Apologies that it has taken so long for the final update. Life just happened again as soon as we touched down back home. But it is nice to relive some of it now 6 months later after letting it all sink in. So here we go.
Once into Namibia we didn’t make it far before deciding to call it a day in Ruacana. We stayed at a lodge there, ate 3 lunches each and relaxed. The food quality went up drastically once in Namibia. We had debated making the trek across to Epupa Falls, but rest and food won the day and we stayed another night.
Back on the road we took the backroads to Opuwo through the Himba region which was a pure joy. We bombed along winding dirt roads with little to no traffic passing Himba villages and herders out with their cows. The men wore loinclothes with a stick in hand to tend to their herd while the women were adorned with mud braids in their hair, skirts made from fur and and ornate metal designs and ochre butter pasted on their naked torsos. We stopped in at Ovahimba Living Museum which is a bit of a tourist thing but given we were only passing through, it was really interesting.
We made it to Opuwo just before dark and got fuel while topless Himba strolled past on cell phones and withdrew money from the ATM. It was a real convergence of the ancient and the modern. We wished we could have stopped for a few days in Opuwo and just watched the world go by and explored the region we had just ridden through a bit more.
From there we headed down to Etosha National park. Because motorcycles aren’t allowed in the park, we camped at Etosha Safari Lodge just outside. After the roadside camping and campstove pasta, red sauce and sardines routine for the last 10 weeks, the living was high class in Namibia. We enjoyed the pool, rode up to the fancy hotel for a sunset aperitif and listened to some live music at the bar at the campsite. We also met Colin Gruen, an American who rented a Honda Africa Twin in Cape Town and had spent the last 6 weeks touring Southern Africa. It was awesome to connect with another rider and trade some stories. There was definitely not a lot of this type of interaction previously on the trip.
We took a wildlife cruise for the day which was awesome. We saw a black rhino, lions, elephants, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest. It was a worthwhile venture although a car and the liberty to explore at your own pace would be great. Having a guide though definitely got us to the right spots for a few animals.
We managed to tick off a bunch of tourist hotspots the next day but arrived too late for Twyfelfontein so ended up wild camping. It was spectacular, riding off into the plains and pitching camp out of the wind.
We set off from Twyfelfontein the next morning cross-country on a road that appeared on the paper maps we had. It almost proved a mistake as the road gave way to soft sand that threatened to overheat the bikes and drain all our gas. It was only about 40kms as the crow flies, but it took us til mid afternoon to make it into Brandberg, especially when Richard’s bike wouldn’t start after stopping for a break. We managed to jump start the bike, and cut and left the wires connected to each bike so we didn’t have to take the bags and seat off each time we stopped seeing as it was apparently a persistent problem. We figured it might be just the battery needing to be replaced so kept moving.
Brandberg was spectacular. The colors in Namibia in general are rich shift throughout the day as the light changes before the landscape catches fire at sunset. Elephants wandering through camp in the dusky light was the icing on the cake.
The next morning we took the scenic route towards the coast through a truly moonlike landscape that was absolutely breathtaking. Richard’s bike started fine with the jumper leads so we opted against the direct route to Swakopmund where the first modern dirtbike shop and assistance awaited. It was a worthwhile risk to take in the end because we made it and because of how incredibly beautiful the ride was. Dropping down to the coast we could smell the ocean and feel the temperature drop 50kms out and when we finally made it it was overcast and cold, rugged and salty- a completely other world.
In Swakopmund we found the Yamaha store which was happy to help us out, but that didn’t stop them making cracks to us about mechanical issues with the KTM. It was all in good fun. They let us work on the bikes in their shop and gave their expertise when needed, and it was needed. It turned out the battery in Richard’s bike was fine, but it wasn’t charging. Following the system back, it turned out to be the stator which has been damaged by an errant piece of metal from a bearing from when one of the 2 rocker arms exploded. It was a rude shock, but also lucky that the shard hadn’t found its way into the cylinder or elsewhere and done more damage. For reasons unbeknownst to us even, we had actually carried a heavy stator with us the entire trip and the only thing we were missing was a gasket which the guys were able to make themselves. By the end of the day we were back up and running. I took some new brake pads because I could and both bikes an oil change.
Like most days in the shoppe, it took longer than we had hoped so our plans to explore the sand dunes were cut short but we got a little taste on one of the front dunes, running our tires too hard and sinking and then I ran out of gas at dusk. We looked like total rookies, which we were, but it made for a good laugh.
The next day we waited for the coastal cloud to burn off in the morning, sampling a wholesome breakfast in one of the many great cafes in Swakopmund before getting a permit to ride in the dunes and heading out in the afternoon when the contrast is better. In the middle of the day it’s easy to not see a crest and ride off the edge of a dune. This time we dropped the pressure in our tires and brought plenty of fuel and got the hang of it pretty quick. Having never ridden in dunes, it was something that I had always wanted to do and the experience was ethereal. As the sun waned and the shadows grew longer, the freedom to roam and explore is hard to match elsewhere. The colors and the contours of the sand are so pleasing to the eye and the playful nature of the terrain is so fun to ride, banking off broad natural berms and summiting gigantic dunes only to reveal more undulations all the way to the horizon.
We could have spent more time in Swakopmund exploring the dunes and generally hanging out as it was so friendly. We were invited to spend and afternoon shark fishing with a local sport fisherman which was great fun but yielded no bites. But beers and exchanging banter about our trip and Andrew’s fishing conquests was a delight.
Cape Town was calling so we departed Swakopmund for Sossusvlei via Solitaire. We never made it to Sossusvlei due to an invite to stay at lodge by a landcruiser piloted by 3 Italian girls on vacation but you have to open to the whims of the road right? We did run into Colin at the fuel station outside Sossusvlei the next mornging and decided to team up for a few days as he was also headed to Cape Town. It was great to ride with some fresh energy, and he was glad for the company after 2 months solo. The roads were terribly corrugated but we made it to Aus, arriving too late to visit the ghost town outside Luderitz. We did enjoy a steak at one of the eco lodges and camped for cheap nearby. Namibia is exceptionally well set up for tourism. Many of the lodges are quite upscale without being too exclusive and after having not eaten particularly well outside of bigger towns for most of the trip, the prospect of cooking in camp or splurging each night on a salad bar, steak and dessert was not a difficult decision.
We took in the Fish River Canyon the next morning before snaking our way through some stunning canyons and making it to the Ais-Ais Hotsprings the following night. The riding in Namibia is wild without being frontier, and at the end of each day if you so choose there are usually some other travellers to share a beer with and a restaurant to feast in. This day though the hot springs were a special bonus.
Namibia was a real marvel to explore. The least population dense planet on earth, there is vast tracts of moonscapes to explore and we were sad to be closing out our time here. It is certainly a place that we will come back to.