Archive for the ‘f800gs’ Category

It’s been a few months now since I have returned to the UK after my trip down Africa. I have now finally settled down in Kent and all my computers are set up and stuff … so when I’m bored I’m slowly doing some videos of the trip … the two most recent ones are Ethiopia and Malawi … others will follow soon, enjoy !

Advertisements

Well, I guess you can call it the last border … that is the UK border, getting my bike back into the country and what a mission !

First of all, the scheduled departure has been delayed from South Africa several times. First of all, they had too many passengers and they couldn’t load the bike. Then obviously the dreaded snow in the UK and with Heathrow closed it meant another few days delay … but eventually it arrived in the UK on the 23rd of this month.

Eager to get back on the bike, I went straight to Heathrow’s Cargo section. On arrival I was told that the bike needs to clear customs first … no problem, done it about 15 times before. “Where is customs?”, I asked … “Their are no customs here” … what ? Heathrow that doesn’t have customs ? It’s all up in Manchester or somewhere apparently.

I was then told, I will need to use an agent and then and only then customs clearance may take about 2 days. The worst border in Africa, which is probably Egypt took about 4 hours … now they are telling me the UK customs take 2 days. Also, I can’t do it myself like I always did, I have to pay someone to do it …. just a way of making money I think.

Anyway, with no choice, I had to use an agent which charges £40 just to pick up some documents and another £45 for customs clearance. I was also told not to hang around as it wouldn’t happen on the same day, so very disappointed I went back to London again.

Luckily the next morning I got a call from the agent to tell me customs have cleared the bike and I am now free to go pick it up. Total charges were about £190 which makes this officially the most expensive border of the whole trip. For that price, luckily the staff at Virgin Atlantic cargo did uncrate it for me and disposed of all the packaging material (as seen in the photo above) …

Was good, but bloody freezing to be back on the bike again !

Well, it almost feels like it. Back in London, UK and I am absolutely freezing. The bike is still in sunny South Africa due to board a Virgin Atlantic flight on Monday night, so should have my wheels back my next week. I also ordered some handlebar muffs, I do not care if it looks stupid, I am not going to have freezing fingers again this year !!!

I still don’t have a place to stay in London, living with friends at the moment, but as soon as I find something, I will start editing videos of the trip. I have in the meantime, uploaded all the photos which can be found here: http://bit.ly/fFoGVB

I have also uploaded some “unedited” clips to Youtube …

for more … check out my Youtube channel : http://www.youtube.com/user/andreels

I left the lovely Madidi Lodge in Lilongwe, Malawi for only a short little 140km ride to the Zambia border.

Upon my arrival as usual, you get overwhelmed by all the money changers, this time, I am ready and equipped with an iPhone app with all the currencies, bargained with them and changed my 11000 Malawi Kwacha to Zambia Kwacha.

After they eventually left me alone, I walked over to immigration, stamped out of Malawi, got my Carnet stamped and rode off into Zambia. Same process, immigration, passport stamped, but this time it took a little while to get the carnet stamped. Mostly due to the fact that this is now African time, the customs official is there, but he doesn’t seem to be bothered to do any work.

He finally came round to stamping my carnet, 50000 kwacha please … what ? why, what for ? “Carbon emissions tax” he said … hmmmmm, first I have ever heard of this, but then again, what do you do, pay up and get the hell out of that hot smelly office.

As I rode off into Zambia, I noticed quite a few changes. Kids do not really wave, they just stare … goats and chickens everywhere. Chickens must be the dumbest animals in the world. Instead of running off the road, they always decide with little wings flapping to run straight out in front of you over the road … stupid ! Only good for eggs and chicken burgers 🙂

Very first town you get is Chipata, BP petrol station, Shoprite and Barclays bank ATM … decent town. I stopped for some cash and then headed straight for Mama Rulas, a camp site and B&B just outside Chipata.

