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African Enduro 1990

    A fantastic trip through West Africa back in 1990. Three of us (Gregor, Harold and me) were each on a Yamaha XT500, kitted out with food, water, tent, sleeping roll, map and machete. Needless to say, it was a proper blast!

    I lost both my panniers at one point - well, I didn't actually loose them but I did smash them and their contents into tiny pieces - rather silly, really.

    We were riding through an area of desert when I decided that we were going too slow to be having any real fun, so I thought I'd zoom off ahead for a bit of a razz. We had our bearings established so there wasn't too much chance of getting terminally separated and, besides, they would be following my tracks north towards Lake Turkana. After about twenty minutes of absolute balls-out riding I noticed I was approaching a rough line of scrubby trees running across my path along a slight rise in the terrain. I headed for an obvious gap, backing off the throttle a little.

    If I had engaged my brain for half a second it might have occurred to me that a line of trees in a desert usually denotes some sort of watercourse. But I was on a buzz - so there we go. I didn't realize it was the outside of a bend in a dried up river until I topped the rise with about twenty feet to go. In front of me the ground dropped away about fifteen feet to the bed below where huge boulders were strewn all over the place and the far bank looked a heck of a long way off - maybe sixty feet.

    As I was already doing about seventy miles per hour, there was no way I was going to stop in time so I just committed, opened the throttle as far as it would go and got ready to fly, hoping I would clear the boulders in the river bed and land on the soft sand sloping up the other side.

    I managed to lift the bike with my knees and shoulders just as I ran out of ground and then I was flying with it, hoping the contents of my 35 litre fuel tank wasn't going to make me too front heavy. But it was a breeze! As I landed, both wheels together with an enormous crunch, I opened the throttle again and took off at full speed through the desert once more with a "Yeeeeehhaaaww!!!" and an ear-to-ear grin across my face.

    I'd gone about three miles before I calmed down sufficiently to realize that the other two didn't know about the river. As I slowed and turned I noticed that I no longer had my panniers, only my sleeping roll and machete.

    Half way back, I met Harold who was approaching me shaking his head and waving his hand as though to fan his grinning face. He turned and we both went back to the river.

    Either side of a massive twenty foot long rut in the sand lay scattered the remains of my panniers, water bottle, food, clothes, camera, etc. Somehow, I managed to effect a repair with an old inner-tube and some twine and we all set off north again.

    A lucky lesson learned, I kept a closer eye on the lie of the land from then on.

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