Follow-Your-Nose Southern Namibia Tour 2014

Mwendo's picture

Points: 26

"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."

The above statement, attributed to Carl Sagan, came to mind when I considered how and/or when and/or where to start this report.

I have two primary motivations for writing this report. The first is, call it selfish if you like, for myself. In order to truly do justice to it, I would have to start at the very beginning but this approach risks alienating half the known universe with a boring autobiographical tale. I do consider it important, however, to provide some context to the trip because it was not based on a whim - it has truly been close to half a century in the making.

I am hoping that the second objective - that others may derive value from it - is an automatic by-product of the first.

So I settled on what I hope will turn out to be a workable compromise. I will start the report with a day-to-day account and add the "boring stuff" later.

Day 1: Dew (it certainly wasn't rain) North

The good ship MC Mwendo weighed anchor at approximately 08:00 sharp on Saturday the 10th of May, heading north in what appeared to be heavily pregnant weather, with two souls (each representing a multitude of roles and personae) on board. Occupying the pillion suite was Celesta, alias Precious Cargo (PC), the Commander In Chief (CIC), the Final Arbiter (FA) and the Voice of Reason (VOR), amongst others. At the helm we had yours truly, a.k.a Chief Pilot (CP), Navigator In Chief (NIC), Trusted Driver (TD), and Are You Mad! (AYM!), depending on the circumstance.

MC Mwendo: MC MwendoMC Mwendo: Ready to Sail

Our threat of getting thoroughly soaked, by donning such rain gear as we possessed when we left home, was totally ignored.
For some unknown reason the pregnant weather remained just that. Perhaps the weather was waiting for the election results, or the pregnancy wasn't yet full term or, given the recent service delivery issues, the midwife simply didn't pitch.
We enjoyed a leisurely brunch at Kardoesie on the Piekenerskloof Pass and proceeded on an eerily quiet N7 - at one stage I thought I would not need more than the digits of my thumb to count the number of vehicles we encountered on the road - reaching Springbok in the late afternoon after two or three brief stops for roadworks between Clanwilliam and Vanrhynsdorp. We did a short loop up and down the main road to get an idea of accommodation options and settled on our first port of call, the Mountain View B&B, which turmed out to be a good call.The good ship MC Mwendo weighed anchor at approximately 08:00 sharp on Saturday the 10th of May, heading north in what appeared to be heavily pregnant weather, with two souls (each representing a multitude of roles and personae) on board. Occupying the pillion suite was Celesta, alias Precious Cargo (PC), the Commander In Chief (CIC), the Final Arbiter (FA) and the Voice of Reason (VOR), amongst others. At the helm we had yours truly, a.k.a Chief Pilot (CP), Navigator In Chief (NIC), Trusted Driver (TD), and Are You Mad! (AYM!), depending on the prevailing circumstance.

Our dare to the weather gods to do their damndest, by donning such rain gear as we possessed when we left home, was mercifully, totally ignored. For some unknown reason the pregnant weather remained just that. Perhaps the weather was waiting for the election results, or the pregnancy wasn't yet full term or, given the recent service delivery issues, the midwife simply didn't pitch.

We enjoyed a leisurely brunch at Kardoesie on the Piekenerskloof Pass and proceeded on an eerily quiet N7 - at one stage I thought I would not need more than the digits of one thumb to count the number of vehicles we encountered on the road - reaching Springbok in the late afternoon after two or three brief stops for roadworks between Clanwilliam and Vanrhynsdorp.

We did a short loop up and down the main road to get an idea of accommodation options and settled on our first port, the Mountain View B&B, which turmed out to be a good call.

Day2: Aussenwhere?

The border crossing (at Vioolsdrif / Noordoewer) was rather uneventful, except for the strange custom (pun intended) of customs officials everywhere, expecting everyone who passes through to be 100% familiar with their very different requirements and procedures, giving you a "duh!" kind of look if you should ask and/or get it wrong. After trying to squeeze all of the requisite personal details onto a form the size of a postage stamp, and producing a registration certificate for a BMW "car" that is not on the system, we were issued with 90-day, multiple entry visas and got going, only to be turned back at the final check-point when we could not produce evidence of having paid the Road Fund levy. So it was back to the (same) immigration office for a good "duh!", another form and an opportunity to hand over NAD140 after which we were finally, legally, on Namibian soil.

Towards AussenkehrTowards Aussenkehr

A few minutes up the B1 got us to the Noordoewer Engen for a quick coffee and some fuel before heading off on the C13/D212 towards Aussenkehr which, to my eternal embarassment, we completely missed. Not missed as in did not see it. Missed as in passed without realising that we were passing Aussenkehr instead of a settlement on the outskirts of Aussenkehr. It's not like we didn't get any clues either. I spotted, on our approach, a huge billboard announcing the existence of the Aussenkehr Spar a few kilometers ahead. This was followed by another billboard, bang on cue, directing us onto the turn-off to said Spar. What can I say???

We stopped to deflate tyres and to get a good look at the first hint of "Tony Schlee Stuff" (sand for the unitiated) right at the turn-off onto the C37/D207 towards Ai-Ais. Precious Cargo had several questions, none of which could be answered by any of the crew. The CIC stepped up, however, expressing full confidence in Trusted Pilot, so off we went, albeit a bit tentatively at first. We quickly settled into a good rhythm and enjoyed the ride along the course of the Gamchab river.

Next stop Ai-AisNext stop Ai-Ais

The stretch of the C10 from the junction with the C37 to Ai-Ais was pretty roughed up but did not pose any problems to MC Mwendo or the crew. The NIC's plan was to look around and enjoy lunch at Ai-Ais before sailing on to Hobas for the night. The CIC moved, and the Final Arbiter ruled, however, that MC Mwendo berth at Ai-Ais. For what it's worth, the crew had no objection, what with the plentiful supply of frosties and other interesting beverages along with ample time in which to sample same!

So we enjoyed a good lunch, pitched the tent for our first night's camping and proceeded to enjoy a leisurely afternoon, followed by dinner, at the resort.

Celesta received a lot of attention / admiration, from men and women alike, who complimented her for her bravery, endurance and spirit of adventure. There was enough reflected light around for me to bask in also. This attention, in fact, became a regular feature of our tour.

There's gold (not) in them thar hillsThere's gold (not) in them thar hills

Rise 'n shine at Ai-AisRise 'n shine at Ai-Ais

Sidebar: The Ai-Ais Resort, along with many other nature reserves and resorts throughout Namibia, is managed by Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR). We received nothing short of exceptional service from all NWR staff at Ai-Ais - from the officer at the entrance gate, through reception, the waitrons and shop staff, to the staff cleaning out the braai facilities in the morning. We had somewhat less contact with the NWR staff at Hobas the next day but their service too was of the same high standard. This created an expectation of service which was, sadly, not matched at any other NWR facility with which we had contact.

Day3: Of Canyons and Cañons

Plan A for this day had been to double back from Hobas to Ai-Ais for brunch, then head for Aus via Rosh Pinah on the C13. The layover at Ai-Ais called Plan B into play. Plan B was no more complicated than getting to Aus via Hobas, the Fish River Canyon (FRC) and Seeheim. This would also give us the chance to get a good look at the Seeheim Hotel as a potential stop-over on the way back to the republic. 

An early glimpse of the Fish River Canyon: Still many miles from HobasAn early glimpse of the Fish River Canyon

Still many miles to HobasStill many miles to Hobas

One of our Ai-Ais neighbours suggested we stop in at the Cañon Lodge, where we enjoyed a nice cool drink, on the way to Hobas and the FRC.

