Sometimes beauty arrives where you least expect it. I was amazed by the beauty of this Pincussion Protea, found next to the gravel road near Gourits River Mouth, South Africa last week… Continue reading
Yesterday I shared some iconic hood emblems of three classic cars. The Bugatti really stood out for me. I just love Bugatti! This beauty can be seen at the Franschhoek Motor Museum in South Africa.
You remember this one:
But it would be so unfair not to show the rest of the car as well…
And a short history of this beauty in English and Afrikaans…
Now this is truly a thing of beauty in my eyes…
I am not that familiar with the classic cars. Readers may enlighten me as to the model of this beautiful 1930’s Bentley. But in my uninformed eyes this is one of the most spectacular front ends of any car, ever… what a beauty!
It is residing in the Franschhoek Motor Museum, South Africa
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.
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.
We 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.
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…
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…
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?)
And then we had another lovely evening under the stars, around the camp fire… man, winter is bad in South Africa… 🙂
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… 🙂
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:
From Windhoek we had to go to the Border post of Buitepos (Outpost in Afrikaans) where we would camp before crossing back into Botswana.
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…
It was just another long, straight road ahead…
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!
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 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.
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.
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…
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!
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…
Richard grabbed a dustbin, and put his iPhone on a small tripod to take our official Tour Photo here…
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:
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.
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…
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…
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.
Afterwards, across the road, we went to see the new Freedom Monument- Museum…
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.
Swakopmund was one of the main destinations of our motorbike trip. It was also the furthest point from home. So we decided in fhe planning stage already that we would spend an extra day here, just resting
When we woke up on Sunday morning, the whole town was covered in fog.
My wife and I decided to walk through the beautiful town of Swakopmund in the fog. One huge bonus of staying at the municipal resort- we saw a laundromat next door, and we gladly handed them our first week’s dirty laundry, to be washed, dried and picked up at six.
Afterwards we walked down to the beach, and discovered that it was really cold along the ocean. So we turned into the commercial part of town. Being Sunday, it seemed totally deserted… we found that this could not be the main tourist season, there was nobody in sight… and with the fog… quite scary! Have you ever seen the original horror movie “The Fog”? I have when I was starting high school, and was traumatized by Fog ever since… 🙂
But turning a corner in the main street, we saw a delightful sight- a small restaurant/ coffee shop, Bojo’s, with open doors! And the smell of freshly brewed coffee just invited us in. So in we went, and first had a beautiful cup of coffee, and afterwards a most memorable breakfast. They had excellent wifi, I was really, really impressed with Bojo’s!
After this breakfast we just walked around town for hours, enjoying the sights of Swakopmund. Here are some of the scenes of our flaneur….
Late morning it was time for the one thing you MUST do if you ever go to Swakopmund. I mean, you have not been to Swakopmund if you have not done this thing. It is a crossed item on my Bucket List since my first visit. (See Bucket List Button above, #50)
Overlooking the famous lighthouse there is Hotel Schweizer. And they have Café Anton. And when you get there, you order their Apfelstrudel. They have lots of other things, which I have not tasted, it must be good. But their Apfelstrudel- you dont get anything more delicious than that. Yes, I know, my American friends do like their Apple Pie. But… I think the Germans does this better! Don’t believe me? Go try it out then (and send me some American Apple Pie to taste…)
Is that not heaven on a plate?
After this delicious stop, the weather was clearing a bit. So we went back to get our bike. We decided to ride the Salt Road that runs behind the first ridge of dunes to Walvis Bay. This road is just gravel road, covered by salt. It is as smooth as tarmac, we could run on it at 120 km/h without any problems…. a beautiful ride in the desert!
This road goes to Dune 7. It was also on my Bucket List (#51) years ago to climb, because you have a really hard time getting to the top. It looks small from here, but it is one of the highest sand dunes in the world. We did not ride up to the dune because of the extremely sandy road on the other side of the rail. From here, we turned to drive into Walvis Bay, Namibia’s main port city. And it looked like a scary movie when we approached it. While in the desert there was no fog. But in Walvis Bay the Fog was hanging over the town menacingly. I expected eery music to start up, and zombies to start walking towards us, maybe I watched that one episode too much of Walking Dead with my kids.
I remembered Walvis Bay as a stinking industrial place from my first visit. There are a lot of fishing industry companies around here. But riding around this place, I saw I was also wrong, There are beaufiful parts of Walvis Bay, where I would live any day if given a chance. It is also known for the millions of flamingoes walking in the shallow water of the beach and estuaries.
We arrived at another deserted walkway on the other side of the harbour. And were rewarded by two dolphins playing around in the ice cold water. But very lazily, just like us…
This turned out to be one of the best days of my life. Being with ,my wife, just the two of us exploring new places on our bike. It is so good to share these experiences with your loved one…
Swakopmund will always be one of our very special places in life!
And that evening we had a wonderful barbeque (BRAAI!) with all our friends… THAT was the picture we had in our minds when we started planning this trip. And it all came together that Sunday in Swakopmund/ Walvisbay. It must be a very special place, that is why Mrs Brad Pitt, Jolly Angelina, picked Long Beach to bring her twins into the world- halfway between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay… What a day…
As I scroll through my blog this week, I come under the impression how much of this tour I have missed, being ill for 5 days. I have pictured sitting with my friends around the camp fire under the African winter skies. And I have missed it, being so weak and going to bed every night just after dinner…
Well, on this day finally the bad part ended. I felt good again! And we had a wonderful day on the bike ahead of us. On this day we experienced Namibia- from the grassy plains around Otjivarongo, to the Karoo style semi- desert, to the full desert of the Namib where you just see sand… and finally the Atlantic Ocean in all her splendor.
It was so good waking up, and not having any hickups anymore! And to actually feel hungry again felt so good!
Our first stretch of the day was to Omaruru. And this is a town not to miss if you ever visit Namibia. It won awards as Town of the Year on our Southern Africa television networks. We stopped at a delightful coffeeshop, that finally had world class food and service! (Or was it just me feeling so much better?) I can’t remember the place’s name, if you recognize it please comment below!.
The land was getting harsher, dryer, hotter… Till we reached the proper Namib Desert… where we took time off to just pull over, and reflect, and BE…
It was really hot on this stretch of road. Then, about 20 km from the sea, the temperature started dropping to cool. We arrived at Swakopmund. After so long time sleeping in tents we opted for a bit more shelter. We went to the Swakopmund Municipal Resort, where we got a small chalet to share.
Just Richard and Elaine, being more adventurous, opted to go camping at Mile 4 just south of Swakopmund, they pitched their tents on the beach.
After removing our luggage, we went to explore Swakopmund. I was here once before, and it was my wife’s first time. For me it is the most special place in Namibia. It is a beautiful town, influenced by the German architecture when it was still Germany’s only colony. And it is at the Atlantic Coast. For me, living 800 km from the nearest beach, it is always special to see the sea…
It was also very, very cold in Swakopmund. Remember that this is our Southern Hemisphere winter holiday, and the Atlantic is also very, very cold around here, We had a freezing walk along the beach, and then found some hot chocolate at the museum when the sun started setting…
When the sun has set, we went together for supper at the Tug restaurant. It was upmarket, pricey, but absolutely worth it! It is on the beach, it is beautiful, and the food was great. I had the beerbattered hake- and it was so good! (Maybe I just felt really, really better finally…)
But of the wonderful times in Swakopmund I will tell in the next post…
Days like these make travel all we expect it to be- new horizons, new landscapes, new experiences and absolute joy at being alive, healthy and blessed.
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.
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.
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.
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:
From Kasane we took the Caprivi Strip to Rundu:
And now you will be able to find the places we talk about, I hope…