View Full Version : Cape Town to Kaokoland and back, KTM950 & AT. pt.2

31-03-2006, 08:08 PM
Previous Part 1:

Day 3

I forgot to mention, this trip was a 12 day trip, so we were still near the Noob stage of the trip.

For some reason I was up at 3am convinced that it was about 5am and even after consulting the GPS which also said 3am I thought that it was confused and had gone on some weird auto daylight saving jaunt. I was close to packing my tent and bed when sensibility kicked in as the sky was not getting any lighter and the birds where still all asleep. Idiot.

Getting up “round two” was quick and though I don’t drink coffee I had Craig’s little percolator on the go and kicked him out of bed. We were on the road by 7am and soon met our first police check point. They don’t get to see too many bikes and were polite and inquisitive about them and us. Craig was a bit bemused with my antics of getting a photo with them.


On the long stretches one becomes bored. I had installed a very high tech throttle device, called a bungee. It enables the rider to set the throttle and then try doing goofy things with no hands on the bars like trying to see how much body movement affects the steering and such. Craig thought better of it, but it was on this stretch that I caught him using my idea. He was trying a new sport called Bike Karate Kata's. He would get pretty far through it when a car or truck would pass and affect his direction and he would have to grab the bars which is obviously not in the Kata and he would have to start again of course.

I was also guilty of similar things, I was trying to see if wind resistance would turn the bike using hands and shoulders, helmets and boots. In about 6000k's I can't report anything conclusive. But it relieved the boredom.

Lunchtime saw us at Windhoek and what a lunch! If you are ever in Windhoek go to Joe’s Beer House. It is ridiculous and takes ages to check out the place with all its décor. Also it would be a vegetarian’s nightmare.

If you are offended by loads of meat, rather don’t go or stay away from the buffet table. One sign on the wall that deserved being mentioned was; “the only cure for a real hangover is death”. We had a good laugh at that one.

My eyes were really sore for some reason. I think it was the sun cream that I was using so for the next leg to Omaruru I looked like some strange bedoin biker.


That stretch was boring, into the sun and a headwind again. It was not pleasant. Just miles and miles of this.


Late in the afternoon we pulled into Omaruru and filled up and after consulting the AA accommodation guide that explicitly said that there was none in Omaruru I pointed out to Craig the Omaruru Rest Camp almost opposite the petrol station! AA needs to get out a bit. It proved to be a great camp run by Moses who was very much a great camp manager and a source of info for food. We had a great burger at the Take Away Restaurant. We were getting into the backwoods of the world and it was interesting to check out the locals. I am sure we were just as interesting to them.

Done for the day


Total for the day 458k’s

Day 4

First day with no tar at all, in fact we were not to see tar again for quite a while. After an hour or so as a bit of bum rest we stopped to try this out.


Boomerangs mde in Namibia? Nope this one was from Australia but Craig reckoned with the size and flatness of Namibia what better place to try and throw one? I was sitting on the road eating some Kudu Biltong watching Craig learning to fly a boomerang when I noticed his exhaust was cracked. So out came the baling wire and voila! High tech New exhaust bracket. (Picture taken only once home)


It was a great ride to the Twyfelfontein region and we made good time. Twyfelfontein loosely translated means, linger spring. And after seeing how inhospitable this part of the world is I am sure one would linger at any spring you came across for quite a while.

Then after I missed a turnoff and was doing a u-turn, this happened.


1 to me 0 to Craig.

Jeez, they are hard to pick up and I found out that there is very little to hold on to other than the handle bars to pick it up. So off to the Burnt Mountain first. Very Hot and it looks like it has been in the sun way too long.

Big Panoramic of Burnt Mountain


Then on to the engravings and rock paintings at Twyflefontein with its unusual formations



A burger at the amazing Twyfelfontein lodge with an ice cold draught,


A long time ago this part of the world was a beach and some big trees floated onto the beach and then stayed there for the next couple of hundred million years. They are facinating, you can see the bark and rings, it looks just like wood, only it has fossilised and is now stone. This was one of the smaller ones.


We had to get petrol and it was the longest stretch we had made between fill ups - 343km.

