Planned route: Ongongo Springs - Opuwo - Epupa Falls
Today started the same as every other day with some basic maintenance being done. Mostly it required only the lubing of chains but checks included tyre pressure, oil and other fluid levels, chain tightness and just a general check to see how many bolts we've lost. My steering head nut had worked itself loose completely on one occasion. An industrial amount of Loctite soon put an end to that. We usually cleaned the air filters the previous evening to allow them to dry overnight.
I was in some way dreading today as it would be a long stint in the saddle made even longer by the fact that we should've been 115km further north. But it promised to be an easy ride with big gravel roads all the way. Well the roads were big and they were gravel but I sure as hell did not find them easy. It all started well with the 11km stretch to the turnoff which would take us straight north through the Joubert Mountains. I was in front for a change and savouring the chance of not riding in anyone's dust. Speeds were high by previous days' standards but the road was in excellent condition. Why I thus decided to stop to photograph everybody as they came flying past I wouldn't know. Again the rock formations were quite fascinating.
About 10km after the turnoff for Opuwo I lost my "flow" (refer Day 2 for a definition). I'd just gone over a slight crest when the road suddenly turned to the right quite sharply (this was to be a very regular occurrence) further compounded by quite loose gravel and an off-camber. I had a right old battle to stop myself target fixating on the big trees lining the side of the road, not to mention the massive boulder right on the edge of the road I was heading for. See, no target fixation whatsoever! Somehow I made the turn but I was shaken. I decided to turn back to warn the others. I was too late to warn Maverick but fortunately he made it (not without some serious butt clenching) but got a hell of a fright when he suddenly saw me heading the wrong way. And that's where I lost my flow. RIP...
The rest of the road through the Joubert Mountains were mostly in a valley with loads of turns - most off-camber on loose gravel. Somehow I could not get myself to re-apply everything I'd done the previous day and every stomach churning bend seemed to compound my misery. There was one other spot which had me almost wetting myself when the road turned to that lovely powdery dust which is probably about 20cm deep with a bad surface underneath except you can't anticipate anything.
Some pics from that road. I'm pretty glad they've tarred this hill as it's really steep. I started it at about 120km/h (75mph) in 5th and was down to 3rd gear when I got to the top. Awesome view from there though.
View from the top off the pass:
Maverick riding off into the distance. Mind the blind crest and 70degree bend though. This was a main feature of all the main roads in Kaokoland and is the cause of most accident involving tourists in Namibia as they generally ride too fast and don't anticipate the roads turning so sharply. Be warned!
Gotta love a 432mm lense:
Brakenjan and Doubleoseven swapped bikes for a while. Apparently Doubleoseven had to pry Brakenjan's hands from the KLR.
At least this road ended with a good surface and no bends and I tried to see if I could catch up on my "flow" which had obviously hitched a ride on one of the faster riders. I think I caught glimpses of it.
Nambabwe approaching the turnoff to Opuwo. Sorry mate, I did promise to add the huge dust cloud but my Photoshop seems to be playing up.
Maverick couldn't decide whether this is part of someone's ATTGATT from an era gone by or a bed pan. I vote the latter.
The rest of the road to Opuwo was pretty good fun with loads of dips which had the suspension bottoming out at times. I was starting to feel mildly optimistic about the rest of the day's riding. We filled up at Opuwo and again stocked up on some supplies. I have to admit Opuwo is probably one of my least favourite places I've ever been to as it's pretty dirty and very dusty especially since the town was hit by the one dust storm after another when we were there. We stopped for lunch about 5km outside of town with those not on kitchen duty taking the opportunity to chill out properly.
Uncle A describing a close encounter of some sort:
I know there's space next to you but I'm quite happy standing thank you very much Doubleoseven.
The 180km to Epupa was almost as frustrating as the morning's ride. There weren't that many off-camber bends but the gravel was VERY loose. It was really like riding on marbles. I've never ridden anything so loose and was not enjoying it one bit. I came round this one really tight right-hand bend trying my best to stay on the road. I was right on the edge of the road when I looked up (yes I know that's part of the reason I found myself in this predicament) and saw Nambabwe parked right in front of me. I managed to avoid him without any problems and then I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was a big red whale appearing out of the bushes! Jip, Maverick had decided that it would be better to take the long way round. In his defence, this is the bend and the gravel and those KLR tyres on the Beemer really don't inspire much confidence in these conditions.
That's the face of a very relieved man.
We went through loads of small dry rivers which caused the KLRs and BM to bottom out from time to time. I got major air time going out of one and made a mental note to remember this one as we would be returning the same way two days later. My mind's not what it used to be...
The road took us past Epembe and on to Okongwati. I was hoping that things would improve once we're past Okongwati (no idea why Okongwati) but sadly that was not to be the case. In fact, I almost lost it in the first bend going out of Okongwati. The road then became a mixed bag of pretty good surfaces which would change very suddenly to really rocky bits which required that you slowed down considerably. I think this is where I dinged my rim. And so it continued. We stopped at this huge "Kremetart" tree.
Nambabwe was pretty gatvol (fed up) by then.
Maverick too if I were to hazard a guess.
The 08 KLR had two rather irritating habits. Neither the fuel cap nor the oil cap would seal properly. Not good enough Kawasaki!
Funny thing happened earlier on. Well it was funny at the time but it actually highlighted the reason why we stopped every so often and waited for the whole group to catch up or at least get confirmation that every one is still sunny side up. Doubleoseven was again leading the way and he pulled over to allow the rest of the group to catch up. Somehow he dropped the bike when he got off and due to a combination of tiredness, being fed up, and wanting to play a trick on Brakenjan he decided to just lay there and wait for Brakenjan to "discover" him. (I'd played a similar trick on Brakenjan when we were at varsity and would've seriously advised Doubleoseven against it but I was bringing up the rear so I guess he had to find out the hard way...) Anyway, things backfired spectacularly as Brakenjan did not even see him. To make matters worse he was trying to catch up with Doubleoseven to tell him that it was high time they stopped to allow everyone to catch up. And so Doubleoseven had to play catch up big time. At least it prepared him for something similar later on in the trip.
Just after this tree the road improves greatly. At one stage it winds its way between a couple of koppies (small hills) with the surface that lovely balance of being just grippy enough yet not so much that it takes all the fun out of the odd skid. See, I was getting within touching distance of my "flow".
We came across a grader. Unfortunately it was going in the same direction we were which meant it was really tricky to pass him. Maverick lost the sole of one of his boots when the grader forced him into a sandbank.
Doubleoseven stopped to inspect his other passion. Apparently the way to notify the staff at the camp that they should meet you at the landing strip is to circle above the camp a couple of times.
Finally you crest a hill and are met with the most glorious of sights - the Kunene River which means an end to the day's ride, a refreshing swim, a couple of cold beers and decent grub.
We certainly wasted no time in getting in the river, even though it was strictly speaking unsafe to swim where we did. There are crocodiles in the Kunene and while we were sitting on some rocks looking back at the river bank we saw what we though might've been a crocodile's den.
That night Maverick and Doubleoseven made one of the best potjies (stews in a Dutch oven) and potbrood (bread prepared in a pot on the coals) I've ever tasted. Man, having all these support vehicles with us certainly had its advantages.