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Author Topic: Christmas Safari 2 - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)  (Read 45233 times)

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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #100 on: March 08, 2015, 01:10:28 pm »
Day 12 - part 1

As a Central European, with deeply ingrained suspicion against an optimistic outlook on life (yes, it makes perfect sense coming from a small tribe stuck between two barbarian, unfortunately much bigger tribes - one of which is busy stirring shit right now) and a fan of british art of understatement, I'm not big on waxing lyrical so popular among the sunny disposed South Africans. You will not find words like awesome, epic or adventure of a lifetime in my vocabulary.

That said, Kaokoland puts even me to a test. So let's get it out of the way: There is no other place like Kaokoland!!! Not in southern Africa (nothing comes even remotely close), not anywhere else as far as I can say, and I have seen quite a bit of Eastern Africa, Himalayas, Karakoram, Salar de Uyuni or Andes. The combination of harsh, yet breathtakingly scenic mountains and deserts, cut through by dry riverbeds flanked by lush green bush teeming with the most unexpected and majestic african animals, and inhabited by one of almost kitsch african tribes - Himbas, is just a pure magic. Even more so as it's one of the last places of such a natural beauty and animal wealth where you can still ride on a bike freely - no permits, no fences, no admission fees, nothing.

I have a bad hunch though, that that is about to change. I think it's just a matter of time until some illuminati mother will come up with a plan to monetise the place. Based on what I've encountered I believe it may be already hapenning. So if you really are into adventure riding, get your act together and head up there quick before it's going to get turned into rich mans playground off limit to us dirty stinking bikers - they will probably use the conservation angle to keep us out, sounds more noble. And make sure to include Hoanib and Huarusib rivers in your route, don't just waste your time going staying on the main route between Sesfontein, Opuwo and Epupa Falls - that is of course if you you didn't handicap yourself with one of those 1200 contraptions. See - how I can turn even lyrical wax into a doom and gloom, dragging your soul down? You can get Central European out of Prague, but not Prague out of Central European, I'm telling ya!

The plan for the day was to ride up to Puros via the Hoanib riverbed and then turn north along the border of the Skeleton NP all the way to Huarusib river and take the river back up the Puros canyon to Purrs for overnight. I didn't make it all the way to the Puros canyon and took a little shortcut. Like so:



I've arranged for an early breakfast at the lodge so that I could be at the petrol station at 7:00 am when it opens. I was to come back from Puros next day to fetch the luggage I left at the lodge - a total round trip of 280 km, so I just filled my tank (approximate range of 400 km) and didn't take any spare fuel. With the tank full I set-off on D3707 towards Puros:


After about 10 km I came to the turn-off to the Hoanib riverbed, marked by a board for the Elephant Song Camp about 75 km down the river:


I took the track and rode along the wide plain bush inter-sped by many tracks. My elephant paranoia kicked in immediately and I was constantly on my tip toes, especially in the narrow streams and dense bush, always ready to open up and crash through the bush should a pachyderm show up for a bit of petting.
























The narrow passages made me nervous - no chance for an elephant turn on the big fat Tenere here:








This one didn't make it - broken front axle or something. It was a Wilderness Safaris car, so I was surprised that they left it there and didn't pull it out;







The sandy tracks with the low sun exactly behind you are quite treacherous, as you cannot differentiate the tracks and the central divide:






At the place where the Hoanib river enters the mountains I came across the board saying Stop, Permit. So I stopped and went to investigate to a half finished hut what is the story. There was nobody there. I have talked extensively with the safari guides in the Sesfontein fort about my route and nobody mentioned anything about permits. I know that many people ride/drive through the riverbed - I've ridden there myself two years ago coming from Puros and no one ever mentioned any permit. So I decided to err on the side of adventure and pushed on. I have subsequently googled about permit requirements for Hoanib river and found exactly nothing. So if anybody here knows what is the story, please let us know.




