BMW Motorrad in Nairobi ate in to a lot of my time I had available in Kenya. I had purposely not travelled with a Carnet because bikes registered in SADC or COMESA countries do not need a Carnet for Kenya (vehicles registered in other countries do). The limitation is the vehicle only gets 14 days, but considering the amount of time I had spent in previous countries visiting the main attractions, that seemed long enough. It wasn’t.
To recap from my previous blog, the bike had an issue where the engine warning light would come on anytime from a few seconds after starting the bike, up to the end of that ride when I turned the bike off again. The HexCode GS-911 diagnostic interface I carry with me was reporting an issue with the throttle valve position on cylinder 1. I had previously been in touch with the brand manager for BMW Motorrad in Nairobi/Kenya, and he had forwarded my details to a few people to progress while he was away for a week. During that week, while I was still in Uganda, I heard nothing back. I entered Kenya on the Monday midday, stayed in Eldoret that night, and was at BMW Motorrad Nairobi on Tuesday just after lunch. I was fully expecting to have the bike pulled in to the workshop there and then, some diagnostic work done (in addition to the Hex Code GS-911 diagnostic report I had already provided them with), and either to be sorted out then, or a plan to get the bike finished the next day. Instead I found the place almost empty of people and bikes, with just one police bike waiting collection and a GS310 with its battery on charge. The rest of the showroom and offices were empty. A Motorrad technician made an appearance and said we need to speak to someone else, Peter, to decide what to do. Peter is in charge of the Motorrad workshop, and made an appearance after arriving back from somewhere else. I was told “It’s after lunch so come back tomorrow morning”. Not wanting to upset the apple cart at the first introduction, I left there and headed over to Jungle Junction to check in.
I could probably write chapter and verse about the details of what happened, but to make a long story short, Peter was trying to help but with absolutely zero infrastructure to support him. It landed up that three days later I had to fix my own bike, with my own diagnostic computer and tools (they didn’t even have decent tools), in their workshop. They were going to bring their diagnostic computer from “the other branch” (which I’m not sure exists), but a day and a half later it still hadn’t turned up because it was “still undergoing a software upgrade”! I was also in discussion with Shane from Donford in Cape Town who provided some valuable suggestions to get it fixed – thanks Shane! Peter gave me a bill for one hour’s labour, which is what I wanted as it forms the audit trail for BMW that nobody other than official BMW service centres have worked on the engine, in case a claim needed to ensue down the line. On Friday morning I made my points clear and that I was not going to leave the bike with them over the weekend still not fixed. Fortunately after speaking to Shane and doing a bit of work between Peter and I (the technician didn’t pitch up at work that day), the bike was fixed.
I was therefore very glad to have a working bike again, and looking forward to getting a new back tyre and the front puncture permanently repaired, along with a repeat of the 70,000km service. I originally wanted BMW Nairobi to do the service, but they didn’t have the correct oil or filters so they suggested I get it done at Jungle Junction because they would have the supplies needed. Well, I can also say I’m not that impressed with the diligence of that workshop either! That despite the previous good reports based on Chris’s previous involvement in BMW Motorrad South Africa and the supply and maintenance of BMW bikes to a few governments in Africa, esp. Nigeria and Kenya where he now lives. The service was fine, but they failed to balance either wheel after replacing the tyres so I landed up with a bike that was shaking badly when I rode out of there the next day to Mombasa. Before removing the weights from the previous balancing, I asked Chris via WhatsApp if they had balanced the wheels, and he confirmed they had not. When I made it clear that was quite frustrating, especially not being able to find anywhere in Mombasa that could balance bike wheels, his reply and justification was that “nobody died”. Hardly a first world measure of engineering excellence. I removed the weights from the previous balancing and that made the bike tolerable, even though it didn’t completely fix the problem. The accommodation at JJ’s was very basic, with a shared bathroom. The shower had hot water, but no hot water in the hand basin. The food though made up for that, especially the odours of the cakes being baked there as a side business. On balance I think it was a bit overpriced.
From Nairobi I was considering either to extend the trip further north, or treat this ride as a ride around Lake Victoria. Given the lost time due to the bike issue (which could have been fixed in the car park on the afternoon I arrived by an experienced technician), and the typical week or more it takes to get an Ethiopian and Sudan visa out of the embassies in Nairobi, along with the unrest bubbling under in both countries, I decided to go to Mombasa instead, and treat this ride as a ride around Lake Victoria. Kathy from Motofreight in London and I had been in touch with a shipping agent in Khartoum to fly the bike from there to Istanbul, but he suddenly stopped replying to messages and emails, which did nothing to inspire confidence in the situation on the ground. Travelling without a Carnet would also have created issues in Egypt, so I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the potential of getting stuck in Sudan, and not being able to transit back via Ethiopia or north via Egypt. I have been to Egypt many times over many years SCUBA diving, plus the fact I have another bike in Europe, means that in my case it wasn’t that important to get this bike over to Europe. Egypt is also very expensive to transit – including the entry charges and shipping out to Europe would run about US$3,000 which is also a bit off-putting. Nonetheless, I hope to come back and complete the ride up East Africa in Jan/Feb when there is less rain in Ethiopia and Sudan/Egypt are cooler, and have either a clear plan to fly out of Khartoum or travel with a Carnet to spend longer in Kenya and also transit via Egypt.
I had never considered or planned to go to Mombasa in all my planning, but I’m glad I made it there. That is except the last 6km or so in to the city where the road is not just destroyed, it’s obliterated! The trucks that tow the shipping containers don’t even drive in to the city on that road, it’s so bad. Instead, they unhitch the trailers and farm tractors pull the trailers in to the city and docks. It was the first time I had arrived at my hotel after sunset in this entire trip. While in Mombasa I went to visit Fort Jesus and the old town, and learn a bit about the history of the area, esp. the different nations that had colonised the area over history, and how some had just come to take things out of Africa, while others had come to exchange – not only come to see what they can get from the area, but also to give something back. From Mombasa I headed south to also visit the slave caves in Shimoni, which I found very interesting, and somewhat shocking that a person could subject another to such inhumanity.
It’s now been three months since I started out on this trip, and seeing as my 14 day Kenya TIP for the bike was about to expire, there was nothing else but to start heading back. I had a choice of taking it slowly and going back to a few places I had visited on the way up, and visit a few new ones, or join a tour a friend of mine had invited me on in a couple of weeks’ time. I was also keen to get the bike in to a proper BMW Motorrad dealer for its 80,000km service back in SA, so it was 3 months to get to Mombasa, and 7 days back to Bavarian BMW Motorrad in Centurion.
That’s it for this trip around Lake Victoria folks. I’ll put up another blog or two in the mean time until I get to the next major leg of my RTW tour, so keep an eye open for updates here and on Facebook.