Congo on the horizon

We have arrived in Mufulira city. It is located in Zambia, near the border of Congo. We had three options when leaving Botswana. Since we’ve already been in Namibia the two remained

We took a quick trip to Zimbabwe first

Visited the Victoria falls. Powerful! Once again, a great time for visiting. The water levels are such that there’s enough falling water but it’s still visible. If the water levels are higher then everything is hidden in the mist.

The Devil’s Pool is an interesting attraction. You can swim directly at the edge of the falls, next to the falling water. We even saw some people taking a dip in there. Unfortunately this small natural swimming pool is extremely popular and must be booked at least a couple of weeks before visiting (at least that’s what they told us). The price is another interesting point. It’s 100 € in the morning, 150 € during lunch and 200 € in the afternoon. We didn’t like the terms and just enjoyed the mighty views. There was also a piece of real “rainforest” at the dampest part, at the edge of the falls 🙂

There is a park at the falls which is located outside the city, a short walk away. On the first day, when we were walking back, we met some elephants on a path which went through some shrubs. This time we were on foot and they were about 10 steps away. Huge reverent animals just at your fingertips.

All kinds of activities are offered in and near the city. You can go over the canyon with a rope, go bungee jumping, enjoy the beautiful views on a helicopter ride, go river rafting etc.

We didn’t go exploring much while in Zimbabwe. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, there would have been a lot of riding back and forth because we really wanted to visit Zambia and Mozambique. The second reason is the so-called “Zimbabwean Police” that is completely uncontrolled. We heard that they are not paid by the state and have their own agenda in order to have any kind of income. We heard about different road block from some reliable sources. Also Google offers countless articles on this topic. A neighbor in one of the camping sites said that he had recently been on the other side of the country and there were 26 checkpoints on the road. He has a brand new Defender and I’ve never seen one in a better condition that his. However, he managed to get a fine of $ 10 for a missing reflector sticker on the side of the hazard triangle. Despite that fact, all the police officers had still been extremely courteous and pleasant, no arrogance what so ever.

So, after seeing the famous landmark, we headed for Zambia. After a couple of days, we arrived here, in the city of Mufulira. We got close to the border of Congo during the ride, but we’re not planning to go there this time.

I learned from my mother that one Estonian girl is volunteering here in order to help the local children and decided to invite ourselves over. There are a lot of people in the household. The cause is led by a married American couple. Their biggest mission is to build a ready-made “health center” complex. Hospital with all that belongs to it. We also had the honor of seeing the current advancements. At the moment, the main building is almost under the roof; communications are also more or less present. A great deal of work has been done in the middle of the jungle.

In addition to dealing with health problems, they help to feed and school the children of the poorer families of the village. It’s difficult to get an education. In order to go to school you have to buy all necessary materials and also a uniform and shoes. Obviously you won’t learn anything with an empty stomach. Why is the school uniform so important here in the middle of the brush, remains quite unclear to me. But looking at all this life here I thing the uniform is the least of the problems.

The work for those good people is endless. I like their mission, which is broadly based on providing children with the opportunity to get as good of a education as possible. Not just giving some kind of help, however, the clear goal is to ensure that children reach the school for the longest possible time. Find out more about this event at their website: http://www.sambiasobrad.com/blog

Our adventure, however, continues. Next towards Mozambique and Indian Ocean.

All kinds of stuff

The left sided traffic was quite complicated at the beginning. We are taught in a driving school that on an intersection you have to the first thing is to look to the left. Here, you must look to the right. I couldn’t understand the importance of it back home. You have to look to the left and to the right anyway, but now I understand it. I have heard quite a lot of cars coming from the right breaking suddenly. So far so good 🙂 . I’m now getting used to the traffic. Local traffic rules are also helpful. Beginning from the RSA, most intersections have stop signs, so everyone has to stop. There are no right or left hand rules. The first to stop is the first to move. And it works. Now that I have driven through RSA, Namibia and Botswana, I can say that the traffic is much calmer than in Estonia. No honking or waving of fists. When they see you coming from behind, they take to the side and let you pass. When there are animals or obstacles on the road they immediately switch on warning lights. There isn’t much traffic of course. Especially outside of towns.

Local peculiarities include all kinds of animals on the roads. Cows and goats are common. There’s a corpse of a donkey next to the road about every 5 kilometers. There are a lot of donkeys here and they’ve probably just gotten hit by a car in the dark. Some wild animals are also seen on the roads occasionally but the national parks have pretty high fences. The fences won’t hold the warthogs and there are lot of them. They are pretty shy though. If there’s something they don’t like they just run away.

The asphalt is very slippery. You have to be very careful when putting your foot down. If the bike is tilted too much you may slip and fall.

People are cool. If you avoid the drunk colored ones (some kind of new race – the offsprings of two mulattoes) then the rest are very ok. The country’s economy is stable. There are no wars and the overall situation is also stable. It has had a calming effect on the people. I don’t actually know all the nuances but there has been no reason to feel anxious so far.

We had our very first camping in the real wilderness a couple of days ago. We’ve been near the official camping spots so far. It was very quiet and we slept peacefully. On the other hand, you have to find a place if you want to wash yourself. It’s the dry season and the rivers away from the delta are dry. Which is actually good because there are also no mosquitoes. The food situation also complicates camping in the wild. It’s hot. You don’t want to eat only dry food. You can’t carry food to long distances, it will go bad. Canned beans and ramen noodles aren’t always good enough. That’s why we’ve decided to stay at official camping spots. They usually offer a decent breakfast. And also dinner. Sometimes we grab ready to eat meals form supermarkets at evenings, the choice is pretty good here. If you stay at a campground you have access to grills and campfires so grilling is quite simple.

We’ve managed to get cash from ATMs if needed. And we haven’t needed it much. We’ve been able to pay by card almost everywhere. The general price level is rather favorable. The camping costs about 6-8 € per person per night. Dinner about 10-15 € per person depending where you are and what you order. That includes a couple of drinks. The food is good, haven’t had anything really bad yet. You have to get used to the fact that pig meat is rear (which suits me). Chicken and beef are always available and sometimes you can find things more exotic.

The service quality is good. The customer is generally well cared for. The waiters re polite and if you are also you will have a pleasant experience.

As for the equipment taken from home. The only complain I have is about Keen’s sandals. The last pair wore too quickly and the current ones are going the same way. It doesn’t matter if they have waterproof written on them or not, the “straps” are coming off the sole. Keen used to be the equivalent of a hiking boot, unfortunately they seem to be going too well and the quality has dropped significantly. Too bad. The decision to take the tent has turned out to be a good one. In the future I would also consider taking a kerosene stove with us. It requires a slightly different approach and more food management, but will give some freedom.

There aren’t many fences next to roads in Botswana which gives plenty of opportunities for camping in the wild. The’re aren’t many people around so if you have the equipment you could actually camp in the wild. Don’t expect thick forest, you can mostly find brush. There are some willows at some places that offer more shade. The vegetation is usually two-three meters high. If you don’t want to put up a tent or aren’t traveling on a small budget then you can travel light in RSA, Namibia and in Botswana. There are lodge-type accommodations available that offer a bed and meals. You have to be prepared that they are full if you haven’t booked a place in advance. We’ve even struggled to find a camping spot in some lodges.

The fuel quality in Botswana is the worst so far. Of the tree refuelings we’ve had, two have proved to be complete crap. It’s the first time during the three years I’ve had the bike, that the engine stopped working properly. I got to try out the so called bad fuel switch which helped. The bike has a cable connection under the saddle that you have to disconnect after refueling bad fuel. The revolutions on idle, which fluctuated between 3000 and 0, normalized. Cold start started to work. The last refueling took place at a Shell’s station and there hasn’t been a problem since.

These are the thoughts at the moment. We are currently in Francistown and would like to move on to Zimbabwe. Because there is no virtual currency there, you need to find dollars. We haven’t found a currency exchange in the city yet. But we will.

Okavango, Thamalakane, Xakanaxa etc

You could say that Okavango Delta is the main attraction of Botswana. Okavango, the river which never finds a way to the sea. The waters coming from the mountainous regions of Angola simply die away in the desert, creating a paradise, about as large as Estonia, for all kinds of African fauna. Sometimes there’s more dry land, sometimes less, depending on the season. The best time to visit the Delta is probably right now. The water has lowered to the extent that you can clearly make a distinction between the rivers and their branches. There’s also a lot of dry land. You can explore the Delta in several ways. There is a myriad of small airplanes at the Maun airport that offer a tour above the Delta. You can also take a canoe or a motor boat. The most common, and in my opinion the best way, is to rent a 4×4 and just explore the countless paths of the Delta. That’s what we did. The tracks are in soft sand, alternating with deep holes. The tracks near the river run sometimes through water.

There are several lodges and campsites in the Delta, but the prices are quite high. Camping costs 21 € per person per night and you have to have your own equipment. You have to pay for your camping spot in Maun. You then get a voucher with your camping site number. That gives you the permission to stay on that site for the night. Since we didn’t know that you can’t pay at the location we ended up camping near the official camping sites. No one approached us, so we saved some money every night.

We spent a total of 3 days at the Delta. That meant about 600 km off-road tracks, numerous animals, sleeping through the sound of different roars, rumbles, howls and belches, sitting around campfire at the evenings while hyenas are prowling around. You could see eyes in every bush you direct your light at. After waking up on our first morning, the people who were staying at a camping site nearby, asked us to come and see the lions. There actually were lions lying around about 100 m from our tent, on a hill next to a termite nest.

It’s a complete wilderness in the Delta, with the exception of some camping sites and sandy off-road tracks. There are a lot of elephants, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, hippos etc, huge herds of antelopes with different species of them all mixed together. The elephants are truly big and make you feel some reverence. On the first few days my nerves got the best of me and I but the truck in reverse. They are just everywhere. Fortunately they are quite peaceful.

We chose to stay at the Old Bride Backbackers camping in the city of Maun. Nice place, many different travelers, a pleasant atmosphere, a fine place on a river bank, good food and pleasant staff. The Internet is also almost acceptable, at least in the mornings.

The car hire was an adventure on its own. I spent a whole day searching for one with no luck. We managed to get a large Ford pickup the next they only because someone returned it earlier then planned. We knew we had to take everything we need for three days with us, so we needed to find a refrigerator. Unfortunately you can’t rent a car refrigerator and you have to buy one. We finally managed to find a 100l thermos box and bought some ice so the box was filled to the brim with food and beer. We received a small collapsible grill from the car rental place which was a great help. The car managed really well in the sand and water, a really powerful machine. We had to use the retarder in couple of deeper spots because of the resistance due to deep water. The soil was sandy and carried nicely.

We notices a cloud of blue smoke behind us when returning from the Delta. We had started to lose oil for some reason. Maybe it was because I’d left the four-wheel drive on, but at the same time our speed was about 60 kilometers per hour… I switched it off and managed to get back in town. I have no idea what happened, did not feel that I was somehow at fault. There’s a quite a hefty sum booked as a collateral on my card and I can’t take a risk of losing it. I had the car cleaned up at a car wash and kept my mouth shut about the problem. However the story is not over yet. To find out if the tank is full, the young man from the car rental drove to the gas station. I was holding my breath while sitting next to him hoping he wouldn’t try the four-wheel drive. I was lucky. Now all that’s left is to terminate the contract and to wait for the release of the deposit. Unfortunately, it can only be done by the manager. The manager will be available on Monday, it’s Friday at the moment …. However, after some struggles, we had to accept that we could not finish things right now. Hopefully it will end well.

Windhoek and Goodbye Namibia

We stayed in Windhoek for 5 days. It turned out that there is a guesthouse that is run by Diana who is from Latvia. The place was like from a fairytale. The were tropical plants, turtles and parrots in the courtyard, the rooms were nice and the place even had a bar and a pool. The hostess herself was very warm hearted, sincere and caring (I will add some photos when the Internet access is better). It would have been nice to have stayed there longer, but the visa was becoming invalid, so it was time to start moving again.

Windhoek is a nice little town. There’s everything a person accustomed to European standards would need, and then some. The most important thing for me was to find a new rear tire and, if possible, oil. Since there is a KTM dealership in Windhoek I got a Mitas E07 rear tire. Unfortunately they didn’t have the Dakar version. Synthetic Motorex 10W60 oil and oilfilter were also in stock. Actually, the oil and the tire were the only reasons we came to Windhoek. I was hoping to get some pants for riding in the hotter climate but that would have been a bonus. Despite the fact that I went through all the bike shops (did not enter the HD one 🙂 ), they don’t sell any riding gear. The next places you can find something for you bike are either in Johannesburg, if we go to the south, or in Lusaka, if riding to the north. We may go to Johannesburg after Botswana since I really need those pants. Lusaka has a KTM dealership but it’s not very likely they sell riding gear there. Let’s take it a day at a time for  now.

To sum up Namibia.

The roads are generally good but you have to take into account that there are long and brutal “stairy” sections in the gravel roads. The locals say that the worsening conditions of the gravel roads has come to their attention as well and the roads have become a nuisance. The fuel costs about 70 euro cents per liter and is of good quality. As the distances are long, you should take into account that you have to be able to ride for at least 300 kilometers before you can refuel. To be on the safe side, a few extra liters are always better. It might happen that you can’t find some gas stations on the first try or they are closed or that they only sell diesel. But the overall fuel situations is quite good. You might not be able to pay with a card everywhere, but about 95% of the gas stations will accept our Swedbank debit card. The card is accepted at various locations, including shops, restaurants, hotels, roadside accommodations etc. Some cash should also be at hand however. Food is good everywhere. Every larger settlement has at least one supermarket which offers everything you might need. The restaurants offer a wide range dishes, the choice is obviously bigger for people who eat meat. The food is not very expensive. A 500 g T-Bone steak costs around 110-180 Namibian dollars, it’s about 8-12 €. Beer at a pub is about 1,2-1,5 €. A good wine at the shop is around 4 €. The accommodation prices are the same as they were in the RSA (actually everything is about the same, even the exchange rate). It’s difficult to spend the night in the wild but there are campsites everywhere (they cost about 8 € per person per night). There are places that are about an euro cheaper or more expensive. You have to be ready for the chance that the campsite is full. It’s better if you call ahead and book a spot.

The distances are long and the ride might get boring at times. It’s relatively cool during July-August in Namibia. It’s actually cold at the coast. The were couple of days where the temperature reached +32 ´C in the northern parts, otherwise it’s like beautiful Estonian summer. The entire Namibia is situated on a relatively flat plateau ranging from 1400-1800 m from the sea level. Only a narrow area on the coast is situated lower. That’s the reason for the relatively cool and dry climate (maybe).

The most memorable moments in Namibia: long and slightly scary days riding through desert completely alone, the sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the world’s finest T-Bone steaks, many different animals in various nature parks, North Namibia’s own nature, the roads full of different bends going up and down, himbas and hereros and finally the African Kwela Guesthouse and its wonderful hostess. Maybe Oksana will add something to this list.

We arrived in Botswana a few hours ago. The border crossing went quickly and without any problems. We shall see what’s to come. The first impressions are that the food, accommodations and fuel are a bit cheaper than in Namibia. The border ( we paid for insurance and some sort of road tax), the gas station and the campsite (located on the territory of a hotel) have all accepted our bank card. We have a plane to move from here (which is about 100 km to the inland) to Mauni and from there to the Okowango Delta. It seems there’s not much else to see here. But we’ll see that in the near future.

Kunene, Epupa and 4×4

We reached the most northern groove of Namibia, Epupa faterfalls, yesterday. The falls itself is not very high, just below 40 meters. But the canyon and the river itself, along with the surrounding palm groves, are like straight from childhood adventure books. Pure greenish blue water, big fish, even larger crocodiles …. The latter, however, are not very prone of showing themselves. The campsite where we’re stopping (there are quite a few here) is located right on the bank of the river, in the middle of the palm trees. Beautiful-beautiful.

The Kunene River is the border between Angola and Namibia. That line on the map is the only sign of the border. No border guards or soldiers etc can be seen anywhere. The plan for today was to travel about 150 kilometers upstream along the road next to the river marked “4×4 only” and reach the Kunene River Lodge campsite. This section has amazingly beautiful views. It’s a gravel road that goes as the river – up and down, full of bends. The quality of it is quite tolerable, practically no “stairs”. Still, there were soft sand and we had to get through some river crossings. The larger tributaries are all dry and have a soft and sandy bottom. There was water in some of the smaller tributaries and we managed to get even our underwear wet while crossing one of them. It’s a miracle we didn’t fall. While going through soft sand I managed to thing twice that now that’s it. If we fall, at least the surface is soft. Still, we managed to stay upright. Good workout though. On the same 4×4 road we met a married German couple. They had started in Kenya and their destination was Cape Town. We’ve now met 5 bikers while on the road.

Himbas showed uo time to time In addition to the bikers. The children are especially nice. Older ladies are more pragmatic, first 10 local bucks and then you can take photos.

Unfortunately, Kunene River Lodge did not accept us. All the spots were full and the story short. It’s a bit odd here (in Namibia and LAV) with campsites. The camping spots are relatively private, each has it’s own place for a campfire, a sink and sometimes also a socket. You usually have to share the bathrooms with others. When all the plots are filled then the campsite is full. It doesn’t matter that there is plenty of room for some more tents. Since we’re not for planning long ahead we haven’t booked anything. Maybe we should start thinking about it.

We’ve come across some familiar faces. We’ve stayed in the same places and gotten acquainted with about 5 crews. One dutch family have become our friends. Somehow we’ve managed to arrive at the same campsites with the difference of a few days. It seems like the pace of a motorcycle and that of a SUV is more or less the same.

Boobs

The last couple of days have been paradise for those who enjoy gravel roads. The roads have more bends, the terrain is mountainous. The views are overwhelming! Spectacular landscapes which change about every 100 km. The vegetation is getting more dense as we move further north. It’s still rare to see people or settlements. On the other hand, the termites have been very active, their houses are constantly rising.

Yesterday we arrived at a place that on a map was marked as a village or a town. It’s actually a resort. Still real, honest place. During our breakfast we spotted a giraffe family and an elephant was minding it’s business right next to us … Pool and bars, good meals.

Since the past 1000 kilometers were spent traveling mainly on gravel, we chose asphalt today to cut down some travel time and spare the bike 🙂 Even though the gravel is fun, it makes me feel bad about the bike when traveling through those “stairy” parts. The vibration is really insane at times. You can fix it with speed on straight sections, but on those curvy mountain roads you just have to endure the pain. Fortunately nothing has fallen off so far.

We arrived in Kaokoland, Opuwo today. We will be staying in the neighborhood for the next couple of days and then we’ll see where to next. The map shows only one path, which goes along the Kunena River situated near the Angolan border, and marked as “4×4 only”. Getting chills already.

Opuwo is a small, dirty and dusty town in northern Namibia. The white peoples conveniences are mixed with the simpler life of tribal people. You can see hereros, himbas, “ordinary negros”, white people etc. There’s a small dusty slum-market in the middle of the town. You can see a goat being slaughtered, people selling a goat that was slaughtered last week, a dog birthing puppies, a man squatting and letting out water. Yet, there’s a restaurant on a nice area, surrounded by a fence. Capuccino, club steak, gin-tonic … what more would you want 🙂

The westernmost point

We have now reached the westernmost point of our adventure. We won’t be adventuring further west on this journey.

We made good progress yesterday. At least for us, Sesriem-Swakopund. As soon as we were out of Sesriem we met these guys: www.normadikandco.com. Nice people. Too bad we didn’t meet them somewhere nearer to a campsite. They are riding small KTMs (690 Enduro) and their bike front with the lights is ordered from the same place as ours was. Anyway, they are as close to ending their adventure, as we are at the beginning of ours. They are coming from Ireland, traveled along the West Coast of Africa and will finish in Cape Town. They said that we’re the first overlanders they have met and they’ve seen only one other biker in Africa. It was Colin. The one we met in Sesriem. So there are 4 bikes traveling in the east side and that’s all … ?

The maps shows that there’s a place called Solitaire about 80 kilometers north of Sesriem. It seems like a small town or a bigger village when looking at the map. In reality, it’s a bakery that’s located in the middle of the desert 🙂 . There’s a gas station, a restaurant, they offer accommodation and that’s it 🙂 . It’s famous for its apple strudel.  Everyone stop there, eat an apple strudel, reminisce about their ski vacation in the Alps and are happy. It’s an inexplicable mystical place. It’s famous for the reason that somebody just decided to start baking pies in the middle of the desert 🙂

The whole road we traveled yesterday (about 350 km) was gravel. About half of that was the worst “stairs” ever. It’s a miracle that nothing came off of our bike. By the way, there were plenty of parts that have been broken from cars, such as footboards, fenders etc. The terrain changed quite quickly. There was something like a steppe with golden grass swaying both sides of the road as far as your eyes could see. Then there was desert with low bushes. We passed two canyons and there was only a knobby mountain range surrounding us. The last 150 kilometers was totally bare and clayey land. Smooth as far as you could see without any hint of vegetation. Suddenly our satnav showed a place called “Surviving Lonely Plants”. There actually was a lonely fern-like bush next to the road at the place marked. As is the tradition, we’re driving towards the setting sun and when the road is at it’s worst, you can see absolutely nothing. The camera sees obviously better than I can:

