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Into the Unknown

Into the Unknown

Monday and I am ready to hit the road and make up the time I had lost waiting for the bike to be fixed. In theory it should now go much better if for no other reason than I am almost R 2500 lighter!!

I head away from Hakusembe River lodge and went into town to get myself a pair of ladies stockings…. “Pause for comments”…. These were Obviously!! for filtering the fuel from here in. Now with full tanks I left Rundu and headed East towards the place I have wanted to ride my whole biking life. The Caprivi Strip. It soon became obvious that the bike still wasn’t running right. Almost like there was fuel starvation but I knew I couldn’t do anything on the road so I pushed on. I had about 200km before I reached the town of Dvundu where I would fill up again to do the last 270km to my next lodge, Namushasha. Well I would have filled up if they had any petrol. I was down to approx my last 100km of fuel and now found myself stuck because this fuel station didn’t have any ( not for the first time I since found out ). Chatting to the guys that were there I found out that some people had been there for two days waiting for the fuel truck.

I spent probably two hours asking around there area if anyone had even a spare couple of litres. That along with the 5 litres spare I had in a container may just get me to the next fuel stop. Nothing! I even tried to buy what was left in some of the cars tanks as they couldn’t go anywhere anyway. No luck. Then I met some guys in a 4×4 who were also going to get stranded unless they found something soon. There was literally no petrol for 200km east or west. Then one of the guys said ” we could go south into Botswana and buy there!” Brilliant. The game was back on. So that’s what we did. With the rain just starting we headed south into the national park then onto the border crossing with Botswana. I did some quick explaining that I simply needed to cross for ten mins fill up then head straight back out again…..and it worked. No carnet filling and no road tax fees. Within 2 hrs I was back in Dvundu and back on the route I needed to follow. Only by now the rain was serious. I crossed on to the Caprivi Strip ( actually now renamed Zambezi Region ) but within 30 km the rain was so bad I simply couldn’t see ahead behind or to the sides. I had to stop because I couldn’t see the road in front. I curled up over the tank bag and just sat thinking that today is over I will have to head back to Dvundu and find somewhere to stay. I then remembered I had overtaken a massive truck about 5km back and pretty soon he would be catching up. It wAs highly unlikely that he would see me or even be looking for me so I had to push on to find a safer place to stop.
After about 2km I was coming out the other side of the storm and now I was considering that I maybe able to keep going. The sky ahead certainly looked broken so I just pushed on. I eventually reached Kongola around 6pm.

For those that don’t know the Caprivi is a strip of land that is completely open for the wildlife to continue their migration patterns. It runs through Namibia and has Angola to the North and Botswana to the south. Elephants come and go as they please. Well I rode just over the 200kms of this road checking out every bush and tree. I saw a Kudu….one Kudu in 200kms…..and that jumped out I front of me causing me to brake very hard. No elephants no wild dogs…..just one Kudu!

I do have to apologise for the lack of photos but the rain and the time pressure on this day were such that it just wasn’t possible. I do have some go pro footage that will be released at a later date.

I filled up once again and headed towards the lodge. I was very aware that it was starting to get dark and I had been warned not to attempt the lodge road in the dark as it was badly washed away by the heavy rains. There is a new tar road being laid going towards the south of Kongola and as I rode along I noticed some guys by a car who seemed to be trying to flag me down. I am always a bit wary of this type of thing so I did slow but also looked for a way around in case it was a trick. Unfortunately it was rather worse than I had thought. The guys were actually trying to warn me of a body laying twisted and motionless by the side of the road. It didn’t take a doctor to tell that this poor soul was dead having been hit by the truck parked up the road a bit. Seen this sight a few times in my days as a police officer but never get used to it.

I managed to navigate the approach road down to Namushasha lodge and yes I did put my feet down a few times simply as it was horrendously muddy. However I stayed on! I was very disappointed when I arrived. Not with the lodge because it is absolutely beautiful but with the fact that it was dark so I couldn’t see it properly!! Plus it had been a very long day of some 560kms in bad weather with a bike that was really not running how it should. I had a great dinner of KUDU… Just to get my own back and I was in bed by 8pm….it’s my age you know! Saw some great fruit bats on my way back to my room. Must have been at least 10 of them swooping around me as I walked through the Mango trees.

