Motoaventures Warm Heart Of Africa Tour 2019
This is now our third tour with Motoaventures and a tour we asked Su and John to put together for us. Our previous two tours have been unforgettable, and we were both in no doubt this would be equally as good. Our first trip in 2010 took us from Victoria Falls in Zambia on to Namibia and into South Africa finishing in Cape Town. In 2016 our tour again started in Victoria Falls, went through Botswana, into South Africa, Lesotho, back into South Africa and ended in Cape Town. All these years later we were still talk about those trips as though they just ended yesterday.
This trip was going to be more on road and was all about the destinations. We also organised 3 2-day stopovers to give us a break from riding and time to explore.
Here’s how it went…
Flew from Sydney to Johannesburg and caught a connecting flight to Victoria Falls Zimbabwe the following day.
Booked into the wonderful Ilala Lodge hotel at Victoria Falls where we stayed previously. It’s still a beautiful hotel and we feel right at home there.
This trip we had two couples from our local farming community joining us. Sick of hearing our stories from previous trips they’ve decided to come along.
One of the local residents, right outside our room door. Baboons are not to be messed with. Warthog, monkeys, water buck and hippo are also regular visitors to the lawns outside the rooms.
The “Booze Cruise” was on again except this time we were lucky to catch elephant crossing the mighty Limpopo and see the spectacular sunset once again.
Following day, a walked from the hotel to the falls. We’ve done this before but it’s well worth it, the falls are an awesome sight.
There is a tour that takes you to a pool on the edge of the falls, if that’s your thing then go for it.
Picture of the “Dunoon Mob” with uncle David…please pardon the exhibitionist in the cap, just can’t help himself.
The day prior to departure we crossed the border into Botswana and picked up the bikes.
John, our tour leader fitted the GPS’s, equipment checked, and everything made ready for tomorrows departure.
Motoaventures have a very well-equipped medic on team and everyone must have all insurances, including repatriation insurance. … that’s Dan the medic playing with his toys.
Day 1 – Victoria Falls to Matobo Hills – Zimbabwe.
Kick off. Everything packed and excited to get going except It’s bloody cold!! We’re in Zimbabwe, what the hell!
Ride as on mainly straight road but the countryside is so different to Australia that made it interesting. After an hour stopped by an old steam locomotive to regroup and discuss breaks etc.
Past a load on bikes on a Compass Tour which I believe goes from Cape to Cairo. Road on for to our first fuel stop.
John is good at stopping on the side of the road where there are wood carving or fuel vendors. These guys must think Christmas has come early because the group always buys a few things.
Five dollars goes a long way in Zimbabwe.
We filled up on the side of the road from the 44-gallon drum on the trailer. Fuel situation in Zimbabwe is not good, most petrol stations without fuel.
Next stop Matoba Hills, a beautiful lodge.
Always amazes me how, after riding through such desolate countryside, we always seem to pop up at this oasis in the middle of nowhere. The ride in was interesting, dirt and a bit of sand.
Pre-dinner drinks in front of an open fire followed by dinner under a thatched roof. Excellent day.
DAY 2 – Matobo Hills To Pamuzinda Safari Lodge – Zimbabwe.
Another cold morning. I’m talking 8 degrees. Most of us left all our warm clothing at Vic Falls. This morning I have two T-shirts, a long sleeve shirt, two buffs, a T-shirt over my long sleeve and my Gore-Tex inner liner over everything. I’m still cold!!
Started the day off with a Rhino experience.
All piled into an old Land Rover army vehicle and went looking for rhino.
After a short search found them. We stood upwind and 10 meters away, quite an experience. Had there been a wind change it would have been interesting…maybe not for the slowest runner!!
Left at 10. Ride out fun. Roads straight again but countryside interesting.
The villages are FULL of people, goats and vehicles, nobody really bothered and everyone thinks they have the right of way.
Beautiful accommodation again and a two day stop over.
Day 3 – Dunhu Ramambo Selous – Zimbabwe
Staying at the Pamuzinda Safari Lodge.
Breakfast followed by a Game walk.
The lodge cat, Leo, decided to tag along as a non-paying client…very entertaining.
We pasted the sausage tree used as a fertility drug which just so happened to be next to the gonhorrea tree used to treat guess what!!!
Saw wildebeest, giraffe and impala. Joseph, our guide, imparted some of his vast knowledge as we plodded along. I managed to lose my glasses so all I have left is my emergencies!!
We had lunch under a huge fig, very “out of Africa”, truly amazing.
Late afternoon saw us on a vehicle mounted game drive to the edges of the property.
Giraffe, zebra, assorted plains game and the obligatory “Sun Downer” which involves stopping in a beautiful location, slamming down a few drinks and telling the other cars what they missed seeing…all true of course.
Dinner cooked on an open fire under the stars.
The lions next door were in fine fettle waking me up several times in the night. They were a few kilometres off but sounded like they were outside my room.
Day 4 – Dunhu Ramambo Selous to Tete – Zimbabwe – Mozambique
Today is the day of the first “real” border crossing and what a grand crossing it was. However, before we reached there, we took some time out for a well-earned detour…more commonly known has following the “fuk-r-we bird”. Note John in background on sat phone.
It took 4 hours and was shear bloody chaos. As we rode in a wave of “helpers” started chasing us down. Money changers, “Mister…follow me, I will help you” people and an assortment of other pirates none of whom are in uniform. The “fees” change by the minute and absolutely everyone is on the take. Its soul destroying, because as long as this keeps happening these countries are going nowhere fast. Cash only and a mix of US dollars and local currency. One of the charges is called the TIP. We thought it was a play on words but actually stands for “Temporary Import Permit” …. right! On paying the last, “yes this is the last fee”, another fee would have to be paid. The person in charge of putting visa’s in passports also known as the VIP (Visa in Passport) managed to put Rosie’s visa in Louise’s passport and vice versa. What a circus!
On a positive note, the ride was interesting, we had a few laughs at the border, and they had excellent samosas and it would be remiss of me not to mention the roadside snacks, guaranteed to clean your system out.
As I write this, an elephant has just walked past my tent within 10 meters. Janice has been waiting for 10 minutes for it to move on! This is a truly magical place.
Because of the delay at the border we would arrive in Tete on dark.
We pushed on to the hotel, lane splitting, pavement hoping, right side, wrong side just madness, everyone pushing on to the hotel for a cold beer.
Day 5 – Tete to Kumbali – Mozambique – Malawi
We knew the accommodation at the next stop was going to be great and we had a two night lay over.
The ride was very straight forward again but what lay in the way was another border crossing. Exiting these countries is relatively easy, once you’ve managed to brush the touts aside there’s just one form to fill in and your through.
I noted on a couple of forms in the occupation section we have a “town bike” and a “gynaecological model” travelling with us…who would have thought. Entering is a whole other story. The Malawi border was much the same as the Mozambique border, total chaos, corrupt and just a very unpleasant experience. Looking back on it now, I would have missed it for the world!!!
It’s such a place of contrasts. One minute you’re in the chaos at the border then next minute you’re here… wow!
Once you’re through the border you are back in wonderful Africa. Everyone waves and smiles and it’s a very pleasant and positive experience. The sunsets have to be seen to be believed. The resort on the shores of Lake Malawi was outstanding and the lake is very beautiful.
Day 6 – Kumbali – Malawi
Day off, send in washing, catchup on emails, send messages out and chill. We took a boat out to a small island with a good population of sea eagles.
It’s great to see these places are being looked after because they are teaming with birds and untouched by humans.
The group is bonding well, and I am starting to relax.
Day 7 – Kumbali To Lilongwe – Malawi
Today’s ride took us from the shores of beautiful Lake Malawi to the capital Lilongwe.
Great ride up into the ranges.
The local craftsmen carve toys out of wood and they are beautifully made, real “Ye-old-world” craftmanship. Sadly, I didn’t buy one, but these guys are talented.
Our accommodation took us past the Presidential Palace which was totally over the top. Sadly Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa, but their president sees fit to live like a king…probably because he believes he is one and like most politicians and presidents they really don’t give a shit about the people as long as they and their clan, are doing well.
Again, beautiful accommodation, cold beer and first-class food.
There’s one sound a remember from growing up in East Africa and that’s the sound of sprinklers watering the lawn on blistering hot days. Today I heard it again and many happy memories came flooding back to me.
Day 8 – Lilongwe to Flat Dogs -Malawi – Zambia
Today we ride to the Zambian border for what promises to be another entertaining day.
The ride to the border is fun. Twisty roads, light traffic and beautiful countryside.
On arriving at the border, we exited Malawi without any problem, crossed the border and the chase was on again. I managed to get a woman minder who pushed the men around and got my insurance fixed in minutes. You have to buy insurance because the insurance you have already arranged prior to the trip is “no good”! Immigration was surprisingly quick and the officers pleasant, passport stamped and waved on to customs. Here you fill in a ledger, then fill in exactly the same information onto another form, fill out another random form again with the same information, all forms are vigorously stamped and drawn on, pay money and what the hell the whole process is complete in less than an hour!!!!
Once through the border we put some distance between the gate and ourselves, stopped and thought “we’re through” …amazing. We stopped about 30 kilometres in at a local bar and restaurant for coke and some excellent samosas. Here we were treated to a display of African Dancing by Mama Lilly and Mama Rosie… sadly no photos.
The ride to Flat Dogs was actually really nice, quick flowing corners with little traffic, people waving all the way and taking pictures on their phones. Phones are a must have here on the continent. Phone first then worry about feeding yourself second!!
We arrived at Flat Dogs in good time. By the way Flat Dogs are what the locals call crocodiles. The ride into Flat Dogs is very unique. Elephants abound on either side of the road, it’s surreal.
We were greeted by our hosts, give a refreshing glass of iced tea, dropped our stuff in the room or luxury safari tent in my case (very lucky my name was drawn out of the hat).
Then it was off on our game drive.
I was brought up in Tanzania and Kenya and have seen my share of game parks. I can honestly say there are few places like Flat Dogs when it comes to variety in a relatively small area.
The evening game drive yielded elephant, Impala, Bush Buck, Baboon, 5 lion, a lioness with cubs on a kill, 4 leopard, a leopard in a tree with a fresh kill, hyena, water buffalo, hippo and mores.
Until yesterday I had only seen a couple of leopard and now, I have seen a leopard up a tree on a fresh kill. We were all blown away. By the way there was still time for a sun downer.
This is a very special place.
Day 9 – Flat Dogs – Zambia
Today is a day of R&R. Janice was trapped at the tent because an elephant was outside, probably on 3 meters away and wasn’t moving anywhere in any great hurry.
Finally got a chance to catch up on photo editing and getting my notes up. Went on an evening game drive but just wasn’t feeling it. We’d seen so much the previous drive and hard as it may seem to say, “been there done that”.
In saying that, I am totally fascinated with elephants. I have taken and delete literally hundreds of photographs. They are just such incredible beasts.
Day 10 – Flat Dogs to Chimwemwe – Zambia
It’s nice to be back on the bike. Left Flat Dogs with 137kms range in the tank and 135kms to travel.
Got to the fill-up point with 3kms to spare. One bike registered 0 with 27 kms to go and still made it so there is wiggle room in the R1200GS range.
At the border we met a rather eccentric Brit who is riding his Royal Enfield from Cape Town Back to London… now that’s an adventure. After fill-up, stopped at the Protea Hotel in Chipata for lunch.
Straight road but interesting countryside. Arrived at our overnight accommodation and checked in. Power had been out all day so no cold beer. No problem, across the road we went to a local bar, beers 10 dimdams each which is $1! Was great fun.
The locals were frying chip that tasted bloody beautiful. It’s been a while since I tasted “Real” potato, the chips were extraordinary.
I hate to admit it, but I doubled Janice to the pub, thongs on and no helmets.
It’s really quite exhilarating riding without a helmet again, reminds me of my youth. Would I do it on the open road…NO!
Day 11 – Chimwemwe to Chaminuka – Zambia
Got away nice and early today. Pretty straight forward ride but the road was chock full or BIG potholes.
A couple of interesting moments when trucks move onto your side of the road to avoid the potholes that they create!! Might is right and you have a choice of ending up in the radiator or move off the road.
Craig, who’s driving a vehicle was pulled over for some reason or other and when asked the lady cop looked into the car and decided the passenger wasn’t wearing a seat belt. It’s OK for 10 people to ride in the tray of a ute BUT sit on the back seat of the ute and you must have your belt on…makes sense doesn’t it!
Craig was issued with a very official document called an “Admission of guilt form”, with a gold stamp affixed. We are all very jealous. Last 20kms to the game lodge was dirty which was good fun. Cheetah petting for those who are into that sort of thing this afternoon, then drinks and dinner.
The lodge we’re staying in, is known for its amazing collection of African art and carving.
Day 12 – Chaminuka To Lake Kariba – Zambia
Some nice twisty roads today and the odd pothole to catch you out.
I came very close to being awarded one of those “Admission of guilt forms”, because I crossed a double white line trying to get around a tractor and trailer on the main road. Having had the bone pointed at me I was convinced my fate was sealed. However, after much toing and froing and having saved the officer an enormous amount of unnecessary paperwork we were asked to move on… sans my “Admission of guilt form” … very disappointing!
On our way down the hill into Kariba I bumped into a trio of fellow Uralists!! Would you believe it a Ural Police outfit? They were more interested in the BMW and the fact the speedo goes to 240. Had a nice chat, the Ural was 5 years old and they have no parts. Oil filter is cleaned in petrol and reused… testament to how tough the bikes are!
Fun days ride to Kariba.
Checked into our lodgings and then off onto the lake for a booze cruise.
Clearly someone made a joke about the English!!! Beautiful sunsets all over Africa, probably because of the amount of charcoal being made and burned.
Charcoal is the main source of heat for cooking and heating and it’s sold on the side of the road in huge bags.
Day 13 – Lake Kariba to Livingstone – ZAMBIA
This was a long day ride.
Started with the twisties from yesterday and then out in straight roads.
There was in interesting section of roadworks where the trucks had turned the road into 100 meters of bulldust or fesh-fesh, whatever you like to call it.
There were trucks and cars lying everywhere. John guided us onto a solid stretch of road next to the mayhem clearly marked “DO NOT ENTER”. Weird thing is we rode down the road and everyone waved!!!
The accommodation that evening was absolutely first-class. The Livingstone is a hotel I will go back and visit.
Situated on the shores of the Zambezi there is nothing like it anywhere else.
Sundowners on the deck followed by a beautiful meal. Sadly, our tour is coming to an end BUT we have one more border crossing tomorrow.
Day 14 – Livingstone to Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe
Usual mayhem at the border. “No, not this queue, that queue” then 20 minutes later, “No that queue”. Cash changing hands left right and centre, what a bloody mess. Anyway, we did get through and not long after were back at the beautiful Ilala Lodge where the trip started. Checked in, lunch, quick drink and then on to Botswana to return the bikes back over the border.
Interestingly, trucking the bikes into Zimbabwe would incur massive import duties, but riding them over individually does!! Makes sense to someone!
Botswana border is like another world, fast border crossing, no touts and would you believe it they have card facilities!!!
The essential tools for any self respecting traveller.
That evening, drinks, farewell dinner and I’m sad to say the trip is over.
We have seen so much on this tour it’s almost impossible to process it all. Each tour has been very different and unique.
The highlight of the trip for Janice and I was Flat Dogs in Zambia. If you want to visit Africa and see a variety of game this is the place to go. I have been to many parks since a kid and Flat Dogs is by far and away the best. The accommodation and food is great, the guides are very knowledgable and have a great sense of humour. Lord Byron the guide is not actually a Lord!! The guides will take you off piste and up close, it’s a remarkable experience. At the end of your trip spoil yourself with a few days at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge, go see the falls and take a trip on the Zambezi.
Su and John have put an amazing package together and one that I’m sure we will all remember for a very long time.
Bye-Bye Africa until the next tour.