Posts by Three Dawg

    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.


    Crunched ankle


    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!


    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.


    Easy gravel.



    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.


    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!

    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.

    They're a deal cheaper than the Andy Strapz ones! Wolfman are bringing some new ones out, and I like their gear, but again they won't be cheap.

    To be honest, aside from having zips, which I don't want, the Mountain Sun ones are too big. Don't want to encourage overpacking eh?

    Lomo have definitely got two bags that would work nicely, just need the straps sorting out.

    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.

    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


    Similar to the Lomos - five or six litres per side. Basically I want to not have to extend the height of my tank bag on longer trips (the bag goes walkies when ridiing on rough roads, not helped by its height, drives me nuts). Don't want any zips either.

    It's a tricky one. I really like my tank bag - Wolfman Explorer Lite with a top pocket, but it won't stay put when expanded. All I'd have in the extra bags would be light stuff like hats, heavier gloves, nuts and fruit for lunch, that sort of thing.

    [EDIT] Interesting looking at this pic of Mountin Sun's offering at $US 99.00:


    14 litres per side. OK, that might encourage you to pack more crap than you need, but it would be bloody handy for storing rain jackets and trousers for example, along with the aforementioned comestibles. Not roll top though. Lomo medium panniers might work too.

    Aye nice looking bags. Just bought a set of Lomo's lightweight dry bags, seem every bit as good as my Exped ones, but 1/3 the price.

    Hope Lomo figure out a way to make these bags work as throw over tank panniers before I'm forced to pull the trigger on the very expensive Andy Strapz ones...

    25 year guarantee though. I got my first Leatherman in about 1989. Sent it back after several years for them to fit a new screwdriver, they offered to replace the whole thing so I paid a bit extra to upgrade to the Supertool model. Still have it, probably coming to the end of its warranty period now, and I use it all the time.

    You're most welcome. Danny Baker was always at his best on radio. His early shows on Greater London Radio (GLR) were genius. Ditto Chris Evans and Chris Morris. What a brilliant station that was, it was the only thing about London I missed when I moved up here in 1992.

    Mrs Three Dawg has just blocked out mid September to mid October in the reservation system. Fackin' going to Morocco innit? Ouazazate or bust!*

    * Subject to change due to diseases out of our control.

    Aw feck, here we go again.

    I am SERIOUSLY thinking of letting out my house when/if this is over, slinging my tent on the back of the GS and naffing off for an indeterminate length of time.:cursing: