Preparations

Trip Start Jan 05, 2010
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Trip End Feb 19, 2010


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Flag of United Kingdom  , Leicester,
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An idea

After completing the Mongolia Charity Rally in August 2008 there came time to think of a new adventure. Earlier that year I spent almost an entire May in Ghana, West Africa on a business trip and then travelling in a hired car to various parts of this beautiful country. I found Africa to be a place like no other in the world – place of so many different cultures, languages, remnants of the British colonialism and most importantly a place with no order. It was absolutely addictive acting like a magnet, wanting me to go back whenever I could – not only on holiday but to go and work there, at least for a year or two. I decided to come back next year, this time on the bike. In November 2008 I bought a 1993 Honda Transalp 600. After reading many blogs, reports from various travellers and numerous chats with friends riding enduro bike I decided to buy a bike that will be cheap, simple and relatively light. Honda Transalp seemed like a good choice. With the moment of the purchase began my preparations for a solo trip through the west coast of Africa with a starting point in London and finish in Cape Town. The first thing that I did was to change the paint job on the bike. The original dark green looked dull, so to add some African character the bike received a Zebra colouring. By doing this I fulfilled my long forgotten artistic aspirations and brought smiles to some children's faces. As a byproduct it's also less likely to be stolen. Wait till you see how it looks like now, you will know what I mean! Having done the paint-job, the rest seemed easy ;] – buy/fabricate an engine guard, crash bars, panniers and pannier rack, make a wider side-stand base, headlamp protector, jerry can supports (so I can take extra 20L of petrol) were the things to do next.

Motoamerica 2010 and the change of plans

I was planning to start the trip in May 2010 but sometime in the summer of 2009 I came across a Polish website Motoamerica.pl where 5 guys were describing their planned motorcycle travel adventure from Peru through Bolivia, Chile and Argentina to Buenos Aires in the winter of 2010. The trip sounded so interesting that I emailed them asking if they had another free space on their expedition. The initial answer was that they indeed had one free space and were in fact looking for another team member. Initially I thought: "great" and was prepared to postpone the African trip, especially as it turned out I would require about 4 months cover the route I was intending to do and getting such a long leave from work could be an issue. However I decided to stick to my plan and focused on my own adventure. After several months I received an email from Jacek (Pretor) asking me if I still wanted to go on their trip because another vacancy just appeared. At that time I was even more unsure whether I could take 4 months off work to go to Africa, so South America looked as an interesting alternative. Having only 3 days to make up my mind I decided that this year I would travel to South America. I sorted out my holiday at work
and so there I am - going to cross the Patagonia, the Pampas and the Amazon jungle on my Zebra painted little 'donkey'. We are leaving on the 5th of January 2010 and coming back on the 19th February. Since then (which was in October as I remember well), we had several route
changes, still ongoing problems with the spedition firm, moments of desperation and almost resignation from some members and many, many busy days of preparations. As I joined the group so late I only had a month to prepare the bike for the trip including fabricating the engine guard, pannier rack and other add-ons for the bike. Then the bike had to go through a full mechanical check-up to assure nothing is wrong with it at the start of the journey.

Preparations

I've decided to prepare this bike as cheaply as possible. The only thing which was ready to install were the crashbars which I purchased for about 100 quid on ebay. The engine guard I have made myself for about 40 pounds from a piece of a 4mm thick aluminum, which I cut with an angle grinder and perforated with a drill to allow airflow for cooling the engine. The headlamp protector to prevent pebbles from smashing my only front source of light I have made from a piece of 4 mm thick acrylic costing roughly 2 pounds and from some small pieces of aluminum
which I bought at B&Q. A wider base for the side-stand was made out of the scraps of aluminum plate which I used for making the engine guard. Pannier rack and 3 old plastic panniers have been bought on a polish auction website (allegro.pl) for about 40 pounds in total. The rack needed some modifications to fit onto my bike but after some small changes I managed to fix it to my Zebra with a couple of metal rods. The panniers were cracked in several places and needed to be fixed with glass fibre and acrylic resin.

Last week before bike shipment


The time was getting very short, we had to be with the bikes in a harbour in Gdansk, Poland on Monday which meant that I had to leave UK on Friday afternoon, ride the bike to Poland all weekend in order to get to Gdansk by Monday morning. There, we had to load the bikes into a container so it could be put onto a freight ship going to Montevideo, Urugway. The bike was just collected from the best motorcycle garage around Leicester - Bike Tec . These guys did such a great job on my machine that it now runs better than brand new BMWs ;]
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