Tanzania, Part 3: Hippos, Dirt Roads and the Southern Highlands

25 November – 4 December 2012

With sanDRina all sorted out now, I was finally back in the groove and enjoying Tanzania. I spent a night next to some noisy hippos at the Katavi National Park and then sojourned down southwest Tanzania and its dirt roads into Mbeya. After a few days rest at a CouchSurfer’s place, I headed for the last leg through the Southern Highlands towards the border with Mozambique.

First day back on the road after sanDRina was cured of her ills.

Happy to have a smoothly running motorcycle.

Riding the remote roads of southwestern Tanzania. This is between Uvinza and Mpanda. Click here to see the high resolution version.

I was in the middle of the rainy season now but it mostly falls for just a few hours in the afternoons with bright skies in the mornings.

I got to Sitalike at the northern edge of Katavi National Park and tented up for the night at Riverside Camp where the Katuma River is full of…

…hippos! Lots of hippos and all close to each other, which inevitably leads to a lot of…

…pushing and shoving and grunting, especially where little ones are involved.

Hippos yawn a lot and the males love to show off their massive front-facing tusks.

They basically lounge in the water all day long, due to the heat, and with lounging around comes a lot of yawning.

My, what a big mouth you have. Strange that their large mouth is mainly used during territorial attacks and not really for eating, since they’re vegetarians and come ashore at night to graze.

My camp site right next to the river with the hippos but no fears of being trampled at night due to large wooden poles used as fencing. Click here to see the high resolution version.

A large hippo skull by the bathroom.

Setting off the next morning and noting the sign at the entrance to Katavi National Park. The main road cuts through the northern end of the park and the sign says that it’s prohibited to see and photograph any wildlife that I might come across. Since it’s a public road, it’s free to use but if I wander off into the bush, then I’m entering the national park and have to pay their fees. I promise to keep my eyes closed if I see an elephant.

A nice, easy ride through Katavi National Park. I didn’t see any wildlife, so no rules broken.

sanDRina looking quite clean for having been on muddy roads. I think the nightly rains are doing their job of giving her a bath.

Waving to road construction workers having their lunch and seeking respite from the heat. There’s a new, huge highway being built all up the southwestern side of Tanzania. I’m glad I could ride that route now, before the adventure is replaced by tar.

Taking a break and noticing a colorful hitchhiker who didn’t survive the rough ride. Sorry. And here’s a close look at the Kevlar mesh of my Motoport riding suit. Most people see the bulky riding gear and think how hot and miserable I must feel but they don’t realize that it’s all mesh and when I’m moving, air is flowing over my entire body and I feel just fine.

I got flashed by this oncoming, unmarked car and had to pull over. I saw it was full of police officers and before this agent of the law could ask a single question to me, I had fired off a volley of questions to him, “Good afternoon, Sir, where’s the next petrol station? Can I buy water there? Is there a hotel nearby? Is it going to rain? I’m running late! Etc, etc.” This tactic works like a charm, every time. The police officer has become my friend now because he has given this poor traveler lots of useful information and quickly lets me go to carry on my mission. No documents were shown and no bribes were given.

A wonderful ride, up and down mountains on a hard-packed mud road with lots of greenery. Ahh, good to be riding in Africa.

I got to the big town of Sumbawanga and checked in to the Matama Guest House, where a clean, private room goes for Tsh 7,000 ($4.50).

The Matama Guest House has some strict rules that every guest must follow. Lots of funny ones here but I love #12, no friendly talks anywhere else except at reception and #16, those smokers are such rough people.

Having a hearty meal of beans and rice with some spinach and peri-peri for Tsh 1,000 ($0.64).

Snap. The next morning, when packing up, I noticed that my pannier frame had snapped clean. That’s the first time that’s happened. All the previous ones were just cracks that were starting. I guess I didn’t notice it for a while and had ridden some serious corrugations yesterday.

How many straps equal a weld? The prudent thing to do would’ve been to weld it up right there but I had only one more day to go to Mbeya and didn’t want to risk catching the rains in the afternoon on these muddy roads. So, I used 5 of my Wunderlich straps to tie the right pannier to the top box and it held until I got to Mbeya.

The beautifully flowing landscape of southwestern Tanzania…
Click here to see the high resolution version.

…which is being rapidly paved over.

Tanzanian women in stride. What can you balance on your head?

I got to Mbeya and got the pannier frame welded up at a metalworks shop.

Solid job for Tsh 6,000 ($3.80). I think at some point soon my frame is going to be more welds than steel.

Mbeya is a lovely little town up in the Southern Highlands, sitting at 1,735 m (5,700 ft). Camping equipment for sale by the main road. That chair looks comfy.

I stayed with Anna and her roommate, Maren, through CouchSurfing and I’m telling you, the world is really a small place. Anna is a good friend of Christina, my friend from Nairobi and officemate at ICRISAT. I only found out after posting about it on facebook. So, I was more family than CouchSurfer. Anna came to Mbeya to work at a medical research institute and is now looking for her next steps. I cooked my chicken curry for her circle of friends and helped spread the message of eudaimonia through it.

Anna’s dog, Nyota, keeping watch over sanDRina. They were renting a nice, little house with a great view over the valley that Mbeya sits in.

Filling up fuel at a proper petrol station on my out of Mbeya. The attendant, just like all the others before him, was amazed at how much fuel sanDRina can drink down.

Twisty roads in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. This is the TanZam Highway, linking Lusaka to the port at Dar-es-salaam and mostly sees truck traffic and used Japanese cars being transported to land-locked Zambia.

Enjoying big mountains in my view and looking forward to getting back into them soon. Click here to see the high resolution version.

Tea plantations stretching across the horizon near Njombe. I got off the TanZam and headed south for the Mozambican border, climbing back up into the mountains and their chill air. Click here to see the high resolution version.

Tea leaves, ending up in a hot cup near you. While coffee beans are roasted to get to the end product, tea leaves are fermented.

A huge cell phone tower next to the Lutheran Guest House in Njombe. I was only getting 2G reception in most small towns but connection is there and data is cheap in Tanzania at around Tsh 500/25MB ($1.28/100MB).

Having a nicely presented lunch/dinner of rice and beans with some veggie and hot sauce for Tsh 1,200 ($0.76) at a nearby cafe.

Doing some gear maintenance as I prepared to head into remote parts of northern Mozambique. This is my LifeSaver water filter and check out the muck that’s lining the inside. This filter works amazingly well and I’ve not had to buy a single bottle of mineral water on this trip.

On the road to Songea and enjoying the gorgeous landscape and twisty curves. Click here to see the high resolution version.

I got some boiled eggs ordered at the cafe near the guest house and had two for a roadside lunch.

Heading down from the highlands and just soaking in all the greenery and twisting asphalt. Click here to see the high resolution version.

Songea is a frontier town with remote crossings from here west into Malawi and south into Mozambique, where I was headed next. I knew that Mozambique would be more expensive than Tanzania so I stocked up on supplies such as washing powder, biscuits and instant coffee sachets.

Songea is a pleasant town with grand, old trees lining the main road.

The staff at the Anglican Church Hostel in Songea.

A crowd had gathered as this curious-looking biker prepared to leave.

Heading south from Songea for the remote border crossing into Mozambique.

The road was in good condition and the scenery was epic, with jagged peaks in view. Click here to see the high resolution version.

I passed through a few villages…

…and stopped often to take in the grand views. Click here to see the high resolution version.

One last break in the shadow of this tree before the border. Click here to see the high resolution version.

The forest got more dense as I left the villages behind and pretty soon I was…

…chatting up the lone customs officer at the Rio Rivuma Border. Photos aren’t allowed at borders but that’s where GoPro comes in handy. I distracted him just in time so that he wouldn’t notice that while the bike had been in Tanzania for 3 months, my passport had been stamped in and out twice.

Nice chap, he even exchanged my remaining Tanzanian Shillings into Mozambican Meticals and gave me a really good rate, better than the banks. Now, that’s what I call customs with service.

Goodbye, Tanzania. I enjoyed your land and dirt roads and gentle people and won’t let my extended breakdown have a lasting impact of my impression of your wonderful country. Onwards to Mozambique!

Next: Mozambique, Part 1: The Remote North and Lake Malawi

Previous: Tanzania, Part 2: sanDRina is Cured and the Journey Continues

Tanzania, Part 2: sanDRina is Cured and the Journey Continues

14 – 25 November 2012

I received the parts that I thought would fix sanDRina’s issues and boarded the bus back to Tanzania with some trepidation, wondering what I would do if these parts also didn’t fix the issue. Well, replacing the generator and all sorts of electrical components did not fix the issue but in the end, I did find the gremlin who was causing all the issues. The repeated failures were sapping away at my morale and I was at a real low moment, ready to give up; having no more energy to throw solutions at the bike. But, perseverance is my middle name and I stuck through it and triumphed; solving the issue once and for all. Elated at overcoming this major hurdle, I found a new energy to get back on the road and ride Africa.

Boarding the Ferrari bus in Nairobi that was heading for the border town of Sirare. It would take me three long buses to get back to sanDRina in Kibondo. This bus company only borrowed the name and livery of Ferrari but sadly not their speed or performance. Poor thing couldn’t make it uphill without swerving left and right to gain tiny bits of momentum.

I was having a chai and chapati dinner before boarding my bus and struck up a conversation with Moses, here, a bus driver for another company. He was trying to convince me to buy a bus and start a transport company with him. I gave him my Kenyan number and told him to get in touch.

My last sight of Nairobi; downtown at night. I spent more than a year now, almost 14 months here, and made wonderful connections with so many people. Maybe I’ll return one day…

I crossed into Tanzania at dawn and once again noted how different a border crossing was without having to clear a vehicle. This next bus on my journey, the Bunda Bus with a Real Madrid livery, would take me to Mwanza on Lake Victoria.

A little food stand at the border serving up some…

…chapati and chai. The chapati is made fresh right there and it tastes delicious when it’s hot.

The Bunda wasn’t really a chicken bus, but there was a chicken behind the driver.

Bananas and onions for sale at the Tarime bus stand.

I got some boiled maize but it could’ve used some salt and chili powder.

Nice scenery near the shores of Lake Victoria. I spent the bus journey listening to the audio book of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I tried to read the book when I first got into motorcycles but most of it was over my head then except the part that it’s a richer experience when you work on your own motorcycle rather than having someone else do it for you. This time around, I could grasp much more of the story and its deep message. The story is about a motorcycle journey but it’s much more than that. It’s a defense for choosing a life strategy that has abundances of quality. And what exactly quality means is a long and deep part of the book. I get it but it’s hard to describe it in a few words. I think the book appeals to readers at various levels and I encourage you to get a copy and revisit this classic.

Having a meal of chips maai and a cold Coke in Mwanza. Maai is egg in Kiswahili and this is an omelet with french fries. Brilliant.

I slept a few hours in a dingy guest house next to the bus terminal and was woken up at 4 am to get ready for the last bus to Kibondo.

Mwanza sits on the southern shore of Lake Victoria and has these enigmatic rocks dotted along its shoreline.

Leaving Mwanza just as the sun was rising.

The sentinel rock leading our ferry out across the channel.

Our bus on the ferry across a channel of Lake Victoria. This prevented us having to make a big detour south around a lagoon.

An old dhow heading out for the early morning catch. Sadly, the grand lake is being overfished and the stock numbers are dropping.

The bus driver cooling down the engine, which resulted in lots of steam filling the already hot bus. Once the tar road ended, the journey became quite dusty and I realized that I’m more clean when I’m riding the bike than while taking public transport.

I arrived in Kibondo and rushed to the hotel and was thrilled to see that sanDRina was just where I had left her, patiently waiting for me.

The new generator (stator) going back on with a new gasket. I got the uprated stator from Procycle, which puts out 250W compared to the stock 200W.

I did a good 20 kms (12 mi) test ride and sanDRina was riding well. I figured the problem was solved, so let’s go.

Thank you ladies for taking care of the bike.

Back on the road, after more than two months! It felt wonderful and I was thankful the rainy season hadn’t kicked in, yet.

Enjoying some twisty tarmac on my down into Kigoma, a good 240 kms (150 mi) from Kibondo.

Fear not, I’m a Professional African Urban Rider with a forte in splitting traffic. There’s a gap and I’m going for it.

I stayed with Elias, here, through CouchSurfing in Kigoma. He’s from Dar-es-salaam but works here for the Jane Goodall Institute, who research chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream National Park. He was an accountant at the head office, so no chance to go visit the chimps. Elias was very hospitable and relaxed.

The institute sits on the shores of Lake Tanganyika…

…with DR Congo on the other shore. It’s a part of the Great Rift Valley Lakes and is the second deepest and second largest lake in the world, after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It takes the title of being the world’s longest lake at 676 kms (420 mi) extending all along the south-western edge of Tanzania.

Enjoying a sunset over Lake Tanganyika.

Elias had a very simple home as most of his income was being sent to his young family who still live in Dar. He’s lived and worked in the Middle East and is looking to get to the US at some point.

Filling up air on my way out of Kigoma.

Kigoma is probably the most remote city in Tanzania but there’s new tar roads extending out from this outpost.

I got back on the mud roads and started heading south and then sanDRina stopped running. I had a sinking feeling that I hadn’t solved the issue with her. Once again, she would start up if I let her rest for a while. I went along like this for a bit with her dying every few minutes. I had just left a small town and now it was 200 kms through the bush to the other side. Here, I replaced the spark plug and the ignition coil with a spare set and she ran for a bit more and then died again.

I made the call to turn around and return to the small town of Uvinza. The rainy season was fully under way but it’s quite predictable here and only really rains in the afternoon. It was early afternoon by now and I could see the rain clouds coming. This was a tricky muddy section with lots of large potholes and I didn’t want sanDRina to stop while I was in the middle of a crossing. I waited for a good 20 minutes before going back over my tracks and she lasted for about 10 minutes before dying again.

I hobbled back to Uvinza and got to a small hotel just as the skies opened up.

sanDRina was looking sad and I was feeling terribly low. I didn’t know what else I could do. I thought I had tried everything I could think of. I figured it must be some sort of electrical short somewhere in the wiring harness and I was out of energy to strip the bike down and remove the entire harness to search for the short. I was ready to give up. I had lost my confidence in the bike. I figured it had been a good run up to now and I started making plans for getting back to Nairobi on a truck. It wasn’t easy and I spent a few days languishing in the doldrums, wondering if I was really ready to stop the journey now.

I got on the internet and shared my plight with friends who’ve been following this journey. All of them kept encouraging me to continue and a few in particular were reminding me to check and recheck everything from the basics. If it wasn’t an electrical problem, then maybe it was something with the fuel. But I had checked the carburetor and all looked fine but I hadn’t really checked the petcocks in the tank or the fuel filter. Ok, I had a good nights sleep, had some oatmeal for breakfast and decided I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

The petcocks looked quite clean except for some crud on the bottom. This is the part that controls the flow of fuel from the tank into the fuel lines to the carb.

I had an audience of young kids. Curious eyes peering through the grate.

They were respectful and just watched and were happy to have their photo taken.

Ah ha, a dirty looking fuel filter. Hmmm, somehow I hadn’t checked the fuel filter all this time. I had moved it to a new location on the bike during my rebuild in Nairobi and it was out of sight now, so it hadn’t come to mind. This filter has a paper core, which can easily get blocked if there’s been some water in the petrol as the paper swells and blocks the pores. Along with water, I guess I’ve been taking on some dirty fuel. This little clogged filter was allowing the bike to run for a few minutes at a time until the sediments got into every pore and chocked the carb of fuel. After resting for a few minutes, the sediments would settle and the bike would fire up again, until the sediments went and choked the remaining pores in the filter. That was it. I put in a new copper core filter and sanDRina fired up and sounded great.

The kids sensed my joy and got up for a closer look as sanDRina thumped to life. I was ecstatic. I knew now that it was the fuel filter all along. My first hunch of this issue being fuel-related was correct but I had stopped my diagnosis at the carb and didn’t inspect the entire fuel system. My bad, but who cares, I had found the culprit!

I went for a 60 kms (37 mi) test ride and she sounded fantastic, revving through all the gears. The successful test ride welled up a great new energy in me and I knew I could carry on now and finish riding through Africa. I wasn’t ready to give up and I just needed a little extra push to keep searching for the issue and voila, now I had surmounted the gremlins. I fueled up once again from jerry cans, as there was no other option, but I wasn’t worried now. A copper core filter has finer pores for sediment but it wont clog up if there’s water in the fuel.

My spirits were up again and after taking my head away from bike maintenance, I could see the beautiful little village of Uvinza.

Storms were coming through every afternoon.

A little old lady who sold me some rice as I restocked my supplies.

Crazy Tanzanian kids selling mangoes. They were all so shy at first but after I showed them photos of themselves, they went biserk and started making the funniest poses. Their joy reminded me of why I’m here in Africa. It’s not to complain and whine about bike problems, it’s to see and experience this amazing continent, which I was now ready to do.

My room at the Sleep Lodge in Uvinza where I tossed and turned with the decision of whether to quit and throw in the towel now or keep searching for the issue. I’m glad I could muster the energy to do the latter and win this mental battle.

The mama at the Sleep Lodge who’s smile reminded me of the life-affirming experience that I was having.

The motorcycle is a machine and it only fails if its operator has neglected to maintain it or if it wasn’t manufactured properly. Listening to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance reminded me to stop paying attention to the weak emotions of hopelessness when dealing with a frustrating problem and to simply tackle it rationally. Once the issue was solved, then I could let my positive emotions of achievement and success flood my brain and bring me back into this journey.

Next: Tanzania, Part 3: Hippos, Dirt Roads and the Southern Highlands

Previous: Escape to Nairobi: For Visas, Parts and Old Friends

Tanzania, Part 1: Down the Western side and Bike Problems

4 – 26 September 2012

After my loop through Uganda and Rwanda, I entered the land of grand savannahs. Tanzania is synonymous with names such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro but I was routing down its less well-known western side, where the roads are still un-tarred as it passes through small villages and towns. My plan was just to spend about 3 weeks traveling down the western forests and southern highlands before getting into Mozambique, but all that changed quickly when sanDRina developed a problem. Our intended 3 weeks ended up being 3 months in the country for sanDRina, with a 7 week break for me where I went back to Nairobi to take care of some things, receive parts and renew visas.

My inability to nail down the root-cause of sanDRina’s problems really challenged me and brought my spirits to their lowest on this trip. I considered throwing in the towel and giving up. But thanks to some close friends and encouragement from those who are following my journey, I found the courage to clear my mind and figure out exactly what was causing the problem. With my confidence restored in sanDRina, we continued our ride through beautiful Tanzania, meeting lovely people and cherishing the experience of being on the road.

Rusumo Falls at the border between Rwanda and Tanzania. I just love gushing water.

The border post was easy to navigate through. I was heading towards Kigoma.

Tanzania’s currency, the Shilling where Tsh 1,615 = USD $1, so that Tsh 10,000 note equates to $6.20. The country is known for its grand wildlife but this was as close as I was going to get to a lion or an elephant.

My route through Tanzania, entering on the western side from Rwanda and working down to a southern exit into Mozambique. The brown route is my bus ride back to Nairobi. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps.

A good first impression of the roads in Tanzania. Most of the traffic were trucks hauling imports from the sea to land-locked Rwanda.

I hit the junction for Kigoma and not knowing what the fuel situation would be like, I topped up with some jerrycan petrol. He’s got a sock over the funnel, so must be clean.

Oh yeah, feels good to be standing on the pegs on a hard dirt road and cruising in top gear.

The views all around were grand. On the right were mountains that created the border with Burundi and on my left were vast open savannahs with few people and lots of wildlife in game reserves. Click here to see the high resolution version.

I took a break to soak in this beautiful land.

This little boy came walking along…

…and then his buddy showed up. This is a rural area and it was sad to see their malnourished stomachs.

Pretty soon a whole bunch of them gathered but they were so well behaved and just sat at a distance and watched me. What a contrast compared to Ethiopian kids where haggling outsiders is the norm.

This boy had gathered up some fruit. I wondered what it was but didn’t feel like asking for one.

Such interesting faces. I wondered what they were thinking looking at this strange, bald alien on a big, black motorcycle. I’m conscious of the fact that I look so out of this world when I travel through rural areas, but hey, safety first.

Back on the lovely road, heading south.

I got waved over into the ditch by some people running with flags and saw that they were clearing the road for…

…some soldiers on a run.

Enjoying the riding, oblivious to the fact that something was troubling sanDRina.

She stopped running. Uh oh. What could it be? First thing to do is check that there is enough fuel. Of course, I just fueled up a while back, but check it. No fuel leaks, battery voltage looks good, engine temperature looks good, hmmm…

I waited a few minutes and then she fired up, yay! But then she died again a few minutes later. It felt like a fuel delivery problem in the carburetor but what was making it run for a while and then stop? I was about 10 kms (6 mi) from the next town, Kibondo, and was surrounded by maize fields on a dry, dusty road with trucks passing by. I couldn’t open up the carb here. I got a push from some locals and after pushing for about 2 kms, she fired up again and I managed to ride into town just before she died.

Luckily, sanDRina stopped right in front of a small bike mechanic shop, run by Ramadan here. He was very friendly and agreed that it sounded like a carb problem. With daylight fading, we took out the carb and here he’s blowing into the fuel inlet to see if the float is working properly. He said it didn’t feel right to him and we would need some sandpaper to ease the jet for the float needle. The diagnose made sense to me but the hardware shops were closed now.

As the crowd gathered around, Ramadan took a sample of fuel and determined that it didn’t feel right to him as he rubbed it with this fingers and said perhaps there was water in the petrol. I told him how I had fueled up with that jerrycan petrol and he said, yup, sometimes those guys cheat you and mix water in there. Great. I had almost a full tank using only 5 L so far of my 40 L tank. That was a lot of money to just throw away but Ramadan told me not to worry. He called up the local boda boda drivers (motorcycle taxi) and convinced them to buy some supposedly tainted petrol at a discount price. He told them their Chinese bikes could handle a little water in their petrol but my fancy Japanese motorcycle needed the purest petrol possible. I was just going along with all this. Petrol was retailing for Tsh 2,500/L ($6.03/gal, Euro 1.11/L) and Ramadan sold my fuel for Tsh 2,200/L . Not a bad loss to get rid of possibly water-infected petrol. We got some fresh petrol from the fuel station and sanDRina fired up but died again within 10 minutes of running. Oh no, it wasn’t the fuel! Maybe it was the sticky float needle; to be tackled the next day.

I got directed to the only hotel in town and not having a functioning bike, I didn’t bother checking all the accommodation options and just settled for Hotel Sankere, the swankiest place in town. It cost Tsh 20,000 ($12.40) per night and came with this hearty breakfast: quarter chicken, chapati, noodles, boiled plantains and meat and potato soup. Ooofh, I was good to go till dinner.

I got to Ramadan’s little shop just as Kibondo was coming to life.

We got some fine sandpaper and carefully sanded the jet for the float needle so that it moved effortlessly. She fired up but then died again within 10 minutes.

Ramadan said it wasn’t a fuel issue and perhaps it was something electrical. This was the start of my long chase up the wrong tree of root-causing the issue. We took out the spark plug and it looked like a weak spark. To find out which component was producing the weak spark, I told him to bring one of the Chinese bikes he was working on close to sanDRina and then proceeded to first send the spark from the DR’s ignition coil to the Chinese bike and that didn’t fire up, then we wired up the ignition coil from the Chinese bike to sanDRina’s spark plugs and she fired up, running good for about 10 minutes but there was no way to run her longer without heating up, so I went and bought two ignition coils meant for the Chinese bikes.

The DR is a dual spark engine and thus two ignition coils meant for 125cc bikes were wired up on sanDRina.

All wrapped up nicely and tucked away on sanDRina’s frame with even a heat shield in place. But sadly, that didn’t fix it. sanDRina ran again for about 10 minutes and died again. Arrgggh!! I was getting frustrated now. It seemed like an ignition coil problem to me and I figured I needed a proper DR replacement ignition coil.

While sending out some emails to the DR community in South Africa, I got out my multimeter and started probing all the electronics to see if something else was also failing. These are the plugs to the CDI (capacitor discharge ignition); considered the brains of the bike (similar to an ECU in a car). The orange wire sends power to the ignition coil and it showed readings that were not in line with the specifications in the maintenance manual. That told me that maybe the CDI had finally packed it in, but these units hardly ever fail. DR riders, Dave and Craig, in Johannesburg from the WildDog forum in South Africa replied that they had a spare ignition coil and CDI lying around from a spares bike and would be glad to send them to me. Wow, I was in luck. I resigned to patiently waiting in Kibondo for the parts to make their way to me.

Feeling like I had finally found the problem with sanDRina and with replacement parts arranged, I could now take my head out of bike repair mode and see the place I was in.

Kibondo is a small town on the way to Kigoma, sitting on the edge of the savannah down below. Morning sunrises were a nice time to walk around before the hustle and bustle of an African town took over.

There were people selling basic groceries, phone accessories, doing bicycle repairs and baking bread.

I went to the market daily and bought some fresh produce for my meals.

Since I was now staying for longer, I moved into a cheaper room which cost Tsh 10,000 ($6.20) and it came with an attached bath but breakfast wasn’t included. I got out my trusty MSR Dragonfly stove and enjoyed the time preparing meals; it also helped pass the time.

I quickly ran out of my small bottle of sesame oil and picked up this bottle of local palm oil for Tsh 1,000. It was quite smokey and gave everything an orange tinge, but hey, I just use what I can find.

I had only a limited supply of oats for breakfast and not knowing how long I was going to be here, I reverted to a breakfast of bread with peanut butter (which was locally available and cheap) and smashed bananas.

Having a lunch of avocado salad.

I had a decent supply of dried soya chunks for my protein but made beans one day. It took so long to cook on my little stove that I gave up on the beans and dreamed of a mini travel-size pressure cooker.

I got friendly with the hotel staff and they invited me to join them for lunch, which was usually ugali (maize meal) with beans. No plates here, just dig in.

Wonderful light at the fruit and veggie market. Produce was relatively cheap. For Tsh 500 ($0.31) I could get either 5 large tomatoes, 5 large onions, 5 medium carrots, a bulb of garlic, two fingers of ginger, 4 big bananas, a medium papaya or a small loaf of bread. Green peppers were very cheap with 4 large ones going for Tsh 200 and a local variety of spinach was only Tsh 100 for a huge bunch.

My kitchen in Kibondo. Everything chopped up and ready for a spinach and okra stir-fry with rice. You like my mini Lexan cutting board? The Leatherman Wave is never far from my side; its sharp knife makes chopping a pleasure.

A lunch of egg salad with lots of veggies.

The CDI and ignition coil finally arrived from South Africa. They went by air courier from Johannesburg to Nairobi and then got put on a bus to Dar-es-salaam for a transfer to a bus to Kibondo. But sadly, that didn’t fix the issue. I called up some old mechanic friends and they suggested running the bike without the generator (stator) plugged in and she seemed to run fine. Ok, maybe it was the stator that needed replacing. I would need to order one from the US. By now it was getting near the end of September and I had originally planned to be in South Africa by the first week of October to take the last exams for my masters degree in Johannesburg. I made the call to leave sanDRina in Kibondo and bus it back to Nairobi to take my exams, receive the spares from the US and then get back to Kibondo, hopefully with a solution in hand.

With the CDI and ignition coil not being the problem, maybe there was a short somewhere in the generator that was heating up after running for a few minutes and then cutting off the bike. I removed the generator and took it back with me to Nairobi.

I packed my essentials and boarded a bus that was heading towards Nairobi. Apparently, an armed escort is needed for the roads that I had traversed, but how bad could it be with our guard busy on his cell phone.

They started playing a DVD of Bob Marley’s Legend album on the bus. Yeah, mon. We be Jammin!

Crossing a small channel across Lake Victoria towards…

…the city of Mwanza.

At the bus station in Mwanza, I grabbed a quick lunch of some skewers and chapati and then hoped on the next bus that would take me to the Kenyan border.

Snacks and vegetables on offer at every bus stop. I wonder who’s doing their vegetable shopping while traveling on a long distance bus?

As the sun set, I crossed the Mara River that flows into the Serengeti and got to the border. This was my first land border crossing on this trip without a vehicle to clear and I hoped sanDRina would be safe and waiting for me when I got back to Kibondo.

Next: Escape to Nairobi: For Visas, Parts and Old Friends

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