5 May 2015

Namibia Day 8: Swakopmund – Kuiseb pass - Solitaire

We woke to a light drizzle and chill in the air. Since I did not bother to look out the window before I packed all my stuff (well, to my defence it was 5.30 and still dark outside), I was totally under dressed for the occasion! I asked if we could do the salt road again, as I hoped to get nice pics with the rising sun on the dunes.

Sand dunes lit up by a bit of sunlight
We refuelled in Walvis bay which took longer than anticipated. I also decided that today I should use my fuel bladder and bring an extra 7 litres of fuel with. This involved me repacking the bike a few times as I had never used it before. 

Unfortunately the light drizzle did not only NOT light up the dunes as I had hoped, but also got my helmet camera wet – resulting in even worse pics once we hit the dusty desert! I am sure by the end of the trip I shall remember to clean the lens regularly!

One of the reasons I fell in love with this country

Sand as far as the eye can see
After refuelling in Walvis again, we hit a wide, lovely gravel road. Almost 4 lanes wide, although the extreme sides were loose sand. Most South Africans can only dream of such a freeway! 

Dust as far as the eye cannot see!

The rain cleared up and we continued riding in overcast but dry conditions. Except for some trucks in the beginning and a few cars/bakkies as we went along, the road was relatively vehicle free. A big relief, as every passing thing leaves a cloud of dust. Cough, cough, splutter, splutter! We got into the rhythm with Toni riding alongside me – thus saving us both gulping down loads of each other’s dust.

We later learned that we were on one of the most dangerous roads in Namibia, mainly due to tourists in hired 4x4's driving too fast and then losing control with disastrous consequences
More sand, front and back

Almost no difference between the road and surroundings
This was an amazing experience – the never ending sand and dunes as far as the eye could see! I don’t believe I have ever been in a dessert before – the beauty and vastness captured my spirit of freedom and even solitude in some ways. There was grandeur in the simplistic surroundings that surpassed of the most magnificent mountains and scenery I had ever seen before. It was in these moments I realized I loved this vast country and have to come back to see more of the hidden treasures one can only see by taking the roads less travelled. How fortunate am I to have a wonderful steed and companions to help me experience these untamed wide open spaces!

Refueling along the way

After travelling for hours we came to a turn off where tourists were turning off to go look at rock formations. We stopped here and due to the day getting hotter I had to take off my warm inners. This was also a perfect spot to fill up my (super thirsty)Jinx KTM and munch down a few peanuts and raisins.

While riding I would often gulp down loads of water from my backpack and cannot fathom how I did so many hot, dusty roads in the past without it?

In the Kuiseb pass
The road started winding between mountainous outcrops and later we found ourselves in the Kuiseb pass. This absolutely stunning pass, took us down into the valley, though most of the way the road nestled in between the mountains. Rounding a bend, I noticed a dry riverbed with some trees in it. The place looked so welcoming that we decided to have our lunch right there.

As I turned off onto the sandy track, Brutus could not make the turn (let’s not blame the rider here!) and as he bucked and rebelled against the loose sand and round river stones, I knew we were going down! We came to a standstill a few metres off the little track, still upright and in one piece. Once again I had to take a few moments for my heartbeat to normalize and was thankful we were not picking up dented pieces of Brutus along the sandy path. 

The haven
Jinx saw a nice spot and decided to pull off, however she forgot she was on a heavy (ok overloaded) bike, on a road with lose sand and round rocks, most of all she forgot to slow down enough. We almost (again) had our first incident on our trip

Where I almost bought some costly property
The view from under the tree

The bridge in the background

      Although after lunch we went for a short walk in both directions of the dry riverbed we did not see any evidence that this perfect spot was once a camping spot, but now abandoned.  
The only green trees we saw for miles and miles
Toni preparing to make his Espresso
Pouring the well brewed cuppa

After struggling back, we parked the bikes in the shade of the huge Thorn trees and enjoyed a nice lunch of Game energy drink, Salticax and Oysters. (And Toni had his Espresso of course!). Please tell me how many people enjoy Oysters in the middle of a Dessert, brought in by bike?! My first taste of smoked Oysters, and to be honest, it tasted very similar to the smoked mussels! Then again, I am sure a little sophistication on my part would have helped identify the magnificent difference!

Mmmm, I feel I still need to teach Jinx how to enjoy good food

After lunch we went for a short walk in both directions of the dry riverbed and then hit the road.

On our way back to the bikes after a walk

Once again my helmet cam had had enough and the battery was flat by the time we were ready to leave. What a pity, as the views were stunning from there! 

What a view?

Every twist brings something new

Still winding through the pass, Toni indicated something was wrong with my bike. We discovered the back mudguard had been torn in one place, was loose somewhere else and gone at a 3rd place. The chain guard was also badly ripped.

While riding the gruelling passes, I saw Jinx’s bike start to fall apart. Bear in mind Jinx’s bike is actually not an off-road bike, but a road going version of the off road bike. Due to our vertical challenges (yes we are short people) Jinx’s feet cannot touch the ground on the off road version, hence she rides to road version. A “lowered” road version.  

The broken mudguard
Assessing the damage 
Finding the only bit of shade around to work in

Thanks to my riding buddy, who managed to take it off, reassemble a few pieces and then decide most of it should come home on the bike. So now more time wasted in the mornings having to add all these loose parts to the million straps and cords I am already using! Sighhhh….

The end result - for now
Note to self: Invest in hard panniers when you get the money saved up!
And while you're at it: There MUST be alternatives to pasta and Salticax?!
You survived so get used to it Toni

Views of what's to come

Toni busy fixing again
By the time we came to the Tropic of Capricorn, my number plate had almost rattled off due to the bad road. It required some more of Toni’s genius to make a washer (thank goodness for our – empty - tinned Oysters!) and get it fixed – and thanks to the trusty Leatherman!

I hate litter, and therefore always take any refuse I create back with me until I find a suitable place to put it. When Jinx’s bike number plate started tearing loose I created washers with the empty tins and this held for the rest of the trip, and longer. 

Changing light
A toktokkie coming to inspect Toni's handiwork 

At last a pic of me!

Everyday we have been arriving at our destinations just as the sun was setting. Due to the extra time it took to fix my bike, today was no exception. The area had slowly changed to a little more vegetation, farms and hills. All in a soft glow thanks to the late time of the day. 

This must be one of my favourite pics of the entire trip. Look at those mountains!

We arrived at Solitaire dirty and tired, but happy. I was in time to get the famous apple pie everyone told us to try. Not a great apple pie lover as such, I must admit it was pretty good. The cutest little bakery out in the middle of nowhere?! Now THAT was a lovely surprise! I was actually ogling the chocolate ├ęclairs, donuts and every other sugar-overloaded-fat-induced sin I could see. (I guess?) It was fortunately closing time and I did not have time to choose any sinful delight. In any case, Toni was getting apple pie for me.

Entrance at Solitaire
Arriving at Solitaire my first priority was fuel and then a spot for us to pitch our tents. While refuelling we had a wonderful view of a thatched cool lapa, full of noisy tourists drinking ice cold drinks. It was very difficult for me not to ignore my bike and go join that happy crowd and have at least one cold beer. As the sun was very low, I was not sure for until what time the fuel pumps stayed open. Once we refuelled and got our “plot” to pitch our tents, I decided I would treat Jinx to some apple pie. I don’t eat sweet stuff, but heard it is the best apple pie.
When I got back, I was extremely pleased to see Jinx surprised me by getting us 2 beers each. Although it was already getting dark, we both could not wait any longer and somehow our 1st beer just seemed to vanish. At this point I had to insist that the tents go up before we do anything else. We were both, tired, hot and dirty and at this point I could have just gone to sleep in the open.

We set up tents in the setting sun. Beautiful!
A mongoose close to our camp
Toni helping me to get my tent up in the fading light
And trying to salvage some of Brutus

We were sharing our power outlet with some other campers and it was fairly late before we could start charging our magnitude of electrical paraphernalia. Little did we know the power (a generator) was switched off at 10pm and most of our “megafters” went uncharged for the next day! But who cares … Apple pie and cuppa soup for supper.  Crashing early once again after a long, hard day, I started loving the feeling of being tired because of what and how I had experienced the day. What a wonderful life?!

27 Feb 2015

NAMIBIA Day 7: Swakopmund - Walvis Bay

Today was one of the nicest days in terms of seeing a lot, but not spending hours and hours in the saddle, be it tar or battling loose sand and gravel. 

