Namibian Sand Monsters: Part 1

| September 23, 2010 | Reply

It was 5am Dec 7th and I climbed on my trusty 1200 GS Adventure with the same desperate anticipation of a cooped up dog being promised a walk. Seamus was meeting me at 5.30 at Sasol and we were off, 1200 km’s to go that day…and I waited and I waited and I waited…. Swearing and calling him his real name Shameful! So I left without him….. Twenty minutes later I got a desperate call, where are you? On my way to Namibia! Silence! So where you now? Magalies and you better wind it or you on your own! Twenty minutes later a Dakar sped into Magalies the riders face about as dark as the clouds above us! A few insults back and forth we set off into the biggest storm in JHB for years….and it rained and it rained from Magalies halfway thru Botswana! Yes in the desert country of Botswana!

Our route – 12 days, 1200 kms on day one down the Trans Kalahari highway to the Nam border, then from there as much dirt and offroad routes as we could from Gobabis North to Fort Sesfontein and then South to the Richtersveld and then meet our families in Springbok – about 4200 km’s in total!

Apart from the rain we knew the Dakar only had max of about 400km’s range while the adventure about 650 + km’s. We also would need water in the desert sections up north. Thank goodness for Seamus’s 5L extra fuel!

Filling up at a little village off the Trans Kalahari highwy

Second refuel – Seamus’s comment “shit only did 290 km’s in that headwind!” My comment gazing fondly at my great screen, “wind, when?”!

We over-nighted across the border in Namibia, and the next morning early hit Gobabis for fuel. From Gobabis we were on dirt for 500 odd k’s to Otjiwarongo. At the border we’d had a long discussion over a few cappies and a newly met friend Harry who did the Cairo to Cape Town ride a few years back about tyre pressure. After many punctures I believed in hard pressure no matter what….

This was the road.. hard surface with a billion marbles.

This was me after 5 km’s. Thanks Harry, and for the record when we hit the soft sand later THERE IS NO SUBSITUTE FOR SOFT TYRES AND STANDING ZERO, NONE!

The road is magnificent, game, bush, and giant anthills, but it never ever seems to stop, the temperature climbs to 40 degrees and there is nothing but dirt and bush and sometimes the road is so flat and so straight you can see your pension coming!

Soon you get used to the way the tail fishtails, you learn to stand up and give some gas, the handlebars go into a violent thrashing, you stand, swear, poopall tightens and a little gas and it relaxes. Hour after hour and now we getting good, our speed goes from piddly 40’s to some sections we are Dakar pretenders pushing up to 110! And then we learn about colour…white has for hours meant marbles, hey look up ahead red sand, nice colour…JEEZ as you hit it you realise its soft soft red sand! The middle mannetjie is not a mannetjie he’s a flipping meneer! You had mastered the white stuff and relaxing nicely on the seat, “love on the rocks” lulling you on the ipod! F*&^% you’re also doing 100! When I stopped and leapt off my bike to stop shaking and had a roadside pee as relief, I just had enough time to enjoy Seamus hitting it and doing the Rooi sand Rock en rol!

Eventually we hit the tar and do the 40 odd k’s to a well deserved Pizza at Otjiwarongo. Its getting hotter and hotter and time to do the 250 odd k’s of tar to Kamanjab where we go offroad tomorrow! The temperature hits 43 degrees, as you enter dips the heat increases and hits you like a physical slap. I drop my speed, I’m on knobblies and I have all sorts of silly visions of the tyres melting.

WE get to Kamanjab and there’s nothing at Kamanjab! We pull up side by side, there’s a bushmen looking type sitting on a rock in the blaring sun staring at us. I’m gazing at my GPS searching for accommodation, we are both bushed! The suddenly I feel this huge impact, I’m thrown to the ground my bike on top of me! Fuck I think a car hit me, I hear the bushman type running and shouting….yusssus meneeer! I pull my face out the dust and see Seamus and the Dakar lying on top of me. The bushman type burps alcohol breath on us and helps us up. There’s no car…”what happened” I ask Seamus. He’s not sure, he just suddenly fell over bike and all right on top of me! He picks up his broken mirror cursing! Its time for a beer we’re fucked!

Kamanjab lodge, I highly recommend it…

The rooms and the friendly bird.

We have a massive gemsbok steak and a few drinks. The locals entertain us for a while with local stories and then its just us and the owner and his wife. Where to they ask casually. Oh Otjokavare then down the 4×4 trail I casually say in my worst Afrikaans. (Did our Afrikaans improve in Nam!) There’s a silence for a while. He’s a hunter, she manages the lodge!

Where he says…clearly the slow type and didn’t hear me. I repeat my route slowly this time! More silence… then “manne julle is uit julle kop” You guys are out of your heads! Never ever will you ever come out he says emphasizing his words!

Why dear says his wife! He describes the route, they did it in a unimog a few seasons earlier! She turns pale “where the lions nearly ate our dog, and where that powder dust is” she asks. “Ja remember it took us 3 days and we had to put the dog on the roof” She looks at us with big eyes, she’s the tough voortrekker type “ouens I have never been so scared as on that route”. Seamus coughs out a weak “you were scared of the lion?”
NOOO not the lion, only reason we put the dog on the roof was to stop him chasing after the lion, it’s the powder dust, you sink in and get stuck and disappear in dust. I thought we’d never get through!”
I look sidelong at the dog, a little thing no bigger than a rat, I calculate my chances of kidnapping it and using it for bait not protection.
Seamus laughs, (but it sounds like a high pitched giggle) “Ag we’ve done sand, it will be easier on the bikes”

The hunter looks at us, shakes his head and fetches a map. He shoves it under our noses, I notice his hands are harder than my knobblies and he’s about 7 foot tall! “Wys my” he says, it’s a command I realise as I show him the route with a shaky finger!
“Noooit manne, nooit he says. “If you are brave do the route but take this entry point”, he describes it, I fetch my GPS and there it is on T4A. Ok that’s the route then, we decide we may need the sleep and head off.

The next morning as we rode off I see a land cruiser bukkie race through the veldt and stop at the fence. A huge hand appears and waves, it’s the hunter. I wave back, I wonder if this is how troops feel on the way to the front line…and I wish I stole that dog!

Etosha is on our right as we head out, the country side starts getting rocky and more and more arid. At first we pass the “village” where the turnoff is. Then we find the track, a little jeep track snaking its way through the mopane scrub…no lions here! We stop and take pics and gaze down the track hoping by some miracle we can envisage what lies ahead…

After half an hour we are giggling to ourselves, this is beautiful country but except for the odd teeny patch of sand its easy riding. Its dry tho drier than anything we have seen before. Then we find a dead giraffe and stop both wondering – was it the sand, thirst or the lion?

There is a vetinary fence and a bunch of friendly guards who offer us a map.. we have two options they say, the long riverbed or the powder dust. After some discussion in the local click language, (sounds like R2D2) the younger guy gives up on the riverbed and suggests the powder dust. “its wess but its shot” he reassures us. We give the kids a bag of choclate éclairs, there is a wild scrabble before the guards intervene and share. We wave and the kids run along side us to the gate, cheeks full of choclairs and wide grins. The sand monster awaits us!

Its hot but easy riding, a little sandy but our previous days experience has prepared us. Round a corner, sitting comfortably and idling along and next thing stand, gun the engine, lean back and let the front wheel bounce and shake, feel the back pull into line and your’e floating over the sand. Easy we said, but the sand monsters were waiting!

Finding the only shade

Rocky hills

Its drier and drier and hotter and hotter, from mopane scrub and the odd tuft of grass now there is less and less of anything but bare sand. We come around a corner and there is life, an Isuzu bukkie, a bunch of cows and a young man black as double midnight leaps out from behind an old lister pump.

He stops me, “diesel he says, please can I have diesel”. He is begging not demanding and he sounds desperate. “I am sorry I only have petrol I say, will it help”. He shakes his head looking sad, “no, we need diesel, no water” he gestures at the cows and a bunch of goats, the goats desperately scratching at an outlet pipe. I walk over while Seamus chats to them and serves Kellogs Energy bars. Its an old lister motor connected to a borehole. The last stangle hold on life and now its gone. The goats can smell the water and scratch at the pipe. The cows just hang their heads under each others bellies, desperate for any shade. I walk back and Seamus and I chat, we feel sick, this guy will have to watch his animals die, its so harsh. We wave and ride on … the harshness of this land is suddenly very clear!

Category: Namibia, TRIP REPORTS

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