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Offline Straatkat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #60 on: May 20, 2016, 09:25:22 pm »
Some more pics
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 09:14:27 am by Straatkat »
18 till I die.
If hard work pays, show me rich donkey.

Offline Straatkat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #61 on: May 20, 2016, 09:27:28 pm »
And more
18 till I die.
If hard work pays, show me rich donkey.

Offline Straatkat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #62 on: May 21, 2016, 12:10:41 am »
Doing this trip with Xpat had me realise a few things, a lot of guys dream big and make grandiose plans about trips they want to do, but the final act of actually going is missing from their plan. For whatever reason, being work restraints, financial constraints or family commitments they always find a reason not to go.
This is where Xpat is different, he also dreams big and has grandiose plans, but every opportunity he gets, being a long week-end or annual leave or just a week-end, he is out there on his bike doing what everybody else only dreams about. That is what I admire about him, and if he cannot find a buddy to ride with, he goes it alone. He is no superman and he can ride well enough, but he has been more places than anyone else I know. All it takes is that you must stop procrastinating and get out there! One day when he is old and sitting in the sun on his rocking chair in the old age home he will have hundreds of wonderful memories, and because life is so short I have made a promise to myself to do as many trips as I can possibly fit into my life, hopefully some of those will be with Xpat if he will have me along.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 12:22:20 am by Straatkat »
18 till I die.
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Offline Xpat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #63 on: May 22, 2016, 07:12:16 pm »
Day 5 & 6

I took a day off in Maun to dry up from riding of the Makgadikgadi swamp and recover some energy before pushing deep into Okavango delta. I've finished all chores like filling up on petrol (including 14 spare litres in jerry cans, just in case), restorking on bully beef and buying a nice hat ala Straatkat (so I don't have to wear a scarf on my head during stops to protect myself from the sun) by mid morning. I've spent rest of the day lounging around the bar and pool and my favourite - sleeping.

My luxury den in Audi - ensuite bathroom and all:

Next day was the day - the plan was to make it all the way to Seronga on the western side of Okavango, i.e. circomventing the delta. For a big day my lazy ass didn't manage an early start. Smart move would be to skip breakfast and be on the bike heading north by the first light, but my sorry little self could not pass on the full English breakfast one last time and therefore I left only past 8:00 am.  

First 40 km or so is tar which then turns to sandy gravel road at the veterinary fence at the end of a village, name of which eludes me now. This time I didn't even had to report myself at the fence gate as 2 years ago, they just waved me through invalidating some rumours on this site that bikes are not allowed past the gate.

Few km further I came upon the fork in the road - the left road heading to the Moremi NP south gate (where bikes are not allowed) and right heading up to Mababe village and onwards to either Chobe NP or Khwai village at the northern boundary of Moremi - this road runs outside of national parks and hence there is no problem with doing it on the bike. Which is somewhat funny as there are no fences anywhere and big 5 roam freely there:

The road up to Mababe is wide easy gravel road where one can easily ride a ton or rather more. But this being a rich animal area, I took it easy at about 70 kmh constantly scanning bush on both sides for any game I may come upon. I have seen few zebras and a giraffe, but they all disappeared in the bush before I could take a picture:

And then, at about the same place like 2 years ago I came upon first her of elephants:

And another one few km further:

Then I came upon a branch on the road indicating detour. But the road seemed fine so I continued on the main road until I came to big puddle. It looked deep so I tried to walk it first (looking backward probably not the smartest move considering that it was just small portion of much bigger swamp where crocks may find a living) but it got deep quickly so I reversed out and backtracked to the branch and took alternative double track heading into the bush:

The double track did worry me a bit as it was winding through the bush around the lake/swamp and I couldn't see what is around the corner. So I took it easy giveing anything that may be there chance to move on. which worked fine, except for one elephant I bumped into on the side of the road behind deserted camp surprising both of us. He got his back straight and turned towards me, but luckily I had ope track ahead and buggered off double fast.

The elie:

Once back on the main road, it was a short cruise to Mababe village, where I enquired about the state of approach road heading to 19th parallel (in case I would need to come back) and they confirmed that is cotton mud bath as one would expect this time of the year Mababe depression to be. I then rode through the village and stopped in a little rest spot behind a bridge at the other side of the village:

After break I continued west towards Khwai village and turn-off to Seronga, bumping into another herd or 2 of elephants along the way. The road here is a main connection between Moremi and Chobe and there was quite a lot of tourist trafic.

