Planned route: Leeupas - Opuwo
Estimated distance: about 370km
Real route: Leeupas - Ongongo Springs
Day 3 to me had some of the most fun during the whole trip. It started with great scenery, building road, a fellow rider missed a turn-off, getting some miles on better than sand roadway, plenty of wildlife spotted and at the end riding through some water, always something precious to a Namibian-born like me!
So first we had breakfast with a gorgeous view of Brandberg and a tent that almost got away due to a light breeze. We cleaned the chains and decided to send Uncle H in front, to scout the bad spots out. Within two minutes the radio burst came through: "Lion tracks, lion tracks, hurry up!" What does that mean, take cover or let's go get them? Of course, beautiful footprints in the sand but no sight of the animal king.
But our worries about lion tracking was soon forgotten when Uncle H showed as the little pass we need to ascend. Since some of us had a little different route the previous day, this was not too bad, but we had great concern for the 4x4's who would be on 2 wheels (the diagonal ones) most of the time. It was basically a very steep hill with either big holes or just huge loose rocks everywhere. At some points we had people helping the bikes out of the holes while the rider's feet were wildly dangling in the air. (Yes I know they have to be on the pegs, but I am a newbie and make mistakes!) Maverick at some point avoided a rock in the road and found a nice parking spot in the hillside as the picture shows…I rode by and had one thought only: "It can't be easier going THAT way!"
The next picture taken gives some idea about the incline of the road, but you really have to be there to feel the pain:
So we had to take the gloves off, and walk down most of the pass to pick out all the little annoying rocks in the road and fill the big holes up with huge flat rocks to get the other two 4x4's and trailer to the top. We probably spent a good hour here building road. Uncle A at some point tried to drive straight up the dune where we slept, but with no success. So what do you call a pass that is not on a map filled with predator tracks and has no name yet? LEEUPAS or LION PASS!
What can beat this view of the highest mountain in Namibia?
So there was no down from the hill, and we were straight back in the sand. One would dig a bike in, another would stop to help and then the helper would be stuck...thank you for the 4x4 crew, always helping the last stuck one.
I decided at this point, never been in sand apart from the last 2 days, that the two riders in front is doing some magic to avoid getting stuck, and that I need that magic too. So I pulled the KLR out of the road and just started riding faster and faster, crisscrossing goat tracks, some other roads that merge and diverge from the main and even big holes that animals dug. But since the sand was soft, luckily no damage to the rims! So at 60km an hour I found that I could even cross the main track with a breeze, but man, when I put the bike back in the track, I death grip the handles and hop from the left to the right like a ping pong ball. So the road became my compass to show direction only!
So we pass the valleys and the Damara kraal's and try to catch up with Uncle H, who clearly was having his own fun breaking Toyota speed limits. He knew we don't do sand well and choose which way at a split by taking the harder road even if it took us in quite the opposite direction. So here I need to talk about the benefit and drawback of having a GPS system.
If you take a look on a satellite photo of the off-road tracks we spent the last 3 or 4 hours of the previous day on, you'll see that there is quite a nice bypass through the sand to the east of all the trouble we had. At most 20 minutes versus 3 hours. But would we have had so much fun almost dehydrating, rescuing the trailer, riding by that 50 feet cliff, get a fall from Brakenjan and camp in that little cove in the mountains, not even talking about the Leeupas / Lion pass experience earlier this morning? I vote that not having all the info, gave us an unforgettable experience...but now, the GPS is not riding in front any more and we are going east in a riverbed that is getting worse and worse, even 007 had a fall. During the ride (and maybe cause I fell right behind 007, looking for a place to stop before hitting him) I would have loved to know for sure that the "planned" road is the other way from a GPS. But when stopped and saw a road on the map that might get us back on our main plan to go north (the way original plan was to sleep at Opuwo tonight, and at the current pace we are still 3 days away from there). So where is this road, because right now we are just riding from the left side to the right side up a riverbed with almost no sign of even being on a track? (Looking at the map later showed that the road is so bad here, it runs on both sides of the riverbed, so neither side is getting used much at all). So a few decided to go track hunting and sure, we found the most beautiful track going up in a valley that we have ever seen. If it was not for the elephants and water a week later, this would be voted the most beautiful ride of the trip. So there, a vote for GPS guidance; it showed us a great place that hardly anybody ever will see.
So at the top the road kept going and going...
We had an arrangement that when the road splits, you make sure the person behind you see which way the first ones are going, but sometimes, especially in sand, your eyes and brain is focussed on the more immediate threat, so when you do 50 clicks in thick sand, and reach an open gate at the Goedgenoeg ("Good enough") ranch, you take the invitation and GO! So a fellow comrade did not see the last man showing that we are turn left before the gate and had to be fetched.
