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Author Topic: 2 BIKES, 3 WEEKS, 4 COUNTRIES - AFRICA  (Read 863 times)

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Offline Stofadder

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« on: September 30, 2010, 06:40:25 am »
Where to start recounting our unforgettable trip ......... WOW!!!

It started after my husband and I got our BMW F650 GS bikes in April 2010 (one each, as I was tired of riding pillion) and we went on the BMW 2-day off-road course at Konka (just outside Rustenburg), not in a million years imagining that we actually wanted to do much off-road (all we wanted to do was learn how to use our gems properly). So be it.....as they say.
After the weekend we met up with our friends in Rustenburg who were busy planning a road trip through parts of Africa for Sept 2010, and somehow we just ended up becoming part of the trip (definitely can’t blame that on the wine).

So that’s how it started, and there was no turning back. Four countries (Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia) in 22 days – 5500 km later.
There were 8 people in total who formed part of most of the trip (2 bikes and 2 cars, both 4X4) so at least we had a semi back-up vehicle (2nd car went back to CA after 2 wks due to work commitments). We had our bags (top and panniers) for the trip, and one of the cars had our spare set of tyres and some odds and ends with them. There was no space for passengers, so we had no choice but to finish what we started :)

Our back-up car.

All our accommodation was pre-booked, ranging from self-catering to hotels. There are some lovely places in Namibia where, either due to having SA citizenship (http://www.taleni-africa.com/) or subscribing to a specific card (http://www.gondwana-card.com/) one qualifies for a 40% discount.

That pretty much sums it (but it’s not really useful for those that weren’t there I suppose) so, below follows a brief breakdown of the trip and how we experienced it. Our trip kicked off early on 5 Sept 2010, and we arrived home in Jhb on 29 Sept 2010.

1.   Jhb/Rustenburg to Botswana (Francistown) - +/- 750km: 1 night
So this is where the trip started, early morning, nice and ‘fresh’ for the first stretch of the road. The border was painless and we passed through without any problems – except that the border post official couldn’t quite fathom that there were TWO bikes and I was riding one of them (obviously women riding bikes aren’t a regular occurrence).

I wasn’t quite riding fit, and it’s a long distance for a first day, but energy is your friend and one seems to have a lot of it, especially with the initial excitement of our holiday.

So there we were, on our way, where we stayed in Francistown in a lovely place called Dumela Lodge. On this trip the best thing was that ICE cold drink when you reached your destination, the shower, and then that bed.

Somewhere in Botswana

2.   Francistown to Chobe - +/- 500km: 3 nights
We woke up, had a hearty breakfast and headed out to Chobe. Not too far, wonderful roads, except for the frequent occurrence of donkeys (“It’s an ASS”) and goats. About 10km from our Chobe destination, we were happily riding along, when all of a sudden we had elephants next to the road – no fencing or barriers.

Our back-up vehicle was happily slowing down while we were frantically gesturing to them to PLEASE speed up. I did not feel like playing ‘dodge-em-elephant’, not so early in the trip anyway.

We arrived at our location (got upgraded from self-catering to a 4-star hotel on the Chobe river) and thought we’d arrived in 7th heaven. Chobe is paradise, I’m already planning my next holiday there.

Local Pumbas roaming the street in Chobe

3.   Chobe to Victoria Falls (Elephant Hills Hotel) - +/- 85km: 4 nights
It was a nice and short trip with a 4-day rest for us. Our bodies really enjoyed the break. It’s also one of the only places where there was a speeding trap (the radar looked like it came from one of the Leon Schuster movies – a fat gun being pointed at the cars).

Besides a crocodile taking an evening nap in our parking lot, we just relaxed, saw the falls and went on a lovely game drive.

Bikes getting some 'off' time at The Elephant Hills Hotel in Zim

Taking some time off to play with lions

The croc enjoying his evening nap

4.   Victoria Falls through Zambia to Popa Falls (not advisable, unless you are prepared to get ripped off – rather go back through Botswana to Namibia) - +/- 550km: 2 nights
This trip was rather eventful, but not really in a good way. The Zambian border is all about making sure they empty your pockets BEFORE you enter their country, even if it’s only a 150km drive through the Caprivi.

I won’t be doing that again for a while. Whether you have you own insurance or not, you are STILL forced to buy their 3rd party insurance (cheapest was US $21 per vehicle). Then there are toll fees, carbon emission fees etc. Just not worth it.

So, the other eventful part..... (as if the borders weren’t enough). I get heat stroke, standing around at border posts in full gear in 35 deg. Nausea, queasy, still having to travel 250km, with no one else on the trip able to ride my bike for me, and NO trailer.

Luckily I had a great support team, and I managed to do the last stretch, with the last 100km riding in the dark (lots of game and other animals, no fences).

We arrive at our Popa Falls destination, but are then faced with 1km of river sand. For those of you who love sand, we’re happy for you, but for those who loathe and detest it as much as us, it was pretty much the straw that broke that camel’s back.

We made it through (this time it was the shower and bed that served as the motivator). I bought some land there (lekker geploeg – sand wall), but no major injuries – I was just really tired and wanted to find the bed.

On our way out, my hubby decided to buy his piece of land there, over a sand heap, but luckily no major injuries there either. What a way to start the next part of our trip. At least we were all alert after that.

