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Seeing the Wood For the Trees

Blog 73 by Tan: Seeing the Wood For the Trees The Brazzaville side of the river was a breeze in comparison to the Kinshasa side. There were nowhere near the number of police, immigration and customs people around and things were a lot less hectic. One of Boris’s E.C Air employees was already on the Brazza side waiting to help us with our paperwork. After grabbing our passports and documents he disappeared for 20 minutes or so only to emerge with papers in hand and approval for us to move on. We were on our way. Kinshasa and Brazzaville were like night and day. Brazza’a population at just over 5 million making it positively sleepy in comparison to Kin. While we loved the energy of Kin, the calm vibes of Brazzaville were a welcome change. We were exhausted, both physically and mentally. We had been getting by in Kinshasa by the enthusiasm of our bike club mates and by the need to get things done. Now with visas in order for the road ahead, the bikes running well and our friends in Kin gone, we crashed. The rival cities of Brazzaville and Kinshasa facing off across the Congo River. One ...
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Kin la Belle

Blog 72 by Tan: Kin la Belle And just like that, we were in Kinshasa. With so much of our efforts and attentions dedicated to getting our bikes and selves to Kinshasa, we realised we hadn’t put all that much thought into what we would actually do there. We knew we needed to sort out a visa for Republic of Congo but beyond that there was little on our agenda. After our eventful slog across country the most immediate requirement was a long sleep-in in air-conditioned comfort. The next day we woke up just in time to hit the breakfast buffet and soon enough we were once again in the company of some members of what has to be the most enthusiastic and welcoming motorbike club getting around. Christine and Patrick picked us up and took us to the office of yet another bike club member who works in logistics for an airline and freight company. Boris was going to help us organise getting our bikes across the river to Brazzaville. We had made the decision to take a pass on riding the off-road route that goes from Kinshasa to Luouzi. This route is a common one for Overlanders as ...
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The Last of the N1…

Blog 71 by Mick: Day 8 on the Dirt – The Last of the N1… Day 8, and final day, of off-road riding 115km off-road and 102km on-road from the Construction Camp to Kikwit We were relaxed when we left. We had been reliably informed by the guys in the construction camp that Kikwit was only about 8 or 9 hours away by car depending on the efficiency of the many checkpoints, including both the necessary paperwork and inevitable shakedown we would have to endure. We hoped and expected that on the bikes it would only be about 6 hours; we would not only be able to travel faster on the track but expected to weasel our way through the bribery game a little faster than the SinoHydro guys who have such a huge target on their backs. So we gave ourselves a casual morning start and left around 11am, far more pleasant than the 7 and 8am starts we had been enduring on the trail. We got out the gate and straight into it… some deep sandy ruts which were thankfully reasonably firm from the overnight rain. There was a village in a river valley about 2km away which ...
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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 from the last post: 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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