A mo­tor­bike trip to the far north

Friends Ti­aan Rabe and Meir­ing de Vil­liers ex­plored north­ern Namibia and parts of Botswana and Zam­bia on their mo­tor­bikes. This is an ex­cerpt from their Namib­ian tour di­ary.

Af­ter months of plan­ning and plot­ting and get­ting our gear to­gether, Meir­ing and I still weren’t sure what to ex­pect from the jour­ney ahead. We’d de­cided to let the road set the pace, so we hadn’t booked ac­com­mo­da­tion or planned any­thing in too much de­tail. This was meant to be an adventure af­ter all.

We trans­ported our bikes – my KTM 950 Adventure and Meir­ing’s BMW 1200 GS – to Wind­hoek on a trailer. From there we had 17 days of tour­ing.

The first week we rode through north-eastern Namibia, the Caprivi and Botswana then up along the Zam­bezi River to Mongu in west­ern Zam­bia. A week in Mongu was fol­lowed by three days of trav­el­ling back to Wind­hoek. Then it was home to Cape Town in a day.

North of Wind­hoek

At first my bike was heavy and un­wieldy with all my lug­gage and I couldn’t get com­fort­able. But af­ter about 40 km I got into the groove and re­al­ity kicked in: We were do­ing it!

From Wind­hoek, we fol­lowed the B1 to Oka­handja where we filled our tanks and jerry cans with fuel. Just be­fore Otji­warongo, we turned right onto the C22 to Okakarara and soon it was time to tackle our first dirt road – the D2512. It took us to the Water­berg Plateau Na­tional Park where we had lunch be­fore we con­tin­ued to Groot­fontein. About 50 km north of Groot­fontein we turned off the B8 onto the C44 to Tsumkwe. It was a level road and we av­er­aged 100 – 120 km/h.

Af­ter about 100 km, we re­alised that we’d never reach Tsumkwe be­fore night­fall. For­tu­nately our map showed a camp­site nearby. The sun was set­ting and we made a quick stop at a she­been next to the road to pick up a beer or two.

When we reached the turn-off to the camp­site, the sign said there were still an­other 6 km to go, but the road was soft and sandy and we’d battle on our heavy bikes. So we stayed on the main road and asked some peo­ple for ad­vice.

They told us to just keep go­ing – there was an­other camp­site nearby. That’s how we found Omatako camp­site. We lit a cosy camp­fire and en­joyed a hot shower thanks to a don­key boiler.

The bat­tery is in its Rundu

I woke up to a dead bat­tery the fol­low­ing morn­ing, de­spite the fact that my bike had been ser­viced be­fore we left Cape Town. Luck­ily my mini jumper ca­bles re­vived the KTM. We had planned to take the C44 to Botswana, but in light of the bat­tery prob­lem, we rode to the town of Rundu in­stead.

A few empty dirt roads – the D2898 and the D3016 – led us back to the B8 tar road. In Rundu I no­ticed that my rear tyre had gone flat. Bad luck, but at least it hadn’t hap­pened in the mid­dle of nowhere. I quickly had it fixed at TrenTyre.

They didn’t have a bat­tery for my bike, but I ar­ranged for North­ern Bikes & Quads in Groot­fontein to courier one to Rundu by the fol­low­ing morn­ing. Prob­lem solved.

The first camp­site out­side Rundu was

Sara­sungu River Lodge on the banks of the Oka­vango River. The fa­cil­i­ties were neat and there was plenty of cold beer – great news for any long-dis­tance biker.

Armed with a new bat­tery, we hit the D3402 dirt road along the Oka­vango River the next morn­ing, trav­el­ling east. The jeep track ran into the river at one stage so we stopped there for lunch.

We had been far too re­laxed up un­til then, so we zoomed along the B8 tar road to make up for lost time. We pushed through to Botswana (we crossed the bor­der at Mo­hembo) and spent the night at Drot­sky’s Cab­ins on the banks of the Oka­vango River, about 275 km down­stream from Rundu. We stayed at Drot­sky’s for two days: We went to see rock art at Tsodilo Hills and did a sun­set cruise on the river where we saw crocs, fish-ea­gles, hip­pos and ele­phants.

Hippo par­adise

Af­ter our Botswana de­tour, we re­traced our route back to Divundu, where we re­fu­elled and tack­led the 200 km east on the B8 to Kon­gola via the Caprivi Strip. From Kon­gola we went south on the C49 to Sang­wali. ( This road is cur­rently be­ing tarred – Ed.)

We were run­ning out of day­light and the road (once we had turned off the C49) got dodgier as we went along. We reached Ru­para camp­site in the Nkasa Ru­para Na­tional Park (pre­vi­ously known as Mamili) at sun­set. All night we heard the honk­ing of hip­pos in the swamp sur­round­ing the camp­site.

The next day we tack­led the C49 to Ka­tima Mulilo and crossed the bor­der into Zam­bia with no has­sles, where a week of adventure awaited us.

We knew the road home would be hard and long, but we only had limited leave days and we wanted to make the most of our trip. We made it back to Wind­hoek with­out any hic­cups (we took the tar road all the way) and from there we trav­elled back to Cape Town.

The trip was much more of an adventure than Meir­ing and I had ex­pected. Hope­fully we can do an­other tour soon!

For ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions in north­ern Namibia, turn to page 119.

Meir­ing de Vil­liers and Ti­aan Rabe

MIND THE GAP. Meir­ing de Vil­liers and his BMW 1200 GS brave a wooden bridge on the ac­cess road to Nkasa Ru­para Na­tional Park.

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