‘Are you ready?’, he shouted over his shoulder. I braced myself, held onto the bars, and looked ahead. I was not ready at all and didn’t think I would be anytime soon, ‘Yes ready!’, I replied. Just then the rope tightened and I felt myself being dragged off the dirt path and straight into the chaotic traffic of Dar es Salaam. Rhonda, for the first time in our 67,000-mile journey, had broken down!
Four years earlier I had spent some time with my friend Tony in Wales practicing for this very moment, but being towed now felt like a far cry from those green fields where the only obstacles were the slow-moving sheep. I had no control and had to trust in a guy whose towing skills were yet to be determined. The rope had been tied to my bike and so there was no quick release as I had always believed should be the case! My horn was not working and my screams of ‘Nooooo I can’t fit through there!’, were left trailing behind me as we squeezed through the gaps between the moving cars with millimetres to spare! Why was he filtering? Had he forgotten I was attached to him? All I could do was hold on, keep the bike upright and hope that he had not lied when he said we only had 2kms to go! Those 2kms were the longest of the trip so far (although I might have said that before)!
It turns out the starter relay had failed and so thankfully Rhonda was repaired quickly. We were soon leaving the humid and grimy port of Dar es Salaam behind and heading for the cooler climates of the Usambara mountains in Northern Tanzania. I was not sorry to say goodbye to the coast or to the aggressive mosquitoes that buzz in your ear at night with high-definition clarity. This place was not for me! I did have a good time with the people though as ever, and my short visit to Zanzibar was also a treat.
Zanzibar was a break from Rhonda. I left her with my new friend Denis (and as it turned out, expert tower of motorcycles) and caught the ferry over to Stone Town. It was still hot and humid but I managed in my flip-flops and sarong. I must admit, I do feel strange without my bike, and more importantly my riding gear these days. It is what defines me, it is what I feel most 'me' in and in all honestly, I really shouldn't be left alone to dress myself otherwise. I never did have a flair for fashion. At home, when I need to look particularly 'nice', I use my girlfriend Jenny. I call her my 'girly advisor' and she helps with everything from hair to wardrobe. She will come shopping with me at the drop of a hat and make me try on strappy things! Otherwise you will find me mostly in jeans and hoodies! Practical clothing, or riding gear!
|ok so MOST of them were young and had good teeth!|
Zanzibar was fun. I danced with the locals until 3.30am, I read my book and recovered from my hangover overlooking a white beach and turquoise sea, and I got happily lost in the medina style town. If you are a single white woman (of any age) and you need an ego boost - go to Zanzibar! The men are young and beautiful with good skin and surprisingly white teeth. They are very keen to admire you and tell you how beautiful you are. They are also very keen to find an affluent wife who will provide for them - but don't let that put you off! Once they realise you are skint and you have no interest in taking home a souvenir anyway, they soon get down to the important stuff - dancing! And BOY can they dance!
Soon I was back on the road and working my way further north through the crazy traffic, narrowly avoiding the bus, and the motorbike with a wardrobe on the back coming the wrong way up a dual carriageway. I ignored the strange whispers in the petrol station and the seriously mean looks as I pushed on through the area, feeling a little jaded and just a little sick and tired of all this ‘adventure travel’!
After a few hours, the climate and environment completely changed. The cool air enveloped me as I climbed the series of switchbacks up the mountain into the little village of Leshoto, and the moist green foliage gave me an overwhelming sense of home. As I climbed and tried to take it all in I saw a movement in the verge. Suddenly an eagle flew up clutching a snake. I ducked and narrowly avoided both as they wrestled with each other mid-air. As I composed myself and laughed with delight at this unexpected treat, a crowd of people (clearly members of a local tribe) with painted faces and brown robes, carrying spears came into view, marching as one with a real sense of purpose. I was glad I was not their ‘purpose’! ‘This place is like something from a Terry Pratchett novel’, I thought 'All we need now is Rincewind and a giant turtle!'. Totally surreal and a wonderful breath of fresh air. Just as I was waring thin of long distance travel, just as I was ready to throw in the towel, I literally turn a corner and life was good again!
Just when you think you have seen it all, the world provides a whole new scene, and with it, a fresh perspective and the energy you need to keep going. My shoulder even felt mildly better and it was the respite I so desperately needed before taking on arguably the toughest section of my African leg. I have missed out a couple of countries, leaving them in the pile marked 'Come back for when reenergised physically and financially' and I am pushing on towards home now. My mission is to get home safely and happily whilst still enjoying the ride.
I have now made it to the bustling and frankly unpleasant city of Nairobi where I will have my eleventh and final tyre change of the journey, sort my visa for Ethiopia, and draw breath for the final leg home. Thankfully I have found a place for my tent at a campsite called Jungle Junction, in a quieter part of the city. Here they have a workshop and many other overlanders who are resting up and catching up on 'admin' type stuff just like me. Last night I sat with a couple in their 70's from Canada, and a young man from France (all in 4x4 vehicles). We shared a beer and a nice stew whilst comparing elephant encounter stories! It was fun and nice to have like-minded company for a while.
Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt await. Where I go from there, I'm not sure. As I investigate this leg further I discover more barriers. It turns out I cannot get into Israel to catch the ferry to Italy as I had originally planned. In this instance, being a woman on a motorbike is not very helpful! Going from Egypt across Sinai is forbidden for motorcycles and 4x4s. Going through Saudi Arabia to Jordan is forbidden for women drivers (particularly solo ones!) and the ferry from Sharm El-Sheikh to Jordan no longer takes vehicles. I cannot find an airline who will take me to Morocco (still working on it but no doubt will be WAY too expensive even if I do find one), and so the only option left is a roll-on-roll-off service for the bike from Alexandria to Italy (very expensive) and a flight for me.
I'm still working on it! If I can find a way to Antarctica...!
Wish me luck! I may need it!