Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

     Not really sure where I should start with this first things first. Thank you everyone who has followed along this past year!!  
     This year, 2011, started with my retirement. The process took a while and to be sure I have not convinced myself I am retired, but if I am truly retired, I hope it never ends. And I am ending 2011 in Tanzania, soon to be joining friends for a little New Year's celebration. Today I purchased a 20 litre gas can for my return to Malawi,  a new head lamp, and had beef stroganoff flavored with vodka for dinner.
     My travels through Africa have been nothing short of amazing - from when I first rode my bike off the ferry into Morroco up until today. I now understand how different it is to be a traveler rather than a tourist. First one must take time to shed the skin, like a snake of one's old self. It takes time, but when traveling starts to really take hold and you let yourself get under the skin of the places you travel, you will never look back. I am  always planning my next adventure.
     I am on a bike, but it's not the ride - the palm trees, beaches, animals, or mountains that make it - it's the people I've met along the way. So so so many people and so many stories that will never be forgotten.

Here are some that impacted me:
      In Ghana, a teenager was going to school and was ousted by his parents because they felt farming was more important than education. Paying for his fees and his books that term, we have a connection. He still emails me regularly 8 months later with questions (I call him question man)... and the last time we spoke,  he said, "Please never forget me."
     A sobering visit to Rwanda.  It's been 17 years since the genocide and it pains me to get text messages from a man named Joseph I met, asking, "What do I do, my heart is so empty?"  At 18, he has no parents, or extended family that he knows of.  Joseph  lived on the streets until he met an American a few years back who pays for his education and boarding.
      Stuck in my head I will allways remember the thousands, YES THOUSANDS, of kids, men and women who heard the sound of the bike and ran to the side of the road to smile and wave!!!
      In Nigeria, I was asked to," Please tell Americans to visit. We are not all as you see on TV."
      I met Elvis, a local Tanzanian man who is starting a bicycle ride next month around the world from Chile to Kili ( Kilimanjaro).
      I'll not forget chewing the stimulant Kat with locals in Kenya, going to church in the Congo, visiting a local still brewing moonshine in Malawi, stopping time after time to give people rides to the market, school, church, or the next village .
       I have no ideal what God has planned for me in 2012, but the most southern point in the world you can drive to is in Argentina.  Hmmm....
Happy New Year!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Death by Mini Bus

It has been quite a week for me and the bike.  Monday I left the banks of the Nile River, or where it's said to have its beginings for Mbarara, Uganda. By Wednesday, I had three bike dilemmas: I had yet another flat tire at the back, had dropped the bike twice, and was almost killed by a mini bus.

Back flats are the worst to fix:  fitting bushings, brakes, the chain, and holding the wheel up while pushing the axel pin in place requires some serious focus... something I was running short of by the next day. The rain had started by then and I hadn't noticed that the locals were shuffling their feet along the road instead of picking them up to walk. My tires were like just waxed skies on ice! In first gear, the bike slid sideways leaving me behind to listen to the locals laugh as I lay in the mud! Ant there was the bike about 30 feet ahead of me.

The second time I dropped the bike, I had just forgotten about the whole kickstand thing for some reason.

The bus? Well, I was going about 60 mph on a dry, paved road, when an on-coming bus, going even faster than me, crossed the center line. Maybe I did, but it really wasn't a center line. We collided. The bus hit my pannier bag, bending the steal frames and ripped it off the bike, exploding its contents all over the highway. God was with me again and I stayed on the bike, but I have no clue how I stayed balanced. I am terrible at sports, and the hand /eye thing! Somehow I kept the bike up. (Probably from the experience of hitting a deer last year on the Harley.)  Well the 20 or more on the bus decided that it was me trying to kill them by running my bike into their bus and that I needed to pay for damages to the bus.  They called the police and the magistrate decided the matter. Mobs form fast in Africa and African justice is quick. It cost ME $270.00 for damages to the bus, and another $1.00 for the man and his 10 kids who collected my things from the road and stayed guard until I finished court with the bus driver and it riders.

I am not into facebook, but most of Africa is, so you have probably seen all the pictures, LOL. Also look for a used pannier bag on Ebay, I let the kids have it as my gift.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


      I am enjoying the ride through Kenya. Not paying attention to much really, the Rift Valley is a great ride but was surprised myself when I saw a sign indicating the equator.  So I am again keeping cool in the northern hemisphere. To be exact, if anyone is checking, I am on the north end of Lake Victoria. Its also a LOT cooler than the streets of Nairobi.

