A 10,000km solo jaunt around southern Africa

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by dtour_adv, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    In July of 2017, I set out on a WAY too quick ~40 day loop from Cape Town, South Africa to Monkey Bay, Malawi and back. Just me, a Super Tenere, and too much crap. All in all it was through 6 countries, and just a bit under 10,000km.

    When I finished this trip in August of 2017, I had planned to write up a Ride Report while it was fresh in my mind, but I got sucked back into real life, and here I am a year and a half later, just now getting to debrief from that trip. Procrastination was always one of my strong suits.

    What will be in this ride report? Chronological pictures and recollections of my ride through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Ill try keep it as exciting as possible as I write out this report over the next week or two. When I finish, I’ll probably update this first post with maybe some lessons learned, packing list and the like - a lot is coming back to me as I write this.

    This is me, at about day 38, a timer selfie somewhere on the coast of southern Mozambique. This ride report however will logically start from the beginning of my trip, before I had ratty facial hair.

    IMG_0012.png

    Stay tuned!

    -Dylan
    #1
    Saso, Hakatan, SoPaRider and 4 others like this.
  2. interceptor1972

    interceptor1972 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 14, 2015
    Oddometer:
    117
    Location:
    Lawton, OK
    In. Never been to Africa! Can't wait to see and hear.
    #2
  3. juancaralapio

    juancaralapio n00b

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2010
    Oddometer:
    3
    Location:
    San Salvador, El Salvador
    :clap
    #3
  4. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    I'll start with saying that in the 1970s, when my parents were in their early twenties, they drove a Landrover from Switzerland to South Africa over the course of a year, zig zagging across a very different Africa than it is today. Needless to say, the need for adventure is very much in my blood, and I spent the better part of my 30 years as a traveler, camper, backpacker and motorcyclist. I had been dreaming of driving or riding through Africa for most of my life, but to be honest, I thought it was too dangerous (a word that I cant even define anymore because everything is relative). Hell, even my parents told me that, despite being adventurous travelers in their younger years. However, throughout my 20s, I kept traveling and riding in foreign countries, reading more and more ride reports, reading overland forums, and following Instragrams of travelers completing epic trips through areas that I thought were too dangerous. My mind changed quickly pretty quickly. Eventually, sitting at a job that made me miserable, I began to get that familiar itch again.. that itch that can be soothed with a Passport and an international flight, but only completely relieved with a motorcycle, so I began to look into every possible option for doing an Africa trip. About 8 months later, I realized I was going to have 2 months free before I was to begin a new career obligation. I could see the next 5-10 years of my life lay out in front of me, and thought, if I don't do a big trip in Africa now, I might never.

    Next thing I knew, I was in Cape Town, and picking up my rental bike (and home for the next 40 days)... a nearly brand new Yamaha XT1200Z Super Ténéré. To make the start of my trip as dramatic as possible, I did a shakedown ride from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point of the African continent, before heading north towards Namibia and the Fish River Canyon the following day. It was a gloomy day, but it was a spectacular first ride.

    IMG_1053.png

    IMG_1033.png

    Visiting the Cape of Good Hope was my first of many interactions with wild baboons/monkeys throughout southern Africa. You quickly learn they are more than happy to hang out in the road, or climb on your motorcycle and steal your stuff. The chubby guy in the picture below was definitely eyeing my empty panniers before I shooed him away.

    IMG_1040.png

    Onto Namibia...
    #4
    interceptor1972, Saso, MrKiwi and 3 others like this.
  5. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    In a haste to get some miles under me, I pointed my bike on the most direct route to Springbok, SA, not far from the Namibian border. By taking the N7, I realized in hindsight that I missed out on some really good riding through the mountains and hills of Cederberg and surrounding wilderness areas. It was a beautiful day nonetheless, and I was happy to be on my way.

