Day115 Thursday 3rd February. 2011

At Gobabis we changed GBP and got the same ten for one rate as we did with the Botswana Pula, but the fuel here is half the cost. The ride to Windhoek was through one of the wettest parts yet for us. Usually it rained and once we were through it dried us out in the sun. But this afternoon it loomed across the horizon and the dark lead cloud was split with enormous lightning bolts, some cloud to cloud but the brightest one were coming to ground. It was an awesome display of nature, but the rain that we rode through for an hour dampened the attraction of it. It gave a half-hearted attempt at drying us once we were through and we set camp at Chameleon feeling decidedly damp.

Day116 Friday 4th February.

Though the day was damp we had a lovely day wandering around the city which was very clean and felt European. We managed to send the parcels back for ten pounds, where as in Botswana they wanted forty!!

In the fruit and veg market we were overwhelmed by the variety of produce and the quality of it all. We feel we have come through into a different world. In the supermarket the same wide array of fresh meat, bread and pastry’s bowled us over.

We spent a nice slow evening poring over maps and guidebooks.

Day117 Saturday 5th February.

We left backpackers by ten am and headed to Swakopmund to see some sand dunes. The last one hundred km of the road was through real desert land, more so than the pure sand we passed through in Sudan. This part of the Kalahari was rock strewn coarse sand with massive outcrops of rock. Huge hills that rose out of the flatness.

Our camp was three hundred meters from the Atlantic ocean and as the beach was very steep the rollers crashed onto it with a noise you could hear from the tent.

On the site was two domestic rabbits who for some reason would not leave us or rather the bike alone. Whenever went outside the two of them would be sat under or very close to it eating grass. The novelty wore thin when we had to keep pushing them out of the tent also. When a Dutch camper commented on it I said that were not mine, and maybe they thought the orange bike reminded them of carrots. He shook his head and walked on his way.

Day118 Sunday 6th February.

We rode to Dune Seven and I managed to climb to the top in twenty minutes, while the ten-year old local children had rushed up and down twice in that time!!

The view from the top of the other dunes was fantastic though I doubt the photos will do it justice. I wished the view out to the ocean was better, but it was too far away. We spent three hours there just wondering around and marvelling at the size and how old was it??

At camp in the afternoon a German widower pulled in and we gave him a copy of our Tracks for Africa as he was heading north where we found it very useful, if not essential. In the evening we all walked into town to meet another German, a lady we had met at Windhoek, and a few beers were had in the ocean front bar.

Day119 Monday 7th February.

The morning was spent in town which we could have spent all day in, (and on reflection should have done) mooching around shops and alley ways.

We headed back to Windhoek early afternoon, and two hours later we were in a police station.

At Usakos an overland bike on Australian plates was parked up by the curbside, and we stopped to see if there was trouble or just a cigarette break. He heard us and came out of the police station, there were three of them on three bikes, two Australians and one Irish. One of the Oz had been hit while stationary at a set of traffic lights (robots) by a local car. His rear panniers were mashed, the offside one a right-off in my opinion, the tyre was cut and split to the cords but he was unhurt but shaken, understandably. We stayed for an hour and chatted while the Irish man beat the better of the two boxes with a rock. We offered help of any kind but they were OK and we headed on our way.

In Windhoek we camped at Cardboard box as the camping was very limited at our first camp. The evening was spent as you are told not to, walking to a recommended bar for a game of “eat-all-you-can-eat-for-ten-dollar” deal. The deal was for Sundays only so we had corn fritters and a plate of fries, all we could afford. The five km walk there and back was good though.

In the late evening a couple rode in on old DRZ six-fifty’s. They were from Australia but living in Denmark , and we spent the rest of the night sat talking of our journey and their travels down the west coast. Nice folks.

Day120 Tuesday 8th February.

We decided to stay another day as Ben and Kate suggested that we all cook together a huge evening feed of food, sounded great!! The four of us spent the day doing our own things, Ben welded his pannier racks, Kate serviced her bike and replaced her front inner tyre, I repacked the boxes as I had lost a third of one box space due to poor organization, and Diane washed our gear, again.

We all went to town to food shop after an enormous storm had came and went. All enjoyed a pleasant evening with spaghetti bol and a few beers.

Day121 Wednesday 9th February.

With our goodbyes said we headed to Fish River Canyon. Our hopeful stop off was Keetmanshoop which was five hundred km, a great distance to cover but it was the next town and there was nothing in between to stop for on the road, we struggled to get fuel but arrived by five pm.

We tried to wild camp but nothing was available and so ended our day at the municipal camp ground. The place was deserted save for us so we were nervous of its condition, it was spotless!! With hot water and fantastic showers. After cooking we had an early night, only to be awakened at four am by a fantastic electrical storm which lasted two hours. We sat up and held onto the tent while the havens lit everything around us with wave after wave of blinding lightning and deafening thunder. One of the tent poles broke due to the strong winds, sounds dramatic but they are suffering from metal fatigue and have been snapping for weeks. We were given a spare pole at Snake Camp in Tanzania but now all of its parts had been used and we need replacements. Some of the lightning was so bright it hurt your eyes, even though they were closed. We stayed up till we were sure it had died out, as it quietend down only to gain strength and roll back in again. At eight we woke to sunshine and a few white clouds, all the rain had evaporated so you would not have known that there had been a storm at all.

Day122 Thursday 10th February.

After packing, an outdoor shop was pointed out to us and we were surprised to buy a set of three new poles at a reasonable cost. They will need cutting down and the elastic re- tensioning but it was great to have found them so easily.

The camp-site manager telephoned the tourist office for us to ask on the condition of the northern road to Fish River, they told him it was fine and OK to go that way. An hour and fifty km later we were turning back with three other trucks as the road was closed due to it being washed away!

On our return leg we met Luke and Nick on KTM and BMW bikes who had stopped to put emergency fuel into the BM….. They were from Michigan in the States, and were on a five month Cape to Norway trip. After a half hour chat we headed back to town then south to Grunau.

At a gas station just north of town we were advised by a man who we both thought was stoned not to take the first road as it was washed out but take the second, so we rode the thirty km to our dirt turn off and headed west.

The surface was firm enough for our fairly worn road tyres to cope with but as it was three hours to dark and we had a tent to repair we asked at a house where we might camp. The lady told us of her friends who had a camp ground twenty-five clicks away. As we took the turn up to their home we hit very soft sand and soon were sliding across the track hoping that her estimate of six km was correct or hopefully even short of the mark. Bang on target we turned in the farm gate and were met by Boetie and Imma who were immediately warm and inviting. The gave us five litre of bottled water and a home-made raisin bread and took us up the track to their camping ground which was still being built. They were also building a lovely thatched roof, one room chalet with a corner kitchen and a BED. Outside there were two toilets and showers with a wood fired donkey to heat the water. We cooked food and ate outside and watched the sun drop behind the mountains. Fantastic people and a great place, we were really out in the wilds. We were warned to be careful upon entering the loo or showers as nasty snakes, scorpions and other desert nasties can be found it there looking for water, as it’s not rained significantly her for three years.

Diane went to sleep at dusk and I wrote this by oil lamp as they have no electricity at the camping ground

Day123 Friday 11th February.

An alarm was set for six am to give us time to walk to the farm and meet with Boetie to collect the bakkie for our drive to Fish River Canyon. We were gathering our gear together when they arrived at the lodge, he explained they needed that vehicle to take a sick worker of theirs to hospital town.

I thought this was an ideal morning to assess if the head gasket on the bike was leaking oil into the coolant. Diane washed our gear and made us a thin boy breakfast of de-hydrated muesli and Weet-Bix.

By eleven we were done and both set to cutting the tent poles down to fit the tent properly.

Unusual for us, we had a siesta, and slept for two hours, must be due to the remote location and utter silence. Boetie and Imma arrived back carrying more lovely raisin bread and iced tea.

The afternoon was passed with Diane making umpteen bead bracelets and necklaces, while I read in their travel magazines how Namibia is one of the best place to star gaze. The lack of light pollution and clean air makes the stars shine and not twinkle. So we sat out at dusk and got neck ache till the distant storm came closer and spoilt our view.

I sat up late into the night and watched the lightning storms on the horizon, by midnight they were crashing around and over head. Never before have I seen such lightning as you get on this continent.

Day 124 Saturday 12th February.

At half seven we arrived at the farm after a noisy walk in the sand to show any snakes that were warming themselves that we were passing by.

