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Author Topic: Christmas Safari 2 - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)  (Read 52718 times)

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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2015, 11:00:20 pm »
Day 1

With the bike packed on Monday morning (December 15th) I set-off fully geared to Shimwells for what I hoped to be a quick dyno run. Shimwells are by far my favourite Yamaha dealer in Gauteng - except that they are located in Durban. Ok - in Springs, which is about the same to this Midrand dweller and I swear the air smells salty there to me. So I started really early as I still hoped to make it to Bray on the Bots border about 600 km to the west for the night.

In Shimwells Braam connected the bike to the computer and immediately saw that the mixture was completely off - which I expected given that with Conrad we have kept enriching it, without much effect on the power. But even when set-up for the correct mixture, the bike still run like crap. Braam quickly identified the culprit - kinked fuel hose. Now this was the second time I heard about it - first time was about a year ago when he did the first dyno run. At the time he was able to reinforce the hose with some wire and tape, and the bike run fine afterwards like a proper idiot I promptly forgot about it, and blamed whatever fuelling problems I had later on the shitty PC.

This time the hose could not be fixed anymore and I remembered straight away that it takes about 4- 6 weeks to get the new one from Japan (they probably need to find the gum tree or oil drill first) - which I could have arranged year ago, but didnít. Braam checked with the Yamaha SA and as expected no fuel hose in stock - you have to love Yamaha to ride it in SA as for sure you are not doing it for the availability of spares. I jumped on the internet and called all Yamaha dealers in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban ready to jump on plane and get the bloody hose, but no luck. Iíve tried ACME, but no - there were no freshly crashed Teneres in stock. So the trip seemed to be over before it even started.

I have eventually lucked out and scored a brand new second hand hose in a way that is way too embarrassing to go into here, and once installed the bike finally fired up and run like a champ. It was afternoon by the time all was done, so I had to forget about my plans to sleep in Bray or travel to Mafikeng on the dirt farm roads and instead I jumped on N1 north then turned on N14 west heading for Harteboosport. To round up shitty day I have for the first time somehow missed the Lanseria offramp and had to ride almost to Krugersdorp to turn back. After that it was smooth ride to Harties, where I connected to N4, dialed in 150kmh and fell asleep.

I have arrived to Mafikeng just as the sun was setting down and stopped for refuel at the first garage. A nice guy there directed me to a Bull and something lodge in town, which I found on a second try, got a room and settled in. The lodge and its bar were pretty lively as it was a public holiday next day so people came to eat and drink out. After hearty dinner (donít remember any specifics) and beer I headed back to my room to deal with the little niggles resulting from the sloppy preparation: my GPS was driving me nuts (for the last two years to be honest) as it was loosing connection and constantly displaying ĎExternal power lost, do you wish to continue on battery power?í - the connector was obviously loose. So I cable tied and duck taped the connector solid - no more messages. I have also relocated straps of my rear saddle bags (I had two sets of saddle bags as I needed the space for the spare fuel - two 7 litres jerry cans, that I needed to cover inner Kaokoland) under the seat. Then it was a bedtime.

As I was trying to fall asleep I reflected on the day: even without any bike drama first few days of a trip are always a cruel reality check for this Sandton office rat. Fond memories of the glorious past trips make me overlook how rotten and corrupted I have become from all the comforts of the modern city life. The exposure to wind/sun/rain/vibrations leaves me feeling tired and whiney. My keyboard trained hands are all auchie from the cuts and bruises sustained from simple buckling/unbuckling and strapping/unstrapping of the luggage. This year was particularly bad - prior years at least I used to commute on the bike, ride enduro on the weekend and run regularly. But last year apart from few trips to Waterberg Iíve done nothing and kept my heart in the aerobic zone by regular intake of cigarettes, which I picked up after 15 year break. I guess the good thing about this kind of trip is that they force me get my act together quickly, or hyenas will. And the realization that Iím still stupid enough to do this shit while I could have been laying on the beach in Mauritius.

Sorry - no pictures of the N4.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2015, 11:34:43 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2015, 11:12:51 pm »
Day 2

The route for the next 4 days:

In the morning, after breakfast I set-off west on the Moloto river track following the Bots border all the way to Bray and beyond. The objective for the day was Tsabong across the border in southern Bots (total of about 500 km for a day), which was a set-off point for the first highlight of this trip - the Kalahari cutlines along the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park. To my surprise the first 100 km were tar, before it turned into a sand road. From there on - except for the few km around Tsabong and Hukuntsi - it was about 1000 km of dirt/sand before I would hit the tar again in the Charles Hill on the Nam/Bots border.

Few years back I have done the western part of the Moloto river riding about 150 km basically in dry riverbed right next to the border fence. From that and from the Minxyís report here about Kalahari Bash, I assumed that the track from Mafikeng to Bray will be more or less the same - sandy double track. But it turned out to be mostly wide sandy road running straight through the bush. And it was rainy season so the sand was wet and easy to ride.

I still took it very easy initially at about 70-80 kmh as the sand was wet with lots of puddles and I could not read it very well, not sure if there is mud underneath. Eventually I relaxed into it and settled to the usual 100 - 130 kmh cruising speed. Iíve seen some game along the way. Iím not well versed in goats, but I have a feeling that this is a sabre antelope (feel free to correct me):

I stopped in Paddon Winkel for a bit of refreshment and play with the local kids:

I have arrived to Bray at about one in the afternoon just in time to get a fuel next to the local General Dealer store before they closed for the day, as it was public holiday. From Bray I had two options: the easy and boring to cross to Botswana and ride tar to Tsabong about 100 km west. The more interesting was to continue follow the Molopo river on the SA side, cross the Molopo Nature Reserve and then cross to Bots through the McCarthyís Rest border about 250 km away and ride from there the last 30 km north to Tsabong. It was touch and go timewise as I knew they will close the border in McCarthyís rest at 6:00 and I didnít know the condition of the road (from the Minxyís video it looked like deep sand double track). But the owner of the shop told me that the road along the border is good and that there is a lodge in McCarthyís Rest, should I not make it in time, so Molopo track it was.

The route all the way to and across the Molopo Nature Reserve was pretty easy - nice winding sandy road following the border. I came across herds of different antelopes that this ignorant cannot identify - except the sabre antelope again.

On the other side of the reserve the track went over a red sand dune field - not very difficult, but still quite entertaining.

Iíve made it to the McCarthyís Rest at about 5:30. I considered to stay in the lodge on the SA side for a while, but then decided to rather clear the border tonight for an early start next day. The border was small remote affair with no traffic at all - exactly as I like it. On the SA side they still wanted to see all the paperwork for the bike and stuff, but I made it through with no drama. Once through I rode the remaining 30 km on tar to Tsabong with the sun setting down in the west.

Tsabong turned out to be this forgotten remote frontier town, a bit rough around the edges (not in a menacing way) with surprisingly few people speaking passable English (probably at about the same level as in the small Czech town, but of course I expect better in Africa). First thing was to get money. Iíve found quickly the only ATM in town, but it looked like the whole town was lined around the block waiting to withdraw the money. I know this scene well from Bots. It was clearly the government payday - Botswana government in their drive to get people to the banks gives people payment cards and distributes the money electronically. That is all good and dandy (and probably saves administration costs of payoffs), but leads regularly to the jams at the ATMs as people clearly prefer to withdraw all the cash as soon as the pay hits their account. And the lucky me stumbled right into the middle of it. I have grown up in the communist/socialist country so have deep rooted aversion to the waiting lines. So I headed off looking for the luxury lodge Iíve seen advertised on the billboards, where I hoped to change cash rather than waiting at the ATM. But no matter how hard I tried - Iíve crossed the whole town few times - I couldnít find anything and the locals seemed very perplexed by my questions about a lodge I would have expected to dominate local economy. Eventually I resigned and went back to wait humbly at the ATM hoping itís not going to run out of cash before my turn. A nice lady before me told me about a guesthouse nearby, which I went to check out after I got the money and refilled the tank. The whole town has probably 3 streets but I somehow missed the guesthouse despite repeated queries of passers-by. Luckily, still in Mafikeng on the internet connection (I had no phone signal in Tsabong, despite the roaming set on) Iíve found a place called Berrybush Farm that offered accommodation in the bush about 8 km east of town. So I headed out and exactly at km 8 there was a turnoff sign indicating deep sand double track in the bush and the farm about 4 km away. The sand was quite tough and it was already dark, but I already got into the swing of things and made it to the farm without a glitch. I was welcomed by Jill, who owns the place with her brother. They were both over 70 and quite a sight in this remote place in the middle of Kalahari. And this Sandton wimp was very impressed with the set-up they built there. They had number of nice charming little rooms in the buildings adjacent to their house for rent. They were off the electric grid, so they powered everything using solar power and batteries. And they could provide anything I could wish for - including internet connection which I didnít use. I was the only guest (except of one local who came later) and was supposed to call them upfront to get dinner organized - but that was not a problem, the gentleman jumped into the backie and drove off to come back with nice steak, that Jill prepared together with nice salad - and all that just for me.

Jill joined me for the dinner and we chatted about life. Her main customer base were the research students from different universities around the world who came to study one thing or another about the desert (for example, did you know that the top layer of Kalahari is 80 meters of sand? well I didnít).

Iím always very impressed by the resourcefulness of people (of different origin, but in my experience mostly Afrikaners) that are able build these outposts of civilization in the middle of nowhere and out of nothing. Iím originally from Europe, which is heavily corrupted by the entitlement attitude of the general population and seeing what Jill and her brother were able to built and run in the middle of Kalahari provides for a really nice antidote against my general scepticism about mankind.

« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 05:07:05 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2015, 11:31:06 pm »
Thanks everybody for support.

"something called Home Defence intended for a crowd control"  :)

look forward to this one. Which shop did you get the crowd control management spray?

I bought it in the Sharp Edge store in Sandton City. It looks like this: https://www.sabrered.com/pepper-spray/home-defense-pepper-spray-fogger

Offline D man

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2015, 12:52:17 pm »
Love your ride reports, always well written and interesting.  Looking forward to the rest of this one.
A man's nature and way of life are his fate and that which he calls his fate is but his disposition.

Offline mtbbiker

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #24 on: February 17, 2015, 02:43:15 pm »
Riding along  :thumleft:
Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination - Fitzhugh Dodson
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Offline Dusty

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2015, 02:55:46 pm »
Fantastic report, can't wait for the rest !
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Offline mtr89

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #26 on: February 17, 2015, 05:07:54 pm »
Great stuff!waiting impatiently for the rest
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Offline m0lt3n

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #27 on: February 17, 2015, 09:42:53 pm »
great RR. subscribed. would love to do these more remote routes also someday
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Offline I&horse

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #28 on: February 17, 2015, 09:49:37 pm »
Silence is golden...... Duct tape is silver

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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #29 on: February 17, 2015, 11:26:04 pm »
Day 3

Tsabong was the start of the first proper adventure section on this trip. I have never been around Kgalagadi Transfrontier park so I tried to gauge some information about the route in a planning thread I started on WD. I havenít heard from anybody who did it on bike, but Iíve got few responses from people who did it in 4x4s and they all indicated heavy sand and possible lion encounters. I was heading to Hukuntsi about 250 km to the north, the only other place with petrol available between Tsabong and Charles Hill - total distance of about 600 km of dirt and sand. I wanted to follow one of the routes along the park boundary, hoping for some game viewing as there are no fences around the park. I considered two options:

The first was to ride from Tsabong north to the park, then follow the eastern boundary past the Mabuasehube gate to the north-eastern corner of the park about 150 km from Tsabong, then turn north west and follow the cutline along the northern park boundary for another about 150 km to the Kaa gate, sleep at the gate and then next day do little exploring around followed by ride north-east to Hukuntsi about 150 km away. The main concern here was the distance that needed to be covered in deep sand in the middle of the summer. I will have to carry spare fuel and loads of water, which will not help in the sand. The main attraction was the remoteness of the Kaa area - I always like to go to remote places where most people donít go just to see whatís there. Like so:

The second, more conservative followed the same route along the east of the park for the first about 170 km, but then turned north along the boundary of a private concession neighbouring the park in the north-east corner towards Hukuntsi about 260 km total distance from Tsabong. Like so:

I decided not to push my luck and opted for the the relatively easier second option as it was shorter and did not require to drag additional fuel through the Kalahari sand. It would be a good test of what Kalahari has in store for me, and anyway I could always head to Kaa next day from Hukuntsi if I the first day proves the route doable.

To avoid riding in the heat, and to give myself a time reserve should the route prove to be too tough I woke up still in the dark for an early start. Jill kindly prepared early breakfast for me, and I discussed the intended route with her brother, who used to be an avid dirt rider in his younger age. He was emphatic that the sand should not be a problem this time of the year, as the heavy rains make it much more compact. He did though say that the route would probably be more or less impassable in the dry season due to heavy sand. He added a story of how  once he had to go in his bakkie to fetch some Italian GS handicapped guests from the tar 4 km away, as they werenít able to ride the sand on that track I came on yesterday (to be fair I did it during the wet season). He also surprised me and quite frankly relieved me by saying there are no elephants in the park and surrounding areas. Apparently there isnít enough surface water to sustain them there. This was a good news as combination of heavy sand, heavy bike and pissed-off elephants was my main source of anxiety on this route.

After the breakfast and farewell I followed the sandy double track back to tar where I turned right and rode to Tsabong 8 km away.

There at the sign indicating Mabuasehube gate 120 km away I turned right and hit the nice cement sandy road heading north. Once out of town the road was winding through the wild bush and soon I was encountering herds of springboks and oryxes. I have expected deep sand straight away (and lowered my tyre pressures accordingly) and was surprised that the road lasted for almost 80 km. But I wasnít complaining - the riding was really great between 100 - 120 kmh with enough curves, washouts, dips and hills to keep me nicely entertained. Except at one point a big herd of Oryxes run around the road and distracted I did not notice big hole in the road and hit it square at about 100 kmh with resulting big dent in my rear rim. Hmmm, and I havenít even hit the hard part yet.

Then with very little warning the road turned straight into the worst mother fuck%& sand monster Iíve seen for a while. The road was wide deep sand going up and down through what obviously was a small dune field. The problem wasnít the sand per say, but the winding tracks from the cars crisscrossing across the whole road - it was difficult to pick-up speed and get afloat as I had to constantly negotiate changing tracks and those middlemantijes (sorry Iím sure Iím butchering it) between them. I was barely managing 30 - 40 kmh and by now it was getting hot - this was a hard work. It lasted about 15 - 20 km during which I contemplated turning back. If this was how the whole remaining 180 km will be I had no chance in hell to make it through as I would be completely exhausted within next 100 km. But I decided to push on at least to the  Mabuasehube gate about 20 - 30 km away and decide there.

The dune field eventually ended and the track flattened to a very manageable sandy cutline where I could ride comfortably 70 -  80 kmh which helped greatly to cool me down and correspondingly raised my chances to make it through. I stopped for break at the  Mabuasehube gate, where I chatted to the friendly rangers.

One of the rangers confirmed that Iím welcome to sleep at the gate there or in Kaa - I just cannot enter the park of course. He also said that the remainder of the way to Hukuntsi is mostly as manageable as the last section I did, with few heavy sand sections thrown in here and there.

I have to say it is quite a tough posting he has there - as a government employee he has to pay his dues by working out in the sticks and seeing his family who lived in Gaborone for few days only once in few months. He hasnít even seen his son who was born while he was still in the sticks.

I would chatted for longer but there were heavy threatening rain clouds closing in quickly from the west, so I jumped on the bike and set-off again. Again I have run into few herds of animals, but did not manage to capture any of them on camera ( Drift has wide angle lense and everything more than 10 meters away is mostly invisible). Pretty soon I have reached the north-east corner of the park, where I turned west on the wide cutline heading towards Kaa, and after another 10 km I turned again north on the cutline heading north to Hukuntsi about 100 km away.

I havenít manage to outrun the clouds and eventually rode through few showers. That was not a problem - it kept me nice and cold. The concern was the approaching electric storm - I hate them, my neighbour back in Europe got killed by lightning. And I hate them especially on completely flat botswanan plain with no obvious shelter whatsoever. The storm has been raging directly ahead of me, but luckily by the time I reached there it subsided and moved east - thank goodness.

The remainder of the route to Hukuntsi was more or less the same bush cutline intersped with sections of heavy sand:

About 10 km before Hukuntsi I hit the tar again and headed for town. Hukuntsi, while regional metropolis, turned out to be one of those non-descript botswanian towns where you can find everything you may need (fuel, shop, school, government hostel and clinic), but nothing more. It seemed to be inhabited mostly by bushman straight who came out of bush not so long ago (and to my surprise mostly illiterate - about 50% of people do not read there) intersped with few government inserted intelligentsia. I refuelled, went to buy some provisions and headed for one of the two guesthouses in town.

It was new establishment looking like it was government run and used probably mostly by government employees (as most of the things in Botswana which to me seems very government heavy with very little private initiative on display), with corresponding disregard for nonsense like customer service. So it took a while to locate receptionist in the empty guesthouse and there was no point trying to negotiate the price as she didnít give a ratís ass if they had any quests or not (there were two eventually, myself including).

Anyway the room was clean and it had an aircon which was nice after riding for most of the day in the summer heat in the full gear. The build quality was also what you would expect from the government contract so I almost got electrocuted in the bathroom (probably to compensate for the lack of electrifying experience earlier in the bush) as the shower plumbing was clearly touching somewhere live wire. I was tired enough to realize what is going on only once Iíve touched it few times all wet in shower (I dismissed the initial shocks as a stinging of a cut on my hand) and by that stage I figured that if it didnít kill me yet I may as well finish the shower and enjoy a bit of a buzz on the side.

I couldnít be bothered to try to change the room as I would have to deal with that excuse of receptionist again - I just mentioned it in the morning to the new one.

The guesthouse even had a collection of tasty modern art up front. I have to say Iíve heard that Kalahari lions are the biggest there are, but if they are as big as Oryxes I may be in real trouble here:

Acerbis Koerta tan:

The shop:

« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 05:24:54 pm by Xpat »

Offline Laban

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #30 on: February 18, 2015, 05:18:16 am »

...Pillion... ;)
..."sometimes the people around you won't understand your journey, they don't need to, it's not for them"...Joubert Botha

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Offline Morokai

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #31 on: February 18, 2015, 02:56:53 pm »
Fear is temporary, Regret is forever.

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Offline ktmmer

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #32 on: February 18, 2015, 03:55:47 pm »

Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #33 on: February 19, 2015, 07:39:42 pm »
Cool Bananas, Xpat ... great lightning shot that was!

1978. It's 6am, mid winter...two up on a XL 185S ... off to my first casino ever with all of R40 and we've got a full tank of fuel, so enough to get there we reckon.... that's determination...

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Offline ALLEN I

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #34 on: February 19, 2015, 08:10:49 pm »
Nice mate enjoying the ride  :ricky:
Biking since the age of 11 nothing beats the freedom when u out there on u baby. Been doing it over 40 years now  (that's life)
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #35 on: February 19, 2015, 10:56:07 pm »
Day 4

The route for the day was vague. The general direction was clear - I was heading towards  Charles Hill and Mamuno border post. The night before I had a chat and beer with the other hotel guest who worked as a nurse in one of the clinics out in the bush, which gave me rough idea about the lion situation (they are there), roads (dirt, mostly sand), campsites (almost in every village, but there are just about 3 - 4 villages on the way)  and petrol (no petrol before Charles Hill). I still wanted to try to explore area around the Kaa gate on the northern boundary of Kgalagadi park. So I decided to wing it and head to Zutshwe about 70 km south west, where my GPS indicated a track going another 70 km south west to Kaa gate. There I would explore a bit the cutlines along the park and depending on time and energy left either push back north via another cutline to connect to the road to Charles Hill and push as far north-west as I will make it, or sleep over at the Kaa gate and continue the following day.

I ended up doing this:

I woke early, packed up and went for quick breakfast in the hotel. While eating I was lectured by a retired local gentleman about the beauty of simple illiterate life of botswanian bushman and evil of the corrupt, crime ridden modern South Africa - an opinion widely shared in Botswana, which may come as a surprise to some who may believe that SA is a Shangri-La for the rest of the continent.

After breakfast I geared up and set-off. To cover the expected distance I needed minimum range of 500 km - preferably 600 to allow for some exploring around Kaa. So I stopped at the garage and filled up two 7 litre plastic jerry cans with spare fuel (e.g. total of 39 litres of petrol). This would also help to test my set-up with the full load of petrol and water that I expected to use again up in Kaokoland for the trip up the riverbeds and Van Zyl Pass.

Once fueled I headed west out of town, where the tar turned into nice sandy dirt road that I cruised on for next hour or so until I reached Zutshwe about 70 km away.

Zutshwe as all villages/towns in the area is situated next to a pan - I assume because that is where the water is. I went for a quick photo shoot on the pan.

Then I pushed into the village looking for the south-bound track heading to Kaa gate another 70 km away.

Despite having the track on the T4A I got promptly lost  and had to ask locals for direction - this is where the campsite is:

As a thank you I brought smile into their lives:

The track to Kaa turned out to be unused deep sand double track, which surprised me as I thought this is the main route to the Kaa gate - the only gate to Kgalagadi park on the northern boundary. As I found out later there is now new cutline further west going to from Kaa and this track is not used anymore.

The track was tough and felt iffy as I had to work hard on the heavy bike and potentially had to do at least 140 km on it (70 km both ways). I also wasnít able to see far enough around the bushes and wouldnít be able to get up to a speed allowing quick getaway should I bump into a lion or ten. To give myself at least some chance I decided after few km to go bundu bashing along the track, which was much easier than focusing on the line on track. I was winding around the bushes - which is probably not a smart move in lion country, but it allowed to get up to speeds in excess of 50 kmh and costed much less energy.

Initial intention was to bundu bash for a km or two to see if the double track wouldnít get easier further on - and if not to turn back. But while there were some sections of double track with the sand more compacted, I ended up winding most of the following 20 km through the bush as I was having way too much fun to be sensible. The surface in the bush was flat sand, so I could throw even the heavy bike around the bushes with relative ease and steer the bike mostly with the rear wheel. It was sublime, the only potential danger (apart from lions of course) were frequent and barely visible animal dug-outs on few of which my WP forks saved my biscuit. Eventually after about 20 km from Zutshwe I came to this sign which explained why the track felt completely abandoned. I considered pushing on anyway but then decided against it and turn back as I didnít know how the rangers at Kaa will react if I came via a closed track.

I have seen lots of game - herds of springboks, oryxes, wildebeest and other antelopes, but they were clearly not used to motorised vehicles and run away at the first sight. Unfortunately the helmet camís lens angle diminishes greatly anything more than 10 meters away, so these are the only pics I have:


Little bok:

And little foxy (barely visible unfortunately):

Back in Zutshwe I have joined again the main road from Hukuntsi and turned west towards Ukwi and Charles Hill. The road alternated between good dirt/cement road and recently graded sand sections with deep tracks dug into them. I could see that there is some maintenance going on, but the whole road had very remote feel. I have met only two cars for the whole day on about 220 km between Hukuntsi and Ukwi - one water truck next to Zutshwe and one Landcruiser full of locals shortly before Ukwi.

The exertions from the prior day special section, todayís enduro special and midsummer botswanian heat started to get better of me and I eventually dropped the bike for the first time in one of the deep sand sections. Nothing dramatic, I just didnít have any will left to hold the bike up when I caught a bit of a wobbly and stopped. I was too hot and tired to pick the bike straight away and retreated under the nearby bush for a bit of rehydration and cooling. Thatís is how that local Landcruiser full of locals and jolly driver with beer in his hand (and by the sight of things not first or fifth one) found me. They stopped to check on me. We chit chatted a bit and then they set-off again saying that if I donít come right the drive will be returning in few hours back on the same road.

I have eventually cooled down sufficiently to pick up the bike and rode the rest of the 30 km or so to Ukwi. I have arrived there in the early afternoon, and under normal circumstances would just push on towards Charled Hill about 160 km away. But I was knackered, so I just stopped at the general dealer for a drink and decided to stay the night in the village.

I asked if there is any accommodation and the shopkeeper confirmed that there is an guesthouse and camp, but didnít know where - so he send me to the center of the village 1 km further on, where there was a village gathering and village elders should be able to sort me out. And indeed there was a big festive looking gathering on the schoolyard with people clearly dressed up for the occassions. My arrival caused a bit of commotion as most of the people there probably have never seen a bike, but it settle down quickly.

The gathering turned out to be a monthly government handouts payout day - so I knew that tonight is probably going to be a party. Normally that would be a good new, but I was feeling pretty exhausted and hoped for a good rest.

I found a helpful local lady speaking some English (not widespread there) and enquired about the campsite or guesthouse. She went to fetch a councilman to sort me out - a young chap who didnít speak any English and a lady who was the guesthouse keeper. The councilman couldnít explain how to get to the campsite, they suggested that he can accompany me on the bike, but I wasnít keen to ride in deep sand with a dude behind me, so I went to check the nearby community guesthouse - I guess build by government and catering mostly from travelling government officials.

To say that the guesthouse was elementary would be great overstatement. It had four rooms of double beds with linen that has not been washed for a long time, a common kitchen with the wall thick with oil and sickening sweet stink, and one tap. The toilet was communal outhouse - not comunal for the guesthouse, but for the whole village. For washing in each room there was a bigger bucket to step into and small bucket to pour water over yourself. There was no shade so the heat inside was oppressive. Now I have slept in worse places, but I have to say that the sweet stinking kitchen had my stomach turning.

I asked again about the campsite, but the locals got themselves so confused that I gave up and decided to rough it out in the guesthouse. At least the price was good - if I remember correctly 20 Pula, which included candles - the whole village was of the electric grid, the closest wiring about 70 km away. I hoped I will have the whole guesthouse for myself but got joined later with two councilman - not a problem except they did some cooking that kept me out of the house for most of the evening.

Once I settled in and washed I was keen to find some food. There was no eatery of any kind, but the locals sent me to one of the houses where one of the local ladies baked and sold bread. When I came there she had a bit of a ladies party going on in the courtyard, the center of which was a big cauldron on fire filled with oil and potato chips - exquisite delicacy in this parts. I had two servings and loaf of bread and retreated back to the guesthouse for a dinner of corned beef and bread. After that I headed to the local bar, which was by now pumping about  km away.

As expected at the payday, it was quite a sight with the music blaring distorted from some ancient speakers, ladies standing and dancing around the perimeter, and pissed bushmen inside bar screaming constantly at little bar lady, who screamed back with equal vigor. The screaming was clearly the generally accepted mode of communication and didnít result (at least while I was there) in any physical insultation. I had probably doubled the sales for the day by buying 3 beer cans and a pack of local cigarettes - it took a while for the lady to understand that I really want whole pack. With my goods I weaved through the outer ladies perimeter, declining politely numerous offers to dance (I think) and requests for bear and retreated back to the guesthouse to sit on the porch and hopefully drink myself into sleep.

The hot night, tons of mosquitos and festivities lasting till early morning didnít provide for very restful night, but I managed to squeeze in few hours of interrupted sleep.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 05:32:13 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2015, 11:53:14 pm »
Thanks for following and comments.

Offline BFG

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #37 on: February 20, 2015, 10:28:55 am »
Your reports always want to make me drop what I'm doing and head out on the bike, no destination, no time limit. Well done :thumleft:

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #38 on: February 22, 2015, 08:54:29 pm »
Day 5

The route for the day:

I woke up shit tired in my oven of dirt room (in contrast to dirt road that is not a good thing) bitten all over by mosquitoes and bedbugs. The effects of hard sand work in the summer heat over the last 2 days combined with my very questionable level of fitness started to show and few hours of interrupted sleep were not enough to get me back on my feet properly. While the physical fatigue was a problem, it was the heat exhaustion that was really getting to me. My brain was fried and the red skin on my face and neck was coming off in big chunks - idiotically I generally tend to use sunscreen for healing, rather than prevention, so so far I didnít put on any during this trip.

Normally I would just take the rest day, turn on the other side and go to sleep again. But I wasnít keen to spend another day in Ukwi for two reasons: One, while it is a cute little village far off the civilization grid, there is nothing to do and basic comforts - such as shade with some laydown options and cool drinks nearby - are no available, which kind of defeats the purpose of a rest day. And two, I wanted to buy new rear tyre in Windhoek and arrange for it to be sent somewhere north for pick-up on my return leg. And it was Friday, so if I wanted to avoid spending weekend in Windhoek,  I had to make it there on Saturday morning to catch the shops open.

The morning after:

This dude must have been seriously confused by the night of debauchery to park on the guesthouse entrance step - and he got later swept away by the keeper:

Once I dragged myself out of bed way too late to avoid the heat, I sprayed my face and neck with one of those super duper water resistant sunscreens, had a lunch bar and few cigarettes for a breakfast, packed up and set-off. Even before I left I realized that the sunscreen idea may backfire badly. My left eye was stinging and tearing up badly and trying to wash it just made it worst - the shit seemed really water resistant. So I set-off using only one eye in the hope that the wind will dry it out. But it didnít and on top of that the sweat carried it into my right eye (clearly not water resistant enough) so soon I was riding most of the time with the left eye  permanently  closed and the right eye blinking hard and trying to focus on the narrow weaving car spoor through the haze of tears.

The road didnít help either - I thought that this was the main road connecting Ukwi with civilization and as such should be probably a good cement dirt road, but I was wrong. Immediately on the outskirts of Ukwi the gravel turned into a winding deep sand track with criss-crossing tracks. Trying to keep the line with one blinking teared up eye was humongous task. I tried to tough it out by just opening the throttle up blindly and hoping that the momentum will carry me through the middlemantijes (sorry again for butchering Afrikaans - I would appreciate if somebody here can comment with the right pronunciation as I donít think there is an equivalent in English), but it became clear very quickly that its going to end up in something broken badly.

Eventually my brain had enough and stopped me about 15 km from Ukwi with horrible headache and vertigo. I crashed blindly up the elevated right shoulder and dropped clutching my head to the ground next to a tree providing a bit of shade. I laid there with my camelbak for pillow for about 15 minutes hoping that the headache and vertigo will go away, but it didnít. I pulled the waterbag and shampoo from my luggage trying to washout the shit from my eyes, but the improvement was almost unnoticeable. So I just laid there for another hour or so trying in regular intervals to move just to crash back immediately with horrible headache. This wasnít funny anymore - I was wondering if I have done some serious damage to my eyes or if the heat exhaustion has finally has cooked my brain.

I laid there motionless long enough to became part of the scenery for the local animals and herds of different antelopes passed by clearly not worried about me whatsoever. If I ever attempt persistence hunting, this is what I would do rather than trying to run them down. I would just lay down and let them come to me for a bit of spearing. I wondered a bit about the lion situation, but locals told me that only very rarely do they venture this far north so wasnít worried too much.

