WILD AFRICAN QUEST – 14
Well the good news is that Glenn is home safe and sound. I asked him to put down a few thoughts on his trip – and herewith a rather eloquent depiction of his journey…
I have had a dream of doing a trip like this ever since I read about Euart Grogans exploits back in the colonial times, when trips like this were funded by the National Geographical Society. In fact 2 of my dogs are named Shackelton and Nimrod.
Riding a motorcycle is always made up of an emotional blend of privacy, freedom, selfishness, exhilaration, discomfort and a sense of achievement, plus so much more of whatever you want to add. A cocktail which becomes addictive, and this was the expectation I carried into the beginning of this trip. The planning, packing and pouring over maps and routes will always be the lead-up to the big day but is part of the fun and dream-creation potion which drives and stimulates us.
When travelling on a motorcycle there is always a risk of breakdowns, getting wet, injury, fatigue and a guarantee of dust, bugs in your teeth etc, but for most this is the macabre attraction to the discipline of adventure motorcycling. My bike started the trip as a long-in-the-tooth old nail with over 100 000 km’s under its tyres, and as such I always felt that I could, without hesitation, walk away from it and hitch a ride to the nearest airport and fly home, should it give me the slightest misgivings of its loyalty.
Day 1 started with a terrible noise coming from my bikes engine and, after some discussion with Morgan it was decided to postpone the trip by a day in order for me to get arse into gear. 4 hours later with the bike repaired we were on our way on our Africa Odyssey, riding into the sunset with ‘starry eyes and dreams no one could see’.
I remember the intense heat in Botswana and the beginning of our relationship with mosquitoes. We stayed at a backpackers outside Gaborone that night, and upon arrival were greeted by the site of a ’77 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, the owner busy with a restoration, an affair not many people would understand. It was in this intense heat that Morgan’s mo’sickle suffered internal haemorrhaging and would start using gallons of Saudis finest. We decided to order the appropriate spares to be sent to a destination on our route and continue with our journey. It was on the lonely roads of Botswana that we passed 2 old, lovingly cared for 4×4’s, a Toyota Land cruiser and a Nissan Safari, and it was good. I’ve always enjoyed seeing a well cared for ‘cooking model’ on a journey of passion, and my thoughts wandered to my 20 year old Range Rover waiting back at home.
We started getting into the tropics of our continent and the grass became lush and the temperature cooled nicely, this was the Africa that I thought existed all along, the Africa that Hemingway fell in love with and multitudes of songs have been written about. LJK Setright, had he ever come to Africa, would have waxed lyric about the long roads and wide open spaces, ‘Bristol driving country’.
Entering Burundi was absolutely scenic and reminded me of Lord of the Rings with picture post-card portraits of green mountains and quaint villages floating above the clouds, twisty roads and healthy flowing rivers abounded but always a multitude of bicycles and small Chinese bikes choked the roads. Stopping on the road at any time created a flood of small, round faces and an equal amount of questions, ‘where you come from?’, ‘where you go to?’, ‘how fast can it go?’.
Forever onward and upward we went making our way into Rwanda and hopefully a meeting with Morgan’s spare bike parts. We found Rwanda to be much the same as Burundi but better, the streets were constantly being swept, even at night. There is no industry as such, and as a result the air at night is crisp and clean. Kigali, the capital, is situated in a giant ‘bowl’ and at night you can look out over the city and it looks like a funfair with all its lights and zero smog.
Our meeting with Morgan’s spares was not to be, due to mix ups with courier and receiver and after again re-routing them to Kampala, Uganda, we set off again through this Eden of hills and dales, the roads in Rwanda being as twisty but in better condition than Burundi, led to some ‘spirited antics’ on the bikes, until sanity prevailed. Always in the back of our minds rang the warning of a missionary that we had met in Tanzania: “whatever you do don’t have an accident”. He had just got back from recovering in Germany from a bike accident in Tanzania which involved a fatality. L
On to Uganda, the home of the last king of Scotland, with hopes of seeing the source of the Nile as well as Morgan’s spare parts and after a nightmare ride through Kampala we made it to Jinga, where we are told the White Nile begins its journey to The Med. We spent a few days discovering the area, found a restaurant which serves the best spare-ribs in the world and also discovered that the Source of the Nile bubbles out of the ground conveniently under water of a huge lake, so a bit of artistic license is required to believe that John Speke discovered it. I personally think that Jeremy Clarkson and his cronies discovered the source of the Nile because I’ve seen it on TV.
It was in Uganda that the decision was made, by me, to do what any good mate would do to a mate in need of help; I left him there and headed home.
From this point on my journey became a journey against the clock and I spent all day riding, getting into overnight places of rest after dark and leaving before first light. I made it back home in a week and back to work a day after that.
*Africa is so much more than the sum of its parts, some bad but mostly good.
*At the risk of sounding stereotypical, Africa’s people are amazingly friendly and forthcoming.
* The scenery and views around the Rift valley are out of this world
* Rwanda is the prettiest country of the lot, especially considering its history
* The absolute low-light of my trip is the border crossings into Zambia where you are pestered constantly by people offering assistance and then asking for money
On a trip like this one should consider the highs and lows as part of the overall experience; after all, this is why we are here. If there were no lows there wouldn’t be any highs.
A trip, any trip, serves to wet the appetite and thus on the long hours of solitude on the trip back I started planning the next one ……………………………………………
Written by Glenn McDonald