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Because we missed the museums on Sunday due to the rain, we decided to get some culture today. We first went to the Castle of Good Hope and wandered about. Re and I were both left with an odd feeling after visiting this museum. Most of the displays in the museum were military in nature (obviously) but dealt with the area's history from the perspective of the people who colonized it. Prior to this, whenever we visit a museum in another country, the history has been told from the perspective of the native people. Strange.
After the Castle we walked up to the District 6 Museum. This museum traces the history of the District 6 section of Cape Town before, during, and after it was declared a “whites only” section in the 1960s. Since District 6 was populated entirely by black and coloured people, they were all removed, sometimes forcibly, to “townships” far away from the center of Cape Town. This policy destroyed the communities of District 6 and eliminated all the industry and jobs that used to be. We both left this museum feeling sad and angry. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry and reinstalling luggage on the bikes.
9/21 Ride to Hermanus
We got up early, had breakfast, and got to work on getting on the road. The bikes survived their flight well, but the tires all around were 2 psi low. After remembering where all this crap went, we piled it on the bikes and rode out of the courtyard, down the hallway, and into the streets of Cape Town, where we promptly stopped for gas. We headed east on the N2 and were excited to finally be on the road again. One of the issues we've come across in Africa is maps. Before we left the US, we purchased the Michelin Central and Southern Africa map. While it's a large and pretty map, the one thing it lacks is road numbers of any kind. Oh, it shows the roads, it just neglects to tell you their names. So here we are, heading down the N2, and I am navigating using a not to scale map ripped out of a hotel guide. This shouldn't be a problem since I know it's the N2 to the 44 to the 43 to Hermanus. It's a cool but sunny day as we zip down the highway when suddenly, I spot the M44. That sounds right, so up the exit ramp we go. When we get to the top, we both experience a moment of panic when we realize we are not in Kansas anymore. Stretching on as far as the eye can see, both north and south, is a shanty town of shacks, homes, and businesses. We turn south on the M44 and ride right into the Khayelitsha township. We follow the road through at least 10 miles of this township, never stopping completely at the stop signs, but smiling and waving at all the kids as we ride by. The road eventually ended at the coast, and we knew we had taken the wrong road. I pulled out the GPS and punched in Hermanus, and it led us back to the N2 via a different road. Once back on the N2, we came across the R44. What a difference a single letter makes!
The R44 soon led us to the coast and to one of the most beautiful rides anywhere. The ride from Gordon's Bay to Bettysbaai is breathtaking, it's a beautiful ribbon of road sandwiched between the cliffs and the ocean.
We stopped in Bettysbaai to see the colony of penguins (aren't we in Africa?) and a quick lunch outside the takeaway shop. Maybe we are in Africa, since the shop had a hand-lettered sign to keep the door shut in order to keep the baboons out.
We spent the rest of the afternoon winding our way to Hermanus, which is a beautiful seaside town that is famous for the whales that calve in the bay. We spent the night at the Hermanus Backpackers Cottage and had a delicious dinner of fish and calamari at the local fish house.
100 beautiful miles today, bikes ran great!
9/22 Ride to Cape Agulhas and Back
Re decided that we needed our picture at the southernmost point in Africa, so after breakfast and a quick look over the bikes, we hit the road. It was a cool ride today, but another sunny, clear morning. This area of South Africa is known as the Overberg (over the mountain) as a ridge of mountains runs from the sea northward through this region. We spent the day riding up and down some fairly steep hills. The scenery was not what we expected when we imagined Africa. It reminded us of Scotland and somewhat of the Cascade Range of Oregon. Since it's currently spring, there are wildflowers everywhere, and we also saw baboons, ostriches, and blue cranes as we rode. About 20 miles from Cape Agulhas, we stopped to pick up a picnic lunch and then rode the final distance. We were both amazed at the color of the water when we saw it. It was turquoise water running up to white sands.
We wound our way to the lighthouse and then rode the final 1.5km to the parking area 150 meters from the southernmost point. We had a picnic lunch on a bench, chatted with a few other riders, and walked down to the marker.
Cape Agulhas is also the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, and Re dipped her hand in each ocean just for fun.
We rode back to Hermanus and hit the cliffs for some whale watching. One of the splurge items we are carrying is a full-size pair of binoculars, and we put them to good use watching the four whales we spotted within about 30 minutes. We hit the grocery store for some ostrich burgers, new potatoes, carrots, and a bottle of local wine and went back to the guesthouse to cook some dinner.
180 miles, bikes ran well, but I lost my sheepskin seat pad along the way.
After an interesting breakfast of mealie pap and toast, I gave the bikes a once-over while Re packed up the room. The bikes finally seem to be broken in, as no adjustments were needed. One piece of equipment we are still missing is a gas can for Re's bike. We checked in a few stores in Hermanus but came up empty handed. So as we were returning the keys at the guesthouse, I asked the receptionist if she knew where we could get one. She assured me they would have them at the Total station on the way out of town. We stopped there and I went inside to ask for a gas can, and the lady behind the counter said they didn't have such a thing and directed me to one of the guys working the pumps (all gas in South Africa is full-serve). I asked him if he knew where to get a jerrycan, and he smiled and asked if a 5 liter can would be okay. Sure, I said, how much? 5 Rand (about 66 cents), he replied. Since the last gas can I bought in South Africa cost $17 USD, here is where I became a little suspicious. I followed him around to a door on the side of the building, which he opened to reveal a storage closet. He pulled out a 5 liter plastic bottle that formerly held some kind of cleaning fluid and was ignominiously hand-lettered with the word, “toilet” on the side. Awesome, I thought. He rinsed it out with some fresh (?) water and proceeded to fill it up with Total's finest dino squeezins. I just giggled as I carried it back to Re's bike and giggled even more as I strapped the toilet bottle to the front rack on her bike.
With that, we were off. Our route today took us west along the R44, taking us back through all the pretty scenery from a couple days ago, and when the R44 turned north, we continued on it through wine country. At one point along the coast, we stopped at a scenic overlook to refuel and were surprised when a sightseeing van unloaded next to us, and there were several Americans in the crowd. Some of them were from Washington state, and we ended up chatting with them for at least a half hour. They were incredulous that we are here on these bikes. We had a good time telling them all about our trip, bikes, and gear. The ride through the wine country was scenic and became more mountainous as the afternoon wore on. We eventually made it to the small town of Citrusdal, our destination for the evening. We rode through the orange orchards on our way to The Baths, our campsite for the night. The Baths is an old resort with a range of cottages, rooms, and campsites, but the real attraction is the mineral hot springs that feed the baths. While the guidebooks and their own website describe The Baths as overlander friendly, we didn't find them friendly at all. There are a lot of riders of a certain brand in South Africa, and our reception from them has been unfailingly chilly.
We pitched our tent, cooked up a dinner of sausages and apples with oranges from the local grove for dessert. Then we grabbed our suits and headed for the baths. We soaked in the pools for a couple of hours as the sun set and the moon rose before heading back to our tent for the night. As we zipped ourselves into the tent, we were both a bit nervous since this was our first night of camping in Africa.
After a surprisingly good night of sleep (we weren't visited by lions or elephants or even giant spiders in the night) we woke with the sun and started breaking down camp. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, more oranges, and coffee, we set about preparing to get on the road. The bikes needed nothing – even the tire pressure has been holding. We enjoyed the most powerful shower this side of a firehose before suiting up and jumping on the bikes. I hit my starter button and the crank didn't even spin a half a revolution before coming to an abrupt stop. Since we had a similar incident with Re's bike in NC, I had an idea what the issue was. I tried to give the kick starter a quick jab, and it wouldn't move. While I popped the spark plug access panel off and removed the plug wire, Re retrieved the factory “toolkit” from under the side cover. I pulled the spark plug, kicked the bike over, cleared the fuel from the cylinder, popped the plug back in, and buttoned everything back up while Re stowed the toolkit. The entire procedure took less than 5 minutes, and my bike fired right up.
We pulled out of the campground and went back toward the N7 with my bike showing no ill effects of my little hydraulicing problem. Note to self: install petcocks sometime. The ride up the N7 was relatively boring, just a long straight highway and a headwind to boot. We've been off the bikes too long and need to get back into riding shape, as both of our butts were barking by late afternoon.
We did however, see some animals along the way: ostriches, weaver birds, and our favorite was the pygmy giant land tortoise (at least that's what I told Re it was. I don't think she believed me.). This little guy was cruising across the highway, and I have a soft spot for things that are even slower than us, so we banged a u-turn and went back to rescue him. Apparently African tortoises are just like their American cousins, as this one peed all over Re's glove while she held him.
The day's ride was warm, but that changed in mid-afternoon when we crested one hill and it got just plain hot. The landscape suddenly changed from orchards to rocky, dry desert. The heat made the ride seem even longer and our butts even sorer, and we decided to stop riding early today. Our original goal was Springbok, but Kamieskroon was 50 miles sooner. Upon exiting the highway we spied the Kamieskroon Hotel, which the guidebook said had camping as well. Since we were the only campers there, we made our choice of the sites and set up camp. We needed fuel and food (and ) so we rode into town in search of sustenance. Unfortunately, everything was closed, which seemed odd for a Saturday at 5:30pm. The only store with food that was open was adjacent to the gas station, and Re made the best of the limited selection and we headed back to camp, where she fixed a sort-of corned beef hash with sweet potatoes, crisps, and more oranges from Citrusdal. The sun sets early here, it's dark by around 7pm. We did enjoy the early sunset tonight since the sky was completely clear and there is no light pollution in Kamieskroon. We pulled out the binoculars, laid on the patio on our backs, and looked at more stars than we've ever seen anywhere in North America.
221 miles in about 8 hours. Once we got my bike running, they ran fine.
The day did not start well when I realized that the sun was already well up in the sky by the time I finally awoke. I looked at Re's iPod Touch that we were using as an alarm clock and realized that I had created a new alarm time but had failed to activate it. Instead of getting up at 5:30, it was now 6:30. Grr. Normally we snooze for 30 minutes or so, but now we had to bounce. I wanted to get on the road early today since we had a short day yesterday and didn't know how long it would take to cross the border. We made a quick morning of it and got on the road by 8:30. The bikes have me spoiled now, needing no adjustments or fiddling for the past several days – just a shot of chainlube and the usual checks. No repeat of the previous day's fuel problem, either. The one worrying issue is that our new rear tires seem to be wearing quickly. We only have about 1000 miles on them, and they have squared off noticeably and are losing tread depth faster than I would like. Considering we got over 5000 miles on the no-name stock tires, I am disappointed in these Michelins so far. We do have another spare tire each but we will have to start looking for another set of rears before we hit the more remote regions. The fronts, however, are still going strong with over 6500 miles on them!
The ride this morning started out warm and felt like it was going to be a hot one. We are carrying 5L of water each and haven't yet come near to drinking it all in a day, but we are making a concerted effort now to drink more as we ride. We continued north on the N2 and stopped for fuel in Springbok, we filled up the bike's tanks, my fuel jug and Re's “toilet bottle” as we were unsure about fuel availability further north. It is a long way between places out here. We also stopped at the local grocery store to pick up some provisions for the day, Re went in for a loaf of bread, some biltong (dried meat), and some apples. While I sat and waited with the bikes, I enjoyed the curious stares of the local people who were obviously surprised to see me and the bikes in the parking lot of their local grocer. After getting back on the highway for the final 70 kilometers to the border, we hit an even hotter headwind that slowed us to about 40mph and (as we discovered later) killed our fuel mileage. I would estimate that it was nearly 100 degrees or warmer. The scenery continued to change as we rode further north, all vestiges of greenery were gone and the land got rockier. Traffic was also extremely light after Springbok, 20 minutes or more would go by between vehicles overtaking us. The drivers in South Africa have been extremely patient with our slow progress; the majority give a friendly wave as they pass.