Then it was off to try and get as far as possible to the Kunene River. You know that you are in Africa when you come around a corner and this is what you see;


The stretch of road west of Etosha that leads north to Ruacana is known as the big white highway. It is not that much fun, just straight and white and dusty and loads of wildlife, donkeys, goats and cattle wandering onto the road.
We were not going to make it so we stopped at a great camp site called Hobatere Camp.


I knew that there are elephant around but it was only when I got back that a freind of mine who had been in the exact same camp site and just past my right shoulder had been a lion kill. Good thing Mosquito repellant seemed to keep lion away too.

There is not much there other than the great ambiance and the toilet facilities so we didn’t have much more to eat other than Provita and cheese, biltong and a bottle of Johnnie Red. (Being lazy and not wanting to cook the rice or dried food)


Day 5
There is a time lapse of us packing up, if you follow the links to the picture server you should find them. Notice the tent pole that was left out. On purpose of course just to practice repacking the tent.

We headed out not long after 6.30 to finish the dreary road. Half way we stopped at what the locals call Kooka shops. They are the local equivalent of the corner store/grocer/general dealer/centre of the village type thing. They are pretty interesting if you enjoy people and don’t mind being stared at. But the locals are friendly, polite and inquisitive. Not a lot of English but you can get by no problem.


Children are the same all over, only the dress code differs. This is a local Himba tribe kid. I think the Himba can lay clame to the original G string


I had a great time with a toddler who collapsed in a fit of giggles when I showed him what the hooter button did. I managed to get him to push it but he had to stand on his tip toes to do it. This was high entertainment for him as, I tried to get a shot of the little chap but he was by that stage too interested in the camera to play with the hooter anymore.

We did a lot of riding side by side as not only is it companionable but it keeps you out of the dust. This works well if the road is pretty straight but one of you has to drop back when a blind rise or corner comes up. It was on one of the dropping back bits that a big rock thrown up from Craig’s bike hit my left foot hard enough to bend the steel toecap. All the gear…


This is an idea of the Great White Northern Highway road looking forward and backward;



Finally we made it to Ruacana after Craig had a huge fright with a section of the road changing to shit just as he was overtaking a car. He had massive tankslapper and once I caught up with him he still had big eyes.

The petrol station didn’t have any unleaded and after trying to convince the owner of the station to give us his unleaded out of his truck as it was the only unleaded around I phoned my dealer back in Cape Town and he said it would not be a problem. So we filled up with unleaded and headed into the part of our trip that really was what we had come here for. We knew that the good roads were behind us and it was 4x4 country from here on for a few days.

This part of the world is very remote, the nearest phone is sometimes days away. Namibia is a massive place, about the combined size of Texas and Oaklahoma or a little less than France and Germany combined. With only a population of nearly two million. Most of them consentrated in a few places, the rest of the land is just very, very big and this part of it is very remote and wild.

We gave each other a nervous nod and savoured the moment of coming off the escarpment to get our first look at the Ruacana Dam and the Kunene River. This was the real beginning and we were off into parts that not many people go to.


The short section of tar road ends and the track starts. As you come off the tar you immediately get a very steep hill. Once we got to the top we had 50k’s to the evening camp. I waited a bit for Craig but then for the last 30k’s I couldn’t help myself and with the track being perfect for a spot of sliding into and out of the corners I raced through to the lodge. I was at times shouting into my helmet having such a ball. This was what I bought the bike for and boy does it make doing that kind of riding easy. Huge power to slide out of corners with no stress on the engine and complete control on the way into the corner on the brakes and letting the back come around on the compression and a dab of the back brake.

I overcooked a few corners but the scaring myself was half the fun.
I arrived at the Kunene River Lodge Camp and was chatting to the owner when Craig came in. He was sweating and couldn’t wait to get a beer down him. It was pretty funny as when he got off he gave his bike a big bear-hug. He was sweating as much from the heat as well as having to ride the road with its ever changing surface. Also I think there was an element of the anticipation of what was to come ahead.

Parked and changed out of the gear we settled into the bar on the river for a late lunch and a few Gin and Tonics overlooking the big Kunene River. You have to try this camp, well worth the effort of travelling all the way there.



Looking through our camp, river bank it right there.


Peter who is the new owner of the camp said that a couple who had left the day before was asking after us. Mark and Cathy are Cape Townians who offered to run backup for us but because of business had to leave two days after us.

Our original plan had been to get to this lodge much quicker but once Mark and Cathy were not going to be coming and it was good to get Craig onto more gravel we took a slower more scenic route that put us a day later than planned. I also knew that they wanted to do a day hike in a crater further south so even though we had slowed I could not understand how they had got to the camp so soon. Ah well, we would meet up with them back in Cape Town and swap stories as they would almost certainly be in Epupa by now and we would never catch them.

Peter mentioned that they had teamed up with a group of very experienced 4x4 guys and had all done the harder road to Epupa. I was glad for Mark as he has little 4x4 experience and no real recovery tools in his short wheel base automatic Mitsubishi Pajero.

I had broken the GPS mount and had decided to bond it into place with some epoxy putty, it worked pretty well as it held up for the rest of the trip. The evening was spent chatting to the new owner Peter and a local miner Charles who was incredibly interesting and a bit eccentric.

Total for the day 305.87k’s

Day 6

The big day. This was it. We knew this road from when we ran the Kunene River Expedition, a commercial river trip that spent 5 days on river and had all the bells and whistles. But as we had always been more involved on the river side of the trip both of us had only driven small sections of the road with the back up team in the Landcruiser. But the bit that I had done was very hectic in places so the adrenalin was up.

On the maps the track can be seen but has "Very Dangerous" written all over the place. As an effort to lower weight and space we had given away our Braai grid and I had taken some of Craig’s stuff as he carried all the cooking kit and food. His tank bag was too big and restricted his turning; his starter button would hit the bag at full lock, so there was a bit of repacking there. His tank bag is held in place with magnets but we elected to use bungee over his tank and bag to keep it firmly down and out of the way.

In hind sight we should have left a lot earlier, maybe around 5 or 6 but with all the faffing we only got away around 10 am. We had about 15k’s of relatively good road before the Decision point.

To get to Epupa you can take the direct route alongside the river which is the challenging one or you can go around via Okangwati. This route is longer but is graded gravel and the easy option.

We stopped at the turnoff- and then we were off on the harder road. It was not long before we came to a large river bed. Crossing these is difficult as the sand is soft and with heavy bikes they tend to sink in. The access route into the river bed is often not easy either.


I went first and decided not to try and ride in the vehicle tracks and within 10 meters was stuck. I let my tyre pressures down and then started to try to get across the rest of the river bed.

It was sweaty work with Craig pushing and me foot paddling to get to the other side. From nowhere one of the locals appeared and asked if we were going to Epupa and once I said yes he didn’t do my confidence any good by shaking his head and indicating that he was certain that we wouldn’t make it. I consoled myself with the observation that his opinion could be discounted as he was wondering around in the middle of nowhere in light blue ankle socks and no shoes?

Craig had a good start electing to ride in the tracks of the last vehicle, he approached it with the same style he uses for Kayaking - brute force.


But he soon took his first tumble of the trip, suppose brute force didn’t work here either.


Craig 1, Andrew 1

He did an elegant Judo roll into the sand but I could see that he was pissed off about having come off.

I didn't think he had much to be pissed off about as he had never ridden in deep sand before – the 10 meters or so before he fell was the sum total of his experience, so this was a very steep introduction to the art.

I helped him with picking his bike up and let down his tyres and then started to push him. I couldn’t understand why so much sand was getting into my pants and then from there into my boots just by pushing him? His bike was throwing up a lot of sand but I thought my gear was waterproof so sand shouldn’t have been a problem. Only once we were at the other side and I started to undress to get all the sand out did I learn a good lesson;

Don’t try pushing a bike in sand with your fly down.

Once we were at the other side out came the bicycle pumps to get the tyre pressure back up. It was here that I noticed that the crossing had done some damage to my back tyre. In crossing with the tyre spinning there must have been a sharp rock in the sand and this shaved off a bit of rubber from 3 of my knobblies. With so far to go and me having thought that these tyres were especially made for this kind of thing I was not amused.


Looking back at the GPS log getting across took us 30 minutes with all the pushing and pumping. Not bad I suppose. I would’ve hated trying that with water in the river bed.

31-03-2006, 10:20 PM
For the next 10km the track was exactly what I had envisioned.


It wound close to the Kunene River through the Mopane trees and the occasional Himba Village.

