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The Great Road of China

Blog 70 by Tan: Day 7 (pm) on the Dirt - The Great Road of China Following on form the last blog: But first a bit on the Chinese in Africa. We have previously been asked by blog followers of our opinion on the ‘Chinese in Africa’ and now (and blogs to follow) seems a good time to answer. Chinese activity on the African continent is a hot topic at the moment and a subject I am quite interested in. Unfortunately a lot of what you come across on the subject is remarkably rubbish reporting – totally partial, wracked with hypocrisy and for this day and age surprisingly riddled with borderline or outright race based prejudices. But what is certain is that China represents an alternative to the status quo of business, power and diplomacy in Africa. This makes them unpopular with many and results in accusations of ‘neo-colonialism’ rather hilariously levelled by actual former colonisers in Africa, aiming to do the same thing as the Chinese. But of course when they do it, it is called business or globalisation. We stopped for a bit of lunch, crackers and a tin of tuna. And soon enough some bike porters accumulated ...
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DRC, Where a Half Day is a Full Blog

Blog 69 by Tan: Day 7 (am) on the Dirt – DRC, Where a Half Day is a Full Blog Day 7 of off road riding 178km from unknown slightly larger village to ‘the Camp’ Our progress for the day. We woke to the sound of enthusiastic chatter outside the tent long before the alarm clock chimed. We slept soundly but not nearly enough to fully replenish the batteries, but likely enough to get us through another day’s riding. We groggily started packing up our gear from inside the tent while mentally preparing ourselves for an onslaught of excited villagers the moment we stepped outside. Sure enough a sizable crowd had amassed once more to greet and gawk at us. Thankfully, it seemed a good amount of the village had already gone off to start their day’s labours so there weren’t nearly as many people as the night we arrived. Once more the mood was friendly and curious and we thought how fortunate we were to have stumbled across this unusually welcoming village right on sundown. Luck had been very much on our side the whole time we’d been in DRC. We couldn’t help but note our good fortune and ...
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I Love the Smell of Burnt Clutch in the Morning

Blog 68 by Mick: Day 6 on the Dirt – I Love the Smell of Burnt Clutch in the Morning Day 6 of off road riding 53km from unknown tiny village to unknown slightly larger village Our progress for the day, all 53kms of it, shown in Red. The 5 previous days of off-road riding are the proceeding coloured tracks. It was storming when we had gone to sleep and it was still threatening to storm when we woke with the villagers at sun-up. There were a few gusts of wind and the odd splatter of rain as dark and angry clouds passed nearby. If we were anywhere but the middle of DRC, we wouldn’t have even wasted the energy to stick our heads out the tent and confirm what was plainly obvious… this was rest day weather, one were you might mumble “fuck it” before borrowing back down into the comfort of your sleeping bag. Starting out the day on the N1 River. Nothing like getting up in the morning and hitting some tough muddy trails on an empty stomach. But this is Congo, you cant just “fuck it” here. We were in the middle of Kasai Province, which ...
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Reflecting on the Butcher

Blog 67 by Tan: Day 5 on the dirt – Reflecting on the Butcher Day 5 of off road riding 131km from Kananga to an unknown tiny village Our day’s travel. So by the time we did all the fuel gathering and money-changing Mick described in the last blog post, we found ourselves leaving Kananga quite late in the morning… but we were not in a hurry. A little bit the opposite actually. After hitting Kananga only 4 days after leaving Kolwezi, we realised that by riding 10hrs a day we were setting a cracking pace along the route, and if we didn’t actively slow down our progress it would be over far faster than we had imagined or indeed wanted. So slow down we did. We had enough privacy to take a sneaky photo off the bridge out of town. Here we could see the relics of what looked like an old hydroelectric generator. The bikers who had insulated us from encroaching police officers while we were changing money continued their guard of honour/protective swarm about us as we left town. Yahoo-ing motorbike riders, tooting their horns and goofing off excitedly, surrounded us from all sides. It was obvious ...
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A Congo Copper’s Welcome to Kananga

Blog 66 by Mick: Day 4 on the Dirt – A Congo Copper’s Welcome to Kananga Day 4 of off road riding (+ 2 rest days) 204km Luiza to Kananga Our progress through the DRC, showing the first full day in the country from Lubumbashi to Kolwezi on the tar, then Day 1 on the dirt (Pink), Day 2 (Purple), Day 3 to Luiza (Yellow) and the 4th day though to Kananga (highlighted blue). We both slept poorly despite our fatigue. When we had arrived at the guesthouse in the late afternoon, it seemed the only tenants would be us, plus the ubiquitous goat that was hanging around and hopping up on everything. But from about 9pm onwards the guesthouse steadily filled until the majority of the rooms were occupied. Our neighbour on the other side of our wafer thin wall spent the night on his phone and, like an old grandpa, thought he needed to shout into it for it to work properly. So our rest was interrupted… to put it mildly. The bed in the room… what to say about it… it had more in common with a middle aged torture device than a sleeping implement. Someone had ...
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Closing in on a bit of Civilisation

Blog 65 by Mick: Day 3 on the Dirt – Closing in on a bit of Civilisation Day 3 of off road riding 223km Camp 2 to Luiza Map of our days action, from our roadside camp #2, through the town of Kapanga, across the Lulua River and to the town of Luiza 223km to the north. With no onlookers on this second morning we were afforded some time and privacy for a more normal start to the day, including some tea and breakfast before packing up to leave. We hit the trail about a quarter to nine in a bit of a state… as the sun warmed up we found ourselves bombarded by a swarm of tiny flies which were attracted to any moisture, meaning they ended up all over our skin including in our eyes and nose… and by ‘in’ I really do mean IN, the flies were small, like midgies, and would land on our eyeballs and then would get stuck behind the eyelid when we blinked. Before leaving I had to carefully extract 2 dead flies from Tanya’s eye while making sure no more went in before we could even go anywhere. Packing up in the morning ...
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Day 2 on the Dirt – Mudholes for Bush Pigs

Blog 64 by Tan: Day 2 on the Dirt – Mudholes for Bush Pigs Day 2 of proper (i.e. off road) riding 220km Camp 1 in the forest… to some other place Our day's route So after our first night camping we were up at the crack of dawn, and were afforded just enough time to get out of the tent and pee before a few young men and kids arrived at the campsite to get a good look at us. The teenager who we had made some tea for the night before had taddle-taled on us and brought back some of his mates to check out the foreigners sleeping in the jungle. We passed on breakfast and instead decided to pack up camp and getting moving ASAP. Firing up the stove for a brew and eating some food in a morning stupor was never going to be fun while being gawked at. So we were wheels rolling by 7:15am. Leaving camp the next day. A gorgeous start to the day 2. And not a rain cloud in sight. Views of the bush and Arthur, my meerkat totem. Breakfast was a 5 minute break and a muesli bar. The morning’s ...
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Day 1 on the Dirt – A Crash Course on the Congo

Blog 63 by Tan: Day 1 on the Dirt – A Crash Course on the Congo Day 1 of proper (i.e. off road) riding 340km Kolwezi to… some place The day’s ride. 340kms. Killed it. After all the hype, and the hypertension about hitting the dirt, the first day’s ride wasn’t too bad at all. But these tracks always start out easy, don’t they? Much of the day was on good gravel with any obstacles on the road easily avoided by motorbike. It was mostly savannah-like environment with the odd wooded area in amongst plenty of bright ochre dirt, tall grass and termite mounds. On the outskirts of Kolwezi. These would be the last power lines we saw for some time. The red dirt reminded us of places back home. Mick taking a breather. A lot of the first day off the tar had us ridding through wide open savannah. Past some colossal termite mounds. More red dirt and open plains. Snack break. A nice shop in a small village where we bought some bread for lunch. We jumped at the chance to buy food when we could to save our food stocks. We woke to low cloud and a ...
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DRC: The Route

Blog 62 by Tan: The Route The crossing of Democratic Republic of Congo has taken on legendary status in African overlanding circles. By far the most well known Lubumbashi-Kinshasa crossing was done in a 4WD by a gutsy Belgian couple back in 2010. Tell you what, if our DRC report doesn’t do it for you, this one sure will. If you are not one of the million hits to the expedition blog already, do check it out. It is all kinds of rad. Decades ago, while under Belgian rule, there had been a well-constructed and maintained system of roads through the country. However, in the grand theme of colonialism, the infrastructure was geared towards the efficient extraction or resources rather than providing a robust infrastructure framework for a functioning nation. Since Independence the roads and railways (and most else in the country), have fallen into disrepair https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_203PSyA2UM A nice video (with cool music) to get a sense of the roads conditions in DR Congo. We saw tough bits of track but we never saw carnage like this as we only saw a handful of vehicles outside of towns. Now the DRC is one of the most infrastructurally deficient countries in ...
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To the End of the Tar

Blog 61 by Tan: DRC - To the End of the Tar Our last day in Zambia started off in the typical fashion; cruisey and behind a schedule we never expected to stick to anyway. After a final treat of a laid back breakfast and a bunch of gas bagging with people curious of us and our bikes, we hit the road with the intention of getting all the way to Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On our arrival at Kasumbalese/Kasile border, I was up for dealing with the border shenanigans so I left Michael with the bikes and started the process of checking us out of Zambia. This border was quite dis-organised compared to other Zambian borders we had crossed, but things still went pretty smoothly. Behold the stamp that cost us a total of $US440 each. Knowing our initial plans for DRC were rather ambitious we thought it pertinent to have a 2 month visa rather than a one month. We wanted more time up our sleeve in the case of worse than expected conditions, a horrendous wet season or mechanical difficulty. The 2 month multi-entry visa cost $US220. It then cost $120 to be granted ...
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