Travelling Africa on a KLR

Author: Kirk (Page 1 of 4)


2017-03-13 to 2017-03-20

After scrambling to get my e-visa application done on Monday morning I head north to the Kenya border. Other than the fact that there is a complete lack of signage at the border I check out of Tanzania fairly easily. Once I get to the Kenyan side of the border it is obvious Kenya is more developed as the secure area doesn’t have touts, money changers, and sales people wandering around in it. The customs office is even air conditioned which is a blessing as I end up waiting for my visa to be approved which was my fault as I should have submitted my application in person rather than applying online, or applied earlier but the border officer phoned head office to have mine expedited so I didn’t need to re-apply (and pay again) at the border. Twenty minutes later I received my visa then checked my bike in to Kenya. I headed to Nairobi where I would be staying at Jungle Junction, a hostel for overlanders. On my way in to Nairobi the GPS misled me and tried to bring me in to Eastliegh (the area of Nairobi all the travel advisories mention) fortunately people yelling mzungu mzungu (literally: confused wanderer, practically: lost white man) tipped me off that I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be. Between the delay at the border and getting lost I then battled my way across Nairobi in rush hour traffic. The traffic in Nairobi is horrific and is really the only place that I feel like people are intent on running me over. That being said I receive lots of thumbs up and waves while riding around town including one guy leaving his seat on a packed bus to come to the door to give me a thumbs up.

Mount Kenya

Once I checked in I met up with the other travellers where we shared tales from the road. Like the Horizon’s Unlimited meeting was a great place to start in South Africa, Jungle Junction was a great place to end my time in Africa. During the week I went North to see Mount Kenya and cross the Equator. I spent my last three days preparing my motorcycle for transport back home to Canada.


On the Sunday night before I left I came down with another stomach bug. This one is easily the worse yet and results in me essentially spending the evening in the washroom before flying to Morocco then Montreal before landing in Vancouver on Tuesday all while quite sick. I picked up the motorcycle after I arrived and went straight to my parents place on Vancouver Island for recuperation.


2017-02-27 to 2017-03-13

As I am leaving Malawi the GPS has no idea where the actual roads are and is constantly stating that it is recalculating the route. Little do I know this will also be the annoying case for all of Tanzania. Do not buy Garmin East Africa Maps, the rest have been fine but these are terrible. Exiting Malawi is fairly easy once you figure out that you go in the door with the bank sign overhead and speak to the people at the unlabeled counters not go to the immigration area. The Tanzanian side of the border is much better labeled but takes a little time as they need to fill out temporary import paperwork for the motorcycle.

The first day I ride to Mbeya, then the next day Iringa, then Chilenze as I head to the coast. Tanzania is easily the most frustrating place to ride so far. The roads are in poor condition with four inch deep ruts in the asphalt from heavily loaded trucks. The roads are also very busy compared to the countries I have been so far. None of the numerous trucks are able to maintain more than 15 km/h on the uphill sections but the ruts are too deep to pass in many areas. Like Malawi the speed limits here are also 80 and 50 km/h in the rural and town areas. Unlike Malawi the towns are no more than five minutes apart and with numerous speed bumps and police officer checkpoints (more on that later) one should not expect to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. It is unlikely I have averaged more than 40 km/h here. In addition to the frustratingly slow pace the traffic has very little regard for motorcycles and oncoming traffic will occupy both lanes forcing you into the shoulder or the ditch. But enough negativity for now.

On the fourth day I finally make it to Pangani on the northern coast where I take a ferry to the lodge I am staying at. When there I get the opportunity to take a boat out to a nearby reef and do some snorkelling. The fish and coral are quite beautiful but easily the most impressive and unexpected sight was the sea turtle we saw just off the reef in the deep water. The water is incredibly hot in this area, definitely not a refreshment from the 35 degree weather.

Pangani Beach

Beach Crab

After Pangani I headed toward Moshi to see Mount Kilimanjaro. Along the way I am pulled out of traffic at one the police checkpoints. My suspicions are immediately raised when he asks to see my passport (I have since learned it is illegal for a traffic officer to request a passport) instead of my driver’s license which is the usual question. I oblige and hand over my passport, the next question he asks is to see my yellow fever vaccination certificate (this is a common scam by officials in Tanzania as it isn’t actually required unless you have been to a yellow fever country which I have not) I have mine in the pannier and offer to get it, which he says yes, as soon as I start unlocking the pannier he says to stop and then the real question comes. Do I have a gift of money for police officers? I respond no as I do not support corruption unless my own personal well being is at risk. He then asks me why not? At this point (as he still has my passport) I call over the officer working the other lane of traffic, the officer isn’t two steps toward me before I am handed back my passport and told I am free to go. At the next checkpoint I stop to inform the officer in charge of what happened at the previous stop. I do not think I could have met anyone who cared less.

Mount Kilimanjaro in the Haze

Wildebeest Migration

Servil Cat

Pride Rock

Leopard and Cub

Sunrise on the Serengeti


Black Rhino


Lions Enjoying the Baby Zebra they just Killed

The natural beauty of the country is unfortunately tainted by the complete disregard for the environment by the locals. If you are following behind a bus garbage is constantly being thrown out the windows, taking the ferry at Pangani approximately half of the people threw plastic bottles into the river despite the fact a garbage can was present, the majority of the country is covered in a light haze and smell from people burning garbage (which I guess is the governments fault for not providing proper removal), the reef I went snorkelling on had massive scars from dynamite fishing. While none of this is new to me after going through many countries this is easily many multiples worse than anywhere else I have been so far.

This blog comes off as a negative review of Tanzania, and I normally do not write about the negative aspects of my experiences but I felt like it in this post. In reality I had a good time and met some very nice people in a beautiful country.


I get an early start from Chipata, Zambia and get to the border around 8:30. The border crossing is fairly organized and quick to check out of Zambia and check in to Malawi, which is nice as I was afraid it was going to be like Kazangula again.

After crossing the border I went through numerous police checkpoints on my way in to Lilongwe where I was looking for the Kawasaki dealership to see about some parts that were damaged in Botswana. There I meet Zihar who owns the dealership. He invites me in to show me his shop. He has only started the business a year and a half ago and as such does not have KLR parts as Kawasaki stopped importing KLR’s in 2013 so Malawi doesn’t even have old ones.

That night I ended up staying in a non-luxurious expensive hotel as I decided I would rather pay than ride around in the thunderstorm.

On Sunday I rode up the coast of Lake Malawi to Nkhata Bay where I spent the next week snorkelling, canoeing, kayaking, and learning to scuba dive.

Sunset in Nkhata Bay

Sunday night I met Aaron, Nick, and Yuri, three American’s travelling from Malawi to Tanzania and was to play Settlers of Catan, which is one of my favourite board games, so I was excited.

Settlers of Catan by Flashlight

On Monday I met Liz who is volunteering with the Peace Corps in Zambia and visiting Malawi for a few days R&R on a snorkelling trip. When we get back from snorkelling we discover her friend Margo has become severely dehydrated and needs to go to the clinic in Mzuzu. Just as they are leaving the third member of the group Erin arrives so I am left to entertain Erin for the next day. Tuesday morning we had a massive rainstorm.

The rain this day reminded me of the scene in Jurassic Park where Nedry dies

On Wednesday I started my scuba diving lessons and passed my PADI Open Water Dive course and completed a deep (30 m) dive and a night time dive. The night dive was very cool as we ‘guided’ dolphin fish to the cichlids with our dive lights.

I tried to take pictures of the fish with my action camera but have subsequently learned you need the special dive case (not available on this continent) otherwise it will not focus underwater. As I do not have any pictures, you will have to trust me that the cichlids that can be seen are amazing. To back up my statement BBC filmed Planet Earth here.

Local artists Sovieto and Simple J adding some Malawian style to the bike

After leaving Nkhata Bay I rode north to Karonga and met a Hungarian riding a Royal Enfield from Egypt to Cape Town over twenty five days along the way so we had a quick chat on the road side about road conditions, police checkpoints, and border crossings.

Zambia and Zimbabwe


I easily exit Botswana then board the ferry across the Zambezi river in to Zambia. This side of the border is slightly more confusing as everything is spread all over. From everything  I had read on the Internet you need to use a tout as there is no way to get kwachas outside of Zambia which you need to pay for certain taxes and no way to do this inside of the secure zone. This is not true, an ATM is inside the secure zone. Just north of the immigration office.

Crossing the Zambezi

I then headed in to Livingstone. Along the way there were a few police checkpoints only one wanted to see my drivers license but they were very friendly.

On Tuesday I headed to Victoria Falls. I spent the day travelling to both the Zambian and Zimbabwean Falls. The view is better from the Zimbabwean side but at $75 USD for a visa it isn’t fully worth it.

The rest of my time in Zambia it rained boot filling amounts of water so I didn’t get any more pictures but I had some good Indian food in Lusaka.


I crossed into Botswana from Namibia in to the town of Shakawe. I camped on the Okavango Panhandle just south of town. I joined a group of Dutch travellers for dinner at the main lodge that evening. The staff brought us by boat to the main lodge.

Sunset on the Okavango Panhandle

The next day I rode into Maun. The road along the way was heavily potholed. I managed to hit one squarely at 80 hm/h which caused the left pannier to detach (see issue on the Wild Coast) and go sliding down the road. This ruined one of my gas can straps so now the whole operation is ratchet strapped together.

That evening I met Ieuan, who I met at the Horizons Unlimited travellers meeting,  for dinner. Ieuan is a pilot in Maun at the moment and setting off across Africa in April on his Yamaha Super Tenere. We went for Indian food, which I haven’t had in quite a while so I was happy to get some curry.

On Friday we picked my tires up from the shipping company and then went for a ride along the river with some other local pilots. The water level is quite high though so we had some challenging sections. All in we didn’t finish the ride and had two bikes end up in the river so it was only semi-successful. Oh-well beer solves most problems of this nature.

On Saturday I went to the local tire shop to get the tires changed. Unfortunately the staff there was not well trained and ruined the rear axle threads and brakes. Don’t go to Supa-quick if you are in Maun. I then spent the rest of the afternoon fixing the damage to my bike.

On Sunday I rode to Kasane in the northeast. I saw four big male elephants and two smaller ones alongside the road.

Elephants along the Highway



I cross into Namibia, surprisingly they actually want to know the VIN number on the bike, not that any paperwork was done but they wrote it on my road tax receipt. I then road to Ai-Ais, which is a hot spring in the desert. For the 35 degrees in the valley the water was way too warm. That night it didn’t cool down until 3 A.M. and even then not enough to use a sleeping bag.

Ai-Ais Hot Spring


I rode a short distance to Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the world.

Fish River Canyon

Afterwards I stopped at the Canyon Road House for lunch before continuing to Aus where I stopped to refuel before heading in to Luderitz. The last 100 km of the day was brutal with extremely strong wind for the first 50 km which was then followed up by blowing sand for the last 50 km. The blowing sand managed to strip the paint off my side stand where it had been painted from removing part of it to prevent tip overs. The rest of the lower frame is now noticeably duller from the abuse. By the time I arrived in Luderitz I had sand in most of my orifices that took two washings to finally get rid of.

Highway into Luderitz


I took a rest day in Luderitz.


I visited Kolmanskoop, a ghost town near Luderitz in the morning before heading back towards Aus then North on terrible gravel roads to Helmeringhausen.

Mine Wardens House

Dunes Reclaiming Buildings

In Helmeringhausen I met twins Craig and Mitchell who are originally from Tswassen (Greater Vancouver) and are travelling with their wife and girlfriend. I don’t find many other Canadians on the road so it is nice to discuss home with them.

Craig, Mitchell, and I


The beating on the terrible roads continues to Sesriem. My wrists, elbows, shoulders, and knees have all received a thorough beating that I am sure I will regret if I make it to sixty and need to have all my joints replaced. Along the way there are a lot of Gemsbok (Oryx) and some beautiful scenery in this desolate place.



I catch the early shuttle out to Sossusvlei as they don’t allow motorcycles out there.

By the time I get back to camp at 11:00 it is too hot to function so I spend the rest of the afternoon in the pool.



I ride into Walvis Bay, the roads improve but still aren’t great until you get within 100 km of Walvis Bay and the sand and gravel has salt added to it to hold it together.

The roads are taking a toll on the bike with the speedometer cable vibrating loose and my spare fuel canister bracket breaking causing the canister to fall off and be damaged beyond repair.


I spent most of my day riding around Swakopmund and Walvis Bay trying to find a suitable fuel canister. Unfortunately I had to settle on a heavy steel one as the plastic ones here are all too big.

New Fuel Canister

In the afternoon I did some riding around the lagoon to get pictures of flamingos to send home to my sister as it is her birthday.



I moved north to the town of Swakopmund and enjoyed a nice beer and bratwurst meal at the Brauhaus.


I rode up the Skeleton Coast as far as motorcycles are allowed then head east towards Twyfelfontein. It is a good thing I replaced my fuel canister as the gas station in Torra Bay has closed.

As soon as you enter Skeleton Coast National Park the roads once again turn to unmaintained gravel roads. By the end of the day I am ready to go home as my body feels like someone has been hitting me with a baseball bat for the last 6 hours.


I went to the 2000+ year old rock engravings at Twyfelfontein in the morning where San (Bushmen) engraved animals and maps of water sources in the rocks.

Afterwards I went to Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain Rock formations. There the parks guides decided they would like rides and to have pictures taken on the bike.

Organ Pipes

Burnt Mountain

The bolt for the left handguard has vibrated out and needs to be replaced during the ride to Khorixas.

