Five months on the road, Kenya’s ‘bike couple’ still eager to conquer the world
The Kariukis complete African leg of an adventure that will see them ride around the world in three years.
When in April this year the featured a couple that had just announced plans to ride around the world on motorcycles in an epic trip expected to last three years, it seemed like a distant dream. But on July 2, Dos Waweru Kariuki and Wamuyu Kariuki left Nairobi seeking to leave the imprints of their BMW F700GS motorcycle tyres on 50 countries across seven continents. Today, five months later, Throttle Adventures, as they call themselves, are through with the Africa leg of their world tour.
Speaking to the on phone, the couple said it has been an experience like no other.
Wamuyu, who has a soft spot for girls, “since I am a mother of a beautiful daughter”, says one of her highlights on the way out of Kenya was encountering a group of excited schoolgirls who recognised her and her husband.
“When we were at Mbita waiting to cross the ferry towards Lwanda, we ran into students from Bunyore Girls High School as they came off the ferry. Seeing our bikes, they asked us if we were the same people they had watched on NTV; even calling me out by name. They were so excited and asked a lot of questions that their teacher was not in a hurry to get them back on the bus. I see those girls going places,” she says.
After the couple crossed into Uganda, they got to see the origins of the Nile river. They also learnt how Ugandans take time in preparing food.
“In Kenya we are just eating ‘mashakura'. Ugandan women serve their husbands while kneeling, to show respect, so I tried it a few times with Dos,” says Wamuyu.
Kampala, she says, has so far been the most dangerous city to ride a motorbike.
When the couple crossed the border to Rwanda, the first shock was that they had to ride on the right-hand side of the road unlike in Kenya. Road users in Rwanda are also so disciplined that the Kenyan adventurers hardly came across traffic police.
“Kigali is a small place but getting from one place to another is a struggle. Their road network is so confusing that in the seven days we spent there, we weren't able to master the way from our hotel to where we wanted to go,” says Waweru.
He also found himself in an uncomfortable situation when he threw away a cigarette but after smoking but had to pick it up immediately after seeing how clean the city was.
On crossing from Rwanda, perhaps the worst leg of their East African ride was in Tanzania where they went through the north-western town of Rusumo. From Nyakanazi all the way to Uyovu they were driving doing between 10 to 20 kilometres-per-hour as top speed. The road was so bad that their hands were tired from clutch and throttle balancing. They had to stop by a motel after cutting their trip short at 8.30pm with their motorbikes overheating. In the Tanzanian town of Kahama, Wamuyu underestimated the width of her motorcycle with the panniers on. She caught the gate and the motorbike fell, breaking the windshield's handle. They welded it back and continued with the epic journey. They had diverted 1,400 kilometres from going directly into Malawi for Wamuyu to have her wish — experience Zanzibar with her husband.
“Zanzibar is just paradise,” she says.
Riding towards Malawi they came across strong crosswinds that made Wamuyu so sure she would fall off her motorbike at one point. They had to take many breaks in between for her husband to give her tips on how to tackle the winds.
“Good thing about riding with my husband, is that he realises easily when I was struggling and he is patient enough to wait for me to gain confidence before we go back on the road. Otherwise, he would have been a very stressed man,” says Wamuyu with a laugh.
In Malawi, the couple had their first taste of butterfish at Hakuna Matata Camp, Rhumpi. There are very few petrol stations in Malawi along the highway and the riders had to carry extra fuel after each stop. The ATMS also allowed a maximum withdrawal of $100 (Sh10,200) daily and don't work with a lot of foreign bank cards. Wamuyu had another fall here, after she got her first experience of riding in deep sand. There was, however, no injury and the motorbike was not damaged.
They zoomed into Zambia through Lilongwe and were amazed at how straight and smooth the highway was from the border to Petauke.
“We stayed in a dormitory, which we shared with a Turkish lady called Bahar. I had to sleep on the top bunk. It felt like high school all over again,” says Waweru.
“Zambia is more developed than I had imagined. The Internet connectivity was faster than in the other countries, the cities were well organised and people look wealthier. A Kwacha was exchanging for Sh10 too. The people are very warm and we felt safe,” says Wamuyu.
A highlight of this leg was the tantalising view of Victoria Falls from both the Zambia and Zimbabwe sides.
Informed that there were long queues of lorries at the border from Kazungula, when going into Botswana, the two travelled on a Sunday morning and crossed the Zambezi River “like a boss” with just two lorries and a smaller vehicle.
On the highway in Botswana they came across two elephants crossing the road. The bigger of them stood in the middle of the road, faced the riders and fanned its ears. Just as they were about to make a U-turn upon the apparently hostile reaction, the animal turned, crossed the road and vanished.
The Kenyans had a chance meeting with a couple that had travelled from Canada to South America then to South Africa — and were heading towards East Africa. It was an encounter that enable them to exchange valuable notes on travel routes.
“Travelling through Okavango River in mokoros (small dugout canoes) is the most calming but amazing experience you can ever have. We spent five hours in the water,” recalls Waweru.
In Ghanzi, they met three female riders from Gaborone. They went to a charity event together and were later invited to meet President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana at the airport.
“You can see the photo on Instagram where he holds my shoulder as he signs our bikes. I haven't washed that jacket yet,” says Wamuyu.
They also attended the Kuru Dance Festival, where all the San groups from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa congregate to celebrate their culture once a year.
In Namibia, they had an interesting duel with an ostrich while riding towards Gobabis. The ostrich was running alongside them and wouldn't let up even as they increased their speed.
“All I can say is those birds are fast!” says Waweru.
At Swakopmund in Namibia, they pitched camp only 50 metres from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. They had accomplished one of their targets: Crossing Africa from Kenya where there is the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.
“The waves were so loud and winds extremely cold, we could hardly sleep that night,” recalls Wamuyu.
Swakopmund, they felt, is the most German place in Africa: From the language, food, inhabitants and infrastructure. After the town, they rode more than 400 kilometres on corrugated gravel. Imagine riding on rumble bumps throughout that distance.
For reasons unknown to Wamuyu, she found herself off the bike and on the ground. She wasn't hurt and neither was the motorbike damaged. They explored the dunes and also drove more than 600 kilometres across the desert before getting onto tarmac.
Waweru and Wamuyu then crossed to South Africa and took time to tour the country. Waweru had in 2014 ridden from Nairobi to Cape Agulhas, Western Cape. This was a chance for Wamuyu to tour the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. They also went to the Cape of Good Hope and later crossed into Lesotho then back to South Africa.
“We have fallen more in love with Africa's amazing beauty. We've made a lot of friends from all over the world, everywhere we've been to. We also hope to meet more travelling Kenyans; we have only come across one lady so far,” says Wamuyu.
So far, the two have preferred to cover longer distances in the morning because they want to ride when they are more focused. Tired shoulders and the dreaded “monkey butt” (chafing from being on the seat for hours), coupled with thoughts running across one's mind could make for dangerous riding due to lack of concentration.
The couple left South Africa on Tuesday and jetted into Argentina on Thursday to start the South American leg of the thrilling adventure.
The couple says they are travelling on a shoestring budget and are doing it for adventure.
They, however, hope to continue raising funds for their tour around the world through donations (including M-pesa donations that may be sent on Paybill number: 891300, Account Number 12489).
To ease logistical challenges, they got, an international customs document that covers the temporary admission of motor vehicles in foreign countries, from Automobile Association of Kenya and will be renewable after a year.
They simply need to present it at customs and they are cleared, the same way passports are.
For now, as they embark on another leg of their journey, it is five months gone, two-and-a -half years to go!