Purros to Epupa day 1 We head out in the direction of Orupembe. There is a road that goes there, but we opt to follow the riverbed route up the Huarisib and then later going up the Khumib river. Leaving camp, we ride the plains for a while. Even in these upper reaches of the Huarisib is there surface water. It is an exceptionally good year for Namibia. Before long we decide to get out the riverbed and follow the route running on the bank next to the river. This way you get some chance to look about (and maybe see the elephant next to the track), and it is less tiring. We are going to spend more than a 100km following these rivers and if you spend it on the pegs fighting the bike all the way, we just won’t make it all the way. It sure is rewarding to look about. How’s this, Tharina taking pictures of her bike. A good sign if ever I’ve seen one. Makalani palms, I like them. Let me show you the worth of a mega zoom. Have a look here. Under that tree is an oryx. This picture is of the same oryx, taken from the same spot. No photoshop effects, just heat waves and a mega zoom. When we come to where we need to leave the Huarisib, we stop for a rest . My fridge still doing it’s job. Sweet. Time for brunch, Luncheon Roll and cookies. I just want to point out here, that since leaving Uis, the only canned food available anywhere is Luncheon roll, Chilli Sardines, Bully Beef and Vegetable Currie. So variations of this is what we eat every day. Elephant dung, most excellent fire starter. When we leave the Huarisib behind us I look back often, I really like this river. The heat is intense. Hot hot hot. But spectacular. Namibia, always testing and rewarding. Shoulder muscles take a beating. When we reach the Khumib we go past a couple of huts. It is incredibly hot, I cannot fathom how people that live here can deal with the heat. This is not even the hot season. This kind of river sand is the worst, that purple shale stuff. It’s very loose. It is not easy to ride and we are giving it all we have. I stop to take a picture of some giraffes that share the riverbed with us. And again Tharina comes past and sees nothing. Just focus, focus, focus. These riverbeds in this heat takes it out of you. Properly. We take a long break in the shade. As we lie under the tree we are spent. It’s damn hot and I’m damn tired and I am aching all over. I tell Tharina that this is as extreme as I would want my trips. I do not need more. I don’t really want to work harder. I am just so impressed with my girl. We’ve done over 2000km already and she has ridden anything and everything that Namibia can throw at her. And she is good in sand, really good. Except for the oops in the Ugab and the silt tilt over, she passed all the tests and kept the rubber side down. That is no small thing. When I was planning the route I could see that she was worried about some of the places I intended going. I also heard from her friends that she was scared for what was to come. But I knew that if things got too hard for her we can alter the route on the fly. Yet, two weeks in and here we are still doing the exact route that I had hoped we could. On this trip I can see that she is putting in a lot of effort, she is trying really hard to overcome and to reach a new level. And here, under this tree, it is clear to me that she has reached a new level. An important one, the divide that kept her out of some of my trips, is no more. Peanut knows nothing of all this, just finds new stuff to play with. She is just the easiest kid ever, happy when we stop and happy when we go. In the afternoon we reach Orupembe. The kid makes friends with the local police, the guy in the blue is the station commander. We are very happy to be able to fill all our bags with water at the police station. Our route from here heads toward the mountains across flowing savannah. Young leguaan. The shadows are starting to stretch and the going starts to get rocky. Next thing we’re on the deck. Me, the Kid and the X. No damage, we weren’t going fast, maybe 30 km/h. The kid was sleeping when we went down. So she woke up a little disconcerted, not much reassured by me asking if she’s OK. I unstrap her and she gets up and I see the tears starting to well up, she’s heading towards crying, so I tell her to stop it and she does. She’s quite good that way, it is very seldom that she does not stop crying when I tell her to. I know that sounds a bit harsh; I crash with her while she is sleeping and then tell her to stop crying like she is in the wrong. But it’s not harsh, it’s doing her a favour. I don’t want her to get the idea that crashing is a bad thing. Let me explain, actually, let me tell you a little story. Picture the scene; Johannesburg. I am running across 3 lanes of traffic in a rage. I am in a blind rage, totally out of control. In one fluid movement I storm up the steps of an eight ton truck, rip the door open and as I make a grab for the driver’s collar to pull him down onto the tarmac, my blind rage, in