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Saturday, 10 July 2010

Angola into Namibia

It was a welcome relief to finally get to the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Not our favorite country to date. As we rode up to the first checkpoint on the DRC side however, one of the policemen told us the border was closed due to it being market day. Having crossed a few borders we were immediately skeptical and bypassed the bloke and soon enough were heading across the border into Angola. We were stoked to have finally made it here after all the dramas we experienced in obtaining our visas. That night we camped just inside the Angolan border.

Our first two days in Angola saw us riding on a mixture of roads ranging from very good to bloody awful. On our first day we were on a reasonable 70km piste from the border to Mbanza Congo. Then the route from Mbanza Congo to N'zeto which was a mixture of good tarmac and fairly good piste. With the gas station in Mbanza out of gas we had to fill up from a bloke on the side of the road in N'zeto. He made a bit of a killing, selling the petrol and two and a half times the price at the pump.

We pushed on that afternoon on the road towards Luanda. This was pretty tough. Quite sandy leaving N'zeto with the road gradually deteriorating as we went along. Some of the potholes were enormous and the road got worse as it became a mixture of old tarmac and gravel which saw our bikes take a bit of a hammering. The next day we hit Luanda and found our first petrol station with petrol. Just after filling up I heard this bloke behind me say, "Hello mate" in a scouse accent. After quickly checking my wallet was still in my pocket I turned around and met Marco, a Portuguese fella who had done his schooling in Liverpool who was now working in Angola. He had spotted our UK plates and very kindly offered to show us the route for the bypass of Luanda and then brought us to a cafe where he shouted us lunch. A really nice bloke.

That night we made camp on the coast south of Luanda. The beach was awesome. Long and pretty much deserted. We made a fire from driftwood and settled down for a night under the stars. Aaaah life is good.

A hard days riding the following day saw us reach Benguela. We were tired and a bit cranky after riding around 500km on fairly good road. That night we slept like babies and were up at dawn the next day, headed for Lubango. Near Lubango we visited Tundavala, a mountain which lead to a shear cliff overlooking the valley below. An awesome sight. We camped at a nearby lake that evening and for the first time since Spain, felt cold at night. Hans reckoned it reached zero degrees and sure enough there was a touch of frost on the ground when we got up the next day.

The following day we headed towards the border with Namibia. Again the roads were of mixed quality. As we drew closer to the border we saw plenty of evidence of Angola's turbulent past. Wrecked and mangled armored vehicles and buildings riddled with bullet holes. Mines were used readily in the conflict here. There are still thousands of live mines in Angola and we were shocked at the number of one legged men on crutches we saw as a result. Quite sobering to think that there was still conflict here only 15 years ago and that tourists have only recently been allowed into the country which has really opened up the overland route through the west coast of Africa.

On the road we met two Spaniards on their bicycles. They had been on the road for two and a half years and had been all over the world starting from Nepal. It was great to stop and chat to them. They had great things to say about Namibia.

Later that day arrived at Santa Clara and the border with Namibia. We crossed into Oshikango, Namibia and all of a sudden it felt like we were back in civilization. There were shops, fast food and gas stations that actually had petrol. It was a bit unnerving! As we left Oshikango we were stopped and our passports were checked by the police. We had a problem. Hans' new passport, which had been issued in Kinshasa, was showing up as being flagged by INTERPOL, apparently having been stolen in Moldova and used for all sorts of dodgy goings on. Hans explained to the policeman that it was obviously a mistake and that the number must have been duplicated at the time his new passport was issued but it was a good couple of hours before he could convince them end we were on our way.

That night we camped near the border. Finding a place to camp in Namibia was quite hard as unlike every other country in Africa we had seen, most places were fenced. The next day we rode south on fantastic tarmac towards Etosha national park. We were both keen to see some wildlife, Hans in particular, who had missed out on the elephants in Burkina Faso owing to his clutch problems. We stayed at a fantastic campsite, Sachsenheim, near the northern boundary to the park and there we were introduced to Donny, a bloke who worked on the farm there and who also made the best kudu biltong and droeworst you ever tried.

We asked, but were unable to ride our bikes into Etosha. Something about the eminent danger of us being eaten by lions. So we found a guide with an open canopied Land Cruiser and visited in the late afternoon. The morning and afternoon are apparently the best time to see wildlife as during the heat of the day the animals are fairly inactive. Our guide, Emelda, the only female guide working in the park was great. She had a great knowledge of the park and the animals. She also had a fully stocked bar in a cooler with her.

As we drove into the park we encountered wildlife almost immediately. First some of the smaller antelope, springbok and black faced impala then giraffes and some of the larger species of antelope, eland, kudu and orynx. Emelda asked us, "So which animal would you most like to see. "Lions", we replied without hesitation. So as we drove through we kept a sharp eye out for one of the big predators. As we continued we had no luck with the lions but came across a black rhino at one of the water holes. We were extremely fortunate to see this rare animal. Soon after our luck continued and we came across a breeding herd of at least 80 elephant. Wow! They were amazing. The herd consisted mainly of mothers and their calves along with the odd bad tempered adolescent male. Again Emelda commented on how lucky we were to see such a magnificent herd.

As the sun sat low on the horizon we started driving back to the park entrance (you aren't allowed in the park after sunset). We were totally amazed at the amount of wildlife we had seen. Me and Hans were talking to each other when suddenly Emelda said, "Lion!", and there walking towards us across the veld was a lioness, off for her evening hunt. She was amazing. Big and graceful. We watched as she came right up to our vehicle, apparently unperturbed, and looked on as she crossed the road in front of us and trotted away. A truly amazing sight. Namibia was certainly living up to the hype.

After a couple of days relaxing at Sachenheim, we continued south west, towards the coast. En route we stayed at another fantastic campsite, Sophienhof near Outjo. The place was owned by a German chap and managed by a really nice couple, Barty and his friend Yvonne. As we arrived and pulled up with our bikes, they said, "Great, you are just in time to feed the cheetahs". Awesome. The next thing you know we are passing pieces of meat through a fence and feeding them by hand. They were amazing animals. Still pretty wild. Each had been caught on one of the local farms. Normally farmers here shoot animals that could potentially prey on their stock. We heard of animals like lions and hyenas being shot by farmers on a regular basis. To their credit Barty and Yvonne had taken three cheetahs in and kept them in a large fenced off field where they seemed quite happy. That night we had a great braai and knocked back a few beers as we overlooked a floodlit watering hole where kudu, wildebeest and orynx came to drink. The next day we left and were surprised when our bar bill wasn't included in our bill. We queried it and Barty and Yvonne insisted it was on them. They wouldn't take no for an answer, really nice, generous people.

We headed further west on fairly good gravel roads. The weather was perfect and the scenery amazing. We stopped at Brandberg, the tallest mountain in Namibia and there visited some ancient rock paintings made by Bushmen. The most famous of these paintings is known as the White Lady. 'She' is actually a bloke, a San medicine man and has been depicted in white. Our guide reckoned that some of the paintings are up to 2000 years old.

Following more gravel roads we headed further west to the Skeleton Coast. We headed north, around 30km north of Henties Bay and set up camp on the beach. It was an awesome spot. We had camped in some pretty cool places throughout our trip but I reckon this would have to be my favourite. Miles and miles of deserted coastline, punctuated by the odd shipwreck.

The next day we headed south to Swakopmund. Hans reckons Swakopmund is more German than Germany with the German colonial past evident everywhere. We stayed at a camp site near the beach and there met an interesting bloke. Tango, a Lithuanian chap who had ridden his KLR 250 all the way from Lithuania down the west coast like us. He had done amazingly well considering he only had 1,500 euros when he was in Morocco and no Carnet de Passage.

He had had a great adventure and was about to embark on another as he had just found a bloke with a yacht who was sailing to South America in a few days. We were a bit concerned as apparently it would be just the two of them and the skipper had only four weeks sailing experience but Tango seemed pretty happy with the arrangement. Hans taught him a few knots and we said bon voyage.

We also met Darren, a kiwi with an old Land Rover Defender who had done quite a bit of traveling through the Sahara and had tackled the west coast like us for the first time. We could only look on in envy at his setup, complete with solar panels, roof tent and fridge. Man we could have done with a fridge in the Sahara.

