Hungary to Germany
Africa Tour August 2011 - August 2012
31/07/2011 Sydney to Germany - the African way
It's only one week to go, one week and the
greatest adventure of my life will start. On Sunday the 7th August 2011
early in the morning my good old bike will be packed and I will leave
my lovely hometown Sydney, not seeing this beautiful city for a whole
The plan is to first ride across Australia from Sydney to Perth, 4000km
away. When I say 'we' I mean my humble little Suzuki DR650 and myself
because for this first leg of the journey it's only gonna be the two of
us. From Perth we will fly across the Indian Ocean to Johannesburg,
South Africa. And then keep heading north towards Westafrica and
Morocco. Catching a ferry from there will see us arriving in Gibraltar
and will start the final leg of the journey to Germany. Finally we will
arrive in the small town of Schoenheide in Germany, the place where I
grew up and which most of my family still calls home. But at this stage
Germany still seems a world away, much too far to worry about. For now.
Somehow our story will remind you of the famous tales of Don Quichote
and his fearless horse Rosinante. A very able horse ridden by a rather
clueless hero through the most incredible of adventures.
The 'hero' in our story would be me. A 1977 German born Australian who,
until last year, has never ridden a motorbike. So the term 'clueless'
fits perfectly. My own 'Rosinante' stood by me on the big adventure of
me learning to ride motorbikes. And she is the one who paid the price,
being dropped many times in sand and dirt and dust by her swearing
rider. She's the one teaching me the secrets of her kind while bits and
pieces of her spread out across the footpath in Sydney during various
'improvement' surgeries. She was always there and never complained and
we properly checked each other out on a 3700km team bonding tour through
the Australian outback and became good friends there and then. By now
we are a proven team for almost 10000km worth of good times together. I
am a very happy man to have her by my side for our first ever adventure
But back to the real topic here – the journey. Once we made it to the
other side of Australia we will both fly across the Indian Ocean to get
the adventure really started. My old best friend Martin will be eagerly
waiting for our arrival in Johannesburg. He will be there on his Honda
Africa Twin. And we all will then travel together through Africa. Back
to the old home country, back all the way to Germany. Passing through
Central and West Africa on the way and meeting as many people as we can.
At this stage I would be incredibly nervous if I hadn't had the support
of the Horizons Unlimited community. You guys gave me lots of great
advice and patiently answered all my questions . So here I am, still nervous but ready to go. On a second thought – still incredibly nervous actually.
Provided there is an internet connection where we are going this thread
will tell our story in text and pictures live from the road. So stay
tuned and wish us luck and see if this newbie on his bike can make it
through Australia and Africa and Europe!
Just a quick update about the
remaining few days. Departure day is getting really close. Everything is
still set for an early Sunday start. And Sunday is only THREE DAYS away!
All those of you who went on a big
trip before surly can remember what the last few days at home felt like.
It will be the first such long adventure for me. And so, not
unexpectedly, I feel like living on pure happy adrenalin at the moment.
There are lists everywhere: Things-to-do-lists. Stuff-to-buy-lists.
People-to-call-lists. And whenever something gets ticked off a list it
results in another little celebration. The perception of everyday’s
things seems to change because these everyday’s things will soon
disappear for a long time from my life. Things like having a place to
live. Or a TV. Or a job. Day after day means saying good bye to another
friend. And there is all those little farewell dinners, last drinks,
going-away-lunches to go through, each putting a big smile in my face.
And despite all those million things in my head my life has now such an incredibly intense focus. What a feeling!
Can’t remember the last time when
excitement did let me get some sleep at night but that doesn’t matter
because adrenalin keeps me awake during the day.
Three more sleepless nights to go!
Finally the big day has come. I can't believe it myself but the tour has started!
Early today, after another sleepless night in an empty appartment, it
was finally time to get the packed bags onto the bike and get started.
Some of my good friends in Sydney got up really early to come around to
say good bye, some even joined me for the first few km. It all mixed
around heavily with my emotions. Excitement to get the trip started,
sadness to say good bye to good friends, happiness to sit on the bike
riding west and more sadness to ride out of Sydney, my beautiful home
for many years. But alltogether an overwhelming urge to go and live the
life on the road. Just go. We started with four bikes from Sydney,
riding west, along Broadway, Parramatta Road, the M4 motorway and the
Bells Line of Road through the Blue Mountains, a beautiful winding road
through the National Park. One by one my fellow riders had to turn back
to Sydney. The last one in the town of Orange, some 250km away from
Sydney. And then it was only me, still going west.
And so I kept riding, happy for having had such a great start to the
journey. And for having had such good company at my departure and for
the first leg of the trip. The sun was shining now, the sky was blue.
And west we went, my little Suzuki and me. With a big smile on my face.
And a happy bike enjoying 5th gear. Just cruising. Cruising west. Into
the sunset. As we will do for many more days to come.
It really feels good to be able to just keep riding without the need to
be somewhere at the end of the day. I finished the day camping in the
Goobang National Park near Peak Hill. I have never heard of this
National Park before. And it might not be as spectacular as the Blue
Mountains. But for my little Suzuki and me - it was just perfect.
Perfectly located for our arrival at sunset. And it is a great spot for
camping. Not much else to say about the first day.
The plan from here is to go along the Barrier Hwy through NSW and via
Broken Hill into South Australia. Going the distance mainly on paved
roads but also finding little loops of gravelroads whenever possible to
have some extra fun.
I'll keep you posted...
Three days into the tour - it's time for some pics!
About to play with the big fellows.
The old open cut gold mine in Peak Hill. One big hole.
The Barrier Hwy - not changing my road for a thousand km.
Aboriginal rock art at Mt Grenfell.
How would you like a few thousand km of this? Just you and your bike? Same in the rear view mirror.
For all you Mad Max fans out there: this is Silverton, NSW, where Mad
Max was filmed. And this is the original Mad Max film car. Chatting to
my proud little Suzuki.
Just a quick update from the 5th day on the road. I am typing this in my
tent, somewhere nowhere, a little conservation area 100km east of
Ceduna in South Australia. Yep, I made it across the border to South
Australia yesterday. And will cross another border once I made it across
the Nullarbor, entering Western Australia.
There is actually not too much to write about. I wouldn't be able to
point a finger towards any particular highlights during the last few
days. There has been just an abundance of nothingness which in itself is
a highlight. The road simply stretches on forever. Straight and flat.
And there is nothing beside the road either. Just more flat ground. Some
might find it boring but I love it. I can't really explain why. Being
just a little dot in such a massive landscape is just awesome. It is
hard to tell how far away the horizon is, maybe 10km, maybe 20. You are
able to see such a huge and vast area, it just makes you feel ever so
small. And free. There are some scattered trees, pretty far away from
each other. But because you can see so far, you see so many of them, it
looks like there is a forest at the horizon. But it's not, it's just
scattered trees. With lots of space in between. So as you go along you
will always find yourself in an empty landscape with an imaginative
forest at the horizon. And because you can see so far, you see areas of
rain with towering clouds and rainbows. And at the same time you see
other areas of sunshine where the redness of the ground shines bright
within the grey areas of shade. And you can see this spectacle many
times as you look around you. There is hardly any others on the road. A
big road train every now and then. Or a 4WD towing a caravan. But I have
not seen another motorbike for probably 1000km. Sometimes it is hard to
stay focussed and I need to stop, dismount and have a short brake. Once
the engine stops it's dead silent. There is no sound at all. You can
hear your own pulse. Every now and then I find a little dirtroad
bypassing the highway which is good fun and a welcome change. There are
some roadhouses every few hundred km which are a livesaver, serving hot
coffee or Milo to warm up a bit.
Some other travellers told me that after a few days on tour you develope
a routine. And they are right. After a few days I learned what works
best and what does not work, learned where in my panniers I can find my
stuff without unpacking the lot. Getting up at dawn means being on the
road at sunrise. Just cruising along till around 5pm by which time the
400km mark is achieved, looking for a nice spot to camp, pitch the tent
and watch the sunset for dinner. Not missing a sunrise or sunset in five
days, pretty much owning these days completely, is quite an amazing
feeling. Quite cruisy really.
At this speed I will reach Perth Wednesday or Thursday next week which
gives me just over a week time to get the bike prepared for it's flight.
And to get some bits and pieces replaced. Thought about putting a new
chain, new sprockets and new brake pads on. And a new set of tyres, just
dont know which ones yet. Considering some Heidenaus or Pirelli
Scorpions. And then, in less than 3 weeks time - we will be in AFRICA!!!
My travel mate Martin and his bike are already in Africa. It is just
awesome to read his emails and I can't wait to get across there
The official halfway mark. Kimba, SA
Almost forgot to introduce ourselves: that's me and my little Suzuki
It's the end of day six into the trip. And I made it across my last
Australian border crossing: this morning I crossed from South Australia
into Western Australia. 3000km since leaving Sydney. All day yesterday
and most of today I spent in an area called the 'Nullarbor'. It is huge
plains along the Great Australian Bight with, as the name suggests, no
trees. Not one single tree for almost two days. What remains is the
usual flat landscape and the narrow straight line of the Eyre Hwy. It
feels like an ocean, just made of land. But, for a change, there is a
real ocean as well. Through the Nullarbor NP the Eyre Hwy runs just a
few km parallel to the Southern Ocean. The Nullarbor plains is an
elevated plateau around 60m above sea level. So if you just venture off
the Hwy a bit you arrive at the cliffs where Australia ends and the
Southern Ocean starts and you are looking straight towards Antarctica
(which unfortunately remains hidden behind the horizon). It's quite a
spectacular sight after days of desert and I just couldn't get enough of
it and tried every little dirt path off the highway to adore the
beautiful ocean from the cliff tops. I noticed then how much I missed
It was one such spot where I camped last night, on the cliffs with the
ocean in hearing distance. It is hard to describe the awesomness of a
sunrise and a sunset over a landscape which is flat all the way to the
horizon, in every direction, half land half water. No one else there.
And listening to the sound of the waves breaking at the rocks below
while falling asleep. I really love camping for moments like these.
Travelling further west today I reached the end of the plains just this
afternoon. Crossing the border into Western Australia had a feel of an
international border crossing to it. First a friendly roadhouse with the
big 'border kangaroo' sculpture, then a quarantaine checkpoint where
you need to stop and declare pretty much all food items in your luggage
to the friendly officer. I had to negotiate a bit to keep my bag of
fruit and nuts but at the end the officer was happy for me to 'import'
them into WA. Once through there, one or two km down the road there was
the Police checkpoint. Every one had to stop, the vehicle was briefly
checked for it's roadworthiness, the driver was checked for the correct
licence and had to pass a breath test. No drunk people will get into WA
The rest of my time travelling through WA went by rather eventless.
Tired and exhausted from so much riding in a straight line I was looking
for a suitable spot to set up camp near the Madura roadhouse. There is a
dirtroad connecting the Transaustralian Railway Line and the Eyre Hwy
near Madura, the railway line runs approximately 100km parrallel to the
North of the Hwy. Sounded like a good road to look for camping. So I
went up from the plains onto the small escarpment. And what can I say -
just a few hundred meters along a small dirt track - the best ever
camping spot. It's in the middle of nowhere but there was a little
fireplace and two chairs, overlooking the plains from the edge of the
escarpment, surrounded by beautiful grass. No idea what two chairs were
doing there so far from civilisation. But I took it as it came, sitting
on a comfy chair watching the sunset over the plains. And typing this
report. Life is awesome!
The eastern entrance to the Nullarbor Plains
Back at the ocean
Sunrise in the Nullarbor
The border into Western Australia - the 'Border Roo'
Two chairs with a fireplace in the most unexpected place - thanks, much appreciated.
Thanks for the thumps up guys! And sorry for the time lag. The post
above was written a couple of days ago but today is the first time to
have mobile internet reception. I made it all the way across the endless
plains and am having now lunch in Norseman, WA. Good to be back in
civilisation. From here it is only 600km to Perth, the end of the first
leg of the trip. And admittedly the easy leg of the trip. And from now
it's only two weeks till Africa!
I'm extremely happy with how it's all going. Apart from a few lost bolts
on the bike (just can't keep away from shaky dirt roads) everything
just works out perfectly. People, the weather, the roads - all have been
very friendly to me so far.
I will go through my pics tonight and will send an update with some more photos soon.
See you all later...
As promised another quick update about the last couple of days touring
Australia. It's the end of day nine into the trip. And I am back in an
area where actually people live. Which is cool after a lot of
nothingness. I could even buy stuff in a supermarket today! The place
I'm at when typing this report is called 'Disappointment Rock', around
85km west of Norseman in Western Australia. Don't get what they're on
about with this name but it's an awesome spot. A big red granite block
rising out of the plains, it takes around half an hour to walk around
it. And there is a great view from the top. After getting here I thought
it's the perfect place to camp for tonight. And it is.
It has been another couple of days in an amazing landscape, flat, vast
and empty. Kilometer after Kilometer of nothingness flew by beside an
endless straight road, in fact the longest straight road in the country.
One section was called the '90 mile straight'. The name is absolutely
correct, 146km without the slightest bend in the road. You can see the
headlights of an oncoming car ahead of you appearing on the horizon and
it still takes nearly exactly 2 minutes before you actually meet that
car! The road just disappears into a mirage like appearance at the
horizon, a picture which does not chance for one and a half hours. And
who did I meet there? A cyclist! Carrot and his dog Coffee on a bicycle
on a fundraising trip for the Cancer Council and MS Australia. It really
puts things into perspective when it will take them the most of two
days just to get through this one straight section of highway. Carrot
& Coffee have a few months of cycling ahead of them before they
reach their destination Sydney. Please say hi to them when you see them
in Sydney, they deserve it!
There is actually a lot of great people out there. Whenever I stopped at
a roadhouse or a viewpoint I got easily into a conversation with
someone, a retired couple on a four year trip with their caravan, a
motorsport fan driving almost 4000km to see that Bathurst 1000 supercars
race, a road train driver who does the distance Sydney - Perth in three
to four days and has done this countless times, another Sydney guy
who's girlsfriend broke up with him so he is now on his way to Perth to
try a new start or the motorcyclist who is about to ride from Perth to
Sydney on a vintage BMW airhead. The stories you hear on the road are
quite different from the ones you hear in the cities. And you meet a lot
of happy people on the road.
It is now only 600km to Perth along a 290km gravel road from Norseman to
Hyden where I plan to see the Wave Rock, a big red rock shaped like a
breaking wave (what else?). And the rest of the distance will be on
paved roads to Perth. My current plan is to reach Perth Wednesday
morning, take the bike straight to the guys at the motorcycle shop for
them to take measurements for the crate and to order the few bits I want
to have replaced. And then explore the area around Perth a bit, visit a
few friends who live in WA and then prepare the bike for it's first
ever flight. Less than two weeks to go till Africa!
My little Suzuki has done an awesome job over the last few thousand km,
she's been to places she's never dreamed of. Starting out in her first
few months being a city bike she really enjoys as much as I do the open
road, the use of more than just first and second gear, the rocky bits
and sandy bits and muddy bits, the little wobbles along gravel roads,
both of us getting wet, getting dirty and being covered in a thick layer
of red dust. Chasing road trains, going for hours at a time and going
where there is no road, we're a great team!
Doing one of my walkarounds around her today I noticed a few missing
bolts. They must have shaken loose on those corrugated roads, pretty
much all bolts on the underside of something (fuel tank, bash plate,
horn mount) were either gone or halfway there. But only $1.90 in the
local hardware store in Norseman bought me a handfull of new bolts and
washers. And a friendly guy from the caravan parked next to me gave me a
helping hand replacing them all. Good to be in 'no-worries-country'!
The next bend in the road will be in 146km from here.
Perfect mirror effect at a small lake in the Dundas Nature Reserve
A rather rocky bit of road
Ever ridden through a lake? Near Norseman, WA
Endless spaces - that's why I like Australia
290km of this will take me to Wave Rock
At 'Disappointment Rock'
Eagle over the plains
Sunset at 'Disappointment Rock' - nothing disappointing here!
18/08/2011 The final stretch of Part 1
Time flies and a lot has happend since my last update from
'Disappointment Rock'. It was meant to be an easy few hundred km, the
last stretch to Perth. But the event that really started up the
adventure was the rain. While camping at Disappointment Rock it started
raining heaps during the night. One of those strange nights when it
keeps bucketing down for 10min, followed by the clearest sky imaginable
with millions of stars, followed by another downpour. It was the wind
that made the rain clouds travel so fast. And since my old tent has
proven many times before that it can withstand whatever the weather
throws at it, I wasn't worried. The big awakening came the next morning,
reminding me that I was some 80km into a 290km dirt road. Or now: mud
road. The rain overnight transformed the top few centimetres of the road
into a brown slimy slippery something to negotiate a way through on my
little Suzuki. It was a really wobbly affair, often going more sideways
than forward, just impossible to judge the depth of the soft surface.
And not helped by the hidden ruts under the soft stuff either. Throw
into the mix a few oncoming trucks and you can imagine the walls of
brown stuff that followed them. If I was lucky they only created a cloud
of fine brown mist which instantly turned hard on contact with my
visor. If I was unlucky it was a whole swell of mud being flung right
towards me. The average speed was down to 40km/h or less, so it took the
best part of the day to get through this. I will never forget the sweet
look of the tarmac when it finally started in Hyden. By then bike and
rider where just soaked in brown stuff, head to toe, helmet to boots.
There were kilos of mud, now hard as concrete underneath the fenders,
the panniers enjoyed a new nature inspired look. And me, pretty much
wearing all my clothes because of the cold had suddenly all my clothes
looking a bit brownish.
Apart from that the route between Norseman and Hyden is really stunning.
The sun was shining and the sky was clear. The state government
introduced a discovery trail along the route with many viewpoints and
displays, picnic areas and free camping spots. There are dry salt lakes,
huge granite rock outcrops, weathered cliffs etc. , all stretching
along a beautiful winding road. However, it was all dwarfed by the giant
Wave Rock at the Hyden end of the road. That rock is just massive! Wave
Rock is a huge red granite boulder, so big that they collect the
surface flow of rainwater from the rock to fill a dam as water supply
for the town of Hyden. One side of the rock, the famous one, forms an
impressive huge shape of a breaking wave of granite. Really awesome and
worth a look if you are in the area. Also, much to my enjoyment, the
compound included a picnic area with a water tap. Still proud of my
invention of a high pressure bike cleaning device I was actually able to
clean at least the moving parts of my little Suzuki from their brown
mess. If you ever find yourself in this kind of dirty situation: just
have lunch, finish all your sliced bread, take the empty plastic bag the
bread used to be in, fill it with water and poke a little hole in it
and voila! - you've got a stream of water with adjustable pressure! Easy
In the meantime my own clothes dried nicely in the sun and a bit of
shaking changed their look from deep brown into a hint of brown,
overlaying their original colour. It took a while but at the end both,
bike and rider, were a happy and presentable team again to take on the
big city - 320km to go.
It was already late and the sun was low so we wouldn't make it that day.
But we would give it our best shot to get as close as possible. So in
the town of Hyden we stopped to get some food for the road. For me in
the town store, for my little Suzuki at the town's service station.
Which was appropriately branded 'Liberty'. Now it was time to hit the
road, heading west in a race against the setting sun, powered by Premium
'Liberty'. I gave up setting my clock and adjusting it to all those
time zones we travelled through. Some time zones only affecting two
roadhouses. Usually it was time to find a camping spot when the sun was
only about 200mm above my left mirror, thus just running on my own time.
Today the sun was still above that benchmark. So we kept riding. The
bike was just running perfectly, smooth and powerful along a beautiful
road lined with tall gum trees, winding it's way west through yellow
fields of canola crops. The air was filled with the sweet smell of the
canola flowers and the aromatic eucalyptus oils of the gum trees. No one
else was on the road. Just my little Suzuki and me, flying towards the
setting sun. Hell yeah, we were the kings of the road. It was one of the
most enjoyable bits of roads we ever travelled on. Humming the theme
song from the 'Where the hell is Matt' Youtube video inside my helmet
over and over again.
As many of you might remember from your own big trips, after a few days
on the road you stop worrying about things and then things just tend to
work out in your favour. You set the parameters of what you want and
things in between happen automatically. And so it happened to us that
day too, just as the sun reached it's critical level above the horizon a
little nature reserve appeared just North of the road, with a little
dirt track leading into it. The perfect camping spot for our last night
on the road. 160km to go to Perth.
Those were easily done the next morning and all too soon we were back
inmidst multiple lane roads, traffic lights, cars, bicycles, pedestrians
and tall buildings. That Wednesday morning the first leg of the trip
ended. In the sunny city of Perth at the Indian Ocean. 11 days and over
4000km since leaving Sydney in the far East on the Pacific coast.
Some people asked me why I was not flying from Sydney to Johannesburg
but adding these extra 4000km to the tour. It's hard to tell. It's not
the money since flights to South Africa cost roughly the same from
Sydney as they do from Perth. It was more an inner urge to go and ride.
Ride from my own door step. Start the tour at home. Start the tour
riding. Not cheating and taking the shortcut. There is a big distance
between Sydney and Germany and I want to see most of it. There is no
other reason behind introducing this first leg to the journey than that I
really wanted to do it. And indeed I loved every bit of it, the long
roads, the far horizons, the people along the way, the camping, the
riding, even the cold, the rain and the mud. And when I finally get onto
that plane to Africa in ten days I will smile and I will think to
myself: man, what a farewell from Australia!
...and some pics from the last stretch of the road to Perth:
Three gumtrees in the dried out Lake Johnston
one of those big granite outcrops - McDermid Rock
Little bushes at McDermid Rock
It is approaching spring and flowers start appearing everywhere
A little natural 'garden' on the granite of the rock
The 'Breakaways' - a weathered cliff formation in many pretty colours
At the end of the mud road in Hyden - finally getting the look of an adventure touring bike
Wave Rock - you can judge the scale of it by the size of the little kid playing on the floor
Arrival in the big city
Made it to Perth
It's been a while since the last update
and it is certainly time for a new one. The last one to be written on
home turf. Because tomorrow the big adventure will begin with me
boarding the plane to South Africa.
There was not all too much to do here in Perth since I arrived last
week, quite a relaxing time really. Visiting friends in the area. Some
sightseeing. And enjoying good times at friendly backpacker hostels. My
little Suzuki had to be prepared for the flight which would take around a
week to do. So I took her to a motorbike shop near Perth Airport on
Monday morning. A shop which sounded good on the internet and the guys
seemed to be friendly enough on the phone as well.
And in reality they did an AWESOME job. Awesome in terms of getting all
the parts together within a week, installing the lot and packing the
bike up. And also awesome for their flexibility amidst the chaos caused
by the freight forwarding company.
Freight forwarders are very special people indeed. In the belief that we
sorted out terms and prices for the transport months ago I suddenly got
emails along the lines of: important paperwork was forgotten to mention
which would cost an extra $300. Or accidentially the quoted price was
based on actual weight and not volumetric weight which is twice as much.
And culminating in the fact that a flight was booked for the bike
leaving Sydney instead of Perth. It was quite scary really and I hope so
much to see my little Suzuki again in Johannesburg. It took a few angry
emails, a few annoyed phone calls and information gathering from a
competing cargo forwarder until the mess was sorted. So the bike has
been booked from Perth, the price was suddenly based on volumetric
weight and alltogether with the $300 for the additional paperwork the
final quote was even below the original one. With the only difference
that the bike would depart on Friday, not with me together on Monday. So
the pressure was on for us to finish up crating the bike for delivery
on Friday morning. And I was happy and so relieved having the guys from
the bikeshop on the phone calmly declaring it a 'no worries' issue. And
after all they were able to reduce the dimensions of the crated bike to a
degree that saved me another $500 compared to the freight quote based
on my estimated dimensions. So a huge 'Thumps up' here!
The way it looks like my little Suzuki should be in the air right now. While I'm typing this. Fingers crossed...
Also she has a brand new set of Pirelli Scorpion MT90 A/T tyres on. And a
new chain. And a new 15T front sprocket. And a slightly larger than the
original 42T rear sprocket. And a set of new brake pads. And new spark
plugs. In other words - she is as ready for Africa as I am. Or more.
So yeah, I am flying to Africa tomorrow!!!
Whatever it is that will start tomorrow, it will be big, adventurous,
awesome. And unknown. And probably very different to the first leg
across Australia. And more fun for there will be two of us.
Also unknown is the fact of how easy it will be to find internet in
Africa. So I hope to be able to stay in touch and keep posting how we