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Author Topic: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says  (Read 1733 times)

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Offline McKracken

Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« on: June 26, 2019, 09:32:52 pm »
Rewind about 6 months ago. Iím standing outside Craigís in Maitland, on the phone to Hardy from Specialized Adventures- Heís just told me that the trip I was hoping to join him for is not going to happenÖ Iíve just paid for some parts for my newish to me Husky 501. Itís a deflating conversation, as my work as a Marine Engineer takes me away from home for 3 months at a time, and this is the only time that I could co-ordinate the work/leave pattern with Hardy.
Two weeks later I have registered as a student at CPUT to further my career and not going to Northern Namibia turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as I have exams during over tour that didnít happen.
Another few weeks on and I am on a plane to Valencia to board a ship; the MV Cap Jackson. Before leaving I bought a second-hand Giant Loop Coyote, changed the oil and filters in the husky, with an idea that when I get home, Iíll do somethingÖ

My time at sea was tough, with any down time taken up by my studies. Whenever I had a sim card Iíd check WD (it was blocked for some reason on our shipís connection) and in April, while sitting at my desk, textbooks surrounding me and my brain scrambled with my efforts to beat some information into it, I spy a new ride report. It begins: ďSimpson desert is probably the most iconic dual sport ride in Australia, crossing the biggest parallel sand dunes desert in the world - at least that is what my google-fu says. Depending on track the ride is about 550 to 700 km longÖĒ
@Xpat  had been to south western Botswana and found a playpen about 200 km across. I read the report in one sitting, and again the next day. The seed was planted, and I started thinking, promptly set off the fire alarms with the white smoke coming from my ears.

Now the whole idea behind joining Hardy was to get to know the bike, and the N. Namibia area with the comfort of support, and then once I had a better idea of what is important start doing solo trips.
How hard can it be? I wondered at night aboard my shipÖ By signoff date the seed had rooted firmly and had a leaf or two already. I was going to go and see for myself what this Kalahari edition of the Simpson Desert was all about.
The 2 weeks before my exams were taken up mostly by studies although I did a fair bit of work on the husky- new 45 tooth rear sprocket, new master link and a spare, and chain guide. New Motoz mountain hybrid rear and 2 sets of rear indicators. (The Husky seems to eat them every ride). I also made some rope loops to attach my luggage and bought an @Amsterdam  custom heat shield (a silicon drying mat from checkers). As I was doing the final additions, I had a 2-day long search and rescue effort with sea rescue, then some nasty weather and suddenly the start of the trip was delayed by a week.


« Last Edit: June 27, 2019, 01:20:10 am by McKracken »
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2019, 09:35:07 pm »
The original plan was to tow the bike to somewhere near Klawer, riding north along the coastline, following the route I did on the Tiger before. Well that was a great idea, right up until my sisterís car conked out, meaning she needed the one with the tow hitch and I couldnít work out what was wrong with hers in time. So rather than wait any longer, I made the call to ride all the way.
Monday the 10th of June was a rainy one. I knew it was coming, but Iíd go anyway. 0300 and the alarm goes off. The bike is packed and ready to go and after the last-minute additions I am dressed and leaving Hout Bay at 0400. The headlight is as bright as 3 cell phone screens, and knobbly tyres on wet tar offer as much grip as Velcro on a marble counter top.

