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Author Topic: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane  (Read 12239 times)

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Offline Kamanya

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #100 on: August 17, 2009, 01:23:10 pm »
I only just found this now.

Give up your day job. Charley and co have competition.

Really great ride report.
I wonder where that road goes? And that, has usually made all the difference. Appologies to Mr Frost

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Offline funacide

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #101 on: August 20, 2009, 10:21:51 pm »
Hey DD

You gonna finish this?

 :deal: :deal:
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Offline Tonteldoos

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #102 on: August 20, 2009, 11:05:05 pm »
Interesting to note the rear tyre is white with the sand whilst the front looks like it had been washed..  ???
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Offline ThinkMike

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #103 on: August 25, 2009, 12:13:02 pm »
DD,

You gonna get time to give us some more bed time reading soon?

TM...
Sorry Babe I am still riding.
 

Offline doublediamond

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #104 on: August 25, 2009, 05:27:51 pm »
Sorry all we had a very tumultuous 10 days as a family, my very dear father in law suffered a mild heart attack which was initially misdiagnosed etc & various other issues which all just seemed to intersect each other at the same time.
All is well again in our household so I will attempt to complete this RR as timeously as possible


Day 6 Uis – Sesfontien (400Km)

Donkey introduced me to a group of damara men at the fuel station that were persistent in their attempts to remove a few precious South African Ront from my person in return for some brightly colored Uis crystal’s, Which if there sales pitch was to be believed, would very soon be declared more valuable & rare than tanzanite.

Their demeanor was endearing & I engaged them in frivolous banter. As I was getting ready to depart one of these Damaranites, commented “Meneer, dis nou a mooi donkey” (Sir, that’s a nice donkey). I was slightly affronted by his assessment of my Bike and his comparison with the docile & most certainly brainless common garden variety Africanus Asinus. My bike is more akin to Arabian stallions whose genealogy is that of purebred champions.



My Damaraland friends after I took them shopping.

But, his statement ignited a dormant thought: - whether or not to immortalize my BMW 1200 GS Adventure with a name. But surely it deserved a designation more fitting of its lithesome beauty than donkey………little did I know at the time?


Just past Khorixas on the C39, I neared an intersection and in the distance noticed something on the side of the road. As is almost second nature to any vigilant biker, I slowed in anticipation of the unexpected response of animals & young humans to the sudden appearance of a helmeted star trooper on a bellowing beast. Anybody that has biked in Africa will confirm how young children run screaming to the arms of their mothers and petrified animals do the Brian Habana in front of the bike in an attempt to avoid been devoured by this unrecognizable beast.

Jonas, his son, surprize (who was about to earn his name) and the 2 donkeys pulling their cart very nearly joined me on an unscheduled visit to the pearly gates to meet Jesus.
Jonas, whose sense of speed perception was obviously seriously impaired, decided he had more than enough time to make it across the road before my arrival. His donkeys however, did not share his enthusiasm for the task at hand. I locked up the back wheel & applied as much pressure to the front brakes that still enabled me to keep a modicum of control.

Jonas, watching me barreling down upon him, had now come to realize that he had overestimated his horse power, tried firstly to coax some more speed from his sleepwalking steeds by whipping the poor beasts frantically & when that failed him he stretched his arms behind his head pulling the reigns in so tight, I assume to engage reverse, albeit unsuccessfully.

Surprize, who had lost all faith in his father’s driving ability decided the safest option was to abandon ship, with Jonas following close behind, proud in the knowledge that his son’s lateral thinking had saved their bacon.
The image of these 2 indigenous Namibians scurrying from the ill fated donkey cart with limbs flailing in attempt to obtain some traction from thin air will always be emblazoned in my mind.

The wretched donkeys, oblivious to the recent course of events, due in no small part to the colorful blinkers adorning their eyes, remained exactly where Jonas & Surprize had left them.
Surprize asked if I would like to swop my Donkey for their's, 2 references to donkey in an hour...


Jonas, with his technicolor donkey cart & matching Rallye suite





I am still unsure how I missed the donkey cart & but am relatively confident it had a lot to do with the constant repetition of emergency braking & avoidance skills rehearsed ad nauseam at various off road driving courses over the years. Skills, which were yanked from the deepest archives of my mind, wrapped in bolts of lightning, garnished with a dollop of adrenaline and then hastily distributed as reflexes throughout my person. This was the closest I would come to a no holds barred collusion that could have ended rather chaotically, but was by no stretch of the imagination to be the last adrenaline rush I was to have on the trip….


