Ride Overland With Kanchan & Nick

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November 15, 2012

Namibia: Welcome to the inferno!

South Africa had been such an amazing time, we spent a month traveling through and still felt as if there was so much to see.  It was time to move on though, so we headed to Namibia.  People had told us it was absolutely beautiful.  And that there’s few tar roads.  We were a bit worried about sand because of the weight of the bike but we figured we’d work it out somehow.  Good thing is we didn’t have to do the whole carnet bit when we exited out of South Africa and immigration was straight-forward.  But there is a road tax you have to pay and supposedly present the receipt for that when you exit out of Namibia.  It was already hitting 6pm when we got into Nam so we found a place to camp at Felix Unite which turned out to be a really nice spot.  The first thing we noticed though was the lack of people…there was no one on the road…no shops…no petrol stations…just nothing.  The next day we wanted to go to Fish River Canyon.  That was the day the tar ended for us. We were greeted by desolate, moon-like landscape and dusty, gravel roads.  At 9:00 in the morning, the sun was already brutally hot.  We stopped off in Ai-Ais first which has hot springs.  It was too hot to go to any hot springs but we wanted something cool to drink.  We ended up meeting a fellow overlander coming from France with whom we exchanged some info about campsites, where to go, where not to etc.  We decided to jet off to Hobas, the main campsite for the canyon…talk about dusty and hot!  We were absolutely drained of all moisture once we stopped.  Looks like we’re going to be a drinking a whole lot of water, and eating much less…which can only mean one thing…Nick will lose 20kg and me…2kg.  After resting a couple of hours we went to go to the Canyon viewpoints.  I would recommend going in the morning, in the evening, the sun is facing you straight on, so pics don’t come out too well!  There’s also a crazy hike that takes 5 days through the canyon but it was closed when we got there due to the heat.  I mean the heat is no joke!  The ride to Sesreim to see Sossussvlei was another desolate, dirt and gravel fest.  There was some amazing scenery, but we were so hot and thirsty no matter how much water we drank.  Namibia is Africa but at times seems like the American West with windmills, and rusted 50’s Ford pick-up trucks in lodge yards.  There are few trees and whatever trees there are, weavers have built huge straw nests.  But as we got close to Sesreim, we were greeted by huge, multi-colored, rocky mountains and canyon-like rock formations.  In the distance we could see glowing mounds of red sand in the distance.  The dunes were literally glowing red, as if lit up by fluorescent lights.  The sunset on the mountains in the distance was breathtaking and Nick and I couldn’t be bothered to get up and get the camera…we were just that tired!   Unfortunately motorbikes are not allowed into Sosussvlei park (something about guys riding up the dunes) although it’s tarred up to the point where the 4x4s pick you up.  Renting a car or getting a guide was out of the question since it was too expensive so we had to hitch a ride.  Felt really weird to ask for a ride. Most people had gone in at 5:30am so we weren’t having too much luck.  We had gotten to the park gate at around 6:30-7pm.  Finally a British couple was nice enough to give us a ride.  The red dunes against the bright, clear blue sky was amazing. The sand is literally red, not somewhat red or pink…but RED!   The twisted, bare, acacia or camelthorn trees add to the starkness and create some beautiful photos!  At the 4×4 parking lot, you are made to park and catch a shuttle you have to pay extra for.  The tracks after that are pretty damn sandy and the drivers drive like crazies.  We did the hike to Deadvlei which was hell due to the heat and hot sand.  All the sweat and huffing and puffing led us to a valley of dead trees.  Umm you win some and you lose some!   The pics come out great though! The actual Sossusvlei dunes are okay…Dune 45 which you see once you enter is definitely more impressive. We were done with the heat and headed back to the park office where there was a bar.  We shared a beer with the kind British couple…I’m obsessed with this cider made in South Africa called Savannah…oh and Van Hunk’s is nice too (but for a cold day)!  It was about 2pm when we finished….peak heat.  The thought of pushing on and making some distance or pitching a tent did not sound appealing.  We sat at the gas station for a while and around 4:30 got on the bike.  We stayed the night in Solitaire which is basically just a campsite, petrol station, general store, and bakery.  The bakery is known for its apple pie, but I wasn’t too impressed by it!  The apples are canned but I’m not sure they grow much out here anyways.  Actually…it seems like no one does any farming here.  Nick had a brownie which was yummy!

Nick had broken his sunglasses (once again!) and the technician at the optometrist fixed his glasses for free and we headed off and decided to stop off in Mariental.  We found a campsite where we took the most amazing showers…nothing out of the ordinary it just felt that good after the heat.  Since that day, I can tolerate a cold one!

