Namibia
September 21, 2010 GMT
Job Half Done



I haven't completed the north-to-south traverse of Africa yet, but I have done the east-to-west.
(Or should that be, an east-to-west. Hardly the widest part).



Windhoek was a bit time-consuming. It seemed to take forever to come out of the western side of the city and eventually reach the bypass, and the decision that had to be made.
There was also the Kalahari.
A couple of weeks ago I thought, from my map, that I'd just be crossing the north-western corner of it in Botswana. But now, reaching Windhoek, I find it stretches westwards past this city all the way to the Atlantic, the Namib desert and the Skeleton Coast.
Which also solves another puzzle. Although it's generally referred to as a desert, all the way to Gobabis and beyond it was fairly full of vegetation. A bit parched maybe but a fair amount of vegetation nevertheless.


Now, on reaching that Western Bypass at last, the right hand indicator suddenly started winking. So right it was, to the north, where the real desert started. And it's a funny thing, but the road became more interesting. That desert mystery returned, the weird colours and shades, the strange light, and the flowing dunes.
And it became quite hot.
The weather had already warmed up quite a bit between entering the country and reaching Windhoek. Now it was pretty hot. And for a while, heading north, we climbed from 5,500 feet to close to 6,000. But I knew that soon the road would swing round to the left and head westwards to the Atlantic and down to sea level. So how hot will it be down there?
I stopped overnight in the pleasant little town of Karibib, at about 5,000 ft and still hot, making me wonder again what the temperature would be on the coast.
After Karibib a steady descent started, with more distant mountains appearing, the grass disappearing, and many different colours in the sandy scenery.



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And strangely, the temperature dropped. A steady cooling until it became, errrr, quite cold.
Then a roadsign: - "Fog"
Fog in the desert, how does that happen?
Well, there was no fog on this day, but the far horizon slowly disappeared in a distant mist. And out of it, eventually, came the seaside town of Swakopmund, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Namib Desert, the Skeleton Coast and the Kalahari.


It was quite an event really, departing Mombasa on the Indian Ocean about five months ago and arriving today at the Atlantic, all on little TTR250, via Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. Job half done!



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H.M. The Bike and an audience with the Atlantic Ocean.


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And with an Atlantic breaker.



You can probably guess from these photos that the weather was, well, a touch English. Just like a dull day in Brighton in fact. Cold and damp.
Or the west coast of Ireland - it's the same ocean.




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North from Swakopmund - the Skeleton Coast. Atlantic Ocean is on the horizon, swimming in the mist.



Earlier, along various featureless bits of road between Gobabis and Windhoek, I'd computed that if things continue as successfully as hitherto, and I don't veer off into any significant detours between here and the south, I'll still be able to reach Cape Agulhas, see the sights of the Western Cape, and wrap things up at the Cape Town airport cargo area before the expiry of my Carnet.
We'll see.


I also computed that it would be better to arrive home feeling, "Well, that was a nice little trip, I'll plan another one in the New Year somewhere else in the world!" than, "Phew, that went on too long - that's me done with motorbike rides for a few years!"
We'll see.


The next day was sunny and more of the coast beckoned.



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Namib Desert sand dunes.

Off-road 4X4s and quad bikes are big business here, so a lot of the dunes are roped off to prevent them being destroyed by tyres. Not much chance of my tyres getting up one of these.



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The Atlantic on a sunny day.


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Gingerly leaving the tarmac further into the Skeleton Coast.



Followed by this......



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Am I glad to see that!

Beware heavy vacuum cleaners crossing ahead. - Or are we supposed to pay for the dust here??


It turned out to be a 100-yard section of tarmac, in the middle of nowhere. One of the mysteries of the desert.




But this part of Africa isn't really like Africa. Riding around this modern seaside town, complete with Wimpy bar and 50-metre indoor swimming pool - "..... will be closed permanently from 30th June 2010," - roads full of 4X4s carrying racks of sea fishing rods or towing quad bikes, or both, it was more like being in Australia than where I was supposed to be.
Changes are quite subtle.
On greeting someone, in a shop, cafe, someone coming to look at the bike, it's no longer a serious race to be the first to say, "How are you?"
And the response isn't always all smiles and white teeth.


