Rides, Reflections and Repairs – Year end bash via Namibia by Cave Girl and LeonDude

After months of planning, this is the route that we plan on taking. Our schedule is flexible, we plan on following our noses more than our GPS’s. The planning route looks a bit rough, because I posted many waypoints to force the GPS to go where I wanted it to go. The planned route would be about 4000 kilometers.

This is the actual route we took on day one.

Day 1

Coligny to Warrenton

We leave early in the morning after Slakkie, at whose house we were leaving our car and trailer, made us some departing coffee. With fully loaded bikes we make our way out of the quiet little town. It takes a bit of time to get use to the fully loaded bikes, but we soon set into a comfortable pace and quickly reach the little town of Ottosdal, where we take a picture of our bikes in front of the church. Taking pictures of my bike in front of churches in little towns became a bit of a hobby with me at some time.

Then Cave Girl asks if we can turn back to the cemetery because she thought it weird that such a small town should have such a big cemetery.

The dates in the cemetery explains its size, they go right back to early 1900.

An angel on a grave.

We have a coffee in the cemetery (I know, I know) and then push on through Wolmaranstad.

The gravel has a few sandy patches, and we take some time to find our gravel feet.

Getting off the dirt just before Bloemhof we hit what was to be the first of many stop and go roadworks for this trip. After some more gravel south of the Vaal river we stop in Christiana just after 2 o’clock for a lunch and a beer.

The church in Christiana

But back to todays riding, after a nice lunch, served with speed usually unknown in small towns at Lilly’s Grill house and pub, we head out again to Warrenton.

That night we sleep in what feels like a very dangerous campsite called Transka, but in the end I don’t think we need to have worried. The ablutions were clean and locked, we were the only campers and were given the key to the ablutions, so we had them all to ourselves. Probably the most dangerous thing around that evening were the two bikers drinking beer on the first night of their long journey.

The campsite

We spend the evening with the bat detector turned on listening to the echoes of the bats and talking about the day past, and the trip that lies ahead.

A note by CG read – “The one thing I have realized is – if I let Leon ride 200 – 300 meters in front of me then I tend to look up better (Higher) and because I can’t actually see his bike’s movements or line I can/do pick my own line and ride my own ride”.

Day 2

Warrenton to Prieska

I had wanted to leave our overnight spot at seven o’clock each morning, but this morning we leave at 8. This was to become the norm on this trip, and I quickly made peace with it. It’s worth it to take the extra time in the morning to make sure you have a good breakfast and that the luggage is packed correctly on the bike, instead of stopping to try and correct things once your day's riding has gotten under way.

We want to change the route a bit, but after ending at a locked gate we make a thirty kilometer detour skirting Kimberly to get back on route, and of course ride straight into a stop and go. We do take the time to go to a site of glaciated rocks along the road.

That is one of the main things about keeping our days riding distances short – we can stop at interesting points along the route instead of shooting past like we sometimes do.

We also start wearing our water vests (Hydravest) to take off the heat, much sooner than planned, as we had actually brought them along for the trip through Namibia. They work wonders, and keep us cool for more than an hour before we have to wet them again.

We visit the confluence of the Orange and the Vaal rivers, a site I’ve only seen in the distance from the opposite bank two years ago.

Because of the detours and stop and go situation we have to skip some dirt to make up time. When we do ride gravel the roads are in excellent condition though, and the patches of thick gravel beds hardly bother us. Even on the second day of the trip, I am really enjoying the fact that I went for training with Hoofseun, it makes the riding easy and I have a lot less work to do to keep the bike true than on some of my previous big trips.

Late afternoon we roll into Prieska. After having a quick look at the municipal campsite we get the hell out of there and find a B&B that will allow us to pitch our tent on their lawn for the night. We spend a wonderful evening next to the campfire, what a pleasure.

Day 3

Prieska to Karasburg

We have a long road ahead of us today, we have to do 510 kilometers from Prieska to Karasburg. I plan on taking it easy and sitting out the heat of the day in a pub in Upington.

We hit the N10 and I’m going easy, but ten kilos out of town I notice that CG has gone from my rear–view mirror, so I pull up and wait for her.

I used to go back to check on her, but we decided that she would stop for pictures wherever she wanted to, and I would rather wait for her instead of going back all the time.

This time though, it takes her a long time to get to me, and her bike is sick. It will rev to about 2 thousand revs, then fart and burp and refuse to rev higher.

The broken bike.

We have no choice, the luggage comes off and the toolkit comes out and I set to work. I check the fuel line, then take of the plastics, seat and tank and replace the spark plug. Now note that Prieska is not a cool town, and I’m shedding clothes as far as I go. Every time I change something I have to put the tank and fuel lines back before I can test the bike, and it takes forever. Eventually, having run out of options, I decide I want to drain the carb float bowl, and miraculously I discover an allen key that will fit in my toolkit. Just as miraculously, the bike fires up and goes after the float bowl is drained, and I feel like a genius. Unfortunately this whole episode has cost us two and a half hours, and we are now well behind schedule. That’s not really a problem though, our schedule is flexible and we can sleep in Upington if we arrive there very late.

