TOUR DIARY: OVAMBOLAND & CAPRIVI
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.
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.