We finally made it to the border with Namibia at about 12:30pm and were amazed to see that there were no vehicles waiting to cross. Maybe it was because it was Sunday, or maybe its that Namibia is a nation of only about 2 million people and most can't afford motorized transportation. Whatever the reason, we breezed through the South Africa side and found them to be very prompt and professional. The border area is secure and surrounded by a tall fence and guards, so no border “helpers” to deal with. We hopped off the bikes, went through immigration, then to customs to have our Carnet stamped and finally to a check of our passports by the police. Then back on the bikes to the final inspection station where we met Constable August, a most funny and friendly fellow. We suspect he was just bored but we ended up chatting with him for 15 minutes or so until another vehicle showed up and he waved us on.
The Namibian side was different. Much less professional, people were just kind of hanging around and watching the world go by. The immigration official was the cheerless sort but processed our paperwork efficiently and sent us on to the road tax department next door. Here we met two women who appeared more interested in chatting with each other than helping us fill out the odd paperwork required. We struggled through and eventually paid our 140 NAD each (the guide we have says it was 70 NAD each in 2010?) and received our receipt. (We later learned that we were indeed overcharged. 140 NAD is the rate for cars, 90 NAD is the correct rate for bikes) Then onto the Customs department where our Carnet was processed, but no one even ever looked at our bikes or verified anything. Strange. But we were through and headed back to the bikes to start turning wheels in the fourth country of our trip so far. The whole process took about an hour, and we did get very warm while crossing the border and were feeling very sweaty by this point. Our Darien Lights do a remarkable job of keeping us comfortable in fairly hot weather, but only when we are moving. Standing around at counters waiting for stamps is another matter. It felt good to get some airflow as we pulled away. We soon spotted a fuel station and dove in for some more 95 unleaded. We were happy to see that fuel is a little cheaper in Namibia than in South Africa. The Namibian dollar is pegged to the South African Rand and can be used interchangeably, which is handy as we still had about 1500 ZAR on us. After fueling up the bikes, we sat in the shade and had a lunch of the items Re bought earlier and a couple of cold! Coke Zeros.
Back on the road, we headed north on the B1 for Grunau, our destination for the night. If we thought there was nothing in northern South Africa, we were wrong. There is really nothing in southern Namibia, no towns, no houses, just fences stretching on for miles and miles. The afternoon wore on, still hot and still nothing to see. This is the part of riding I don't like, just grinding out miles, and I did find myself wishing for a faster bike (gasp!). We were also picking up elevation the whole way and found ourselves around 4000 feet above sea level at times. The long hills and still strong headwind slowed our progress and it took nearly 3 hours to go the final 100 miles to Grunau. When you only have 7 hp, you learn to dread headwinds and long climbs.
Once we reached Grunau we were underwhelmed by it, to say the least. We didn't expect much, but it is a name on the map so we expected more than just a few houses, one hotel and a gas station. Re checked the hotel and found that a room would be nearly 70 USD for not much. We rode on a little further, and I spied a sign that said “Accommodasie” on the side of the gas station so we pulled in to check it out. They had bungalows next to the gas station for about $65 USD but they did also have camping for about $14. Camping it was as it was nearing 5:30, and the next town was over 150 kilometers further. The camping was actually very nice, and we were the only campers that night. Each campsite had two concrete walls to screen it from the wind and a private (lockable) bathroom. Built into the walls are a braai pit (bbq grill), an outdoor sink, and some counter space. The compound was also surrounded by a 7 foot tall electric fence?!? We felt very secure and a little weird once they closed the gate for the night, why do they need such a fence. We ate dinner in the restaurant at the gas station and drank an entire 2L Coke Zero between us. We also enjoyed their wifi until they shut it off when they closed the store at 8pm. We were very sad to see the cooler locked and the sign that said there were no sales on Sunday. We must have looked sad enough at this as the cashier later sold us a couple of Windhoeks (since we were staying at their campground it was OK, she said). One of the best parts of the trip so far was later that evening when Re and I sat on the counter, drinking our cold Windhoeks, talking about the day's ride, while the moon rose and the electric fence hummed faintly in the background. The air was rapidly cooling, but the concrete of the counter was still warm from the day and we talked and laughed into the night.
229 miles in about 9 hours, with a border crossing. The bikes are starting to wheeze a bit from the altitude, and the headwind was hard on the mileage.
After a decent night sleep, we woke up to a chilly and windy morning. We had breakfast at the gas station and made use of their wifi to Skype home. We had another long ride ahead of us today, and neither of us was really looking forward to it. Our original plan for this trip was to average around 100 miles per day, but so far we're averaging many more. The distances between cities in Namibia is so great that we grinding out miles is our only option. Today's ride was made even more difficult by another strong headwind. Instead of cruising 45mph at three quarters throttle, we rode most of the day at WOT and could barely maintain 40mph. As we rode, the elevation rose to over 4500ft, and I adjusted the A/F screw one quarter turn leaner to try to minimize the power loss. As the day got hotter and our butts got sorer, the enthusiasm dwindled.
After refueling in Keetmanshoop, we decided to have a hot lunch and a cold drink in the air-conditioned comfort of the Wimpy's. Feeling a little cooler and happier, we continued our journey north. As my new 5 liter fuel jug had no gasket in the cap, I've only been putting 4 liters in it to minimize leakage, and for the same reason, we've only been putting 3 liters in Re's toilet jug. Up until now, this has been enough fuel to get us to the next stop. Today was almost the exception. The fuel stop between Keetmanshoop and Mariental is in a town called Asab, or at least it was supposed to be there. As we rolled into Asab and pulled into the gas station, I noticed that all the fuel pumps had their outside covers removed and that there were local people camping, both inside and outside of the gas station building. Knowing the outcome, I still pulled up to the pump and cringed when a man ran up and shouted, “No petrol.” Well, poop. With no other choice, we turned back onto the highway and continued north at an even slower pace. Today's ride became an economy run. We lowered our speed to 35mph and my attention was now divided between our dwindling fuel lights and my GPS as it counted down the miles to Mariental. Maybe it was because my attention was focused on matters of fuel economy that the little black dots hovering over the highway ahead didn't register until the last moment. I reached up just in time to close my face shield before riding through a swarm of bees. They sounded like hail on my helmet and ricocheted off my jacket. Re later told me she just ducked and closed her eyes. It did have the effect, however, of getting my eyes off the gauges and back onto the road.
