A million thank-you’s

My basket is still empty. I’ve been walking the isles with a skew mouth and furrowed brow around a strangely large supermarket for over half an hour. In the end, bewildered by the vast array toilet rolls, perplexed by the multitude of biscuits and confused by another new currency, I decide to buy the same old things I’ve been buying for months and make a hasty and dumbstruck retreat to the bike away from the throngs of mad shoppers.

When I hit the road I am glad to see a few stick huts and so my brow unfurrows a little bit and I breathe a sigh of relief. I take a detour that I promised myself I would not and soon find that even the huts vanish and I am treated to untouched African lands, trees, grass and wildlife flourishing, a rarity; the Africa I’d dreamt Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania would be.

I scower the landscape continuously and frantically for elephants, I spot five, but unfortunately only on road signs!

With a population of only 2.2million people, camping is generally a doddle, except for areas of huge farms which are totally fenced in from the roadside. The farms include not just fields but also rivers, mountains, forests, game and even tourist attractions. That said, the farms – owned usually by white settlers who, it seems are able to preserve the landscape much better than that I’ve seen elsewhere, where I saw only destruction and erosion. It was beautiful!

On my way to the Waterberg plateau, and decide to camp below the plateau and have many warthogs scraping about the tent and find myself singing ‘Acuna Matata’ which soon gets rid of them.

I ride on to the ‘rock finger’, a large obelisk of rock, though I struggle to find a camp here, luckily the good people of Vingerklip lodge allow me to camp for free anywhere I like on their grounds and even give me a free coffee in the morning when I go to say ‘thanks’!

I manage approximately three metres before getting a puncture, and again, and again, and after 27m I’m quite sure that my tire is trying to tell me something “I’m knackered” I decide over a pack of nik-naks to turn about to Windhoek, the capital and obtain a new one. After another 9m though I’m out of patches and make another reluctant decision, to try and fit the dreaded inner tube, something I have long feared for it’s possible implications. Much to my surprise I manage to fit it, though I lose a few pints of sweat, lose further pints trying to enflate it. After 600 pumps, and using the electric pump inbetween periods of unconciousness I figure that something is a foot and that at least for now, I am stuffed.

I ride the tire flat to a nearby campsite, hoping to meet a nice chap with an 18inch motorcycle tire sitting in his garage. I don’t find this but am incredibly lucky to meet Rassi. Rassi saunters over with a calmness matched by his gentle voice, he carries a machete, wears a tattered hat – caught on all the thorny bushes as he fights back wild bush to create a road. He sees my plight and instantly offers his wife’s transport to the nearest town 160km away the following day.

He shows me around his beautiful campsite, Mooilaagte, the perfect mix of rustic camping and wilderness, in which I am given complete freedom and enjoy a comfortable night thinking about my good fortune.

Reaching the town of Otjivawongo the following day I meet up with more helpful people, in the form of Richard Owen and Tana of Extreme Racing. Richard gets a tire from his dad’s Honda Goldwing, but this doesn’t fit so he gets the tire from his own motorcycle for me to use until he can get a tire to Ruacana, 500km or so further along my route!

I spend five fantastic days at Mooilaagte camp with Rassi and his wife Mariana, great company, great food and sport on TV. Rassi even takes me hunting on his farm for Oryx and Kudu, alas getting no kills…though I wonder if I willed the bullets to miss such was the beauty of the animals in the unbelievable landscape of Rassi’s 4000hectare farm. I couldn’t thank them enough and leaving was very difficult, but I knew I must push on!

Heading north I manage a few more kilometres before getting splattered with green tire slime-sealant, two more punctures in two days, this time in my front tire.

I re-read my book AGAIN whilst awaiting my new tire in Ruacana and fit it, late, in the yellow glow of the night-time forecourt.

I follow the river towards Epupa falls, the scenery is unbelievable, the track rough and quiet, the people; the Hinda tribe are spectacular, the semi-naked, red-mud and herb covered women cause me to crash my bike! They were magical people, and the falls in spate were equally so! I get another puncture too.

I very dilligently stop to tighten up some bolts which have worked loose, only to forget to re-tighten the wheel axle nut.

Goos work indeed.

Some odd sounds develop in the bike as I try my dambdest to figure out quite what it is before the chain goes dancing off the sprocket and grinds everything to pieces. From here on the chain would need constant care, re-tensioning every 100km….a bent axle, twisted chain, damaged sproket??

The amazing scenery continues and the punctures lay-off whilst I stop to take everything off the drivechain and check it is straight. The mudguard is making a raquet too and is annoying me, then it snaps off and the noise stops. I decide to re-route again to Windhoek, to obtain a more rapidly growing list of parts, eleven in total. En route I stop at Twyfelfontein to view some rock carvings, one era’s graffitti is anothers history, this is still the previous era and I find it highly boring and a waste of $4.

I hike in Spitzkoppe, and find some of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever had. Thousands of hectares all to myself, as far as I can see. I can see car headlights 30minutes before they reach me.

To Windhoek, where I leave the Yamaha dealer carrying only two of the eleven parts required, though with a belly full of hot coffee.

Then on to Rassi and Mariana’s daughters house in Walvis bay where I am received so warmly I feel paradoxically uncomfortable, they were so kind and made me great food and helped with many things like shipping of my bike! I hope one day I can repay them for making me feel at home, thankyou so much Jan and Carmen. Sorry I can’t write more.

I packed my things and left, clothed a little more warmly thanks to Auntie Margret, thanks Margret for the much needed donations! Headed to the Namib desert “Naukluft”, then on to Luderitz, the old mining town, a fantastic treat!

From here to another gained contact, Andre and Birke Coetzee’s farm, I was unsure how I would be welcomed, but ended spending three fantastic days here learning much about the ‘feld’ and Andre and Birke’s travels around Africa and Europe, trips which made me wonder if mine were actually any good at all! Thanks also to Andre and Birke!!

From here to Fish River Canyon and onto the Oranj River, border with RSA, my last country of the continent, my 21st so far and only a few days, all being well from Cape Town and the first leg is complete!!

A very special thanks to all the people who let me stay and eat and drink in their homes, you know who you are and I will not forget your warm welcome, your company was always fantastic and I hope at some point in time I can repay you.

  • http://thesporadicblog.wordpress.com/ Ian Andrew

    Fantastic so far Nick!
    America will be comfortable and easy leg after Africa. It’s always an interesting read to see where you’re up to in the great big world from the viewpoint of little old Ellesmere
    ;o)

  • Nick

    Cheers Ian! I am glad you liek it as I was thinking actually that I really need to cut the stories shorter, but it’s a bit tricky, same with the photos, I put less than 1/4 up and it’s still 100! How are things in Ellesmere? Lots of photo meets I suspect with the nice weather, or is the weather not good? Thanks for reading!