“African Massage” is what it’s called. Heavily corrugated sand tracks make driving these roads one continuous rattle. Occasional rock patterns & stretches with a layer of soft sand add to the fun. Usually no issue for the Husky; at the right speed we blast down these tracks, passing dust raising Landcruisers.
Today the wind is a nuisance though. On our way to Sesriem we’re facing strong wind blasts from the open desert plains. It has been so stormy that I haven’t gotten any proper sleep the last two nights. My fluttering tent has been keeping me awake. Now I’m also forced to take down the speed, take a tighter grip on the handlebar & lean into the wind. A lower speed means stronger hits & vibrations. A tighter grip means I’m absorbing the hits & vibrations more strongly. The wind is switching directions in seconds. The Husky & I swivel towards Sesriem.
No motorcycles allowed into Sossusvlei National Park. I wish to see Deadvlei though & the only option is to hitch a ride with a 4×4. Due to the sandstorm the sight is zero & I decide to try my luck the next day. Another night in a fluttering tent.
New day. I’m queuing for coffee at the entrance gate to Sossusvlei. Jonah is queuing next to me. I had met Jonah & Gemma (Couple from Barcelona) in Botswana & they immediately offer me a ride into the park. Minutes later Anne & Jacob as well as Luis & Anisa show up. I meet many more travelers whose paths I had crossed. This is a traveler’s hotspot & it’s good to catch-up.
In the afternoon we ride into the park in Jonah & Gemma’s rented Defender 110. What a car. The owner has replaced the stock engine with a V8. It sounds like a corvette, goes as fast as 2CV & is as thirsty as a tank. We grumble to Deadvlei & are greeted by views that fully compensate the constraints of getting here. The storm has settled for a while. Perfect timing.
Back at the park gate after sunset. We have no other option than to camp within the park at >2x the price paid 200m outside. They won’t let you out. I sleep in the partial wind shade of the Defender w/o tent. The storm is back & sand blasting over my face & into my sleeping bag. However, more importantly there is no fluttering. I sleep like a baby.
The infamous C14 to Walvis Bay, back North/West to the coast. Said to be the worst road in Namibia. Not as bad as expected, but I would now classify it as a bad Namibian main road. >320km rattle track across sand to Walvis Bay. Interchanging desert & rocky / hilly areas. Finally, we enter the misty desert climate of the coast. Through the desert temperatures have gone up to 45° Celsius, to then drop again to <20° Celsius over the last 10km to the coastline.
Walvis Bay & Swakopmund (Swakop) feel like German towns. Generally, there is a lot of German heritage to be found throughout Namibia. Infrastructure is good, many speak German, beer is brewed according to the “Reinheitsgebot” & there is a wealth of German & international food on offer. It’s easy traveling here. There are plenty of rental 4×4’s around the better roads & this is the first place many families traveling independently can be spotted. It’s touristy. It’s relatively expensive. Nonetheless, it’s beautiful.
“If you haven’t seen Namibia, you haven’t seen Africa” is what I’ve heard often. I would now say ”If you’ve seen Namibia, you haven’t seen Africa”. Wild, rough, scenic, unique & definitely worth visiting. But also totally different than the rest of Africa I’ve seen so far.
In Swakop I book a room in a small flat behind Michael’s house, in the suburbs bordering a township-like settlement. I decide to stay a second night to do some work on the Husky & wash my clothes. The flat is already booked the second night, but Michael is going out of town & offers me to stay in his house free of charge. Namibian hospitality.
I’m not the only one benefiting from Michael’s leave. His housekeeper, who lives in the township across the road, is doing the laundry for her family, enjoying the shower & watching English reality TV on his widescreen. When leaving, after an overdose of reality TV, shaking her head she exclaims: “People have problems eh!”. I don’t think I’ll forget that one.
The Husky & I continue through Henties to Cape Cross along the coast. Greg & I lay out our maps on the table & plan a mission. Greg has sold his business in Cape Town & has now been traveling around Namibia for 2 months in his Hilux. We decide to team up the next day & ride through no-mans-land to Messum Crater. Off the beaten track it’s better to be 2.
A lot of nothing. Vast open plains with mountains in the horizon. We’re on the lookout for Messum Crater & climb 2 hills. It is quite a while later that we find out that we’ve been in the crater for hours. This volcanic crater has a diameter of several km. We’re both a bit disappointed & commence to Uis.
What looked like 2h ends up taking us >6h. Bad tracks & some deep sand stretches. I pick up the Husky 2x after attempts to power through deep sand riddled with a jumble of tire tracks. A tough ride but we make it through to “White Lady Lodge”. It feels like we’ve arrived at Garden Eden in the middle of a dry & sandy desert. A pool surrounded by green grass with domestic rabbits hopping around on it. What a contrast to what we’ve been seeing on our way here.
Sämi & Lisa (German couple) & John (Australian probably in his 70’s) join our “after mission beer”. We’re the loud ones at the lodge (John’s hearing isn’t great anymore), enjoying good company & many laughs. John keeps ordering drinks for all of us, to the point the guide of his travel group shows up & insists he now rejoins them. We pitch our tents in the dark, Sämi cooks some pasta as an appetizer & Greg grills steak & potato on the braai (BBQ). The tougher the day, the better it ends.
Riding these tracks is almost more like skiing than motorcycling. Husky powered skiing though. Swaying across the tracks, maintaining the direction with gentle corrections by applying pressure on the foot pegs & nudging the handlebar. The tracks often look like pistes carved into the desert. The Husky is the perfect bike to fly North on this terrain. We love it.
All the sand & rattling does however cause additional maintenance work. One day (to Twyfelfontein): Replace lost screw on Safari fuel tank. Next day (to Sesfontein): Increase chain tension due to skipping sprocket. Next day (to Purros): Repair front flat tire (first flat in 28’000km). Daily: Clean & oil chain. Daily: Pat the Husky on the shoulder for what she has gotten us through.
The sprocket is vanishing & the tubes brittle. Shortly before Lusaka, KTM Lusaka had shut down & shortly before Windhoek, KTM Windhoek had been shut down. The last proper KTM support has been in Nairobi and the next one will be in Cape Town. I now feel an urge to replace some worn parts & service the Husky with an OEM dealer.
We rattle the last stretch to Opuwo. This is territory of the Himba people. Many still proudly wear the traditional Himba dress around here. There is a Spar in this town & I target it to stock up on food & water. Many women in this modern shop walking around top-less in Himba dresses. I’m the odd one in my spaceman-like riding gear.
I’m continuously tightening up the Husky’s chain as her front sprocket is shrinking by the hour. We ride 740km back down to Windhoek to restock on oil / chain lube & continue towards Lüderitz. I plan on riding tarmac, as off-road riding strains the sprocket more. The tarmac is too boring though; we swerve West on a 420km short-cut on rougher sand tracks, passing Maltahöhe, through Aus to Lüderitz. This should be more fun.
The worst sandstorm so far. <10m sight ahead and horrible side-winds. We’re progressing step-by-step at below average speeds. The storm sandblasts the Husky & myself. My neck hurts upon arrival in Lüderitz, as I had to lean the Husky into the wind so strongly. Not too enjoyable a ride today.
Fresh oysters & lobster in the evening & we’re off back towards Aus the next morning. From there we’ll head South to Oranjemund at the border to SA. I’m overtaking a car on a straight & the sprocket starts skipping the chain. I stop to evaluate the situation. The situation is not good.
I tighten up the chain again, but it is now so tight, any hump could rip it into pieces. When accelerating the sprocket still skips. Once bad, the degeneration of the sprocket accelerates rapidly. No way of making it much further this way. Subtly we chuggle the last 20km to Aus.
A warm welcome at Namib garage & camping. The woman in charge immediately calls her son over to discuss solutions. Johan makes an estimated 10 calls around Namibia while I get the sprocket off the Husky. He manages to organize a used sprocket in Windhoek & his neighbor will take it along to Aus in 2 days’ time. These people couldn’t be more helpful & friendly. Namibian hospitality.
2 days off. Using the time to order the needed parts to Cape Town & relax a bit. Recent weeks haven’t always been easy riding, but I’ve enjoyed Namibia so much, it feels easy in hindsight. Now, if everything works out, the Husky & I will continue our ride towards Cape Town tomorrow. Our easy rattle South shall continue.
2 thoughts on “Easy Rattle”
Always looking forward to your reports, and outstanding photography. I also loved Namibia, and happy to see that you will exit at the interesting Oranjemund border-post, an area which was only recently opened to the public (Sperrgebiet!). Sympathize with your “wind battles”. Had my worst sandstorms on the road from Ras Pinah to Oranjemund. Needles and pins! I hope you get a chance to drive through the Cederberg, Western Cape on the way to Cape Town, and you might just catch the end of the Namaqualand flower season.
Fantastic trip you have managed Rico. I already look forward to the next episode.
Safe travelling Johs/Denmark
Good to hear from you! &many thanks for the kind words! Yes, the Sperrgebiet is now open & I made it through without another sand storm😅 Wasn‘t @ Cederberg yet but around Tulbagh (slightly below) & loved it! Maybe I‘ll make it to Cederberg later…😉 Take care & cheers from SA, Rico