Turn-off north to Savuti and Chobe NP:

Eventually I came to the turn-off to Seronga - there was even a traffic sign! What was less encouraging was the fact that it was a deep sand double track winding through the bush. I have expected it to be a cutline - which are wider and run straight, making it easier to pick-up speed and spot the animals upfront. By now with my late start, slow speed and frequent stops for pictures it was after 11:00 am and properly hot. And I still felt a bit stiff from the Makgadikgadi rafting. So it was very easy for this wuss to come to a conclusion that it would be better to stay one more night in Khwai vilage (at the end of the day this is one of the richest area for animals anywhere in the world so it would be shame to pass it without proper visit) and set-off again tomorrow morning early. This track was the start of the toughest and by far the riskiest bit, so early start with lower temperatures would definitely give me a great advantage. And despite this being pure momentary improvisation on my side, I would strongly recommend anybody trying to attempt the same to take the same approach and stay over at Khwai:

The track to Seronga cca 200 km away (so far I've done about 120 km from Maun on very good gravel):

So I continued west to Khwai village about 15 km away:

Guesthouse at the beginning of the Khwai vilage - associated with the Sango camp tucked away in the bush on the river few hundred meters away:

And the village:

Bridge over to Moremi north gate:

In the village I asked about accomodation and they told me about Sango camp, the guesthouse and then something called Khwai tented camp. I have enquired in the first to and to my dismay they were full. When I was already contemplating riding up the north gate and camp there (or as an alternative backtrack to the community campsite about 20 km back - but I wasn't keen on that one as it doesn't have any ablutions I could take refuge in if elies, which rule there - would come by) I eventually bumped into that Khwai tented camp fully expecting it to be full. But to my relief it was empty - they were officialy under reconstruction and kind of closed for business. They actually almost refused me as they didn't know what to do with walk in tourists (these are all upmarket places where you have to book ahead) - they didn't even know what to charge me. Eventually they called somewhere to Maun or Cape Town or some such and agreed for me to stay - for 150 USD per night (all meals and drinks from free fridge included) - I found out now that they  normally charge 350 and more, so I actually fared very well. It was very pricey, but there weren't any alternatives (except for camping) and I decided to spoil myself before I hit that dreaded double track up north. So I took it and settled in. As the only guest, the service was great (kind of silly to have personal guide, cook and all that stuff for one smelly biker, but hey - they weren't that discerning).

My tent:

In the evening I change quickly my rear brake pads as the original ones were gone from the sanding they've got on Makgadikgadi, and after fantastic three course dinner with candles and shit (yup, this place was completely out of my league) I settled in my bed falling asleep to the sound of hippos eating grass 5 meters away and lions calling each other in the nearby bush.

Route ridden:

« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 07:15:52 pm by Xpat »

Offline 0012

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Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #64 on: May 23, 2016, 04:51:11 pm »
that lodge must have been  :drif: after all the riding up until now!

I would probably have made sure the bar fridge pays back a large portion of that $150 spent  :lol8:

great RR so far   :ricky:

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Offline OOOOMS

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #65 on: May 24, 2016, 07:47:47 am »
Great stuff! Keem 'em coming  :thumleft:

Offline Xpat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #66 on: May 24, 2016, 08:32:52 pm »
Day 7
Unlike prior day, this time I did wake up early still in darkness, and quickly ready for early start. The guys in the lodge confirmed that there is a road all the way to Seronga, and that I should be able to make it there in one day. I took it with grain of salt – people here are absolutely unrealistic regarding the speeds you can do on bike (it’s not that unusual for some  to expect me do about 600 km in one hour), however it did cheer me up a bit and helped to overcome nagging doubts I had about this whole business.
What put me back down again when I came to the bike all ready to go, was the flat rear tyre. I was quite annoyed with myself that I didn’t notice anything yesterday while changing the rear brake pads (and therefore having the offending wheel off) or while strapping all my luggage on for an early departure. It either must have been a slow puncture, or I must be getting old. Now it was going to cost me the early start advantage. I unstrapped and pulled off all the luggage and dug out the tools and spare tube from the bottom of my bags.
Watched by the whole lodge crew I took the wheel off to get the tube out. The lodge mechanics gave me a hand, which proved to be more of a hindrance than help. I’m generally pretty efficient when dealing with flat tyres on my own, but in the company of others – especially mechanics – I tend to get a bit tentative. I blame that soft spoken offroadcycling tycoon mechanic for this – who likes to ridicule my bike fixing efforts, instead of being smart and supportive as results of these keep him in business. While getting  tube out of the tyre  would normally take me 3-4 minutes max (yes, on the same tyre I had – Dakar  E09), this time three of us each with his own tyre lever were battling probably 10 – 15 minutes to get it out. The tube turned out to be punctured by thorn embedded in the tyre.

