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Offline Xpat

Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« on: June 26, 2017, 12:51:07 am »
… asked m0lt3n in one of the threads here few months back. Now, I know nothing about Kathu - only passed through the place once or twice on the way somewhere else - but still found the statement very odd. For number of reasons:
  • The place sits right on the border of Kalahari, and what better place to ride?
  • Southern Botswana with its predominantly public land (and hence almost unlimited proper offroad riding potential) is close by and easily accessible.
  • Southern Namibia with more sand and gravel riding opportunities not too far away.
  • Northern Cape and the best desert riding in SA rivalling some of the best Namibia has to offer - Namaqua 4x4 Eco Trail and Richtersveld and surrounds -  within easy reach.
  • Amageza runs in the area every year - surely there is a good reason for that.

 
I have ridden bits and pieces of the area before so felt pretty confident about my position, but just to be sure I cranked up Google maps and checked the satellite imagery of the southern Botswana between Tshabong and Botspits - south of Kgalagadi NP, where I suspected the best riding potential may be. And I struck gold straight away - just two of many great samples here:





 
 
Basically, there are 100s of kms of dunes waiting to be ridden that at least from satellite images closely resemble that Ozzie dual sport benchmark - Simpson desert. Except these may have lions running about. Satisfied I replied to m0lt3n in detail outlining wrongness of his position, and moved on.
 
But what was seen cannot be unseen. Plus, I sorely needed to get out of the house as I haven’t ridden since last July when I broke leg in Swaziland. So those dune images were all I needed to mobilize for a trip and within day or two I was plotting double tracks through those dunes on the Google satellite images. I wasn’t keen just to ride to the dunes from Joburg and then retrace back the same way (though the ride on the dirt along the Bots border and Molopo river is alright). So I decided to push on further west and finally ride the Namaqua 4x4 Eco trail (which I always wanted to ride and tried for before, but failed, when my bike died on me in Pofadder) to Vioolsdrift. From there I would explore around Richtersveld a bit and then return back through southern Namibia, and then retrace back on the dirt along Bots border. Something like this:
 

 
I gave a shout to my usual riding compadre Bertie (Straatkat here on WD), and he was keen to join as he hasn’t been on a proper DS trip for a long time either. Not being particularly superstitious we agreed to depart on Saturday, 1st of April, which as these things work turned the departure into a bit of a April fools joke. I was more or less ready on Friday, when Bertie called that the radiator on his TE610 leaked from the accident almost a year ago when he tried to park his bike in the garage, and somehow ended up with the bike stuck under his Subaru. Luckily our other Husky riding buddy TK had a spare radiator, but Bertie needed Saturday to get everything ready. So we postponed departure till 12:00 pm on Sunday 2nd. On Saturday evening Bertie called again - the bike was ready, but the license disk was expired. So no chance to leave on Sunday as he wouldn’t make it across the borders.
 
We moved departure again to the Monday April 3rd. Bertie’s wife Melinda will sort out the license disk in the morning and bring it to the meeting point, and we will be off after that. That finally settled it - or so we thought.
 
Few pics to whet the appetite:
 









































 
« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 02:13:37 am by Xpat »
 

Offline TinusBez

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2017, 05:19:14 am »
 :sip: time to get settled in for another great adventure.

Roll on Martin.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 05:19:49 am by TinusBez »
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Offline skydiver

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2017, 07:31:09 am »
Very nice photos  :thumleft:
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Offline MaxThePanda

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2017, 07:38:14 am »
A lot of Amageza memories right there. Why no lion pics????

Offline Tony the Boney

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2017, 07:39:05 am »
Great report and class photos!
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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2017, 07:46:07 am »
Looks good  :thumleft:
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Offline Splash

Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2017, 08:13:10 am »
Tell us more - looks fantastic.
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Offline RobLH

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2017, 08:39:02 am »
Giddy up
 

Offline Mikie

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2017, 08:40:40 am »
 :ricky:
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Offline woody1

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2017, 09:03:21 am »
 :ricky:

I WOULD RATHER BE AN HONEST ASSHOLE .... THAN A FLIPPEN LIAR !   


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Offline CUZZY

Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2017, 02:20:05 pm »
You got some great pics going there! Stunning.
 

Offline Sláinte Mhaith

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2017, 02:36:20 pm »
 :ricky:
 

Offline m0lt3n

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2017, 03:23:10 pm »
I feel like people should be thanking me for being such an inspiration!!!
Haha


I have been wondering when this ride report is coming, looking forward to hearing more, especially how the Botswana dunes were?
And just for the record, I was quickly convinced that the area is good for riding, and inspired, and then proceeded to break my bike and bench it for 2 months. Mobile again now so very keen to grab some route ideas here!
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Offline THROTTLE JOCKEY

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2017, 04:45:11 pm »
 :sip:
Ride it like you stole it!

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2017, 06:53:27 pm »
And like any great storyteller, he pauses at the right time to build up the ANTICIPATION......
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Offline Xpat

Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2017, 10:31:11 pm »
Day 1
 
First two days were technically liaisons to get to the dunes in Bots. Most or the planned route was dirt getting to and then following the Botswana border west. First day we planned to sleep over in Bray.
 
I arrived at the meeting point - Wimpy in Magaliesburg - 15 minutes late and found both Bertie and Melinda already there, which I took to be a good sign. It wasn’t. Post office rejected to give her the new license disk as it was expired and according to some kind of new procedure, once the disk is expired one has to go to sort it out directly at the Licensing Department, with all the attendant hassle.
 
I knew that they like to check the license disks on the borders, so it didn’t seem worth it to try to wing it without the disk. We contemplated the situation for a while over breakfast and eventually came up with solution where Bertie and I will head off on our trip and poor Melinda will spend most of her day getting the new license disk in the Licensing Department. Once she gets it, she will email photocopy to Bertie and we will get it printed out somewhere in Bray, before we head for Bots border crossing next day. All I can say is that Bertie married really well…
 
With that settled, Bertie filled up and we set-off west, initially on tar. Barely outside Magaliesburg I got hit hard on lower lip by what I assumed was a big rock (I ride open face helmet). The ‘rock’ must have had a sting with poison in it as the left side of my face soon ballooned to the size of grapefruit and stayed like that for next 3 days. That is what real teamwork is about - if your buddy is in trouble, you should find a way to fuck yourself up too, so he doesn’t feel at disadvantage!
 
50 km later, Bertie and the elephant man arrived at Koster. That is where I suddenly realized that I better fill-up or will not make it to Zeerust on the front tanks. I do not like to use fuel from the rear tank if it can be avoided as I have to take luggage off to fill-up it up. Somehow this thought completely eluded me in Magaliesburg while watching Bertie filling up and wondering why he couldn’t come fully ride ready like I did.
 
Once filled up, I headed to the nearby general store looking for the one critical desert riding item I was still missing - soft rimmed hat. I tried to get one in Joburg, but I couldn’t find one despite checking all the specialized stores, as well as Mr Price flea market. Koster is clearly better supplied and I got lucky straight away. The only problem was they only had a hat with the digital desert cammo pattern, so I ended up looking like out of shape middle aged Navy Seal wannabe with elephantiasis. But hey, where I ride I encounter mostly hyenas, and they don’t seem to care one way or another.
 
With that sorted, we headed out and hit the dirt right out of town. I sent Bertie ahead as he is a speed freak and doesn’t have much control over his throttle hand and I followed at my more leisured 100 - 120 kmh behind his dust cloud. I’m normally not a big fan of farm roads, but did  actually enjoy riding again in the open space after 9 months forced break. The road was very quiet - I believe we met only one or two cars in 100 or so km to Zeerust, which added to the enjoyment.
 
Zeerust, a typical African crossroad town was its usual busy hustle and bustle so we just filled up and headed straight out. We hit the dirt road heading west along the border towards Ramatlabama border post, where we run out of road heading in our direction, so just found some doubletrack heading roughly west and pushed on. Oh the freedom of public land!
 


Bertie had a look at his itallian stallion and wondered - how can I improve it? Engine modifications? Suspension? No! The looks:


 
The weather was good and we settled into a nice groove - it looked like the morning curse has been broken finally. Until few dozen km later where we hit a village and a puppy run into Bertie and sadly didn’t make it the other way. More sombre now we took 20 or so km of tar to Disaneng where the tar turned back to gravel (or rather compacted sand). We pushed on as we were trying to make Bray before sunset - we lost quite a bit of time in the morning trying to figure out the license disk solution.
 
Way too soon I came upon Bertie on the side of the road humping his TE from behind. While this may alarm uninitiated, us in the know, know that this is Bertie’s version of rain dance when he has run out of petrol in his front tank. Bertie fabricated himself a rear subframe tank, but didn’t put in electric pump so when he runs out upfront, he uses air pump to push the petrol into the front tank. And I caught him pumping of course. The worrying bit was that he run out of petrol way too early - indicating unexpectedly high consumption. At this rate he wouldn’t make Bray. We weren’t too worried about that as I had more than enough petrol to get us there both, but the high consumption may have indicated some other hidden problem.
 





Well no point dwelling on that there and once he ‘thrusted’ all the petrol from the rear to the front, we were off again. Soon we hit Kalahari proper which announced itself by the red dunes along the track, as well as crossing the track in the in regular intervals in the form of red sand mounds. So we were transiting from white cement gravel to long sections of red sand track and back. Which can get tricky as one has a tendency to gun it on the white gravel and then hit the sandy tracks way too fast, with inevitable ‘oh shit’ moments. Being rusty from 9 months of basically horizontal cave existence, I took it rather easy. And so did Bertie, whom I found stationary again asking if my bike also snakes around as his does. To deal with this he decided to lower the tyre pressures - right strategy, up to a point of course. While I lowered my pressure to conservative 1.5 bar or so (there was gravel between the sand bits with potential for snakebite), Bertie took more cavallier rule of thumb approach.
 
So it did not surprise me completely when I found him stationary again in a small village few km further on with flat front tyre. I went to source some cold drinks into the nearby shop, while Bertie took out the tools he needed to change the tube. He came prepared - while he prides himself on packing light (and laughs at my somewhat sloppy packing), he did manage to bring with something called No Pinch Tool, or some such. Which is half a meter or so long piece of metal weighting by the look of it about 5 kg, which I’d bet one can use effectively in a pinch as self defence against pissed off bull elephant. It’s no use for getting the tyre off, but it did help (after few clumsy attempts caused by lack of experience) to get the tyre on, so I guess it works as advertised. I will stick with my trusty tyre irons though, as I prefer things simple (despite the flat tyre fiasco that screwed up with my trip through Okavango delta last year).
 




 
With new tube in, we pushed on again racing against the setting sun. By now we were getting confident in the sand and were gunning it even through the sand usually upwards of 100 kmh. Things were going well, but I was expecting to find Bertie out of fuel stationary again any moment now. And so I did about 50 km short of Bray. His bike died on him unexpectedly at high speed and he barely managed to pull the clutch in and come to a standstill without landing on his face.
 
We siphoned three litres of petrol from 690 to TE, which should get him to Bray. But when he tried to start, we just heard single blank clack and that was it. It took us a while to really admit that the TE engine have really seized out of a blue - never heard about anything like that before (I also have younger brother TE630, so did quite a bit of research on the bike in its time). We were quite perplexed how that happened. We could see some oil on the bashplate, but the oil level in the engine was fine. The fuel pump was priming no problem so the issue didn’t seem to be electrical. But when we tried to push the bike even in high gear, the rear wheel was just stuck. The high consumption now started to make more sense - though pretty late.
 