Shortly after the road turned rough again, hard surface with little dry creeks crossing, some places rocks and other places just pebbles...but the scenery was awesome! A huge red mountain appeared in front of us and also some 20 galloping zebras. I had to stop and take a picture of the world famous Welwitschia mirabilis plant that is considered a living fossil, some being more than a 1000 years old. It actually has only two leaves, and due to its slow growth, is also considered endangered.
Nambabwe, riding up the hill between the red mountain and the one that hosts the Burnt Mountain:
Just in the middle of nowhere of this redish mountain, it looks like someone lit a match and tried to turn the mountain into ashes, it is called "Burnt Mountain":
These, not so important looking rocks (above), in the corner of a small mountain are the canvas to the beautiful Bushmen art (below):
So from Burnt Mountain we got on a real road that is actually on a real map and decided to head over to Twyfelfontein for lunch. The stay in this lodge is so popular, that it is fully booked for the next 5 years. Because they only serve buffet for lunch, we decided to have a very cold beer in this beautiful bar and eat our lunch snacks and biltong in the parking lot.
Above and below are shots from the bar and the whole restaurant building.
Right after lunch someone told us to take the road that goes by the airfield and save miles, yeah right, anybody will take one look at the map and see that it is almost the same distance, but the road that we did not take is marked, and thus maintained, and you won't get lost in some mechanic's scrap yard by that airfield if you did not take the turn off!
However, soon we were on the "highway" and the miles rolled by. For the first time, it was really hot, so much that the Land Cruiser had trouble pulling the trailer. With a slight wind from behind, thus no cooling in the front, the famous 7 mile pass (photo below) was not helping. We had to turn the Land Cruiser around and threw some extra water into the cooler and fan from the front. The trailer also transferred to our zippy Toyota shortly after.
The bikes had no problem riding through the pass so we kept the clicks clicking. Only once saw our lead GPS rider and that was at the departure of the pass...
So why does South Africa have the worst gravel roads in the world and Namibia some of the best in Africa? They, SA, built all the roads in Namibia, and left them the graders!!!
So when you as a biker (fresh from an off-road in the desert) see a grader, you are happy, but that is only if he is coming your way! If you catch up to one, you'll have the trouble to pass him in the dust (and he could push you off the road, which almost happened the next day to a few of us) and now you have a crappy road coming (which is why the grader is there!)
So what do you do when you sweat a lot and don't vent your feet at all...take a look, nuff said!
The next picture always reminds me of the story of the tortoise and the hare? Do you think the hare also had sweaty feet and motocross boots on to force a rest like we did?
Fuel at Palmwag...well, we are skipping the worries about what happens when you are actually a foreigner in the country you were born in, because you only have a Texas or British motorcycle driver's license, and the policeman at the veterinary control gate wants to see your AAA (AA in Africa) translation of it, which you don't have...call us for the numerous possible options, and no, bribing is not one of them. So back to the fuel, remarkably the price of fuel is somehow controlled and in this part of the world cost the same regardless of the demand or the distance to deliver it from the entry port.
Did anyone notice the missing number plate? He was not the only one, just wait a few days, or hours.
The mountains in the distance amazed me every time:
So we left Palmwag in a rush, the road was good and we were eager to get some miles behind us. Just as I got on the road, I swerved for 2 goats and within seconds was almost run over by a gemsbok (oryx), I already had my foot and hand out to transfer from bike to antelope (and then most likely into the boat to meet the Greek God Hades). Some witnesses to this complained later about the lack of road kill for dinner.
As said, the road was good, so good that some people discussed the differences between clock speed and GPS speed...doesn't that difference only show up notably AFTER 160km/h, wink, wink.
No, that was not the same missing number plate! (I claim that was from wind sheer)
While we waited for Maverick to patch a wheel, Brakenjan went ahead a bit to look for another turn off to the springs, because the road signs here was not helping. The video camera on Nambabwe's bike, recording every second of the way is also shown.
So we turned off the main road and followed a very dusty track along a water pipe for a few miles. At Ongongo Springs, a spring's water drops down a small waterfall (20 feet?) with a great swimming hole underneath and then flow down in a little stream, which you need to cross to get to the camp sites. All in the canyon right next to the waterfall. Can you imagine how running water is appreciated after 3 days of sand, dust and desert? Judge for yourself after peeking at a KLR's air filter:
Here are the 4x4's coming through the little stream after the bikes slipped and slided on the slippery rocks in the water.
The waterfall is right behind those rocks in the canyon:
And hidden behind that rock in the middle:
Next time we would bring family to enjoy the romantic sunsets:
Or the little lanterns lighted for us to get to the toilets and showers: