A Reunion, A Concussion and a Case of Collusion

Blog 58 by Tan: A Reunion, A Concussion and a Case of Collusion

Finding ourselves visiting with Caleb and Joanna was a fantastic and unexpected treat. As the diligent blog followers among you may recall, meeting this family was a pure matter of chance. And one that makes me realise my mum may have been wrong all those years back when she tried to teach me not to talk to strangers. Caleb is a mad biker and had read our ride report on ADVRider so recognised our rather distinctive bikes in the car park of a large shopping mall in Nairobi. While Mick was working on the bikes at our campground I found myself being treated to a meal by this lovely family. Caleb, his wife Joanna and his kids had recently made the move from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia to Arusha, Tanzania and were returning there when they stumbled across me in a car park.

We parted ways agreeing to drop in on Caleb’s parents on our way north. At that time we were (officially) still operating according to our old plan that we would ride to Europe via Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. For a number of reasons however we were thinking about throwing that idea out the window. Firstly, we were feeling that the 10 months we had originally planned for Africa was simply not near enough time. What we had seen convinced us that Africa would be a different place before we knew it and we wanted to see more of it and ride its best and toughest routes before they were all paved over. We had seen it everywhere. The legendary routes we’ve lusted after for years were on their way to becoming tarred highway or at least well graded and better serviced. Good news for the locals perhaps but not so much for selfish advriders like ourselves.

We thought the time was now for Africa so we went back to our original route map… laughed at it, then set about making a new one. To allow more time in Africa we placed our plans to ride Scandinavia on the chopping block. We reasoned a visit to the almost nearly perfect people and places of Scandinavia was an expensive option and one that could wait for another time. Likewise, any plans to explore Europe were cut down to simply visiting friends and carrying out some necessary bike work. Mick had already seen a lot of Europe and while I hadn’t, I figured it was somewhere that could wait for when we were older and better funded.

Original map
Our Old MK2 Plan – before we learned we are no good with plans. this was sour first major change after borders closing on the West Coast due to Ebola and Boko Haram pushed us the East Coast

With more time in our back pocket we set about making a new plan for Africa. Egypt was starting to sound like too much of a pain for us to bother. Tourism had been down in the dumps for years and shipping from Europe to Egypt had essentially come to a halt. With less money coming in and the laws of supply and demand in action Overlanders were being taken to the cleaners trying to ship their bikes to Europe. Reports of the bribes and fees being paid were shocking and we could think of far better things to spend those kind of sums on.

To avoid the hassles of shipping from Egypt, Overlanders have increasingly been travelling to Israel and shipping their bikes to Turkey from there. It was more expensive but you avoided extortion by corrupt Egyptian authorities. Yet recent terrorist related BS had made that option increasingly difficult to execute. Reports, including first hand ones we received, had the Sinai Peninsular completely off limits to motorbikes at that time. Even bikes being transported on the back of trucks were not permitted on to the Sinai from the south. This was due to motorbikes being stolen and used by terrorists who strap explosives to the bike, ride across the desert and attack military camps. Some overlanding friends of ours shipped their cars out of Port Sudan to avoid Egypt all together. This was all sounding rather like something we were keen to avoid dealing with.

Then the idea came, with inspiration from Richard, an English overlander we met in Nairobi who had crossed DRC multiple times, and news that with the Ebola crisis in West Africa was largely over we could fulfill our original original plan of riding up the west coast of Africa to Europe. We were, of course, in Ethiopia when we finally decided decided this. For us travelling through the dodgy north and central African countries was not at all appealing – Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan – Nope, Nope and Nope.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 5.02.48 pm
Newer MK3 plan, which is actually just our MK1 plan with Scandinavia cut off – Don’t take it too seriously… I know we don’t.

What did sound doable and rather excellent was to cross the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The idea of tracing the rather legendary crossing of DRC from Lumbubashi to Kinshasa appealed to us to no end. So we resolved to do it.

In order to do the crossing and the remaining distance through the much less serviced central and west Africa, we needed a huge swag of parts and consumables. Our chains would need replacing after the Congo, plus we needed a bunch more spare bearings, sprockets, proper hardcore off road tyres. A huge amount of stuff really. And outside of South Africa and Namibia it is difficult, time consuming and ridiculously costly to source such things. We priced a set of tyres in Lusaka, Zambia and due to unavoidable import costs just reading the price was enough to bring tears to our eyes.

But then we recalled we had made a great South African biker mate while we were in Mozambique who might be able to help us in this department. Leon is a fantastic fellow biker, braai’er and adventure rider of note and he had previously offered us assistance when we needed it. He had the resources that could well be able to make supplies we bought in South Africa on the cheap appear in Zambia in a way that would avoid the usual transport costs and high import fees. We contacted him and being the legend that he is, he was only too happy to help. Knowing we could get everything we needed for the crossing of central and west Africa planning began in earnest.

The east-west crossing of DRC would be sufficiently challenging to satisfy the adventurous streak in most people. But not, Mick it seemed, who thought why merely do something difficult when we can do a couple really difficult things. Soon our simple east-west crossing of DRC morphed into a north-south then a east-west crossing. Plus we wanted to drop in on an Aussie geologist who worked and lived near Goma who had helped us out for latest on the ground info and securing the pain in the backside invitation letter required for the DRC visa. In addition to visiting the fella in question is that it would allow us to see Mt Nyiragongo, the world largest lava lake in the world, as well as see Congo’s famous mountain gorillas. The budget would take an absolute walloping but it seemed like money well spent. Lofty goals, great plans, full awesome… but as ever Africa was listening, laughing and preparing to heave a great big spanner or two in the works to remind us who was boss.

But back to our stay in Arusha. The time necessary to secure our DRC visa from the Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa presented a fantastic opportunity to spend time with Caleb, Joanna and their ridiculously fantastic kids, and do some bike maintenance. Once again we were treated to warmth and hospitality, great conversations and wonderful home cooked meals. One of the unexpected delights of the trip for us has been learning that you can indeed meet wonderful people and make life long friends even as a transient hobo on the back of a bike.

Me doing a lazy U-bolt.

On to some nice gravel road.

Caleb and his fellow bike mad friend, Nate regularly hit the trails around Arusha and we all resolved to go for a two-day ride out to Lake Natron. We packed a change of clothes, a toothbrush, tools and first aid kit and set off. We were expecting a fun bit of off-road and some great views of Lake Natron and the nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano. The trails didn’t sound all too demanding and the distances we were looking at were minimal. It would be an extra treat to shed all our luggage for the ride. It was to be a fun outride with plenty of time to chill and socialize. We certainly didn’t anticipate anything like what actually unfolded.

Caleb on his weapon of a KTM500EXC.

Nate on his old beastly KTM400.

Nate again. See how nice the road was.

Me on my comparatively gutless DR.

Just hours into the ride it all went south. We’d been riding on some nice dirt roads that wound their way through the country-side. There wasn’t much in the way of erosion damage or dicey gravel. It was good. Then things got a bit dustier so we all started to spread out further for visibility’s sake. Mick was out in front, followed by me then Nate and Caleb behind. At a guess we were travelling at about 80-85km/hr. Which… well… was a bit fast at least for the later sections of track where conditions on the road had started to deteriorate. We began slowing down as the erosion damaged section of track showed deep trenches starting to appear on either side of the route. Just as I was noticing all this I found myself riding into a huge amount of dust that completely obscured my vision. I figured Mick must have just ridden through a big dust bowl and kicked up all the dust.

It was suddenly odd manouriving the bike without all the luggage on it. Was a different bike altogether.

All you can do at this time is wait for the dust to settle and hope there is nothing hazardous in front of you because you sure aren’t going to see it. So I just braced myself just incase and carefully tried to brake in a controlled manner in the dust. Just at that moment I saw something light coloured less that a metre and just to the left of my front wheel. Instantly I know it was Mick’s jersey. He was down.

Mick after his crash. Mick’s bike looked just as rough as he did.

I knew I hadn’t hit him but I had no idea where his bike was so was afraid of smashing into it and I could still scarcely see a thing. Logic should have told me that Mick’s bike would have most likely be behind him and me but at time I feared I could hit the bike at any moment. A bit more dust settled in time for me to make out a huge trench in front of me. I remember thinking about how far behind the other guys were and if they were about to ride into the same thing. I slammed on the breaks, stopping right before the trench and basically dove off the bike not even thinking to put the side stand down. All I could think about was dragging Mick off the road before he could get hit.

Luckily for us the guys were farther back than we thought so the dust had settled by the time Nate reached us. As for Mick… he seemed okay but had obviously had a huge crash. Mick was completely covered in bulldust and was moving rather gingerly. When I look back now he made a long and labored groan that should have told me that something was off with him. But in the moment it seemed like an appropriate noise to be making after impacting hard ground at speed. Immediately afterwards he was acting and moving in a way that seemed rather typical for a big stack.

Thankfully due to our protective equipment Mick was moving around without difficulty and seemed on his way to getting his head around what had happened. He asked how it happened and who was leading but just the once. We got him to sit down and take it easy for a bit. The dust in his eyes was irritating him so I retrieved the first aid kit from the bag that was fastened to the rear rack of the bike and retrieved the eye drops for him (really handy bit of kit – bring plenty). I was surprised to see that a lot of the contents of the first aid kit had burst and broken in the impact. Based on the where the first aid kit was located that could only mean that the bike had gone end over end in the crash. Mick’s bike was facing the opposite direction to his travel with seemed to support the theory.

The handlebars were massively bent.

And he lost a mirror. The old crack in the tank reopened, forks a bit twisted in the triple clamps, front fender damaged but other than that not all that much was wrong with the bike. They may be slow, and fat and a bit ugly but these bikes are tough.

Mick’s bike was clearly in a bad way and didn’t look rideable. Mick at this time seemed to be okay but still shaken up and a little confused if anything. We got the GPS to determine our exact location. During our last visit to Tanzania we had the good fortune of connecting (through ADVRider) with an American biker named Will who worked at a medical clinic at Karatu which we figured was not too far from us. We had invited Will on this very ride but he himself had only just returned from a bike trip and needed to prepare for work.

We wanted to work out if it would be closer for us to travel with Mick to Will’s hospital in Karatu or to one of the bigger hospitals in Arusha. I couldn’t recall at the time how to determine the distance by road to Karatu and then Arusha so asked Mick to do it. What seems so strange now was that he had no trouble whatsoever doing this. It is part of the reason why we didn’t immediately notice things weren’t alright with Mick’s head.

And so is he. We managed to get Mick to sit for a bit.

But then I mentioned that Mick’s fuel tank was leaking. Mick seemed shocked at the news. I told him not to worry as it is just the old crack that had re-opened after the impact. “There is a crack in my tank!!!” Mick said in alarm. The crack in Mick’s tank that he had welded up twice was actually the bane of our existence at that time. We simply had to make it last to Europe as the import duties and freight of the tank to anywhere in Africa were prohibitive, it was an issue we had mulled over many times. The fact he seemed shocked at the existence of any crack made me instantly aware there was a problem. I walked up to Mick, looked him in the eyes and said slowly “Mick, do you not recall that you had a crack in your tank?” Again he expressed complete shock that his tank was cracked. Then I asked him “Mick, do you know where you are?” I saw desperate confusion in his eyes as he tried to think of the answer. I asked him what country he was in. He eventually replied “Ethiopia, no Kenya” which, while close, was not the country we were in. I asked him if he recognised the other guys. Initially he couldn’t identify either Caleb or Nate.

Mick was trying to figure out what on Earth happened but was drawing a complete blank.

Poor fella didn’t even remember leaving for the ride.

So getting to a hospital took on a sense of urgency as Mick had obviously taken a huge hit to the head in the fall. Marks on the helmet attested to this too. We gave our friend Will a call (who is very conveniently a trained paramedic) and described our location and Mick symptoms and asked what he thought we should do. Rather than go to Karatu, Will and his great foreign hospital, he advised us to get in a car and travel directly to the Arusha Lutheran medical centre as Mick needed to get to a CT machine ASAP and that was on the only hospital in the area with one. He told us the only other CT machine in the whole of Tanzania is located in Dar Es Salaam. Even as worried as I was at the time about Mick I couldn’t help but think we were so fortunate to be so close to only one of two CT machines in the country and to have a paramedic friend in the know just a phone call away.

Where Mick smacked in. His bike was originally near where he was sitting before we moved if out of the way.

We were also lucky that we were a group of four and both Caleb and Nate were absolute legends dealing with the crash. Caleb having grown up in Africa is a cool head and problem solver of note so jumped on his bike and gunned it back home to Arusha where he would pick up his car and trailer and return for the stricken bikes. Nate, who had lived in Tanzania for many years and spoke Swahili, jumped on his bike to ride to the nearest town to arrange a car to take Mick and I to hospital. It didn’t take him long to track down a car and driver in a nearby village and negotiate a fee to transport us from the accident site to the required hospital. While they were gone I tried to take care of Mick who was becoming agitated as the fog of confusion started to ware off and leave only a blank memory. He could not recall even leaving for a ride, where we were going, who we were with and certainly not what happened. He thought we were staying at Jungle Junction, in Nairobi. It was about at this time the questions started.

Some local guys came along. With fuel pouring from the crack in the tank and with nothing to collect it with we told the guys there were welcome to it if they could catch it. Then had a bottle and split the spoils with me.

Mick went on to ask the same series of 5 or 6 questions over and over and over again, never able to remember the answer for more than a second or two. It went on with nearly no break for the next 2 or 3 hours. The poor guy asked the same questions literally hundreds of times.

“Where were we going?”
“Who was leading?”
“What happened?”
“How fast was I going?”
“My helmet must be f*@ked, hey?”
“I wasn’t doing anything stupid, was I?”

And over and over and over again with less than a few seconds break between questions. The scariest thing about it was that while the order of the questions would change the way he asked the questions remained almost word for word over the next couple of hours. I was seriously worried and could only keep it together if I didn’t look at him. He looked so desperately confused it was hard to watch.

The nasty trench I was glad to have seen before riding into.

Within a couple of hours we were at the emergency room of the hospital. Now it was just a matter of getting someone to see him. It took time and it was incredibly frustrating. For an emergency department of the best hospital in town it was an utter snooze fest. I was getting close to cracking it at someone when someone finally got to see him. The nurse seemed a bit annoyed at me answering for Michael but cooled it when I told her that she can ask him all she likes but right now he thinks he is in Australia so I don’t know how helpful he is going to be. Mick seemed to understand he was in hospital but thought that was in Perth where we used to live.

Nate back from his mission to find a ride to a hospital. Lucky for us he speaks Swahili well so quickly sorted out a car to take us to hospital in Arusha. I think we paid about $80. Not that you care about such things as such times. As we headed for Arusha, Nate stayed to guard the bikes. These guys!

We got the CT scan done relatively quickly and the doctor assured us the scan was clear of fractures to the skull, and lesions and bleeding on the brain and that he was fine to return home to sleep. He assured us Mick’s short-term memory would start to come back after the swelling from the concussion went down.

Mick at the hospital.

By the time we got back to Caleb and Joanna’s we were surprised to see that the guys weren’t back yet from picking up the bikes. Some fun easy ride this turned out to be! Mick was starting to retain a bit of information like where we were and that he had come from hospital. However he still had no idea who Nate was and every now and then he would ask what happened. It was all pretty stressful but we were so incredibly grateful to have so many friends around us.

Mick went to bed and slept soundly even with me poking him periodically to see if he was okay. And did he sleep! We guess he slept about 20 hours the day after the accident and for days and days after that all he could do was sleep. The general malaise that resulted from his concussion had him struggling to do even small tasks for at least a couple of weeks.

Scans of Mick’s money maker. The doctor the following day was annoyed that the specialist never wrote up a report on the scans. We decided to ignore the idea that he may also have not looked at it in the first place. Joanna had told us that friend of theirs took their young daughter to that same hospital after an accident on a swing-set. The doctor gave her a bandage and said she was fine. They told him she needed x-rays but it seemed he didn’t want to do them as he was about to knock off work. Both the little girls arms were broken it turned out. But the doctor from the previous night seemed confident things were clear… soooo…

After some time to recover, the cause for the crash became slightly less elusive as Mick found himself recalling a couple of things from the crash. Mick recalls seeing a wash out across the road quite late and getting hard on the brakes to wash off speed before hitting it. The rear brake locked and bike got a bit sideways but nothing wild. Then he remembers being bucked off the bikes and just flying. There was a large square edged rock sticking out of the road probably 15cm that, when the locked up rear wheel combined with large amount of pre-load on the rear shock and no luggage, hit the rock, did not compress and sent him flying.

Despite a rather sensational concussion and resultant fatigue Mick walked away from the crash with only a slightly stiff neck. For a crash that the GPS told us occurred at 82km an hour (minus whatever speed got washed off since that reading) where he got thrown over bars and into a ditch, we thought that was a pretty fortunate outcome. Once again our safety gear was to thank for it and once again we were so glad to have gotten on the neck brace bandwagon. After my significant donkey crash in Namibia and now Mick’s crash in Tanzania we are huge advocates for neck braces and will never go back to riding without one. Anyone who hasn’t already thought about getting a neck brace, we highly encourage you to seriously consider it. It doesn’t take long to get used to wearing one, it doesn’t hold you back in anyway and in the event of a big impact you’ll be glad for it. It is a worthwhile investment.

So with Mick on the path to healing our first priority was to give our insurance mob a heads-up about the accident. In our case we knew early on that Mick would be fine and we didn’t need any support from the travel insurance company. The cost of the treatment was minimal at about $150 for the doctor’s consultations and CT scans. We didn’t have receipts for the $80 transport to the hospital and didn’t really mind. Yet we did send them an email and let them know what happened and that at some stage we would be making the claim for the medical costs.

Mick’s helmet did its job but we couldn’t expect it to do so again. We didn’t think twice at dropping $800 on a new one despite being jobless bums.

We have since lodged the claim and are currently waiting to find out if they are also going to cover the cost of the written off helmet. It is looking positive that they may cover the cost of Mick’s replacement Shoei helmet as we argued that it was a piece of safety equipment (not sporting equipment) that was destroyed in the accident. Currently they are seeking a repair quote for the helmet, to which we are trying to explain that “repair” is not really possible; you don’t fix helmets after a big accident, you replace them. We have gotten on the Shoei helmet website and provided documentation detailing that a helmet is deemed in need of replacement in the event of a large impact. We argued that any impact that has you thinking you are on a different continent from your present location qualifies as a significant impact. The debate goes on. Dare I say it is looking positive.

They say you either have a Shoei head or and Arai head and after trying both Mick is definitely a Shoei head. We couldn’t source one in Tanzania and reasoned that a compromised Shoei for the few days it would take to get to Lusaka was probably better protection than anything we could find in Arusha, that is if we could even get something to fit Mick’s giant melon.

Our advice is that even if the accident is small and under control it is best to tell your insurance because you don’t know how things might play out. What may initially seem like a small injury that will heal in time may turn out to be a bigger issue than suspected and you will have lessen your of a chance of a successful claim for an injury sustained in an accident that was never reported.

Mick cooked is famous lasagna. Being dirty bikers not used to cooking for children we neglected to serve the lasange with anything else …and then of course there was the ¾ of a bottle of red wine that went into the bolognaise. Joanna assured as the kids nutritional balance wouldn’t suffer too much. At least we had the protein and dairy (mass cheese) portion covered.

Now, on top of the mass order of spare parts our biker mate Leon was transporting for us, we needed to add a new helmet for Michael and new handle bars to replace Mick’s he bent in the crash. Leon, being the total legend that he is, didn’t baulk at our request that was now essentially for him to deliver half a motorbike store to us in Zambia. The benefit of having such a huge order was that we were able to get a nice little discount to help soften the blow somewhat.

Mick’s Leatt body armour had been slowly degrading after him wearing it day-in-day-out on the trip. The crash highlighted that the elastic mesh of the armour was wearing to the point the pads were starting to move around, providing less than optimal protection. We figured the wisest move was to replace it now while we could. On hearing our woes, our good biker mate Michnus got on board and asked his mate Pauly in South Africa to give us a nice discount on a replacement set of armour. Its always great saving a bit of cash but another thing all together to find ourselves in a bit of a low moment and have so many people looking out for us. All the assistance and goodwill made it impossible to wallow in self-pity.

The family cat Aslan took a strong liking to Mick. Cat was seriously cutting my grass.

She was utterly shameless.

While we were throwing down cash like we were in a rap video we thought we should go ahead and each buy a set of goggles. We had opted against bringing goggles on the trip as it was just another thing to carry. However Mick was sporting a bit of a black eye from where his sunglasses jammed into the side of his eye and nose, and was of the belief that the whack to his face probably exacerbated his concussion. Safety first and all that and we chose to go back to running goggles offroad. Live it – Learn it, friends!

With the replacement gear and spare parts ordered it was all about getting Mick and the bikes back to form. It was slow going with Mick sleeping most of the day and managing just small bits of work before getting very tired and needing to go for a nap. He was generally struggling for energy and focus, it just goes to show there are concussions… and then there are concussions.

And here are their puppies Sheba and Musso. It amuses me to no end recalling the late night chats continually interrupted by Sheba’s out of control flatulence. I thought I was too mature to laugh at farts….Sheba put that self-delusion to rest.

