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South Africa
Hungary to Germany

Africa Tour August 2011 - August 2012
Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany

02/06/2012 Done

It's done! On the 01/06/2012 at 9:15pm my little Suzuki and me, we arrived at my Mum's and Dad's house in Germany. Some 35000km after leaving Sydney nearly exactly 10 months ago. Sydney to Germany - the African way - is now complete.

After leaving Romania I very much just kept riding. As the countries got more developed, roads became faster and busier riding became the most fun part to do in these countries, no longer sightseeing. There was this strong urge to keep going, finish the journey.

First there was Hungary. My route led me through only 180km of this country. Not enough to even bother changing money. Or bying a map. The Eastern part of Hungary, where I passed through is an all flat landscape with huge farms everywhere. The road became a perfect freeway, perfect bitumen, perfectly signposted. Perfectly clean cars came rushing past us as my little Suzuki travelled along at her favourite speed of 90-100km/h. No, freeways are not her favourite terrain.
By now, all the rain in recent days started having an effect on the chain. The rain just kept washing the chain lube away and the dry chain started making a strange noise. After all, this chain has been running for more than 30000km! So in the sunny conditions of Hungary I kept spraying lube on it, from a spray can I bought long time ago in South Africa. It made the strange sound disappear straight away. But now I sprayed the last bit on, the can finally was finished. No more rain please!
In the town of Debrecen a big 'Suzuki' sign sprang into my view. My little Suzuki still had one problem. Her front tyre was still original as fitted some 30000km ago in Perth/Australia. The old Pirelli Scorpion still had some thread left on it. But not enough to make it 'road legal' in Europe. Hungary would be probably the cheapest place to change it.
At the Suzuki dealer they could help me. It was a professional Suzuki dealer, something I had not seen since South Africa. And as so often in this journey people surprised me. The guys from the workshop liked my Aussie bike. We took photos of each other with the bike. We chatted. They changed the tyre. They did not accept any money for their work. Just pay for the tyre, nothing else. Instead, without me telling them my chain story, they gave me a big can of chain lube as present. How cool is that? Right on the day when I finished my own some friendly strangers give me a new one!
Including the tyre change I was through Hungary in just over three hours. It was the country with the sunniest weather I had seen and should see in Europe, the only country where I never got wet.
After Hungary it was Slovakia. Slovakia surprised me as that their currency was already the Euro. It was a quite modern country, again with good roads, perfectly signposted. Plenty of petrol, there was a choice between four or five different kinds of petrol on the stations. Cheap ones, ecological ones, performance ones... I got a really good map covering Slovakia and the Czech Republic which made travelling more pleasant. As I could now navigate along smaller roads and avoid the freeways. Both my little Suzuki and me, we don't like freeways. We are just not made for that way of travelling. That night I slept in Trencin, a town near the border to the Czech Republic. As usual it had rained and was pretty cold. So the luxury of a nice pension was extremely welcome. The next night I thought would be my last night on the trip which I would like to spend camping. One more time.

The next day I entered the Czech Republic. There is no longer a border from Slovakia. Just a sign announcing you're there. Riding along small roads the route lead us through hilly terrain. It was really beautyful, green, often forested with pine trees. The roads mostly small, just big enough for two cars to pass each other. And some lovely clean towns along the way. And some huge shopping malls and supermarkets and even 'Hypermarkets'.
Halfway through the Czech Republic, near the famous town of Plzen (where Pilsen style has it's origin) it started to rain again. And kept raining. The temperature was displayed somewhere as 9 degrees Celsius. It was cold. Bloody Europe! The weather here has a lot of potential for improvement!
At around 7pm I arrived at the city of Karlovy Vary. Wet and cold. And still raining. No, I did not feel like camping today. Riding through town the hotels and pensions all looked extremely expensive. It's after all a town of many famous hot springs and baths, a destination for wealthy German people to cure their little aches.
Looking at my map I realised how close I was to my Mum's and Dad's place. Only 70km! I decided there and then to finish it, to go all the way, no to spend another night on the road. So I stopped at a petrol station, spent my last Czech money on petrol and muesli bars and energy drinks in it's heated shop. It was so nice and warm in there! And now both, my little Suzuki and me, had the energy to go. And as we went along and the km rushed past it felt like we gained even more energy. This epic trip would come to an end soon...
At this time in the evening the roads were mostly empty, all our's to cruise along. Again, there is no border crossing between Czech Republic and Germany, just a sign. When I reached that sign I had to stop, to take it all in. This is GERMANY!

From here to my parent's house it's only 30km. I knew this road from long times back when I was still living in Germany. Not much has changed here. It felt weird to ride along here now. All the way from Sydney!
The rain had stopped now and a bright half moon illuminated the sky. My little Suzuki just flew along, that Czech fuel must have been rocket fuel. Her little single cylinder the only sign of life along this road.
Within these 30km strange things went through my head. I felt happy and sad, had tears in my eyes. For some reason the Tanzania national anthem came back from memories long ago and I shouted it from my helmet into the empty German sky along this empty road. No one could hear me. Or my little Suzuki's single cylinder happily cruising along.

Finally arriving at my parent's house at 9:15pm. The big moment when I turned the ignition key to 'off'. Remembering the feeling of when I pushed the starter button for the first time in this trip, 10 months ago just outside my appartment building in Sydney. But now, there was no time for nostalgia. My mum and dad came running towards me. And my brother, his wife, my nephew. There was not even time to take the helmet off, no, there was hugging, laughing, happiness.

So yeah, here I am. The journey complete. Sydney to Germany - the African way.

Give me a day or two and I'll give you a wrap up of what's happening now. And some statistics. As for now - a big thanks to you guys for joining me on this journey on your computers! It's been great!!!

02/06/2012 More pics

In Debrecen, Hungary. The friendly guys from the Suzuki workshop after fitting the new front tyre on my little Suzuki.

Riding through dense pine forest in the Czech Republic...

...and through green fields of canola, wheat and rye.

The final crossing - this sign announcing that I was now entering Germany. That's all there is to constitute an international border.

DONE! Me, my dad, mum, nephew, brother and his wife at my parent's house on my arrival. And in the foreground of course the star of this trip, my little Suzuki!

Final Report

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 MT90)
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 replaced
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: I 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.

01/09/2012 Australia

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.


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(c) 2012    marco hoffmann