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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Ten items long-distance motorcyclists will find useful:

1. Powered drink mix. Game or Gatorade is the business. Game is from South Africa, while Gatorade is from USA - essentialy the same. Tastes identical. They help restore fluids, electrolytes and energy; everything that one loses while sweating. Interesting fact about Gatorade:  Its name was derived from the University of Florida's sports teams, the Gators; where the product was being researched.

2. Plastic bowl and spoon. A spoon is more versatile than a fork, and a plastic bowl will come in handy for more than just eating. If you plan to eat a lot of street food in Africa — to keep costs down and  because it’s more interesting — these will be the most-used items in your pack. It’s essential to carry a super lightweight bowl.

3. Batteries. They’re heavy, yes, but you’ll be glad you have them when your headlamp runs out of steam in the middle of a dark, night-time bush taxi ride. Quality batteries can be hard to find in some countries — and expensive — so it’s worth stashing a few from home in your pack.
If you don’t want to carry the weight, pay big bucks for batteries in packages that haven’t been opened. If you buy the cheap kind that’s sold on the street, they’ll likely only work for a few minutes, if they work at all.

4. Antibiotic ointment. Cuts tend to get infected easily when you’re away from home and surrounded by foreign germs, and the chances of infection increase dramatically in dusty villages that lack running water. Save yourself a trip to the local hospital by caring properly for even small wounds. Ointments like Bactroban come in handy.

5. Pillow Case. Not a pillow. Just a pillow case. A pillow can take up a lot of room in your pack, room that you need for other, more important things. Not only can a pillow case act as a sack to contain items, preventing them from shifting, but if you stuff it full of your clothes, it also doubles as a great place to rest your head, for when your arm won’t do, and you just don’t trust the weird stains on the linen that the hostel is offering you.

6. Head sweatband. I use it under my helmet when I'm riding. It serves four purposes. When it's hot it stops sweat running down your face (duh). When its cold it forms a seal with your helmet, keeping your pip warm. Covers the ears eliminating noise from the road and wind leaking into the helmet. And it pins your ears against your head, which prevents them getting crumpled when you put your helmet on.

7. Flip-flops. The cheap, flimsy kind. You’ll pat yourself on the back for carrying them every time you shower in a not-so-nice dorm bathroom or bucket-bathe in a cement room with just a drain on the floor. Flip-flops may be slightly awkward to pack, but they’re super light, which makes up for it.

8. Headlamp. I pack a headlamp even when I’m headed for a developed country with electricity and ceiling lights and street lamps. You simply never know when you might want it on the bus or even to find something in your pack when everyone in your hostel dorm room is asleep.
And when it comes to backpacking through undeveloped countries, a headlamp is a Must-Have. During my trip to Lesotho, I used my headlamp more than any other item in my pack: more than my toothbrush, even. I used it to brave outdoor, hole-in-the-ground toilets and to wade through water to board makeshift ferries in the dark and to cross unfamiliar villages after the sun went down. Don’t leave home without it.

9. Catapult. It might seem strange to pack a catapult , but this will come in handy when baboons are advancing looking to help themselves to some food. Ask the people of Fish Hoek near Cape Town. Also helps when you are being stoned by the people who stone motorcyclists, like the stoners from Sterkspruit, Mount Fletcher and Lesotho (where I have been stoned on previous trips). I believe it is a trend in Ethiopia as well. Be prepared.

10. Ziploc bags. These have many uses and are waterproof and dustproof. A good bag can last months, but when it tears, you won’t easily find a replacement in some rural areas. These are so light and can be easily crammed into a corner of your pack; there’s no excuse not to bring a few extras.