Planned route: Top of Van Zyl's Pass thru Golf Pass to the Marienfluss
Route: Top of Van Zyl's - Tree Road - Top of Van Zyl's - Otjitanda - Blue Rocks in River - Otjitanda - before Otjihaa Pass
Distance: 65km total, and as the crow flies, only 20km!!!
We woke up in the riverbed, still stuffed from the previous night's feast with a few of the local people watching every move we make, somewhat scary. At first it was only what seems to be the kraal chief or maybe grandfather, but soon a little crowd of women and babies joined, of course with not much clothing on. There was no point in trying a conversation, because our Ovahimba is just as plentiful as their Afrikaans or English. So they just watched and we drank coffee, ate cereal, tie shoelaces, folded sleeping bags and tents, washed dishes, brushed teeth, and they just watched...I later wondered if we would be that peaceful when meeting Martians and want to watch and learn from their day to day habits? I think we left them a bag of fresh oranges to say thank you for using a few of the trees for firewood.
Once again, when hanging out in the wild, you can't help but noticing the beautiful birds hanging out with you:
We loaded everything, oiled the chains, set the chokes and started the bikes. It was only half a mile to Van Zyl's Pass and we planned to find this brand new little road that even a VW Golf could use (from here branded "Golf Pass") to travel between the Marienfluss and the upper moutains. The person who told us this, a tour operator for 10 years in the area now, also said there was a little sign on the ground that showed the turn-off. But here we are, clearly at the top of Van Zyl's and no trace of a sign or turn-off. So Uncle H and me (Nambabwe) went down the first 2.5 miles of Van Zyl's pass on the Toyota D-4D, but soon realized that this is not going to be fun with the trailer, and neither on 2 wheels, so due to the lack of room to turn around, we drove 2 miles in reverse back up the pass.
Maybe the road that pass by these huts will take us there, it looks like it almost has been cleared by a bulldozer or grader...well at least all the big rocks are removed from the roadway:
So we took this road which was almost regarded as a nice one and it took us straight into a huge cattle drive by two locals coming head on...so all you can do is smile and slow down, these cows have most likely never seen a motorcycle, so getting excited is not going to help.
So as the road continued, you could clearly see that it is getting smaller and less traveled, but still looking new enough that you can believe the Golf Pass legend. Then suddenly the road went down a nice "double black diamond" hill and shortly after it dead ends with a tree right in the middle of the road and then no more sign of road. Huh?
Has any one seen that Golf go through here?
Picture back to the hill taken through that blocking tree:
So we just waited long enough for the 4x4s to show up and then rode back through the same big cattle drive again!
We rode back to the junction at Otjitanda and for some strange reason, everyone felt the urge to take a small mid-morning nap, when Uncle H decided to drive a little up the road coming from the north to look for that small sign:
So word came that the road we are looking for should be in a North West direction following the river...and suddenly the hopes went up to one, skip half the sandy road in the Marienfluss, and two, see the Kunene river again. So we gladly hopped on the bikes and most likely experienced the worst off-road track any of us has seen, or will for the foreseeable future. It was just horrible, think sand in the river beds (without actually knowing where the tracks are, or when they leave the riverbed, once outside the riverbed, either more sand or so much rocks and gravel that you want to put your feet on the tank to avoid any contact with mother earth...apart from the terrain being unfriendly, the sun was starting to heat things up, and whenever we stopped, we flocked like flies to any little shade available.
The 4x4s had an even tougher time with finding the road, since they sit higher and can often see more than one way to go. They also need to figure out which way did the most of us go, because I certainly did not follow anybody when my KLR hit the thick sand and started jumping underneath me. I would just take a guess at which way the GPS is heading and aim for that...with some surprises to what you can make a KLR really do in terms of getting in and out of riverbeds, going through dense bushes, yes, the types with thorns on and going over big rocks and fallen trees. And then there is also the few times when the KLR decides not to follow you that closely and you put him down for a bit, but only a short bit, since the adrenaline is running so high at that point that you quickly pick him up and only then take a breath.
So eventually, which felt like an eternity, we dead ended on some blue rocks in a river bend, no more road, no more tracks, and no sign of people for a loooong while. Just like that, riding like madmen, and then this...one big fat nothing! Not even a Golf wreck!