The scenery has continued to green ever so slightly the farther north we get. The race between the fuel lights and the GPS countdown was over when I spied the gas station at the southern edge of Mariental, and we pulled in to the pumps for some much needed fuel. My fuel light had been blinking for almost 7 miles, and Re still had a little more than I did, but it was close. Partly because of this experience and partly because Re is tired of me calling her bike “Toilet,” she went into the spare parts store at the gas station while I supervised the filling of the bikes. I paid the man and we rode away with our big new jerrycan. We made have found the last room in Mariental that night, as there was some sort of fishing tournament going on in the area. I'm not sure what bait you use for sandfish, because I sure didn't see any bodies of water in the area.
The two highlights of the evening, however, occurred at the local grocery store. The first was Rebekah riding in through the exit of the parking lot right past the universal “do not enter” sign, which was met by a whoop of the siren from the police car parked about 20 yards from the scene of her crime. Fortunately, we must have looked like more trouble than we'd be worth, as the policeman just waved. For good measure, I pretended to give Re a lecture, complete with oversized hand gestures. The second was when we were leaving the store and one of the usual group of men who gather around wherever we park struck up a conversation. The gist of the conversation was that when I was bored with my motorcycle, that maybe I would come to him and offer him a very good price for my bike. The people in Namibia know quality when they see it! We chatted with him for maybe 5 minutes, and everyone had a nice laugh.
264 miles, 8 hours riding. Bikes still not enjoying the altitude.
After camping for 3 nights in dry and dusty conditions, it was nice to sleep inside, especially with air-conditioning and a comfy, comfy bed. The bikes needed no adjustments, but I did add about 2 ounces of oil to my bike. After yesterday's economy run, I made the decision to throttle back a little today, both for the sake of our fuel economy and for a less frantic ride. This decision was made easier by the fact that today's ride would only be about 200 miles, and for the first time in several days, there was no headwind. The temperature was more moderate today and we were both in better spirits. The landscape continued to become more green, and there were more trees.
Shortly before lunch, we ran into a police checkpoint. They were stopping all traffic, and when it was our turn, they asked to see our drivers' licenses. The young man in fatigues, who appeared to be in charge, handed our licenses to another man with a clip board, and then he suddenly noticed Re's new 10 liter jerrycan. While I rummaged in my top case to find our international driving permits (IDPs), the man in fatigues told Rebekah that the jerrycan blocking her headlight was unacceptable. I handed him our IDPs, which he again passed to the man with the clip board, and then he proceeded to reposition Re's jerrycan in a horizontal, non-headlight blocking position. As Re's jerrycan also doesn't have a gasket in the cap, it's a good thing it was empty at the time. Once the jerrycan business was taken care of, the smiles broke out. While the man with the clip board just stared at our licenses and IDPs looking lost, the man in fatigues spied my seat pad and decided to wear it as a chest protector. More smiles and laughter ensued until our licenses were returned and we were free to go. Re got them to pose for a photo, and then we were on our way. We both have enjoyed how friendly and quick to smile the people in Africa have been.
We made it to the outskirts of Windhoek by around 2pm and quickly made a wrong turn. Within about a half mile I realized our mistake and made a right turn (across traffic. Remember, we are now driving on the left) into the Windhoek Country Club to turn around. I made it safely through, but was shocked when I looked back and saw that Re was stopped, partially in a lane of oncoming traffic. I yelled to see what was wrong, and Re said her bike would not move. I hopped off my bike and ran to see what was wrong. Re revved the bike up, but sure enough, it wouldn't move. Another good thing about SYM Symbas is they only weigh around 200 lbs, so I grabbed the rear rack, lifted the back wheel off the ground, and wheel-barrowed Re and her bike out of traffic. Once in a safe place, I checked the front and rear brakes for free play, but they weren't the culprit. When I looked at the rear of Re's bike, I saw that both the upper and lower halves of the chain case were deformed at the rear sprocket. I popped the inspection plug on the chain case to see if the chain had broken, but it was intact. It was then that I realized what happened.
The bolts that I discovered had come loose on my bike in Ohio, had now done the same on Rebekah's.
So out came the tools, and we got to work. We removed the chain case halves to see that one bolt had backed out so far that it caught on a swingarm tab that the chain case mounts to, stopping the wheel from turning. Over the next hour, we removed the rear wheel, sprocket and hub, found that all three of the remaining bolts were loose, and put it all back together, this time with loctite. The most time consuming part of the repair job was refitting the mangled chain case.
The tab that the bolt lodged against was twisted, and the chain case halves were bent and torn. I would again like to give credit to Nathanthepostman for the inspiration to carry the ball-peen hammer that we used to massage the covers close to shape. Fortuitously, another underboner stopped to see if we needed help and told us the location of the nearby nut and bolt store. Once Re was mobile, it was our first stop. They had a suitable bolt for 1.20NAD (about 15 cents). We made our way into Windhoek, found a guesthouse and opted for a room over camping once we heard the thunder and noticed the black sky overhead. We had heard thunder in Mariental the night before, and our hostess said the little rains might be early this year. Apparently, she was right. Yay.
200 miles in 7 hours, including 1.5 hours repairing the “final drive” failure. I'm just sayin', a final drive failure on a SYM Symba can be fixed in about an hour with hand tools for 15 cents.
The first order of business today was to install our recently acquired bolt in Re's rear end (er, her bike's rear end). We set up our tools and tarp in the parking lot of the guesthouse and got to work. We've done this enough times lately that we have the routine down. Off with the rear brakes, off with the rear wheel, and off with the hub.
In went the new bolt, complete with loctite, and we put it all back together. Out of an abundance of caution, I decided to loctite my bolts as well. Imagine my surprise when I removed my rear hub and found that the bolts I had tightened less than two thousand miles ago were slightly loose. Sigh. We loctited everything and reassembled it, paying particular attention to staking the tabbed washers that (should) hold the bolt heads. I don't understand why this system isn't working. I've used similar tabbed washers on other bikes before, and they have never loosened. The material that the SYM washers are made of appears to be too soft a metal, and I believe that this is what is allowing the bolts to loosen. Hopefully, the loctite does the trick and we won't be doing this again any time soon.
We spent most of the rest of the day on a quest for tires. You may recall that we installed new Michelin Gazelle tires on the rear of both our bikes before we left Ohio. These appear to be wearing very rapidly, and although we each have a spare Gazelle, I'm afraid that these won't last until India. Consequently, the search was on. During our roadside repairs of the previous day, a friendly local stopped by on a Yamaha underbone of some sort and mentioned that there was a Yamaha dealer in town. He also mentioned that there was another brand of underbones, named Vuka. We Googled the location of the nearest Vuka dealer and went looking. The big problem we are finding in Windhoek is that nobody uses street addresses, and nobody knows the street address of anything. The Vuka dealer was supposed to be on Nelson Mandela at the BP. We cruised the length of Nelson Mandela twice, never seeing anything Vuka or anything BP. Hmmm. We also had an address for a Honda dealer that appeared to sell cars and bikes so we headed there next. They didn't sell tires, but told us of the Yamaha dealer, but the only directions they could give were that it was next to the cemetery in the Southern Industrial District.
We went back to the guesthouse, fired up the computer, and Googled the cemetery in the Southern Industrial District. This at least gave us a cross street and we were off again. We rode to where we thought the Yamaha dealer might be, but instead found a Kawasaki and Suzuki dealer. We stopped here and found they did have a couple of tires that would fit our bikes. It turns out the Vuka dealer no longer exists and that these tires are the stock replacements for the Vukas. They were no brand I've ever heard of and were nearly 40 USD each. Considering the Michelin Gazelles were 16.99 each, these were some pretty pricey tires. They also felt very plasticky, and I couldn't figure out whether they were a front tire only or were universal. Either way, it wasn't a very impressive tread pattern. I asked the parts kid if he could tell me where the Yamaha dealer was, and he directed us there. We rode over to the Yamaha dealer, where I was informed that Yamaha underbones use 18” wheels, not 17” wheels like the Symba. Discouraged, we headed back to the guesthouse with no tires. We discussed the situation over dinner and decided that the Vuka tires were at least better than nothing, and as we weren't enjoying Windhoek very much, we'd get up the next morning, buy the tires, and head for the coast.
It rained overnight again and was still sprinkling in the morning, so no bike maintenance today. We were on the road by 8:45 and were at the motorcycle store by 9:00. I went upstairs to the parts department, picked up the tires, and took them to the counter. Not relishing the thought of paying nearly 80 USD for these unlovely rubber donuts, I asked if there was a discount if I bought two. The parts kid looked them up in the computer and said he could sell them for 470NAD (59 USD) for the pair. Sold. I carried them back down to our bikes and strapped yet another tire onto each of our loads. I am afraid our bikes are beginning to resemble the Clampett's truck as they pulled into Beverly (Hills, that is).
At least it had stopped raining as we headed west out of town. The ride was cool this morning and the scenery changed from green scrub and low trees to desert by the end of the ride. Around 1pm, they temperature warmed dramatically and stayed that way until about 40 miles from Swakopmund, when it dropped noticeably. During the ride we stopped for gas in Karibib, where we saw several BMW R1200GSs in the parking lot and pulled up next to them. While I walked the gas can to the pumps, Re met the rider of one of the GSs, who was an Edelweiss tour leader. We ended up chatting with him for 10 minutes or so while his group reassembled and compared notes on our two completely different rides. I had to smile a little when I noted that not only did they have a chase vehicle for the luggage, but that they were also carrying a spare R1200GS in the back. Makes our tool pouch look kinda chintzy by comparison, doesn't it?
Back on the road, we did see a hornbill and some sort of humongous eagle, but no other wildlife today. We made it to Swakopmund around 5:00pm and found a place to camp for the night. I would like to mention, we are carrying the 2010 edition of the Lonely Planet Southern Africa guidebook, which is the most recent edition and is supposed to be “fully updated.” Well, it ain't. The prices have been wrong by about half again, and even the maps are wrong. A few years ago, Namibia changed the names of many streets to those of important figures in Namibian independence, but the maps in the Lonely Planet don't reflect these changes. Also, for instance, the book lists a tour of the Hansa Brewery, which has apparently been closed for three years or more, according to the proprietress of our guesthouse. And just about every guesthouse they list as having internet access does not.
235 miles in about 8 hours. Bikes are wheezing a little and did not enjoy the all day headwind.
Our plan for today was to ride through the Namib-Naukluft Park, specifically the Welwitschia Drive. The welwitschia is an extremely long lived desert plant, living up to 1500 years. In reading about Namibia, we've seen plenty of pictures and wanted to see them in person. Also not mentioned in the Loser's Planet is the permit required to drive the loop. When we went to get the permit, Re found out that motorcycles are not allowed in the park. Even though there are no lions in the Namib desert, there is a blanket exclusion in all Namibian national parks. Boo. Re spoke to the Chief Warden of the park and found out that we could at least ride part of it without a permit since part of the loop is on public roads, and we might see a welwitschia in that section. But we didn't.
But we did have a great ride and saw lots of other cool stuff,
including springbok, two herds of ostriches running across the desert, and some spectacular desert scenery.
Re also enjoyed riding the dirt and gravel D road that took us back to the main highway. We also experienced our first Symba watersplashes on this same road. The Swakop River crosses this road, and enough rain fell recently for the crossing to be muddy and have a few inches of water in it. We powered our way through!
We ate our picnic lunch around 1pm and headed south toward Walvis Bay.
The route we took went along Dune 7 most of the way. Dune 7 is a humongous sand dune- it must be several hundred yards high and miles and miles long.
We pulled into the public dune riding area for the photo op. Walvis Bay was kind of, meh, but we did see dozens and dozens of motorcycles in town and riding toward town as we headed back north to Swakopmund. It suddenly occurred to me that I had read it was bike week in Walvis Bay this weekend in another ride report. It was again a chilly and foggy ride back to Swakopmund. The high temperature has only been in the 60s with lows in the 40s at the coast. We have now been on the road for two months and celebrated with a self-catered dinner of toasted cheese and creamed spinach with feta (and maybe too many Carling Black Labels).
118 miles in some number of hours. The bikes ran well and handled the sand and watersplash with aplomb.
Re and I were planning to start our trip toward Victoria Falls today. We had a choice of two routes- one that was paved the entire way, and another that involved about 200 miles of gravel roads. Initially, I was planning on the paved route but had heard from many other people who had driven in Namibia how good the gravel roads were. Mistake #1 was that I listened to them.
It rained overnight and the power went out in the entire town near morning. We woke to a wet campsite and no electricity for the coffee pot at the guesthouse. We dawdled around, hoping the rain would stop but were honestly freezing our butts off. Fortunately the water heaters that fed the showers at the guesthouse still had enough hot water for both of us to shower and warm up before we packed up the bikes and started out at around 9:30. Our first stop was the gas station for a quick fill-up, but it didn't happen that way. While our bikes were being filled, two Africa Twin riders pulled in and hopped off their bikes for a chat. It turns out that one of them was Onno (1NiteOwl) and one of his friends, who were in the middle of a ride from South Africa through Botswana and Namibia and back home again. While we were chatting with them, some other bike week revelers pulled up and also wanted to chat with us. We again told our story, shook hands, posed for photos, AND declined the invitation to ride with them to Walvis Bay for bike week. Mistake #2 was not going with them.
After at least 30 minutes at the gas station, we headed north up the C34 toward Henties Bay. It was still drizzling and cold as we rode further north and eventually turned east on the C35. As we rode toward Henties Bay, the theme song to Gilligan's Island was going through my head. I kept looping on the three hour tour part. I'm not a superstitious person, but I think ignoring this “sign” was Mistake #3 for the day.
The first 10 miles or so of the C35 were nicely groomed, hard-packed dirt and sand and was easy riding. Suddenly the road surface changed to imbedded rocks covered by larger gravel and drifts of dusty sand. Our speed went from 45mph down to 30, and even to 20 on some of the more roughly corrugated sections. Maybe Mistake #4 was continuing on after Re saw one of her spare tires rolling through the desert, since the roughness of the road caused the bungee to let loose. But we persevered. With visions of broken spokes and punctured tires dancing in my head, we continued. That's when Re apparently decided to see whether the sand in Namibia tastes the same as the sand in America. We were in one of the smoother sections and were riding close to the left edge of the road at about 35mph when, in my rear view mirror, I saw Rebekah drift farther to the left and into about 4 inches of soft sand. Well, ****. Re put up a valiant fight against the forces of physics, but like all of us, she eventually lost. I could see her bike fishtailing and then saw the puff of dust and nothing more. Well, double ****. I spun my bike around and went back to see what the damage was. Re was lying face down in the sand, not moving and more concerning still, she was not swearing. She said she was okay and that everything was working but was clearly very shaken up. She spent enough years at the racetrack with me to know that the first concern is the bike, so after she got her leg out from under the bike, we assessed the damage. I figured it was better to keep her focused on something besides what just happened and sent her off to pick up the various ejecta from the bike. Her one spare tire was, once again, in the desert, along with her bike lock. The bike actually crashed well- nothing was broken, only a bent footpeg, the headlight out of adjustment, and a bent turn signal mount. The real casualty (other than Re's confidence) was her MSR Dromedary water bag, which was now crying all over the desert. Re's only complaints at this time were a bruise near her elbow on her right arm, her right pinky finger, and her right shoulder. All were working but sore.
After we repacked the bike, we continued on for maybe 10 more miles at no more than 20mph, and the road never got better. And then, we discovered that Re's tire had gone AWOL once again. Re was still looking a little upset, so I said I would go look for the tire while she took a break. I headed back from whence we came, figuring there was no chance I would actually find this tire, that it would have rolled off into the desert someplace, gone for good. It was a pleasant surprise, when about 6.5miles back, I found it laying on the shoulder of the road. At least one thing went right today. Not wanting to find a place for it in my pile of crap, I wore it like a necklace for the ride back. When I made it back to where I'd left Re, she giggled at my new jewelry. We consulted the map and realized we were only about 40 miles into this 150 mile gravel section. At this point, I started doing the math to determine how long it would take us to reach our destination, and it wasn't going to be tonight. It was at this point that Re suggested we admit defeat, put our tails between our legs, and slink back to Swakopmund. This was the best idea I had heard all day. Re knows that I do not like to backtrack, but in this situation, it was the wisest thing to do.
We retraced the nearly 90 miles back to Swakopmund, only to find that most of the guesthouses were full (it was Saturday night). We didn't want to camp again since our tent and gear were still wet, and it was still cold. Re did find a nice place for us to stay that was a little beyond our usual budget, but in light of everything that happened today, it was well worth it. The ride back was miserable for a couple of reasons: first, it was genuinely cold, and our hands were nearly numb by the end of the ride, second, we were fighting a fierce headwind for the final 40 miles of the ride, finally, it gave me plenty of time to think about Re's crash. Back on her KLX650, she's tipped over at a near standstill several times, but this was her first real crash. She seemed to be okay with it, or was at least putting on a good face, but it's a bad feeling to watch the woman you love crash in the rear view mirror. It also made me consider, why are we here, and why are we doing this? We spent the evening talking about a lot of these issues, and Re is fully committed to going on. But we did agree that we are going to have to realize the limitations of our little bikes and stick to paved roads for safety's sake.
161 miles in 7 hours. Re's bike took a nap and my speedometer cable vibrated loose.
After yesterday's misadventures, we were both anxious to get on the road, the paved one this time. After a great night of sleep under a fluffy duvet, we ate our included breakfast, and I heartily enjoyed my bacon, eggs, and toast. This was the first bacon I've had since Ohio, and I remember why I like it so much. After lowering the tire pressures for the gravel section yesterday, I aired them back up to road pressure to the entertainment of several other hotel guests. As I previously mentioned, this hotel was much nicer than our usual accommodations, and I don't think the other guests were expecting to see our kind there.
We hoped that it was a good sign that it was sunny and clear this morning, as this was the first sun we'd seen in Swakopmund, so we left. The ride started out cool, but as we headed inland, it warmed up nicely and the sun stayed with us all day. The other factor that made the day's ride so enjoyable was the absence of our nemesis: the Namibian headwind. We were able to cruise at 45mph at three quarters throttle and covered the miles quickly. Last night, Re and I carefully looked at the maps and possible routes eastward, with the new understanding that we will be confined to sealed roads. We discussed the northern and southern routes to Botswana, and eventually to Victoria Falls. The southern route would take us through the northern edge of the Kalahari and Ghanzi before heading to Maun and up to Victoria Falls. The northern route would take us through Grootfontein, up to Rundu, through the East Caprivi, and into Botswana at Chobe National Park. We decided on the northern route on the advice of several other travelers and Namibians. They stated that northern Namibia is the true Namibia. So north it was.
Our new route took us back up the B2 to Karibib, then north on the C33 through Omaruru, and then to Otjiwarongo for the night. Around lunchtime we stopped for fuel (again) and picked up yet another lunch of pies to picnic on at a nearby rest area. After our lunch of pies and carrots, we continued north. Along the ride today, we saw warthogs, the biggest baboons we've seen so far, giraffes, and some sort of curly-horned antelope. We rolled into Otjiwarongo around 5pm and soon found a very nice campground. While I set up the tent, Re headed into town and soon returned with the makings of dinner. She cooked new potatoes with onions and boerwors (the local sausages). After we finished dinner and washed up, a couple of the local cats showed up for dinner, but they were too late. We told them to come back in the morning, and maybe there would be some leftover eggs for them. The other odd featured of the campground was the flock of 50- 100 helmeted guinea fowl that pointlessly ran back and forth all evening. I wondered aloud how they would be on the braai.
I also took the opportunity to figure out our likely route to Dar es Salaam. We've been in Africa for two weeks now and need to figure out how and when we are getting to India. Zimbabwe looks most likely, not for Zimbabwe sake, but mostly because other travelers have warned us away from Zambia mostly due to the border corruption issues, road conditions, and relative expense. Ciphering done, we headed for bed.
259 miles in about 8 hours. The bikes purred along today.
It got cold overnight. Re and I both woke up in need of a warm shower. Since we only had a short ride today, we were in no particular hurry, so we made a relatively easy morning of it. Re had picked up eggs for breakfast today, so she scrambled them, and as if on cue, the local cats from last evening made an appearance. We had a fun time feeding them and a good laugh when one helped himself to what was left of our butter. Everything on the bikes was in spec except for the header bolts, which all needed slight tightening. Oil level is okay, but it needs to be changed.
The ride to Tsumeb only took about 3 ½ hours but we did fight a headwind the entire way. Today's short ride was dictated by tomorrow's long run to Rundu, and Tsumeb was chosen because, according to Loser's Planet, our guesthouse for the evening had internet. Along the way, we saw a couple of different kinds of antelope (we really need to look these up sometime), another hornbill, and wildebeest.
We arrived in Tsumeb around 1:30pm, and it was a bust. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, the guesthouse had no internet. On the plus side, the rate to camp was lower than listed in the book. We decided to take the afternoon off and catch up on RRs and blog posts that we will upload at the local internet cafe when they open in the morning. Lunch and dinner were self-catered again from the local grocery store. We also took the opportunity to get some laundry done. We also spoke with other travelers who were staying at this guesthouse and heard of a place to stay in Chobe.
131 miles in 3 ½ hours. The rear tires are getting thin, will need to be replaced soon.
Up early this morning since I wanted to change the oil in the bikes before we hit the road. Unfortunately the wind was blowing very hard, and the sand and dust storm made the oil change no fun. As an added bonus, I trapped my finger between the wrench and the oil sump, giving myself a humongous blood blister at the tip of my left thumb, which promptly split and bled all over the place.
Maintenance done, we hit the road toward Grootfontein, and of course, fought a head wind the entire way. We stopped for lunch and fuel in Grootfontein, where we loaded up our jerrycans for the further 160 mile run to Rundu. From now on, fuel stations will be even farther apart. The ride to Rundu was what we imagined Africa to be. We didn't see another white face until we reached Rundu.
All along the road were traditional dwellings and people going about their daily business. Both Re and I could barely lift our left arms by the end of the ride- they were worn out from waving so much! The little kids, especially, seemed to be excited to see us, running toward the road and waving, ofter with both hands as we rode past. Everywhere we stopped to refuel, we drew a small crowd. The only wildlife today were hundreds of cows and goats (mostly in the road).
We finally rolled into Rundu at around 5:30. We cruised through town to find accommodations, and not seeing anything, reluctantly consulted the Lonely Planet. One recommended place was near the town center, so we headed in that direction. We turned left onto a road made entirely of 3” deep sand, and the recommended guesthouse was another 2.5km down the sand road. Fortunately, 275meters down the sand road was another guesthouse with camping. Re and I quickly decided to try here and found that in addition to camping, they had a fan bungalow for a reasonable price. Since tomorrow's ride to Katima Mulilo will be over 300 miles, our longest ride in Africa so far, we opted for the bungalow to save the time of striking camp in the morning. After paying for our room we walked back to the bikes, and it was then that I noticed Re's flat rear tire. Yay.
As our bungalow was only about 100 yards from reception, we decided to ride to the bungalow slowly and fix the flat there. As I got back on my bike, I thought I smelled burnt oil, looked down, and discovered that in my haste this morning I failed to screw in my oil dipstick all the way. After reaching the bungalow I added oil to my bike and found that it had only lost approximately 150cc's. Hopefully no damage has occurred. Note to self: double check everything. Before Re headed out for food on my bike, she helped me remove the rear wheel from her bike. I am once again glad the Symbas have center stands. We both inspected the tire for a puncture, and neither of us could find one. After she left, I partially dismounted the tire to get to the tube and immediately found the problem. Before I removed the tire, I noticed that the balance mark on the tire was no longer lined up with the valve stem, which seemed odd, because it was aligned when I installed it. Apparently the 7hp of the apocalypse was enough to spin the rear tire on the rim and put a wrinkle in the tube. I never thought I would have needed rim locks on a Symba. I got the patch kit out, glued on a patch, waited a few minutes, and put the wheel back together. I pumped the tire up to 33psi and left it sit overnight to see if the patch held. We are carrying two spare tubes if needed, but I want to save them until they're really needed.
