March 10, 2005 GMT
2005 - The end is nigh!

Crossing into Namibia was a big change…tar roads without potholes, washing machines, supermarkets, English speaking, running water….. and did I mention washing machines! I was in heaven!

On our first night we stayed at a campsite where each pitch had its very own water tap, I mean how wonderful is that… we filled all the receptacles we could find…just because we could! Namibia is known for its wildlife, so we decided to head south, straight for the famous Etosha Game Park. Unfortunately, they were unwilling to let us ride around on motorbikes…something about lions and punctures, so we set about trying to organise a game drive in a more suitable vehicle and in the process met some fellow bikers Klaus, Andreas and Ina. Speaking to them made us realise that we had bypassed some pretty spectacular parts of Namibia and so we decided to head back up north to experience the country properly. Paul’s bike must have overheard the conversation and had absolutely no intention of going north. South Africa, and the promise of decent motorbike oil, was where she wanted to go and so when we tried to start her up the next day ……. nothing!
We spent the day trying to find the problem, but eventually had to take it to a local mechanic for a diagnosis. It was bad news, the engine had lost compression and even worse he couldn’t fix it, so we would have to courier the bike to Windhoek and even worse than that, we would have to ride to Windhoek on one bike…nightmare! However, despite the bike problems Paul and I were both really pleased….pleased that all this hadn’t happened 2 days ago on a deserted mountain pass in Angola! Every cloud has its silver lining!

So we packed Paul’s bike onto a truck and set off south to the capital on mine. I am not a particularly good pillion passenger and by the time we arrived in Windhoek, I had a sore jaw from clenching my teeth and Paul had hand shaped bruises on his shoulders!

Obviously Paul’s bike was a day late (this is still Africa), but found a backpackers lodge right in the centre of town with a swimming pool and bar and for the first time in 6 months we were surrounded by other tourists, so we were quite content to hang around for a while!
When the bike did arrive we left her in the capable hands of Mike The Mechanic and headed off on my bike to explore the surrounding area for a couple of days.

Now this little jaunt was my idea….I can hear my stupid voice now “Yeh, lets find some dirt roads!”..what an idiot! Well, me and pillion on a tar road is bad enough, but on dirt roads it was hellish. I spent the whole time craning my neck so I could check Paul was riding on the best part of the road and every so often we would have to stop so Paul could unclaw my hands from his shoulders and let the blood back into his arms. Although I was supervising Paul’s riding, I did manage to take my eyes off the road long enough to admire the vastness of Namibia’s landscape. The land and even the sky seem to go on forever. It is the perfect place for watching the sun go down.


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Beautiful clouds

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Relaxing in the shade


In the afternoon we saw a sign for a leopard park and decided to have a look. It was 10kms off the road down a sandy track and after about 5kms we noticed a huge black thunderstorm raging towards us. It was moving so fast that the next minute it was dark, raining and lightning was striking all around us! It is quite unnerving riding a motorbike in lightening…especially when there are no trees around and your head is the highest, wet thing for 10 miles. Paul’s reaction was to get us to shelter as quickly as possible, but the sandy track had turned to a muddy river, so he was slip sliding his way towards the lodge with me shouting in his ear to slow down ……another perfect day! We arrived totally drenched, but alive and I don’t think I have ever been so relieved to get off the back of a bike in my whole life! Luckily there was a bar and so we sat and had a beer waiting for a lull in the storm to pitch our tent. Obviously, they had been experiencing a drought and this was the first time they had seen rain in months….yeh yeh we’ve heard it all before. It is lucky we came when we did to end the drought in central Namibia!!!
When the rain didn’t stop it was obvious that we wouldn’t be able to put the tent up and so we took a bungalow. As we were unpacking the bikes Paul noticed waves in the distance. We were about 500Kms from the sea, so it was a bit of a shock when we realised a huge river of water making its way towards us. We grabbed our bag of essentials (passports etc) and ran to the highest ground we could find…..a 6 inch high patio wall!!!

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The river approaching!

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Flooded Restaurant


The river rushed through the park ruining everything, and we just had to hang around on the patio wall trying keep our feet out of the water to avoid getting an electric shock from the dodgy electricity system! When the water level finally dropped the idyllic safari lodge looked like it had been buried in 2 feet of milk chocolate. The manager tried to persuade us to stay and help clean up in return for free accommodation….we are cheap, but not that cheap!!! I forgot to mention that the lodge had a couple of cheetahs in an enclosure and the water had washed away one side of their fencing…..no-one seemed particularly concerned about it…apparently cheetahs don’t really go for humans. I have to say, the thought of a roaming hungry cheetah somewhat hampered my ability to relax on the veranda that evening!

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Confused Cheetah

We left the next morning before anyone could offer us a shovel and a bucket and made our way to Spitzkoppe, a big rock formation. We camped at its foot and watched the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

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Unfortunately our little trip came to an end the next day when we phoned Mike and found out Paul’s bike’s condition was terminal and we would have to get her couriered to Johannesburg.

So that was it…trip over…

West Africa had been a lot more expensive than we imagined and we had consumed a lot of beer…I mean petrol….along the way! So consequently our coffers were running a little bit low. The original plan was to circumnavigate Africa and at current calculations we would run dry in Ethiopia!!! This meant only one thing….jobs. (I know it is a terrible word to use and I hope that it gets through your firewall!).

Bizarrely, when we arrived at Mike The Mechanic’s to organise for Pauls bike to be couriered to Jo’burg, he told us he had managed to get her started by pouring oil into the engine. Not a good sign, but we decided to risk it and ride her the 1500km to Jo’burg…(I really didn’t fancy any more pillion riding and I don’t think Paul did either!). The ride to SA was a bit nerve racking…each time we stopped for petrol it was fingers crossed the bike would start, but bless her she did.

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We made it!

After 36hrs we were in Johannesburg where Paul’s Mom and sister live. They were expecting us some time in March, so obviously we decided to just turn up on their doorstep and hope their hearts would take the shock (if not we carry an extensive medical kit!). They couldn’t believe their eyes when 2 tramps on motorbikes arrived at their gate unannounced! It was so lovely to catch up with Pauls family and spend some time lounging around in the sunshine…again.

We had a couple of options, we could either hang around in South Africa and try to get work or fly back to the UK. Now, England in February is always going to be tempting, but Cape Town just pipped it to the post! So I set to work applying for a work permit and jobs, while Paul worked on the bikes. Unfortunately after a couple of weeks of frantic admin we got the bad news that my work permit would take about a year to come through, so working in Cape Town was a no go…..now the trip really was over.

We organised to fly the bikes back to the UK, bought our plane tickets and then went out and got hammered! To ease the pain, we visited our good friends Mary-Ann and Patrick who live in Cape Town and did all the tourist things.

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Cape Point

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Cape of Good Hope

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Table Mountain

Then we boarded a Virgin flight for the UK, where we turned up on my parents doorstep unannounced (god, we are so funny!).

So it is the end of our adventure and the cold…no make that FREEZING reality of being back in the UK has hit us like a brick! Part 2 of the trip is still to follow, but if anyone reading this needs two highly qualified lay-abouts to make the tea or do the garden give us a call!!

Posted by Paul Jenkins at March 10, 2005 12:48 PM GMT
 



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