Iím tense as anything riding, trying to peer through the mist and rain in the dark, keeping off the painted markings and trying to remember where the metal drain covers are. Once I get onto the R27 and get away from town I start to relax. There is not much traffic, but oncoming cars and trucks often kept their high beams on trying to see what the hell I was. Running at 70-90km/h only a handful of cars passed me by the west coast one stop, where I stopped for breakfast. (Low speed saved my tires)
My top half was only slightly damp at the jacket pocket zips, while my arse was wet thanks to the seam in my Kaap-Agri rain suit pants, but my feet were dry. At least I thought they were until I put a foot down and felt the water rushing between my toes with every step. My socks had warmed up the water and fooled me into thinking I was nice and dryÖ
It hadnít really stopped raining since home, and from my seat in wimpy there was a stream running down the tile grouting past 4 tablesÖ I had a solid munch and after offering to mop the floor I got going again. The sun came up, although I needed to check on my GPS to be certain. By Elands baai there was a grey sky and a light drizzle- but I was warm and damp, so no worse than expected. I paid a fee of understanding to get onto the transnet service roads and finally was off the tar. The road was well maintained and nothing exiting, but I made good time at 80-100km/h
I left the service road just outside Lutzville for fuel. It was 1030 and there were patches of lighter grey in the sky.
I missed the turnoff I was hoping to take onto the coast and ended up riding tar all the way to the Tronox plant, where I picked up the coastal track 30km later than hoped. Finally, I felt like the trip had begun. The sum even came out and after 15km of sand track I stopped to take off the rain pants and let my layers dry off a bit.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2019, 09:37:01 pm »
An hour later I found the Groenriviermont Lighthouse, which marks the division between the Western and Northern capes. I was grinning like an idiot. Iíd done in two hours, what had taken five hours on the (severely overloaded) Tiger. Yes, the rain probably firmed up the sand a bit, but even midsummer the 501 would cruise the tough stuff, and Iíd have more fun doing it. It was like having the cheat codes for a game. I was running in top gear and riding on the middelmannetjie because it was smoother than the ruts, with the ability to drop a gear and lift the front with a gentle tug and twist of the wrist. I paid my fees at the park office and checked in with the family, as the gate is one of the few spots with reception. Coming up was the 2 stretches of soft sand that caught me out before. After passing a tractor dragging an old rim grading the road, so I had a fantastic smooth run to the soft area. It was a bit of a non-event on the husky- I slowed enough to get into third or fourth gear, and just floated over the fine beach sand- what a pleasure. On the Tiger I got spat off at about 50km/h and landed hard a good 4 meters down the road after the front wheel dug in and I high sided. Luckily that time the soft sand made a good landing and both me and the bike were unharmed.

The rest of the trail was fun, but without incident. I followed the Caracal route to the Wildeperdehoek Pas where I was hoping to take the Buffelsrivier 4x4 route to Springbok for the night. I was in for a shock when I checked how much fuel I had in the tank. I was expecting a good 8 litres remaining after 250 km- I worked out that I had 3.5 ish and was using 50% more fuel than I had planned. Suddenly the shortest route was going to be too far to the closest fuel in Springbok. I was also having GPS issues and wasnít even sure how far it was exactly and estimated the 4x4 route to be a good 45km longer, so begrudgingly left out the fun road. This same route beat me on the Tiger last time, where, after falling, I was struggling to pick up the bike on a nasty rocky off camber with both wheels clear of the ground and fuel running from the fuel cap vent was the point where I decided that I was going to get a lightweight bike.

I nursed the fuel and actually got into Springbok with some fuel in the tank. I googled for a cheap place to stay, but didnít find anything likely, with my phone battery on its last legs I gave up and headed for the caravan park, where Iíd stayed before. On the way I passed a sign for the blue diamond guest house and decided to try my luck. By the time I got inside I was so buggered that going anywhere else was off the cards. I paid a bit more than I was hoping to and started the process of delaminating my clothing. The room had aircon, and before long every available surface was put to use as a drying area.

After a shower I got back on the bike and went to scavenge some oil cans to lube the chain in the proper hobo fashion. Dinner was had at the Tauren steakhouse where a fantastic blue cheese and fig burger can be had, with a mountain of chips for less than the cost of a Spur burger. I have a feeling that my very pretty server was flirting with me, however in typical style I only realised 3km down the road after leaving.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2019, 09:40:20 pm »
After a solid rest I was up and rolling at about 9am. Any earlier was out of the question as it was too chilly outside. Boots and gear seemed to be dry, and I had a refreshing ride to the Goegap Nature reserve where I found nobody and definitely locked gates. I followed the R355 to an unmarked turnoff. Somewhere I came across some wonky signs to a place called Dikbek, and Kouberg. I really wanted to see where Dikbek was, but I took the Kouberg road instead, because that was the right direction.  It was a lekka track, with varied surfaces, sand to rocks to holes dug by creatures unknown. I had a few close calls with the holes, and actually hit one, but I was going quick enough to barely feel it. The other big feature was gates. Lots and lots of gates. I had my first fall near the end.  Iím a shortish shit, so to get on the tall husky I can barely get my leg over the saddle. Add luggage and there is no hope. So, I was doing rolling mounts and dismounts. Left foot on the peg, first gear and a hop or 2 as I pull away, gain balance and swing the right leg over the bag as I stand up on the left leg. Well after gate number *one too many* I cocked it up and dumped the Husky instead of making enough speed to balance.

