We had been expecting rain in Malawi, Zambia and Botswana but felt confident that the deserts of Namibia would be dry. Turns out we were lucky in the other countries to have as little rain as we did and that Namibia has experienced incredibly high rainfall this year! In fact the blackboard outside the shop in Solitaire informed us that they had experienced more rainfall in January and February this year than the last two years together.
The high rains meant that we were not able to go into Etosha National Park as tours were not running and that the gravel roads, which make up about 90% of the roads in Namibia, were sometimes not passable and often laced with rather large puddles, running creeks and not so glorious mud!
Not to be deterred by mud, creeks, rivers and rain we headed into the Damaraland and were treated with incredible scenery, 260 million year old petrified trees, 6000 year old rock paintings of the indigenous people and a great campsite surrounded by riverbeds and red mountains.
We had said goodbye to the sea in Dar es Salaam and were very pleased to reach the west coast of Africa in Hennties Bay, a town built between the sea and the desert, a strange place to say the least. We rode south from there along a salt road to Swakopmund, a town this time wedged between the coast, sand dunes and flat desert. After some 19,000km of sitting pillion it was my turn to take the reins of quad bikes that we hired to ride through the dunes – I was petrified for most of the time, opting not to ride my quad bike up the side of ridiculously sloped dunes, Tille needless to say excelled at it and had a ball!
Lovely as it was to see the sea we headed back inland through the Naukluft Mountains towards Sossusvlei. Two very long days of corrugations, gravel and puddles later we reached Sesriem, the last camp before the Sossusvlei Park. After months of being woken up early in the tent and going to bed at the grand hour of 8pm we were easily up at 5am to drive the last 60km into the park to enjoy the sun climbing over dunes that rise up to 350m – the colours, the scenery, the quiet – it was just magic. The Dead Vlei with a white stone base, dark dead trees and surrounds of red dunes equals the Sossusvlei in beauty. We climbed up huge dunes, enjoyed the view and must admit it is a highlight of the trip. (Note to other bikers, you can NOT take your motorbike into the Sossusvlei Park and must use the shuttle service the whole way, not just for the last 5km which is 4WD only.)
Our ultimate day of gravel for the whole trip (our asses and my hips yell yeeehaaaa) took us through a river that was a bit deeper than anticipated, over a mountain pass and ended with 20km of slippery mud which tested my nerves, Tille’s riding and the bike’s endurance… Needless to say on arrival in Maltahöhe with a beer in hand all were well! Our ultimate day of gravel was followed by a long drive south on some lovely smooth bitumen to a wild camp ground surrounded by kokerboom trees, huge piles of rocks that looked as though they had been built by humans and a rather odd collection of people made from straw and metal and old cars and motorbikes to keep us company.
The time has come however for the last border crossing of the trip, the last country and the last 1000km. We have had such a wonderful experience but as we ride towards the finish line we must admit that our heads our full, our bums are a little sore, bodies are tired and we are very much looking forward to seeing family and friends.