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Author Topic: Christmas Safari 2 - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)  (Read 45237 times)

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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #80 on: March 02, 2015, 10:25:38 pm »
Day 10 - part 1

Per standard operating procedure I woke up before sunrise, packed up and was ready to go at about 7:00 am just as the sun made it over eastern horizon. I jumped on the bike and rode through the camp back to the Ugab river crossing:




Despite my caution, I got run down by a beast already in the camp:


I sweet talked my way out of the tight spot and pushed on encountering more game:




Finally making it to the bush around Ugab:




Crossed the Ugab riverbed and continued up the same desert track I did two days ago:










Missed the turnoff to the track going over the higher ground and unwittingly headed back to the settlement by the river I wanted to avoid:






Realised my mistake reasonably soon, and turned back:


Found the turn-off on to the higher ground and into the rocks I went:








Once on the higher ground I headed straight west towards the dune field about 10 km away:










I have arrived to the dunes quite soon and I stopped to lower the pressure in my tyres. After my first fiasco I have asked in the White Lady lodge about alternatives the dunes crossing and they told me straight to not fuck around and ride off the track - they recommended to ride all the way around the dunes. I was there early and still fresh so decided to push across the dunes loosely following but off the track. Even so the traction was very difficult to come by and I proceeded with wound-up second and occasionally third gear at about 30 - 40 kmh.


Also had to watch out for frequent animal dugouts, almost invisible in the low morning sun:


The hard grass bushes were constantly throwing me off the line.


The dunes weren't particularly steep, but I still had to make sure to stop only downhill, otherwise there was no chance to get going again. Brandberg to the south:




At one point about half way through the dunes I dropped it and took a breather:







And pushed on again:


The mountains on the horizon indicating end of the dunes about 10 km away:




The end is nigh!


After about 20 km, I've made it out of dunes feeling somewhat elated. I still had about 35 km to go, but those were mostly rocks so I could relax my back and stretch my legs finally. Except - as any fighter pilot returning from a sortie knows, this is exactly the moment when shit hits the fan usually:

Do you see that 40 cm high mound about 5 meters ahead I'm about to hit? No, I didn't either:


And now? No I still didn't:


But within second I felt it and in retrospect was really glad that I had my windshield shortened (by the way one of the best Tenere modification for off road riding - I'm serious):


Of course followed by the kick from the back:


Got thrown right - saved it:


Then left:


That one I didn't save:



« Last Edit: March 03, 2015, 11:11:34 am by Xpat »
 

Offline ChrisL - DUSTRIDERS

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #81 on: March 03, 2015, 09:27:59 am »
Check how you pulled the throttle open just before you went down :eek7:
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #82 on: March 03, 2015, 10:07:32 am »
I didn't pull anything - it got pulled by the momentum of moving masses  ;).

Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #83 on: March 03, 2015, 12:16:59 pm »
Loving this report!!!

Please keep it coming!
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Offline alwyn_gs

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #84 on: March 03, 2015, 12:41:20 pm »
 :blob7: :blob7: :blob7:

Loving this shit!!!

Gooi gooi!!!!!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #85 on: March 03, 2015, 10:11:41 pm »
Day 10 - part 2

The impromptu gymnastics left me and the bike unscathed, so I took a break and pondered where to next.


There are numerous track criss-crossing the area and one can spend whole day exploring further south-west around Doros and Messum craters. But it was getting properly hot and I was keen to make it to Palmwag - the starting point of Kaokoland section, as the extended rest in White Lady lodge left me far behind my - admittedly pretty vague - schedule. So I picked a track heading north-west towards Burnt Mountain and Twyfelfontein about 35 km away and set-off.

I had a vague recollection from my ride 9 years ago that I may need to tackle about 10 km of deep sand riverbed after the dunes, before hitting the rocky part of the track. But there was no sign of a riverbed and I was riding mostly on rocky double track, inter sped with occasional flat dune or two. Clearly on the trip down from Twyfelfontein I must have hit the dunes at different place.




The landscape was a trademark Damaraland with lots of bare volcanic rock, covered by hard grass, occasional dune and framed by rocky hills in different shade of red:








Little merkat gunning it across the track:


And then trying to have a race along the right side of the track:


This one didn't make it:





After dozen or so km I have came upon a river bed crossing which seemed familiar and sure enough it was the one I did on GSA. At the time I didn't realise I can just cross the river and continue on the other side and rather rode the riverbed all the way to the dunes.


And the memory lane - GSA at the same spot in the opposite direction:


And few meters further on:


Back to the future - after the riverbed I turned right into the hills following dry riverbed covered in grainy shelf sand (at least that is what I think it's called):




Took a breather in the shade:


Do you see that track winding up the rock face? I think that is the one I took on the GSA going down - I even had to walk the bike for about 50 meters. I was dreading going up this track, but somehow missed it completely on this trip and was wondering where did it go. I've noticed it first time on this picture:


Missing the track wasn't the problem as there was much easier one following north along the riverbed:






And then it was off the riverbed and west over the mountains again:










Behind the mountains was what I assume is a volcanic plain surrounding the two craters, so rocks basically:








Cresting the pass above Burnt Mountain:



Obligatory Welvitschia shot:


And the Burnt Mountain itself - hole at the bottom of that black rock on the right (it sounds much better than it is - unless you are some kind of geologist nerd):



It was about a lunch time and I was properly hungry - as usually I started early without breakfast and a lunch bar or two could not make up for the energy expenditure. So I headed straight for lunch to the Twyfelfontein lodge about 15-20 km away on one of those dirty highways.


The lodge itself - as most people here probably know - is hidden behind couple of huge red boulders and surrounded by red rugged hills:






I've spent at least hour and a half cooling down, inhaling a sandwich or two and lots of coke. Also took pictures of interesting blister pattern on my arms, courtesy of Acerbis body armour:



Sufficiently refreshed I got back on the bike at about 2:00 pm for the remaining 110 km to Palmwag. I jumped on the main dirty highway going north to Palmwag, Sessfontein and Opuwo and tried to settle into the normal 120 kmh cruising speed. As far as the dirty highways go, this one is one of the most scenic:




But for me it was frustrating. After the dunes and rocks in the morning the fatigue was showing up again and I just wanted to relax, sit down and enjoy the ride. But these highways - though deceptively easy looking - do not allow to switch off. Drifties, gravel middelmannetjie, lose rocks, blind horizons and corrugations have a way to keep me on my toes as I had to often - and always split second late - jump on the foot pegs to deal with unexpected tank slapper or two. Admittedly, the rational solution would be just to slow down to more manageable 80 - 100 kmh, but I'm rarely rational when tired so I just stubbornly pushed hard to get to Palmwag as soon as possible.

It was a big sharp lose rock in the middle of the road that eventually brought me to senses. I hit it square at about 130 kmh and stopped immediately to check the tyres. My intuition was right - the front was flat by the time I stopped. Conveniently it was right next to the tyre fixing station somebody set-up nicely under a nearby tree (at least that is my take on the VW wheel cover hanging off the tree):







I pulled out the front tube and to my surprise it was the standard think skin one - not the heavy duty I would have sworn I have there. I vaguely recollected buying it somewhere in sticks (I think Yamaha Kimberley) where they never heard about heavy duty ones and then forgetting about it promptly. For the fix - except for few magicians in places like Pakistan or Ethiopia, I have never seen anybody to fix punctured motorcycle tube successfully - ever. So I didn't bother, put in the spare heavy duty one and assembled everything back for the last 30 or so km to Palmwag, where I will try get the punctured tube fixed by local rubber barons.

In an hour or so I've been wallowing there in the dirt I got passed by about 10 4x4 with crispy clean Euros (I should add my dear compatriots). To be fair, the very first one - a German couple have stopped and checked if I need a help, which I didn't. But the atrophied natural instinct to check on your own kind (I mean humans generally, not Euros) stuck in a desert manifested in most of the Euro illuminates still rubs me the wrong way, ever since my mate fell off this very Tenere at about 100 kmh on the main road 15 km before Epupa Falls and got passed by 4x4 with what I vaguely recollect may have been Austrians without as much as second glance. To be fair he managed to lift the bike and push it off the road and gather scattered luggage around the bike, before he retreated to the shade 20 meters away to lick his wounds (I was at the time already in Epupa waiting for him) - but anybody with two brain cells would still quickly see that something is wrong from the scattered luggage. Moreover as I was going back worried looking for him I tried to wave them down to check if they may have seen him - and again, they didn't even put their foot off accelerator. Once I collected him on the ride back to Epupa Falls I was fuming and keen to connect with them in a way they never even dreamt of. But then I cooled down and decided to be mature and let it go without so much as a word with them. Moral of the story: If somebody needs punching, just do it - much better than hating anybody remotely resembling them for the rest of your life.  

Morals aside, once the new tube was in I jumped on the bike and dealt quickly with the remaining 30 km or so to Palmwag. I was lucky, they had a room available, so I unpacked and moved in. It was Christmas Eve - the main Christmas event where I come from, so I called family in Europe Happy Christmas and went for celebratory buffet dinner at the lodge, complimentary glass of Champaign included.







After the dinner I went to check my next route with the guys in reception. My intention was to hit the riverbeds in Palmwag - heading west through the Palmwag conservancy and then turning north connecting to the Hoanib river right at the beginning of the Amerspoort gorge, from which I would follow the Hoanib riverbed east to Sesfontein for refuel (as far as I knew there was no fuel in Purros) and overnight. But the quick check at the lodge revealed that it is a no go - I was not allowed on the bike in the Palmwag conservancy and needed a permit for the whole route up to Hoanib.

I had to come up with an alternative, which would take into account my elephant paranoia and resulting failure in Ugab. I wasn't ready to give up on riding the Hoanib as it is one of the absolutely best places on this planet (including encounters with those dreaded elephants), but I was anxious about doing it on an overloaded big bike (14 litres of spare fuel and 9 litres of water). I've done it two years ago on much lighter Husky 630, but Tenere is much heavier and less agile. Eventually I settled on the following plan: I'll continue on the main road to Sesfontein, where I'll leave all the luggage I do not need at the lodge, sleep over and set-off in the morning on the comparatively lighter bike down the Hoanib river all the way to the Amerspoort gorge, where I would turn north and ride to Purros for overnight. Next day I would dash back on the main track to Sesfontein to pickup the luggage and spare fuel and ride back to Purros for another night. From there I would head up north via Huarusib river towards Marienflus and Van Zyl Pass.

With the plan settled, I drunk myself to sleep.

Day 10 route - dotted line indicating the 70 km desert track from White Lady lodge to the Burnt Mountain:

« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 09:47:22 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #86 on: March 03, 2015, 10:22:17 pm »
Thanks for the comments. Keep them coming, they are key to move the report to the next page - otherwise there are just too many pictures per page and the page takes ages to load.  
« Last Edit: March 03, 2015, 10:22:44 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline Damaraland

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #87 on: March 03, 2015, 10:54:42 pm »
There is no place on earth like Damaraland and Kaokoland. As I am reading this your RR is taking me right there. I swear I can smell the land and feel the sun.  I am homesick and I don't even live there. You have a gift for telling a story, thanks for sharing.
RR - Angola (https://goo.gl/BzFy7Y) / Video RR - Kaokoland (https://youtu.be/-c-Zespa2No)
Video RR - Messum & Ugab (https://goo.gl/Uhd1vb)  / Video RR - Southern Namibia (http://goo.gl/WpRdRE)
Video RR - Ugab (http://goo.gl/dr57i9) / Video RR - Omaruru River (http://goo.gl/RCTajv)
 

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #88 on: March 03, 2015, 11:08:08 pm »
Thank you Damaraland. I have seen your videos from Brandberg and surrounds - nice rides!
« Last Edit: March 03, 2015, 11:08:41 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline JMOL

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #89 on: March 04, 2015, 05:43:14 am »
I haven't been in the area, but thanks for bringing it to us.
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #90 on: March 04, 2015, 07:37:55 am »
Thank you JMOL. If you can, please do plan a trip there - for me there is nothing anywhere else that matches Damaraland and Kaokoland for its combination of scenery, animals and tribals.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2015, 07:39:14 am by Xpat »
 

Offline ROOI

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #91 on: March 04, 2015, 12:20:29 pm »
Excellent report went thru that area Koakoland land december 2013  :thumleft:
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Offline JMOL

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #92 on: March 04, 2015, 10:18:34 pm »
Thank you JMOL. If you can, please do plan a trip there - for me there is nothing anywhere else that matches Damaraland and Kaokoland for its combination of scenery, animals and tribals.

 :thumleft:
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Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #93 on: March 04, 2015, 10:25:14 pm »
Still loving the pic and the report!!

We did our original trip in 2008 in that area and are going back in June this year to explore. Simply some of the best riding in the world!!!

Thanks for sharing! :thumleft:
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #94 on: March 04, 2015, 10:45:23 pm »
Thank you for the comments. I run out of pictures and need to scrap some more from the videos for the next instalments. Sorry, no update tonight.

Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #95 on: March 05, 2015, 12:55:07 am »
Stunning!
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 Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #96 on: March 05, 2015, 11:16:34 pm »
Day 11

Plan for the day was a short easy ride on the dirt highway to Sesfontein about 110 km north. Still not a rest day in my book as I had to go through all the hassle of packing up, putting on the stinky hot gear and riding dusty corrugated road in the Namibian summer heat.

Route for the day:



As it was supposed to be a short day, I took it easy in the morning, enjoying hearty breakfast and getting my front tube fixed by the lodge workshop guys. I have finally managed to get out of my room right about the checkout time (is there a reason why checkout time in Southern Africa is 10:00 am, when everywhere else in the world it's 12:00 am?), strapped the luggage on the bike, watched two weathered outdoorsy looking gentlemen in khaki shirts and shorts that I remembered from the dinner last night take off in their helicopter and set-off north.









While the road was mostly straight, the constant dips and more importantly blind horizons required caution as the oncoming traffic always tend to drift towards the middle of the road, so I was always hugging the left side of the road as much as possible to avoid french kissing a bulbar or two:





The road was reasonably busy with the tourist cars - Euro seem to like middle of Nam summer as a good time for visit (including me clearly):


Some of them didn't make it:



I had plenty of time so I wanted to visit the Ongongo hot springs about 10 km before Sesfontein. I have always missed them on my 4 or so prior trips in the area and I've seen people waxing lyrical about them in the ride reports - so this was my turn to soak. The Ongongo village with the signs to the spring is directly on the highway, but I still somehow managed to get lost by turning onto a good gravel road that seemed to go in the right direction already before the village. After about 10 km when it became quite clear that I'm actually on D3710 (a road I didn't know exists) and that I have really missed the springs I stopped, took a selfie (it was really a slow day) and returned back to village.



A word of advice on the ATGAAT selfies: If you have the body armour on, always keep the waist strap on - the top plates will push on your stomach and make it look like protruding gut, which of course I don't have! And Klim Dakars - best ventilating pants I know of, but they will give you thunder thighs if you don't zip up the side ventilation slots. Just zip them up, pretend non-chalantly it's not 45 degrees Celsius and then open them again.

I've managed to find the spring on the second try - but it wasn't entirely straightforward, as they are hidden in little steep gully in the rocks.

Campsite next to the springs:





And the springs themselves - they consist of a set of cascading pools with little waterfall in between the rocks:






It was extremely hot - the normal midday heat multiplied by the rock faces surrounding the pool, so I stripped down quickly and dived into the shade under the overhanging rocks. The water wasn't hot at all and I enjoyed immensely next hour or two just soaking and hiding from the sun. About half way through I was joined by a couple from Germany, who seemed keen on a bit of privacy, so after long procrastination I have eventually got out - put the gear on my wet undies and shirt and set-off again. I had to cross stream flowing on the smooth rock bottom from the pools and took it easy as it was covered by very slippery algae:





At the top of the gully I've bumped into a convoy of Polish tourists wandering whether they really should go down that steep escarpment - so much for the German privacy.


Form the springs I retraced about 7 km or so on the gnarly double track back to the highway in Ongongo, encountering few locals along the way:

















Once back on the highway, it is easy 10 km or so to Sesfontein, where I was surprised to find out they drive on the right hand side, probably to keep us Euros feel at home:


Sesfontein mall:




And my refuge for the night - Fort Sesfontein:




When I was here two years ago, the lodge was run by a white couple who saved my trip, when my clutch cable broke in Huarusib - they managed to arrange for a new one to be sent from Swakopmund to Opuwo for the next day delivery. So I felt obliged to support them, but they were gone and the place was run by the much more indifferent locals. They did the job exactly as trained (so for example food is really good), but nothing more. They still agreed that I can leave some of my luggage while on my planned Hoanib river - Purros shindig.

Which was all I really needed. And the cool room and good food - which was all readily available at the premium price. I've spent the rest of the day reorganising my luggage so that I can leave my rear saddlebags and majority of the stuff from rollie bag there. I still had to carry lots of weight - all the tools, tubes, 9 litres of water. Luckily as I would be returning in two days and about 300 km back to Sesfontein to pick the luggage, I didn't need to carry spare fuel. I managed to squeeze most of it in the front saddle bags, which sit way upfront on the pillion foot pegs, and therefore do not affect much handling of the bike.

With that and afternoon nap sorted I got bored waiting for the dinner and I started take pictures of flowers and sunsets and stuff. Like so:













After dinner I retreated back to my room to finish reading the Elephant Whisperer - a story of private reserve owner in Kwazulu-Natal, who successfully rehabilitated herd of rouge elephants - hoping to find tips on how to put a spell or choke hold on an elephant that may come handy in the Hoanib river, where an elephant encounter is more or less guaranteed. The book was good but didn't do much to alleviate my paranoia. Funnily enough, there are lions in that riverbed as well, but since I've seen two of them run away from me last year on the Chobe boundary, I wasn't too concerned about them.

With the book dealt with, I drifted into a nervous sleep.

« Last Edit: March 06, 2015, 07:36:17 am by Xpat »
 

Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #97 on: March 05, 2015, 11:32:27 pm »
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:

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Offline Duster

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Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #98 on: March 06, 2015, 12:14:59 pm »
Xpat, I admire you guys for doing such trips all on your own, in that environment, and making the rest of us jealous.  It is an amazing trip and thanx for sharing!!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari - 2014 Edition (Bots & Nam)
« Reply #99 on: March 08, 2015, 01:08:32 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...