Cañon LodgeCañon Lodge

 

Cañon LodgeCañon Lodge, again

Cañon LodgeMore Cañon Lodge

And finally, Cañon LodgeAnd finally, Cañon Lodge

 Not even the early glimpses we had of the Fish River Canyon prepared me for the sheer scale of what was visible at the main view site. The pictures don't come even close to representing the reality. I would have loved to take a walk down into the Canyon but standard issue MC uniform just does not allow it.

 Fish River Canyon: Main View SiteFish River Canyon: Main View Site

FRC 2FRC 2

FRC 3FRC 3

FRC 4FRC 4

FRC 5FRC 5

FRC 6FRC 6

FRC 7FRC 7

 

We managed to drag ourselves away from the Canyon just in time for lunch at the Cañon Roadhouse. We arrived at the roadhouse just a few microseconds after a busload of German tourists which meant a bit of a wait for service but the food (& frosty) were well worth the wait. The decor was also worth a look.

Cañon RoadhouseCañon Roadhouse

A truckload of PumbaasA truckload of Pumbaas

There's life in that engine compartment yetThere's life in that engine compartment yet

We continued in a northeasterly direction on the C37 through the Gondwana National Park then headed north on the C12/M28 to Seeheim.

Somewhere during the course of the morning I had made one tiny mistake which, in true Murphy fashion, triggerred a series of subsequent tiny mistakes which didn't add up to a disaster. I had last filled up at Noordoewer and had decided against topping up at Ai-Ais because I figured that we had enough fuel to reach Aus. That was the first little mistake - not topping up, that is. The second one was not filling up at the Cañon Roadhouse, a mere 100-odd km from Ai-Ais, either. I made the third mistake a decent while after leaving (read distance from) the roadhouse when, for some really unknown reason, I became convinced that we would no longer make it to Aus with the available fuel.

The fourth mistake was to push on to Seeheim, where we might get fuel, instead of turning back to the roadhouse where I knew we would get fuel. So when we got to the Seeheim Hotel we were a little less than overjoyed to learn that "the petrol is finished". I am still not sure whether that meant that they had run out of stock or whether they no longer stocked petrol - I could clearly see a diesel tank and dispenser but nothing that looked remotely like a petrol pump. It was a rather moot point at the time anyway, so I moved decisively on to mistake number five.

We had reached Seeheim a little late in the afternoon (perhaps we had spent a little too much time at the canyon and the cañons, collectively?) and, instead of making a detailed assessment of our options, decided that we would NOT stay at Seeheim.

A quick consultation with Mona (our resident NoWhereAll, or GPS) when we reached the dreaded B4 tar road, suggested we could do an 85km round-trip to Keetmanshoop or push on about 90km to Bethanie for fuel. We were still set on reaching Aus. We chose Bethanie because it meant getting closer to Aus. We were still running on off-road tyre pressure at the time and figured that going slower (at ~100km/h) would conserve both fuel and tyres. After 60km on the excellent B4 surface (it's not fun at less than 100km/h) we reached "the turn-off to Bethanie" which was still 30km away. This would mean another 60km detour before we were back on the B4.

So much for consultants - I did not ask whether Bethanie was on the B4 and Mona did not volunteer the info either.

Fortunately, this is where the madness stopped. I took a good hard look at our situation and realised that we did not have a crisis on hand - there was nothing wrong with my original fuel-distance calculations - after all.

Aus was confortably in reach, so we stopped to inflate tyres and asked the obliging MC Mwendo to take us there. The last 100+ km to Aus was covered in double-quick time. Did I mention that the B4 is an excellent road?

The upshot of all the doubts and uncertainty was that we reached the reception at Klein Aus Vista, where we had intended to camp for the night, just as the last rays of the sun disappeared. Other than filling up with fuel, we have not had an opportunity to buy any supplies in the village, which meant that we would need to have dinner at the restaurant. Neither the passenger, nor the crew, relished the thought of a 2km trip from reception to the camping site, followed by pitching a tent, and doing the 4km round-trip to the restaurant for dinner, all in the dark, so we opted for B&B at the Desert Horse Inn at Klein Aus Vista. A decent enough place to stay but a little overpriced in my opinion.

Klein Aus Vista: Desert Horse InnKlein Aus Vista: Desert Horse Inn 

I woke up in the middle of the night firmly believing that falling back onto the bed is what caused me to wake up. I suspect that I had zapped, in my sleep, the single indisciplined mozzie, out of the gatrillion that were trying to carry me off, which couldn't resist just a tiny "sip", in the process disturbing the fine balance that they had achieved. A liberal application of Tabard sent them off to try their luck with Celesta, but she had already taken the same precaution, which meant that they spent the rest of the night buzzing and toyi-toying in protest between the two of us. I somehow managed to fall asleep to the angry song of frustrated mosquitoes.

Day 4: Desert Dessert

We quit Klein Aus Vista immediately after breakfast heading for Kolmanskuppe and Lüderitz Bucht. We spotted a pair of the famous Wild Horses at Aus just "out-of-town" and enjoyed watching the transition from what is simply dry countryside to desert proper as we sped along the B4.

Wild Horses at Aus: Both of themWild Horses at Aus: Both of them

Spot the railway trackSpot the railway track

Scorched Earth?Scorched Earth?

We paid the the obligatory visit to the abandoned town of Kolmanskuppe which, I'm afraid, did not impress me much beyond the visibly high quality standards that the buildings were constructed to.

Quality timeQuality time

We arrived at Lüderitz at around noon and headed straight for Shark Island, where we secured accommodation at Island Cottage for two nights. 

Island Cottage: with Kairos Cottage to the leftIsland Cottage: with Kairos Cottage to the left

The Flamingo Room at Island Cottage is quasi-self-catering. It has everything you need to do your own thing, except for a kitchen sink. Besides, we were on holiday, so we (read the CIC) were never going to cook meals anyway. We took breakfast next door at Kairos Cottage, where Christo, sometimes joined by his mom as happended on our second morning, plays the piano and sings to his guests. 

The Island Cottage staff were still busy cleaning the apartment when we arrived, however, so we decided to go on the roughly 70km off-road outride the crew had planned for the following day, instead of hanging around on the streets for two hours.

So off we went in search of view points with exotic names like Grosse Bucht, Klein Fjord, Kleiner Bogenfels, Sturmvogelbucht and Diaz Point. The dirt roads in this part of the desert, right on the edge of the Sperrgebiet, are of a whitish, loose / powdery, gravel which I found extremely difficult to read, expecially with the sun from behind. I sorely missed having a good pair of high-contrast glasses instead of the dark sunglasses and the clear protective Ugly Fish glasses which I had with me. I am not convinced, though I can obviously not be sure, that the yellow Ugly Fish pair which I had left / forgotten at home would have done the trick.

As we approached Diaz Point, a gentleman leaving the point in a bakkie, still wiping his mouth, waved us down and said "As julle julle-self wil treat, moet julle van daai tjokkolit koek gaan proe!" (If you'd like to treat yourselves you should go and try some of that chocolate cake). This is one of at least two places in Lüderitz where one can have cake for dessert (or snack or main course if you like) at any time. The other one is the Diaz Coffee Shop, in town.

Tjokkolit Koekwinkel: Extremely Highly RecommendedTjokkolit Koekwinkel: Extremely Highly Recommended

Diaz Point Weather BuroDiaz Point Weather Bureau

Getting to the PointGetting to the Point

Diaz CrossDiaz Cross

Back to the Light: (house)Back to the Light: (house)

We returned to the cottage in the late afternoon and, after watching the sun set over the bay, set off for Ritzi's on the Lüderitz waterfront for dinner. We were warmly welcomed to the waterfront by an enthusiastic mob of three South Africans who had seen us in the desert earlier that afternoon. They were seriously impressed with the two of us riding all the way from Cape Town, notwithstanding the fact that they regularly fly to and from offshore drilling platforms, in varying types of weather, by helicopter.

Lüderitz Waterfront: All of itLüderitz Waterfront: All of it

Hmm, a celebrity in one's own dinnertime!

Day5: Rest of the day

Having completed the ride to Diaz Point and surrounds the previous day already, we decided on a leisurely stroll through town which yielded the above picture of the waterfront. The Luderitz town centre is small, by any measure, so we were forced to sample the coffee and cake - I had tjokkolit, of course - at the Diaz Coffee Shop way before morning tea time. Ah well, just one of those things one has to do to keep a tour going.

On the way back to the cottage we saw a sign to a place called Agate Beach and, having more than half the morning still available to us, decided to go and find it. So we donned our gear and set off to find:

On the way to Agate BeachOn the way to Agate Beach

Agate Beach: Bring your own (drinking) waterAgate Beach: Bring your own (drinking) water

We focussed on doing nothing for the remainder of the day which we capped with a delicious, real value-for-money, meal at Barrels Restaurant, where we were not mobbed.

Celebrity, who needs it, anyway?

Day 6: Sand Ahoy

We set sail for Duwisib Castle immediately after breakfast, which Christo and his mom sang for. The 125km on the B4 to the junction with the C13 passed quickly with the temperature rising rapidly from the overnight minimum.

The C13 promised to be interesting right from the get-go. The first three days of our tour overlapped with the end of the Namibian school holidays and it was clear that this road had seen lots of traffic. We saw two cars surfing / swaying on the road while I was still deflating the tyres.

I had secretly harboured plans to take the D707 towards Betta, instead of passing through Helmeringshausen, but I was quickly disabused of this fantasy. The wisdom of this decision was confirmed by a fellow traveller whom we met at Betta, on our way to Sesriem, the following morning. He had had a hard time, in a 4x4,  the previous afternoon.

Fortunately, the good ship Mwendo quickly came to terms with the conditions and sailed along at a good clip, needing me only to remain vigilant and show her the way. I remained a lot of vigilant and showed a lot of way.

 Anyone Out There: know what this is?Anyone Out There: know what this is?

Calling Elvis?Calling Elvis?

We saw this contraption in a field near a farmhouse along the road to Helmeringshausen. It's the weirdest antenna I've ever seen, if it is one!

Though the road demanded constant attention, it was never really difficult to navigate and we settled into a rhythm of alternating good and less good stretches, each several hundred meters long. Until we hit a patently ungood stretch of deep, churned-up, sand.

Bottoms Up, said Fearless Pilot to Precious Cargo who responded immediately as we went dirty dancing with the good ship Mwendo ploughing, cutting, lurching and swaying through the waves. It was anything but graceful but we made it through.

The second sandpit went a little better, probably beacuse it was a little shorter, but I will never concede that. It went better - period!. When the third one came along (actually it didn't come along, it sat there waiting for us, you could feel it's sneer!) the CIC led a mutiny. She insisted on ejecting all the passengers. No more dancing, she said. Let them walk! The Final Arbiter, as usual, ruled in her favour so off she jumped and waded to shore. Mwendo, I am embarassed to say, glided across the pit like a swan on a calm lake.

As luck would have it, that was the last of the sandpits and, even more favourably, we would not have to navigate these pits again when we backtrack along the C13 from Helmeringshausen to take the C27 to Betta.

We reached Helmeringshausen in time for lunch and a refuel where we were once again warmly welcomed, by the hotel proprietor this time, who said that she had expected us the previous day. Some of the South Africans we had met at Ai-Ais knew we were heading the same way - we also bumped into them at Kolmanskuppe and Luderitz - except they did not know that we would spend a second night in Luderitz. 

Hotel HelmeringshausenHotel Helmeringshausen

The hotel boldly claims that they serve the best Apple Cake in all of Namibia, directly contradicting the same claim by Moose McGregor's bakery at Solitaire, so I just had to have a slice.

The C27 to Betta, followed by the D826 to Duwisib Castle, was pretty much on par with the C13, except there were definitely no bunkers.

We reached Duwisib Castle about and hour before sunset, where we secured camping on Duwisib Guest Farm, "in the shadow" of the castle.

Duwisib Guest Farm: Excellent Camping FacilitiesDuwisib Guest Farm: Excellent Camping Facilities

Duwisib CastleDuwisib Castle 

The castle was closed by the time we had set up camp, which we had to do before nightfall, and had just opened by the time we were ready to leave the next morning, so I have some unfinished business at Duwisib.

The quality of the camp site and the excellent food served by the Guest Farm alone justify a return trip. Our dinner that evening consisted of a glass of wine, a kudu bobotie, kudu stroganoff, rice, veggies & salad and, for dessert, the absolutely, bestest, best Apple Cake in Namibia, the late Moose McGregor's included.      

Day 7: Betta getta move on

As we hit the road back to Betta, we were treated to one of the most awesome sights of my life! Sorry, there are no pics - the thought to photograph it did cross my mind, but it didn't hang around, it carried on crossing, exactly like the pair of warthogs were doing in the road ahead of us. I think they only became aware of us after they had committed to crossing, so they immediately broke into a run for the opposite fence and, failing to find an opening, carried on running in the same direction we were heading. We tagged along, for maybe 20 to 30 seconds, when it became clear that they were highly stressed, hurling themselves against the fence in a desperate attempt to breach it. I accelerated past them which had the desired effect of getting them to turn around and run in the opposite direction. I will cherish the memory forever.

We covered the 20km to Betta, where we intended to have breakfast, on a natural high. Breakfast at Betta never happened. We were the only customers on the premises when we placed our order and we received a good pot of coffee in regulation time. One or two others,  including the gentleman who told me about the tough conditions he encountered on the D707 the previous day, came and went while we waited for breakfast. Forty minutes into the wait, our waitron arrived to inform us that she must, unfortunately, tend to some other urgent matter and that her colleague, who was there all the time, would take care of us. To cut a long story short, there wasn't any evidence, not even on enquiry, that either one of them had even started to cook our breakfast. So we settled the bill for the coffee and set sail for Sesriem on the C27.

Off to Infinity: through Namibrand Nature ReserveOff to Infinity: through Namib Rand Nature Reserve

Zebra CrossingZebra Crossing

We went straight to the NWR camp at Sesriem to enquire about access to Sossusvlei the next morning. We knew that motorcycles are not allowed into the park but we hoped to be able to arrange some form of transport to and from the vlei. The first thing that struck me about the place was the attitude of the staff. It came as something of a shock after the excellent service and treatment we had enjoyed at Ai-Ais and Hobas. The second shock was the cost of the "package". Firstly, we would have to stay inside the park to be sure to get on the shuttle in the morning. Secondly, although we had the option of camping, we had no guarantee that our property would remain safe while we were off in the dunes. The answer to that would be to stay in the lodge at a not easily palatable price. Add to this the pain with which we had to extract this information and we had an obvious no-brainer.

So we went across the road to the Sossus Oasis and checked-in to what is now firmly established as my favourite campsite.

Camping: Self-catering styleCamping

Sel-catering styleSelf-catering style

Don't forget your costumeDon't forget your costume

Each site is equipped with a solar panel, for lighting & hot water, a shower, toilet and washing sink / counter.

The shop at the Engen garage at the entrance to the campsite is much more than a convenience store. It stocks just about everything, except the kitchen sink which you don't need anyway. We settled on some frosties and the makings for our first braai and settled down for a loongg, laazy, afternoon & evening.

Dunes? What for?Dunes? What for?  

