Riding my way into Kenya, where I finally fix my bike, get to ride with Lyndon Poskitt and get some epic tracks for Tanzania!
The caravan of me, Mike with his Mercedes and Rob with his MAN truck decided to cross the border into Kenya together. The main reason for this was that at some point in the history of time the Italians and Brits drew a line on a map that became the border between Kenya and Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the locals haven't yet digested this agreement completely and have some fights from time-to-time. We thought it would only be safe to cross together. It was rather uneventful, but we decided to sleep at the border as we were quite late to the game.
After the first stop at a place called Camp Henry's, I decided I wanted to hit the ground swinging in Nairobi (where there was a KTM dealer) and arrive before the weekend. So I left the guys at their own rescue for a bit and decided to set course for a place called Jungle Junction. Unfortunately, halfway through, someone told me it would be easter that weekend and no one would be working that Friday. Plan, out the door. Plan B was to stay at a place on Mt. Kenya for a bit. After taking the wrong way around Mt. Kenya and missing the fancy equator signs for an epic photo moment, I arrive at a pristine lodge. Ran by an elderly dutch lady, it was amazing. It had great views, walks around the jungle and they made their own yoghurt and milk from cows and goats they had on the premises. Whilst setting up camp, a guy walks up to me and we start chatting. Marcus owns a big and pretty well kitted out Toyota Land Cruiser with which him, and his wife Paulene, starting from Australia, had been riding around the world for a bit now. They had bought a rooftent which turned out to turn into a bathtub at the sight of rain and were in a similar easter related pickle to mine. They invited me for diner to which I'd happily agreed and the next day, we went on a walk around the jungle. The guide knew all the bird calls and while we were trying the see them, he was having great big conversations with them. Unfortunately, apart from some fancy, gut issue fixing trees that I've already forgotten, it was rather uninspiring. After a few days of relaxing, enjoying some good company, food, and a couple of good nights of sleep, it was time to head to Nairobi and get the bike fixed.
JJ, KTM, and LP
In the middle of Karen, a neighbourhood in Nairobi called after the Danish writer and farm owner Karen Blixen (from the famous book 'Out of Africa'), lies a little overlanders paradise called Jungle Junction. Ran by Chris, a German guy, there is a workshop, food and arguably the fastest internet in the whole of Africa.
I put up my tent, and go about missioning to KTM. Once there, the guy tells me the boss isn't there and he's not allowed to touch the diagnostics equipment without him. I ask him if I can do it myself, and he says no, so I reluctantly accepted the fact that it was another day gone. The boss (Ian) would be back tomorrow and I could speak to him then. I later hear a car screaming around the area. Chris tells me Ian is back. I quickly google him and find out he is somewhat of a Kenyan rally legend. Pretty neat. He's a tiny guy who would tell things as they are and occasionally told a client or two to sod off (or that is what I'm told later, I experienced nothing but friendliness from him, brilliant guy). I think he kind of felt my pain and took it upon himself to get me out of the door with a working bike. We connect the diagnostics and try to do the same thing as I did before in Egypt. To no extend unfortunately. There is no way to recalibrate the sensor. We tried resetting the full ECU and not even that worked. My mind turns to the worst, if the ECU is broken, I'm in all sorts and I'll be looking for a shipper back home. Not how I planned this trip to go.
I turned to my mate Jon from Kit690 who again (like in Ethiopia) prepared a package with a sensor and he shipped it out. It would take around a week to get there. In the meanwhile, Ian kept texting me to come around because he had some new ideas. We shifted the sensor within the boltholes until it returned the exact voltage the computer expected, hoping that would fix the issue, but alas, it seemed we had to wait for a new sensor. Despite this, I was extremely happy being there, actively working towards a solution with someone who was keen to help and was thinking in solutions instead of problems.
