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Author Topic: Christmas Safari 2 - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)  (Read 44455 times)

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Offline popipants

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #160 on: March 24, 2015, 03:51:22 pm »
Had no idea it was not flat on the way to Rooidrom  :o


+1
I thought it was a flat plane.



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Offline JMOL

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #161 on: March 24, 2015, 07:19:22 pm »
Headache gone yet  ;)

Waiting for the rest!!
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Offline Hondsekierie

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #162 on: March 24, 2015, 10:11:24 pm »
One epic report, one epic adventurer!!

You sir have a special way of bonding with the world out there :thumleft:

Lotsa respect and hopefully one day we can share some magic!!
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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #163 on: March 25, 2015, 12:48:11 am »
Day 15 - part 2

By the time I reached bottom of the VZP the sun was up and the heat was raising quickly. I took a breather (rather a smoker) in the shade under a tree and contemplated what I'm up for. Before I've done the VZP two years ago I imagined it to be one of those clearly defined majestic scenic passes crossing big mountain range from one lowland to another. Which now I knew it is not. Rather it is a series of uphill/downhill sections gradually ascending over a series of hills from Marienfluss valley to the high ground that evens out roughly in Otjihende about 15 km away from the bottom of the pass. From there the route descends almost unnoticeably to Okangwati about 72 km where it joins the main road between Opuwo and Epupa Falls.

I'm not even sure what section is the actual VZP - I assume it is the last and steepest section of about 3 km descending from the famous viewpoint over the Marienfluss down to the bottom where I was now. I knew from my prior trip that this section is only the beginning - while it is steepest, it used to be also relatively smooth, and there were few much more gnarly sections with steep ascents/descents over big loose rocks further east.

But first I had to make it up the steep ascent to the viewpoint, so there was not point worrying about the later sections now. In this first sections I was particularly concerned about two parts - first the steepest bit behind the hill I was at now, and second is the famous, but relatively short (probably 20 meters) rocky staircase - that you can see on most pictures of VZP.

I knew that the key to make it up on my overweight and oversized pig will be commitment and persuasion. But I could also see that from the onset there are ample leg breaking opportunities, so decided to balance those with caution sitting down rather than gunning it up standing. I'd rather turn tail and be able to retrace in one piece than lay down broken in the gully covered in Tenere parts. With that sorted I set-off.






It was very difficult to get traction and maintain momentum on the step hard surface covered in dust with embedded rock and running on the rounded spine of the hill and therefore most of the time running off-camber one side or another. I lost momentum few times, stopped and could get going again only thanks to generous slipping of the clutch. The surface was also much more uneven compared to two years ago, with quite a few step-ups resulting from the 4x4 wheelspin and braking:








To my relief at one particularly steep and gnarly point somebody created an alternative route which I took. While easier than the original track, I had to proceed with caution as it was quite a bit off camber and covered by the small loose rocks.




Where I came from:


On top of the first major ascent and having for the first time look at the whole pass. As you can see the tracks first goes up to the top of this hill (the clearly visible white track following from where I'm at this point), before dipping down into the valley and starting climbing up the main mountain - the darker brown one in the background. Getting out of that dip was where I originally expected first trouble - but by know I've already been through one or three troubles already:


Getting to the top of the first hill:






At the top of the first hill looking down to the dip - the ascent to the left on the other side, while not looking as much was the steepest part of the pass as far as I could remember:


All right, let's go:


And up again:








It wasn't pretty, but I have made it successfully around the corner finishing the first main challenge. Here I expected the ascent to ease up considerably. Which it didn't and I lost momentum and stalled in the corner. All right, so maybe two more corners on the loose rocks and I should be out of the woods - until I hit the staircase. So I fired her up again and in a delicate well practised interplay throttled up just the right amount, released the clutch and rear break - and almost fell backwards over the edge of the track. WTF china! Must have left it in neutral so I made sure 1st gear is engaged and tried again this time wisely covering the rear brake - and again the engine just freewheeled with no power going to the rear wheel. I've tried other gears - but the same story, the bike just revved freely in any gear without a sliver of HP going to the rear wheel.


Petting the clutch lever in the hope that it may decide to come back:


Shit, the clutch is gone! Or, worse (you can always rely on Central European to come up with the worst possible scenario) my gearbox packed up as it did on few Teneres where some nut went loose and the gearbox locked up. I hate mechanical problems as they clearly demonstrate what a biking fraud I am. You may expect that someone doing this type of trips knows intimately his bike inside out, but no, not me. I can fix puncture and maybe clutch cable, but that is about it. In situations like this I rely exclusively on other people's goodwill, brainpower and skills, so that's what I will do now.

My options were quite straightforward. In the descending order of desirability: Option 1 - call Conrad from Offroadcycles on satellite, get through the profanities and make him fix the clutch over the phone. Option 2 - wait for the Germans who were expected to come up VZP for day trip later and let them fix it. The lady in their group told me that some of them fixed their broken shock somewhere in South American jungle with a piece of wood. Surely clutch or a gearbox will be a piece of cake for them, there was plenty of wood around. Option 3 - walk to the village on top of the VZP about 14 km uphill away, and get a local bakkie to recover the bike - I've seen one there two years ago.


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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #164 on: March 25, 2015, 12:50:02 am »
Day 15 - part 3

But first things first - let's procrastinate a bit with a smoke, make myself comfortable in the shade under a nearby tree, and most importantly take pretty pictures. It was hot and the tree wasn't exactly Ana tree, so the shade was quite sparse, but it will have to do for now. On the positive side the view was good and my balls weren't freezing off.







The scenery - nothing like middle of VZP with dead bike to make you appreciate proper solitude - the silence was overpowering:





Right, with the nicotine levels back to normal, let's make a phone call. This satellite phones are a wonderful invention - that is when they work. Frustratingly they mostly don't, or rather they pretend to connect while you can see your expensive airtime ticking away listening to some static, or worse hearing the counterpart, while they cannot hear you. That wasn't the problem with Mr. Offroadcycle though as nobody picked up the phone there - he and his crew were clearly enjoying luxurious vacation in the comfort of his villa in northern Pretoria, while this IT working bee was slaving in the hot and harsh Kaokoland.

Luckily I remembered that Shimwells were working over the holidays and after few unsuccessful calls I managed eventually to speak to Braam, who confirmed that my clutch plates are gone and the way out is to throw the bike on its side, take the clutch cover and pressure plate off (see how fluently I use these highly specialist terms now - didn't have a clue what they were are the time) and take one of the steel plates separating the clutch plates out and that should get me out of sticks. So that is what I tentatively set-off to do, taking pictures at each stage to be able to put that mysterious thing back together:




Cover off:


Pressure plate off:




Roundabout this point, I've heard a sweet sound of thumpers from the valley down bellow. Immediately I stopped and switched to option 2 waiting to delegate the task to the initiated ones who've seen naked clutch before.

The forward party of two EXCs arrived in no time:




And as fast as they arrived, they were gone - without so much as a nod in my direction. Hmmm, the option 2 seemed to be over before it even started - maybe they will stop on the way down, but somehow I felt they will not:



Next one was a gentleman on 690 - he did stop, but probably only because he lost balance at the sight of me. To be fair he checked what is the problem and after I explained problem and possible remedy, he told me to take out not just a steel plate but also one clutch plate, they always need to go together. I remembered it differently from Braam, but who am I to argue so I thanked him and he was on his way up again.




This one is a bit redundant, but I like how it is pixelated:


As you can see here, long legs and small bike are a huge advantage this side. I didn't have that option and had to balance the bike without my legs:




He came back pretty soon, while the first two were still gone - I didn't ask, but assumed that he didn't make it up the staircase, while the other two probably did.

And then the last two arrived - only 5 bikers out of the group of 20 decided to do the VZP trip. These two didn't make it even to where I was - and that is on much lighter and smaller bikes without luggage. And to think that this lot decides the future of the adventure biking market - eish. No wonder that in Europe they consider GS an enduro bike - I'm kidding you not, just check the posters for 800. And no, they didn't ask what is the problem - one of them took picture of my bike though:






I was about to start to finger my clutch again, when a convoy of 11 or so 4x4's came from the top. Bloody hell - one moment you feel like the last man on the planet, and the next it's like the crossing of Rivonia and Greyson drive on workday morning. I was a bit worried that my bike may get overrun as it was taking quite a big part of the narrow track on the outside of the sharp left corner and the other side of the track was pretty gnarly. But the leader of the group - a gentleman from Kempton Park if I remember correctly - assured me that there is plenty of space and - being South African - immediately started to devise a plan for evacuation of me and my bike. He said that they can move something in the bakkies and load the bike into one of them. I quite often see South Africans behaving very deferentially to Europeans like they are something better. I always wonder why - if anything it's the other way around as this episode clearly demonstrates.

But first he had to command his group through the rest of the pass. They had cars on which the low gears didn't work, so he had to pull them out of the dip onto the other hill before final descent. I couldn't work on the bike so I waited while the cars were passing - it took better part of an hour to get 11 cars past and pull them up the other side. This 4x4ing is a slow business indeed.

Here is some 4x4 porn:





















And then the rest of Germans came past - as expected leaving me to the vultures:




The 4x4 leader came back to try to see how can we put my bike into one of the bakkies. I hate to be nuisance like this, so I told him I still want to try fix the clutch myself. So he gave me some water and we exchange the Satellite phone numbers - I was to let him know how I ended up and if the bike wouldn't work he will come back to fetch me. They were camping somewhere nearby. Very encouraging meeting people like this.

Once the cars and the bikes were gone, the mountain returned to its solemn solitude and I was properly on my own again. By now it was afternoon and I have lost probably 2 - 3 hours hanging around while all the traffic passed by. Based on the advice of the German guy I took out a metal plate and one clutch plate, assembled everything back together - and no luck. So I disassembled it again and returned the clutch plate back, while keeping the metal one out, assembled it together again - and not luck again.

So with the options 1 & 2 over, it was option 3. I wasn't keen to dis-convenience the gentleman from 4x4 group, so it was time for a hike. Red drum with its little settlement was about 24 km back, Marble Campsite 60 km away, so the best option seemed the village on the top of VZP about 14 km away. I couldn't move the bike so it will have to stay where it is, but I wanted to drag the luggage somewhere where it cannot be spotted easily - I knew there were Himba herdsmen around and I'm sure they could use a lot of the stuff I had - and who could blame them.

As I was looking for the right spot, I've heard once again a sound of a single motorbike from down bellow. Could it be that the Germans just went to fetch their tools or a new clutch?

It turned out to be Fritz - the swiss gentleman on Aprilia RXV I've met first time in the White Lady campsite. He seemed to prefer riding on his own and join the group only for the overnight camp. He did stop to check what is the problem - which I explained in the mix of English, German and pantomime. He said he is going to go to the top and on the way down we will sort it out. Fantastic - in the meantime I disassembled the clutch for the third or fourth time. He was back quickly saying that the steps are quite bad. I told him what I've done and he didn't like the idea of taking out the metal plate. He recommended to take the whole clutch out, clean it properly wiping out the oil and assemble the whole clutch - including the metal plate - back. We did that - and the clutch worked. Bingo!


Of course it was clear even to idiot like me that I cannot continue up the pass and it's time to turn tail. Fritz waited till I packed the bike to escort me back to the Marble Campsite - top gentleman! I packed hastily as I hate to be a burden for somebody else, and we set-off going down. The clutch seemed to be working perfectly and I made it out of that steep dip with no hassle - but then idiotically I missed that new track bypassing the bad section on the top of the hill. I thought it's going to be relatively easy going down, but it wasn't. I eventually ended up walking the bike through few steep dugouts dropping it twice in the process.

After that I made it down without a glitch and without pause pushed as fast as I dared through the valley not to hold Fritz back. At the end of the valley I've stopped to check if he is behind me, which he wasn't so I relaxed seeing that I'm not holding him back. That until I noticed that I'm missing the rollie bag - and there was Fritz coming carrying my bag on his tank. He joking said that this is not my day - well clearly not!

After that we rode without glitch 20 km through to the Red Drum, where I stopped for a drink. Mechanicking whole day on the hot sun took its toll on me and I felt that I was pushing too hard to not inconvenience Fritz. He seen this and asked if it is OK for him to go ahead to Marble camp about 36 km away as he was worried that his guys will start looking for him. He promised to come back should I not make it by nightfall - it was late afternoon now. I agreed immediately - as I said I hate being a burden, and would rather take a risk on my own. I still had to cross the Red Drum pass, but the clutch seemed to hold fine and it wasn't that far from the camp anyway - I could always walk it out.

So Fritz left and I followed after short break. I made it through the Red Drum pass without a glitch and encountered some game along the way:







I've made it back to the campsite still in daylight and to my dismay all the houses on the hill were taken. So out of all days this will be the one when I will camp. Well, better than hiking the VZP, I guess:



Overall, it was a good day. I haven't made it up VZP and now was effectively on the trip of attrition back home. But I've made it back to the camp with burned clutch and the day could have turned out much less comfortable, than it did. There will be another day to ride up the bloody pass...
« Last Edit: March 25, 2015, 01:01:26 am by Xpat »
 

Online Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #165 on: March 25, 2015, 12:56:28 am »
One epic report, one epic adventurer!!

You sir have a special way of bonding with the world out there :thumleft:

Lotsa respect and hopefully one day we can share some magic!!

Thank you very much. As I said, I'm more than happy to join you guys on a trip. That Zinyala weekend looks tempting - I like that area, just need to see if I can make the date, as my project goes live round about that time.

Offline JMOL

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #166 on: March 25, 2015, 06:24:43 am »
What a trip!!  Respect!!!

I always knew VZP is steep, but never knew SO STEEP
« Last Edit: March 25, 2015, 06:25:34 am by JMOL »
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Offline Oupa Foe-rie

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #167 on: March 25, 2015, 07:58:32 am »
Ai jai jai ................. those Germans ............ ??? :o :o
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Offline Rafiki

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #168 on: March 25, 2015, 08:33:43 am »
BRILLIANT RR :thumbsup:
 

Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #169 on: March 25, 2015, 08:42:38 am »
Just awesome, I am glad I have never had to try and open a clutch out in the middle of no-where
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Offline ClimbingTurtle

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #170 on: March 25, 2015, 08:51:48 am »
Just awesome, I am glad I have never had to try and open a clutch out in the middle of no-where

I once had the centre-nut on the clutch basket come loose in the bush in central Tanzania - it's amazing how creative you become when you have limited choices!

Xpat - give that man a Bells!!  :thumleft: Awesome (sic) RR!!
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Offline Mikie

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #171 on: March 25, 2015, 09:18:01 am »
I cant believe those Germans just go by without even asking if everything is ok
:paw:

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #172 on: March 25, 2015, 10:01:59 am »
Just to be sure that I do not cause an unnecessary German hatred:

As explained in one of the prior installments I used the 'German' name for the group as a shorthand, as they were all German speaking. Many of them were actually Austrians and Swiss (one of them - a retired guy riding shotgun in the support truck was actually my compatriot - a Czech emigrant), and I have no clue which particular country those who didn't stop were from. And it was one of the group - a Swiss gentleman who saved my ass at the end of the day.

But yes, that said, it was pretty weird that they didn't even check what's up. I can understand that in a city, where a breakdown usually can be resolved quickly with one phone call to a mate or roadside service, but out in the sticks it just seem odd. And I'm not talking morality here, it just seems to me natural to interact with your own kind when out in the sticks.

But hey, all's good at the end of the day. Even if I would have to walk it out - it was my choice to ride solo and I was ready to do it.

Online Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #173 on: March 25, 2015, 10:09:51 am »
@funacide and ClimbingTurtle:

I'm with CT. Everything I've learned about mechanics (not much admittedly) I've learned out in the bush. Fixing the puncture and getting bead on the tubeless tyre somewhere in the bush of Sudan, changing clutch cable on my last trip in Kaokoland, etc. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere and necessity to rely only on yourself, has a way to evoke skills you didn't know you have - which at the end of the day is pretty empowering feeling. You would be surprised what kind of situations you will be able to resolve if there is no alternative.

And, unfortunately, it works also the other way around - at least for me. If there is an easy way out - like asking passing German for help - my inner consumer tends to delegate immediately, rather than try to rely on myself for the solution.
 

Offline Hammerhead

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #174 on: March 25, 2015, 12:30:39 pm »
Thanks for taking the time to post this report.
Really inspiring stuff!
Makes me want to dust off the xr and do some solo trips again.
 

Offline DRAZIL

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #175 on: March 25, 2015, 01:32:06 pm »
brilliant, your writing shares the feelings you were having
awesome photos
thanks
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Offline ButtSlider

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #176 on: March 25, 2015, 01:41:10 pm »
Wow.  :thumleft:

This is seriously awe inspiring stuff. The kind of RR that when you start, you just cannot stop.  :drif:

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« Last Edit: March 25, 2015, 01:43:17 pm by ButtSlider »
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Offline King Louis

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #177 on: March 25, 2015, 04:47:23 pm »
fantastic story, those chaps not offering to help I don't get - not at all. I have no idea about mechanics and stuff and rely often on other people to fix stuff, but in such a situation you don't carry on. You help whichever way you can and you don't leave another biker stranded. No no......glad it worked out!
 

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #178 on: March 25, 2015, 07:54:49 pm »
Thank you for following and comments.

I'm not going to manage next instalment today, so here is the video plug from my prior trip I forgot to attach yesterday. It covers in two instalments the route from Epupa Falls to VZP - the route I tried for in the opposite direction in the yesterday's instalment:

Part 1 - section from Epupa Falls to Otjitanda on the top of VZP (Otjitanda is not at the top of Marienfluss as I incorrectly stated in one of the prior instalments):

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/w-RwRPP5N2A" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/w-RwRPP5N2A</a>

Part 2 - Down the VZP from Otjitanda to the bottom of the pass:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/vqMQXPKc_9I" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/vqMQXPKc_9I</a>

« Last Edit: March 25, 2015, 07:56:25 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline XT JOE

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #179 on: March 25, 2015, 09:59:32 pm »
Excellent stuff thanks for sharing- absolute beauty
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