SA and Namibia in 2021. What was I thinking?

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Three Dawg

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Another Mr and Mrs Three Dawg adventure! I added a bunch of pics to this RR which I first posted on my local advscotland.com forum, so I thought I'd put it up here. Hope you enjoy it, bearing in mind it was written for my home crowd..

So whose stupid idea was it to go to South Africa, a country stubbornly on the UK's 'Do Not Travel' Red List during the Covid19 pandemic? Er, well it was mine, but I can explain...

Actually, I blame British Airways. If some very tempting Avios (frequent flyer) redemption fares hadn't popped up as I was idly surfing the internet one evening, beer by my side, I would have dismissed the idea of travelling in 2021 as foolhardy and potentially dangerous. But there they were, two returns to Cape Town in business class exactly when we would normally be heading off on our hols, so after a very quick conflab with Mrs 3D, I hit the button and booked 'em, Danno.

To compound my stupidity (or optimism?) I phoned our friends Rob and Nicky who travelled with us to South America in 2019. Would they like to come along, we'd love to show you our favourite spots in that part of the world. In less than ten minutes they snapped up another pair of tickets, so it was game on. Gulp!

Needless to say, there were one or two problems between bagging the tickets and touching down at Cape Town International which I have detailed elsewhere, but briefly they go like this:

Eight cancelled flights EACH!

A re-route via Johannesburg.

Bikes being bumped off the ship hours before loading.

Bikes being flown to Cape Town at vast expense because they were bumped off the last ship that would get them there.

Bikes getting stuck in Istanbul.

One bike (mine) being flown on to Johannesburg, while the other (Rob's) languished in Istanbul.

My bike being trucked overland from Johanesburg to Cape Town after a great deal of wrangling with customs and arriving three days late, meaning I had to rent a bike for this time.

And...

Rob's bike arriving ten days after this, meaning he had to rent a bike for the whole trip (circa seven weeks!).

Not a good start, but what else could possibly go wrong? Well, read on...

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Three Dawg

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So, we finally made it to Cape Town, albeit via Johannesburg. We'd elected to stay away from the 'City Bowl' opting instead for Sunset Beach, which would be handy for Paarden Eiland where bikes would be. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, they didn't arrive, at least not when they should have. Never mind, it was a lovely spot, right on the beach with views over to Table Mountain.

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We had to start rejigging our itinerary immediately, and as it looked like my bike at least was about to turn up, rented a couple of 1250s for the duration. It was very interesting to ride one of these new hot poop GSs. Can't say I was particularly impressed (sorry if you've got one, but then my opinion is probably worthless) - tons of power of course compared to my 1997 1100, but horrible to find neutral, bloody annoying flickering speedo and really really basic suspension (bike wasn't ESA) and a generally cheap looking finish. Anyway, we cancelled a couple of bookings in the Cederberg area and extended our stay in Cape Town so we could get my bike in a few days.

As a shakedown run we took a ride down to Boulders Beach via Simonstown to see the penguins, coming back into town via Chapman's Peak, which is always spectacular.

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One of the reasons for our original plan of staying in the Cederberg was so we could visit the famous Tankwa Padstal (road stall/shop) in the Tankwa Karoo. This is a mecca for local adventure bike riders, sitting as it does on the longest unpaved road in South Africa, the R355 between Ceres and Calvinia. However, it's easily reached from Cape Town, so we took a day to go up. Along the way we met up with our friend Altus who rode with us to Ceres. He's a great guy who we first met at The Oasis at a spitbraai in 2015, and has done Cape to Cairo on his 1150 (and wrote a book on it)

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The area around Ceres is famous for fruit growing, but as soon as you head into the Tankwa Karoo you are in the desert, where strange things occur...

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Shovel? Guitars? Sweets? We got 'em!

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A dust devil blows through.

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Or was it..?

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It was great to be on gravel, which at least shut the Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres up a bit. After the Padstal we went into the Cederberg via the Katbakkies Pass and back down to Ceres via the Gydo Pass. Great views of the fertile plain between the mountains from the viewpoint.

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Happily, after three days, my bike was ready to be picked up in Paarden Eiland. Unfortunately Rob's bike was still stuck, so he reluctantly decided to do the trip on his rental bike, at frankly eye watering cost. I felt really bad about this - his bike had better tyres, suspension and luggage than the rental, plus there is always the worry of damaging the thing. Not ideal, but the alternative was cancelling and going home I suppose.

We needed to start heading north as soon as possible, but by the time we'd taken my 1250 back to the rental place in town, and I'd put the screen and rack back on my bike, reconnected the battery and packed all our crap up and got some fuel it was getting quite late.

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This meant that our first stop in Porterville was far enough away to ensure that we arrived well after dark - not something you really want to do if you can help it. We got separated from the others unfortunately, but they arrived at our guest house only about ten minutes after us, albeit somewhat stressed. Never mind, we would be back on track the following day, heading to the wild west coast at Hondeklip Baai.

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Three Dawg

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Our next stop, on the west coast at Hondeklip Baai was a bit of a punt, as there really isn't much to the town, although being close to the Namaqualand National Park probably means more people go there than you might expect. However, there were two passes I wanted to ride which skirted the Park's northern boundary before rejoining the main N7 north-south road, so I reckoned it was a worthwhile detour.

Before we took to the dirt - my bike still clean.

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Heading north on the N7. Bloody traffic...

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Somehow I managed to run out of petrol. Muppet. Still, there's always that extra bit you can get at if you tip the bike over to the right. It was enough to get us to the next fuel.

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Dirt roads at last after turning off the N7 at Garies and heading west towards the coast.

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After our night sampling the delights of Hondeklip Baai, the following day we arrived at the Namibian border at Vioolsdrif, where the adventure would really start.

From Hondeklip Baai we skirted the Namaqua NP on easy gravel roads before rejoining the N7 somewhere just south of Springbok where we got fuel and made for the Namibian border.

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We'd had PCR tests done in Cape Town which were valid for seven days to enter Namibia and the border was, as expected, pretty quiet so we crossed fairly easily. There was a bit more faffing around than usual before we passed through the Namibian side but it wasn't too bad really, we just needed to show our certificates and fill in an extra form. We also had to buy a year's worth of road tax, but that's only about ten quid.

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2StrokeDan

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Your RR is going to struggle to live up to your pre-trip adventure.
 

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Subscribed and looking forward to the rest(y)
 

Three Dawg

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After a night at Norotshama River Lodge (disappointingly run down since we were last there, although we had an entertaining evening with an American ocean-going tugboat captain and his gal), we headed towards next our overnight in Aus. The road to Aus runs along Namibia's southern border and is glorious, hugging the Orange river as it does. We saw baboons and a jackal, and had zebra and Kudu running along in front of us to add to the experience.

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Workers village for one of the vineyards along the Orange. Baking in the summer.

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The road from the border to the turn off to Rosh Pinah has to be one of the most spectacular in Namibia

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The road passes through the Richtersveld NP so you have to register entry and exit.

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Fuel in Aus. Turned barking cold (relatively) which is why I have my rain jacket on.

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Pretty much all the map we need. I will not be attempting to ride my bike up Van Zyl's pass or some dried up riverbed.

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We had long wanted to see the diamond mining ghost town of Kolmanskop, but it's much closer to Luderitz on the coast than Aus, so we had a schlep across the desert in front of us. That would have been OK, but what I didn't realise was that each afternoon the wind gets up, and you can easily find yourself riding through a sand storm. Which is what happened to us. It was really hard going, although thankfully the road is tar. The sand did serious damage to the auxiliary lights on my bike, and would have trashed the headlight but for the perspex stone guard. The screen was well peppered and my visor was wrecked. I haven't dared look in the airbox...

Parking up at at our guest house in Luderitz I was quite surprised when my bike was blown over on it's left side - yup, up and over the sidestand. Walking into town was a comedy affair, leaning into the wind at forty-five degrees. Anyway, we now knew why Kolmanskop closes at 1.00pm every afternoon!

This weather is typical (if this video will play) What a hell of a place..



The following morning we headed back to Kolmanskop.I guess they have to regularly dig the place out, but it is fascinating. An utter hell hole to live in though. In the UK you'd never be allowed into the buildings, but This Is Africa...
^^
 
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Three Dawg

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I love taking pictures of my bike at abandoned petrol stations, and this place was more grist to my mill. Fantastic.

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There's still wallpaper from the twenties in some of the rooms.

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This sign would prove to be prophetic. We also met the guide who showed vlogger Itchy Boots around. Mrs 3D had maintained that Noraly was quite tall, I disagreed. Turns out she is on the short side, which would explain her need to do the 'MacGregor Goose-step' to get on her Honda 250, something I also have to employ to mount my steed.

