenyan countryside today was very much like travelling through the Berg and riding up the escarpment  was just beautiful . My route took me through Nakuru for coffee , then Nyahururu to Nyeri my nights stop in a local hotel away from backpackers and overlanders to have a more local Kenyan offering and wonderful it has been . It was a real treat observing chic West Africa at work and play.

 

Patio to blog and have a bite.

Patio to blog and have a bite.

I unpacked the whole scooter to try and get all my stuff dry by morning , shower , tea and a fillet that was not really a fillet and then off to bed .

The next three or four days of riding through the North of Kenya will  likely be the most telling and trying on both Victoria and I , so lets hope those wheels find a home every night before the dark . I will set off for Archers Post today , try and get to Marsabit the next and push for the border town of Moyale on the third day  before crossing into Ethiopia . I expect to be offline until Ethiopia so I will see you all on the other side of hell road .

Until we meet again

 

 

 

 

 

Riding the rift

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A post from Archers

After a night of tossing and turning , with the next couple of days riding plaguing my mind , I was up and off on my way to Archers Post ,  the starting point of what has been dubbed ” hell road ” by the overland community , the 500 km between Isiolo and the border town of Moyale .

I had been advised to put the scooter on a truck in Nanyuki and then resume the ride from Moyale  into Ethiopia and up . The reasons being that the road conditions are so severe that the route is a destroyer of all things mechanical , is prone to tribal outbursts , very volatile , Somali bandit country  and that  riding alone was far from a god idea . So the whole previous nights tossing  and turning and now while riding towards Isiolo  my mind doubted and questioned my decision to ride the whole way. In part my decision was helped by some advise from my road mentor Riaan who did this exact route last year and loved it , the other Francis who I met in Uganda that took a tour group through and said to me that the road was possible , it might take 3 or 4 days but we could  get through  , the last reason was that  my experiences travelling through Africa thus far ,  had only ever been filled with  warmth and kindness and  meeting fantastic people , so in  my mind  my only worry was the road and would Vic and I make it .

 

Tough land between Isiolo and Archers Post

Tough land between Isiolo and Archers Post

 

Dancing dust Tornadoes fill the air , as one dies a new one born.

Dancing dust Tornadoes fill the air , as one dies a new one born.

So we took on the ride to Archers post for our first nights stop , it was not a long ride and on good roads so after stopping off in Nanyuki to stock up on water and high energy snacks we arrived just after lunch time in Isiolo where I filled up and then rode  towards Archers . While riding I was listening to my I pod set on shuffle and about 10 minutes out of Archers the Chris Rea song road to hell started playing , how inappropriate I thought .

 

Last water I was going to see for the entire journey.

Last water I was going to see for the entire journey.

I found the  Catholic mission , The Mary Immaculate Parish and a room for the night , I spent the afternoon still worring and hanging out with the locals who passed through the parish , answering many questions , shaking many hands and general chit chat with some interpreter intervention required now and again. Dino one of the young students took me around the town , we got a local sim card while I observed the effects of alcohol and the mind altering plant Khat on a community against the pride of the traditional Samburu customs and dress  , the beauty of both the men and woman astonishing that you find yourself staring a little to long . In this harsh place to find such colour and beauty . I popped into ripples for the surprise of my life . Here in the middle of know where was this fantastic little restaurant serving freshly squeezed juices , fantastic tea with a menu that rivalled some of the hotels I have stayed in .

 

Victoria at the Parish

Victoria at the Parish

I met the owner a gracious hostess Stellamaris  who opend this gem but four months ago , so to all those travelling North through Archers Post ensure you make a stop and enjoy the company , hospitality and great  delights on offer from Stellamaris. Thank you for a great late afternoon tea.

 

Ripples , fresh mango juice and rich tea.

Ripples , fresh mango juice and rich tea.

High tea for me with Dino and Stellamaris

High tea for me with Dino and Stellamaris

 

Archers Post

Archers Post

 

From here back to the parish to meet Father Peter Leseketeti for dinner , yet another fantastic meal with great company , on the night before the ride. Then off to bed to try  and sleep , for who knows what tomorrow will bring.

 

Until we meet again.

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Hell hath no fury like …..

Sleep came and went , robbed of  dreams and deep sleep , I was up by four , unable to find comfort in any position , unable to close my mind of what lay ahead , so as the first light started plucking the stars from the sky I was on the road , the knot in my stomach like that of a hangman’s noose . Vic and I rode off towards Marsabit , listening to my soloscooterist compilation , playing through my headphones , here comes the sun.

 

Here comes the sun .

Here comes the sun .

 

The beauty of this lost land in the morning light  gave me some comfort and it did not feel that harsh in early morning . The wind  strong with no barriers to her flight kept  knocking and buffeting  our cut out as we made our way out of Archers on this heavenly road that would take us to the one known as “Hell Road”

 

Just out there.

Just out there.

 

How can nothingness hold such beauty.

How can nothingness hold such beauty.

 

The tar lulled me into a false sense of security , my spirits lifting as we rode , the knot offering a little slack as the kilometres wound down , the GPS saying 250 km to Marsabit at Archers now 200 km and still the tar carried us , may be that just how hell courts you . Still the tar , then I saw the end , my heart missed a beat or three as the GPS said 120 odd kilometres to Marsabit  , not bad I thought it is still early how bad can it be ?.

 

The line that divides .

The line that divides .

Off the bike , tyre pressure down , fuel topped up , I took a deep breath asked Vic to forgive me for I knew not what I was about to do and off we set . From the outset the conditions appalling , I looked down at the distance covered after and hour we had done 20 kilometres , the ruts and rocks never ending , Victoria’s front shock bottoming out more times in one kilometre than I could count . The decision to ride haunting me , should I turn around ? We will never get through this , If I turn around now it is only 40 kilometres back to tar . Thoughts of breaking Victoria , unable to get above 20 km per hour , her temperature gauge rising uncharacteristically as I could not get the speed up high enough to cool her properly , what happens if we breakdown , what about the bandits so these thoughts plagued me .

 

Hell it was .

Hell it was .

 

I decided to stop the what ifs and focus on slowly , slowly getting us home , I started stopping more often , drinking more water , stretching  , taking in this unbelievable ladscape when I could take my eyes off the road , and so the kilometres to destination wound down .

 

Camels thrive out here , train after train you pass , hundreds in number.

Camels thrive out here , train after train you pass , hundreds in number.

 

Cashew and water stop.

Cashew and water stop.

 

Will this ever end .

Will this ever end .

 

Just under 9 hours later with an average speed of  just above 25 odd kilometres per hour we arrived battered , bruised and abused in Marsabit , I just don’t know how we got here , I felt totally shattered .

I checked into the Nomads hotel , took  the biggest bed , the longest of showers and felt that wave of dread return  as I thought tomorrow we have to ride again . After some scrumptious goat samosas , sweet chai , I felt some strength return .

While in the hotel I met two local entrepreneurs , so I thought I would enquire about the road , once again I was advised to put Vic on a truck to Moyale , that the next part is worse ,  so I was told , my heart sank . I spent the rest of the afternoon in the great company of Sadick and Salim  chatting about the world and more , trying to take my mind off tomorrow . Before  we said our goodbyes , Sadick and Salim gave me their cell numbers and said if I ran into any difficulty on the road just to call and they would send help and come and get me . This offer was just the boost I needed and I resolved to get this road done .

Armed with my offer of help and cell numbers I went to bed , I slept well for a couple of hours and then the prospect of what lay ahead took my sleep . I packed up in the rain and cloud that had moved into town , had breakfast , waited for that light to arrive , said goodbyes and rode off in the mist and rain , hoping that if my morning started this badly it could only get better .

 

Leaving Marsabit

Leaving Marsabit

 

As we found our way out of the rain.

As we found our way out of the rain.

 

Harshness in the soft morning light .

Harshness in the soft morning light .

This goes on for ever.

This goes on for ever.

 

The first 90 kilometres fantastic , then the road failed again and we slowed down dramatically , same old same old , 35 kilometres later all improved and the road was not nearly as bad as yesterday , I started to focus on the  surroundings and when I looked down , only 60 kilometres to Moyale and so they kept coming down.

 

My world for a day.

My world for a day.

 

Their world , their life

Their world , their life

The road got better , the distance shorter my spirits higher , we rode and rested , rode and rested , so time passed . I came across Marco all alone on his bicycle riding to Cape Town from Norway , did I feel silly for all my stress  and anxiety , keep on trucking Marco I will see you in the fairest on your arrival .

 

Cashews , melted jelly babies and water.

Cashews , melted jelly babies and water.

 

Wow

Wow

 

Then we arrived at the town limits , I just could not wipe the smile off my face , the glee , the euphoria , my heart was singing , we had done it and all that stress , worry and anxiety  took flight in the face of my excitement  , welcome to Moyale .

 

Best picture of the day.

Best picture of the day.

 

Ali who welcomes me to Moyale and the Al - Yusra hotel

Ali who welcomes me to Moyale and the Al – Yusra Hotel

 

What a two days , what an incredible ride , it took me to a place I thought I would not get through and delivered  a sense of euphoria I cant explain . Well done Vic you are unstoppable .

 

Until we meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Moyale Magic

Still basking in the after glow ,  recovering from post traumatic road disorder and having  found  a hotel , that not only is the biggest in the whole of Moyale , which of course makes it very easy to find , but is  clean , neat with great staff , I decided  it was time to get down to some chores .

 

My Hotel

My Hotel

 

Victoria was in  such a state after those roads , all my gear covered in the devils dust . It was time to take immediate action . I  found a car wash just up from the hotel and set to task a well deserved rejuvenation package for Vic.

 

Can you see the engine?

Can you see the engine?

 

Vic's travel grit.

Vic’s travel grit.

 

The car wash.

The car wash.

 

It was a sight to behold watching that high pressure wand was her woes away , the dust fled  from the force  , like a retreating army , revealing a very different Victoria on the otherside .

 

Doing the luggage.

Doing the luggage.

 

That chore out of the way I settled into the hotel , took my shower and went down to the restaurant for some Chai to celebrate our safe arrival in Moyale . My mood so buoyant and still on a high from the day , I had my favourite for dinner , some , yes you guessed it , goat stew with veggies and as the clock struck eight I was man out .

I had also decided to stay a day longer to do some laundry , update the blog , clean the travel off my gear  and most importantly  clean the air filter . Ali tracked down a motorcycle guy for me , also just up the road from the hotel , so much accomplished in a very short time .

 

Moyale on main

Moyale on main

 

Moyale from the hotel top balcony .

Moyale from the hotel top balcony .

 

Up early I set off to clean the filter , the streets still empty , the only movement , the dust of course and a few early risers like me starting their day . Moyale felt very peaceful in comparison to the place I had arrived in yesterday , but that would soon change as Vic and I became the central attraction and I got to meet a lot of Moyalians especially those who rode motorbikes.

 

Trucks after to many journey's on hell road.

Trucks after to many journey’s on hell road.

 

The workshop.

The workshop.

 

The bike guy . with Victoria's filter in hand.

The bike guy . with Victoria’s filter in hand.

 

Tomorrow we head for Ethiopia and see what that has install for us  , I will keep you posted .

Until we meet again.

 

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