When I pulled in to the gas station at Khorixas I notice coolant dripping from the bike. Upon quick inspection the radiator is leaking from the top and must have been hit by a rock on the gravel road just as I was entering town. I am extremely lucky that there is a radiator shop across the street from the gas station. I spent the rest of the afternoon tearing the radiator out of the bike and getting it fixed.

Radiator Repairs


After two less enjoyable days in the backcountry I decide to head to Windhoek for pavement and civilization.


Anna is in Windhoek so I meet her and Potti, a fellow KLR rider for breakfast. Then head to Potti’s house for an afternoon braai.

Anna and I

Potti on his KLR


Potti is kind enough to have me for breakfast before I head North to Tsumeb.


Unfortunately I have not beat the rains to Etosha so I look around Tsumeb before the massive storm begins in the afternoon. In the morning I visited Lake Otjikoto which is a sinkhole lake.

Lake Otjikoto

Birds at Lake Otjikoto

Field Gun Recovered from Lake Otjikoto

After visiting the lake I visited the town museum which houses some the artillery pieces that were dumped in Lake Otjikoto by German forces during World War I before surrendering to South African forces.


I rode in to Rundu after stopping at the Hoba Meteorite, the largest Meteorite in the world.


I head towards Botswana stopping at Popa Falls along the way.

Cape Town and North to Namibia


Back at it after two full days of flying and waiting in airports. I got in late the night before so I stayed at a hotel at the airport. Johann picked me up and brought me to his house where I stayed for the week. In the afternoon we went for a ride along the coastline around Cape Town.

We also went to Boulders Beach and saw the penguin colony there.


I went to a couple of garages today to get the motorcycle’s thermostat fixed. Turns out the shop in Johannesburg put wiring back wrong when they had the fuel tank off so it came loose along the way. With that fixed I headed to the Cape of Good Hope. In Simon’s Town they were fighting forest fires with buckets slung from helicopters being filled in False Bay.

Cape of Good Hope

The view from the Cape light house is pretty spectacular.

On the way back I rode by Kommetjie where some kite surfers were out.


I went to the Castle of Good Hope which was built in the late 1600’s to defend the Cape after previous fortifications did not stand the test of time.

My timing was perfect as I was able to see the small canon fired and go on a guided tour.

“Dolphin” Pool

Castle of Good Hope from Table Mountain

Afterwards I went to the District Six Museum. The museum documents the forced eviction of District Six from the 1960’s to the 1980’s of Black and Coloured (mixed race) heritage from that area of Cape Town to the Cape Flats to convert the area from a multi-ethnic part of town to a whites only neighbourhood. The area was almost completely demolished save for a few churches and an apartment building. As the evictions were completed in the 1980’s redevelopment has largely not occurred other than the construction of a technical university and the area will be left undeveloped as a reminder of the apartheid era.


I went to Franschoek and Stellenbosch. Franschoek was an area where the Hugenots settled after being offered asylum from the French Catholic regime as they were protestants and the Dutch regime offered asylum in the Netherlands but they ended up coming to the Cape Colony.


Huguenot Memorial


On Sunday I went to Robben Island and visited the waterfront in Cape Town.

Table Mountain from the Boat

Cape Town from the Boat

Political Prisoner Cells

Nelson Mandela’s Cell


I was finally able to get on Table Mountain as the weather has been quite windy and the cable car has not been running. On my way to Table Mountain I saw a familiar KTM 1190 and Anna who I met near Hoedspruit last year. In the afternoon Johann and I toured some craft breweries in the region.

Lions Head


Mainly running around shopping for tires and supplies.


I left Cape Town in the morning and soon found Anna on the road. We rode together through Eland’s Bay to Lambert’s Bay.

Elands Bay


On Friday I rode through the Cederburg mountains.

Local Brew in the Cederburgs


On Saturday I rode to Springbok in the Northern Cape finally reaching the last South African province for me to visit.


I feel a cold coming on so I just stayed at the hotel for a rest and recuperation day.


Sorry the internet was horrifically slow and constantly dropping connection in Namibia explaining why this post is so late.


I am soft, marshmallowey soft, so I decided to go home  for a few weeks at Christmas. It was very cold, the first time we had ice on the lakes in twenty years. It was great to see everyone at home and have a chance to relax.

Remind me again why I came back

Family at Christmas

Early trip back to the mainland to help Dad load his new motorcycle trailer


The Road to Cape Town

2016-12-13 to 2016-12-20

As I am clearly behind on my writing I will be brief for this week.

When I left the wild coast I rode in to East London then on to Jeffrey’s Bay. There my tent had a pretty awesome view from it, but it was right by the bar so quite noisy that night.

Nice view from the tent.

The next day I rode to Outdshoorn which was incredibly hot. While in Outdshoorn I rode over Swartberg Pass and out to Die Hel, a former settlement in the valley.

East of Oudtshoorn

Also East of Outdshoorn

Afterwards I went to Mosselbaai then rode to Cape Agulhas which is the southernmost point of Africa. Along the way I was able to take a ferry powered by people pulling it. Along the way I came across Johann whose F800 had blown a fuel pump. I towed him into the next town where we had a late lunch.

Malagas Ferry

People Powered Ferry

Cape Agulhas

Johann and his Broke Down BMW


Cape Agulhas

Wreck at Cape Agulhas

After Agulhas I rode to Cape Town where I am storing my bike at Johann’s and heading back to Vancouver for Christmas.




Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

South Coast and Wild Coast

2016-12-03 to 2016-12-05

I ride into Port Edward from Kokstad on the third. The road is being widened so their are frequent road closures and i spend a lot of time waiting in traffic. Port Edward is an on the Indian Ocean so more beautiful beaches.

Port Edward

Port Edward

On the fifth I loop back to Durban (whose traffic I was trying to avoid) to have the rear tire replaced as it is not going to make it to the Western Cape as I had hoped. Unfortunately I was not able to get a Heidenau K60 and I am having to settle for a Mitas E-07 which I am unfamiliar with.

2016-12-07 to 2016-12-08

I try to take the back roads to Port St Johns but eventually get frustrated with the GPS and resort to taking the highway as the GPS refuses to route through the countryside.

As you ride into town along the Mzimvubu river you approach the “Gates” which are two steep flat top mountains. There is an airstrip on the southern mountain (used in the filming of Blood Diamond) that has quite impressive views

Mzimvubu River at the Gates

Mzimvubu River at the Gates

Port St Johns First Beach

Second Beach in Port St Johns

Second Beach in Port St Johns

Port St Johns Air Strip

Port St Johns Air Strip

2016-12-08 to 2016-12-12

On the eighth I ride in to Coffee Bay. This time I am actually able to make it on the back roads. In the Eastern Cape the roads other than the highways are in pretty poor shape, they are mud roads where the hills have been washed out and only contain 3″ plus rocks. On one of the uphills I drop the bike causing the left pannier to pop off. After much sweating and swearing I get bike rubber side down and pointed up the hill again. Given that GPS cannot route through this part of the world I am relying mostly on locals to point me in the right direction. At one point I am advised to go down the road to the right and take the bridge. There is some discussion amongst the locals in Xhosa then again in English that the road will be fine for me on my bike. The road down the valley is a little treacherous with rocks but when I get to the “bridge” I realize why the discussion needed to happen as this bridge isn’t complete. No worries I ride through the river like everyone else appears to be doing and I am on my way.

Aspirational Bridge (it aspires to be a bridge) I crossed the river on the right.

Aspirational Bridge (it aspires to be a bridge) I crossed the river on the right.

As I am approaching Coffee Bay the pannier falls off a few times. I am trying to beat the thunderstorm but eventually cede that the pannier needs to be strapped on and empty the gas can to get the weight off that pannier.

Quickie Fix to Beat the Thunderstorm

Quickie Fix to Beat the Thunderstorm

The storm really starts as I pull into the hostel.

Once there I meet two doctors Josh and Mel from the UK who have been working in Kwa-Zulu-Natal and join them and Cynthia who is also staying at the hostel for dinner at a local pizza shop.

On the ninth Cynthia and I are joined by two Canadians and a guy from Portland who are on a road trip from Cape Town to Kruger Park for a trip to the beach and for lunch. I proceed to get one heck of a Canadian Suntan (burn) at the beach but the water was excellent and very warm.

The tenth is a rainy day but I decide to brave the mud and ride over to hole in the wall. If the weather was better the pictures would be better.

Hole in the Wall in the Rain

Hole in the Wall in the Rain

Near Hole in the Wall

Near Hole in the Wall

Boiling Point

Boiling Point

After I return from hole in the wall I watch some surfers.

Surf School

Surf School

Surfers in Coffee Bay

Surfer in Coffee Bay


That evening Gian Carlo and Ricardo (cousins from Italy and South Africa) pull in to town from Port St Johns where I had briefly seen them before.

The eleventh brings more rain and I spend the day writhing in agony from my sunburn, I think I am allergic to aloe vera or whatever they put in sunburn creams as I just get an insanity causing itch on my back.

On the twelfth my sunburn has calmed down so I hike to Mtata River with Cynthia, Gian Carlo, and Ricardo. There we see a cave where ANC hid weapons during the apartheid era.

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