After the road of gates, I got onto a fair gravel highway and made good time to Pofadder. From there with a full tank I headed north with the aim of getting to Upington via Augrabies. More gates, a loose gear-lever and a few wrong turns later, I got into Augrabies with not much daylight remaining. While looking for options a local stopped who asked if I was ok, then about the bike, and which Husky it is. The bike looks a bit odd with a clear tank, white plastics and the bag covering the blue and yellow lines that show it to be a Husqvarna. The only giveaway is on the fork leg guards. Only a few people who I spoke to actually picked up and asked if it was a 701? Well after chatting with this local about bikes he recommended the lodge, for dinner and a bed. I hobbled into reception in all my gear, creaking as the boots flexed with the knee braces. After asking around, they suggested a spot next door to be more fitting my budget. At Kleinbegin plaas I found an absolutely fantastic room at a nice price. The owner, Solomon is exceptionally friendly and after chatting he suggested going into the reserve for dinner. It is a little bit more expensive than average but still good value. So, after a shower I headed to the gate.  If you go to the restaurant then you get into the park for free after 1900. The falls themselves are floodlit and after the most unbelievable braised kudu pie I took a stroll to the falls. It was a still night with a fairly bright moon, and in that particular spot still nice and warm.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 

Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2019, 09:42:04 pm »
Fuel in Kakamas and a gravel road to Keimoes let to a short stretch of tar to Upington was the start of the day. 40km later I took a gravel turnoff towards Gamateeppan, North again through the Tswalu Game Reserve. Impala, Kudu, meerkats, wild pigs and a cat of some sort were all seen from the bike. What I didnít see was a single other car since leaving the tar. South to Deben for fuel again and then I turned for Kuruman where I have a friend doing community service as an OT. I stayed there for 2 nights, having a rest day on Thursday, changing oil and the air filter and having a look over the bike for loose bolts or issues.

Friday, I left at about 10am, once the day had warmed up a bit. Fuel in Batlharo, and gravel (and a very odd stretch of 5km of bricked road) heading for Goedbegin.  I hit unexpected tar so took a detour through Moshaweng Going north to Heuningvlei. In the Village of Ga-Pitiela Google seemed to think there was a better way on the other side of the village. I found the Ďroad Ďconsisting of sandy 2 track, which took me past a graveyard. From there the road stopped, and after many false starts I found myself on a goat track... Eventually I found a very sandy path which opened onto 2 track again. I followed it thinking Iíd got away with following a whim after very nearly turning back a few times (and dropping the bike with the camera running). Then the gates started. I got good at locking the front up and digging in enough that I didnít need to bother with the side stand, the bike would stand in the thick sand unaided. The gates didnít stop. At the worst stretch I measured less than 2km between gates. 50km later, I hit the main gravel to Heuningvlei and pushed on. I had hoped to go via Pomfret, but at the Bona Bona turn my range anxiety got the better of me and I headed on to Morokweng for fuel, heading for Tousca and then Bray where Iíd be meeting Xpat. I pulled in just after sunset, having ridden as fast as I dare to make the most of the fading light. I was buggered, but happy with the dayís ride. Xpat was nowhere to be seen, so I had a shower and unpacked. The most useless dribble flowed from the showerhead, but it was warm. I knocked my head against the tiles trying to wash my head the water flow was so bad. By the time Iíd sorted out my kit and gotten dressed I heard an engine outside. Sure enough Xpat had arrived. I was a little nervous meeting the guy whoís writing and riding had inspired so much of my trip, but he is a properly good guy. Straight up and not shy to say what he thinks. We had dinner and a beer and finally some ice cream hiding under a mountain of chocolate sauce. Appetites sated I went to bed, while he sorted out the last of his packing.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2019, 09:45:50 pm »
Morning was chilly, and the petrol station only opened at 8, so we put off departure until then. Fuel in Bray for me, we headed west on the SA side of the boarder with 2 full tanks. Makopong boarder was about 80km away, and we were riding for an hour side by side to keep out the dust, moving over for blind rises and corners. The boarder crossing was fairly smooth, although the Botswanan officials wanted engine numbers of the bikes- they found them themselves. The insurance system was down, so we were unable to pay the road tax and the 3rd party insurance fees. We were to pay them on departure.

Literally at the end of the fence of the boarder post we took a hard left, and following the advice of the customs official, followed the boarder fence. The track had recently been bulldozed, so there was a wide 8m swath of flat earth with occasional roots sticking up. We could make fair progress, but it wasnít much fun. Instead we picked our way through the sparse bush, with the boarder usually in sight. Sometimes we found 2 track, others we made our own. After days of riding gravel roads mostly it was stimulating to have to evaluate and pick a route through the bush with every turn different. I was having a fantastic time, sometimes leading, others following or making my own way which seldom turned out to be better...

One piece where the boarder follows the meander of the river, we decided to cut the corner and save a few Km. I plotted a point and thinking Xpat was following me hared off into the bush. Now the huskyís OEM mirrors are a bit iffy. The collet that clamps them had worn and they were spinning inwards most of the time. I kept seeing flashes of orange in the mirror, so thought Xpat was right on my tail, so I pushed a little fasterÖ Right up until I ran out of options and a fence. I stopped to see what Xpat thought only to find that he was AWOL. I switched off and listenedÖ Nothing...  Tits. The last arrangement we had was following the fence, where if separated weíd go to the clear ground at the boarder and meet there. Except the fence was between me and the boarder. And the thickest of the bush was that wayÖI pushed on a little, then stopped to listen. While listening I saw the orange flash- It was my rain shell jacket tied onto my bag. Realising heíd probably not followed at all I turned back to and retraced my tracks to where weíd last been together. From there I managed to pick up his tail, which I followed as fast as I dare. Itís going well, I can easily follow Xpat, so eventually Iíll find himÖ Just as my inner voice was congratulating myself for a plan that worked so well the tracks make a sharp U-turn and vanish. Tits. I turn back and try follow, but Iíve ridden over his trail and I canít see where he left the trail. I go back to the U-turn and switch off about to dismount and try follow on foot to see, when I hear the familiar sound of a thumper! I start and head towards the sound, giving an odd blip in case heís heard me. I am about to climb a bank when the headlight catches my eye, and Xpat comes down following it. Iím rather relieved, as I was worried I was messing up Xpatís day. Reunited we continue, stopping often to decide on paths and take pics.

Eventually the track to Tsabong is reached and a decision is required. I was keen to carry on to McCarthyís Rust, but was starting to feel the edges of fatigue, as well as begin to get concerned about the fuel level in my tank. We decided against the extra distance and Xpat lead towards Tsabong. His tracks were pretty much exclusively on the middelmannetjie, but whenever I followed them around a turn, I the front end would get loose and want to dive. It had happened badly once earlier, and I managed to power the back around to catch it, however, when the bike was standing upright again, I was going at a good pace, directly for a bush. Both wheels locked up I parked up to the handlebars in the bush. Even now, hours later the feeling still unnerved me. So, I ended up following in the ruts, which is fine, except for every turn is invariably around a thorn bush, which whips at your kit and tries to throw you off balance.

Eventually Xpat stopped and allowed me to catch and pass. I then took the Middle line and let the Husky stretch her legs a bit. Two thirds of the way to town I stop to try get an action shot, and I hear Xpatís bike misfiring intermittentlyÖ Heís not impressed. We hope filters but expect fuel pump. Itís only at wide throttle openings. He takes the lead and carries on. The mis gets worse, but we reach town and our overnight stop in one piece. We check in and shift the bikes to outside the rondawel. I unload and change, with the plan to swap tanks, to start to isolate the problem. Tanks swapped, and the KTM wont even turn over. The relay clicks but thatís all that happens. Hmm... Ok, swap back, same story. So, I begin to suspect a separate electrical fault as well. After checking all the fuses and exposed loom I hook up my battery jump starter and thereís life in the KTM. Ok so that means battery. My bike doesnít have a kickstart so Iím reluctant to flatten my battery in case thereís a short on the KTM. Hmm... We put the KTM tank on the Husky and Xpat takes it for a spin to see if his pump/filter is a problem. While heís away I check the loom, and all the earth points and terminals on his bike but find nothing. My thinking that there is a bared wire that we disturbed with the tank swap turns up nothing. Xpat returns and demonstrates his skill at begging. Someone in the camp has a multimeter, and heís found them. Armed with a multimeter we check the battery voltage, and its good. 13.4V, ok, so check for any current flow indicating a short, 0A. Next, we hit the starter and watch the voltage,1.5V Eureka! The brand-new battery is dead. Nothing wrong with the KTM, just a bum battery. We swap my battery in to check the charging voltage, which is a good 14.2V and Xpat tests for the misfire... Itís gone. The battery was letting go-unable to meet the demand of the fuel pump at high load which caused the miss.

We assemble the bikes and arrange some dinner. First option is steak, which ďTTĒ the cook/delivery guy admits he has, but they are so tough ĎíEven I wouldnít eat themíí We order chops which come with pap and some spinachy/beanish stuff. Not a bad meal at all, but the beers we asked for got forgotten and never arrived.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2019, 09:47:40 pm »
The next morning, I refined my packing again, and Xpat went to try find a battery. By 0900 he is back without any joy. I decide to move on. The place we stayed Desert Motel, is fully booked for Sunday night, so as Xpat arranges to get a bakki to Bray, I shift on. Itís too late to get to Bokspits, but Khawa apparently has a drive to attract tourists. Itís also where they hold the Khawa Dune Challenge, so there must be something.

I set off after drawing some Pula and buying a 2L Fanta. I have a few sips of the Fanta and then give it to some kids looking at the bike. (Protip- Fata bottles are easier to secure than coke bottles due to the shape making them less likely to slip out of a strap) I hunt for fuel, and after brimming the tank, and filling 4L of coke and Fanta bottles, I set off. I am backtracking Xpatís original Simpson desert route from his day 2. I miss the turn but eventually pick up a cutline. Riding is fantastic. Always changing, with bush and sand and grass and trees for shade. Iím making good time. Iíve plotted a waypoint that marks the start of the track and Iím following the compass. Right up to a locked gate. No worries, I turn left and follow the fence, seeing that Iíll intersect another track from Xpat. That track runs between 2 fences where the game gets concentrated, Oryx, Impala and Duiker are all seen frequently. I canít ride on the middelmannetjie, since some inconsiderate person has already done so, and it feels sketchy around the turns. Eventually the fence turns, and I follow, now riding for the start of the Xpatís day 2.2 trail.

Humming along at 80km/h in the rut next to the fence I see a huge loop of wire hanging in my path. Too late to swerve, I duck, and stand on the rear brake. An almighty bang resonates on my fuel tank, where the wire caught and broke. I stop, a bit rattled, and walk back with my Leatherman to cut and secure the loose wire. As I walk back to the bike, I notice a long loop under the rear mudguard. It caught the wheel and wrapped 3 times before I locked up the back wheel, Then I notice my (more than before) mangled number plate, and a missing indicator. While inspecting the tank that almost got cut through, I find the GPS holder torn into pieces. Initially I was pissed off. My tank damaged, GPS mount useless, missing indicator and number plate bent some more. Then it dawns on me how lucky I was that it didnít hook on the bar and pull me into the fence, or around my neck or arm and injure me as it tightened in the rear wheel.

I looked for the indicator, but it never turned up and I cable tied my GPS into its cradle before setting off on the opposite side of the track at a slower pace. Eventually the fence ended, and I was riding freely in the bush. Compass up and off I went. I kept seeing bike tracks and I stopped to check my phone. Sure enough, the tracks that I was seeing and the ones that had messed up the middelmannetjie were Xpatís from 2 months prior. Still clear enough to see the tread patterns. Heíd had rain that made the soil nice and hard... I followed them for a few km, but eventually gave up and just made my own route between the bush. I was headed for Khawa, and that was the point on the GPS compass to follow, nothing more. Every so often Iíd come across some tracks which I would follow until they were no longer headed in the right direction.

At about 1630 I hit the road 4km outside of Khawa. I rode thought the village, attracting many a stare. I asked a woman if there was any accommodation, and she pointed me at a blue roof. Blue roof was deserted. I see some people at a nearby house having a braai, and one of the kids leads me to ďKapteinísĒ house, where the person I am looking for is having a Sunday afternoon glass of bread. Itís 100 Pula a night, and 2 teenagers will show me in and give me keys.
The room is sparse but nice. Huge bathroom, and clean bed. No bog roll and some odd marks on my towel, but itís ok I have both in my bag. I push the bike up into the quad and unload. Thereís a communal kitchen and I scavenge some pasta, to mix with my emergency tuna rations. There is no chance of buying a meal, however there is a shop in the village. I shower, and let my dad know Iím ok, sending one or two messages on roaming before switching off my phone. I as I get inside, think to myself my tinnitus is really bad today (I suffer a permanent ringing in my ears from not riding with ear plugs for a few years). Then I switch on the light, and probably a good 30 mozzies greet me, explaining the buzzing I can hear. After dinner I head to bed, covered in citronella stick, which I reapply after I get woken up by a nasty nosebleed. The dry air gets it going, and eventually around 0200 I get back to sleep, proud of myself having not made a mess of the linen.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2019, 09:50:48 pm »
Morning broke clear and cool, I got moving fairly promptly. I have given up on breakfast and lunch on the trip, it saves time and I actually never felt like I was running out of energy. On the longer days Iíd stop for some peanuts and a bite of nougat (another protip-it doesnít melt like chocolate) but that was not the norm. 0900 I left to find the man who I was to return the keys to and pay for the night. Couldnít find him but got pointed to someone else who promised theyíd give the keys and money to the correct person. I headed out of Khawa with a grin so big my head was in danger of falling off. It was just the right temp; the sand was soft but smooth and going was good. Right up to the point where I stopped to take my favourite pic of the trip. Returning to the bike I saw my back wheel totally flat and, worse, the bead was loose on the rim. Iíd checked my tubliss pressure the night before, but it was defiantly flat. I rode down the dune and into its shade, broke out the groundsheet and tools and got to it. The Tubliss wasnít holding air, so no hope of a quick fix. Wheel out, tyre off, tubliss off, and a new tube to be fitted. I found the hole in the tube and it wasnít anything that could have happened on the road. I think when I refitted the system at home, I must have inadvertently pinched the tube. Working on the groundsheet to not get grit in bearings or in the tyre, I got everything back together, using glycerol as lubrication. My little MTB shock absorber pump did the tubliss and I dumped a CO2 bomb into the back. It was holding pressure, so I left it as is. In hindsight I think I should have deflated it more for the sand, but on the light bike itís less of a big deal.
Onwards, following a few waypoints I had plotted on the major course changes in Xpatís tracks which I didnít really bother to follow anyway. The riding was sublime. Every second dune the terrain changes, from sand to grass to bush to hard pans, with all sorts of buck running as you crest each dune.

The grass was probably the most difficult. I was running a bit faster than I probably would, trying to make sure I didnít miss the boarder after the flat, but in the knee-high grass you canít see any of the holes dug by the cunning creatures who must feed on fallen motorcyclists. They dig their traps in the hope of catching out an unsuspecting or inattentive rider.  The only way to buy yourself some reaction time is to stand up, elevating your perspective enough to see 5m ahead. Itís not enough to avoid the holes, but itís just enough to lean back and blip the throttle to ping over the hole rather than fall into it. To assist in this, I retied my groundsheet, with my rain suit pants rolled into it behind the bag, rather than on top of it, so I could get my arse over the bag.

The bush was also tricky, as they were strategically placed where a rider would most likely crest the dune. So, doing so to vigorously would lead to an intimate meeting with the various types of thorns on offer. (aside- After thorough examination, with a very large data set, I can say with good confidence that any bush in Botswana taller than a size 9 Gaerne boot will without fail contain thorns of some sort) The bushes also often had the large holes dug to entrap riders just next to them, so while your attention was on just missing the sea urchins pretending to be plants, youíd miss the holes and fall prey to the mysterious hole diggers.

The riding while very stimulating and enjoyable, was hard work. I stopped at the only tree Iíd seen for 10 dunes and decided to have a break and a munch. As soon as I stopped, I saw my ground sheet was missing. Usually Iíd see it rattle loose in a mirror, or id feel it shift on the bag, but with it behind the bag, I had no indication. Luckily my bike crutch was still there. I got down to check the back wheel, which was fine, and notices a bolt on the rear fender coming loose. Just as I got my shifter out, I looked at the lower part of the rim. It had a good six or seven ticks trying various routes to ascend the wheel. Then I looked at my boots. They also had an inordinate number of the tiny devils crawling over them. Using the shifter, I killed any on my that I could find, and then noticed the ground. Everywhere I looked there were ticks rushing as fast as their legs could carry them towards me. I took 3 steps sideways, and they all turned to follow. Then I looked at the new area- Surprise! More dam ticks. I suspect the vibrations of my moving was attracting them. Eventually I went and stood in the sun, where there seemed to be far less around. After some peanuts and nougat, I got back to the bike and moving leaving the shady tick patch behind.

As soon as I was rolling, I started feeling phantom itches. All over myself. Paranoia was usually overruled, and I kept riding, except for my neck. I swear something bit me. But every time I stopped there was nothing there. I unzipped the jacked, opened the neck brace and pulled my buff out of the way, and whatever it was must have moved. That evening I had 3 bites on my chest. No ticks found, I am still hoping it was a sand flea or something else, antihistamine cream sorted it out, but I am still keeping an eye out for tick bite fever.

I backtracked a few km, looking for the groundsheet. I was hopeful that it was near, as the crutch hadnít fallen off. I wasnít too bothered by it or my pants, but I hate to litter and spoil such an untouched piece of nature. Eventually I had to give up, as my fuel was dwindling,

The rest of the ride was just as much fun, but by about 1400 when I hit Bokspits I was properly tired. My arms and legs were fading, and my concentration was going I fell over twice more in the dunes, when the back side was steeper than anticipated, and the ground was further than my leg was long.

I filled up (and had almost exactly 4L left in the tank, the same amount that Iíd carried extra. The Husky was using more fuel than Xpatís KTM on the first day in Bots, and I am still not sure why. Possibly the cable for the map switch is damaged and itís running in the performance map all the time, or the skinnier 110 back wheel is spinning more in the soft stuff. Either way I was up to 7.6L/100 in the bush, from about 4.6-5L/100 on the gravel roads.
I almost passed the Botswanan boarder without stopping, and after getting through went to explain where the other half of my number plate was to the South African boarder officials. They were happy once I produced the registration document, and I set my sights for Molopo Lodge as mentioned by Xpat. Just before the lodge I stop to switch on my phones data and check in with the folks. I google the lodge and at over R1000/night for a spot to sleep I wasnít keen to stay there. After a bit more map reading, I decided to push on via nice gravel highways to Augrabies, where I had arranged a room at the place Iíd stayed before.

I went via Noenieput and had just over 300 km to do. It was 1430 ish, and I could run at 100km/h easily. The only problem was that every bump made the knots in my forearms feel like Iíd poked a bruise. The riding was good, but after Botswana, nothing compares. Fences each side of the road and the odd other car just wasnít the same. But the time was well spent, I could dwall and let my mind wonder, thinking about all kinds of things, from friends and family, the future, the past and what I want. Iím the sort of person who thinks, probably too much, and can outthink my own feelings. Often when I have a big choice to make, I go for a long ride so I can quieten the voices in my head and actually feel what I want, rather than what I think I want. Gravel road meditation is a thing.

Augrabies was busy after a three-day MTB event, and I pulled into my lodging just as the sun set. A shower and few moments to relax were heaven after riding for 9 hours, with 8 of them moving. I snagged a place at the hotel next door for dinner and had a brilliant meal for not very much money. I am seriously impressed with the value of the places I visited. Makes living in a city questionableÖ
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2019, 09:52:18 pm »
The next morning, I looked at the maps and decided to aim for Loerisfonain and see how I felt from there. I knew @Hinksding  was in the area, so I sent him a message asking about accommodation options. From Kakamas itís a 300km gravel highway, and by 1030 I was already 150 km in. I stopped to stretch my legs and double check I was on the right road, as my GPS was acting up and Iíd given up on using it. There was one slightly dodgy patch of road where there were rocky bits suddenly after hardpacked dirt. The road is mostly clay and must be a handful in the wet but dry itís great for making up distance fast. I stopped again to stretch my legs and shoot some footage, when I noticed the back wheel was soft again. I had slime in there and the stripe of slime under the mudguard was a dead giveaway. I found the hole easily due to its size. A nice gash at the base of a block. Oh well, no problem, I have Tubliss, so I plugged the hole with two plugs and dumped my last CO2 bomb into it. As I put the reamer into the hole, I must have displaced the slime, and I started to lose air quickly.

I had 100 Km to Loeries, where I was going to look for a mushroom plug to sort this out properly.
I kept the speed down and managed to do 70 km before the plugs vanished and I was flat again. This time I put in three plugs, and I was down to only one spare, after loosing three others into the tyre. (It wasnít the usual snotty worm type of plug, but a tapered rubber thing- I got proper plugs later on) The problem was pumping the tyre up. My MTB shock pump took 40 mins to get some air into the wheel, and it wasnít enough to stop the flex of the wheel. The plugs lasted seven km before falling out. I stopped and was more than a little bit grumpy with myself. No option left, I ran at 30km/h stopping every 6-8 km to let the wheel and bike cool down. The wind was from behind and I could feel the bike running hot. I took off the radiator louvres and cleaned out the grass from Botswana to try help, but even a cooler engine wonít stop the tyre from overheating.

