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Author Topic: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition  (Read 8850 times)

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Offline Xpat

Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« on: April 28, 2019, 09:25:51 pm »
(GPS tracks of this trip are attached here: http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=236580.msg4245285#msg4245285 & here: http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=236580.msg4252672#msg4252672)

Simpson desert is probably the most iconic dual sport ride in Australia, crossing the biggest parallel sand dunes desert in the world - at least that is what my google-fu says. Depending on track the ride is about 550 to 700 km long.

The rest of Australia - at least from what I have seen on interweb - cannot match the riding we have available here in Southern Africa.  But then all I have ridden in Oz is tar road from Sydney up to Blue mountains on GSXR1000 and riding 180hp bike up the most speed trapped road on the planet patrolled by one of the most overzealous police force and pegged mostly to 60 - 80 kmh is a true mystical experience, as by the end of it one is hallucinating from excruciating frustration. But that Simpson desert kept me awake a night or few, slurping up whatever youtube videos of its crossing I could find.

Here few images of Simpson desert I stole from interweb:

So over the years I have kept my eyes open for something similar down here (I should probably say up here as I think we may be above Australia actually). Now there are candidates here that can probably at least to an extent match Simpson desert - the most obvious being Kalahari and Namib desert, but most of them are off limits for riding due to being on private property or part of protected areas off-limit to bikes. 

But eventually I stumbled upon south-west Botswana and my focus shifted there. It started many years ago when I was trying to figure out interesting dirt worthy route from CT back to Joburg. I just happened to read something about annual Desert run going from Kuruman to Swakopmund, initially following the Molopo river along the Bots border. They even had a ‘red’ route (that is the one following the Molopo riverbed), so I thought what a heck, rode up to Molopo lodge and took the Molopo track next day east. It turned out to be massive disappointment - basically riding in very shallow dull riverbed along the Bots border fence and most of the time within 70 meters from perfectly good tar road on the Botswanian side. In other words, it was like riding 200 km on a tar road shoulder - not sure why that was deemed to be ‘red’ by Desert run organizers by any stretch of imagination.

To add insult to injury, the boring riverbed was running in a valley of beautiful Kalahari red dunes for most of the ride - but those were off limit as the ones to the south were on private property, and the ones about 100 meter to the north in a different country. But I filed away image of those dunes in my brain.

That image got triggered few years later when one of the inmates here said something to an effect that there is ‘no good riding around Kathu’. WTF, I thought as Kathu is right in the middle of Kalahari, cranked up my google satellite images and sure enough struck gold straight away. I knew there was no point looking at South African side due to private property. But I also knew that Botswana - one of the last outposts of freedom in this increasingly incorporated world - with its predominantly public land is my better chance. And sure enough, what I found on those images looked very promising. Here some random examples:

What was seen couldn't be unseen and within a month I was heading there. The problem was the 690 with rally kit was way too heavy for proper exploration in unknown territory and I ended up failing miserably (that failure is documented here: http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=211633.0). On the positive side, the failure gave me the final push to get real dual sport bike - enter KTM 500 - as the big bikes became liability way too quickly while exploring unknown and potentially risky territory.

Well, I had to go back. So, when my plan to go ride Lesotho with few mates over Easter fell through mostly because last minute they opted for more exciting stuff (plumbing - heya Tony), I immediately switched my attention to Bots and after day or two of plotting whatever tracks I could see on the satellite images, I was ready.

And boy, have I struck gold! How comes nobody rides there is just incomprehensible to me. This place is just magic and as far as I’m concerned easily matches the best riding places in Southern Africa like Kaokoland or Makgadikgadi. Yes it cannot match the size of Simpson desert - it is about 250 km across from Bokspits to Tsabong. But - unlike Simpson which I think is a park and one has to stick to tracks), you can ride wherever you want, i.e. completely off-piste (as long as you stay out of Kgalagadi NP to the north of course). So you can zig zag all over the place and I have done over 750 km of proper sand riding in three days of riding.

On another note it rates favourably to Simpson at least on my ‘adventure’ scale in one aspect: ever since Crocodile Dundee, Australians cannot stop talking about what dangerous animals one can bump into down there. Now, while I think their Salties are marginally bigger than our Nile-iis, I’m not sure what else are they referring to. Are those jumping goats they have poisonous, or have electric tail? Or are those stoned tree teddy bears masters of death touch? Really not sure.

What I do know though, is that there are stray cats running all over our version of Simpson as the Kgalagadi park is right to the north and of course there are no fences around Bots parks. So one may come over the dune and be greeted by something like this:

In my deranged mind I actually hoped to bump into one or few of these.

The location of the treasure:

And few teasers to whet the appetite:

« Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 12:55:31 pm by Xpat »
The following users thanked this post: pietas, wilfwalk

Offline Xpat

Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2019, 09:57:32 pm »
Commute Midrand to VanZylsrus

Annoyingly I was feeling under weather for about week with some kind of bronchitis or something that wasn’t letting go, so I self medicated with some probably expired antibiotics I saved up in one of my prior brushes with death, packed up and set-off in bakkie day before Easter holidays heading for Van Zylsrus. I have made it only to Kuruman by the time it got dark, and still feeling sick decided to sleep over and get to start next day.

Next day I was feeling even worse, so I decided to move over to Van Zylsrus, take a rest day there (rest day even before I started - pathetic!), get all mybike  luggage sorted and ready for departure the following day, as at home I just threw anything that I might possibly use into the car with the plan to sort out the real stuff at Van Zylsrus. I also got two Coke bottles to carry spare petrol as petrol availability is a problem in parts where I was heading. The only reliable petrol is in Tsabong, which I wasn’t going to get to until day 2 or 3 and I was hoping that I may be allowed to Two River camp in Kgalagadi to refill. If not I would have to jump the border and fill up in Molopo lodge, as Bokspits is completely dry.

I spent lazy day in Van Zylsrus picturesque hotel and finally felt that the bacteria or virus or whatever was eating me from inside is starting to lose against the Indian generic antibiotics - a good omen for next day.

No pretty pictures of N14 unfortunatelly  :biggrin:

Offline Kerritz

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2019, 07:02:35 am »
Gooi nog asseblief!  :thumleft: :happy1:
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Offline JustBendIt

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2019, 07:04:57 am »

The older I get the faster I was

Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2019, 07:14:07 am »
You have my attention, especially as there are no rivers in sight.
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Offline sidetrack

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2019, 07:17:24 am »
I really enjoy the Oz ride reports (Riding with Tom etc.), they always get quite excited when seeing a Kangaroo or Emu but heck you cant match a Lion or Elephant for some adventure ! Following keenly  :thumleft:
Little by little, one travels far
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Offline Vis Arend

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2019, 07:32:12 am »
No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everybody on the the couch
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Offline ClemS

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2019, 07:35:21 am »
The brave do not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.

Offline Malibu

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2019, 07:41:02 am »
They call me Judy or Judes...

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Offline Noneking

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2019, 07:47:46 am »
2021 KTM 890 R Rally
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Offline Sheepman

Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2019, 08:05:36 am »
Here we go again 😁

Offline Dwerg

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2019, 08:19:01 am »
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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2019, 08:25:15 am »
Sub - and now F5 gets hammered again.....

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Offline onderbroek

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2019, 08:41:37 am »
HArd Sub
hak vrystaat

Offline Tabasco

Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2019, 09:42:48 am »

"these 500's is busy to grow on me"

Offline Xpat

Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2019, 09:43:56 am »
Thanks  :thumleft:

I will get to it in the evening - back at work unfortunately...

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #16 on: April 29, 2019, 10:15:04 am »

Vrugte boer........poephol vrugte

Offline I&horse

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2019, 10:23:10 am »
Silence is golden...... Duct tape is silver

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Offline wilfwalk

Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2019, 10:29:34 am »
Well done Xpat - the super discoverer of new routes ! Looking forward to this for sure.

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Re: Simpson Desert - Kalahari Edition
« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2019, 11:23:44 am »
Big sub  :ricky:
If you want to haul ass, you gotta mix gas.