I’m leaning on the shop counter in a village of Keyafer and negotiating the price of black market petrol, when I feel someone is gently stroking the sun-bleached blond hair on my left arm. It is a 25 year old Ethiopian dude. I look at him, he knows I’m looking at him, and he keeps stroking the hair on my arm. Gently gently. I consider asking him to stop but then decide it doesn’t cost me anything and return my attention to the petrol.
We could already see the Kilimanjaro range pretty close ahead of us when Suusi dies out on the next set of speed bumps. She refuses to start. Its clutch had started slipping the day we left Issa’s village and the Indian Ocean behind. Juka can still ride at around 70km/h at high revs, but now we suspect the engine is so hot that it just refuses to get started.
In 2008 October we rode out of London with Suusi and Kotilda and reached Bamako, Mali 6 weeks later. After a longer break, we continued this journey in 2015 from Lagos, Nigeria and have been wandering Africa for a month every year. We first reached Gabon via Cameroon, then next year Namibia via Congo and Angola. Last year we crossed from the Atlantic to Indian Ocean via Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and parked in Dar Es Salaam.
Four weeks and 3400km later we have reached the Indian Ocean. Kotilda and Suusi did well. Kotilda was fighting back a bit in the beginning, but we reached an agreement. She is now already parked at a friend’s yard inside a deserted shipping container near Dar-es-Salaam. Juka and Suusi are still travelling in southern Tanzania, but in a few weeks Suusi will join Kotilda to wait for next December to continue the journey to Ethiopia, Sudan and the Mediterranean coast in Egypt.
Entering Tanzania we find ourselves in another National Geographic scene. Rolling hills of tea fields and rows of ladies clipping away the harvest. What they don’t show on the NatGeo channel is when it rains.
We’re already behind time. I was hoping to make it to Dar by the 5th to find parking and fly out on the 7th. Now there is also the thundering sky that we have to race away from and many times unsuccessfully. Riding wet is very unpleasant, riding in the dark is even worse.
Suddenly there is an electric fence and a gate on the road. We’ve hit another game park. “We don’t let motorcycles in,” the guard is adamant. This 35km dirt road was the only connection to the lake, everything else is now 100+ km round trip. Luckily we’ve been in this situation already.
Through the dust of the road we can see a crowd of people gathered around the gates to a compound. We have arrived at M1 Centre Point. I have no idea what it is – a bar, a club, a venue – but certainly something exciting enough for lots of people hustling to get in. Every little while the gate is opened and a car is let in. Next time the gate opens we squeeze through with the car, waving to the security as if they should have expected us. The party had already started.