    IMG_1094.png

    My ride, as fresh as can be, in its original set up. As I mentioned my first post, I brought too much stuff along with me. I suppose I thought that I had the space, so I might as well bring whatever along, but I quickly realized a lot of it was superfluous, and just made packing up everyday more of a hassle, so over time I tried to give away things that I didn't need.

    IMG_1133.png

    The N7 was mostly empty that day, with hardly anything in-between the smaller towns. I was riding flat out, seeing how fast this thing could go, only realizing that I was depleting my gas tank at an alarming rate and that it may be a hundred or two miles before the next gas station. Day 1 and I already nearly ran out of fuel, but I suppose Im glad I learned that lesson at the beginning of my trip.

    IMG_1115.png

    Due to a late start, I couldn't get to Springbok before sundown, so I pulled into the small town of Kamieskroon instead where there were several campgrounds and motels, but everything was eerily empty, which was odd because it was supposed to be high-tourist season. I camped the night at a nice little campground, and got an early start to get through the border crossing and onto Hobas.
    #5
    interceptor1972, Saso, MrKiwi and 5 others like this.
  6. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    19,998
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Count me in!
    #6
  7. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    Crossing from South Africa into Namibia at the Vioolsdrif border is pretty painless due to the the Southern African Customs Union, which is a union among 5 of the southern African countries. If I remember correctly, its just a passport stamp out and passport stamp in kind of deal... No customs issues with the motorcycle.

    IMG_1146.png

    You're on the pavement for a little while after the border until you reach Aussenkehr, and thats when the Namibian adventure begins on gravel and dirt roads. Looking back I think it was no big deal and its hard to put myself back in the mindset I was in, but at the time, when I was half way down the C37, my GPS telling me that I wasnt on any road, completely alone, out in the middle of the Namibian desert, I felt way in over my head. What am I doing out here?

    IMG_1172 (1).png

    But eventually I saw some signs for Hobas or Ais Ais or somewhere that I knew generally was on the way to the Fish River Canyon, and the worry began to pass. I pulled over at a crossroads for a break, and not long after a car rolls up, filled with South African teenagers on a camping trip. I chat with them and get back on my way and I start to get passed by nice Ford Rangers and Toyota Hiluxs pulling campers filled with South Africans on family vacations. And thats when it dawned on me that I really wasn't doing anything much different than driving through Arizona to get to the Grand Canyon.

    The closer you get to the Fish River Canyon, the roads become a little more hilly, the gravel is looser in some parts than others, you get the occasional big rock or hole in the road to avoid, and there's lots of sections of corrugation, but the views are stunning, and by this point I'm feeling confident. The sun is slowly coming down, I had some good music playing in my helmet, standing up on the bike and just ripping down the roads and giving a fistful of throttle anytime the ground gets a little soft. I was in heaven. I made it to the Hobas campground eventually, just before it got dark. I talked with the family camped next to me for a bit, I set up my tent, ate, drank a few beers from the campground shop and woke up to views of the epic canyon.

    IMG_0008.png

    IMG_00123.png
    #7
    interceptor1972, Saso, MrKiwi and 3 others like this.
  8. CinKo

    CinKo I Break Stuff

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2015
    Oddometer:
    21
    Location:
    DC
    Okay, Tuned in... this looks good!
    #8
  9. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    Im going to sort of fast forward a little. From Hobas, I stayed a night at a hotel in Luderitz (a small town on the Atlantic coast with an interesting Gold Rush type history), then camped at a guesthouse in Helmeringhausen, and eventually got to Sesriem, where the amazing Sossusvlei is. Those 3 days were filled with long, hot, challenging days.

    To get to Luderitz, after you get off the gravel in Aus, its long straight, empty highway with constant wind gusts. Almost mindless, really. Otherwise, the way to Sesriem is all gravel and sand roads.

