I was thinking of doing a version of our trip to Africa in 2015 on here. 13000km, 11 weeks. Whaddaya reckon?
I was thinking of doing a version of our trip to Africa in 2015 on here. 13000km, 11 weeks. Whaddaya reckon?
OK, so you may have gathered that me and Mrs 3D have a bit of a thing for Africa. We've done five bike trips (including this one) four of which have been fly-rides out of either Capetown or Joburg/Pretoria. These have been great, but as we got used to the place we wanted to head further north, something that is difficult to do on many rentals - although we had been to Namibia and Botswana on previous trips.
Anyway, renting is stressful - you fall off (very likely) and the bills for damage can mount up, and not having your own luggage and using a standard bike can be a pain. So, best solution, ship/fly your own bike out and have some fun!
in 2014 we sold our guesthouse business in Inverness (oh happy happy!) and went to live in the Borders in one of my brothers houses while we planned THE BIG TRIP. We were going to camp so needed new gear for that, not having camped for 20 years or more - a Robens tent, Rab sleeping bags and Exped matresses turned up, along with lots of other bits and pieces. I'd never bought so much gear at once.
We took the bike and all the camping gear for a quick shakedown run to Spain in October which seemed to suggest that our ageing bods could cope with sleeping in a tent still.
Rocamador in France. All the gear and no idea eh?
Over winter 2014 and early 2015 we sorted out the shipping and paperwork. I'd ride the bike to Heathrow and deliver it to Motofreight and then fly back to Edinburgh while they crated it up and sent it to Capetown. We had to sort out the Carnet de Passage (an expensive little document) as well as get various jabs - yellow fever would be needed for example, and this was checked at several borders. I bought a Tracks4Africa map for the Garmin, which proved to be invaluable.
We tried to plan the trip to avoid the rains. Anyone who has ridden in African rain will tell you it can be bloody scary, and the lightning can be biblical. This meant starting the trip in Africa's autumn (our spring), as the continent moved into its drier winter season. The bike was serviced, new Mitas E07s fitted, heavy spring on the newly serviced shock and it was ready to go to Capetown to arrive mid April.
Being crated up at Motofreight.
The bike flew Virgin, we flew BA, and were quickly reunited in Capetown with less fuss than getting a rental. A bit of spanner work at Econotrans to refit the usual stuff and after a quick shakedown around Chapman's Peak, the next day we were off to the Cederberg for a Wild Dogs rally, or as they call it a spitbraai. Meaty!
Capetown to Cederberg Oasis
I have been told that Namibia is one I have " to do " on my bucket list.
Oldest lad spent a while out there working and loved it, he was based in Walvis Bay but pretty much toured about in a 4 x4 whenever he could, plus a few days on a desert quad.
I agree with your rental philosophy, not sure I would like to get a rental bike and go off piste
Anyways, good luck and keep us updated with your plans.
Jealous ??? Nah Well done
Namibia is adv heaven, and is safe and easy to travel in. Stick to the 'C' roads and you'll be fine, they are generally hard packed gravel. The border is a day and a half from Capetown. You can go any time of year, but it can be farkin' hot in summer. Keep watching this thread and I'll give you a taster.
So it's just a day out from Morroco then ???
If it weren't for the border crossings. RAAAIIIIDDD!!!!
Mrs 3D was a bit suspicious of starting the trip with a rally. She (possibly with good reason) has a vision of a bunch of old farts sitting around drinking beer and talking bikes for hours, but I managed to persuade her that it would be a hoot, and so it turned out.
It's always fun heading out of Capetown. The road north is a dual carriageway which goes past the airport, a bit like the M4 past Heathrow. Except that on the M4 you're not dodging kids running across the road, which is every bit as busy as it's London counterpart. Welcome to Africa!
At about the half way mark to the Cederberg Oasis you reach Ceres, and climb the Gydo Pass to where the gravel road starts. The sun was shining, the bike seemed fine and all was good in the world.
Top of the Gydo Pass
The Cederberg is a mountain wilderness area with evidence of human inhabitation in the form of San rock carvings going back many centuries. The forests that gave the area its name were felled many years ago for things like telephone poles and for housing, but it is nevertheless a beautiful area popular with walkers and climbers
The Cederberg Oasis campsite is very popular as a stop for the South African ADV mob, and the spitbraais put on by the owners Chantal and Gerrit are very popular bashes.
We arrived and set up our tent. There was a decent turnout.
We quickly met up with a couple who had contacted us via Wild Dogs. Altus and Simone are teriffic people, and Altus was planning to ride to the UK in 2017, like it says on his shirt. And he did! He even wrote a book about it.