In the meanwhile, I got word Lyndon Poskitt, who did 3 Dakar rallies, has been riding around the world for the past 5 years and films all of it for a project called 'Races to Places', was about to fly into Nairobi. He had broken his hand before in Tanzania and flew around the place giving some talks while his hand was healing. I decided it might be cool to meet up so I shoot him a message. He tells me he's at some coffee place at the other side of town and he's keen to meet up. So I ride there, we have some coffee and he helps me out getting some oil.
At the Wednesday of that week, Lyndon would possibly be leaving Nairobi. I thought it would be cool to ride with him one day, but according to the tracking data, my new sensor would only arrive on Thursday. Some big stars would be needing to line up to get this one straight.
A couple of days before, all the negative karma I'd been building up over the past 4500km's limping my way to Nairobi decided to pay out. That Monday, I get a message my package has arrived in Nairobi and needs to be paid for at customs. I head on over, but unfortunately it's a bit too late and the customs officers are already gone. I do meet a UPS guy who kindly explains the process to me and tells me to come by in the morning and we should have the package within an hour.
The next day comes and I rock up at customs. The lady at the counter was a different one to the one the day before and she decided I needed some paperwork from the UPS office downtown. I decided I didn't have time for that crap today (being a bit fed up with UPS at that moment) and walk past her to the back, into the depot. I wasn't stopped, so it seemed I was in the clear. I see the guy I saw the day before and he points me to the customs officer. Normally, when importing stuff, both import duties, tax and maybe some form of holding fee are required. With a big wad of cash in my pocket, I was prepared, but I try to tell him it's a replacement part for my motorcycle and as I imported that using my carnet, it would only be logical that this would be inherently imported (thus, clearing me of fees). This had failed before, but I began to notice my UPS mate had been chatting to the customs officer before and he knew all about my trip. I proceeded to show him the part on the motorcycle while the UPS guy fetched my package. Back in the depot, I find a package that is about 3 times too big for a package with a sensor and I start sweating a little. What is in there? What did Jon do? I pull my 'pocket' knife out of my backpack (much to the surprise of the officers there as I went through a security check) and I open the package. I find the sensor, but I also find two bars of chocolate and a big bag of candy. Laughing, I decide to open the candy straight away and start handing out. The customs officers were quite happy with this and the moods were up. The customs officer tells me I won't need to pay a thing for my little sensor, the only thing would be the holding fee for UPS which, at 45 USD, came in a bit steep. He said I should talk to the lady's at the desk. Whilst there, they couldn't explain what I was paying that money for. So I showed them the tiny sensor, told them how much it is worth and that paying that 45 USD for transfer of something so tiny seemed a bit steep to me. After some back and forth, they subsided and let me have it. So not only did I get my package earlier, I also got it in for free!
After I fetched the package, I rode straight to KTM and we fixed the bike in 5 minutes. It even went out of limp mode with the new sensor before actually calibrating it. I couldn't help but think, if only someone at KTM knew their product good enough to know the bike would go out of limp mode with a new sensor, even without calibration, and told me that, instead of that it definitely needed calibration at a dealer. If only they told me so I could have gotten a sensor 4500KM's earlier... Ah well. Happily wheelying around I quickly forgot.
The third round of karma came in with a message from Lyndon. He texted me the evening before Wednesday he may leave the next day, but he might stay another and that he would let me know. The morning after, I woke up to message he would leave that day, that he had fixed accommodation and a game drive for that evening and to meet up with him at 10. Brilliant.
I rode to the house Lyndon was staying at. Basically the first ride with the bike back on full power and it took some getting used to. Not knowing what to expect I nervously arrive. Lyndon is just out but I meet his mates, Ryan, Hunter and Pete. They were joining us (or rather, I was joining them) on a ride from Nairobi to Lake Naivasha. They all rode Honda 600's to which they referred to as their pigs. With three relatively light enduro bikes and two fully fueled and loaded rally bikes (Lydon's a bit more rally than mine), this should be fun. Add to the fact I'm in on full power for the first time and Lyndon is recovering from a broken hand, I felt the playing field was all but equal. I decided to try and not let my normal, somewhat competitive nature come into play here and tell to myself it's not a race and to take it slow. We ride out and the moment we got offroad, I got in a slight panic. I hadn't ridden offroad (fast) for quite a while, I don't (didn't) have that much experience to begin with and the pace was quite high. After a few moments of real tense riding, I tell myself to calm down and start riding my own pace. If they would overtake me than that would be that and they could just give me the route if I was insanely slow so they could carry on on their own. Much to my own surprise, a few minutes later, I noticed I wasn't actually slowing down. The thing holding me back wasn't so much my riding, technique or speed, but my own brain being nervous, tense, and maybe a bit afraid to be too slow in this company. I noticed I just had to get into the rhythm a bit and it all came back to me. After a thrilling ride of around 3 hours, past the Ngong hills, through the backcountry, over rocks, through fast parts with speed-bumps that at 100kphs were perfect ramps, seeing giraffe and eventually, whilst trying the hard way to get up a little hill for a photo-moment, dropping the bike, we arrive at the place we meant to go. There, we meet the guy who invited Lyndon and me (Geoff) and I thank him for his hospitality. After lunch, we were shown our rooms, or rather, castles. A 'regular night' on Races to Places, as Lyndon would later (somewhat sarcastically) describe it. The rooms had their own sitting area with a fireplace and a massive en suite bathroom with bath and separate shower. After a quick cleanup, as Lyndon and I were the only two guys who hadn't washed their dust covered faces yet (attributed to our lack of marriage by the other guys), we met Geoff again for a sundowner ride through the park. After seeing some Zebra, Jekyll, Gnu, wildebeest and a lot of warthog, we were surprised with a little fire and some chairs by the side of the road. We had some wine, and after food, a lot more wines, coffee with Amarula. Tired, we went to sleep.
Geoff was friendly enough to let both me and Lyndon stay for another day. I learned Geoff and his girlfriend did some Rally racing of their own and it took more times than I would like to admit that the 'bowla' they were talking about was actually a 'bowler' (a 4x4 racing machine build on top of a landrover, featured in Top Gear a very long time ago). We had breakfast by the lake, had some more rides around the park and I took the opportunity to relax and catch up on some writing. Later that day we repeated the same process as the day before and after a good nights sleep and some proper breakfast Lyndon points his camera at all of us and says his goodbyes. Now, I've had some awkward silences over the years, and I'm generally that guy who makes that one over the top joke that silences everyone leaving a big awkward 'the fuck dude' silence. But, I can honestly say I felt more awkward with that camera pointed at me. Where do I leave my hands? What do I say? Do I even say anything? What do we do brain? I'm looking forward to the day that Races to Places episode comes out so I can laugh at my awkward self looking all ridiculous. All-in-all, a very memorable few days. I cannot thank Geoff and Lyndon enough. If you are ever in the Lake Naivasha area and are looking for a place to stay, the Chui lodge is the place to be! Check them out here
After parting ways with Lyndon, I meet back up with Hunter, one of the guys riding his pig. He has a spare room and he invited me to stay over. After arriving, we head over to Pete's for some beers and a missing bolt and spacer that rattled out of my bike. Hunter later on provides to give me some tracks for Tanzania and Zambia (where he stayed for a bit doing peace corps) and continues t check out my tracks from time-to-time, seeing if I'm still alive and having general motorcycle related nerd chat.
After I ride out, I follow his tracks to the border, cross a wildlife conservatory where, at the gate, I was told I wasn't allowed in but that I could just ride around the gate if I wanted to (uhhh). So I rode back 100m, took a left, 50m, right, another 100m, past the gate, waved at the guys and continued on at the road right behind the gate... Well, bureaucracy? The next day I would take a tiny little border crossing into Tanzania.