    IMG_0024.png

    After stopping in Luderitz and backtracking to Aus then up north, the roads became a real challenge - much worse than on the way to and from Hobas. I attempted to get down one road, the C13, but after fighting my way through a couple miles of literal sand in the heat and realizing I had another 60 miles of this, I turned around and headed back to the highway. I sat down on the side of the road at the intersection and had one of those moments where you're just defeated, and not really knowing what to do. I looked at my maps awhile, and decided to try the next gravel road north, which was 60 miles east. I didn't have much of a choice, so I blasted down the highway and turned onto the C14 and to my luck it was recently graded and the gravel was smooth. I had planned to make it all the way to Sesriem that day, but when I made it to Helmeringhausen at around 3 or 4, I realized I still had another 200 or so miles left, so I decided to call it a day and camp at the guesthouse there. There was a hill nearby, so I took a beer up there and was treated to an excellent sunset over the semi-savannah.

    IMG_0018.png

    From Helmeringhausen to Sesriem, the gravel roads were all over the place. Some stretches were nice smooth gravel, and then another mile later it would be deep sand. All you can really do is try to stick to one track and throttle it anytime the bike got squirrely, but its easier said than done. Car tracks cross, and sometimes throttling it just makes the bike even more squirrely and you feel like you're just along for the ride with no control. It was one of those days where in the morning you think "Its just a 200 miles to the next place, Ill be there by lunch time", but instead of cruising at 60 or 70mph, you're lucky to do 20 and it takes an entire day in the hot sun.

    IMG_1305.png

    IMG_0019.png

    By the time I made it to Sesriem, I was ready for many beers. Luckily, Sossusvlei truly lived up to the hype.
    #9
    interceptor1972, Saso, MrKiwi and 2 others like this.
  10. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    19,998
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Outstanding! Hilltop with a beer admiring the sunset. Life just gets better and better.
    #10
  11. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    Sesriem is essentially a gas station with anything a traveler may need, a few campsites, a fancy lodge, and a restaurant. The campsites are filled with mostly South African families and groups with their kitted out Rangers and Hiluxs (the trucks are always white - not sure if this is a sun thing, or a resale value thing...), but there are also lots of non-Africans who rent 4x4s to do roadtrips around all of the national parks in Namibia. The campsite directly by the entrance to Sossusvlei was completely full, but since all I am is a bike and a tent, they were able to fit me in. Unfortunately however, motorcycles arent allowed into the park, so I stood by the entrance with my thumbs out, and eventually a Belgian father and son with a rented Dacia/Renault Duster 4x4 picked me up. I cant recall how long the drive is, but you have to drive a bit to get to some of the parking areas to explore the dunes, and you're treated with views of wildlife the whole time. Once you reach the end of the paved road, you can drive further through deep sand if you're skilled, or there is somewhat of a shuttle thatll take you to where you can walk and see the vlei's (clay pans) .

    IMG_0005.png

    IMG_0007.png

    IMG_1364.png

    IMG_0027 (1).png
    Deadvlei.

    I could've stayed out there for days, the dunes are seemingly endless, but I was able to make the most of my one day there. Hiking up dunes is a a chore as you can imagine, but running down them however is a blast.
    #11
    Saso, Rich Rider, yokesman and 4 others like this.
  12. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    From Sesriem, I headed to Swakopmund, and completed the last of my gravel riding of the trip.

    IMG_0003.png

    By this point, I was completely comfortable ripping down these gravel roads, but after awhile they start to get quite boring, especially when its flat and theres not much to look at in the distance. A lot of those campers I mentioned in the previous post were all heading north as well, so despite me going 60mph, I was constantly being passed, and everytime Id enter a dust cloud and have to slow down. It made for a long day.

    IMG_0006.png

    IMG_0011.png

    Swakopmund is a nice coastal town with a lot of German influence due to the previous colonization of Namibia - give it a Google and Im sure you'll be surprised how it looks. I had a good meal in town and had some beers with cool Germans and Swedes at the hostel I camped at, but I was ready to get on the move and head to the capital of Namibia, Windhoek. There was a Swedish guy in my hostel who had been driving around Africa for a year in a 1980s Landcruiser - I asked him if there was anything worth checking out between here and Windhoek. He said "Yeah, theres Spitzkoppe. Its some rock formations. You cant miss them." Alrighty, I'll check it out...
    #12
    Saso, mbanzi, Suncoaster and 2 others like this.
  13. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    Its a quick ride from Swakop to Spitzkoppe. I was not sure what to expect when the Swede told me that it was rock formations, I figured that it could be a good place to stop to check out, but I would still head to Windhoek that day.

    IMG_0008 (1).png

    Seemingly popping out of nowhere, Spitzkoppe is super impressive, because if I remember correctly, there is essentially nothing between Swakopmund and Windhoek besides the Roessing uranium mine, which is the longest-running and one of the largest open pit uranium mines in the world. Looking at pictures of it on Google now, I definitely regret not checking the mine out.

    Spitzkoppe is indeed rock formations, but they are massive bald granite formations which you can hike around on. When I saw it in the distance, I knew I was going to have to stay the night. Like Sossusvlei, I could've stayed here for days. There are a dozen or so campsites spread out over a couple square miles, so you have as much privacy as you want. After paying for my entry, I rode around the area trying to find the perfect camping spot.

    IMG_1429.png

    It was however pretty sandy, and eventually I dropped the bike when messing around on the roads. Fully loaded with my gear, the thing weighs some 600-650lbs, but its typically not a big deal picking up one of these bikes if you know the technique (which is essentially facing away from the bike, holding onto the handlebar and seat, and doing somewhat of a backwards dead-lift) . It was in sand though, so everytime I got the bike to about 40 degrees, my feet would slip out. I tried digging out foot holds or try dragging the bike to a better spot, but nothing helped, I could not get the thing up. I was thinking I was going to have to wait for someone to drive by (which could be awhile) or eventually walk to get someone, but I decided to try one last time, and with all of my might I got the bike up. As soon as I got it on its side stand, a car rolled up, im huffing and puffing and sweating, and the South African rolls down his window and asks "Howzit?".

    IMG_0047.png

    I set up my camp and spent the afternoon riding around the park (with a now unloaded bike), and eventually hiked up one of the rock formations to watch the sunset.

    IMG_1435.png

    I wanted to stay, but I had to make moves. Off to Windhoek.
    #13
    Saso, MrKiwi, mbanzi and 2 others like this.
  14. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    IMG_1461 (2).png

    Windhoek and my night there at a hostel was pretty uneventful. This was the second night of my trip where I wasn't sleeping in my tent, so I was happy to have a bed, be able to charge up my batteries, wash some clothes, organize my stuff a little bit better and take a nice shower. The following day I rode on the Trans-Kalahari Corridor and camped at the Namibian/Botswanan border at Buitepos. I went to sleep alone at the camp ground, but when I woke up an American couple had come in the middle of the night and set up nearby. They had been hitchhiking all the way down from Tanzania!

    I crossed the border right when they opened the office, and had no issues getting through. My next destination was Maun, where the Okavango Delta is located. The ride there was mostly uneventful, besides getting stopped by a road safety team - they made me sit down and listen to a lecture about driving safety (not driving drunk or tired, pay attention, dont drive a night, etc.). When I told them of my plans, the guy thought I was crazy "So, you just want to be out here with the air, and the sky and the animals, all alone?" Yes!

    IMG_1505.png

    I would say that the roads on this stretch of Botswana are fairly boring because they're straight, flat and you can't see very far into the bush/semi-savanah, but there is a constant stream of either livestock or wild animals that crowd the roadway. The roads themselves are in good condition though, and there were gas stations every 100 or 200 miles.

    IMG_1519.png

    IMG_0005 (1).png
    #14
  15. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    19,998
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Do campsites get much better than this?

    camp.png
    #15
    theailer, Saso, MrKiwi and 2 others like this.
  16. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    IMG_1541.png

    I camped out at a hostel in Maun for two or three nights. This hostel had an area where about 5 or so people were camped out, there was an area for people to camp with their 4x4 roof tents, and there were also nice bungalows you could rent. The bars in these places are always excellent because of the people that show up. Its a mix between overlanders, backpackers, Peace Corps volunteers, South African sportsmen, and locals who come to mingle with foreigners, and everyone has a story. I really enjoyed the hostels throughout Africa because these areas attract a different type of backpacker than say in Southeast Asia or South America - they all have a lot of travel experience and everyone is adventurous and open minded. One English girl I met in Maun was headed alone to Mozambique afterwards to hitchhike her way up the coast.

    The below picture is opposite of the bar - the sunsets and sunrises at this place were excellent.

    IMG_1562.png

    Maun is famous for the Okavango Delta - its a huge inland river delta, so naturally I did a boat trip through it one day.

    IMG_0010.png

    IMG_0039.png
    #16
  17. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    My next stop was Kasane, a small town on the Zambian/Namibian/Botswanan/Zimbabwean border where Chobe National Park is located. I had heard from several people that part of the route there was wild and it truly lived up to the reputation. To get there from Maun, you get back on the Trans-Kalahari Corridor and ride 180mi or so due east to Nata, then turn north and do another 180mi to Kasane.

    Speed limits in these countries were typically 60mph on open stretches, then something like 30mph through the towns. After passing through the town of Nata, I got on the gas (before the speedlimit changed) and sure enough down the road some police in neon vests walked out into the street and flagged me down. I was speeding.

    The officer showed me a chart showing how much I had to pay, which was about $60. He sort of told me “that’s a lot of money.. how much can you pay?”. I said “20?”. He agreed and started writing a ticket and I told him about my trip. Now I can’t remember how it played out anymore, but eventually he said more or less like something like “never mind, you can go, don’t speed.”

    2.png
    I was having some stomach issues that day, so I very cautiously did my business at this layby...

    3.png
    Bikes and baobabs

    Form Nata on, I was quickly treated to an abundance of wildlife.. kudus, oryx, antelope and your occasional solitary male elephant, not far from the road. Sometimes I would turn around to get another peak, but there wasn't ever really anywhere to safely pull over. It was a really beautiful day, and I remember just blasting down the highway with some ODEZSA or something cinematic playing in my helmet, having the time of my life, when I noticed a group of elephants in the bush approaching a little lake to the right of me. I circled back and luckily there was a good place to stop.

    4.png
    #17
  18. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    I sat there on my bike in silence for a long while and watched as some 40+ elephants approached the water and drank and washed themselves off. There were a few baby elephants in the mix, so awkward in their movements, but having a blast rolling around in the water and spraying eachother. The fact that this was literally just off the highway and not some elephant sanctuary or safari, was just unreal.

    7.png
    6.png
    1.png
    5.png
    #18
  19. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    map.PNG
    #19
    interceptor1972 likes this.
  20. dtour_adv

    dtour_adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    I camped in the front yard of a small guesthouse outside of Kasane, and went along for a very early (and cold) safari trip into Chobe National Park. Seeing the wildlife was great, but the "safari experience' takes away some of the charm. When you get to the park, the safari truck you're in and dozens of others are waiting outside the park like a theme park ride, and race in as soon as it opens. The safari truck drivers are very aggressive to eachother because they know if they're able to show the tourists in their truck some good wildlife, then they'll get bigger tips, so as soon as they get word a lion or cheetah was spotted, every truck races eachother to get there first.

    IMG_0015.png
    Off to the races.

    IMG_0021 (1).png

    IMG_0014.png

    IMG_0029 (1).png
    #20
    Rich Rider, mbanzi and MrKiwi like this.