Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Southern Africa
By daybreak everyone surfaces to watch the sun rise over the salt flats.
After a quick breakfast we break camp and saddle up to ride around the island.
Time for a last team photo. All good things come to an end.
We discover the “official” camping spot underneath a huge baobab on the opposite side, complete with chemical toilet- we’re the only visitors!
There’s a road leading up to the highest point and we follow it to the top for a fantastic view.
Salt as far as the eye can see (sea?)
The surface is firm and flat, but the tyres cut through the crust in places.
It makes for great riding. Kubu island is only 45 km further!
The way back along the fence to the gate is much easier in daylight- it’s like a highway.
We go through the gate where Michael, who signed us in last night, is waiting.
We have a chat while we pack out some of our left-over cans of food. He’s posted here for 6 weeks at a stretch, but is using the time to study! This is certainly a place to do it without much disturbance.
Out of the gate, we continue south along the fence on a good dirt road.
At the southern gate to the pans we meet Matare, but he does not have Michael’s level of ambition. Conversation is arduous, even after we give him a warm beer.
A few kilometres further, we pass through Chwaa Tshaa village. Our last sweets are swiftly dished out once the kids realise that bikers aren’t as intimidating as they look. A well-meant gesture, but probably a bad precedent.
The road back to the A30 is quite corrugated, so on the tar we take the long way home via Francistown.
Francistown with the Wimpy!
Our navigation fails badly in Selebi Phikwe but at least we pass by this impressive mosque- there must be a large Muslim community here.
We carry on to the Zanzibar border post, but a niggling thought in the back of my mind insists we won’t make it in time.
Indeed, this border closes at 16:00 and when we pitch up at 17:00, everything is locked up except the adjacent motel. Although my wife looks tired, I propose to carry on to Martin’s Drift border post, which is open till 20:00. It’s 85 km further south on a dirt road that soon gets difficult to ride against the setting sun and soft sand verges.
I should have had the sense not to attempt this, knowing that we had been riding for nearly 10 hours with the sure knowledge that part of the riding would be in the dark, but that is hindsight for you. Mrs. Owl bravely pulls off with a “let’s get this over with” and soon I get a live view of the sort of action sequence you just don’t want to see from directly behind.
By now our intercom batteries are flat and I can’t warn her of the developing danger as she rides in the right hand track, drifts down the camber, hits the sandy culvert and as the bike starts oscillating out of control the front wheel bites, taking her directly over the shoulder of the road to crash into the adjacent game fence. Fortunately the short and sandy climb has slowed down the impact, saving her from injury but the Dakar is considerably the worse for wear, with quite a bit of broken plastic on the front now matching the missing mudguard at the back.
Errol and I are quickly there to lift the bike off her and roll it back onto the road. But for the first time after dropping a bike, we experience one that refuses to crank, never mind start.
This is clearly going to take some time, so we rehydrate and unpack the tools and jump leads, but to no avail. In the end, even jamming my Africa Twin’s battery directly onto the Dakar’s terminals allows it to start, only to die the moment I remove it. It must be a dead cell and unfortunately fuel injected bikes need a good power supply to run.
The Twin’s battery is too big to fit in the Dakar, so it goes back where it came from.
Errol starts to phone around local lodges to see if a bakkie to come and pick it up, but most of the lodges in the area are across the river, i.e. in South Africa!
God helps those who help themselves- I pull out our towing rope and tie the Twin's rear footpeg to the Dakar’s crashbar. We’ve charged the intercoms a bit while getting the rope out, so it’s possible to discuss the choreography through the rocky and sandy bits as we gradually build up a manageable speed...
....which turns out to be 40 km/h as I follow the right hand track with the Dakar close behind to my left and Errol sweeping. Mrs Owl’s LED torch bobs along in my rear view mirror and it seems odd that we now succeed towing where riding didn’t (succeed). But halfway to our destination it goes all wrong as I slow down in a sandy drift and the Dakar rolls over the tow rope. By the time I accelerate the Dakar gets dragged sideways and I feel a jerk as my wife gets ditched in a cloud of dust for the second time.
Fortunately it’s the only incident until we finally arrive at the tar road and, 6 km further, at Kwa Nokeng. We successfully negotiate the twisty track behind the filling station and sneak into a camping spot near the ablution block. It’s close to midnight as we tiptoe around to pitch our tents, make a quick supper and clean up.
The bike does not look any better in daylight and despite Kwa Nokeng’s reputation as a biking haven they cannot help with a battery of any description, so a lot more towing is necessary.
Fortunately the border crossing proceeds smoothly and, once back in South Africa I decide to treat my wife to a functional Africa Twin while Errol tows me at more than double yesterday’s “manageable speed” to the nearest big town.
We reach Ellisras (Lephalale) soon enough and locate the Midas shop. It’s Sunday but it is actually open and there is a whole array of batteries to choose from; we buy one that fits and proceed to top it up with acid.
A bit of fiddling to connect the leads and it’s time to confirm that nothing else is damaged. After a few cranks, the engine bursts into life and we are on our way.
We lose contact with Errol in the traffic through Zeerust, where he has to turn south while we carry on eastwards. Last year’s roadworks between Vaalwater and Modimolle (Nylstroom) are still a work in progress.
Tankers are wetting the temporary roads to keep the dust down and mrs Owl learns just why BMW fit those funny “beaks” below the headlight. It’s part of the plastic that got damaged last night and removed this morning. Life without a mudguard turns out to be rather muddy.
Soon the Sand River Mountains fade in the distance as we hit the Springbok plains and we’re on the home straight- the end of the trip is in sight and all is well. Until the next one!