May 24, 2017
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
The Republic of Namibia reminded us of central Australia. There is so much untouched country, desert left to the animals that can survive there. It was the first time in Africa we really felt remote, away from people and infrastructure. Namibia is a large country but with only a small population of 3 million yet it's in a better economic situation than its northern neighbour Angola. I think what we enjoyed so much was the 'western' luxuries in towns and cities but then being able to leave those behind to be in the wild. The best of both worlds. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Namibia, even with the breakdowns we experienced.
We did a lot of camping in Namibia and we seemed to have the campsites to ourselves. Using iOverlander for recommendations/reviews we chose campsites set up near known waterholes where wild animals would frequent at certain times of the year. We were again on the lookout for elephants. There were plenty of road signs indicating their potential presence and as we rode along the well maintained gravel roads we kept an eager eye out for them. We seemed so often to have just missed them, evidenced by their large pile of poo in the road. Nevertheless the riding was fun, the scenery was majestic and camping at night was comfortable. Being a desert it cooled off at night, so we often needed to get a campfire going. We would set the camping chair up in front of the fire and place Weeti and Shadow on it. Turns out the girls love a roaring campfire.
Camp Aussich is a must stay. The campsite sits on top of a hill with 360 degree views of the surrounding parkland/desert. The facilities are rustic, creating a very authentic and peaceful place. The shower is a metal bucket and the water is heated with firewood. The owner was very knowledgeable of rocks and minerals (a geologist perhaps), we were given a very pretty piece of blue rock he had mined. There is no light pollution at all here so star gazing at night, sunsets and sunrises are the main events and wildlife if you're lucky. But you have to work hard to reach the site. There are two tracks, one good and one very bad. We mistakenly took the very bad road into the campsite. First up is a dry river bed crossing. The embankments are very steep and very slippery riding on fine dusty sand. Going down into the river we had gravity to help but getting out the otherside took both of us on each bike and an enormous strain on the engine. Best to give up before the riverbed crossing because it gets only slightly better afterwards but you don't want to turn back by then. So of course we arrived in the dark, too terrified of possible wild animals to just set up our tent on route. The other track we took to leave and it was a piece of cake compared with the first.
There were two places we wanted to visit while we were in Namibia; Etosha National Park and the Skeleton Coast. Both reserves refused us entry with the dogs. It rarely happens that we can't do something because of the girls. Sometimes it takes a bit of investigation and exploring to work around the rules. We were a little disappointed and considered day trips without the girls but in the end decided there were plenty of other things we could do and see with the dogs so carried on. Plus we're pretty sure we'll come back to Namibia again one day, perhaps a 4x4 trip.
Swakopmund was our next destination. We'd been on gravel roads nearly the whole time in Namibia so far and only camping so we thought it would be nice to get an Airbnb for a couple of nights and see what a Namibian city was like. We stayed with a lovely guy called Tomas who gathered his mates one night to take us out for a local meal. The entree was a bowl of fried worms/grubs. Stu was brave and enjoyed them, Janell was not. But we both enjoyed all the rest of the dishes that came out.
There was a problem with Janells motorbike. When we pulled in to Swakopmund Janell's overheating warning light had come on. Her engine had been rebuilt in Angola but with limited time and facilities the job was only intended to get us out of trouble. To be honest, we were riding on borrowed time, just hoping to make it to South Africa where we planned to stop and sort it out. Our new plan was to pretend the warning light hadn't come on, leave the bike to rest for the 3 days, and then with fingers and toes crossed ride directly to South Africa on the sealed roads. It would be longer as we had to ride east to the capital Windhoek and then south but at least if something went wrong we'd be on good roads with regular traffic for help.
We started Janell's bike up, no warning light came on so we rode off towards Windhoek. We got about 50km then the light came on again so Janell pulled over. Stu wasn't feeling well that day and had got out of reach of communications in front of her. Not a proud moment but he had pulled over and had a sleep thinking Janell was following. It took him about 45 minutes to return to where she'd pulled over, she'd been counting every minute. We took a quick look at the bike then decided to turn back to Swakopmund. Immediately the bike started blowing white smoke out the back which is really no good. Stu got back on his bike and headed for Swakopmund on his own to try and find assistance. As he rode along, feeling really sick and tired, a car towing a near empty car float flew past him in the opposite direction. Well you don't see that sort of opportunity every day. He turned the bike on its heels and tore off after the trailer. The engine was roaring at 90mph, he pulled up beside the driver and flagged him over. A little confused and possibly scared, Stu approached the driver window. He only spoke Afrikaans but she managed to ascertain they were headed for Windhoek. They agreed to assist us with moving the motorbike on their trailer.
It was actually a family in the car; grandparents with their grandson. Janell happily sat in the car while Stu and the girls followed closely behind for the 300km. It was late when we arrived in Windhoek and unloaded the motorbike at our Airbnb. We only had €50 in cash on us which Janell insisted they accept for their generosity. For sure it would have cost us a lot more to move it that distance with a tow truck.
The next 7 nights were spent in Windhoek exploring the pretty city and tossing up what to do about the motorbike. We visited the BMW motorrad in Windhoek. They were very friendly and sympathetic to our situation. The mechanic offered to have a go at rebuilding the engine but quite honestly admitted they didn't have the facilities in Namibia so parts would need to be sent to South Africa for repair which alone would be costly. They did have a couple of 650GS's for sale, one with Zebra stripes painted over it, so we considered just buying Janell another bike.
Ultimately the best plan was to transport Janell's motorbike to South Africa. There we'd be able to find a mechanic who could do the required work with access to all the parts locally. So we toured around Windhoek getting quotes for a tow. The best quote we got by far was from Absolute Logistics (-22.512441,17.069261) to move it from Windhoek to Johannesburg for 2,500 Namibian Dollars (approx. €150). We dealt with Stallacia 0811221114, her and all the staff were very friendly and accommodating and we'd recommend these guys to anyone. With Janell's motorbike packed up and on its way we could now relax and continue to explore some more.
We had one other hiccup during our stay in Windhoek. Someone broke into Stu's motorbike parked up in a shopping centre car park and stole all our documents; Australian & British Passports, EU Pet Passports, Motorbike documents etc. We'd been to a late session of a movie but had parked the motorbike in a busy area during the day. When we returned in the dark the motorbike was all on its own and someone had used a crowbar to force open the lid of his left pannier. The Pillion Pooch prevented the thief from lifting the locked lid off the pannier so they must have reached in and found the envelope and ran off with it. When we realised what had been taken Janell lost it. She went running after security for help. She was in tears, she was angry, the only documents that really mattered to us, the reason for losing her shit, was the Pet passports which had Weeti and Shadows vaccinations. Without those documents we were seriously screwed to further our journeys in Africa and we'd have a long and expensive process getting the girls re-vaccinated and documented to return to the EU. Security was useless which didn't help the situation. Janell took off on foot, she left Stu with the motorbike and started running through the car park levels looking in bins and over walls and then when she was done with that she headed for the roads around the shopping centre. Her determination paid off, at an intersection she saw documents sprawled across the road. Everything was there, passports and all. It made no sense but she burst into tears as she gathered up the pieces of paper and cardboard. By the time she reached Stu and the lingering security it had reduced to sobbing. The ordeal was over and we could go to bed and sleep peacefully tonight.
Despite the breakdown and the breaking, we were very fond of Windhoek and a little sad to leave but it was time. We'd played Tetris for a few hours one day moving stuff between motorbikes and panniers so that the four of us could continue on one motorbike with just the essentials. It was tight but we did 1,700km, four-up, on one motorbike to Johannesburg. The hardest part of the trip was sharing the riding; pretty sure Janell squeezed in more km's up front than Stu but he is the more patient passenger.
We stopped in to see the Fish River Canyon early in the morning. It's the largest canyon in Africa and the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. There is a gravel track around the top you can drive along with lots of viewing points to stop, appreciate the immense scale of the place and stretch the legs. We must have spent a good few hours at the reserve and built up an appetite so it was time to move on for lunch and to visit hot springs our host at the Goibib Guesthouse and Campsite (27.330344,18.568979) had recommended visiting. Funnily enough, swimmers didn't make the cut when we were packing for one motorbike so it was undies or naked.
Time was creeping on and we had to think about getting to Johannasburg to sort out Janell's motorbike and then on to Cape Town to meet Janell's Mum a few weeks later. We headed for the Ariamsvlei border crossing.
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