Riding around Southern Africa on an XT250 and CRF250

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by maria41, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    I spent 6 weeks in Namibia and feel I barely scratched the surface. It is a stunning country. There are not that many countries I think "I want to go back!" once I have explored them, but Namibia left me wanting more. Some regions, like North West Damaraland, we decided not to go as it is very remote and without a satellite phone, I thought it was too risky. Maybe with a group, or with a 4x4 and phone?
    Seeing the photos just make me long for Namibia!
    #41
    Davidprej likes this.
  2. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Day 13 – Namiba, Sesriem – Sunday 10th June – 0kms


    The next day we were up and ready by at 6 am, with plenty of layers on as it was rather cold. The tourists in the truck were 5 French: a couple in their 50s and 3 women in their 30s from what I could guess.

    The road to dune 45 was tarmac, so we wondered why we could not ride with the bikes.

    We climbed dune 45. I was out of breath. The previous 2 cold nights and cold rides had resulted in a bad cold. I was coughing and feeling pretty bad.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    (That would be me without my helmet and motorcycle gear! You won't see many of those :D)
    [​IMG]


    After the climb we returned to the truck. The guys were having breakfast. We moved away and sat on a tree trunk to get ours: bread roll and some jam as well as the industrial and universal Laughing cow cheese.

    The cheese had been rattled in the backpack and we needed to sort out the aluminum wrapping from the cheese! Not a nice feeling biting into one of those tiny aluminium bits if you have old metal fillings!

    Back at the truck, the tourists were finishing their breakfast of scrambled eggs, baked beans, bacon, sausage and more. A huge feast. Alistair was drooling over the display but we did not want to impose and take advantage of the situation.

    The left overs were put in a plastic bag. We assumed it was for the bin. Alistair was gutted! In fact, Zee gave that to the driver or park ranger, the one who would take all of us to the salt lake in a large safari car.
    #42
    Davidprej, bobw, mbanzi and 2 others like this.
  3. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Then we understood why only 4×4 cars could go further into the National Park. It was very deep sand and very harsh tracks. We were told we needed to pay for this ride. The tourist truck would not go further and we would all embark in a safari car. It was 170 Namibian dollars per person. As Alistair walked to the shack to pay, the driver of the 4×4 called him back. We had to pay him the same amount in cash instead. We obviously ddi not get any receipt! That’s Africa! We all 7 (with the 5 French tourists) got in the back while Zee sat next to the driver.

    The next stop was near a massive sand dune. Some of the guys decided to climb it. I passed on the pleasure and walked with the lazy ones directly to the salt lake.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]


    Later on we all met by the salt flats and we got back to the campsite by early afternoon. We had no change left after paying safari car driver cash, so we gave the tourist truck driver, discreetly (!) 200 Namibian dollars. I think he was happy with that!

    We decided to have some toasted sandwiches at the bar. I was very tired and feeling ill. I went for a snooze.


    In the evening, Alistair cooked some noodles.

    Zee had suggested to stop, on our way to the coast, by a lodge and campsite that was really worth it. I took note and wrote the location in my paper map. We were in no rush to get to Swakopmund.
    #43
    Davidprej, crashkorolyk, bobw and 3 others like this.
  4. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Day 14 – Namibia, Rosteck Ritz lodge and campsite -150kms (Monday 11th June)


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]




    We decided to stay at the campsite recommended by Zee, the tour guide for the French group, so we did not have too far to go.

    We took our time to pack. The campsite in Sesriem was now full and with no wind, the road was in a perpetual cloud of sand and dust because of all the traffic.

    Sesriem has up to 4 millions visitor a year apparently. The road was so dusty it was like going through thick fog while breathing sand! Not nice.

    I was trailing behind Alistair. Usually on trails I am much faster than him, but that morning, I was just fighting the bike rather than riding with it. It is hard to explain. On the way to Sesriem, I was flying over sand and corrugations and waiting for Alistair every 10 kms, as he is usually “Captain Slow”. On that day however, I did not seem to be able to do this. The road was tricky and I usually used speed to fly over tricky bits, but that day, I just didn’t feel the bike.


    On the plus side, my cold symptoms were almost gone and I felt much better.
    #44
  5. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    About 80kms later we stopped at Solitaire. The place is a fuel station/ bakery / campsite / farm. It is famous for its apple pie. I took tea with a cinnamon roll, to be contrarian, while Alistair fell for the apple pie. It was ok but not the best in the world as they claim. (Mine is better! :ricky)

    The road was really bad until we got to the lodge. We rode all the way up to the reception desk, 7kms inside the private game reserve, with lots of zebras and ostriches running around.

