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AFRICA


Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

Diary of a Namibian ride on a Russian built sidecar ... Sept 2011

   

Day one...
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.

Day two...
All 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...

Day three...
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...
The 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, as Shell 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 ...

Day four...
We 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".
We 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...

Day five...
The 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...

Day six...
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...
We 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.
Unfortunately 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.

Day seven...
We 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.
Namibia 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 rugby.
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!
We 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 eight...
The 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 tell.
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 trip started...

Day nine...
The 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 its end.
The 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...