We contemplated our options - we were in the middle of nowhere and the sun was setting fast. Luckily we had a mobile signal, so we called poor Melinda with a cry for help again. She googled a phone number for the lodge in Bray. Bertie called and asked if they can send a bakkie to fetch him and the bike back to the lodge. The guy on the phone was helpful and confident they should be able to organize something. So we waited trying to figure out what could have caused the seizure.
 
Unfortunately, the guy from the lodge called back about half an hour later saying he couldn’t find anybody willing to drive out that far. So we contemplated other options. I remembered from my prior ride here that there should be small settlement with a spaza shop further on - not sure how far but definitely before Bray. One option was for me to pull Bertie there and try to find some support/base there. But we were both skeptical regarding safety of the whole pulling business. While we were getting more confident in the sand, me pulling Bertie, who didn’t have the benefit of throttle to get himself out of trouble in sand seemed like disaster in waiting.
 
The only other option was for me to leave Bertie behind and ride out trying to find somebody who could help us get Bertie and the bike into safety. So that is what we settled on and I rode off. By now it was basically dark and I struggle properly in the sand - my eyesight is dodgy at the best of light and the lights on 690 Rally Kit are more of a decoration than functional feature. I had really hard time to see in the sand what is the track and what is that middle divide (middleman…..) and often find myself getting it wrong with inevitable scares.
 
Eventually after about 10 km I came to the junction with the main Vryburg - Bray road, where I found that shop I talked about.  It was closed and no-one in sight anywhere around. However I could see some light across the road so I rode up to the close gate with house with lights on in sight about 100m away. I wandered if they would start shooting if I open the gate and ride/walk up (it was completely dark now), but luckily there were people outside who saw me and a gentleman jumped into Hilux and came to meet me at the gate. We introduced ourselves - his name was Renier and this was his farm. I asked if he could help us get Bertie and bike out of the bush to which he readily agreed - score! I parked my bike in front of his garage and introduced myself to his wife (whose name shamefully eluded me in the excitement of the moment - maybe Bertie can chirp in), jumped into the bakkie and we were off to fetch Bertie.
 
We found him exactly where I left him, loaded the bike and drove back to the farm. Bertie and I asked if it would be OK if we camp in the courtyard, but Renier and his wife would have none of that and put us up in one of the rooms on the farm. Renier then fired up braai and within half an hour we were having delicious dinner of steak and pap and beer, swapping stories about life in the bush (they really liked the area, there is no crime there and good farmers community).
 
I always feel awkward and sheepish when faced with this level of generosity from strangers, wondering if I would behave even remotely similarly  to strangers stranded for example on the Allandale road in Midrand. I was pretty sure that they will not accept money for their hospitality, so I tried to plot some kind of donation to the lion breeding program they were involved in. But when I suggested it, Renier flatly refused and that was that. I would have to deal with my feelings of inferiority on my own.
 
Bertie in the meantime organized with Melinda to come and fetch him next day with trailer all the way from Magaliesburg. Melinda, together with Renier and his wife definitely deserves some kind of DS Medal of Honour, for dealing with the fallouts from our - let’s face it - very self-indulgent hobby.

Here is Bertie's thread explaining what went wrong with his TE610: http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=208294.0
 
The route:
 
« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 10:38:33 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline ChrisL - DUSTRIDERS

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2017, 10:46:37 pm »
Sub :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline Dwerg

Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2017, 08:01:51 am »
 :sip:

Awesome riding country! Looking forward to the trip proper  :thumleft:
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Offline 2StrokeDan

Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2017, 08:08:54 am »
With that start, the most exciting part of the trip seems to be over. :pot:

I am watching.
 

Offline Kortbroek

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Re: Why is all the good riding so far away from Kathu...
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2017, 10:03:37 am »
Going to enjoy this one  :thumleft:
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!