Thursday, August 26, 2010


Warm greetings once again,

So, a couple of days ago now, we crossed over from Botswana into Zimbabwe, everything changed drastically once again. More on Zim at a later date, let's talk about Botswana!

You will recall that when last we spoke, we had all intentions of making Botswana a fleeting visit and be in and out within a week. Well, that didn't happen and we left there with no time left on the visas that had been given to us. This happened for one reason; Botswana was magical!

We expected nothing and we got so much more. It is a wild place, all animals roam free and elephants and hippoes walk into your camps frequently. Days on the bike are spent constantly watching for elephants, lions and extremely large kudus which if we were to collide with any of these, well we would definitely be the worst off for sure. Walking out of your house and coming face to face (literally) with a large tusker is extremely daunting/exciting. Especially so when there are no boundaries and nothing to prevent him from simply doing whatever he wants. Botswana in short was all about the wildlife and the beautiful people.

It was however also, a country where I think for the first time ever, we realised just how wild animals here are and what can happen if precautions are not taken. Sometimes people get hurt and this happened several times in the last few weeks! It's quite interesting, you don't normally hear about these things and this is definitely the case when you are actually in the country where it has happened. I can only assume it's because they don't want tourists frightened as it's what everyone is here for really. I won't elaborate on the specifics of these incidents simply because that's not what I remember this magical place for.

It seems like ages ago when we first entered Botswana. The last stretch leaving Namibia up to Rundu and Divundu was when we first felt like we were actually in Africa proper. Namibia and South Africa still have that European feel to them but it was in those northern parts, when the huts started appearing, when things got exciting for us. While Namibia was all about sand, crossing the border into BOtswana introduced us straight away to green grass and well fed cattle. Strange really how an official line can do that, the change is so instant and obvious. Our first night in Botswana saw us decide against taking a late ferry when we spoke to some super friendly locals and they told us that the road across from the ferry was fraught with wild animals and to "watch ourselves", especially as it was dusk. So watch ourselves we did, we backed into a little town and decided on a place called Drotsky's as some local folk had mentioned the name to us. 3km's down a sandy bush track in the dark had us a bit on edge. It is amazing what your imagination conjures up after the sun has set in an unknown country. We imagined we were on route to a Russian mafia getaway or something similiar, and after seeing all the chefs sitting around the fire with the sillouettes of their hats flickering in the the firelight, Karla was convinced that we had stumbled upon a KKK retreat! When we asked how much a room was and were informed $100 USD each, we decided a late night tent pitch would be best. The kind folk there told us they would give us camp site 11 - the nicest one. Down we went, through thick bush on our trusty steed, with the odd fire flickering here and there where other campers had pitched their tents. When we arrived it looked nice enough in the bike's headlights, although too dark to see futher afield. As we were pitching our tent an enormous sausage like thing fell from above, and we exclaimed "what on earth was that?" or something along those lines, just as we heard the unmistakable grunt of a hippo, probably about 10 metres from our tent. A short wander with our head torches showed us that the river was right behind us! The path down to the water was approximately 2 to 3 metres but I figured there was no way that an animal of that size and weight would be able to clamber up that river bank. We decided that we would chance it and confirm this up at the bar, after all it was Karla's birthday and a cold beer was definitely in order. The lovely staff at Drotsky's bar promptly told us that there were some local hippoes that clambered into camp in search of the fruit of the 'sausage tree' but not too worry, that we'd likely be sleeping and would not see them. Fantastic!! As we proceeded to drink many beers, yes, the likelihood of seeing any hippoes by our tent that night decreased! In the morning when we awoke there the hippo tracks were. And so Janice, we certainly 'watched out for hippoes' on Karla's birthday!!

The next morning we decided that a late breakfast here at Drotsky's was in order. It is amazing what daylight does to a place!! It was a lush paradise built on the delta; bird spotting, tiger fishing, wildlife viewing, this place was a little oasis of heaven. We sat on an open roofed veranda and gorged on a cooked breakfast and fruit while watching the Okavango river in full flow beneath our feet. It turns out that the place is famous for river activities with the upper echelons of society, it's not cheap, but then not much in Botswana is really. So that really set the tone for us and Botswana. This is a country whose tourism policy has been aimed at lower numbers, higher yield. Most places are luxury and you get pampered. So we decided that when in Rome...

We flew into the inner delta and pampered ourselves in total luxury, sipped G and T's while watching hippoes chase elephants while crocodiles sauntered past, floated on traditional mekoros and cruised along the Chobe river front. We also spent time camping in villages in rural regions off the main tourist trails, we chatted with locals, ate their fabulous bread, played with their children,listened to their stories, marvelled at their friendliness, dodged elephants and kudus appearing out of bushes while riding at 90km's per hour and crashed on their sandy roads.

I think that a few photos are in order with a few words on each, the stories could go on for a long while yet. So, this country was our favourite thus far, perhaps because we didn't expect it? No way, it is a phenomenal place by anyone's standards. The people were amazing, so friendly, so well spoken, intelligent and indeed educated. I highly recommend a trip here to indulge in the luxuries that it offers.

This photo encapsulates for me my time in Botswana. This was our chalet in the inner delta at a place called Oddballs camp. The whole front of this chalet is open to the river, there is a rustic bed draped with a net for the mosquitoes, luxury duvet and gorgeous pillows. It is a thatched roof, there are bats in there too, they fly around your bed during the day and night, the place was luxurious while being so rustic at the same time. Also, a massive contrast to our usual sleeping arrangements. This big fella comes through on the odd occasion, twice while we were there for two days! He is almost the same size as our "honeymoon chalet" as it was called. He does whatever he pleases, if you are in the chalet when he comes, you are told to ignore him and he will eventually move on. No fruit in your home or he will have it. This is the delta, there are no fences, you might see this guy and his family, you might not, all part of it, blew me away!

These next shots too epitomise what made this such a special place, the people, the little kids. They were adorable...

This sign is quite interesting, apparently the Chinese are showing a special interest in Botswana, they think that anything made in China is extra special!

This is a shot of a local chap guiding his mekoro on the delta, the only real way to get around the delta's waterways.

This is Gripper, he was our guide for a day on a mekoro trip in a village called Seronga. He was an amazing man, he recently lost his wife who was out fishing on a mekoro when tipped over by a hippo, she couldn't swim and drowned.

This is us on the mekoro with Gripper.

This is Jeremy, he was our guide for three days in the inner delta, again a lovely man, didn't speak the best english but was very warm and sincere.

This lady is the only baker in Seronga. They only have white bread so you get pretty blocked up mostly but if you get there early in the morning you can buy the loaves steaming hot and they are delicious.

This is me eating said bread before hitting the road. This was needed as the road into this village was 100km's long and took us 7 hours to do it on the way in!

These ladies were blind drunk! They invited us in to chat... Entertaining!

A local street seller in Seronga.

A large baobab tree with a local lady walking down the road carrying shopping in the traditional way.

Karla, loving cruising along the delta in a mekoro.

Washing day in the delta for us, drying in the sun, ensuring not being taken by animals who seemed to find our clothes interesting.

Me waiting for the ferry.

Me trying to get through some of the sandy parts which are really tough with two on the bike.

This shot I really loved, these kids have never seen anything like this ever! When I fire her up, half of them bolt like cheetahs, very funny.

Mekoro on the delta, so peaceful.

Karla about to take a shower. How amazing was this? Solar powered hot water into a bucket that you hoist above your head and shower in the open while elephants are roaming about 10 metres from you.

This is one of our luxury cabins in the inner delta. You need to fly in to get here.

This is me with the cargo that we flew into the inner delta with. We did a really late last minute booking and I think this is the result of that.

This is us at another of the luxury camps we stayed at.

This is us having a sundowner at our camp, inner delta.

Mekoros in the water at our camp site, inner delta.

Traditional huts, local village, inner delta.

This lady is building her house. The women build the houses here and the men do the fencing and I am not sure what else really! Note those empty cans inserted into the wet clay for decoration.

Legend we thought she was.

Local girl with baby on her back.

Okavango delta from the air.

Elephant herd, Chobe National park. I have never seen so much wildlife in one place as we did on this three hour sunset cruise.

Chobe National Park, hippoes close by grazing.

Sunset, Chobe river

This is the first time we have actually taken a shot of both of us on the bike. Now you get an idea of the moving mass and what we look like.

They run out of fuel constantly in these parts, some had been stranded here for three or four days. This is what happens when it eventually arrives.

Finally, this chap is Kevin Brown. We first met him on the road in Namibia about a month ago. He is from Matlock, the same small English town where my dad resides in the UK. He is cycling from Cape Town all the way up to Cairo, 12000kms! John, Mal and Hamada, get your skates on and try this on for your next challenge. We keep bumping into him. We are going to bump into him again. It is quite concerning when someone is crossing a continent at the same pace as you are when they are on a bicycle. I know I know... He has different concerns when crossing some of the roads that we do, he has pedal his bum off as there are wild animals that have a much better chance of catching him than us. Legend! See you soon on the road somewhere pal...

So that's all for now, I had no idea that I would have so much to say about Botswana. Thanks for the comments about the blog thus far, glad you are finding our tales entertaining.

Until next time, be well, love to you all.

P and K (somewhere in Africa)


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Farewell Namibia, Dumela Botswana! 5000km's from point of origin

Greetings once again, as we have now crossed over into Botswana, I thought I would leave you a few images that will highlight what we will remember Namibia for...
Firstly, the open spaces that go on forever... enough said...

Secondly, quad biking in Swakopmund! What a blast that was. You just ride over these majestic dunes and carve your own tracks. They go on forever and you become so disoriented with the sheer size of nothingness, a definite highlight for us both.

The almighty dunes of Sossusvlei! That is Karla on the horizon, this is coming down from Dune 49, so called as it it the 49th dune from where the dunes start and it is located 49km's from the camp.

Lastly, GRAVEL ROADS!!! Beautiful as the landscape that surrounds them is, by the time we left I had had enough. More specifically, "Sink Plate" (that is Afrikaans and does not read like a plate for your dinner, pronounced, "sunk plaata", or similar). They are not really an issue for big 4x4's but on a heavily loaded motorcycle they are bone jarring monsters that had me cursing non stop. I longed for bitumen daily and my wife knew all about it...

In summary, we had high expectations for Namibia and it didn't disappoint. The open spaces and sheer nothingness were astounding and the silence was at times overwhelming. I still don't know where all the people in the south of the country are however, days on end and not a soul in sight.

Here is a few shots of some interesting people that we have met thus far on our trip. Firstly, these two Germans had ridden 10000km's in six weeks. They flagged us down in need of a pump. They bought these Chinese motorcycles in North West Africa and were limited to 80 - 100kmh. They were a tad crazy we thought, still legends for sure!

This is Andrew out hot air balloon pilot, he is training to become a commercial pilot and gave us a very memorable flight over the Kalahari.

This is Tondo, he was our quad biking guide for our trip into the dunes in Swakopmund. Hilariously, a short way into our trip, Karla got bogged on one of the steep dunes. Tondo didn't appear to be too impressed and went to her aid. He told her to get off the bike and then said to her, "You can walk...". Those that know Karla will know that that is like saying, "Noone puts baby in the corner". When she got her hands back on the bike at the top of the dune she snatched it back from him and rode like a demon for the rest of the day. Seriously, Tondo and I had Yamaha Raptors, zinging little racey quad bikes, she stayed with us on her 125 automatic beasty and did all of the dunes just as we did. Legendary...

This is Herero lady that we met on the road in a place called Ugab.

And finally, we met these two chaps just before we left Namibia and crossed the border. They had the same bikes as we do, they had done 20000km's, all the way from Austria! They had not had one puncture and not one problem with either bike. We shared stories and it was a shame that we were headed in opposite directions, would have been great to continue the yarns over some cold sundowners in the bush. I have included two photos, one to show them and the other to show the psycho local that walked over to us all on the side of the road with a jug of some hallucinogenic liquid and jumped on of these boy's bikes! He wanted a photo of him on the bike, I thought for sure that he was going to do something really stupid. He was so blasted, his eyes were pointing in different directions and for sure if he decided that today was a good day for a ride, it was all going to end badly!

In closing for now, we have been on the road for a month. We are now well in the groove and are loving the fact that we are camping for six months straight. We love cooking strange concoctions on our little fuel stove, in rural areas tins of chakalaka and rice have become our staple diet. We have accepted that it is going to take us longer than we thought to traverse certain parts. We have accepted that being blocked up by huge ammounts of white carbs will be the go for quite some time yet. I have also accepted that when we hit civilised places Karla will run around and buy a basket load of fruit and veges in case we dont come across them again for a while. Most importantly,we've realised that this trip is about the journey itself, it's about being on the road, it's about packing and unpacking tent and equipment daily, it's about time to appreciate and reflect in the endless miles and to enjoy each others company. Each day, something happens that delays us or sends us towards somewhere where we didn't plan on being. We have accepted too, that it really doesn't matter what time we get up of a morning, as we always seem to hit the road right on 10 am. We have tried to disprove this theory several times already and have failed on each occasion, with always an interesting character to chat to, leaking air filter oil in a pannier or something we've forgotten in the bottom of our big bag right after we've packed and compressed it.

And you know, I am always reminded that I am living my dream. I don't need to try, it just happens. And each day I am eternally grateful...

Until whenever...

P and K xxx

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

African communications


Three updates in two days?? Surely not... Thanks to Mal for the running commentary, might need you ongoing my good man. Read on as there are numerous blog entries going up at one time.

We are writing tales and stories as we go, we don't see the internet for weeks on end, thus what we are going to do is what we have just done, push them all up at the same time as and when we can. You will get the gist of where we are and hopefully when and where they represent. In terms of where we are right now and how far we still have to go... we are at 4100km's from point of origin!!

The red line at the bottom of the map is where we started and where we are now. The yellow star up in the north east is where we ar going... hahahahahahahaha...

Happy birthday to my lovely wife for today, crossing into Botswana is a real treat for one's birthday. Aaaah, those african border crossings...

The plan is to get in and out of Botswana in a week! Two items of interest for us and then we head into Zimbabwe. I will update with a farewell note to Namibia in the coming days. Until then...

Love to all

P and K xxx

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Namibia, 2900km's from point of origin.

Greetings once again,

So as you will have seen, updating this blog is at times quite difficult. We have not seen an internet cafe for the last three weeks as we have been in the desert. Internet speeds are quite laughable so fiddling around with photos to be posted and catching up with everyone can become a day long task. To get around this problem, we have just purchased a netbook that will accompany us on our voyage. We have no idea where it is going to be stored and that's not even a joke! We have to read one book between us, no space for two paperbacks. Internet access will still be sporadic but at least we can get the blogs done before finding the internet cafe. Enough of that, welcome to Namibia! The sandy country, that of gravel roads, towns with populations of 7 people, the most glorious open spaces you could ever imagine, and driving for what seems like an eternity without coming across any other living things.

We crossed the border and within an hour or so we hit our first dirt road. We quickly deduced that dropping tyre pressures would be a good idea if we didn't want to get intimate with the gravel. We have been in our tent since we arrived and have established a routine of setting up camp, dismantling luggage and accessories and being ready for bed in great time. Camp dinners have been great, again we are quite able to get dinner and tea sorted in good time. We are sleeping by 9pm every night and wake around 7am. I can't remember when last we have slept for 10 hours!

Namibia is not like other countries we have been to. We have looked at our maps and decided on a place that looks (at least on the map) like a town where we might be able to camp only to find that it is at times merely someone's house or place of residence. Some towns are merely a hotel with a single petrol pump. Some towns have a population of all of seven people and some are ghost towns with no population at all! But above all else, Namibia is a country of astounding beauty and endless ammounts of places to lose yourself in quite easily, even in towns. At the moment we are in Swakopmund, a picturesque town where yesterday a friend drove us for 15 minutes to arrive in a tranquil part of the desert. There were no people, no cars and you could see for an eternity, absolute nothingness. There is a haunting beauty found in deserts all over the world, Namibia is all about deserts thus far, and we find ourselves stopping constantly to take photos, most of the time of horizons that go nowhere or sand dunes that rise majestically out of the desert and reshape themselves by the hour. These are the oldest deserts in the world and for the most part breathtakingly beautiful, at other times they are harsh inhospitable expanses of land that can wear you down. The biggest thing for us about this country and is clearly the reason why those who live here do so is the space and the peacefulness that the desert presents. You can't help but to reflect when you arrive in these glorious places. I find these open spaces inspiring and challenging.

Namibia is also a country of the some of the worst roads that I have ever ridden a motorcycle on. We rode from Solitaire to Walvis Bay, a distance of 230 km's. It took us seven hours! I have never been as emotionally challenged on a bike as I have here in the last few weeks. The corrugation, or "sinkpadjies" as they are locally known, rattle everything and slow you down to at times around 15kmh! Added to that, the light does something to the surface that stops you from being able to judge depth and also whether or not the sand that you are about to go through is in fact thick or not. If it is,usually Paul's legs flail everywhere and the fight with the bars begins. I have screamed obscenities at times as I just cannot get the moving mass to do what I want it to. And all the while my wonderful pillion just sits there neutrally and lets me vent my frustrations. Fair play to her too, the other day we did the most amazing all day ride through these remote back roads in the desert, we were cruising this nice soft sand road and crested this rise and just over the top there was knee deep sand everywhere. We had nowhere to go! We hit it and the bike went into tank slapping slides this way and that and somehow we managed to get through with the bike and us upright! I have no idea how we didn't come off. When it happened there were all sorts of limbs flailing from my end, legs were going down as I tried to anticipate the slides, trying to power through the ruts and the deep sandy parts and all the while Karla's knees were tucked in and she never moved a muscle. She kept straight and relaxed and allowed the natural weight transfers to happen. I was buzzed after that, I screamed to her, WOOOOOHHOOOOOOOOO, she replied WWOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO even louder, simply because we got through our first little event on the bike. Onwards we pressed, enjoying the natural beauty around us, this time a little slower than before. We came to a river crossing, about 10 minutes later, both of us wondering when and how we would have our first little get off bearing in mind that these roads are just sand everywhere and the bike sort of slides through and and across the roads as opposed to going in a straight and orderly direction. And then we found out. I didn't see the sand which was unbelievably deep and down we went into this patch of powdery sand. There has never been a better place to fall off a motorcycle, it was like falling in powder up in the snow. No damage done, we managed to pick her up together and I crossed the river on my own while Karla walked across. Both relieved that the bike has actually had its first incident and we emerged unscathed and smiling. Perhaps more importantly, Yele was just fine too, few cosmetic issues but nothing serious at all.

As you will see we have actually done just under 3000km's now and are in Central Namibia. This indicates that I severely underestimated the distances that we would be doing in each country. Not a big deal, just means that we have to keep a close eye on things that have limited life span. So here in Swakopmund we have gotten soft and are staying with friends in a warm house and a nice soft bed. Tomorrow we will flip a coin and see where we will head. The reasons for this are two fold; firstly, we want to go north to Kaokoland, but everyone is warning against it as the roads apparently eat tyres on 4x4's all the times and spare tyres are definitely not a luxury we afford ourselves here. We know people who havegone through four tyres on a bakkie/ute in these areas. That said, from what we know they are untouched lands and extremely beautiful. The other option is to go north east towards Botswana which is where we are going anywway, it just means we missed the rugged north west. Secondly, I really want to go via the Skeleton coast but again there are warnings against this. They say that you might not see a car up there for weeks a time so if anything happens in terms of transport, well you are in a spot of bother then!

Tommorow we will decide, and you will know at a later stage as I have no idea what happens from here and when you shall next hear from us. The story will continue to be told, and as soon as we find a place with internet access then we will share our tales.

I want to thank and mention a few people for various things that have been shared with us in the short space of our epic trip;

All of our friends and family in South Africa for their amazing friendships and generous hospitality and kindness.

First and foremost, Neil du Toit, none of this trip would have been possible without your help my boet, thanks for everything and good luck with the upcoming arrival.

Kurt, you are a genius and again your assistance with the bike preparations were invaluable, hopefully see you in Zimbabwe in a few weeks time, if the scenery stays this way, we might be late :)

Clydo, great spending time china, please pass on best to the clan, good to see them all after 15 years. See you again soon boet.

Jakes and Leande, amazing to see you in such different parts of the country and congrats on the announcement, hope we can make the wedding!

The Kriels, lovely as always to see you all again, thanks for the chicken livers, we still have not managed to find better as far as we have come now and believe me, we have tried many.

Dane, thanks for the polony and eggs when we were starving on the river.

Hein, thanks for the tours through Swakopmund, Tannie Essie, thanks so much for having us, see you next year in Australia.

The list goes on of course... regards to all whose paths we have crossed already, the stories and company make for interesting memories.

Until next time, love to all, be well.

P and K xxx