Day 8: Just not Krieket

We broke camp with mixed feelings this morning - we would have stayed another day / night at Sesriem if we had managed to get a ride to Sossusvlei, but then we would probably not have stayed at this campsite.

While refilling and refueling, both at the local megamarket (Engen), we met two Czech riders on CFM-registered rental bikes (I think they were Super 10s) who had arrived late the previous evening and camped a few stands away from us. They were courteous enough but not very talkative, preferring to keep to themselves even when we met up again at Solitaire later in the day. It was definitely not a language issue. Maybe it's because I looked down on them which, if true, they took way too personally. At my height, there are very few people I look up to.

We headed out of Sesriem and turned south on the C19, instead of north to Solitaire, our ultimate destination, then turned left onto the D854. This is a very pleasant, scenic route, roughly following the course of the Tsauchab river, to the entrance of the Namib Naukluft National Park and the source of Naukluft Pure Spring Water which is bottled and sold throughout Namibia. 

 

The D854 to Naukluft

The D854 meets the C14, the main road between Maltahohe and Solitaire, near the village of Bullsport where we immediately turned off the C14 again, onto the D1206. This road does not offer quite as much to look at but does bring one to the quaint little settlement of Rietoog, on the M47, where there is also not much to look at.

We carried on up the M47 to the juction with the C24, just south of Klein Aub, where we turned west and very nearly didn't know we were in Lepel (as in spoon). We only found out because we turned in for a delicious pot of coffee at the Garies Rest Camp (not to be confused with the Garies Lodge). PC told me, as we departed, that she very nearly fell overboard laughing when our hostess told us where we were in response to my enquiry upon arrival. 

The rest camp offers B&B, camping, hiking and a 4x4 trail.

Garies Rest Camp: LepelGaries Rest Camp: Lepel

From Lepel, the C24 descends to the desert through the Remhoogte Pass and joins up with the C14 again, about 14km from Solitaire.

Remhoogte Pass: On the C24Remhoogte Pass

On the C24On the C24

We reached Solitaire with the Lapa / Restaurant packed with diners at lunch whom we joined in enjoying a delicious burger and frosties, not necessarily in that order.

The plan was to camp at Solitaire so, while the madam enjoyed the comfort of the Lapa, I paid for a dusty spot (there are very few, if any, grassed campsites in Namibia) and duly proceeded to pitch our tent in the shade of a large tree planted there, presumably, for exactly that purpose - to provide shade to campers. The trouble started shortly thereafter.

You may recall that we had stopped, several days earlier, to inflate tyres along the B4 on the way to Aus. While I was thus engaged, the Ship's Doctor and resident Health Inspector discovered this:

Armoured Katydid: (Koringkriek)Armoured Katydid: (Koringkriek)

We saw so many of them subsequently that the good doctor developed a theory that could predict, with frightening accuracy, where we could next expect to find them. Next, a decree was issued that all on board should dislike them and would get automatic immunity from prosecution for killing them on sight.

I don't think the Health Inspector even so much as looked at the tent, when I announced that it was ready for occupation, when she first addressed me as AYM!. She had taken less than one look at the wonderful shade tree and just knew that these things were around. I was still taking in breath to protest that she was wrong when she started kicking at the first of several advancing on the tent.

I completed taking in breath and let it out again, slowly. She took a few minutes to mull things over then stated that she would give it a try. I assured her that it would be fine then proceeded to the ablution block for a shower. The sight of that facility made me turn on my heel to announce to her that she was right after all. The camp site is definitely not fit for occupation.

I went back to reception and got a room at what I consider to be a rip-off rate. The room can, at best, be described as basic. We did not pay anywhere near the same rate, for much better facilities, anywhere else on our entire tour. I suspect the campsite is in the state it is in to coerce people into taking a room instead. Dinner that evening, which consisted of a piece of tough game, did not help. I would definitely avoid the Solitaire Country Lodge on future visits.

The one consolation we had was the sunset that nature served up that day.

SolitaireSolitaire

SunsetSunset

 Day 9: Triple by Pass 

Breakfast at Solitaire was a huge improvement on dinner the previous evening so we got a good start to what would be one of the highlights of the tour for me!

After a very brief ride north on the C14, we turned right onto the D1275 and almost immediately forgot about Solitaire as we were induced first to look up, then to stand up, as we started our ascent of  the stunning Spreetshoogte Pass. Who is it who said that it's the road to hell that's paved...?

 Spreetshoogte PassSpreetshoogte Pass

Spot the KoringkriekSpot the Koringkriek

Top of Spreetshoogte

  Namibgrens

All forms of towed vehicles - trailers, caravans etc. - are verboten on the pass as it rises very steeply from this side, hence the paving. I think it would have been quite a challenge up, and more so down the pass, had the surface not been stabilised. The paving ends after the steepest sections of the road and there is no real descent on the other side. The road sort of just levels out onto the plateau and on to Nauchas, where we turned left onto the D1261 and kept left onto the D1265 where the D1261 veers off towards the C24 and Rehoboth. We unwittingly crossed the Tropic of Capricorn somewhere along the D1265 en-route to the junction with the C26/M49 - the Windhoek to Walvis Bay road - where, apologies for the repetition, we turned left again!

What goes up must come down (though taxes are exempt) but there are few better ways to come down than via the Gamsberg Pass. The road follows the course of the dry Diab river, crossing it several times. (It would be interesting to attempt this road during the rainy season - we saw plenty evidence of the river's effect when it's in flood.)

Gamsberg PassGamsberg Pass 

 

Gamsberg3

After many enjoyable twists and dry riverbed crossings, the road emerges onto the plain and reaches the junction with the C14 some 64km north of the D1275 / Spreetshoogte Pass turn-off, still roughly 160km from Walvis Bay.

We stopped for "lunch à la GR" (a drink and a light snack) near a farm called Rooiklip before proceeding on the C14 to the Kuiseb Pass.

Near Rooiklip: On the C26/M49Near Rooiklip: On the C26/M49

The Kuiseb Pass is a delight to ride through, with a rocky promontory, on the right just before the bridge across the Kuiseb River, making a good view site.

Kuiseb RiverKuiseb River 

Picnic SitePicnic Site

If the three passes were a pleasure to ride, the road through the desert was sheer, unadulterated bliss. Everything just came together for me on that ride of just over an hour - the road, the bike, the sights (including several mirages) and, most importantly, Precious Cargo was right there with me!!!

We entered Walvis Bay as a light fog was rolling in, building up all the while we were riding up the B2 to Swakopmund. We found B&B accommodation at the Hotel Schweizerhaus, which was recommended by a friend & colleague, and checked in for three nights, which we extended to four after the second night. It's that good!

Day 10: Chilli(ng) Swakop Style

We did not operate to a predetermined action list on tour but we soon fell into a pretty predictable sequence, in order of decreasing priority, when we arrived at our destination:

  1. find accommodation
  2. find a frosty (or two, three four...). 
  3. take a shower (I would have preferred this to be optional but Her Hygieness would have none of it)
  4. more frosties
  5. find out and decide on where to have dinner

The receptionist at the hotel suggested that our choice of dinner venue that first evening would be limited, as only a few restaurants would be open on a Sunday evening. So, after taking a shower (under duress) I bravely set off, on foot, to recce the few suggested, not necessarily recommended, dining establishments.

Being of a rather practical bent, I settled on the eighth establishment I could find. Not because there was anything wrong with the first seven - I simply couldn't read their menus because I now need reading glasses for anything less than 72-point, double-spaced, Bold font and said glasses were in the pocket of my riding jacket, which I was forced to take off in order to take a shower. As if  I needed yet more evidence of the law of unintended consequences. But I digress.

No reading glasses requiredNo reading glasses required

I headed back to the hotel and filed my report. The CIC didn't need any convincing when I told her that the venue is less than a full bock away, so off we went, with reading glasses in hand, to the pizzeria, grabbed two take-away pizzas and returned to the hotel. I picked up two more frosties (for myself) on our way through the hotel lobby to our suite. Yes! A suite consisting of a lounge, bedroom, full bathroom and a balcony with a sea view, for less than the price of our digs at Solitaire. (The reader would be excused for thinking that the author is still a bit miffed about Solitaire!)

We sat down, in our lounge, to enjoy our meal. 

Accommodation Top RightDeluxe Suite, Top Right

Within seconds of - possibly even before -  taking the first bite of my first slice of pizza, the same single question flashed through my mind in all eleven official languages, plus a few new ones that have yet to develop an alphabet in order to be recorded in writing. All of my involuntary functions went awol. I needed to consciously decide to do the essential things, like blinking. Fortunately, a few of my brain cells remembered their survival training and I could coordinate the movement of enough of my body parts to get half a 440ml frosty into my mouth and down my throat.

What was the question that flashed through my mind? The question was "What was your answer to the question <<How would you like the chilli? Mild, Medium or Hot?>>?"

Under normal circumstances I might have tried denial - that I didn't even order chilli - but that burning was a clear indication that circumstances were not normal, so I confessed that I had answered "Hot, please!".

I managed to finish two slices of pizza before I ran out of beer, so I called it quits. The CIC only ate about half of her smaller pizza as a gesture of solidarity. I think it's quite important that I should mention that the pizza was actually very good. I really enjoyed the taste!

We started our exploration of the town with a walk along the impressive promenade and beachfront, then worked our way towards the CBD. Swakopmund is a really beautiful holiday town. The weather was mild & comfortable during our visit, with only the mist which rolls in late afternoon and sometimes only clears around lunch time the following day.

The Mole

Jetty

I particularly enjoyed the architecture. The German influence is clearly visible but does not dominate.

Gov

 

CornerBlock

Church

A walk through the local supermarkets, most ZA brands are present, reveals a higher cost of living than we enjoy in Cape Town. This is understandable if one considers that virtually no food is produced in Swakopmund, or its surrounds for that matter. Most of the (prime) property prices we saw advertised are also a good stretch beyond our reach. Surprisingly though, restaurant prices - including value for money - is on par with similar establishments / dishes at home.

I have long held the view that a really good dish tastes great whether it is served hot or cold and this view was upheld when I sampled the remainder of my pizza, which we had stuck in the fridge the previous night, on our return to the hotel at around lunch time. I suspect psychology played a big role as well, because the chilli just did not have the same effect it had the previous evening. I didn't know it at the time but that pizza would be the closest I would get to a meal beyond breakfast for the rest of that day.

We donned our gear, at around 4pm,  and headed to Walvis Bay with the intention of having a meal on the waterfront. This was not to be as there wasn't much on offer. This was the second time we had to adjust our notion of the term "the waterfront" as we realised that the Cape Town entity by that name cannot possibly be meaningfully matched in a town of a country that has a total population which is dwarfed by the population of Cape Town. So we opted to admire the lagoon ajacent to the working harbour instead. 

Walvis Bay Lagoon

Walvis Bay Jetty

WB

WB2

We returned to our hotel to indulge in some cake (& tea) at the Café Anton, allegedly one of the roots of Cape Town's famous Charly's Bakery.

It was over tea (& cake), pretty much around sunset, that Celesta attempted something that:

  1. Only a woman can conceive of
  2. Only a woman can actually pull off
  3. Elevated the cold pizza I consumed earlier to my last meal of the day 

She had decided that her hair, which she had had braided a week before our departure for easier management on tour, needed urgent refurbishment. Now finding someone who can do this braiding is no mean feat. She has not managed, over a period of several years, to find a person who can consistently braid her hair to her exact requirements in greater Cape Town, with a population greater than or equal to that of the entire Namibia and braided hair sported on all sorts of heads, almost around every corner. Yet here she is, less than 24 hours in a foreign town, in a foreign country and, what do you know?

Zubeida weaving her magicZubeida weaving her magic

Zubeida, a 100% pukka stranger, jumps into a taxi in the lokasie (yep!) and, after about a 20min drive, pitches up at our hotel room shortly after 7pm. She does her magic - which includes making all thoughts of dinner disappear because most restaurants close their kitchens at about 9pm - in a tad more than two hours, gets escorted (by yours truly) to the local taxi rank "et voila!" there's a new Head Girl in town.

Zubeida is quite an impressive young lady. Besides her demonstrated magic skills, she speaks fluent Afrikaans (which we speak a little funny), Damara, English and a little German, teaches pre-schoolers at a community facility and dabbles in the hairy arts when the opportunity presents.

Day 11: Here, kitty-kitty!

As with dinner the previous evening, the overnight mist had failed to arrive, so we were confronted with clear skies which stubbornly persisted throughout the day. Namibia does not call itself "Land of the Brave" for nothing so, intrepid sailors that we had become by now, we bravely set sail in search of the Grosse Spitzkuppe.

From the B2: A long way offFrom the B2: A long way off

But first we had to view Mount Erongo, which lends its name to the region of which Swakopmund is the capital. Legend has it that there is an excellent view site in the vicinity of Karibib, so we sallied forth on the B2, passing through Usakos on the way there and back.

NG Kerk: UsakosNG Kerk: Usakos

We failed to find the mythical Mt Erongo view site in Karibib, so we retraced our route through Usakos and turned off, first onto the D1918 and later the D3716.

Approaching on the D3716Approaching on the D3716

We passed through a tiny settlement, which we later learnt is called the Pontoks, to reach the Spitzkoppe Restaurant bang on cue for lunch. The casual observer might have thought that we had planned it that way.

 

Pontok MenuPontok Menu

The WhK draught is highly recommended. The Beef burger is a must-have!

Our lunchtime entertainment was provided by the cutest little kitties either one of us have ever set eyes on. We just couldn't get enough of them!

 

PRICELESS!

They were clearly still little babies. We could not, however, quite get coherent details about their presence from our hosts. The answer to our first question, as to the whereabouts of their mother was, "In die veld" (in the field) which created the impression that she herself was tame and still took care of them. Further questioning, and lots of filtering, led us to conclude that they were either orphans or were simply abducted from the clan. They are now, sadly, being hand-reared. I say sadly because, although it looks like they are reasonably well cared for, they are being deprived of being meerkats.

Oh yes, we were still at Spitzkoppe.

 

We couldn't loop through the reserve as I had originally intended (the track has now been declared private) so we returned to the D1918, via the D3716, and headed due west, to Hentiesbaai, then back to Swakopmund on the C34 - the famous salt road.  

On the D1918: WestwardOn the D1918: Westward

C34: Salt RoadC34: Salt Road

So this had turned out to be another one of those memorable, yet mixed-feelings days. The riding, on tar, gravel and salt, was superb, we had a great lunch and we got closer to three baby meerkats than we could ever have imagined. Yet it is the very meerkat experience which gives rise to the feelings of regret. 

Day 12: Chilli(ng), Again?

Yes, and no! Chilling without chilli, that is.

We had decided, a day or two earlier, to spend an extra night in Swakopmund. The decision to stay was informed by three things.

The first is that Swakopmund is simply a great place to visit. The Hotel Schweizerhaus, in particular, is a great place to stay. Secondly, we had scored an extra day when we left Sesriem after just one night. Lastly, and most importantly, was the simultaneous decision not to go north to Khorixas, to visit the petrified forest, amongst other attractions.

We had planned on staying at the NWR facility in Khorixas for two nights. Given our earlier experience with the NWR, however, I thought it prudent to enquire about prevailing conditions before we got there, especially after learning, from other travellers, that they had been warned about visiting the area. So I popped in to the local NWR bureau, located just a few metres from our hotel. To cut a long story short, I was sent from one office to the next in search of any information about Khorixas. Everyone, but everyone, came up blank, despite signs & posters clearly indicating where I should enquire about visiting Khorixas.

For the record, we had dinner at Erich's Restaurant, owned and managed by a young lady called Steffi, on both our last two nights. Erich's served up the biggest, bestest Eisbein I have ever consumed, on the first evening and followed it up with a great Kingklip dish the next!

Day 13: Hoch Drama

Swakopmund was cloaked in its customary fog blanket when we said our goodbyes shortly after breakfast. The fog didn't extend more than about 5km inland, however, and we soon had to contend with sailing not quite directly into the rising sun. We made good time on the first 60km stretch of tar, and indeed to the viewpoint on the Bosua Pass, which is pretty close to halfway between Swakopmund and Windhoek on the C28.

Bosua PassBosua Pass

Sosatie?Sosatie?

HochlandHochland

Smooth SailingSmooth Sailing

For me, the most striking aspect to the Khomas Hochland is the perception of an endless plateau of rolling hills, if that makes any sense at all. It's not flat but doesn't seem to end and drop off either.

The second half of the ride felt like it was taking a little longer than the first, probably because there were many more twists as well as ups and downs - the rolling hills effect. It was pretty comfortable riding all the way though. So comfortable, in fact, that I just had to find a way to run aground!!!

MC Mwendo: a little disorientedMC Mwendo: a little disoriented afterwards

We had just rounded a slight bend in the road when I saw, about 30m ahead, a tiny deer specimen (a Damara dik-dik, perhaps?) crossing the road. I slowed down marginally, hoping to catch another glimpse of it at the spot where it entered the brush at the side of the road, when both Celesta and I saw, not a deer, but an adult warthog (bushpig?) with young.

I was commanded to stop, forthwith, and walk back to try and get a picture. I declined to stop, on the grounds that we could get back a lot quicker by turning the ship around. We were still debating the wisdom and other merits of my disobeying a direct, clear command when, with just a few degrees of arc to go, and practically standing still, we went rudder up.

Precious Cargo was hurt! She had fallen akwardly, taking some impact at a point in the lower back, just above the right hip. After a very careful assessment we determined that there were no breaks and that it was most likely just some bruised tissue. The CIC was totally unimpressed! I escaped a summary court-martial by the narrowest of margins.

Needless to say, there was no sign of any wildlife by the time we had finally resolved everything, so we went on our way, stopping only to contemplate the significance of a single building in the field, which I later determined to be Liebig Haus, alleged to be haunted.

Liebig HausLiebig Haus 

We reached Windhoek shortly after 1pm and headed straight to Joe's Beer House for lunch, only to learn that it only opens after 5pm on weekdays, so we went and looked for accommodation instead.

We ended up at the Hotel Pension Eros, within waking distance of both Joe's and the Kubata Restaurant, a Portuguese establishment. where we eventually had lunch (after the mandatory shower, of course).

Day 14: Are we there yet?

After a leisurely breakfast, we set off, on foot, to explore the city. We decided to start at the National Botanical Gardens, a mere 3km away.

The City: Fom the National Botanical GardensWindhoek: Fom the National Botanical Gardens

"Preparation is everything", they say, so I put on my best walking shoes, a pair of 'plakkies', threw a glance at a map of the city, figured out which direction to take, and off we went.

After about 2km we knew we were not lost, but we also knew that we were not close to the Gardens. So the NIC hauled out his cellphone, switched on its GPS function and, after a few minutes, could confidently state our location on the planet to an accuracy of 5 metres. Alas, we were no closer to the Gardens - GPS's don't do gardens. The NIC, unmoved, literally, then upped his game, somewhat. He started a navigation app which helped, somewhat. In order to get enough detail on where exactly one is on a 4" cellphone screen, one has to zoom in on the map so much that one no longer has any perspective on one's location relative to other landmarks, such as botanical gardens, for example. So one zooms out again, to get the necessary perspective, losing the detail in the process.

So we carried on walking in the generally correct direction. After about 4km, we got lucky. We arrived at the perimeter fence of the Gardens. At the furthest point from our starting location. At a sign, at the bottom of a hill, which stated that the entrance to the garden is 900m away. Up the hill. 

We made it to the Gardens and, having already walked right around it, albeit around the outer perimeter, we didn't venture any further than the nursery and the protected area, designed to minimise the exposure of the true desert plants to the local environmental conditions, e.g. the higher rainfall.

Widespread in marriage: Not only in NamibiaWidespread in marriage: Not only in Namibia

Fruit of the Sausage TreeFruit of the Sausage Tree

From the Gardens we headed to Namibia's Parliament building, the Tintenpalast (Ink Palace) which was, fortunately, in the general direction of our hotel.

TintenpalastTintenpalast

Parliament GardensParliament Gardens

 

Parliament GardensParliament Gardens

Parliament GuardianParliament Guardian

These reptiles are to Namibia's Parliament Gardens what the pigeons and squirrels are to Cape Town's Company Gardens.

We passed several monuments and public buildings on the way back through the CBD along Robert Mugabe Ave, then up Nelson Mandela Ave to catch lunch at Joe's Beer House, which opens at 11am Fridays through Sundays only.

Perhaps next time, I should take the map along!

Day 15: Where The Party Hat 

It was a very easy decision - it didn't even involve the Final Arbiter. We had both, totally independently, arrived at the same conclusion on our second morning in Windhoek. We have had enough of city life - it was way too busy!

So we packed our bags and set a course for the Kupferberg Pass on the C26. Although the pass reaches an altitude of roughly 2070m, it does so gradually from a base of around 1650m, Windhoek's average altitude above sea level, so there is no real sensation of climbing or descending on either side.

After about 75km we turned left onto the D1282, a true farm road with a nice, coarse surface, several dry riverbeds and about six gates, all closed. Left for a short stint on the D1261 then right on the C14, though Klein Aub, past Lepel this time, through Rietoog, again, all the way to Maltahöhe.

Coffee: not quite On The RocksCoffee: not quite On The Rocks

The C14, despite being just a puff dusty, is a wonderful road to ride on.

We reached Maltahöhe all too soon and turned in at the first gate, the ÔA Hera Backpackers and Cultural Centre, where we enjoyed seriously delicious lamb chops for lunch before moving on to find accommodation, which we found right next door at Die Pappot.

ÔA Hera Art CentreÔA Hera Art Centre

Pappot is owned and managed by husband and wife team Mannetjie and Hendriette Esterhuizen, ably assisted by Boeta, their delightful seven-year-old grandson.

Boeta couldn't get us settled in fast enough. We had hardly had a chance to look at the site and its facilities when he wanted to know where he should place the table, chairs and the portable braai. The Health Inspector was uninterested in any of these things at the time, as she was busy conducting a census of the resident koringkrieke which, to her great surprise, and mine, to be fair, registered a total population of one!

Once we had decided to stay, he almost ripped the tent out of its bag and started banging pegs into the ground, almost knocking himself out at one point. He paused only once, to ask the time, because the family were attending a party at the local hotel that evening, and he had to get home to clean and dress up. When I asked him whether the party meant that we would not be able to visit the hotel, he innocently advised that I would be most welcome, provided I wear a hat. His grandma later informed us that it was a theme party.

Camping: Pappot StyleCamping - Pappot Style: Highly Recommended

We spent a most enjoyable evening & night as the only campers at Pappot. I would definitely visit there again - the people are great and the camping superb!