We stayed in Swakopmund for a few days. Lots of beer and a braai every night for dinner, our bodies enjoying their re-acquaintance with red meat. Hans did a tandem skydive while we were there as well. He had a pretty full on experience when his instructor had to jettison the main chute and go to the reserve at 2000 feet. He didn't even have to pay extra.

Leaving Swakop, we headed to Winhoek, the capital city of Namibia. Hans had the GS booked in for a service at the BMW dealer there. We stayed at Chameleon backpackers and met some great folk there. We had heard of a place there called Joe's Beerhouse which was meant to have excellent steaks and we went there for dinner. Awesome. Hans had zebra, ostrich and orynx while I settled for the ribeye / fillet steak combo. They served beer in proper big steins. Jeez it was good.

The following day, whilst Hans' bike was in the garage, I had a few things to do on the AT. Just as we had arrived in Windhoek the previous day, my tail light, indicators, horn and dash lights had stopped working. I suspected a blown fuse and sure enough found that this was the case. I changed the fuse and tested the lights and horn. Bang. Blew another one. There must be a short somewhere. I remembered Mike had had the same problem when we were in Spain as his vibey KTM had caused wearing on the insulation wire to his headlight causing a short against the subframe. Recalling the fuse had blown shortly after I tested the horn, I checked the wiring there first. Sure enough, I found a small wire which had been trapped between the radiator grill and the subframe which had worn through. A bit of insulation tape and a new fuse and we were back in business.

My Africa Twin. She has done so well the entire trip. Never really missed a beat. If I did the same trip again I'd take the same bike. Yeah it's heavy and tall for me, but what a bike! Tough and reliable. No major hassles and the few that I have had were easily repaired. I lost the pin securing the rear brake pads to the caliper and managed to bodge a replacement with a piece of No. 8 wire and a cable tie. The bolt securing one of the bash plate bolts snapped in Nigeria on the piste leading to Cameroon and a jubilee clip sorted that problem. Apart from these and of course a few punctures, after the 27,000km we have covered since leaving England, the XRV is still going great.

After a few days in Windhoek and a final visit to Joe's Beerhouse, we headed south, first on tarmac and then gravel. Again the weather and scenery were unbelievable. Rugged hills, mountain passes and huge open valleys. We visited a place called Solitaire, a tiny hamlet consisting of a gas station, shop and bakery. We had heard the bakery made the best apple strudel this side of Hamburg and yeah it was pretty damn good.

Namibia had been an amazing place. We feel like we had only just scratched the surface of this fantastic country. After two weeks however, Hans and I were both keen to get to South Africa and see Mad Dog who was still in Cape Town waiting for his bike to be shipped from the Cameroon after his crash. So, we left the gravel and rode on tarmac towards the border. On the 3rd of July, 184 days after leaving the UK, we arrived at the Orange River, the border with South Africa, and crossed over....


  1. What great progress you have made , 27,000 kms amazing, a credit to the Africa Twin and of course its Rider.Has been a long wait for this blog and we are pleased that you are still having a great and safe journey. What are your plans after catching up with Mad Dog? (thats after the hangovers!)
    Safe travels.
    Love Dad and the Kiwi Kids

  2. "Jeez it was good". I loved this read again Simon. I always soak up the words and the pics but I realised looking at the lioness pic that it must feel so amazing to really experience it all! I can't wait to talk to you about all your adventures! Enjoy catching up with Mad Dog.
    Looking forward to the next blog as always. Much love Anna xxx

  3. Details of continuing journey are great, once again. I have to thank you for sharing all of this with us all. Amazing pictures too! :-) Hope you have a great reunion with Mad Dog - Love to all. Lynda & Map Man. xx

  4. Wow! I thought I was jealous when you told me of all the animals you'd seen, but now that I've seen the pictures I am even more jealous if that's at all possible!! That lioness got up really close. It must have been awesome (literally!). Enjoy your last few days, I'm really looking forward to seeing you! xxx

  5. Awesome Simon, amazing photos thank you for updating, Have a great reunion with Mad Dog and safe travels for the rest of your trip we look forward to the next update Take care Love Gav, Kendra & boys xxxx