From Zambia Africa to you all,
There has never been an Iron Butt Association ride completed and recorded in Zambia. So that challenge needed taking up and in spite of Colleen and I living here for 5 years and often discussing it, as well as trying to complete it twice, all we had was a dirty motorbike as proof of the attempts. I failed both times but also learned both times.
After 5 years in country and with our impending demobilisation almost upon us, it was decided to give it one more try.
Helping the success a bit was the completion of 160km of road that has been 2’ deep mud in the rainy season and bull dust powder in the dry. The mud made it impossible in the wet and the dust from the heavy truck traffic made it more risk than I considered acceptable in the dry and so I bided my time. With the round trip through this section at about 320km, it represented a significant proportion of the ride and history on this road shows us that it is between 6 and 24hours each way, depending on conditions.
We could have gone south and run one in that part of the country, but I wanted it to be done in the North Western province which had been our home all these years. Doing the ride up here was of more personal significance.
Then in the dry season 2016 the dirt section of road got tarred over and after running up and down it a couple of times for work, made the call to give it a go.
Smugly by now had been pretty much unused for a year. To say 2015 and 2016 had been demanding is an understatement so the repairs that it needed hadn’t been done. Parts were ordered and fitted and the only thing not available was a front rim. So it got aligned with a 10lb hammer and by using a screw driver for a dial indicator it proved to me that it least it was now rounder.
17.00 Saturday 29th April a start receipt was pulled out of the local ATM and we headed off. It’s 12km to the first stop to exit the mine site, security ask the obligatory 5 questions before the boom goes up and the adventure starts properly.
Smugly sped up to her top speed of 105kmh. This is on a good tar road. Consider my Harley Davidson MT350, complete with Rotax engine, Grimeca brakes and Ohlins suspension was designed to survive being thrown out of an aircraft, not win races. My rounder front rim was letting me know things would be ok, even if the front did wander and vibrate a bit.
Smugly got her name from Colleen, Coll took one look at it when I arrived home( feeling very pleased with myself that I had the only running one of these in country as well as being simultaneously bemused because I was owning my first Harley and it was not exactly your normal big twin) and said” calling it fugly is not lady like, so Smugly it is”. It stands for Smoking Ugly.
So with the throttle on the stopper, rapid progress was made to Solwezi. Solwezi wasn’t a docket stop to be used in the certification but it was fuel, fuel required to allow a nonstop run to Ndola, the first of the turn around points.
Solwezi traffic is very slow, like 5kmh slow, that coupled with Saturday afternoon cruising vehicles, shift change from the mines and a traffic police check at the one and only set of lights, on the one and only road through town, meant that progress was less than rapid. I had been watching the o/a slide backwards from 70kmh, when I eventually cleared Solwezi it was south of 60kmh but this wasn’t entirely unexpected, in fact the o/a wasn’t excepted to get permanently above the magic 68kmh figure until about 0100 on Sunday morning.
Darkness had fallen, the bloody thing went down faster than Smugly goes I thought to myself. Some months had passed since I travelled this road, so I was surprised to be pushed into diversions almost immediately. This wasn’t boding well. To call these sections “road” is a long stretch, they are basically a graded track through the bush that all traffic; vehicular, animal and human use simultaneously. Vehicles all with either headlights out or facing everywhere except where the driver needs them to be.
One minute you are dodging a guy riding a pushbike with his ‘not a care in the world wife sitting side saddle on the rack’ who just over took a guy walking his ox and cart the next, dodging an oncoming split link, the local name for a b double truck. In the dark with heavy dust, with seriously destroyed multi angled surfaces, potholes, no signs, lights, markers or idea of what the actual varying width of these tracks are, it certainly keeps the attention levels high.
A while later, back on tar, relaxing a little, still dodging the few trucks that haven’t stopped at the 10pm curfew, along with the car numbers dropping and now riding the edges of the square walled potholes large enough to swallow my front wheel, but thankfully with the pedestrian traffic all but gone simply because village life revolves around the sun (up with it in the morning, down with it in the evening), we made our way across to Chingola in these wildly varied dirt and tar conditions without to much drama.
Parking outside the cop shop, I snapped a photo of a sign with the town name in it, the gps co ords and odo reading and continued heading east.
It was late evening now, the road between Chingola and Kitwe is partly tar motocross track until about halfway through the 50km but the last piece was brand new with painted lines, no traffic and with a clear night sky to ride under.
Taking the Kalalushi road, I slowed at the tee intersection where I turned left heading to Kitwe and promptly forgot to stop and photograph the corner. Continuing into the edge of Kitwe, skirting the town between properly built housing on one side and shanty towns built out of anything at hand on the other, Smugly bounced her way through. The road is badly broken through here so by standing on the pegs and keeping elbows bent, we easily maintained the 50kmh town limit.
Turning right onto the Ndola road, through the last police stop with feet up after a keep going wave from the officer, the throttle was put back on the stop for the 80km into Ndola. This is good road, I relaxed, Smugly did 105, we arrived to take a photo opportunity proving we were in Ndola
and then went hunting for a bank, the only place I was going to get a receipt in that town at that time of night.
The Stanbic bank is on a corner in the main street, by bouncing Smugly up the gutter into the light on the footpath, we avoided getting splattered by the Saturday night drunk traffic, a city is a city in that regards.
Taking the receipt was ok,( I was glad this machine had good receipts as it not uncommon for the machines be out of money and/or receipt paper), checking the details proved all was ok.
Time to U turn and head west.
(No road to see as the dirt road was closed and the track ran into the bush beside it)
All the way to Solwezi back down the now deserted road. Smugly rode the edges of the potholes, bounced through the rough, enjoyed the smooth and delivered me to another Stanbic bank for another receipt and a load of fuel from a guy with a bulging pocket of cash who, along three really drunk guys, was admiring my bike and marvelling how big it is. Bikes over 150cc are not common here. Bikes not from China are even rarer, so my 350 built in the USA is huge to them.
Securing both fuel and hand written receipt without trouble, Smugly hit her top speed and we motored along to the Mutanda turnoff and went straight past the right turn to Lumwana (which is home) and took the signs advice in good faith that Zambezi was 486km away. Smugly did 105, I did nothing except try to work out the knots from the last 800km of rough roads and wandering front wheel, the night continued to be a beautiful night for a ride and all was well in my world.
The road down to Zambezi in the north western province is in stark contrast to the eastern provinces roads. Well maintained, painted lines, speed bumps that do not catch you unawares, few holes and the repairs are well done. As it was early hours Sunday, I had the roads to myself and between me and lesbian twin sisters, we sang harmonies until about 5am when I felt the need for a snooze.
There are no facilities open or available at that time of night, you make them. Smugly punched a hole in some 6’ grass, I laid down fully dressed on this bed of grass and went out cold.
40 minutes later I woke, clear headed, sitting there watching the sun rise on another day in this beautiful country I have called home for 5 years. Quiet in only the way all country side can be at dawn, no breeze, clear sky to the sun, it was nice sitting there watching nature do its thing. A trail of ants soldiered by, completely oblivious I am sure to the wonder I was seeing.
Zambezi was 300km away and it wasn’t getting any closer by sitting there in the bush watching nature. Standing up in that beautiful morning light, Smugly gave a burp, fired, ran smoothly, I loaded myself on, Smugly did 105, I gave the still sore shoulders a roll to exercise them, I also sucked on a drinking tube rigged for the ride and all was good in my world.
As the kilometres rolled away, fuel became the focus. Zambezi itself is renowned for having none and not wanting to get there dry and having no out except for the black market, I stopped early and refuelled, I wanted enough in the tank when I got there to get back out.
So with less than 200km to Zambezi, I refuelled, giving me a necessary buffer.
So of course, when Smugly stopped in the fore court in the Puma filling station at Zambezi they had plenty.
Smugly was fuelled up, I took a series of photos as there is no Stanbic bank in town and with the Zanaco ATM spitting Stanbic cards out, an electronic receipt was not possible. A photo of a welcome to Zambezi sign,
(of itself an interesting sign as they are not common) was captured in my camera along with the co-ordinates recorded for the rides log after which we faced up the road just ridden down. Smugly did 105, I did nothing except work my slowly worsening shoulders and back muscles and sucked on a drinking tube and watched the world go by.
The world was well and truly awake by now. The population are very Christian and so thousands of people all walked on the road to church and back. Everybody from 18 months old to 80 years old, it’s like a meat smorgasbord you don’t want to get tangled in. A funeral procession of several hundred people came into view, all on the road, Smugly slowed to a crawl and headed for the tabledrain so we could ever so slowly cruise past this procession. I wondered how the recently dearly departed died.
486km from Zambezi to Mutanda, pedestrians and animals taking up lots of room. The country is full of villagers and villages who have all grown up knowing the road is where you walk. After a while it became so normal that Smugly was rolling along and I was leaning on one arm cross ways on the fuel cap with a ho hum attitude, at 105, making my way between them without a thought.
Halfway to Mutanda, I stopped to fuel up as I had given a heap of my fuel to a guy who ran out.
Turning left at Mutanda, the last 40km to Lumwana on the good road surface again and all to soon I was answering the obligatory 5 questions at the security gate, the boom was raised and the 12km to the ATM that started this ride also closed it out.
It’s done and now Smugly can have a last wash and get put in the plane, but I am not going to be throwing her out of it at all.