Friday, 20 October 2017

Leaving Zambia

As I sit by the camp fire overlooking the Luangwa river that separates Zambia from Mozambique, I reflect on my last three weeks in the country formerly known as Northern Rhodesia. Tomorrow I will cross the border at Chipata and head into Malawi, waving a fond farewell to this little country with its big charm. I certainly hope to be back someday. Perhaps however, it will be in the cooler months next time around!

Zambia has its problems. It is one of the poorest countries in the world with a life expectancy of just 49 years old.  The deforestation due to its rapid population increase and charcoal usage, as well as its over dependency on copper, is stripping the country of its natural resources and leaving its people, wildlife, and economy, exceptionally vulnerable. It is no wonder Zambia has so much illegal wildlife trafficking. The Chinese are always at hand to buy more than the odd pangolin or illegally poached elephant tusk, and who can blame the local man who steals them to feed his starving children? The problem, as ever, is global and it’s going to take a lot of time and hard work to put it right.

Thankfully there are a lot of people here who are willing to put the time in. I have been exceptionally
lucky to meet some wonderful people, and dedicated conservationists in my short time here. Most of whom have given up their comfortable lives back home to head for the less convenient Zambia, in the hope of making a difference. Of course, there are always the stunning sunsets, the friendly people and the diverse wildlife to come for – but it’s certainly not an easy life choice. The strength, dedication and love for the cause really does shine through in this hard working, fun-loving community of ex-pats.

I have been spoilt rotten since I stepped foot across the border from Botswana. This has led to the odd feeling of guilt. I should be roughing it surely? The Zambian community, both bikers and ex-pats alike, would hear nothing of the sort. With a dodgy shoulder, and Welsh blood boiling in the ever-increasing heat and humidity, I was taken in and overwhelmed with kindness, good humour, soft pillows and copious amounts of whiskey! I only had to put my tent up once across the entire length of the country. Rhonda too, was taken care of and I feel like we are both coming out the other side having had a good overhaul of our major components – ready to take on the rest of Africa, and whatever it may throw at us!


I have to say a massive thank you to Marianne and Remco who welcomed this strange woman into their home in Lusaka and offered me a bed and company for as long as I needed it. I felt very much at home as soon as I arrived and before I knew it we were heading deep into the bush for some awesome 4x4 action. The Elephant Charge is a great event put on by conservationists to raise money for a handful of wildlife projects and also for the local community. I think I might have to bring my Dad over next year to compete! He would have loved that course. Big up to the only bike team to take part as well! What a course to do on a bike! Massive respect! It was far too extreme in places for me! I take my helmet off to you.

From roughing it in the bush (if you can call eating steak and drinking cold beer roughing it!), we had a quick turnaround back in Lusaka and then rushed off again for
a couple of relaxing days at Mukambi Lodge. This is real luxury bush camping. Situated right on the river in the heart of the Kafue National Park, this is the place that dreams are made of. Elephants, lions, hyenas and hippos roam free and the sounds at night while you are safely tucked in your four-poster bed are magical (Check out the African Adventure page for more info). Marianne and I enjoyed a game drive (where the highlight was 5 lion cubs), sunset river boat cruise (with rather large G&T’s), and on our last morning we had to tip toe around a big bull elephant to get to our breakfast! We were in heaven! Really. If you get the opportunity to go there – DO! Kafue National Park is one of the largest unspoilt wildernesses in the world and is worth seeing! Zambia needs more tourism too! 

Back in the hustle and bustle of Lusaka, I met up with the Zambezi bikers. What a great bunch! These guys took me for brecci and offered me some contacts along the way. The final surprise was from Ginty (a retired bike racer who still seems to have his hand in anything bike or petrol related). As I was heading towards the Malawi border, Ginty messages me and says that he has managed to get me a complimentary room at the rather posh Protea Hotel in Chipata. The perfect pit stop before crossing into Malawi and of course, the perfect end to my stay in Zambia. I really am spoilt now! I don’t think I have ever had so many luxury stops! I expect it to get back to basics after this so I am making the most of it and very very grateful for the kindness shown to this scruffy straggler! You are all welcome in my caravan in Wales anytime you like (Mum get the kettle on!).

My last ride in the country was a beautiful one. The roads were in great condition and the countryside stretched out for miles around me in the cool morning breeze. Dotted with rustic villages and the usual fruit stalls, I pottered on through waving to the kids as I went. I felt relaxed and happy. My shoulder wasn’t even hurting. All that luxury living had paid off! The thing that made me stop though was the sight of some kids selling cooked mice on a stick!! Not something I had seen before. Tempting as it was to try, I decided against it, but gave them a few Kwatcha anyway.

