Monday, April 18, 2011

Swakop to Swakop via Windhoek and Uis

Our Serengeti in Namibia

Nick's Captains pose

Lizzard carved into a dead tree at Gecko Camp

Gecko Camp

Panniers getting their first few stickers

Long grass where there should just be desert and rocks

Beautiful passes on route to Swakopmund

Finally in the!

Lighthouse on the beach at Walvis Bay

1 out of many seal colonies scattered on the beach

Sudden panic as we came over the mound of sand towards the seal colony...the seal in the middle cracks us up!

Driving the beach at Walvis Bay looking out on the Atlantic

Salt Pan

Salt factory

Lorraine, Teeny and Mrs Skolnic

Swakopmund Beach

Swakopmund lighthouse

Yamaha team and the new tyres on Nick's bike

Typical street in Swakopmund

Ananda, Lali and Nick

Ananda, Teeny and Nick outside Village Cafe - awesome spot!

The salt roads are excellent

Cant believe we spotted these two eggs in a nest on the side of the road

Sand...the relatively shallow bit

as far as Teeny could make it in this sand..

Eish - Teeny wasn't even supporting the bike it was standing in the sand on its own!

So green...

Getting rained on on a sunshining day!

Apparently the roads are degraded and dangerous??

Scanning the water crossing before attempting it

We've seen quite a few snakes dead on the road, a result of the rains

So much water we even saw a waterfall!

'Joes, Windhoek, Namibia'

One of row of many empty Jagermister bottles

Fallen soldiers - these were so yummy!
This is the traditional way to drink Kleiner Keiler - cap on your nose and no hands allowed

Oil change in Windhoek

The brightest rainbow after hiding in the storm water drain

Toasties on the fire

Omaruru camp spot


Yay! more sand and rumples - EISH

Sunset at Die Brandberg

Die Brandberg in the background

The big tree where Nick sat down to relax, only to notice his radiator leaking...

Africa 2 Anywhere in the desert sand on route to Swakopmund again

Shipwreck just passed Henties Bay from 2008
Southern into Central Namibia

After being told about beautiful passes that are a must see in the area, we headed out of Sesriem towards Solitaire and onto the district road. The mountains rise up sharply from the landscape along this route, and with long grass on either side of us we were blown away at one point to be riding at the same speed alongside a Springbok only 30m off the road. With the early start we had had to go to Soussusvlei, after a short ride we found a camp site (Gecko Camp) and enjoyed the cool weather up at the viewpoint 20m from our tent. It felt like we had the Drakensberg mountains behind us, while the flat plateau extended about 10km wide in front of us looking like the Serengeti. A very relaxing afternoon reading our books and watching the clouds roll in, we jumped into bed early listening to the light rain on the tent.

From Gecko Camp we back tracked to Solitaire to get some food and water for the day’s trip to Walvis Bay. We were amazed to hear that there had been so much rain the night before that they had had to drain the restaurant and shop of all the water. Yet 30km up the road we had only experienced light showers. We were advised that the route through the Gamsberg Pass (the highest passable route in the area) would be washed away with lots of river crossings and that it would be better for us to stick to the main road towards Walvis Bay. So we did as we were advised and travelled through the Naute Namib Nature Reserve. Apparently the Nature Reserve we experienced is something completely different to normal. Where we saw rolling fields of long grass and shrubs should have been pure desert with only rocks. As people have told us, we chose the most beautiful time to visit Namibia and although we know no different we still appreciate everything we have seen imagining what is should look like. The midday temperatures were quite something, and we decided to take a break under the shade of a tree to eat our last breadroll and let the bikes cool down a bit. The road was quite tough going with lots of rumples and gravel middle mannetijies and took a lot of concentrating. By the time we were going through the true desert area, we were pretty tired and happy to see the Walvis Bay tar road and Dune 7 in the distance.

Arriving on Saturday afternoon in Walvis Bay, the tourist information centre was closed, so we headed straight to the Walvis Lagoon area and sat watching the huge flocks of birds and kite surfers enjoying the hot sun and wind. We needed more airtime to contact Lorraine, Teeny’s mom’s very good family friend, so we navigated our way to Spar where we called Lorraine. With arms wide open we were welcomed into their house and treated to a super yummy roast chicken and large king sized bed for the night. Lorraine, Brian and Mrs Skolnic moved to Walvis Bay from South Africa, Pietermaritzburg, a year ago, and were able to give us great comparisons of the differences between Namibia and South Africa. For example vegetables are much more expensive in Walvis Bay, the sand storms are crazy, the light poles are constructed higher so they are above the night time fog and the road maintenance is very prompt with workers out soon after a storm to repair the roads. Although, what is interesting is that the sudden increase in rainfall has wreaked havoc with their infrastructure, with roads and water pipelines being washed away. This meant that Walvis Bay had water restrictions during daytime, with water being turned off between 10:00-18:00. This took some getting used to, and was even more confusing with Namibia being 1 hour behind South Africa.

Treated to a Sunday morning breakfast of bacon and eggs, we slowly got the day started. Brian took us around the lagoon, past the salt factory and salt pans to go see the seal colonies that scatter the beach. The drive was about an hour through the Walvis Bay desert and beach in the scorching heat. Arriving at the shore we watched the curious seals playing around an old pier with the rest of the colony lazing around on the beach. We then drove back following the shore line with the much welcomed cool sea breeze from the Atlantic ocean. Dead seals are, sadly, scattered along the beach, and it is believed they are dying either due to a lack of food or natural causes as there are no predators in the area. We finished the day off with a true South African style braai and once again jumped into bed with full bellies. It was very special to spend time with Lorraine as she was Teeny’s mom’s bridesmaid back in the day, and the family knows so much about Teeny’s family and their time they spent in Namibia. Thank you again for spoiling us throughout our stay!

Walvis Bay to Swakopmund is only a 35km stretch with the Atlantic Ocean to your left, and rolling sand dunes to your right. We had pushed our bike tyres as far as we felt comfortable, and planned to spend the morning in Swakopmund having the tyres changed at the local Kawasaki shop. Unfortunately they had closed their doors, but we luckily found a Yamaha dealer to help us out. While that was being done, we walked the streets of the very beautiful and clean Swakopmund down to the beach. Along the way we found ‘Village Café’, where we were told to pop in and say hi to a good friend of Teeny’s – Simon – girlfriend Lali. Before we knew it, we had been invited to stay at her place for the night so we could spend more time exploring Swakopmund. How lucky we are to meet such wonderfully kind people!!

We spent some time with the Yamaha team who told us about other motorbike adventurers travelling the world, and about routes we should take heading further north in Namibia. Thankful for their help, we left the shop with new tyres on our bikes, and set off to find Lali’s place. Lali is a very warm, friendly person with interesting stories from her time spent in Argentina and parts of Europe. After chatting and having a few cold drinks we headed out for yummy pizza for dinner.

Tuesday turned out to be quite a slow start to the day and we managed to potter around until 12pm before leaving Swakopmund on the C28 – the scenic route to Windhoek. We had been told that the rain had caused a lot of damage to the road and that we should take great care while riding it. Quite funnily enough even the GPS stated that parts of the roads were ‘dangerous’. With this in mind we went drove along quite happily for the first 80km still being tar road, probably due to the mining operations in the area. It was after this tar road that things got a little hairier…or should we say sandier! If there is one thing Teeny doesn’t like – it’s riding sand on a motorbike! And after lots of warnings from Nick about not trying to save the bike if its going down – Teeny managed a very comical tumble in the one sand crossing on the road. She had hardly gotten very far in the sand crossing before her bike dug down and she went tumbling over the top – no injuries and no damage on the bike we dusted everything off and carried along the road – which luckily seemed to improve. Again we were so lucky to have been told about this route through to Windhoek. The scenery, mountains and greenery were amazing and if you are ever in the area we would definitely recommend this route. We saw lots of warthog crossing the road, waterbuck and cows and went winding through in awe at how beautiful the area was. Hoping to push through to Windhoek, our late start had not helped us, and before we knew it we were riding through water crossings during dusk. It was at this point that Nick realised his light on his bike was no longer working, and only his brights worked. Relieved we spotted a campsite –Harmonia Campsite – about 90km outside of Windhoek and pulled in for the night.

The short stretch through to Windhoek in the morning was quick and easy with a few more river crossings. Again we searched for the Kawasaki dealer on arrival, and again we were disappointed to hear they had moved and sold up most of their parts to another shop owner. Figuring we could sort this out later, we called Simon and spent the rest of the afternoon doing washing and chilling at his place. If you have ever, or should you ever go to Windhoek, there is an establishment called ‘Joes’ which is a must see bar/restaurant in the Country’s capital. Decorated with pretty much anything and everything from bicycles to Gemsbok heads to millions of empty Jagerrmister, the ambience and food at this place is fantastic! Simon introduced us to a shooter called ‘Kleiner Keiler’ a spicy cherry and vodka shooter – delicious! We are surprised these aren’t sold in South Africa! Partying it up with Simon brought back great memories of all the time we had spent at Joe Kools in Durban when we were younger!!

The next day we were particularly slowed up after our Joes experience, and managed to finally drag ourselves to the nearby shopping centre to replenish stocks and purchase a little notebook – Yay! We figured that it will be cheaper to write up our blogs on the notebook and sift through the countless pictures on our own laptop for free before uploading it all at the internet café. Let’s hope we can manage to keep the thing charged throughout our travels ;)

From Windhoek we were told that it was very important for us to see an area called Uis and the highest mountain range Die Brandberg. Although it was a bit of back tracking again, we had been told by so many different people how beautiful it was and how it was a must see. This was the wettest day of our trip so far. At one stage the wind was so strong that we pulled over and found a water drain to sit under while the rain pummelled down including tiny hail stones – lucky we had stopped just in the nick of time! (Now picture this - 2 motorbikers pull over for shelter in a storm water drain in a country that is in the middle of huge floods and storms - quite comical isn`t it !!)Two of the brightest rainbows we had ever seen then covered the sky as we set off again straight into another big storm cloud. Riding this one through we were so thankful for the excellent rain gear we had received as a prezzie. After this, the clouds cleared for the rest of our trip to a spot called Omaruru. The well maintained camping site also included what we assume to be a bird breeding spot. We listened to the loud African Greys, Macaws and an array of budgies and parrots while we cooked toasties on the fire and used the heat to dry out our soaked socks, and finished writing up our last blog report.

Omaruru through to Uis was an easy drive on a very good road. We took it slow lapping up the scenery before arriving at the very little town of Uis. This place developed mostly as a result of the tin mining in the area, and the local tourism information centre (with internet facilities) had lots of stories about the local people and bushman paintings in the area. One interesting story that stuck with Teeny, was about early explorers to the region. They were on their way back through Uis after having scoped out the area when they stopped overnight just outside where the town is currently located. They cooked their meat over the fire they made from the local bushes, and due to the toxicity of the wood all 16 of them died in their sleep on the spot. Immediately afterwards Teeny asked the local people to point out which plant they used, and took a mental note of what it looked like.

After using their facilities, we jumped on the road towards Die Brandberg, formed from volcanic activity in the region years and years ago. Hoping to find a campsite called Ugabs, we decided that we should probably stay one night in the lodge we had been told was amazing: Die Brandberg White Lady lodge. The ‘White Lady’ is in actual fact a bushman painting initially thought to be a painting of a white lady, however further research into the drawing actually found it to be a picture of a man holding things used for traditional medicine. Not sure on the misinterpretation, but that was one of the other stories read at the tourist information centre. The road to the campsite was very difficult, with lots of rumples and yet again stretches of sand! Finally we arrived, very hot and tired! It was at this point, just as Nick sat down to relax at the base of a big tree that he noticed water dripping from his radiator. Ahh the first bike problem on our trip! After taking everything apart, it was decided that we would need to go to Swakopmund again, to the Yamaha team for help! So after a hearty meal we jumped into bed early to be up early to start the trek back south.

We contacted Lali and Simon who opened their doors again to us and provided us with a place to stay in Swakopmund.  So the evening was spent drowning our sorrows in red wine and home made pizza while enjoying the great company.  Today we are sitting in Swakopmund, waiting to hear from Mario at the Yamaha shop about whether or not the radiator expert in the area can fix Nick’s radiator...

1 comment:

  1. Wow Guys!!!
    Looking forward to catching up with you in Tanzania soon.
    Doug and Ms