Crossing the bridge from Zim into Zambia

Bridge over the Zambezi river, just before you get to the Katimo Mulimo border post that takes you into Nam

5.   Popa Falls to Etosha (just outside Andersson Gate – Okaukuejo) - +/- 950km: 3 nights

In spite of the distance we had to travel, we had a great travel day and arrived at our destination, more than ready for that drink. Etosha is lovely, but I still prefer Chobe.

Etosha Taleni village accommodation

6.   Etosha to Windhoek - +/- 550km: 4 nights
The first 3 nights we stayed about 80km outside of Windhoek on a friend’s farm. It was also our first small stretch of dirt road that we faced (50km in total), which warmed us up for some of the more serious dirt roads that were still coming.

After doing tar for so long, it takes a bit of getting used to riding on dirt again, so we took it easy and made sure that we got there and back in one piece. We were most thankful for the dirt warm up.

First proper dirt section of the trip

7.   Windhoek to Sossousvlei (Sesriem) via the Spreetshoogte Pass - +/- 300km: 2 days
Well, so the short 50km warm up to and from the farm in Windhoek was just that.......a warm up. Just outside Windhoek we hit the dirt road, 300km of it until we get to our destination.

We chose the longer dirt route in order to go over Spreetshoogte Pass, which was incredible. Lots of up and lots of down. Steep, very sharp turns (so sharp that you are not allowed to tow any type of trailer or caravan when going down).

My hubby (or his bike....) decided to ‘rest’ his bike against the barrier on the way down. I just say ‘Thank goodness for that barrier’, cause without it things would have turned quite ugly.

We got to a little town, Solitaire, which is just that, rather solitaire. It’s one of those towns that make you feel like you’ve just stepped into a Western movie, all that was missing was the saloon and the random gun fights with the men playing poker.

We then tackled our final stretch to Sossousvlei which was about 100km. The road had one section that had some well hidden sand pockets, as my husband found out. Talk about a 90 deg fishtail, with quite a few ‘choice’ words thrown in for effect. After that, we took a breather, which ended up being a good thing as we realised that my bike had a slow puncture on the back wheel.

Out came the compressor to get the tyre inflated from 0.5 bar – just so that we could reach Sossous and fix it there.

We made it, the ice cold drink was amazing, and so were the Deadvlei and the dunes (mesmerising). Ran into a bunch of guys from Stellenbosch also doing a bike trip and exchanged some travel stories. Just socialising with other fellow bikers adds that much more spirit and energy to a trip like this.

Top of Spreetshoogte Pass (if you look carefully you can see the road winding down the mountain)

Just after the Pass

8.   Sossousvlei to Fish River Canyon (via Mariental – Keetmanshoop) - +/- 600lm (3 days)
We decided to head out to Mariental via Maltahohe to vary the gravel with a bit of tar. Gravel takes us a bit longer to do as it’s still something we’re getting used to. We therefore wanted to make up some travel time so as to not arrive at the canyon in the dark. We made it!

The main gravel road from Sossous to Maltahohe is a dream, together with the stretch 50km from Keetmans until about 20km from the actual canyon entrance. We were averaging 100km/h which is rather impressive for us. But as they say, the more you practice the easier it becomes, which rings true in this situation.

Hubby posing with the beautiful backdrop

Mens sien net stof spat

Vintage bikes at the Canyon Roadhouse (to think that's where it all started, many many moons ago)

9.   Fish River Canyon to Upington - +/- 400km: 1 day
And so the end of our holiday drew near. We had to do our last 100km on dirt from the canyon to Grunau, which once again was a lovely road (or at least we thought so). We saw sand, corrugation and some ‘hard’ gravel, but it didn’t’ phase us.

If we had done that road at the start of our trip, it would have been a slightly different story. We were now comfortable enough to travel at about 100km/h and just give the sand patches fleeting glances. It just shows you what a bit of over-exposure to ones fears can do.

We’re still far away from being sand pros but we’re working on it.

Saying good-bye to the canyon

10.   Upington to Jhb (stop-over in Rustenburg) - +/- 750km
We made our way from Upington to Rustenburg in very windy conditions. There is less than nothing between Upington and Rustenburg besides lots and lots and lots of open, flat terrain. This leads to gusts of wind, sometimes gale force (or at least that’s what it felt like at the time) that creates havoc on the nerves, shoulders and general energy levels.

We got to Rustenburg, spent the night and organised what goes where, after which we hit the road the next day for our final 110km. This can almost count as ‘popping across to the neighbours’.

Home safe, the zoo was ecstatic to see us again, and our feelings were on par. Zoo, bed, own shower, and fully functional kitchen.


This trip was something we’ll treasure for a long time to come. We probably won’t wait too long before planning our next one to some of our neighbouring countries.

The more the merrier, so if there’s anyone who might be interested in joining the trip, let me know and I’ll keep you informed. We want to plan a similar trip for next year with a back-up vehicle and bike trailer.
A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

Offline letsgofishing

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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2010, 08:24:38 am »
Nice RR - seems like you guys really enjoyed yourselves.
Congrats on conquering your personal sand monster!
There is nothing you can do about the past and you can't predict the future...all you have is the now...live it to the fullest.


Offline Skipper

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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2010, 07:25:50 pm »
Moerse cool Perold!

Nie eers geweet jy ry nie. Hoop als gaan goed,

Klein Scheepers.
Hou my dop vas! Check hierdie move...

Offline Gat Slag

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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2010, 01:07:48 pm »
Lekker!!!  :thumleft: