Chobe River. Chobe National Park. Ichobezi Houseboat.

The next morning with our bikes parked safely at the Chobe Safari Lodge, a small “tender” boat with a 40hp engine met us at the Botswana Immigration office and ushered us ten minutes across the Chobe River where we hiked up a muddy track to a tiny one room shack filled with a collection of scattered documents, carbon paper and rubber stamps. Officially back in Namibia and with two more stamps in our passports we ten boarded the Ichobezi Moli, a houseboat of 18 meters with four large twin cabins, a bar, entertainment deck a small plunge pool and a staff eager to ensure we enjoy our mobile water-based safari adventure.

IMG_3698_2.jpg Chobe National Park could be one of the most rarely visited parks in Africa yet it offers much of the wildlife of the major tourist attractions. As such it’s relatively quiet. A handful of lodges along the Botswana riverfront provide the gamut in accommodation from four-star luxury to backpacker and camping facilities.

Offered a welcome drink we waited for the other passengers who would join us for our river cruise: Chris and Pauline, a couple from Germany traveling with Jeanette, Pauline’s stepmother, a representative from a South African travel association and Christina and Kirsty, two representatives from U.K.-based adventure travel agency. As we cruised up river we were blessed by mild weather and a gentle breeze that swayed the reeds of the lake shore. Behind us four “tenders” were in tow which later when anchored we used to get closer to wildlife grazing in Chobe National Park including elephants, buffalo, impala, fish eagles, herons, crocodile and more.

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As we cruised up river we passed Sududu Island as Ralph painted a dynamic word picture of the battle between Namibia and Botswana as to which of these southern Africa nations should duly rule over this tiny patch of reeds with ambling elephants, impala and temporary home to migratory birds. Narrowly averting war the issue, and perhaps the only of its kind, was handled democratically and judicially by international court in the Hague. Botswana won. And today they proudly fly the flag on a lonely pole in the middle of this swampy grassland.

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Audi – Fish Eagle – goes in for the attack.

Ronnie and the rest of the passengers devised a plan and elected me as chief whereby I would swim pass the crocodiles, hippos and impalas and replace the flag with Namibia’s proud colors. Avoiding an international incident I suggested a Canadian flag would be more appropriate. But with lunch served the idea was quickly shelved.

Bliss on the Chobe River

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Thirsty the hippos go for a drink riverside.

Nothing like seeing these massive creatures drink whilst standing in water.

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This riding around Africa on a motorcycle is just to much for Ronnie B. as he sips his G&T on the deck of the Ichobezi Moli

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The meals and dining experience on the Moli were unlike any I’ve had on a small boat.

Up close and personal with the wildlife.

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Full moon on the Chobe River.

The slow pace of the Ichobez Moli meant that you hardly noticed the drone of the boat’s engine so that it didn’t disturb the wildlife. Quite a contrast to my other “safari” adventures at Addo in South Africa, Etosha in Namibia and Moremi in Botswana, riding on the river brings you closer to the animals and free from gravel, dust, other tourists the seeming isolation creates a sense of awe and a feeling that you are wallowing with the animals. Each of the crew of the Moli are trained as wildlife guides and they are all equally competent in spotting animals an untrained eye would easily miss.

Passing With the distant sound of hyenas, the occasional yelping elephant and the simmering and soothing sound of the river lapping on the hull of the boat, I slept on the Chobe River and in the morning waking to the hectic hustle and bustle of birds fishing for food, crocodiles bathing in the sun and elephants playing “chicken” with impalas. But sadly this experience too had to pass. We took a slow cruise back to the Namibian border post and then through Botswana immigration where we met our bikes and prepared for a short ride across the Zambian border and onto Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

Chobe River. Chobe National Park. Ichobezi Houseboat.

The next morning wiith our bikes parked safely at the Chobe Safari Lodge, a small “tender” boat with a 40hp engine met us at the Botswana Immigration office and ushered us ten minutes across the Chobe River where we hiked up a muddy track to a tiny one room shack filled with a collection of scattered documents, carbon paper and rubber stamps. Officially back in Namibia and with two more stamps in our passports we ten boarded the Ichobezi Moli, a houseboat of 18 meters with four large twin cabins, a bar, entertainment deck a small plunge pool and a staff eager to ensure we enjoy our mobile water-based safari adventure.

IMG_3698_2.jpg Chobe National Park could be one of the most rarely visited parks in Africa yet it offers much of the wildlife of the major tourist attractions. As such it’s relatively quiet. A handful of lodges along the Botswana riverfront provide the gamut in accommodation from four-star luxury to backpacker and camping facilities.

Offered a welcome drink we waited for the other passengers who would join us for our river cruise: Chris and Pauline, a couple from Germany traveling with Jeanette, Pauline’s stepmother, a representative from a South African travel association and Christina and Kirsty, two representatives from U.K.-based adventure travel agency. As we cruised up river we were blessed by mild weather and a gentle breeze that swayed the reeds of the lake shore. Behind us four “tenders” were in tow which later when anchored we used to get closer to wildlife grazing in Chobe National Park including elephants, buffalo, impala, fish eagles, herons, crocodile and more.

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As we cruised up river we passed Sududu Island as Ralph painted a dynamic word picture of the battle between Namibia and Botswana as to which of these southern Africa nations should duly rule over this tiny patch of reeds with ambling elephants, impala and temporary home to migratory birds. Narrowly averting war the issue, and perhaps the only of its kind, was handled democratically and judicially by international court in the Hague. Botswana won. And today they proudly fly the flag on a lonely pole in the middle of this swampy grassland.

IMG_3787_2.jpg

Audi – Fish Eagle – goes in for the attack.

Ronnie and the rest of the passengers devised a plan and elected me as chief whereby I would swim pass the crocodiles, hippos and impalas and replace the flag with Namibia’s proud colors. Avoiding an international incident I suggested a Canadian flag would be more appropriate. But with lunch served the idea was quickly shelved.

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Bliss on the Chobe River

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Thirsty the hippos go for a drink riverside.

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Nothing like seeing these massive creatures drink whilst standing in water.

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This riding around Africa on a motorcycle is just to much for Ronnie B. as he sips his G&T on the deck of the Ichobezi Moli

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The meals and dining experience on the Moli were unlike any I’ve had on a small boat.

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Up close and personal with the wildlife.

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Full moon on the Chobe River.

The slow pace of the Ichobez Moli meant that you hardly noticed the drone of the boat’s engine so that it didn’t disturb the wildlife. Quite a contrast to my other “safari” adventures at Addo in South Africa, Etosha in Namibia and Moremi in Botswana, riding on the river brings you closer to the animals and free from gravel, dust, other tourists the seeming isolation creates a sense of awe and a feeling that you are wallowing with the animals. Each of the crew of the Moli are trained as wildlife guides and they are all equally competent in spotting animals an untrained eye would easily miss.

