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Offline Zanie

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Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #80 on: October 08, 2019, 11:41:40 pm »
Day 6: Van Zyl's Camp to Marble Camp (63 km)

Video of day 6:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/6E4hAsnPVCc" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/6E4hAsnPVCc</a>

Today was D-Day; “D” for the “Dreaded” Van Zyl’s Pass. We only had 63km to cover, but it would take us back-markers 5.5 hours. We were to discover that “sand” was not the only four-letter swearword in biker speak. Today, we got acquainted with “rock”. We would have plentiful of both.

Contrary to what the photo below would have you believe, Henk was not checking for skid marks in his pants. Unlike some of us, his skill level meant that his nerves were minimally affected.

Oubone’s KLR took one look at the itinerary and decided to dig in.

Abel’s bike went one further and pleaded dysfunctionality. Its efforts were thwarted though, through the mechanical skill of the Specialised team, helped by Oubones.

The day started with a bang: riverbed sand!

[Photo credit: Jannie van der Merwe]

“I did not sign up for this!”

Today’s track had an evil bipolar syndrome. Take your pick: sand or rocks. Actually, you don’t get to pick. You get both.



We were only 10 minutes into the day, when we reached this:

Was this Van Zyl’s Pass? No, just the run-up. Yet Lance found this more challenging than the infamous pass.

Gordon getting assistance from Oubones and Duncan to shift the heavy Honda:

Photos flatten the gradient…

Lance: “You’ve got to be kidding, right?”

In the photo above, there are two routes down the steep, off-camber rocky section: to the right (as above), or to the left (as demonstrated by Bertie).

Lance took the route to the right. You can get an idea of the slope, when looking at where Duncan is standing. If you fall to the left, you will fall hard.

Hence the three-person support structure, consisting of Duncan, Oubones and Pete. I guess it didn’t help that Lance was on my bike: extra pressure to do no damage.

Check the fun angle…

More fun angles, as demonstrated by Craig.

If you must lose your balance, better to do it to the right.

Check where Kobus is standing in relation to Pete:

Henk showing us mere mortals how it is done, sans support entourage.

The best 4x4 by far:

Obviously even the local 4x4s find the slope skid-mark inducing:

Duncan, with Hardy and Kobus in tow:

I received some guidance from the Namibia 4x4 sensei…

…before tackling the rocks, with plenty of help from Hardy and Kobus.

You can see why I struggled: Kobus is helpfully pointing out the line, while I only have eyes for one thing – the nose of my bike.

Oubones demonstrating the correct gaze; no pointing required.

We finally finished “extraordinary rock” and spent a while contending with “ordinary rock”.

Make sure you don’t get bounced to the left here…

Interesting downhill:

Again: It’s a lot steeper than it looks.

And bumpier.

So many rocks...


An “easier” section:

Engage skill: multitasking. Steep gradient plus corner.

Getting stuck behind a car was a drag. They move a lot slower on the technical bits and it is exactly here where the road usually narrows and it becomes tricky to pass. The awake ones would stop on a wider section and let you go past. Many were somewhere on the spectrum between somnambulant and comatose.

Some more rocks:

Momentum is your friend here. Pick a line. Any line. They are all equally bouncy.

Lance kept nagging me to put my feet on the pegs, but I’m not yet confident enough to face some of these obstacles minus foot-paddles.

On our way to the Van Zyl’s view point:

We found the benevolent providers of cold Coke from the previous day.

Along with a spectacular view:

Happiness is shade:

Our happiness was short-lived, because an entire armada of rent-a-4x4 arrived. We did not want to get stuck behind them again, given the hard work in getting ahead of the zombie parade, so we set off.

We had a short respite from rocks, where I could actually look around and enjoy the scenery.

It didn’t last long.

Rockiness reinstalled…

…with super-sized marbles as a non-optional extra.

Some took it in their stride. Hennie “Hare” R passing the pink tortoise:

With guidance from my other bike sensei (Lance), I learnt the one-foot dab, rather than the double-foot paddle. In trying to get my feet on the pegs, every small improvement must be celebrated.

A dramatic back-drop for the drama to come:

When checking out the road ahead, you will notice a small group of bikers. They are waiting at the spot where the road simply drops away into space.

We had reached the step of Val Zyl’s Pass.

It doesn’t help the nerves any that there’s a rolled car on the slope to show you what could go wrong.

The slope is very steep, with a nasty right-hand bend. If you want to fly, carry a bit of speed here. That is, if you don’t mind the dying part. Of course, there will always be those that make it look easy. Henk and Hennie showed us how it should be done.



Ja, right! There’s a whole lot of “nope” going on here. We weren’t exactly clamouring to be next. Abel, as the newest off-road rider, drew the short straw. It was amazing that he was on his bike in the first instance on this day, but he was advised by Hardy that if he did not do Van Zyl’s, he (Abel) will regret it for the rest of his life. It was sound advice, especially given that he had a team to help him.

Abel at the start of the step:

The XR650L is an incredibly tall bike, which means that tip-overs are almost guaranteed if you are trying to paddle down an uneven surface. This is where the Specialised team steps in.

Hardy preventing a tip-over to the right:

Hardy and Kobus helping out:

In this way, a bike can be walked safely down the scary section…

…even if a rider’s feet cannot reach the ground.

I had a much lower and lighter bike, with years more experience, yet I needed exactly the same assistance, so kudos to Abel for tackling Van Zyl’s.

My nerves were in overdrive here:

[Photo credit: Henk Goedhart]

Paddles everywhere, but no ground to touch!

Unlike Abel and me, the rest generally only needed assistance at the top of the first section. “The rest” excludes Brian and Bertie, who were probably a million miles in front at this time.

Gordon on the big beast:

You had to use the berm on the right-hander bend to avoid space-flight.

And a healthy dose of stopping power:

[Photo credit: Henk Goedhart]

Craig managing, despite the mismatch in bike height and leg length:

Put your left foot in…

…put your left foot out, and shake it all about.

Ah, stuff it! I’ll just hang out here.

Hardy using his refrain for the day: “Use the berm.”

Pete almost having a front wash-out, because – of course – you need to stop for a photo/video!


The point of release:

Fly free, biker!

Edge-avoidance engaged!

Duncan on his green machine:

A narrowly-avoided tip-over:

I wonder what would have happened to Ian if Duncan had not changed direction.


The next sequence was amazing due to the sheer speed of Ian’s response.

Ian still pointing in the desired direction of travel, while Oubones has ideas of his own:

Ian realizing Oubones is not taking his advice:

A pronto pick-up:

“As I was saying, go this way.”

From start to finish of the above sequence: 9 seconds. The bike hadn’t even switched off!

“Now go that way. Please refrain from further rest stops”

If you want to know some inkling of the Van Zyl’s fear-inducing factor, you need to see it from a bike’s cockpit. So here it is, from Lance’s point of view.

A seemingly impossible slope, with people disappearing into tininess in the distance:

Loose stuff on your right to add to the list of do-not-go-there options:

Advice from one side, while others with cameras are waiting for an interesting result:

No interest was supplied, in this trouble-free run:

No direction indications or blocking motions from Ian. “This one seems to know where he’s going.”

We had tackled the worst of Van Zyl’s. Only ordinary-level scariness remained.

My bike, obviously traumatized, went into a deep sulk. “You take me on this crazy road?! Fine! I refuse!” At this point, with plenty pass still ahead, my bike died. It would start. It would roar if you pull on its ear. But it would not idle.

Lance’s advice: “Ride it like a mountain bike. You don’t need an accelerator here.” True that. The step is over, but the slope remains.

Note the road in the distance on the left…

Hardy and Lance kept an eye on me during my attempt at free-wheeling, using the clutch to move forward and the engine to brake:

I’m sure Henk had not bargained on a pink bike traffic jam in the middle of nowhere.

We stopped on the first flat section, where Hardy took a look at the ailing patient. He showed me how to drain the carb float bowl, as well as to give it a couple of solid taps with the back of a screwdriver to dislodge whatever was blocking the flow of fuel.

It worked. At least, temporarily. From this point onwards, I carried a screwdriver, in order to do a tap-and-drain procedure when necessary, because the bumpy riding would reposition whatever was causing the blockage. I also had to remember to close the fuel tap while stationary, because it sometimes leaked fuel, thanks to an overflowing carb float bowl. I can only surmise that Van Zyl’s caused my bike to piss itself!

Impromptu bike repair workshop:

Diagnosis and repair done in less than 4 minutes, we were back on the beautiful road. Simple technology. Simple issues.

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Offline Zanie

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Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #81 on: October 08, 2019, 11:43:02 pm »
Day 6 continued

It wasn’t long before we were met with the next (road-related) obstacle: some off-camber goodness…

…mixed with a bit of incredulity.

“You want me to ride down…where?!”

“But there’s no road here!” *Waves foot in air.

Lance’s only guidance: “Just pick a line.” Repeated a couple of times for emphasis.

Doing the one-foot-on-brake and one-foot-as-paddle technique:

This slope is crazy steep, with some rocks and loose surface thrown in for good measure.

Lance’s words when he finally reaches The Edge: “Oh, I see what you mean. It's rather bad here.” Ya right, it’s bad here!

I’m already a dot on a vanishing slope:

“Just pick a line.”

Back on a slightly more sane level of slope:

What a stunning backdrop!

If I recall correctly, Pete was taking a break due to cramping. This pass really takes it out of you.

The last stretch of the slope, with five rent-a-4x4s at the bottom (additional to the batch we left at the look-out point):

Mercifully, there were shady trees for some rest and recuperation after the Van Zyl’s ordeal.

High spirits after completing the pass:

We witnessed some donkey abuse, as some local boys tried to get a donkey to move off the “path”. I’m sure it would have moved of its own accord eventually and I really wouldn’t have been able to ride over it. My suspension isn’t good enough…

The road from this spot couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be rock or some weak semblance of sand, cycling between the two.


We saw a huge heard of running springbokkies after the cows pictured below, but the GoPro didn’t really capture it well; just an essence of movement rather than a clear picture.

Sand (of the very tame variety):

Dust plume at low speed:

Guess which one is faster:

The only time I saw most of the people: when they went flying past. To be seen again in the next episode of Shady Tree.

By the time we reached Marienfluss, the road made up its mind: sand it is! In spades.

The landscape was of the stop-and-stare variety, so that is what we did.


Pete drive-by:

Hennie drive-by:

We were faced with a seemingly endless plain of red sand.

The lighter the colour, the harder the work:

Hmm. I think I’ll choose the left-hand lane.

And, yes, I know you have to try to stick to the track as much as possible, but that’s easier said than done when you’ve had a hard day’s riding and the path looks like this:

I had the smallest, lightest bike, so I could still cope up to a point. The others had fuel tankers or a disadvantageous power-to-weight ratio.

Even I had my limits.

Stuff this! I’m out.

Are we there yet?

Where’s there?

The heat and the sand was taking its toll. It created magnetic bushes.

Object fixation almost-collision with a small bush:

Seeking shade from the bigger bushes:

I saw Lance stopped up ahead and slowed down. Deceleration plus sand plus lack of concentration from a cooked brain equals bike push-ups.

Shade would be a good idea right about now, but there’s no three-bike shade tree for miles.

A note on these trees: they’re tough. Very tough. Don’t think that a branch or even a smallish-looking twig will give way when you brush it. In the case of these shrubs, if you are heading anywhere near one, you brake or else you break.

And then we found it: multiplayer shade trees! With everyone else.

The back-up vehicle arrived shortly. By this point, it had gained an extra passenger: Abel. Today’s sand was heavy for a newbie. At least he still got to ride his bike; only, it was strapped in the back of the vehicle and he was seated on it! Unfortunately no photos of this spectacle; only the trees-sprouting-bikers spectacle:

In the vast nothingness of northern Namibia, a red drum becomes a notable landmark. Actually, there’s quite a story attached to this red drum. The very first version was put there by Ben Van Zyl (the infamous pass’s namesake) to store fuel. I don’t blame him. We didn’t see a fuel station for 5 days straight on this trip and would have been in trouble if not for the fuel on the back-up vehicles.

The initial drum was stolen by a local tribe. Perhaps an attempt to make their donkeys run faster? Actually, no, it was to carry water for their cattle. Go figure. Chris Eyre replaced the drum; this time devoid of valuable commodities, riddled with holes and weighed down by sand. A prankster installed a non-functional telephone plus a take-away menu, but this was vandalised.

