Mar. 2, 2017—Namibia wasn’t on our list of countries to visit in Africa although after spending two weeks here we wonder why. Luckily, enough people had told us not to miss it so we decided to risk it. Our carnet de passage didn’t include Namibia. We were already quite far north up the east coast of South Africa before deciding to take the 1260 km (780 mi) detour west to Namibia. If they didn’t let us into the country, we’d have to backtrack.
Luckily there were “no hassles, no assholes,” (which, when said by the German owner of a campground we stayed in just before the border, sounds exactly like the same word), and we crossed the border without a problem. We also found out our carnet covered not just South Africa but southern Africa
Namibia has only 2.1 million inhabitants, which may be why Dave and I felt like we had our own playground at times, with some killer off-the-pavement riding and indescribable scenery.
Namibia is the country with the world’s highest sand dunes; the huge, red peaks that look like they were pinched up from the desert floor by a giant hand. (Namibia Part Two will talk about Sossusvlie and have pictures of the dunes.)
During our days crossing the Namib desert, the only other living thing we would see sometimes for miles were oryx, springbok, zebras, ostrich, giraffes and a million birds, beetles and bugs.
Namibia has its own version of the Grand Canyon called Fish River Canyon, which is the largest canyon in Africa and is 160 km (100 mi) long, 27 km wide and 560 m deep.
We also couldn’t miss the Skelton Coast, an incredibly desolate, barren stretch following the Atlantic sea. (Pics coming in Part Two). There are places in Namibia that look like I imagine the moon to be. Then, with this years’ healthy dose of rain, otherwise dried up dead places are green and flowering from the almost daily thunder and lightening showers.
These showers can come at ideal times, like when it’s 35° C (95° F) and we’re riding into the wind…of a hair dryer. The showers can also be quite shocking when we literally disappear into a solid water-wall as dark as the tarmac on which we ride. The temp can plummet 20-30 degrees and the raindrops so beefy it sounds like a bucket of gravel has been dropped on our helmets.
Riding a motorcycle in Namibia means putting up with some intense heat, a lack of gas stations, flat tires and the Sand Surprise, where an otherwise hard packed gravel road that you might be travelling along at 90-100 kmph (55-60 mi) suddenly turns into a 100-metre long section of loose, deep desert sand.
I hate sand but In Namibia I either had to learn to ride it or be stuck on boring paved highways. Once, while riding what appeared to be a normal gravel road. I was going about 80 kmph and suddenly my bike was swerving. I didn’t see it coming. My gut instinct was to slow down but the second I tried that, the bike started to swerve even more. I thought I was going to eat it badly but somehow by letting in the clutch, the bike straightened out. I can only surmise it perhaps added a touch of speed because it was no longer using the gears to slow the engine and started coasting, or I found a better patch of road.
The next time that happened I went against everything in my brain and twisted the throttle. Instantly my bike straightened out. It was a very cool feeling.
In Namibia, we’ve had to ride faster than I usually like in order to keep the bike straight but I’m happy to see that even after over 60,000 km (37,280 mi) and 17 countries, we can still have breakthroughs with riding.
Stay tuned for Namibia Part Two, coming soon 🙂
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