We had a great evening - having an unusual number plate is a good way of getting to know people at these things eh?
Gerrit getting ready to barbeque SA style.
The next day it was suggested that we head up to the Tankwa Padstal. This is a sort of cafe/shop way out in the Tankwa Karoo area. It's a bit like The Green Wellie, only warm outside. It would be a great run up the Katbakkies Pass to get there.
Who doesn't like an Africa Twin?
What a terrible way to spend the day.
And then back to the Oasis for an indecent amout of meat and beer. Crumbs those Saffers have hearty apetites.
One thing that did surprise me was how many people there had not been into Namibia. It's only a day and a half from Capetown if you get your skates on. Felt odd passing on advice about travelling there to the other guys, but hopefully some more will have seen it for themselves as a result.
After waking to another crystal clear morning and eating yet another massive meal in the form of breakfast we packed up all the gear to begin our journey north to the small town of Springbok
Fortunately it's possible find some gravel and stay off the fairly straightforward N7 for some of the way. Last time we did this we saw camels down by the Olifants river, which was a bit unusual.
Camels from 2009
It soon gets pretty remote.
I was still working out how to get the pile of luggage to stay put. This stop was to straighten everything up. I eventually found I could run a strap from the yellow bag to one of the rack's struts to keep it in place. Always worth carrying some webbing and a few buckles I reckon.
After gassing up in Clanwilliam we trundled north, but after some hours it became clear that it was going to be a tight squeak petrol-wise. I just wasn't paying attention - big distances are okay IF you remember to fill the Desert Fox bag AND remember that it's Sunday in a God-fearing part of the world. Eventually we had to slow right down to conserve gas, adding to the tedium. This always happens a least once on every trip, mostly down to muppetry by me.
It was getting a bit late in the day, and I was worried, but fortunately Springbok appeared out of the gloom just as the fuel pump was starting to sing a little loudly. We pulled into a curiously darkened gas station, a single pump running off a small generator. Turned out the town was either subject to 'load shedding' (they don't have enough electricity to go round in South Africa) or there was some power cut. As there was no power for 24 hours I assume it was the latter.
Oh well, dinner by candle-light. Romantic eh?
The following day we had the short hop to the Namibian border at Vioolsdrif. As South Africa and Namibia have some reciprocal arrangements like Namibian dollars being pegged to the Rand I was confident this would be pretty straightforward. You don't even need insurance as, like SA it's included in the price of fuel.
The border was very quiet and we were through very smartly, although we did have to spend a little time explaining that the carnet didn't need to be stamped out as there is a customs union between the two countries. In fact it was so quick that we were able to grab some lunch at our next overnight stop, Norotshama Lodge on the Orange River. Time for a little laundry then!
No need to rough it in Africa.
Okay, next up, Namibia - the best adventure riding country in the world!
It felt good to be in Namibia. The sun was shining (of course) but it wasn't too hot and the day promised some good gravel riding. Our next stop was Helmeringhausen, a town with little other than a rather eccentrically run hotel (their Tripadvisor comments are, er, interesting) a shop and a petrol station.
For the first part of the day we rode near the Orange River through the Richtersveld National Park. It's very beautiful, and I understand that deeper into the park it gets even better. Unfortunately I think it's pretty much 4x4 trails there, not something I was that keen to tackle on the heavily laden GS. Maybe next time we can have a few days at Norotshama and explore.
There are a few tarmaced roads in Namibia - the B1 which runs the length of the country from Windhoek, and this is another, from the mining town of Rosh Pinah.
It's always wise to gas up when you can - this is Aus.
After a while you start seeing Sociable Weaver Bird nests on the telegraph poles. In a tree these can grow to a huge size, and it's not wise to stand under them as snakes on the lookout for prey can fall out.
Anyway, after a straightforward day's riding we arrived in Helmeringhausen. Our room was pretty decent, but we got a bit of a vibe from the staff that all was not well - Namibians are normally very relaxed and well used to dealing with Mzungus (white people) as equals. The bad vibe was being transmitted from the owner, who was a bad tempered cow who had the poor locals running round in circles. I guess they put up with it because there isn't much employment around, but read the reviews and judge for yourself.
Dinner was fresh...
...and very tasty, We shared a table with a bunch of photographers from New Zealand who were heading south to the Richtersveld. It didn't take long before we found a friend of ours that one of them knew. Happens all the time with Kiwis.
