Day 8 – Keepmanshoot – 250kms – Tuesday 5th June
Packing camp in Ai – Ais takes a long time because one of us needs to keep watch on the baboons. We don’t see any around but we know they are fast. When we are ready to seat for some breakfast, while I am still packing some stuff, Alistair just walk to the bikes. In the blink of an eye, a baboon, who had been obviously spying on us, come at the speed of light, jump into the picnic table and steal our bag of bread! Before any of us can react, it is gone!
We buy more bread and eat and finish packing very carefully.
We finally leave, later than we wanted. We ride to the canyon viewpoint, then make our way to Keepmanshoot, biggest town in this part of Namibia. Short of 30 kms, is all gravel road. Although it is in good condition, it is still very tiring as it requires 100% attention.
In town, we find a place to stay by following signs for a B&B. We are told we cannot walk out at night, so we go for a very early dinner. The B&B owner tells us how to get to a restaurant. We stop on the way to get some cash. Lots of guys seem to just hang around the ATM machine. I don’t like that. It makes me nervous! If they don’t use the machine, why are they hanging around like that?
Anyway, we get cash, food, and get back to the B&B before dark.
Day 9 – Luderitz – 370 kms – weds 6th June
We debate whether to do the detour to see the Quiver tree forest. We get on our way but the gravel road is very busy, sandy and we are in a constant cloud of sand. I cannot see the road and get fed up. We will see trees in other places. We turn round and get to the main road to Luderitz.
It is a long way but it is all tarmac. The weather is good and I remove some layers. After 240 kms we get to Au
I am on reserve. By my calculations, cruising at 100kms/h I can do 300kms. If I ride economy, I should be able to do more. Alistair tells me this means my bike makes 90 miles to the gallon.
In Aus we get fuel.There is a luxurious hotel and we use the restaurant for cold drinks ( water!) and cake. They have a nice menu at reasonable prices. Next to our table is a large group of South Africans. We talk to them and they give us suggestions for stuff to visit in Luderitz.
From Aus, the road takes us through a national park with wild horses. We also start seeing road signs for Orix and hyenas! We see a dead Springbok by the side of the road and also a dead hyena. We see nothing else alive other than horses.
Where the wild horses are located is a beautiful landscape, where the pale green of the grass mixes with the ochre of the earth, the red sand of the far away dunes and the blue hills far away. It is spectacular.
Soon, all this turns to desert and the long straight road is very boring. The wind comes laterally and fine ribbons of sand flies across the road. We arrive in town and make it to the local backpacker place.
It is a large house with very high ceilings. Luderitz was founded by Germans, and the houses looks straight out of Germany. The backpacker place has the faded grandeur of a rich family that fell in hard times. The floorboards are creaking, as you walk through very large rooms, the paint and curtains very dated, tired dusty furniture… It is certainly not luxurious, but clean and welcoming. Our type place. It has a large well equipped kitchen, a very large lounge, a courtyard, a large backyard where we can store the bikes securely, and our room is massive. We can spread all our gear over many beds! We feel comfortable here and decide to stay 2 nights so we can visit the town and area.
The place is very quiet, it is still low season, but we talk with few residents. A old bloke who sound German but is actually Namibian and has been living in the backpacker hostel for the last 9 months. There are also two young men, James and Jonas, one british and the other Swedish. They are attempting to walk from the west coast ( starting in Luderitz) to the east coast of Africa, somewhere in Mozambique. We think they are mad! But then lots of people think we are too!
The trolley they were pulling had its wheel bearings destroyed by the violent sandy wind that blow in this region, 50kms from Luderitz. They had to come back to Luderitz for repairs. We spend some time talking with them.
Apparently, one day, while resting, they saw 5 lions staring at them from about 200m. After a staring contest of few minutes, the lions left but the guys tried to put as much distance as possible from them. They have nothing to defend themselves and there is no wood to make a fire. They had quite a fright, but both did 5 years in the army, so they should be able to deal with whatever Africa can throw at them! We will keep an eye on their progress via their Facebook account.
The German sounding old man asks me about retiring in France. He seems disillusioned by the direction Namibia is taking and wants to retire in Europe. Funny conversation but I struggle with his very strong German accent. Remember Namibia was colonised by the Germans and the evidence is everywhere to see, including the language. Anyway, he seems interested in France or Spain. Both are nice places to retire.
Day 10 – Luderitz – Thursday 7th June – 0 km ridden
We sort few things out and try to do some planning as well as visiting the town. The next few days will be across the desert and we need to get ready for this.
In the evening, James and Jonas leave. The place is very quiet. Our bathroom has no light as there were some storms and lots of rain 2 weeks ago and it messed up the antique electric wiring in the house ( as well as the dirt roads as we will find out later!)
In the evening, we repack everything in a more efficient manner. It always takes some time into a trip, to know how to do this in an efficient and convenient way.
Our provisions include some bread rolls, a can of baked beans, 2 pack of sachet soups and 2 packs of instant noodles. And a bag of peanuts. And I suspect Alistair has a big stash of biscuits and sweets somewhere.
Day 11 – Helmeringhausen – 250kms – Friday 8th of June
We set off early, keen to make as much progress as possible on the unsurfaced road. We ride ack to Aus, about 125 kms of tarmac. The trouble will start beyond Aus.
On the way, we come across James and Jonas while they are having a rest, in a shaded area. We also mentioned to them that the water drains on the road and rail track that runs along the road can be ideal for shade during the hottest hours of the day. We got this from a cyclist we met in Uzbekistan.
After a long chat we continue. We arrive at Aus later than planned. We stop for fuel and get an early lunch at the hotel/ restaurant everything that is Aus.
We then set on the unsurfaced road. The 1st 20kms are a nightmare. It is like a river bed with deep sand. After that, we can increase speed. It s badly corrugated but we can make some progress.
We finally arrive in a hotel/ fuel station / campsite / shop at a cross road ( Helmeringhausen). The grounds look nice and we decide to stay there. We put the tent up in a grassy area. The campsite is in a large garden of orange and lemon trees. The hotel is super expensive. A couple of South Africans, on a 4×4, arrive and rent a cottage on the other side of the road, for the night.
After a small shower, we go for a walk and meet a tamed Springbok. We can even touch it from over the fence, although he is still trying to ram us a bit.
After a small diner ( eating our 2 sachet soups) , using our fuel stove for the 1st time in this trip, we notice that the generator is stopped. The ground’s staff lock everything and leave, and the full grounds are in complete darkness. With no one using the hotel, all is locked up and deserted. No one around. No light other than our torches. The South Africans in the cottage are not close. As it gets dark, the sky, without any light pollution or clouds, is amazing.
With electricity working only in the shower block, we spend some time there reading before bed.
Few hours after we have gone to sleep, I can hear men talking and can see a torch being used around our tent and the grounds of the hotel. I am a bit nervous but in the end it must be only the staff checking on the animals nearby ( lots of geese and goats) in paddocks.
The night is very cold, as we are at 1400m.