Day 4 – Vredensdal – 285 kms (Friday 1st June)
We leave the beautiful white town of Pater Noster and join the N7, riding north. The wind is much better today and we can manage 100kms/h. The previous day the wind was so strong that We could barely manage 80 and our fuel consumption was up by at least 30%.
We stop here and there to refuel and rest. The road is long and flat and boring. There is not much to break the monotony and we fail to see much wild life, although I spot few ostriches once!
We arrive at a very reasonably priced B&B (Vinie’s Cottage) that I spotted in Booking.com last night. The owner, Vinie, is a lovely lady and gives us an amazing room filled with jars of sweets and biscuits. The day is a bit warmer.
As we are rather out of town, Alistair jump into the bike and go to the supermarket get us some food for dinner and breakfast. We sit outside by the small pool to eat our dinner, although the evening is rather cold.
The next day, Vinie asks for our picture with the bikes for her website. It seems we are her first bikers.
Day 5 – Springbok – 300kms ( Saturday 2d of June)
We continue on the long boring road. Springbok is our last stop before the border. The weather is still cold and I keep all my layers and waterproof gear on, for extra warmth.
We arrive at Springbok mid afternoon. The guest houses are a bit pricey but we find one a bit cheaper in the town centre. We get changed and walk to the local Spar. It’s closed! Shops close at 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays in this part of the world! The liquor store is open though, so we get some water and crisps from there.
For dinner we need to go out. We are usually told not to walk out after dark, but it seems in Springbok it is ok. So we walk few 100s metres to the most famous restaurant in town ( according to the Lonely Planet! ) : Taurean. It specialises in meat!
Outside the restaurant, we see a big motorcycle, a BMW800GS with all the gear for long distance travel. Closer, we can see that the plate is from the USA! Interesting!
Inside the restaurant, set as an American steakhouse, with little booths and tables, We sit and I try to spot the American. I see a lone guy with an iPad. He is not wearing motorcycle gear or helmet, but it could be our biker.
Never the shy one, I go and ask him if the bike is his. It is. That is how we met Clark ( like superman alter ego!). He shipped his bike from London to Cairo with motofreigh and rode all the way down!
Meeting a fellow motorcycle traveller is always good. Car drivers don’t pass the same relevant info as they have no clue of what can and cannot be done with a bike. We spend the evening talking and exchanging info. As it happens, Clark leaves in London, so we hope to catch up later this year! He want to ride north by the west coast back to Europe. I am not sure it is wise. He will have to cross places like Mali, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire etc where there have been lots of kidnappings.
These days very few people cross all of Africa. I have friends who did, via Syria and the east coast of Africa, all the way down to Cape Town, but that was over 10 years ago. The world has changed a lot since.
I eat a massive steak with wine. Bliss!
Back at the guesthouse, the WiFi was down ( not a rare occurrence in our trip) so we went to bed early.
Ai-Ais, Namibia – 250 kms – (Sunday 3rd June)
We leave Springbok after a huge breakfast and stop for fuel, then ride the 120kms to the border. Leaving South Africa takes about 10 minutes, as there is very little traffic. Entering Namibia does not take much longer. We don’t need to do paper work for the bikes, as Namibia and South Africa share some custom agreement. The whole process is calm with no chaos or hangers on loitering around as I was expecting. Very civilised and efficient. The staff on both sides are friendly. Once we pay our road tax in Namibia, we can go. We stop few hundreds metres later to get fuel and local cash. There is a fuel station with a small shop and an ATM machine. The owner comes to speak to us. We ask about insurance for the bikes but it seems it is not necessary. We discuss about our destination and he advises us the take straight away the small road that follows the border, rather that the next turn off much further north.
We follow his advice and as we ride through desert, surprisingly, we come across vineyards. It is quite unexpected and surreal to see vineyards in the desert!
After a while we see, among the vineyards a sign for a Spar. We follow and come across a sort of shopping mall smartly built, with bank, shops and Spar. All closed as it is Sunday. The surprising thing is the “village” next to it. It is only small shacks with tin roofs. We assume it has to be the vineyards workers there. The contrast between the well build commercial buildings and living quarters is surprising.
Soon enough we run out of tarmac and ride a gravel road. It is not too bad and can make good progress. Ai-Ais is a large campsite and hot springs, near Fish river Canyon, the biggest canyon in Africa, which really compares to the Great Canyon in the US, for scale.
For a campsite (which also has lodges and flats) it is rather expensive. We pay 20$ per person per night. Not cheap! But to be fair the facilities are amazing with very clean shower blocks, separate cooking and washing up block, drinking water on taps, swimming pools, a small shop etc…
The campsite seems very popular with South Africans. The majority of people staying are from there. They all seem to love Big off road cars and all have brought all the food they need for a Braai! They certainly love their BBQ ! As we have no food at all, we eat at the restaurant. The choice is grilled pork, chicken or Orix, with few vegetables.
After that we read a bit and decide to go for an early night. We set the tent in a grassy patch, near a shower block, between two palm trees.
Ai-Ais – 0 kms – Monday 4th of June
I wake to the birds songs and the staff chasing the baboons that have descended into the camp.
A group of them is near our tent. They send 2 small young ones up the palm tree, and from up there, they throw what looks like yellow dates, to they family in the ground.
The staff keep chasing them with the use of slingshots, as the baboons steal anything they can!
We make coffee and with bread and jam from the shop that is our morning breakfast. While I do some laundry, alistair does the washing up.
Later on we go in search of the hot springs. At 65 degrees Celsius, too hot. But the swimming pool next to them is super warm. It is fantastic and we swim and lounge a bit by the pool for a while.
We speak with various people in the camp. The South African are super friendly I must say and come easily to talk to us.
Late afternoon, while I am busy near the tent, Alistair is talking to 2 women near a small tent, at the edge of the camp. That is when we discover how canny those baboons are! While one goes into the small tent and steal a camping mat, sending the women and alistair running after it, another very large
Baboon gets into the open boot of a car, parked about 50 m away and tries to get away with a large plastic box containing food and wine. When I spot that fellow, I alert the others.
Baboon number one scatter toward the hills with the mat, while Alistair gets near the second baboon, who is not ready to give up on his loot. After a small stand up, the baboon gives up, luckily, as they have very big teeth! Alistair got quite a fright ! Staff a bit later on managed to retrieve the mat. That is lucky as the owner, with a large group of friends, is going to hike the canyon for 5 days. Without a sleep mat, sleeping would be rather uncomfortable and cold.
( no photos as WiFi is super slow and breaks up all the time- check my Facebook for those)