An hour or two later the headache subsided and I got enough of my vision back to be able to get on bike again. I considered returning for a day of recovery  15 km back to Ukwi, but as the situation seemed to be improving steadily I  decided to push on. To avoid the need for hard concentration on the line in the car spoor I rode for few km on the elevated shoulder. It was pretty uneven so I couldnít get to much of speed, but still much better than trying to keep the line along the winding spoor.

I eventually got back to normal and settled into the enjoyable ride 40 km up to Ncojane, which was the first town with electricity and a start of the nice wide dirt road going all the way up to tar at Charlesí Hill. The road surface up to Ncojane was alternating between sand and compacted dirt sections and I had a close call with a cow who I startled laying under a bush right next to the road.

Do you see the white cow parked under the bush on the right next to the only dry patch of the road? Of course you do now that I have told you, but would you if I didn't and with a sunscreen in your eyes? Anyway, I didn't.

Luckily the cow was smart enough to not run across the road - but I swerved into that cement mud hole on the left anyway with bike ending up with plaster like this:

Continued north on nice dirt roads, like so:

These even I've seen in advance, so no drama:

In Ncojane I stopped for a breakfast of flavoured milk and Tennis biscuits and then pushed on to Charles Hill about 110 km away.

At about lunchtime I was back on tar in Charles Hill and drove straight to the petrol station (which is basically the extent of Charles Hill as far as I can say) for refill. Since I left tar outside of Mafikeng, I have ridden dirt for about 1000 km. And while it was only 4 days ago since I left civilisation based on tar, I felt completely out of place at that Engen garage with its fancy shop, revving trucks and SA families in their crispy clean SA 4x4 on their way to an epic adventure in Namibia. I was tired, properly dirty, my face burned off, and felt a strange need to urge anybody in sight to abandon their evil civilised ways and head south into the bush for the life of blissful simplicity. Luckily seeing the glow of madness in my red eyes (remnants of the f&*%ing sunscreen) people gave me a wide berth and when I got eventually approached by one or two dudes enquiring about my dirty state, I kept it cool.

Joking aside, I did feel a bit like a wild raccoon (or I should probably say badger) who minding his own bush business stumbles upon human settlement unbeknownst to him, gets startled thinking ĎWTF is this shití and immediately retreats disgusted back to the bush. Except for this racoon start of the next bit of proper bush was about 660 km away at the feet of Brandberg mountain. I guess thatís what in Dakar they call liaison.

So I get on with it - the first order of the day was crossing the border to Namibia at Mamuno about 7 km away. I passionately hate border crossings, but was probably too tired, so I donít remember anything significant to report on.

After border I stopped at the first garage to pump up my tyres, which I forgot to do on the Bots side and then headed west towards Gobabis about 120 km away. I arrived at Gobabis about an hour later in the early afternoon. There was still more than enough time left to make it another 200 km to Windhoek, but I was just too tired so instead I headed for a night of luxury at the Gobabis Country Lodge (I think thatís what it is called). Next day I would just start early to make it to Windhoek by 9:00 am which should give me plenty of time to sort out the shopping.

I got nice room and headed immediately for a late lunch of schnitzel or some such, compounded later by a hearty dinner of steak, mash, dessert and beer. Fed and watered I logged on very finicky wifi to try to get information about the bike shops in Windhoek. I have to say internet seem to be still very new concept with the entrepreneurs in Namibia, as it was proper mission to get any information  - and I wasnít asking for online catalogue or some such fancy thing. Just a basic address and good old telephone number would do . I found quickly the phone number for Yamaha in Windhoek but no address. When I called them, some pre-recorded government idiot told me to RICA or something, which was confusing as I already RICAed my SA SIM card - do I need to RICA it in every bloody country when Iím roaming? KTM seemed even more elusive, but I eventually found some address and phone number on the KTM website, and another address without phone number on T4A site. The address with phone number from the KTM site was labelled as a bicycle shop. And when I called them they told me that that is exactly what they are and they have no clue what KTM even means. Fuck, this was really frustrating, so I eventually decided to just get to Windhoek early and ask around. With that sorted the racoon dived into the heavenly clean bed sheets in beautifully air conditioned room for a night of sweet dreams.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 05:40:29 pm by Xpat »


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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #39 on: February 22, 2015, 10:06:40 pm »
Xpat one spells middelmannetjies like this and yes there is no English word for it.
Keep up the good work. :thumleft: