Windhoek, 10 January 2008
Seems strange to think that it is now 2008 and we left home back in 2006. It's now been 14 months, 19 countries and 25,000 odd kms on the bike.
I'd like to say that I am now well into the journey home but I've got as far as Namibia and seem to be held up....
Sascha came out to Cape Town for Christmas and we marked the distance half way point of the trip by having a wonderful three weeks together hanging out in Cape Town and exploring around and about in a hire car. Oh, and we got engaged on her last day!
The day Sascha flew home I started heading North immediately. There are some very long, very flat and very straight roads in the Northern Cape, and it's very hot too!
The plan is to ride up the West Coast and cut in round about Nigera way and then ride across Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Mauretania to Morocco. And to get home by Easter. Perhaps a tall order.... I got the bit between my teeth to start with and started heading straight for Windhoek to pick up visas tout-suite. Then I realised that none of the embassies would be open for a few days until the end of their Christmas breaks so I decided to take a few detours.
I had been planning to do a minimum mileage and take it as easy on the bike as possible but in the end I've done more miles on dirt roads in Namibia (more than 1000km) than in any other country.
Namibia is a big country, there're a lot of long straights, on the tar as above, and on the dirt, as below...
The sunsets can be quite amazing too. I wouldn't normally put a sunset pic in the blog but this was something. Even taken with the crappy cheap digital camera we bought after the beloved Canon rattled to bits it looks pretty special....
It's quite a special feeling to be heading out by yourself, loaded up with spare fuel and water, along a dirt road into the desert. Philippe, ex of Top Bike mag had recommended a few routes from his Chinese bikes in Namibia marathon ride and I've got to say that at the beginning I was cursing him. Dirt roads in Namibia are normally very well maintained but at the end of the Christmas holidays on the road to Namibia's top tourist attraction (Sossus Vlei) the route had been well and truly pounded by legions of South Africa SUV driving holiday makers. They even have SUV caravans (SUCS?) and heavy duty off-road trailers for when they feel that their Land Cruisers are not causing quite enough damage!
Getting to Sossus Vlei and then riding through the Namib Naukluft Park past red sand dunes and smashed-up rock outcrops I had forgiven Philippe.
The ride from Sossus Vlei to Swakopmund took me through Solitaire. An evocatively named place that is a local by-word for out of the way-ness. It is indeed a long way from anywhere and very small but the feeling of solitude has gone as an enterprising type has converted his homestead into a middle-of-the-desert service station with petrol pumps, campsite, restaurant, bar and shop. You can't deny it's nice to stop and have a cold drink but seeing as everyone thinks the same it's actually quite busy and that feeling of remote-ness just isn't quite there!
Swakopmund was heaving with South Africa holiday makers. Many of the quad bike fraternity. After my near brush with severe quad bike induced injury at Ryan's motorcross park in Brakpan near Joburg it was no surprise to see local papers full of quad bike death and injury stories and sadly of the environmental damage caused by multitudes of them free-riding across the desert and protected areas. A weird place Swakopmund. Kind of like Bournemouth but a tenth of the size, surrounded by desert, with a few quaint German buildings, Bockwurst, socks and sandals and a few Africans thrown in.
Back through the Namib Naukluft Park again to get to Windhoek and on the first day of opening I'm there knocking on the door of the Angolan Embassy. After no response I spoke to the security guard and it turned out that no-one was there and it seems they had decided to have just one more day of Christmas hols! The Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo visas were a sinch with quick turnaround and charming staff but the Angolan one seems like it's going to be a bit tougher. There are worse places to be stuck in than Windhoek but it's not really brimming over with entertainments. I've seen their shopping mall several times, I tried the transport museum and it's closed. That leaves the cinema (there's one) and the national museum. Please please please Angolans give me a visa and quick!
Posted by Richard Miller at January 10, 2008 12:37 PM GMT