While taking it easy in Arusha we had the chance to catch up with Mick’s old workmate Chris who now lives in Arusha. Mick and Chris (a geologist by trade) were both BHP graduates back in the day and hadn’t seen each other for about 9 years. That was until by freak chance we ran into him in a hotel in northern Namibia while he was doing fieldwork. Small world!

We don’t even know where to begin in thanking Caleb and Joanna and their kids for taking care of us and making us feel part of the family during our unplanned extended stay. They really are a family apart and despite the unpleasantness of the crash we knew we were fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know them better. They kept us in good spirits when we were feeling down dealing with logistical pains, bureaucracy hassles getting out DRC visas and with a growing list of bike work.

Then the repairs began. Here is Mick’s front fender being repaired with his bush mechanic tools of choice – epoxy and beer cans.

My forkless bike. Lately both our forks have been leaking like sieves so Mick did a full fork rebuild – bushes, seals and fluid. If you look at my front fender you’ll see the previous beer can and epoxy repair. Apparently the brand of the beer can used serves to remind Mick when the repair was done. In my case you can see a Tusker can was used – showing that that repair was done in Kenya.

All the bits to be replaced (minus the washers) – seals and bushes. Out with the old…..

Cleaning the lowers

Luckily we had all the parts we needed for the rebuild thanks to another biker buddy Jeff who was able to get his friends to bring them over from the States to us therefore postage and import duty free. The biker community is a tight one. Here is Mick putting the lowers back in with new seals

Preparing the guts of the forks for re-install

Putting the forks all back together. Just add oil and tighten…

Another one of Mick’s bush mechanic fixes – Here we used nail polish to fill in some wear to the stantion then delicately sanded it back with a fine sandpaper (800 grit then 1200grit).

We bought the motocross forks off ebay like this and Mick thinks the damage was from the previous owner running them with worn bushes. Mick figured the temporary measure might help stop the seals from leaking as quickly. When we get to Europe we hope to stumble upon a bunch of money to afford to get them rechromed.

As Mick was trying to get the bikes back up to scratch before going to Zambia he sorted problem after problem after problem, the majority of it just wear and tear. New tyres, cush and rear wheel bearings, swing arm bearings, rear suspension linkage bearings, fork seals and bushes, brake pads. Plus there was repair work after the crash, straighten the handle bars to a useable condition, repair the front fender and fix (again) the leaking fuel tank. All of this combined with Mick’s general malaise and lack of drive had him considering a petrol and match permanent fix to his bike. Not to mention a few flat tyres thrown in for good measure. In just one of our false starts we were all packed and dressed and ready to go and heard a “pssssssssssssssssss”. My bike got a flat tyre just sitting there on the grass. Hands were thrown up in the air and the bike was left sitting there until we could bring ourselves to look at it.

Rebuild complete.

Crack repair number 3. The first repair was rough and ready with what we had on hand (a tyre iron heated up on our petrol stove way back in Ethiopia). The second repair was a better effort with a soldering iron but didn’t withstand the bikes later 80km/hr end-over-end crash into a ditch, which is probably fair enough.

For the latest repair Michael plastic welded in the same manner as repair number 2 (with a soldering iron) but added into the weld a piece of very fine stainless steel ~1.0mm rat wire mesh that had 3mm by 3mm squares. We lost the photos of the repair ‘in progress’ but these photos are of the repair in Morocco, 18000km and a tonne of tough riding later, hence all the dirt

Mick – the bearing obsessive, in his natural state replacing wearing wheel bearing (the dodgy way – with a hammer… carefully of course and only on the outer race). For amusement I recommend showing Mick a picture of a collapsed bearing and beholding his icy look of disapproval. These rear wheel and cush drive bearings did about 25500kms from Namibia; while the wheel bearings still felt kind-of ok, the cush drive bearing was starting to get a bit of play so Mick replaced the lot as a set of 3

But eventually, the bikes were in one piece with all tyres stay inflated and we found ourselves ready to go. In our hot little hands we had our passports with the hard gotten 2-month multi entry visa for DRC. All the necessary bike bits were on their way to Zambia and then, suddenly, so were we. As ever it was a bitter sweet departure as it felt good to be wheels rolling but sad to be leaving the company of such lovely people. As soon as we left we found ourselves mentally planning a reunion in Australia.

