It was with great excitement that Mark Cope and I met at four in the
morning to start our Namibian adventure on our Russian built Ural
sidecars. We had them packed and loaded on the trailer for the long
journey to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia from where our journey
would start and where Herman Martins would join us.
the riders from Windhoek met at Arebush Lodge for the start of the
Nampharm Foundation Ride for a Smile adventure. There were also some
riders from different parts of the country that we would meet at Outjo,
the first night’s stop. A meet and greet breakfast was laid
on and the local radio station and media also covered the send off.
We had a police escort out of Windhoek as we headed along the tar
road to Okahanja. After refueling in Okahaja it was time for the first
dirt section of the day... what an introduction to riding on Namibian
soil! The road was in great condition but there were sections of the
road that had loose sandy patches, dry river crossings and dried out
mud holes from the previous year’s good rains. The 3 Ural sidecars
really got into their stride and managed these with ease as this is
what they had been built for, but I was glad not to be on my GS.
That section of dirt was a bit more technical than many of the 2 wheel
riders anticipated and a few went down at different times with almost
no injuries other than the ego, but the most spectacular being a guy
hitting a water patch on a KTM at great speed with obvious results.
He was taken back to Windhoek to have his collar bones repaired...
The rest of the road to Outjo was a mixture of great dirt and tar.
It was hot as Hades and a cold beer in the pub went down like a homesick
mole followed by the rest of his family. We pitched camp and had a
very tasty dinner of steaks cooked to order. These Namibians sure
know how to stage an event...
After refuelling and striking camp we left Outjo and headed for Kamanjab
with a bit of tar first and then a beautiful dirt section which was
quite fast and in good condition. We stopped for a drinks break at
one of the intersections and saw a fresh imprint of where a snake
had crossed the road... never seen that before...
Urals had left about 15 mins before the 2 wheelers and they caught
us up on this section just before Kamanjab. Everybody was having a
blast with the first day’s nerves being something of the past.
We filled up with fuel at the local Shell sevice station in Kamanjab,
where sponsoring all the fuel for the event. Lunch was next to the
side of the road under a shade tree and consisted of boerewors rolls
that were made on the spot . The road to Opuwo is tar and long and
straight and we were blessed with Namibia’s best weather - somewhere
in the high 30's. The total distance rode for the day was 430km with
the route passing right next to the Etosha game reserve, where I spotted
a Zebra doing fence patrol. This was a long day for everyone with
all of us looking forward to the cool drinks at the end of the day.
Dinner was spoilt by some idiot who spiked the chicken potjie with
“Dynamite chillie” - some enjoyed the excruciating pain
but I had to go digging in my snack box and ended up with a Tuna fish
dinner. It cooled down nicely overnight and we had a good sleep at
the campsite in Opuwo.
One of the South African rider’s bike broke along the route,
with some strange noises emanating from the engine department, but
that was no problem for the Namibians as they organized another bike
to be brought up from Windhoek, overnight, so that he could continue
the ride!!! We also saw our first Himbas, a local African tribe, dressed
in traditional clothing - or lack thereof I should say ...
left Opuwo and got on to the dirt immediately towards Epupa fall’s
the most northerly point of our journey. We had 180 km for the day
and the dirt road was awesome although very dusty with a myriad of
small sharp drifts that could catch out even the most seasoned 2 wheeler
or sidecar pilot. Fortunately most riders heeded the warnings from
the riders briefing that morning with only 2 bikes going down for
the day. One guy overcooked a sharp off camber corner and ended up
in the rocks with some damage to his KLR and a serious dent in his
ego. The physio therapist that came along on the journey got a lift
on the back of one of the 1200 GS's for the day and they were doing
well until they got to some road works and the GS decided that it
was sleeptime. Fortunately only slight injuries and she was heard
to say "if a horse throws you off you have to get back on and
the same goes for bikes".
had stopped next to the road for a break when a guy on a bike approached
from the Epupa side and stopped. His name is Nicholas from Brazil
and he had been riding for some time in Southern Africa starting in
Durban through Mozambique and then following the Zambezi to Vic Falls
and through to Epupa. He still had some way to go until his journey’s
end back in Durban. He was planning a trip for next year from Cape
to Cairo. We never asked him what he does for a living but it must
be something special as he is away so much. The sidecars took the
road in their stride with some of the sharper corners causing great
excitement as the back slides out and you had to lean like hell to
keep the rig pointing towards Epupa. Namibia did its thing again with
the weather and we enjoyed the relaxing cool swim above the falls
when we arrived, only later did we see the flat dog about 150 meters
away from where we were swimming. We will not be swimming again...
rest day at Epupa falls was spent river rafting and doing some maintenance
on the rigs - cleaning air filters and so on. We even managed a snooze
in the afternoon...
We had an early start to the day and left Epupa doubling back along
the same road as we came in on until we got to the Swartbooi's drift
road which we then took, an all dirt day again, all 228km. Early on
a guy on a 2 wheeler misjudged a serious dip in the road and he was
casavacked back to Windhoek after being stabilized by one of the doctors
on the trip. We found out later that he was ok though...
stopped at a memorial to the Dorsland Trekkers and it was sad to see
the graves of the children buried there. These “Trekkers”
spent several years “trekking” through the area and enduring
the hardships of Africa. They eventually ended up in Angola where
they stayed for many years and were then asked to leave by the then
Angolan government being repatriated to Namibia and some back to South
Africa where their journey started.
After lunch at the Kunene River Lodge, we took the road all along
the Kunene river towards Ruacana. What a great experience to travel
this piece of road with our sidecars. We had a real blast as it was
a mixture of stone, sand, puddle/river crossings and even a mountain
pass toward the end which was badly eroded in places. Lots of breaking,
leaning and throttling had to be used in the right doses to transverse
this road which was absolutely perfect for our sidecars. The 2 wheelers
also had a blast on this section of road.
the waterfall just before Ruacana was dry as all the water was being
fed to the turbines at the hydro-electric scheme that was built by
the South African government back in the day. It was interesting to
learn that the dam is actually on Angolan soil but that the water
is used to generate a fair bit of Namibia’s electricity.
For the first time on the trip we had a mechanical issue with one
of the Ural sidecars. One of the rear wheel bearings gave up the ghost
and we had to fit the spare wheel which comes pre-equipped with its
own bearings. We spent 15 minutes just outside Ruacana replacing the
wheel in the sweltering heat. This was the hottest day yet on the
trip with the mercury reaching the high thirties to early forties
depending whom you asked. The campsite in Ruacana was a welcome sight
as it has a swimming pool which gave welcome relief to the end of
the days riding. It is also one of the coldest swimming pools I have
ever been in. There were a few good stories told around the fire that
evening which had us all in stitches. The food on this trip was amazing
and the organization by the team from the Nampharm Foundation unbeatable.
got an early start leaving Ruacana after having fuelled up the previous
day. We were warned at the rider’s briefing that the condition
of the dirt road out of Ruacana on the way to Opuwo was not very good
with dust holes and corrugations and such. Well nobody mentioned the
headwind that was blowing and that made this piece of road unpleasant
at best for everyone. The downwind tar section to Opuwo was welcomed
and as we crested the last hill and saw the town in the distance,
I could not believe the amount of dust in the air, the town was covered
in it, and it was the first time ever that we drove our sidecars in
a dust storm.
faced off against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup and we watched
the game in the dustbowl of Opuwo. The wind was huge and it seemed
that all the dust on this side of Nam settled in Opuwo - you could
hardly see your hand in front of your face at times. Halftime we decided
to high tail it out of there as SA was giving Nam a hiding in the
A huge surprise
awaited us with the stunning dirt road that we took to Khuwarib which
was our target for the day. The road was in good condition with windy
sections and real good scenery including Boabab trees dotted along
a hilly section of the road. We came across an old Datsun Bakkie which
had no wheels and had been placed on blocks at the side of the road,
well almost, as most of it was still in the road!
had heard that we were crossing Joubert’s Pass and that it was
tarred. Well, when we got there, we found that they had stripped the
tar and were busy with road works and it was quite a climb to the
top and over. Huge fun though...
Namibia did not disappoint with the weather again and we spent the
afternoon cooling down in the river at the community campsite at Khuwarib
and playing in the waterfall like little kids. One cannot believe
the force of the water as it cascades over the edge and onto your
body. The massage from the waterfall was great and it was a perfect
ending to a spectacular day...
day started at Khawarib and the wind was howling I mean really howling!
Some of the two wheelers said that they had been blown over the middle
man in the road formed by the cars travelling on the dirt. The upwind
stretches made our Urals work hard but the going was good and the
scenery awesome as we were in a wildlife area and saw springbuck,
giraffe, zebras and so on. I had a close shave at one stage as I had
surprised 2 young springbuck when I came over the crest of a rise
where they were standing in the road, they started running down the
road ahead of me with me on full brakes. We fortunately missed one
another and went our separate ways each with a different story to
We had lunch in the dry Auorab river
bed under some huge shade trees which is also frequented by the famous
desert elephants. We never saw any though. Dung yes, ellies no. This
section consisted of a road that whittled away to almost nothing with
a nice river crossing and some awesome loose sand sections. We managed
some awesome tail slides on the last section of road to the Brandberg
campsite. Brandberg is a mountain and translated it means “burning
mountain” as, when the sun shines on the mountain in the morning,
at a certain time of year, it looks like the whole mountain is aflame.
We were there at the wrong time of year so did not witness this spectacle.
As this was the last evening of the trip a lot of thank you’s
were said around the campfire and the planning for next year’s
last day and we enjoyed the countryside which was passing us by like
magic, with the odd sand dune making an appearance just outside the
town of Uis. We had 372 km to complete for the day and had to hustle
as there was a welcoming organised at Arebush Lodge and the 2 wheelers
were in a hurry. We gave breakfast a miss and opted to rather ride
dust free from Omaruru to Okahanja, where the last fuel stop was.
The last 80km or so was quite sad as the journey was about to reach
arrival back at Arebush Lodge was great with friends and family there
to welcome back the weary travellers and finger snacks and something
cool being served.
We still had a long way home to Johannesburg in South Africa, so we
loaded the sidecars on the trailer and high tailed it out of there
to spend our last night in Namibia at the Buitepos border post.
The whole event was organised on a “moving” basis with
us not sleeping in the same place twice, except for the rest day.
This can only be done successfully with meticulous planning and organisation
which I must compliment the organisers on. Everything was organised
as it should be, the food, medical backup, sleeping arrangements,
routes and so on. Our
sincere thanks to the Nampharm Foundation for organising this trip,
including us sidecars and doing such an outstanding job. Proceeds
of the trip is to be used for operations on underprivileged children
with cleft pallets. It was an honour to join you guy’s and see
you next year...