Planned route: Omaruru Riverbed to Twyfelfontein
Estimated distance: about 180km
Real route: Omaruru Riverbed to Leeupas
Man was I glad when it was time to wake up. I was half frozen and really looking forward to that coffee. Had the coffee and then Maverick and I climbed up some rocks to take photos of the sunrise.
We had to retrace our steps up the riverbed for about 5 kilometres. It was quite cold and the sand was nice and compact. Everyone was glad to be back on the bikes and decided to just give it that little bit more. The result was that every single one of us had the rides of our lives as we thundered up the river. We covered that 5 kilometres in 7 minutes. It was truly awesome.
Here's the riders regrouping at the exit of the riverbed. Those helmets were hiding huge grins.
At this point I'd like to explain a term we used throughout the trip. It's a term described by some psychologist (Brakenjan what's the name of the guy?) and it describes perfectly that level you reach when riding when it's just you and the machine in perfect harmony. He refers to it as "Flow" and the definition is something along the lines of:
We were all definitely in the "Flow" that morning. But the truly amasing bit is that we were about to have an even better ride! The road out of the river is uphill and sandy. Again, since we've just proved that we laugh in the face of the sand monster it was an absolute breeze.
The rest of the road is quite hard with the odd sand patches or small rivers. There were the odd bumps and dips to make things interesting. We were all riding at silly speeds by our standards and having the rides of our lives. Here are a couple of pics of that stretch of road.
Doubleoseven congratulates Maverick after he had some major airtime with the big GS.
The man was in love with his bike and was it not for the hot exhaust things might've turned really nasty.
Doubleoseven comes flying past. The man was riding like a pro - as smooth as can be.
We reach the main road leading to Uis (C35) and wait for the backup vehicles. That's the face of a man who'd just had the perfect ride on the perfect bike. Ironically this exact spot would be of great significance to this man and machine on our return journey.
The main road to Uis is in a very good condition. In stark contrast to yesterday's big gravel road we were not hanging about. We stopped at Uis to fill up and buy some supplies which included a blanket for me. The plan now was to join the Ugab river at a point north of the Brandberg and then ride down it for about 60km and exit in the Divorce Pass which would take us past the Doros crater and on to Twyfelfontein where we planned to spend the night.
Heading straight for the Brandberg. This road was bad. Really loose gravel and heavy corrugations. Fortunately it was over quite quickly.
By now it was getting really hot. When we got to the Ugab I was not at all convinced that this would be as easy as this morning's ride. I was right. It was bloody tough with the sand extremely loose and deep. Maverick, Nambabwe and I tried to keep to the edge of the river in the hope that we'd find slightly firmer ground but without much success. We picked up bikes a couple of times especially the "whale" as the GS had now become known none too affectionately.
Trust me, the going was really tough.
Look at that sand.
After another couple of falls Maverick gladly agreed to swap bikes. This turned out to be a bit of a watershed for me as the only thought going through my head when I got on the GS was "I am not going to fall, I'm not going to fall". Well, I near as dammit did a couple of times, but once I got the old girl to start planing I started to have some fun even though it required about 20-30% more effort than the KLR. To do this I had to ride about 15-20km/h faster than I used to be comfortable with. Also, not standing was simply not an option as the bike bucked and weaved so much that it threatened to throw me clear a couple of times. This did however highlight the fact that it's much easier to control the bike with your legs - they are much stronger than your arms after all. With the bike not set up for someone of my stature (6'7" or 2.03m) standing was not the easiest thing to do as I had to bend over quite far to reach the bars which left me feeling like I'm about to go for a dive over the bars. Only one cure for that and that is to keep the throttle pinned. One thing I again realised is that there's simply "no replacement for displacement". The torque coming from that 1000cc engine was simply awesome. Although the bike has quite tall gear ratios you really just have to get the bike moving and then slip it into second gear and let the torque pull you through absolutely everything. That bike also has the slickest BMW gearbox I've ever operated.
About 10km down the river we stopped to have lunch. Now this is the stage where I really appreciated the support vehicles as there were plenty of cold beers and drinks available. Together with some more sandwiches with guard cheeses and some Boerewors (sausages) we prepared over the coals we were all soon feeling much better. Unfortunately not quite good enough to tackle the remaining 50km to Divorce Pass so it was decided that we'd take a shortcut to Twyfelfontein. Another reason for this was that we'd just passed some really fresh elephant tracks and we really did not want to get caught in this river with an irritated elephant.
Doubleoseven taking control of the food.
There were loads of birds, the most attractive of which is this horn bill.
Not quite sure what happened here. I think Doubleoseven wanted me to demonstrate just how I rode the GS. Or did he want me to play leap frog?
The road rose steadily onto a plateau with an excellent view of the Brandberg. The road was OK - a bit rocky but not too bad.
At the top of this plateau we were met with the most awesome sight - a canyon in the middle of nowhere with the Brandberg as a spectacular backdrop. It's moments like these that make you fall in love with Namibia all over again.
We also saw some fairy circles in the distance but did not go closer to investigate as we would be seeing plenty more later on. Did I mention that very little worked out the way we planned?
The road then got progressively sandier. I was having a right old battle with the whale as I was starting to tire so had to sit down more than I would've preferred. This highlighted my biggest problem with the GS - the short distance between peg and seat. This meant I had to get up from a crouching position in stead of a seating position - it felt like a cruel version of Star Jumps. After a while I had real trouble getting up in time for the sandy bits. In the meanwhile Maverick, who was right behind me, was running a serious risk of crashing because he couldn't stop laughing.
Can't help but wonder what the story behind this building is.
Then we came upon this dune. Doubleoseven and Brakenjan had made it to the top so I decided to give it a go. I felt a bit sorry for the poor whale as I gunned the old girl up the dune, eventually coming to a stop about 15m from the top. I've seldom been so chuffed with myself as at that particular moment. I knew I would've easily made it to the top had the bike been fitted with proper knobblies. Also, due to the fact that the bike was so heavy and the terrain so rocky we had to run the tyres at quite high pressure - 1.8. Still, I've just had the third "ride of my life" in a single day.
Now imagine my disappointment when Doubleoseven announced that we would have to go back down again to try an alternate route as the way ahead was some really thick sand and he did not think the support vehicle towing the trailer would get up that dune. I turned around and then discovered that there's one aspect of sand riding which I've not yet mastered - riding downhill especially with the bike's front wheel really digging in. By the time I reached the bottom I was shattered. Maverick also tried his best to get to the top of the dune with the KLR but managed to get just a little stuck very near the top.
I rested for a short while then took the alternative route, fully expecting Doubleoseven and Brakenjan to be right behind me. They never came down that dune... Uncle G with the trailer followed right behind me with Maverick and Nambabwe behind him. I had very little energy left in me and found the going really though. This is the one moment on the trip where I really wished I started on that fitness regime I had planned before the trip. A bit further we found a firm spot and Uncle G suggested he goes ahead to scout the road so we don't have to retrace our steps again. He disappeared behind the dune just as Brakenjan and Doubleoseven decided to continue on the original path. I couldn't help but feel a bit miffed as they really did not have that far to go to get to terra firma again - this of course was impossible to see from the top of the dune. In what turned out to be quite poetic Brakenjan had his maiden fall - literally in the middle of f-all in soft sand as he promised his wife more than a year ago in Central Park.
On the other side of this sand you can see the white specs which are the other two support vehicles.
We waited at this spot for ages. It turns out that the trailer got stuck and it took a Herculean effort to recover it. Poor Brakenjan and Doubleoseven worked their butts off to get the trailer out by pushing, pulling and even lifting the thing while it was being winched out.
Eventually Uncle H and Uncle A arrived in the other truck to lead the way. It's a good thing they did as the track disappears completely in the mountain and without them leading the way we would probably have turned around and looked for an alternate route. This particular route was quite hazardous as it winds it way along the side of the mountain with very little space and a deadly drop off.
We reached the rest of the group...
and then discovered that there's no sign of Maverick. Flippen heck!!!! In the truck and chased down the mountain again fully expecting to find a skid mark going over the edge. Fortunately we found him where the trailer had become stuck. He'd dropped the bike and with no energy to lift the bike on his own was waiting for us. Can't blame the man - we barely had enough energy between the two of us to lift the bike.
Eventually the group was all together again and we enjoyed a well deserved drink and rest.
We realised that Twyfelfontein was simply not going to happen that day and, given the time of day and all the excitement of the past couple of hours, decided to find a place to set up camp. Of course the first bit of road was once again a killer with plenty of sand but almost reckless application of the throttle and stern warnings shouted at the whale somehow managed to keep her upright. (We have a nice video of a KLR leaving the road due to a sand overload avoidance technique mastered by a certain rider, we'll YouTube it soon)
After that initial stretch followed a rather rocky bit before we found a fabulous spot to set up camp.
What more could one want than a spot like this, a decent steak on the coals, a cold drink in your hand and the best company you could possibly wish for. Cheers boys!
Below is the gps data on where we actually went. Zoom in real close to just before where we camped, and you can see where we traveled different roads.