The next morning after another scrum my breakfast ( Gondwana Lodges certainly know how to do breakfast! ) I was ready to ride my last part of Namibia. The routine was becoming habit. Repack the bike not that that takes long. You may notice from some of the photos of The Beast that I have just the two side boxes and a tank bag. I have deliberately avoided stacking it up with add on luggage containing stuff I don’t really need. Spares one side and clothes the other. It’s working so far. Fuelled up I headed for the Botswana border crossing at Ngoma. I even remembered to stop at a few shops to change my Namibian Dollars into South African Rand. It seems the both currencies can be used in Namibia but the dollars are not accepted in SA. I have not really don’t that many border crossings in Africa but if they are all as easy as mine have been so far then I am not sure where all the horror stories come from! Must be my charm and wit…. :-). I was rather surprised at the advice given to me by the guys on the immigration desk in Botswana. He said if you come across a herd of elephants in the middle of the road just keep riding between them….don’t stop as they won’t move. Ok we will see! Within 5 minutes of leaving the border post I was riding across Chobe National Park. Almost immediately I was being flagged down by some people in a Botswanan Tourism vehicle I had just been chatting to at the border. ( They have invited me to explore Botswana in March 2014!!) they wanted to give me the chance to go in front as there was a herd of 20 or so Elephants in and around the road. Caprivi Strip…..phaah! This for me was simply amazing. I crept forward on the bike and switched on the gopro. I have no idea yet if that footage is any good as I don’t have any way of downloading it until I get back to UK. But the experience alone was amazing. Traveling up the road maybe just 5km I met another herd of similar size. Managed to get one photo of these guys.

My ride into Botswana totalled around just 55km but I must have seen in excess of 200 elephants. This may seem a lot but in a country which estimates some 60,000 elephants just in the north of the country it’s understandable that you are going to see some. Botswana lost just 100 elephants to poaching last year. That’s 100 too many obviously but when you consider the numbers in SA and Zimbabwe it’s a very small percentage of their total. One of the reasons for this is that the anti poaching patrols are done by the Botswana Defence Force. Their sole role is to protect the countries wildlife. With a clear cut policy of ” carry a fire arm and don’t yield you WILL be shot! ” they seem to have a very tight grip on the poaching problem.

LlBaobabAs I approached the Zimbabwe border I will be very honest and say that I was a bit nervous. Like many my only knowledge of Zimbabwe has been gained from the BBC News reports and let’s face it none of those stories are good. If you only listen to the news reports then you could be forgiven for thinking that there is only one man in Zim and that’s Uncle Bob. I was very shocked when I got into the immigration office. I am not sure what I was expecting but what I saw was very smart officers. Very helpful and very friendly. There was even someone on the ” customer” to aid with form filling ( everywhere there is a form for something! ). The conversation flowed from one desk to the next with many of the guys wanting to look at the bike purely for interest and to hear about why this crazy Englishman was riding it around their country.

Paperwork done and with a very much more relaxed feeling I set off to do the last 60km into the town of Victoria Falls. Wow….people! The road was buzzing with people and Warthogs! Vic Falls town is rather unique as it is actually set in the middle of a wildlife park. It is packed with tourists from all over the world and probably every other shop is selling extreme sports activities. I don’t think I have seen and heard the word “Advenutre” so many times since I saw an episode of a Charley Boorman tv show. Helicopter flights, bungee jumps, zip lines, canoeing, horse riding, walking trails and loads more. This town is built around tourism for sure.

Vic Falls Safari Lodge.My first nights accommodation was in the simply wonderful Vic Falls Safari Lodge. This amazing high end lodge with thatched roofs and fantastic views across the bush to the water hole attracts people from across the globe. From my room I see numerous animal species going to the waterhole and at night I can see across the mighty Zambezi River to the town of Livingstone in Zambia. I am afraid my photos don’t do it justice so feel free to come see for yourself. My animal spot list so far has included Kudu, Impala, Bush Buck, Buffalo, Crocodile and warthog. Oh and a whole bunch of Banded Mongoose right under my window. Just below the viewing decks the lodge has created a Vulture restaurant where they put out food each day which attracts vultures, Marabou Storks, Yellow Billed Kites and of course Warthog and Jackel. Yep it’s an ok kind of place .