I was the only one there … friendly staff, especially Raphael at the bar. Also the first time I could find a Black Label .. so immediately went for a Schweppes Granadilla (also first time I had this in ages) and a Black Label. Set up my tent, got changed and back at the bar for some more drinks …. ohhhh Fanta grape as well, yummy !

SAM 1071

At Mama Rulas in Zambia, bar in the background and about to pitch the tent

Just as I thought I got the whole place to myself, a big overland adventure truck pulled in with 21 foreign “teenage” passengers … damn !!

While these overlanders prepared their own food, I ordered a Rump Steak and Chips from the menu … massive compliment to the chef, probably one of the best steaks I have had in my life .. and massive portions as well … all for only around £10, good value ! Great camp site, big place, so was well away from all the other campers, lots of toilets and hot showers ! Definitely recommended !

Next morning I set off for Lusaka, the Zambian capital. I normally use my GPS to find places to stay at my destination using Tracks4Africa. One place that caught my attention right away was Southern Sun Hotel, so I thought I would go check it out.

SAM 1138

At the hotel in Lusaka

Arrived in Lusaka and again, nice city. They also have a few malls with the normal shops we are used to in South Africa .. they also had an Ocean Basket, I knew where I was having my dinner that night …. As programmed, the GPS took me to Southern Sun Hotel Ridgeway. They were willing to do me a discount at $130 per night. Quick glimpse over the shoulder of the check-in staff, I saw their normal rate is $280 … what the hell, you only live once, Do you accept VISA ? Ok, I’ll take it .. in fact I ended staying for 2 nights 🙂

SAM 1131

After a swim at the Hotel

Next morning, I went to Munda Wanga Park (http://gpslog.cc/-15.5609,28.2719) , a local Wild Life Sanctuary, most of the animals are rehabilitated and released into the wild. They said 14h00 is feeding time, so wanted to check that out.

SAM 1079

SAM 1082

SAM 1095

SAM 1097

SAM 1112

SAM 1114

Some of the animals at Munda Wanga Park

Last night in Lusaka, I decided rather to go out for dinner (Ocean Basket and some Windhoek lagers like last night), I will stay and have some food in the hotel bar … not the best I have had, but ok … I also enjoyed a few Mosi’s, local award winning Zambian lager which is not bad. I like to try all the local beers wherever I go.

This morning I got up early, went for breakfast at 7am, packed the bike and set off for Livingstone. Good roads, nice ride, although I was a little tired, sometimes struggling to stay awake. I was watched a movie the night before as the hotel had all the DSTV movie channels. Stopped halfway at this “unfinished” but still inviting lodge next to the road near Choma for some chicken and chips, coke and a muffin … and then pushed on towards Livingstone. They also did a brand new road just before Livingstone … beautiful and smooth, so thought I would stop and take a photo for you guys … and to change the playlist on my iPod 🙂

SAM 1139

The beautifully smooth road to Livingstone

I headed for Fawlty Towers (http://gpslog.cc/-17.8545,25.8545) backpackers in Livingstone, nice location on the main road, but yet still very shielded and behind guarded gates. Right opposite are a few shops, a Shoprite and most importantly an Ocean Basket again which I will definitely visit for dinner …

SAM 1140

SAM 1141

SAM 1142

Fawlty Towers Backpackers, Livingstone, Zambia

I will stay here for about 2 nights … and then head off towards Botswana … update later.

F800GS Problems

Posted: November 20, 2010 in africa overland, f800gs, General
Tags: ,

Looking at my blog stats, I have noticed the many readers find my blog by searching for “F800GS problems” …

I would just like to say, apart from the problems in Egypt and Sudan … which was only a faulty side stand switch, most probably because it once fell over its own side stand in Egypt, this bike has been absolutely brilliant !! It was only my own fault that I didn’t eliminate the side stand switch earlier.

