I’d been home less than two weeks when I got an email and call from Kevin explaining that Dom, who was due to act as Support Driver on the forthcoming Africa Trip had hurt his back and had to pull out at the last minute. A quick discussion with Tracy resulted in me checking to see if the dates would work for me to step in and help out. I’d got various appointments coming up, and couldn’t fly out until 15th August at the earliest. When the response to my question
What’s the latest I would have to fly out? came back as
15th August, it seemed to be fate, and so I agreed.
The job broke down into two major parts – first would be flying out to Cape Town, South Africa and picking up the support vehicle which would be shipped from the UK, then driving it all the way up to Nairobi, Kenya whilst checking out the route and various hotels etc on the way up. The second part would be supporting the group – 18 customers on 17 bikes, plus Kevin and Julia on their bikes – as they followed the route from Nairobi back down to Cape Town. I would then fly home whilst Kevin would take on the role of Support Driver for the 2-week Garden Route trip which followed on from the main trip – I couldn’t do this as I needed to get home to fly to Africa with Tracy!
This blog covers the first part of the trip, as I am on my own attending to the simple job of driving a Ford Transit over 4,000 miles through South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and into Kenya. What could possibly go wrong?!
The day before I left to support the Globebusters’ 2019 Africa trip was my birthday, so Tracy booked us into the Governers’ House hotel close to the airport where we could have a nice dinner and relax before I had to catch my early morning flight. I was surprised that evening when we went to the bar and were joined by our good friends Anne and Andrew and Simon and Dianne. We had a very enjoyable meal with a nice bottle of wine before retiring for the night. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the relaxing night I was hoping for, as I woke in the middle of the night feeling decidedly unwell, hot and sweating profusely, for a moment thinking that I may have to call Kevin and Julia and apologise for not being able to catch my flight to Cape Town. Fortunately the feeling passed and I was able to get another couple of hours sleep before getting up once more to make my way to the airport.
Tracy dropped me off and I took my luggage inside the terminal and to the check-in desk ready to drop my bag off. For the first time ever I had my hand luggage weighed as well as my large yellow check-in bag, and that’s where the next problem appeared. Unknown to me there is a limit on the weight of carry-on bags and despite mine being the regulation size, it was some 8Kg overweight, due in no small part to all the electronic goodies I was carrying – a heavy Globebusters laptop, 2 GPS units, camera, satellite phone, various chargers, etc etc. All of which cannot be put in check-in luggage due to their lithium batteries. I tried to re-arrange things, putting the small number of clothes that were in my carry-on into my check-in bags and trying again, but was still almost 5Kg overweight. I smiled, said I could do no more, and waited. The check-in stewardess initially said there was nothing she could do, I wouldn’t be able to take it onboard, so I explained again about its contents and waited her out. Eventually she relented, put a label saying
overweight on my carry-on and handed me my boarding cards. Once through security I removed the label and was good to go.
The first flight to Amsterdam was very full, which was probably the reason for the zealous checking of carry-on luggage (although as usual, I was carrying less than most of the other passengers!). The transfer to the Cape Town flight was simple and I had no further problems, and during the very long 11-hour flight managed to watch several films including Captain Marvel, Aquaman and Kursk. I didn’t get any sleep as the flight was due to arrive early evening and wanted to keep myself on the correct time body-clock-wise. Once we’d landed I collected my bags and made my way through immigration and customs without issue, then found my pick-up driver who took my to the hotel, where I arrived around 11pm and went straight to bed.
The following morning I was up and showered early, then had breakfast at 7:30am ready for an early start on the jobs for the day. Only I couldn’t get the early start I wanted, as the room safe was locked and I had to wait until after 9am for the hotel owner to arrive with a key to open it. With the stuff I didn’t need to take with me safely locked away, I took a taxi to the freight office, where I made contact with our agent and in no time at all was in receipt of the Carnet de Passage document and the keys to the Globebusters’ Transit Van. I checked it over to ensure it was in good condition, then drove away from the agent, the whole process taking less than half an hour. My jobs including visiting the local bike dealers for the bikes needing servicing at the end of the trip (KTM, Triumph and BMW) to provisionally reserve workshop time and to get contact details for when we were heading back to Cape Town, and with the KTM dealer closest to the freight office, that was my first port-of-call. Next up was Triumph, which was further out of town and where I met the owner, Bob, who I chatted with whilst they compiled the spares and supplies (oils, WD40, chain-lube, etc) that I needed. A stop at a Midas store – the South African version of Halfords – for some more supplies was next before I made my way back into the traffic in town and on to the BMW dealership. Once there I got a call from GB HQ asking what time I expected to be at Karoo, the rental bike agency and where I was picking up the tyres from, which was the next place on my visit list as it was a little out of the way. Had it not been for the GPS waypoint I’d never had found it as it was in a one-storey warehouse building in the middle of a large roundabout with no obvious signs, but I did and shortly after arriving I’d loaded the 22 tyres into the van, almost completely filling it. I was to drop these off at one of the lodges in Namibia where we would then fit them to the bikes that needed them on the way back down. With that job done, I made contact with the guy Kevin had been
talking to about getting a box fitted around the compressor in the back of the van. When it had been delivered by Ford, Kevin was on the China trip and so didn’t have time to check it over, discovering too late that the compressor had been fitted in a vulnerable place on the rear offside wheel arch. He had found a guy on Facebook who made cabinets for motorhomes and caravans, and had been in contact with him to see if he could fit a box around the compressor to protect it. When I got him on the ‘phone, it took a while before he realized who and what I was talking about. Then he explained he was out of town and couldn’t help. I asked if he knew anyone who might be able to, and he gave me the number of another guy who ran a company called Razorback who make canopies for pick-up trucks and do some conversion for overlanding vehicles. So I called him, only to be told they had finished for the day and weren’t due in over the weekend (it was now late afternoon on Friday). I explained my predicament – that I had to be on the road no later than 11am the following day – and he said to turn up at their premises at 8am and they’d see what they could do.
With that sorted and all the shops now closed, I made my way via the Commodore Hotel (where we’re staying on our return) to check it out, then back to the Carpe Diem Lodge, where I was staying. My next problem came when trying to find somewhere to park the van near the lodge. The road outside was very narrow – only about 3inches wider than the van was long – and with parked vehicles along one side. After a very lengthy 20-point turn I managed to turn the van around and parked some way down the hill and walked back to the lodge to drop my things off in my room and send an update to Kevin and Julia before heading out for dinner. I found a lovely little Thai restaurant on the sea front a short walk from the hotel and enjoyed my dinner outside despite the cool night air. My first impressions of Cape Town, having seen it mostly from the seat of the van, were that it was all very familiar – a modern city, with the usual traffic problems but these were made easier by driving on the left. There were plenty of white faces and everyone spoke English, so it didn’t feel at all like Africa. The waterfront area (near the Commodore) looked particularly attractive, with lively-looking bars and plenty of restaurants.
I did have one little adventure during the day when driving back through the city on the way to the BMW dealership. At most sets of traffic lights there were various vendors selling stuff to the waiting vehicles – everything from racks of magazines, large maps, hats of various styles and other general goods. Whilst waiting in a queue one of the hat vendors started pointing at the front offside headlight of the van, so I wound my window down to enquire what he was looking at. He said he was admiring the UK numberplate and that he wanted to give me a hat –
for you, I charge nothing – and promptly shoved one through the open window. Spotting the opportunity for some entertainment, I placed it on the dashboard and thanked him, at which point he asked if I was married. I replied I was, and he gave ne another hat
no charge, then I said I’d got kids and he gave me another few hats
no charge. By now I’d got quite a pile on the dashboard and was keeping one eye on the traffic in front which had moved away through the now green traffic light. Without being obvious, I slipped the van in gear and then, after the next hat was passed to me
no charge, let out the clutch and shot forwards, leaving the vendor shocked and running after me! I knew I wouldn’t get through the lights before they changed back, but made it look like I was going to jump them, then stopped and got the stack of hats ready to hand back as the panting vendor reached my window. I smiled and said
next time, charge for the hats, or be prepared to have given them away or run faster!. He smiled back, took the hats back and wished me a happy stay.
The following morning I woke and had an early breakfast before driving across town to the industrial estate where Razorback are based. I showed Gideon, the sales manager, the compressor and explained what I wanted – a box around it to protect it when bikes are loaded into the van – and he got their senior technician to come over and have a look. He took out his tape measure and set to work, whilst I was ushered into the waiting room and given a stack of bike magazines to read. Whilst I was waiting, the other partner in the business, Juan, who I’d spoken to on the phone turned up and we got chatting about the trip. He owns a GS and has ridden extensively around South Africa and into Mozambique, but has not been as far north as I’m heading. At 11:30am the box was complete and looked particularly impressive, made from aluminium sheet and with a hinged lid, and all for the princely sum of 2,500 Rand (about £150).
With the last of my jobs in Cape Town done, it was time to fill up with diesel and Ad Blue and get on the road north. Only that was much easier said than done. The Transit, being a Euro-6 model, requires Ad Blue in addition to diesel. This additive is poured into a separate tank next to the fuel filler and is injected into the exhaust to reduce emissions, and is available at all fuel stations across Europe. I’d been assured it was available all over South Africa, only this proved to be incorrect. It wasn’t available at any of the 5 fuel stations I tried, and no-one had even heard of it. I went online to try and find somewhere stocking it, but drew a blank. I tried a few more garages with no success, so then rang Kevin and Julia back at GB HQ to see if they could find somewhere, as my phone’s data allowance ran out. I then drove to the Toyota and Ford dealers to see if they could help (Toyota because they have a lot of diesel vehicles on the roads here), but they were both closed for the weekend. It was now 1:30pm and I was getting further behind schedule, when Julia got back to me with the GPS waypoints of 3 Engen fuel stations that allegedly stocked Ad Blue. I high-tailed it to the first one, which did have some stock, but only 2 x 3.5 litre bags of the stuff. Both of these went into the van’s Ad Blue tank without any sign of filling it up (it doesn’t have a guage, and the van won’t run should it run empty, hardly a good design!). The second Engen garage didn’t have any. The 3rd was on the way north some 150miles out of town, but fortunately also had some stock. Again, just 2 x 3.5litre bags. The van took all of the 3rd bag and half of the last one before it was full. As the tank carries 21 litres and I’d put in around 13 litres, that meant it only had 8 litres in when shipped out – not a good start!
Now the problem was going to be getting enough Ad Blue to drive the 6,000 miles or so to Nairobi and then the 6,000 miles back again! After exchanging messages with GB HQ back in the UK where they’d been looking online we made the decision for me to head to Springbok some 350 miles north of Cape Town, then head on to Uppington a further 200 miles away in the morning, where hopefully I could find a stockist.
I drove on and stopped at a Whimpy for a salad lunch when I needed fuel, reasoning that as it was now quite late I needed to eat in case I couldn’t get anything later. The landscape changed as I got further away from Cape Town, passing through shanty towns on very straight tarmac roads which undulated gently before reaching the foothills of the mountains where the odd bend broke up the monotony. Thank goodness the Transit was fitted with cruise control, which at least meant I could stretch my ankles preventing them from cramping up as I plodded on for hour after hour. I reached the Faithful Guest Lodge in Springbok around 8:30pm having driven the last 100 miles in the pitch dark. The hotel was not of the usual Globebusters standard, having no Internet, no shower (just a bath), no restaurant and an uncomfortable bed. Then I discovered my shower gel had leaked inside my washbag, covering everything else inside with a soapy gloop!
The following morning I got up early after a restless night and had the full breakfast – a small bowl of stale cereal followed by an egg and a strip of bacon – then got back on the road by 8am. The roads were once again straight and uninteresting, passing through scrubland for most of the way, with occasional small towns with boxy concrete houses. There were a few cattle and some sheep, but mostly nothing. I arrived in Uppington around 11:45am, the town situated on the Orange River and famous for its wines – the vines started appearing close to town but looked dry and dead as it’s
winter (just 26degrees and sunny!). The town was modern with shops and armed with the coordinates Julia had sent me I headed for the Engen fuel station. As with most of the others I’d stopped at en-route they’d never heard of Ad Blue and didn’t have any in stock. The final set of coordinates were for Orange River Trucking, but when I got there it looked like an office block and was all closed, it being Sunday. Disappointed, I headed for the KFC I’d seen where I could have a brew and connect to the Internet. Here I could FaceTime Kevin and Julia to discuss our options, and after a short discussion we decided I should get a room in town and head back out to Orange River Trucking in the morning. According to Ford, the Transit should do around 5,000 miles on a tank of Ad Blue under normal conditions, so we would need at least another 40 litres if I was to be able to drive up to Nairobi and back to Cape Town – and I wouldn’t get to Nairobi on the tank I’d filled yesterday. With both Toyota and Ford dealers in town, I also had a couple of other options to try, and Kevin was also in contact with dealers in Windhoek, Namibia and Nairobi to see if they could get some. With the plan formulated, I headed over to the Desert Palace Hotel and Casino (just £30/night) where I checked in to a very nice room. I then unloaded the van and reorganized the contents so that I knew where everything was, before showering and attending to my laundry, then headed to the on-site restaurant for dinner. Despite the hotel being quite nice, the restaurant stank of smoke which was a tad off-putting and reminded me of the old days before the smoking ban was introduced back home. I ordered a spicy Penne Arrabiata which turned out to be VERY SPICY!
I slept OK and was up for breakfast at 7:30am, then out to the Ford dealer – who had heard of Ad Blue but didn’t have any; the Toyota dealer – never heard of it and finally Orange River Trucking who not only had heard of it but were stockists! It seems that some of their trucks are Euro-6 compliant and cause them real problems as they can’t get Ad Blue except from their main depots. I asked for 40 litres and was told I would need my own containers, as they only have it on pump – like a petrol pump – so it was across the road to a Farmers Supplies store for some containers. They only had 3 x 10 litre containers, so armed with those I went back to Orange River Trucking who filled them up for me. With them loaded in the van I was feeling happy again and ready to begin the long drive north, only now the van wouldn’t start. It point blank refused to turn over, the ignition light dimming as I turned the key. I tried again, and on the third attempt it fired up, much to my relief. I drove back into town to fill up with diesel and was finally ready to start the journey.
Twenty-Five miles out of town, the van’s charging light came on, together with a warning message that read something like
Charging System Failure – Service Now!. I rang Kevin to let him know that I was turning round and heading back to the Ford dealer to get it looked at, then did exactly that. Back at the Ford dealer, I explained the situation, and that the van had been shipped from the UK and it could be as simple as the battery connections loose, then had to wait until a technician and ramp were free. An hour or so later, the technician arrived and I explained the situation to him, again making the point about shipping, but he said it was probably the alternator as they were a common fault on vehicles shipped (something to do with salt entering the electrics during the sea voyage) but they’d check using the diagnostic tool to be sure. Whilst I watched, he connected the tool, then checked the battery leads, one of which was obviously loose. He tightened it up and the diagnostic tool showed no other faults, so with a huge sigh of relief I thanked them and set off once more towards the border. They didn’t even charge me for their time, just being glad to help and that the fix was a simple one.
80 miles later, I arrived at the border, then just as I was entering the compound I realized that I’d left the all important van documents, my passport, and the cash, in the hotel safe back in Uppington! I hastily turned round and high-tailed it back to the hotel, determined to get there before 2pm when the next guest might be checking in to my room. A frantic drive later I arrived just after 2pm, explained my predicament to the receptionist and was given my room key. Fortunately no-one had checked in and so everything was still in the safe where I’d left it and just 10 minutes later I was back on the road and heading to the border once more.
But my problems were not yet over. I cleared the police check, after explaining why I’d driven back away from the border having arrived earlier (they’d seen me turn round and wondered why!), being given a small piece of stamped paper after completing a couple of forms. Then to customs, where a huge guy who resembled a grumpy Jabba the Hut stamped me clear of customs, before finally heading to immigration where I had my passport stamped with an exit-South Africa stamp and the slip of paper received its final stamp. Outside I handed the now completely stamped strip to the border police at the exit barrier and they then asked to see inside the van before letting me out of the country. Only one look at the tyres inside and it was obvious there was going to be an issue. They wanted to see the customs clearance for the tyres. I explained they were my personal tyres, for my friends who were riding from Nairobi and that as there is a customs union between SA and Namibia I didn’t need one, but they were having none of it. They insisted I went back inside to see Jabba and get the necessary D1 and D2 forms. So I did, explaining the situation and showing him the invoice for the tyres showing they had been bought in SA and the relevant duties paid. He said there was a
Problem, but that he would give me the benefit of doubt after I pleaded my innocence (with memories of Van Al being locked up in Costa Rica for the night after having similar trouble at the border there!). He explained I had to get an export form from a freight agent – and that there were some in the compound 400m before the border (in some shacks I’d seen at the roadside there). So I headed back outside and explained what I had to do to the border police, who told me to drive around the building and head back out into SA and to the freight agent, which is what I did. As I passed the other side of the building I saw some customs agents lounging in the shade, who waved at me as I passed by, but I drove on regardless. Shortly after I arrived at the shacks, a police car screeched up and the customs guy got out shouting at me that I should have stopped and what did I think I was doing. I explained I had been told to drive round by his colleagues and so I did so. He shouted some more and I explained patiently that I was only doing as they had told me and his face got redder and redder, quite an achievement for someone with skin the colour of ebony. I looked as apologetic as I could, shrugged my shoulders and said I was sorry but just doing as I was told. He told me that when I was done I was to see him and his men at the border and got back into the car and roared off in the direction of the border. I breathed a sigh of relief once more, and headed into the shack to try and get an export permit sorted. This proved to be a real hassle, as I needed export licence code, which obviously I didn’t have, neither did Karoo (they don’t take tyres from SA to Namibia and so have never had the problems I was having). Eventually the agent agreed to use their emergency code and sorted out the paperwork for me for the sum of 1,300 Rand (about 60 quid) and armed with that I headed back to the border, straight to Jabba the Hut and avoiding the inbound customs guys. He then issued me with the D1 and D2 forms I needed and I was finally able to exit South Africa. Or so I thought, as the border police now wanted me to complete a lengthy questionnaire and to take copies of all my documents for some government survey. Finally I managed to drive out of South Africa and across a few miles of no-man’s land to the Namibian border.
I had hoped this was going to be simpler, but after completing immigration and getting my passport stamped, then getting the vehicle imported and the road tax purchased, I was approached by a scruffy-looking customs guy (complete with official badge, I checked!) who wanted to see inside the van. I explained once again that the tyres were mine and were for my friends, showed him the paperwork from SA and the invoice, but he then said I needed to pay VAT on them – totaling 7,430 Rand!! At this point I took back all my paperwork, told him I was paying nothing, that as they were in a customs union with SA and the tyres had been bought there, the VAT had already been paid and that as I’d already had to pay 1,300 Rand to get the tyres out of SA I wasn’t paying another penny. I then sat down on the van’s step and looked like I was prepared to stay there forever. After a couple of minutes of staring him out, he went off to get his supervisor. When he returned, alone, he told me I was free to go, no charge necessary, as long as I promised not to sell the tyres in Namibia. Whether he really had checked with his supervisor and whether the VAT charge was real or an attempt to extort money from me I don’t know.
By now it was dusk and rapidly going dark, and my plans of driving to a decent sized town were shot. The nearest settlement was Karasburg, some 70 miles away, and so that’s where I headed as the sun set directly in front of me. My GPS listed one Guest House in town, but when I went to where it said it was there was nothing but a dusty car park, so I drove back to the main road, where I’d seen a small shop with an
accommodation sign on the wall outside. I went inside passing a couple of scruffy characters hanging around outside, including one with a baby wrapped up in a sling across his chest. I enquired about a room only to be told they didn’t have one, and that the
business centre was my best bet. As I walked disconsolately outside, the scruffy locals shouted
business centre, follow me and started running away. With nothing to lose (except all my belongings, the van and my life), I followed as 3 of them, including the guy with the baby in a sling, ran up the hill and towards a brick building, which they animatedly pointed at repeating chants of
business centre, have rooms!. I got out of the van and told them to wait, then went inside to investigate. It turns out it was a business centre-cum-hotel-cum-restaurant and they had a room for me. I went back outside and gave the ring-leader some money insisting he split it with the others, then grabbed my belongings from the van and checked in. The rooms were actually in chalet buildings scattered around the walled compound, and there was a large gate through which I could drive the van, so I brought that inside before heading to the restaurant for some much-needed food. I was the only one eating but they managed to rustle up a chicken schnitzel for me, which wasn’t great but was most welcome. With no Internet access and no hot water in the room it wasn’t the Ritz, but I was still very grateful I’d found it as I collapsed into bed and quickly fell asleep.
I woke again at 6:30am, packed and had breakfast of a ham omelet in the still empty restaurant before getting back on the road around 7:45am, not long after the sun had poked its head above the horizon. I drove on more straight roads through Grunau and Keetmanshoop passing more desert-like scrubland. I passed some red-topped hills that reminded me of Utah, filled up with fuel in Keetmanshoop and on to Aus, to check out the hotel we’ll be using on the way down. I saw no wildlife, except the occasional bird, some round termite mounds, and few people. There was little traffic too, just the odd truck or pick-up fitted with roof tent. The Bahnhof Hotel in Aus looked good and at reception they knew about our booking and I checked the room list with them before having a quick look around town – which didn’t take long as it consists of a few houses and a small fuel station. At the fuel station I saw a group of very dusty bikers – South African registered BMW GS and Honda Africa Twins – probably rental bikes and a small tour group riding the dirt roads around Namibia.
Back on the road I was tasked with checking out the condition of the dirt road from Aus to Helmeringhausen as it is known to be quite sandy and can change from year to year. It was quite sandy, with sections that were quite deep and also very corrugated, so will need care from the riders when heading down. At Helmeringhausen I stopped at the shop for a coke zero and ice-cream, and had a brief chat to the German lady running it. She mentioned the road conditions were getting worse but didn’t elaborate further. At the hotel further into town were a few tourist vehicles – pickups with roof tents – and a large coach, but I didn’t investigate further as I still had a long way to go. The road improved a little on the way to the town of Maltahohe, with sections of reasonably smooth gravel. The scenery so far had been mostly flat scrubland with occasional hills, and some interesting rock formations. One section in particular was spectacular, with a flat sandy plain out of which islands of rock stuck up, creating the impression of a red-sea populated with pre-historic islands. Very sci-fi. The roads themselves have been predominantly straight across the flat land, with undulations here and there. Set the cruise control to 80 and chill out!
The people have been extremely friendly but there are signs of extreme poverty – shanty towns with houses constructed of corrugated iron at the roadside and beggars in the road. There are also people in the middle of nowhere – not many, but the occasional group of 2 or 3 men (no women) dressed in tracksuits, the universal uniform of the poor. In the towns there are lots of people stood about seemingly doing nothing. The landscape is uncultivated, as though nothing can grow here, and there is no sign of industry, so it’s no wonder there’s little evidence of wealth amongst the general population. In Maltahohe, I checked in to the Maltahohe Hotel, which claims to be the oldest tourist hotel in Namibia, and where the owner was friendly and interested in what I was doing. A large white South African gentleman, when I came down for dinner and ordered a beer at the bar, he engaged me in conversation and I handed him a Globebusters brochure to show him what we do. He took it away to the table in the corner he was sharing with his friends and they read it aloud whilst consuming a fair few beers. I ate in the hotel, a nice steak dinner, before retiring to my room, avoiding the noise of the bar and the invitations to join the group still drinking there.
After breakfast and having driven around town to check out the fuel station and café, I was back on the dirt road once more, checking its condition so we can inform the group later. It was in poor condition, with a lot of gravel and corrugations, with some deep sections that had the van floating around. For once I was glad I wasn’t riding a bike. On the approach to Little Sossus, where I had another lodge to check out, a speeding oncoming vehicle kicked up a stone that hit the bottom of the windscreen in front of me with a bang, spreading a large crack up and across the screen. The crack grew with each jolt from the corrugations, until it was almost half the width of the screen and reached from the bottom up to my eye level, then across again to the top centre. I feared it would go completely and had visions of having to drive in my motorcycle helmet. At Little Sossus I met Le Roux, owner of the lodge, and discussed our booking and options for a Jeep tour when we visit on the way down. He told me that the roads were bad due to the election that was being held, which apparently had resulted in all the graders (which smooth and recondition the road annually) being sent North as that’s where the bulk of the voting population lives! He then told me of a group of Indian riders who had stayed with him 3 weeks previously, and how one of them had taken a fall after hitting some deep gravel and been killed. I asked him not to mention that to our group when they arrive…
Leaving Little Sossus and driving as carefully as possible to prevent the windscreen crack from getting even worse, I made my way along the dusty, corrugated, gravel road to Moose’s Bakery. This is a haven for overlanders and travelers driving through Namibia and is allegedly run by Ewen McGregor’s cousin. It serves a good cup of tea and is famous for its pies, so I had one of its Chicken and Veg ones whilst I contacted GB HQ once more, to alert them to the windscreen issue and see if we could source a replacement en-route. Moose’s Bakery is on our route south, and is equidistant between Swakupmond on the coast and the capital Windhoek to the east. Swakupmond is on our route and is a large town, but obviously Windhoek would offer the best chance of getting a Transit windscreen. Discussing options with Julia, who could check online, we decided I would continue on to Swakupmond as there was an outlet of the same windscreen company as Windhoek which looked to be our best option. With that decision taken, it was back onto the bumpy gravel roads, where the only way to avoid the worst of the bouncing was to try to maintain a steady 50mph.
On the outskirts of Swakupmond the road turned to hard dirt and then to tarmac, and I breathed another sigh of relief that the windscreen crack was hopefully not going to get any worse. On reaching the coast I turned north, towards town and the hotel. At the roadside I saw a guy in a cheap high-viz vest standing by a minibus, and as I got close he took a step towards the kerb and raised his white-gloved hand. I was already quite close, but it was clear he was a policeman, so I pulled over, turned round and drove up to him. Before he could say anything I’d wound my window down and shouted
I thought you were getting on the bus, it looked like a bus stop! – this caused him to pause, before he said
Did you not see my uniform? whilst moving his hand up and down his cheap high-viz (which, to be fair, had a small
Police sticker on it). I stifled my desire to burst out laughing and avoided pointing out that I could get one of those at B&M Bargains back home for £1.99 and apologized. He checked my driving licence and then sent me on my way.
I checked in to the Deutches Haus Hotel, which is another we’ll be using on our way south, then used their wi-fi to check for messages from GB HQ regarding the windscreen. With nothing appearing, I headed back out to the nearest windscreen shop I could find, only to discover it closed 10 minutes previously. Back at the hotel I sent messages back explaining the situation and that I would go back when they opened at 8am, then had a shower and changed before managing to FaceTime Tracy to update her on my adventures. I opted to eat in the hotel and enjoyed a delicious meal of Prawn Cocktail followed by Breaded Fish in Chilli Sauce, washed down with some water (I’m trying to avoid alcohol in order to stay reasonably healthy, knowing that it’ll be much harder when I’m with the group!).
After a very comfortable night’s sleep I was up again early and after breakfast was sat outside the windscreen shop before 8am waiting for them to open. Once they did I enquired about a repair or replacement screen for the Transit, only to discover that as it’s a new model, it’s not been imported into southern Africa and they couldn’t source a screen – the crack was also too severe for a repair. I asked if they knew anyone who might be able to help and they suggested Greggs. I wasn’t sure how a pasty would help, but he didn’t mean the bakers, he meant the windscreen specialist on the other side of town. So that’s where I went next, and here my luck changed, as they said they had a screen for a Transit but it was in Walvis Bay on the south of the town and would take an hour or so to arrive. Whilst waiting, I went to the auto parts store to get a funnel so I could top up the Ad Blue tank, and was shocked when it took 15 litres to fill it up, meaning just 115 miles per litre or less than 2,500 miles on a tank and not the 5,000 Ford told us! That would mean even with the Ad Blue I’d bought in Uppington, I wouldn’t have enough for the return journey to Cape Town!
When the screen finally arrived, it was clear immediately it was not going to fit, being completely the wrong shape (it was for an earlier model Transit). They kindly rang around every supplier they use, including the main shop in Windhoek, but no joy – there’s not a single modern Transit windscreen in the whole of Africa! As a consequence, I decided to take the tarmac route to Etosha to reduce the likelihood of further damage and to try and get back on track, as I’d now lost another half-day. A short detour back to the hotel to use the wi-fi before leaving town to update GB HQ and I was finally back on the road in the early afternoon. I took it easy, driving at a steady 60-65mph in order to try and reduce the Ad Blue consumption. I stopped just before Karibib for a brew and toasted sandwich hoping to be able to access the Internet but the café didn’t have a connection. I took the C33 to Amoruru and on to Kalkfeld, where I saw an ape crossing the road and lots of wild hogs grazing at the roadside, together with some impressive termite mounds. I then took the dirt road to Mt Etjo to check it out, but only went in for about 5 miles due to the time, then back to the main road before turning off onto the M36 to Outjo – another dirt road that needed checking out. It was mostly in good condition, but there was one mile-long stretch of deep sand and some nasty sand patches, so I’ll be recommending the group avoid it. At Outjo I filled up with fuel before checking in to the Ethosha Hotel where I could use the wi-fi to call Kevin and update him on how things have been going. He is looking in to getting a screen in Nairobi, but this is highly unlikely, so it looks like I’ll be nursing the van
as-is all the way back to Cape Town. That evening I enjoyed a lovely dinner of spicy chicken strips and chicken livers with sweet chilli sauce and washed the lot down with a couple of bottles of Windhoek draught beer – I think I deserved a treat!
Another good night’s sleep ended at 6:30am when I woke ready for the next set of challenges, showered and had cereal and a ham and mushroom omelet for breakfast. I was on the road again before 8am, with my first task being to check out the dirt road between Outjo and Otava, which was in very good condition with hardly any sand for around 100 miles, when it became straight and rather boring tarmac, all the way to Etosha, where the group will be split across 3 different lodges, each of which needed checking out. Usually the group is booked into a single lodge, but due to room availability issues, this time they are split with 9 rooms at the Motuki Lodge, 3 at The Fort and 1 at the Marusha. My first stop was the Motuki Lodge, where I introduced myself, checked the booking and facilities, enquired about organizing a safari trip for the group including pick-ups from the other lodges and then asked to see the maintenance manager to discuss options for leaving the tyres and changing them when we return. The lodge were very helpful and I was directed by the maintenance manager to their airport where I could leave the tyres in their cool warehouse, which I could also use to fit them so avoiding cooking outside – result! Next up was The Fort, accessed via a large guarded entrance gate, where I explained that I wanted to see the rooms we would be using, despite them having a clear
no day visitors policy. Once again I managed to blag my way inside and then drove the 7km along the dirt access road inside their grounds – which is a safari park in its own right – I passed a group of zebra grazing by the roadside and saw a herd of springbok on the flat plain. At the lodge I was met by a small group of people, including a very well dressed woman who introduced herself as the manager. They offered me a hot towel to clean my hands and then she showed me around the elaborate entrance hall, complete with water feature and out to the terrace at the back, which overlooked the Etosha pan (a dried-up lake bed) where wild animals could be seen in the distance. She explained how the lodge operated, and that guests were not permitted to wander about after dark due to the predators that lived within their grounds. Like they would have to do, we took a golf buggy to the rooms, each of which was in its own small fort-like building spread out along the shores of the pan. Inside each had a large double bed (the rooms would only be suitable for couples on the trip), shower rooms and closets, with a small terrace where they could sit in the evening watching the wildlife on the pan, whilst drinking from the free minibar – which included decanters of whisky, gin and brandy! Luxurious indeed! After bidding farewell and wishing Tracy was with me so we could stay there, I made my way back along the dirt road to the exit, only to be forced to stop for a Zebra crossing. Not a painted black-and-white stripe across the road, but a real Zebra, crossing!
I then went to the 3rd lodge and checked that out as well, confirming arrangements and checking the facilities, which were very good, in grounds that were both beautiful and very peaceful. Then it was back along the arrow-straight road to Gootenfontein and the Pondoki River Lodge where I was staying for the night. Here I discovered my Booking.com app had once again messed up my booking, changing the dates meaning I was actually booked in for the following day! Fortunately they had a room available, so checked me in and cancelled the incorrect booking. I then used the poor Internet connection to try and sort out my hotels for the next few nights. The lodge Julia had recommended I stay at the next night was fully booked, so I sent a message to Julia to see if she could book me something, as the Internet was so bad it crashed every time I tried to search for alternatives. After a quick shower I went to the on-site restaurant where I had
surf and turf – steak with prawns – and a bottle of water, the former being very, very, good; the latter leaving me wishing I’d ordered a beer!
Once again I was up early to get going and after a quick breakfast of cereal and omelet I was back on the long straight roads with the cruise control set to 65mph. The scenery was now the Africa from the TV – small settlements by the roadside fenced in grass and mud huts, small children playing along the roadside with sticks and wheels, and very dark-skinned thin adults in bright clothes. In the towns, concrete buildings were surrounded by teenagers in white clothes so bright they’d make a great advert for biological washing powder. How they manage to keep them so clean when all around is dirt is beyond me – I get dirty simply getting in and out of the van!
I went to check out the Kaisosi Lodge at Rundu – down by the river in another great location – then more straight roads all the way to Bagani, where Julia had managed to book me a room at the Rainbow River Lodge. This was also by the river, with my room in a small round building in the grounds. One of my jobs for today was to fix reflective tape to the front and rear bumpers of the van before entering Zambia, so I set about doing so. Whilst I was attending to that, I got chatting to another guest staying in the hotel with her husband and family. When I explained what I was doing – supporting a motorcycle tour from Nairobi to Cape Town – she told me I was the person her husband had been waiting to meet all his life! A family of South African horse traders and farmers, he is a keen motorcyclist and they love to travel. Ian and Venessa were touring with their family – all 8 of them travelling in two pick-ups with roof tents, but were staying in the lodge for a spot of luxury. I gave them a brochure – or
Book of Dreams as I call it, and told them to give the office a call! After a snooze I went down to the bar by the river and had a beer whilst writing up my notes, then joined Ian and Vanessa and family for dinner, dragging my chair over to their table at their insistence. It was a lovely evening and the food was excellent – fillet steak in mushroom sauce with vegetable kebabs and ice-cream. It’s rare for me to join complete strangers for dinner, but they insisted and made me feel very welcome!
The following morning I was on the road early, with over 300 miles through the Caprivi Strip to go to Livingstone, which also included crossing the border into Zambia. It turned out to be something of a trial, too. The first part of the day went well, with the drive along the Caprivi Strip starting with my first sighting of elephants, a small herd hiding in the trees off to my left. From there the road was yet another straight stretch of uninspiring tarmac, passing through a typical
TV-Africa landscape of sparse trees, grass-hut settlements and people living subsistence existences. On the rout through the Caprivi Strip, I had a couple of places to check out, the first being the traditional village of Lizauli, which looked online like it might be worth a stop, but turned out to be a waste of time, as it was under construction and accessed down a very sandy track. The second was the lodge we’ll stop at on the way down at Lianshuli, where we needed to sort out the process for getting to the lodge, which is inside a National Park that motorcycles are not allowed to enter. I drove to the lodge and discussed arrangements with the owners, sorting out where the bikes can be parked and for jeeps to pick up the riders on arrival, then checked out a suitable re-group point at the main road where they could meet to ensure they all arrived together and refreshed.
With all that attended to I drove on to the Zambian border, where I had no problem exiting Namibia and entering Zambia, even though I was using a different border crossing to that used on the tour. The problems started once I was in Zambia and heading towards Livingstone on the main road. It was simply the WORST road I’ve even been on in my entire life. The GPS had waypoints for
potholes marked on the road and that was an understatement. The surface wasn’t so much pot-holed as destroyed – like a WWII runway that’s been bombed – with potholes 6-10 inches deep scattered everywhere, and sometimes covering the whole width of the road. At times I could take to a dirt track alongside the road which was better, but the going was SLOW. This lasted for 50 miles. After which was a police checkpoint, where I enquired how much further I had to travel before the road improved. The policeman smiled and said
another 50 kilometers!. He wasn’t joking. It took me HOURS. So many that it was going dark by the time I reached the point where the group will catch the ferry to Botswana – or the new bridge which I needed to check out to see if it had opened. It was chaos as I tried to get closer, with trucks parked everywhere (it is a border, after all!), so I couldn’t get close enough to see the bridge, so I stopped a passing trucker and asked.
Oh, yes, the bridge has been open for a while he replied. I did a u-turn and started heading back out, when I thought I’d get a second opinion, so stopped another trucker.
No, it’s not open, not until next year! was his reply. So, none-the-wiser, I continued on in the dark to Livingstone.
Driving in the dark is not recommended in Africa (or anywhere, really). Especially as you approach a large town or city that doesn’t have street lights. Or pavements. And people and animals walking up and down and across the road. People with skin the colour of midnight. They’re hard to see and easy to hit, but somehow I managed to do the first and not the latter, and arrived at the rather posh hotel without incident. Whilst checking in I was warned about the mosquitoes, which was totally unnecessary, as they’d already introduced themselves by biting every bit of exposed skin. In the room I lit the mosquito coil, sprayed the mosquito spray, and covered myself in deet before heading down to the restaurant for something to eat and a well-earned beer. It had been a very long day!
The following day after breakfast I set off to attend to another little job, the last of my list of things to do before I reach Nairobi and join the group. This involved buying insurance for all the customer bikes and the van from a local insurance agent – the
Comesa insurance covers them on a 3rd party basis for most of the countries on the trip, and getting it here in Zambia makes it easier for the customers later. This was simple enough, but took the whole morning, meaning it was gone 1pm before I left Livingstone heading towards Lusaka, some 300 miles away. The drive was once again rather uninspiring, mostly straight main roads and I managed to average around 50mph, arriving just after 7pm, once again covering the last 70 miles or so in the dark. I ate in the hotel restaurant before collapsing into bed very tired once more.
Now that all my jobs have been done, and following the earlier delays whilst searching for Ad Blue, I still had over 1,300 miles to go and 5 days to get there. So I was once again up early and on the road after filling up with breakfast to avoid having to stop for lunch. Before leaving Lusaka, I needed to stop for fuel, so pulled into a fuel station and went to put the diesel nozzle into the filler. Only it wouldn’t go in. The Transit has a weird filler in that there’s no cap, just a flap inside the tube that the nozzle moves out of the way when it’s inserted. Only this time, it didn’t. No matter how I tried it simply wouldn’t go in, and the flap wouldn’t move out of the way. I tried using a screwdriver to poke it out of the way, but it simply wouldn’t budge. I replaced the nozzle and drove over to the road to the Toyota dealer to see if they could have a look at it, but when I finally got the attention of the service manager, he told me to head down the road where there was a Ford dealer. Once there, I explained my predicament and the technician came out to have a look, scratched his head, and then drove the van into the workshop. A considerable time later, the service manager came out to see me and said they thought it was the nozzle was the wrong size and that they had a funnel they could sell me that seemed to work. To check, they wanted to use their on-site fuel pump, and I would have to pay for the fuel. I agreed, bought the funnel and went outside to see it in action. Only it didn’t appear to work. They then tried their diesel nozzle directly and with a push that went in! At least I could get some fuel now, and also knew that the problem was caused by the nozzle size – it seems that what the Puma garage had done was replace their diesel nozzle with a petrol one, which was the wrong size and so it didn’t work. I stopped at another fuel station to brim the tank and was finally on my way again – having lost yet another morning!
The roads north of Lusaka were poor, with long sections of roadworks where the road surface had been stripped and was just dirt. It became dark before I reached the small town of Mpika, where I’d booked myself a room at a hotel which turned out to be amongst the worst I’ve ever stayed in. When I was shown to my room, it was right next to a diesel generator hammering away so loudly that the receptionist could barely hear me shout the question
what time does that go off? – she replied that it would go off around 10pm. With no restaurant on site or nearby, I climbed into bed underneath the yellow stained sheets and then fell into an exhausted sleep. When I woke in the morning I was surprised to discover I’d actually slept well, despite the lumpy bed, and the cold shower (no hot water) set me up nicely for the day. Which was just as well, as breakfast consisted of a slice of stale bread and a rubber egg.
Filling up with diesel from the only fuel station in town (fortunately with the correct-size nozzle), I was on the road for 7:30am with another long driving day ahead, and with another border to cross. The roads were still poor, with lots of potholes and roadworks. There were people everywhere, tall slender women with dark shining skin and beautiful smiles, children playing with inner tubes all smiles and waves as they caught sight of the white man driving the unusual vehicle (there are not many vans in Zambia). At the border I used a fixer to expedite the process and soon had my passport and the carnet stamped out of Zambia and into Tanzania, although the Tanzanian customs printer wasn’t working so they couldn’t issue me with the receipt which I’d need on exit, the customs agent taking my number so he could WhatsApp me a copy of it! Despite having the Comesa insurance, they border guards insisted I purchase local Tanzanian insurance, so my fixer walked me out of the compound and around some dusty back-streets to a little shop where a guy with a working printer issued me with the necessary paperwork and a sticker for the van’s windscreen that was apparently essential to avoid being hassled by the police. With stories of the Tanzanian police and their corrupt practices to extort money from tourists ringing in my ears from discussions with other GB guides, I was taking no chances. The fixer tried to get a large sum for his efforts, but I negotiated him down to something more reasonable and gave him a pen to make up the difference. Then finally I was on my way into Tanzania, where I had been repeatedly warned the police would stop me frequently for speeding, whether I was or not.
Less than 20 miles from the border I was stopped at a police checkpoint. This turned out to be a routine document check and my smiling, happy and friendly approach seemed to work as I was soon on my way with a cheery
Welcome to Tanzania, have a safe journey!.
I drove up into the mountains near the town of Mbeya to the wonderful Utengule Coffee Lodge, where I was met by Dianne the owner. She knew who I was and was expecting me, as the group will stay here when we return. She also had a tale to tell, warning of road conditions and bad driving in Malawi (where we’ll also be going). She had heard tell that a group of two motorcycles, both with rider and pillion, had been approaching one of Malawi’s many single-track bridges when they saw a car on the opposite side, stopped, which waved them on. They rode onto the bridge, just as another car approached from the opposite direction at speed, overtook the waiting car, and came onto the bridge. The head-on collision killed two of the group and seriously injured the other two. Again, I told her not to repeat the story to the group, and made a mental note to ensure they were all warned about the dangers the single-track bridges represent.
I had a lovely dinner of salad and Butter Chicken in the restaurant that evening, before retiring to my room where I managed to FaceTime Tracy as the Internet was good for a change. Once again I was soon asleep, despite the racket made by the scraping of furniture as the inhabitants of the room above re-arranged their room!
At 6:30am I woke to the sound of an alarm. Not mine, as I hadn’t set one, but the noisy guy in the room above mine! So I got up anyway and showered before enjoying a breakfast of cereal and poached eggs on toast. Then it was back on the road again, down the sandy dirt track to the road through the small village and back onto the main road to Mbeya. This was very busy and took me a good hour to get through, then it was back onto the open road once more. Dotted along the main road were lots of small villages with 50kph speed limits and the inevitable Tanzanian police waiting to catch speeding drivers. I was stopped for a document check, then a short while later I was stopped again at an immigration checkpoint for the same thing. The scenery then began to change with more hills and greenery, and the people changed from the tall, thin and elegant looking of Zambia to smaller, scruffier and poorer Tanzanians. The police, though, were very well dressed in bright white uniforms. Except they tried to hide away behind any obstacle handy so they could jump out and brandish their speed guns when pulling over errant (or just foreign) drivers. I was stopped again having passed through a village and when on a perfectly straight road some 5 miles later. The nice policeman showed me his radar gun which was reading 68kph and I explained that the speed limit must be 70kph as I was a long way from the village. He said it was still 50kph and that it remained that way until the end-of-50kph signs, which were still a further few Kms down the road. I pleaded my ignorance, pointed out that as I thought it was 70kph I was actually under the speed limit and smiled a lot. He asked what I thought would happen next, and I replied he was going to tell me off, ask me to swear I wouldn’t do it again, and let me go. Which is exactly what he did! Jedi mind tricks do work!
It’s worth noting that at this point, no previous Globebusters support drivers have managed to drive through Tanzania without paying a fine – the police are everywhere and always want something – so I decided I’d try to be the first to get through without paying. This proved to be a real challenge! My approach was to ensure that I slowed down to 50kph before the signs and avoided exceeding that through the villages until I saw the end-of signs, which could be quite some distance later. I would then make up time by travelling briskly until the next village, reasoning the police wouldn’t bother me outside the villages. The rest of the day went rather uneventfully, I saw lots of police but wasn’t pulled over again, and there was only one section of roadworks before I reached the town of Dodoma and my hotel – the splendidly inappropriately-named
New Dodoma Hotel. It must have been new sometime, but it looked like it was older than me (it was actually opened in 2004). My room was very basic and the Internet was rubbish, but the on-site restaurant was a proper Indian one and the curry I had for my dinner was truly excellent! That made up for the very poor night’s sleep I had on the rock-hard bed with the sound of the traffic passing my seemingly right outside my room. At 5am I was woken by what sounded like a ship’s fog-horn, despite being nowhere near the coast. I also had a slightly upset stomach, more than likely due to taking Malerone anti-malarial tablets which always seem to affect me for a couple of days. An Alka Selzer settled that down and I only had a small bowl of cereal before hitting the road again.
My first stop was for fuel and once again the Puma station’s nozzle wouldn’t fit. As I was also aware that not all fuel stations took credit cards, I tried to get some more cash from the ATM but that wouldn’t take my card. It looked like it was going to be another one of those days. I put some diesel in at the Total garage using 60,000 of my remaining 70,000 Tanzanian shillings, so that gave me sufficient range to get to my next stop at Arusha. I then found a bank with a working ATM and managed to get more cash out, so I knew I could fill up again if I needed to. Leaving town on the A104 north, I once again passed through several small villages with cattle, donkeys and people wandering everywhere. I was stopped again by the police, but they just asked where I was going and sent me on my way. As I got closer to Arusha there were more people about, many in traditional clothes of bright red skirts and carrying long sticks as though they were spears. They stood erect at the roadside and watched as I passed by, leaving me wondering if they were posing for photos in order to earn a few bob, but with very few white tourists about I doubt it. Some 6 hours later I arrived on the outskirts of Arusha and stopped at a garage with a car wash to get diesel and have the van washed, reasoning it was still relatively early and I didn’t want to arrive at the hotel before my room was ready. I needn’t have worried, as finding the hotel would take rather a long time. Firstly, I didn’t have a GPS waypoint or any data on my phone so all I had to go on was the name and a rough idea from when I looked at the map online a couple of days ago. I went to where I thought it was – correct road name but no hotel. I drove through town in stop-start traffic and found a policeman to ask and he drew me a little map. So I followed his directions and it matched his map exactly, except there was no sign of the hotel. I saw a shop with a big
information sign outside, so went inside and asked about the hotel. They didn’t know of it, or the road it was on, and didn’t have any maps of the town either. I’m not sure exactly what information they had, but it wasn’t anything that helped me! Next door was a hotel – not mine, sadly – so I went in there and asked if they knew of my hotel. They didn’t, but they did let me use their wi-fi to search for it. Now armed with a clearer idea (it was somewhere off the main road, almost opposite where I’d asked the policeman for directions), I set off into the traffic once more. Only I still couldn’t find the hotel or the road it was supposed to be on. I turned down the road I though was correct, only for it to become very rough dirt as it climbed the hill, passing where the hotel should have been according to Google maps, and even after a mile or so there was still no sign of any hotel, let alone mine. I had to perform a u-turn and head back down the rough dirt road, passing the crowded shops spilling their goods and customers onto the street again, and back to the main road. I rang the hotel to ask for directions, and followed the ones I was given to the letter, but still couldn’t find the hotel. I was beginning to think it didn’t actually exist! A little further on I pulled over next to a yard to have a rethink and asked one of the local lads hanging around if he knew where it was – he said he did and that he’d show me, so I got him to jump inside the van and off we went. A little back the way I’d come was a very small dirt road leading off between a nightclub, some shops and a hairdressers, that junked right and left and then a left turn on another single-track dirt road and we arrived outside some gates leading into a large parking area and the hotel. I’d never have found it without the local’s help, so gave him a tip and went to check in. It was now 5pm and it had taken me over 2 hours since arriving in town to locate the hotel!
I ate in the hotel for fear of getting lost should I venture out again, enjoying a piri-piri pizza and a bottle of beer before retiring to bed, once again tired after a long, hot, day driving. After a good night’s sleep, punctuated by dreams of getting lost and being unable to find my way to where I needed to be, I had a small breakfast and then drove the half-hour to the border with Kenya. On the way, I passed a couple of giraffe at the roadside, not something you see every day!
When I arrived at the border guard’s hut, I was approached by a smart-looking woman with an official badge on a lanyard round her neck who asked to see my documents, then took them into the hut, emerging a short while later to tell me to drive to the parking area and park up. Then she took me inside the building and started walking me through the process. I got very suspicious when she asked me for $200 in cash and we got into a bit of an argument when I realized she was just a fixer – the border was modern and clear and I didn’t need any help working it out. I made it clear that I was not pleased that she had mis-represented her role and had portrayed herself as a customs official and that if she had been clearer I’d have told her I didn’t need her help. By now I’d completed the process of exiting Tanzania and entering Kenya and warned her that if she tried the same trick when I returned with the group, I’d report her to the authorities and they would remove her badge and access to the border compound. We then settled on a much lower fee for her
help and I was on my way again, with me armed with up-to-date information on the border process and how to avoid being scammed.
Once in Kenya it was only a relatively short drive of around 2 hours to the hotel near the airport in Nairobi, and I arrived around 1:45pm, the earliest finish of any day since I set off from Cape Town! I checked in and then set about cleaning the van in the hotel’s car park and unpacking and re-packing its contents. This attracted a lot of attention from the staff, and I was frequently interrupted to answer questions about where I’d come from and where I was going. The staff were lovely people and chatted animatedly as I outlined the trip and explained that there would soon be a large number of big motorcycles parked up outside the hotel. Once the van was clean and tidy, I retired to my room for a bit of a snooze before heading back downstairs for some dinner and then to await Kevin and Julia’s arrival that evening. When they arrived, we celebrated the conclusion of the first part of my African adventure with a beer in the hotel bar.
The following day was billed as a
day off, but as is always the case on these trips, there were still a number of jobs to attend to. After breakfast, Kevin and I went through the contents of the van one more time, including reviewing the contents of the First Aid / Medical bag, then we had a brew over a meeting with a local tour operator called Victor and discussed the plan for the remainder of the week. Once we’d got ourselves straight we jumped in the van to recce the route for when we leave on Thursday morning. Our route out from the hotel took us via the airport and on to a booth with a barrier across the road. The guard present asked us for our parking ticket, which of course we didn’t have as we’d been parked at the hotel. Much discussion and debate later – with us insisting we didn’t need to pay for parking as we were staying at the hotel and it was included – we settled up and drove back to the hotel to try and find an alternative route out! We checked out the departure route and then also checked the route out for our ride to the Equator, finally returning back to the hotel around 4:15pm. That left a little time to relax before we met up with Gabriel, our local freight agent, to discuss getting the bikes out from customs the following day. As some of the group began arriving we grabbed dinner in the restaurant and I retired to my room to FaceTime Tracy before getting an early night – so much for a