Australian Masterchef and some Life skills…

Dear Aussies- As a South African, I am supposed to hate you guys. It has something to do with rugby union (but you also struggle at the moment, I see…) and cricket. That magnificent game that you sometimes play so well… as do we…

We make a lot of jokes about you guys- something to do with handpicked ancestors. And some unfortunate encounters with sheep in the Outback…

Be that as it may, Australian Masterchef has really become our (my wife and I, not the whole of SA!)  favorite program of all time. In the process we have seen a few things that really excites us about you as a nation.  Let me share a few thoughts and impressions.

  1.  You focus on the main thing.  In this program it is about the love of food. Of  good chef skills, and presenting an amazing dish.  And the love for food shines through all the way, and binds you together.
  2.  Your respect for nature, and the respect for the good ingredients used to cook shines through- well done! Your agricultural products and seafood looks amazing.
  3.  You are amazing at people skills! I am amazed by the way the judges handle all contestants.  Everybody is welcome and important, and it does not matter what their background and level of education might be. Everybody is treated with respect, and the underlying  impression I get- the goal is to help every contestant to be their best, to produce their best cooking, to learn from their mistakes and to improve as chefs.  I really love that there is none of the Gordon Ramsey Hell’s Kitchen style yelling and insulting going on.
  4.  Mistakes are tolerated– and improvement encouraged. Everybody sometimes have a bad day in the kitchen, and knows it. The way that people are encouraged to get up, dust off and try again are really inspiring- learn from mistakes, do it better next time.
  5. Even elimination are handled with dignity- there is none of that “You’re the weakest link, goodbye…” sendoffs. I love the way that each leaving contestant is encouraged to follow their dream. The way that contestants victories are celebrated when they leave is really good. And the humane way the Judges act towards contestants- well done guys!
  6.  The way that contestants support one another, encourage, help… it looks like one happy family.  Maybe not all Aussies are like that, but you do give a very positive picture of a healthy nation.
  7.  The way contestants grow along the journey, producing food that they could never imagine before…
  8.  Marco Pierre White on the one hand scares- that look over his glasses… on the other hand inspires and share experience designed to push contestants to a next level- great to see a 3 Michelin star chef being an inspiration and a mentor– true greatness.
  9.  It seems as if everybody taking part gets a truly life enriching experience!
  10.  You have inspired our own cooking and the dare to try some new techniques and styles.
  11.  Billie McKay was such an amazing winner last year, I would love to sit at her table one day.
  12.  Would love to end with a Shannon Bennett desert!

In conclusion: As a Pastor I would love to see more of these life skills displayed in church! In the way all people act towards each other, love and support one another even though we might be from different backgrounds and opinions.

And finally: Aussies- see you on the Rugby field… you will bleed…

Respect!

Nylstroom: A small message of Hope

The last blog post shared some of the scenes around our town, gripped in one of the worst droughts in history.

I have shared some photos on facebook about the state of our town’s dam, the main water supply. But here is some of it for those readers not on my facebook…

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I have taken this rock to our church, as a token of remembrance-  we need rain…

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Beauty in death…

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I also learned this past week that one beer can really hurt you. And no, I did not step into a broken bottle…

A week or two ago my wife and I sat in this dam, between the cracked dry mud, and we prayed. Something mayor is going on in our lives, and we are experiencing the onslaught in so many ways. Landing on the front page of the Afrikaans newspapers all over South Africa, just by buying a beer at a  National Cricket Game and being identified as a pastor afterwards did not help at all.

This morning I had to deliver a letter at a Crocodile farm. I took the long way home, feeling very down and out at the moment. The long route took me across some of the beautiful scenery in our part of the world, even if it severely dry at the moment. I just am in no mood to be amongst people today.

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And so, with this long route back home, I drove past our Donkerpoort Dam again from the other side, and went in there again- it is one of my favorite praying spots.

The Lord must have invited me there. Because what I have seen, has really blessed me. It did rain over the weekend, quite a lot in some places. And when I walked over to the middle of the dam, I saw this sight…  the change has begun. The slow restoration of hope has started to change the scenery…

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A very small stream has begun to flow, covering the cracks, bringing the promise of a new season…  It is still very small. It disappears into the dry earth quite suddenly. But… it is there. And if it continues to grow, it will make a huge difference…

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Friends in wet countries will probably not understand my excitement over such a small amount of water. Friends in desert countries will rejoice with me. In a normal year, even these rocks will be a few meters under water.

I needed to see this promise of hope this morning.  The wonderful sound of water flowing. The frogs- where have they been??? has started croaking again.  And I so long for the day the fish wlll be jumping again at sunset, and to hear the cry of the fish eagle again soon…

A little bit of water brings a lot of hope to a dry place.  I now pray for the same to happen to my heart…

PS Photo Quality sucks… took it with my phone- plan to go and show it to my wife this afternoon and take a decent camera along.  And pray a little more…

Global Warming is real around my home town…

I see a lot of politicians around the world trying to deny the effect of Global Warming. Some call it just a myth. But each month sets new records as the warmest month in human history. And it is wreaking havoc around the globe. Some places get a lot more rain than usual.

But here in the Limpopo Province of South Africa nature forgot to send rain, this whole season long. The effect- it is the first time in my 22 years living in our town, that our town’s dam is drying up completely. This is our main water supply.

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This is the last remaining water in our dam, with water levels now getting too low to pump any water out anymore.

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This lonely rock would in a good year be more than 10 meters under water… 

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Even my Pick-up (Bakkie!) is going boldly where it has never been before…. 

Fortunately our town has a new government after the last Local Government Elections. While the previous regime did nothing to ensure water supply, the new Municipality is keeping us up to date about the water supply, and have started to order the drilling of a few boreholes, something the previous mayor and friends failed to do in the past 6 dry months. We also get water pumped in from Pretoria, our capital. The previous town council became in arrears with their payment of water, so supply was severely limited.

Fact remains- it is very dry around here. We need rain very soon in this new spring season, as nature is having a very bad time, plants and animals dying from thirst..

I hope I can post a photo with an overflowing dam soon…

Those Magnificent Flying Machines

Today was the annual Nylstroom Taildraggers Fly Inn, and I had just a short time available to visit. As always I felt a bit jealous, as it must be one of life’s greatest joys to be able to fly.

But I did have a few minutes to take a few photos. Here is some of this year’s happy moments…

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Botswana weekend on the bikes- still good to be alive!

It is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. And my wife went to visit her sister in Ireland, on Turkish Airlines… missing the attack at Istanbul with just 6 days…

On the way to the airport 9 days ago my phone started buzzing. My friend knows how I was not looking forward to this 3 week period without my wife. His first suggestion was that we should go visit Katse Dam in Lesotho on our motorbikes. But Lesotho in winter is really, really cold!   After dropping off my wife at the OR Tambo Airport, I went and stayed over at his place in Kempton Park. And then, over a bottle of good red wine,  the idea was developed a bit further on. If Lesotho is that cold, how about a trip through Botswana instead? You see- I have a virgin passport, that were badly in need of a stamp to pop it’s cherry.

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So we decided, and sent word through our Whatsapp group of friends. And soon enough the owners of 6 bikes decided it sounds like fun, why not? Three of them will also bring their wives along.  On Thursday evening, the 30th of June, three of us stayed over at one of our friends’ guest house. If you ever need a good place to stay over in Lichtenburg, South Africa, Sundown Guesthouse is your destination…  The owner really wanted to come with us, but then found that his passport has expired…  but we had such a good evening together in Lichtenburgh.

The next morning another two friends joined us, and four bikes departed, going over the border with a painless experience (not that usual in Southern Africa!) We waited in Lobatse for the other two bikes, completing our group. We then went onwards to the capital, Gaborone.

And here our friends booked a delightful Backpackers Lodge called Mokolodi.  This is a very good place to stay over when visiting Gaborone, just  a few kilometers outside the city in a very quiet and peaceful neighborhood.

IMG-20160703-WA0012We pitched our tents, and then went exploring the capital. One thing that always amazes me about Botswana is the way this country is developing and growing. The new business district is something to behold- such vibrant and imaginative new buildings going up. Botswana means business.

We returned, and pitched our tents.