Passing With the distant sound of hyenas, the occasional yelping elephant and the simmering and soothing sound of the river lapping on the hull of the boat, I slept on the Chobe River and in the morning waking to the hectic hustle and bustle of birds fishing for food, crocodiles bathing in the sun and elephants playing “chicken” with impalas. But sadly this experience too had to pass. We took a slow cruise back to the Namibian border post and then through Botswana immigration where we met our bikes and prepared for a short ride across the Zambian border and onto Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

Ngepi Camp: Caprivi Namibia

The Ngepi Camp sits at the beginning of the Panhandle of the Kavango River which flowing from Angola dumps into the vast swamp known as the Okavango Delta – a vast wildlife reserve of wetlands and bush, and the largest Most of the delta sits in Botswana but here at Ngepi camp we spent a few days riverside contemplating our next move and schedule. For me, it was clear I needed to wait for my DHL package in Moan. I would also spend countless hours trying to get through to the Namibian Post Office trying to track down the package Johnny “A” sent me from California with my Apple Leopard disk, back up video tapes and a few small odds and ends. I wonder if I’ll ever see this package.

But now I am riding with another. Before heading off on his two month odyssey, Ronnie shaved his head. And he’s not planning on shaving or getting a hair cut until he returns to South Africa. By the time I met him in Windhoek he was sporting a near crew cut and the salt and pepper of his beard provided the texture and gave him a rougher look that was softened by his easy smile. When he was just a child his family moved from Brazil to South Africa and after spending the mandatory two years in the South African army in the intelligence unit, Ronnie confided that he spent most of that time hear near the Angola border during the Southwest Africa (Namibia) Angola war – a senseless war that crippled South Africa’s economy but provided much of Namibia’s infrastructure.

An early riser and always with a cigarette in his mouth, Ronnie is a veritable encyclopedia of flora and fauna. We took a sunset boat trip down the Okavango River in search of evidence of wildlife and between the guide and Ronnie were treated to hippos playing and guarding their territory, monkeys, egrets, fish eagles, crocodiles and malachite-headed kingfishers and a slew of other birds. But what made our Ngepi Camp experience were the treehouses we stayed in. With a solid wood floor, reed walls and thatched roofs these en-suite tree houses were complete with bathroom, running hot water showers, electricity and mosquito nets. Now in the heart of malaria country I must take all precautions to keep from getting chewed by those nasty buggers. I’ve learned that the malaria-carrying mosquitoes aren’t those that buzz annoyingly in your ear as you try to sleep or enjoy a cold beer. Nor are the malarial mosquitoes those whose bites itch and raise red bumps on your flesh. No, these mosquitoes are silent and somewhat itch-free. I’ve been taking the mefloquine for nearly three weeks and in these humid evenings by the lake give myself a shower in “Jungle Juice” with its 100% deet formula. This stuff can’t be good for you. It’s like putting kerosene on your skin.

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The inside of my treehouse at Ngepi.


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Ronnie’s treehouse as viewed from mine.

It’s hard not to rise early when staying in a tree house along the Kavango river. The house is wide open. The birds begin their morning song as the red ball rises from the east casting orange, red and muted yellow hues reflecting in the river while silhouetting the the briny branches of thorn trees and river reeds. And at night the groaning and sneezing sounds of hippos who’ve left their safe haven in the river to munch on the bush nearby. All is quite at Ngepi Camp and it’s like camping — with conveniences. Throughout the sprawling camp are a number of oddly named and uniquely designed and situated ablutions (bathrooms). One is located in the garden of eden, for example and another features tandem toilets appropriately named “His and Hers”.

Our stay at this staple camp in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia happened upon the slow season. As such, we shared the somewhat large camp with only a handful of other guests. This could have been the perfect Caprivi stop if it were not for the somewhat indifference to service that permeated from the manager down to the general staff. And maybe this attitude stems from the fact that there are few options for accommodations here and during peak time the place might be lucky to be fully booked. But there are other camps and while they might not have tree houses I would hope that service would be better. If not, there’s a huge opportunity here.

Not that the folks at Ngepi weren’t friendly or fun. No, on the contrary we found the staff to be enjoyable, fun and knowledgeable. But little things that are dictated by management policy with no room for flexibility that irked both Ronnie, me and other guests staying at this time. And the place is not cheap, either. Hoping to catch up on my writing and photo editing, we woke up the first morning to no electricity. Politely asking if the generator could be turned on, Duncan the manager informed us that the generator was very old and the owner was trying to get as much life out of it before it died. He was instructed not to turn it on until after 4pm. Meanwhile, food, beer and other perishables in the stores of the kitchen could be comprised. For me, I looked forward to enjoying these peaceful surroundings to inspire me. And while the lack of electricity didn’t affect my inspiration, my ability to leverage it would be limited.

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Above the toilet of eden while his and hers below help define the vibe at Ngepi Camp. Too bad the service didn’t match up to the atmosphere.


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Sunrise over the Kavango River on the Caprivi Strip in Namibia.

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Hello Allan!

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Hippos will show you their teeth and let out a big groan if you infringe on their territory.

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Masked Weavers looking to nest and eat.

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Tired?

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Hippos block the channel up river.

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A Malachite Kingfisher hanging in the reeds on the Kavango River.

Then when we ordered breakfast we reviewed the menu at a counter in the kitchen which sits just behind the wall separating the kitchen from the bar. The bartender simply walks through an open archway behind the counter to pass through between kitchen and bar. The only two customers in the kitchen and with the bartenders attention we ordered breakfast. But we were told we couldn’t order breakfast in the kitchen we would need to go to the bar. Scrambled eggs, some toast and ham. Simple enough. But no. We had to walk around to the bar where the same guy, our bartender, would then be able to take the order. Then he would walk back to the kitchen and tell the cook what we wanted. It seemed silly that he couldn’t write the order down in his book and was adamant that we walk around to the bar to make our order.

At lunch we ordered toasted sandwiches. Of a half dozen ingredients or so the menu asked to choose three. I felt like four: ham, cheese, salami and a slice of tomato. Sorry. You can only have three. We asked nicely. Then we asked again. Just throw on the slice of salami. After the bartender (yes, we were ordering at the bar this time) was flustered with Ronnie and my joking and repeated request for a simple fourth item to be added to our sandwich, manager Duncan appeared out of his office with a pen and pad and asked what we wanted on our sandwich. “Whatever you tell me I going to choose the first three,” he remarked while asking us to ease up on his staff. Never did anyone suggest that the salami could be included at additional cost, which I would gladly have paid. Nope. The rules were set in stone and there was no flexibility.

Dinners were fixed price/fixed menu meals. And they weren’t cheap. The meals were fair and portions small and allocated. Upon checkout we discovered we were charged for an additional bottle of wine we never drank. Needless to say the setting, grounds and accommodation at Ngepi are fantastic. But the service and management policies unfortunately overshadowed the experience and left us only remembering what we didn’t like about Ngepi Camp. And while the place tries to ooze a cool and laid back attitude which they try to communicate in their “Get A Life” tagline or slogan, I think it’s Ngepi Camp who needs to get a life and work on customer service.

Grootfontein to Ngepi Camp

My journey through Africa to date has had a certain rhythm to it. Largely dictated by the holidays and the usual encumbrances that come along with landing on a new continent, I’ve found that I’ve had more days in Windhoek than originally planned and added to the week I spent in Swakopmund and the more than a week in Cape Town, my travels have been had briefly punctuated in these locations. Not planned and not necessarily a good or bad thing, I now sit at the crossroads of my African journey. And it’s here I suspect the journey will become more challenging and more African. Lovely Africa.

I retraced much of the road I drove on my Etosha trip while I made time toward Grootfontein including passing through Otjiwarongo again and by the legendary Indila Liquor Den where Grant braved the dark black hole and bought a couple half-pints of Old Buck Gin. Stopping for fuel and a chicken pie at the Engen petrol station I received a text message from Ronnie indicating rain was looming in Grootfontein, still several hours away. So I motored on.

I noticed my small point-and-shoot digital camera was missing when I pulled over to shoot a few photographs of massive termite mounds and weaver nests high in the power lines. My mind raced. I always keep the camera on the bike in a small case that is secured by Velcro to the straps holding my Aerostich tank panniers to my bike. Where was it. I was feverish. Could it be that someone at the Engen gas station ripped me off while I was waiting for my chicken pie? Impossible. I’ve left the camera there in places much scarier or dangerous. Besides, it’s hard to see if anything is there. When parked the handlebars obscure the small case and make it difficult to get to the camera.

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Plenty of warthogs road side. Made me think of swiss dj on a KTM I met in Chile who had his trip interrupted hen a warthog ran in front of him in South Africa.

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Massive termite ant hills take over the trunks of trees.

But the fact remained. The camera was gone.

When I got to the turn off at Otavi I spotted a massive billboard touting that winners choose Old Buck gin. Thinking of Grant and and the bitter and disgusted face he flashed the first time he tasted Old Buck and how happy when he found a proper bottle of Gin. Pulling over to grab a photo of the billboard, and still confused about what happened to my camera, I searched my top case thinking maybe I dropped in their quickly. Not likely, but I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that someone ripped me off. it was then my attituded lightened and I forgot about the camera. Because sitting below my Carnet de Passage was a bottle of Old Buck Gin. Those rascals. Jules and Grant. They had snuck into and hid one of the infamous half-pints of Old Buck in my top box without me noticing. I couldn’t have spotted it at a more perfect time. In front of an Old Buck billboard.

When I finally arrived to meet Ronnie at the Courtyard Guesthouse in Grootfontein, I had played every scenario in my head. I was sure I left the camera on the bed at Hotel Thule in Windhoek. I took a picture of Grant & Jules after they rode off that morning. I remember connecting to the wireless, iSighting with Angie and then blasting off when the skies looked clear. And in my mind I saw the little Canon SD870IS sitting on the bed. But when I called Carla at Hotel Thule she said nothing had been turned in. “Don’t worry Allan,” she tried to reassure me, “if housekeeping found it they will log it in the lost and found book and put it in the safe.” But there was nothing in the log book. And nothing in the safe. True, it was Sunday and the housekeeping supervisor was off, it would be quite possible that the camera would turn up tomorrow. Ronnie and I crossed our fingers.

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Termites are rather amazing architects and builders.

That night we talked about our plans, riding styles and expectations. Sporting a salt and pepper beard with short and receding hair, he spoke with that clear and succinct South AFrican accent I’ve come to recognize. Powering through several cigarettes as we looked at the maps, I quickly learned Ronnie was on a much faster timeline than I was. His original plans didn’t include Botswana. But rains and the massive flooding and rains north meant traveling south through Botswana made more sense. Plus, I was eager to canoe and see wildlife along the Okavango Delta. What’s more, I had a number of people recommend trying to make it to the Okavango Panhandle and stay at the purportedly legendary Ngepi Camp, a backpacker oasis that featured camping and tree houses sitting along the river where hippos and crocodile swam. Though Ronnie was concerned that getting to any of the camps along the Caprivi strip meant riding through deep sand. With minimal infrastructure and only a spattering of lodges, it’s a remote part of Namibia and a short football pass to the Angola border.

When he called Duncan at Ngepi we learned that there is a 4km stretch that passes through deep sand and because of rains now had ponding and mud build up. “How long does it take you to drive those four kilometers,” I could only hear one side of his conversation. “Twenty five minutes in a four-by-four?” There was a big pause. “Bloody hell, it will probably take us an hour.” We booked two nights at Ngepi and if the road turned out to be hell, we had a back up set for Poppa Falls, a neighboring camp closer to the main road.

Before setting out on the more than 400km journey to Ngepi Camp I confirmed with Carla at Thule that my camera was safe in the hotel safe. Relieved I called my friends at DHL and arranged to have them pick up the camera and send it to me my attention at Audi Camp in Moan, Botswana. DHL customer service rep John in Windhoek told me it would be there Wednesday or Thursday the latest.

The ride through Ngepi took us to Rundu then along the western Caprivi to Divundu. We battled heavy rains on and off. This concerned us as if the road to Ngepi had more rain it could prove to be impassable. At least that’s what Duncan warned. Along the way we passed tiny settlements of round huts sans running water and electricity. Along the road women and children balanced bottles of water on their heads. It reminded me of Himba country. The daily chore for these people is to walk to the nearest water source, fill their containers and walk back to their primitive huts. I talked to one woman carrying about 10 liters on her head with a young child on her back. As she explained her daily plight she notched her head back and forth as if it were on a ratchet all along holding steady and keeping the massive container of water balanced. There was clearly more water here. I was wet. And at least here the vegetation was green and the river closer to the villages. Try schlepping your daily ration of water a few kilometers every day. Still primitive. But still tough.

A typical roadside scene where young children and women transport water to their remote villages and thatched huts.

