The Next Leg

I spent two nights at Henry’s since I met a cool french family (their motorhome was in the last pic of the last post, but don’t laugh- they’ve been driving it around the world!) and reconnected with the Swiss folks who helped in Ethiopia.  We relaxed, shared supplies to make surprisingly good pot luck meals, and engaged in the favorite pastime of the traveler- comparing maps/routes/stories etc.  A perfect break.

After getting recharged it was time to head off.  I was planning on making Isiolo and the tarmac by the end of the day while the Swiss and French were going to take two days for it.  They had both taken two days for the first leg and wanted to keep the same slow, steady pace.  Between them they were driving a motorhome, a 40 year old VW camper, and a 20 year old Mitsubishi van- 2 days for 250km certainly seemed like the best choice.

So, ribs wrapped, I left Henry’s.  The road stayed in the hills and stayed fairly good since the red earth was dry, though looking at the ruts I suspected that the rain would turn the road into an impassible nightmare (a month later I heard that the rains had stuck transport trucks in the mud for days while also washing out a bridge and killing a number of children in the ensuing flooding).

The road slowly descended back onto the plains and I expected to be reunited with my nightmare.  Instead I was given the treat of great sand riding (a couple of inches of sand over a hard surface)- fast, sliding fun where a blip of the throttle could  kick the backend out and power you out of trouble instead of hub deep into the sand.  My ribs were whining, but I was grinning ear-to-ear while making great time.

A few hours in I saw my first wild zebra not one in a zoo, game reserve, or park- a completely wild zebra just hanging out in his ‘hood.  I stopped as fast as I could to take a pic..

And didn’t put the kickstand down properly, creating my only ‘fall’ along the Moyale road.

You can almost hear the zebra saying “Dumbass”, can’t you?

I found out later that it was a fairly rare sighting since the vast majority of zebras are of the wide stripe variety in northern Kenya.  It kind of made me feel better.

Despite that little episode, I was happy for almost another hour before the road turned into a corrugated hell.  The deep, endless, horizontal ruts just wouldn’t let up.  Go slow and you just bounce up and down through them, go fast and feel yourself shaking apart.  Either way my ribs just hated me and I was positive I could hear them grinding together with every corrugation I hit.  I tired both ways and got seasick going slow, and rattled parts of bike off going fast.  It sucked, but I just kept plugging along through the heat and dust, watching as the kilometers until tarmac slowly wound down…

BANG!  The bike lurches and a white smoke engulfs me for a moment, then I hear and feel terrible noises from under my seat.  Something is wrong, very wrong.  I manage to pull over instead of dropping the bike and as I dismount I figure it must be the rear shock- it’s gotten so hot that the oil seal broke and the oil exploded out.  The oil everywhere on the ground, the bike, and the back of my riding pants seemed to confirmed my guess.  Crap.  Ah well, I can still ride on the spring as long as I take it slowly- it might feel like riding a trampoline, but it will get somewhere where I can deal with it.

Not so fast there Bucko!  When I actually took a closer look at the shock itself, it looked wrong- it wasn’t straight.  I bounced the bike up and down.  It wasn’t good.  The piston didn’t slide up and down in the spring, it bent out and tried to make the spring bend sideways.  I looked closer and saw that the piston itself had sheared away from the top of the shock! 

Look at the shock in the pics again and you can see that even without a load it isn’t straight.

Shit.  What do I do now?  I’m in the middle of the last stretch of the Moyale road, it’s 4:30pm, and my bike is truly unrideable.  Thoughts of the bandit warnings I heard start to flood my mind- “It’s safe, just  don’t stop outside of a village”  “As long as you aren’t out after dark you don’t have to worry”  “You’ll have plenty of time to ride away before they do anything”.  Okay, I’m outside a village, it will start getting dark in just over an hour, and I can’t ride away.  Cool- at least I have all the bases covered… 

After convincing myself that the bandits stories were just that, I decided to stick with the bike and wait for someone to pass who could give me a lift somewhere or send help of some kind.  About 20-30 minutes later a government land rover drove by and I was able to flag them down.  They quickly got my story and then told me to get my things and get in the landy- they had been stopped there too long and it wasn’t safe.  Bandits could have heard the truck stop and might be approaching.  What?!  You mean all that bandit stuff is true?  “Yes, my friend.  We have very much trouble here.  Somali people come here with only guns and use them to try and live.  It is better now, but always we must be careful because to them they have nothing to loose and to us, we have very much.  Come, we must leave.”

We drive back to Marsibit (Nooooo!!), get a truck, drive like mad back to bike (I had recorded the GPS coordinates, so they could drive without keeping an eye out for the bike), do a pick up that feels more like a military operation than a tow truck job, drive on, almost hit a giraffe in the middle of the road, and arrive at Isiolo sometime after midnight.  The next morning we drive on to Nairobi and I arrive at Jungle Junction somewhat less impressively than I had hoped.

Looking back on it, the road isn’t that terrible- I’ve ridden worse.  It’s just that you don’t have a choice.  It’s not a stretch you do for fun and then get your gear and move on, you have to take it (or another similar track) with all your gear and once your on it you have to stay on it to the end.


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