I got signal at one of the cooling stops and had a reply from Hinksding, saying his wife runs a guesthouse, and that I should contact her. He was meant to be on the farm but had come into town for the night for supplies. I called when I was in town at 1645, and I met him at the Co-op. just before they closed, I managed to buy a mushroom plug from the General Dealer, and I headed back to Hinksdingís house to sort out this mess.  We cleaned and patched the hole and after a glass of bread, put everything back. It seemed to be holding air, Phew. It was almost 2000 by now, and the one restaurant was almost closed, However Hinksding offered to feed me as well. Yoh, I was in for a treat. I donít know what she did, but his wife made the most unbelievable spaghetti bolognaise. I was blown away by their hospitality, great company and, later by their guest house, which looks brand new, with all the bells and whistles. I would whole heartedly recommend anyone to stay there (I think itís called Rocky Ridge manor). After being grumpy about the puncture, I went to bed well fed and rather glad that I had ended up staying in Loeriesfontain.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2019, 01:21:26 am by McKracken »
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2019, 09:53:48 pm »
Wednesday dawned clear and warmÖ Right up until I got moving. The air was warm in the sun, but as soon as the wind was blowing through my very vented jacket it was cold. The plan was to head for Clanwilliam and decide from there which route to go. I pushed through the cold but missed the Clanwilliam turnoff. I only realised when I saw the 10km to Calvinia sign. As I was slowing to check the maps, I felt the back wheel was soft. I checked again, the mushroom was holding, but I had a new hole. Same story. A sharp rock must have pierced the carcass just at the base of a knob. Being only 10 Km from civilisation I decided to limp on slowly rather than spend an hour trying to pump up for 10 km

By the time I got to a garage the mushroom plug had torn out as well, so off I went to supa quick. They kindly lent me an old tyre to work on and some tools, and I got the tyre off and removed the tubliss system. I wanted to look after it, not wanting to ride on it totally flat if I got another puncture. A normal rimrock and a tube went in along with 2 gaters over the existing holes. By now I had lost confidence in the back wheel and decided that rather than sour a fantastic trip, Iíd bail out and take the long tar home. Tyres nice and hard, I only stopped once for fuel in Citrusdal and made it home without any other trouble, and before the weather hit later on Friday.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2019, 09:55:41 pm »
Overall the trip was 3555.5 km and 9 days- 8 of them riding. Approx. 60 hours of engine runtime, one oil and air filter change in the middle. 180L of fuel and 4 tip overs- all either stopped or less than 10km/h.

Things I learned:
Take a proper pump and a spare tube as well. (The tube thing I knew but risked it knowingly(read foolishly)).
Take a 14 spanner, Leave the 17.
Groundsheet is brilliant but make a better securing arrangement.
Get a fender bag for tools.
Number plates are consumables, as are rear indicators and OEM mirrors.
The Hybrid tyre is about 50-60% worn. Still grips well. Not tough enough for the shale rocks of Karoo. Itís supposed to be poor in sand, but I never had any problems with it, and I did all the sand I could find.
Tubliss is great, I will still use it, and after fitting a few times I am comfortable that I can work with it without damaging anything.

The 500 can do the distance. Itís not twitchy on the roads, but it isnít comfortable to sit on. After 2/3 days you do get used to it, but after bots, the gravel highways arenít interesting enough. I took it because the option was that or stay home. With the choice Iíd trailer closer to the boarder, but that option was not there for this trip.


Other than that the only conclusion I can make is get off your arse and do it, because honestly, SW Botswana isnít as good as Xpat says, its better.
Yamaha PW 80,  '92 Fantic Key Roo 249, 98' Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 95' BMW R1100GS, 17' Triumph Tiger XCX, '16 Husqvana 501
 
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Offline Sardine

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Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2019, 10:01:27 pm »
Lekker!
I am enjoying your sense of humour  :ricky:

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Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2019, 10:28:54 pm »
 and knobbly tyres on wet tar offer as much grip as Velcro on a marble counter top.

You krack me up!!!! :lol8: :lol8:
Love you RR wish you had more photo's :thumleft:
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Offline Aprilian

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Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2019, 10:30:02 pm »
Wow, great read! Have bike and trailer - start planning

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Offline McKracken

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2019, 10:41:37 pm »
and knobbly tyres on wet tar offer as much grip as Velcro on a marble counter top.

You krack me up!!!! 8: 8:
Love you RR wish you had more photo's :thumleft:
I've got lots of video. Which I'll start editing eventually, and post a link here. Should have some good footage of the elusive xpat

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Offline Kortbroek

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2019, 10:47:26 pm »
Great RR  :ricky:
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!
 

Offline Oubones

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Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2019, 04:42:13 am »
Great trip!
Thanks for sharing.
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Offline Highsider

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Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2019, 05:53:10 am »
Thanks for the great RR.  Loved the twist at the end.


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Offline OomD

Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2019, 06:40:17 am »
Quite an inspiring and humorous RR, and it's epic! Thanks for sharing! One day I'll overcome my fear of sand, and do a trip in this direction.
 

Offline Crossed-up

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Re: Botswana- it isn't as good as Xpat says
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2019, 07:41:53 am »
That part of Botswana is very special. Really enjoyed your report. Thank you.