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Photo: Mavis

Preparing for a cold night in the African winter. But as we Africans do… the cold did not bother us at all. We braai’ed. Barbequed. And enjoying a night together around the camp fire, under the African starry sky. And as always it went along with good story telling, and some liquid beverages consumed…

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Photo: Mavis

It was a cold night in a tent, as I was laying alone in the dark… but African Winters tend to be cold… The next morning my friend  caught me exiting my very small tent…

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Photo: Philip

On Saturday we rode from Gaborone up on the main highway of Botswana, up to Mahalapye. This part of Botswana is really flat, and not with such marvelous wildlife as you get up beyond Nata. Here you ride just to ride, and be with friends. We were very well pleased with the petrol price in Botswana- refined in South Africa but not nearly so much taxed as in our country.  We had a good rest stop in the Wimpy at Mahalapye, and then turned east towards the Martins Drift border post.  Here we were again reminded how grumpy and unfriendly South African border staff can be. We have much to learn from the way Botswana operates…

We headed to the very, very small town of Marken, where we stayed over at the local pastor’s farm. We pitched our tents under a beautiful old tree (Marula?) 20160702_164217.jpg

 

And then we had another lovely evening under the stars, around the camp fire… man, winter is bad in South Africa…🙂

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This camping was very basic, but with hot showers provided by a “Donkey”- a fire heated geyser. There was no mobile phone reception, just us under the starry sky, underneath the Southern Cross. And around the camp fire we told stories, shared some experiences, addressed some whiskey, and shared some more of life’s wisdom.

It is for such experiences of the shared passion of motorbikes, friendship, nature, our faith, and the camp fire burning under a starry sky, that we live. And yes, my friends made the 3 long weeks without my wife much more bearable!

PS. So Sorry I rode so slowly through Botswana- I really just know of some people having received huge speed fines in very remote places, and I can’t do the time, so I did not do the crime…🙂

 

The 2 Decade Bucket List item done and dusted… barely…

 

Bucket List Item #6– To complete 21 Cape Town Cycle Tours- formerly known by us as “The Argus”…  a 109 km race around Table Mountain.

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I must confess, like my blogging these past 3 months, my training program went sadly lacking… I did train. But not nearly enough. I also tried something new. Instead of my usual February midday training sessions (summer here, remember…) I trained at night in front of my television set. Doing a few Sufferfest training sessions- really good training material!

But so, last Sunday, 6 March, the day dawned on my 21st race…

And for once it was a nearly perfect day! Last year’s race had to be shortened a lot because of Table Mountain burning, and all the soot in the air threatening our lungs.  In previous races the Southeasterly wind blew a lot- one year up to 12o km/h. But this year- blue skies, no wind, no smoke… perfect!

I knew from the start that I have committed the grave sin of undertraining. I went slowly up Hospital hills, and then suffered a LOT up the 2 km of Edinburgh Drive…  I did manage to ride to the top of this hellish climb. Then, on the Blue Route I felt as if this day just might be survivable… managing speeds of up to 72 km/h on the slight downhills.

At the Naval Base of Simonstown I started feeling quite poorly. A slight wind was now blowing from the front, and the heat picked up a bit. On through Millers Point and over Smitswinkel Bay I felt some strain. But when you reach halfway, there is a long slight downhill, with the wind in your back. That part was really good. On through the beautiful and spooky Scarborough and onwards to Noordhoek I pedalled. But then it started to heat up quite a lot (according to me…)

At the base of the beautiful Chapman’s Peak Drive is a lovely place called Noordhoek Farm Village. For the first time ever I stopped there. Went to their restaurant, and ordered a cup of filter coffee. I was seriously contemplating abandoning the race, as I just felt drained. After the cup of coffee I soldiered on towards Chappies. But I knew I was in trouble. I had a hard time breathing, and my heart rate monitor showed that I was above maximum heart rate- 220 minus your age. At about halfway up Chapmans Peak drive I had to pull over. And then, with the heat and the heartrate going through the roof, I had to walk the last km of Chappies- it felt like a walk of shame! Over the top, I made time up- it is a good 4-5 km of downhill, sweeping turns, dodging slower cyclistts- as a motorcyclist I am really good at downhill riding! But then- the dreaded Suikerbossie Drive in Hout Bay. First a 1 km climb, coming back down again, and then a 2 km steep incline.  As I entered the smaller Suikerbossie my legs just loced up solid in a cramp. I could barely manage to turn my ankle to get my shoe out of the pedal. Some spectators helped me to the sidewalk, and I had to lay down in the shade till the cramps subsided. And then I had to walk the 2 km up again to the top of Suikerbossie…

