Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why I enjoy ADV Rider so much: Example #1

Here's a great illustration of why I enjoy ADV Rider so much. This is just a one-page selected portion of a 52-page write-up titled, "Angola; it's not like they said." To say it's epic might be an understatement...

You can find this adventure article in its entirety here ADV LINK ( but this little sampler will get you hooked. Enjoy.

"Angola; it's not like they said" begins like this: This trip was going to be different.

I for one, have never updated my will before any other trip. And I wasn't alone. Out of the five of us that were going, three updated their wills and/or life insurance policies in the weeks before we left.

Where were we going?


Here's the thing.

There's a section today renowned for taking vehicles. The reason is that the waves break straight onto a dune face. There is no beach to ride on. It's about 80km long with here and there a place where there is a break in the dune. About 40 km of it though, has no break. Just waves and dune. It is referred to as the "doodsakker". I don't know what the translation is but it is a term used when you are lying in ambush. It refers to the area where the enemy has to be before you open fire.

You cannot go around. As the waves break straight onto the dune, the only way to get through is to use the intertidal area at low tide. It is sloped, soft and not very wide. You have to be quick or get caught. Have a look.

T4A has this to say:
"Do not drive on this beach track between Baia DosTigres and Tombua, not even with 'experienced' tour guides. It is extremely dangerous and you stand a good chance of being trapped by the tide."

We have always taken "very dangerous" and "not recommended" as indicators of where some good riding was to be had. This would be the first time we were wrong and 'they' were right.

So you learn.

It's still dark as we break camp. We need to be ready as soon as dawn breaks. It will be low tide then.

My bike is not co-operating. When you kick it over, the dash lights dim and sometimes dissapears. It's getting worse. I kick with the left foot until I can no more. Then I get off and kick with the right foot until the leg gives out.

Then it's Hennie's turn, then Michnus (no patience, that boy), then Nardus.

Eventually the flippin bike fires up. I now know that I have to keep it running until we stop for the night. Freak'n excellent way to start a morning, sweating like a pig and some mental shit to carry with you all day.

We camped right at the start of this dune section. Immediately the riding is a lot more challenging. The sand is soft and the bikes labour. Some riders labour too. A 950 showing off the kak side of gravity.

I remember a TV ad for a Subaru where the car is driven through the shallows on a beach with water being sprayed all over the bonnet. I used to have a conniption every time I saw it. We quickly find that there is no place for squeamishness about the bikes getting salt water all over them. You have to ride in the wet left by receding waves to get traction.

Have a look at the last two bikes; they are less than 2 metres apart, yet one has traction and one is digging.

The sea mist is also fouling your goggles, every 200m you have to let go of the bars and wipe them.

There are lots of seals and seal carcasses. Also jackal that feed off them, but they don't pose for pictures.

The riding progressively gets worse and worse. The soft sand is un-ridable. In places your front wheel throws up a bow wave that you can see flying past you. The bikes are just sucking, sucking fuel. Even before we enter the doodsakker, I am forced to leave the others behind. I cannot afford the rest stops because it wastes fuel. I feel like shit because I'm useless to the others.

This gives you an idea of where the tide goes to.

Fourty kilometres can be as long as life itself. When you think you've had enough you look back to the horizon and see this.

You look forward to the horizon and see this.

The immense drag on your front wheel, and the fact that you cannot back off the throttle, makes the back wheel step out and try to overtake you now and then. I ride out two successfully, but the third ends in a mini-highside. I land on my back but my left hand still has the clutch lever in a deathgrip. So the engine doesn't stall and I am saved.

The longer we ride the more intense it gets. The sand is so thick and waterlogged it's hard to believe. At one point the drag pulls me down until I'm in 1st gear with the throttle wound to the stop. The motor don't rev out though. It sits in the fat part of the torque curve. The bike bellows like a wounded animal and it kills me.

It just kills me.

No motor should be abused like this. It goes on for a good hundred metres. And there's nothing you can do. I'm on the pegs, murdering the bike and moving at just above walking pace. If I tap off for just a second I'll be stuck, with no way to get going again. And if I get stuck I get screwed. It turns into a refrain in my head that I can't control: "If you get stuck here, you get screwed here".

It get's worse and worse. No pics were taken when things got wild but this will give you an idea.

We are forced to power down into the wave area after a receding wave in the hope that we'll reach traction before the next wave chases us up into the soft sand again. You have no choice. You plow down into the wet, get traction, pick up speed, and then try and outrun the next wave. If you don't get traction before the next wave hits, you are history. The waves down at the bottom is breaking about a metre and a half high. And in my head it's going: "if you get stuck here you get screwed here" on and on and on and on!