Another African country that just isn't that scary! Who'd have thought! 😼

Tomorrow I see what Malawi has in store for me!

Thanks so much to Honda Zambia for giving Rhonda a free service. Thank you to Robyn and Etienne for my stay at Mukambi lodge. Special thanks once again to Ian in Livingtone, Remco and Marianne who put me up and fed me, and of course big hugs to the Zambezi bikers and everyone who has made my time here extremely memorable. 

See you next time around! 






Thursday, 5 October 2017

Livingstone, I presume!

Elephants on Chobe River
I'm with Livingstone when he said that Victoria Falls was a scene so lovely it must have been gazed upon by angels. I mean it probably wouldn't have been my choice of words when you consider the type of friends I have! They would have been checking my pockets for a secret stash of particularly intense marijuana if I had used EXACTLY those words! Non the less - our sentiments and the emotions it conjures up are still the same today as they were back then. Of that, I am sure. In fact, thankfully Africa still has many sights that leave you breathless and in awe of mother nature (no stimulants required!). But be careful! It's addictive!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Scary Africa!

This video is not always working on some phones and tablets. You may need to watch it on a laptop or desktop. Sorry about that! 


 

Friday, 29 September 2017

The Ups and Downs of the Open Road!

I finally left the comfort of Nundu Lodge on the Okavango River. The place that had been my sick bed for a few days, and a place that had been very kind to me as I recovered from my tummy bug.  A cool fan and mosquito net made all the difference, and waking up to the sound of grunting hippos in the morning is enough to distract anyone from their ailments.

Fully recovered, I said my goodbyes to Namibia and headed for the Mohembo border crossing into Botswana. It was a lovely dirt road ride in through a game reserve, with signs warning of lions and elephants in our presence and an extra big sign saying, ‘Disclaimer – Enter at own risk’. It reminded me of a sign I had on my bedroom door as a kid and I smiled as I imagined lots of teenage wildlife leaving clothes all over the floor and mouldy cups under their beds.  I saw neither elephant nor lion. I did however, see lots of antelope type things and made a mental note-to-self as I rode, ‘Brush up on antelopes’.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

What a difference a border makes - Visiting Angola

I had not intended to go to Angola. She just started calling me as I got closer to her border. The advice on the government website says ‘DON’T GO’, but if you do want to go you have to go to your country of origin to apply for a visa. I decided to chance my luck at the embassy in Windhoek (Namibia) anyway, and after much eye rolling and open irritation at my presence, I was granted seven days. I took it and ran!

I hoped the embassy was not reflective of the country, although I had evidence to believe to the contrary. The only woman I know to have gone there solo in the last few years is a fellow adventurer named Jo Rust of South Africa. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Welcome to the desert!


After several weeks of being stationary waiting for my bike, I was beginning to wonder what was wrong with me. I was in a beautiful part of the world and yet things did not seem right. I questioned whether I wanted to continue. My body ached and I feared I would not make it across the last continent. Perhaps I had just had enough of the road. 


I pushed on with little choice but to ride it out, and that’s when the magic started to happen all over again. It seems I truly am a prisoner of the white lines. The aches dissipated, the fears quelled and the tiredness melted into a forgotten past. I was getting my road fix and the cold turkey had gone. 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Test riding the Honda CRF250L Rally

Yes you could say life is pretty good! It just felt right to test ride the 2017 Honda CRF250L Rally in the beautiful country of Swaziland. Both bike and country are small yet beautifully formed, with the capacity for a real adventure.

My own CRF250L (affectionately named Rhonda)  was taking longer than expected to arrive by ship from Canada, so when Honda South Africa offered me the Rally version to try out while I waited, of course, I jumped at the chance. I had reviewed this bike for ADV Moto Magazine last year, but could only go on the specs. Now was my opportunity to try it in real life and see if my predictions were right! The moment of truth had arrived. 

Monday, 26 June 2017

Thinking of hitting the road?

I am getting a lot of emails recently, asking questions about how to fund a dream trip, how to get to Antarctica, or even more generic, 'I want to ride around the world. Where do I start?'! 

In some cases I have been asked to put a spreadsheet together with all visa requirements, costings and exactly how I am funding myself!! 

