Out of Africa
Well, that was not the plan. In 2021 we set off for a motorbike world trip that we thought would last around 5 years. We needed to put it on pause after just 9 days. After months of waiting to get things sorted out, we switched to a basic camper, then waited a bit more and resumed the bike trip in 2022. And returned from it, from Africa, after 7 months on the road.
We rode back from Senegal, through Mauritania and Morocco – this time we covered longer distances, even used highways, stayed at the hotels and ate out. We crossed from Africa to Spain, where KTM had its maintenance at 30000 km, then left the bikes at our friend and flew to Poland for Christmas.
That was certainly not the plan.
Looking from today’s perspective, we put too much pressure on ourselves.
We planned an prepared everything before COVID and all the impact it had (restrictions, increased costs of traveling). The budget we planned for 5 years shrank significantly after 1.5 years (fuel prices, PLN/EUR exchange rate…), even though we tried travelling cheap. We mentioned it already, but you can’t really travel cheap on a motorbike now – wildcamping is often forbidden, campings are extremely expensive (in Spain: 10 EUR per person, 10 EUR for a tent, 5 EUR for each motorbike and 10 EUR for the “parcel” where you put up a tent) and still, sleeping in a tent for months does not give the body the recovery it needs while long-term traveling. Hotels are expensive and quality does not always follow the price, especially in Africa (where they can be more expensive than in Europe and still have cold water in the shower, or no water at all). The fatigue, lack of proper rest and regeneration and stress surrounding the cashflow affected our mindsets and heavily impacted our relationship. We were tired and grumpy. The heat, dirt, lack of good food just added to the frustrations.
Joris jokes, he did not sign up for another military training in his life – he already had one years ago when he was in the Special Forces, so he has quite an idea of how it looks like.
It was not an easy decision for us to “give up” and return. For Agata it felt like an enormous failure – it was her dream and she could not make it come true. Especially that so many others could do it. After some thinking, we realised that the way we wanted it to be done was just not possible for us. We travelled to slow for the tight budget we set ourselves – maybe if we made it a challenge: ticked off the visas, borders, rushed through the countries so that we did not get annoyed with the layers below the initial delight it would be possible. Or the other way round – if we traveled slow, stayed at hotels or guesthouses, went out for food, had proper rest (that would require working, too, so the budget stayed reinforced to afford the basic luxury). It was also the collision of expectations and reality – the world is not as it is depicted in social media. Yes, there are beautiful places, but the effort to get to them is not always rewarded by what you find in the end. Sometimes it took hours of hauling behind stinky trucks with no possibility of overtaking, just to be disappointed with the place where we headed to, not to mention any “WOW” effect. Maybe it’s just not worth to travel anymore and just keep the romantic image of a beautiful world in the head? Or just go on organised trips, see the highlights and beautiful spots that are just “made for tourists” to keep the illusion going and not see the real world behind it?
To be honest, we don’t think we will ever return to this way of travelling. We realised that we need basic comfort. Yes, we can stand a lot. But it can’t last indefinitely. For us, we did not have our own place (we stayed in the tent, utility room at Agata’s dad apiary, VW Transporter or a small apartament in Kraków) , we had no income (just expenses), we had only what we carried on our motorbikes for almost two years (we really did sell or give away everything – properties, equipment, clothes…). And during that time, we had no real rest… holiday… time to recover, regenerate and recharge batteries. We certainly do not give up on traveling, but we know we want to do it a different way – shorter trips, with a perspective of return to “the normal world”.
Even though we returned from this trip months ago, we are still recovering from it. The trip has taken its toll on us. We failed to pass the exam as a traveling couple.
The biked did well. Certainly better than us 🙂
Apart from regular maintenance there were no major issues with Joris’s BMW. In the end, it was a GS, so we did not expect anything bad to happen. The only “unusual” thing was the seal replacement on the compensation shaft that required stripping down the whole bike while we were in the UK. We managed to get the replacement seal at a BMW dealer in Dublin and then we could use a friend’s garage to dismantle half of the bike to replace it. It took good three days of work, uncountable Flemish curses, resulted in few new bruises and scratches from trying to handle the heavy bike parts and actually was the most complexed bike job Joris has ever done. Surprisingly, we ended up with no screws left and the bike runs smoother then ever. 🙂
Agata will probably disappoint everyone by stating that she is actually very happy with the KTM 890 Adventure she was riding on this trip. There have been no serious problems and we managed to have the maintenance done at the KTM garages in France and Spain. We’ve just had a few remarks on the parts that wear out anyway:
- the original chain is of low quality and chirps annoyingly, even if maintained as needed (was replaced at 30000 km as was totally worn out)
- front brakes need to be get used to, as they give a lot of feedback on the brake lever, similar to ABS engaging feeling but a zillion times stronger (and it is not related to ABS engaging) and the rear brakes are of not good quality either… the pads were worn out after ~15000 km and the brake disc had a huge edge and we replaced it at ~25000 km.
We would like to thank Mefo Sport Polska for running the extra mile with helping with the logistics so the Moto Master flame disc and brake pads reach us in Africa. (Side note – the problem with front brake is gone after changing the brake discs and brake pads to Moto Master 🙂 tested )
Lost and forgotten
During 7 months on the road we lost or forgot a few items:
- MSR Footprint to put under our tent (forgotten at Chez You You in Senegal) – the biggest loss 🙁
- Hand cream – forgotten at Pelka House in The Gambia
- Toothpaste – forgotten at Corinne’s place in France
- Joris’s BMW bike glove – lost at Calais-Dover ferry
- 202 days
- ~27500 km
Video Logs Summary – No talking, just riding 😉