I can't imagine an incident ever happening here that occurred, I think, in western Tanzania:
"Hello, how are you?"
"Fine, thanks. How are you?"
"Very well, thanks. My name is Simon. Nice to meet you."
Now, my name often gives speakers of other languages quite a problem. Strange!
It can be Kin, or Kan, or Kent, or all sorts of permutations. One chap in Kenya was having particular difficulty in working out the pronunciation.
I told him it was no good listening to me, and wrote down the name of his country with the last two letters crossed off. Then we had the big "Ahhhh! Ken!" with Swahili accent and lots of white teeth.
Back to Simon, he got my name wrong a couple of times. "I know," he said. "Cain!"
"Noooo," I said. "It's Ken. Not Cain. That's from Cain and Abel."
At that his eyes lit up enough to illuminate the whole room.
"You know the Bible?" He almost threw his arms around me (that happens in Tanzania) but settled for another long and vigorous three-way handshake instead.
"That's wonderful. I'm so glad you know. I'll see you again."
We met a couple of times after that, I think he either worked in the hotel I was in or was another guest, and he always treated me like a big celebrity.


Religion is no longer a big thing here binding people together. There's a distinct space between black and white people. No sense of everyone looking out for everyone else, and certainly less sense of local people looking out for, or looking after, visitors.
Another change, all-pervading and yet almost unnoticed, the red earth has gone. The dust no longer the colour of post office vans. All is neutral grey, almost white.


And finally, I noticed a place on an internet map that maybe encapsulates the difference between this part of Africa and the eastern side.
It's a luxury lodge out in the dunes not far from where I'm staying now. In its blurb it says "The atmosphere is the real 'Spirit of Africa'........ What makes it one of the last frontiers is the lack of water........... Accommodation offered is ............. chalets all with luxury .......... en-suite bathrooms including an indoor and an outdoor shower....."
I know Africa is perhaps one big dichotomy, but that's a dichotomy too far!
So, time to move on south and maybe complete the job before the customs papers expire.




Posted by Ken Thomas at 10:30 AM GMT
September 22, 2010 GMT
The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times



A tale of two days.
Let's start with the worst of times, part one.



The morning after exploring the coast and desert around Swakopmund I decided to return inland and then south towards South Africa. First I needed some cash from the ATM.
You know that feeling you get, when you're a long way from home, in a strange country, in a far-away land that everyone says is dangerous, and you go to put your cash card in the ATM but there's no cash card?
"Don't panic, Mr. Mainwaring!"
Well, it's not easy and I supposed I failed a little.
Firstly, if it's gone it's gone, and I had a credit card, so I used that. But later it turned out I didn't need to.


With cash, I headed into town for petrol and to visit the big Yamaha dealer, just to look.
And I thought of where the card might be. Slowly it came back. I withdrew some cash the Saturday before from the bank next to the cafe where I parked the bike. I remembered it all being in small notes making a doorstep that just about fitted through the jaws and filled my pocket to bulging.
But no memory of filing away the plastic card. So I return to the bank, maybe I left it in the machine.
On the way was the police station - pop in there.
The attendant pulled out a huge cardboard box full of keys, cards, purses, spectacles, wallets and watches. But not my card.
But in the station there was a reminder of two things I'd not seen elsewhere in Africa. Posters all around the room imploring lorry-drivers not to pick up women touting at the roadsides, which reminded me of the other scene a few days earlier, quite a few women standing along the verge of the north-south motorway out of Windhoek, waiting for clients. As I said, the changes are slow and subtle.


So off to the bank, where the attendant at the enquiries desk picked up the phone and dialled an extension.
"Mr. Thomas?"
"That's right."
"Someone will be out in a moment with your card."
Phew! What a sense of relief.
My saviour appeared, saying he thought maybe the buzzer that tells you to take your card away with you wasn't working over the weekend.
"The machine pulls the card back in for safe keeping, here it is, sign here and here and let me photocopy your passport."
So that was all right then.


