This all started only a few years ago, like 2005, maybe. Brakenjan and I (Lootch67) have been riding together since our days at varsity, and especially since the dawn of the internet and the resulting ride reports we've been longing to do a major trip. Then we read Metaljockey's report of their trip through Kaokoland and we became even more desperate to do a similar trip. Shortly after that we read Kamanya's report and in those first couple of lines we found a way to get this trip on the road: "The most important thing is to set a date - and then tell everyone." So we did. The first people we told were Maverick, Nambabwe and Doubleoseven. It took absolutely no effort to convince them - and the enthusiasm stayed at that level all through the trip.
I could write a book just about the planning stage which involved getting kit, bikes, numerous trips to the 4th floor bathroom etc. but that's probably best left for another thread.
Oh, you might be wondering about the name for the trip. It happened something like this... The first hurdle we all had to cross was to convince the wives that it would be a good idea. My wife wasn't too worried but the timing of the trip was likely to interfere with our family planning schedule. Fortunately, due to some perseverance and dedication that was not an issue. The only other condition she set was that we would not do Van Zyl's Pass. Doubleoseven and Brakenjan did not have it all that easy. Doubleoseven's wife is a doctor who used to deal with motorcyclists who'd been involved in accidents on a regular basis. I still don't know exactly how he managed to convince her but somehow he did - thanks Dr B! Maverick and Nambabwe's wives were only too glad to get them out of the house. Brakenjan's wife's main concern was that we would be riding in a very remote area and, should anything happen, it would be very difficult to get medical help. Befitting the lawyer that he is, he came up with the only possible reply "Yes, but if we fall it'll be in soft sand so we won't get hurt". Hence "In die middel van fokkol in sagte sand" or "In the middle of F-all in soft sand".
The other thing we decided early on is that this trip would be about the ride and therefore we did not want anything like overloaded bikes to interfere with that. Also, mindful of the fact that we're all relative noobs (Nambabwe had never been off-road before this trip) it was decided to take along a support vehicle (or 3 as it turns out!). At the end of the report I'll post how this arrangement turned out.
I will fast forward now to a week before the trip. I was in Windhoek and had agreed to buy a KLR from a guy there. I knew the bike needed a bit of work done to it so I had him deliver the bike to my dad's place eight weeks before the trip was due to start. My dad then took the bike to the dealer and told him to get it sorted for the trip. To cut a long story short, they didn't. They didn't even tell me about all the faults they'd discovered. They gave the bike back with a virtually nonexistent front brake (nearly killed me) and without any oil in the forks. Here's what I drained out of both forks...
I had that front end apart so many times I can now do it blindfolded:
Then, instead of spending the week with my family I spent almost all of it fixing the bike myself. I even had Maverick strip some parts off my KLR in London as there would be no way that the local dealers could have the parts in time. It also turns out that the fork sliders which were supposed to be new were anything but and the one especially was no longer straight by a long shot. Fortunately it was still smooth so, with no other choice apart from buying a new bike (which wasn't an option) I had to do the trip with this bike. I took along extra fork oil and spare fork seals in case I had to change those mid trip. I had to do a lot of things on the bike which I'd never done before and with no expert (read Maverick) to help it was very frustrating at times. To be honest, the evening before the trip I was 5 minutes away from smashing the bike to pieces with a hammer (Uncle H had to take the hammer from me) and doing the trip in one of the support vehicles. As it turns out, my bike ran faultlessly despite some serious abuse and because the owner couldn't sort out the paperwork in time I rented the bike from him for a nominal fee. Small consolation.
Do these look like new sliders to you?
Nambabwe and Doubleoseven had bought new bikes for the trip - Nambabwe an 08 KLR and Doubleoseven an 07 KLR. Maverick was on his 20 year old R80GS (actually a 100GS) and in doing so fulfilled a long cherished dream of doing a major trip on that bike. Brakenjan returned from the USofA two weeks before the trip and then had to find a bike. After some hard negotiating he bought a spotless KTM 640 Adventure with about 4,500km on the clock with crash bars and panniers. He also fitted a Scott steering damper and proper knobblies. That bike looked awesome!
Doubleoseven and I had done similar things to our KLRs. We'd fitted handlebar risers (I also fitted higher handlebars), proper hand guards, proper bash plate, SW Motech crash bars, radiator guards, pegs, rear master cylinder guards and brackets to slightly lower the pegs and, very importantly, also move them back by about 2.5cm. We fitted Dunlop D606 knobblies and ultra heavy duty tubes. Runner was a great help in getting us the necessary parts and provided some useful advise. Loads of bolts were also replaced with HT bolts and Loctite was applied liberally. Still didn't stop some of the bolts coming loose...
Doubleoseven's noble steed - and who says the KLR's not a handsome bike?
New peg and bracket:
Our other major problem was paperwork for the bikes - especially the GS. Again, to cut a long story short, we managed to get all the bikes in and out of Namibia without any problems. Doubleoseven and Brakenjan hired a trailer and brought their bikes and the GS from Johannesburg.
Nambabwe and Maverick arrived in Windhoek from Dallas and London respectively the Saturday morning. (Nambabwe adds: Air Namibia has a convenient night flight from Gatwick directly to Windhoek and British Airways brings you straight from Dallas to Gatwick in the morning, even with a luggage transfer agreement with Air Namibia. So you can spend the whole the day visiting a place like Brighton by train and have your kid throw half the pebbles on the beach into the ocean; we called it "Shrinking the Island". A note for flying through British Airports though: you can bring as much hand luggage as you can possibly carry, but THOU SHALL LEAVE with one piece per person only!). We were due to leave for Henties Bay on the west coast on the Sunday and the trip would start on the Monday. That left us with precious little time to sort out the bikes but we did.
The bikes crammed into my dad's garage:
Quite a novel way of fitting a hand guard. Trying to get your leg over Maverick?
Nambabwe had to go to his dad's ranch so could not join us for the first test ride. Ready to roll:
I took them on some small roads through the Khomas Hochland mountains which surrounds Windhoek. I tell you, if I were to live there you'd never see me except if you too spend all your free time in the mountains. Talk about Dual Sport paradise. We went through all sorts of terrain ranging from a short sandy riverbed to steep hill climbs with rocks and loose gravel - a good preparation for what was to come. The only problem which reared its head was the GS which was idling wwaaayyy too fast. Strangely enough it was the KTM which came to the rescue with the right tools. That's what shakedown runs are for...
The KTM looking quite handsome in the setting sun:
The following day we left for Henties Bay. Just outside Windhoek the GS nearly came off the trailer. Not a good way to start the trip! We met Nambabwe, his dad (Uncle G) and his uncle (Uncle H) in a town 70km north of Windhoek called Okahandja. That was when Nambabwe first saw the bike he would be riding on the trip. We loaded his bike onto the trailer and set off for Henties. For some strange reason most of the main roads in Namibia run through the least scenic part of the country. Fortunately things change when you get off the main roads, and with 35,000km gravel roads, most of them in a very good condition, this is dual sport paradise. We passed loads of sports bikes which were either returning from a breakfast run to the coast or a rally.
Finally we hit the gravel just outside Usakos (D1918) and stopped to once again make sure that the bikes were tied down properly as this road could get very rough.
The mood changed - or was it just mine? We would be riding this road again tomorrow, but this time on bikes. All of a sudden the condition of the road became quite important. Fortunately the road was in a reasonable condition. We met two guys on F650's and stopped for a quick chat.
This is probably the fastest the KTM travelled the entire trip!
Just kidding, Brakenjan almost literally rode the wheels off it. More on that later.
Finally we got to Henties and headed straight for the nearest pub to watch South Africa beat whoever in one of the Rugby World Cup games. It's not as if I'm not interested but simply a case of the excitement about the trip overshadowing all other things.
That night we fitted knobblies to my bike and Nambabwe wired a video camera to his bike and fitted pegs and a bash plate to his KLR. Maverick's mate had sent some knobblies for the GS. Unfortunately the front was knackered (it wouldn't seat) and the rears were 18inchers in stead of 17inchers. That meant that the "most knobbly" tyre we had for the GS was the standard Dunlops which came off Doubleoseven's KLR. Not the ideal tyre for this trip or bike as we would later find out...
Nambabwe's KLR being prepped: