18th February 2013

The long, hard road to Tarmac

The crossing from Ethiopia into Kenya was never going to be easy. There are two ways that overlanders generally cross the border - the first and most common way is to take the main road south from Addis Ababa all the way to the Ethiopian border town of Moyale, stamp out, then stamp into Kenya and proceed on down the main road south towards isiolo. Though this route is simple enough from a navigation/skill factor/paperwork perspective, it’s not without it’s challenges - the 200km of road south from Moyale past Marsabit is not only a rather dangerous road notorious for kidnappings and shootings, but to make matters worst it’s a constant ribbon of some of the worst Tarmac corrugations to be found anywhere on the planet. Most overlanders go for the strategy of blasting over this washboard style surface at high speed in an attempt to ride the crests, but in the searing heat of the African sun, most end up destroying their shock absorbers in the process (as also happened on Long Way Down). That’s one way of crossing into Kenya. This blog entry is my tale of crossing into Kenya, the other way - the offroad route via Lake Turkana.

From the very start I had been duly apprehensive of just how difficult this route would be. Not only would there be no fuel station for 800km, but food and water supplies in particular would be extremely hard to find. In addition security, especially in the northernmost tip of this route would be tense, given this journey would take me into one of the most dangerous zones on the planet - the triangle where the borders of Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda collide. One thing was clear - this route was not one that I could ever consider doing solo. There was no way I would physically be able to carry enough water and fuel alone for this distance, let alone the security issues. Much as I was very reluctant to put myself in a situation where I would lose my independence in an inextricable situation for a week (something I would always usually avoid), there seemed to be little altenative. Fortunately while I was in Addis, I’d managed to hatch a plan to ride in convoy with two other 4x4s - one driven by Josef and Johannes, the Germans who I’d spent a week with while we were all stuck in Damietta, Egypt, waiting to rescue our vehicles out of customs, and the other driven by Freddie and Walter, who, rather impressively, were undertaking a mission to drive London to Capetown on their gap year in an ex-army Landrover. (if you’d like to follow their progress, their website can be found at www.cruisingtocapetown.com. And no, they don’t mean “that” kind of cruising - ah, the innocence of youth!).

I left Addis with Josef and Johannes ten days ago and after 2 days travelling south, we met up with Freddie and Walter in the slightly shady town of Arba Minch on the 8th. Freddie and Walter were keen to make progress down to Capetown and I was slightly constrained by my Ethiopian visa, which was due to expire on 12th February, so we decided together that after a 24 hour jaunt the next day around the nearby Nech Sar national park, we’d start the two day push towards Omorate, the last Ethiopian town where we could be stamped out of the country, in order to guarantee no bureaucratic issues for me and a speedy transit for them.

Next day was 9th Feb and while the others were keen to voyage off for the morning to visit some tribes, I remained at the hotel making some final checks on suzi and buying some last minute rations for myself. By midday the boys returned to the hotel and together we drove in convoy into town to stock up on fuel - we had heard that from this point onwards, quality but more particularly availability would become
a real issue, so we all filled our tanks and jerry cans up to their limits while we could, with my 50l reserve very kindly being carried on the roof of the boys cars in yellow plastic veg oil containers. Shortly after 3pm, we rolled along to the entrance of the national park. The men at the gates informed us of the entry price, which was reasonable enough (roughly £3 each), but added that we would need a guide in case of any problems with wildlife etc. A lengthy debate ensued as to the questionable necessity of a guide, during which time the issue of general park drivability came up. The officials were keen to stress that the tracks were very difficult and very rough, but this advice was generally written off as scare-mongering and ignored on the basis that the Turkana route would be guaranteed to be far harder than anything a mere national park could ever throw at us. While all of these points were being debated, I considered to myself that if these men really were telling the truth about these tracks, I wasn’t sure that there was much benefit in potentially expending all this energy and risking the bike just for the sake of ticking another national park off the list. Then again, if we took a guide with us then perhaps he would be able to steer us away from the more difficult sections, I mulled. I was certainly in two minds about whether or not to join the group, but concluded that my fears about off-roading with my precious suzi would have to be faced sooner rather than later (the thought of doing any serious damage to her - and what that could mean for the whole trip - was awful). Once we had finally agreed to take a guide, the gates were opened and in we rolled.

The first 20 minutes of riding was fairly easy, with slightly rutted dirt tracks winding their way through verdant woodland. I was really enjoying this first section, not only given the welcome shade from the hot sun that these tall trees afforded, but also the wonderfully lush fragrance of the damp, ferny undergrowth was something new and unexpected. Every so often though, as I bumped over the occasional fallen branch or tumbled stone, a few drops of petrol would spray up into my face from my newly filled tank -the previous day, the breather hose had disappeared off the cap, leaving a tiny hole for fuel to bounce through. There wasn’t much I could do about it there and then though, so I kept on, following the Germans car (which the guide was sitting in) with the Brits behind me. Soon enough however the terrain seriously changed as relatively smooth dirt track descended into loose rocks at ever sharper gradients. The woodland had now cleared and the temperature was really starting to soar into the high 30s, and even more so inside my riding suit and helmet. As the terrain became more technical, the pace of the cars slowed down and the possibility of any wind chill also vanished. It was painful and also impractical to have Suzi crawl at this snails pace behind the cars so instead I decided it was better to stop, let the car in front proceed for 100m or so, take the now clear field in one go, then stop again and wait for them to pass the next 100m. Alas this wasn’t something that either suzi or I were enjoying very greatly - both of us were becoming very hot to the extent that now the tank had heated up so much, the hole in the cap was releasing a very unpleasant vapour of hot petrol, which was starting to make me feel giddy. Unfortunately at that moment there was nothing I could really do about it as the track was about to take an extreme left turn sharply downhill over a long, thick carpet of loose, Christmas-orange sized rocks. We had already done one or two less extreme downhill gradients by this point and the British boys behind me had called out that their Landrover was experiencing “a lack of responsiveness” on the brakes, which made me rather nervous of taking my time as I’d usually like to on such a rocky downhill section (never my forte). I knew that I just needed to let momentum take me down the hill, staying well away from any sudden movements on the front brake, but somehow with the combination of my latent nerves, the extreme heat, the slight gassing, the dodgy car behind me and the slow one up front, I struggled to just “let the bike go” down the hill. The weight
of 20l of fuel at the front of the bike plus 40kg of luggage on the back meant the bike was, at over 200kg, too heavy for me to right on this loose surface when she started to tip after I grabbed the front brake in panic. Down Suzi went with a loud bang. Fuel immediately started to gush out of the hole in
the cap and my leg was trapped under the bike, so there was no
choice but to wait in our collapsed state with my finger over the hole until the boys came to my rescue. The guide also joined them as they paced up the hill towards me. “I did tell you this road is very difficult to drive”, he reminded me rather unhelpfully as I remained trapped in the rubble, covered in fuel. If looks could have killed, he might have been in some danger.

As the only other experienced off-road motorcyclist in the group, Johannes offered to ride Suzi down
the last 100 or so metres to the bottom of the hill, where we were about to take a short walk to see some crocodiles. After a few metres though, he shook his head - “no, she is far too heavy to ride like this, we need to take your luggage off, we can put it in the cars” he said. After we had unloaded all my stuff, Johannes encouraged me to ride Suzi down to the bottom myself. I was quite apprehensive as I was feeling really light-headed and exhausted but gave it a go and felt fairly encouraged that indeed Suzi was far easier to handle without all that extra weight. What unfortunately had become clear however was that the fuel tank had been shaken off its position by the fall and was now bouncing and swinging quite dramatically. I felt
so sick that Suzi might have been damaged, particularly at this point before our Turkana voyage had even begun. We took off the seat and tried to see if something had broken or if the tank was just unlodged, and
concluded that the latter must have been the case, but nevertheless despite some careful checking and repositioning, the tank appeared to be far looser than it had been before. I couldn’t believe that within half an hour of entering this national park, I had already appeared to have ruined Suzi (or at least, that’s how it felt). After a brief stop to visit the basking crocodiles, I was still feeling sick, weak, lightheaded and now deeply regretting having entered this park, but it was clearly too late for me to try to exit on my own and the rest of the group wanted to press onto a campsite which was a 3 hour drive away, so there was no choice but to stay with the group. I’ve always been very independent, perhaps even to a fault, and at this moment I felt so trapped in this nightmarish situation that to me it seemed unbearable - all I wanted to do was just get out of there. I just had to hope the terrain was about to get easier.

Popping one of donkey’s Emergency Werthers Originals into my mouth, desperate for any kind of pick-me-up, I started Suzi again and set off once again behind the Germans. The next 20 minutes passed by with me riding very much in what a wise man who had foreseen such scenarios far better than I had taught me as “survival mode” - nothing stylish, just nice steady offroad riding to get me from A to B in one piece. This was working well in getting us by but all the while Suzi was getting increasingly uncomfortable with the temperature, still up in the high-30s despite being gone 4pm - her tank was bubbling, the fumes were engulfing me worse than ever and on some of the trickier climbs, she was starting to sound strained whenever a large amount of throttle was required. The final straw for both her and I came at the bottom of a sharp ascent. As ever the Germans’ car was up ahead of us and began to crawl up this most challenging long hill of extreme climbs, wheels spinning over loose rock, sharp turns and sheet rock steps, so the ideal scenario for me of a nice clean run all the way up, tractor style, was out of the question. Suzi and I therefore had to tackle this thing in fits and starts, which was absolutely exhausting and more than once Suzi started cutting out when a big handful of throttle was required, causing us to roll back a foot or two until I was able to right the whole thing with my legs. This felt like such a battle on this never ending hill, I was losing strength with every hill start and my head was really starting to swim, whether because of the fumes or the heat or both, I’m unsure. It was about half way up this hill though that Suzi stalled her last, rolled backwards and sent me lurching with her against a rock face. The stuffing was well and truly knocked out of me and I knew I couldn’t continue. The British boys scurried up the track towards me and asked if I was ok, but I was struggling to breathe and felt like I was hyperventilating, which I’ve never suffered with before. I just wanted to get off the bike and lie on the ground but I didn’t have enough air to speak or the strength to right the bike and dismount. Fortunately Johannes soon came running down the hill and seeing that I was in a bad way, took the weight of the bike as I dropped to the floor, still struggling to steady my breath as I knelt there shaking and pouring with sweat. It was clear that I couldn’t go on so Johannes thankfully offered to ride Suzi until I had recovered and Freddie offered me a seat in his car. It took another 2 hours for us to reach the viewpoint where we were to wildcamp that night and with every kilometre that passed, the terrain became steeper often to the point of being near vertical and ever sheerer. While I was enormously grateful for the lift in Freddie’s car (and hugely impressed with his entirely unphased attitude to my condition, which took over an hour for me to get under control) and for Johannes’ help for taking over Suzi, I felt like such a failure and also hugely concerned. Not only did it seem clear that I was well out of my depth and therefore should forget any idea of the Turkana road, leaving me with a huge problem of what to do next bearing in mind my visa expiry, I had no idea how ruined Suzi was after this ordeal, or myself for that matter. And somehow both of us were going to have to ride the whole route in reverse the next day if we ever wanted to get out of this park - it seemed an impossible task.

That night, after a simple pasta supper with the others, I headed off fairly early to my tent to give Donkey a cuddle, as he was feeling very sad and needed comforting after our difficult day. Things seemed pretty hopeless and I dreaded to even think what ordeals the next day would bring. But a text from home gave me the wisdom I needed. “Suzi will be fine once she’s cooled down. Tomorrow is a new day, get plenty of sleep and you’ll get your strength back, these are the times you’ll remember for the rest of your life”. Perhaps the situation wasn’t so completely hopeless after all. Could I really ride Suzi out of this though? I owed it to Donkey and to myself to try, so that was exactly what I was going to do. I fell into a very deep sleep.

Next morning we awoke early in order to do a 90 minute circuit of the plains of the national park before
starting on our return leg. While at first I was secretly dreading this extra mileage, it turned out to be an excellent development in two ways - firstly, this relatively easy (albeit rutted), flat terrain served to rebuild my confidence (not least as I was now riding at the front of the group, giving me a wonderful clear line of vision and allowing me to ride at my own pace and style) but also I came across some creatures I never dreamed I’d see from my seat on Suzi - zebras roamed across the track in front of me, as did ostriches, impala, all kinda of vultures and even a few
scurrying warthogs! It really was magical and transported me away to such an extent that by the time we returned to the start point of the dreaded return ride out of the park, I had almost forgotten just how bad it was. Eventually however, the first serious, nightmare, “brown trouser” descent was upon me and perched at the top looking down, I felt like a novice skier atop a black run. As I say, i’ve never liked steep, rocky descents and this was the worst
I’ve ever seen but in my heart I knew that this was the moment to get over my fear and get on with it. With one foot hovering over the back brake and the clutch nearly fully out, I started the long roll down the piste, listening to that familiar voice in my head reminding me to look UP!, choose my line, leave the clutch OUT and just let it roll, baby! And somehow, by some miracle, that’s exactly what I did and within a minute or two, we’d arrived at the bottom in one, long, beautiful motion! Donkey, who had been too afraid to even draw breath the entire way down, now whooped and squealed with delight while I just sat there dumbfounded, letting out the occasional laugh of surprise. By some miracle, the next 3 hours passed by with an incredible, increasing confidence, the voice in my head guiding me how to manage each and every challenge (I guess I must have been listening to those lessons after all….) with Suzi, Donkey and I bouncing and progressing steadily over each and every one, never dropping the bike once and frequently stopping only to wait for the cars to catch up and come back into view in the wing mirrors. At long last, we were back in the wooded glade and now that I knew we were within 20 minutes of the gate, as I coasted through, standing up on the footpegs and breathing deeply, I allowed myself to just enjoy what our little trio team had achieved - Suzi, for being made of incredibly tough stuff, Donkey, for his rousing enthusiasm at every success, and myself I guess for not giving up.