In order to qualify for a medal, you have to finish the race under 7 hours. As I walked up to Suikerbossie’s top, I realised that I had already used up 6 1/2 hours. To get to the finish line from here is usually more than half an hour for me… Was all the suffering going to be a total waste of time?  Still cramping, I got on my bicycle, and started chasing the clock to be in time for my medal. And it was bad! It is a beautiful stretch of road, going past Llundudno, and the 12 Apostles Hotel, and then through Campsbay, Clifton, Bantry Bay, onwards to the finish line at the Greenpoint Stadion. Most of it is downhill. And a lot of riders, having had a better ride than me, slow down just to enjoy the scenery. But me, cramping a lot and in pain, tried my best to reach the cutoff time.

When I finally passed the finish line I looked at my watch. I have made it, but with only minutes to spare… my worst time ever, including the 120 km/h wind race a few years back. But it counted! At this time I was really in pain. I had to go to an Info tent to go and claim my special 21 st medal. And then, feeling the strain, I went and booked myself into the medical tent. I was feeling dizzy and very thirsty. The medical staff took over, tested my pulse, and blood pressure. My pulse kept on racing at 12o, where I usually go back quickly to 65/70. The other problem was when my blood sugar levels were tested, it was up at 11.3. I have never been diabetic, but in the struggle to finish I have taken on too much sports drinks…

But I had my medal. It has taken 21 years to get this medal.

I might still be the slowest cyclist in my home town. I may not always look like an athlete.

But: I have a 21 Cycle Tours medal. And from next year I am riding with the Argus’ sought after  Blue Number, being a member of Club 21.

I really doubted that I would finish this year’s race. But maybe Winston Churchill was right when he said: “Never, never, never, never, never give up…”

 

 

 

Bucket List Item #38: Shark Cage Diving

This morning at 06h00 my daughter and I reported at the Blue Wilderness at Rocky Bay on the Kwa Zulu Natal South Coast of South Africa.

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I was in serious need of some adrenaline in my life. Time to do a Bucket List Item… number 38 was possible… And so we decided to go feed ourselves to the sharks.

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Photos by Blue Wilderness

There was a cage available, but we decided to be brave and swim outside the cage…

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I think the wetsuit makes me look fat..🙂

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That hairy skinny legs outside the cage are mine..

And then the SHARKS started arriving…

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Fortunately only Black tip Reef Sharks today…

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But they are beautiful, and very curious about us hanging around in their world…

 

This was really an amazing morning in my life, spending some quality time with my daughter, and enjoying nature…

I felt sorry for a few of the sharks… the one still swims around with a very expensive Rapala lure dangling from her mouth.  Some of the other sharks has evidence of broken jaws, being caught and then the hooks got taken out very brutally.  The one positive- they were released after being caught.

I really enjoyed this experience, and now I would love to start saving for the next level- doing a scuba course…

Still breathing… barely

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Hi dear friends… So I have been quiet for a while… a few months to be precise…

I always wanted my blog to be a place with a positive vibe, good news and so. So I developed a huge writer’s block.

It was a hard year for me with my eldest son working in the USA. But he has safely returned last week. The US of A has been good to him, and he really enjoyed it a lot. He thinks the people of Gregory, South Dakota are some of the friendliest people around. He was based in Hendricks, Minnesota. The Combined Harvestingvteam travelled through to Texas, Colorado, Montana, both Dakotas and over to Saskatchwan in Canada. He has seen a lot that his father would also love to see one day.  He returned to South Africa, and promptly left for Mozambique again last Friday- week ago, with his girlfriend and her family. His sister also worked until now, and her firm closed for the Christmas holidays.

The rest of the family is at Scottburg just south of Durban. We are having a good time in the Indian Ocean, swimming and suntanning. I also am planning to make a bucket list item a reality, to go shark cage diving if weather permits on Saturday. My eldest 2 children will probably join us in 2 days’ time to celebrate Christmas together.

