Celeb-spotting in the Namibian desert
From celebrity friends to the solitary
WAKING UP IN my tent just outside Springbok, I jumped out of bed, made the coffee, and shared an energy bar with the exotically yellow birds who had come to prey on my good mood! I sat watching the sun move across the adjacent hill, slowly working its way towards me. My departure time was all down to how quickly its rays could reach me and dry the dew from my tent. I smiled and savoured the moment, completely submissive to the control that nature had over my day. Today I would leave South Africa and head into the Namibian desert. Here I planned to meet up with Charley Boorman and his crew, who were leading 15 riders from Cape Town to Victoria Falls on a threecountry ride with Compass Expeditions.
It wasn’t long before the adventure started. 90 per cent of the roads in Namibia are made up of sand and gravel, with occasional sharp, rocky sections on the trails. Blasting along them, I was quickly reminded of what I love about the desert. The space and lack of people always gives me a sense of freedom. There’s a beautiful simplicity in this unprejudiced landscape that will swallow any bush or beast that does not follow a few basic rules of survival. It is a leveller and I find a certain comfort in that.
I suffered a puncture en route to my first camping spot and spent an hour fixing it with the desert sun burning down on me. As I was wrestling with getting the back tyre back in place (all at a funny angle as I have no centrestand), a local guy turned up and parked his truck so it threw shadow over me, then gave me an orange and an extra pair of hands while I ensured spacers, brake pads and chain were aligned.
Meeting up with Charley and the gang the next day at Fish River Canyon was a real treat. Having a bunch of riding buddies was a contrast but one I thoroughly enjoyed. The guys were doing well on their big bikes. Some had very little off-road experience but, with guidance and a support truck on hand, they were getting on with it and enjoying the challenge. Rhonda the Honda and I maintained our usual ‘Keep Calm and Potter On’ approach. I envied the smooth speed of the big bikes on the long stretches but the tables were turned on the softer, more technical bits.
I was with them long enough to miss them when they left and I was back to my solo life of roughing it, cooking dinner for one on my little gas stove. Spending time with fellow bikers had been thoroughly recharging for me. Now though, I was ready to go back to what I knew and I smiled as I set up my tent in the silent desert once more. Life is good.
STEPH JEAVONS is nearing the end of her solo, three-year, round-the-world trip on a Honda CRF250L, taking in all seven continents. Steph writes this column exclusively for RIDE every month but you can also follow her One Steph
Beyond blog. She’s currently working her way across Africa.
This month sees Steph leave South Africa and head into the Namibian desert
Hanging out with other bikers is good but Steph relishes the solitude
Funny who you bump into in the Namibian desert – in Steph’s case, Charley Boorman