As I followed the riverbed into the mountains, the scenery changed dramatically and started to resemble more Rocky Mountains than Namibian desert - with bare rock faces flanking the riverbed on both sides and lush green bush covering both banks of the river. It was beautiful, but I kept vigilant looking out for ellies, especially in the frequent thickets I had to cross:








There were still some plains to cross in between sections of the mountains:
























I have eventually arrived to the place where Ganamub river joins the Hoanib, which then continues west through a narrow little canyon called Die Poort. If I remember correctly this is also the place of a village that had to be relocated due to constant lion threat.

The Ganamub valley heading up north:


Where I came from:


And where I'm heading - Die Poort:



To be continued.
 
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 11:49:26 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline mtr89

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #101 on: March 08, 2015, 08:24:12 pm »
As always,a great read!
some more please!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #102 on: March 08, 2015, 09:21:12 pm »
There you go - I was updating as you were commenting.

Offline JMOL

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #103 on: March 09, 2015, 06:20:45 am »
Then I'll wait for the next part  ;D

Thanks.
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Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #104 on: March 09, 2015, 09:32:10 am »
Damn I love the look of that area!! Simply stunning

Thanks for the update, keep it coming
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Offline Duster

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #105 on: March 09, 2015, 12:00:40 pm »
Thank you Duster, but there is no need for admiration. I have a hunch that the admiration is based on a common wrong view perpetuated by media that the world is a dangerous place and therefore requires big cojones to be tackled - especially solo. I would argue that - at least crime-wise - the chances of anything happening anywhere on this trip is 100s of times lower compared to locked-up electrically fenced house in Gauteng or CT. Contrary to that on my travels I find that people are almost always willing to help readily - especially in the remote areas where people depend on each other's help much more than in cities. That actually is one of the reasons why I like this type of trips - they usually re-establish my trust in mankind, sometimes strongly tested in my mundane city life. Once you experience that once or twice, you realise that no extra cojones are needed, as there isn't much to worry about - I'm no brave man by most measures.

Of course there are risks of fall/injury and/or breakdown involved in solo bike rides in remote areas. Regarding fall/injury, again contrary to common logic (but then most things about dirt riding are counterintuitive - like counter steering, look up-stand up, open-up), I feel strongly that I'm actually safer solo - and funnily enough probably also faster. On my own my ego takes a break and I tend to naturally fall into the flow of things. With another person - at least for me - lots of my mental capacity is sublimely or not involved in relational stuff, such as dick swinging (racing) or worrying about the other guy if he is much less experienced. Sure if shit happens it is great to have somebody with you, but in my experience the shit is much less likely to happen on my own. And for those worst case scenarios I have had on this trip for the first time a satellite phone and helicopter rescue arranged.

Breakdowns - I deliberately went for a relatively dull and underpowered, but reliable (and unfortunately heavy) bike, that is being serviced regularly (but still not enough as you will see later). And I always carry lots of water on me (I start remote sections always with 12 litres of water - 3 in camel back and 9 in a pouch in my luggage) and I'm pretty confident that should the shit hit the fan, barring major injury I should be able to walk out 50 - 60 km overnight. And that may not be necessary with the satellite phone anyway...

So to sum up - if this is something that interests you as your jealousy indicates, and circumstanced do allow it(and solo trips are only for people who are reasonably comfortable with themselves - most people prefer company, which is perfectly fine - but more difficult to arrange a trip), just go for a trip. Start with something smaller to build up confidence (you are in Limpopo, so I would suggest Tuli Block or even Makgadikgadi shindig - shouldn't be too expensive and time consuming - can be done over 3 - 4 days) and I'm sure you will find that solo trips are really not scary at all. They can be tedious though if you like a company in the evening...

Thanks for the reply, I do agree with you in all aspects.  We have done Africa twice, though only tar, and had no criminal experiences at all.  Much safer there than in SA.
My concern was the solo ride in sand like that where anything can happen, and you have no backup.  But I see that you do prepare for basically any situation. I would like to do something like that, but on a smaller bike and for the first time rather with a friend or 2 for safety sake.  But then Stoffies like to do the trips with me, and that kind of trip will not do 2 up.

One day......
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Offline King Louis

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #106 on: March 09, 2015, 04:55:22 pm »
Just finished reading so far. Awesome, thanks for sharing. Really enjoying this! :thumleft: :ricky:
 

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #107 on: March 09, 2015, 09:54:36 pm »
Thanks for support.

Offline Tonteldoos

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #108 on: March 09, 2015, 10:53:05 pm »
Now this trip is just epic!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #109 on: March 09, 2015, 11:25:23 pm »
Day 12 - part 2

After short break I entered Die Poort. It's short, but narrow and curved so I revved the engine before entering to give any ellie a chance to clear the way and set-off tentatively.


Before Die Poort, Hoanib riverbed was a set of interwoven streams criss-crossing open plain, which narrowed down to a wider river bed only once I entered the mountains. After Die Poort, it was regular wide riverbed with occasional island or two in the middle. So far I haven't seen much game - I have seen some elephant dung in the upper reaches but it didn't look fresh to this Sandton ranger. From Die Poort I was on full alert - 2 years ago I have encountered downstream from Die Poort 10 - 15 elephants.


I rode mostly off the vehicle tracks so that I can keep an eye on the surrounds rather than the line. Despite appearance the sand in the riverbed was deep and even with wound up engine I wasn't able to get above 60 kmh - barely able to outrun possible threat. These deep sand sections are one real terrain where I would appreciate  power of LC8.











I've started to come across herds of springboks and oryxes, but so far no elephants, but I knew it's just a matter of time, as they have nowhere to go here:



Then I came across the first giraffe family parked slap bang in the middle of the river:




As I approached slowly they moved off the river onto the right bank:


Where they kept an eye on me from behind a bush, while I took the pictures:




But not before I took proper 360 degree check of my surrounds looking for any cricket that may be waiting in hiding, my standard operating procedure in this river - I always stop in an open area with good visibility of surround and do not switch the engine off before proper look around:


Continuing down the river with surface alternating between dried out mud and sand with alternating open and narrow overgrown areas:














Took frequent breaks under the huge Ana trees (after cursory check for a leopard - no luck):








Set-off again and soon came across another giraffe family. The full grown giraffes will give you a good idea about the size of those Ana trees









I passed them at least 100 meters away along the other side of the river, but they clearly felt up for a bit of a race and soon I noticed them galloping on my right flank. I stopped and they crossed the river about 150 meters ahead and moved into the bush away from the river:




I set-off again thinking that's it:


But about 1 km down the river one of them came galloping from branch of the river connecting from the left and continued straight ahead running away from me:







After a short race (sadly I did not have a chance - those things are bloody fast!) I stopped as I didn't want to chase it too far away from its family. Initially I thought the stupid elongated goat just freak-out and run in blind panic. But as soon as I stopped it stopped about 200 meters ahead. It seemed like it was actually pretty smart and was trying to lure me away from the rest of the family. So I followed hoping that it will eventually veer off the riverbed, and we continued play this game for good 5 km or so.

In one place the river branched into two parallel streams and I've seen an opportunity to win my pride back. I gunned it down the left stream, while the giraffe Haile Gebreselasie (or being Czech I should rather say Emil Zatopek) pushed hard across the island to my right. I came short again, but to my credit I started about 100 meters behind!






I stopped again and we continued in the same vein for next 2 km, with another branching in the river proving the same failure for me - you can barely see the giraffe in the right stream:




Eventually the giraffe assumed I'm far enough and veered off to the left bank and let me pass - bastard, next time I'm bringing proper bike to avenge the pride of adventure biker!


The scenery down the river started to change gradually with big sand dunes sometimes almost fully covering the hills announcing close by Namib desert:


But still overgrown with thick bush:


I was surprised that I haven't yet bumped into any elephants as I know they roam all over here. I've seen lots of dung around but no elephants yet. However that meant that the encounter is imminent now as I had only about 10 more km of river to cover till the start of the Skeleton Coast NP.

I soon came to the the point in the river where the track riverbed is crossed by the north-south track from Palmwag to Puros. I wanted originally to take this route already from Palmwag, but then was told by the rangers in Palmwag lodge that I'm not allowed there as I would have to cross a concession that is off limits to bikes. The track up north from Puros was the one I have done two years ago on Husky - going to Sesfontein. Now I was to continue west in Hoanib another about 10 km before I will take another track up north to Puros.

At the crossing I headed for a high ground on the left bank to have look about:



The valley with track heading south to Palmwag about 110 km away - the one I originally wanted to do:




I liked this look out point as the rocks provided refuge should ellies show up. The place was surprisingly busy - two 4x4s coming  up from Palmwag:


And an oryx in the dunes:


And soon the elephant heard showed up down below heading for the water hole and flanked by safari car. The car actually came up before this to my view point and the ranger asked me whether I have a permit that I supposedly need, and said something about some 20 bikers who ripped apart Skeleton Coast a day of two before. He was civil about it and so was I when I told him that I do not have a permit and didn't know there is any permit required. He told me I'm not allowed in Skeleton Coast park, which I knew and told him that I'm heading to Puros. It all ended up amicably, but left me with a sad feeling that the times of free riding in Kaokoland may be coming to an end.

Herd flanked at the back by a bull about 100 meters behind. The ranger warned me that the bull already killed a person there, which I somehow already knew, but couldn't recollect from where:


The elephant bull and oryx to the left waiting for his turn at the waterhole:


The 4x4s did the usual safari thing at the waterhole:


The bull then headed up the river where I came from:


While the rest of the heard returned back down the river where I was heading:


Oryx and Tenere gave them some time to move off before they made next move:







To be continued...

Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #110 on: March 10, 2015, 09:39:22 am »
Stunning!

With every post I am becoming more and more excited about the June trip!!! :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline eduard

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #111 on: March 10, 2015, 10:17:21 am »
Ongelooflik!!!!  :thumleft:
 

Offline JMOL

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #112 on: March 10, 2015, 01:14:46 pm »
Life is hard - even harder if you are stupid.
 

Offline popipants

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Re:
« Reply #113 on: March 10, 2015, 05:59:29 pm »
Thanks for sharing. Takes big balls to do that on your own....and in summer!!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #114 on: March 10, 2015, 09:11:08 pm »
Thank you again for following.

Offline Xpat

Re:
« Reply #115 on: March 10, 2015, 09:18:29 pm »
Thanks for sharing. Takes big balls to do that on your own....and in summer!!

Naaah, as I tried to tell in the post to Duster, it takes a bit of preparation, experience and luck. I just follow my gut and if it doesn't feel right I turn tail and get out as you could have seen in the Ugab river when I chickened out after merely 5 km just because having a flat and bike dug in in quick sequence didn't feel right (Ok and the elephants were coming). If going solo is something you may like  to do (and I think most people prefer company - me included, I'm just too lazy to go through the pain of organising trip around other people time/budget limitations), just start easy on smaller trips and build up your confidence level. Prepare the best you can and then forget everything, just go and follow your guts.

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #116 on: March 10, 2015, 10:42:18 pm »
Day 12 - part 3

With the elephant bull parked under a tree slap bang next to the river entry point and the rest of the herd about 200 hundred meters downstream I choose to give them a wide berth and took a detour around the viewpoint hill and connected to the Palmwag track running up on the dune across the Hoanib tributary. I have ridden next to these same elephants before and had enough videos and pictures to prove it, so I didn't want to piss them off unnecessarily.



I had still about 7 - 8 km to go downriver along the Hoanib, before I will come to the Skeleton Coast NP boundary and will have to turn north to Amerspoort about 70 km north. The river here clearly was leaving slowly the mountains and entering the sandy desert:







Few hundred meters downstream I came across these stragglers huddled under Ana tree on the other side of the river:


Then I hit the riverbed proper again and almost immediately came across another one of those leopard camouflaged elongated goats:












The sand started to take over:






More giraffes - again check those Ana trees for size!




Namibian trademark - red rocky hills:




And some more giraffes on the right bank:







Eventually I reached the place where the river enters the Skeleton Coast NP - off limits to me - and had to turn north toward Puros:





Once out of the riverbed, I was in a dry desert. The track initially weaved through the low remnants of the mountains and then came upon flat desert running along the west border of the park, following the mountains to the east:










Mountains to the right:




Nothing to the left:




And onwards north:




Where I came from:


And where I'm going:



The original plan was to ride all the way to Amerspoort - place where the Huarusib river enters the park, and follow Huarusib upstream to Puros through the famous Puros canyon. By the fatigue was setting in again and I didn't feel like trying to ride another river bed on full elephant alert. Instead I rode to about km or so of the river and then turned west on another track going through the desert and mountains, but not the river. So I will have to come back as I haven't done the Puros canyon yet - damn!

Puros valley:




Last dune before Puros:


Puros in the distance by the green Huarusib river bed:


I turned towards Community lodge and campsite about 5 km north before reaching the village:


Following Huarusib towards the lodge:


And crossing the Huarusib to the lodge on the other side:




Himba (or probably Herero as she wasn't dressed traditionally) lady in the lodge provided readily chalet, but I was little disappointed to find out that Gustav - a guy who was in charge two years ago when I was here, was gone to Windhoek. Gustav was a local guy who somehow got trained in the art of cooking and hospitality in one of the Swakop tourist lodges and what a difference he made here. Knowing what tourists like me need, he had fridge full of cold drinks and for dinner prepared delicious springbok ragu - I'm no gourmand, but that memory still brings smile to my face. To be sure the lady was very nice, but no - no drinks or food available. I'll have to take a risk and try to fry a corned beaf and smash then.




My half chalet - later the lodge got filled up by South Africans in those Gucci 4x4 - community chalets were clearly preferable to the roof tents:


Once settled in I went to check out the surrounds - elephants were supposed be to be further down the river, so I could relax for a bit. The sun was setting down and Huarusib riverbed flanked by mountains on both sides provided for an impressive scenery:








The campsite is exactly halfway between Sesfontein and Orupembe (110 km each):




















Puros valley:











So that was Day 12. It will take me few months to make a video so here is a shameless repeat plug of a video I did two years ago going in the opposite direction from Puros to Sesfontein. Idiotically I did not check my facts and called Hoanib river Huarusib in that video:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Aco2G34gspI" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Aco2G34gspI</a>
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 12:15:36 am by Xpat »
 

Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #117 on: March 10, 2015, 11:34:05 pm »
Now it is clear to see that I have yet to see Namibia proper.

Excellent RR Xpat.

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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #118 on: March 11, 2015, 11:11:00 am »
Thank you Ian  :thumleft:.

If you don't mind me saying when seeing your report I was wondering, why you guys didn't go to Puros and just skimped Kaokoland on the main roads (which seems what most people do). Now I understand you had a newbie in the team and probably wanted to cover as much of Namibia as possible - kind of like filling your stomach when hungry. But now that you've eaten I would recommend to focus on the quality, rather than quantity. And IMO you will not find better quality than inner Kaokoland.

You may not be able to do all the tracks I did on the big 1200 (but then you may be much better rider than I am and if I remember correctly Metaljockey did it on GS1200), but doing the Opuwo (or even starting from Eppupa and take shortcut, but bypassing VZP) - Puros - Sesfontein loop is quite doable - I've done it on GSA1150. Even including going through Khumib and Huarusib riverbeds (one of the next installments in my report) should be doable as there are only here and there patches of deep sand  and it's much preferable to the badly corrugated main road.

I've seen somewhere that you are planning doing eastern Nam next, so I thought I'll just plant a seed .... ;D
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 11:13:33 am by Xpat »
 

Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #119 on: March 11, 2015, 12:35:45 pm »
Loving this report, keep it coming  :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
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