Thursday, 5 November 2009

Getting Ready for the Odyssey

How it Started:
It has been a long and winding road to the 4th of December 2009.  The fact of preparing for such an odyssey across the terrain of Africa, at best takes courage, love of adventure and some 'I don't care attitude', and at worst insanity. Truth be told many prayer supplications.  It is just possible that I was going into oblivion. 

Well the idea was planted, the dream was nurtured and the harvest is real and begins with the first leg of the odyssey. 

Which Bike:
I knew it was a bike odyssey, but which one? One which in event of a breakdown,  would not require me to fly a specialist with a laptop to fix it.  There were many good choices: BMW 650 GS, Kawasaki KLR 650 and Suzuki V-strom 650. It was like writing an exam with one goal in mind ― passing the exam. Now I read and reread almost endlessly. I visited almost every dealership  in the city, and fondled each of these bikes, and spoke anyone who cared to give information about each bike.

By July 2008, having saved some money, the day of reckoning arrived.  I had been persuaded, and I persuaded myself that Suzuki, the colour of an egg's yolk met all my expectations. Some called it the 'V-strom' and others the 'Wee-strom'. The Stromtroopers were instrumental in putting me on the saddle of the Suzuki 650.  Somewhere, I read of a biker who had ridden the 650 and put on the odometer some 500 000 odd miles ― this is stuff of fairly tales.  That was the kind of bike to covet.  Scorpion, for that is what she was finally named became a  dearly cherished amigo.


In the biking community there is a belief that the right riding gear is a matter of life and death.  Seasoned riders will tell you rather spend money on the gear than a doctor.  Looking back, I completely agree with this claim.  

A) Riding Gear:
1 - TPG Firstgear riding jacket (1)
2 - TPG Firstgear pants (1)
3 - Arai Helmet (1)
4 - 1 set of MX long socks, Mart Union (3)
5 - Gaerne riding boots (1)
6 - Riding gloves (2) Summer and Winter/Wet (Richa and Assault)
7 - Kidney belt (1)
8 - EVS Padded shorts (high impact padding for hips, tail-bone and
     thighs) (1)
9 - Assault rain jacket and pants (1)
10-Balaclava (1)
11-T-shirts (3)
12- Blue Jeans (2)
13-Medium Sweater (1)
15-Sunglasses (1) 100% UV rays protection.
16- Pair of Sneekers (tuckies)
17-Sleeping bag, double as blanket and bedsheets (1)
18-Camel water hydrant (3ltrs)

B) Bike Accessories
1- Trax Panniers (1)
2- Tank bag (1)
3- Engine guard (1)
5- Handguards (1)
6- Oxford Heated Grips (1)
7- Zumo GPS (1) and paper maps Southern and East Africa (1)
8-Assorted tool kit.
11-Suzuki oil Filters (2)
12-Protraper Handle bars.

Planning the Route:
Map Showing Possible Route
The countries travelled through include: South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland.

My itinerary:
1- First Leg:  Jozi to Gabarone.
2- Second Leg: Gabarone to Livingstone.
3-Third Leg: Livingstone to Kitwe.
4- Fourth Leg:Kitwe to Mbala.
5-Fifth Leg: Mbala to Ujuji.
5-Six Leg: Ujiji to Bujumbura (Burundi).
6- Seventh Leg: Bujumbura to Kigali (Rwanda).
7-Eight Leg: Kigali to Kampala via Bundibugyo.
8-Ninth Leg: Soroti for Christmas.
 9- Tenth Leg:Soroti to Nairobi
11-Eleventh Leg: Nairobi to Mombasa.
12- Twelfth Leg: Mombasa to Dar es Salaam.
13-Thirteenths Leg: Dar es Salaam to Uyole.
14-Fourteenth Leg: Uyole to Lilongwe.
15-Fifteenth Leg: Lilongwe to Matondo.
16- Sixteenth Leg: Matondo to Maputo.
17- Seventeenth Leg: Maputo to Swaziland.
18- Eighteenth Leg: Swaziland to Jozi (15th Jan 2010).
Note: Sometimes there are great distances between each leg.