Why I was so silent on my blog: the situation in South Africa is really getting me down. We have a very expensive clown for a president, and he and his cronies are really ruining our beautiful country. Even the New York Times says so…

In South Africa, if you are white and think the ANC is ruining the country, you must be a racist and longing for the old apartheid days. And that is really getting me down. No, I do not long for old days of racial discrimination. But I am fed up with the corruption and the way our President treats the country as his personal piggy bank. I do not long back to good old days, I look forward to a day in the future where everybody will really be treated as equals, and that I will never have to fill my race in on a form again. South Africa is in real deep… trouble. And while I still have the freedom to say that, I will.

So we are going to enjoy this seaside holiday, I think 2016 is going to be a very difficult year in our country…  we need a good rest before the next struggle starts.

So for all readers who celebrate Christmas, may it be a good time of peace. And for all the rest, may you also experience peace in these troubled times!

Day 12- When our Tour ended prematurely…

Our Motorcycle Tour was moving along so nicely! When we left Windhoek on that morning, we still had four days of riding ahead of us. Or so we thought.

Our planning looked like this:

Total Route

From Windhoek we had to go to the Border post of Buitepos (Outpost in Afrikaans) where we would camp before crossing back into Botswana.

Windhoek Buitepos

And that morning we left with a song in our heart. It was a beautiful day, and such lovely riding out of Windhoek, pass the International Airport on the road towards Gobabis.

On this morning we made a dream of my wife’s come true. We actually stopped a long time at one of the rest stops, took out all the equipment to brew a fresh cup of coffee alongside the road…

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It was just another long, straight road ahead…

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And so we went along, stopping in Gobabis for lunch, and then riding on to the Eastgate Campsite, 100 meters in front of the Border to Botswana, And there our hearts broke. We paid for our campsite, and started to take off the luggage.  In a short while I noticed some oil flowing from my bike’s drive shaft. We took off the back wheel, and saw that the seal keeping in the oil was completely gone. I asked some advice on facebook and the Wild Dog Forum of Adventure Motorcycling. But there was not a lot we could do where we were…

The other 3 bikes had to continue the journey the next morning, and we felt really heartbroken. Some options included that some people of Gobabis could come and fetch us, and order a new seal. We also made contact with one of Namibia’s trucking companies, which have lorries running empty to South Africa. But they could not say when the next lorry would be passing here. The passenger busroutes to South Africa do not pass here.

That evening I was really worried, not knowing how to get my wife and my broken bike back home.

The next morning three trucks of Absolute Logistics stopped at the shop, to buy some food before crossing the border. Someone of our group asked if they could help us, and they phoned their head office in Windhoek. They got the green light, and so we had to quickly get the bike, and all our luggage aboard… it took some muscle to get my bike onto the lorry!

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And so, after a lot of worries, my wife and I were on two different lorries, going on to Pretoria. We had to ride in separate lorries,as each could only take one passenger. We left Buitepos at half past 8 the morning, and had a long, long day in the lorries, driving at 80 km/h through Botswana. That evening at midnight we arrived in Pretoria, where our young colleague came and picked us up.

I went to fetch my bike the Monday morning, at Absolute Logistics’ depot in Boksburg near the International Airport. 20150713_104308

I took it to Dream Adventure Motorcycles in Pretoria. Mark there opened up the Drive Shaft, and saw what happened. The main bearing has disintegrated. In the process it took out the crown gears, and damaged the whole housing.

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It is two weeks later. It took a while to get a secondhand Final Drive to fix my bike with. I only got a part yesterday, and some time in this week my bike will hopefully be fixed again. So our tour ended three days early!

The others drove on from Buitepos to Kang in the centre of the Trans Kalahari Highway.

Buitepos Kang

They did this route without incident. If you ride this route, be very sure where you will find fuel, there is only about 1 fuel stop on this route!

That evening we arrived back home at half past 2 in the morning. The rest slept peacefully in Kang. The next day would be such a huge day. We were scheduled to drive on to a friend’s Guesthouse in Lichtenburg, South Africa. There we would stay over in luxury, indoors, with huge beds and hot baths…

Kang Lichtenburg

But on this day, the rest of the group also ran into trouble. Johan’s bike had a huge problem. The back shock absorber disintegrated completely near Kanye, Botswana. They also had to abandon the tour, and load their bike into a Furniture Removal Van passing by. At the same time Francois had a huge puncture, he needed to borrow Johan’s rear tyre to complete the tour. Only Richard’s bike completed the tour unscathed…

And only two of the bikes made it to Lichtenburg and the Guest House we were all looking forward to.

Our tour ended early. But there is still so much to be thankful for. No one of us got hurt in the process. Both my bike and Johan’s bike’s failures could be extremely dangerous and life threatening, but we got off in one piece…

We did complete 80 % of the planned route, and we did see some amazing sights along the route. We had some amaing friends riding along, and that made it such good memories to treasure.

So that is the end of this ride report. Thank you for travelling along!

Day 10 and 11- Windhoek

We had such a good time in Swakopmund! I really love this place. But then it was time to start heading home. We assembled at the oceanside to take a few last photos, and to say goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean…

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Richard grabbed a dustbin, and put his iPhone on a small tripod to take our official Tour Photo here…

11701032_10153196851318071_4874538822240479063_nFrom left to right: Elaine and Richard, me and Annelie, Francois and Andrea, Magda and Johan.

The sky was clear and blue, unlike the foggy Sunday morning the day before. But when we started the journey back inland, we had a really hard ride ahead of us. This region experiences what they call the “Oosweer”, Easterly Weather, when the hot winds blow from the inland to the ocean. It can become sandstorms, sandblasting everything in its way. We missed the sandblasting part, but from Swakopmund to Aranos I just could not go any faster than 110 km/h, with the fierce headwind.  It was hard, hard riding, and some motorists including police vehicles did not make it any easier, passing sometimes with less than a metre between them and us…

This was the day’s route:

Swakopmund Windhoek

When we passed Aranos, the wind became more gentle. But it was still a hard day on the bike. We stopped at Okahandja at a Biltong factory, where we had some coffee. Biltong= the Americans call it beef jerky- wind dried raw meat. I see the old team of Top Gear did not like it.  We in some of the harshest parts of the world love it- it was a way to preserve meat in a hot climate long before we had fridges and freezers.

From Okahandja to Windhoek the road passes some really beautiful scenery. But there are some severe road works along this road, and the local motorists can be very dangerous in passing, both directions… Beware of the local drivers…

When we arrived at Windhoek, we found that we have pre-booked at an excellent venue! We stayed over for two days at Urban Camp- just check out their website! 

It was lovely. You get to pitch your tent on pavement, underneath a canvas awning.

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The bathrooms are hidden behind reeds, but it is modern and very well planned. To combat Southern Africa’s electricity woes, they were also busy installing some wood fired geysers to provide hot water.

Just 500 meters away is the one must see tourism destination for people like us. Called Joe’s Beerhouse, it is one of the largest restaurants I have ever seen. It has a very laid back ambience, with lots of different little corners so that groups can have their own private space.  We had a very good evening together, the food and drink, service and vibe in the place was great…

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Photo Andrea

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That Oryx Schnitzel was really good!

The next morning we first went to have our bikes washed, after all the ocean fog, and the salty roads that we have travelled on the past two days…

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Afterwards we all had an appointment at the Namibia Bible House. We all are part of the South African Word Riders movement, which is organized nationally by Francois. So we had a visit to the Namibian Bible Society, and a briefing about what we do when we go out on Motorbikes to visit Schools in South Africa.

IMG_0127 IMG_0128 IMG_0129After some lekker coffee and snacks with wonderful people, we went to explore Windhoek. We stopped at the German church overlooking the whole city…

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Afterwards, across the road, we went to see the new Freedom Monument- Museum…

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After finishing these visits, the traffic of Windhoek started to get me under. The locals are not very motorbike friendly, they will not give you a gap to enter traffic, and some aggressively try to push you away to gain space for themselves.

That evening we did experience some genuine Namibian hospitality, when Barney and his wife (He is the manager of the Namibian Bible Society and she is a local pastor), invited us to dinner. We had a beautiful evening around a BRAAI (Barbeque). Again I had some Oryx meat, which I really enjoyed. We had a good evening filled with good food, wine and laughter. And then we had to go off to bed. Little did we know… to prepare for the NEXT day.

I enjoyed Urban Camp and Joe’s Beerhouse a lot. Windhoek might be a special city, I did not feel safe in the traffic on my motorbike.