    The place was really nice, super expensive for a room, and deserted. The manager welcomed us and explained that the campsite was about 7 or 8 kms away. I guess they don’t want to have the riffraff like us mix and use the luxurious swimming pool and facilities with their rich clients!

    Although, he invited us to use the pool if we wanted too. We didn’t. We had a beer and examined the menu. It was very nice but suitably expensive. Being kind of “cheapskate”, or, as I prefer to say, on a budget , we wanted to eat, but not at that price. :dukegirl

    Two clients had turned up for lunch and their food did indeed look nice. They completely ignore us, dusty looking tramps in our old motorcycle gear. So we sipped our beer quietly.

    We asked the waiter if they had cheaper light lunches and the waiter told us about the toasted sandwiches. They were so cheap we did not hesitate to get them. I asked for a Toasted Steak while Alistair ordered a boring toasted stuff with eggs.

    We expected something small, considering the difference between expensive menu compared with our cheap toasted food. Nope. It was big. Although we asked half a portion of French fries to share, we were given lots of them!

    My steak was real steak, a large one with no fat or nerves and cartilage or the sort of cheap cut they often can give you in England. And it tasted amazing. It was served with an onion sauce to die for. When I asked what meat it was, I was told it was Orix. It was superb! Despite all the fries they only charged us for half portion! Really nice people! I was loving Namibia! And I will never forget that meal :raabia
    #45
    Davidprej, mbanzi, bobw and 2 others like this.
  6. Tau Anvil

    Tau Anvil African by trade

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    362
    Location:
    Tulbagh, South Africa
    [​IMG]

    Helmeringhausen’s Springbok a couple of years ago when it was still very young.

    Lions between Aus and Luderitz , dehydration is a bugger.
    #46
    maria41 likes this.
  7. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Yes that the springbok!

    When we crossed between Australia and Luderitz is was actually quite green in some sections, with lots of water ponds in the desert, probably because of the heavy rains few weeks earlier.
    I presume, as the oryx and other herbivores moved there the lions followed them.
    #47
  8. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Later on, totally stuffed, we rode to the campsite. The zebras and ostriches were running like mad as we got closer, it was beautiful.

    We were the only ones there so we had the full place to ourselves. To be fair it was small and only has 4 spots, with each unit having a private area for BBQ with a bit of shade. Upper in the hill, there was a large viewpoint with a kitchen. Well, the kitchen was only a double sink but it had a large terrace and nice grounds.


    [​IMG]


    The viewpoint (from which the photo above is taken - each little shaded area is for the BBQ section and tap with sink) had a large section covered with tarpaulin and a small stonewall. It was a perfect place for setting the tent, away for the millions of giant crickets eating at the plants in the campsite below! Those crickets were massive, and everywhere. Apparently they have no predators so it is like a plague sometimes.

    Alistair then decided to set fire to the “donkey” so we could have hot water for a shower. At least it sounds to me like the word Donkey! (No donkey was harmed in the process!)

    After a hot shower we tried to see if we could get closer to the zebras, but they had all vanished in the vast estate.

    The lodge manager drove up to our camp to check if we were ok. On my little walk, a couple of hundreds meters from camp, I had seen footprints. Cat footprints. Too small to be lion, maybe a Cheetah?


    [​IMG]
    #48
  9. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    As the lodge manager was around I showed him the picture. He seemed very interested about it. He said it was probably a leopard, as cheetahs have non-retractable nails, so the footprints should show them. Without, it was most certainly a leopard, or maybe a hyena. Although hyenas are pack animals (i think?) and it was a lone set of footprints. The manager then tracked the footprints for a good mile before driving back to the lodge.

    Apparently leopards are not dangerous so we were safe. Hmm!?

    As the wind raised and we had very little shelter, we took the tent up to the viewpoint. There was more shelter there and we could get away without putting the roof. Also we were away from the hundreds of massive crickets. And I mean MASSIVE!


    All our up and down the path to set the tent and bring our stuff to the viewpoint, disturbed a small looking rodent, the size of a squirrel but with a skinny tail. It was not scared of us at all, and from the safety of the rocks, where it could hide quickly, observed our proceedings, not looking particularly impressed or pleased to share the area with us!


    [​IMG]


    As we had had a big late lunch at the lodge, (hhmmmm Orix steak!) we only had a cup of tea for dinner, with few biscuits.

    The night sky, through the mesh of our inner tent, looked amazing. The moon was full and as it rose above the horizon, it was like a spotlight over our tent, it was enormous.

    There was no light pollution, no dust, only the 2 of us, with the lodge a good 8 kms away, and the nearest town over 200kms! It felt like it was only the 2 of us on earth. It was so peaceful! A memorable place!
    #49
  10. Tau Anvil

    Tau Anvil African by trade

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    362
    Location:
    Tulbagh, South Africa
    Hi Maria

    We have property very close to that area and the rain puddles you saw was the first rain in 3 years, however that area is extremely low rainfall historically. SO count yourself lucky to experince water there!! Oryx and Springbok stay in that area permanently.

    As for the Lions, without sounding like a know it all. If there was indeed lions they must have jumped of a circus truck. The closest lions are either the Brandberg / White lady pride or from the Kgalagadi in South Africa.

    The spoor you have the picture of is a little old, but is probably leopard.
    #50
  11. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Hi Tau, yes there was a lot of water and the contrast between the pale green of the grass with the desert and red dunes was amazing.

    For lions, I don't know. I just describe who I meet and what they tell me. We met lots of very interesting characters. The lads were told by the locals that it was impossible to find lions around there, but they were rather sure of what they saw. Whatever, they still walked across Africa, which is rather impressive.

    And of course I meant Aus to Luderitz (not Australia - stupid autocorrect!) :jack
    #51
    Davidprej and Dirt Road Cowboy like this.
  12. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Day 15 – Namibia, Swakopmund – 230kms – Tuesday 12th June


    We woke up very early as we had gone to sleep early. It was winter down here, and the days were short. The sun rose at around 7:45 and set at around 6, 6:30pm. It got dark quickly and we had long nights.

    With no food left, other than some stale bread, we made some coffee and finished the small piece of bread.

    We packed up and left camp soon after 8am.

    The road was still very bad. Heavy recent rains had done a lot of damage. We still managed to make good progress. Although, once we got over a pass, and rode along a plateau, it got very windy which was tiring.

    We stopped on the way, for a rest and to drink some water and we observed a cyclist, with lots of luggage, coming our way.

    We waited for him to reach us and we had a chat by the side of the road. He ad started his trip in the Netherlands, got across the Middle East and flew from there to Cairo. He planned a year on his bicycle. or 2! He asked us if we had water and we gave him our spare bottle.
    We saw few other cyclists on that road. I am always in awe of those guys!

    Water, when we find it in campsites, is drinkable tap water. So far we had rarely bought mineral water. Although in few places the water would taste chemical, most of the time it was really nice to drink.
    #52
  13. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    We made good progress on our bikes, despite the horrid dirt road, bad corrugations and slippery sections. We arrived at Walvis Bay around midday. The town is a big centre for mining and oil. There were big trucks everywhere. What we crossed of the town was not particularly inspiring and we only stopped to buy fuel. Apparently the town centre is nice but we did not venture there.

    Then we set off on the easy tarmac road to Swakopmund, 30kms further north. We stopped midway at a large fuel station with all the facilities we needed: shop, deli counter and toilets!

    As we had had no breakfast or dinner, we got some very nice hot meat pies.

    After that, we arrived to our destination and found a brand new backpacker place at 40 pounds a night. We were the only guests and it had a big kitchen with all the ustensils you need to cook a nice dinner.

    Namibia was not cheap. Later on we found the local SPAR and we were shocked by the price of basic food like butter or vegetables (fresh or frozen). A 250gr pack of butter cost nearly 4 pounds! We got a cheap half litre of vegetable oil instead for cooking our food. With chicken and noodles and a bag of very expensive mixed frozen vegetables we would be able to do a quick stir-fried. We needed to load a bit on vitamins, as our diet had been quite bad on the road, we seemed to only eat carbs and meat.

    We then went for a walk into town and failed to find a launderette. We had tow ash our clothes by hadn't then :(

    The town was full of these funny birds. There were even road signs to warn drivers as they were quite large:

    [​IMG]
    #53
  14. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    So after a thorough exploration of the town centre, we walked back to the hostel. I washed most of my clothes, as the weather was nice. I also used the showerhead to rinse and brush the dirt from the zips in the lower legs of my motorcycle trousers, and the zips in the tank bag. With so much dust and sand inserted there, the zips were stiff and would eventually break, otherwise.

