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#1003598 - 01/13/18 10:42 PM Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia  
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
MikeRC Offline
Member
MikeRC  Offline
Member

Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
Alberta Canada

Installment 5: Namibia

1840 km of riding, about 750 km unpaved roads.

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I think most of us were looking forward to Namibia with a combination of excitement and dread. We knew that we were going to be in the 2nd least densely populated country in the world with some challenging road conditions. Namibia unpaved roads range from smooth hardpack to sand traps, usually lying somewhere in between with washboard, medium sized rock and many exposed and hidden hazards. That and the sheer isolation of the stark Namibia countryside inspire and humble.

Well, that plus the fact we knew other riders had "pitched it" into the loose gravel/sand of Namibia on more than one occasion.

But luckily first there was the paved 310 km from the Botswana border to the capital of Windhoek (vint-hoo-k) and a rest day coming up. Currency also wasn't a problem as Namibia takes the South African rand at par.

The first thing I noticed on the road in Namibia? FENCES !!!! No domestic animals on the road or in the ditch!!

First Namibian stop was in Gobabis for some fluids. While there a family of Herero were travelling through. The mother was wearing the traditional Victorian style dress and "horned" headdress.

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The history of the Namibian cultures Namibia peoples is fascinating reading.

The last part of the ride into Windhoek actually had some hills and curves (for a change). Windhoek was the first major city we had travelled through and required some attention to traffic. But once at our accommodation (Klein Windhoek Guesthouse), we could relax and enjoy a beer (or two).

The next day we spent looking around Windhoek and shopping. This would be our last chance for the next 7-10 days to shop at something as basic as a drug store.

Also, one of our riders didn't really have the best pants for the unpaved roads coming up so we went to some of the local stores of interest:

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Followed by a trip to the Windhoek Industrial and Agricultural Show taking place at a large exhibition grounds. We tried some local foods, shopped tractors, combines and trinkets and I bought a SIM card for the major Namibia carrier.

Pre-paid SIM cards are incredibly inexpensive in Africa. I think I got 30 days of International texting and 1 Gb of data for about $8 US. Of course 75% of the time I had no service, but it is Africa.

And there was a craft fair at the Agricultural Show where we shopped for a new BOS, but didn't find anything appropriate.

From there we went downtown to do some bartering at an open market. Various groups were demonstrating their handiwork including some Himba women that would let you take their picture if you bought some of their carvings, jewelry, pottery or weaving:

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And real European-like espresso. Even a decent affogato !

A little bit above the gleaming glass and metal towers of the business core of Windhoek was the circa 1910 Christuskirche

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That evening we went to the very popular Joes Beerhouse for supper. Windhoek is on the infamous Cairo-to-Cape Town Overland route and abandoned vehicles seem to be frequently used for decorations at Namibian restaurants, gas bars and accommodations.

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Up for an early start the next day we left the pavement behind after filling up with gas in Rehoboth about an hour south of Windhoek.

We also removed the side case frame on one of the 1200s that was broken and rattling.

Rene gave us his briefing before we set off.

If you don't recognize the name, Rene Cormier is the author of "The University of Gravel Roads". From 2003 to 2008 he put about 150,000 km on a BMW F650GS travelling the unpaved roads of the Americas, Asia and Africa. But he (and, in fact other around-the-world motorcyclists like Ted Simon) has two unusual approaches. First of all they sit on the bike almost all the time, even on unpaved roads. And second they feel strongly that flats occur less with more air pressure in the tires.

If you have ridden gravel on a full-size motorcycle with your tires at "normal" pressure you know that the bike is definitely more "active" than if the tire pressure is down 10-15 PSI. And it gets pretty squirrelly on looser surfaces like sand or fine gravel.

The group settled into a pattern moving along at first at 50-70 kph while getting used to the alternating hardpack and then sand- filled hollows in the road.

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But after the first 30-45 minutes one of the riders asked to trailer his bike after one particularly bad stretch. Probably better that than pitch the bike once you get overwhelmed.

Our lunch stop occurred on Spreetshoogte Pass, which offered excellent photo opportunities.

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Interestingly they had redone the steeper surface on the north-west side of the pass with paving stones:

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Our next stop was Solitaire for both gas and "World Famous Apple Pie" .

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Note the repeated theme of abandoned vehicles as decorations.

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Approaching Solitaire was one of those WTF moments. Miles of not much but sand & rock with sparse vegetation. Then a gas station, restaurant and guest farm. Surrounded by desert.

And a couple of vehicles looking for repairs. Flat tires and "dropped parts" were pretty common in Namibia.

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Back on the road we were headed for our accommodations for the next 2 nights.

On one particularly bad section of road there were some exposed rock outcrops at the crest of a couple of ridges and shortly after that I felt my front wheel go very soft. Our first flat! A quick bike change (since we were within 30 minutes of our destination) and we were soon turning off to the approach road to the Zebra River Lodge.

Having not seen another vehicle in over an hour we already felt like we were in the middle or nowhere. Going down the approach road to the Zebra River Lodge we were now 20 km past the middle of nowhere.

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If you look closely you will notice there is one measly wire on those telephone poles.

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I was always impressed by the dedication of the owners of these lodges and inns. They were hundreds of km from supplies and yet kept these places functional, comfortable and well stocked with food and beverages.


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The flat on my bike was taken care of quickly by Piet & Mike.

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The cold beer was particularly appreciated after a 360 km day with 270+km of unpaved road.

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Next up - Sossusvlei & the dunes of the Namib desert


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003603 - 01/14/18 01:39 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: MikeRC]  
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 313
Lester V Offline
Member
Lester V  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 313
Grand Forks, BC Canada
Mike, did you ride at the back of the pack the whole time?

#1003615 - 01/14/18 04:37 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: Lester V]  
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
MikeRC Offline
Member
MikeRC  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
Alberta Canada

Hi Les!!

Since I was the only repeat Renedian customer on this tour Rene asked me to be the "carrier of the lamp", so to speak. I was also the only one with maps and a GPS in case the group got split up by bad weather (in Namibia probably a sandstorm), so that probably made sense.

In fact I wasn't really last since the second guide (Piet) rode behind me. Sometimes (in particularly bad road conditions) Piet and I would need to hang out at a turn waiting for Mike & the support van to show up.

Over the whole trip Mike actually had 3 flats between the van and the trailer. My flat on the second day in Namibia was the only flat we ever had on the bikes!!

The group travelled very well together. On some occasions Piet and I would and give the group a 5-10 minute head start and then catch up. But by day 3 in Namibia the group's average speed on unpaved roads increased to the point where everyone was keeping up with Rene.

Mike


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003767 - 01/17/18 03:48 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: MikeRC]  
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
MikeRC Offline
Member
MikeRC  Offline
Member

Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
Alberta Canada

Namibia continued:

We were up and in the van before dawn the next morning for the drive to Sesriem and Sossusvlei. Although only about 70 km to the pavement at Sesriem (and the entrance to Namib-Naukluft National Park), we seemed to be limited to 30-40 kph by the road conditions. At least the mountains provided some interest outside:

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Soon enough after the park entrance we stopped at Dune 45 for some fun in the sand in a spectacular setting:

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After a bite to eat and something to drink we headed further down the road to the Deadvlei salt pan with its stark long-dead tree skeletons.


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On our way out of Sossusvlei we drove by a local inhabitant:

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Great lunch at Sossusvlei Lodge, and then an early afternoon hike into the Sesriem Canyon:

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Again with a local resident:

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Although venomous, this snake was relatively docile (and quite small).


Back to the entrance to the Park at Sesriem to fill the van with fuel and …….. no diesel.

At either of the gas stations.

This was a problem, since we only had 150-200 km of fuel left. Luckily we had mobile phone service and found diesel was still available at Solitaire – which would add almost 2 hours to our trip back to the Zebra River Lodge.

Oh well, what can you do? Sometimes being out at the end of the supply lines makes things difficult.

So we piled back in the van and continued back to Solitaire.

Somewhere during the day while bouncing along we had broken the latch on the back door of the van. During our stop in Solitaire we asked the garage "jack-of-all-trades" if he might be able to jury rig a repair. The guy disappeared for 10 minutes, came back with a special tool to remove the latch, fashioned a new one, welded it onto the mounting plate and had us back on the road in less than 30 minutes.

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That repair lasted the rest of the trip! Better than the original Mercedes part.

I guess you have to be pretty resourceful in these out-of-the-way garages.

Back on the road heading back to the Zebra River Lodge we came upon a rare animal sighting. Just before the lodge road there was a family of endangered mountain zebras.

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Group meal that evening at the lodge:

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The next day was planned to be a full day of 340km of gravel and 90km of pavement. I was up a couple of hours before sunrise (but after the moon set) for some starlight photos. Not too bad for a small camera.

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Morning coffee stop at the Lisbon Roadhouse:

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Although frequently colorful, shrubs in Africa have developed defense mechanisms to deter animals from grazing (giraffe thorn):

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The rest of the ride that day included a stop at the Helmeringhausen Hotel and Guest Farm. While there a Hyundia Santa Fe came in with, surprise, a flat tire.

We also came across only the second grader of the trip. At least the washboard was gone for 10 km or so.

Late in the afternoon we arrived in Aus.

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The next day was an "option day", with most of us taking our bikes on the paved B4 to the Kolmanskop Ghost Town. Some others took the opportunity to ride in the van.
The short road into the ghost town had some pretty impressive sand traps that briefly held up one or two of us. More fines for the BOS.

Kolmanskop attracts curiosity seekers and photographers from around the world. It's hard to believe that Kolmanskop is only 10 km from the Atlantic ocean.

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Back on the bikes to the Luderitz Nest Hotel for lunch overlooking Luderitz Harbour.

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From there some riders went on to Dias Point, where the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias erected a stone cross in 1488.
Then everyone headed back to Aus either on their own or in small groups.

Access to areas off the main roads is very limited in this area by Namdeb (a joint mining company with De Beers and the Namibian government) because it is still actively producing diamonds.

