Planned route: Hentiesbaai to the Brandberg via the Spitzkoppe
Estimated distance: 210km
Real route: Hentiesbaai - Spitskoppe - Omaruru Rivier
At this stage I should probably introduce the motley crew.
From left to right we have Lootch, Uncle A (Lootch's dad), Nambabwe, Uncle H (Nambabwe's uncle), Doubleoseven, Brakenjan, Uncle G (Nambabwe's dad) and Maverick.
The area we'll be riding is the north western part of Namibia which includes an area called Damaraland and the Kaokoland.
Day 1 got off to a bumpy start as it took much longer to load the vehicles than expected and we eventually left about 2 1/2 hours later than planned.
The starting line-up:
The first stretch was 90km back the way we came the previous day. The road was quite good but the going was still slow as everybody tried to get used to the feel of gravel again. It had literally been years since I've done any high speed gravel riding and Nambabwe had never ridden his bike or gravel before so we took it easy. We stopped frequently to give advice (blind leading the blind?) and to share experiences. It helps if you know that the guy you've been watching and thinking "he looks alright" also feels as if the bike's about slide from underneath him as that hopefully means that you're alright. Crossing the bit in the centre (the "middelmannetjie") is quite scary but once I start to apply the theoretical knowledge of weight on the pegs and positive throttle it gets much better. By the end of the day it was hard to imagine how this lovely piece of road could've felt scary at all.
A couple of pics of that first stretch: Maverick coming through on the GS:
I've driven this road loads of times but somehow the Namib desert is much more beautiful when viewed from two wheels..
That picture is enough to inspire a poem. If only I was a poet... That's the small Spitzkoppe in the background.
Lootch and Nambabwe coming through:
Doubleoseven and Brakenjan:
We reached the turnoff for the Spitzkoppe around lunchtime and pulled over for lunch. Lunch consisted of some sandwiched with ham and cheese.
Now, there's a story behind this cheese. Someone asked the question "What do you call something that's yellow and barks?" Answer: a guard cheese or "wagkaas" in Afrikaans. Somehow that was really funny and it stuck.
Some more shots:
This is the Spitzkoppe. I've always found them quite impressive but in the 30+ years we've been driving past them we've never gone to take a closer look. Big mistake!
Getting closer. I'm starting to realise that this piece of rock is slightly bigger than I'd expected.. The gravel is also much looser and at times quite corrugated. Not nice. It would be nothing compared to what we endured later on in the trip.
We hit our first real sandy stretches of the trip. A bit unnerving to say the least.
That's one solid piece of rock in the background:
A nice arty shot... and that's where that camelback stayed...
The road winds its way round the back of the Spitzkoppe before turning north. Man, KTM could use this pic in their brochures. Nice one Doubleoseven!
Some close formation riding:
This is the rear or the Spitzkoppe with the Erongo Mountains in the distance:
The road then turns into a very interesting 2-track road which has it all. Nice hard stretches with some seriously sandy bits in between and the odd rocky sections as well. I'm starting to enjoy this immensely although the sand is still scaring me. I'm not yet fast enough in the sand and somehow end up riding with my front wheel pointing in all sorts of weird directions with me still riding in an almost straight line - until the front finally grips and the bike tries to throw you off. This makes sticking to the tracks a rather exhausting, not to mention hair raising experience. But slowly I start to get more comfortable on the pegs and manage to push myself to ride just that little bit above my comfort zone and things start to get much easier. In fact, I'm really starting to have a lot of fun. We also had to watch out for big holes in the road. There were even more off the track which meant we had to stick to the tracks. Hard work for these noobs:
Taking to the sand like ducks to water - feet paddling wildly!
The sand is starting to take its toll on Nambabwe:
I don't know who fell how many times in this stretch of road. Some were just unlucky to have a camera pointed at them when it happened.
Then Brakenjan remembered that he'd left his Camelback on the pole. This is quite serious as it contained a large amount of money as well as his passport. Uncle H decides that it would be quickest if they go back using the hire vehicle he was driving - what's that saying again - "The only true off-road vehicle is a hire vehicle". Let's just say Toyota trucks are bloody tough and Uncle H knows how to drive!
While waiting for them we had to amuse ourselves. I climbed a hill to take some photos while the rest had some fun with the "kettie". Sorry, I don't know what it's called in English.
If you look really closely you can see some fairy circles down there. I didn't make any effort to inspect them any closer as we would be seeing them from up close in a couple of day's time. Now might be the time to mention that only one of the 10 days worked out as planned...
The hero's triumphant return! Brakenjan was shaking a bit. Don't know whether it was because he was so relieved at getting his Camelback back with everything still inside or whether it had anything to do with Uncle H's driving.
We realised that there's no way we'd reach the Brandberg (Burning Mountain) that day so decided to see if we could make it to the Omaruru River. The pace hots up a bit and again I'm having the time of my life. Even the sand is getting much easier. At one stage I hear a loud "clack" and stop to see what it was. Don't know what it was but I did find that the two lock nuts on the right swingarm had come off - yes I know, I didn't lock them when I changed the tires the previous evening. I found a bit off an old hand guard to use as a substitute which was still working fine by the end of the trip.
We reached the Omaruru river late afternoon. The decent into the river is an awesome piece of road - slightly rocky, windy and quite technical for us at that stage.
The last bit before you get to the riverbed proper is through some nasty deep, loose sand. I started on the pegs but didn't carry enough speed so had to paddle my way through. Doubleoseven came off and had to get Brakenjan to lift the bike as his legs were pinned down. Maverick also didn't quite make it and again was unfortunate enough to have the moment captured on film.
What then followed was an awesome stretch of riverbed. The sand wasn't too loose although it did have a couple of nasty spots and some unexpected banks. I almost crashed into a big hole. It looked like it might've been dug by the desert elephants looking for water but as far as I know they don't come as far south as that. The most awesome bit though was the high rock faces flanking the riverbeds. I'll let the photos do the talking.
That little dot is Maverick on the GS. Truly awe inspiring, not Maverick, the rocks!
Maverick starting to get the hang of this sand riding malarkey. Shortly after this he dropped the bike and I offered to ride it the last bit. OMG!! This is a seriously heavy piece of machinery. With the almost full tank that thing must've weighed the best part of 250kg. More on my impressions on the bike at a later stage.
Lootch giving the KLR some stick: (Note from Nambabwe: Standing like this is also how Lootch did more than a third of the whole trip!)
Doubleoseven looking very cool!
We found an absolute idyllic spot a bit further down the river. What wasn't brilliant was the fact that the country was enveloped in a freak cold spell - enough for some areas to get a light dusting of snow! It didn't snow where we were but the night-time temperatures must've dropped to freezing at least. Of course I did not come prepared as the last time I camped in this area it really was in the middle of winter and it wasn't cold at all. Man, that coffee tasted good the following morning.
If you zoom in real close to where we camped the first night, you can even see the nice colors of the mountains surrounding the Omaruru riverbed, just like two earlier pictures.