Obligatory stop along C39 for photo at Petrified forest, (It near shat itself when I arrived)







The sheer scale and magnitude of the space & diversity of Namibia remains incomprehensible. As incomprehensible is the transformation in me, riding donkey no longer feels like am I riding rodeo on an ungainly hippopotamus that’s learning to walk in high heels. My skill set has increased exponentially, I am self-assured but cautious, and I am tempted to try roads that will challenge my new found confidence.


Coming over a blind rise my braking skills where tested for the second time in a day.


When I was planning this trip, I had a few non-negotiable’s, one of them was to make it to the Kunene River, natural border between Namibia & Angola & the other was to spend a night camping in a river bed amongst the desert Elephants ,as far away from civilization as my courage would allow.








I stopped for lunch at Palmwag Lodge, where a game ranger working at the lodge suggested to me that Sesfontien would be the best place to attempt to view the desert elephants & camp.



A water crossing I understimated the depth of


Rush hour traffic on the C43

Unbeknownst to me at the time - destination was slowly suffocating journey- I had lost the plot & was pushing to get to Epupa out of a misguided foreboding that I would not make it to my Northern most waypoint before having to turn back to make it home on time for my eldest progeny’s birthday. I had received so many suggestions of places of interest to visit that had now been relegated to the visit next time list. But camping in a river bed was one of the things I was going to do.


In Sesfontien, I decided to splash out & stay in the old fort for the night & then gather as much information as possible about a suitable & safe place to camp the next night. I also decided that I seriously needed to reduce the weight of the crap I was hauling around with me. I unpacked everything, kept only the essential’s & started giving away food & unnecessary stuff to the locals. Christmas had arrived early and I was fast becoming Sesfontien’s favorite son. My goodwill endeared me to the staff & rangers of the lodge, which was returned in information, advice & gratuitous portions of food & dessert at dinner that evening.


Salomon, one of the benefactors of my redistribution of luggage

Some local kids I handed out some supplies to

« Last Edit: December 28, 2009, 07:45:30 pm by doublediamond »
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Offline madmike999

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #105 on: August 25, 2009, 08:27:11 pm »
we want more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline Oetie

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #106 on: August 25, 2009, 08:45:24 pm »
WOW!!  :thumleft:

Brilliant report, and good luck to your farther-in-law with the recovery!
Live life to the fullest!!
 

Offline Gee S

Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #107 on: August 25, 2009, 08:51:26 pm »
Awsome report :ricky:
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Offline funacide

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #108 on: August 25, 2009, 10:05:20 pm »
Awesome stuff DD, but we really need to talk about the Fanta on the table. Namibia makes some of the nicest beers around and they are cheap..  :deal: :deal: :deal:

Also did I miss something, what is with all the hand diamond signs being portrayed by the people in the pics?
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Offline doublediamond

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #109 on: August 25, 2009, 10:34:23 pm »

Awesome stuff DD, but we really need to talk about the Fanta on the table. Namibia makes some of the nicest beers around and they are cheap..  :deal: :deal: :deal:

Also did I miss something, what is with all the hand diamond signs being portrayed by the people in the pics?


Gave up Alcohol 2 years ago, although after nearly getting intimate with Jonas,Surprize& 2 donkeys I could have used a stiff drink or 3

Yep u missed something day2 Upington to Uis........ :)

I was the first paying client at the health spa which opened the day I arrived. I had a great massage while roughing it in Nam. This pic is of me & the manager of the health spa who really impressed me with his great & friendly attitude. We are showing the sign for freedom (your fingers in the shape of a diamond, you will see the freedom sign in many pictures to come it is the mantra for my life!!)


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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #110 on: August 26, 2009, 06:45:14 am »
Great report, I like your self portraits. So often we never see the solo rider. What camera are you using?

Im impressed you lugged all that top heavy luggage around on the back of your bike. And the tankbag too! Jan would not be happy ;D Not happy at all! Kudos to your riding skills, I would have had an off in the driveway!

« Last Edit: August 26, 2009, 06:47:14 am by BlueBull2007 »
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Offline doublediamond

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #111 on: August 26, 2009, 07:34:36 am »
Great report, I like your self portraits. So often we never see the solo rider. What camera are you using?

Im impressed you lugged all that top heavy luggage around on the back of your bike. And the tankbag too! Jan would not be happy ;D Not happy at all! Kudos to your riding skills, I would have had an off in the driveway!



Thanks Blue, just a Muk'nDruk Sanyo 6megpixel, I am not known in the family as been to enthusiastic about photo's, my wife is the happy snapper. Before embarking on this trip I was going to loan her camera, a canon 450d, but numerous people advised I take the smallest quality camera I could find. This made all the difference coz I carried it it in the front pocket of my Rally Jacketc so that it was easily accessible & I ended up taking over 500 pics, which for me is marathon :)

I also bought me one of those gorrilla flexible stand thingymajiggies which enabled placing the camera in awkward positions for the self portraits etc
« Last Edit: August 26, 2009, 07:46:07 am by doublediamond »
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Offline bradleys

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #112 on: August 26, 2009, 08:34:01 am »
 :thumleft:More please sir could we have some more. Great report and pics.
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Offline ThinkMike

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #113 on: August 26, 2009, 10:08:13 am »
DD, an excellent instalment as usual!!! I don’t think you understand what impact your marvellous writing style has on us mere mortal WD's who so often think about doing a SOLO trip like this but land up finding reasons why we can't  - too busy, not enough time, money ....

Anyway to all those of you WDs, who like me are glued to the enthralling episodes of this wonderful ride report, you just have to stay patiently tuned for the next episode. I had the privilege of some feedback from DD on his return, specifically of what happens the following day or so.  

I can guarantee, it certainly will be worth the wait!!!

TM......
« Last Edit: August 27, 2009, 01:44:35 pm by ThinkMike »
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Offline doublediamond

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #114 on: September 08, 2009, 07:21:43 am »
It is taking a lot longer than I planned to complete this RR and for this delay I offer my unreserved apologies to all who have been reading.
Day 7 is in 2 parts, this is part 1.


Day 7 (Part1) Sesfontien – Camp Elephant Song (S19 13.114 E13 27.275)


“COWBOYS!!”   Was a colloquialism my step dad used whenever one of us kids would moan or whine about something insignificant or petty, and was an abridged version of “cowboys don’t cry”. Some Pavlovian conditioning in my psyche triggered this long forgotten memory, probably because I have regressed to a whimpering pre-teen wallowing in the sand with donkey lying next to me, and am now anticipating somebody shouting from the grand stands “COWBOYS!!”

Interestingly ,the left temporal lobe of our brain assumes the majority of the responsibility for our everyday speech & language capabilities, but it was clearly in retard mode because “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!”  was the limited extent of my vocabulary, muffled repeatedly into my helmet. It had just gone past 10am was 26 degree’s Celsius & it was the 6th time I had dropped donkey already this morning.The first few times I "ran out of talent" was as a result of been overly cautious; the last few times has been due to pure physical exhaustion and there was still more to come. The upside of my talent shortage is that it has forced me to develop the perfect technique for lifting a fully laden donkey, without having to remove my kit or unpack…………………..



I start by using the subtle but effective  “Put your big girl panties on and Toughen the Fuck –up” series of motivational self talk and Squat down next to Donkey, I get a firm grip with both hands on the grip of the handle bars, I shuffle my feet around to ensure I am suitably balanced, push my heels into the ground, lean back, clamp the butt cheeks closed, make sure the sphincter muscle has been notified that this is no time to be taking a morning nap, look up, take a few deep breaths & in a sudden jerk, yank donkey upwards summoning every joule of energy stored in my now burning hamstrings as I release the last few ounces of oxygen from my lungs in a deep primeval bellow, that is so loud & masculine it would have female Russian power lifters feinting. I pause to allow my lungs to re-oxygenate my blood as my heart gag’s from pure over exertion. I still have a way to go yet, Donkey is lying precariously at 45 degree angle to the ground & is only at my waist height, I move my right hip up against the fuel tank to prop him up while I slide my body down to start scrumming to get him upright, all I needed was a pair of roller-skates on my feet to really make it fun.



Gideon, a ranger at Fort Sesfontien, upon realizing my determination to follow through with my sleeping under the stars expedition directed me to an abandoned campsite called Elephant Song on the Houanib River; he made it very clear that I was ill advised to go alone as the desert Elephant & Lion frequented this neck of the woods. It would turn out to be Prophetic advice indeed.

I filled up my camel pack with water bought at the local store & took 4 litre’s extra as back up, which I was certain would not be needed.


Gideon, had said the first few kilometers of the road to elephant song was not great but thereafter it would improve, sweet Jesus, Mary & Joseph that was the understatement of the decade. I would fail hopelessly in any attempt to try & describe the path to you, to call this a road is to insult anything I have travelled upon to get here, not even the pictures I took do justice to any attempt to describe it, most of the time I was too busy trying to get through to even contemplate taking pictures, so most of the pictures I have are after I had fallen, or where I had stopped to drink my now rapidly dwindling supply of water.




I had navigated treacherous sand roads already on this trip, in fact I had become quite comfortable in most types of sand, I certainly do not profess to been an expert but did consider myself competent. But this was indescribable, no self respecting Arenologist (Study of sand) would find any pathology in this substrate to allow it’s classification as sand; this was the bastard son of sand, the black sheep of the sand family. A powder, a deep, fine, silk like powder that was more like water than sand. I imagine riding in margarine would be like this. In fact you did not ride through it, you entered it and it decided where you were going & where you would exit. Every time you fell in it, every inch of skin was polarized to attract this powder to you like iron fillings to a magnet, it got sucked up into the helmet got into your nose, eyes, mouth & ears then mixed with your sweat to form a paste that baked in the sun to form a thin crust over your body.

After far too many km’s of that I descended into a ravine about 2 meters deep, formed from torrential rains that infrequently flooded these parched lands, the raging stream’s that were its issue, eroded demi-canyon’s into the landscape that were now shepherding me towards camp Elephant song. I no longer had a choice; I could not turn around even if I wanted to as the ravine was too narrow, the only way out was forward. I was far more comfortable contending with this river sand than the powder I encountered previously.



As truly insane as I am sure it appears to most rational minds, I was loving every single exhausting moment of getting to Elephant song. I never felt at any stage that it was more than I could endure, that I was out of my depth or that I was compromising my safety. I was committed and camp Elephant song was going to happen even if it took me 2 days to get there.

And then I came out of the ravine onto the most pristine snow white sand, and for the first time I noticed the mountains in the distance. The mountains at whose base, Gideon had told me I would find camp elephant song. About 10 km’s later I entered the Houanib River. River is a perhaps a bit off an embellishment, but in Namibian terms this was a raging torrent of water.



The camp site was directly in front of me, perched high on a ridge. My relief & sense of personal victory for making it here was palpable, but my celebration was premature.


The path to the camp was about 2km’s of thick desert sand, which was determined in its attempts to get me bogged down, but I managed to float over the top by keeping momentum & then I lost the path, slowed down to get a bearing on which direction to head & felt the sand sucking me down, I gave it a big handful to get some speed up again, but it was too late the sunamabitch got me, & was not letting go. I was seriously stuck. After about an hour & numerous failed attempts & after exhausting the limits of my expertise, I made the decision to unpack donkey, I took the tank bag & Smaller bag containing my luggage, kept my helmet & neck brace on as it freed up my hands & began the last approx 1km trek to the camp site. I was now dangerously low on water and I could feel the signs my body was also reaching the limits of its endurance, the first signs of which are a mild cramping I get in my left calf muscle.


Elephant song exceeded my expectations, it was perched high on a ridge that was nestled at the foot of a majestic wall of rock, that created a natural amphitheatre around the camp site, a large boma held pride of place on this ridge from where there were sweeping views all the way up & down the river bed. The Boma provided shaded respite from the relentless heat, this was winter, I could just imagine how torturous the heat was in summer.






I rested briefly, trekked back to Donkey who was held upright by the sand, the image of which reminded me of those pictures I have seen of prehistoric mammoths bogged down in tar pits. Two hours was spent attempting to unshackle donkey to no avail, I had made no more than a few meters progress. The firmer sand was a mere 15 meters away but that could have been 100km’s as it remained completely unreachable with the bike. I had started becoming progressively more anxious as the reality of my situation started to dawn on me. I was stuck & there was no way possible I could think of getting donkey out alone, it was unlikely I could expect anybody to pass this way in the next few days & I had about 250ml of water left!!! I was in a slight spot of bother.


