Travels & Trips

Kivu to Kili (East Africa loop – part 2)

Despite all the Christmas traffic I arrived at Lake Kivu in excellent spirits (part 1 here). The next part of the adventure should lead me to some of Tanzania’s most beautiful spots, a country I’ve had many adventures in, but never ridden through before!

But first, Havana and I spend a few relaxed days at her place at Lake Kivu. I visit the nice massage place again, meditate by the lake’s pier and go for walks. She’s working all through the holidays, but is so generous with her space and we talk and catch up a lot in between.

A friendship that’s equally deeply supportive and easy flowing is a major gift in life!

We can’t wait for the long weekend and riding together!

PS: I’ve described border crossing logistics in-depth in a previous blog post

Day 1 – Kivu – Nyungwe Forest – Huye (former Butare) – Kigali

Today is Day 8 of my trip. It’s also the second last day of 2022! We’re headed to Kigali for New Years Eve ๐ŸŽ†

Of course we’re taking the scenic route! Snailing along Lake Kivu to Rusizi border (more pics from here in my other post).

After saying hi to the border officers, we continue towards Nyungwe Forest. Similar to Uganda (Day 2 here), also in Rwanda the army is protecting the Forest Reserve. From logging and poaching, I assume.

After coffee at Uwinka Visitors Center we continue Eastwards towards Huye (former Butare, Rwanda’s second largest city). I’ve not visited this area before and take in the many kilometres of wild indigenous forest, until we get to some hills where the forest ends and tea plantations start.

Some kids approach us asking for pens. They speak some impeccable Swahili and we realize their families must have fled DRC and they live in refugee camps in the area.

We continue towards Huye.

How’s riding in Rwanda? This pic says it all ๐Ÿ™‚

After fueling in Huye, we continue towards Kigali.

We have a late lunch at Stafford (the other Stafford!) and it gets more busy as we approach Kigali.

On the last 20 or so kms on entering Kigali, we find some bad traffic built up. We move at snail pace down the hills between trucks. I remember a short cut that Tish and Chiri showed me last time. We find it and somehow manage the super sharp extra steep right turn without injuring any bikes in the process!

Google Maps does its thing leading us through side streets across a dozen hills and we arrive in Kigali at Havana’s friend’s place at dark. What a happy welcome by two happy dogs!

Next Day – New Year’s Eve in Kigali

It’s a holiday after all – the last day of the year! We review our 2022 and share aspirations and plans for 2023. Just yummy Indian food and dogs and girls catching up.

We head out to celebrate New Year’s Eve with some friends. A little dancing and beers. This city (well country!) is soooo organised, even the fireworks happen in a centralized place! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Day 2 – The most eventful 1st January in history

We somehow make it to bed before 3am, knowing we have a guest to pick up in the morning at the border. Mbeche from our Nyumba Kumi is on his way to Kigali. He will join me for the Burundi-Tanzania leg of the trip. Yes, Burundi. That is the plan for today.

He somehow managed to reach Masaka in Uganda last night and gets up early to cover the remaining 300km to the Rwandan border Gatuna before breakfast.

We leave Kigali around 9 to meet him in Gatuna at 10am.

Havana will have to ride back home today! We plan to split up at Kigali, and meanwhile sandwich Mbeche who is new to riding on the correct side ๐Ÿ‘Œ of the road.

Until I spot something interesting on the left side of the road: A suspension bridge crossing a small river.

Curiosity gets the better part of me, and we bid Havana goodbye, who has to cover a good 250km to get home.

Mbeche and I agree to have a late breakfast in Kigali, and plan out the route for today (go to Burundi? or directly to Tanzania?)

We get to Kigali just after noon and Maps navigates us to a restaurant that looks nice. Town is generally pretty deserted but a road near the Convention Center is closed. As I try another route, I get us lost, or rather we end up in a place that looks very official, with lots of flags and government offices in a large roundabout on a hilltop.

I stop briefly so I can figure out the directions on Maps until I think I know the way and continue moving. In my mirror I can see Mbeche not moving, but I’m not so concerned given he usually catches up fast. After two more turns I reach the restaurant, but no sign of him. A few minutes later I backtrack, just to find him stalled at the very place on the hill top, now with a Rwandan military official next to him.

His bike is not starting! We use our combined tools, brains and my internet to trouble shoot the error code (“crankshaft position sensor“). This might not be the best spot to repair a bike. Two civilians right outside the Ministry of Defence on a public holiday, one being an overly muscular black Kenyan wearing a camouflage balaclava + camel bak and heavy boots, the other one a white woman with a big orange motorbike. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

We just can’t figure out the error, remove and check different parts of the bike following various manuals from different websites we find. We assume the crankshaft positioning is fine, but the sensor throwing an error prevents the ECU from starting the bike.

No, we don’t take any photos. We are stressed!

A second and later third (equally armed) officer join the first one. We’ve taken over an hour here!

It’s around 3pm and Mbeche hasn’t eaten anything today. This year so to speak. The soldiers are a friendly type of watchful but really – we can’t overstay our visit at the gate of the Ministry of Defence, can we?

Rwandan bikers share phone numbers of their mechanics – but today being the 1st of January, we are requested to come visit the workshop tomorrow.

I offer to ride back to Havana’s friend’s place – first to ascertain how far and hilly it will be to reach there (this is Kigali, friends!), and also to ask her if we can stay another night. She’s very welcoming and laughs at our misadventure.

It’s not very far from where the bike is to her house, and gladly it’s mostly flat or downhill. We agree that we will somehow roll or push this 200kg piece of metal there. Struck by brilliance, Mbeche tries out jumpstarting the bike while it’s rolling down a hill. The Yamaha roars to life!

Shock on our faces. We repeat the same trick. Still works. Is it safe to ride to Tanzania now? After all the bike can be push started! We agree it’s worth seeing the fundi after all tomorrow.

We take an evening stroll around Kigali, and look for a place with a view and a drink. We can’t appreciate our host enough for providing us refuge!

Day 3 (well, 11 in total) – Not sure where we will reach today

We pushstart the bike to visit the recommended fundi Emme. He’s along some cobblestone roads up on a hill with narrow roads and a good number of mechanics and spare parts shops. Can you imagine a very clean, extremely organized and quiet Kirinyaga Road? Probably not, ey? Go see it: KN 130 Street

While the two get to work, I go look for breakfast next door (say, on Tom Mboya Street).

The mech is convinced that the crankshaft position sensor is fine. But the stator motor is not. It’s worn out. He brilliantly sources a Rav 4 spare from a shop nearby and solders it in place.

Success! The bike starts on the push of a button, as desired!

We look for Rwandan money to pay the mech’s dues – then head out towards Rwamagana and Eastern Rwanda. Burundi is not an option anymore and we decide to shorten the trip, heading to Tanzania directly.

But there’s one more thing I have to do before leaving Rwanda!

I spot Jackfruit on the road side! Fene! Fenesi!

As we park the bikes, the whole village turns up. We don’t seem to have a spoken language in common but sign language and smiles always work! The fruit is quite cheap and the market women pool their coins to hand me my change, as I tentatively hand over my 1,000 RWF note.


And how scenic the area is, with green hills and rock formations ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

Within few hours from Kigali we reach Rusumo Border. It’s one of those One-Stop-Borders, where you ride to the other side first, then handle all aspects of leaving one and entering the other country in one building.

On riding through the 2km or so securely fenced border area, which is quite beautiful between hills and crossing the Rusumo river, I spot a bunch of military in the hedges. At some point three trucks are oncoming on my lane. Ooops. Time to return to the left side of the road!

Noone on this trip has asked me for my yellow fever certificate so far. But right here, on entering TZ, I realize I left mine in Nairobi, some 2,000 km away. The Port Health officer looks at me with those eyes. Luckily I’m able to retrieve it from my documents saved on the cloud using some very shaky Airtel mobile network.

When crossing a land border, the biggest horror is usually a bus load of 50+ humans in the immigrations queue before you. We somehow sneak through the door quicker than them! I had applied for and paid my visa online, so we clear Immigrations quite quickly.

On entering Tanzanian network, our phones switch an hour forward back to East African time. Procedures took a little longer, as both countries’ customs offices were keen to inspect the bikes before issuing the import/export permits.

By the time we finish the border crossing, it’s already sunset time.

Stunning. And as we stop for pics, a drunk guy runs after my bike, seemingly overexcited to sell me something, but he might have as well pushed me over. ๐Ÿคฏ

In complete darkness, we navigate the next 20 or kilometers. The road has potholes and we nearly crash into some random closed barrier. Wow. A cruising speed of 50 will have to do this evening.

The area seems sparsely populated. We reach a small shopping center with various accomodation options, mostly aimed at truck drivers. Single rooms start at around 300 KES but we opt for slightly more comfortable accomodation (Prosper Lodge in Nyakasanza).

The universe loves us though! There’s a nice cafe offering buffet dinner and we add Chipsi Mayai as a dessert. It’s Mbeche’s first time in TZ so we’re having fun practicing our kiswahili sanifu with kaka-ing and omba-ing.

Day 4: Today we want to cover 630km up to Singida

The bikes are behaving well. Roads are wide and empty!

Just a few trucks and busses but we mostly smoke them. Today we learn that each village or shopping center has a speed limit of 50 km/h and most have a barrier at the end of it, manned by police.

The barriers are all open and we get into a good rhythm of speeding up and down, respecting our bikes just as much as the local residents.

Lots of cross winds today! My old bike was naked but light and less powerful, sometimes thrown away by wind easily. Natasha can confirm. The 390adv with lots of body surface feels more wind susceptible yet heavy and powerful enough. I don’t slow down really but still find it physically tiring to keep counter steering upwards of 110.

The Fazer or rather the owner doesn’t seem to notice the wind.

Beautiful Tanzania!

Our lunch consists of Chipsi Mayai and Soda. It is HOT in this January sun. Today’s topic of discussion is fuel quality. It’s a little cheaper but seems to run through the engines like water (figuratively speaking!). We haven’t seen any petrol station of a brand we know.

According to our maths, we have just about 1-2 hours remaining to our destination and we pull up at a place serving fresh juice.

We think we got a loooot of time to kill and hang out at the juice place stretching our backs. We can easily do the remaining 150km or so quickly, right?

We move swiftly until Mbeche suddenly stops. The Fazer randomly indicates a full tank. Oh wait, it’s not full tank. It’s a high temperature warning from the cooling system.

We hold a meeting to figure out the issue. A lot of coolant has disappeared from the cooling system! How? We refill it with water. How do you ride a 4 cylinder 600cc engine “carefully”? ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ

The last hour into Singida is really pretty, approaching some mountains, then riding through them.

Somehow we make it to Singida town with the last sunlight and the Fazer intact. Lake Singida to our left.

We spot a Total petrol station! Quality Fuel with a 95 rating!

They don’t sell coolant, but point us to a second Total. A second Total!!

Kenyan Biker friends had recommended Amenity Paradise Hotel in Singida, and we pull up, with the manager who expects us providing a warm welcome.

There’s something about Tanzanian rice (yes, wali, mchele!) you can’t explain. It’s so fragrant and tasty! We order a full chicken kienyeji for dinner with some mchicha.

I’m too tired to even consider a beer ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿผโ€โ™€

Day? – Onwards to Arusha!

It’s the 5th day on this lag and my 13th day on this trip. The morning sees Mbeche changing the Fazer’s coolant. Cause Wueh!

We head out towards Lake Manyara by 11 or so.

It’s beautiful riding, no winds and I finally get to test the bike’s speed!

Of course we have to try out the local snacks. Y’all know Peanuts Karanga?

Then there’s this huge mountain coming up. Kili? Not really. Turns out to be Mt. Meru!

Approaching Arusha area, rain clouds gather

Sooooooo prreeeetttttyyyyy!!!

Arusha town welcomes us with bus-car-daladala-tuktuk-boda chaos. Slightly overwhelmed, I pull up at a petrol station where we filter Google Maps accomodation results by budget, make a few calls and take a pick. We end up at quite a forgetful guest house to be honest but clean. And the hot water worked, what else do you need?

I need cash, so we walk around town looking for an ATM. This is when we learn about Safaricom Global M-Pesa, where I end up withdrawing Tanzanian Shillings for less fees at a better rate through a Vodafone money agent than any bank has provided on this trip before!

Day 6 – Kiluletwa Springs and Kili – Vacationing in Moshi!

From Arusha, Moshi is not really far. We pass by another place with a memorable name. TZ just kills it with the names of towns!

About 20km off the highway lies a little gem I’ve been told about: Kikuletwa Springs, a community-run natural pool to chill and swim.

After some 20km rough roads, it feels GREAT to remove the sweaty gear and take a swim ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿป

Pure bliss! There’s even a swing. Little fish chew our feet and it feels like 2023 is off to an excellent start ๐Ÿ’ซ

Kibandas provide different lunch options. The only thing missing is ice cream ๐Ÿ˜‹

At last we pack up and climb the bikes. When we get back to the highway (really just a narrow two-way tarmac road), we are meant to turn right towards Moshi. I stop a few metres before the junction to buy some water. No kiosk sells water and I buy it at a bar at double the price.

We have half an hour to Moshi, and the gentleman volunteers to sweep. As I wait at the junction for traffic to clear so I can take my right turn, out of nowhere a skinny, middle-aged man runs towards my bike and switches it off. This is a tall bike and as usual, I’m holding it with one foot down only. I nearly drop the bike in the surprise moment. The guy tries to shove me off my bike. It’s extremely confusing cause it feels like daylight robbery! I’m not getting off the bike, so he tries to push the bike while I sit on it, but it’s in gear and can’t move. Finally, he removes the key.

A second guy, also in civilian clothes, with limited English comes to explain to me that I’m doing an illegal turn and I’m arrested ๐Ÿ˜ฌ ๐Ÿคฃ ๐Ÿคฌ. A high volume, high speed conversation ensues between the two guys (Kanjo??) and Mbeche in Swahili.

I ask ask for their ID (none!) and insist the conversation happens in English, given I’m the aggrieved party. This throws off the two guys, and they have to call in their boss who speaks English.

We’re still in the middle of the road, what a scene! Bodas are watching but not getting involved. A friendly Tanzanian gentleman approaches us and enquires what the issue is. There is of course no signage whatsoever indicating that a right turn isn’t allowed and I explain the assault that took place. He convinces the guys that creating such a violent reception to tourists is not good for Tanzania’s brand and that if there is any fine to be paid, he will pay it for us. (Which there isn’t).

No, there are no photos.

We are released and take the correct detour to enter the highway.

On arrival in the guest house, we realize there’s no power in Moshi today.

We chill, review the pictures from the off-road swimming trip and replay the Kanjo scene in our minds. Too nuts!

Towards sunset, we walk through town looking for a restaurant and find a local place serving fish and rice.

Maybe it’s the long power cut that spoilt the fish. Or maybe we’re just exhausted and the beer didn’t go down well?

But we both get some serious food poisoning that night. I don’t get much sleep ๐Ÿคข

Day 7: Recovery day in Moshi

We chew some dry toast, do laundry and clean the bikes. Around 3pm we finally feel strong enough to head out and explore the route behind Kilimanjaro.

Quite beautiful but we’re not enjoying it as much as the previous days’ riding. Rwanda and entering Tanzania from the West was just an incredible experience!

The riding at least aids the recovery of our appetite! We have dinner at a garden restaurant with glances at Kilimanjaro at sunset. What a chill evening to finish off an eventful few days ๐Ÿ˜

From here, Mbeche returns to Nairobi as work calls. He receives a friendly escort from Namanga by bikers from our NK. I still have a week left, and will continue eastwards to the Usambara Mountains, with the aim of reaching the Indian Ocean and crossing over to Diani from there.

We really had fun! Not all two riders make good riding buddies!

What made these 1300 kms together smooth is an extra positive mindset, being accomodating to each other’s riding styles and an adventurous spirit. Plus the Fazer’s music turned heads in each village ๐Ÿ˜†

To more rides together!

Dear Reader, please leave a comment below!

Then continue to Part 3 here – Mountains and Ocean and finally some off-roading ๐Ÿ˜Ž




4 replies on “Kivu to Kili (East Africa loop – part 2)”

What a captivating blog post! It’s so interesting to read about your adventures on the bikes in Rwanda and Tanzania. I particularly enjoyed reading about your experience at the border crossings and the local encounters you had along the way. One question that came to mind is how did you prepare for this trip logistically? Did you have to obtain any special permits or visas for the countries you visited?

Hi Hanna ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m a Kenyan resident and own my bike which is Kenyan-registered. Therefore the requirements would be quite different than for a non-resident (tourist) visiting using a rented bike or self-drive car.
Have a look at a previous post where I describe the border crossing procedure in more detail

Lake Kivu Roadtrip

Not all two riders make good riding buddies. Such a true statement. Also those Kanjo/cops aiiiih too crude.

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