There's no way to avoid it. When you're racing the waves, sometimes you are going to lose. You get surf that just rushes in at a speed greater than the limits of grip in turning. So you crash through it. And everytime that you hit that wave at speed you know you're screwing with chance, or fate, call it what you will. And everytime you make it, it's not even a relief, because it's gonna happen again, and how lucky can 5 guys expect to be? We're working like our lives depend on it. Which it does.

When you get traction you gun it. You're gonna need the speed soon. I'll be flying at 75 km/h and feel the sand make a grab at my front wheel. Immediately I'll bang down on the seat and lock my arms straight. The next soft patch is bound to be worse and you have no way of visually identifying it, or with what tenacity it's going to grip your front wheel. Flying over the front wheel is staring you in the face (like that ugly stranger you see in the mirror when taking a piss some very late, very drunk night at some dive that you never thought you'll be caught dead in). Yeah, like that.

Whatever mistake you make has the potential to be really serious. Whether you fall, stall, get stuck, misjudge, whatever. I have never ridden like this. It scares me shitless.

And in the end it's fear. Naked fear, but no choice. I'm riding at a risk level that's totally unacceptable. And I try to be liberal about that kind of thing.

But if you stop, you are screwed. so you keep riding, racing, shouting obscenities at fate, knowing you're gonna get the short end of the stick. Turning like the worm being trod upon. Let no-one ever tell you that the worm does't turn. He turns........ he knows.

There are limits. Always and to everything. And behind me the limits are being reached. There's a limit to how long our luck was going to hold out.

There's a limit as to how deep water a Dakar can crash into and hope to punch through.

Fred is the unlucky one that draws the short stick. As he hits the wave, the bike starts it's cartwheel. Fred does not get thrown clear. His soft bags wrap around his foot and he becomes an active participant in this unnatural, ugly, vertical carousel.

Like I said, there are limits to everything, and swinging a grown man around by his foot is going to reach some limit. His ankle accordingly fractures. As Fred and his android bike finally comes to rest, he has the presence of mind to hit the kill switch befire the first wave breaks over his head. Respect!

There's no-one on the scene yet. The second wave breaks over his head. He realises that this may be some serious shit. His screwed-up leg is wrapped up under the bike and he can't fix this. The third wave does not break over his head but fills his helmet. He rips off his goggles gasping for air. Yes, this is serious.

In the mean time Nardus comes upon this scene. Firstly he has his own demons to deal with. He's got a fat pig that's not happy in sand. He knows that if he gets stuck, he cannot fix it. What he sees when he arrives on the scene is a Dakar lying in the surf ..... and the rider too. This is serious shit. If you ain't dead, your'e supposed to stand up. Nardus have known Fred and his family intimately for many years. He invited Fred on this trip. This is not the kind of news he should be expected to break to the family. He gets a bit of a loose bowel feeling until he sees Fred raise his head. Relief! And anger! He cannot stop here, wtf man, why me? He'll be stuck. So he shouts something useless at Fred and rides past to some place where he can stop.

Hennie in the mean time is not absolved from demons. He stopped to help Nardus where he got stuck. As soon as Nardus got traction he just wrung that throttle. He was rattled. "You get stuck here, you get screwed here". Hennie takes some time to extricate his own bike and races off after Nardus. He is last in line and no-one is going to assist him. He has been on reserve for some time already. And like everybody else , he still has to chase the receding waves. If he runs out of fuel while down below, he is screwed. Screwed! He races at over 100km/h where-ever he gets grip. Either he catches up or he donates his bike to Poseidon.

When he catches up, it's where Nardus is trying to get Fred disentangled from his bike. Hennie doesn't help. He doesn't take a picture (very, very unlike Hennie), he rips the fuel from Nardus's bike and starts filling his tank.

It's new to me, I haven't ever seen the both of them lose it like this.

Out front (and none the wiser) I reach the end of the doodsakker. I'm freaking dilly. The first jackal that doesn't dissapear but just stands there watching me go by, has me waving at him like he's a friendly local. I have to shout at myself in my helmet to get real.

I pull up at the first place where I can get above the high water mark.

Not too long and Michnus joins me. We seriously underestimated the doodsakker. He sucks on his tripper like his life depends on it.

I'm a bit in shock. On every trip you have one or two moments when you overcook things and miss a turn or race into a flock of sheep at breakneck speed; this was like that, except that it continued for for 3 hours with no let up.

Nobody else arrives. My God, how did we screw this up so badly?

If it makes you happy, how can it be that bad?

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