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 7- Otjivarongo

Rundu Otjivarongo

I grew up in an era where South Africa still fought an unpopular war in Namibia. Since I was very small we heard the names of Army bases in old South West Africa, where “our boys” were fighting the “communists”.  I am not going to be drawn into the politics of that time or war.  My only point is: I have heard of these places since very small, places where some of my age men have fought and died.

On this day one of our first stops was in Grootfontein. That is the sight where one of the main Airforce Bases were, where the troups who flew up to the war zone arrived. The place holds a lot of memories for my age and older South African men, of arriving, or of seeing friends leave in body bags.

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South Africa left here in 1989, and we were still not welcome at the airfield, we were escorted out of the place till we reached the main road.

We put together a quick lunch from a supermarket in the brand new mall in Grootfontein. And then we hit the road to Otavi. It is a beautiful ride to Otavi, passing a beautiful range of hills. It is also the sight of some mining activity.  Otavi was a base for mechanized infantry in the war, and is now just a sleepy little town. It was Friday, Payday at the end of the month.

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Photo Andrea- Otavi Peak Hour traffic on Payday

From Otavi we headed to the beautiful town of Otjivarongo. Before the tour our leader spoke to the young pastor of the local Dutch Reformed Church. She said the camping resort in town was not too bad… So we headed to the Acacia Resort in town. It was affordable, but that was about it.  There was at first no hot water, and some broken taps in the bathrooms. The owner blamed a tour group from Gauteng for the state of the place… but it looked a bit more neglected than that.

Photo Andrea Richard and Elaine are Cat Magnets

Photo Andrea
Richard and Elaine are Cat Magnets

The Camping site is just plain sandy, and far from the bathrooms. Hot water was at first not available, and after fixing just scalding hot. On the other side of the Resort’s Pub there is a Charismatic church, that with a loud sound system had a battle with the devil till midnight. And on the other side of the resort the devil was answering from a nightclub, cashing in all the paychecks of Otjivarongo, and belting out hard music till about 5 o Clock the morning.

So yes, the Acacia CAmpsite is also not our best memory of the tour. But the town itself was not bad. They also have a very nice Wimpy with wifi available.

On tours like this we don’t see elephants and beautiful trees every day. Some days are hard, some camp sites are really bad. But we need these days too to reach some excellent destinations, just like in life itself. We just had to go through days like these…  And it is part of the story, and good memories afterwards.  You will just see- I took very few photos in these stretches, just not that much to see then. But from Day 8… keep on watching this space!

PS- I only now started realizing most people in the civilized world will have no clue to where in the world we are.

So just to bring you up to speed- I live in Nylstroom, which is 130 km North of Pretoria, South Africa’s capital.

The first three days took us from Nylstroom up to Kasane in Botswana:

Nylstroom Kasane

From Kasane we took the Caprivi Strip to Rundu:

Kasane to Rundu

And now you will be able to find the places we talk about, I hope…

Day 5- Into Namibia and to Popa Falls…

After the wonderful boat cruise on the Chobe river, I had another restless night in the tent, going to sleep very early with some fever. The next morning we woke early, packed and drove the 70 km to the Namibia border through the Chobe Wild Reserve. Although we could see evidence of wildlife passing the tarmac road by their droppings, we did not see any animals until we reached the Namibia border. But it is a most beautiful part of the world here where a lot of countries’ borders meet.

At the Namibia Border post we were amazed by the Boabab trees, and the antilope in the meandering river below.

Photo: Andrea

Photo: Andrea

The border crossing went mostly painlessly. We were scanned with a special device to see if we have ebola, but fortunately we skipped that disease…

Then in Namibia we started on the long, straight road of the Caprivi Strip. We had lunch in Katima Mulilo, a place that I have heard a lot of since childhood, as being one of the furthest places possible to reach… we reached it!

After lunch we still had a way to go. A 4×4 guy told us that we should stay at some “Vuvu- something” resort at Bagani, as it was spectacular and affordable. We asked about the road there, being very sensitive to sandy roads. But he assured us: hard gravel all the way from the tarmac right up to the resort, which lays alongside the Okavango river.

Well, we reached the turnoff. Which was thick sand. And one of the group had a fall right there,. Breaking the bolt which keeps his bike’s rear shock in place. Another one, the most experienced of us offroad speaking, also put his bike down. We then decided to turn around, and head back to Popa Falls Resort. 2 km back, which appeared as if it had paving up to the tarmac. It did, and we booked the night for 80 Nam dollar per person at Popa Falls.

