I've been away, Namibia took my heart.
A 4500km love affair with one of the harshest yet beautiful places on Earth
Lets go back, all the way to January. This was when we decided that we were going to take on Namibia. This is no easy task, the country is vast and houses many elements that need to be accounted for. We began with route planning, programming our various GPS devices as well as keeping hard copy maps with us. Gear was essential on and off the bike. We seemed like the real deal, things began to look professional. We housed four GoPro Cameras, two DJI Mavic Pro Drones, two Nikon Camera and eight keen riders on an array of robust motorcycles.
A few months of planning went by and things started taking shape as too did our excitement levels. The days were coming closer and the team got together twice in the week before our date of departure. We went over our final briefings and sorted out the last few bits that still needed sorting out. We were ready, accommodation, bikes, equipment, food, routes and moral was all ticked off our list.
The 5th of June arrived and we all met at a local cafe for breakfast before heading off on our 800km first leg. This was all asphalt and very tedious, and purely to cover distance. We rode from Johannesburg to Upington, where we met up with the rest of our team who had left the evening before. We were all complete and accounted for. We set up camp and started a fire. The team was eager to start on technical mutter which was heard throughout the camp site. The discussion for the evening was surrounding tires and which are suited the best for such a trip. Still to this day it is an unresolved argument. Do not underestimate the science behind tires as they can easily make or break a trip.
They next day saw us crossing two borders and experiencing our first bit of gravel! It was a short ride to the border where we crossed over into Namibia. We passed through the Ariamsvlei border post. We took a very long time to get through but once on the Namibian side we hauled ass. The sound of the powerful V twin making mince of the road ahead gave me a smile for the rest of the trip. We had five Ktm's, two BMW Gs's and one Ducati Multistrada that made it through the entire trip.
We headed direction Karasberg. Here we bought some meat for that evening and from this point forward we would no longer be traveling on any form of tar road for a while. We also came to learn that no matter how long you plan for you will almost always overlook the unexpected and African spontaneity then is the best policy of "boer maak 'n plan". There is no point of panicking or complaining because no one can hear you. Also there is nothing that duct tape and cable ties cannot fix.
over the next few days we had put on some real kilometers on our bikes and sand as well as dust was just everywhere. Every crack, crevasse and hole we found sand. Visibility was also beginning to be an issue if you were not leading the pack, so we alternated who led and took various breaks along the way. Hydration was also of absolute importance. Luckily we had a back-up vehicle that carried supplies for us and was able to provide meals and drinks when needed.
The further we rode the less people we saw. Places like Ai-Ais and Aus were possibly the best adventure riding places throughout the trip and the scenery added to it. We never got to see many people out on the roads, but that is understandable as the population consists of 2.4 million people and Namibia's land mass consists of 825000 km2. These areas all fall part of the treacherous and beautiful Richtersveld. This is a mountainous desert landscape characterized by rugged kloofs and high mountains. We camped most of the time and found that Aus got to -2 degrees Celcius in the evening. It was torture but it was adventure. Little did we know that the trip was going to get a whole lot more difficult.
We headed to the magnificent Sesrim area where we got to experience the Sossusvlei and Dunes. It was picture perfect with a sparkle of more dust and sand. The Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by red dunes. That was also the last night of camping which was a blessing. What made it difficult was putting up camp in the evening after a hard days ride and packing it up again the following morning. We spent one night in each place and that made the whole process very draining. Which resulted in not being properly rested for the ride. We also had a few crashes along the way from here on out but nothing serious, other than a few broken ribs.
We continued to travel along the Namib desert that stretches along the entire coastline all the way to Angola. It is estimated that this area has been dry for 55 Million years, which also makes it the oldest dessert in the world. Not afraid of the those frightening yet interesting facts, we marched on to Swakopmund. We rode through Walvis Baai which saw us ride parallel with the ocean to the left and dunes to the right. The entire country is nothing short of wow. There were long stretches of dirt road that saw nobody for hours and still somehow it was breathtaking.
Swakopmund was very quaint. It feels as though you are in a small German town. The reason for this is because it was established by German colonists in 1892. It was great to see some people and civilization for a bit, as well as treating ourselves to really good restaurant with some out of this world meat. The rest we got that night was arguably the best sleep we got the whole trip.
The team were all in good spirits as we knew we only had to get through 230km that day. It sounded very manageable, but the road that took us there was no road and the amount of times we got stuck as well as the back-up vehicle burying its rear tires made for a frustrating day and to top it off we got stuck in the dark. There were no marked dirt roads to be seen and we had found ourselves in the deepest part of the Namib desert. We had elephants crossing our path and the calls of hyenas creating a tension that made our sphincter palpitate. We were low on fuel and everything seemed to go from bad to worse. The continuous falling added to the frustration and one of the Ktm's break fluid reservoirs cracked and leaked. There was however an eventual small glimmer in the distance and out of the desert appeared a small oasis. This was the amazing White Lady Lodge in Brandberg. We had made it!
The difficult stuff was out the way. Windhoek was our next and final destination before heading home. There were no more dirt road but only soft beds and smooth roads along the way. We made it to Windhoek which led us to Joe's Beer House. There we found hours of joy in the company of great food and even better beer.
The last leg saw us motor back to South Africa through Botswana via the Trans Kalahari Highway. Botswana is a similar size to France but with a much smaller population, and 38% of the countries surface is dedicated to National Parks and reserves. We did not get to see any of that though. We just wanted to get home and get clean. Once crossing the border to South Africa we knew that we had made it and only a few days later would it hit us, what kind of adventure we just faced.
There are many things that I did not know about Namibia until we traveled there. Did you know that the Fish River Canyon is the oldest in the world? Did you know that the sand dunes of Sossusvlei are some of the highest dunes in the world too and Namibia has the largest amount of free roaming cheetahs in the world. Even though Namibia has a very small population, the country is home to 13 different ethnic groups. The Ovambo group represents nearly half the population. The most famous ethnic group are the Himba people, a semi nomadic tribe living in the north eastern part of the country. There is still so much more to do and see. Namibia definitely has my heart forever.