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Everyone carries a bottle of water and the size they carry seems to be directly correlated to their body size.

In Divundu I filled up with petrol but Ronnie, citing much less off-road experience, refrained — worried that riding through the thick sand with a full tank would be more challenging. A scant 12km south we came to the Ngepi turnoff. The first 50 meters dealt us loose but manageable sand. But the rains had washed much of the sand away and any that was left was firmer and provided more grip to my Bridgestone Trailwings, the only tire I could find in Cape Town. The muddy track that winded toward the riverside Ngepi diverted through the bush in several places where thick mucky mud and big pools of muddy water looked menacing. Our tires and bikes squirreled and snaked through the obstacle course with a tad of difficulty but easily manageable.

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Ronnie navigates the sand and mud pools toward Ngepi Camp.

Our reward when landing at the infamous Ngepi Camp? A cold Windhoek lager. Bliss in the Caprivi.

Back To Base Camp and Doc. Windhoek Again.

We managed an early start and planned to ride through to Windhoek hoping to be at the car rental place prior to 5pm to avoid paying for another day. Back on the paved part of C41 for 60km and then south on C35 we drove about 70km of typical but good Namibian gravel. Passing though about 35km of new road construction it this road through the Kunene desert lands, it was evident that within a year the road would be paved all the way to Opuwo. We noticed small ad-hoc tent camps along the side of the highway. Construction workers rode heavy machinery, waved flags, directed traffic and shoveled gravel. We were far from anywhere. And these construction workers happy to have a job but have no means to get to work every day. So they sleep on the job site in tents. There’s no running water. No electricity. And nothing to do but listen to the hyenas and watch the stars. This is their job. And a good part of their life.

We noticed a few Himba people guiding a herd of goats across the road. We stopped and the girl asked if we wanted to take her photo. For a dollar. Two young boys spotted my water bottle and asked for a sip. I gave them the bottle. And they wanted the empty one that was crackling under my feet as I drove. We gave the kids some food and sweets and water. Then we moved on.

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More water for the Himba people as we head back to Windhoek.

Two things waited for me in Windhoek. I was expecting a couple packages. One from my brother with my replacement lens and video camera for which I would have to send back my damaged goods in exchange. The second package from John Angus (aka Johnny A) who has served as my logistics coordinator for my journey. In the package were more video tapes and a DVD of the latest Apple operating system – Leopard. I eagerly anticipated this because since the release of Leopard, Boot Camp, a Apple Utility that allows me to run Windows XP on my MacBook Pro, was only a beta copy and expired. This meant I couldn’t update software, maps, routes or waypoints on my Garmin 276c GPS. Also in Windhoek sat my trusty steed, Doc. I hadn’t been in contact with Hedley since embarking on this four-wheel adventure, but assumed all was okay with my electrical problem.

Upon receipt of packages and confidence that the bike would be ready for Northern Africa, I would journey to Namibia’s Caprivi strip – a tiny slice of fertile green land that is sandwiched between the borders of Angola and Botswana serving as the panhandle for the massive Okavanga Delta. Grant & Jules have decided to spend a few weeks in Windhoek – banking on further investment return that as cash accumulates they are able to prolong their journey. They hope to be 2 or 3 years more on their journey. Me? Without the means and with many things to look forward to both on the road and home in the States, I’ve got to move on as my clock continues to tick.

We rolled into the car rental place at two minutes before 5pm. Cutting it sort. But cutting it well.

The next day, Hedley at Danric said all systems were go for my motorcycle. I examined the lights, the GPS and took a quick test spin. Yes. I was ready to go. While sorting out my bill and talking routes with Hedley, I met British Colombian (Canada) Mark Stevens. He had purchased a new GS1200 in South Africa and was on a month long journey through Namibia, the Kalahari and then back to Cape Town. He had an unfortunate accident on some slippery sand and rock and broke a few protrusions on his steed while tearin g a few ligaments in his leg.


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Britsh Colombian Mark Stevens on his test run in Windhoek on a new GS1200.

The plan would be to leave tomorrow or Saturday, January 12th. But within ten minutes of leaving BMW I noticed something funny. I pulled over and confirmed my suspicion. The fuse blew again. No lights and no power to the GPS. Shit. Back to BMW and then back to the electrician. It took about 30 minutes to isolate the short thanks to a simple but effective surrogate fuse that blasts an alarm when shorted. The wires connecting the GPS and PIAA lights were secure. I had secured them. Hedley had secured them. And this electrician had found a small breach which he thought to be the culprit short and proceeded to secure them. But this wasn’t the culprit. There was something else. Drawing my power from the parking light circuit we reasoned that the taillight was also on the same circuit. So we traced the wire to the tail piece and into the hidden stash compartment where the seat lift lever is located.

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The short was beneath all this in the tail piece. Note the fracture on the metal frame tubing.

In this small but effective stash I had stored a spattering of small spare parts and small jumper cables. Pulling all of this out and wiggling the wires the alarm signaled. Bingo! But to get to the wire requires pulling off more parts. We also noticed that the tail frame had cracked and would require replacing or welding. Not a serious problem, but something to keep an eye on. With the wire repaired and the short finally and officially sorted, Doc was ready for Botswana and points north.

Meanwhile, I’d been in contact with fellow GS rider and South African entrepreneur Ronnie B., he was in Grootfontein and if I would be leaving in the next 24-hours would wait for me to catch up and we would be able to ride through the Caprivi and Botswana together. I also learned that massive flooding had caused evacuation and relocation of nearly 50,000 people in Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe and Zambia were under water – including bridges washed out on major routes. Water. Simply water. Either too much or too little.

As for my packages. The camera and lens arrived but required a big of negotiating because Namibian customs wanted to charge me $200 in VAT. But upon proof that these products were simply provided for in exchange and to replace items I already had brought into Namibia, customs with the help of DHL waived the additional tax. The package from Johnny A? It should have been here on the 5th or 6th but was nowhere to be found. And I can’t wait in Windhoek any longer. Making contacts and friends with the EMS division at NamPost, when it arrived they would arrange to forward along to me somewhere in Northern Africa. As for Africa maps? I’ve been without except for the few my friends loaded on my GPS in Aus but had been largely not useful because I’ve had no power. Upon recommendations by many, I stopped by the local Cymot/Greensport store, a auto parts, camping and sporting retailer, and bought a copy of Tracks4Africa. This is a selection of maps that have been compiled by a community of overlanders and include auto-routing for a few countries and good information on roads, distances and petrol locations. In the store they were kind enough to load the maps on my GPS so for now I can wait for my package with Mac OS X Leopard.

The next morning we sorted the accounting from our Etosha and Himba trip and Grant and Jules and I bid another farewell, hoping that we would one day ride together again.

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One last sunset from the terrace at Hotel Thule in Windhoek.

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Goodbye Grant & Jules, I hope to see you in Northern Africa!

Quest For Water In Kaokoland. Back In Time With The Himba

The small settlement of Opuwo sits just south of the Angola border in Namibia’s Kaokoland. Due to its harsh terrain including bush, desert and mountains, this part of Namibia is more rural and seems somewhat trapped in a time warp, largely due to the presence of the semi-nomadic Himba people. In what might seem movie sets for pre-colonial Africa story or a National Geographic special, Himba villages are populated by tall people with striking features wearing the same traditional dress they’ve done for centuries.


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The Himba people are beautifully sculpted and skin is protected by ochre and butter/animal fat.

The women rub ochre mixed with butter, animal fat or petroleum jelly to protect their skin from the harsh desert conditions. Men use dusty dirt. They’ve resisted traditional dress opting for cooler and more comfortable short skirts, loin clothes and adornments of shells, beads and iron. The women weave animal hair and caked ochre in their hair and are perennially topless. Small fires in their traditional huts of sticks, mud and dung provide a smoky fragrance that they use to treat their clothing and blankets. Chased to this part of Namibia and southern Angola in the 18th and 19th centuries after losing ethnic battles with other African tribes where they live now somewhat isolated and wander the pastoral lands in search of water and vegetation for their cattle and goats.

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Those that are ‘lucky’ enough to live near Opuwo experience and minutely participate in the “western” world.

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Villages are simple, dry and very real.

IMG_3097_2.jpgAnd while the town of Opuwo sits at the center of this stark and sparsely populated region, surprisingly one can find modern society conveniences such as internet, cell phones, a supermarket and more. And wandering through that supermarket the unmistakable smoky fragrance of those Himba women alerts me to the fact that these people commingle in this modern society but have resisted modernization. Some live in semi-permanent villages while others are nomadic and move where they can find water. Which for the pa st few years has been difficult.

A scant 20 km outside Opuwo and its modern conveniences we searched for villages where we could bring water, corn meal, sweets, aspirin and other items which we purchased at the local market. Taking along with us Willy, a guide we found in town, he suggested we stock up on supplies and bring to the villages as an offering and request permission to visit. The Himba don’t speak English so Willy provided the necessary translation. The first village we visited was a permanent settlement of a half dozen structures with neither electricity nor running water. The daily task of the women of this village is to walk 8km with jugs, fill them with water return and do it again. Morning and evening. Other villages are much further from a reliable water source.
At a temporary or roving village we visited the water source was far away and over difficult terrain. Too weak to stand on its feet, a goat lie under the semi-shade of a dying tree moaning. I was sure it would be dead by morning. No water. And nothing to graze on because the sun cooked any pasture from which it could eat. And huddled under a makeshift shelter of plastic sheeting, blankets and sticks nearly twenty women and children just sat trying to grab shade in the heat of the day. IMG_3082_2.jpg
There were no men in any of the villages we visited. Out tending to livestock, looking for food or building materials. The daily life of these people is harsh and difficult. But they seem so happy. And while many may never visit the Opuwo, they are aware of the existence of a life vastly different from theirs. But they barely use currency instead trading crops, animals and artisan crafts for trade.

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This shell is the most sought after adornment by women and worn for special ceremonies.
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Care is taken to fix the hair which also protects the scalp. Note the loin cloth on one of the children.

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This girl posed and posed. I have 10 photographs of her. Maybe more.
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The matriarch of the village.

In the states I turn on the tap and water cometh. Hot or cold. It’s even drinkable (barely). I carry about four battery charges on my bike and at home in the states I’m sure I use enough electricity to power the simple needs of a dozen of these villages. Taking for granted what I’ve become accustomed to and rely on, I find mostly the lack of water the most disturbing eye-opener of my journey through these lands. Sure, it’s not only here. The desert of Northern Peru and Northern Chile come to mind. And while water is the lifeblood of rural settlements and primitive peoples I’ve encountered in South America, Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. But in this blazing heat and stuck in the driver’s seat of my rented Toyota Condor, during my Himba visit I chugged nearly 2 liters of bottled water which I purchased at the market in town. And when finally leaving one of the villages the young children crowded around the door of the Toyota stepping on their tippy toes peering into the cab and spotting bottles of water on the seat and floor and eagerly grabbing for them. This, after we’d already given them several liters. One boy just wanted a sip. Another asked if he could have just the empty bottle. The happy faces I’d seen while visiting their camp turned sad and full of wanton when they saw water which they couldn’t have. I wanted to give them all of it. But we were headed yet to another village. Had I kno wn. Had I thought. Water. Simply water.These kids are hiding from the heat of the day under a temporary house of plastic sheeting and blankets.

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This goats demise likely the result oflack of water and sparse vegetation offers no space for grazing. The Himba people dry the meat in the trees.

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This is one of the nomadic roaming group’s villages.

These people have adapted and after four years of drought there’s little water. Their lives are spent wandering this hot and hostile land. They’re able to survive on less water than most. But they need it. Desire it. And spend their lives in quest for it. Water. Simply water.
Then I thought of my waterlogged riding days through South Africa, Northern Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia. It’s either not enough. Or too much. And when the kids hands reach out and ask not for a coin or money for food, but for water, simply water, my mind spins. Water. Simply water.
The the next village we gave them every last drop we had in the Condor. We had money in our pockets, but only a bit of water. I wished we had more. Water. Simply water.

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Etosha to Opuwo via Namibia’s Legendary C41

With about fifteen goats in the back of his two-wheel drive 15 year old Nissan pickup Simon was eager to get his cargo to Okahao, about forty miles away. Grant’s face grew several shades darker red when I asked Simon to wait just a few minutes. We’d traveled more than halfway to Opuwo from Tsandi. Grant was furious and wanted to turn back. Jules stood quietly as I quizzed Simon. According to our maps we should have been traveling on Namibia’s C41 – a supposedly major road that bisects what otherwise would have been a long circle loop north to Ruacana near the Angola border and then south to Opuwo. Grant was adamant. “This is not the C41,” he insisted. We’d asked three separate people along the way, including the only car we’d seen in the nearly an hour since we’d turned off the main road. All confirmed that this was the road to Opuwo. But Grant protested. “This can’t be the C41!”

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Springbok.

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Oryx, Zebra and an amazing collection of birds.

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Marabou Stork.

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Kudu.

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A big cat. Your lioness!

As noted before, Namibia’s road system includes A, B, C, D and a splattering of “F” farm roads. B-roads are generally the main roads and are paved and maintained. C-roads are primary roads and generally gravel, well maintained and in a few cases paved. D-roads are sometimes 4×4 only or simply not very well maintained.

The journey until now since leaving Numatoni Camp this morning had been uneventful. Driving along the eastern fringe of the Etosha pan could have been the penultimate African experience. Oryx sprinting across the savannah while wildebeest grazed on the morning lit yellow grass. Zebra wandered across the road and hundreds of springbok scurried across the savannah. After leaving the park we passed through Oshakati, an otherwise nondescript town save the vast number of bars with interesting names. They’re quite creative here. “Queen Returns”, “Hot Box”, “Good Life”, “Sorry to See” “California Style”. They must do a lot of drinking up here.

Within a couple hours we were passing through Okahao. Grant was peacefully snoozing shotgun and Jules helped me look for the C41. We should’ve seen a connection just outside of Okahao but soon we found ourselves limping over the speed bumps in Tsandi. After circling back and then back again we inquired at a gas station and soon were being escorted to the road to Opuwo. The dark skinned driver with a scar across his cheek extended his arm outside the window and pointed up over his roof in the direction of this unsigned dirt road. The road seemed to be a typical Namibian gravel road until about 20km the gravel quickly turned to deep and loose sand. And then in got deeper. We cruised through a tiny village stopping to confirm our assumptions. Then we traveled on. The sand got deeper until one point we got stuck. Our lack of four-wheel drive in the Toyota Condor was yielding its ugly face on this equally ugly road. Grant was getting nervous and getting more pessimistic my the kilometer. “This is just like the outback in Australia,” he compared the desolation and scrappy shrub of this desert wasteland. “If we get stuck out here we might not see anyone for days,” he insisted. We had traveled more than 40 kilometers and according to the map we had barely 50 more until the intersection of the main road to Ruacana, Opuwo and points south. “There’s no way this is the C41. We don’t know where we’re going,” Grant continued to broadcast his doomsday scenario.

The road was on and off again sand and gravel. Driving through one sandy section the vegetation appeared greener and we spotted a windmill that provided water for some sort of crops. Here we were flagged down by a guy dressed in a loin cloth, with an animal skin satchel and a machete nearly a meter long. Chewing on an open safety pin the words from his mouth fell on deaf ears. “Opuwo?” I asked pointing in the direction were were headed. He nodded. But the words kept flowing. Then he pointed the the empty seat next to Jules. And then pointed in the direction we were headed. He wanted a ride. Jules with her eyes darting between the safety clip and the machete wasn’t eager to share her seat with this stranger. This was the first clue that we were getting closer to Himba country.etosha 3573.jpg

For more than 200 years the Himba people have lived in Northwestern Namibia and southern Angola. Semi-nomadic Herero people live in some permanent and temporary homes throughout the region continually seeking grazing pastureland and water for their goats and cattle. They have resisted the influence of missionaries and wear body adornments made from iron and shell beads. Women spread red ochre and fat over their bodies to protect it from the harsh desert sun. Their round and cone-shaped homes are made of saplings bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. Women never bathe and wear leather mini-skirts and sport elaborate headdresses. Their clothes and bedding are smoked from fires built in their huts. Men tend to the livestock, hunt and gather while women rear the children.

There was no doubt in my mind that our “hitchhiker” was Himba and definitely harmless. I thought that giving this lad a ride would give us an extra pair of hands to help push in the event we got stuck again. But tension and doubt hung in the cockpit of our Toyota Condor. Now at the wheel and unable to communicate Grant rolled up his window and drove on. The weight of the disappointment revealed in his face hung heavy over me for the next hour until we came upon a single track of sand more than a foot deep on a twenty degree incline. That’s when we saw Simon. Bopping on the sand and sliding back and forth with the goats trying to maintain footing in the bed, I flagged him down to once again confirm that we were on the road to Opuwo and to get up to the moment info on road conditions. “Only this part, only for 2-3 kilometers it is deep and tough. Then no problem.”etosha 3574.jpg

Grant pulled me aside so that Simon couldn’t hear. “I don’t care what he says,” slightly shaking and visibly losing control. “I want to turn back,” he again insisted. We had driving 59 kilometers. Going back would take more than an hour and put us nowhere closer to our destination or anywhere that would be a reasonable place to stay for the night. Simon insisted that in less than 10km we would hit the tar road and have an open path right into Opuwo. Grant wasn’t convinced. Eager to get his goats to the market in Okahao, Simon gave me his cell phone number and suggested I simply call him should we get stuck. I pulled out my phone and noticed there was no signal. “You get a signal out here?” I asked.

“No not here. But if you find a tree you can sometimes climb to the top and get a signal. Then you can call me.” Great. So here in the heat of the desert I’m going to climb a tree if we get stuck? Not likely. Experienced and obviously traveling this road often I suggested to Simon that he drive our Condor through this deep stuff with his brother following behind to ensure we had support in the event we got stuck. I figured this would be the best strategy to calm Grant’s nerves and address his biggest concern — that we’d be stuck with no help. Simon agreed. Grant wanted to turn around. And the goats started making noise. I had asked Simon to drive us the 10km to the tar with his brother behind. Balking at this idea he insisted it was an easy ride to the tar and we’d have no problem. So he got behind the wheel and started up the sandy incline.

Then he got stuck.

The silence and look from Grant and Jules hit me like a two-by-four on the head. I could read the “I told you so” on their minds and the fear penetrated the humid air like hailstones. Simon’s brother joined Grant, Jules and I as we heaved and pushed the Condor out of trouble. About a kilometer down the road the sand lessened and Simon bid us farewell while reminding me that I could climb a tree to call him if we should have further problems. “No problem. Only 8km more until the tar.” He, his brother and his goats disappeared into the horizon.IMG_6641_2.jpg

Jules says nothing.

Thirty-nine mostly sandy kilometers later (Simon, you lied) we arrived at the intersection and tar road. And Grant still insisted this wasn’t the C41 and that we should have turned around when we had the chance.

Less than thirty minutes later we were on the driveway to the Opuwo Country Hotel and minutes from a cold beer and relief from the day’s adventure.

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Simon (l) and his brother. Just check out that sand. Too bad I didn’t get a photo of the goats in back of his truck.

Arriving in the slow season, I took advantage of the low occupancy rate and negotiated a killer deal for a room while Grant and Jules opted for camping. That night we dined in the hotel’s restaurant as the sunset over the horizon pool looking over the gorgeous valley of Kaokaland and the pasturelands of the Himba people.

Etosha National Park – Okaukuejo to Numatoni Camps

Our first night camping in Etosha National Park in Namibia was bliss. Barely leaving our campsite we were treated to a wildlife show that unfolded slowly in front of our eyes. From the sunset atop the castle-esque tower complete with gangly giraffes as drifting silhouettes on the horizon to a show of rhinoceroses, elephants, springbok and a slew of obnoxious jackals.

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Camp set up at Okaukuejo and Jules tending to the braii

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Those damn jackals had there way with our food that night. Scurrying to set up camp prior to sunset, we fired up the braii (barbecue pit) with a menu set by Jules which included grilled chicken with a honey and chili sauce, grilled potatoes, carrots and a salad of lettuce cucumbers and tomatoes. While tending to the braii several salivating jackals paraded by our campsite. One devilish and brave jackal, who looked more like a small dog with massive ears came within a couple feet of me and lunged for the garbage bag taking it in its mouth and running away. A bit peeved and getting braver by the moonlight, the next time those jackals got close to our “kitchen” I raised my unopened wine bottle and shook at at them as if it was a big stick. They scurried, but quickly came back for another round. We played this game of cat and mouse while Jules served up our dinner. Unfortunately the coals never reached the ideal temperature to cook our potatoes thoroughly. So we figured we’d just let the potatoes cook on the grill while taking a hike to the water hole. We put the leftover chicken in a covered pot so we’d have a nice picnic lunch for the next day.

After watching the rhino and elephant show we came back to an empty braii. The pot and its cover was buried in the dust around our tent. The chicken and potatoes? Not a trace. Damn jackals. That put an end to tomorrow’s picnic plans.

Etosha National Park has three “camps” strategically situated about 70km from each other. A network of gravel and dirt roads wind through open savannah, to water holes, around dried salt pans and along the massive Etosha Pan. We arranged to camp at each of the three sites which made for more than two days of wildlife tracking and viewing. As for the camping, besides my run in with the jackals our site at Okaukuejo was situated close to the ablution block (bathrooms) and as such a huge bright light washed our campsite and any night stars I was hoping to gaze through the open screen on the room of my tent.

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Horny big mothers.

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The colors and lines of Africa at Etosha National Park in Namibia.

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Damn Jackal ripped off our picnic!

At Halali, the second and mid-point camp was not as nicely set up as Okaukuejo offering no grass area and rundown picnic table and seats. But the sunset viewing over a large lit water-hole brought hundreds of Burchell’s zebra, more than fifty elephants and a gathering of springbok, and of course the ubiquitous jackals. Though we were assigned campsite number 24 we opted to change to number 17 because it appeared to have more shade. It wasn’t until we had already pitched tents and lit the braii did we discover that the camp light and power point provided to each site was not working. At five-hundred Namibian dollars (approximately US$75) for the camp site, camping in Etosha is not cheap. And while I prefer that natural light of moon, stars and candles if not too windy, Grant was absolutely furious about the lack of light and took it as a personal mission to have this injustice righted. So for an hour while we made the best of our canned chicken curry, potatoes (again) and grilled vegetables we were paid a visit by the new maintenance supervisor and the manager of the camp. There was no fixing the light so instead they brought about 100 yards of extension cord and a 80 watt light bulb atop a bamboo pole with a wobbly round base. Alas, we had light.

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The Halali water hole at sunset.

Unlike some parks where you’re confined and restricted to set safari drives, by wandering the roads of Etosha it’s impossible not to spot wildlife. But there are rules. Everyone must remain in the car unless at one of only a few designated areas which are typically fenced in and require opening a gate and riving in to safety. There are lions and leopards and the aggressive Rhinos at Etosha. Though I still haven’t spotted a leopard, they’re nocturnal for the most part, a highlight was the slow silky movement of a large lioness. Resting under a small bridge she spent a few moments lying in the sun before slinking back to her shady bridge spot. I’m sure there were other lions under the bridge, but I couldn’t convince Grant to jump out of the car to take a look. Ironically, just about 200 meters before spotting the lioness both Grant and I broke part rules in an effort to securely close the cargo door of our Toyota Condor. The endless hours of dusty roads had seized the mechanism so as we rode it rattled while the warning light glared on the dash. We reasoned that the lion either didn’t see us among the dozens of springbok, oryx and zebra wandering nearby, or was simply full from an early morning kill.

By mid day we must have seen more than a thousand zebra, hundreds of springbok, wildebeest, dozens of giraffes, impala, kudu and even ground squirrels, one of which who was in a secure area took quite a liking to a gummy fruit chew I dropped on the ground. As if those squirrels aren’t hyper and kinetic enough, with the amount of sugar in that treat, we hoped it wouldn’t have a heart attack.

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As we headed to our third and final Etosha camp we were treated to a journey of giraffes, many of which were hunkering down over a water-hole doing their best to drop their long necks toward the water pool. They look so awkward when drinking. But perhaps the best part of the day was spotting six lions napping, resting and lounging under a tree, just a few hundred meters from an old elephant who seemed to be playing with himself and another journey of giraffes.

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Oryx (Gemsbok) playing in the water.

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Springbok holding steady and in form.

Namutoni, the third camp was perhaps the nicest campsite. No jackals to bother us, but dozens of honey badgers let their curiosity get them close to camp. Worried that he’d be kept up by the noise of a half-dozen warthogs ripping grass out by the roots with their vise-grip like jaws, Jules warned Grant it might be a noisy night’s sleep. But by nightfall the badgers and warthogs were gone and the dimly lit campsite provided sky full of stars.

Etosha National Park Namibia: A WorldRider Wildlife Photo Essay

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Wildebeest on the savannah.


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Burchell’s Zebra everywhere.

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I hope he has a good chiropractor.

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Stunning sunsets in Etosha National Park. Note the Rhino.


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Why the long face?


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A Red Hartebeest on his knees and Springbok share a drink from the same pool.

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Catching a little cat nap after an early morning catch.

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Martial Eagle keeps a watchful eye.

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Giraffe & Springbok graze.

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Love those eyelashes on the Springbok.

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Kori Bustard reminds me of roadrunners from the deserts of the southwest United States.

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Maribou stork spreads its wings to notify others that the elephant are on their way.

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Big bad boy and kid.

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Elephants and zebra. What else could you ask for?


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A Banded Mongoose flat out and tired.


Windhoek to Okaukuejo – Etosha National Park

In preparing for our road trip to Etosha National Park it occurred to all three of us motorcycle travelers that we’d be afforded a few luxuries that we don’t get when traveling by bike. First, we could bring a cooler and keep food, drinks and wine cool from the scorching heat of the harsh Namibian deserts. Second, we could all talk to each other though this could be a liability, too! Third, we had a CD player. Sure, I can listen to my iPod Shuffle but in the car it’s different. And finally, we had space. And as such, we took advantage of nearly all of it.

We each did our share of preparations. Of course, I had made a run to Pick N’ Pay to stock up on a few bottles of wine and a handful of tupperware-like food storage containers before picking up our Toyota from Value Car & 4×4 Rental in Windhoek which included a small cooler. Jules and Grant picked up a handful of supplies and we loaded our worldly possessions and camping gear into the back of the Condor relishing in the luxu ry of spreading out our gear for easy access.

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Traveling by car – a new twist to the WorldRider journey.

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Grant snoozes on a nearby bench while Jules is armed and ready to catch wildlife in action with her new Canon digital camera.

Sitting shotgun while I handled the right-hand drive and left hand stick-shift 5-speed that transferred the 3.0 liter power-plant to the wheels, stocky and medium height, Grant talks with a slight harmonic overtone which I’m guessing comes from the fact he’s nearly deaf in one ear. In the back seat, Jules spread out and often would hand treats and snacks to the forward cabin as be barreled down the straight tar road north toward Etosha. Proud of his decision and the research he did prior to settling on a Suzuki VStrom for his two-up round-the-world motorcycle tour, Grant tends to get defensive when other motorcyclists question or mock this decision or his bike. Seems travelers he’s met from Panama to Chile to Argentina to South Africa seem to pick on the poor little Suzuki.

“You can’t ride that bike on Ruta 40,” one KLR rider told him when they were visiting rock paintings just off Ruta 40. “I hope you’re not planning on riding that in South America,” another rider warned, “you should only ride a BMW down there – a boxer BMW.” And in South Africa a pair of BMW riders ganged up on the poor guy ridiculing the low ground clearance and bike geometry. “Why didn’t you get a BMW?” Still others told him a KTM would be better. This topic dominated our conversation for the first 150 km as we headed to Otjiwarongo. Understanding more about marketing and the influence of brand loyalty and customer relationships, in the end it doesn’t really matter what anyone rides on a motorcycle tour – whether across town or transcontinental. If it gets the job done, you’re happy and problems and hassles are minimized, you’ve got the right steed. I’ve heard of a guy who rode a 50cc moped from Alaska to Argentina. Still another made the journey on a Vespa Scooter. Some prefer self-powered vehicles. My advice to Grant was the next time someone wanted to have this conversation to just tell them “Yeah. You’re right. Next time I’ll choose a different ride.” That will shut them up.

Spending time around anyone passionate, whether it be motorcycles, airplanes, wine, mountain climbing, music or cars, conversations tend to go on and on and on about that passion. And everybody has an opinion and talk about gear can go on and on until you’re sick of it. Grant is comfortable around motorcycles as he’s been riding since a kid. He’s spent a good part of his life either working in mines in Australia and Papau New Guinea or in workshops of all sorts. He’s trained in occupational safety but was disillusioned with the head-butting that goes on between government and business in his native land. And while he is extremely passionate about his VStrom and the work and maintenance he performs, he is always thinking and is a bundle of curiosity. “Have you ever thought of ….” or “I’ve often wondered…” Oddly, Grant is a self-stated fan of science fiction yet he loathes computers. “Hate them. Don’t want to touch them. Don’t want to use them.” He sits behind Julie at internet cafés and dictates e-mails while Jules drives the keyboard. And when she accidentally dropped the cell phone they finally bought after two and half years on the road, Grant sternly warned, “that’s the last one we’re buying.”

Jules, the daughter of evangelical followers of Jehovah Witness’s is several years younger than Grant’s youthful fifty years. Always cheerful and happy around their camp kitchen in the morning and night, I always have a warm cup of coffee when I emerge from my room or tent when traveling with them. Bright and extremely knowledgeable about flora and fauna she sports a witty and sardonic sense of humor that is a welcomed complement to mine, and to Grant’s. Married for nearly fifteen years she’d mildly tempered and easily handles Grant’s sometimes opinionated if not stubborn thinking — and mine, too.

The three of us balance and travel well together. They’ve been two and half years on the road and me nearly two. We’re all in a groove and each our own rhythm. When thrown together the balance can get thrown and with other travelers this can be challenging. For us our uniquely matched sense of humor and ability to draw on miles and months of travel experience makes for a good team. And with this notion we set out to find Grant a bottle of gin after stocking up on groceries at the Super Spar in Otjiwarongo.

Liquor laws in Namibia and South Africa remind me of the Blue Laws I grew up with in Connecticut. That is, on Saturday there is no liquor or beer sold after 7pm and absolutely no liquor sales on Sunday. Most liquor is sold through “bottle stores”. Some grocery stores will sell beer, wine but rarely distilled spirits. And on Saturday most bottle stores are closed after 2pm — especially in the small remote towns of Namibia. This was not different. Due to a sensitive stomach that requires a watchful diet, Grant is one of the few people I’ve met in my life who is really allergic to beer — the yeast and hops, I guess. He can drink wine, but after a couple days of decidedly bad quality wine and morning headaches, he had decided that wine would not be on the menu for the Etosha Adventure — it would be gin and tonics after a long day of wildlife viewing and dusty gravel roads.

The bottle store we were first referred to seemed to take up the whole block. People were milling or loitering about. Some kicked soccer balls, others were dressed in traditional African attire and women carried children in a sash on their backs. Harmless enough. But we couldn’t find an entrance, or an open door. We were then referred to the Indila Liquor Den next to Big Daddy’s Fashion. Driving in front of the bar that also sells booze, all we could see into the cavernous strip mall building where the bright sun contrasted heavily against the wide open doors were a couple pool tables. Beyond it was darker and blacker than a movie theater. Julie who had been hopping out of the car looking for Grant’s Gin passed on entering this shady establishment. So Grant disappeared into the darkness. I wondered how long I should wait until I call for support. But five minutes later Grant emerged with two half pints of Gin: Old Buck. That’s when I warned him. “I’m not sure I’d drink that stuff,” I said while looking at the bottle. “This could kill you.

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Grant contemplating his adventure into the Indila Liquor Den in Otjiwarongo.

With a bottle of gin on board, we journeyed forward to Etosha and Okaukuejo as the the terrain changed from arid desert to thicker bush and taller trees. Pulling into Etosha we secured out campsite and while at the local shop picking up firewood Grant spotted a bottle of Gordon’s Gin. Saved.

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Arriving in Okakuejo just as the sunset and the giraffes make their way to the water hole.