Kaluusi’s bike journey to South Africa
What you need to know:
Although a biking enthusiast, Isaac Kaluusi also rides for different causes. To raise awareness for cancer, Kaluusi and some members of the Uganda Biker’s Association decided to ride to South Africa, a journey that took 22 days.
Recently, Isaac Ssebunya Kaluusi and a few friends from the Uganda Bikers Association took 22 days to ride from Kampala to South Africa and another 22 days to make a return journey.
Riding a 2016 model BMW bike with 1200cc engine, Kaluusi and his friend’s starting point was Coffee at Last in Munyonyo for breakfast. The first stop was in Mbarara City in western Uganda for lunch before proceeding to Gatuna border where bikers from Rwanda joined them on the journey to Kigali.
Much as it was on the itinerary, Bujumbura was skipped because the Rwanda-Burundi border was closed. Instead, they crossed through Rusumo, the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, up to Kahama for the first night.
“Before the trip, I needed money, time and a green light from my doctor. If you have any underlying illnesses such as asthma, you must carry your asthma kit for such journeys. I serviced my bike, specifically the shock absorbers, engine oil, brakes and other parts. It carried everything I needed, including food and spare parts and had to be in the best mechanical condition to ride at a speed I could control. I rode within my experience and it helped me make a return journey safely without any incidents,” Kaluusi explains.
With a maximum speed of 240km/hr, Kaluusi’s bike runs on a 1200cc engine. In simple terms, 12 ordinary Bajaj motorcycles make up Kaluusi’s BMW engine size. Its fuel tank carries 34 litres, with 16 litres of extra fuel in additional fuel tanks. In 2018, Kaluusi rode for a shorter cross-border trip to Tanzania. One of the problems he and friends encountered at the time was fuel. For the trip to South Africa, there was no room for error.
“I carried extra fuel because fuel stations in countries such as Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia are far apart. One station can be approximately 500km away from another on top of fuel being scarce. It is not like Uganda where stations are opposite each other,” he adds.
On the highway, Kaluusi’s bike covers 25km to 28km per litre of fuel, with some bikes covering 15km per litre because of high throttle. The performance of Kaluusi’s bike is extreme and requires enough experience to ride.
“It is capable of anything because it has a lot of power. It has 125 horsepower and performs at 7,750 revolutions per minute. I can challenge any vehicle on the road. Maintaining a 1200cc engine bike is like driving a car with a big engine. It does not require a lot of service because it was made to travel for long distances,” Kaluusi says.
In Cape Town, Kaluusi changed engine oil, air filters and oil filters. Parts such as the plugs were still in perfect condition. In a day, he covered between 800km to 1,000km, meaning he had to utilise every resting time to get enough sleep. The whole journey was planned for 45 days. He was supposed to have reached Cape Town in 22 days and use another 22 for the return journey back to Kampala. The total distance was approximately 28,000km, which required about 1,000 litres of fuel. This means he spent approximately Shs5m on fuel.
“As an association, we ride for different causes and this time round we rode for cancer awareness. Some of the costs were covered by sponsors and well-wishers,” Kaluusi says.
Apart from South Africa, Kaluusi has ridden to Kigali in Rwanda and Tanzania. The trip to South Africa en route Zambia, Botswana up to Swakopmund up to the Skeleton Coast in Namibia was just a continuation.
From Zambia, he entered South Africa through Vioolsdrif Border and proceeded to Johannesburg. For the return journey, from South Africa, he transited to Zimbabwe, to Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and back to Uganda in 45 days. Of all these countries, the longest was Namibia because it is so scenic. There, the environment changes to deserts. It is where the desert meets the ocean. For example, Kaluusi says, while it was hot on the desert side, it was winter on the ocean side.
Before crossing any border, Kaluusi familiarised himself with traffic laws of different countries. Every border had an authority to talk to for a brief about the traffic rules. For example, in Rwanda, motorists and motorcyclists drive on the right and must keep within a set national speed. There are countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe with some road sections with no speed limits.
On average, the cost of a BMW bike is Shs25m. When doing service, it depends on the oil type you use. He uses Castrol oil that covers 10,000km before servicing again. When well maintained, you can do service twice in a year. Because it is a big bike does not mean spending more on service. For Kaluusi, service cost does not go beyond Shs500,000 per garage visit.