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Holidays between S.Afr., Namibia, Zambia and Botswana
Hello you all!
After years of motorcycling across Europe, Asia, and North America, I decided to experience an african ride for the first time in my life.
This year, I can have only a limited period of holidays, so I decided to fly to Cape Town, rent an XT660R there, and make a loop around the southern part of the continent.
Period is the first half of November 2012.
Kolmanskop (half a day)
Fish River Canyon (some hours)
Sossuvlei (half a day)
Etosha park (one whole day)
Victoria Falls (half a day)
Tsoudilo Hills in Botswana (half a day)
Now, the main question: of course, as you see, the ride is long and time is limited, so is it possible to ride from Tsoudilo Hills across Botswana to Cape Town (where I'll drop off the bike and fly back home in Italy) in 3.5 days?
Is the way tarmac?
Is it "free" or does it run into game reserves where bikes are not allowed?
don’t want to discuss if this trip would be reasonable or not, but it’s possible for sure. All main roads in southern Africa are tarmac and free to bike through even if crossing national parks. So getting back to the black top from Tsodilo (some 60Km off the road if I remember right) it’s possible to go “all tarmac” via Kimberly (RSA) if you don’t want to take the Namibia route again. Some 2500 KM, virtually no traffic… sounds doable in 3.5 days.
Did you ride that section (Tsoudilo - Kimberley)?
How did you find the road and the scenery? (well, after riding the terrible roads in Kazakhstan, nothing scares me anymore... hahah).
What's your experience in border crossings? Hassle-free?
This is a heck of a lot of time on the road. In southern Namibia in particular some of your routes will take you over gravel roads which claim a lot of tourist lives each year when people are tempted to go too fast. Take it very steady.
I'd strongly recommend getting copies of the paper version of the Bots and Namibia Tracks4 Africa maps for planning purposes. They will give you accurate travel times over each stretch of road. Often the slower roads are more interesting scenerywise. A good example is the D road (D212?) that hugs the Orange River once you cross into Namibia at Noordoewer. Heads up to Rosh Pinar and takes you pretty close to Ais Ais and ends up in Aus. Stunning road (but not a fast one). Also the dirt road up from Cape Town via Calvinia, past Tankwa Karoo and Neuwoudtville is amazing. It goes over some beautiful passes. Views that literally brought tears to my eyes. The N7 is the direct way to Namibia but is much the same as driving a european motorway - it gets you there but ...
Also you know you can't take a bike into Etosha don't you.
Borders will be no trouble with the possible exception of Zambia which has a bewildering array of different taxes/insurance to pay (from memory you need visa, TIP, carbon tax, road tax, council tax and insurance) lots of pieces of paper to collect and a large crowd jostling to help you. It works out very expensive if you are just visiting the falls. RSA/Nam/Bots are just rubber stamp jobs - very easy.
Ditto to Itchy's comments, that's a fair bit of riding. One way to cut down distance would be to do a point to point rental, start in Cape Town and end in Jo'berg. Same route as you are planning but once in Vic Falls head south through Zim. Zim's pretty interesting and you could also pass by Kruger in case you haven't had enough of the game parks.
You might find that you can only ride for 30 minutes at a time, needing to rest and drink, it is much more dehydrating than riding elsewhere, and very tiring. I've managed only 150 miles a day maximum.
I don't think your planned return route through Botswana is possible. You can come down the Okavango panhandle from the Caprivi, which is a great road, with the possibility of lots of wildlife. There might still be a short stretch of treacherous sand just south of the Namibian border, but its tar after that.
On the way down the panhandle, consider stopping at one of the safari/fishing camps to the East of the road (I think you can ride to them via the Etshas). The Okavango is one of the world's best pristine wilderness parks.
Then there's a road leading south to Ghanzi. But i'm sure you can't ride South from there through Mabuasehube game reserve - bikes not allowed, plus its a very harsh environment. There's a tarred road east from Ghanzi to Gaborone. Long and dull (the road and Gabs). Or you can turn off the road to Gabs and go south into SA (I think its gravel), but check that the border posts are open there. The area just across the border is interesting in a fly-blown desolate kind of way. There's an infamous Boer outpost called Hotazel (hot as hell). Kuruman is an interesting historical town on the way back to Joburg.
A more usual route is to head down through the Chobe transit route south of the eastern end of Caprivi, or go straight across from Vic Falls to Kasane/Kazangula at the edge of Chobe. Then stop at the Chobe Safari Lodge, Kubu Lodge or Mowana hotel (do a boat ride and see the massive herds of elephants), and then South to stop at Nata Lodge and to see the salt pans. Then its Lobatse and south on the A1 to Gabs.
There's a hotel right on the edge of Etosha, I think it has a private section of the park. It has a public road going up to it. Can't remember what it is called. The camps in the park are great. But no bikes.
Hired an XT660Z for me and an XT660R for her from Craig at Dual Sport South Africa. Excellent bikes and excellent service. We did just short of 8,000Km in 6 weeks but at a very relaxed pace with lots of sightseeing.
The whole route is doable on tarmac roads - as we mostly did but I do feel we missed out a lot, especially in Namibia, although from all accounts the gravel roads in Botswana are not easy.
The main route was Cape Town - Cederberg - Springbok - Ais-Ais - Keetmansvorp - Windhoek (4 day safari to Etosha) - Grootfontein - Popa Falls - Katima Molilu - Livingstone - Nata - Maun (2 day safari to Okavango) - Middle of nowhere in Botswana - Mafeking - Kimberley - Gariep Dam - Paterson - Jefferys Bay - George - Capa Aghulas - Cape Town.
Tracks for Africa maps are essential. Pick up a copy of the Coast to Coast backpackers guide for cheap interesting places to stay.
Ask any other questions here or private message me.
edit... just re read the first post. No, I do not think you can do the distances you plan in the short time allowed. The time allowed for each of the main sites is nowhere near enough either. Etosha is HUGE and even if you can find someone to take you in for half a day you might get to just 2 or 3 of the main water holes and not see a lot. A good game drive also starts at dawn. We spent 3 days in Livingstone and nearly all of one of those days looking at Vic falls. Theres loads more to see and do in Livingstone too.
If I was doing my trip in 14 days I would either fly to Windhoek, hire a 4x4 with roof top tent etc and visit Sossulevei, Etosha, Fish River (which isnt that good really), and Skeleton Coast ; or fly to Maun, then a safari by boat into Okavango, Safari in to Chobe, then bus / hitch hike to Livingstone, then bus back to Lusaka for a flight home.
I have postponed the idea of this trip to next May, when the mototcycle hire charge will be lower because of the low season.
Due to the limited time, I think that it'll be better to limit the trip to South Africa and Namibia only.
This year I chose India and Nepal on (probably) a rented Royal Enfield.
I thank you all for the replies, I'll PM or write here again in case of more needs.
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