When Kenyan couple Wamuyu and Dos met at a biker’s event, they agreed to go riding out of town the following day. They have been riding together ever since, setting up the Throttle Adventures website and heading on a motorcycle world tour in 2018. They are set to be on the road for at least three years, and talk to Nomad’s Faith Kanja about their journey thus far.
What made you decide to explore the world on motorbikes?
In 2015, Dos rode from Kenya to South Africa and back on his 180-cc bike. He holds the Kenyan record for the smallest bike to do an adventure trip of that nature in Africa. Listening to his experience and noting how hard the adventure bug bit him, we knew this was it and we would need to work on it fast. We began planning the world tour in 2016.In July 2017, Wamuyu took a similar but shorter adventure and rode to Tanzania entering through Namanga border and riding across Tanzania to Kingoma – Lake Tanganyika. She returned to Kenya via Mwanza and through Isebania border. She detoured to Kisumu before coming back to Nairobi. In 10 days, she covered 3,100 km. She so far holds the record of a Kenyan solo female long-distance rider. We want to explore the world with our own eyes, make our own experiences and enjoy foreign countries, cultures and traditions. We also want to tell the story of our beloved country Kenya to the world. For this reason, we quit our jobs, sold our belongings and said goodbye to our families and friends for three years.
What have been the highlights so far?
One of the best things about our travels has constantly been the people. The kindness, love and hospitality we have encountered in locals and other travelers has been all amazing. Visiting Antarctica was also a major highlight for us. It felt like another universe altogether. The serenity of this particular continent cannot be explained in words or pictures…one has to visit to experience it.
What have been the challenges so far?
We have been very blessed during this trip and fortunately there have been no major challenges. The weather however has drastically changed from what we were prepared for. We planned to avoid winter in the Southern Hemisphere by crossing into the Northern Hemisphere during their summer. We unfortunately got caught up in winter in Namibia and Cape Town. Our daywear was not fit for that weather. This meant more shopping in South Africa. We found ourselves shopping again in Ushuaia as the winter clothes we bought in South Africa were not fit for the temperatures in Ushuaia and Antarctica. Coming from a tropical climate means the right gear is not available back home and this has cost us quite a bit on our budget. Traveling on a motorcycle also means no much space to carry a lot of clothes so this has been a recurring cost The other challenge has been the language barrier upon entering South America. It was a huge mistake not taking Spanish lessons prior to the trip.
What are some of the travel myths you’ve demystified through your travel?
We are constantly explaining that Africa is a safe continent. The most asked questions are whether we live with animals walking around and whether the continent is safe to travel to. We are always happy to change the narrative of Kenya and Africa. Some of the people we have met have also said that they don’t see a lot of Kenyans or Africans traveling, and we are always happy to share stories about African travellers because those numbers have changed. We are honoured to change this perception.
What impressions have you received from people in other countries?
What we are doing is a first for many so people are always surprised. There are also a lot of people in the countryside of South American countries who have never seen black people, so we definitely receive some looks. It is not common that a woman rides her own motorcycle for such long distances and there has not been a black woman from Africa do it, so Wamuyu does get lots of thumbs ups.
How do you compare Africa with the other places you have been to?
Culturally speaking, we have similarities in family bonds with South Americans. Family is very important and they also recognize extended families like we do in Africa. Argentina and Chile have quite different food from ours but in Bolivia and Peru, we have lots of familiar dishes. Rice with stew, grilled chicken with chips, boiled maize and a lot of fruits. In Argentina we ate grilled meat similar to Nyama Choma, but they grill theirs differently.
What are the top five travel essentials while using a motorcycle?
The right gear that can withstand different weather (wet, hot and cold). We have five piece suits that have a rain suit, armoured riding suit and removable thermal lining. This caters for all weather apart from winter. Basic tools that can repair a puncture, tighten loose nuts or change a clutch cable. Spare parts – brake pads, tube if needed, bulbs, clutch cables, engine oil, oil filter and spark plugs. When we were changing Wamuyu’s rear brake pads, we wanted to replace the spare but couldn’t find it in Bolivia. When we finally did, the price was extremely high and if we had no spare we would have had to pay that. GPS– Navigation can be hard in a foreign country. Whether you prefer Gaming, Google Maps or maps.me, you need to have your offline maps well in advance. Take time to check the route, road conditions, towns in between, petrol stations etc. We use offline maps on our phones. The locals are also always helpful. Water, snacks and food – Always have a fruit, nuts or energy bars, some canned food and enough drinking water with you. Traveling by road is unpredictable. Sometimes you go for a long distance without any access to restaurants and also heavy meals in between riding can make you drowsy and slow you down. Sometimes you could also decide to camp, and you will need some food. We carry some canned tuna. Getting bread is easy anywhere and that makes a meal. We also carry coffee sachets for breakfast. Camping gear – early bookings don’t work for us, as with many overlanders. In case you have no accommodation, there is always an open campsite or space. You can easily make your home with no hustle.
Advice to people willing to take up inter-country travel
The most important is having your documents ready and with you. The rest can be available everywhere. If traveling by air, you only need your passport and a valid yellow fever certificate. If using a motorcycle or car, you need a passport, valid yellow fever certificate, valid international as well as local driving license (make sure your local license is valid even if you have an international license), vehicle documents – original log book (proof of ownership), carnet – not required in all countries. You must check this with Automobile Association. You also need insurance for the motorbike or car. Most are sold at the border. Make sure you process your vehicle for entry at the border customs and get all the documents and keep them for exiting the country. We almost got stranded in Chile since we misplaced our customs documents. We thank God for the kind border officers who were kind enough to request for details of our entry from the entry border. Personal medical insurance is also important as cost of treatment can be very expensive in foreign countries.
To follow their world tour, visit www.throttleadventures.com