More recently, the drum is also serving as a memorial of Jan Joubert, a nature conservationist who mapped the 4x4 trails of Namibia and lends his name to Jan Joubert koppie and (it seems) two passes: Joubert (Rooidrom) Pass and Jan Joubert Pass near Opuwo.

Sand was over…for this day. We were back at Rock, starting with mini-marbles.

Less-than-stellar suspension meant I had to stand quite a bit. My legs were protesting towards the end of the day. Lance didn’t help, with his ravings about the Rally’s very plush cushioning.

Behold! The new pink jack-in-a-box!






Ok, my legs can’t take these squats anymore. Better just to stay up.

This landscape was so wow.

About 15km from Rooidrom you reach the colloquially-named Rooidrom Pass (marked as Joubert Pass on Tracks4Africa). It is incredibly rocky.

I was going too fast for my skill level, not giving my brain enough time to compute all the dimensions in this 3D universe. In the photo below, a white dot near the top of the field of view is my helmet, with head and body attached, in a horizontal position.

My front wheel had climbed up the right-hand embankment and I was thrown to the left. “My front wheel.” I make it sound like it’s the bike’s fault, when it was my own!

I tried getting up, but it was one of those falls where you actually have to sit for a while and take inventory of the hurting bits.

It was my hardest fall of the trip and, despite the ample padding we ladies have installed on our derrières, I developed a technicolour fist-sized bruise on my hip over the next couple of days. My left hand marks the spot of sizeable discomfort:

Pete hurried over to help, offering to give me a hand up, but I was still taking inventory, so I directed him to pick up my bike instead. If left horizontal, it will vomit fuel from its breather tube. As you can see, my bike’s got a bad case of petrol-gastro today: fuel from both ends if you’re not careful.

I told the guys I’d be ok. Therefore, while my ouch was transitioning to a more acceptable level, they could focus on another problem: Pete’s bike. It was rather stuck.

Pete had managed to wedge his rear wheel between the only two smooth rocks on this pass, and his energy levels to shift the bike were at a low ebb.

Eventually Pete’s bike was extricated and he could be on his way. Unfortunately we didn’t get any footage of him tackling the last bit of pass. Lance switched off the GoPro when he thought he was switching it on. Sorry Pete!

By this time, I was ready to get back on my metal horse.

The remainder of the pass was perfectly manageable at a trundle.

With assistance rendered and his pink charge in one piece, Lance set off, against an amazing landscape of stark, spikey beauty.

The last bit to the top:

The last stretch of riding was beautiful and bumpy. Thanks to the slower speed and aching legs, I just sat through it all. But it was truly lovely.

Involuntary direction change:

Interesting spikey rocks:

So…my bike’s suspension cannot be that bad, if I can sit through this. Or maybe I was just going slow enough.

Instead of marbles, we get slabs. Rock pancakes anyone?

So much view…

This bit was weird. It didn’t really look like a road; more like rock and compacted earth that has been worn down by tyres over time.

The split to the left apparently heads to the old marble mine. At least, that was the general consensus from the guys. The mine is not active, because it is not financially viable to remove marble from the middle of nowhere.

It was sometime after 3pm when we rolled in to Marble Camp.

It had been a long day:

Yet the riding was incredibly rewarding. I cannot believe the places we got to see and ride and the type of terrain that our bikes can handle!

The Specialised team made sure that all their human charges survived the day. Whether all the bikes survived was another story. Abel’s Honda was the worst casualty, with a severely dented fuel tank that was also broken off its mountings. Little did we know at the time that Abel had some dents to match, which would develop into awe-inspiring bruises over the next couple of days.

Oubones’s KLR had lost its home-made bash-plate, fashioned from a bait board, and – as mentioned previously – mine had picked up a dirty carb issue. The final casualty, would you believe, was Hardy’s bike. The after-market foot-pegs’ quality left much to be desired.

Foot-peg number one:

Foot-peg number two:

Thankfully they had a spare pair, which was installed by Kobus:

In general, most bikes were still functional and repairable. Abel’s Honda needed a bit more time and ingenuity to fix, which meant that Abel won’t ride tomorrow. I think he was glad at the idea of an enforced rest day.

Lance and I visited Camp Hennie and Brian, where I hoped to gain their riding skills through proximal aerial osmosis. No luck there, but at least we met a new furry friend.

And so ended a monumental day; sharing war-stories around the campfire.


Offline Monkey#13

Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #82 on: October 09, 2019, 05:26:11 am »
Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough report. The video really displays the difficulty of the terrain in a way photos never can! Awesome to have Specialized Adventures to "unlock" this experience for mere mortals. Most people will not get to experience such an adventure unsupported.
KLR for work,
CRF for play!

Online Plaasseun

Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #83 on: October 09, 2019, 08:22:55 am »
Leë vaatjie hou toe jou kraan en ek sien jou dalk vir 'n volle aan.

Offline P.K.

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Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #84 on: October 09, 2019, 11:27:29 am »
Thanks Zanie
Lot of time and effort to put this together.
This should be recommended reading for anyone planning on doing this route on their own or unsupported: certainly doable, but not for the faint-hearted.

My second trip through Kaokoland, and certainly not my last.

Offline Roxtar

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Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #85 on: October 09, 2019, 03:33:58 pm »
Awesome read, thanks for the effort with all the pics  :thumleft:
Long live the Underdog.........

Offline Snafu

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Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #86 on: October 11, 2019, 09:23:36 am »
Absolutely worth the wait!!!
Rimtape: Sounds like something in the first-aid kit of a gay-porn movie set. - Jaco

Offline MRK Miller

Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #87 on: October 27, 2019, 04:33:08 pm »
Now we await the rest in agony :laughing4:
I would rather fall a thousand times, and keep riding, than to stop riding and never fall

Online Straatkat

Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #88 on: October 31, 2019, 11:52:52 am »
Thanks Zanie, appreciate all the effort you put into this RR to document the fabulous adventure we had.
18 till I die.
If hard work pays, show me rich donkey.

Offline MRK Miller

Rje: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #89 on: November 04, 2019, 11:47:47 am »
Just wondering Zanie, are you guys ok, sins nothing has been added for a while now. Did not feel as if we reached the end of the ride. Really hope you and Lance are ok. Anybody got any news
I would rather fall a thousand times, and keep riding, than to stop riding and never fall

Offline Zanie

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Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #90 on: November 04, 2019, 12:44:01 pm »
Just wondering Zanie, are you guys ok, sins nothing has been added for a while now. Did not feel as if we reached the end of the ride. Really hope you and Lance are ok. Anybody got any news

We are still alive and well, despite the silence. ;) We're both forum lurkers (not really active outside of RRs and planning a ride) and life has been crazy-busy. We try to fit in ride report time in the late evening hours.

I decided to track time spent in compiling photos and writing for one day: it's running at about 14 hours already for day 7 and I have not yet started the writing (only created photos from to GoPro footage and currently working through them, deciding which ones to use out of the list of 1500-odd pics).

So, despite the silence, I will not abandon this RR. There are still a couple more epic days left! I promise it will get done, but it will take time.  :-[

Random: To my mind, day 7 was the most beautiful.

My second trip through Kaokoland, and certainly not my last.

If I could have my way, this trip will be institutionalised in my annual calendar!

Awesome to have Specialized Adventures to "unlock" this experience for mere mortals. Most people will not get to experience such an adventure unsupported.

This. The chance of doing such a trip on our own is miniscule, because you will either have to carry all required goodies and fuel (I don't think the pink bike's subframe will handle it) or find a friend willing to drive back-up and able to tackle those routes by car.

Offline MRK Miller

Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #91 on: November 04, 2019, 07:03:58 pm »
That is good news. Take your time, it will be worth the wait. Dit not want to push you, just a bit worried, because of the long silence. Will be on the look out for the contuniation of your report.
I would rather fall a thousand times, and keep riding, than to stop riding and never fall

Offline Bottelboer

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Re: Kaokoland: a perspective from a pink bike
« Reply #92 on: November 06, 2019, 01:49:44 pm »
Whata nice report, love the photos, excellente! When can we do it also this route? My brother was in the army at a base in Kaokoland, Sesriem, that was his backyard in a Buffel APC.