Moto-cross Africa  
England to South Africa .  
...and back. . .
 
  
 
 
 
 

 


 
 

On The Road...Namibia

During our Christmas break in Cameroon, I managed to get a list of jobs done including finding the same model of video camera so I could replace the broken one. Christmas Day itself was quiet and relaxing, and on boxing day we packed up and headed towards the Gabonese border.
 
I really enjoyed Gabon. The usually good roads curved through the rainforest, the only other traffic tended to be big logging trucks carrying the hardwood out of the jungle.
 
We crossed the equator (the GPS' suggest than the actual sign was 60 metres too far south, although we didn't do the water down the plughole trick to varify this).
 
The following day I took a left turn and headed East towards a reserve called Lope, whilst Dan and Ed rode North West to the capital Libreville to collect some spares for their bikes.
 
Lope was enjoyable and I spend a few nights in one of their nice lodges and did some animal spotting during the day (antelopes, buffalos and elephants - unfortunately the gorilla treking place was closed for the holidays).
 
On the road south again, I rounded a corner to find three South Africans on KTM's brewing up at the side of the road. They were also on the England to South Africa route, so that night the four of us joined Dan and Ed at their campsite in Lambarene.
 
Lambarene was significant as it is the place on the Michelin map where the decent roads end, progressively getting worse through Gabon and into the Congo. Hence it was a good time for the six of us to team up and make the push south through the unknown.
 
On the rough road, a couple of semi-important items were lost. The first was my number plate, which smashed my rear light and indicators on it's way out. The second was Dan's change of clothes, which had been drying on the back of his bike having been washed that morning. 
 
On New Year's Eve, we arrived at the last town before leaving Gabon, only to be told the border would be closed the following day for New Year. Hence we saw 2008 in drinking beers at the Drugstore Motel (just behind the petrol station) in southern Gabon. On the 01/01/08, I knocked up a new numberplate using a babybath and a permanent pen, and Dan started to smell very bad.
 
Once open, the border crossing itself was nearly very eventful. Having checked out of Gabon, we were crossing no-man's land towards Congo. I was first in the group, standing on the pegs with my helmet camera running. After rounding a corner, I saw the road straightened up for a stretch as it rose uphill. I thought it was the perfect place to wind the throttle open, and was bombing along the piste when I suddenly noticed the metal barrier across the road, about 5 metres in front of me. I must have jumped off the pegs and onto the seat, and attempted to dive under the barrier. Somehow I succeeded, luckily the body armour took most of the knock to my shoulder, and the only damage to the bike being a cracked mirror (which has since dropped out and been replaced by a compass and it's mirror attachment - my version of a GPS). The border guards weren't too impressed but I got away with it and the video made for entertaining viewing that evening.
 
The road turned out to be rough, but great fun. Huge puddles/small lakes formed over the road and made the riding interesting. Some of the video include me hitting a 'water hazard' too fast, the spray literally rising up above my head whist I was standing on the pegs and the lack of vision resulting in me having a muddy bath on the far side of the road. The bad news was that the life of my second video camera of the trip ended here (so no more photos for the time being).
 
By this point, George - one of the South African's - obvioiusly felt sorry for Dan having no spare clothes. To demonstrate just how sorry he felt for Dan, he also lost his bag on route which was not only carring his water bladder, but also his spare clothes that he had washed that morning...there's a lesson here somewhere.
 
At Dolise in Congo, we waved goodbye to MJ, Francois and Smelly George and made our way towards the capital, Brazzaville, whilst they went West to Pointe-Noire. In Brazzaville we were reunited with Ab and Matt, two Dutch guys in a Nissan Patrol who we had met in Cameroon. We later left them looking for a replacement alternator for the Patrol, as we caught the ferry across the River Congo. Once in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we rode down to Matadi where we would sought our visas for Angola.
 
Apart from one incident in the Congo where we were stopped by some amateur bandits (they didn't get, or take, anything, despite their road block, knife and gun), both the Congo and DRC were problem free for us. Even when we had to stop on the outskirts of Brazza to fix the puncture in Dan's rear tyre, we didn't feel particularly threatened. We didn't spend any time in Kinshasha, but the perfectly smooth road to Matadi was nice and scenic and we were made to feel welcome by the locals where we stayed.
 
The Angola visas took a full day of waiting in the embassy, including some strange questions on one of their form filling exercises, but we were eventually granted a transit visa - valid for only 5 days - to pass through their large country and into Namibia.
 
Day one started slowly as the chief at the exit post didn't arrive until two hours after he should have. The road was bad but again scenic and made for interesting (varied) riding conditions. Our first night in Angola resulted in us being given a place to put up our tents, two free beers each and some spaghetti to eat, result! The second day saw us make better miles than the first due to slightly improved roads. We rode down through a quarry to a small bay on the coast, where we hoped to spend the night. It turned out that some of the top brass of the military were being treated to a party on the beach, including free beers and ladies in skimpy outfits that seemed to outnumber (but not outweigh) the senior personel. We got a free beer each and were given permission to camp on the beach.
 
Unfortuanely, day three in Angola was eventful. As we were coming towards the end of the day (just 60 kilometers from our planned destination) Ed and one of the local scooters collided on the piste. I saw the cloud of dust in my mirror, and returned to find Ed staggering around on his feet and one of the two locals that had been on the bike lying on the floor with his foot bleeding. Luckily Ed seemed to be okay, as did the local pillion passenger, but the young kid on the floor had a cut on the front of his foot and a large 'gash' on what remained of his crushed heel. Luckily we managed to get the wound bandaged up and got him into the back of a pick-up truck towards hospital. The scooter was taken away by a local, and with nothing left at the scene, Ed climbed back on his bike and we rode on to find accomodation or a hospital for Ed to be checked over.
 
Seven kilometers later, we came across a village and a police check-point. We had heard horror stories about foreigners in accidents abroad, and were all nervous as we were waved down by the officials. Luckily they allowed Ed to go to the hospital around the corner, and I waitied whilst an English speaking officer was called. To their credit, the police took all of the relevant details and after Ed was given the all clear (some bruising on ribs and elbow but nothing more) we were allowed to go. The boy had had his heel stitched up and apparently the blood flow was good so he should make a good recovery. His friend spoke English and told Ed when he went to see him that he should be okay.
 
With the light fading, we rode on (thanks for sharing your headlight-light Dan) until we reached the Catholic Mission where we would spend our third free night in Angola.
 
Day four allowed us to get within striking distance of the border with Namibia. A kind man of the church had allowed us to put our tents up in the village, and after hearing some of his stories from being a refugee due to the war in Angola, he led Ed and I down to the two shops to find some food for our evening meal.
 
As two white men in the village, the local (off-duty but drunk and still in uniform) immigration officer and his side-kick decided we were prime targets to help support his alcohol habit. The 'infraction' they finally settled on was that Ed hadn't been carrying his passport on him to the shop, and that we should stump up USD$350.00 to help him line his pocket. The unreasonableness of the officials meant that the situation slowly but surely escalated out of control, and Cheif Thomas was attempting to take us to the police station to lock us up for the night (despite the fact that by this point we had shown them Ed's passport). Having waved down a 4x4, three people tried to bungle us into the vehicle whilst a crowd gathered around us. To our relief, the majority of the crowd was on our side. Whilst some of the locals started debating with Thomas, some of the younger guys helped to usher us around the corner to relative safety away from the crowd. As we were walking around the corner, everyone around us started running and out of instinct Ed and I found ourselves fleeing too - fugatives from the drunk Mr Thomas!
 
After a brief scramble through the dark between the local houses, we decided that the correct thing to do was return to the main street and sit down until the situation calmed down. Fortunately, the drunk Mr Thomas seemed to have disappeared, and his side-kick who still held Ed's passport had now moved on to a cola and was enjoying flirting with one of the locals. Two or three hours after the episode had started, Mr Side-kick grew bored of looking at us and returned Ed's passport. We grabbed it and made our way back to our tents, by now too tired to bother cooking the meal we had gone shopping for.
 
Hence, although the majority of the people in Angola were very friendly and hospitable, it was with some relief that we finally checked out of Angola and into Namibia. We have only ridden the 60k's in Namibia to the nearest town, but here we have found a decent campsite which for the first time since Morocco, has warm running water. The roads also appear to be good, and best of all a guy across the road is helping us to get some spares for the bikes brought up from the capital - including a replacement rear sprocket for my bike which is so worn it is now down to 43 teeth rather than 44.
 
We are hoping that Ed's unlucky streak has finally come to an end though, as yesterday he had both of his mobile phones stolen from his tent at the campsite.
 
In a few days we will be moving again, probably soon to go our separate ways as I will continue further East to visit the Victoria Falls. I also hope to find a third video camera so I can continue recording the journey.
 
On a separate point, meeting the South African's helped me to confirm what I had been deciding. Funds have been running low, and I can't really keep going back up the East coast. What had kept me slightly undecided was that reports of very expensive flights and transport for the bike (something I hadn't researched as I had planned on riding) meant the difference in flying and riding may not have been too big. MJ however (one of the three South Africans) had more reliable info as he had flown his South African bike up to Europe to do the trip down. That means that with a reasonable price to get me and the bike back (I can't just sell the bike because of a carnet - a form of bond to allow you to ride the bike through the varies countries without paying import tax each time) I will be returning to the UK after arriving in South Africa. I'm happy with returning though, myself, my bike and my equipment are all very tired and worn - not to mention my bank account. It also means I can take my time in Namibia, Zambia and South Africa seeing the sights I want to see and doing some of the safaris etc that I might not otherwise have been able to do. Hence I think I'll be back in the UK in about 6-8 weeks. Time to start job hunting...

 

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