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Old 10-09-2012, 07:01 PM   #16
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Amazing trip & photos, thank you for posting.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:46 PM   #17
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Did this route (more or less) last year but in the opposite direction and loved it. More please!

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Old 10-12-2012, 02:31 PM   #18
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Into the Parks

As the new day breaks, we slowly pack up and air the tents before continuing to Katima Mulilo. Within a few minutes we enter the town and look for the Total garage.

After paying our Road Fees (N$140) and refuelling, it’s time for coffee next to the Tourist office down the road.

While we are standing at the reception of a brake and clutch specialist, an officious-looking local pulls up to ask if we can’t arrange to sell him a Kawasaki scrambler. As it happens, Errol had to leave his KLaaR at home when it would not run reliably on his shakedown ride and they exchange contact details, but shipping may be a problem!

After stocking up on supplies, we ride out on the B8 to Rundu. That’s a long way off, even on these straight roads that could put a crow out of business.

We want to do a loop through the national parks to the west. That means we turn southwest down the C49 just outside town:

Some local products are on display along the way, but their utility is restricted to this area.

..and the proximity of water.

Many kids in school uniform happily wave as we pass. Perhaps it has more to do with the start of the school holidays than with us.

Learning to Serve starts here.

We reach the end of the tar and hit the dirt.

Mostly, though, life out here in the sticks life is simply about survival, starting with long walks to and from water sources.

And it starts early- even these little girls have to help.

The turnoff to Mamili is about 140 km from Katima: but it’s signposted as Nkasa! They seem to be into the renaming game here just like South Africa.

The approach is…interesting around the first water features.

…over a rickety bridge

..that can take a loaded 4x4, but I’d hate to see this in the rainy season… this submerged bridge further on.

Many of the dodgy structures have been replaced by new steel bridges.

On the first one we run into a “fanclub” who mob us to they take pictures of each other with their cellphone cameras.

The road skirts around wetlands and we start to see game along the way to the Main gate.

There’s an intersection before the entrance (there is no gate) with an office to the right and what looks like a private campsite towards the left. We turn right and meet up with Morris, who runs the office. He’s friendly enough but quite insistent that “those Hondas” aren’t allowed in. “Are BMWs welcome then?” but he misses the joke and refers us down the road to “one of the private camps”.
There are some of the, sandier sections to navigate before we get there, but what we find is quite a pleasant surprise.

It’s called the Nkasa Lupala tented lodge, and from a deck with a mokoro décor theme we have a great view over the marsh in front of a wooden deck. There’s cold beer, and we settle down to enjoy some whilst asking about the entertainment and accommodation options.

The tent lodges are N$1400 per night per person (about USD 170), but there’s a community campsite “only 10 minutes away”. This turns out to be an understatement as we have to retrace our tracks to Mamili’s office, back a few km to the main road to reach it:

You could do worse than this, with a fresh fire under the “donkey” for hot showers and firewood provided for free. In the bushes behind our tents an elephant is munching away at the branches.

On the other side is an open “kitchenette” with a fireplace where we prepare our supper on our community hosts’ grille as the sun sets over the water covering the marshes in front of us. What can I say but “Another great day in Africa”?

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Old 10-31-2012, 01:43 PM   #19
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Amongst the offerings at the Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge is a game drive. Since our Hondas are not welcome in the reserve, we have booked a game drive for the next morning. By six o’clock we are sipping coffee and our guide, Joster, soon arrives in his Land Cruiser with two German tourists aboard. There are elephants all along the road we covered twice yesterday.

While the sun is just rising Joster takes us past a large termite mound and explains that, after the insects have been devoured by an anteater, warthogs like to move into the empty shell.

We struggle a bit to match the animals we see with Joster’s nomenclature- he has his own names for the animals in the reserve, like the new “Sad Will stork”.

Despite driving right up to the Kwando river, we see no predators but only some buffaloes far away, a few impala and elephants closer by and quite a few water birds in between.

Until some reed buck jump across the road.

It’s windy by the time we get back at the camp and pack for the next reserve. The return to the main road is much quicker than the previous day and we soon pass another two-track turnoff. It’s the Mudumo Game Reserve, but we give it a miss. Bikes are not likely to be welcome there either.

30 km up the road we pass a little village and go looking for supplies.

Unfortunately the beer is warm because the paraffin for the fridge ran out.

Across the road, better luck.

A little further is the turnoff to Camp Kwando, our next destination, less than 2 km from the main road.

We can Highly Recommend this place!

Surprisingly, the campsite is “full” but after some negotiation a spot for 3 bikes and 2 tents is found, as well as a braai grid for the meat packs on sale at the office.

After setting up the tents, we settle down on the deck overlooking the river after which the camp is named. The sight is stunning.

Mrs Owl is mesmerised …

… by the Jacanas walking on the water below.

It’s time for a boat trip up the Kwando river with the camp’s aluminium boat. Like the rest of the camp, it’s well organised and includes drinks.

Naturally, there’s quite a bit of bird life along the river banks and we spot bee-eaters and kingfishers, some plovers and the usual crocodiles.

Another pod of hippos.

We return after sunset and set about preparing supper. Across from us two semi-retired couples from Swakopmund spoil us with cold Windhoek lager and wine. They make up for the meagre braaipacks we bought.

Next morning we get some advice for other places to stay from our new friends, who line up to see us off.

We exchange addresses and head out for the short ride to our next campsite.

A few hundred metres from Camp Kwando is a “mansion” behind two imposing baobabs. We pop in to see what is happening behind the thatch fence.

There are only men, and they are busy brewing some umqombothi (sorghum beer). Surprisingly, they are using South African ingredients!

We are shown around by Mike Kamburi, who is actually from Divundu (200 km to the west) where he has a plot of 20 ha. He wants some help to farm it, but there is not much we can do even when we get there two days later.

It turns out they have a vegetable store in one of the huts. Pity we did not stop by yesterday!

There’s a wide gravel highway with more road works along the way to Kongola.

We get fuel, but the Trading Store is closed - it’s Sunday! Fortunately, we can get some fresh coffee across the road at a small café run by a German fellow with a local partner. He’s happy to sell some of the stuff, as he usually ends up drinking it all by himself.

Our next camp is just across the river from here, and fortunately there is a kuka shop along the way, open for business.

We pass underneath the new 350kV transmission line connecting central Namibia to Zambia’s power grid (and not Ruacana, as I first thought).

The bridge across the Kwando river is the gateway into the Bwatabwata National park, our next destination.

The turnoff to Bumhill camp is directly after the bridge. We have had reports that it is run-down and has been abandoned. The sign points skyward and the brick buildings nearby are burnt out, the water-tower is devoid of a tank.

But three of the platforms overlooking the Kwando river are still intact, with bathrooms and solar water heaters, although most of the thatch is on the ground.

We settle on the largest platform and, grabbing some of the thatch into a bundle, quickly sweep the floor clean.

Within a few minutes the tents are up, food is laid out, riding kit is blowing in the breeze and it’s time to unpack the booze.

Beer from a cup, cider from a bottle and a truly spectacular setting.

We make supper upstairs, watching the power lines coruscating on the horizon while Errol counts the gearchanges of the trucks crossing the bridge.

The ablution blocks are falling apart, but fresh water is 100m downhill, where we are able to clean up ourselves and the utensils.

But we are not alone.

Kudu and impala graze in the forest, where elephants have made their mark by rubbing the bark off a large baobab.

We later hear that this tree is actually a member of the aloe family, and its bark has medicinal qualities that the elephant make use of.

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Old 11-20-2012, 12:22 AM   #20
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Buffalo Soldiers

Despite the state of disrepair, the location and view at Bumhill are really appealing (not to mention the fee!). After a tranquil night we grudgingly clean up, pack up and turn west onto the Transcaprivi highway (B8) towards Rundu. As elsewhere, the tarred roads are ruler-straight.

The distances here are too great to supply water to the settlements from a reservoir, so it’s boreholes and manual pumps.

During the Border War, South Africa had bases spread all along Namibia’s northern border. We pass Omega (former base of 31 Battalion). Its members were bushmen used as trackers by the Portuguese secret police (who called them flechas =arrows) against the Angolan liberation forces (MPLA, FNLA and Unita). When the Portuguese withdrew, the South African Defence Force absorbed them into combat group Alpha, later renamed Omega. hence the name of the base.

Sixty km further, we reach the turnoff to the former base of 32 Battalion or Bravo group. This counter-insurgency unit consisted of former FNLA soldiers trained and led by white South African officers. Since their insignia comprised a buffalo head, they came to be known as the Buffalo soldiers.

31 and 32 Battalion were involved in most of the major operations of the Border War. We decide to take a look at the abandoned base. The gate down the road is unmanned and wide open.

On the left of the road is the workshop and officers mess, on the right the NCO quarters.

The NCO’s quarters consist of small huts. The furthest ones are next to the Okavango river.

There’s not a soul around, and every last door frame, window and roof sheet is gone.

In the corner, spent 12.7 mm cartridge cases lie overgrown by weeds. The war is over.

Out of the 1791 SADF casualties during the 23-year conflict, 146 were from this unit. The cemetery is further down the road in what is now ironically called Buffalo Game Park but again, no bikes are allowed.

The names of the members who were killed in action have been engraved on plaques on the unit’s Ere Stomp (Tree of Honour). This was moved to the Voortrekker monument in Pretoria when the base was closed down.

So far, the Africa Twins have been lavished with attention. Now the Dakar starts to demand its share, beginning with a disintegrated mudguard on the corrugations back to the main road.

Back on the B8 we cross the Kavango river before getting to Divundu. Signposts clamour for our attention- stay with us!

The local garage is out of fuel, but there is a welcome bakery selling fresh food.
We turn south from the B8 to head for Botswana. At the turnoff, a cow on offer in kit form. Not very appetising.

The lodges advertised further back unfold to our left, hugging the path of the river. Popa Rapids has a campsite and an entrance fee. For N$20 we are allowed to have a look, but not much is visible (or audible) from the riverbank, even when we ride up onto the beach.

Tour operators have pitched their tents at the campsite, but there's not much of an atmosphere despite the location.

We ride a few kilometres further to Camp Kwando, which was warmly recommended by our Swakopmund friends a few days ago. After a sandy approach we pull up in front of Cameron, a portly gentleman with a bushy grey beard and a welcoming smile.

There are three clocks at Reception, and the bottom one is local time: Nunda Time is… no time!

We get shown around the campsite by Mathilda and after briefly considering a tented camp (with en-suite bathroom), we plump for a plain camping spot near the river. It’s almost within sight of a pod of hippos, who apparently forage here at night, too.

After cleaning up (there is even a filtered water tap at the ablution block) we settle down on the deck for a sundowner. The light gently fades as we drain our drinks and settle down for dinner in the dining room.

Sundowns don't come much prettier than this...

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Old 11-29-2012, 10:44 PM   #21
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Time to Turn Back

As at most of these places, boat rides are on offer. We arrange a mokoro trip the next morning, to take a closer look at the “waterfall”. Our guide Joseph, who tells us his father was a member of Koevoet battalion, and after the war they stayed in South Africa until 1996, when he decided to move back to his roots.

The mokoro gets towed upstream by the camp’s cruising boat and we get dropped off a stone’s throw from the falls.

The “beach” is really sandy, with rocks jutting out on the short climb to the falls. Close up, Popa Falls looks more impressive than before.

Wildlife along the shore is limited to crocodiles and waterbirds like this reed cormorant.

Local fishermen compete with both for a catch. The water is pretty shallow along the riverbanks- it’s the end of the dry season.

Joseph points out a jackalberry tree and explains that our campsite has been named after the seeds (Nunda).

Back at the camp, we reluctantly pack out bags. We’ve reached the furthest point of our trip, and now it is time to start the return ride home.

It’s a short stretch from Nunda to the Botswana border, and after the formalities plus another 50 Pula road tax we soon reach the Mahango Game Reserve again (we passed through it last year on the way to Kaokoland). We get warned to stay on the main gravel road through the reserve after signing the register at the gate.

After a “splash and dash” for fuel in Shakawe we cover the 10 km to Drotsky’s Lodge. Ikageng is at reception and waves us on down the road to the campsites after making arrangements to join in the sit-down supper.

We end up next to site we had a year ago and take our time to set up camp before drifting over to the bar for a beer with Cyril, who is running the camp and has been around these parts for decades. We quiz him about the northern loop around the delta, which we considered doing, but he says its all reserves and not accessible by bike.

After a great buffet supper We light up a fire - because we can!

As we are enjoying breakfast I spot a familiar face cleaning out the fireplace: it’s the man who found my GPS last year (ripped off my bike by the monkeys)!

Time to pack,

Time to pay. Mrs Drotsky is at reception with Ikageng and offers coffee on the house before we go, while I photograph the carved pangolin anteater (“ietermagog”) behind the counter. It is unique in being the only mammal with reptile-like scales.

We mention our interest in visiting the Moremi reserve and within one minute we are connected to Joyce and Simon Paul at Maun Rest Camps who say they can take us the next day- whoohoo!

I did mention that the Dakar was needing attention the previous day, and as we try to leave Drotsky’s, it won’t start. Fortunately after a quick tow the engine bursts into life. I should have paid more attention to this…

We ease down the road skirting the delta in a south easterly direction- we have been warned of speed traps. It’s a hot and boring ride.

Even the cattle seek out the shady spots.

After about 125 km we have a choice of two filling stations in Gumare.

150 km further brings us to Lake Ngami.

Our timing is spot on: the catch of the day is just being hauled in, while piles of fish are being scaled and gutted nearby.

Bream, bream, bream

All along the shore, Marabou storks stand watching for scraps while the fishermen keep a beady eye on them.

One of the fishermen asks for help with his Chinese outboard motor and we decide to do our good deed for the day. After some stripping and fiddling it is obvious that the motor has seized. A sharp smack with a rock and spanner succeed in freeing the piston, but after two pulls on the starter it’s stuck again- we recommend a rebuild to the hapless owner.

There’s another veterinary fence just outside Maun where we get a free Wash ‘n Go before proceeding.

We reach Maun late in the afternoon and after getting some fresh supplies at the local Spar and a bundle of firewood en route we scan the side of the road for signs to Maun Rest Camp.

We find it soon enough and find Joyce in the office, with a string of dogs in tow.
There is a permanent tent available, but then Simon arrives in his Land Cruiser and suggests “The Green House”.

Once we get there, we call it heaven.
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:56 AM   #22
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Awesome! Great photos. I'd love to go there someday.
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:24 AM   #23
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You have just added the Caprivi Strip to my bucket list.
Thanks for a great report.
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Old 12-18-2012, 01:30 PM   #24
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Moremi to Kokonje

The Green House has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, fridge, fireplace outside, etc. etc. It’s like a home from home. After a great supper around the fire we go to bed early, as the departure for Moremi is at 05H30 the next morning.

The canvas curtains around the Land Cruiser's seats get closed before we leave, but the wind still takes its toll and despite our initial rejection, the blankets get pulled out one by one. From the end of the tar the corrugations rock us around until we pull up at South Gate an hour later.

The roads in Moremi are sandy two-tracks winding through a mopane forest.

The forest looks stunted once we have covered some distance from the gate - the trees are no more than 3 metres high as far as the eye can see. The cause of this phenomenon is the overpopulation of elephants- according to Simon there are three times more of them than the country (Botswana) can support; something has got to give.

Giraffe bow and scrape as we pass.

Simon is in his element and chats away as we head deeper into the park and stop for breakfast.

He has a theory about baobabs and elephants, believing that the animals are aware of the medicinal properties of this aloe-like plant….

…..while ignoring the danger of the huge kigelia Africana pods dangling overhead.

Although we fail to spot any predators, their prey abounds. In the bush,

in the marsh as we approach the water,

and obviously, below the water.

Third bridge is the furthest point from South Gate. There is a rest camp with ablutions where we get a chance to stretch our legs before setting off for the pans and the return leg.

Some oxpeckers hitching a ride see us off.

It’s dark by the time we return to our Green House and everyone turns in early- it’s been a long day!

We slowly pack up the next morning, and after scraping the cash together to pay our bill we say our goodbyes.

There’s a great coffee bar at Motsana, as well as a few curio shops and a dance floor. We indulge.

After refuelling in town we exit Maun and hit the road to Gweta.

Halfway there we pass two motorbikes alongside the road: it’s Marko & Sylvie again!

We stop to compare notes (and bikes). They go for the pannier look.

I want to pass by Baynes Baobabs, 30 km from A3 road, but it is inside the Nxai Pans reserve and again, no bikes allowed. So it’s Planet Baobab outside Gweta for us instead, where we are welcome.

There’s an open restaurant and well-stocked bar where we get something cold to drink.

Old news photos and Drum magazine covers line the edge of the roof; in our corner are a few featuring a very young Winnie Mandela!

We refuel and restock at Nata without much ado and I try to up the pace a bit to try to get to our destination for the day before nightfall.

At Dukwi we turn west off the main road …

… to Sua Pan, and Kokonje Island.

It's mainly two-track stuff, with sandy washes every now and then.

A momentary lapse of concentration through a dry riverbed results in the first crash of our trip. I should have paid more attention to this.

As the light fades we still have 20 km to go, but this is not the time to discuss the distance to go. “Amper daar” is the best answer.

We reach Kwadiba gate at last, and fortunatey it is still open. We sign the register and head straight for the pans. Under our wheels, the soil imperceptably turns to salt.

The tracks start to criss-cross all over the place as we approach the island and begin searching for a suitable camping spot. We eventually locate a short gravelly track into the grass around the edge of the island, pitch our tents and prepare our last supper under the stars.

By now we are down to our last packed rations. It’s a bag of "instant" fish pie and it looks as appetising as it sounds; everyone claims they aren't hungry, but the cold beer from Nata makes it palatable.
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Old 12-20-2012, 03:25 PM   #25
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:11 PM   #26
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Absolutely stunning.

This is one of the reasons I love ride reports - to see a place I would likely never get to experience myself.
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Old 12-20-2012, 08:34 PM   #27
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Amazing Ride Report

Thank you for posting the wonderful ride report and pictures. This is a trip I dream of, and it is inspirational to see you accomplish it!

All the Best,
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Old 12-20-2012, 09:18 PM   #28
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Great stuff, reminds me of my only vsisit to Africa a few years ago when I went to Botswana to help train bush fire fighters for a few weeks. Great place and great people, I'll be back.

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Old 12-20-2012, 09:34 PM   #29
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Great Report !!!!!!!!
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Old 01-09-2013, 06:56 PM   #30
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Great ride report - really appreciate the time you took to take the photos and describe it to us.
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