    Fitting our travel wash line between the 2 bikes I was able to hang everything (Except the motorcycle gear) outside, hoping it would dry quickly!
    Hmmm…. I did not count with the funny weather in Swakopmund! The nice weather did not last and the cold combined with humidity and rain meant it took 3 days for all my stuff to dry. This included clothes that usually dry within an hour! The humidity was insane!

    After the previous few days and over 750kms of dirt roads and corrugations, the bikes had taken a battering. We both had leaking fork seals. So we needed to investigate if we could buy, order, or source replacement in Swakopmund or whether we would need to go to Windhoek.
    #54
  15. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Day 16 and 17 – Namibia, Swakopmund – weds 13th and Thursday 14th June

    Swakopmund seafront. We could see dolphins swimming and playing in the bay.

    [​IMG]

    We spent the following 2 days sorting things out. The backpacker place was great (Sea view backpackers – on booking.com).

    It had a massive kitchen, various sitting areas and large upstairs bar, a snooker table, terrace, garden etc… all we needed and more! With a young German (I think) couple, arriving the day after us, we were the only guests.


    The hotel manager was a bright young lady called Jolien. We talked to her and her boyfriend a lot. They suggested great places to stay and visit.

    You may be familiar with Jolien if you are into archery, as she was world champion for field archery! Wow! They were a very interesting and lovely couple. That’s the thing with travels; we meet so many amazing people along the way!


    We found a Yamaha dealer in town and we managed to order fork seals for both bikes. Fro my bike it was easy, but for the CRF, it either had to come from Cape Town so we were advised to take the after market stuff.

    It would take about 5 days to get the parts, so we decided to go on a few days excursion with the bikes.

    I also asked the girl at the Yamaha shop to order a “cruise control” tool. It is a very simple piece of plastic that you fit at the throttle and I can keep my hand flat to accelerate rather than constantly gripping the throttle. I had one for my previous trips around Central Asia and Mongolia and it was an amazing little thing.

    My hand was painful. It has never been the same since my crash in Samarkand (Uzbekistan), 4 years before.


    After everything ordered, we were ready to go on our round trip for few days. We had supplies (food!) and GPS coordinates of some interesting campsites!
    The next few days were to be some of the highlights of our trip!
    #55
  16. jays100

    jays100 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2006
    Oddometer:
    257
    Location:
    CT
    love your report!
    with that much sand/dust, I always pack a bit of cellophane (or old film negative) to slip between the tube and seal. it's amazing what comes out! for me, it keeps the seals working on the road until I can get a proper repair done.
    J
    #56
    Dino de Laurentiis and maria41 like this.
  17. mbanzi

    mbanzi Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Oddometer:
    31
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    This is a Guineafowl, very common all over South Africa. Commonly known in Afrikaans as a "Tarentaal". Pesky creatures, when they fly up out of the grass they are usually at a perfect height to take out a windshield (or you off your bike). In big flocks they make quite a racket too. More here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guineafowl
    #57
    forgorin likes this.
  18. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    yes initially we thought they were pea- hen (i.e females peacocks!). They looked like it and about the size. We saw many after that. Funny bird!
    #58
    Davidprej likes this.
  19. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    Day 18 Namibia, Brandberg White Lady Lodge – 250kms (Friday 15th June)


    We left the backpacker place and rode north toward the Skeleton coast for about 70kms. Then, after refueling and stopping for brunch in a cafe in Henties Bay, we turned east, riding inland toward Uis. The road was badly corrugated.


    Wild desert donkeys :hmmmmm?????

    [​IMG]


    As we got closer to Uis we could see Brandberg slowling growing in the horizon.

    Brandberg is like Uluru in Australia, a massive circular mountain sticking out of the desert like some ancient fortress. Seeing it from a satellite photo is very impressive.


    By the time we get to Uis it was already lunchtime and we needed a rest. We bought more fuel and stopped at the Cactus Cafe and campsite for some tea and pancakes!

    Elephants skulls are rather impressive:
    [​IMG]
    #59
  20. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    We were then back on the road. Our destination was the Brandberg nature reserve, the Brandberg White Lady lodge and campsite.

    Apparently, David Attenborough spent time there while filming one of his most recent series.

    The campsite was not fenced. So far no campsite had been fenced and wild animals were free to roam. So we tackled a good 40 kms of gravel road and then a long stretch of sandy track.

    The main office and reception also contained the main facilities: bar, restaurant and swimming pools.

    For high paying guests, lodges were dotted around the bush, while the campsite was about a mile away from the main building.

    Nice facilities though:
    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]
    #60
    Davidprej, forgorin, Smidty and 2 others like this.