Day 16: Quiver me Timbers

I was woken, at about 3am, by the sound of a donkey braying. The trouble with a donkey's braying is that one cannot distinguish between a laugh, a lament or a triumphal song. It reminded me, strongly, of a certain South African song & dance "tradition".

Anyway, lying awake, in a tent, in the wee hours of an African morning, got me thinking. This, however, falls firmly in the realm of "boring stuff" I referred to right at the beginning, so I will just park it here, for now. I mention it simply for context.

The world slowly came awake, as it is wont to do, with the rising sun. We would not see the Esterhuizen's this morning, as they had informed us the previous day that they would be off to church and attend to other matters before coming to Pappot, if at all. So we struck camp and headed off down the C14 to Helmeringshausen, in search of breakfast.

C14: Maltahöhe to Helmeringshausen C14: Maltahöhe to Helmeringshausen

The road, this side of Maltahöhe, proved just as good as north of it and we had a smooth run all the way.

C14 SouthboundC14 Southbound 

We were too late for breakfast at Helmeringshausen, so the CIC declared it lunchtime aboard ship and we immediately enjoyed same.

We reached Bethanie at around noon. Only the petrol station was open at the time, so we inflated tyres and hit the 135km of tar to Keetmanshoop via the B4.

We checked out a few B&B options before enquiring at, and settling on, the Canyon Hotel in Keetmanshoop.

We spotted a BMW R1150GS in the hotel parking lot as we arrived. We would later meet its owner, Hank Arriazola (google him) from San Antonio, Texas, over dinner and a drink. He had shipped his bike over to Cape Town, with the intention of riding up to Kenya and Tanzania but his trip was beset with problems from the outset. The shippers had botched the paperwork so he was stuck in CT for more than three weeks. He was forced to stop in Keetmanshoop, en-route to Luderitz via Seeheim, because of a problem with his exhaust. We exchanged email contacts and he confirmed that he had reached Luderitz the following day. I have not heard from him since. He expects to be back in CT during the first week of July though, so I may hear from him then.

 With more than half the day remaining, we decided to jump back on the bike and visit the Quiver Tree Forest after checking in (sans shower, nogal!).

Quiver ThreeQuiver Three

I don't really know what I expected to see here. I had seen a magillion photographs of the forest before, but it was a bit of a let-down all the same.

Forest: GumphForest: Gumph

We went straight to the bar, via the shower, on our return to the hotel and bonded with a couple of cold ones. 

The Canyon Hotel is a good place to stay over in Keetmanshoop. It can do with a bit of maintenance (mostly exterior paint) in some areas, but it is definitely not run-down. The staff are professional and both the rooms and rates are good. 

Day 17: Quo vadis?

We started the day with one, tiny problem. It was entirely of our own making, so we traipsed off to the dining room in search of inspiration. What we found there were other people in search of breakfast, so we joined them. Hank, who had a real problem, joined us, and we ended up saying our goodbyes immediately afterwards. He had to find a workshop to have his bike's exhaust sorted and was hoping to get to Luderitz, all in one day. All we had to figure out was where we were going today, and how we were going to get there.

Breakfast was good but not inspirational, so we traipsed back to our room to try and come up with a solution while we packed. We settled on Rietfontein. The visit to Rietfontein would serve as a mini-recce of accommodation options in the area for when we attend the Bloodhound SSC tests in 2015. See http://www.bmwmccc.org.za/bloodhound-ssc

I was fortunate to detect, and plug, a rear tyre puncture, caused by an innocent-looking nail, while we were still at the hotel and, more importantly, before I had loaded our gear onto the bike. Then we set off on a comfortable, uneventful ride on the C16 / M27 towards Aroab, where we couldn't get anything to drink.

We were still several kilometers from Aroab though, when I saw a sight that I had only ever seen in photographs before.

Red Dunes of the KalahariRed Dunes

 

My joy was unrestrained! I had this vision of riding through an endless dune field. Mwendo shared my enthusiasm and wanted to jump over the fence to go and frolic in the sand. (un)Fortunately, the VOR exerted a calming influence.

Alas, it was a myopic vision. There is just this single band of dunes in this one place west of Aroab. We saw many hints of reddish soil further along the route, but not one more dune.

We passed through a quiet Aroab, looking out for a place at which to stop, to get a coffe or cooldrink & chat to the locals, but to no avail. The one or two places which sported the appropriate signs, were not open.

We completed the formalities at the Klein Menasse / Rietfontein border posts without fanfare and stopped at the Kalahari Info and Tented Camp for a sandwich and info on accommodation options, other than the well-equipped tented camp itself, close to Hakskeenpan.

I was quite surprised, and diisappointed, to see and hear that there is nothiing happening in Rietfontein to prepare for the expected influx of visitors that will come with the Bloodhound tests in 2015 and the official record attempt a year later. Nothing! In a place that can surely benefit from some entrepreneurship. I nearly fell of my chair three days later when, watching TV news for the first time in three weeks, I heard some politician say that things are happening in Rietfontein in preparation for the Bloodhound tests which are now officially scheduled for August 2015 - that the Rietfontein boom has arrived. And this a full five years before the next elections! 

So we were not going to find accommodation in Rietfontein. The Kalahari Info people suggested a few names, with directions, so off we went, first in search of the Hakskeenpan, which was easy to find - the road cuts across a part of it.

 

Hakskeenpan: MTN Towers for BloodhoundHakskeenpan: MTN Towers for Bloodhound

The search for the recommended accommodation proved much more elusive than the search for the pan. By the time we got to Ashkam, some 70km from the pan, we decided to push right on to Upington, which we reached just as the last of the daylight faded. I would learn, the next day, that there is accommodation, in one form or another, behind nearly every bush in the vicinity of the pan. If that is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, it would be a good idea for the people in the area to give prospective guests a hint.

We found lodgings at the second place we tried, the lovely River Bank Lodge, a B&B establishment, in town, on the banks of the Orange river.

River Bank LodgeRiver Bank Lodge

Orange RiverOrange River

Day 18: Merci Beaucoup

Today would be a slow day. We took our time, first over breakfast, then packing up, before checking out of the lodge and setting off on a very slow ride to Augrabies National Park, about 120km away.

Augrabies Falls: From one of the view decksAugrabies Falls: From one of the view decks

 

The position of the sun at the time of our visit made photography difficult, as can be seen in the pics above. It was also quite hot and, just like at the Fish River Canyon, we found that our riding gear places severe limitations on mobility at places like these. This can, of course, be easily addressed with a little forethought and planning.

We spent a good while at the falls, reading up on the great floods of recent times. I was surprised to realise, for example, that I had absolutely no recollection of the flood of 1988.

We made our way back slowly in the direction of Upington, pulling over for a delicious, slow lunch at Die Pienk Padstal in Kakamas.

 

 Vir die manne: In tights perhaps?Vir die manne: In tights perhaps?

The interior of the "Gents" is something you have to see for yourself. I'm afraid there may be several blushes at the sight!

We got back to Upington in the late afternoon and slowly made our way towards the home of two wonderful human beings, who not only welcomed two total strangers into their home, they made them feel like dear, old friends.

Paul and Madie Muller, I speak for both Celesta and myself when I say "Thank you ever so much for an awesome, unforgettable, kuier!"

Day 19: Toto, I've a feeling we're back in Kansas

We said goodbye to our gracious hosts shortly after 7am. Paul had suggested an off-road route passing, but not crossing, Verneukpan, via Williston, to Sutherland.

I was very tempted to take this route but opted to play it safe given the expected weather conditions. We had heard, from back home, that the Cape was cold and threatening to become wet and miserable as well. The weather forecast didn't even try to reassure us. It said, quite coldly, that we'd get wet that day!

So I set a course for Calvinia via the R27, even abandoning my own intention to take the R357 to Loeriesfontein or Niewoudtville. We did stop for a scrumptious breakfast, at the pleasant Oma Miemies, in Kenhardt.

We caught up with the weather about 40km from Calvinia. We rode in pouring rain, accompanied by a sudden drop in temperature, for about 15km, wherafter the rain, fortunately, held back until after we had checked into the Calvinia Hotel, whereafter it bucketed down, intermittently, during the rest of the day and night.

The hotel has recently come under new management who, apparently, have big plans for the place. Their intentions are clearly visible but has a way to go yet. We were comfortable enough in all respects, though.

Day 20: Home

The weather forecast for today looked somewhat better than that of the previous day, although there was still rain in the offing. We thought long and hard on whether we should take the (long, boring) R27/N7 tar route or the shorter R355/R46 to Ceres.

We had still not quite made up our minds when we got to the R355, so we decided to explore it for a few kilometers and turn back at the first hint of anything untoward. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, other than a light mist over the Bloukrans Pass, the road didn't even look like it had seen any of the rain that had fallen in the area.

The R355, despite showing signs of serious wear in several places - presumably the result of heavy use around AfrikaBurn at the end of April - remains one of my favourite roads.

It got progressively colder as we got closer to Ceres, so the Tankwa Padstal arrived at an opportune time. The bar was still closed, so we settled on a coffee instead of a sherry or muscadel.

We caught two light showers, one either side of Stellenbosch, on the R44, arriving home just before 2pm.

The Boring Stuff

"The true measure of a travel experience, be it a journey, voyage, tour or trip, is not the number of places or sites one visits, nor the number of people one meets, nor the number of cultures one is exposed to, but how much one learns of oneself."

 

To be continued...

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Joined: 2008/01/28

Brilliant Cecil. I am really enjoying this.

Tony's picture
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Joined: 2008/08/24

Great first installment. 

Keep 'em coming ...

A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn. ~Author Unknown

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Joined: 2007/06/25

Great writing style, bring it on.

Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

Geoff Russell's picture
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Joined: 2007/09/25

Don't keep us in suspense Cecil.

Committee: Ride Captain

Pepe's picture
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Joined: 2007/12/01

I ilke your style. Gooi Boet, ons wag!

 

Work hard; play hard; never play when you work!

Marais Kotze's picture
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Joined: 2013/08/13

Great stuff, Ai man dit laat 'n man se bek kwyl

Adrian Lee's picture
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Joined: 2010/11/04

Great report Cecil......hoe lus ek al weer.......

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Joined: 2008/02/27
One of the best trip reports that I have read in a long time! Please don't let us wait for the rest. I wish I could have done this trip with you...
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Joined: 2007/06/25

Cecil you have set a high standard, enjoyable reading.Smile

Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

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Joined: 2007/04/14

Very very naas Cecil.  Sossusvlei really sucks as far as accommodation goes.  When we were there a number of years ago (myself, Julie and the boys in a Toyota Venture), we could not get accommodation, and I think the campsite you stayed at had not yet been set up.  We ended up camping illegally along the side of the road a few km away - nervous of being caught, robbed, or bitten by the barking geckos that kept us awake most of the night...

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Mwendo's picture
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Joined: 2011/04/13

Thank you all for the much appreciated, positive feedback!

This trip was really special, for tons of reasons, and it is a pleasure to share the experience. I just hope I can get it all done before I depart on a work-related trip, for two weeks, at the end of next week..

--
The only problem with hindsight, is you don't see it coming!

 
Stan's picture
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Joined: 2010/03/21

Thanks Cecil & well done.

island cottage in luderitz is a great place to stay - as we also discovered, in the first room up the stairs at the back. What views!!

I hope the wind lay low during your stay there :)

Happyfeet's picture
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Joined: 2010/02/12

Great report so far Cecil!

Thanks for sharing and great writing style! Cool

Jinx Louw

I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

Jacques Botha R66's picture
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Joined: 2012/10/02

Stunning report. Trophy winner.

Charles Oertel's picture
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Joined: 2007/04/14

Dammit - I can only upvote this report once!  Love your style.

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Eric Pretorius's picture
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Joined: 2012/04/11

What a fantastic report of what can only be described as a superb tour through Namibia.

The mix of humour and information is astounding and an absolute pleasure to read.  It get's my thumbs up.

 

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Joined: 2007/06/21

Great great trip report!! Thanks Mwendo

I cannot think of any better over all past years!

Great writing style, interesting all the way, plenty pictures.

The report speaks of a most memorable trip, written from the deep well of fond memories from an exceptional trip.

A tripreport is as good as the enjoyment that the author experienced ---  10 uit 10 vir hierdie een!

Kevin van Blerk's picture
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Joined: 2008/02/10

Awesome trip report Mwendo  brought back many good memories of my 2011 trip, we did a similar route over 24 days - Namibia is a special place.

btw. that "antenna" is in fact a wind-driven water pump. It is 25m tall and built on a huge concrete base with two water tanks. The farmer, Siegried Schnebel, who owned the farm back in 1997 designed and built it. It had fabric 'blades' that turned that huge wheel on the top. It is however no longer operational. I had the same fascination for this weird creation so I looked it up :-)

http://tracks4africa.co.za/listings/item/w232488/

 

 

/\/¯¯¯¯¯\/\ R1200GS-WP

Mwendo's picture
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Joined: 2011/04/13

Thanks Kevin

Who would have thought? A wind-driven, water-pumping antenna Cool

A fascinating story. It's such a pity the farm failed.

 

 

--
The only problem with hindsight, is you don't see it coming!

 
Pepe's picture
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Joined: 2007/12/01

Cecil

It was an absolute privilege to meet you and Celesta. Glad to hear you made it home safely.

... and if you stay in a B+B in Upington again, you may suffer a flat tyre (or worse)! Wink

Work hard; play hard; never play when you work!

Mwendo's picture
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Joined: 2011/04/13

Hi Paul

The feeling is entirely mutual, thank you!

As for your subtle hint, don't tempt me Wink

 

--
The only problem with hindsight, is you don't see it coming!

 
Salim Patel's picture
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Joined: 2012/03/28

Great trip report.. nice writing style and thank you again for sharing with us :-)

Waiting on next episode too ...

Salim Patel's picture
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Joined: 2012/03/28

Great trip report.. nice writing style and thank you again for sharing with us :-)

Waiting on next episode too ...

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Joined: 2014/01/22

Hello Mwendo,..Brilliant report.....you a biker and a sailor are you...?....i am planning a ride to Namibia for work at the end of this week, and would like to combine it with a ride. I would like to ride the C13 from Ausengher to Luderitz via Aus. Did you do the stretch of C13 along the river and if so from where to where...?...cant quite figure it out in your report. My concern is that I am trying to avoid any sand....as I am going solo, and i cannot lift the 1200 on my own...so sand must be avoided by me...any info on the C13 and its condition...and from where to where you rode it..would be most appreciated.....Thank You...Mike

Mwendo's picture
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Joined: 2011/04/13

Hi Mike

I see that Johan has already answered your question.

For what it's worth, we didn't go through Rosh Pinah. We turned off the C13, just the other side of Aussenkehr, onto the C37/D207 towards Ai-Ais.

All the best for a fantastic trip!!!

Cecil

 

 

--
The only problem with hindsight, is you don't see it coming!

 
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Joined: 2014/01/22

hi Cecil....yes I have it clear now where to go...thanks for your concern and for the ride report.....stay safe....Mike

Leon1ee's picture
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Joined: 2007/12/06

very nice trip report. Quite exhausting just reading it. this is a bucket list item

Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle

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