The journey which had been my life for more than ten months is over.
There was much happiness on all sides on my arrival and thereafter. It
is nice to be together again with my family who I have not seen for so
many years. And the way to get there made it all the more exciting.
My mum and dad live in a small town in East Germany, still in the same
house I grew up in. When I moved to Australia in early 2005 I came back
only once. Back then by plane. Too long ago.
However, it is a very quiet little town which gives me now the
opportunity to slowly postprocess the adventures from the past months. I
really appreciate to have this time and would not want to finish a
major journey and start working the next day. So let me write a quick
wrap-up of the trip to complete this HUBB thread.
Sydney to Germany - the African way has not only been the longest
journey but also the biggest adventure in my life. I still remember the
exciting and sometimes nerve wracking planning phase. The first idea of
this kind of trip came whooping three years before the trip actually
started. And the months before departure had no room for much sleep.
From the day when I started from my doorstep in Sydney, farewelled by my
friends, my world changed. By a magic push of the starter button.
The first and immediate change was me entering a new world of complete
freedom. Something I enjoy heaps. Being free to decide about every
minute of your day is an awesome feeling.
All the way through Australia, South Africa, Swaziland etc, up to Zambia
I would say that 'freedom' and the limitless enjoyment of freedom was
the main topic of the journey. Catching up with Martin and travelling
together has been awesome too and we both enjoyed our life in Africa
heaps, it's great to have someone to share your adventure with, someone
with a similar ideology about life.
In Zambia things started to change. By then we grew much better in
controlling our bikes on bad roads or even on sand. And started to have
heaps fun using our new skills. Zambia's unsealed roads proved a perfect
playground for the two of us. Our fun of riding our bikes became the
theme of the journey in Zambia. Also in Zambia people entered our
picture. Their friendlyness, helpfulness and hospitality as overwhelming
as their poverty.
By the time we reached Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania people started becoming
the big topic of my perception of the journey. And while Martin was
travelling with his girlfriend I decided to dive in deeper into the
'people' theme and stayed in Mwanza for six weeks. What started out with
random people at a random place in Africa ended up being my most
impressive experience of the entire trip. Now, that the journey is
finished, I find myself thinking back to my time in Mwanza more often
than I do to other episodes of the trip. Spending so much time with the
Mwanza motorbike taxi gang gave me a deep insight into the Tanzanian
life. And how happy people are with the little they've got. And how
prepared they are to share even that with a complete stranger. And how
much they love to give you access to their life, their friends, their
family if you only make time. I made time and got an awesome time back.
I also realised how much we Westerners can help with such little effort. Which also feels awesome if you actually do help.
Although the feeling of freedom and the joy of riding motorbikes always
remained high up on the list of good things we somehow got used to it.
But I could never get too used to the awesome feeling you get in return
for making time for people. They are all so different. But all so
friendly and welcoming. As someone from a 'developed' country I found
myself asking 'why?'. But that is a stupid question. It has nothing to
do with me. No, it is just how Africa operates. People are 'together'.
So after Tanzania people became more and more the main theme of my
Africa perception. Culminating in Ethiopia where I found a really good
rapport to locals. Northern Ethiopia also featured the grandest of all
landscapes to ride my little Suzuki in. So Ethiopia and Tanzania would
be my pick as favourite locations of this journey.
After Ethiopia the exotic feel of Africa somehow lost itself. The desert
countries of Sudan and Egypt were very different in mentality and
environment than all previous places. And pretty developed. The wide
open landscapes again making my 'feeling free' experience top of the
list of good things.
My accident in Egypt changed a lot and eventually gave me a very special
experience, meeting the unconditional charity and hospitality of two
families. Said's family in MitGhamr who took care of me bleeding on the
roadside and of my little Suzuki and all my stuff during my recovery.
Ameen and his family in Ismailia who hosted me for three weeks and
helped me so much recovering. Both expecting nothing in return. During
that period 'people' became the only topic of my journey.
After Egypt came Turkey and Eastern Europe. The further I travelled
through these countries the more efficient life became. Feeling less
welcoming to me. Combined with the rainy and cold weather I felt like
riding and riding and riding towards Germany and the end of the trip.
Rules and regulation began to creep up on me again from Hungary onwards.
Things like Vignettes and paid parking. So during the last few days it
was the 'riding' of my little Suzuki which I enjoyed most. She's been an
awesome bike all along.
The three most impressive and most enjoyable things of this trip in no particular order: people, freedom, riding.
And you guys from the HUBB have been there all along. Travelling with me
from your computers. I hope you enjoyed the trip and maybe, hopefully,
you got an inspiration or two for your own trip out of this story.
Somehow. One day. Believe me, it's an awesome thing to do!
If you ask me if I have changed then I must say very loudly 'yes'.
Change only really becomes apparent when you are getting back home into
your old life. Which will not happen to me till August when I fly back
to Sydney. Something I am really looking forward to, after all Sydney is
where I feel at home.
But even here in Germany I noticed how much Africa taught me to stand on
my own feet. How much more open I became towards people. The trip made
me stronger, more decisive, less hesitant. It proved to me how
unmeasurably more valuable things like happiness, friendship, community,
environment are over money, career, real estate or big cars. And the
trip let me experience a just as unmeasurably huge joy of life.
I also found how the trip made me dislike routine and being indoors.
When these sort of feelings creep up I have the perfect cure. Getting
the helmet on. And the jacket. And the gloves. Turn the ignition key and
press the starter button. And the world is good again...
And I know without doubt: Africa will see me back. One day.
For all those of you who like statistics as much as I do - here they are:
1.) time and distance travelled by country
Australia - 22 days - 5100.3km
South Africa - 6 days - 1057.4km
Swaziland - 2 days -362.9km
Mozambique - 8 days - 1506.8km
Zimbabwe - 10 days - 1541.4km
Botswana - 6 days - 197.7km
Zambia - 19 days - 2392.8km
Tanzania - 64 days - 5692.8km
Rwanda - 9 days - 1461.9km
Kenya - 13 days - 1690.5km
Ethiopia - 49 days - 4821.4km
Sudan - 11 days - 2205.5km
Egypt - 65 days - 4135.3km
Turkey - 6 days - 1577.1km
Bulgaria - 2 days - 484.1km
Romania - 2 days - 707.8km
Hungary - 3 hours - 205.0km
Slovakia - 1 day - 272.1km
Czech Republik - 1 day - 544.0km
Germany - 1 hour - 32.0km
Overall - 10 months - 35988.8km
2.) motorbike maintenance and repairs
07/08/2011 9803km journey starts in Sydney
19/08/2011 14423km oil and oil filter changed, spark plugs replaced
24/08/2011 14904km before leaving Australia: new sprockets (15T front,
42T rear), new chain (525), new brakepads, new tyres (Pirelli Scorpion
30/08/2012 14998km replacing damaged parts from flight: left mirror, speedo light bulb
18/09/2011 18500km fix burst fuel hose
26/09/2011 19570km oil change
14/11/2011 25510km oil and oil filter changed
04/01/2012 29864km entire set of fuel hoses replaced
07/01/2012 29910km valve clearance checked and adjusted
18/01/2012 31630km oil change
27/01/2012 33006km new rear tyre (Vee Rubber) as temporary solution
25/02/2012 35390km new rear tyre (Mitas E07)
13/03/2012 37829km oil and oil filter changed
22/05/2012 41999km new spark plugs and repair of damage from accident:
new fork oil, new fork oil seals, broken Safari tank cross brace
24/05/2012 42389km oil and oil filter changed
31/05/2012 44800km new front tyre (Continental Escape)
01/06/2012 45792km journey finishes in Germany
3.) Preparation of motorbike for the trip
- 30 litre Safari long range fuel tank with lockable cap
- RV Aqualine steel luggage frames
- Barkbusters handle bar protectors
- aluminium bash plate
- in line fuel filters
- 12 Volt electric socket
- OFF-switch for headlight
- heavier rear spring 9.0kg/mm
- heavier fork springs 0.70kg/mm
Top three and bottom three equipment:
Pretty much all the equipment I carried performed very well. Not
surprisingly because the choice fell after a lot of reading of reviews,
asking people and testing stuff. Bike, tent, sleeping bag, tools etc.
all perfectly did the job I took them along for. The following short
list shows the items / mods which surprised me in a particularly
positive or negative way.
