Saturday, 26 November 2011

I was feeling a little smug

Took my bike out today. I spent the day with lots of other fat, middle aged balding men, an alarming number of people in wheelchairs or with crutches and a few scantilly clad women - all who seemed to be called Carole Nash.

 Yes, that's right, I was at the NEC Motorcycle live show.

BMW 1200GSA "Triple black edition" £16,000!

I must admit I walked around with a bit of a smug attitude. Two years ago I'd gone to the show needing to buy a few things for my trip. Now I've done my trip (and am fully aware that I didn't need half the things I took!) and looked at all the stuff I could get on the Touratech stall and thought to myself - Hum, you don't need all that!

Fully loaded touratech bike

I found the "traveldri -plus"  stand and had a chat with Sam Manicom. He's been very helpful in getting me started on writing my book and it was great to catch up with him again.

Kawasaki haven't quite grasped the realities of two-up overland travel

There were also some weird bikes

Oh - when I get old I can see myself touring Europe on this - BMW 1600

Triumph's new Adventure bike - very nice

Damn - where did I park?

So, I'm still trying to write, and my plan is to finish a first draft by March. I'm currently writing and am nearly on the Namibian section. It's hard to get anything done during the week so I try to spend a few hours at the weekend but even that can be hard sometimes. I try to update my blog once a month - so if you want to know how it's going, come back...

Monday, 31 October 2011

Starting to write

OK. so, I've got this plan to try to write a book about my experiences travelling on my bike. I thought I'd keep you updated with how that's going.

As I'm a teacher I had a half term last week and I rode my bike 300 miles up England and into Scotland to stay with a friend. I spent most of the week trying to write and got quite a lot done. I've nearly finished a first draft of the North American section of my trip. Basically what I'm doing is working with the words I wrote to put on the blog as I went along. I'm changing some, cutting some out and adding stuff. So far I've written 85,000 words which equates to about 115 pages of A4 type on the computer. I have absolutely no idea whether it is any good at all.

I realise that this is just a first draft and I'll need to go over it again and again before getting involved with anything as technical  as an editor.  My aim is to finish the first draft (including the Africa section) by Easter (It's hard to do this AND have a job!) and then start the refining process. Hopefully that's when the Ted Simon Foundation will come in and give me a hand.

If and when things develop I'll post more here.  - Ah, to think this time last year I was in Baja California ...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

I'm a Jupiter's Traveller

Believe me, I'm as shocked, bewildered, confused and scared about that title as anyone.

My own personal badge!

On Thursday night I went to launch of the Ted Simon Foundation. Set up to help travellers spread the word, the foundation was launched, up the road from my house, at the Coventry Motor Museum. I'd already decided to go along and support the event (after all Ted Simon was going to be there) but then I found out more about the whole adventure and decided to apply to be a "Jupiter's Traveller".

Bascially the foundation supports people, who have travelled, (not necessarily on a motorbike) to  record their thoughts and experiences and share them with the world. Or as it says on the website:

The Ted Simon Foundation believes that individuals of good will, moving among foreign cultures and making themselves vulnerable to the beliefs and customs of strangers, have great importance in promoting world understanding, and even more so when they can distill the essence of their experiences into a form that can be absorbed by many.

I applied explaining what I had done and that I was trying to write a book about my experience. Amazingly I was accepted and on Thursday night the fourteen of us who are the first cohort were announced at the launch. There is a blog page on the website and I think soon there will be more details posted there.

So hopefully now it means I will get some help in writing/editing/ publishing my book. A scary thought indeed. It also means I have to pull my finger out and do some writing. I have already written two chapters and got some positive feedback from people about it. But since starting work again I haven't written a thing. That needs to change. A lot of people are putting their time and effort into me, let alone their faith. I'd better pay them all back and produce something that encourages others to travel.

This new adventure I'm about to embark upon is a thousand times more frightening than just riding a motorbike around the world. That was easy.

This is the bike Ted Simon rode around the world on in 1973

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

How to import a non-EU motorbike into the UK

I arrived back in the UK on 9th June. My bike finally arrived on 14th July. As of today (30th August) I'm STILL not on the road. However, I've sent everything off to the DVLA and hopefully in the next day or two I should get a new vehicle registration number. It's taken two months and has driven me mad.