The following morning we hopped across the street to get fuel, and I put my foot down expecting ground and got pothole. Down went the bike, dinging the nice new pump and putting a dent in my fuel tank. These guys lifted the bike off my leg. After paying for the fuel we scarpered just in case the hotel owner spotted us and demanded we pay for repairing the pump.
Next up, the improbably named Solitaire, famed for apple pie, of all things.
We started to see more animals along the road. Fortunately they seem to be fencing them in more and more, but they still get out. I really don't fancy hitting something with horns like scimitars.
As I mentioned, Solitaire is famous for its apple pie. Just the thing to have in the middle of the desert eh? Dessert in the desert. McGregor's bakery, owned by the now sadly departed Scotsman Percy 'Moose' Cross 25 years or so ago is a large complex now, but the pie that he made famous is still good. Even in the heat.
The famous pie.
We had just a little further to go as we were camping on a guest farm a bit further down the road. It turned out to be a great spot, and we even had our own ablution block. Looxury!
Build a fire under this 'donkey boiler' and get lashings of hot water for your shower. Crude, but very effective.
Not a bad spot to camp at all. We had a couple of days in Solitaire, and planned to ride up the Spreegtshoogte Pass the following day, which promised excellent views over the Namib-Naukluft desert.
A gentle day out, climbing the Spreetshoogte Pass. This is actually Namibia's steepest pass (although by no means its most difficult) with gadients as steep as 1 in 4.5. The top of the pass is a great place to see the Namib -Naukluft desert and is some 3000 feet high. Unfortunately (probably) some of it is now paved, but it's still quite a climb.
When we got to the top a 4x4 rolled up containing the soon to be retired German ambassador to Zambia, his wife and a couple of friends. The obliged with a pic, and we found ourselves with an invitation to stay at the 'German Residence' in Lusaka. Damn, I knew I should have brought the dinner jacket!
It was certainly nice to be carrying less weight around - nothing in the panniers other than a compressor and the tool kit. Next day it was off to the coast and Swakopmund. In retrospect three nights there was one night too long, but it is quite an interesting place with a strong German feel to it. I was keen to go to the coast though, as I fancied riding the salt road out of town to the north and seeing the famous shipwreck up that way.
An eroded rocky landscape soon gave way to absolute flatness as we got closer to the coast.
In Swak we tried to contact our insurance person in Lusaka, who had promised to get cover sorted before we got to the Zambian border. No dice unfortunately - it never did turn up, but we were able to get some at the border. To kill some time we explored the dunes on quads. It was Baltic cold in the mornings as the fog comes in pretty much every night, and then burns off during the morning - this is due to the freezing Benguela Current.
Setting off from Swakopmund towards Kamanjab we picked up the salt road running north. It's funny stuff, looks pretty slick, but has plenty of grip. I'd wanted to ride this, as I mentioned previously, but an hour north of town I realised I'd left our documents and passports in the safe in our room, so I got to ride it three times. I'm a bit over it now...
The star attraction up the coast is a wrecked cable laying ship which is slowly being pounded to pieces by the waves. There have been many wrecks along this coast, but this is probably the best known.
The temperature rose rapidly as soon as we left to coastal strip, and we found ourselves riding through a very harsh landscape - people live out here, but I have no idea how. Our overnight was at Alpec Bush camp. The road in was very heavily eroded in places and pretty sandy, and riding in a deep rut with sticky-out cylinders is always a bit dicey, but we made it, right up to the point where I turned right into the camp and dropped the bike in some deep sand. I was quite surprised to have crunched my ankle. Surprised because this is something the usually happens with hard panniers. Later on I figured out that it was the pillion footrest lowering plates that Touratech supply with the Zega racks I have. When I got home I put the original mounting plates back on having first removed the mounts for the o/e panniers. Never crunched anything again, and I've tested that by falling off several times!
Heading in to Alpec past a termite mound. The track got steadily more sandy and rutted.
Never mind, we had a cracking evening with a couple of Swiss guys who were planning to set up a beach camp in Mozambique. Hope it worked out for them, braver than me!
Wow , what a Ride report
Cheers, glad you're enjoying it! Next up, monkey paintball, Himba people and safari.
Having a boot with ski type buckles (rather than a zip) proved handy the following morning as I was able to jam my swollen foot into my boot reasonably easily. Once in and well supported it didn't feel too bad. We were heading north again into Kaokoland, home of the Himba people, more of whom later. This is a very remote area, even by Namibian standards. It's a place for hard core adventure riding where riding along dried up river beds can have you face to face with an angry ellie, or an off can see you needing a helicopter.
We refueled in bustling Opuwo, filling up the Desert Fox bag as well as I knew there wouldn't be fuel until we reached Ruacana after our stay at Kunene River Lodge. There we spotted many ladies sporting the traditional wear of their tribes: full Victorian for the Herrero and a furry miniskirt and red skin paint for the Himba. Africans generally aren't too keen on being photographed, so Mrs 3D grabbed one as we passed. Apologies for the blurriness.
The going was pretty good, and after about 100 kms we emptied the bag.
Anyway, there we were, cruising along on a great gravel road making good time when we came upon this:
Oh dear, that does not look like a bundle of laughs on a fully loaded GS piloted by a rider of modest ability. We started to scout around to see if there was a crossing that might be a little less difficult. Lots of tyre tracks off to the right suggested there might be. I was also weighing up the possibility of unloading the bike and giving it a go here, but that wasn't very appealing.
After a while a group of young kids appeared (they nearly always do!) and told us that there was a crossing further down the way. We checked it out and it looked do-able, so I went back for the bike, letting the tyres down to about 20psi front and 25 rear. It was pretty sandy, but I made it to where the kids were, and then with a bit of shoving from them I rode the bike through the stream and heavy sand onto the firmer far side - job done. I reached into my pocket and found about eight dollars to give them (about 50p) but the oldest one smiled and said twenty would be better. I couldn't help but laugh and coughed up. He'll go far that one!
Our little helpers.
The rest of the road was in one pice, but deteriorated greatly as we got to the Kunene river, but we got through without dropping it, it was hot and difficult though. As soon as we arrived at the lodge I treated myself to a cold one (in a frozen glass) before doing anything else. It was gooood.
The lodge was a great place to stay, and they treated us to a cracking spot right on the river. On the other side is Angola. While we were pitching the tent, a group in 4x4 campers we'd talked to at Alpec came over and plied us with more ice cold beer, very civilised, I thought.
Evenings were spent on the deck overlooking the river. We chatted to lots of people (being on the bike helps introductions) including a chap called Kevin who we are still in contact with - I noticed a KTM sticker on his camper, but he didn't ride, it was his brother in law, Dakar rider and enduro legend Alfie Cox who definitely does.
The lodge, in common with many in southern Africa organised quite a few different activities. Mrs 3D loves white water rafting, so on our second day we were up bright and early to head off to see what the river had to offer. Bumping along in the lodge's pickup I felt rather queasy, not from motion sickness but from looking at the state of the 'road' I'd have to ride the following day.
Rubber boats ahoy!
After shooting quite a number of rapids the river calmed down and we spent a pleasant hour or two paddling back to the lodge.
In the afternoon we were going to get all cultural with the local Himba. The lodge maintains a relationship with a local family who live totally traditionally in a compound not far down the road. The lodge provided a guide/translator to show us how they lived. It was fascinating - it was absolutely stone age living, no running water, nothing. The lodge passes on some of the charge for the tour to the family who use it to maintain their herd and send the kids to the local school.
The man of the house and the family dwelling.
He mixed up a pipe of something pretty evil smelling, but didn't pass it around. Socks with sandals eh?
The family have several children - at least one was away at senior school, presumably in Opuwo. The lady is grinding up minerals which is mixed with animal fat for their distinctive red skin 'cream' I'd be lying if I said it smelt good. They use it in their hair too.
Married and unmarried women have different hair styles.
When we got back to the lodge we spotted the owner loading up a paintball gun. Why? Apparently it was to deter monkeys - one of the 4x4s parked nearby had already been raided, and they operate like the SAS when it comes to nicking stuff off the breakfast buffet. Anyway, would we like to come along? Sure!
The Great White Hunter.
The target (never hit, they're way too quick and smart)
Another pleasant evening followed, but I was a bit worried about getting down the road to Ruacana, it really didn't look good from the pickup truck. But it would be worth it - our next stop was Etosha National Park, and that means one thing: Safari!
Aye, right, another day in Paradise !!!
What a great adventure! Looking forward to the rest ?
Thanks, I'm enjoying reliving it. Hopefully we'll all have the option of doing trips like this again soon, but I do wonder how well these remote lodges will have weathered the covid storm.
So, up bright and early to tackle the dreaded road to Ruacana. Actually, if you are any good the road in the opposite direction (west) down the river is the one to do - it ends at Epupa Falls, or hospital, depending on your ability.
Anyway, we were sorry to leave Kunene, and I was even sorrier that we had to ride the shitbox road out to Ruacana, picturesque though it was. There was more sand than I am comfortable with, including a nasty section where the road was washed out and we had to cross a small river upstream. Still, we managed to get through everything, although I suspect it wasn't too pretty to look at sometimes. That was, until I dumped it in spactacular fashion in the only puddle in northern Namibia. I saw the damn thing under a tree and though I'd given it enough leeway, but the back wheel slipped down its steep side and over we went, catching my sore ankle again. I've fallen off various GSs several times and never hurt myself once, but that was twice now I did my ankle in, convincing me the culprit was the extension plates for the pillion pegs which came with the racks.
The bike was a bit bent this time, with the right hand bar sticking up at a jaunty angle and the cylinder head protector mashed, but a little muscle applied using the plug spanner as a lever got things more or less straight. Not a trick I'd like to try with an alloy bar, I suspect it might have have broken. The most galling thing was that the road improved hugely immediately after the puddle.
Anyway, that may explain why I didn't take any photos on the way to Etosha, although apart from the huge number of shebeens (The Fly Emirates bar or the BBC Entertainment Bar anyone?) there wasn't much to see. After an overnight stop at Ondangwa (the Airport Lodge, not a bad place to overnight and with a ready supply of condoms in the bedside drawer should you need them) we reached our next three night stop, Onguma Tamboti Camp at Etosha.
Now this is a great campsite. Each pitch has it's own kitchen and ablutions and the main building is very pleasant. They have a small shop and do food. Best of all there is a stoep where you can sit with a cold one watching the animals at the water hole. It's about 2km down a track by the C38 Namutoni entrance to the park.
The verandah (stoep) looked out over an artificial watering hole. Various animals came and went, and thinking back I'm not sure the road in was fenced off from the surrounding area. Coming face to face with something big and wild would make a great story, if you live to tell it. Gulp!
A 'sundowner' trip out was great. Go for a short game drive and then have drinkies while the sun sets. Marvellous.
Ngala lalapanzi (I think) Lion lying down.
Anyone who gets sick of African sunsets needs to check their pulse.
The following day we booked a trip into Etosha with the same cheery guide who took us out on the Sundowner. Once again, we were super lucky in that we were the only people on the trip. This has happened more time than is decent to us - we once had a whole lodge to ourselves - and it means you can see what you want to see without reference to anyone else.
We saw quite a few beasties.
White rhino with a calf. IN THE SAME DAY!!!
This little fella would have your face off in a second. Hyenas can rip open a padlocked fridge.
And of course loads of antelopes, zebras and birds. No more lions unfortunately, but you can't have everything.
Our transport for the day. If you ever go in one of these, never sit in the back, it's like being in a washing mashine.
Back to the lodge to rest my throbbing ankle.
What I've described thus far could be done in a fortnight from Cape Town, give or take. You might have to slab it back a bit down the B1 from Windhoek, but what the hell. You fly overnight, pick up a bike in the morning and would be pitching up at the Cederberg Oasis in the afternoon. Why wouldn't ya?
Anyway, that was Etosha - a jewel in Namibia's crown. Fast forward a little to get to Zambia. The run from Etosha to Rundu was pretty dull. Man, that B8 road is straight, tarmac too. Bor-ring! Stayed at Kaisosi River Lodge, which was fine, and ran into Kevin (Alfie C's brother in law) again which was brilliant. Had a meal that would have defeated even the most dedicated trencherman and drank too much. Excellent! Rundu is a hole- very obvious security at the gas stations was something I hadn't seen before but we needed to break the journey to the Caprivi.
We were looking forward to our next night. We don't often have the oportunity to stay at the same place twice, but we'd been to Nunda River Lodge before on our Botswana trip. I do remember falling off on that occasion on the very sandy road into the lodge - Mrs 3D got a lift in with the Swiss Ambassador to Kenya and his wife (we'd met them at a border crossing earlier in the day) to make it easier for me, but this time I'm happy to report I aced it. I must be learing something!
My foot was pretty swollen still, but in my boot it was OK.
We could have camped right by the river, but having seen many crocodiles on our last visit we decided to stay a bit back from the water.
African sunsets. See?
After a couple of days just loafing around drinking beer (served by the world's grumpiest barman - I was ordering halfs and he looked at me with utter contempt each time for not drinking 'man size' beers - we headed back out on to the Caprivi Strip to cross the border into Zambia.
While reinflating my tyres at the entrance to Nunda I picked up a curious crowd of kids.
Riding along the Caprivi we'd seen loads of signs warning of ellies, but hadn't seen any last time. This time we got luckier!
This was the sign I'd been looking for. Zambia!
Dunno. Michael Palin doing Pole to Pole maybe? More of him later...