Epic Lessons Learned Motorcycling From Kilimanjaro to Cape Town

“Throttle through it!” Josh barked as a result of our Bluetooth headsets, observing as my again tire fishtailed in six inches of sand.

“It’s comfortable on this corner much too,” Marlin warned, a lot less than 10 yards forward of us.

Even with knobby tires, our motorcycles struggled as they misplaced purchase to the floor under. Riding in sand is a recreation of maintaining each speed and balance—not overcorrecting, not allowing for the bike to lavatory, not spinning the tires. Complicating matters, we just about every experienced 60-moreover kilos of food, clothing, and camping gear in our rear saddlebags. If momentum veered the completely wrong way, it was recreation more than.

The resolution to this wobble, counterintuitively, is to strike the gas. The physics of it still really don’t make sense to me, but it doesn’t matter. It will work just about just about every time. I heeded Josh’s guidance and punched it.

Three motorcycles riding through Africa's Namib desert
Andy Cochrane

The Namib desert is one particular of the minimum inhabited areas in the planet, with only a couple settlements of pastoral farmers throughout a significant swatch of southwestern Africa. It stretches from sub-Saharan Angola just about to the southern terminus of the continent, aspect of the way down South Africa. We generally rode 100 miles or additional devoid of observing one more soul. Suffice to say, it lives up to the name’s origin—“vast put.”

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As the oldest and driest desert on the world, it’s primarily an ocean mattress over sea amount, with sand dunes that extend for dozens of miles and mountains that show up to be shaped by prehistoric wind and waves. Based on who you’re chatting to, driving motos throughout the Namib is both a bucket checklist objective or an complete fool’s errand. At that position in our excursion, I was not certain which side of the discussion I fell on.

What I did know is that the Namib transformed the up coming 1,000 miles of our journey. In other words, I experienced improved determine out how to trip in sand, and before long.

Seconds afterwards, I recurring the balancing exercising, downshifting to continue to keep the RPMs substantial and throttling via the free corner. As I rounded the bend I seemed up, only to see sand for hundreds of yards in entrance of us. “We’re genuinely in it now,” laughed Sean, as he led the way into a actual planet Sarlacc Pit.

Motorcyclist throttles himself out of the mud on the Kili-Cape Town trail in Africa
Andy Cochrane


Lesson #1: If You are Going to Do One thing Stupid, Deliver a Very good Angle

The only way was forward. We did not have the fuel or the time to flip about. That left me with two options—complain about my impending doom or giggle about it as I figured it out. The former is straightforward, but I knew it would not get me anywhere. So, I jokingly asked Josh to create me a very good eulogy and continued on.

The sand bought progressively further, slowing us to a near glacial speed. We buried a couple of back again tires and almost laid the bikes in excess of extra than at the time, but none of it mattered. Shed in remote southwestern Namibia, we had nowhere to be, no just one to demonstrate anything at all to, and no ego remaining to care about.

Motorcyclists riding through the desert on a long straight dirt road
Andy Cochrane
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The jokes flew back and forth, spliced amongst laughter and ethical help. This was a group work, bodily and mentally. And sooner or later, in excess of the following hill, we identified good ground again. Evidently we could get via just about something if we stayed positive.

That second adequately summed up the complete vacation. A good deal went wrong: flat tires, reroutes, and a variety of shut calls—all of which we laughed off. There is a calmness in recognizing that your crew has your back again. There’s a lightness in noticing that the worst times normally go. There’s a independence in learning that most difficulties really don’t have a one suitable respond to. Thick mud, deep sand, lightning storms, foodstuff poisoning, and bicycle difficulties are all solvable issues, offered your team sticks jointly.

Motorcyclists making repairs on a tire during a road trip through Africa
Andy Cochrane

Lesson #2: Plan Forward, but Conserve Some Space for Creative imagination

Let us go again to the commencing and how we received into this mess. Two weeks before, we’d touched down in Arusha, Tanzania, clean up slash and naively optimistic for the journey forward. The 4 of us, close friends and regular journey companions, experienced spent the very last fifty percent 12 months scheduling this moto vacation across Africa. That could seem like a lot of time, but for something of this magnitude, it turns out it truly isn’t.

We divvied up the to-do listing, looking into routes, gathering the correct gear, building out a spare areas record and restore package, figuring out visas and vaccinations, and petitioning bosses for PTO. We moved fast, placing alongside one another a thirty day period-lengthy, self-supported motorcycle ride throughout the southern half of Africa, but in all honesty, we did not know what to count on.

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We experienced the equipment, using working experience, and GPX routes on our nav, but that’s just table stakes. There wasn’t a playbook for what we had been about to get into—nor did we want just one. We did not fly throughout the planet to abide by anyone else’s route, repeat their experiences, and post the same shots to the ‘gram. We desired to do it our way, get shed a couple of periods, and figure it out as we went.

Giraffes staring from the side of the road
Andy Cochrane

Our route took us from the base of Kilimanjaro all the way to Cape Town, passing by means of four countries, 50 percent a dozen ecological zones, and throughout approximately 5,000 miles. We drove primarily dirt roadways, hoping to see much more wildlife, stay clear of truck site visitors, and incorporate to the journey. At night time we camped in tents, grabbing lodge rooms when we needed a shower or desired a break from every other.

We ended up blessed to have the guidance of GoPro, applying a combine of their latest cameras to capture the misadventures alongside the way. They despatched sufficient cameras and batteries for us to be rolling for several hours every single day—producing above a terabyte of footage. Every day we tightroped between adventurous perhaps-these-roads-join selections and safer bail-out plans. In follow, we frequently selected a third option—spotting a road on the map that appeared attractive and taking it.

Motorcycles parked beside a hut-like Namib desert dwelling in Africa
Andy Cochrane

Lesson #3: There Are Spots for Light-and-Quickly Adventures. Africa Isn’t A person of Them.

Taking a taxi from the airport, we drove straight to East African Bikes, one particular of the handful of dealers in the location. There we achieved Eric, the owner, and picked up our bikes—Royal Enfield Himalayans We had uncertainties that these 411cc, one stroke motos would keep up, but people fears dissipated following a day or two. Even by Cape City, immediately after thousands of miles of challenging riding, we didn’t have a single, major mechanical issue.

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Following signing contracts and celebrating Thanksgiving meal at a nearby cafe, we stayed up late, enjoying Tetris with our Large Loop saddle and tank luggage. This tender luggage presented every single of us 100 liters of storage and held up impressively to rain, mud, and scrapes all through the excursion. We took our time that evening, generating sure anything was dialed, figuring out that we would leave our previous massive town in the early morning. We packed Great-To-Go dehydrated foods, spare clothing, some Nocs, cameras, and tents, pads, and light-weight sleeping luggage from Sea-to-Summit, a brand name I have appear to have confidence in about the a long time.

Motorcyclists ride along a dirt road through a village along their Kili-to-Cape Town route
Andy Cochrane

Each of us wore Rev’it! Kits—I trapped with the Dirt collection which saved me dry and still breathes properly on the very hot days. We applied Bell Moto 9 helmets with Spy Foundation goggles and interchangeable lenses. The most effective update we built especially for this vacation was Cardo Method Packtalk Bluetooth headsets. These equipment connect to helmets and run for 10 hours or far more, permitting us to chat simply all day, even while riding at 70mph. This aided us continue to be safer, avoid hurdles, and designed it a collective energy and shared encounter.

African Elephants walking past some tents on the grass.
Andy Cochrane

The future early morning we bought SIM cards and rode out of city, keen to see how the bikes carried out completely loaded on dirt. We navigated with a Zumo XT from Garmin, a burly unit that is a great deal a lot easier to use than a cellphone. Our exhilaration bought the most effective of us, popping a flat just 50 miles in, and acknowledging we did not have spare tubes. Out of provider and dozens of miles previous the last village, we were in a pickle. An hour later, we flagged down a vehicle and got a idea about a “fundi” (moto store) 6 miles forward. Crisis avoided.

Motorcyclists ride along an asphalt road in the rain during the Kili-Cape Town ride
Andy Cochrane

Lesson #4: Rely on Strangers (From time to time)

This variety of help—a frequent occurrence on the trip—restored my faith in individuals. As a child I reliable practically absolutely everyone. Sure, part of this was naivety, but increasing up in small town The united states, I did not have a cause not to. My family was constructed on have confidence in. So was my basketball group, my marriage with teachers, and the fabric of my smaller, Minnesota local community.

At some issue I’d misplaced that blanket faith in many others. I stopped trusting strangers, significant thoughts, and handshake agreements. I stopped trusting new food items, half-baked ideas, and eye twinkles. Possibly portion of this comes with discovering from failure. If ideal intentions have not panned out in the previous, it is reasonable to problem them in the long run. It’s honest to stay away from the pain and disappointment once again.

But what you’re really carrying out is not trusting the method of advancement, and not trusting oneself. We satisfied hundreds of folks along the way who provided to support. Guaranteed, some just desired to market us things, but most have been decidedly legitimate and selfless—particularly for folks who never have considerably to give.

From the moto mechanic the to start with working day to lodge hosts giving us a free of charge room in the course of a rain storm to fishermen on the Namibian coast supplying us a fresh new meal they experienced just caught, generous strangers turned up repeatedly—kind and curious about what we have been executing. This designed a huge perception on me. We come from so a lot privilege and normally just horde it. Again in the U.S., I hope to discover how to have faith in extra individuals in my every day life.

Motorcyclist performs skateboarding tricks for a crowd of young school kids in an African village
Andy Cochrane

Lesson #5: Superior Mates Are the Most Beneficial Factor We Have

When I pitched this tale, the angle was about all all those harrowing encounters I could confront driving across just one of the most remote and rugged sites on earth. The truth turned out to be pretty distinctive. It was not necessarily smooth all the time, but by some means it felt that way. In spite of my tummy bug, the sketchy falls, the clogged gasoline pump, the erroneous turns, extended days, and hefty rainstorms, the guys I rode with produced this journey what it was—far surpassing any short term setback.

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Motorcyclist splits lanes through traffic in an African city
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We lived by means of a large amount of stories along the way. Elephants walked via our campsite and we obtained trapped overnight at the Zambian border. We confronted wind so strong that it was hard to keep the bikes upright—and so on. In the conclusion, it is the interactions that mattered the most and received us as a result of it all. That is the real worth in all of this. I have been lucky to meet up with a lot of persons throughout adventures all-around the world, but only a handful of have modified my program in life—and I hope to in no way permit them go.