My rear shock was weeping oil. Not good! Discussing this with my cousin's neighbour, Greg Stead, he suggested someone who would know best how to fix it in Harare. As it happens, I was meeting that bloke ("oak" in Zimbabwe), Graeme Sharp, the next day for lunch.
Graeme Sharp also rides, which is a bit of an under statement (continue reading!). In typical Zimbabwean style, he made a plan to resolve my predicament. The rear shock went to be repaired and I was without my motorcycle for some time, which was a very strange feeling!
Graeme is an interesting chap because he will be the first Zimbabwean to race a motorcycle in the Dakar Rally in January 2020 in Saudi Arabia. An incredible accomplishment! We chatted motorcycles, and exchanged challenges, stories etc. Really interesting to learn about his journey.
Graeme made a very kind gesture and offered one of his favourite routes to ride in Zimbabwe. The allure was immense, and after learning it's suitable for someone of my skill level, I accepted! Graeme kicked into action, and in true Zimbabwean style, made a plan for places to stay and acquiring a dirt tyre.
With rear shock repaired, I left Harare fully loaded with excitement, a dirt tyre, and extra fuel to accommodate fuel shortages. The off-road route would take me from Kariba to Victoria Falls.
A good oak, Charles Boddy lives on Kariba crocodile farm and very kindly put me up in one of the lodges. The view was stunning. The falling water level of Lake Kariba revealed a grass plane with roaming monkeys, karibou, zebra, impala, and a lone hippo that had been kicked out of its pod by the elders.
Charles let me use his workshop to fit my new dirt tyre under the watchful eye of blue-testicle monkeys carrying children from their bellies through the trees.
The air compressor was a welcome relief from my bicycle hand pump!
I refuelled using a Mr Funnel filter. Seen these online but never used before. They filter unwanted debris/dirt and also water.
Whilst in Kariba, I saw the dam.
I departed Kariba after a brief chat about communication protocol in case of emergency, since the first stretch is remote and seemed uninhabited.
Stopping to open vents on my jacket, I was very quick. My engine was intentionally left idling to discourage any interest from wildlife. Lots of elephant poo on the track. Perhaps I was slightly on edge!
The dirt tyre was incredible! Completely transformed the feel of the bike off-road. More stable in sand, which I usually feel uncomfortable riding. Felt confident moving the back around.
The route became easier throughout the day, with the exception of the end. I saw monkeys crossing a dry river bed as I rode over a bridge. I also saw a runaway horse and cart with a man running in pursuit. Here's a video from Kariba Crocodile Farm to Ume Crocodile Farm.
There was a section that had been described as the rabbit hole. It's remote and I'm told lions live there. I gave it a go. After two miles into the twenty something stretch, I encountered the second dried-up river bed. Went down the bank without issue, but going up the opposite bank, the rear tyre just dug a hole in the sand. Couldn't get up the bank. My motorcycle fell on its side. I immediately thought: No Steve!
I was immediately on high alert from what I'd heard before about the area. After lifting and backing up the motorcycle, I gave it a second shot with a different line up the bank. Same again: rear tyre dug in and the motorcycle fell. I need to improve my technique here!
It's mid afternoon in the Kariba heat and my energy was zapped. Panting heavily, I had to stop, sit in the shade, eat sugary biscuits, drink water, and try again. Pants weren't brown, yet. Picking up the bike for a second time, I begrudgingly admitted defeat and turned round. A good decision.
Enjoying the confidence of the dirt tyre, the sandy track opened up form the bush into a grassy aeroplane runaway. I said hello to Mike who runs Ume Crocodile Farm and went to Kipling lodge. The lodge was spectacular. On one side of the room, there was no wall but a very large opening to view Lake Kariba. Truly stunning!
Whilst relaxing in the room, I heard an animal that I didn't recognise. Hippos were wallowing in the shallow water. Later, they grazed on the bank across the river. Difficult to see in the photo.
The ride from Ume Crocodile Farm was similar to the previous day where it cut through the bush joining small villages and towns together. Some corrugation too. Views of hills in the distance could be seen from crests. Another pleasurable day of riding. Here's a video from Ume Crocodile Farm to Binga.
Stopping in the bush at mid day for food and rest, I had about fifty flies swarming my face. Absolutely unbearable. I resorted to wearing my helmet again to prevent the flies hitting my face!
I moved on pretty quick from the flies and found a town to rest in. Several locals approached me and in typical Zimbabwean style, they extended friendly greetings and were curious about me and where I'd come from.
No petrol in Binga, so the owner of the campsite phoned around and found a well-stocked station. Only a slight detour.
The ride to Victoria Falls was faster on less bumpy and smoother routes. It ran close to River Zambezi at times. Here's a video from Binga to Victoria Falls.
The three-day ride was so much fun! Shame the route was over. It's the type of riding I really enjoy.
Big thanks to Greg Stead, Charles Boddy, and Graeme Sharp for making all of this happen! The route, accommodation, dirt tyre, and by no means least, the friendship, have been incredible. Graeme has just completed the Rallye du Maroc, so join him when he embarks on the Dakar Rally! Check out his website, Facebook page, and Instagram page.