4.) Equipment / modification to surprise most positively
- heavier springs:
I never thought I would need them until the
HUBB convinced me otherwise. And indeed on the DR650 they are a grand
improvement on the rough roads in Africa. The bike never bottomed out
and the shocks lived through the whole trip, a fact you really
appreciate when you meet the many other bike overlanders with their
shocks bleeding oil.
- long range fuel tank:
even with 30 litres of fuel there were
some close calls when I arrived at a petrol station with 2 litres or
less remaining. In these situations a big tank saves you from the
inconvenience to carry jerry cans. And gives you peace of mind on long
remote paths. Most useful in Zambia, Ethiopia and Egypt.
- Steel Pony soft panniers:
I can't remember the number of times
the bike dropped onto them with it's full weight. They held up.
Brushing past thorny Acacia trees which ripped holes in my bike jacket -
the panniers held up. Carrying lots and lots of weight across bumpy
roads - they held up. Even in my accident where the full weight of the
bike fell on them and slid along the asphalt - the cotton was undamaged.
Only one plastic clip and one strap gave way. Repaired in less than an
hour. I don't know how they made cotton to be so robust but these guys
really can cope with a lot. And they also provided a perfect soft
protection cushion for the bike whenever I dropped it fell on it's side.
Great pieces of equipment.
5.) useless equipment / modification or negative surprises
- Kevlar lined cargo pants style motorbike pants made of cotton:
thought they would be a good compromise solution - bike pants and
hiking pants at once without looking too 'Robocop like'. Well, in the
sweat and humidity they simply rot away on you. Before they got stolen
from me I had to fix and stitch them up uncountable times.
- Katadyn waterfilter:
principally a good thing. But I never used
mine, not once. Good drinking water was available everywhere we went.
To carry a waterfilter was just a waste of luggage space. And money.
- Mastercard credit card:
simply does not work in most places in Africa. Get a Visa card instead.
The adventure has finally come to an
end. Just yesterday my little Suzuki was ready to be picked up from
Sydney Airport. She had her own little adventure flying from Germany
to Canada to Australia. While I was waiting eagerly for her arrival
and Customs clearance in Sydney. The journey would not be complete
without both of us being back home, right?
Myself, I landed in Sydney already in
mid August. Spending most of the time reconnecting to what I left
behind over one year ago. Catching up with friends. Moving back into
my little apartment. Looking for a new job. Feeling home again. Not
much has changed really in that one year. Most people being surprised
how fast that year has gone by. Whereas for me it was a pretty long
year full of good stuff.
So what remains from the journey?
I'm still in contact with Mr. S. in
Mwanza, Tanzania. The guy I agreed to pay school fees for. And indeed
he is going to school, his English improved massively and he is heaps
happy. He still calls me 'brother'.
I'm still in contact with Ameen, my
Bedouin friend from Ismailia. After my accident his family took care
of me for almost three weeks. Egypt and Sinai have had a troubled few
weeks lately. But Ameen and his family are unaffected by the
unrests. Ameen plans to get married next year which is great news.
Some people from Lalibela in Ethiopia
keep sending me emails. They are just through the rainy season which
keeps tourists away. A tough time without tourist business.
Martin has been working hard in his job
since his arrival back in Germany. His AfricaTwin still going strong
in her 20th year. Martin will return to Africa in December
this year. Africa just keeps calling.
Just today I went on the first ride
with my little Suzuki back in Australia. It's been a freezing but
sunny winter morning. Just after sunrise. Too early for traffic to
become an issue. The city was ours. The white sails of the Opera
House and the big steel arch of the Harbour Bridge just zooming past
us as we rode along the deep blue Sydney Harbour chasing Sea Gulls.
Shivering in the cold winter air. Just as we did a year ago. It's
good to be home.