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Leaving Kolmanskop and heading back to Aus we stopped at a viewpoint where you can see the 'desert horses', nags left behind by the German army when they pulled out around 1915. The access was much sandier than I remembered and although we got through fine, Rob binned his bike. This shook him up more than a little, and Nicky, who rarely rides with gloves on because she takes pictures on her phone as we go along, scraped her hands up. Oh dear. Fortunately it was not too far back to Aus and the Bahnhof Hotel where we could take remedial beers

No horses to be seen at the waterhole, just a few Oryx.

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So far, so good.

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Ice cold in Aus.

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Next: More trouble...
 
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Three Dawg

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Before we go any further, can I just say I don't get to practise gravel riding between my trips because there is no (as in none) access to dirt or gravel roads in Scotland. And please remember this was written originally for the home crowd, so explaations of the roads and whatnot are for them.

Anyway, Rob and Nicky were still a bit sore, but the next day should have been a straightforward run on 'C' roads to Helmeringhausen and on to Sesriem where we would have a couple of days to see the dunes. C roads are normally in pretty decent shape - they are the equivalent to our A roads, but usually not tarmaced. They are regularly graded though, so are pretty decent to ride on even with road biased tyres.

Unfortunately due to problems with Covid, Namibia is (or was) a little behind with its road maintenance, and there are some pretty rough sand and gravel patches to get through, as well as plenty of washboard, as we found out over the next few hundred kilometers. Oh, and it was hot. Really hot - like 41 degrees...
Mrs 3D ready to head off from our little place in Aus. Note recently applied sticker on the screen. Flying the Advscotland flag!
:P


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Checking the GPS at the Bahnhof Hotel in Aus. Damn thing was crapping out - connection to external power was failing.

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Mostly the road was in good shape - a light covering of gravel, but not too tricky. Let the tyres down a bit and all is good.

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Meagre shade

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We made it to Helmeringhausen and the infamous hotel (check Tripadvisor...), where the petrol pump cabinet I dented on my last visit was still, er, dented.

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Rob wasn't enjoying the ride, but you don't want to stay in Helmeringhausen. My GPS plotted a route via the C14 via Maltahoe, but there is a slightly more direct route via the C27, so that seemed the obvious road to take. Maybe my GPS knew something I didn't, because the C27, after a good start deteriorated somewhat. Not so much that Mrs 3D had to get off while I paddled through, but it was a bit hairy. After one long stretch of gravelly sand I stopped because I couldn't see Rob and Nicky behind us. We waited. Ten minutes passed. Oh hell, they're off the bike and we have to ride back through this stuff to help.

Ho hum, turned round, off we went back. Presently came across two 4x4s stopped by the road and Rob's bike upright but on the wrong side of a sand berm at the side of the road. He'd had a big one - a thump on the head had wrecked his (brand new) lid, and worse he was wandering around asking what had happened. He'd also given his shoulder a proper bashing - I think he was very lucky to not break a collar bone. Nicky had scuffed her hands because she wasn't wearing gloves (AGAIN!)

I am not sure what Rob thinks of Nicky's first instinct to take photos in any situation...

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This was serious - clearly Rob was in no condition to ride, we were nearly 200km from our destination and it was 40 degrees in the shade. We got the 1250 running again (a huge amount of white smoke!) and I rode it out of the sand with much wheel spinning. Back on the road, it was dented but rideable once we'd got the sand out of all the switchgear. Wonderwheel? Bloody complicated sand trap wheel if you ask me.

Anyway, the bloke driving one of the 4x4s turned out to be a biker, and assured us he could ride Rob's bike to Sesriem, the destination for all of us. This was incredible - the 1250 is a big heavy bike and in these conditions needs a confident rider. We were back in business! Rob and the girls decided to ride in the cars and I offloaded some of my luggage too. What followed was 200kms of deliriously hatstand riding as we fishtailed along fighting tankslappers at 100 kmh and more. It was mental and completely brilliant and will remain one of the best rides ever for me.

Our saviours, Lenie and Johan! His legs were properly burnt by the time we arrived in Sesriem.

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Rob spent the entire journey asking what had happened. He still can't remember crashing.

Unloaded and ready for something a bit special.

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The young German couple who stopped to help and took my luggage.

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Funny thing is, I can't really see what Rob crashed in to in the photos, but I do remember it was a mare to get the bike back on the road. Stopping for a break, one of these people has no idea where he is.... I went through 5 litres of water that day - thanks to the Germans who topped me up after the crash.

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Fanging along at 100kmh. Fun, fun, fun!

