Planned route: Puros - Puros Canyon - Sesfontein
We woke up quite relieved that no elephants came to visit us during the night. We did however get some winged visitors, so at ease that they would pick crumbs right from your hand:
Breakfast was as always a good idea, but getting the bikes ready to run took a little longer than we wanted too. A new sparkplug here and there, too much dust in the air filters and so on. What we definitely enjoyed was having access to fresh water again. At some point yesterday, we were down to one or two water cans on Uncle H's bakkie, and the Bush Baby's 100 liter tank empty. So running water in a tap from a well in the river was much appreciated. Would you believe that there are two showers and two toilets hidden in these bushes, well if they can fool you, they might fool the elephants too:
Leaving the camp, we follow the riverbed towards the sea. Right outside the camp the river is just a very wide and dry riverbed. The camp itself is actually also in the river, but on a higher part of it. In a huge flood season, they will have to put some new showers and toilets back in.
Anyway, where the road crosses the river towards the small village of almost 10 houses there are some dust holes, and if you have never been in one, don't ever try it. The day before I was following Uncle H to find the Campsite, so we went up the road next to the river (but not far enough), then back down, then waving through the round bushes on the high bank of the river and down again, only to end up by these dust holes. Uncle H, pulling the bush baby trailer at some point stopped and went around a big bush and I thought "why is he doing that?", and without looking, proceeded to take the shortcut...wrong move dude...right into a what felt like a huge sink hole in the ground, about half a foot deep but just a little different what you would now imagine as driving from a typical sidewalk down into a paved road. The softest dust kicks up and suddenly you can not see a thing, nothing in front of you, behind, left, or right, nothing and then the panic sets in when you look up to the sky and see nothing but grey dust. They claim car engines break down when their air intakes breathe to much of this, and I believe that now. The second thought, after how the heck is this possible, is what happens to the guy, if there was one, behind you, who can't see you either? So in a split second I decided to open the throttle all the way and popped a wheelie out of the mess. Thankfully it did the trick and I was chasing Uncle H in the riverbed upstream again, while coughing my lungs clean.
We safely passed the dust holes today, riding in the riverbed itself, and if like in a fairy tale, got to a place where water is just seeping out of the ground to form small, shallow, about 6 inch deep little streams with all kinds of water plants and animals everywhere, unreal! Suddenly everything is lush and green as you can see in this photo:
Where the cars or 4x4s rather (because cars have a very tough route to get to this part of the world) crosses these little streams of water, they make the tracks deeper and deeper with every pass. Now bring a GS with sparkplugs on the top and the bottom through this and you get water seeping into the plastic holder around the bottom spark plug and whoopee doo, a disgusted Maverick is only encouraged by a never-take-no-for-an-answer Uncle H.
Three of us took a little different way chasing down the river, so did not see the sparkplug-dry-out-pit-stop, but did stop when we got to the first water in the main part of the riverbed. Usually we only stop when the road splits but the water was such a surprise that we stopped and eventually turned around to go look for the others, only to find them around the corner in a side branch of the river, drying out. This is where the main riverbed transforms into the main "river":
This might be a Kawasaki marketing shot: "Road to the future!", but I would not have guessed that this was taken in Namibia, we are just not used to the water or the green!!!
And so our water adventures started with VERY thick river sand when not wet:
Can you spot the grey cows way in the back to the right? Yes, not from the same species as the brown ones in the front!
Who is looking at whom?
Let's just quickly discuss these big ugly grey slurpy things hidden in the green spots of a huge dry desert. They tend to not like small noisy things, and motorcycles are dead center in that category. They can also run as fast as 60km/h, so they are not your friend on foot, and while you are in front, throttle up to keep it that way. The best advice is to stay away and the second best is to be very, very careful...Last year or the year before a tour guide operator (with a group of quad bikes, goes the legend) switched the current with the forever after meeting one of these guys. At the campsites, like the one we stayed in last night, they move through freely and hardly ever hurt a soul...as just said, keep your noise maker shut or grow a lot bigger.
We met quite a few of them during the day and most of them a) hurried away into the bushes, or b) was already backed into the bushes and waved us through with their ears, not a good sign usually, but we were doing more than 60km/h quickly or c) was not seen by us! Typically the GPS and company would ride neatly in the tracks in the sand with the odd back wheel coming through which would make riding in the same track impossible for the followers. So typically we, the followers, opt for riding outside the tracks, which requires a little more speed, but less skill, something we will work on next year. So when you do see an elephant, you speed up if you are in the track, and if not in the track, you just drift a little further away to make sure you don't run into the poor big thing. Well, both Maverick and I was drifting around the elephant on the left, ok, maybe more than the usual, because there was water by the elephant too, when I heard, without ever looking back, the trumpet on my right. Short story, I left him or her something to smell about. Drifting was also dramatically reduced after that! Maverick of course thought it was me yelling at him and could not understand why, suddenly, he was riding behind.
Sometimes the water gets into your boots, even if you did keep your feet on the pegs:
But it will almost always get to your sparkplugs:
Some water crossing points were of course much deeper than others, but don't worry, 007 just want to do this one again to prove that he really did it!
The Land Cruiser can do it too:
Puros Canyon, a small little canyon in the middle of nowhere, is a beautiful place to stop, but not exactly the kind of place you would like to occupy for too long, since it is the only passage for the huge mammals that travel up and down the river. Since we have not seen too many for a while, we settled for a quick lunch here:
When the elephants show up, I am ready to leave, thank you.
How would a movie do with the name "The Three Uncles"?
Thank you Lootch for taking a picture of your friends:
The apple fell close to the tree...because it was too heavy:
Not too shallow for a desert, huh?
You have seen this one before, but since it was taken here, lets do it again:
And another team one, ready to roll again:
So while the water is not that deep, probably less than a foot on average, it is a tough call to go for the deeper tracks made by passing 4x4s or to go for the real shallow and risk the sticky mud that sucks you in. The KTM needed 4 people to be rescued and then the rescuers needed help too. I can hear Brakkenjan swearing: "Did I mention this is not so !@#*~%^ funny?"
Here you can see what the choice looks like, ride the track, or drift away and try the bare river...unfortunately you never know how deep or black the mud is out there:
"Along came an Elephant", is what I would like on my grave please...but not yet...the road (just sand) continues on the left, then makes a 90 degree to cross the water right towards Mr. E, and where his nose is swinging, the road (mostly sand, yes) makes a 90 degree left again to continue down stream. So what would you do when Mr. E starts flapping his ears when he sees a 4x4 (Uncle H of course) approaching? (If he knew it was our Uncle H, the question is not needed, Mr. E takes a nice cozy vacation into the Skeleton Coast park). Well, all I know, is when Mr. E turns around like in the composite image below, you pack your camera away someplace safe, instantaneously figure out how to keep a KLR650 dead center in a river sand track and do that at more than 60km/h...so I guess we are all quick learners then! Uncle G and Uncle A was left behind by far and only they saw that Mr. E started chasing after us on the other side of the brush...well, it was just not his day today!
Almost showing how the road, between the moutains and the elephant makes you feel trapped (also notice the Gemsbokke way back, even they hurried away):
At only a few points in the river does the surrounding terrain allow you to leave. The ride out was gorgeous, it even shows on the satellite image how smooth road to less elephants are. We saw so many Gemsbokke (Oryx) by now, at least 50. Unfortunately, being used to them as a Namibian, we didn't take enough pictures to acknowledge their integral part of the landscape in this part of the country. By the way, these suckers can go without water for weeks:
Looking back North, towards the river, isn't that beautiful?
And then came the road between heaven in the desert and the main road to Sesfontein, I did not even made a pact with myself to never use these lanes again, I just won't! There was to start with no more soft white sand, neither was there water with lush green vegetation...and the color of the rocks was the same as the ground, and when there was a road, it was so corrugated (sinkplaat pad in Afr.) that I went back to drifting, hey there are no elephants here. It was also hot and to be honest, not that pretty either...so few pictures taken, if any. This one was taken almost at the end. The road is splitting here, so follow the one going to the left: (yes, we can hear you ask, what road? just feel our pain!)
Now, the story behind this repair is most likely better to be told by the owner of the bike..."Oh, Yeah, I was riding along in full control and a red bee stung me on my knee, as I kicked my foot out from the sting, my boot caught on the lever and it bent like butter...", yeah right!
So back on the main road again was not easy either, it was winding left and right through the hills and criss-crossing the riverbed all the time. At least there was plenty of wildlife to ease the pain and suffering:
The road surface was so bad, that you wished you could ride next to it, but hills and the rocks next to the road did not allow that. So quite often someone had to do a little detour or do a hard stop. A few places I (now riding in position #3) rode by some tracks going weird places, some out of the turns and some up to trees. And all I worried about was how the ones behind me would think that that was all done by me, the newbie! Just look at the road surface:
In this valley with the red sand, the road would become so sandy further on, that you would start thinking about jumping the 4 feet sand wall next to the road (which the grader left) just to get out...but then you have a quick peek at the rocks on the outside and settle back into your death grip counting km tenths along with the odometer just to keep your sanity.
After the red patch follows a few hills and a couple of signs for camping by the Hoanib river, which we did not get to see. It is apparently another great elephant viewing experience. A lot more sand and dust holes according to those who have been. On a random sunny day (in the middle of May) some elephants just get out of the Hoanib or Hoaruseb river and walk the odd 60-80km to the other river, how weird? We kept going however to get closer to Sesfontein before nightfall. As you can see here, no riding outside the road surface possible, not at any speed above 10km/h:
Now just after take-off, with the flaps down, you pull the front wheel in...
What does it feel like when your front tire is flat? My first time, so how would I know...If it was not for the big rock in the road that I hit while bottoming out, I don't think I would have suspected a flat tire, thanks to the crappy road surface. I only stopped to calm my fear of having a flat and there it was! Luckily the experts Lootch, Maverick and the 3 Uncles were there soon afterwards and we quickly put a new tube in.
From here it was an easy ride, whilst getting dark, to the Cameltop camp site. Now back in Damaraland where money counts again, we had the friendliest camp supervisor. She most likely came by 6 times to enquire about our camping experience and how many other people we would refer to the campsite...well here it is, please go, you can have hot water in the evening and in the morning for your shower and they have flush toilets too!
How do you spot a KLR? No number plate!
Is this now an example Staatmaker Voortrekker or a President Verkenner? (Sorry I have no clue how this translates into Boyscout terms. Maybe: "Can you carry wood or more wood?" ;) )