That afternoon, after a quick lunch on Arba Minch, we headed on a few more hours down the road, which had
now deteriorated into slightly corrugated rubble, to the last major Ethiopian town of Konso. At long last after an exhausting couple of days, we arrived at the slightly bizarre and dangerously basic ecolodge called Strawberry Fields (run by the most stoned-out Londoner called Alex I’ve ever met - a surreal experience on several levels). After a run into town to stock up on enough water and emergency rations to get us through the next week, we returned to the ecolodge to indulge in something from the extensive menu at the restaurant there, a major selling point according to Alex. Alas in reality, of a menu of nearly 100 items, all that was actually available was pasta with tomato sauce, so I ordered that and waited for the dish to arrive. As I was waiting there, exhausted, hungry and still a little shell-shocked by the events of the last 48 hours, Josef came to sit with me. I think its fair to say that Josef and I have never really seen eye and in fact are polar opposites. He tends to take a rather Machiavellian approach in most things - I’ve frequently witnessed him resorting to tactics of extreme rudeness and intimidation to achieve what he believes to be the “right” price at hotels etc, and will often go out of his way to have an argument with locals if he believes that they are behaving in his view incorrectly in some respect (in particular in the business of tourism). In any case,
the moment that Josef began to speak, my nerves were on edge. He said he wanted to explain to me that he had never wanted me to join the group to Turkana, he had not thought it a good idea to let a motorcycle come with them as it could never be of any benefit, he thought I’d only be a hindrance and in fact I had proven that point to him the previous day when I had collapsed at the park. It was obvious I couldn’t cope and I shouldn’t join them. Today however, he had been actually quite impressed with my skills and therefore he was now happier about me joining the group. But, he added, I should be aware that it would be a long and difficult road ahead. I was staggered - not by the sentiment (Josef is no expert at hiding his feelings and this in part had made the national park experience even more awful, knowing that he was regarding me as a drag the whole time, a weak link with no upside), but rather by his sanctimonious, officious tone. Here surely was a man cursed with all the social sophistication of a dead badger if he thought this was in any way a useful or constructive message, especially at this very moment after a couple of extremely difficult days?

Suffice to say, I didn’t take too kindly to his rather preachy, head-masterly tone of judgement and verdict and shared my feelings with him to that extent. I was amazed by how honestly he articulated his feelings that I could only ever be at best able to pull my weight and in no way contribute nothing to the team, rather more likely act as a dead weight and a drain. The total lack of any real team spirit or camradery was to me too bleak for words and shortly after this exchange, I left the room to consider my options. In that moment what I really wanted to do was abandon my plans to join the group to Turkana and instead hot-foot it first thing the next morning towards Moyale and face the alternative crossing alone, my way and at my own risk, with only myself to answer to. I was already putting a great deal of pressure on myself trying to face the Turkana route, I really didn’t think I’d be able to handle Josef’s coldly calculated performance scorecard of my daily failures on top of that. But beyond my knee-jerk reaction of wanting to escape from this situation, did the Moyale route really stack up? Aside from the massive mileage I’d have to rack up in a very short time frame now on very difficult roads to get to the border in time, risking punctures and problems solo on the road, what about my dear friends and family who had been so relieved that I would be doing this next section in convoy - could I really jack in the security of “strength in numbers” here, let down all those people who were back at home worrying about me and risk my personal safety solely just because of the behaviour of one slightly idiotic individual? While I was mulling this all over, Johannes knocked on the door of my hut to see if I was ok and tried to smooth things over, but I was still very troubled and in two minds. Later on, as I struggled to fall asleep, one thing at least seemed clear in my mind - my head was telling me to stick with the group even if my heart was seriously reluctant and in this particular case, I owed it to a lot of people to stick with it. It wouldn’t be easy but perhaps this scenario of having to muscle through this difficult interpersonal situation without resorting to my usual, somewhat faulty “Run, Lola, Run” solution might be good for me, in a strange sort of a way. My mind was made up - I would be sticking with Turkana, whatever happened.