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Namibia B4 between Luderitz and Aus provided excellent photo opportunities.

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That evening Rene, Piet and Mike put on a braai featuring grilled veggies and meat (beef, oryx and impala) all cooked over an open grill.

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I think the benches were made out of old vehicle bumpers.

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While waiting for the food we entertained ourselves with a few beer and a trip to .......wait for it.........a nearby abandoned car.
Supposedly this vehicle was used by some local thieves who tried to steal some diamonds from the processing facility at Kolmanskop but were chased down by the police:

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Three intrepid souls climbed the ridge above the barbeque site for a look around and to watch the sunset:

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Soon the food was ready:

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After the meal (and enjoying the starlight) we made the short trip back to our rooms at Klein Aus Vista:

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Next up: The last two riding days in Namibia


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003780 - 01/17/18 11:46 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: MikeRC]  
Joined: Sep 2001
Posts: 9,768
Marty Hill Offline
The Energiser Bunny
Marty Hill  Offline
The Energiser Bunny
Member

Joined: Sep 2001
Posts: 9,768
Atlanta, Ga.
All I can say is ...WOW!

Marty


Marty
49 states/32 countries/3 continents

700GS/white...old age moto


WWMHD...ride till you can't

Semper Paratus
#1003844 - 01/18/18 04:30 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: Marty Hill]  
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
MikeRC Offline
Member
MikeRC  Offline
Member

Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
Alberta Canada
Thanks Marty!

Mike Cassidy


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003845 - 01/18/18 04:48 AM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: MikeRC]  
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
MikeRC Offline
Member
MikeRC  Offline
Member

Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1,556
Alberta Canada

Next day were up early for a sunshine bathed morning meal:

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This was to be a fairly short day (285km) with about half of it unpaved road.

Later in the morning we had a little sidetrip to the Seeheim Hotel for coffee & ice cream:

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Then back on the road:

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Early afternoon we arrived at our accommodation, the Canon Roadhouse. A very cool spot with many interesting "lawn ornaments" and accent pieces in the restaurant & bar.

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I was told (but I never noticed) that the lights in all those vehicles were illuminated at night.


That's a quiver tree (a type of threatened aloe indigenous to southern Namibia and northern South Africa) growing out of the engine compartment of this truck:

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There were other occupants we had to share the yard with:

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I'm not sure if the parents of this kid wanted him to squirt the oryx with that hose or what, but luckily both of them moved on before any damage was done.


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Even the rooms had interesting interior design:

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Then we were off in the van to the Fish River Canyon for photo ops and a snack and refreshments:

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And then back to the Canon Roadhouse for a quick laundry stop, nap, swim, beer or cleanup before supper.

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This is the more common mode of tourist travel in Namibia. A big overland vehicle with lots of supplies in the bottom and suspension and tires to absorb the torture of the Namibian roads. Plus the two dozen or so passengers are up above the dust level:

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The next day was our last day on the road in Namibia. After breakfast we set out for the Ai-Ais Hot Springs. Pronounced Eye-Ice smile

Interesting road down to the bottom of the Fish River Canyon where the springs are. But by now we were pretty used to it and it didn't phase anyone.

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In the bottom of the canyon the walls have quartz layers and lava intrusions that reminded me of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison:

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Out of the canyon and headed back south to the NM-SA border. These are the "Namibia gravel" posed shots everyone wants (on C37):

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Hard to believe you could find anything alive out here, but sure enough you got surprises every now and then:

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Soon enough our last water and snack stop in Namibia was coming up on NM D278:

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As we got closer to the border we were into the irrigated orchards, vineyards and farms along the Orange River. We also got to our first sight of an undeveloped village that houses thousands of local workers and their families (Aussnkehr):

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Just a few kilometers later we were crossing the Orange RIver to pass into South Africa. A rather painless border crossing that seemed to only take a few minutes.

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Next thread: Victoria Falls to Cape Town: South Africa


2013 R1200GSW
2002 Silver R1150RT (gone)
2004 Kawasaki KLX 400 SR

I wish I could be 1/4 the rider this bike deserves.
#1003855 - 01/18/18 02:20 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: MikeRC]  
Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 710
ArmyGuy Offline
Member
ArmyGuy  Offline
Member

Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 710
Fort Huachuca, AZ
Keep it coming. Nice RR. I'm really enjoying it.


Mike

14 R12GS
07 G650X Challenge
#1003960 - 01/20/18 05:37 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: MikeRC]  
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 7,427
Bud Offline
95% of an RT
Bud  Offline
95% of an RT
Member

Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 7,427
Southern Illinois
Very nice!


95% of an RT.

I haven't had too many Beemers, I just don't have enough time.
#1004023 - 01/22/18 01:40 PM Re: Victoria Falls to Cape Town - Namibia [Re: MikeRC]  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,588
Chris K Offline
Member
Chris K  Offline
Member

Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,588
Atlanta, GA
What an incredible trip Mike! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.


Chris Kinney
Atlanta, GA
'13 R1200GSW
'79 GS1000S
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