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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

“Don’t Look Where You Don’t Want to Go.”

“Look up and keep your eye on where you want to be”. Rony Desodt

One of the best investments we made when planning this trip, was a couple of “off road” riding courses with Rony Desodt of Rough and Ready and his associate Jurg.

The courses took us quickly from: not even knowing what we didn’t know about adventure biking, to conscious incompetence and finally to a point where we had the audacity to believe that we could handle whatever Africa threw at us.

The piece of advice that turned out to be the most valuable was Rony’s constant warning not to look at the many hazards to be found trying to overcome an obstacle in the path of your bike, but to rather keep your head up and fix your eyes on where you want to go. “On a bike as in life, you go where you are looking”, he pointed out. I can’t begin to tell you how this practical bit of guidance has helped us during this trip.

When faced with a rock lying in a dry riverbed or a deep ditch on the side of a sandy road, we remembered the mantra, “Don’t look where you don’t want to go, look up and keep your eyes on where you want to be”.

As the trip has progressed, the real power of this piece of counsel has sunk in. Applied to the trip as a whole, this approach has helped us overcome the trials and tribulations that are normal in such an adventure and focus on achieving the wonderful outcomes that we envisaged in our “minds eye”. You can only do what you have first imagined and both Brittany and I had set our sights really high in terms of what we were hoping to get out of this adventure of a lifetime.

The human mind is a miraculous thing, filled with mysterious processes that move us unconsciously toward whatever future we accept as true (the ditch or the ice cold beer at the edge of Lake Malawi). Our thoughts are informed and our moods are altered by the voices we let into our minds.

At this point in the trip, our world just seems to be overflowing with opportunity and everything is possible.

Sadly, this is not true in the lives of many children in underprivileged communities and it makes me even more convinced of the importance of what Earthchild Project is doing. They are working every day in schools with children whose circumstances cause them to look where they don’t want to go. “Where do you want to go?” is a daunting question for these children because circumstance has taught them to dream small dreams and keep their hopes low.

Earthchild Project is hugely successful in helping these children “look up and keep their eyes on where they want to be”, to have the courage to believe in a happy future and to start moving toward that future with every action they take. They are changing children’s lives every day by helping them realize and believe in their potential.

Thank you to all the followers of our blog who have made a donation to Earthchild Project, we really appreciate it. If you have not yet and are able to, please consider a small donation. It’s easy via the “Backabuddy” link on this page. It’s easy and it will make you feel GREAT!

Thank you

Rivak and Brittany

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Beautiful Baobab studded Tanzania

"I am the magic ingredient!"

And the sand road begins...

Baobabs, baobabs, baobabs! Beautiful!!!

Resting our boiling shocks!

Where did the road go?

Tanzania has definitely been a highlight so far… beautiful Baobab studded Tanzania! We left Ngorongoro Crater, honestly a bit reluctant to leave our relaxing haven but ready to explore further vistas. Having been so engulfed in Ngorongoro we failed to pay much attention to the road ahead and preparation is always key! The result was taking what we thought was a short cut but what ended up being the worst road yet… 400 kms took us two full days of grueling off-road… wretched corrugated, bone-rattling parts, thick deep sand that goes on for miles sending you sliding wildly across the road… yip… it was intense! 
Thick sand... and hundreds of ruts created by trucks and 4X4's!

Bicycles replace donkeys as the most common form of transport in Tanzania...

Sand, sand, sand...

It is quite amazing what people are able to carry on their bicycles!

But we managed to survive bodies stiff and tired but mostly intact and bikes intact minus a mudguard, registration plate, gloves… we count ourselves lucky! The great thing about this road though was that it really did take us through a very remote area with beautiful rural settings. We rode through amazing expanses of baobab studded plains and past brightly coloured Masai herding their cattle and friendly smiling children who greeted us each time “Jumbo!” and kept us company while we rested our sizzling hot shocks from the rattling road.

When we asked one local whether the road changes i.e. is it dirt all the way, he replied "no it changes.... sometimes its dark red, sometimes white and sometimes brown." Tar is not a common concept in this area... but you can see what he meant.

"Jumbo!" Children coming to keep us company during a rest!

Beautiful kids! We really enjoyed sitting with them... beautiful smiling faces

This part of the road was just thick, powdery sand!
We spent the night in a pitch-dark Kondoa - power cuts are even more “everyday fair” than in South Africa. However… we were absolutely thrilled and literally teary eyed at the sight of tar as we entered Dodoma. We rewarded ourselves with a well deserved Kilimanjaro Beer… “refreshes a Tanzanian thirst!” and lunch at a local favourite before heading on to Morongoro.
Dad enjoying a Kilamanjaro during our lunch break in Dodoma!

We had a real treat the next day on our 700km drive from Morongoro to Mbeya. The highway leads you straight through Mikumi National Park where we were absolutely dazzled by the magical sight of having beautiful herds and herds of giraffes and elephants crossing in front of our bikes. It was a really special moment for both of us.

And a giraffe crosses the road...

Elephant walking into the bush in the background... amazing game drive by bike!

Dad and giraffe ;)
Beautiful Mikumi elephant and her calf... amazing!
After driving through fields and fields of granite boulders… (serious bouldering potential if it hasn’t already been developed I would be very surprised!!!)… we arrived to purple Jacaranda splashed, Iringa for a lunch stop and were then set on trying to make it to Mbeya so we could cross the border into Malawi the next day. This southern part of Tanzania is far more cultivated and as usual we were in awe at how the landscape changes so dramatically… fields of cultivated trees, beautiful tropical banana plantations and cattle replacing the wild life. It was beautiful riding through mountain passes and up and down winding roads. Tanzania has been a truly wonderful experience… one of the most beautiful countries we have ever had the pleasure to see and we had an absolutely spectacular time riding through here… we will be back!   

We are now resting on Lake Malawi and loving it!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Fanny and I on her KTM... the first chick I have meet riding a bike... we were both very chuffed to find a fellow biking chick :)
We left two nights ago from Nairobi to make our way across the Tanzanian border. After surviving the crazy maze that is Nairobi we were on the road again… although a seriously pot-holed one! In fact the whole road was one fat pothole… the type of road where there is no going around potholes… rather you choose which ones will do the least damage to your bike! After about 30kms of this suspension-breaking hazard we turned off to help a Kenyan whose wheel had given way to the power of the pot-holes. True as nuts… despite the fact we have had no significant trouble with our bikes (touch wood!) since Cairo… my bike was completely and utterly caput…AFTER A SERVICE!!! And there were not many hours of light left.

After taking apart the seat and realizing that the fuses were all in working order… the only thing we could think of was the battery! The Dakar’s battery lies hidden under its body and so we needed to basically take the bike apart on the side of the road… unscrewing numerous bolts… arg!!! After attracting every possible resident within 10 square kilometers as an audience, we were happy to discover it was a simple glitch… loose positive terminal! Phew!!! We were back on the road after screwing my bike back together and happy we didn’t have to camp at the side of the road with 40 people as our audience ;)

Having left late as it was and then experiencing an unexpected delay, by the time we hit the main highway to the South it was dark. There was not one road light or anything to light up the road and I was soon to discover that I am entirely night-blind without the bright lights that light up our highways or the fluorescent road markings that ensure you don’t skew off onto the gravel and down an embankment. Driving through the night like that with people overtaking on blind corners and feeling as if you are driving through an endless dark tunnel was definitely the scariest driving en route for me so far… But we finally arrived at Namanga, the border post with Tanzania at around 9 30pm.
Masai in the hills around Arusha, Tanzania

Once we got through we concluded it would be best to sleep at the border and not risk any further night driving… especially with me feeling blind as a bat in the dark! Border towns… are never much to rave about… dirty, dusty places most of the time… not usually on a must-see list! We checked into the first hotel we saw which had a very happening bar and a famed “Nyama Choma” menu… although we had only a few Kenyan Shillings left on us and there was no ATM to be found. We managed to convince the manager to take our remaining shillings and bunked up in a little room with a bathroom we wish was not included! But we were happy to have a place to park the bikes inside and were so exhausted we fell asleep easily to the sound of heavy drinking and music! Early wake up call and we were off to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge… where my father’s awesome friend, Geoff O’Grady had organized a complimentary two nights stay!


Overlooking the crater on arrival

Arriving in our filthy biking gear to the beautiful Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
It is hard to explain how magical this place is! The company that runs this lodge owns a few other lodges around the world in other exotic locations and it is clear that their intension is to go above and beyond your possible expectations as their name “& Beyond” suggests. After being picked up by the manager from the gate, as our bikes are not allowed in any national parks, we were greeted by the whole lodge team who welcomed us with song and champagne… and from there on we were whisked away into an alternate universe where dirty bikers’ gear, rough and ready camping, cold showers and smelly toilets have no place ;)

The lodge sits right on the edge of the crater with an amazing expansive view all around… we are blessed with the same magical view from our completely indulgent and lavish room. We felt like we had just stepped into a fairytale walking around our room… where every single detail has been given extraordinary thought unlike anything I have ever seen before. There is even a little welcome box of decadent candies and two crystal glasses to enjoy your complimentary sherry on the magnificent balcony. It has been a massive contrast to our regular camping haunt or modest lodging… and we feel very spoilt! The best thing about this lodge is that although it is very luxurious and lavish it somehow has managed to strike a beautiful balance of not being so over the top that it makes you feel uncomfortable… all the staff are incredibly friendly, professional, warm and down to earth and make every effort to make you feel at home away from home J “And Beyond” are also extremely passionate about environmental conservation and community development and all of their lodges are created in such a way that promotes these two fundamental organizing principles.

Speaking to the lady who runs this lodge with her husband was quite an inspiration. She is heavily involved in community development projects in the area with the aim of creating sustainable projects rather than disempowering the community with aid. One such project is her endevour to provide schools with books and teachers manuals. The company also works with the local community as well as their own staff in upliftment projects including health and wellness and skill development… and it is clear that this ‘other’ side to the company has made all the difference as a very genuine positive energy is tangible among the staff. I think it is just a reminder of how it doesn’t matter what industry you are in… it doesn’t have to be specifically human development or conservation oriented… with the right will, there is always the potential for change and the potential to make a difference! Inspiring!

I would really recommend the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge or in fact any of the other “& Beyond” lodges around the world where they have created an authentic and unique magical getaway to compliment the exotic and special destination… and at the same time the are focused on sustainability and giving back to the community… win, win! I can truly say that they have managed to exceed all our expectations!

Do your self a favour and check them out!

So we have really enjoyed living in this fairy-tale bubble looking over one of the world’s great heritage sights… and feel completely blessed to be here! The food has been outstanding, as has the wine and the company of the wonderful staff and we have managed to make up for all our fasting and lost mass as a result of Sudan and Ramadan…

Our magnificent bedroom... check that roof... exquisite!

The balcony overlooking the crater ... who would want to leave?

Decadence in a box... beats canned beans ;)

Bubble-bath... yes please!

The main dinning and relaxing area... Jordan wine as the house wine :)

Overwhelmed and enjoying every second...

Big smiles :)

Very interesting architecture!
Today we enjoyed a wonderful day descending into the crater for a game drive where we were lucky to experience a beautiful cheetah sighting, lionesses chasing buffalo and vice versa, amazing birds prancing proudly through the crater floor… Secretary birds with their funky hairstyles, striking thick necked Kori Bustards… and of course just being amazed by the phenomenon that the crater is as a sight standing alone. After around three hours of exploring the crater we stopped next to a river to enjoy an amazing spread next to the perfect spot for congregating animals and wallowing hippos!


Descending into the crater

It has been a magical day and we are savouring every minute of it! Tomorrow it is back on the road and back to our tents. We will never forget this experience and are tremendously grateful to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and all their staff who made it such an out of this world experience!