Whilst I am very happy to help where I can (I asked lots of questions too when I started), some of these questions are not easy to answer and some of it you are just going to have to learn as you go. We all have our own set of circumstances, drivers, and styles. I am only an expert in MY WAY, but lets look at some basics for a moment......

Thursday, 15 June 2017

TIA - This is Africa!


I squeezed my stiff and slightly altitude swollen body out from between the two rather plump, hijab wearing, non-english speaking ladies I had just shared a rather intimate 10 hours with, and began to make my way down the chaotic aisle of the plane. I had arrived in Lome (West Africa), and expected a two hour wait for my next flight to Johannesburg. This was an opportunity to stretch my legs and I looked forward to doing so as soon as possible.

Not everyone was getting off it seemed. This plane was dropping some passengers off here and picking more up before continuing to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. My two companions were staying, and so I waved my goodbyes. They smiled and waved back as they appeared to breath out and fill the space I had just occupied!

As I was alighting the plane, one of the young and predictably beautiful air stewardess' asked me where I was going. I showed her my ticket and said I had a connecting flight to Joburg from here. She told me I was to stay on the plane as this flight would go on from Addis Abba to Joburg. I was not expecting that but after much discussion and checking of the ticket once more, I was assured that I should stay put. I double checked later with another member of the crew and it was confirmed I was in the the right place. I found a bigger space to settle back into as I couldn't bring myself the give these lovely ladies I had just left, the bad news!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

We are all individuals - I'm not!

Shipping courtesy of OTSFF.com
I sort my personal items into 2 piles; 'Can't live without for 6 weeks', and 'Can live without for 6 weeks'.  I say goodbye to my trusty steed Rhonda, as she goes into the box with the second pile of items (the first pile goes into an old Canadian Navy issue rucksack, donated by my friend, Pat!). I won't see Rhonda again for 6 weeks. From here we must make our own way to Africa. First, Rhonda will board a train to Montreal, and then a ship to Durban, where we will reunite. I will go by train to the US and then fly to our final continent.

Until then - I am just another tourist! I clean the hard-earned grime and grease from under my fingernails, and try desperately to get rid of my helmet hair, as I sit and contemplate what this means!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Across Canada!

The Rockies gave way to the rolling hills of Alberta and then suddenly there it was  - the Prairies. They say you can see your dog running away for days here. I didn't have a dog - only Rhonda and my drone Marvin, and if it just stopped blowing, it would be the perfect place to practice my drone flying skills.  

Some days it felt like I was just floating along in a dream like state, with nothing much externally to catch my attention. I actually like these days. Just me, the road, and my daydreams. Other days the weather forced me into reality with ever changing winds and gusts that unapologetically played with me, occasionally throwing me across the lines and trying my patience. On the good days, I would smile to myself and blast the 70's disco music in my helmet. If you can't beat it, get in the grove right? Go with the flow! On the bad days however, I would curse my aching body, tense up and go head to head with mother nature herself. Several hundred miles of this can be exhausting with not even a tree to hide behind! 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

For Tim - RIP

Yesterday I got the news that my good friend Tim Carrier had died in a motorbike accident back home.

I cannot attend the funeral and so I would like to pay my respects here on my blog. This is fitting as Tim had a very big part in this story and he never missed an update.

One day, at the end of 2013, as I was clearing out my attic in preparation for my big journey - I got a phone call. My phone was in my pocket and so I answered it in the dark and spider-infested hole I had crawled into.

'Hello. Steph speaking' I said, trying to sound like I was at a desk and not in an attic!
'Hello. This is Tim Carrier.', came the reply, 'I heard about your trip and I would like to help you get to Antarctica'.

I sat up at this news and promptly smacked my head on a beam! That was the first time Tim and I spoke.

Over the following months, Tim and I became friends. He was such a busy man and yet always had time for a chat or to meet for a beer and discuss any worries I had re my business or my upcoming trip. He was a calm and reassuring man who had a habit of just being there when you needed him.

Tim was there to wave me off when I left London in March 2014 and stayed with me throughout the entire trip - supporting my decisions, showing concern at times, and helping with money raising ideas or shipping solutions. He felt like part of the family as he was never judging of my crazier ideas and his support was unconditional. Tim was the reason I achieved a dream and made it to Antarctica.

I didn't know that much about Tim regarding the rest of his life. He was clearly a loving family man and a very good businessman.

Tim - You were a big and positive influence in my life. This trip had become partly for you. I wanted to finish it to repay you your kindness and show you that you were not wrong to believe in me. I looked forward to seeing you at Motobreaks in France where you had planned a big party for my homecoming in true biker style. I had always imagined giving you the biggest hug and celebrating OUR achievements together.

If I have anything to do with it - The journey continues and the party goes on! I may not be able to complete everything we had discussed without you but I will not miss raising a glass to you at the place we should have met.

Thank you for everything. I will miss you.

My thoughts are with your family xxxxxxxxx


Monday, 20 March 2017

Titan Arctic Challenge - Part 2

It was 9pm and -30°c. I watched the steam rising as I unceremoniously peed in the middle of the Dempster Highway! Just a few meters away, my three team mates were busy tending to the fire and counting fingers to make sure they were all still there - for they could no longer rely on sensation! I listened to the distant rumble of a truck, and it occurred to me that perhaps it was not so distant! Why does this always happen? I could be in the middle of nowhere, not see a soul for hours, and just as I drop my pants and get beyond the point of no return, someone shows up! Hurriedly, I finish my business and pull up my extensive layers, just as the big red truck comes charging angrily around the corner, snorting steam into the cold night air. My dignity is spared this time as my near frost-bitten bum is hidden from view once more!

It's not always easy being a woman on the road - but it sure is fun

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Titan Arctic Challenge


So all our camera equipment has finally arrived and tomorrow we head off to start filming our Titan Artic Adventure Challenge.

Mark and Budd (two Canadian adventurers) and I, will be putting the Nissan Titan to the test, driving north from Nissan headquarters in Vancouver, all the way to Tuktoyaktuk in the North West Territories.

The conditions will range between -10°F and -50°F, which will really put our camping equipment to the test, not to mention our smalls!  Covering 8,000km in all, the terrain will be varied and will include the ice roads that stretch along the Mckenzie River Delta, and through the treeless Arctic tundra, before reaching the frozen Beaufort sea (the Arctic Ocean).

About 850 people live in the Tuk settlement and many of the Inuit community still hunt, fish and trap as a way of life. They rely on Caribou in the Autumn, ducks and geese in the spring and fish all year-round.

We will have satellite comms and hope to post Vlogs and photos on a regular basis.

For me, the reward will be to see the Aurora Borealis in its full and spectacular glory. Let's hope she wants to play!

See you on the frozen road!

Follow: #TitanArcticChallenge




Thursday, 2 March 2017

Small Bike Invasion 2017

Check out my review of the latest small Adventure bikes for 2017 in the May edition of ADV Moto Magazine

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Dirt Church

I'm back in Canada after a few surprisingly wonderful days in Baltimore, at the Timonium Motorcycle Show. I say 'surprisingly', as Baltimore is often associated with trouble and in all honesty, last year was cold and all I saw was the inside of the hotel and the show ground. The city is certainly no stranger to crime, and is perhaps best known to outsiders for being the home of the 12 o'clock Boys. A notorious urban dirt-bike gang, converging from all parts of the inner city, they invade the streets and clash with police, who are forbidden to chase the bikes for fear of endangering the public. These guys may be crazy, they may be reckless, but boy have they got skill. The gang is named this after the position in which they point their front wheel, whilst taking life threatening dashes through the city on their dirt bikes. Back wheel on the ground, and the other straight up to the sky! What those boys could do on a dirt track, given the right place, time and opportunities. It fascinates and saddens me.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Motorcycle Men

Had a great interview today with one third of Motorcycle Men today. Very honest, upfront and fast paced! 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Reflections

Hello from snowy Canada!

It's the longest time since I posted! Why have I abandoned my post? Well really my time staying still has meant that I can take an opportunity to write more, but I have to take the jobs that pay me good hard cash! That is the reality of it! My blog is for pleasure and a girl has to make her money somehow.  Getting across Canada, then over to Africa is not going to be cheap! Choosing an alternative lifestyle does not mean all play! Money makes the wheels on the bike go round and round! Romantic it is not, but it is what it is, and I kinda like what it is! I was never one for romance novels anyway! 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Thanks


My first 2017 sponsor. Moto Explorers have just come on board and are smoothing the way a little to ride East and over to Africa for my final leg.  Moto Explorers also smooth the way for riders wanting to get through China, from all directions! They have a wealth of knowledge from years of planning and leading tours in that area. Visit site

Thursday, 19 January 2017

ibook



The link on Facebook is no longer working via the blog, so for those of you interested in buying the ibook, please follow the link below....

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/embrace-the-cow/id1192844352?mt=11