While one of the mechanics patched the tube, the other helped me to put the spare tube in. We then spent half an hour trying to blow it up using variety of contraptions on hand. You see this luxury lodge with 2 – 3 safari vehicles parked in didn’t have a compressor. I dumped compressor from my gear to save weight/space after wolf skaap laughed at me – justifiably I should add – for carrying that crap around.  I had two small mountain bike pumps (for redundancy), but they take for ever to blow up bike tyre – especially the rear one. So we resorted to a big stand-up hand pump they pulled out of some dumpster. It was in in such a state of disrepair that it required 3 men team to operate, holding various orifices and connections while trying to direct the air into the tube. Hence it took us a while before we  admitted to ourselves that we may have indeed pinched the spare tube. Perfect timing – I have changed tube probably 20 – 30 times before and never pinched one. So why have the first pinch while desperately running out of colder temperature and time, right?
I was always deeply suspicious of teamwork - subversive corporate ploy to suppress individuality and foster conformity. And I was clearly right, which became even more abundantly clear, when my helpers called break for breakfast, while I swapped the patched tube back in 10 minutes flat, confirming that the spare one was indeed pinched in the process. Unbridled individualism all the way, say I!
The next challenge was to try to inflate the tyre as it just wouldn’t come up from behind the rim and none of our air blowing contraptions worked. Eventually the lodge manager jumped into the car with the rear wheel and drove off to the Songu lodge, to use their compressor. In the meantime I have patched the spare tube and once they were back, assembled the bike back together and packed my bags. By now it was 11:00 am, hot and I had to take a good hard look at that plan of mine. After short deliberation I have decided to give up once again on the Okavango circumvention. I had 3.5 day left to get back to Joburg and with the late start would probably spend 1.5 day just to get out of sticks in Shakawe over 300 km of bush away, most probably bush-camping in the middle of the delta. Trying to ride a tough and tight sandy double track through the hottest period of the day among best off the African crickets against clock just seemed a bit too risky.  And even if I would make it, I would have to slab on 690 1500 km in two days, and I just didn’t want to finish the trip on that kind of note.
Instead, I decided to enjoy one more night of wilderness in Khwai, and then retrace back to Mababe and take 200 km of cutline through Kalahari east to the main Kasane – Nata road  for a sleepover in the Elephant’s sand, from where I would cruise in two days back to Joburg on the dirt roads along Zim border, probably sleeping over in Tuli block. That sounded like a decent plan that should leave me fully dirt saturated for a week or three.
So I settled back in my tent, took off my saddle bags, packed basic tools to my rollie bag on top and went for a game ride. You see – and it really surprises that nobody seems to know this – the area north of Khwai river is public land and therefore fully accessible to the bikes. It is just across the river from one of the top areas in Moremi NP and there are as many animals north of the river, as they are south. This is not your Kruger fence ride – this is real ‘game ride’. Now riding on a bike on winding double track through a dense bush with all the big five around gets a bit nerve-racking after a while, so after few about 10 km of double track during which I tried to stick to the open plains I have chickened out and headed to the main road I arrived on the day before.

I stopped by in the Khwai woollies to restock on something I cannot remember now, and then took the main road 15 km back to the turn-off to Seronga, which I took and rode the double-track up for about 5 km confirming that it is very sandy and tightly flanked by the surrounding bush. I then face-abouted and rode back to the main road stopping there when my rear brake failed. I correctly guessed the root cause – yesterday when I changed the brake pads (first time I did that – I learn best in the bush) I didn’t adjust the brake pedal. Which was now dragging the break, boiling up the brake fluid, making it fail eventually. Adjusting the brake was a quick fix, but while waiting for the rear brake to cool down, the rear tube out of a blue quickly deflated. Just like that – WTF! I raked my brain trying to figure out how overheated brake may cause rear flat, but came out blank. This was getting properly annoying!

South African family in 4x4 on vacation kindly stopped by and gave me one of those tyre-fix cans. It didn’t work. Not keen to try to fix the tube out there I decided to limp 15 km back to the lodge on the flat tyre. Once there, I left the bike at the workshop and headed straight for tasty lunch, few sodas and afternoon nap. I had no juice left to deal with another flat straight away.

Later in the afternoon with the midday heat subsided I took the wheel off and found the culprit – the rubber band covering the spokes snapped (or may have been held in place by duct tape and that came off) and one of the spokes pierced the tube. This was a new one for me and I wasn’t sure what the best solution to cover spokes was. Duct tape did appear to me, but just to be sure I called Straatkat who confirmed that is indeed the way to go. Keen to preserve whatever little duct tape I had I checked first with the lodge guys, but they didn’t have any (actually never heard of one), so I had to use mine – I had only small one and used most of it for the fix. I put the spare tube in and fixed the punctured one one more time.
With that sorted already in the dark I just washed up and went for another luxury 3 course dinner by the candles with lodge manager lady, my personal guide (who’s sole job was to escort me after dark to the tent as lions frequent the campsite often) and a South African construction manager Freddy, who arrived that day to oversee rebuild of the campsite. He lived in Maun and owned a bicycle shop. Which of course I for explanation on as I would have assumed that nobody reasonable would chose to ride bicycle in Botswanian sand (but then who am I to pull a reason as an argument). Freddy explained how wrong I was – they use special wide tyres almost the size of motorbike ones, and ride anywhere on them, including crossing through Moremi and Central Kalahari NP (which until then I believed is accessible). Some hobby – eh? Puts that once a year 94.7 thingy into perspective.
After the dinner I managed to beat all the lions to my tent and fell asleep to the sounds of mightily pissed off elephant somewhere nearby.

Offline JMOL

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Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #67 on: May 24, 2016, 08:43:17 pm »
As always - unbeatable!!

Thanks for sharing  :thumleft:
Life is hard - even harder if you are stupid.

Offline Straatkat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #68 on: May 24, 2016, 11:16:49 pm »
Xpat, you make me properly jealous for not coming along with you, we could have beaten that puncture demon together. We seem to be unstoppable when it comes to fixing bikes! I am seriously pissed at my boss for ordering me back, think I am never going to speak to him again.
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Offline OOOOMS

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #69 on: May 25, 2016, 07:54:14 am »
Really a pity about your punctures / setback......

....you will have to go back again  :biggrin:

Offline Xpat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #70 on: May 25, 2016, 10:50:20 am »
Really a pity about your punctures / setback......

....you will have to go back again  :biggrin:

Oh yes, I will be back.

In a way I do not mind the set-back. I'm slowly running out of new tracks to ride, so saving one for later isn't such a bad thing. And I had a good ride anyway.

Offline african dust

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #71 on: May 25, 2016, 12:44:09 pm »
I suspect there will be no shortage of people wanting to "tag"along when you do ytour next trip  :thumleft:

Offline Kaboef

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Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #72 on: May 25, 2016, 01:45:24 pm »
Brilliant pics and a great report.

Thanks guys.

Jeesh, I must go back to Bots soon. Forgot how beautiful it can be.

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Offline Xpat

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #73 on: May 25, 2016, 09:38:01 pm »
Day 8
There was still air in the rear tyre in the morning so I packed up and after breakfast set-off following the main dirt road back to Mababe. I’ve stopped for a break at the same rest spot as two days ago – this one:

This break turned out to be much shorter. As soon as I pulled off my helmet and gloves I’ve been welcomed by pissed off grumble from a nearby pond hidden about 10 meters away behind high grass. A quick peek over the grass confirmed my suspicion:

I managed to snap the above pic and then moved away double pronto (why again do the modern bikes have to go through that stupid whizzing staring procedure?) over the bridge to the first spaza shop I bumped into in the village. It felt safe– there were lots of kids around which I felt reasonably confident to be able to outrun, should some cricket pounce out of the bush. I had a cold Coke or two and asked again about the connection to the 19th parallel cutline, which I was keen on as I haven’t done it yet, but they re-confirmed that the track is 40 km of cotton mud swamp now.

So no 19th parallel this time either and I continued on the main dirt road, which in Mababe turns south west heading towards Maun about 110 km away. After few km I had to again use the double track detour through the bush to bypass the little pond I tried to walk through on the way up, bumping again into a herd of elephants:

About 20 – 30 km south of Mababe I came upon my cutline heading straight east through the Kalahari bush. From this point it is exactly 200 km until the cutline t-bones the tar A33 80 km south of Pandamatenga and 130 km north of Nata. I turned onto the cutline and straightaway saw that it was much more deserted and overgrown than two years ago – which was right after the Bots government cancelled all the hunting concessions this area was used for at the time. Clearly the already very sparse traffic to and from hunting camps disappeared by now and currently the cutline was used probably only by anti-poaching patrols. I thought the cutlines were primarily firebreaks maintained  to stop the fire spreading across the bush, but in its current state this cutline wouldn’t stop anything – if anything the sea of dry grass would probably make it spread faster. For a comparison, here is repeat plug of my video from the ride on the same cutline in December 2013:
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/DzcGLtxF5tU" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/DzcGLtxF5tU</a>

And here it is what the cutline looks like now:

I set-off heading dead east, but from the get go had funny feeling about this thing. I was a bit nonchalant with time in the morning considering the cutline a non-event on 690, as I have already done it on much heavier Tenere, so by the time I set-off on the cutline it was already almost 11:00 am and very hot. The sand was significantly tougher than the last time, when I rode just after heavy rains and the sand in many sections was much more compacted – there were long sections of tough sand to be sure, but usually intersped with easier more compact sections usually in depressions where water worked the sand into more of a soil. Now I was riding sandy double track basically the whole time. And I couldn’t ride the deep sand on the side of the cutline off the double track (which is easier as it doesn’t require as much focus on the line) as they were heavily overgrown. So I was getting headache focusing heavily on the straight line in front of me for dozens of kms.

All those things were to be expected. What was really bugging me, were the incessant worries about the bike catching a fire. The problem was the grass was dry and ripe and the bike and I were being bombarded by millions of grass seeds, which very quickly clogged the radiator guard, blocking the air flow and resulting in greatly diminished engine cooling. While I was ridding at reasonable pace mostly staying in the 4 and 5th gear (which normally would be more than enough to keep the bike cool enough) the engine was still running hot and the fan was on all the time. I stopped often – always in the clear making sure no grass could touch the bike – to let the bike cool down a bit, but it never lasted more than 2 -3 km before the fan was on again.

On number of occasions I poured precious water into the bashplate which by now has collected a veritable haystack, and at one point I took the radiator guard off and cleaned it of the grass. That helped for a bit, but it took only 10 or so km before the guard was clogged again.
What didn’t help was the story Freddy shared night before over dinner of a family in 4x4 somewhere between Linyianti and Savuti, who’s car burned down when they stopped with clogged radiator in tall grass for a little break. That and the images Speedy Goncalves crying over his burning Honda on the Argentinian pampa were enough to eventually dissolve my resolve to make it through. In my paranoid state I even took the satellite phone out of the rollie bag and put it in my back-pack – to have it on me should I need to abandon the bike in a haste.
So about 50 km into the cutline I stopped to ponder my situation and decided to turn the tail. I did consider pushing on and then cutting south to Gweta along the Nxai Pen NP eastern boundary, but the distance was almost the same as to the A33, I would still have to cross the toughest 40-60 km of sand about halfway into the cutline. And anyway, the chance that there will be less grass were more or less nil.

I've made it back out of the cutline in an hour or so and then continued on to Maun where I arrived at about 3pm. I considered staying night in Audi, but it was too early and I had to push on so I filled my tanks, and pushed on another 200 km through a light rain to Gweta and Planet Baobab for a sleepover.

Route ridden:

Offline OOOOMS

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #74 on: May 26, 2016, 06:53:16 am »
Great stuff....."My daily fix"

Once again great pics and nice video  :thumleft:

PS I carry a few of these fairly lightweight fire extinguishers, nice and compact and have seen a few demo's of them. Pretty effective imho! No expiry date, but not refillable.

« Last Edit: May 26, 2016, 06:57:25 am by OOOOMS »

Offline Brewed_Coffee

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Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #75 on: May 26, 2016, 08:09:44 am »

PS I carry a few of these fairly lightweight fire extinguishers, nice and compact and have seen a few demo's of them. Pretty effective imho! No expiry date, but not refillable.

Where do you get them from?
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Offline Malcolm

Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #76 on: May 26, 2016, 09:22:11 am »
i also carry those extinguishers, i found mine at Builders some time ago. 
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Offline Werner747

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Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #77 on: May 26, 2016, 09:42:16 am »

PS I carry a few of these fairly lightweight fire extinguishers, nice and compact and have seen a few demo's of them. Pretty effective imho! No expiry date, but not refillable.

Where do you get them from?

From http://www.firestryker.co.za/firestryker-outlets the full outlet list attached.  ;)

Offline Cota

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Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #78 on: May 26, 2016, 10:07:07 am »
Fantastic stuff!! Some great scenery...  :3some:

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Re: Short way around the delta
« Reply #79 on: May 26, 2016, 10:24:37 am »
We have messed around quite a bit with those Fire Strikers.  I believe they will only contain an enclosed fire, when it robs a space of oxygen.  Absolutely useless in any breeze on a diesel fire.  They also burn hot on the striker end, which in itself causes problems.
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