How To Turn A 4,300 Mile Trip Into 13,200 Miles

March 19, 2016

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Cape Town, South Africa. Direct, it’s a bit over four thousand miles. Not bad. That would be about eight hours on a plane. If there was a plane from Buenos Aires to Cape Town. But there isn’t. For me, or for the bike. South African Airways used to fly between these two cities, but no longer does. Which means that instead of eight hours to cover 4,300 miles, it now takes 37 hours and just over 13,000 miles to travel between South America and South Africa.

I left Buenos Aires at 9:30pm on Thursday night. Eighteen hours later (and seven hours of time zone changes), I landed in Dubai, UAE, at 10:30pm Friday night. I’ve traveled to Japan many times from the United States, but this was the first time I had been served dinner, breakfast, lunch, and dinner again on a flight.

I had a nine and a half hour layover in Dubai, and the airline provided me with a free hotel room near the airport to get some proper sleep before continuing on in the morning. I was a bit disappointed to be there only at night, and not get to experience this incredible city in the daylight. But I was also exhausted from being on a plane for so long, and was ready for a bed.

Dubai at night

Arriving in Dubai Friday night.


The hotel apparently functions solely as a stopover for Emirates Airlines. When I checked in, they already knew my schedule, and had already set up a 5am wake-up call, and informed me that check-out was at 6am (how’s that for efficiency?). By 6:30am I was back at the airport and about to board my nine hour flight to Cape Town.

By the time I arrived in Cape Town Saturday afternoon, I had been served six meals and watched ten movies, including:

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Big Short
  • The Martian
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Amy
  • Truth
  • The Program
  • The Legend of Barney Thompson
  • Trumbo
  • The Intern

You’ve probably never heard of more than half of these movies. I hadn’t either. But I have to say, they were all good. Some were good for helping me catch up on my sleep. Others, like Barney Thompson, were just plain strange.

As of this writing, the bike hasn’t left Buenos Aires yet. It will fly to London, then change planes and head to Cape Town, and should arrive here Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, I’m on foot (well, foot and a half, actually; my ankle swelled up tremendously from all of the plane time, but I’m still walking fairly well), so I plan to do some walking today, and head to the shopping area to acquire some things that I couldn’t fly with, such as gas canisters for my camp stove.

Swollen ankle

27 hours in economy coach seating is not good for the ankle.

The area I’m staying in reminds me a lot of Southern California, and in particular Orange County. The neighborhood, the weather, and the landscape looks and feels a lot like it.

Since I’m restricted to short distances for a few more days, I probably won’t post much until the bike arrives, unless something interesting happens between now and then. Otherwise, I plan to catch up on my reading and rest until then.

A Little Work Before I Go

March 31, 2016

It’s almost time to begin my trek into real Africa. Before heading north into Namibia, I put a new set of Pirelli MT21 knobbies on the bike. This will be the third set of these tires that I’ve used on this trip (and the fifth set of tires overall), and I really like them. I’ve been surprised at how well they work on the pavement, for full knobbies, even in rain. And I’m able to get about 10,000 kilometers, or just over 6,000 miles out of a set.

This morning as I was packing up to head to the shop for the tires, I noticed another break in my pannier racks. Exactly the same place as the broken rack on the left side, which I discovered in Cochrane, Chile and had welded in Gobernador Gregores, Argentina. Only this time it was the right side. Fortunately, the local Yamaha dealer, Helderberg Yamaha, knew of a welder nearby, and MCR Specialised Welding was quick to help me out.

New tires installed; panniers, top rack, Rotopax gas & water cans removed. This is the first time in many months that I’ve ridden the bike without all of the weight on the rear, and I was surprised at just how light and fun it felt.


Rear rack in the shop, having its’ arms welded back on.


Due to the location of the re-located turn signals (necessary in order to open the panniers), the exhaust blows directly onto the bottom of the right rear turn signal, and before long melted a hole in it.


The guys at MCR Welding put an extended and angled tip on my exhaust to route the hot gas away from the turn signal. The flasher still works, so I’ll patch it up and keep using it for now.


Chris at Helderberg Yamaha was a huge help. He found the tires I wanted, ordered them for me, and had them ready when I returned from Plettenberg Bay. The shop mounted and balanced the tires quickly and pointed me towards the welding shop just a few blocks away. Great service all around.


A couple more days in Cape Town, then it’s off on the real adventure.