Below is a summary of what I have had to do. Of little interest to you unless you're going to do the same thing.

I'm off, with Tracy, on Thursday to a HU motorbike meeting (on the bike) and then it's back to work for me. I've managed to find myself a temporary teaching post - until Christmas, so I'll be gainfully employed again for a while. If it turns into a full time job, which I hope it will, it'll be short motorbike trips for the foreseable future. I've had an absolutely fantastic year and don't for a minute regret giving up my job and doing this.

I've been trying to put into words what a great time I've had on this blog and am curently trying to extend that into some sort of book. I don't know if anything will come of it but if it does I'll post something here in the future.

Thnaks for reading and ride safe :)


I've just been through the process of importing my bike into the UK and thought it might be useful to highlight the process here.

Go to this website Scroll down to the section “Previously used vehicle” and click on “Order and import pack” You will then want to click the box that says “Import Pack - Application to register an imported vehicle for use in Great Britain.”
You should then get, through the post a V55/5 form and a leaflet telling you what to do. Obviously it's all explained there but I'll summarise.

You will need to send all of the following to your local DVLA.

  1. The V55/5 form.
  2. A cheque to cover the registration fee (£55) and fee for tax disc (currently £74). You can write one cheque to cover both.
  3. A copy of a current insurance policy. It can be difficult to get insurance cover as most companies require a UK registration number which, of course, you don't yet have. I went through They got me insurance for my bike with Equity Red star. You use the VIN number on your bike.
  4. A current MOT certificate. To get this you have to take your bike to a MOT test centre but you're not legally allowed to ride on the road until you have a new registration number. Catch-22.
  5. Enclose all and any documents/certificates you have showing original registration of the bike in the country you bought it. I had these so I don't know how serious it is if you no longer have these documents.
  6. Original documents confirming your name and address (ie passport. Driving license, bank statements, it tells you in the leaflet what you need)
  7. Evidence of type approval. This is a certificate showing that the bike passes EU road standards. I didn't have this (and I'm sure you won't either) so I had to get what's called a MSVA (Motorbike Single Vehicle Approval). Basically it's like an MOT test. I had to get in touch with the DVLA and find my nearest VOSA office (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency). I then booked the bike in for a half hour test. They measure distances between things, whether the lights work, emissions test etc. Costs about £70 I think. There is a link to it on the page I mentioned earlier. The link will take you here If you scroll down you will find a section called “Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval Scheme (MSVA)”
  8. Finally you need to enclose the appropriate HM Revenue and Customs form. Mine was called a C and E 389 form. This proves that I had paid 20% VAT and 6% sales tax on the current value of the bike when importing it.(Note it's the current value, I had to go to my local bike shop and get them to print a short letter saying what they valued the bike at, scan it and email to DLVA. Again I had to get my bike to the bike shop without riding it on the road!) Hopefully, for you, this will be sorted out quickly by your importing agent. Mine wasn't and was a real hassle but eventually I got it done.

In all this took me over 2 months to complete. I took everything to my local DVLA office. A week later I got a registration number and road tax certificate.

The frustrating thing is you CAN'T ride your bike while this is going on. Except, that is, when you are taking it to VOSA for the MSVA. Then (as long as you have insurance) you're allowed on the road.

All of this IS explained in the information you get but I thought it might be useful to know this in advance. I wasn't aware that I'd have to pay 20% VAT, for example, not that it would have have made any difference to what I did and how I did it :)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Still not on the road

I had hoped that by now my bike would be on the road. Not so. I've had the bike tested for road worthyness (Single Vehicle Approval) and it passed that and it's had an MOT. I've got it insured. All I'm waiting for now is the Customs and Excise people to tell me how much I have to pay. I think I'm going to have to pay 20% VAT. I hope to here in the next few days, then I send off all the paperwork to the DVLA and it should then take a week to get a number plate issued. It's all taking longer than I hoped and I'm getting very frustrated having my bike here but not being able to use it.

The wait goes on...

Saturday, 16 July 2011

My bike arrived!

Just a quick message.

My bike arrived yesterday. It only took 5 weeks to fly here from Kenya! So far I haven't had to pay any customs or taxes, but then again I haven't been sent the Carnet yet which I need.

I'm now in the process of "importing" it into the UK. This Thursday it goes for a MSVA test (a sort of pre-MOT test) then an MOT on Friday then Is end all the paperwork off to the DVLA. Hopefully that will onylt ake a couple of weeks to come through, but there are several stages in this and it only takes one hiccup to stop the whole process.

I would love to have it all completed in 2-3 weeks so Tracy and I can, at least, go up to Scotland for a couple of weeks before summer ends and I have to start work (I know I know... this time last year I was just about to set off and now it's almost a distant dream) But then again I'm really lucky to have found a job so I can't complain.

I'll post a few photos and details of what happens with the whole importing thing incase anyone is interested.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Horizons Unlimited

Just got back from a great weekend at the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Ripley, UK. 5-600 overland bikers, great presenters (plus me) and I met up with lots of friends.
Slow bike race – Paddy Tyson falls off.
I met Nadine who I’d first met a year last April on the BMW off road course in Wales. She (as planned) had set off for Eastern Europe in April this year but got hit by a car in Sarejevo. She’s back in the Uk recovering but plans to head off back to Bosnia soon to repair her broken bike and continue her trip. Good luck Nadine.
I bumped into Mike this weekend. We’d met briefly near the Sani Pass in South Africa in April. He gave me lots of good advice when we met up and it was good to see him again.
Brian (the only one I took a photo off) had ridden his BMW 800GS from Canada to Argentina. We’d met very briefly at the HU meeting in Canada last August. Again, great to see him and catch up on what he’d been up too. We both agreed that the whole year just flew by and we couldn’t believe we were back. We had a beer or two and reminisced about bike travel and being in the UK and unemployed. What a miserable couple of bastards!
David and Jill had spent over a year, two up on a 1982 BMW getting from Eastern Canada to Panama. Again, I’d met then at the HU meeting in Canada and also for a day in Yosemite. I’d read their blog all the way so I knew what they’d been up too and they’d read mine so we didn’t have to waste time asking each other what we’d done. It’s a little weird seeing people who you hadn’t seen for nearly a year but knew full well what they’d done and where they’d been.  I hope to go and visit then down in Devon when I finally get my bike here.
Apart from that I also went to quite a few presentations ranging from a talk on visiting Norway, Lois Price’s solo trip down west africa to a group who ride scooters through the sahara to Gambia to donate them to a hospital (They do this in March and are looking for volunteers – if I’m not doing anything else in March I might give it a go)
This was my third HU meeting and was very different to the last two. Previously I’d been PLANNING a trip and was excited and nervous and keen to learn as much as possible. This time I didn’t have a motorbike or a plan and felt a little flat about the whole thing. I did three presentations, all of which went OK I think and was happy to pass on my experiences and ideas to others. But having spent three days with 500 adventure bikers all I want to do now is head off on a trip again. I clearly haven’t got it out of my system yet.
Not a great picture but it does prove that some people stayed awake during my presentation.
Perhaps not your first choice of motorbike for world travel. But this Yamaha R1 has been pretty much everywhere.
Another poor photo but it shows that any bike will do. In the foreground is a fully tooled 1200GS, (limited edition), which looks like it could go anywhere and probably hasn’t.  Behind it is an Australian post office delivery scooter, which has been ridden all the way to the UK from Australia.
News on my bike. As of today it is still in Kenya. I’ve paid the $3,300 (I know, I know) last Wednesday and as soon as that clear they promise to send it. So I’m hopeful that Heidi might be in the country by the end of next week, which would be good as the first step in the process of importing the bike is booked for 12th July. I have to take the bike to a DVLA office and get what is called at MSVA (Motorbike Single Vehicle Approval) which, I think is a sort of pre-MOT MOT. More news on that when it happens.
News on my fellow Africa travellers. Daryll and Angela ( went to Uganda and Rwanda. They decided to end the trip back in Kenya and have flown the bikes back to Canada. They are flying to Europe this week and hope to come to the UK some time in August. I will, of course let them sleep on my couch. Tom, Pat and Chris went north. The road to Ethiopia was really bad and they stuck the bike son a truck for half of it. It appears 9from reading Toms blog) that they split up in Addis and the last a read Tom seemed to be lost in Sudan. he’d fainted in the heat, taken the wrong road somewhere and missed the weekly ferry to Egypt. Not quite sue what’s going on there really and sounds a little worrying. I’m keeping an eye on his blog. (

So, just in case anyone is still reading this blog. I hope to get my bike imported and on the road in July. As of now I have no job for September and it looks increasingly like I won’t get one. I’ll have to come up with a plan B. I’ll let you know what this is when I work it out (and obviously clear it with Tracy).