We took another desolate, lonely road through some scenic areas and eventually through dunes and salt pans on the way to Swakopmund.  We got lucky and found cheap accommodation at the youth hostel there.  Private room, with ensuite bathroom and a fridge for $10???? In Africa??? Amazing!  We stayed for 4 nights and caught up on blogs and pictures and generally enjoyed the luxury of having a bed, a private bathroom, and a fridge to put eggs, milk, and butter in.  Around Walvis Bay (before Swakopmund) there are some huge sand dunes  that people use to ride quads around and sand board.  We also met a couple of Australian overlanders, Jan and Paul…it was awesome to exchange information and experiences!

From our comfy post in Swakopmund we headed to Brandberg.  We rode through the Spitzkoppe area which reminded us a lot of Australia.  After lots of driving, the scenery finally changed from the normal flatness of Namibia to small rolling hills and some granite hills of Brandberg.  We figured we’d camp for the night and we continued on a corrugated dirt/sand road spotted with quartz rock.  After a few kilometers of the dirt and golden light kissed scenery, we arrived at our campsite.  Anyone home?  It seemed like we were the only people there. The camp was situated next to a big river which upon exploration we found was completely dried out. We found evidence of elephant activity by the huge mounds of elephant poop though!  Nick looked in the water tank and found it empty. With no lights and very little water (they had pulled out all the pipes at the camp and we had limited supply) and dark approaching within 30minutes, we had no choice.  While cooking, we kept looking around…any elephants…or something scarier?  Eventually some guy showed up with a flashlight and his dog which literally scared the living shit out of me since I thought the dog was some sort of hyena in the shadows (I know, lame).  He was the caretaker and he promised to give us water in the morning.  At night I could hear movement around the tent but somehow my paranoid mind calmed and I went to sleep, Nick being long gone!  We woke up to find a sunny, calm campsite with a water faucet that worked!

The next day was Diwali.  This time last year we were with family in Amritsar lighting crazy fireworks, eating loads of sweets and gol gappas, and celebrating at the Golden Temple.  The site of 1000s of people looking up at once to the sky when the fireworks would burst golden and silver, was such a crazy site.  We decided on a special dinner!  So far in South Africa and Namibia, there weren’t a crazy amount of restaurants unless you were staying in the big cities.  There is just not that culture of eating out with the local people maybe it’s because they cannot afford it.  There’s also not much of a culinary scene.  It’s simply grilled meat (bad cuts) and a maize like porridge that has the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Unfortunately not very tempting for us!  But in most of the big towns and cities there are supermarkets where you can find most things.  I would usually make sure we had coffee, creamer/powdered milk, sugar, bread, peanut butter, and jam for breakfast.  For lunch it may be bread, some canned chicken, and some apples and for dinner I always kept some rice (they have this par-boiled kind which we can’t seem to get used to!), canned tomatoes and onions, a couple of veggies that I could either make pasta, and indian dish, or thai curry out of (usually onions, potatoes, or squash….very limited!) and plenty of spices and masala (Knorr soup packets, Indian ginger & garlic masala, biriyani masala, curry pastes) so I could transform the bland into somewhat edible food!  We have been pretty vegetarian since we don’t have a way to cool anything on our bike!  But for Diwali it was different…we found a decent campsite and set up our tent.  Then we went shopping!  Since we had found a place we could buy chicken (yay!)…we found butter chicken simmer sauce, basmati rice, green peas, chicken breasts and we bought a couple of rounds of Hunters cider and Smirnoff drinks…oh and some pastries!  Not the most kosher of Diwalis, but hey what could we do!  We also bought some red, scented tea lights and set them in our steel thali we use for cooking and placed it in front of the tent.  Times like this you miss the fam! Something that was really nagging us was the bike’s tires…we had put a new set of TKCs when we started South Africa and it looked like we’d run out well before hitting Nairobi (Kenya).  In between, according to bikers, there were no dirt tires.  The TKCs had already worn down but contrary to what people think, they don’t wear down as bad and fast.  They usually last us 8000-10,000kms for us …based on that, we’d be running out of the rear tire for sure by Malawi.  So we made a last minute decision to go to Windhoek.  In Windhoek we were able to secure the front and rear TKCs from BMW (there’s also Wulf who can help you get tires in Windhoek and there’s a Yamaha).  The sight of the two tires strapped onto the back of the bike was scary.  We were already loaded…are these going to shear the pannier off?  Whatever it was…we took the chance. It was time to head out of Namibia through the Trans-Kalahari border!

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