It just goes and goes, eats up african roads for breakfast … I love this bike and my confidence has definitely been restored. It has now almost taken me to South Africa and I am 100% confident it will take me back up again if I wanted to …. great bike … and it looks better dirty ! 🙂

SAM 1044

The beast

Sorry for the long post .. going to cover Malawi in one post …

Tanzania – Malawi border was easy going … except for all these money changers at the borders, but I have found a way of dealing with them now. It is not me who wants the cash, they want to get rid of their cash, so I tell them, I will do them a favor and take it off their hands, but at my rate or leave it … they are not sure what to do then 🙂

Anyway, Malawi was windy … as soon as I entered Malawi, on a detour off the main road due to road works, I spotted a white pick up with a South African, CEY registration .. I stopped next to the tinted window and they stopped as well. It turned out to be a Dutch couple traveling up from South Africa to Kenya, assuming they bought or rented the South African registered pick up.

They asked me how many liters of petrol I have left as there is no petrol in Malawi .. no ways … What the heck, Malawi ?

With this in mind, I tried to keep my petrol consumption as low as possible, but the constant head wind made it a little difficult. I stopped at the first town, Karonga, to get some cash from the ATM. I went to both petrol stations in town, none had petrol .. but I was approached by some guys selling on the black market .. almost double I had to pay per liter, I think almost £2 per liter, Malawi is going to be expensive !!

SAM 1034

I made my way to Sangilo Lodge (http://gpslog.cc/-10.5173,34.2174) run by Mark Stephenson and probably known by some adventure motorcyclists from Long Way Down as Ewan, Charley and the gang all stayed there as well. I initially only went to check it out and for some lunch, but upon my arrival, Winston, the barman, made me feel so welcome. With the beautiful setting and great service, I ended up staying 2 nights.

SAM 0991

SAM 0992

View from the bar at Sangilo Lodge

SAM 0995

Lunch at Sangilo Lodge .. everything is home made.

SAM 0999

View from my balcony

SAM 1024

Watching the sunrise at Sangilo Lodge

Mark, who is also an motorcyclists said that if I wanted a good ride, I should go over the gravel mountain pass towards Rumphi via Livingstonia, instead of taking the tarmac road down to Mzuzu. I was convinced … so when I left after my second day, it was exactly what I did. The pass consists of 22 tight turns with straight drops down the mountain side (http://gpslog.cc/-10.6082,34.0926) … exciting and beautiful stuff.

SAM 1036

Riding over the pass towards Livingstonia

SAM 1038

SAM 1041

Livingstonia, Malawi

The coming down on the other side, was not so good though … loads of tight bendy bits, but instead of rocks, mostly sand and some thick sand … as you all know sand is my favourite !! 🙂 70km of this all the way to Rumphi (http://gpslog.cc/-11.0210,33.8631) only to find out they have no petrol as well … c’mon Malawi. I had 66 miles of petrol left, so if I ride carefully, I can make Mzuzu where I should hopefully find petrol.

SAM 1043

SAM 1044

Having a Fanta at the petrol station where there is no petrol, Rumphi, Malawi

No petrol in Mzuzu … all of 6 petrol stations, nothing, I had to get petrol, I will not make it to any other town with the little I have left … I mentioned the “black market” to one attendant at a BP and she immediately said she can call someone .. so I waited with a Carlsberg in hand .. yes they sell ice cold Carlsberg on the petrol station forecourt.

She came back within minutes saying the guy is behind the station, riding around I found a man, with several 20liter containers with petrol. He even wore a BP cap …. even though he promised he doesn’t work for BP and was just passing by .. whatever ! 🙂 anyway, he sold me 20 liters for 8500 kwacha .. again almost double, but what can I do.

I left Mzuzu on the M5 along Lake Malawi .. what an awesome road .. loads of sweeping bends, wonderful ride. I stopped at Chintheche Inn (http://gpslog.cc/-11.8822,34.1689) for lunch, very nice cheese burger and chips topped off with a chocolate cake for desert. The southern hemisphere is definitely better than the north, at least in Africa 🙂

SAM 1054

SAM 1053

At Chintheche Inn

SAM 1056

Desert

I got an SMS from Lindsay, saying they are at Kende Beach only about 10km from me, so after lunch I went over there … thick thick beach sand .. dropped the bike 3 times in probably only 20meters. No photos, but have it all on video … will post all the videos one day.

I decided to stay the night, it was so hot and sticky … I could not even bother pitching my tent .. so I got a beach cottage instead. Again, early the yesterday morning, I packed up and headed for Lilongwe, the Malawi capital.

SAM 1057

View from my Beach Cottage, Kende Beach, Malawi

SAM 1060

View of Kende Beach from the Lake

I arrived in Lilongwe … quite a long push, but when I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised how nice it is. I also found petrol all the way from Kende Beach to Lilongwe, so I guess southern Malawi is ok with petrol. While at Sangilo Lodge, I saw an advert for a lodge in Lilongwe, but it wasn’t on my GPS, so I stopped at the local mall, again to get some cash and asked a security guard where this Madidi Lodge was, it wasn’t even 1km from the mall, great location, with good directions from the security guard, I was there in no time.

I arrived at Madidi Lodge (http://gpslog.cc/-13.9777,33.7510) around late afternoon, from such a friendly smile from the security guard (Bester)at the gate to a warm welcome by barman, I felt right at home. Beautiful place with en-suite rooms, the price I paid included dinner and breakfast, well worth it … had a lovely stay. Bester, the security guard also washed my bike during the night 🙂

SAM 1067

Room at Madidi Lodge

This morning, I quickly went to Game (it’s a South African store chain which seem to be all over Southern African countries as well – www.game.co.za), bought some chain cleaner, shower gel and injector cleaner … filled up at the local BP station, came back to the Lodge to clean the chain, pack up and head for the Zambia border …. Malawi is a beautiful country, but Zambia awaits.

We arrived in Kigoma a few days ago and whallah … Visa ATM machine 🙂 Lindsay said we should maybe go to the port first to find out how much a ferry would be, then we know how much money to get, so off we went …

At the ferry port, we found out there is no ferry, but sometimes there are other cargo boats going up and down the Lake which might be able to take us. They said we should come back tomorrow again to find out if there are any boats going …

SAM 0787

Waiting at the ferry/marine port

We went back to the bank, I drew some much needed cash, then we set off for a place called the Hilltop Hotel. Very nice place, but pricey, room for double are $90pp and single $75, if I remember correctly. They also do not allow you to camp on the grounds. We decided to have lunch instead and then off to a beach camp site. Lunch was good, I had a full 3 course, Soup, Salad for starters, Chicken curry for main and Banana custards for desert.

Someone also told us that the owners of this Hilltop Hotel have their own boat and should be able to take us and the bikes to Zambia .. we went to see the manager and after a few phone calls, they came up with a lovely sum of $6500 to take us to Mpulungu, Zambia. He must be out of his mind !!! We kindly refused the offer and off we went.

We set off to a camp site a few kilometers away, called Jacobsen Guest House and Camp … nicely tucked away and what a beautiful little place. We were the only ones there … they provide lanterns and firewood for you at night … very lovely hosts from Norway … great setting, right on the beach, our own private beach to ourselves.

SAM 0790

Camping at Jacobsen Guest House, Kigoma, Tanzania

The water is so clear, you can walk in with water under your chin and still see your feet.

The next day, we packed up all our gear and headed back to the port. Lindsay then found out, there is a boat running to Congo and then we can catch another boat from there down to Zambia. I was not very keen on that idea. They also told him, there is a boat running the next day to Zambia, a cargo ship, so we might have to sleep on the deck somewhere, but they are willing to take us for about $50 each. So with this in mind, we went back to Jacobsen to spent another night, waiting for the boat the next day.

SAM 0791

SAM 0798

SAM 0827

SAM 0841

Some photos of our private beach

Later that day, a South African couple arrived at the camp site with a massive Mercedes overland truck. They are retired and spending some time travelling .. very nice. They told me that they are also taking that B8 – Western route down Tanzania … so I then decided on my own that I am riding down Tanzania, screw the boats and ferries. If anything really bad happens to me, at least I know that this couple in their big truck will be a few days behind me.

This morning Lindsay said they are leaving at about noon … assuming to the port to catch the boat to Zambia, so I told him, they can go, I am going to ride after which he replied they are also riding … they’ve apparently decided that yesterday already ? We go no real communication going on anymore 🙂

My plan was to leave early tomorrow morning, just incase the roads are really bad, so I can reach the first town Mpanda about 350km away. I now assume they have decided the same … as they seem to stay another night as well .. haven’t packed up yet.

Kenyan border was by far the easiest and quickest border crossing ever … 1..2..3.. and we were done and we were on our way. At first I loved it .. off road, Kenya, wildlife, Africa baby !!

SAM 0641 992x558

At the Kenyan border, Moyale

All that soon came crashing down … who ever thought they could call this a road … I am sure the surface of Mars is better than this .. corrugation, rocks, mud, sand, more rocks, some boulders … just constant, never ending .. and almost 500km of this, nightmare ! About 100km into this road, I was in so much pain, ankles, wrists, back, just everything … and to top it off, I started developing a nasty cough, tight chest and a headache … not the best place or time to catch a cold.

SAM 0644 992x558

SAM 0645 992x558

SAM 0646 992x558

On the good section of the Moyale – Marsabit road … soon to get much worse

While in the camp site in Moyale, we met an Australian / ex-South African (Paul and Jan) couple also on bikes which did this road with us … Jan had a few falls and she was shaken up bit as I understand, so they decided to put her bike on a truck all the way to Isiolo while we carried on. Pete and his Land Rover have completely left us in his dust and we haven’t seem them the rest of the day. It was only Lindsay, Delilah, Andrey (Russian), Paul (Aussie) and I left to try and reach Marsabit in one piece.

We eventually gave up to pure exhaustion and pain around 40km before Marsabit, around 210km into the road and decided to stay over in a small village as the sun was setting. All day going on this road and by this time, my head was pounding, chest sore and I was boiling from the inside out … feeling very rough. The “hotel” consisted of just a room with 3 beds, no shower, toilet or running water. Lindsay and Delilah decided to sleep outside in their tent. Paul (the Aussie) realized he has completely lost his bash plate on the bike … completely missing, including his toolbox on the front .. didn’t even notice it .. he ought he just went over a big rock 🙂

Next morning early we left for Marsabit … it was so misty, you couldn’t even see 10m in front of you, no photos sorry, but got it on video … will do a post on youtube one day.

Reached Marsabit, found Pete and the Landy there, had some breakfast and by this time I was ready to pass out … this flu has got me bad … I was wet and cold from the rain as well, not going well for me 🙂

We all (5 bikes) mutually decided that it would be better for us to put the bikes on a truck for the next leg of the journey to Isiolo or at least until we find some decent road … the bikes is just taking too much of a pounding and of course I welcomed this decision as I didn’t know if my body could take another day of these roads, I can barely pack my pannier without being out of breath.

While on this truck journey, I sometimes thought the bikes are even worse off … and maybe they were, all bikes probably suffered more damage on the back of the truck then on the first leg … 3 bikes with bend side stands, 1 or 2 bikes with badly scratched paintwork … nightmare ride. We eventually reached Isiolo well after sunset .. probably around midnight actually .. off loaded the bikes and stayed the night in a hotel .. which was quite decent .. I had an en-suite shower/toilet with running hot water which is a luxury in this part of the world.

Today we are heading off to Jungle Junction in Nairobi for some repairs on the bikes …

We left Debra Markos, Sunday morning the 17th, hoping to be in Addis Ababa later that afternoon, well didn’t really go as planned.

On the way there, once again beautiful scenery, some dodgy roads and lots of people. It still amazes me how quickly people appear out of nowhere when you stop next to the road.

SAM 0600 992x558

SAM 0601 992x558

SAM 0609 992x558

Scenery on the way to Addis

We went up a mountain and down again over the Blue Nile Gorge, on the second ascend up the mountains we went over a rocky gravel track, Delilah following shortly behind Lindsay meant she couldn’t accelerate out of trouble hence coming off … not too bad though, just a slow fall. Andrey (http://www.andreymoto.com the russian travelling with us on a R1200GSA) also came off twice on this gravel road … no one seriously injured though.

SAM 0606 992x558

On the old Blue Nile Gorge bridge. New one behind.

SAM 0610 992x558

The gravel track in the background where Andrey and Delilah came off

By this time Pete’s Land Rover started overheating … this went on for at least a few kilometres. After one petrol station, Lindsay said that I should go ahead while they still waited to fill up the bikes. I left, rode for about 50km thinking they are still behind somewhere, stopped, waited for a while and then I received a phone call from Lindsay telling me the Landy has finally given up completely.

I had a choice to go back 50km or go another 89km to Addis Ababa. I decided to carry on to Addis on my own.

Once I arrived in Addis, the sun quickly set and soon it was dark. I pointed the GPS to the Hilton Hotel (yeah I know … took a chance) and they wanted 400 USD per night, unbelievable. My mobile phone also stopped working, so I couldn’t get in touch with Lindsay or the others. I left the Hilton and the road quickly turned to nothing and no lights, am I heading out of the city ? I turned around and pulled into the first hotel I saw, the Jupiter Hotel International, 100 USD per night … well what could I do, I paid up and stayed a night in luxury 🙂

Pete has a satellite phone, so I could send him a message via a website as soon as I settled in the hotel which had free wifi. He had to be put on a truck and was driven to Wims Holland House in Addis. Lindsay also have not had much luck, he suffered a blow out on his front tyre 25km before Addis and also had to be put on a truck.

Next morning I checked out and headed for Wims Holland House (http://www.wimshollandhouseaddis.nl/) myself. What a nice place, beer on tap, again, very nice food and excellent hosts. It is run my Wim (dutch guy) and his Ethiopian wife, Rahal (I think). They have a very nice setup and even gave me an old used front tyre that a previous overlander left behind to replace the badly worn front tyre I have, luckily no blow out for me … but it was close.

SAM 0614 992x558

SAM 0615 992x558

Wims Holland House, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

SAM 0611 992x558

My badly worn tyre and the used tyre Wim has given me

SAM 0620 992x558

SAM 0621 992x558

New and used tyres fitted this morning …

This morning, after breakfast, I replaced my back tyre with a brand new TKC80 which Pete has very generously carried for me in the Landy since Egypt. I also fitted the used front tyre Wim has given me which will hopefully last me until Nairobi, Kenya where I should be able to find a new one.

SAM 0619 992x558

Robert and Clary cleaning their truck

We also met a dutch couple, Robert and Clary (http://doubledutchworldsafari.com), living in Australia travelling around the world in about 7 years .. amazing. They also have an amazing truck, from microwave, toilet, bbq, shower, fridge/freezer all inside the truck … brilliant.

We have been in Ethiopia far too long and I am a little concerned that I will not make South Africa on time … I surely hope so. At least Wims Holland House is very nice and is a very enjoyable stay. Still waiting for Pete’s Land Rover to be fixed and then hopefully we will head off the Kenya very soon.

…. with such helpful service from your local BMW Motorrad dealer? They are such a great help when you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with a bike they call “unstoppable” …. Isn’t the GS range of motorcycles designed for these sort of conditions?

They are bloody useless … BMW London Battersea / Park Lane will never ever see me again. The bike is nice and luckily in the end it was a small problem I could fix myself, but when asking my local dealer for some advice or help with the recent problems I had on this trip … this is the reply I get:

Good Morning Mr Els

Thank you for your email, Dean is unavailable this week so I have replied in his absence.

Your machine records show the fuel pump electronics were replaced under your machines warranty.

You could encounter many problems on a trip such as yours, unfortunately none of the team at Battersea have direct experience of using a machine in these conditions.

Kind regards

Paul Wheatley
BMW Battersea Motorrad.

Wow … thanks, that is great service and support !! 😦