I retired back to the Boma, put some shorts on, inflated the air mattress & typed a sms to Think Mike that read as follows “Hi Mike, hoping this sms goes out trying to find some signal. Need some assistance plse. Am seriously stuck in thick sand spent most of day trying to get out. Don’t want to contact the wife otherwise they will panic. I am fine just need some hands to help push please contact fort sesfontien lodge in sesfontien(sure their details will be on web somewhere) ask for Jan or Gideon tell them craig the guy who slept their last night (Saturday night) is stuck at elephant song campsite (approx 30km’s from town) they know where it is. Can they plse send someone to help get me out. Tell them I will pay & they must plse bring water thanks. Today is Sunday approx 3pm  “  my intention was to climb to the top of the mountain when it cooled down & with a bit of luck would get enough of a signal for an sms to go out.


 
I then decided that I would defer reality till later & would remain confident a solution would present itself to me, for now I would relax , enjoy the environment, I spotted the Desert Elephants in the river bed with my binoculars, but they were very far & moving away from me.


During an afternoon nap, I had a moment of divine brilliance, above the rock wall of the Boma, was a screen made of small branches (see photo), much like a ladder, I could drag a few back to donkey, place them on top of the sand, lift the bike onto them & presto I had a sand ladder I could ride out on. I was supremely confident it would work, I lost all anxiety & concern, part 1 of my challenge solved, now I just needed some water.

Elephant song was an enigma, it all seemed so new & unused yet it had an eerily abandoned ghost town feel about it. I was puzzled by the fact that a place of such exquisite natural beauty did not have tourists swarming to it?

While collecting firewood, I heard the distinctive drone of a diesel engine ploughing through thick sand, I ran back to the boma, grabbed the bike key, & ran to the edge of the ridge overlooking the river & started whistling & waving my arms like a man possessed. It was a local Ovambo game ranger taking a group of 4 elderly British tourists on a game drive in the area. There was some dismay as to what I was doing at Elephant song. After helping me get Donkey unstuck, the ranger with a fair amount of anxiety & agitation explained that I should leave immediately & not stay overnight, he said he knew Gideon from Fort sesfontien & that they should not have sent me here. He explained that Elephant song was “Getoor” (umm closest English translation is possibly haunted) and that shortly after the camp was opened to the public a group of German tourists spotted the Desert Elephants passing in the river bed & ran down to get some pics, they were charged by a young bull & one of the Germans was killed. He then really rattled my cage, by telling me that the caretaker of the camp was attacked, killed & eaten by lion not more than a month back. He started becoming increasingly more agitated so I agreed I would leave; the British Tourists told me they had spotted the Lion about 7-10 km’s from here and suggested to him that they go back with me to the camp in the 4x4 & help me bring all the stuff down to the bike. He categorically refused insisting it was not safe for him to go there. In Afrikaans he explained he was scared & apologized he needed to leave. He was extremely melodramatic about the whole thing. I insisted that I would be fine & assured them I would leave immediately. They filled an empty 2,5 liter juice bottle with water for me & they watched me for a while as I walked back to camp & then sped off in the direction they had come.

Although my ranger friend had no motive to tell me an untruth, I did find his whole story a tad too farfetched to be believable. On my walk back I decided I was going nowhere, this was the highlight of my trip so far. I loved that this place was wild and untamed, I loved that I was exposed to raw, untainted AFRICA. All my senses were firing at a heightened state of alertness that made my skin tingle in a way that only happens when you move out of mundane city life and place yourself slap bang in the middle of the food chain. There is just something different about the intensity and validity of your mortality when you are the food.  
« Last Edit: September 08, 2009, 07:55:21 am by doublediamond »
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Offline Jules

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #115 on: September 08, 2009, 09:51:07 am »
Faaaark!


that is all I can say!
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Offline doublediamond

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #116 on: September 08, 2009, 10:27:50 am »
Faaaark!


that is all I can say!

Hey Jules,
Good to see someone still reading, thanks  ;)
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Offline 63magic

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #117 on: September 08, 2009, 10:39:44 am »
this is one AWESOME RR!!! thanks for sharing!
life is a journey.. so enjoy the ride! preferably on a motorbike...

and no, I don't ride a Xchallenge, but my bike is not on the list.............
 

Offline doublediamond

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #118 on: September 08, 2009, 10:41:56 am »
this is one AWESOME RR!!! thanks for sharing!
Thank you 63, grateful for the compliment  :D
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Offline Oupa Foe-rie

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Re: Nam's Labyrinth - Solo & Sane
« Reply #119 on: September 08, 2009, 10:56:51 am »
Alone on a bike in these parts of Namibia ................... thats guts and not for sissies. Well done so far DD.  :thumleft: :thumleft:
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