Saturday, 11 June 2011

That’s that. The end.

The 175 miles from Arusha to Nairobi took over 7 hours. Why? Partly because we had to cross a border but that actually only took an hour and a half. My last border. (Sorry, this blog is going to be very introspective.) This one was a typical African border. As soon as I arrived two or three guys came over to “help” me. One, straight away, offered to sell me motor insurance for Kenya (we were still in Tanzania). Another wanted to change money and the third wanted to help me through the process of leaving one country and entering another. This is where life for the traveller gets tricky. Should I trust the guy selling insurance? What's a good exchange rate? Is it worth being helped through the process – I'd have to give him a few dollars but it could save a lot of time?
I decided, after a chat with the insurance guy, that I'd trust him and he went off with my details to get me one months motor insurance for $37. I told the guy who wanted to help me that I didn't need any help and went into the building to get stamped out of Tanzania. I didn't change any money (his rate was 80 shillings to a dollar).
Back on the bike I moved a few hundred metres into Kenya. Same process. I didn't need insurance as I already had it (it looked official, I just had to hope that if I got stopped by Kenyan police it worked). I was offered 81 shillings to a dollar but when I pointed out that there was a bank in the customs building offering 83 we settled for 83.5 and I changed $200. He tried to swindle me out of about $5 but I was wise to it.
I had to pay $25 for a Kenyan visa and $20 road tax (or something similar) for the bike. My carnet was stamped and that was that. All quite easy really. That was the 18th border crossing I'd done. None of them have been fun but Africa is certainly a lot easier that Central America with the crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica being the worst.
I stopped to take this picture on the Kilimanjaro foothills. This section of road was good (and quiet). It wouldn’t last.
It took so long to get from Arusha to Nairobi mainly because the road in Kenya was so bad. Like most of Africa the worst roads are to found where they are constructing good roads. Ironic and somewhat amusing, unless your trying to ride on them. Huge stretches of the road north to Nairobi were being worked on and we were diverted off onto poorly maintained, dusty and occasionally muddy by-passes (if that's not too grand a word for what is in fact just a rough track by the side of the road.) So much of my last days riding involved dealing with corrugated earth roads, dusty trucks and crazy matutus (mini busses). I thought of all those fantastic roads I'd been on – Dalton Highway in Alaska, Cassier-Stewart highway in Canada, Route 101 coast road in America, parts of Baja California, Sani pass South Africa, Namibia's gravel roads, to mention but a few. This wasn't how I wanted it all to end. (But then again I could imagine many other ways this trip could have ended.) I was never going to ride my bike all the way to the UK but as I approached Nairobi I could only imagine how fantastic that would have been. To ride up though the UK to my house. Park the bike and walk in. Having the bike crated and delivered is going to be great but certainly somewhat anticlimactic.
Anyway back to the road. It was about 100 miles from the border to Nairobi and Jungle Junction. Well known to overland travellers JJ is THE place to stay in Nairobi. It had camping and rooms but more importantly has a garage where people can work on their bikes/landrovers/trucks. Anyone who's been overland through East Africa will have stayed there.
Jungle Junction, Nairobi
Lots of people have been to JJ in a variety of vehicles. Can you spot Ted Simon (if you know him)
It's always been in the back of my mind that JJ, Nairobi is my final destination and as I got closer I have to admit that I was getting a little emotional. I tried not to, it's silly really, but all the way into Nairobi images of things I'd done/seen over the last year flashed into my mind. Not a good idea really as the road was terrible and the traffic little better.
As we entered Nairobi, Daryll's GPS took over (I have to admit, they are useful at times) and with the traffic bumper to bumper, we slowly made our way to JJ's. At about 4 p.m. on Saturday 4th June we turned a corner and entered Jungle Junction. I rode the bike over the gravel pathway towards the office. I stopped, reversed a little to get a better parking spot, tried to pull forward and stalled. And that was that. I'd finished.
It all comes to a stumbling halt in Nairobi.
Days: 318
Distance: 31,000 miles (50,000 km)
Countries: 18
Punctures 1
Drops   1
Anti-climax? Well sort of. Finishing in a strange place is never going to be the same as riding home, but at least I'd made it. However instead of cheering crowds, a delighted wife and a huge chocolate cake I was faced with the task of getting both myself and the bike back to the UK.
I'd done the groundwork via email before getting here and Chris, at Jungle Junction has been excellent at helping me get the bike sorted. He's been doing this for nearly 10 years and knows what needs to be done. I've arranged to fly the bike with SEAWAYS LTD and went to their offices, only 2 miles from JJs, to do the paperwork. It was incredibly easy. He just photocopied my carnet and passport and that was that. Chris is arranging to crate the bike (cost £120) and all I have to do is change my flight. I've got a return from Nairobi to Birmingham with Emirates and changed it quite easily at a travel agents across the road from Seaways office. It was all too easy.
I flew home on Wednesday 8th June, 321 days since I left for Anchorage.
Oh nearly forgot. When Daryll, Angela and I arrived at JJs Tom, Pat and Chris were there. We'd last seen then in Malawi but by following their blog and getting intermittent emails from Tom I knew that they would be around. It was great to catch up with them. They left on Tuesday morning, heading for Ethiopia. Tom had had his V-Strom worked on all monday as it was leaking oil from the front forks, needed new tyres and various other things done. In order to lighten his load he ditched his panniers, leaving them with me to freight home with my bike and then post on to him in Germany.
I took advantage of the $20 an hour labour charges at JJ’s to get a few things tuned up on the bike. It would have been rude not too!
So now I'm just sitting around waiting to leave. I'm certainly looking forward to going home but have got so used to “being on the road” I'm sure that I'll take the bike somewhere over the summer. Once it's imported into the UK (no idea how long that will take – or the cost) I'm thinking Scandinavia looks good.... First of all though I'm going to the HorizonsUnlimited travellers meeting in Ripley in late June where I will bore lots of people with a couple of presentations on my trip. (Much like I did in Nakusp, Canada when this who thing started in August!) Then I have to hope I can get a teaching job for September…
Chris had about 50 bikes and trucks that people have left at JJs, presumably they will return to continue their trip sometime.
I'm not sure I can come up with any wise words or insights into what the last year has meant for me. Obviously it has been a fantastic experience. 300 plus days riding a motorbike through 18 countries with 8 weeks volunteering on three interesting projects must have had an effect on me. I just hope it was a good one and it lasts.
I've also really enjoyed writing my blog and thanks to the (three) people who have said they will miss it. However, whenever Heidi and I get it on and head off into the sunset, I'll be here to record it all. I hope you are too :)
Wednesday 8th I parked the bike up for Chris to crate. Hopefully I’ll see it again in a week or two outside my house in the UK.
So, as Tony Blair said at his last PM questions, “That’s that. The end.” Or is it? I'll blog again in a week or two when (if?) my bike arrives, and perhaps after I’ve been to the Horizons meeting. And whenever I go on a trip with the bike so perhaps this is just the end of the beginning…after all Charlie and Euen did a sequel.
Back in my garden in the UK, with my Maasai blanket. Oh, the memories…. 

Friday, 3 June 2011



The Serengeti, Tanzania

So, this week, I left the bike for four days and went on safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater with Daryll and Angela. We hooked up with Martijn and Ivon (Martin and Yvonne) a Dutch couple we met at the campsite in Arusha, so there were five of us in our Land Cruiser for four days.


Martijn, Ivon, Angel, Daryll, Me.

Needless to say I had an awesome time. I'll just list the animals we saw but you need to appreciate that for many of these we not only saw them but saw them either often or in large numbers or both. The highlight would either be seeing TWO leopards in a tree on our first day or the wildebeest migration where we were surrounded by literally thousands upon thousands of them.


Camping in the middle of the Serengeti – Serengeti means endless view in Maasai.

It took 8 hours to ride from Arusha to the campground in the Serengeti. We stopped off at the Mary Leakey Museum on the way. As you will know she is famous for discovering “the footsteps”. 3-5 million year old footprints in volcanic ash. The first recorded evidence of “humans” (Crucially these people walked upright like us, the proof being the way the big toe is aligned with the heal, not off-set like a monkey). incidentally this epic discovery was made (in 1978) when two of the party were messing about throwing elephant shit at each other. One fell to the ground and literally stumbled upon the prints. What a great way to make such an immense discovery. Hurray for the eccentric British upper class!


A caste of the footprints and an artists impression of what was happening three and a half million years ago.

To think, the oldest (manmade) thing I saw in Canada dated back 100 years, nearly one thousand in the US (Mesa Verde National Park), several thousand in central america ( Maya) and now THREE MILLION!

Anyway, back to the animals. Just in case you were interested in what sort of animals one might find in the serengeti, here’s a list.

Animals (assume hundreds seen unless stated)

Lion (11)


Cheetah (5)

Giraffe (dozens)

Elephant (2)

Leopard (2)




Serval Cat (2)



Warthog (dozens)

Dik Dik (dozens)

Jackel (1)

Wildebeest (tens of thousands)


Crocodiles (a few)

Mongoose (dozens)

Water buffalo (several)

Hippo (dozens)

Hartebeest (dozens)

Rock Hyrax (dozens)

Birds (I know and you know that they don't really count. But just to please the twitchers)

Secretary bird


Guinea fowl

Superb starling

Maribou stork

Egyptian Geese


Yellow billed Hornbill


Lilac breasted Roller

White crowned Shrike


Some pictures of said animals:


Can you see the TWO leopards?


Although we could see them quite clearly the sun was in the wrong place for a good photo. However it made for great (even if I do say so myself) series of silhouette shots.


Within 5 minutes of us being there one leopard decided to move (something they don’t do much of during the day)


  Something like 2.5 million Wildebeest migrate north every June/August. I’m sure you’ve seen it on the BBC/Discovery channel. I don’t know how many we found but there were thousands upon thousands.


All milling around making snoring like noises and kicking up dust it really was a unique and bewildering experience.


It doesn’t quite come across in photos but believe me it was impressive.

Croc meets hippo. Who will win? The finely tuned carnivore or the dumpy semi-vegetarian?




Hurray for the (almost) vegetarian!

Having read that list, seen the pictures and, no doubt, watched a lot of “Big cat diaries” you may be under the impression that safaries are wall to wall animals. That isn’t so. Let me explain. On our last morning in the Serengeti we got up at 6 a.m. had a coffee and set off on a safari. For the first hour and a half we saw nothing at all. And it was really quite cold. Then we saw a few animals but nothing new. This went on for over two hours and we feared we wouldn’t have a good day (we were hoping to spot a few Cheetahs). Then at almost 9 a.m. we spotted some circling vultures and came across:

DSC_0541 - Copy

We saw 11 Lions in all but this was the only male. Apparently there are just over 2000 lions in the whole of the Serengeti National Park. This guy was walking off with his kill. (That’s a rib cage in his mouth)


And then 5 minutes later I spotted this:


Two male Cheetah. There are about 900 Cheetah in the Serengeti, that’s all.


I've been on safari in Kenya and this certainly compares. But we are lucky to be in low season (just). When we saw the leopards in the tree there were perhaps 6-10 other vehicles. Our guide said that in high season (which seemingly runs from mid June to February!) there could be 300 vehicles trying to get close. Each vehicle is allowed a maximum of 3 minutes and then must move on. Obviously the lodges/campgrounds are full and much more expensive. We paid $600 for the four days/three nights all inclusive camping option. I hate to think what the lodge version costs in high season. But at $600 it is value for money and I'm glad I've done it. So my tip is, come to the serengeti but do it in May/June. Just at the end of the rainy season, its warm but not hot, the migration has started but the school holidays haven't.


The Ngorongoro crater. A volcanic crater FULL of wildlife.

I've always wanted to see the Ngorongoro crater ever since I watched Michael Palin's “Pole to Pole” which is now 20 years old! We camped on the rim (which is at 2400 m so it was cold), and got up at 6 a.m. So we could get into the crater before sunrise – and before most of the other dozen or so groups who had been camping with us.


