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!

21 Feb 2015

Our first guest biker: Miquel Silvestre


Meet our inspiration!





We have said on a previous post that we would like to introduce people to you who lives the life most of us can only dream about. People who inspire us. People who don't only dream, but also DO it. Since one of our main objectives is to "ride the dream", we are keen to introduce you to someone who does just that... the last sentence of his post says it all!!




Meet one of the most extraordinary adventurers that have caught our eye (and been prepared to share one of his stories with us). He also has incredible videos so make sure not to miss them!
Thanks and a big welcome to MIQUEL SILVESTRE from Spain. 
Here is the story of his Nomadic life (and lovely pics!) You definitely HAVE to go and look here:



Be sure to go over to his sites and facebook to see more of what he gets up to here:
and

We have not edited his story and remember to use your translater when on his site.




MOTORCYCLE TRIP INTO IRAQ

Ancient Mesopotamia is a very interesting destinationBut ... is it possible and safe to get there by bikeThey say that Kurdistan is stablethe government maintains the securitythat things have improved since thenlatest bombings in Erbil in 2004 and 2007Howeverdespite such a triumphant propaganda, the truth is that the region is experiencing a precarious balance. Turks, Syrians and Iranians do not look favorably upon the birth of an independent Kurdish political entityNot to mention the Sunni terroristswilling to blow any normalization of the country.
My arrival in Istanbul coincided with a suicide attack that the government blamed on Kurdish separatistsWhat will  I  find in the barren eastern tip of TurkeyMilitary,  tankscontrolsHowevernobody bothered meThe police looked  at  the motorcycle as  we  approached the checkpoint with curious but not hostile moodA greeting and the barriers were opened without   even  asking for documentation. That  had  nothing to do with the police's attitude that  I  encountered in Western Saharawhere the traveler is routinely questioned.
Diyarbakir is famous for  having  the second longest wall in the worldcompletely surrounding the old cityIn the upper area overlooking the Tigris inhabit the poorest. I chatted with three  street sweepers who spoke openly about politics. Its principles were basic but clearTurkey is the enemy, since  it denied their rights and democracyAs we talkedtwo police  men  riding their Honda Varadero  approached  usI feared that   they  will  interrogate  me  why  was  I recording with a video camera. However, they  were  only curious  about  the  motorcyleThey smiled and showed me a  thumb-up, the international sign of approval.

One of the Kurds said they knew a Christian in Iraq called Jan. He said Jan could help meI asked if  I  could  have  his phone  numberIt is always useful to have local contactsespecially when you do not know what you are getting  into.



THE  BORDER


The border post appeared about ten miles from Silopi. The   line  of  trucks  was  endless. That post was the only way of land communication with the West. The Iranian border is not suitable for entering  Western goods due  to the embargo, and the Syrian  border  means  to  cross  through  the  Sunni hornet's nest. My appearance caused astonishment and joy within the Secret Service  members. What  in the hell was I doing there? From where did I come  from? How much costs my bike? Was  I  a  follower  of   Real Madrid or Barcelona?

To  enter  the bike was hardKurdistan tries to be a modern statebut repeats  the old bureaucratic schemes of that  region. Slow and incomprehensible  proceduresA mechanic identified the  brand, modelnumber ofcylinders, chassis, and license  plate  of my  bike. He handed me a document, but when I showed it to leave  Kurdistan, it turned out to  be  insufficient.  I  never  came  to  understand  what  was  missing  or  unnecessary  in  that  document. While waitingI called Janthe Christian who was  supposed to help me  out. He told  me  he would come to pick me up, but time passed and  he  did not appear. So, I decided to go to the town of Zakhowhich was  just ten kilometers  awayI tried to find   a  hotel and   as  I  walked  slightly disoriented a young man approached me. His English was full of grammatical errors. He was Jan. He had recognized   me at first glance. He  invited  me  to  stay  at  his  house. He  got  as  a  passenger  on  my  bike  and  as  we started to penetrate in the dark alleys of suburban   neighborhoods , it  fired  in  my head  the precaution chip that often can result in paranoia.




I  reflected  then  that  I  did  not  know anything  about  this guy  at all. I had placed   my  self in his hands without any guarantee that it was true what they said  of  him. Iraq is a country objectively dangerous, no  matter  what Kurds  say  since  Kurds, after all, are stakeholders in selling a security image. I felt that I   did  not controlled the situation,  that  I  did  not  know  where I   was  being  guided  into.

We turned a corner  and left all   city lightThe alley was dark and desertedI stopped the bike in front of a garage  as  he  instructedJan got out  of  the  bike and knocked   lightly  on  the  door.  Then  I  thought  that  as  I  enter  the  bike  in  that  garage, it will  actually  be like if I had   been swallowed by  earthHow can I be sure of anything in a country where everything is unknownWhat benchmarks did  I  haveWho   did  I  know  over thereWho in the world knew where I wasThe metal door opened slowlyMy pulse quickenedFrom inside came out an electric lightAnd a girlA  seven  or  eight years old   girl with huge green eyes and a long queue.

She  looked calm even  thought  she  was  probably as surprised as meThen she smiled and asked   me "How are you?".  "am very happy to be hereI repliedtelling  her the exact  truth. Once  I  saw those eyes so pure and innocent  in  her young  face  I  felt I had come home,   and  nothing bad could wait  for  me  in the place where she came  from

EN ROUTE


The most striking   part  of the road was   the  terrible asphalt's deformation. The heat, coupled with relentless passage of heavy military convoys, had drawn a wave of tar on the pavement. However, in Kurdistan there was no trace of American soldiers. The guys who meet me at the checkpoints were all young Kurds in  their new uniforms.
They were friendly and talkative. I was  continually stopped and delayed   for a few minutes  to  satisfy  their  curiosity  with innocuous questions, presentations and handshakes. They just wanted to chat and take pictures. Many photos. "Mister, mister, " they said. That was The Word. I was a "mister"and therefore  I was not a terrorist or  a  threat to Kurdistan. Being a "mister" was my best ally.



While driving south  I  left behind traffic signs   with  suggestive indicationsBaghdad, Basra, Kirkuk ... however,  I  needed  to  pay  attention  to  the  sign  that would indicate me  the detour to ErbilThe Kurds had built a new  road that bypasses the perilous MosulThe deviation was only 20 kilometers  away from the nest of snakes.




Before entering the Kurdish capital  I had to overcome the  last checkpointI was  received  by  a captain who wanted to prove to his men that  he  took  his job seriously. He  requested all   possible  documentation. I   remained calm.  I  knew that it  was  just  a  show-offThe captain noted that it  was  missing a customs' seal. Then  he ordered me to open the suitcasesSomething I did willingly and smilingThe best  thing  to  do  in these situations is to demonstrate that nothing irritates you,   that you have more time to lose   than them.



The old town  stood  out on a hilltop in the middle of the  metropolitan  area. The walls were tall and gorgeousI drove  all the way up and went insideIt was emptyAbandonedhalf-ruined but in process of restorationIt  was  incredible to  go  through  that  dead  town. The government had forced the inhabitants to  leave  so  they  could rebuild the neighborhood and turn it into a museum that attracts tourists.


I  needed money and the only automatic  cashier was   located in the Sheraton BuildingA Western luxury bunker whose visit requires passing two check  points and a metal detector  arch where they seized my Swiss Army knifeSome USA  executivesdiplomats and perhaps also spiesAnd there  I  was, with my black motorist  uniformI asked for water in the cafeteria and   I  was informed that a  bottle costs two dollars and a half. So  I  satisfied  my  thirst drinking tap water.


MOUNTAIN

Eastward the region was mountainousthe heart of the countryDeep gorges,  bared peaks, narrow roadsgravel tracks. It  was  getting  dark. I  kept going through  a dark canyon. As  I  reached  a checkpoint the darkness made  it   too dangerous to proceedThe peshmergas  invited   me  into their check  post  to  eat and drink tea. The post was  sand  floor   and a hole in one corner that  served  as  drainage.  I  asked their  permission to sleep with them   but  they told me that a few hundred meters   away was a hotel. A hotel in the middle of mountainous nowhere? It was surreal Pank Resort. An installation of  European cabins.
I woke up in my cabin. The horizon was clear and pure. The eternal mountains, the timeless  sun, the infinite blue. The complex manager told me that day came the owner, who  wanted to meet  me . I was invited to his table. He was an  educated Kurd   who  spoke English very well. He lived in Sweden. From  there  he took the  model  for  the surreal complex at the heart of the Kurdish mountains and just 70 kilometers from the border with Iran, a very unsettled  area that  is not expected to  become  touristic  in the coming years.

The guy was surprised to see me there. He wanted to know the reason why I  had travel to Iraq. It was not an easy question to answer, so I answered   as  I  did  to  the  checkpoint  captain  in Erbil when he asked   me the same question:
- "Do you watch the news on television. "

- "Yes,"- he said.
- "Well,  I do not, "- I replied- "I do not believe what they say  on  television. I prefer to see for myself."