As I picked up the tools, Re returned with dinner. So what are we having for dinner tonight, Rebekah? How about, more pies. The local grocery store had few options that could be prepared easily. At least we are eating a lot of fruit to balance out the pies (I like pies. The USA needs more pies). The best part of dinner was watching the sun set over the Kavango River and looking into Angola while we ate on the porch of our bungalow. We both enjoyed a shower before bed to remove the thick layer of dust that covered us.
210 miles in about 7 hours. Remember to tighten anything you loosen, and we had our first flat tire of the trip.
Our plan for the day was to ride east to Katima Mulilo, our final stop before the border with Botswana. If we made it all the way there today, it would be our longest ride yet in Africa at over 300 miles. As the middle of the ride transited the Bwabwata National Park, there would be a potential for no fuel for nearly 200 of those miles. One way or another it was going to be a long day, so we got up at 6 am. First order of the day was to check the status of my repair job on Re's rear tire. I was very happy to find that the tire held 32 psi overnight, so Re and I quickly reinstalled the rear wheel and then checked the other tires and lubed both chains.
Maintenance done, we had a quick breakfast on the front porch of our bungalow and enjoyed the sunrise over the Zambezi River. After showers and once again, loading up the bikes, we were on the road by 7:30. We stopped for fuel but didn't completely fill our jerrycans as there was another fuel stop about 125 miles down the road in Divundu. Our constant companion, the Namibian Headwind made another appearance this morning and fought us until lunchtime. We made it to Divundu around 11:30 am and stopped for fuel and lunch. We filled up our tanks, 9 liters in Re's jerrycan, and 5 in mine, which would hopefully get us to Katima Mulilo. The OpenStreetMap GPS maps I downloaded indicated that there was “Fuel (not all the time)” in Kongola, approximately 120 miles east of Divundu, but we didn't want to rely on the chance that they would have fuel. We were heavy. Our lunch choices were limited because Divundu seems to consist of a gas station, small grocery store, bottle shop, and bar. We had leftover droewors and “chilly bites” (dried sausages and spicy meat), half a loaf of bread, and oranges, which we supplemented with sodas and ate straddling our bikes in the shade of the grocery store. While we ate, I noticed that I was able to understand some of the signage in the store window and realized it appeared to be in Spanish. I commented on this, and Re said it must be Portuguese since we were right across the river from Angola, and Portuguese is the official language of Angola.
Leaving Divundu, we passed through an agricultural checkpoint staffed by Namibian police force members. Apparently, hoof and mouth disease is a major problem in this region of Africa, and the checkpoint was to help prevent the spread of the disease further into Namibia. While we waited for the arm to be lifted for us to pass, we once again answered many questions about our bikes and the journey. After 5 minutes or so of questions, the sole female officer (who was clearly not impressed) left her booth, walked over to the arm, and lifted it and waved for us to pass, thus ending our conversation and allowing us to ride on.
Shortly after entering the park, our eyes lit up when we saw the warning signs that told us to look our for... elephants. We spent the next several hours scanning the roadside for large, gray objects, but to no avail. We did, however, see several different types of antelope and some warthogs. The next several hours passed relatively quickly, the lack of headwind and search for pachyderms made the time fly. We had seen plenty of elephant poop on the roadside, but we began to suspect the signs were a ploy to lure tourists to the area and that the elephant poop was planted by unethical tourism officials.
But our patience was rewarded just before we left the park. In my rear view mirror, I saw Rebekah slam on the brakes and turned around to see why. It was then that she pointed out several groups of elephants gathered around the pools in a marshy area next to the road. We stopped, got out the binoculars and camera, and spent about 20 minutes watching elephants do what elephants do. Very cool. At about 4:30, we exited the park and found ourselves in Kongola, another very small village, but lo and behold, there was... a gas station with a big chalk check mark next to the word petrol on the sign out front. We had recently refueled the bikes, emptying Re's jerrycan and using 3 of the 5 liters in mine. We had enough fuel in our tanks to make it to Katima Mulilo but have learned enough to never pass up the opportunity to get fuel. We swung into the station, confirmed that they had unleaded, and got 6 liters in Re's jerrycan. I had to laugh when another attendant came rushing out of the station to see our bikes, and I noticed that he was wearing and obviously counterfeit Orange Crappy Choppers ballcap, those buffoons are everywhere! He appeared excited but a little disappointed to see that we were only riding little bikes.
The sun was beginning to set, and we raced it into Katima Mulilo, wanting to honor our pledge to never ride after dark in Africa. As we entered Katima, we encountered a veritable flood of people walking toward us. The workday must end at 6 pm, and everyone seemed to be leaving the “downtown.” I smiled as I saw everyone laughing and chatting with each other as they walked, rush hour in the East Caprivi seems much more civilized than in Ft Collins. We made it to downtown Katima at about 6:15 and the sun dipped below the horizon. Lonely Planet came through for us this time, directing us to camp at the Protea Hotel grounds, which is a very swanky hotel with camping on the side for “our kind.” By the time we registered and made our way to the campground it was well after 6:30, so we yanked the camping gear off Re's bike and she headed out in search of the local grocery store for some dinner. We hadn't seen any food stores on the way into town, and here in Africa, most of them seem to close at 7 pm, so the race was on. Fortunately for me, Re was smart enough to stop and ask a guard at the gate where to find the grocery store. He smiled and said, “I will take you there.” He said it was too difficult to explain, and she should just follow him. Since it was nearly 7 and the big stores would be closed, he took her to a small local store with a very limited selection of food options. He apologized but said it was the only thing open at this hour.
Re returned with a small bag of potatoes, milk, and (wait for it)... more pies. While I continued to set up camp, she made mashed potatoes and reheated the pies, and we had a reasonable dinner looking out at the moonlight on the Zambezi while the grunting hippos serenaded us. Tummies full and butts barking, we climbed into the tent and fell asleep to the sounds of hippos.
350 miles in almost 11 hours. Re's rear tire patch is holding air.
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