Back in the saddle again, it felt great to be on the move again. We had taken farewell with our family members for the last time. They had completed their vacation in Africa and as they cruised towards home, high in the sky, we had passed the border to Kenya and were now getting used to the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. The Kenyan capital is no small city and getting around would be even worse had it not been for our GPS navigation.
High on the To Do list was our visa for Sudan. This is the only visa that we need, but could not get ahead of time due to our long journey and it would have expired by the time we make it to Sudan. What should have been a easy ordeal turned in to a major concern. Dan and Roger were denied visa due to their US passports. Vincent and myself got the visa in one day since we carry Canadian and Norwegian passports.
A few phone calls and promises of help from our contact in Khartoum, Sudan, we are told to head for Ethiopia and Addis Ababa where we hope to get a Sudan visa for Dan and Roger at the Sudanese Embassy. No guarantee, but this is our best shot. But before we say goodbye to Nairobi we spend a good part of a day at Jungle Junction with Christopher Handschue, a x-German BMW motorcycle mechanic running a overland compound. It is an incredible place littered with 4 wheeled overland vehicle in all shapes and a few motorcycles.
We bring our brand new Continetal TKC80 tires and at the same time change oil and air filters. Our tires have seen their best days and it is a welcomed sight to see the bikes with brand new tires. From what we have heard we will be needing them in the next few days out of Nairobi.
Christopher runs a tight ship at Jungle Junction and we appreciate his German way of running the place as it is well organized and we get first class service, very much appreciated.
I never had problems leaving a big city and Nairobi was no different. We had a good time and got a lot accomplished so when the time was right we headed north out of town before the morning rush.
This far on the journey we had not run in to really hot weather, rather at times would we find our self putting on layers of clothing as the weather turned cold. As we approached Mt. Kenya we got cold and even had some unexpected rain that begged for a extra layer insulation. Fortunately with the Klim Badlands Pro riding suit we did not need to be concerned about raingear since this is a Gore-Tex suit it keeps you dry. We never got to see Mt. Kenya as it was engulfed in a thick layer of clothes, but we did get to enjoy the very green landscape that takes advantage of the weather that this majestic mountain creates.
Huge flower farms dominates a good part of the agricultural scene as we ride north. The road is still good asphalt so we are advancing fast from the busy city until we get out of town and make a photo stop on the line of the Equator. I do a fast check with my Garmin 660 GPS and can confirm that the actual sign marking the Equator line is correct. I did this out of curiosity since the Equator line just north of Quito’s, Ecuador, is placed in the wrong spot. We discovered that 2 years ago when Roger, Vincent and I visited that place.
As we pas Mt. Kenya the weather let go and soon we are taking of layers and opening vents in the riding suits to cope with the heat. After a pleasant stay in a little Klondike town called Isiola we learn that this place is destined to be Kenya’s new industrial center according to some locals. At this time it seems like a bold statement, but who knows. What we learned is that they are all waiting for the new road to Ethiopia to be completed. We are very curious about the same road and have mixed reports on the state of the road and are for that reason a little anxious about what is ahead of us.
After two hours on perfect asphalt where we have dodged ostriches and enjoyed a wonderful vista the smooth sailing comes to a brutal stop. From there on we found our self on a washboard gravel surface replaced by gravel, rocks and sand. We had our work cut out for our self as we were riding north.
Hyenas and bikers
This is the last story I thought that I would write about for the journal for our Cape to Cairo Expedition. But twice now I have ran in to stories about bikers fallen victims for attacks by Hyenas.
Let me tell you about the last story first since that is the shortest one. I am writing you these lines from a dump of a hotel here in Wadi Halfa, Sudan. Our bikes just left this morning on a barge that goes across Lake Nasser to Aswan, Egypt. We will sail to Egypt on a passenger ferry only tomorrow afternoon. While waiting around in Wadi Halfa our fixer told us about a BMW bike that he had purchased recently and if we would like to check it out. He told that the bike had been with Sudan Customs for years until someone bought it from them and now he is the owner.
When he told us that the owner of the bike was a tourist that had been killed by Hyenas he got our full attention. Apparently the biker had been taking pictures of the Hyenas and doing so he had been low to the ground while taking the pictures. This is a big mistake especially if you are alone as he was at the time and as a result the Hyena(s) attacked, killed and ate the poor fellow. The story is an assumption built on the fact of having his films developed and seeing the last pictures he took from a very low angle of approaching Hyena(s).
Very sad story indeed. After posting a picture of the license plate of the bike on GlobeRiders Facebook page I have found out that the bike was registered in the Netherlands in 1970 and apparently this incident happened some times in the 1980’s in Sudan.
The other story involving a biker and Hyenas happened earlier this year and I learned about the incident from a Danish biker when we met in Nairobi, Kenya.
Unfortunately I never did get his name or picture, but he told me that he had been riding his BMW R1150GS Adventure alone riding south on some terrible roads in Northern Kenya. On a lonely stretch of the road, and there are many, his bike broke down so he could not continue riding. As we saw ourselves there are not much traffic in that part of the world.
As the night came he were surrounded by Hyenas, at first at a distance, but soon they started to be braver and came closer. He told me that he used his flash light to scare them of, but felt that they got braver by the minute. In desperation he called his friend in Denmark on his satellite phone, lucky he had one. His friend had a friend that lived in Nairobi so he called him and he again called the local police in the area where the Danish biker where stranded surrounded by Hyenas. At first the police did not take this serious, but eventually they sent out a truck that found the stranded Danish biker.
As I were told the story I could see the emotions in his face and this was not just a biker story from the roads of Africa, but rather a life changing event for the fellow that was so close to be taken down by a flock of Hyenas. His plan had been to ride the world on two wheels, but at this point he is not sure if that is what he like to do anymore.
So what can we learn from these two stories, I would say never trust a Hyena, carry a satellite phone and stay up tall so your enemy see you as a strong person.
Rocks, Sticks and Broken Trust.
I had so many preconceived emotions about Ethiopia, more than most other countries that I have traveled through. We all remember Live Aid, Ban Aid and various campaigns to save the starving people of Ethiopia. Pictures from the arid countryside with dying mothers and their children, a hopeless situation. We all have seen it in the news and some of us even sent money to help the situation.
As we are riding north from the border heading for Addis Ababa, the capital, there is no opening between the villages. People seem to be living right next to the road so we have to pay extra attention at every moment.
Having been warned ahead of time, we are prepared for masses of people and what we have been told as rock tossing kids. We do not have too much problems with the kids and have early adapted a strategy of waiving our hands every time we meet people that turns to see the bikers as we pas them. Our tactic works great, but it does get tiring to wave to every person one meets.
That first evening we share the same hotel with two couples (tourists) riding on two bikes. This is when we learn how serious the warnings of rock tossing kids should be taken. Chris and Kim are very upset when they arrive at the hotel where they share their story of Kim being hit with a fist size rock in here helmet visor and later another rock in her shoulder. The first rock could easily have made her blind on one eye had her visor not been closed. They are very upset about the situation and we feel rather upset our self when we learn about their incident.
What really bugs me is how do we have this situation across an entire country and not in any of the other countries we pas through. One day Vincent gets an attack on his helmet video camera. Yes, I call it an attack since several teenagers clearly grabs rocks and with all their force run towards the bikes and toss the rocks and swing sticks aiming at the bikes. This particular incident leads to Vincent braking very hard and as a result Dan does not have time to brake since he is diving to avoid a fellow that swings a stick at him. Dan hits Vincent’s pannier with his own panniers, but fortunately no one are hurt. Feeling threatened by the situation they hurry on. After this I elect to go last and sure enough soon after I have a kid swing a big stick at me as I pas. I brake hard, turn around to chase the fellow. He runs for his life leaving his shoes in the road crossing a farmers field. I know I have no chance to catch him, but this situation is so frustrating and we need to get out some steam.
We have discussed the situation with the rocks and sticks with people, but they’re is not explanation that we can come up with. What really bugs me is that this goes on across all of Ethiopia. As soon as we crossed in to Sudan we never had this kind of problem.
The other sad thing about this behavior of a few kids along the road is that these incidents taint our great experience in Ethiopia. We keep reminding our self how many friendly and wonderful people we meet every day.