04-27-2006, 04:03 PM
Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
Goat meat, good friends and riverbeds
Kaokoland - barren, hard, beautiful and honest. Situated in the north western part of Namibia, it is an area that demands respect from travellers but will reward beyond expectation.
In 1995 my wife and I, together with my brother-in-law and his wife did a trip in two vehicles through Namibia. We spent nine days camping in this wilderness area. The effect it had on us was unexpected and radical.
All four of us resigned from our jobs in Gauteng,picked up our roots, said goodbye to friends and family and went in search of a better quality of life. My wife and I moved to the coast in the Eastern Cape and her brother and his wife moved to the Northern Transvaal bushveld.
Another of our Kaokoland resolutions was to do annual offroad trips so that we don't get lost again in existence as opposed to actively living life.
This resolution came to nothing though. It is no easy thing to move to the platteland (country) and start from scratch. Dues have to be paid and it took some time to recover financially.
Fast forward to 2004 and nine years later I get the opportunity to once again go to Kaokoland and even better, on a bike trip! There were to be three of us. Hennie and Nardus have a long history and have done many rides together. I was the newcomer and was a bit wary as to how the dynamics would pan out. However, Kaokoland on a bike is a dream I never even dared dream and I was willing to do whatever it takes to do this trip.
We had to cover about 3500km of tar to get to Usakos, our starting point. We decided not to waste time with sleeping over and rotated the driving to do it all in one go. Twenty four hours later and we stop in Usakos, the front of the bus covered in insects from two countries, three provinces and three regions. Inside, two Dakars and a 1200 sardined with all our luggage, food and kit. (Nardus on the left, me on the right)
We woke the local mechanic, Arrie, from his afternoon nap and arranged for the Sprinter to stay in his yard for some two weeks while we are off on the bikes. He didn't know us from a bar of soap, yet he is willing to help. Namibians are good people.
We offloaded the bikes and packed our kit. Splitting the food stuffs took some deft manouvering to try and have the other guys pack the heavy stuff such as canned goods. Because of the nature of the area we have to carry extra fuel as well as water, packing light is not really an option.
Just as me and Nardus were all packed up and ready to roll, Hennie started to break out the toolboxes. He wanted to do an oil filter change! WTF?
Subsequently and on many trips I have learned that this is what Hennie does. He is never on time for departure. Prepping his bike is done just after he arrived late at the departure point. By now it doesn't bother me anymore, it is expected. It's who he is. Lately when we leave at eight for instance, we tell him we leave at seven. Works like a charm.
By the time Hennie was ready it was too late to hit the trail and we found accomodation in the local camp ground.
We spent the evening in the local hotel (the bar to be specific) with Arrie and friends. We had a splendid time and by the time we got back to the camping grounds, it was all locked up and lights out. We had to use sidecutters to get in.
The next morning we hit the road early and with a hangover. Excellent. The best adventures start with a hangover.
We passed by Spitzkoppe and took our first water break under a tree.
We were soon to enter the Namib desert and shade would be in short supply. Not too long after we hit thick river sand and the 1200 chucks me off. This was to be the first off of many. The bike was brand new and it's the first time that I had the opportunity to ride it in sand. No big deal but I noticed that it seems to not like sand that much. Also, I had very little experience with a heavy traillie in sand. That was to change rapidly.
Like I said, shade in short supply
The glare coming off the ground hid little bumps quite well. Hennie had a nasty moment when he hit a bump while his attention was on the GPS. I could see he was a bit shaken. Ending your trip in the first 150km is the last thing any of us wanted. Also Hennie was trip leader, as he had done it twice before. We would be lost without him.
Brandberg, our destination for the day.
Then we came across this:
Welwitschia Mirabilis - a desert plant that can live to a thousand years. This one was huge, it must have been several hundred years old. It actually only has two leaves, but the wind over the years tears it apart. Brandberg in the background.
Shade was still in short supply and the sun was doing it's desert thing. Brandberg can be loosely translated as Fire Mountain.
Late afternoon and we were getting close to the Ugab riverbed where we intended to sleep.
It was a day well spent.
We unanimously opted to leave our tents behind, preferring only to sleep on ground sheets.
Day one ended in loud desert silence, with Brandberg living up to it's name in the background.
Day two to come.