The bikes were parked almost everywhere, out of frustration for the little mess we ended up in. The 4x4's showed up after having some fun burning down the riverbed instead of caring for the road any more. Lunch was eminent, but we thought we should do a bit of scouting first to see if we could find some traces of tracks going anywhere. Lootch and Uncle H went west and me and Uncle G (well, Dad for that matter), backed up a little to see if we can find any early turn-offs, but all we found was empty kraal and more empty kraal, so the road must have been serving these kraals and that is that. We even scouted the riverbed by foot after the blue rocks with no luck*.
Empty kraals everywhere:
We settled down for lunch, right there at the dead-end, can't even remember what we ate, probably involved guard cheese, but it could not get our spirits back up for the moment, because we all knew what crappy road we had to ride back again!
Some took another nap underneath a tarp, since the sun was working us good by now and there was little or no wind. 007 even had a little stomach bug or the like, if I remember correctly. Original plan: lets rest for an hour and then work our way back slowly.
Anyone knows a typical Namibian rancher? Well here is the short story, they all have one gene twisted the wrong way, and that wrongly twisted gene gives them the inability to sit still, yes sitting around, doing nothing, chilling out, having the moment, no, they can't, absolutely not! I always believed that is why television has commercials; so that they can get up and go do something quickly. Result? Not even 15 minute rest, Uncle H already scouting back to where he saw another vehicle at the previous kraal delivering some proviand, and Uncle G, well, halfway there, because we need a radio bridge. A radio bridge, what in the world is that (and I am an electronic engineer)? Anyway here we go, the salesman at the vehicle says Golf Pass is this way and the Radio Bridge says we need to hurry up! And that is exactly what we did!!!
Hmmm...who thought of riding in a few raindrops, the smell was so refreshing!
We rode the same road we did with great pains earlier today, and now it was just "Flow"-ing, or was it Flying? We did so much "Flow"-ing, that we probably returned all the way to Otjitanda in less than an hour. Even the rough sandy patches which caused plenty of falls were now turning into small race courses. Some extra raindrops were just more encouragement. So we came to this kraal again where the dogs are highly annoying, me on the heels of 007 and then Brakkenjan suddenly passing me, not that there is a real race going, nor a specific order to keep, but we are in a hurry and with the dogs already in sight, no one is going to slow down at all.
Right after the kraal is a huge bush and the road abruptly goes around it...well, not me, not this time...as I banked to follow the road, the front wheel hit a nice big rock in the center of the road (by these kraals there are no real signs of the "two" track roads, they are all pretty much smoothed out). Not much to say more, except for the shock that only hit me as I was walking back to the bike. Since the bike came down quite quickly, the plastic on the right side did not like the impact too much and had to give in a bit. The handlebars also needed a small adjustment if I remember correctly. I believe this was the only fall that caused any kind of a bruise on anyone, right by my elbow the FieldSheer jacket's protection was chafing me as I was gliding to a stop.
Group photo at the D3703 junction:
We took D3703, or the Otjihaa Pass road towards Orupembe and started looking for a camping spot without a local kraal, but at this point I realized that that luxury does not exist anymore. The road was just as any other we did earlier the morning and did not really deserve to have a number. You would ride on your bike and think: "Waaau this country is so desolate, not a soul in sight" and then suddenly after the next turn, there is a friendly local sitting on a rock with jeans on and a plastic bag that shows he was at the local "Stop&Shop / Albertsons / Pick 'n Pay / Aldi's" just 10 minutes ago, and you know that the closest store is at least 100 miles away!
So we thought we cleared civilization and set up camp in a riverbed bend where the motorcycles could stay on high ground next to the river, but shielded from the road. The other side of the river had a nice natural table for boots, clothing, gear, etc.
It was not even 20 minutes before we were discovered and presented with plenty of women wearing little clothes. They kept asking for tobacco and medicine and we kept asking for just one night in peace. So they finally agreed and left us just with the frogs:
The firewood picked up here was of the very dense type, so the fire would be burning until late. But I don't think I even made it to 2nd helping of the main course before exchanging my thoughts for dreams. Now some would claim that I represent the wood carvers union while sleeping, so usually when it gets time to pitch a tent or put bedding down, most inquire about my location for the night. I guess it did not help that I fell asleep right there in the middle of the river, right behind someone's chair still eating his dinner!
Here is the route, from the Green tent in the middle of the screen, North to the tree in the road, then back to the Red bed at Otjitanda. Then North to the Red triangle, Golf Pass now, and then all the way down to the Green tent in the South!
* Back in the digital world 2 weeks later we discovered that we were quite lucky to be stopped by the blue rocks, since that river was heading straight north to the Kunene and not to the Marienfluss as we wanted it to.