The mystery of Livingstonia, the road to Dar and a technical update

We left the resort of the bugs, traveled a couple of hundred kilometers upstream and stopped at the Hakuna Matata campsite. It’s a very chill place. Master Willie bought some land at the edge of the lake, with an area of about a hectar, that cost 4000 dollars and is now quietly spending his old age there. There’s beer in cupboard, Martha’s cooking some dinner, what more to want. The couple of evenings spent there went fast. We discussed world events and turned out that we were on the same wavelength on some topics.

I decided to make a small offroad trip so sitting by the lake wouldn’t get too boring. I removed the cases and wrapped everything necessary so that I took only my tank bag with me. Willie, who used to make day trips to Livingstonia with his old Defender thought that the rise of 15 km should take me about 1,5 hours. To be safe, I took some water and bottle of brake fluid with me just in case. I doubted a little if the trip is worth taking. Didn’t want to risk my life and possible injuries (of the bike I mean). Eventually the desire to ride in the mountains with a lighter bike won.

The rise was difficult but not impossible. It took about 20 minutes and I was up. Since I hadn’t done much preliminary work, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean about Livingstonia as a settlement. Regardless of the fancy name, I thought that it would be just another village in the mountains. I wast really wrong either. There were some unexpected things too. The church for example. A very nice one, well taken care of and totally un-African. I’m sorry for my robust way of expressing, but African churches (talking about the building) are the bad looking. But the church there was a nice cathedral. The village itself has also somewhat more decent houses. On the central square, I saw a few buildings with the sign that said “University of Livingstonia”. At first it seemed funny, but then I ended up in the middle of a college campus. Even the students walked around. Quite surreal. I later learned, that it was supposed to be the best Malawi university. Who knows. There’s nothing else to do there but study, so it might actually be true…

I didn’t want to go back using the same road, so I decided to explore the mountain villages. It was fun! Got to see the local life and ride some interesting roads. I ended up riding a little under 100 km. And this time without technical difficulties.

The crossing from Malawi to Tanzania was pretty much stress-free (except another flat front tire). The visa cost 50 $ per person and that was it. We had set our sights to an accommodation located about 40 kilometers from the border so I tried to extend the agony. I stopped and pumped the tire after every 5-10 km and tried to reach the campsite that way. Unfortunately it turned out we also needed refueling so we needed to find a gas station for that. For some reason I hoped that you can pay with a card for the fuel in Tanzania. Well, you can’t. So we needed cash to refuel. To get cash we needed to find an ATM. So we went back and fourth. Rode for some kilometers, took out the compressor and pumped the tire, rode some more and did it all over again.

Eventually we got both cash and a full tank and were heading for the campsite. About 15 km from the border we had another flat tire. This time directly next to a police checkpoint. I was trying to stop and find a smoother place on the side of the road but … the clutch was not separating. And there’s no rear brake again. It was almost twilight already. I had to unload everything in order to get the bike to the center rack, otherwise it’s too heavy. Fortunately the Mosko casings come off easily. The front tire has been fixed so many times that I can do it with my eyes closed. It took about 15 minutes and everything was fine again.

After the tire was fixed I took on the clutch. It had shown problems during the day, so I had plenty of time to think of all sorts of thing. The work cylinder had been exchanged for about 20 000 km ago … Sigutech … who knows. Hoped that it was ok, it’s a piston with three seals after all. If the piston were to have a break, then we would be in trouble. The same, if something should be wrong with the gaskets. Fortunately I had my Magura bottle. The only problem was that it was located in a place where it’s difficult to reach without loosening some screws and bolts. It’s not overly hard, just time consuming. It turned out, after screwing off the lid, that the liquid was still there. That meant that the technical part was over, just needed to exchange the liquid. The old one really was dirty. And really hot. Anyway, I got rid of the old fluid and the clutch started working again.

The rear break. The little window that is on the side of the brake pump, had decided to stay in Africa. Oh, well. I taped it up and we continue on, now in the dark. As mentioned previously, the rear brake is a comfort brake, it’s not absolutely necessary. You can’t stop the bike with it, it’s needed for maneuvering and stopping on a slope. Or for descending at a slow speed. So no worries.

I decided to take a closer look in the morning. Everything looked clean, no injuries, just the glass window is missing. Why is the window there at all??!! I know if there’s no brakes. I wonder if there are people who look through those windows every time they go riding just to make sure every necessary fluid is there? There shouldn’t be any problems, if there aren’t any leakage. I hope that there are pumps without windows, because this one will be retiring in any case. I have brought a selection of bolts-nuts-washers with me so I thought about fixing the hole with some of them. I thought I could put a bolt through the hole, a rubber gasket on the washers, tighten and everything would be fine. Unfortunately the window is at a stupid place so it didn’t work. Since the container is just for holding the liquid supply, that means there’s no pressure inside it, I went for the simpler way. A double rubber patch (this is where some bicycle inner tube brought from home comes in handy 🙂 ), a pair of washers and tie it together with some cable ties. Looks awful. But authentic African stuff. After couple of days on the road, still no leakage.

 

 

The internet access is bad in Tanzania. It’s worse than it has been in the countries visited. You can’t pay with a card at the gas stations. You can find some ATM-s and you can even use your Master card to get money from them.

For various reasons, we decide to go directly to Dar es Salaam. For this, it takes us exactly three days from the border. The first half of the road is mostly being repaired. As usual, the front of the front tire falls flat in the evening. After some repairs we can continue.

It’s ok during the day because the visibility is good. The round-ways of the sections in repair are really though in the dark. The temporary roads are sprayed with water to prevent huge amounts of dust. This means that the roads are covered with a layer of liquid clay that is extremely slippery. In addition, you can’t see the holes underneath. Obviously not too much is spent on temporary roads and quite often there are large holes or slippery rocks underneath the dirt. The worst thing is the extremely tight traffic of huge trucks on these dangerous sections. In addition, these sections are either on slopes or on declines. Riding in the muddy clay, with a fully loaded bike, with two passengers, between trucks, in the dark … really bad, honestly. There was nowhere to stop and stay for the night. The first place was 140 km away, starting from the sunset. We ignored the prohibiting signs everywhere possible and rode on the sections being repaired. Some were pretty ok, covered in compact crushed stone. Some were even paved. There was a section that was covered with fresh tar. We could’ve probably been able to ride on a fresh new asphalt a day later. There were people still on the road on the last section that was being repaired. We were stopped by a man with a gun and in a rather decisive way, ordered us to turn back. Since it was not a AK 47, I made it look like I was doing just that, after turning half way, I turn back in the direction ahead and turn the gas. Fortunately nobody started to shoot at us. We arrived at the campsite quite happily and after some time, stay in a room again (actually a hut).

As breakfast is not offered in the camping are, we went to the nearest town to grab something. With sleeping late, it takes some time to get on the move. We were half way on Dar es Salaam and wanted to get there that day. The GPS showed that it was 560 km away so it was highly unlikely. We had another flat tire that afternoon. There was still a couple of hours of light left so I decided to see what’s going on. It’s unreal. How can a front tire break so many times??!! I’ve just pulled the inner tube out from the side and patched it up every time before that, so I decided to take the tire off completely and find out what’s going on. I was really ma. At the same time, Victor from France came on his old African Twin, on his way to the Cape Town. Together we discovered a strange crack inside the tire.

 

Sharp and deep. Just at the place where the latest injuries have been. Even the shape and angle matches. The crack or split is not through and through. From the outside, the tire is fine. Since there were no better options at the moment, I put several layers of gray tape on the crack and hope that the inner tube will stay ok for at least as long as I can find a new one.

As the tire exchange took a couple of hours, we didn’t go into Dar just yet. We stayed at a local guest house at the side of the road. It was a nice place and a room for two cost only 6 $. It even had hot water.

There are all kinds of stories going around about Dar. The robbing of the tourists on the streets was supposed to be a normal event. So we put our more valuable stuff at the bottom of the trunk and leave a big lever out from a bags lock. Good to have on hand if someone should attack from somewhere. I even prepared myself mentally for any sharper moments so there wouldn’t be any hesitations, I will not give anything away without a fight.

The traffic jams started about 60 km before the city and there was quite a lot of zig-zagging between the cars. A local biker, on some kind of older Honda enduro bike, rode ahead, so racing with him, we traveled toward the capital. We had to cross a larger national park where giraffes and antelopes were walking alongside the road. About 40 km before reaching Dar we had another flat tire. Luckily we were right next to a workshop. It turned out that the tape had moved and the inner tube had the same shape hole again. This workshop had the necessary tools for vulcanization. It took some time because of the power outages. But on the positive side, even the crack in the tire gets a vulcanized patch this time.

The inner tube has no scatheless spot. And despite the fact that I had brought plenty of patches, they are now almost gone. There are only three left.

We reached Kepepeo beach, about 15 km from the capital, by the evening. Kepepeo means butterfly. That was our goal and we will be staying here for couple of days. It’s like any other southern city. The lever was not needed after all. It reminds me South-East Asian metropolises, although Dar doesn’t seem to be very big. In general there is a similarity between Asian/Arab cities. Street food, all kinds of services right on the roadside etc.

Finally, the Indian Ocean white sand and light blue water you can see through!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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