Just outside of the city center tucked behind a tall black gate inscribed with the initials J.J. is an overlander oasis run by German ex-pat Christof. With a large greenbelt ideal of camping and parking overland Land Cruiser, Land Rovers and motorcycles, Jungle Junction also sports a guest house with several rooms, some with private bathroom, a community kitchen, dining and lounge area. And Chris’s workshop is in the condition you’d expect from a passionate German mechanic: spotless and organized.
While in Nairobi I received the DHL package with my Moleskin Book and blue Sea to Summit dry gab. Thanks to Martha and Peter in Malawi!
I opted for a simple room on the first floor as my knee still bothered me from the White Nile river rafting fiasco. Even putting my kick-stand required diligent effort and tolerance to pain I’d rather not have while hanging in Nairobi.
I quickly learned that Chris was the former mechanic for the local Nairobi motorcycle dealer. A subtle fallout with management turned into an opportunity for both mechanic and dealer: Chris would be on-call for motorcycle problems that were unable to be solved by the assistant Chris himself had trained. In turn, Chris would receive a work permit sponsored by BMW Kenya and Chris would also purchase parts and accessories from them. Chris then set up Jungle Junction where travelers can enlist the services of this competent mechanic or work on their bikes and cars in the driveway — sometimes even soliciting the advise and tools of the owner.
It all makes a perfect stopover for overlanders heading the legendary Cairo to Cape Town route. Jungle Junction also offers storage for motorcycles and 4×4’s. For those people who run out of time or fear the travel north of south, Jungle Junction is a respite of safety and sanity — sort of.
Chris is the type of mechanic who not only loathes the remove and replace mentality that defines many BMW dealers and even the company’s manufacturing methods. A traditionalist he is passionate about motorcycles and prefers to fix things rather than simply replacing them — and elsewhere in Africa this sometimes is borne out of necessity rather than choice — but at Jungle Junction, Chris gets to the heart of the bike and doesn’t mind a helpful hand and is quick to offer explanation, suggestion and words of caution. In nearly 50,000 miles on the road over more than two years, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as comfortable to see my bikes in the hands of someone else.
We attacked a number of issues with Doc:
1) Adjust valves.
Chris surmised that perhaps the nagging performance problem could be exasperated by an intake valve that failed to close entirely, causing combustion in the manifold — especially when the bike was hot.
2) Change oil.
BMW recommends ever 10,000km (6,000 miles) and it’d been since Windhoek, almost 6,000 miles, that the oil was changed. The gearbox was feeling a big rough and just getting into neutral was a struggle. The oil had been through hell and back since Windhoek. It was time.
3) Jesse Bag Brackets
Since Santa Cruz Bolivia one of my Jesse Bag compression bolts hadn’t ever seated properly in the countersunk depression in the horizontal bracket on the left side. Chris attacked this problem with fervor. I’d tried to fix this, Javier at Dakar Motors in Buenos Aires had tried, and I’d enlisted a few others along the way. Fortunately the bolt compressed very tightly and even on the tough roads of Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda the bags have never been compromised. But my little tangle in Tanga tweaked the opposite bag and its bracket, so we did the best we could and thanks to Chris the bolt now seats properly.
4) Tailpiece support frame.
You might remember the short that we finally diagnosed in Windhoek and in doing so discovered the tail piece frame had broke. But with no time nor energy in Windhoek, I continued north. Well between Chris and his assistant David (the mechanic at BMW Kenya during the week), they removed the frame and re-welded it. This is important as it’s the primary support for the black BMW top box that holds my camera equipment.
The rear brakes were on their last legs. I’d done good, too. It’d been since Buenos Aires, more than 15,000 miles back that the brakes were last replaced. I’d been carrying spares ever since. So we replaced the rear and given the front hadn’t been replaced since Bolivia, it was time I replaced those. This of course, lightened my load as I’ve been carrying these spares forever.
6) Side Mirror
When I fell in Tanzania the mirror broke. But unlike legends have it, since then my luck has been good. My tire is on the way to Nairobi after being found in the bush of Zambia.
It appears that the head bearings I replaced in Buenos Aires are showing signs of notching, but I ran out of time in Nairobi and must wait until Cairo until I replace these. Wheel bearings appear to be okay, but I may just replace the entire set in Cairo anyway.
8) Electrical switches
My passing light, horn and starter switch have been acting a bit temperamental. I guess the rains of South Africa, Zambia and Malawi combined with the rains of last fall in Brasil have done a number of the switches. So we took them apart and provided a good lubing with some WD40.
I’m sure we tackled a few other items but after putting all the pieces back together and a quick test ride, Doc is ready for Northern Kenya and Ethiopia!
Doc sitting happy and proud at Chris’s workshop at Jungle Junction in Nairobi!
Checking the thickness of shims. Chris didn’t have the perfect size, so assistant David took to the sandpiper to make the size fit!
Chris welded the tailpiece frame so that the top box would be more secure for the bad roads of Ethiopia and Sudan!
But before getting north I still had the business of Visas to contend with. It appears that I may get the Sudanese Visa in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. But I’m told it will be a transit visa and only valid for seven days. That means making the journey across the Nubian Desert along the Nile in seven days. There’s only one ferry weekly from Wadi Halfa in Sudan to Aswan in Egypt. If my timing isn’t impeccable I could be explaining my extended stay in Sudan to the police while groveling in a Sudanese jail cell. But I’m worrying about things far in the future. More important is an Ethiopian Visa.
The Ethiopian Visa was hassle free — for the most part. This cost me another $75 and they required a passport photo and two copies each of my international driving license and a full complete page from my Carnet de Passage. The Ethiopian at the Embassy offered to let me in after hours to provide the photo copies. He stamped copies and scribbled a few things and told me to give this to the authorities at customs in Moyale – as without it they wouldn’t know how to handle the Carnet.
With all of my business in order, I was ready to make my way to Ethiopia.
A farewell to Chris and Jungle Junction in Nairobi.