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When we got to Sesriem I was utterly done, so instead of camping we booked into the lodge there, which is lovely. We tried to get Rob to go to the clinic nearby but he was having none of it, despite clearly being concussed. We didn't see the others for a while, turned out Rob decided to wash his riding gear. In the desert. Funny what a bang on the head can do.

Me? I had other things on my mind.

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Next up: Touristy pictures of Sossusvlei.
 
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Three Dawg

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After the trials of the previous day I think we were all more than happy to have a couple of days off the bike exploring Sossusvlei before heading back to the coast at Swakopmund. Sossusvlei Lodge was very busy, the first place we had come accross that was. It was also about double the size it was when we first visited in about 2009. Still a great place to stay, damn though, it was hot. Even the girls manning the bar were complaining.

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Plenty of tourists at Sossusvlei, but it's a big place so they don't spoil your enjoyment. Anyway, back to the lodge for the afternoon before a sundowner trip. We like a sundowner.

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Namibia eh? It really is all it's cracked up to be.

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And then back to the lodge for a meal we probably didn't need after the snacks on the sundowner. We were joined by ayoung jackal that hung around hoping for scraps. We know better than to do this.

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There was a group of about 20 Germans on an organised bike tour who had come from Windhoek. Two had already dropped out - one couldn't cope with the dust, another with the state of the roads...
 

BuRP

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Two had already dropped out - one couldn't cope with the dust, another with the state of the roads...

Hmm, let me guess, those were the two who thoroughly did their homework in advance eh?
True adventure riders!
:ROFLMAO:
 

Three Dawg

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The ones we talked to seemed OK blokes (maybe doing this sort of trip for the first time) but I guess some will hit their limits more easily than others. Not my cup o' tea, guided group tours, but if I was to do river beds in Damaraland I'd want some backup...
 

Sheepman

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Follow your trip - excellent pics so far (y)
 

Three Dawg

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The next day we had to head to the coast and Swakopmund. I'm not that fond of Swak, although the fact that it is basically a German town with German bars and restaurants is interesting, but we had to go there so we could then head up to get to Palmwag and beyond. Rob and Nicky were making noises about the condition of the road - it's gravel all the way, but it was fine the last time I did it. Um, in 2015...

It turned out to have some sections with loose stuff on, but nothing too bad - open the gas and everything feels just fine. Unless you have taken a bad tumble recently in which case it's probably terrifying. Rob had a bit of a DOH! moment at Solitaire, again caught by Nick the Click, but that's easily done.
^^
You can see the bikers from our last place at the pumps, must take them thirty minutes or more just to refuel.

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Eventually we got some rest in the form of the salt road towards Walvis Baai, but even before that it wasn't that demanding, but the others were having an understandable crisis of confidence.

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On the salt road.

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In Swak it became clear that Rob and Nicky were very reluctant to do any more gravel, to the point of threatening to turn round and go home. We tried to pesuade them to stay there for a while to recover (it's cool there, temperature-wise) but Rob had a bee in his bonnet about getting a replacement for his admittedly trashed visor, so was keen to head over to the capital, Windhoek. What do you reckon the chances of finding a visor for a Shark helmet are? Yeah, me too, but they weren't having any of it. They stayed one more night in Swak while we headed north, then took the tar road to Windhoek, where they stayed for four or five days. Windhoek is an OK place, but it ain't Cape Town...

Me and Mrs 3D leaving town on our own, and some pictures of the town taken by Rob and Nicky.

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At least in Windhoek you can visit the institution that is Joe's Beer House. I have been there and was delighted that Rob and Nicky went too - it's great fun. They also found a botanic garden which Nicky, a keen gardener, found interesting. Rob couldn't get a new visor (surprise surprise) but I think their time there allowed them to decompress somewhat.

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We pressed on up the coast to Henties Bay, and then inland to Uis. Our final destination was to be Madisa camp which is on a D road between Uis and Twyfelfontein. D roads are to be treated with some caution as they get less attention than the C road and, are always gravel. Oh boy, it was hard going. Frequent sand washes, heavy washboard and a large amount of stones (not gravel) on the surface.

Again, it looks fine in this shot. It wasn't, but we managed OK.

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Anyway, we made it without mishap, right until the last 100 yards when I dropped it in a dried up river bed. Bah!

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I was very keen to get the bike upright as fuel was leaking out all over the place, and I wasn't confident I'd be able to top up at Twyfelfontein, but for some reason we just couldn't get the thing out of the sand. This is a bit worrying as I've never failed before. Am I getting old, or was it just the ridiculous heat? Anyway, help was summoned from the camp and we made it in.

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Madisa Camp is in a lovely spot, but was a little run down, but the beer was icy so no complaints. Anyway, who doesn't like an open air bathrom?

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Namibian camps often have old cars lying around. Mrs 3D tries one for size.

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It was still stinking hot, and we were beginning to doubt the wisdom of heading up to our ultimate destination, Epupa Falls. This is on the Kunene river on the Angolan border, right in the north west corner of Namibia. Damaraland (the area covering north west Namibia) is very remote and the road conditions might not be brilliant, especially along the river. I would have been fine with this if we had been travelling together with the others, but with no phone signal and no back-up it looked a little dicey.

We decided that we would get to Palmwag and ask around. And anyway, no way were we going to miss the desert elephants the area is famous for.
 

Three Dawg

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Unfortunately getting to Palmwag meant continuing up the shitty D road we had ridden in to Madisa. If anything it got worse for a while, and I dropped the bike again in deep sand (I thought it was OK. I was wrong), this time going down quite hard - we both had sore shoulders for a while. About two minutes after coming along a young couple turned up in a 4x4 and helped me get the bike out of the sand and upright. Meaning well, he told me he had a KTM, and next time I needed to dig out under the wheels to make lifting it easy. Gee, thanks, I'll try to remember that, but I had only just fallen off actually.
:rolleyes:


We definitely need to have a rethink of our body armour - I know it won't protect against a broken collar bone, but looking at the rubbish stuff I took out of in Mrs 3D's Held jacket before washing it back home (the elbows both cracked through and it's really horrible hard rubber) I ordered up a set of Forcefield Cat 2 armour for her jacket which should be a significant improvement. I'll sort mine out in due course, but I'm thinking of a combined back and chest set.

Anyway, the road did get better eventually and we were able to enjoy the ride. As we approached Palmwag we saw plenty of elephant droppings on the road and massive footprints. Desert elephants are smaller than yer regular African pachyderm, but they seem to have longer legs and bigger feet. They look like they are wearing bell bottomed trousers. Perhaps they are...

We were due to camp in our wee tent at Palmwag, but as Rob and Nicky were elsewhere, we took their luxury 'Camping to Go' safari tent, and very nice it was too.😁

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We saw ellies as soon as we arrived. I was a little surprised as Damaraland seemed to have had some rain lately and I expected the elephants to roam deeper into the desert.

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Ellie spotted near our tent one morning. They came right into the camp on the last day - a bit of a surprise wandering back to the tent from breakfast to find your way blocked by ellies. I skirted cautiously around them trying to avoid eye contact, but Mrs 3D managed to capture a shot.

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I had to disassemble the twistgrip to clean it as I had managed to bury it in the sand when I fell off and the throttle was sticking. Fortunately there is enough slack in the wires for the heated grip to allow this, but it is rather more complex than perhaps it needs to be compared to an old Jap bike.

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Talking to a few people in the bar it seemed that the road north was in pretty bad shape (they were all in cars), and that fuel supply might be patchy. We have a gallon fuel bladder, but if we got to Opuwo and there was no fuel we'd be in trouble. It was still blisteringly hot, so reluctantly we decided to ditch Epupa Falls and head over to Etosha. By this time we'd persuaded the others not to head south and arranged to meet them along the way. It would now be possible to complete most of the rest of the journey in Namibia and Botswana on tarmac - a disappointment for me, but clearly essential to Rob and Nicky.

The scenery changed as we headed east towards Kamanjab, becoming hillier and perhaps a little cooler. Along here we were stopped by a young bloke wearing a yellow tabard and clutching a clip board. We knew he was up to something, but went along with his story - some guff about a river crossing thirty Ks down the road, oh, and by the way, I play for the local football team, and all these nice people have donated money for strips. Clipboard brandished showing big list with various names and unlikely sums of money next to them. We were amused and gave hom forty bucks (two quid) and wished him and his team well before continuing.

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We met up with R & N in the surprisingly busy town of Otjiwarongo (pic below) and then after a night in a rather eccentric working cinema that also had rooms to let in Tsumeb, we headed to Etosha. Safari!!!

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Rather grand cinema (we got a tour) and accommodation as well.

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The dotted line shows the original route we'd planned. I've done some of the road along the Kunene river to Ruacana, and it was a bit of a mission. With far fewer people around these days possible petrol shortages and the general road conditions we decided it was too risky to attempt. Think I must be getting soft, or was it Rob's problems that spooked me? Dunno...

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Castle on the hill. Who? Why?

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Next up: More animals!
 
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