We found a place to stay in Swarkopmund. They asked us to park the bike between the bookcase and the fireplace. Just a friendly recommendation from biker to biker 🙂

We traveled further 70 kilometers to Henties Bay today. A bit newer village has been built in the middle of sandy fields. The development is still ongoing. Its seems that there are a lot of visitors during summer as there are many questhouses. The prices are also high. The main business, besides offering accommodation, seems to be fishing. Making it possible for tourists to go fishing to be exact. There is a row of fishermen with long fishing poles lined up on the shore. Hiluxes can be seen driving through the town with fishing poles attached to their front fenders. There are also shops that advertise both fishing equipment and bait.

We met some nice boys from Tamaraland at an obligatory tourist attraction. Black people are so cute 😀 .

We decided to stay in a place with Internet as it is very likely that it will be difficult to gain access to it during the next couple of days. Since my visa is valid for a little less than couple of weeks and I would like to reach North Namibia we have to drive as far as possible the coming couple of days. It means sleeping where it’s getting dark. There doesn’t seem to be any settlements on the road anyway. Besides, the weather is again cold and damp here by the sea. Have had enough of that already.

Sannikov Land

The road to here, Sesmir, that means the last 250 km, has been the toughest yet. Full of “stairs” and covered with soft sand. Africa itself is forcing us to learn to adapt to the circumstances. After various trials, it’s clear that you have to ride with the speed of at least 120 km/h. Below that, the vibration is so brutal that it will shake your teeth loose. The road itself is wide and straight, but tiring. I can’t imagine what it’s like sitting at the back of the bike. The temperatures are now desert-like, around 35`C. It’s getting more and more sandy. The vegetation gets lighter with each passing kilometer. The roads are really long and straight in Namibia. You can pass hundreds of kilometers without so much as even a bend on the road. It’s that way with both gravel and asphalt roads.

The long straight road ended at one point last night. We had been traveling on a long plateau at the height of 1700 m and then there came a gap which meant we had to descend. The lower plateau was surrounded by mountains when looking at it from the bottom, the vegetation was more abundant, the nature slightly more green with some bigger trees. A nice and spacious savanna. You could see smaller antelopes and oryxes in the distance. The surrounding mountains were like postcards. Since it was already getting dark, which happens quickly, we did not manage to take photos. Fortunately there was a suitable establishment next to the road so we had a chance to put up our tent under a tree.

When continuing our journey in the morning, the Sannikov Land ended quickly and the desert continued. Also an awful road until to the gates of Sesriemi. On the map it looks like any other village. Actually it’s a so-called base camp.

The road is headed only towards the dunes of Sossusvle next. The dunes are located at a national park so we aren’t allowed to enter with our bike. We have to think about our options. We could try to sneak in somewhere while on the desert trails. Maybe try to get onto a car? We’ll see what the evening brings. We’re setting up at the base camp and pitching our tent under a tree. There’s a black guy next to us setting up a larger camp for some tourists that are coming soon. Four large desert tents, a table, a refrigerator, a lamp on the tree above the table. The fire is being lit on a stone base. We shall see who our neighbors we’ll be. One other biker has arrived at the camp and is entertaining the little naked village kids. The children are like all other children, getting excited about seeing the motorbikes.

We traveled 65 km today 🙂

Technical stuff

We have covered 1650 kilometers on our trip. It’s time to give an overview about how the bike is handling this journey. Especially the parts that were changed before our departure. I should have made a few test runs at home, but these first 1600 kilometers can be counted as those. Only a few things have needed tweaking and everything has worked brilliantly so far.

Lights. A new set of lights, both headlights and extra lights work fantastic. Not sure whether due to my age or what, but seeing in dusk and in dark is not what it used to be. It’s absolutely true that there’s no such thing as too much light when driving at night (unless it’s blinding the people driving towards you). The only issue has been that the lights weren’t adjusted properly. Yesterday I adjusted the half-lights. They could use lowering some more, but are ok for now. Adjusting the front-lights is a bit more difficult. The new ones can be adjusted only by adding washers. Unfortunately the nut on the opposite side is at a place where you need to dismantle the whole front in order to gain access. I could try to turn it downwards a little but, as already mentioned, there is enough light. Moreover, it’s currently not blinding oncoming traffic, so it will stay as it is for now. To sum up, the money spent on the lights has been well spent.

Suspension. Some will remember, some won’t, but in addition to the maintenance of the suspension fork, I exchanged the springs for stronger, progressive ones. It has really paid off. I didn’t know to miss them when I was driving alone but did the work anyway on the strong recommendations of some smarter people. So what makes the current suspension better? To understand this, you should know something about traveling in Africa. The distances are long, to get to somewhere you have to drive fast. Riding in the dark is not ok here. All kinds of big antelopes move on the roads and they can just run you off. The other problem is the locals walking along the roads. If they aren’t walking towards you smiling, then there’s no hope of seeing them until it’s too late. So it’s necessary to reach your destination before dark. The roads in Namibia are a bit worse than those in ZAR. Especially the gravel ones. There are a many sections that are like stairs and also parts where you have to ride through mounds of thin loose gravel. And this is where the advantages of the new suspension come to play. You don’t have to do anything on those “stairs” but lower the gear, no resonance, no swimming. Just enjoy the ride, no matter what the road you are traveling is like. When riding in the famous “stair-sections” of Rae municipality back home, you had to really lower your speed, otherwise it was too painful. Another feature of the local roads is that, during the short rainy season, the dry riverbeds are filled with water. It’s not reasonable to build a bridge just for couple of weeks, so the roads above the riverbed have just big slopes. Sometimes they are marked, sometimes not. You will only notice them when there is no time to brake. That is no problem with the new springs. Just don’t break at the bottom of the slope and everything is chill. Money well spent yet again.

New rims and narrower rear wheel. Works well with the above mentioned gravel and soft sand. The tire exchange is also extremely easy. Fortunately I can’t give an opinion on durability just yet 🙂 . Not sure if it was absolutely necessary but still glad that the change was made.

Air filter replacement. Can’t comment on that at the moment. Installing the foam filter seems a bit of overdoing. Still can’t get over the misunderstandings that arose with oiling the filter. The new filter was purchased to make room for ABS and the reason seems even more pointless. I should have gotten rid of the ABS too. It’s just extra weight and not needed here. The need may still arise, so something to think about before putting in an order for the Rottweiler. Well, the problem with the original filter is where to get it here when you need it? It’s too big to carry with you. In the other hand, if you go over the filter element with a compressor for time to time, it will last some more. Anyway, the new filter is something that I would consider only when everything else is already done.

Additional tanks. At least one extra tank has already paid off. The distance between the last two gas stations was 300 km and it’s just the limit of the original tanks. Although I made it without opening the tap of the additional tank, I count the addition justifiable. Knowing that you could still travel an extra 150 km gives you some peace of mind. The tank under the saddle has still not been used for anything so it’s possible to use it for storing water if the need arises.

High front fender. Haven’t found mud so far so the need for it has not been determined. Still, nothing flew in my face, when riding while it was raining so the chosen fender works.

Storage. Both storage places have paid off. The one between back fork and mudguard (tools) and the one in front of the air filter (tire repair kit and compressor) have fulfilled their purpose perfectly.

Toolbox. Very good storage space. I’m really happy with that. Gaining access to it is a bit annoying, but since it needs to be opened relatively rarely, it’s ok.

Soft Cases. So far so good. They are more comfortable for riding in the sand than the aluminum ones, soft and don’t get in the way. Can’t compare the ease of use. They are waterproof and look good now that they are covered in dust 🙂 . You can change their size according to the contents. If you have less stuff you can pull the straps together. Then again, when making a stop at a shop, increase the volume etc.

Camping equipment. Haven’t needed it so far. We’ll see what happens next. It’s likely we will start using it in the future since it takes up so much space. The campsites so far have been pretty nice and staying at those places gives you an opportunity to socialize. I would recommend not taking the equipment unless you have a really small budget. There’s no need for it in ZAR and Namibia.

Folding mirrors. I managed to drop the bike once while maneuvering at a parking lot. I stepped in a hole and the bike just fell while almost standing still. The mirror folded itself and no injuries so another good choice.

Small cases. Those small bags or pockets on both sides of the crash bars. The snaps opened during the same fall and there are some holes in the bag. I’d say that the producer of these particular bags, has produced crap. But otherwise, they are necessary and comfortable to use. You shouldn’t carry anything that can be easily broken or is valuable in them but excellent for carrying work gloves, chain oil, cable ties, some tape, load belt etc. I will probably look at the same Touratech products as the opportunity arises. The price is double but Touratech’s things have so far been of decent quality.

Windscreen with adjustable height. There’s no whistling behind glass but there is some noise from the wind. It’s catching the insects nicely. I think we hit a swarm of bees at some point. In any case, it caught all the sticky mass. The difference is apparent when lifting your head above the glass, there’s significantly more noise then. The glass on the helmet has been perfectly clean all the way. Even the dust is flying somewhere else. Not sure if it was absolutely necessary but since it game with the lights then let it be. It certainly is no worse than the original or Touring windscreen.

There’s nothing more to review at the moment. Everything works. The trip continues.

Glamping and crossing the border to Namibia

We spent some days in the heart of the Kalahari desert in the Kgalagath National Park. Actually just on the edge of the park since they don’t let you in with a motorcycle. But you can go on a safari and/or go along with somebody by a car and explore the park. We went to an afternoon drive and that was enough. We didn’t see any big cats but there were lot of other animals starting from foxes and jackals to large gnus and oryxes. There were also a lot of other fancier antelopes but as there are several more parks on the way then that’s enough for this one.

Our first stay in a tent was an event itself. It’s not easy to camp in the wild at ZAR because of all the fences everywhere. On the other hand, it is possible to camp at special camp sites for 6 € which includes the use of toilets and showers. Here, in the immediate vicinity of the National Park, the camping conditions are better and the prices are also higher. It’s possible to stay inside the gates of the park but that means you have to pay a price per person and an additional 20 € per night for staying on the park’s territory. There were many overlanders with all kinds of 4×4 camping cars, interesting trailers etc. Unfortunately we didn’t take our camera with us when we went to explore the campsite. Anyway, there wasn’t much of a difference so we decided to camp outside the gates of the national park. It was … fun and a little strange. Each “camping site” has its own house with a shelter. Inside the house there’s a really nice bathroom with a toilet and a sink. There’s a kitchen area outside and also a grill next to the shelter. The tent under the shelter is quite modest though. We considered staying inside the house and unrolling our mattresses there, there was plenty of room for that. But we were in no hurry and the weather was nice so we chose the tent.

The gas station was nice:

We decided to leave South Africa behind and continue our adventure in Namibia. The border crossing went without major issues. A small concern about my visa. I understood, according to the information gathered from about seven different places, that the visa would be valid form the date I entered Namibia and from that point on, it would be valid for about 3 months, depending on the grace of the border official. To show that grace, my passport would be stamped accordingly. In actuality, the visa was valid from the date issued until the date marked on it. It says 20.08 on mine, so I have to leave the country by then.  That gives us a little more over two weeks to explore this nice place.

We arrived in a town called Keetmanshoop, after riding along a somewhat decent gravel road, just when it was beginning to get dark. The road was tiring. You had to ride between the mounds of loose gravel and quickly. The cars drove with the speed of about 120 km/h and if you kept their pace it’s ok. Otherwise, you were in a constant cloud of dust. There weren’t many cars driving by, but since there wasn’t any wind today the dust stayed in the air for a while. Bigger problems started when the sun was starting to go down. Our direction was straight in the sun and it was really difficult to see the path between the mounds of gravel. I found myself on the ridge a couple of times and it’s difficult to get out of it when riding at those speeds. There were some frightening moments with the back of the bike zig-zagging. Created some exciting experiences for ourselves. Otherwise still a great day.

We turned in to the yard of a guesthouse upon reaching Keetmanshoop. It was located more or less in the center of the town and was the right choice. The family is very chill, the place clean and in good shape etc. We had dinner together, had a nice chat, what more do ask for! The host and his son are also moto enthusiasts and had taken a trip in the desert just a few months ago. The son showed some huge posters on the wall of his room. They were photographs of him and his father posing on their bikes in the dunes. A really nice family. Our start in Namibia has gone well. It’s going to be fun.