Next day was the 11th and the big push onto Omorate to get our paperwork stamped out, ready for the start of the proper offroad section on the 12th. The day was reasonably uneventful save for Freddie and Walter’s gearbox starting to fail, constantly slipping out of 2nd gear to worrying effect, though fortunately not badly enough to necessitate a tow all the way back to Addis as feared at one point in the afternoon. By 4pm or so we had arrived at Omorate, had our paperwork processed and were ensconced at the best hotel in town (best of a very bad bunch, that is), prepping our vehicles for the tricky route ahead. Suzi was stripped of her screen and wing mirrors and had her now really rather bent clutch and front brake levers shortened (the front brake lever had become so bent against the hand guard that the brake light was permanently “on” - mercifully once trimmed to size, normal function was resumed). With a quick check of chain tension, oil level and tyre pressures, she was ready to go the next morning, better than ever - even that dreaded shaky tank seemed to have corrected itself, thank goodness. By 10am on the 12th, the day of my visa expiry, we turned off the main Omorate-turmi road and began the first few kilometres of our long, near 1000km route before we’d next see Tarmac.

My heart was in my mouth as I saw that this first section was sandy ruts as far as the eye could see - my hell - but there was nothing for it than to give it my best shot, especially with Josef watching out for the first signs of weakness. Mercifully it wasn’t too soft and momentum was on my side as I led from the front, though while I waited in the frequent stop offs for the cars to catch up, I really noticed the temperature rocketing (I later found out that it had been 42 degrees!). Every so often we crossed a dry river bed - a drop off into a deep swimming pool of soft sand - it was hard to keep suzi moving through this soft stuff and required a bit of paddling and shunting in 2nd gear every so often when we became embedded in a particularly deep section. Within 2 hours we had crossed the border - a piece of washing line wire hung between two posts and manned by a shirtless policeman - and were officially into Kenya. Although this felt like a real achievement, the heat was becoming truly unbearable as I sipped constantly at my camelbak, the contents of which were as hot as bathwater and failed to quench my thirst for more than a few seconds. I felt totally overwhelmed by all physicality and the heat, so was very relieved when we pulled into a small settlement another hour on to register with the local police station. As the policeman very slowly entered our passport details into the enormous paper log book in his one-roomed cow-shed style police station, I sat on the floor of the room, unable to stop the sweat pouring off me as I remained swaddled in my riding suit and heavy hiking boots. I felt as though I would never be cool again and was just fantasising about cold drinks when one of the boys offered me some bottled water from their on-board fridge (oh for one on a motorbike!). I gulped the water down as fast as I could, immediately feeling so refreshed and relieved, and in this moment of clarity decided it was time
to break a golden rule and abandon my riding jacket (with all of its wonderful body armour inside) and just ride in a long-sleeved top instead. Relieving myself of what felt like incredibly heavy chain mail, on my top half at least, opened up a world of wind-chill to me which took me down from I imagine, well over 50 degrees to a relatively more bearable 40.

The day was extremely long and rest-stops were scant as this most northern part of Kenya carried the most potential for danger from bandits, so the group was keen to press on. All day I think I only had a few emergency biscuits to eat (any old biscuits were now dubbed “emergency biscuits”, lending them the full weight of their pivotal importance to proceedings as was only right and proper) so after 7 hours of grappling with sand drifts and then increasingly with deep ruts half filled with the sharpest, roundest rocks of basalt you’ve ever seen, I was feeling rather beaten up. Standing up on the foot-pegs in such conditions was, I found, impossible as there was no vaguely even surface for the tyres to grip, leaving me bouncing around at slower speeds on the seat, chafing my poor derrière to pieces and aggravating the highly unladylike callouses on the palms of my hands. By the time 5pm crawled around, I was completely done in and desperately hoping we could stop soon to camp somewhere in this bleak and desolate expanse for the night. Alas the boys had other ideas and spent an hour sitting parked up together, debating the pros and cons of pushing on for another hour to some campsite that may or not fall within the boundaries of a rather expensive nearby national park. It was with my head resting in my arms, leaning on one of the car bonnets and desperately dreaming of salvation that I heard an unfamiliar voice approach our stationary vehicles and ask “why do you make this woman ride a motorcycle? You can see she is very tired”. I looked up to see the caring face of a man in his 30s looking back at me with a lovely warmth and concern. “madame”, he asked, “why do you want to ride motorcycle? It is very difficult on these roads here I think.” I wanted to weep, but resisted the urge. The man was hideously correct, the “roads” were very difficult and in truth, I wasn’t sure I did want to ride my motorcycle any more, but I’d be damned if I was going to admit it, especially in front of a certain someone. “it’s a good way to travel, I like it”, I responded, somewhat weakly. The man, who then introduced himself as Jim, looked unconvinced but smiled broadly all the same and explained that he was a policeman and was posted just up the hill with 4 fellow men. It transpired that they were posted at this tiny camp of just a handful of very basic huts for two and a half years as a mandatory placement in near total isolation for 100km of extreme terrain in every direction, after which time they were could work as fully fledged policemen anywhere in Kenya, an excellent job well worth the undeniable bleak hardship of this remote posting.

In the end we all concluded that Jim and his men seemed like great guys and if it was ok with them, it might make sense to camp at their post for the night - at least it would be safe there with them. We drove up the small, rocky hill to the flatter summit where several round metal huts and the occasional home-made piece of
Gym equipment (dumb-bells made of two old tin cans filled with concrete and joined with a metal bar) marked this out as home. One of Jim’s men very kindly helped me assemble my tent, allowing me to finally crawl inside and peel off the oppressively hot and sticky biking gear. Once I had changed into a blissfully airy pair of shorts, I unzipped my tent door and started trying to put on my sandals, but was by this point so exhausted, my progress was geriatrically slow. In fact I was so engrossed in the act of leaning forwards to Velcro my shoe together, that it was only at the last moment that I noticed Jim walking towards me with a flask in one hand and a metal cup in the other. I blinked in disbelief as he walked towards me with his big, beaming smile, crouched down near my tent, set down the tin mug and asked “tea?”. I couldn’t believe my ears, this was just heavenly! I gave an enthusiastic “yes please”, still fearing I might be hallucinating, but as good as his word, he opened the flask and poured out the most perfect hot cup of milky English tea I’ve ever seen, sweet to the taste and so completely comforting that I struggled to hold a few tears in. I guess it was this simple but incredibly thoughtful act of human kindness that just broke me - for days I’d been battling hard against myself, my own doubts, Josef, the elements, the terrain, fighting away so hard, that this sudden, genuine kindness and thoughtfulness was momentarily enough to topple me completely. I thanked Jim from the bottom of my heart - I had a feeling he was another of my guardian angels.

That night, the men slaughtered a goat in our honour and we provided a
fresh fruit salad of mangos and bananas for pudding. (The men had mentioned that all their food is delivered in bi-weekly drops by a truck and is all tinned goods, never fresh. I asked Jim when he and his men had last eaten fresh fruit - he replied “last October”. Suffice to say I made sure I slipped him a few extra bits of mango as I was chopping up the fruit salad, which he seemed to appreciate!). These men had a very tough life at this camp - the posting was long, the place remote and the purpose bleak - managing the tensions between the neighbouring tribes over the oasis/ watering hole at the bottom of the hill. The guns were in active use every month, we were told. But despite this very tough existence, the men seemed to be coping quite well. “it’s a question of attitude”, one suggested by way of explanation - something I tried to remember in the coming few days.

The next 4 days were just as tough as the first but with the added horror of hard packed, deep sandy corrugations, rendering my derrière a complete write-off for sitting down on (it was like sitting on razors) and absolute agony to ride on over this rough terrain, forcing me up onto the foot-pegs wherever vaguely possible, rubbing ever deeper callouses into my hands. The pace was relentless and for me there was never any rest (unlike the car drivers who took it in turns to drive each day), but as a solo motorcyclist that had always been my choice and now was the time to take the rough with the smooth. I’m proud to say I made it back onto tarmac 1000km later without any crashes (Suzi taking a nap once in some deep sand really doesn’t count) or issues, and more particularly, that I rode my bike myself the entire way, as I had always intended. It was an incredibly hard 10 days in total but I’m incredibly chuffed with myself that I saw the whole thing through and never gave up - this was an adventure I’m sure I’ll never forget.