Moto Safari Uganda - Breakdown Series

The night was short and came to an unnatural end at 4 a.m. Getting up early was necessary, because around 5 a.m. before the rush hour we had to have already left Uganda's bustling capital Kampala. Otherwise we would get lost there as a group in the morning rush hour and would no longer find out together. The chaotic city traffic simply does not allow ten motorcycles to be kept together for a long period of time. We were all ready at just before 5 a.m. and could hardly wait for the start of the tour. But waiting is a core competence in Uganda that we had to demonstrate right from the start. Ironically, the local guide and experienced mechanic, who lives only ten minutes away, had a flat tire on his motorcycle and had to push his heavy boxer GS to the nearest gas station to mend the tire there. He arrived at half past five and we started. Luckily the traffic wasn't worth mentioning. But my two-wheeler does. A BMW 650 Xchallenge. Of the 3899 versions that were built, one of them found its way to Uganda. According to the speedometer, she had covered 40,000 kilometers so far, but looked like 140,000 kilometers. The lighting was non-existent apart from the front parking light and the brake light, the sound was close to that of a jackhammer and when I started the engine the other bikes couldn't be heard. After just the first kilometer I noticed that the ignition kept failing for several seconds, only to suddenly start again. The drive to the first toll station was like a rodeo ride. Arrived at the barrier, the enduro went out and could not be started anymore. A fate that also befell another passenger on his GS.

The support vehicle with bridging accessories and spare parts had broken down with an overheated radiator. Until it finally arrived, we stood behind the motorway tollbooth and watched the sunrise with the full moon still in the sky. The other stubborn travel enduro was diagnosed with an outdated starter that was putting too much strain on the equally old battery. It was replaced in no time at all and the motorcycle was ready to ride again. My 650 jumped up and started without the cause being fixed by a new battery would have been used, for example. The next 100 kilometers took us away from the huge Lake Victoria and out into the hilly western part of Uganda in smoke-laden air from many cooking fires. There were seldom any huts to be seen near and far along the road. Nevertheless, the settlement now decreased noticeably. We lined up at a gas station to get gas and I had to turn off the engine. Of course it didn't start again afterwards. Taking advantage of the terrain, we let the bike pick up speed down the hill to throw her, but she didn't move. A truck driver ended up with two copper cables that we used to bridge from another bike to mine. My XChallenge ran again.

Pius swaps the starter quicker than I even found it

While I constantly kept 3000 revolutions with one hand, we got ready to continue our journey. We had already lost half of the group by then. They had broken down an hour before with a broken chain. It was now midday, and the support vehicle that was far behind us had our breakfast packs on board. Our stomachs were growling and the little water we had was almost gone. According to the gas station attendant, there was no food or drink available in the area, which is why we had to travel another 60 kilometers to reach a building with a "Restaurant" sign. Contrary to expectations, there was no food there, so my motorbike stalled again. We were all knocked out Only the over 70-year-old Jonathan, with whom I had already crossed the Andes three months ago on my Vuelta Colombiana tour, was surrounded by a group of children and young people with whom he had a lively conversation. "I'm holding court," he called it. Somewhere another jumper cable could be arranged and we drove only two kilometers further to a gas station to meet up with the other half of the group, who had found a suitable chain link and caught up with us. This time my enduro started by itself and we started the last leg of the day and more than 300 kilometers into the Kibaale Forest National Park. But soon the temperature display on my bike lit up. But there was nothing I could or wanted to do about it. In any case, the tablecloth between me and this motorcycle was cut.

Mechanic Pius in front of an audience
Mechanic Pius in front of an audienceMechanic Pius in front of an audience

In fact, the moment that would finally separate us was soon to come. The propulsion suddenly stopped and a metallic grinding told me that this time no jumper cable in the world would get this bike running again. I expected an impending piston seizure and pulled the clutch to be on the safe side so as not to fall with the rear tire locking. It was probably the valves that protruded into the cylinder due to the heat and were now sawed off the piston. After some more back and forth with other batteries and starter cables, my damage diagnosis was finally believed and the XChallenger was temporarily declared dead. As a replacement, I got the 1150 BMW boxers from the tour guide. A big win compared to the rock hard saddle of the 650s. A relief like moving from a pew to a sofa. The low center of gravity of the two boxer engines and the smooth steering was also the exact opposite of the long-legged and cornering enduro. Now there were only two of us. Mike, the Dane, who was on this motorcycle trip with his girlfriend on the pillion passenger, had handed her over to the support vehicle due to heat exhaustion. I poured the rest of my drinking water over her head.
We couldn't afford any longer breaks, because it was essential to reach the camp in Kibaale National Park before dusk. I still vividly remembered how, a few months ago, I drove down the switchbacks of an Andean ridge in fog and darkness with Mike in Colombia. The risk increases many times over in the dark. After more than 12 hours in the saddle with little sleep the night before, fatigue was also becoming an issue. Explosive self-deception set in. Like closing one eye and just looking at the road in front of me with the other one. Needless to say, how close you are to the cataclysmic moment when both eyes close. So from then on I drove standing up to stay awake. Now we had also arrived in the mountain forests and a horde of baboons slowed our journey for a moment, but revived our spirits. It went off the road and down and up a bumpy dirt path. Then we arrived at the camp. Simple huts stood on the shore of a lake where hippos were spreading their dung in the water with their propeller tails. We ate dinner at a long outdoor table It quickly got cold, so that shortly after sunset we retired to our huts, where it only took a few blinks of an eye to let ourselves sink into the well-deserved sleep of the exhausted.

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