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Sand, Sea and Some Very Rough Roads

Sand, Sea and Some Very Rough Roads

I wasn’t looking forward to leaving NDL on Saturday morning. Not least because it is a wonderful lodge that is very easy to relax in. My dread was mainly around the stories I had heard about the condition of the road between Solitaire and Walvis Bay.

I collected fuel at Solitaire and bumped into a guy from Germany who is doing his own Trans Africa trip on a Trans-Alp. We had met on the road at the beginning of my trip and it seems we are heading for many of the same places. Today it was to be Swakopmund.

Broken KTM PannierHeading off up the notorious C14 I had travelled around 4kms when I felt the bike start to fishtail in the sand. Far more violently than previously, so much so that it put me into the off-road to the left and I came to a halt. As always more by luck than skill I was still upright. I couldn’t figure what was wrong at first until I looked back down the road to see a black box about the size of one of my panniers laying in the road having bounced for 20metres or so.. On closer inspection of the bike sure enough there was a space where that box should have been fixed. Seems that the locking mechanism had sheared off and the whole thing had left the bike at about 80kmh. Needless to say this happened out in the wide open road without even a hint of shade so I just had to get on and make a plan…..A massive thank you goes out the the person who invented cable ties. Fortunately the spare fuel container wasn’t damaged and I still had my back up stash of fuel.

Tropic of Capricorn The road just seemed to get worse as I carried on. It is the main route for the tour buses so I guess that is why is is torn up so much. A quick stop the the obligatory photo at The Tropic of Capricorn ( which came as a surprise ) and I was off again. The next drama was about to unfold ( I could make an “extreme” tv show about this….). I had been up on the pegs for most of the day and suddenly a feel of dread came over me as the bike felt like it was running through treacle. I thought my worse fear had been realised and the rear tyre had gone flat. Slowing the bike down to and walking pace then stopping I looked back to see……….a black box sitting on the road next to my bike attached only by a bungy strap. #**~$@!!!!!! The other pannier locking bracket had sheered off. My cable tie stock was dwindling!

Alex J JacksonBack up and running this road was killing my bike. I had to make a plan to get off here as soon as possible before anything else got shook off the bike….or more personal! I had been trying to avoid the little local roads show on the map in white as these were considered sand roads. I have never bigged up my sand riding skills and where ever possible I give it a miss. This is mainly because of the fact that they are little used and with a heavy bike things can go wrong easily. So remote are some of these roads that you simply don’t see other traffic. FACT….Namibia is the worlds second least populated country! Seems I had no choice at this point. I turned off and started a new road adding some 90km to my trip. I am so glad I did. The sand was around 100mm thick in most places but deeper in others. However either I have got better or it’s nowhere near as bad as I have always thought. I can say it was actually fun to ride. I guess because these roads are not used as often as the big roads they don’t suffer the wear and tear. Imagine my relief to finally see some black top again.

Swakopmund HotelIt was of course as most days in the desert…flipping hot. However as I approached my target destination Swakopmund that changed drastically. There seems to be a thick fog hanging in the air over the town. The drive into the town had me wondering why I had chosen this place as a destination as it was just barren and reminded me of a massive lime quarry. Once in the town however that impression changed. An old town with many of the colourful buildings being dated in the early 1900’s it reminded me of any typical seaside town…..oh yeah the sea!! hadn’t seen that since I left. Cape Town the week before. I found my hotel just off the edge of the town centre which actually used to be the old Railway station. The building now completely refurbished is now The Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment centre. Boasting a cinema, numerous restaurants and a casino. Owned by the Legacy group it’s ideally located for the town and pretty much everything is at hand from here.

I won’t lie, I needed the rest at Swakopmund as the ride to here had taken it’s toll. On the pegs pretty much the whole way my knees had started to show signs of the old karate days injuries flaring up again. I took the time to lavish a bit of TLC on The Beast at the same time proving to myself yet again that you can get sunburned even when it’s cloudy. ( note to self….wear your bloody hat!)

NamibiaMonday morning I was buzzing to get started on the road again. The difference in the town from the previous day was amazing. Sunday it was like a ghost town but today it was bustling with people on their way to work and some shoppers I guess. I headed out of town North on the C34 this is a mix of tar and dirt but the dirt road is so smooth you would struggle to notice the transition. I was very relaxed on this part of the ride and simply rode along at around 75 Km/h taking in the view of the sea. I realised this would be my last sighting of the sea until around early Jan when I would be back down on the Western Cape of South Africa. I pulled off the road into a small settlement where I was standing on what is known as the Skeleton Coast. Thus named because of all the ship wrecks in the area. As always parking The Beast up in a area with people it soon attracts attention and soon I had 3 local kids coming to see what this man dressed in a space suit was doing. Traded my last few dried mango strips for this photo.

Got to Hentiesbaai and headed inland towards the small town of Uis which was to be my next fuel stop. A long long long straight gravel road which seemed to take forever but realistically probably only took about 1 1/2 hours but the temperature change from the coast back into the desert was dramatic. I arrived at Uis having run the gauntlet of roadside hawkers trying to sell me local rocks…..like I need any more weight to carry. I find a big smile and a wave is more than enough to get by once they start waving back and forget why they were trying to stop you in the first place. On the approach road to Uis there is a big sign directing travellers to the fuel stop…..which is closed!! Oh…my containers are empty and it’s at least 190km to the closest fuel……slight feeling of panic starts inside. Ha ha good old Garmin I knew you would come in useful. Find nearest fuel. ” you are next to it! ” but there is another one .2km to your right… Yep sure enough there was a pump round the back of a shop. Ok heart you can start again.

Alex J JacksonAfter a warning from the local coffee shop owner of the road conditions for the final leg of my journey that day I set off and a very steady pace not wishing to lost any more bits of bike. Now if you know me you will know that biking is a very important part of my life but so is wildlife. Can you imagine my delight when I came across this sign warning of Elephants on the road! Ok so I didn’t get to see any Elephants but I did see fresh evidence of their presence in the form of tree damage and dung probably from the previous day. Now we are getting into it!!!

Damara MopaneMy home for the next couple of days is Damara Mopane Lodge. Another of the Gondwana Collection. Set amongst thousands of Mopane trees it’s the perfect stop over after many days of desert. Just to see trees is a big bonus but Green trees is amazing. Of course with the trees comes an abundance of bird life. Just sitting writing this I have seen Red Billed Buffalo Weavers, Masked Weavers, Golden Winged Wood Pecker Red Eyed BulBul plus so many I won’t pretend to know the names of. There is also Seven species of Owls here and last night whilst consuming my anti Malaria medicine ( GnT ) I saw a herd of Kudu moving through the camp. No really I did see them!

AJ