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This resort belongs to the Namibian Government, and is beautifully built, with excellent, modern bathrooms at the camping sites. The staff at the resort is friendly and helpful. The restaurant is also beautiful, I just had a problem with the quality of the food. It might be my fault, being sick that past two days. But I did not enjoy their Butternut Soup tasting like pureed onion, and croutons tasting like mud.  That was all that I could manage to try and eat.  The view from the restaurant is breathtaking…

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The next morning we first went down to the river to see the Falls. It is actually just rapids. But it is beautiful, a place of peace. We had a good experience of just sitting and being quiet alongside the river, watching the various birds like Kingfishers catching their prey.

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While we were sitting here, our friend with the broken bike was carried off in a Minibus Taxi, along with his wife and 27 other Namibian Citizens, with his bike on the back of a small trailer, to Rundu. The taxi driver told him about a business that would help him, and took him to an enginering works that really fixed his bike good (after finding out from Windhoek’s BMW dealer that there are no such bolts in supply in the whole of Namibia.)

Popa Falls was beautiful. I enjoyed it a lot. I would really recommend the resort, although I am not sure if I could say the same for the restaurant. I might be totally wrong.

Botswana- where the elephants are…

I will post another quick one tonight, before I head off to bed. I am really tired- we did complete about 4000 of our intended 5000 km trip- that is 80%, a passing rate I would think…

When you ride up on the eastern side of Botswana, it really gets to be fun on a motorbike on the other side of Nata. Soon after Nata you begin to see road signs that I have never seen before…  Beware of the Elephants… one of those in your part of the world?

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And soon enough we saw some obedient elephants, just doing their elephanty things next to and onto the road…

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This is some amazing riding- in Botswana north of Nata up to Kasane… This is still wild Africa. Remember that when you ride here. I heard from our truck driver (story still to come, be patient!) of the time he saved a lady’s life, when she approached a pride of lions and they started chewing on her leg…  Wild animals in Africa still can kill you today as sure as your caveman ancestors millenia ago… Don’t think Lion King and Dumbo the flying elephant if you are in Africa- think Jaws… being eaten alive… and take care… heed the signs…

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I have to go back to the city to fetch and repair my bike, so I am not sure when exactly I will be posting again. But something special is coming up when I tell you about the Chobe river experience…

Finally- our Botswana/Namibia Tour- Part 1

The last few weeks and even months have been quite hectic, as we were busy planning the tour of a lifetime, doing a few more Bucket List items.

I have bought my yellow BMW R 1150 GS with this tour in mind. And as I do not have metal pannier boxes on board, it was a huge challenge to think how me, my wife and all our luggage including a tent, bedding, cooking utensils, clothes etc,,, will be carried on board.

We planned, bought, modified, packed, rethought, repacked…

In the last few weeks I had the bike serviced- checking everything… except… we will come to that. I had a new front tyre fitted. And then, on Saturday 27 June 2015 it all came together.

The others of the group came from Nelspruit, Kempton Park and Edenvale, and gathered at my house. After we fed them some delicious hamburgers, we departed on our journey.

The first day was relatively short for me- only 165 km to Ellisras, where we stayed over for free at a friend’s church. The first leg of the journey was not without incident- my wife decided to take her iPad along, and it just jumped out of her backpack and commited suicide onto the tarmac, 30 k’s from home. If anybody want to donate a usable 1Pad, it will really make her smile again!

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Our bike packed just before departure. Man, it was HEAVY!

When we arrived at Ellisras, we went out for a meal. And at the meal Johan and Magda surprised us with this beautiful sweaters they have designed for us.

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On the Sunday morning we got going very early, to be at the Groblers Brug/ Martins Drift Border Crossing when it opened at 08h00. We had a smooth border crossing, and then drove on through Botswana, up to Palapye, where we had a late morning brunch at the local Wimpy. Here we experienced again that service in Africa can be very, very SLOW…

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After going on through Francistown, we took the road up north to Nata.  Yes, I know Nata Lodge is great! But we stayed over at Nata Bird Sanctuary, 3 km’s before you get to Nata Lodge. It was much more primitive, But maybe much more fitting of an African Overland Expedition…

I really love how my wife has adapted to the biking trip, enjoying it a lot!

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Yes, it was very basic…. but a good experience! And I think that is enough for today…

There is a sadness in my heart writing this. The rest of the tour is still continuing, finishing tomorrow. But my bike broke down at the border post between Namibia and Botswana.  But that is another story… Still to come,