Stopping at a dam to wet our hydravests

The Orange river just before Upington

But we set off and push just a bit harder than I had wanted to. There were a few stop and go’s, but they never kept us up for long. At the first stop – and – go CG’s bike won’t start, but I don’t tell her it’s because I pulled the clutch switch out while testing earlier – I wait until she’s not looking and then put the switch back – he he he.

We stop briefly in Groblershoop for cooldrinks and to be begged at, then push on. We get to Upington at around the time I had actually wanted to leave there, so we only stop for ice and cooldrinks and to be begged at, then push on.

Being begged at would become a constant irritation on this trip, and on more than one occasion a beggar almost came short when he approached a hot and irritable biker.

The road from Upington to the Namibian border.

The tar road from Upington to the Namibian border is in good condition and border formalities are quick and painless, and pretty soon my bike is parked with its arse in South Africa and its nose in Namibia. It’s always a fantastic feeling, taking your bike into a new country and unknown territory for the first time.

Playing the fool on the border line.

We head on and at the Nam border the formalities are also quick and easy, then we head off to Karasburg, elated to be riding in Namibia.

In Karasburg the plan had always been not to camp, so we find the Karasburg Hotel and settle in for the night. Unfortunately for us the hotel has recently been sold and the ex–owners are not really looking after the guests anymore, so the rooms and food is not up to much. But the beer is cold, and that is what matters to most to us.

Day 4

Karasburg to Hobas

Early morning in Karasburg sees us ready to tackle the first Namibian dirt road. With the research we'd done about Namibian dirt roads I’m a bit skeptical about what we will find, but we make our way down to the Spar where CG goes in to buy ice for our camelbacks and some other supplies while I guard the bikes while being begged at.

While waiting for CG, I go over the bikes and check for missing bolts etc but everything is in order, the bikes are ready for Namibia’s dirt. Until, that is, CG comes back and mysteriously, my rear wheel has deflated itself.

Oh well, we were expecting this and I’m prepared, so we unpack the kit and out comes the puncture repair stuff and after strapping the bike to a pole I set about fixing the puncture.

Inspecting the damage

How to strap up a bike

This turns out to be a messy job as the valve had torn out of the tube and the fuggit (mousse) was everywhere. I toss the tube with the torn–out valve and replace it with a new tube. Now for the lucky bit, there is a petrol station with a pump a mere twenty paces from me where I can inflate the tyre.

After struggling for a while to set the bead I hear the faint sssssss of air escaping. This leads to the reason for the torn out valve – there’s a nail in the wheel and I’d ridden the bike while the wheel was flat. Really irritating, but there is nothing for it but to remove the tube again. We decide to replace the tube with our last spare and to patch the now punctured tube later.

So once again, we leave town much later than we would have hoped.

Right outside Karasburg we hit our first sandy riverbed, and immediately I start having serious issues with my riding. I’m not enjoying the riding, because I’m constantly on the lookout for sandy patches. Apart from that I’m tired after repairing two punctures, and it takes us until the heat of mid – day to reach Ais – Ais.

Gravel roads

A short hop on tar

Back onto more gravel.

It’s only on the twisties going down into Ais – Ais that I finally start enjoying the riding. Forget about everything you might have read about Namibian dirt highways – what you want to do here is keep your eyes open for the little drifts every few hundred meters, because the gravel in some of them is deep enough to catch you out. The road going into Ais Ais is spectacular though, well worth the ride down.

At Ais – Ais I’m surprised that they simply let us in. It is sweltering hot inside the canyon, and we head straight for the restaurant for some cooldrinks and something to eat. After eating we wet and put on our water vests, then to the garage to fill our bikes with fuel. At the garage another biker comes in on a Yammie Tenere, but simply gives us a look and continues on his way.

We fill up the bikes and buy a big bag of ice for the camelbacks. After filling the camelbacks and the coolerbag there is lots of ice left. In the sweltering heat we decide we will have to look after our ice carefully, so to keep our ice warm we stuff it into our pockets. CG stuffs some down the front and back of her now wet water vest. Into every part of our clothes that does not need to stay dry we pack the ice. Then we leave Ais Ais and head out of the valley, but before we reach the plato all the ice we had so carefully pocketed had melted and even the wet patches are gone. It is searing hot!

On the way out the sun was right above us, and I was to learn that this is a dangerous time to be on the road in Namibia. You simply cannot see the road surface to read what is happening. They were scraping the road, and under the glare of the sun I did not see the high sand berm that the scraper had left lying in the middle of the road, I came very close to riding into this berm without warning. It could have made for interesting times.

Once out of the valley I was much more comfortable on the dirt, even though the roads were not in as good a condition as I had been led to believe they would be. Still, I now enjoyed the riding and the road to Hobas disappeared quickly.

A kilometer or two out of Hobas I was to have another scare as I came over a little hill and the road dropped sharply below me, with an even sharper drop as the road made a slight curve at the bottom. I was doing a good speed, and from the top the road looked in excellent condition – but I had read it completely wrong, it was covered in marble-like pebbles, I found myself sliding all over the place on the stuff. It’s one of those moments where you have to look up at where you want to go and trust in your bike. But it still leaves your underpants worried about the rest of the trip.


Day 5

Hobas to Kokerboom forest

By now we’re joking about what is going to go wrong with the bikes today, but strangely this morning everything goes well with the bikes.

In the morning I send CG to negotiate about the entry fee to the lookout point and she got us a 30% discount so we were off to the viewpoint.

There is nothing that can be said for the viewpoint at Hobas, except that these pictures really are not good enough. Like all really good sites, it is something you have to experience for yourself.

From there it was back to Hobas campsite to buy ice and cooldrinks for the road, and then we set off for Seeheim. Strangely, I found that the secondary dirt roads were in a better condition than the main dirt roads, I suppose because they are used less. What was bad was the clouds of dust that the cars and plentiful tourist busses kicked up.

Namibia is an unforgiving place – death is close by, and carcasses dry out quickly.

On the road we met Helga and Bruno, two Europeans cycling through a part of Africa. They were very friendly and allowed me to take their photo, but I did not want to keep them up, because cycling through the hot sun in Namibia is hard work. They are going down to Cape Town and then up our Eastern coast, and we wished them lots of luck with their journey.

CG had a lot of dust to deal with behind me, and kept a good distance away.

At Seeheim we stopped at the Hotel and after getting some cooldrinks and cooling off we found out they could decant fuel for us, so we could fill up on our way through to our camping spot.

(Somewhere along the line I had made a calculation error on Mapsource, and a route that was supposed to be over 400 kilometers turned out to be under 300 kilos. I’ll have to speak to my computer about this aberrant behavior. It meant we carried a lot of unneeded fuel.)

From Seeheim we shot through Keetmanshoop to the Quiver Tree Forest where we were supposed to camp for the night. At their reception I got the price for camping which would include the entry to the forest and the Giant’s playground and quickly agreed to it. Well, that was just as quickly overruled by CG who had decided on better beds for the night and promptly got us an igloo to stay in. Nice place, with an aircon included.

We set off and went and played in the quiver tree forest, but not for long because the lady had said they would be feeding the Cheetahs at 5 o’clock. That was to be a bonus for us.

The Cheetah feeding was great. The lady allowed us in and we got to take some great pics, and it was an experience I will always carry with me. We even got to pet the one Cheetah, something that CG couldn’t get enough of.

Ah yes, something was bound to go wrong with the bikes!

Back at camp I want to move the bikes for some reason, and this is where I find a problem. CG’s bike has a flat battery. No problem, I think as I take out the electrical cord to jump start her bike from mine. It’s only then that I find out that my KLR does not have the power to start CG’s bike. After trying in vain for half an hour we call in the help of a car and quickly the bike is running again.

That night we make a good size fire and take time to sort out our kit, all the time running up a sizeable bill by making use of the well–stocked fridge in the flat.

Day 6

Kokerboom forest to night camp.

We get up early and go see the sun rise at the Giant’s Playground, and I get to take some nice photos while playing with the sun coming through various cracks and crevices in the rocks

On the way back from there to camp we pass the Cheetah enclosure and I see the cats walking next to the fence.

After stopping for a few photos I take off again, and as always keep my eyes on the road. Back at our possie CG is very excited. Apparently, the moment I took off on my bike, the one Cheetah gave chase, racing after me. So there you have it, I’ve been chased by a Cheetah!

After booking out we head into Keetmanshoop for petrol and supplies. While watching the bikes outside the shop I befriend the local streetsweeper who surprises the hell out of me by not begging for money. We have a long chat, which he interrupts every time someone walks by to greet them, often by name. When I ask him where I can find some empty, plastic two liter coke bottles for extra fuel he quickly produces exactly what I’m looking for, and we have a great chat as he tells me a bit about Namibia.

We fill up our bikes and the fuel bottles and buy a take–away breakfast, then head out of town to eat breakfast. Soon we are on the road again and at Seeheim we again fill the bikes, just to be on the safe side.

Outside Seeheim, crossing the Fish River, a big thud hits me in the throat, immediately followed by a hot burning sensation. Man, don’t you just hate it when that happens! Grabbing at my buff to stop whatever it is from stinging me again I quickly get off the road and start pulling off kit with the usual ‘Damn there’s a wasp in here somewhere’ feeling.

The German tourists must have been very amused when I stomped that little shit into the ground with my boot!

Some way further west we take the D463 South towards the Fish River Canyon. The plan is to ride to a spot in a dry riverbed and camp there for the night. The road is not too bad and we make good time, eventually stopping for an hour under the only shade tree for miles around to have a rest and wait out the heat of the day before continuing on our dusty way.

Close to the canyon the road becomes more and more sandy, with long gravel beds lurking every few hundred meters.

We get to a water-crossing, in the middle of the desert. I remembered seeing this on Mapsource, but had never expected to find water in here!

CG grabs the cameras and walks across, leaving me to bring the bikes through. It’s quite deep, and when I put my feet down on a rocky part my boots are immediately filled with water. Usually I would have hated this, but in that hot desert my feet for once thanked me.

CG meanwhile is using my camera to take pictures of me coming through the water, which is a blessing because it’s at this water crossing that CG somehow manages to lose her camera.

We did ask some guys to go look for it, but they took a different route and did not find the camera. It’s a real shame about our photos, so if you hear about a camera found near to the water-crossing on the D463, we only want the photos on the card, the camera can be kept.

After the water-crossing we decide to go on for a while more as it’s a bit too early to set up camp yet. After another few kilometers we start looking for a campsite. Bypassing a few likely looking spots, all the while riding the long sandy and rocky riverbeds, CG comes face to face with the sand-monster. This stuff is thick sand filled with large pebbles, not the easiest stuff to ride.

I rode this particularly bad gravel bed for about a hundred meters around two beds. The moment I got out of it I got off the bike and started walking back, wanting to make sure that CG was doing ok, only to find her trapped under the bike two turns back.

After lifting the bike off her I take the luggage off and get the bike upright again. CG had twisted her knee badly, and was in a lot of pain. No pics of the off, but when your GF has an off in the middle of nowhere you don’t think about cameras.

She can hobble along a bit, so I tell her to walk to the end of the gravel-trap while I carry out her luggage. It’s freaky hot and I sweat like a pig in my gear while I carry the panniers out, then walk back for the bike. I tie the last bit of luggage back onto the bike and ride the bike out.

I know we wont be able to continue for the day, so I tell CG we’re camping right there in the riverbed. To make sure that I don’t make things too easy for myself I try to ride CG’s bike up the riverbed to hide it behind some trees. I’d barely left the gravel-trap when the bike’s rear wheel sinks down to the axle in the soft river sand. I leave it standing there and we only dig it out after I’d put up our tent and set up camp. In the meantime I move my bike off the riding line in the road and park it where it will be safe in the gravel-trap.

By this time CG had decided that she’d probably be able to ride the bike, so our situation is not too gloomy, and we spend a fantastic evening under the wild Namibian sky, where there are so many stars that you cannot see the night-sky for stars.

We even had a little sand snake come visit our campsite.

Day 7

Night camp to Bash Venue

I get up before five in the morning, with some urgency to get the show on the road. Cave Girl had to get up during the night for pain medication, so I’m not at all sure how the day’s riding will go.

Initially her leg is stiff, but after exercising it for a while she finds she can move without too much difficulty, as long as she doesn’t bend the knee too far.

I try to do most of the work to pack up camp and get the bikes loaded, but CG doesn’t go down easily and she helps with everything, so by seven we are ready to roll out of there.

Knowing full well that we cannot afford another off, I tell her that we are not going to ride the gravel beds anymore, we will paddle the bikes through them.

This goes fine for the first gravel bed, but paddling is hard work. The second gravel bed is longer, and paddling through it drains our energy. We have no alternative but to ride them. We still take it slow, but riding through the sandy patches instead of trying to paddle them makes life a lot easier.

After less than an hour’s riding I suddenly hear an almighty noise behind me, and I’m not at all surprised to find that it’s Jules and wife Li overtaking us at Jules’ usual mad pace. They stop and pull over for greetings and some photos.

It turns out they had camped very close to where we had camped. Jules tells us that he’d actually stopped at the point where CG had gone down and pointed it out to Li – you really couldn’t miss that big piece of farm that now belongs to CG.

On the whole gravel road, we were only passed by one truck, and Jules and Li. That really is a desolate place, where houses are scattered few and far between. At some stage a cold front sweeps in from the west, and we have to stop and put on warm clothes. This is much more pleasant than trying to keep cool, and I think we were both glad for that cold front. For now, that is.

The riding in the morning is once again spectacular. With the mountains to our right and open ground to our left this really was a great place to ride through. We concentrate hard on the road though, because the little gravel beds are well hidden and will catch you out if you don’t take care.

The rest of the road to where the gravel road meets the tar (Road C13) goes without incident. We turn left on the tar road and head South to Rosh Pinah, where we try for the first time to buy coffee at a Wimpy. We are unsuccessful though, the Wimpy is closed down and we have to push on. So far on this trip, we have not had one meal or even a coffee out of a Wimpy. Just south of Rosh Pinah the tar road runs out, and after signing it at some security gate we take the road through the Ais Ais National park. This road starts off with a sign that warns that the road is in a very bad condition for 80 kilometers. The sign really did not disappoint us, but unfortunately it was not good at all. It is true that the scenery on the road was spectacular, and the road twists and turns along the Orange river with high mountain sides to our left. But the road was badly corrugated and no fun to ride at all.

At one point we pass a person sitting in a car that had rolled, waiting for help to come. I decide not to take a picture of him, it would probably not make him feel any better.

After eighty kilometers of bone–jarring corrugations we get back to tar, and it’s a beautiful road, still twisting along the Orange, but now with lush green vineyards between the river and the road. Soon though, we reach the little town of Noordoewer, and after filling our bikes with petrol we run through the quick Namibian border formalities and head back over the river and into South Africa. Here we wait a bit longer because there’s a big family crossing over into Namibia, but once we get helped it goes quick again, I’m sure it was not more than ten minutes once we got helped at the first counter to when we were finished. From there it’s a hop, skip and a jump to the bash site, where we take a bit of time to locate an empty site and set up camp. Then, of course, the kuiering (visiting with friends) broke out in full!

In case you’ve noticed that my GPS track sometimes has bits missing, it’s because the batteries sometimes die. I don’t like looking at the GPS much when I’m riding, (I keep my eyes on the road!) so sometimes I’ll do a few kilometers before I notice that the GPS is dead.

Day 8

Bash Day

I’m not going to tell you much about the bash, suffice is to say it was a bit rowdy, and probably drunken too, but I’ll add a few of my photos here. Bash day was, however, our rest day and the day that I had to do maintenance to our bikes and camping stuff, and CG did a whole lot of washing and other things.

This is what CG’s air filter looked like after she’d followed me on dusty roads for a week. I’m sure her bike was a bit relieved to get that filter swapped out!

Misty and eSKaPe having sundowners on the river

The beautiful view from the bash site.

Day 9

Bash site to Port Nolloth.

Sunday morning we pack up and say our goodbuys to the guys at the bash, then roll out of the campsite and head North.

The plan is to ride through the Richtersveldt on a path that LuckyStriker had told me about in the planning thread. On this path I was to re–learn a lesson you’d think I’d know by now. The lesson is simply this – what one person sees as a good path is not a good path for the next person.

Not knowing the condition of this path, (yes, path, not road!) I had miscalculated how far we would be able to ride for the day, and instead of sleeping at Die Houthoop that night, we only made it as far as Port Nolloth.

That path was for the most nothing more than a 4 X 4 track that ran for kilometers through pieces of dry riverbed, climbed over hills as steep as that of Mafefe and down again. The path itself was boulder strewn and I found myself paddling my bike over some of the more gnarly stuff. A few times I had to take CG’s bike through some of the rougher patches, but mostly she rode it herself.

After seven days of riding our confidence was great, and even though we found the path challenging we were enjoying it tremendously. At one point I came flying around a corner a bit too fast and hit a sand patch, almost losing the back wheel. I managed to keep it going though, and took the next left bend at the end of the sandy patch and then looked for a level piece of ground to stop and tell myself to cool it before I got hurt. I got off the bike and took off my helmet, and immediately noticed that CG’s engine was quiet. I walked back around the bend and there she was, once again resting next to her bike. This time the only injury was to her pride though, and the bike had landed on the berm so it was standing almost straight up, and we quickly righted the situation and continued on our way. Once again, I did not take any photos of the bike lying down, I was far too concerned about CG.

CG’s bike has been lowered, and of course this was to have a bit of a consequence. At one stage, on a particularly rocky and steep uphill, she parked the bike on a rock on the bash-plate. It was a bit of a dance to get her off the bike and me onto it, and then I still had to take the bike back a bit so that I could clear the obstacle to the left as the bike was not high enough to climb over the step–up. Once again Hoofseuns’ training took over, and after struggling to get the bike into first I could slowly let the bike run back bit by bit, while all the time CG was screaming at me that I was going to go over the edge and fall into the ravine if I went back even one more bit. I almost dropped the bike, but fortunately CG helped me keep it upright, then I got going and squeezed the bike through a little gap in the rocks and we were out of trouble.

In the end, the track took the two of us two and a half hours to complete. That is two and a half hours to do fifty kilometers from the bash site to the end of the track. (The track itself is about thirty kilometers long, the other 20 kilometers is a much better road). I rate that track amongst the top ten of the best rides I have ever done, and if you are ever in the vicinity and your bike skills and bike is up to it, it is a must-do. Even Cave Girl, although she needed a bit of help from me, thought that it was one of the best rides she had ever done. The scenery is spectacular, and I promise you my photos cannot do the area justice. At one point we stopped and were passed by two other bikers coming from the bash, who quickly stopped to enquire if everything was ok. Thanks for stopping guys, it’s always nice to know that the Wild Dogs care about each other. And so we hit the end of the track, and turn North once again to Eksteenfontein. This road turns out to be extremely sandy and corrugated.

By this time we hardly notice the sand, but the corrugations will forever be an issue. In Eksteenfontein, which is just a collection of houses, we find a guy on a superbike screaming up the road with no kit whatsoever, not even a helmet. And when I say road, I use the word loosely.

'If they have superbikes here, the road to Alexander Bay must be in very good condition’, we tell each other, but apparently he got that bike home on the back of a 4 X 4. Right after Eksteenfontein the bad stuff starts again, up and down and in the riverbed, it’s as if we’re back on LuckyStrikers path again.

This time I don’t have to help CG with any of the obstacles, but the condition of the path slows us down again, and by the time we hit the main road we are very, very late. It’s past three when we eventually get to Alexander bay, and we’re tired and hungry.

It’s Sunday afternoon too, so we find the only open café and buy a loaf of bread and a tin of bully beef for CG and a tin of sardines for me, then we head off to the mouth of the Orange river for our next goal of the trip, to visit the western most point of South Africa. (Earlier this year we’d done the Northernmost point).

Stupid fool, playing on the beach in full riding gear!

There we eat our lunch at half past three, and somehow I let CG talk me into riding the hundred or so kilometers to Port Nolloth. So back on the bikes we go, and we hit the slab down to Port Nolloth, which we reach, after once again stopping to put on warm clothes, about an hour before sundown. Once again Sunday afternoon bites us as all the restaurants are closed. We book ourselves into the hotel in a room with a balcony overlooking the ocean, and spend a fantastic time having sundowners and taking as many photographs of the sun setting over the Atlantic as we can. Then we have a shower and head down to the hotel restaurant, where we blow our budget on supper.

What a sunset!

I really enjoyed the bit of Port Nolloth that I saw while I was there, and would like to go back to spend a few days there.

Day 10

Port Nolloth to Springbok

Early in the morning we make coffee and take it down to the beach, where we spend some time just chatting on the rocks.

Before we leave town CG stops to buy some painkillers for her knee which is still hurting, and in the pharmacy she comes upon a good camera which she buys, so now she can take photos again. Some photos of our bikes, sporting stickers from all over place.

We were supposed to have spent the previous night at Die Houthoop after hearing many good things about the place, but having only reached Port Nolloth we were a bit off our track, and changed the route accordingly, deciding to slab it to Springbok and then on to Augrabies falls where we would spend the night. A few kilometers out of Port Nolloth we find two bikers next to the road. I pull over to see if I can help, and it’s the two bikers that had stopped to find out if we were ok in the Richtersveldt. One of them is pumping a bit of fuel out of a fuel reserve, so all is well. Sorry guys, I did not get your names. I hope you guys had a safe journey further. We leave the guys and head out again, but I soon find that CG is missing. I stop and wait for her, and once again she shows up with a sick bike. The bike is doing what it had done outside of Prieska.

This time I go straight for the draining plug on the carb, but this time it doesn’t work, the bike won’t rev higher than two thousand revs. Once again the luggage is undone and I start faultfinding as I go along, eventually replacing the spark plug after once again stripping off all the plastics and the petrol tank. Nothing, nada, the bike simply won’t rev. We decide to limp further to the next town, hoping we will be able to find help there. The next town is Steinkopf, and if you have ever been there you’d know there is nothing there but a few houses. However, when CG tries to start the bike it refuses to start. It just makes a weird sucking noise. Now I’m going to find the fault, I think as I try to find the sucking noise, but unfortunately I trace the sucking sound to where I had forgotten to re–attach the fuel line and suction hose after testing.

Miraculously, when I re–attach these the bike suddenly fires correctly, and I tell CG to go for gold while the going is good. We roll into Springbok at around lunchtime. Springbok comes as another pleasant surprise to me. I had always thought of Springbok as a dusty town on flat plains where the sun will kill you if it finds you alone. Instead it is a beautiful little town nestled in the mountains. We have lunch at a restaurant and then head out for Augrabies. About eighteen kilometers out of Springbok, Cave Girls’ bike starts acting up again. It’s doing the same thing – spluttering and coughing above two thousand RPM. We decide to limp back to Springbok to find a garage that can have a look at the bike. Back in Springbok we ride the broken bike all around town, but there is no bike shop and nobody else is prepared to have a look at the bike. It’s getting late, so we find a camping spot and CG starts making arrangements to have the bike trailered. I make phone calls to try to find out what the fault can be, and with a bit of encouragement from CG decide to strip the carburetor. Now you have to understand that I’ve never done this kind of thing before and I’m very apprehensive, but I keep on bugging my old mate Groenie for advice over the phone and eventually find a bit of dirt in one of the jets.

“Groenie, I got trouble mate, this thing ain’t going anymore”

“Wait, wait, I think those thingies are whatsanames. Do you remember how it looked before I took it apart?”

“This looks like that jet thingy Groenie was on about! Let me just take it out and try to look good for the camera.”

Little did I know that this was in fact the idle jet, not the main jet. I also found a surprising amount of grit in the float bowl. Surprisingly, when I put everything back together the bike roars into life.

“GENIUS, I’M A GENIUS! She is going!”

I take it for a spin to town where I try to buy a fuel filter, but not one of the shops have one, and I’ll have to wait for morning to get into the hardware store. I go back to camp and we have supper, another excellent meal prepared by CG. On that note, I must say that having CG along on this trip was a treat when it came to mealtimes. This must be the first trip that I’ve been on where I came back fatter than when I set out. There were veggies EVERY night.

We spend some time exploring with the scorpion light, and find this little critter.

We also find this old camping van.

During the night the wind starts blowing a gale, and by morning our weight inside the tent is the only thing that is keeping the tent on the ground. Some gusts are so strong that the tent bends down until it almost touches us.

Day 11

Springbok to Augrabies

In the morning the wind is howling, there is a thick mist that is threatening to turn to rain and it’s freezing cold.

CG cancels the call she had made to have the bike transported, and after packing up camp we head out to town to buy a fuel filter for her bike, which I promptly install right in front of the hardware store.

With the cold front upon us we were to spend most of the day doing battle with the wind, until at last we rode out from under the storm. I’m going to have to admit right from the start that this was not the most interesting days riding as far as roads and scenery was concerned.

What was interesting was how much I was stressed about CG’s bike. Riding kilometer by kilometer while stressing about a bike is not fun. It was only once we had passed Pofadder that I started to relax, knowing that if we had to phone for help we could at least be given a lift to Upington or somewhere where there might be a bike shop that could fix the bike.

Pofadder was exactly the small dusty town that I had expected it to be, right down to the two dusty bikers filling up with petrol in the dusty street. Ok, so the two bikers were us, but we had to color in the picture, right?

Scenery and wildflowers along the way.

My fears were unfounded though (or so I thought) and we reach our destination, the Augrabies National Park, quite early in the day. Here CG decides to treat me to a comfortable bed in a chalet because of my efforts with her bike, and after a bit of shopping for supper we do the photo thing at the falls. Look, you cannot see the waterfall in photos, you have to go there yourself.

(Note: The word Augrabies is from the local language, it means ‘Thundering Water’)

At sunset we let fly with our cameras and take about a million photos of the red sunset.

Then it’s time to light the braai (BBQ) fire and get some food going.

Day 12

Augrabies to Verneuk Pan

(Verneuk – to cheat on your partner/spouse)

Another early morning photography session gets under way as we watch the sun rise over the falls. It surprises me that so little of the other visitors are up and watching the sun rise. Watching the distant hills change color with the rising sun is fascinating.

We have a long distance to cover to Verneuk Pan, so we head out early, but not before I do a bit more work on Cave Girl’s bike. The bike is making a strange clacking noise when she goes over bumps, and I trace the fault to the center-stand hitting against the linkage knuckle. I fix the problem by slitting open a length of fuel hose and tying it around the offending metal center-stand with cable ties – and once again we’re ready to go.

The gravel road from Kakamas to Kenhardt starts out very badly corrugated, but soon turns to good road and we make good time, with plenty of stops. The wind is picking up again however, and I can feel the cold front that we had outrun from Springbok is catching up to us.

In Kenhardt I go straight for the hotel. I’ve read many stories about what a wonderful person the owner is, and I want to meet this Eton person for myself. I’m disappointed though, because Eton is not there. There is the usual beggar hanging out in front of the hotel and I don’t want to leave my loaded bike there. CG stays with the bike while I go hear if there is a safe place to put the bike. At the bar a friendly and helpful lady tells us to take our bikes round back, where there is a gate and a dog. The gate is as high as my knee and the dog actually lifted its head up to look at us before going back to sleep, but with our bikes parked I decide that we can at least have lunch at the hotel.

The church in Kenhardt.

We order a beer at the bar and CG goes in search of the toilets, and while she is gone a guy wearing overall pants and a shirt comes into the bar, heads straight for me and he’s cruising. “Where are you guys from?” he asks and I immediately know I’m speaking to Eton. He introduces himself, and by the time CG arrives we’re knee deep in conversation about motorbikes, bike trips and other stuff. As I order lunch from the lady behind the counter Eton calls his wife on the cellphone and orders her to the bar. “Jy moet kom, hier is kuiermense!” (“You must come, we’ve got guests!”)

Needles to say the visiting dragged on, and when he eventually had to go to the kitchen to prepare a sheep for the spit for a function, it was with strict instructions that when we finish our meal we grab another beer and join him in the kitchen. This we duly did, and it was with a sad heart that we eventually departed from the Kenhardt hotel. The place had lived up to its reputation, and if you want a really good chat with a fantastic host, give Eton a visit.

Our names now on the wall of the Kenhardt hotel.

Eton also phoned the people at Verneuk Pan to find out if they were there, and they told him where we could find the key to the gate. We head out of Kenhardt to Verneuk Pan, and now the wind is really blowing. As we take the dirt road we immediately encounter thick, thick sand. After the first gate the sand gets worse, as does the wind. At some point we encounter a biblical plague of locust, and I spend some time chasing after the little guys with my camera.

Some shots from CG

After the second gate the sand becomes less, but by now we’re tired and taking it slow.

The road from then on was actually in a good condition, and once we enter the pan, after five gates in total, the road is solid pan road, and if it wasn’t for the wind that was by now freezing cold and howling at gale force, we would have enjoyed it.

At the turn to the pan we decide that we don’t see ourselves riding another twenty kilos in that wind to go to reception, and there is no cellphone signal, so we find the key as instructed and go straight to the camp site. The campsite is deserted, it is only the two of us there. If you’ve ever been to Verneuk Pan you will know what the boma looks like, with the bar–like counter, the fridge and so on. Well to get out of the wind, we pitch our tent behind the bar–like counter. We then stack our luggage on the side of the tent to try to ward off more of the wind.

Once camp is set up we challenge the wind on foot to go and look at the bell, after which we don’t stay out too late. R>It’s cold and unpleasant, so we crawl into our tent to wait out the windy night.

Day 13

Verneuk pan to Postmasburg

Our original plan was to spend a night camping in the ghost town of Putsonderwater, but because we are a day behind schedule we decide to head straight through Putsonderwater with only a stop for coffee and make up the day’s riding to Postmasburg. When we get up in the morning the wind has died down, and we are faced with a pleasant day.

We pack up camp and take the bikes out to the bell for some more photos, then head out of the camp.

Here we’re faced with a problem, as we haven’t paid for our camping yet and we don’t want to waste the time riding to the reception. We leave some money at the gate, and when we get to the tar road CG tries to call the reception but gets no answer, so she leaves a message on the voice–mail. The road out of the pan is a pleasure to ride without the wind, and we quickly find ourselves on the main dirt-road. I’d decided to change our route, so firstly we head back to Kenhardt and then turn to Putsonderwater. CG has been dreading this road because the last time she was on her way to Putsonderwater the roads were in a very bad condition. (That was during the Boegoeberg bash two years back).

The road from Kenhardt to Putsonderwater is in excellent condition though, and in no time at all we are making a cup of coffee in the ghost town, on the patio of one of the unused houses. It’s my first time in a ghost town, and seeing the empty buildings is as spooky as the words ‘ghost town’ implies.

This guy was eating lunch. We were wondering if he’d simply stuck his neck into the big can of food he was sitting on.