Himba’s are an amazing race of people who are semi-nomadic cattle barons. They have a very rich culture that is expressed in their dress and customs. They smear themselves head to toe with a red ochre and butterfat mixture. It has a strong alien smell to us but I know that they think we stink just as bad to them. They have a complex and highly ritualized language that would make the French look uncouth. They are polite and friendly and never imposing or aggressive. A bad habit that some of the younger kids have learned is to shout for you to stop to give them sweets. Something that travellers to this part of the world have wrongly encouraged and it has eroded the image of the proud Himba nation a bit. It is better to trade tobacco, sewing needles or flour for photo’s and low value bangles.



Because they have all this ochre on them, everything they touch becomes red too and the stuff is very tough to get off, if you get it on your clothes well it ain't coming out end of story. So it would be pretty tough to have a roll in hay so to speak and then try to deny it.

It was pretty easy going with a few places that would definitely be a challenging axle twister to a vehicle but were much easier for us being on bikes.

It was a constant 1st

and 2nd gear rideing and was great but at the back of my mind was the hard parts that were coming.

20 kilometres from the lodge we came to our first real hill. I had, when planning the trip, decided to stop and scout each hill.

The hills are the really tough part of this road that gives it its reputation. They are more like stony river beds at 30 degree angles than a road. They are heavily rutted with steps and holes often half a meter high or deep and it seems that where there aren’t these formidable obstacles there is loosely packed stones mostly between the size of tennis balls to bowling balls. It is easy to see where people in an effort to minimise damage to vehicles have tried to fill the holes with rocks.

The picture doesn’t really do any justice to the road. Also from here on I unfortunately never took many pictures of this day when there was so much that was worth photographing. I think that we were more in survival mode and photographing didn’t feature in the thought patterns. Pity.


The first hill when I came to it didn’t look so bad and as I didn’t have the precise co-ordinates for the GPS I wasn’t sure that this was one of the biggies. So I didn’t stop and though the bike jumped and slipped often I was at the top with no hassles.

I turned my engine off and just heard Craig’s bike puttering up the hill then a bang and the bike revving like crazy. It sounded like a heavy fall.

It is not easy running down a steep rutted loose stone hill with Motocross boots but this was the scene that greeted me.


Craig 2, Andrew 1

Fuel was pouring out his tank overflow tube and we blocked that before making any plans on how to get it out of the ditch.

After getting the bike upright the next struggle was to get it out of the ditch. We walked all of his gear to the top and then we both needed a rest and a snack to cool down and calm the nerves. He wasn’t saying much and I think he must have been thinking, "how on earth did I let Andrew talk me into this?"

He had been caught out pretty near the bottom and in trying to avoid some of the rocks had been ricochet into the donga. He said he had to vault the bike as he thought he was going to get crushed by it. He has very active imagination our man Craig! Unfortunately his windscreen was broken in the fall.

When I look at the GPS it records that it took us nearly 2 hours from the start of the hill to when we carried on. The mistake of leaving so late now caught up with us as all this toil happened at midday.

It was very hot (in the 40's and pretty humid to boot) and while the riding gear is cool on the move, it is very hot to try walk or work in.

I was wondering whether or not we should continue as I knew that this was not the toughest of the hills. That maybe we should turn around and get to Epupa the easier way.

His mind was eased when his bike barked into life and I mentioned to him that luckily his bike is way stronger and competent than he thought. With a push to get him going on the steep hill Craig made the rest of the hill with no mishap and it was good to hear him celebrating his arrival at the top with hooting and revving. The next hill was a confidence booster as neither of us fell off and with the stopping to check the route up it only took us 15 minutes. Maybe we were getting the hang of it?


This shot gives a little indication of just how steep the hills are and you can see a grapefruit sized rock that has just been shot out the back. What it can’t show is the ledges, steps and holes that are littered about the trail.

The next hill took us an hour and it was here that I battled. I had stopped at the foot of the hill and Craig roared past, he was not stopping to scout. He was trying the brute force method again. It is amazing what a bike can do and about a 3
rd of the way up he careened off the right hand side of the track, ramped over a huge step and landed on the other side of the track and then fell into a small tree right on the side of the track preventing him from falling over the side and down the hill.

Craig 3, Andrew 1

Getting his bike back up wasn’t so tough and with a shove he made it to the top.

He had managed to bounce over the hardest part of the track before he came to a stop and walking back down I could see that it was going to be really tricky. In hindsight if I had lower gearing on the bike I would not have had so much of a challenge.

The bike needs a 16 tooth sprocket to do this kind of thing. So when I came to the tough bit, speed was not going to work and by going slower I stalled the bike and then couldn’t hold it on the awkward angle and down I went.

Craig 3, Andrew 2

Adrenaline and I managed to pick up the bike but I promptly dropped it again trying to start on the slippery angle

Craig 3, Andrew 3

Adrenaline didn't seem so keen this time and I got it up, and again with less than a few meters being gained, I dropped it.

Craig 3, Andrew 4

By this time Craig was there to help me pick it up, as Adrenline was taking a break.Two 200kilogram dead lifts are pretty tiring. The blood was roaring in my ears and I was seeing stars. I couldn’t get enough air in and the sweat was pouring off me. I felt nauseous from the strain and it was made worse by the petrol smell as it had poured through the vent pipe while the bike was down. I had to take a break. I was gasping and sat under a small Mopane tree but that was not helping. I realised that I was probably close to heat exhaustion and needed to strip off. I got everything off and just lay down. I understood how Craig had felt at the first hill. This wasn’t fun anymore, this was serious shit.

It took about 20 minutes to get composed and then without much hassle I easily made it to the top.

Falling off tires both of you as one of you has to either walk down or up to help the other pick the bike up and help shove to get on the way again. It is exhausting.

It was here that we did the tourist thing to get a shot of the unique mountains in that area – the Zebra Mountains so named because of the strips or alternating rock and forest. But to tell the truth the scenery was not what was catching our attention.


We rode on until 3.20 and had decided that when we get to the next hill we would rest before we tried it. When we came to it, it looked a really tough hill, probably the hardest of the lot. Time to snooze.

We lay on the bank in the shade and had some biltong and loads of water with re-hydration powder. I couldn’t really get a deep sleep going as I kept an eye out for the monstrous crocs that are in the river, they often take cattle and goats and occasionally people. Whilst paddling the river I have seen a few very, very big crocs – they are not conducive to deep sleep on the banks, regardless how stinky, sweaty and unappetising you feel.

We both had a cup of water with lots of salt and sugar too. Craig said that he thought it tasted like Rum and Coke? Rather than ask him if he was losing it and he confirming it, I kept quiet so I could still hope that he wasn’t going off his rocker. While we were dozing a troop of monkeys noisily passed in the palm trees above us.

It was time to go.

The hill was a shocker. It was very steep and very technical with not much room for error. We chose our lines and packed the bigger holes and cleared the chosen line of the bigger of the rocks.

Craig went first and had a perfect run right to the top, it was impressive.
For some reason I didn’t feel confident and stalled and dropped it again at a critical point.

Craig 3, Andrew 5

I was now angry and fortunately once we had picked it up I didn’t drop it again but the poor tyre and clutch took a bit of abuse trying to get going again. I had a mental picture of the knobblies just getting ripped off and the clutch plates getting fried trying to get up the big step.

Once I was going again, I made it to the top but not on the best route and had to gun it to get over a huge hole that we had planned to miss.

I had told Craig that I thought that there were only 3 major hills, we had already done 4 and we were only just passed half way. He did make a comment on this. I had to admit that I didn’t think we had done them all yet either.

We crossed another wide river bed and I entered much faster than the last one and just managed to get to the other side with a bit of paddling at the end. Craig’s resolve was up and though he made it further than the last time he fell heavily on his arm.

Craig 4, Andrew 5

It didn’t take long to get him going again and with only a little effort he was through. My fly was up this time!

It was getting late, 5.30, and the road leaves the river for a while. It was here that I managed to get the bike into more than 2nd gear.

For the info nerds, top speed for the whole day is 62kph for 9 seconds. Average moving speed for the 90 kilometre track for the whole day was a blistering 24kph (remember that this average excludes time spent not moving).

We stopped again to fill camel packs for the second time that day at the foot of another hill and took a brief rest with a wetting of the face and a few jokes. I was amazed that till then I had emptied my 6 litre camel pack twice already, admittedly I had run some water on my face and head on my big falls and Craig had had some during our snooze but I had probably drunk 8 litres already.

I felt that we could make Epupa, it was still about 40km away, but probably would have to ride a little of it in the dark.

This was taken just before we got back on the bikes, Craig looks how I felt.


We didn’t scout the hill as the route looked pretty straight forward. Silly.

I went first and almost at the top the road became a huge hole derby that was not obvious from the bottom. I have no idea how I made it up and it was too late to warn Craig who had by this stage learned that it was safer to trust his bike as it was way more competent than he was. He bounced through somehow. It was great to get through unscathed and with the drop in the temperature we felt pretty good, confidence was high.

The track became a lot of fun, smaller hills, steep descents, deep sand, tight rutted sandy tracks and the odd Long Horn Cow. Craig was belting along and each time I stopped after a tight obstacle for him to get through he was grinning too. Maybe it was the cup of Rum and Coke tasting medicine?

It was about then that around a corner close to a kraal there was a herd of cattle. One was between a wooden fence and me. It seemed to get a bit of a fright as I passed and I remember thinking that it could be a problem for Craig. Almost as if on queue, he came around the corner and the cow tried to bolt for the open side across him. In the mirrors it looked as if he was swapping his Africa Twin for a Cow. He stayed on and I am not sure who got the bigger fright him or the cow. I has to stop I was laughing so much.
The one thing that was playing on my mind was that I knew close to Epupa the road gets very bad and also that there was still at least one hill to go. I didn’t relish doing these in the dark and hoped that wherever the last hill was that it would come before it got too dark.

The sun was setting and it looked like the clouds were building to the south, it was pretty spectacular. It would have been for you too if Craig's hand had stopped shaking.


On we pushed and it was getting darker. In our enthusiasm I do remember a hill but it was not an issue and both made it without stopping. The backside of the hill was very steep and would have been a pain if we were coming from the other side but going downhill on a bike is SO much easier than up.
By now our lights were on and riding rough track at night requires a bit of a different calibration as you can’t see behind rises in the track.

I was just able to make out the hills and I was sure we were very close to Epupa. There is one hill that I always used to look for as a marker while on the river, but from the road and almost dark it was confusing. The GPS is misleading because it calculates your distance to go as the crow flies and we were definitely not crows. At one stage I thought we were on the run into the camps and I started to celebrate with a few roosts and slides but the track soon turned and was off through a river bed.

I aced the river bed and turned to see Craig get through with hardly a dab, he was all over the place though. He looked like a slowmo miracle highside recovery impersonator but stayed on and gave me a sweaty high five as he passed, not bad for a novice to sand only that day!

The last section of the track goes away from the river around a hill and then comes back to the camps at Epupa. It is about 5 or 6 kilometres of very rough track and some deep and steep sections. Even though it was very dark now it couldn’t stop us now as our tails were up and we could smell the finish line.

Part 3:

01-04-2006, 08:53 AM
Stop this reckless posting!

Go away.

We don't want to read any more of your stuff.

I've read an account of this trip in another forum, and all you will achieve by posting it here will be to refurbishmy jealousy and diminish the impact of all my favourite drunken campfire stories.

It's hard enough to endure the endless tales of New Zealand and Tasmania without you leaping in extolling the charms of the Dark Continent


01-04-2006, 09:03 AM
Stop this reckless posting!

Go away.

We don't want to read any more of your stuff.

I've read an account of this trip in another forum, and all you will achieve by posting it here will be to refurbishmy jealousy and diminish the impact of all my favourite drunken campfire stories.

It's hard enough to endure the endless tales of New Zealand and Tasmania without you leaping in extolling the charms of the Dark Continent


In one word: You LUUUURRVE it :lol: :lol: :lol:

01-04-2006, 09:10 AM
Hi Andrew
A big thanks for popping in and posting the ride.
Yes, we're all jealous :) ...another reason I can't wait for the rest of the story.
Don't worry about "grumpy" Moike...he's dead-right, though :D :D

Thanks and cheers

NB: it was I who invited Andrew to re-post his fabulous ride-report here.
As Moike says, breaks the "monotony" of Tassie and NZ pieces :lol: :lol:

01-04-2006, 06:22 PM
A fantastic trip report - more please! :D