Coffee and home-made rusks were shared with our hosts in the farm-house kitchen. Its tradition to dip the hard rusk in your drink to soften it, strange because dunking is slightly frowned on by non dunkers in the UK.

We were given a route to take and the bakkie keys, we drove off into a sunny day. It was great to be able to places we have been unable to go due to the soft sand, and wearing T-shirts and shorts, not heavy bike clothes.

Ai Aia was a natural hot spring which I thought would be a few flat rocks to sit on and a shallow slightly muddy pool to put your feet in, a small gravel car parking area, all surrounded by high gorge cliffs remote and only the river for any sound.

The security man at the gate took my passport details and the truck number and wrote down our entry time on a clipboard, slid back the heavy metal gate and we drove in. Laid out before us was a holiday type of place, with apartments to our right with vehicle parking underneath, and camping showers, toilets and grass on our left, then the river. We did look at the shower block and it was all very clean and on one end, cooking stoves and ovens could be used.

The river was in flood and muddy brown, like the Wye back home. We walked to the spring which was a swimming pool really, but filled from underneath by nature. The water was like a almost too hot bath and light green in colour, sitting with our feet in it was lovely.

Walking the area we met a couple driving a truck who we met a few days ago, when we turned back at the road closed barrier. He was surprised to see us and said where’s your bike? Sold it? They had camped there and said what a good site it was. Of all the amenities on site I thought the gas station was the best one, for bikers a real bonus. But today were truck drivers so we passed it by.

We headed north to the canyon and it would not have been possible to come on the bike as heavy rain had cut deep channels into the road, some of them still had half a meter of water in them, flowing quickly but not as fast to make the crossing scary. Not far from the spring an old truck sat in the desert with the motor and rear axle long gone, looking a little sad to was the front panel work as somebody had used it as target practice. We stopped off at the Canon Lodge and camp ground that was down a four km track and tough going in two-wheel drive, but we never needed four though. The scenery was out of a western film with piles of high rocks balanced on top of each other, and the teak winding through dry river beds and cactus trees. The Lodge by comparison was an oasis of green grass, old farm implements and cars from the forties.

At the canyon we again cleared the entrance gate with much paper work, it was like being at the border again. We drove to the main viewing platform which had lots of info on the geology, history, flora and forma of the area. Tables and chairs to sit at, all covered with a stick roof to keep off the sun, would be interesting to be told what it was like twenty years ago.

The canyon was fantastic and the pictures, while they will remind us, it does not show the scale of it too accurately for any one else. The river did look very small at the bottom of it.

We were on a time limit as the truck was needed back on the farm by four pm, so we drove rather than walked to the other view points then headed back via the Canon Roadhouse.

About ten km West of the roadhouse we saw Kate and Ben heading to the canyon, he waved but at the truck and not us.

I went to set the gps for home and realized I had left the co-ordinates at the farm, so we navigated by a poor map and word of mouth directions from the morning. Thinking we were horribly lost we headed for the town we knew of but was a hundred km detour. Luck was with us though because after fifty km or so we saw our turn across the railroad and onto a sand road, as described.. This track was forty-two km which surprised us. Rather than being lost we had no idea of the huge distance we had to drive. I reckoned we were and hour maybe from the river, not over two!!

We arrived forty minutes late on the farm and felt terrible as they were going to a party, but it was not a problem as they were debating whether to go or not,  the promised rain would flood the road and make it impassable for their return journey. We tried to leave them in peace to get ready, but we had coffee  and were given more bread and grapes. Boetie kindly drove us back to the Lodge as the sky was black with cloud, and as he drove back to the farm the heavens opened.

We were invited to stay Sunday night as they were going to cook some meat on the Braai, but we felt we had taken enough of their hospitality and decided to head to Springbok early in the morning and see how the bike ran. There is a BMW garage there for repair if needed.

Day125 Sunday 13 February

At seven am Boetie and Imma arrived to see us finish our packing and tidy their lodge. I would have loved to stay longer but without being given useful work to do about the farm I felt it was taking advantage of their hospitality.

We left by eight am and rode the thirty-five km to the tar road in an hour or so and then headed south to the border.

The sand road that had been exciting to ride on the way in, now with the rain had made it firm in places that before were slidey and scary on thinning tyres. With the formalities done, with much humour from the police on both sides of the crossing we headed for Springbok.