Today we went for another walk along the beach and in the morning popped into town to catch up on emails and have a last breakfast together.
25/02/08 - Swakopmund
Charles went through great pains today to carefully build out the frame of Rensche's bike. And we are happy to announce it has been properly welded. And all put together again! Carmen, who is visiting for a few days, is having real trouble trying to find out how to fly her bike back to Germany from Cape Town or Windhoek with herself. Any ideas?
24/02/08 - Swakopmund
We spent some time uploading photo's and sending out CV's. Especially since we have not yet heard any replies from employers in the Eastern Cape for which we were aiming. Please have a look at our photo albums (Malawi and Zambia) and Route map as it have been updated.
23/02/08 - Swakopmund
What an easy day walking around the German town of Swakopmund! Elize arrived at lunch time and we were very interested to hear of all the opportunities for work in Namibia! Will keep you update!
22/02/08 - Brandberg - Swakopmund
We said good-bye to the other bikers, saying we will probably see them at Spitzkoppe. They advised us to give the White Lady Bushman painting a miss as it seems to have been painted over. So we set off towards Spitzkoppe. Charles gave Rensche's bike a go on the gravel road and found it much more skittish than his bike. We can only assume its because of the lowering link placing the wheels closer together and the new Dessert tyre on the front (changed from the Scorpion tyre in Sudan and Chinese cheapy in Windhoek).In hindsight it is not such a good idea to lower a bike so severely as it changes the dynamics of the bike. We will have to look for a new solution to a old problem in South Africa. We had a 100m long mud river crossings. Charles's bike fell over in the mud and Rensche and Charles both got plastered with mud while pushing bikes out of the mud. Just after we arrived at Spitzkoppe the other bikers arrived. We had lunch and decided to head for Swakopmund just 120km away (on tar) where Charles's sister lives. Arriving in Swakop we headed straight for the sea and stopped next to the old jetty for some photo's. It felt like we made it!!! We celebrated with coffee and apple pie at Cafe Trev. Unfortunately now the other side of the frame of Rensche's bike has also cracked. But at least we have a nice bed tonight and home comforts!
21/02/08 - Xaragu - Brandberg, White Lady Lodge
We got up at 04h00 this morning to watch the lunar eclipse. Very beautiful but was it worth it? It was already hot when we left at 08h00 to go to the Petrified Forest. This consists of fossilised wood formed about 250 million years ago. The cells in the trees are substituted with minerals like iron and magnesium which turns it into stone. The rings and bark on the massive tree trunks can clearly be seen. We also saw some Welwischia plants. There is one in Swakopmund that is about 2000 years old. The ones we saw were about 500 years old. They only have 2 leaves which are shredded by the wind into a number of leaves. After a cold drink we headed out to Brandberg. It was hard going on bad gravel and Rensche's bike was all over the place. A few muddy crossings here and there. Over a hill a dark cloud followed us and just before the camp site turn off we were hit by a hail storm! At last we arrived at the camp site through a long sandy track. At the camp site we bumped into Africa Motion Tours, a company that supply tourists with bikes and guided tours through Namibia. This time round they had 3 elderly gentleman from Germany, the oldest 75 years old! We joined them in the evening for some Damara song and dance from the local community and chatted well into the night. 20/02/08 - Xaragu
We had a difficult night sleeping due to the heat and we almost wished it would rain. At about 8ish we decided to go to Wondergat Sinkhole. The road was quite bad and Rensche's bike was more skittish than usual on the gravel. So going was slow in the heat. By the time we reached the San Rock Engravings we were already covered in sweat. The engravings are between 2000 and 5000 years old and are engraved because it was used for ritual purposes. Most of the engravings are of Rhino and Giraffe which were used as symbols for rain. There is also an interesting engraving of a lion with 5 toes which probably signifies the shaman or healer going into trance. Interestingly there are also engravings of seals and penguins which shows that the San people was nomadic. After that we went to see the Orrelpype (Organ Pipes) which is a miniature version of the Giant's Coarse Way in Ireland. After that it was the Burnt Mountain which looks like a big rock of coal. Unfortunately the road to Twyfelfontein is filled with nasty corrugations and when we returned to the camp we noticed that the only bolts keeping Rensche's topbox in place have now sheared off. When Charles tried to unscrew the remainder of the bolts out he found them very rusted and needed some persuasion at the garage of the camp site. New bolts were fitted and a new rod made to keep the seat and luggage rack into place. The welding will have to wait. It was 39C today. A high pitch aluminium noise have developed in Rensche's engine.
19/02/08 - Warmquelle - Twyfelfontein,Xaragu
Water crossings seem to be the theme of the last few days. We survived the washed away road down the mountain from Warmquelle just-just and started on the C-grade gravel road again. Bad gravel and rocky dry river crossings. We were still exhausted from the previous day and the heat didn't help. The vibration of Rensche's bike did something to the rev's on her bike and soon Charles had to adjust it as it was screaming down the hills. We started the day in relatively green bush but the terrain slowly changed and by the time we hit the Huab river it was a very hot day with a landscape of rock and mountains. We saw Springbok, Giraffe and Eland on the way. At the Xaragu campsite we followed the 2km dirt track to a lovely campsite. By this time it was very hot and we could feel the sweat running down our backs. At the bar after a few Rock Shandies (soda and lemonade with a dash of bitters) and a dip in the pool we were all right again! There are quite a few rescued animals at the site. Unfortunately most in cages as they could not be re-introduced into the wild, including a baboon on a long chain. Baboons are too dangerous to let them run wild in the camp grounds even when "tame". There is also a very cute meerkat running around making it's home in our tent. In the evening we had a lovely meal with the other guests of snoek, lamb chops and salads. As it was one of the guest's birthday the cooks sang Happy Birthday in English and Damara language. Damara language is very similar to San (Bushman) full of clicks. It was still very hot, 25C. For some reason Rensche's bike doesn't stall anymore when pulling in the clutch. (the problem we had in Windhoek). The bike is fixing itself!
18/02/08 - Opuwu - Warmquelle
Today is 6 months on the road. After buying bread and rusks we headed out of Opuwu and took the C47 south. Note that A and B roads in Namibia are tar roads which makes a C-road a "good" well graded gravel road. Well that applies during the dry season. The whole region received heavy rains two weeks ago and every kilometer of the road showed evidence of damage with the sand washed out leaving course gravel and most drifts left with deep gulleys and sand beds. We had to cross a few major river beds over boulders and rocks. Joubert's Pass was impressive with one section so steep that it has been tarred in the middle of this harsh area. (why could they not tar the whole road??) Approaching Sesfontein it became very hot, and we had to take a detour through a river bed while a road crew were finishing work on a new bridge across the Skelm river. We stopped at the Sesfontein fort Lodge but were told the campsite was closed this time of the year. In 1995 the owners got permission to take over the old German fort and renovate it converting it into a lodge. Where Fanta's cost you N$15 each! (RRP is N$4). As we could not camp we headed across to Warmquelle and took a VERY rocky road to the Ongongo Hot Springs and were totally exhausted when we arrived. This time both Rensche and Carmen dropped their bikes while negotiating tricky rocky sections. It was like being on a mountain goat. The camp owner, Leanna, provided us with beers and apologised for the state of the washed away road. She directed us to the waterfall where we took a lovely cooling dip. Charles remembered the pool and waterfall from his childhood days when his family took a trip to Damaraland. After the swim we had a nice long chat with Leanna, set up camp and watched the beautiful view over the mountains as the sunset. (Rensche's welding broke again-the topbox is now only held in place by two screws and a strap).
17/02/08 - Epupa Falls - Opuwu - 185km
It rained quite a bit during the night and we were wondering what the roads were like! Rensche's welding has also not survived the corrugations from the previous day. She took the lead at a slow 30km/h with her broken frame trying to avoid potholes and corrugations. Charles and Carmen followed in third and second gear. The road was a bit easier than yesterday, the sand harder from the rain. But there were a lot of water crossings, small streams and muddy ruts. We at last got to the river, which bridge was completely under a strong current of water! We waddled through the mud on the bikes to a bit of concrete on the bridge and then Charles took over and rode the bikes through the water to the other side. Rensche was sure all these water crossings were not in the brochure! Finally we got to a huge water puddle across the road. We were not sure if we could cross. A government pick up arrived and rudely told us that we stopped on the wrong side of the road. We were too amazed to answer him back that this is not a road, its a river bank! He went through no problem and Charles took the plunge. No problem but he also took Rensche's lowered bike which almost had water up to the spark plug. Carmen went through with heart stopping speed and skillful correction maneuvers... At Opuwu we aimed for a welder to get Rensche's bike welded again. There we noticed that the threaded rod holding the seat and luggage rack in place has broken too. At the moment her bike is vibrating so much everything is taking strain. We welded everything we could at the welder rather untidily for N$150 but it will have to do although he burnt more holes through the metal than welding. We also welded a new big foot onto Charles's side-stand which he lost somewhere on the road today and headed for the lodge.
16/02/08 - Opuwu - Epupa Falls - 185km
This morning Rensche's bike had to be kickstarted one more time in the cold with a bit of swearing. We think (and hope) its because she's been putting on her front light as is the custom in Namibia. So we are back on "Energy Saving" again! We had about 500m of tar and then to Epupa falls on a graded gravel road. It became really hot and we could see evidence of rain everywhere. We crossed a few muddy river beds and to our dismay passed quite a few begging kids. Its like being in Ethiopia all over again. There are also a lot of Himba people on the road but we didn't stop to take photo's as it is quite expensive. The graded road soon turned into a two-track. The road was really sandy here and there with corrugations and every few kilometers or so we had a washed away dry river bed to cross. At least no water but mud and sand. Carmen had a slip with her bike but nothing serious. We crossed the river via the bridge that was in flood just a few days ago and carried on up and down the track in the heat. At last after 5 hours we got to Epupa falls and stopped in the Epupa falls community run campsite right next to a very strong flowing Kunene river. Unfortunately they asked for N$60 per person for camping (we expected N$50 which the Germans paid a few days ago) and decided to camp at the lodge next door for N$75 for a bit more luxury. It was amazing to watch the river in full flood and even more to know that Angola is just across the water. We went to look at the Epupa Falls which was really beautiful. The dark clouds gathered and it started to rain.
15/02/08 - Outjo - Opuwu - 435km
We got up really early after a late night to watch Tannie Juliana give milk to a calf, whose mother was not producing any milk. But unfortunately the calf was sick and had really bad diarrhoea and we don't think it will make it. Juliana also showed us a very old milk churner which she uses to make cream. The farm foreman had a go at welding Rensche's bike at the crack in the frame which was now a very definite break in the frame. We said our good-byes and were on the road at about 08h30. We made good time and arrived at Kamanjab at 11h00 where we met Micheal and Sebastian (the Germans from Vic Falls and Botswana) at Falkenberg garage where they were having their landrover's brakes fixed again! It appears their mad watery dash across Botswana damaged the break discs so badly that they just keep eating up fresh break pads within 500km. After chatting for an hour or two and learning that over half the road from Kamanjab to Opuwu has been tarred we left. The road follows the boundary fence of the Etosha pan but we only saw a herd of springbok. Just after the end of the tar we came across a contractor crew working on opening the temporary road which had flooded. One of the guys directed us around a large muddy section and to ride along the edge of the base course. As we pulled up Charlie recognised the guy as Wiseman, who he worked with in the past at Grinaker about 6 years ago. The rest of the gravel road was well graded and smooth and the last tarred section got us to Opuwu in good time. We headed for the Opuwu country Hotel campsite as being the safest option in town for camping. After dragging them half-way across the world we at last had our Boboti instant camp food sachets for supper which didn't taste that bad but didn't look so good... Arriving in town and earlier today Rensche's bike had to be kickstarted again... We hope its not the old Sudan problem. The campsite is swarming with huge Mopani worm moths.14/02/08 - Windhoek - Outjo - 367km
After a quick sandwich at a coffee shop with Charlie's mom and a turn at a bakery to buy homemade rusks we took the road NORTH for the first time since leaving the UK. Half way between Okhanja and Otwarongo we turned off at Sukses to take the gravel road up to Otjo via Kalkveld but 1km down the road the road was flooded as far as the eye could see. So we turned back and took the tar road. All along the road there were large pools and most of the usually dry river beds were full of water. Arriving in Outjo we quickly filled up with petrol and bought some droewors (dried out beef sausage) and headed out to Rensche's family farm: Teufelsburg. Arriving at the farm we received a very warm welcome from Auntie Juliana and Uncle Hans who Rensche last saw about 16 years ago. Her cousin, Dederick, also arrived and took us for a spin on the beautiful farm up some very rocky hills in his 4X4 bakkie. The farm is in the Ugab Valley and beautifully green after the recent rains. Hard to believe that only 6 weeks ago they lost 4 cattle due to drought. There is also a plague of commando worms at the moment on the farm and Hans got some FREE Japanese insecticide and 2 stroke pump sprayer from the authorities to try and control it. In the evening we had the best Kudu steaks and T-bone and ate too much again! It was really great to catch up while playing with their huge Boerbull dogs. The farm is mainly for cattle but they also get people mainly from overseas to come and hunt.
13/02/08 - Windhoek
So early this morning we went to pick up Rensche's bike. Oliver was dismayed at the state of her engine. The moving crankshaft had done a lot of damage. He thinks that it is terminal. He managed to get the bike to idle but it still stalls when pulling in the clutch. He cannot guarantee that the bike will make it to Cape Town without a complete engine rebuild. He also found some bits missing from the carb which explains the erratic throttle. This news depressed us a bit but since the bike has been running on borrowed time from Cairo we decided to still do our planned trip through the north of Namibia and then back to Swakopmund. We still only asked for a tune-up and service. Oliver only charged us for an hour's labour, new chain and oil change and carb service and it only came to N$1000 (80 pounds)!!. He also mentioned that he wouldn't mind having a go at taking the covers completely of and having a good look at the engine. At a later date perhaps! What a nice guy! Afterwards we (Rensche, Charlie and Carmen) went to Beautiful Gate Namibia. They look after Pre-Primary and other orphans due to AIDS or broken homes during the day. We had a lot of fun with the kids sitting on our bikes and telling them our stories. Beautiful Gate get no government funding and is totally reliant on donations. They provide children from 3 years up with 2 meals a day, education and much needed love. Most of the people working there are volunteers . Aids in Namibia is now at 20% and in some areas in the North of the country it is as high as 40%. The children are usually brought up by over-burdened family members, usually the grandmothers, when their parents die. Still they were just happy to hold your hand, get a quick hug or be picked up for a few minutes. We were given a tour of all the facilities, including a youth area for the older children where they can come in the evenings, and an area where children can come and do their homework including a library. It is amazing what people can accomplish. We left them deep in thought about the future of these children and Africa as a whole. In the afternoon Charles changed Rensche's tyres and while doing so noticed horrors of horrors a crack in the frame. We can only assume it's from a pothole she knocked in Malawi on the dust track from Flametree. It will have to wait until we are in Swakop to be welded...
12/02/08 - Windhoek
Early this morning we were off to Honda to get Rensche's bike sorted. We were so relieved when Oliver, the mechanic, immediately spotted the oil leak from the front upper gasket. We explained to him that we only want to tune the bike - not "fix" it - to get us to PE. He laughed, understanding our predicament, and when he heard the noise from the engine he mockingly walked away. It was clear he thought he's got a challenge today! We passed the time waiting for the bike at Elize's house, updating our blog. Charles changed his oil and tyres. About mid-morning Oliver called regarding the status of the bike. He said the mechanic in Cairo may have replaced the damanged bits in the engine but he did not measure the crankshaft settings properly when building it back together and now the old problem is back worse than ever. The Crankshaft is misaligned and now the main bearings may be damaged. That's were the noise comes from. He also said that the carb was full of dust thanks to the K&N filter. We were quite impressed by his good service. In the afternoon we went looking for an internet cafe to upload our 100's of photo's. We found 4 internet cafe's in the Namibian Capital but none prepared to let us download our photo's or even use a back-up disc we copied it on. Unfortunately Elize's dial-up connection won't allow us to upload to the blog either so photo's will have to wait! In the evening we had a nice get-together at Elize's house with about 8 of her friends and people Charles have grown up with. They have all been watching our progress on the blog. We had lovely Boboti with yellow rice and Chicken pie and again had too much to eat!
11/02/08 - Windhoek
So this morning we got up early (Charles went for a walk with his mom at 05h30...) and after breakfast we went to sort out the bikes. First to BMW with Carmen's bike. We left her there and off to Honda for Rensche's bike. They could only see Rensche's bike the next day so back to BMW. There they'd managed to plug the BMW into the laptop but seemed to be unable to interpret the results! Lack of training? They also couldn't give Carmen exact information on the availability of parts so she will have to have the problem sorted out at a later date as the mechanics said it will be OK. Apparently the Computor said the problem with her electrics occured 200 times! Carmen rode her bike to Elize's house but even in that short distance it switched off three times. After all that we all went for lunch and then went shopping....and had a car guard with a Royal Mail (UK postal service) vest.....Charlie bought a map of Namibia and 3 pairs of new socks as his is beyond repair. Carmen bought a cycle pump to be able to fix her own punctures when she rides on her own. We also stopped by at Mike's Motorcycles (KTM), the guys that provided us with our new front tyres and Carmen bought herself some tyre leavers. Mike informed us that he had no confidence in Honda but that there were no other mechanics in town and that he was working on bikes the rest of the week as there was a rally this coming weekend. Sigh. In the afternoon, Rensche typed up the blog, while Charlie repaired a worn wire for his digital speedometer which snapped this morning. Charlie also cleaned out our airfilters that also had seeds in them! In the evening we all sat on the stoep overlooking the beautiful scenery of Windhoek city and had a light supper perpared by Elize as we were still suffering from the excess of lovely meat we had at Joe's the previous evening!
10/02/08 - Gobabis - Windhoek
This morning we tried to fix Rensche's valves as her bike stalled on pulling in the clutch for the last 2 days. But even after loosening the tight front exhaust valve the bike was still stalling and now it didn't even want to idle. Oh DEAR! We took out the airfilter for just in case. Charles found out from the camp managers about a Suzuki/Honda mechanic in Windhoek. We left the campsite keeping the rev's up on the struggling bike and after it warmed up it seemed to be OK again. On the way to Windhoek we stopped next to the road where another cyclist from Canada was cycling through Southern Africa. He had quite an exciting story to tell from when he wild camped in Botswana close to a hungry rogue male lion! He quietly sat in his tent the whole night but could hear the lion try charging the tent. Needless to say he didn't get much sleep that night and left in a hurry! We set of and did the last hilly ups and downs to Windhoek. It was surprisingly cold as the rain clouds came over but luckily we just missed a huge thunder shower. We arrived at Elize, Charles's mother's house, just before her and we all had a huge welcome. The afternoon was spent chatting and relaxing and going through some of our paperwork. In the evening we went to Joe's with some friends and had the best steak ever!!