After working in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania for two years, Tim decided to quit his job and return to the Netherlands. Before leaving, he was determined to go on a farewell trip through East Africa. Fortunately, two friends were eager to join him. They decided to embark on a motorcycle journey around Lake Victoria. This is an attempt to put into words how this trip left him amazed and still brings a smile to his face today: East Africa on a motorcycle – this is how you do it!
THE BEST OF EAST AFRICA BY MOTORBIKE
For me, the constant interaction with your surroundings is by far the best part of riding a motorcycle. You can hear schoolchildren shouting, you can wave to the police as you pass their checkpoints, you can make eye contact with pedestrians coming your way – it’s these things that make the motorcycle experience so special. I didn’t realize this before starting the journey, but it was precisely this that made the trip so unforgettable.
Every time we heard or saw something interesting, we would stop and mingle with the locals. We helped them with fishing, but more often than not, we needed their favors. Fixing the bike, getting local food, going to the barber, washing the motorcycle, or simply asking for directions.
A STEADY SPEED AROUND LAKE VICTORIA
Riding around Lake Victoria, we crossed Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. As dedicated motorcyclists, we tracked every meter of this journey with a GPS watch, and as the tracking data showed, the local motorcycles failed to go faster than 88.9 km/h. I’m pretty sure this top speed must have been measured going downhill… And with all the stops along the way, our average speed turned out to be quite modest. People often asked me if we ever got tired of riding all day, but it was quite the opposite. Riding with some vague directions from an old Lonely Planet guidebook was never boring; it felt like an expedition.
CONCERNED ABOUT SAFETY?
My friends, and especially my parents, had concerns about the safety of this journey, including the state of the roads, reckless drivers, the fact that we might be an easy target, the situation in Rwanda, wildlife, encounters with the police and border patrols, and more. Over the course of six weeks, we were stopped only once in Nairobi, where a policeman instructed us to put on our yellow jackets. Other than that, the roads (both highways and dirt roads) were perfectly drivable, even for inexperienced riders. We never felt threatened; some nights, we even set up camp in the middle of nowhere, deep in the wilderness.
Curious about all our destinations?
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
The combination of freedom, adventure, seeing something new every day, experiencing things that aren’t in books or on the internet, beautiful nature, wildlife, and the constant interaction with local people makes it unquestionably the best way to visit the African continent.
Upon returning home after the six weeks, I realized that the journey was far better than I had ever dared to dream. Not only could I show my best friends the beauty and kindness of East Africa, but it also expanded perspectives on African culture. It provided context for poverty, education, family and friendship, social systems, and government influence. The hospitality and cheerfulness of the African people confront those from the Western world with the important things we tend to forget nowadays!