Tool Kit:
Surely it will not be possible to take a workshop, but travelling in Africa isn't the same as travelling 'overseas'.  Some modest kit.
  • 14mm, 17mm combo wrench (17 for the oil drain plug).
  • 8mm, 10mm combo wrench
  • 10,12mm (Removes front wheel) combo
  • 22mm small flat wrench (not box end)
  • 24mm small flat wrench axle (not box end)
  • 3mm,4mm,5mm,6mm Allen wrenches
  • Spark plug wrench
  • Tire plug kit.
  • Tire pump with tyre gauge See Foot Pump
  • Roll of electric tape/duck tape
  • Spark plug (2)
  • Spare clutch and break levers (Not sure about this - I have aluminium hand guards)
  • Fuses (couple 10 and 15amps)
  • Chain lub.
  • Tie down straps and assorted ropes
Good health: 
Good health is vital for riding.  It has many faces: mental preparedness; bodily preparedness, which includes physical wellness as well as medical wellness; a First Aid Kit as well as moral support.

Mental Preparedness:
This was necessary.  This had been helped by the prolonged preparation, the awareness and acceptance of the risks involved.  Furthermore, I was partly helped by the moral support of family, friends and well-wishers including the Wilddogs Forum.  This web blog is a way of dealing with this matter.  I am simply saying keep me company. Every time I spoke about this odyssey, there were two types of responses: Lekker! Awesome! Or a silence and questions.  These responses did affect me.  You know my choice..

Bodily Preparedness:
Physical fitness is an absolute must.  I am an avid jogger and prepared myself for a long time.  I was grateful for this fitness particularly when I was ridding the Western part of Tanzania.

First Aid Kit: 
I paid my doctor a visit for a check-up and to obtain the prescribed medicines for my First Aid Kit. Let it be known that items are chosen according to their relevance. 

Travel Documents and readying the Bike:
  • SA Driver's Licence
  • International Driver's Licence
  • Travel Insurance
  • Motor Vehicle papers
  • Renewed Road Licence
  • Service Bike (Pom).  I wish to maintain that I have refused to change the basic structure of the bike: the front forks, suspension, etc.  However, I changed the front and rear tyres to Anakee 2.  It was the worse choice of tyres because of the slippery volcanic soil in Western Tanzania.
  • Change the handle bars to suit my highest while standing on the bike -- eish 6.2" is not a joke.
  • Insurance cover, I had none.
If there is anything I think each rider deserves, is to train for riding on different terrains.  There is no harm in doing so.  I went to riding schools Zwartkops Gauteng: BMW Academy and Honda Academy for off-road skills: Adventure Honda Training  Photos Honda Adventure Academy.

Walking with Scorpion in gear: clutch and brake to control movement.  I was grateful for this exercise; I had to walk the bike many times.  The balancing excise was really helpful.

Balancing on a bike, we take for granted.  But it is a very good skill to learn.

More on this balancing manoeuvres.  This time riding with one leg as seen in the photo, see lady behind me.

And sometimes we returned to listen to our instructors.

More on balancing. You had to change to the left side of the bike while it was in motion. Scary at first but possible.
Riding Standing on the bike. A relevant skill on long trips.  It was a very helpful skill to relax oneself.  I was often in the saddle for many hours.

Johann our chief instructor.  Doesn't he look like a couch  for bikes?

Using rear the brake.  Malibu on the Wild Dog Forum was my instructor.
Using the front brakes.  Braking and the manner you execute this manoeuvre was lekker for me.  It is the best thing I learnt  as well as riding through sand.

The final training was on Friday, 20th Nov 2009.  I say last because this was on the eve of my departure. This advanced riding course turned out to be a blessing since, by some good fortune, it was a rainy and windy day ideal for training. -- different road conditions. The other important thing was a basic First Aid training, that is, what you should do in event of an accident.  Suffice to say train to improve your riding skills. Thank to the team at BMW Rider Academy for the training and the good food.

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  1. This is so wonderful! Courage! I have no doubt this adventure will be so nice in its all aspects. You have God's blessings upon you. It is truly inspiring in many ways! All the best! You are in my prayers!

  2. Thank you very much for your kind words.


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