The sand dunes I have come to fall in love with!
Well .... this WAS going to be our only rest day of the entire trip, and since we had been doing greater distances and spending way longer days in the saddle than originally planned - a well deserved rest I'd say.

But this morning we were contacted by our Wild dog comrades, inviting us to have breakfast with them. We joined Johan and Louis for breakfast near the lighthouse and then Johan took us on a scenic ride to Walvis Bay. An impromptu decision made by all. A very very good one at that!
Toni and Johan standing proudly next to their similar KTM's

Taking the salt road round the back of the dunes was beautiful. I had never ridden on salt and could imagine it might be slippery when wet, but it rode like a lovely tar road. Rising high up on our right, brilliant yellow sand dunes sparkled in the stark sunlight. 

Brutus in front of the infamous Dune 7

We stopped at Dune 7, the highest one of the series of dunes we were passing. Absolutely awesome!! Just like in the fairytale pictures of the desert, even the palm trees were giving an Oasis feeling to it!

3 Friends enjoying life!
Toni is showing how close he can get to the Flamingos
I cannot believe these birds are so happy in the desert?!
From there Johan showed us the whole area where the salt was being made. In spite of being a Sunday, things were in full swing and truck loads of salt were being delivered to the conveyer belt. 
Entering the saltworks

Salt coming down from the conveyor belts

Trucks hauling salt

We rode in deeper, seeing the dams where salt was busy forming. Even pink dams! Here the crystals form that get sold in the curio shops and semi precious jewellery gets made of.

Vast dams of pink!

Toni and Johan taking a closer look at the pink dam
The first signs of crystals forming
On our way back, the Flamingos had moved to the other side of the road and with the later time of day, I thought the setting was better. Once stopped and off the bikes, we noticed a jackal scavenging through the area and sometimes getting the birds slightly unsettled when he trots into their direction. I have never seen a jackal this near and once again a wonderful experience getting so close to the birds and wildlife! 
A beautiful sight - a jackal from this close!

The sun highlighting the dunes and catching the Flamingos

Brutus has to stand his man amongst the larger 2 KTM's!!
After saying goodbye to Johan, we took a short detour to the harbour, where we ended up looking for “something to take home”. Obviously a lot of bartering was involved and the “best” deal allowed us to take a few pics of her. 

It takes them hours to get their hair this lovely
The Ovambo women don’t bath that often and by putting this clay into their hair and on their bodies they keep away unwanted elements like insects (and maybe smell?).  They would go to sleep as is and retouch it the next day if needed.
A happy smile because she got something sold!

As we left town, for more than a kilometre or two, there were lovely Palm trees on both sides of the road, almost bidding us farewell as we rode off into the sunset. Was it not for Johan, I don’t think we would have seen so much and had the experience we did. Stunning!

Once off the road, it's just sand and more sand!

We took the coastal road back to Swakopmund, with huge dunes on the right and the sea on our left. 
Coastal road between Swakop and Walvis
I was surprised at the huge amount of development of both Swakopmund and Walvis. Somehow I could see myself escaping this way - were I ever forced to leave my beloved South Africa. I am (unwisely?) guessing Swakop would not get too hot in summer because it is at the coast? It has wonderful old buildings and I loved the architecture. We ended the day with fish and chips, our first break from pasta or salticrax-with-something since we've been in Namibia. NICE.
At last something other than pasta and salticrax!
Toni never seizes to bring a giggle at the most appropriate times! Yesterday, I came across this picture! I found him perched on his bed getting his GPS sorted out.  Now that morning he was dressed in a pair of socks that almost came to his crotch! This time he was wearing the (Lady!) owner of the guest house’s dressing gown!! All mauve and feminine, cause his clothes were still in the wash and he was getting cold! Sorry Toni, I just HAD to share this pic!

Toni caught in the act wearing a sexy little number!
Johan, thanks so much for showing us your wonderful area. I loved spending my “rest day” seeing even more of the treasures this awesome country has to offer. 
Also a huge thanks to Braam and Laura from La Sirenetta  for their tons of help with future tenting options, phonecalls, extra washing powder for the road, friendliness, the lip ice that at last helped for my chapped lips! - And loaning Toni your gown Laura! :) You guys went out of your way to make our stay wonderful!
AND I got to sleep in a real bed!