Topping up the oil again

After coffee we head out for Postmasburg.

I’d done a lot of research on our route, and the sleepy little village of Postmasburg seemed like a great location. There were a few B&B’s, a campsite and hotel, and not much else. On the way there things look a bit odd though. The road is not a simple dirt road, but is well maintained, and I see a lot of mining vehicles in the area. On approaching the town there is a massive new extension of grand (although fake) Tuscan houses going up. We take a quick pic of the bikes at a town marker and head up the first tarred road we can find. Coming over a little rise I see a sight that no biker wants to see – ahead of me, lying horizontal in the road, is a dirt bike. I drop a gear and race to the bike, where the owner is rolling around next to the road in obvious pain. His friend is standing over him, obviously very concerned. It turns out to be a wheellie gone wrong, and after making sure that the guy is just bruised and not dying I feed him some pain-pills and we take our leave.

Now our own trouble starts. We quickly find out that both the hotel and motel is filled with no spare place. We try the municipal camp site, but it’s a bug infested piece of land right next to a swamp, where the ablutions are long past their sell–by date and almost non–existant. Every B&B in town and in the surrounding area is booked full. It turns out that three new iron mines had recently opened up around the town, and every spare bed in town is being taken up by a contractor of some sorts. It’s now late, almost dark, and we’d gone a long way that day. After speaking to some of the inhabitants of the municipal campsite we decide to bed down there for the night. If we can camp in the wilderness in Namibia, we should be able to hold out for one night in this campsite, we tell ourselves. Leaving me to pitch the tent and sort out camp, CG heads off to buy supplies for a braai.

I chat to some of the other camping denizens, who turn out to be extremely friendly Namakwalanders. Lekker people, and after I convince little Martin to sit on my bike while I take photos of him I start to relax a little. There are few things that gets me like the excitement of the little ones when they get given a chance to sit on the big bike!

After a while though, I notice that CG is taking longer than usual to get back. After almost an hour I’m starting to get really concerned, and I’m considering giving her a call when she enters the campsite – pushing her bike. I hurry over and push the bike the final few meters to our possy. It turns out the bike had started with its trouble again, and had finally died just up the road. I try for a while to revive the bike, but soon realize I’m wasting my time. We consider our position. We are on the homeward stretch of our trip, with only two days riding to go, and all the time we’re heading home. CG calls her backup company again, and after a few discussions and a bit of negotiating we arrange to have the bike trailered to Vryburg. Sadly, our riding together has now come to an end, as we realize that the next two days will be all about getting the sick bike back home. Although our situation that night is a bit bleak, we still enjoy the company of the Namakwalanders, and we have good food to eat, so we enjoy our last night camping.

Day 14

Postmasburg to Vryburg

There is really not much to be said about this day except that it was not a pleasant day. At nine sharp a guy named Tiger comes to pick up CG and her bike. He’s a massive but friendly guy, and the bike is quickly loaded on the van and secured, and they head out to Vryburg.

Having learned her lesson about accommodation in Postmasburg, CG phones her daughter Pebbles to arrange a sleeping place in Vryburg, so by the time she gets there they go straight to the B&B and unload. I myself have a false start when I leave town only to realize I need fuel so I have to turn back. Then when I hit the road it’s filled with cars, trucks and one stop – and – go after the other.

It was my own decision to forgo the gravel route so that I could get to Vryburg early in the hope that of riding through to Coligney to pick up the trailler, but it was not to be.

By the time I hit Vryburg I’m hot, bothered and not really in a good mood, and it takes a beer and a shower to cool me down a bit, and by then I’m not going anywhere. When it’s cooled down a bit we walk to the shop and get some supplies, and then we get down to some serious kuiering and chatting around a fire. Once again, we make the best of a bad situation, and spend a lovely evening together.

Day 15

I head out of Vryburg to Coligney and immediately a strong crosswind slows me down to a crawl. After being blown into the oncoming lane at least twice I decide to rather play it safe and drop my speed right down, and it takes me four hours to ride the two hundred kilos to Coligny, which is mercifully stop – and – go free.

In Coligny Slakkie is waiting for me and helps me load my bike, gives me coffee and listens while I try to tell him about all our adventures. Then I hit the road back to Vryburg to pick up CG. She, in the meantime, had decided that we’re going to spend the night at the B&B again, so that I would not have to ride home that day. It’s a wonderful decision, and once again we source some great supplies for a braai and, now that it’s our last night on the road, we kuier deep into the night. The next morning there is nothing left for us to do but to pack our stuff into the car and head home, with a fantastic trip and a massive adventure behind us that we are still trying to tell to all who will listen.

Some stats.

The trip was, give or take, about 4000 kilometers.

Punctures – two. Of which one was self – inflicted.

Breakdowns – Six – of which one was self – inflicted.

Wimpy food and drinks consumed – ZERO.

We’re still trying to find out what is wrong with CG’s bike, because it’s an intermittent fault and will go away for a whole thousand kilometers before returning. My own bike though performed flawlessly. At one stage I lost the gears because the tensioner on the clutch cable had worked itself loose, but that was no great issue. I really hope my bike will last me for many years to come, because it’s a bike that I know very well, it’s easy to work on and simple to understand. Thanks for once again sharing a great experience with us – now please get out there and have some of your own!

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