Day 12 – Sesriem – 250kms – Saturday 9th June.
We wake up early. The hotel staff of Helmeringhausen are already in the grounds, tending the gardens and doing stuff.
We have a quick breakfast with bread rolls and the local version of the Laughing Cow cheese triangles.
After that we are back on the road. There are two roads going to our next destination. We decide to take the shortest route. We are told later it is the worse. The road is indeed very bad but we are rewarded by seeing our first close range Orix and zebras. And they are beautiful as they all run along us and across the road.
After a long ride, we make it to Sesriem. The place is only few sandy dusty campsites in the desert. It is the get away to visit Sossusvlei, one of the most visited place in Namibia, with very tall red sand dunes and the flat salt lakes.
We decide to stay in the National Park campsite but there are many camps to chose from as well as many luxury lodges. One charges about 800 to 900 dollars per person! Yeek!
After paying Park fees and camp ground , we set our tent and go to investigate. We cannot go with the bikes to visit the various locations. We ask the ladies at the desk if there is a vehicle that could take us there. The ladies tell us the price but also tell us it might be cheaper and easier to ask around to the owners of 4×4 or the large tourist trucks. There are large groups travelling in massive trucks. As it is still low season, they have space.
I then go round and ask few tourists on big rented 4×4, but they have too much stuff to take 2 passengers.
Next to our tent site, there is a group on a big truck. I walk to the truck and as a guy is getting off the driving cabin, I ask him if he is the driver. He is the guide. That is how we met Zee. He is guiding a group of French for a 3 weeks tour and there is space in the truck to take us to the dunes. So he has no objection but he needs to check with his clients first.
Later on he tells us it is ok and that we have to talk to the driver ( I.e. the driver will want some tip).
The campsite is just sand with no grass, and there is not much to do. We have a tree for shade and nothing else. So we go to the bar to sit and read a bit. No WiFi. To be fair, since we cross into Namibia, even in places where there is WiFi, it never seems to work!
Day 13 – Sesriem – Sunday 10th June – 0kms
The next day we are up at 6 am and ready to go with the truck and the tour guide. The tourists in the trucks are 5 French. A couple in their 50s and 3 women. The road to dune 45 is tarmac, so we wonder why we cannot ride with the bikes.
We climb dune 45. I am out of breath. The previous 2 cold nights and cold rides have ended with a bad cold. I am coughing and feeling pretty bad.
After the climb we return to the truck. The guys are having breakfast. We move away and sit on a tree trunk to get ours: bread roll and some jam as well as the industrial Laughing cow cheese. It has been rattled on the pannier and we need to sort out the aluminium wrapping from the cheese!
Back at the truck, the tourists are finishing their breakfast or scrambled eggs, baked beans, bacon , sausage and more. Alistair is drooling over the display but we don’t want to impose. The left overs are put on a bag, we assume for the bin. Alistair is gutted! In fact, Zee gives that to the driver or park ranger, the one who will take us to the salt lake in a specially large 4×4.
Then we understand why only 4×4 cars can go further into the National Park. It is very deep sand and very harsh tracks. We are told we need to pay for this ride. It is 170 Namibian dollars per person. As Alistair walks to the shack to pay, the driver of the 4×4 calls him back. We will pay him instead ! That’s Africa! We all 7 ( with the 5 French tourists) get in the back while Zee sits next to the driver.
The next stop is near a massive sand dune. Most of the guys decide to climb it. I pass on the pleasure and walk direct to the salt lake.
Later on we meet all there and we get back to the campsite by early afternoon.
We decide to have some toasted sandwiches at the bar. I am very tired and feeling ill. We go for a snooze.
In the evening, Alistair cooks some noodles and we go for an early night.
Zee advises us to stop, on our way to the coast, by a lodge and campsite that is really worth it. We take note.
Day 14 – Rosteck Ritz lodge and campsite – Monday 11th June – 150kms
We decide to stay at the campsite recommended by Zee, the tour guide for the french group, so we do not have far to go. We take our time to pack. The campsite in Sesriem is now full and with no wind, the road is in a perpetual cloud of sand and dust because of all the traffic. Sesriem gets up to 4millions visitor a year apparently. The road is so dusty it is like going through thick fog while breathing sand! Not nice. The road continues to be very busy.
I am trailing behind Alistair. Usually on trails I am much faster than him, but this morning, i am just fighting the bike rather than riding with it. It is hard to explain. On the way to Sesriem, I was flying over sand and corrugations and waiting for Alistair every 10 kms. Today, I don’t seem to be able to do this. The road is tricky and I usually use speed to fly over tricky bits, today, I just don’t feel the bike. On the plus side, my cold seem to have gone.
About 80kms later we stop at Solitaire. The place is a fuel station/ bakery / campsite farm. It is famous for its apple pie. I take tea with a cinnamon roll while Alistair falls for the pie. It is ok but not the best in the world as they claim.
The road is really bad until we get to the lodge. We ride all the way up the reception, 7kms inside the private game reserve with lots of zebras and ostriches running around.
The place is really nice, super expensive for a room, and deserted. The manager welcomes us and explains that the campsite is about 7 or 8 kms away. I guess they don’t want to have the riffraff like us mix and use the luxurious swimming pool and facilities with their rich clients! Although he invites us to use the spool if we fancy. We don’t. We have a beer and decide for some lunch as the place is pleasant.
The menu is suitably expensive. We ask if they have cheaper light lunches and the waiter tells us about the toasted sandwiches. I ask for a toasted steak while Alistair gets a boring toasted stuff with eggs.
We expect something small, considering the expensive menu while our toasted stuff is relatively cheap. Nope. It is big. Although we asked half a portion of French fries to share, we have lots of them!
My steak is real steak, large portion and is tastes amazing. I have lots of it, with an onion sauce that is to die for. When I ask what meat it is, I am told it is Orix. It is superb! Despite all the fries they only charge us for half portion! Really nice people!
Later on, totally full, we ride to the campsite grounds. We are the only ones there so we have the full place to ourselves. To be fair it is small and only has 4 spaces, with each unit having a private area for BBQ with a bit of shade. Upper in the hill, there is a large viewpoint with a kitchen. Well, the kitchen is only a double sink.
The view point has a large section covered with tarpaulin and a small stone wall. It is a perfect place for setting the tent!
Alistair then set fire to the “donkey” so we can have hot water for a shower. At least it sounds to me like the word Donkey! After a hot shower we go trying to see if we can get closer to the zebras, but they have all vanished.
The lodge manager drives up to our camp to check we are ok. On my little walk, a couple of hundreds meters from camp, I see footprints. Cat footprints. Too small to be lion, maybe Cheetah? As the lodge manager is around I show him the picture. He seems very interested about it. He says it is probably a leopard, as cheetahs have non retractable nails, so the footprints should whose them. Without, it is most certainly a leopard, or maybe a hyena. Although hyenas are pack animals and it was a lone set of footprints. The manager then tracks the footprints for a good mile before driving back to the lodge.
Apparently leopards are not dangerous so we are safe. Hmm!
As the wind raises and we have little shelter, we take the tent to the viewpoint. There is more shelter there and we can get away without putting the roof. Also we are away from the hundreds of massive crickets. And I mean MASSIVE!
As we had a big late lunch at the lodge, ( mmmm Orix steak!) we only get a cup of tea.
The night sky, through the mesh of our inner tent, looks amazing. There is no light pollution, no dust, only the 2 of us, the lodge is a good 8 kms away, and the nearest town is over 200kms! It is so peaceful! A memorable place!
Day 15 – Swakopmund – 230kms – Tuesday 12th June
We have already done 2,500kms since Cape Town! Wow!
We wake up very early as we gone to sleep early. It is winter down here, and the days are short. The sun rises at around 7:45 and sets at around 6, 6:30. It gets dark quickly and we have long nights.
With no food left other than some stale bread, we make a quick coffee and have a small bite of bread.
We set off soon after 8am.
The road is still very bad. Heavy recent rains have done a lot of damage. We still manage to make good progress. Although, once we go over a pass, and ride along a plateau, it gets very windy, it is tiring.
We stop on the way to drink some water and observe a cyclist, with lots of luggage, coming our way.
We wait for him to reach us and we have a chat by the side of the road. He set off from the Netherlands, across the Middle East and flew from there to Cairo. He plans a year on his bicycle. He asks us if we have water and we give him our spare bottle.
Water, when we find it in campsites, is drinkable tap water. So far we have rarely bought mineral water.
We make good progress on our bikes, despite the horrid dirt road, bad corrugations and slippery sections. We arrive at Walvis Bay around midday. The town is a big centre for mining and oil. There are big trucks everywhere. What we cross is not too nice and we only stop in town to buy fuel. We had no fuel since Solitaire, about 250kms and we are on reserve.
Then we set off on the easy tarmac road to Swakopmund, 30kms further north. We stop midway at a large fuel station with all the facilities we need: shop, deli counter and toilets!
As we had no breakfast or dinner, we get some food.
After that, we get to our destination and find a brand new backpacker place at 40 pounds a night. Namibia is not cheap. Later on we find the local Spar and we are shocked by the price of basic food like butter. 200gr or so costs nearly 4 pounds! We get a cheap half litre of vegetable oil instead for cooking our food. With chicken and noodles and mixed vegs ( vegs are so expensive!) we can do a quick stir fried. We need to load a bit on vitamins as our diet is quite bad on the road, we seem to only eat carbs and meat.
We then explore town and fail to find a laundrette. So, back in the room, I do a big wash with most of my clothes. I also use the shower head to rinse and brush the dirt from the zips in the lower legs of my trousers, and the zips in the tank bag. With so much dust and sand inserted there, the zips are stiff and will break, otherwise.
After the last few days and over 750kms of dirt roads, the bikes have taken a battering. We both have a leaking fork seal. So we need to investigate if we can buy, order, or source replacement here or from Windhoek. So we plan to stay 3 nights to sort out things.
Day 16 and 17 – Swakopmund – weds 13th and Thursday 14th June
We spend these 2 days sorting things out. The backpacker place is great ( Sea view backpackers – on booking.com). It has a massive kitchen, various sitting areas and large upstairs bar and snooker table, terrace, garden etc… all we need and more! With a young South African couple, we are the only guests. The hotel manager is a bright young lady called Jolien Els. We talk to her and her boyfriend a lot. They suggest great places to stay while we go away for few days in a round trip.
You may be familiar with Jolien, as she is world champion for field archery! Wow! Very interesting and lovely couple. That’s the things with travels, we meet so many amazing people along the way!
We found a Yamaha dealer in town and we manage to order fork seals for both bikes. We will need to come back next week, once the parts arrive from South Africa. I also ask the girl at the Yamaha shop to order a “cruise control” tool. it is a very simple piece of plastic that you fit at the throttle and I can keep my hand flat to accelerate rather than constantly gripping the throttle. My hand is painful. I used to have one once.
So that’s it. We are off tomorrow, and we will be into the wilderness for 5 or 6 days. We have supplies ( food!) and gps coordinates of some interesting campsites! It should be interesting!