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Author Topic: RIDE FAR - MARK HAMMOND  (Read 1683 times)
Reno Deano
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« on: January 05, 2013, 05:35:12 AM »

Mark and I use to work for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and we rode around the Bay Area of California while he was assigned to the Walnut Creek, CA office.  He has turned into a very capable Adventure Rider, as can be seen on his web page and pictures of his adventure rides around the world.  Adventure bike riders will enjoy real adventure ride and pictures.  Many videos of trails he, and others with him, have taken and the agony of poor equipment choices. BTW, Mark is an accomplishment writer.  Enjoy Reno Deano



The Tank Is Half Full

Yaoundé, Cameroon * January 4, 2009

My friend Joe Ortega, the San Francisco adventure motorcyclist with whom I’d ridden in Peru and Bolivia and Chile in 2005, put it well. “The most important piece of gear you can bring on an adventure ride,” Joe would often say, “is a sense of humor.”

How true it was. A sense of humor and unflagging optimism is every bit as essential as chain lube and motor oil for an adventure ride through Third World countries. The ride will inevitably challenge your resourcefulness, patience, ingenuity, and tenacity. To get through, a sense of humor is crucial – perhaps more so in Africa than anywhere else on the planet.

Tires and motorcycle parts are virtually impossible to find. Visas are required for most African nations, and securing them from a consulate in the neighboring country is often tedious, time-consuming, and costly. Border crossings can take hours. Interminable delays and misinformation are routine. Fuel stations are closed; gasoline from black-market peddlers can be dirty and expensive.

Things are broken. Things are missing. Things are closed, inexplicably. Cultural and language barriers complicate, often comically, a request for an item as simple as salt. ATMs may be found only in the largest cities. Money-changers will try to prey on your ignorance and shortchange you in a transaction.

Your arithmetic skills and mental dexterity are constantly tested in calculating exchange rates for a merry-go-round of African currencies, the dirham and the ougiya and the dalasi and the cedi and the naira and the Congolese franc and the West African CFA and Central African CFA and the kwanza and the rand.

The results are often distressing, because Africa can be punishingly expensive. With little manufacturing and heavy reliance on imported goods, prices for some items can be 25 to 50 percent or more of what you might pay in the U.S. In Accra, Ghana, for instance, Geoff and I were shocked to find that a motorcycle dealer wanted more than $35 USD for an ordinary can of chain lube.

Police and other authorities can hold you up as they procure such important pieces of information as the names of your aunts and uncles, the ages of your siblings, and how much you paid for your passport. Attempts at extortion and bribes are not uncommon. Africa is nothing like the Western world that you know so well.

Africa is cockeyed and crazy, haphazard and improvisational. When things go wrong, as they inevitably will, Africa travel vets sigh a well-worn acronym: T.I.A. … This is Africa.

You have to view the glass, or your fuel tank, as half-full. You have to laugh. The Africans do – the continent is full of risible people just bursting for a good laugh. Most dilemmas can be solved with more time, more money, or some brainstorm of an idea. You can learn from the Africans, who are famously resourceful and inventive. Africa is the land of the possible.

It’s one of the reasons you came here in the first place, to test your wits. Riding a motorbike through the Third World teaches you what is truly essential. It demands you think outside the box. And when you think you’re stuck, you find yourself asking, What’s the worst thing that could happen?

The worst thing that could have happened was that you didn’t come to Africa on a motorbike in the first place.

t was night. Migo and I were walking through Lome, Togo, en route to a street vendor that sold what I called expired mayonnaise salad. Migo was a step ahead of me, and I watched in horror as his right leg suddenly plunged straight down. In a moment, he was collapsed up to his waist in an open manhole in the sidewalk, and now he groaned in pain.

Someone had evidently stolen the manhole’s metal cover. Migo’s lanky body was badly contorted, his left leg splayed across the sidewalk. It looked bad. Ironically, earlier that day, we had visited a voodoo market, and Migo had bought a fetish charm meant to ensure safe travels. The seller had provided elaborate instructions to “activate” the charm, but Migo had not yet done so.

I squatted with him, thinking the worst – broken tibia, smashed kneecap, and Geoff, our medic, out of town – and said, “Dammit, Migo! Why didn’t you activate that voodoo charm before we went out tonight?!”

He laughed. His leg was sore, but he was all right. I helped to hoist him from the hole.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2013, 06:23:51 AM by Reno Deano » Logged

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