that instant, turns into a seeing one. Because in front of me sits the biggest fucken human being that have ever been squeezed into the cab of an eight ton truck. Instead of sitting in it, he is wearing that cab like a shirt. Massive expanse of a chest, like two of mine, side by side. So I pat him twice with an open hand on the orange overall that covers this massive chest and say: “Moenie dit weer doen nie” (Don’t do that again), and I close the door and I get down of the truck and walk away. I walk away a very lucky young man and also a little changed. Changed because I learned something. I learned that there is no such thing as blind rage. It’s just the way you bullshit yourself to justify your actions. The fact is you do have self control. If you do bad things when you lose your temper, you are doing what you choose to do. No excuses. I was nineteen. And please do not get the idea that I am a violent person, I am not, quite the opposite. What I have learned since is that there is a very important distinction to be made between the event and your response thereto. And here I am not only talking about events that create a rage response, but also other emotions. It is important to understand that no event can dictate your response, it is not a linked entity, you are not bound to respond in a certain way. The event is an external influence, and as such you may not always be able to control it, but your response is internal, you can control it, You get to choose your response. Take for example people who commit suicide (no disrespect intended). People commit suicide because a partner left them. People commit suicide because they are going insolvent and cannot stand the embarrassment. People commit suicide because they don’t want to go to jail. People commit suicide because they failed matric. People commit suicide because they think they cannot deal with life as a paraplegic. Yet there are many thousands of other people in the exact same circumstances that don’t commit suicide, they go on living good lives. What is the difference then? Not the event, the event is the same. The only difference is what happens in your head. And like I learned in the cab of that truck, you can control what happens in your head. You can choose how upset you want to be. It does take practice, but it is a skill that can make your life immeasurably better. Longwinded, I know, but to get back to Peanut, this is why I do not want her to be upset when we fall. I would like to have her understand that you do not need to be upset if you don’t want to. Anyway, why did we fall? Rider error of course. It’s always rider error. There is a kind of bush that grows here that was my nemesis on the Goat Meat Trip. I never put it in that report because I could not find out it’s name. It looks like this. What makes it special is it’s thorns, and it’s suppleness. Have a look here. Those short hooked jobbies make very effective grappling hooks as you pass by. The branches are supple and amazingly tough, they do not break. If you are in a track and one of these bushes gets a hold of you, it has the ability to pull you and your 200kg bike totally off line before the thorns rip free. It caused me no end off hassles in 2004, and this specific one caused the crash. Not because it got hold of me, but because I tried to avoid it and I edged onto the side of the middelmannetjie (I don’t know if there is a word in english for that centre ridge). With these damn eggs being the riding surface, the front just washed and we went down. The other factor of course is fatigue. We have been riding since the early morning and the riding had not been easy. It is now 16h00 already and our concentration is up to shit. I wouldn’t be surprised if fatigue and loss of concentration generally cause more offs than any other single factor. But it is a lesson that we never learn. So, no damage, and we continue. Just a couple of kilos on and Tharina hits the deck in a riverbed. What did I just say about fatigue? We decide to start looking for some place to make camp, because clearly we need to get off the bikes. Half an hour later we find a lekker spot under trees in a riverbed. Lots of firewood around and a nice sandy place to pitch the tents. We are pretty knackered. The sun falls out of the sky like a ball of fire. When Tharina and the kid goes to bed I stay up. There is a lot of noise in my head. I have lot of stuff to sort out. I think of the day’s riding, I think of my crash, I think of my wife, my riding, I think of that guy in the eight ton truck I told you about earlier, I think about risk, I think about duality, I think about good and bad, I think about Michael Jackson, Bob Mugabe, I think about the day my kid was born, I think of the impact I have on those around me, I think of a lot of other stuff I do not enjoy thinking about. Crashing with the kid was no big deal, no damage and no real risk. But it’s a big deal for me. When I started riding with her I decided that I will never crash with her. And there is a difference between deciding to do something and deciding to try and do something. A lot of people don’t seem to get that distinction and those kind of people often piss me off. If I decide to do something, and I fail at it, it bothers me. It impacts on the person I believed myself to be. When I was considering starting riding with the kid I spent a lot of time thinking it through. In thinking it through I had to cover a lot of ground. I have seen several bike accidents at close quarters and am well aware of the violence an out of control bike can unleash. I had to visit these worst case scenarios in my mind, picturing the possible results and imagining a life after. These were very unpleasant places to visit, and after having come to a decision to ride with her, I have avoided going there again. Tonight however I have to go back there, because I did crash with her and I need to re-evaluate. This kind of thing is not conducive to sleep and I spend hour after hour in the hammock staring at the fire reflected in the leaves above me. I know that there are many people who will say I’m pretty fucked up to ride this kind of terrain with a kid this young. There are many people who will say it is pretty fucked up to ride at all if you have kids to provide for. I know many guys that stopped riding because they got married. There are a great many people who think all bikers are pretty fucked up to take an unnecessary risk. And the funny thing is, all these people are right. For them. That’s the thing about risk, it is always a personal thing. There is risk in everything we do, and I mean everything. Every person, every day, have to make hundreds of decisions on whether to accept risk or not. There is just no way in hell that two people will ever have an identical approach regarding all the various risks that we deal with. Therefore no-one is right and no-one is wrong. The only constant is that every man must make his own decisions. Risk is a very varied subject, and there is a lot to be said about it, but one thing I do know; fear of risk can cripple you as a person. Joy of life and fear of risk are directly apposite concepts. I personally rate joy of life as the highest possible prize that a human being can strive for. The first time I really started noticing the power of risk-angst was funny enough when I brought Tharina and the newborn Peanut home from hospital. I never had any doubt that I can raise a kid and I never had any doubt that I will be a good father. But I was blindsided by the change in how I perceived risk. Driving home, I was trying with all I had to ride smoothly, make smooth gear changes, not have to brake hard; it felt like I had a bowl of jelly in the car that could catastrophically be destroyed at any moment. I was crawling home on a double carriageway at 60 km/h, viciously eyeballing every other vehicle on the road like they were out to kill us. I know, I know. There are a whole lot of guys rolling their eyes right now, thinking what a twat. But the guys with kids will know exactly what I am talking about. Having a baby makes you see your house differently too. My stairs, with the aluminium edging, scared the shit out of me. So did the pool, the electric gate, my Rottweiler, the electrical plugs scattered at crawl height, the chemicals in the kitchen, the car in my driveway, the hot engine parts on my bikes. And that is just the start, there are a thousand other things, and if you let it, it will drive you insane. So I learned to consciously try to relax about things. If you are going to have any shot at being happy, one has to live the life that you perceive as normal, and I try and do just that. I want to be happy, and if I get the opportunity to do something that may bring me joy, I do it. This here trip, is one of those opportunities. Back to the peeps that think that it is pretty fucked up to ride this kind of terrain with a kid this young. I take her to school on the bike every day in peak traffic. That scares me. Some days it takes a large proportion of my courage to continue to do so. In relation to that, riding here in the bush with no other traffic, at a pace and on terrain that I choose, is nothing. Nothing at all. I am totally at peace with the risk and I truly believe that I can continue to do so without ever falling with her again. And that is what I intend to do. Never again fall with my kid. One day when she is old enough for her own bike and stops riding with me, I hope to have been successful in this one aspect. And even if she never understands the magnitude of it, I will, and it will give me great joy. These are some of the things I think about and it keeps me up all night, I try to go to bed, but it is futile and so I go back to the hammock, feeding the fire now and then until the sun shows itself on the other side of the earth again. No rest, but the noise in my head had cleared, and I am good to go. The source of my insomnia, non the wiser.