Then off to the Yamaha dealer. I thought it might be wise, if they have one, to buy a chain to carry as a spare. Eighteen thousand miles across tarmac, desert and dirt is quite a test of a chain, and although I'd only had to adjust it once, you never know.
They had one, so I asked about guide rollers.
Yes, they have those too, after-market ones much stronger than the original. By the way, they recently heard that four brand-new TTR250s had been found in Durban and they had earmarked two of them to put in their showroom.
With things looking good, or at least better than when I tried to locate my plastic earlier, I asked about the routes back inland.
There are three. The tarmac I'd come in on that takes a big loop to the north through Karibib, or a dirt road due east to Windhoek (which I'd explored a bit, finding the "Dust free" sign the day before), or another much longer dirt road south-east to Mariental which is on the main road south to South Africa.
I'd already asked at the hotel and the consensus there was that the due east road to Windhoek was fine, shorter than the tarmac and much more scenic. (That tarmac road, although not straight, had been pretty much as featureless as the rest of the Trans-Kalahari from Botswana).
"Ordinary cars do it all the time, you don't need 4X4 or anything like that," they assured me.


The advice in the Yamaha shop was the same.
"The south east road is a long way. There's somewhere to stay along it, but lots of bad corrugations further east." I'd already discounted that option because of the distance.
"Don't go on the tarmac, you've already seen how boring that is. The C28 direct road to Windhoek is fine. You'll have a great ride. It's flat straight desert at first but then there's the Boshua Pass (which I'd seen signposted), then you're up in the mountains to Windhoek. Two hundred miles in all. We wouldn't go any other way."
All this from a Finish ex-pat Yamaha dealer who wanted to know about my ride to North Cape and Lapland on a Yamaha Serow. He'd never heard of a Serow but knew straightaway what an XT225 was (its other name).


So that seemed fairly sound, just needed petrol and then back to the "Dust Free Zone" and onwards and upwards over the Boshua Pass.
Except it was already eleven o'clock by then. But that's eight hours of light so should be OK.


The previous day I'd been as far as the 1km of dust-free tarmac and then returned. Today I continued beyond, on pretty good hard graded dirt and gravel, fairly straight but weird Namib Desert all around. Then another sign ditto, "dust free 2km ahead."
Tarmac again. And it went on and on, and on. About ten miles and I was thinking, "Hey, where's my adventure gone that they promised me. It's all tarmac!"
And another five miles. The lonely signposts still said Windhoek so it was the right road alright.
Then, a massive Uranium mining area with no-entry signs all over the place and huge trucks dotting the skyline. And the end of the tarmac, back on the good hard gravel.


And onwards deeper into the Namib, some strange scenes.



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Distant mountains and trees hang in the sky above the mirages.




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Approaching halfway we start to climb up into some foothills.
The road a bit stonier but still fine.


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The volcanic activity returns. I'm pretty certain this is lava solidified in mid-flow. The larger ones are often hollow inside forming lava tubes.



Around here, groups of gazelle appeared, leaping along across and away from the road as I appeared. At one point a particularly large one, I thought maybe a springbok, came bounding alongside on the left of the road, overtook me and bounded across a little in front. Then disappeared off to the right. It had a very determined look about it, with shoulders sort of hunched as though it was on a very serious mission. I was going at a shade under 30mph at the time. Maybe it was just a race.



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Deeper into the Namib and further into the foothills.


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The volcanic stuff looking back.


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A little before halfway, the turning north to Karibib, the Boshua Pass is dead ahead.


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Two miles or so before the pass.


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The sign says "Steep Gradients Ahead. No Trucks Trailers Caravans."
That's got that lot out of the way then.


But - one mile later..........


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The sign said nothing about punctures.

Ignition off. Gloves off. Hat off. Coat off. Tools off. Wheel off. Tyre off. Tube off. As quickly as you can say it ideally - but this added an hour to the journey. So not too bad, but serious doubt now about reaching Windhoek before dark. The Worst Of Times part Two.
But, if you have a puncture in the desert, the Namib is the place to do it. Not hot, in fact the temperature is very pleasant.



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Puncture mended, the climb through the Boshua Pass.


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Steep and vertiginous. On some of these inclines the little loaded Yamaha came close to needing some clutch slip to reach the top.


The downhills were just as tricky. The tyres were getting quite a battering on the stones and rocks. I hoped my faith in the repair I did back in Kenya, to the inner tube that was now inside the front wheel, was not misplaced.



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Road surface deteriorating amongst the hills. Shadows lengthening.



Like the teacher appearing when the student is ready, stuff you really need has a habit of turning up in time.
Well, it did on this occasion in the form of Harmonie Camping, a little way past the pass and about two-thirds to Windhoek. And not on any map or internet site I've seen.
Everything you need for an overnight including electricity and hot shower. Maybe it's true what they say, there's nowhere left in the world where you can have a true adventure.......
Even a little table made from an old cable drum on its side, just right for three patches and a breakfast in the morning.



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I had fitted my spare inner tube to fix the puncture, but the damaged one has to be mended as soon as poss, specially in this environment.
The tyre went down just after I hit something quite large and unseen, it must have been a big rock the same colour as the road surface, or maybe I just didn't see it.
Anyway, it made two small tears in the side of the inner tube. How, I don't know, but I do wonder now about the usefulness of these heavy-duty 5mm thick tubes.
Because when I removed the tube the day before, the first thing I saw was a tree thorn that had pierced it, with a bit of the thorn still in the tyre.
But that must have pierced the tube as I removed the tyre, the same as happened when Caroline changed her front tyre in Egypt.
So these tubes may protect against pointy things in the tyre going right into the tube, but on two occasions now they have eventually made a hole during all the huffing and puffing of removing the tyre. Maybe at least that happens when you've got the tyre off anyway, but these tubes also weigh a serious amount more than ordinary ones and I wonder if it's worth it.
So the net result was three holes to mend, then pack the tube back where the spare one belongs. And also to report on The Worst Of Times part Three. After replacing the wheel the day before and packing up everything, everything was certainly on the bike. But chains are heavy things and the road over the pass was fearsomely steep and bumpy. Well, the new chain, wedged under the bungy straps, fell off and is in the road somewhere along the Boshua Pass, so at least I don't have the weight of it any more.
Ready to depart, we continued a short distance to This:



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One of many cattle grids, and a sign.




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The Boshua Pass leads up to the Khomas Highlands, and the adventure continues. With a name like that maybe you'd expect it to.



The road simply got worse and worse. More and bigger stones, loose gravel, and the arrival of corrugations. Sometimes pretty serious, requiring braking down to almost walking pace. And these too became worse and worse.
We were only about twenty miles from Windhoek now but still no traffic. For the whole distance since the campsite nothing had overtaken me and only about three cars went the other way. The day before, the score was one vehicle overtaking me and maybe five going the other way, in about 120 miles.
So I got to thinking, where are all these people who 'always use this road - wouldn't go to Windhoek by any other way'?
Where are the 'ordinary cars'? They'd all been 4X4s with half-metre-wide tyres.
Yes, it's like Australia still, everyone has a lot of brash pioneer spirit. "No worries mate! That road'll get you to Windhoek before you know it. My Granny drives it everyday to get to the corner shop!"


And as usual, just as the corrugations grew so bad I thought I might have to get off and push, the Star of the East appeared. Tarmacadam!
Never is relief so immediate!


"Well, that was quite a two-day adventure! I'm glad all those people recommended this road otherwise I would have just gone on that boring old road round to the north. Perhaps we can make Mariental before sunset."
I headed straight for the western bypass, turned south, and hoped for a simple ride to some nice accommodation for rest and recovery.


So here I am at a nice B&B just outside Mariental, well on the way to the South African border, now about three day's riding away.
But there's still no rest. Today was oil-change day. And the front brake pads as well, which I noticed, when mending the puncture, were in need of replacement. They've done eighteen and a half thousand miles across mainly African roads, so you may expect the caliper sliders to be a little jammed up with red dirt, and they were.
And just to finish, although I had a reasonably good look at the front tyre when it was off of the bike in the desert, I also spotted, while changing the brake pads, a small but deep split in the tread (which is pretty worn down now, just about legal in the UK I think). No doubt caused by hitting whatever it was that I hit.
I'd already decided that both tyres will probably need changing before Cape Town, so now I'll be looking for a front replacement in Keetmanshoop, the next main town along the way. It's probably not an emergency thing as this split tyre has, after all, survived the worst third of the road to Windhoek.


There'll be another oil change needed before Cape Town and I think the total mileage by the finish line (wherever that is) will be over twenty thousand.
I think that's over the 'qualifying distance' to be ridden for an around-the-world journey. So that'll do for now.


I made a map on GoogleEarth of the route so far:



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Posted by Ken Thomas at 07:28 PM GMT
September 25, 2010 GMT
Keetmanshoop



Here I am in Keetmanshoop. Plans in disarray, trying to make sense of the options available.



Well, not quite like that.
I'll stay here one night instead of the three days I'd planned earlier, and continue tomorrow to the South African border at Noordoewer on the Orange River. Maybe stop for a day at the Fish River Canyon on the way. But, "If you've been to the Grand Canyon, it's another one of those but smaller."
And no doubt more expensive. At the Grand Canyon there's a special cheap price if you arrive by bicycle, which I did. In African parks there's a special expensive price if you're foreign, which I am.
But that wasn't the plan first thing this morning.


I ended up staying four days at the very nice B&B just outside Mariental, which itself was a nice, tiny, sheep-market town. Taking a breather after the adventure of the Boshua Pass road.
I also fitted the chain guide roller I bought in Swakopmund. It has two bearings inside it, looks a lot stronger than the original Yamaha one, and fitted exactly. I hope now you won't have to read any more about that long and boring saga (been going on and on since the Western Desert in Egypt!)
I'll think of something else instead, see below.....


So this morning I planned to reach Keetmanshoop, stay here until Monday when the shops open, put a new front tyre on and head off to the border. When I arrived in town, Saturday afternoon, everything was closed. (It's civilised in Africa, people have time off). But I fortuitously wandered into the area with all the tyre dealers, and one was still open dealing with a customer emergency of some sort.
"No, there are no motorbike shops in town at all, and no tyres. Are you headed north or south?"
"South."
"Your first place then for a tyre will be Upington, about the same distance away as Windhoek is. This split doesn't look bad as long as you stay on the tarmac."
That sounded OK and I'll only stay here one night instead of three.
I consulted my map to see where Upington was.
Oh dear! The road forks a little way south, one fork going to Cape Town, the other to Johannesburg, and Upington is on the Johannesburg road. No good then.
On the Cape Town road there's only one sizeable town marked on my map (but lots and lots of small ones); Springbok.
So a new tyre will have to wait until Springbok or Cape Town.


The road to here from Mariental was the same as previous Namibian tarmac roads. Straight, if not straighter, and almost as featureless. First, we had 'spot the celebrity'.
As I've said, the changes are subtle travelling from east to south-west. Now, there are very few buses. But quite a few people in remote countryside thumbing for lifts. And private cars are back. Not seen many of those since Egypt, except in the capital cities. Now, they overtake regularly, and at least two today carried a passenger determined to get an action photo of me as they went past! Not really the Africa I came to see.


The other feature was a complete lack of any wires along the road, no telephone wires, no power lines, but a railway instead staying close to the road all the way.
"Wouldn't it be an adventure to actually see a train travelling along this line," I mused.
Instead, about halfway to Keetmanshoop, there was a "Commonwealth War Graves" sign leading to another, just across the track:



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Then a mile of stoney track led to this, alongside Gibeon Station.



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German graves from a 1902 conflict, with white headstones, left of picture. German graves from WWI, with headstones close together, centre. And Commonwealth graves from WWI, right of picture.


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Closer view of WWI graves. Commonwealth nearest, German further away.
Still remembered, side by side.




As in Jinja, Uganda, there was no cemetary register containing a narrative so I don't know the story behind this, but as this is probably the furthest from Europe I'll see a Commonwealth War Cemetary, I took the pictures.



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There's even a shop here at the trackside:



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So I bought a bottle of lemonade and a toothbrush. They even sold Kiwi Black Shoe Polish, and I think I can now confirm that wherever you are in Africa, you're never more than a couple of miles from someone selling Kiwi Black Shoe Polish.


I received some nice comments about the photos of the Bulawayo Railway Museum, so here are some more railway pictures.



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I suppose this is an African railway 'No Entry' sign. The piece of bent and painted rail is hinged over the working rail and held in place with a padlock. I can't see it stopping the Flying Scotsman should it hurtle along here one day.


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The track is as straight as the boring B1 Windhoek to Keetmanshoop road alongside.



I was happy that an express wouldn't suddenly appear and remove my front tyre before I purchased a new one, having asked the people in the shop when the trains come along.
"Only at night, about ten in the evening."


A train must have passed this way recently with a wagon misbehaving, trundling along on the sleepers instead of the rails. I tried a photo of the damage but it doesn't really work.



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There's a long line of wheel damage (maybe hundreds of miles?) to the sleepers between the rails, (to the left), and on the right-hand end of the sleepers. For railway enthusiasts only, you understand.



As the trains run at night here, it reminded me of an incident many years ago that I thought might happen here on this line, and provide a little entertainment for the rest of the way to Keetmanshoop.
For both motorcycle and railway enthusiasts.


I was bowling along to Paris on the motorway from Calais, alone, quite late at night. And it was raining, cats and dogs. I had given up hope of reaching Paris that night and was hurrying along as quickly as possible to reach a Formule 1 hotel that I knew I'd find in one of the motorway service stations.
I don't really remember what "hurrying" amounted to, but the bike I was riding was capable of a shade over 140mph and I don't remember there being much unused throttle movement left. But this was France in the early 90s - not much speed discipline in those days - and there was zero other traffic. Also, I always felt comfortable at speed in these sorts of conditions, masses of rain washing the road absolutely clean of all oil, diesel, rubber and everything else. Plenty of grip with high-quality tyres. When I used to race on tarmac tracks, I always got better finishing positions in the wet than in the dry, I seem to find the knack of staying on the bike in the rain.


But, fairly suddenly, there was blue flashing light......
"Don't panic, Mr. Mainwaring!"
An easing of the throttle seemed sensible, just a little, not a lot.
However, the rear-view mirrors were absolutely as black as the ace of spades. Not a twinkle of light behind.
Strange!
Looking forward again, the dense sheet of large and fast-moving raindrops was definitely being illuminated by blue flashing light. But the mirrors still black.
"Maybe they're in front, and I'm catching them up!"
But nothing at all in the distance. Not the dimmest of red lights.
I turned off my lights just for an instant, to be sure.
"Argggghh, turn those lights back on quick, that's just too scary at this speed!"
But no, it was all blackness ahead, as well as behind. And on the carriageway going in the other direction as well. Empty. This was too strange for comfort.
"I know! This superb Ducati has reached such a speed that I've leapt across a divide into some other world! The police here are descended from the Invisible Man."
No, that can't be right. At least be sensible about it. But the blue was definitely getting brighter.
Next, I spied out of the corner of my right eye, a strange long black thing maybe fifty yards from the road, coming alongside me. Above it were two brilliant blue dancing flames. One at the front, one at the rear. In fact, the colour was electric blue.


The London-to-Paris Eurostar train glided past me, at, I assume, its operating speed of 186mph.
A bit humbling in a way. Must be quite something to be the driver of that in this weather.
"Drat!!" I thought. "Too late now! I should never have eased up on the throttle. I might have beaten it to Paris! Now I'll never know!"
In this downpour there must have been a river of water hanging from the overhead power line, producing enough sparks to illuminate most of the rain all around the sky. Quite a scene as it disappeared into the murky distance.


Couldn't happen here though, of course. It's the dry season.
Have to find some other entertainment.




Posted by Ken Thomas at 07:33 PM GMT
September 27, 2010 GMT
The Orange River



From Keetmanshoop southwards the road was more of the same, like this:




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This road, all the way from Windhoek, is called the B1, and that's about all it deserves to be called.

Any name more descriptive than that would be an overstatement.
Or maybe the Trans-Nowhere Highway.
Nothing to take note of, except it became colder and colder, needing a stop to put on the winter woollies. Hence the photo above.


A little later, approaching the Orange River and the South African border, the river valley appeared.......



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......... and we dropped about 1,400 feet in the short distance to Noordoewer.


You can't fall off the edge of the world anymore, since those flat-earth people retired, but you can fall off of the edge of South Africa. It ends at these near-vertical cliffs above the Orange River.



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Which made me think. All those bungy-jumpers must be kicking themselves, being born too late to bungy off of the edge of the world itself.


On this, the Namibian side, it's all volcanoes. This must have been another of those boiler house/engine rooms full of fiery activity back in pre-history times.



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It looks like one of those volcanoes went on a dodgy brick-laying course.


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View on the Namibian bank of the Orange River.

(And at last, a picture without that funny little blue motorbike lurking. Let's give it a rest from modelling duty).



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These volcanoes must really have been vying for space. Maybe they had parking attendants.
"No, you can't erupt here, you'll block up that exit. Go over there, squeeze between Stromboli and Vesuvius. Ask Etna to back up a bit. And listen, there's a limit now on how many boulders you can chuck out. There're so many rolling around down in the valley that we'll soon be right out of dinosaurs."


And so, all being well, we'll shortly cross the final frontier into the final country.




H.M. The Bike just complained about not being in the last two photos. So here's a few more.
I'd noticed recently that stuff in the right hand pannier had been warming up. Even yesterday when it was so cold I had to stop for more layers.
The pannier rests against a plumber's heat-shield mat. The combined effects of the heat from the silencer underneath, and constant rubbing vibration has caused a few holes in it, and a lot of thinning. So it's not as effective now. It looks like this:



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Under the mat is a coil of rubber gas hose. This is largely unaffected.
And is pop-rivetted to the plastic side panel, as here:



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(From a very early posting)



The side panel is now in a very sad state. It's taken on the shape, more-or-less, of the silencer underneath and is almost wrapped around it. A metal bracket on the silencer, designed to maintain space between silencer and panel, has melted its way through the panel.


The only thing that has withstood the heat of the silencer and the weight of the pannier is the coil of rubber gas pipe. Except there are spaces between the coils, through which the bracket on the silencer can now contact the pannier.


So I've been casting around for ideas for a solution or improvement. These panniers are one of the best bits of equipment of the whole set-up, and should last a couple of lifetimes at least if reasonably protected from the heat. They're unaffected at the moment but that won't continue much longer.
This morning I visited the supermarket here in Noordoewer. It has the sort of little hardware department that you usually see in a supermarket where the customers live over a hundred miles from the nearest town of any size. So it had a roll of rubber gas pipe at about a pound per metre. From that I made this:



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With coils close enough together to give more support and protection. I hope it's as heat-resistant as the pipe it will be assisting.



It fits here:



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With camera in hand, I photographed this:



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The small split in front tyre from the Boshua Pass.

Small, but quite deep, I think it might go all the way through.


So no visits to the Fish River Canyon. Despite what I'd been told by at least two people, one living in Keetmanshoop, both roads there are gravel, not tarmac. I passed and checked them yesterday.




Posted by Ken Thomas at 08:24 PM GMT
 


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