Zanzibar Village in Tanzania

     Nairobi National Park is in the heart of Nairobi. Lodging next to it was an experience, listening to the lions at night. My African safari of animals would be complete if in Rwanda I would see the gorilla.   Kilimanjaro: It  has a lot of snow which surprised me. I thought global warming would have melted it.

       No one was witness to what happened, but when I parked at a lodge, my bike was hit. The pannier bags were not on the bike at the time so they are good, but it took another trip to see a welder to fix the pannier frame.

It was parked where there are no cars, but I have a strong feeling a bull cart hit it. The bull cart delivers pineapple, and I think he also does contract work for UPS.
Jinja, Uganda.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


        How are you? My grand adventure should take me to Nairobi in the next week. Its been an interesting few weeks stretching out along the beaches of Dar Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania. My credit card needed to be replaced which is not an easy task, but UPS came through about as quickly as Tom Hanks did delivering his last package after being rescued in the movie Cast Away.

      Next came the end of another quality BMW part.. a broken clutch cable left me stranded in Dar Salaam. Relying on African hospitality, Simon and I spent the week finding the right parts and people to fabricate a new one. So short of another delay, I will put on some miles again starting Friday, December 2.

      Stonetown brought with it the first time I thought I was going to be hauled off to the police station for not wearing my helmet.  It may also have been me screaming at the policeman that he was a Fn idiot. The crowd that gathered was amused, but it took some doing before I was on my way again.  My next stop was for a cold beer. The policeman, who was not succesful getting a payoff from me, probably went to a shebeen (local bar). A shebeen is a local place  that often looks like a shack with a bare power line illegally attached to a fridge keeping a few beers cool for a big spender. Shake Shake is a local brew that is served warm in a 1.5 litre carton. It has the taste of watered down porridge, and looks the same. It's made from maze. Me, I went to a local bar.

     It's now almost impossible to avoid the tour bus trail. Big overland trucks roll into the lodges late at night with 20 - 30 weary, shaken, young adventurous souls. They skip across Africa on their three week tours setting up tents in nothing more than parking lots, cooking and cleaning before heading out the next morning at 5am.  They make fast photo stops at all the usual guide book "must see" places before returning to their offices back home to show friends and family "Africa."

     It's common for the odd tourist to depart the rolling brothel they paid big money for, to just gather their things and let the bus leave without them, ready to see Africa on their own. I have now met up with such persons who got off said bus 10 years ago, and they are still here! Sounds a little cynical LOL, but hey that's just me!

      Truthfully if interested in visiting Africa, I would love to see a face from home. I will even play the part of a pale-skinned tour guide for a warm beer! In West Africa I could not give American currency away if I wanted to. In East Africa the tour bus trail has created inflation and a need for green backs, so bring a few extra. No crazy lines shopping for Black Friday specials, pepper spray, shootings, or even a need for more stuff we cannot afford.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Moving on ...

      After flirting with the idea of heading for South Africa and then making my way home, I came to my senses and realized I may never physically or otherwise have the chance to come here and continue on, so I decided to see everything I can now.
      I am now enjoying the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania and  the new plan is to spend some time in the country seeing Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, and eventually head to Kenya making a loop around lake Victoria into Uganda, Rwanda, then back into Tanzania, and then eventually south to South Africa. That's the plan.
      I am doing better after the bout of malaria. BUT as I sit here and type, there are over 30 mosquito bites on my right hand...ugh! And another 30 or more bites from a few days ago on my shoulder...ugh! And I have a smelly foot that they seem to enjoy biting also.
      LOL: Friends in Issaquah reminded me that they don't have malaria there ! Thanks, but I do like to gamble from time to time.
My Slovenia friend Peter is now home. I expected travel to take a change as I went east,  but in East Africa the tour bus trail has constantly crossed my path and there is never a shortage of travelers to exchange information with as I head north.

Esther cooking my eggs.

Some university students hanging out at the beach for the weekend.
A mountain "lodge" out house.. . Just step up and lift the lid, remove the cloth
that keeps the fliess out and have a seat.
When done, add a handful of leaves , and 1/2 a cup of ashes before putting
the lid & cloth back.
This practice is also used in a lot of villages.

If the bike and my health stay above 50% I expect to complete my journey early next year !

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Feeling better!

Local news besides my health: Fuel is still impossible to find; now it's soft drinks.
Reckless driver gets fined K70,000 ( $45.00) for killing a child;
Uganda arrests its political opposition; (so much for a fare election).
Tobacco is Malawi's mainstay, wiring in over 60% of its foreign exchange. It  is down 40% from last year to 242 million.
And the local dugout canoe winner went 5 kilometers in 39 minutes.
A safari drive in Zambia lions killed an elephant. After filling up vultures come, then at night hyenas feed.

Happy Vultures Like to Eat Elephant Butt.
The Lions that killed it are sleeping about 20 metres away.
South Malawi is home to tea plantations, tobacco, and Mt Malange. I found a porter and climbed the 3000 + meter mountain. The pictures are of men going up the mountain with saws to cut timber they take to market to sell.

In Senga Bay I met up with a couple from Oregon travelling the world on mopeds. They're taking the easy paved roads unlike the BMW.

He has my money in his hand, sure to bring a few smiles and buy some German coffee.

This guy is happy because he grows his own "Malawi Gold" to smoke.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


I guess it was my turn, and really, did I expect to not get malaria at all after eight months in Africa?  High fever and a lot of leg pain sent me to a clinic for a blood test. The Irish volunteer doctor there filled small zip locks with pills and gave me written instructions.  Hopefully in three days I am supposed to feel better. Then I will post more. Whites have a harder time recovering from malaria than blacks who grow up with it. I'm still in Malawi dealing with the challenge of trying to find fule at less than $1000.00 Kwatcha a litre. (That's about $6.00 US per litre/ $28.00 US per gallon.)  It's all on the black market, as the country has no forex to purchase it. No cars on the road as you might have guessed.
A better update will follow when I am feeling better!! ( with pictures)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Night Guards and Visitors

Here's  a typical place in Zambia, except the night guard planned on sleeping so he asked me to park inside. 

A few days later, it was hot and dry  so I decided to take out the tent. It's been a while and probably about the 8th time since I arrived in Africa, as the tent has been used.

      Shortly after crawling into my sleeping bag, a herd of about twelve elephants arrived.  They walked about 15 feet from my tent. Quickly, the guards came over to do whatever they could to get the elephants to leave the area without pissing them off.  I was very aware they were right outside my tent, but I stayed hidden inside. If startled, elephants will attack, and I have already heard about a tourist who was killed this way.
      Almost as quickly as it started, it seemed like the elephants just left, but then the damn hippos came up from the river to eat the grass around my tent.
If the tent ever leaves the bike again I will set it up in a safe, paved parking lot at Costco!  

During the rain season, which is about to start, the canyon wall to the right is all water. Here at the end of the hot & dry season, the falls are still incredible, but leave little water for rafting.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Over Landers

Looking for a sweet deal? The Oppi-Koppi rest camp lets Over Landers ( travelers through Africa) camp for free! They take a photo of you to put in their scrapbook. To date, I am the only American this year to stay there. Right now, you guys must all be working, watching TV, or surfing the internet... Here in October it's the start of the rainy season ... again...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Cheetah vs BMW


          Riding the back roads of Namibia I woke a cheetah from its spot in the shade. I was going about 60MPH when he took off in front of me. Incredibly fast, it stayed ahead of the bike before taking to the fields. If it wanted to give chase and have me for lunch I would have had a problem, or learned really quickly just how well I can handle the bike on gravel roads.

          Not long after chasing the cheetah, the back of the bike was kicking about more than usual.  I soon discovered my next problem for the day. A flat tire  .. ugh .. in 95 degrees of sun! Shade would only come with sunset, so I found my John Deer hat and got to work. An hour later I was HOT, tired, and wishing I had a bigger bicycle pump. I was much in need of a cold beer, but proud that I could still fix a flat when stuck in the desert with vultures circling wanting me for lunch.
         I took a game drive yesterday to get better aquainted with my souroundings after the cheetah dash.  Unfortunatey my small pocket camera only works well enough if the animals come to me. So most pictures are of poor quality. Sorry.

         Namibia is still very much a German colony and I feel the real Africa is back in the Congo. It is relaxing; there is no shortage of apple pie, meat and potatoes, but I will head towards  Zambia and Malawi in the next few days. I'll leave the tourists, lodges, and game parks for mace,( starch / protein called food .. ugh) warm beer, bucket showers, and "hotels " that double as brothels.

        About 50,000 Himba people live in nomadic villiages up  in northern Namibia and Angola. They are much like the Herero people with the obvious exception of the hair and skin colored with ochre. Women cover themselves with a mixture of ochre, butter, herbs, and a fragrance that leave their skin a burnt orange. It's also used in their hair. The mixture is put on daily so they never wash themselves, or have a need for sun screen or deodorant. Most choose to stick to tradition and do not attend school, or particapate in western ways. I found a Herero man to translate.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Windhoek, Namibia

       The BMW Safari is over! Never really found out what happened, but it was somewhere unknown for the past two weeks. My guess is it missed its connection at an airport somewhere. I broke the front steering bearing, so I will hang out in Windhoek, Namibia until parts come next week.
       I met a great woman who has a dog that we take on hikes most days. This is  helping me stay in shape and learn some local culture.
       Now that I am further south, I have stopped taking malaria pills. The pills caused some very odd dreams, very vivid,, and sometimes bringing back memories I long forgot about 30 years ago.  Some places it's impossible not to be covered in bites.
       I will probably stay in Namibia for the next few weeks before heading east.

Kids will wave you down looking for a ride. I never give rides, usually
they are just walking to their village a few miles away.

The Chinese are here in BIG way building roads through the jungle.
It will create a big change in the next five years.

In the Congo, bootleg gas is smuggled in from Nigeria cheap and sold at
roadside stops like this.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


What makes my journey so amazing, are the great people I continue to meet.
While working out details to move on from the Congo, I stayed at the same hotel as the non- resident Congolese football (soccer) team.  The Muslim players insisted we all celebrate the end of Ramada with a lot of eating, some dancing, and even some beer... The season is over for them and most now have new contracts for:  Dubai, the UK, Germany, Viet Nam, etc. The Nigerian player and I used our time to learn as much French as we could from the guys in the time we had.

Congo football team (soccer) taking me to the airport.

Everyday, I took a short walk for coffee and an omelet.  There, I visited with Momma.. . Her one burner camp stove heated my water for coffee, while she prepared the eggs and chatted. It's such a simple way to live, sitting on a plank having breakfast with the neighbours. Shop owners like this provide the meeting place for the neighbours who come and visit.

"Bonjour momma"
Friendly greeting everyday for a coffee and a omelet in a beget

I flew to Namibia, shipping my bike by air. Sadly I now have no idea where the bike is ... I feel pretty sure it left the Congo, but think it may not have made it past Angola.

My travels thru French Africa are over for now, So I may see a movie while
looking for the bike !
 It's a cash economy, so don't even ask about insurance! After paying for insurance in West Africa and finding out several countries later that it was bogus, wisdom said no more of that.
On the safari!!  And looking for a BMW GS800. needs cleaning, welding, tires, brakes, rim's, service, fuel and some minor body work.

Friday, 26 August 2011


It's going to take a long time before I become a soccer fan! (football)
The hotel girls are "usually" really great at doing my laundry. Because of
some fly that lays eggs on the clothes while they're hanging to dry, everything
is ironed, even socks.

The laundry girls all had a great laugh at their mistake. Underwear I gave
them to clean said, "Manchester United" across the top red elastic band. My
problem is that the clean pair of underwear I was now wearing said:

I sent that pair of underwear for the trash real fast!!!

Thursday, 18 August 2011


Congo Internet sucks, so I will be quick:
I hit a car in Gabon, took out his tail lights, a molding, and dented his fender. I managed to keep the bike on two wheels. After a short screaming match, I decided he was at fault for bad parking. The guy, confused, decided we best not call police. I gave him $30.00 and left for the panel beaters to hammer out the dents.
The other side leaks also.
 It's going to take some 2 inch foam rod and a case of silicone to fix this when I return !!

The Road to the Congo border. After some haggling, the Congo Border officials gave up
on ways to charge extra money to cross the border. Happy to enter without paying out any bribes!
 I spent several days riding to the sandy coast of Gabon to see surfing hippos. The locals let me know it's more of a myth than fact. The BBC waited months to get the surfing hippos on film, probably after chasing them into the sea. Not sure if spending $500.00 to see gorillas being fed in a pen is a great way to revive tourism.

The National highway, described as difficult and dangerous is home to Ninga Warriors. They are still causing chaos long after their civil war ended.  I bought a security guy along the way a beer, and I convinced him it was okay to let me check out his AK 47. Interested, like most people are as to why I would ever want to come to a place most would do anything to leave, I am allowed to continue on. Usually security stops vehicles and makes them travel in groups for safety, but they decided to let me travel alone.
No GO Garth!

With a crumbling infrastructure, limited accommodations, roadside food vendors with the usual wood plank for a bench, or at best a resin chair, I am still surprised. The DRC / Zaire embassy would not take a bribe after several attempts at getting a visa. My options are now limited. Travelling the national highway again back to Pointe Noire, I have hopes for Angola's 5 day transit visa. Let's wait and see.

Follow along!

First bit of pavement I saw in weeks!

Friday, 29 July 2011


          After 10 days I will depart Saturday morning from Cameroon to go on to Gabon. It's been cold - 70 degrees for the high every day. Glad I still have my jacket, because after the heat of the Sahara I am always cold.

         The roads that welcomed me into Cameroon were not what I had expected. The 45 mile ride took 2 days, and another day of rest when I finally saw a paved road. My workout program has now changed to picking up the bike during the day, and beers at night !

        I usually have no idea what day it is, unless its Sunday. Most people work 6 days a week with Sunday off. Saturday tends to be an early night because most attend church Sunday morning, but come the evening it's time to have some fun! I have a new friend who think I look like a robot when I have all my riding gear on. His daily prayer for me is: Lord keep Garth safe whenever he has on his robot clothes .. LOL .

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ghana and Nigeria

I just spent over a month in Ghana and loved everything about it. I would go back there again without question. Wait, everything? Okay, traffic sucks, so do most roads, hotels, and people relieve themselves everywhere in public. But the rest is good.
I was there for Republic Day, July 1. It's a long, long  party- like our 4th of July. Lots of whites in Ghana, including Americans. Ghana is English speaking. In time I got used to the humidity and skin that feels as if it's covered with a sticky can of spilled coke. A beacon of hope for west Africa, Ghana is on the move, wanting change faster than its corrupt leaders can provide.  I see possibilities for a great future for the people. Like most places I have been to, cell phones are everywhere, people are very connected. - on top of global news, and politics.  The streets are full of vendors, way too many cars, and motor bikes. And happy faces always, and I mean always …. People were always stopping me on my bike to chat and have visits.  I used to just wave and smile when onlookers would scream, "Hey white man, " but after a month in Ghana, I would have to stop because I would sometimes hear, “ Hey Anton” or “Hey Washington” ... so another cup of coffee, or beer later I would be off again.

NOW !! well …..let’s go swimming

There is absolutely no way I can describe riding a motorcycle in Africa, and doing it in a city like Lagos, Nigeria with about 15 million other people! It is crazy! The bike fell in a hole yesterday.  Not my fault - the hole was covered flush with the top of the road with water. ( Google "Lagos News" for the rain report !!) The bike went down into the hole hard, but kept running submerged in a good 4 feet of water. Quickly people were there to push as I stood beside the hole and leaned down in it to throttle it back up onto the blacktop, and then I was off again.
Lanes do not exist really, and cars and bikes all fight for space. I have been wedged  between cars in traffic. The bike couldn't  fall over or  run into traffic. I've dodged oncoming traffic at 50 miles an hour as thousands of cars, tired of waiting in traffic, would cross over the median and drive on the wrong side of the road.  It is really like a real life video game of cars coming at you from the wrong direction, but it somehow works.
My face is so black after a day’s ride, I am wet from riding in knee deep water, but somehow I like it!!
It’s the high fives I get as I pass a buss , or people running after me in traffic just to ask where I am from, or the kindness of others to go in a 4 foot deep hole of water to help push my bike back on the road again.
Peter, the Slovenia rider is with me again, and follows with a smile, and a whole lot of caution!!
In the end - Nigeria known for its scams, dangers, and bad reputation. But it can surprise!  It did me.
Stay home if you haven’t been to Africa before, but if you’re a little seasoned, it can be fun !!
Photo taken by my friend from Slovenia