Saying our goodbyes to this wonderful family.

Only to have my rear tyre blow and put off our departure because its all too hard.

I suspect the cat orchestrated the flat tyre to give her more time with Mick.

For all the hassles and false starts it must be said the bikes were performing better than they have in a long time. After completing a few chores in Arusha, including stocking up US currency for our DRC crossing, we were finally wheels rolling… just a couple weeks later than initially planned. With the delay of the crash we had made the decision to drop our planned visit to Goma where we were to enter from Rwanda. We had heard from our mate Jamie in Goma that the rains, though light had started there in the north. We simply didn’t think we could spare the time after losing so much due to the crash or money after the post cash-spending spree. The volcano and the gorillas would have to wait for some other time. We resolved to keep abreast on the progress of the wet and do our best to manage the north-south route, although time wise this was looking also very unlikely. At the very least we knew we would manage the east west crossing with its slightly later wet season in the south of the country.

Saying goodbye to one of the most special women I’ve ever met. Looking forward to cementing the friendship further in the years to come… For the sake of our friendship I can only hope she will one day overcome her jealously of my stylish wardrobe.

Caleb, Nate and his son off for another outride. I’m sure they were shocked to see us actually gone at their return.


And just before we left Mt Kilimanjaro decided to show her glaciers we’d so enjoyed seeing up close years ago.

The delay of the crash and recovery and repair time had pushed our arrival into the DR Congo further into the wet season. We knew our best bet for an ‘easy’ DRC crossing was to complete it before the worst of the wet seasons rains which would render the difficult track across the country a veritable quagmire. It was starting to feel like a race against time. So with that in mind we got busy pounding boring tar to make it to our destination. After a great first day on the road we checked into a nice looking hotel. Over a quick dinner in a nearby restaurant we were starting to feel like we were back in the game, in the upwards swing of the bad luck pendulum and well on our way to kicking all the goals in front of us.

Then we opened the unlocked door to our hotel room to find we’d been cleaned out. Laptop, hard drive, camera, phone, custom headphones, cash – $US3300 of value – all gone-sies. And in their place, the stank of a rat.

4 Comments on “A Reunion, A Concussion and a Case of Collusion

    • Well, I’ll say this, my memory came back. I can’t vouch for any kind of sanity though!

  1. You better watch out. One of these days this blog will catch up with you. What are you going to do then?

    When reading this post I was reflecting over why I carry a whole side pannier full of spare parts that never get used while Mick seems to be practicing his mechanical skills quite frequently. I know there are wheel bearings and brake rebuild kits and all sorts of things deep down in my pack box somewhere but then I remembered that you guys are driving in a totally different league than me and would have better use for my spares than I. If you do 80-90 km/h on a dirt road, I probably do 30-40. There are many times when I wish I was a better driver. On the other hand there is less risk of a high speed accident even if low speed doesn’t prevent you from messing up a knee or a leg. Must have been scary with that concussion, for both of you.

    In case you need new tyres for the European roads there is a great tyre shop in Algeciras. It’s just a small garage but they order any tyre for you within 24 hours. Good prices both for tyres and fitting.
    N36° 08.589′ W5° 27.336′

      • Hey Anders – not sure there is much risk we will catch the blog up to real time! We keep falling further and further behind!

        Yeah bike maintenance requirements are really dependant on how, but mostly where you ride. Off road in sand and mud stuff like chains, sprockets and brake pads probably wear at least three times or four times faster than on tar. Real bad mud, like axle deep mud it’s probably 10 times faster, maybe even more. When we left Kolwezi in DRC I looked at our chains and they were still in really decent condition, I thought they would last until Yaounde easy, 5000kms away no problem at all and that was factoring in the amount of mud and sand we were going to tackle. On tar alone I think they would have gone 10000kms more. However 2500kms later in Kinshasa our chains and sprockets were totally and utterly fucked. Absolutely and completely rooted – I’ve never let my sprockets get that bad before. In that 2500kms we did I’d guess 15000kms worth of wear compared to if we were riding tar. Same with brake pads. We left with good brake pads. And arrived with none, tans rear was down to metal – the abrasion of mud just eats brake pads at an amazing rate. So yeah, constant off-road, even if it’s not technical off road, just having dirt and dust and mud around increases wear many times over. And it’s hard to combat, it’s just part of the deal.

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