View from my tent on the rim of the Ngorogoro crater

Within 5 minutes of entering the crater we were rewarded with this:

DSC_0587 - Copy

A female lion had just finished feeding with her four cubs. (Hence all the fat bellies.

DSC_0589 - Copy

And the day just got better and better. In all we had 5 hours in the crater (which measures 20 km wide and 20 km long) and we saw a total of 21 Lions (5 males, 6 cubs and 10 females). There are only 40 lions in all.

We also saw one of only eight Cheetah who live in the crater.


and one of the 21 black Rhino. (There are apparently only 14 Rhino in Serengeti!)

DSC_0601 - Copy

Our total list (excluding birds!) was:

Lions (21)

Cheetah (1)

Elephants (4)


Water Buffalo





Black backed Jackal

Golden Jackal

Bat eared foxes


DSC_0638 - Copy

Just as well motorbikes aren’t allowed in the park.

So, that's enough about Safari. On Thursday we returned to Arusha and the plan is to leave for Nairobi on Saturday. I hope to have the bike crated and flown within a week with me following ASAP. So I (and the bike) could, hopefully, be back in the UK by 12th June!



One more day of riding to go…

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Zanzibar, then on to Arusha.

I had a relaxing two days on the beach in Dar. We had the beach camp to ourselves by night. I got talking to the couple who own the place. She's from Zimbabwe and he's Chilean. They just found the place for sale on the internet and bought it two years ago. This kind of thing appeals to me. I know Tracy (my wife) thinks I'd be terrible at dealing with travellers but I reckon I could make a go of it. Having said that there was an overland truck in yesterday with five customers on it. All British and, lets just say, I wouldn't have survived on that truck for very long. But serving them and taking their money – that's a different thing! So, what do you say Tracy? Let's sell up and run a beach side campground somewhere in the sun (and I don't mean Eastbourne).
I even got used to showering in salt water all the time. However the signs everywhere telling us that it wasn't safe to leave the camp were a little off putting.
On the inside of the toilet doors!
I know you can’t see it clearly but on the right is a sign on the border of our camp. It says “Warning – it is not safe to leave the camp boundary”. In full view of everyone on the beach!
Sitting by the beach doing nothing in particular has, unfortunately for you, given me a lot of time to think and reflect over what I've done in the last year. This morning I sat on the beach looking out at the Indian ocean thinking, “I rode a motorbike from Alaska to get here.” Sometimes I can't even really believe it myself. On the one hand it seems surreal, almost impossible that I could have done it. On the other, it was actually quite straight forward and easy. Those who know me know that I'm no super human. I have no special skills or abilities that mean I can do something like this (indeed no special skills or abilities at all)  and no one else can. I really am just a normal person which just goes to show that ordinary people can achieve their dreams (if that's not too melodramatic). Whatever it is in life that you've always wanted to do but have thought, for whatever reason, you just won't get round too. Try it. Put your mind to it and have a go. Failure is not trying to do something and falling short, failure is not trying.
Not your everyday photo of Zanzibar
Zanzibar. I'd been here with Tracy four years ago and it was a little weird going somewhere on this trip that I already knew. I stayed (with Daryll and Angela) in Stone Town for three nights and I went diving for two days. I wasn't actually expecting the diving to be anything special but it was. Not only was the water nice and warm (28C) the coral was in really good condition (Corals around the world are suffering and one estimate suggests that by 2050 there will be NO functioning healthy coral systems left anywhere in the world. That's worth repeating and mulling over for a moment. In just 40 years there may well be NO HEALTHY CORAL REEFS in the whole world –due to global warming.)
I went on four dives, dived two ship wrecks and saw, amongst the usual numerous colourful coral fish, the following – Leaf fish, Pipe fish, garden eels, Turtles (two), scorpion fish, Octopus, Nudibranchs, Harlequin shrimps,(which Tracy and I had seen in Panama and aren’t easy to find), Tapestry shrimp, Mantis shrimp, Lobster, Moray eels, AND A SEA HORSE! I've done 110 dives and sea horses had almost become a sort of mythical creature. Several times I'd been told there may well be sea horses on this dive only to be disappointed. And I saw one on the first dive. It was slightly larger than I'd expected, about the size of my middle finger, black and spiky. It was worth going to Zanzibar just for that.
One Ocean Dive centre dive boat.
The weather doesn’t look great but the water was warm.
Going to Zanzibar reminded me how much easier and more fun it is to travel around on your own transport. Arriving in Stone Town on the ferry we got surrounded by taxi drivers desperate for our custom. I latched onto a guy who said he had a hotel (near to the one we had earmarked in the Lonely Planet). We went with him but the taxi drivers were furious and a huge shouting match erupted. Every time we went out someone walked along next to use wanted to sell us something. It always starts with a polite “hello” followed by a “Where are you from?” I know they are just trying to earn some money and I can put up with it for a while but it does get tiresome. Either you put up with it, ignore them, tell them to go away or try to tell them that you don't want anything. Non of which leave me feeling happy. I don't remember it being that bad last time I was on Zanzibar. Perhaps my memory has blotted it out or perhaps, as it's low season it's worse at the moment. Either way I fear that Zanzibar needs to be a little careful. It relies quite heavily on tourism and can't afford to alienate them too much.
Stormy times ahead for Zanzibar? This rain cloud formed over Stone Town as I was out diving.
On our last night we went to slightly posy Indian restaurant (Well, they had cloth napkins and a wine list). Daryll wanted his picture taken with his food. (For me this is something my parents used to do and I always felt uncomfortable and embarrassed by it.)
Angela kept saying she felt like a princess – Not having to cook camp food and having a bed which was off the ground. She doesn’t ask for much.
Taking photos in restaurants of people eating is JUST WRONG!
Just before we left Dar we met two South African bikers. One on a Suzuki 650 DR the other on a BMW 650 Dakar. They'd started in Jo'burg and were heading up to Ethiopia and then back down south. At least that was their plan. Apparently they hadn't heard that you can't get Ethiopian visas in Nairobi (which is why we'd gone to Harare).
BMW 650 Dakar
Suzuki 650 DR. Any idea what the panniers are made of? (Answer below)
A few hours later we bumped into two more South Africans on KLR 650s. This time I managed to take a photo of THEM as well as the bikes They'd just started their two year round the world trip but again were unaware of the Ethiopian visa problem.
KLR 650 – renowned for falling of its side stand but a reliable bike (so they tell me – what would I know?)
I’ve forgotten there names but at least I got a picture of them. Sorry
Time for another introspective interlude.
Riding a bike means you think a lot. Having that helmet on all day, alone with your thoughts is one of the great things of motorbike riding and I've noticed how my thought patterns have shifted over the months. In Alaska and Canada I was still thinking like a teacher and processing lots of thoughts to do with my teaching life, and indeed my recent past. That all worked itself out by the time I got to Mexico and my mind started to wander onto other things. Africa has been really quite different. I've started thinking about the future rather than the past or present. I almost feel like I've been on some sort of meditation course over the last year and have “sorted a few things out” as they say. All of this will mean little or nothing to you and I'm sure you think I've either become far too introspective or just downright anal. But, hey, it's my blog! All I can honestly say is that I think this year has done me the world of good and I just hope the feeling stays with me when I get home.
Am publishing this Sunday morning in Arusha. (It wasn’t easy finding wi-fi but I managed). Tourist low season in Arusha at the moment so everyone is hassling me to do a safari.  Daryll and Angela are going on a 4 day safari tomorrow and I can’t really think of a good reason to not join them. This means I’ll be back in Arusha on Thursday night and probably in Nairobi on Saturday. Already getting quotes for freighting bike (£2100 to fly it door to door) so I may well be home in two weeks from now!
You’ll be pleased to know the place we’re staying in Arusha (Massai Camp) has a bar with a TV so I watched the Champions League final last night with a few dozen locals. I went to bed at 11:30 when the party/disco started. The music stopped at 5:30 a.m. this morning. My tent was 20 m from the DJ!
Crossed the 30,000 mile marker somewhere on the road yesterday near Mount Kilimanjaro (which was hidden in the clouds). Only 175 miles from here to Nairobi. It really is almost over….
PS The panniers are old toilet cisterns!