“Would You Like a Puppy?”

April 4, 2016

In the morning I rode another twelve or so miles of gravel road north until I reached the small town of Clanwilliam in the Cederberg mountains. It’s actually a larger town than I expected, but still small and very attractive (you could say “quaint”). The pavement started again in Clanwilliam, and I rode out to the N7 to head north again on the highway. 

After another hour and a half or so, I stopped for fuel and to stretch. While standing by the bike, a guy approached me, speaking Afrikaans. 

“I’m sorry, I only speak English”, I said.

“Where are you coming from?”, he asked, switching to English seamlessly, as just about everyone here does, albeit with a very strong accent that sounded more Indian than South African, but then I’m no expert on dialects. 

I responded, “Originally Texas, via South America, and the last couple of weeks in Cape Town.”

“I’m from Vindu. Would you like a puppy?”

I thought to myself: Seriously Dude? I’m on a very overloaded small motorcycle. 

I glanced at his car, but the tinted windows prevented me from seeing how many puppies he had in there.

“Um, no, but thanks. And I’m sorry, but I have no idea where that is.”

“It’s a large city in Namibia, about twelve hundred kilometers from here.”

“Oh, okay”, I replied, wondering how I could not know about Vindu if it was a large city in Namibia.

After an awkward pause, he said “Well, safe travels”, and held his fist out. We fist bumped, and I climbed back onto the bike while he walked into the diner. 

It was several miles down the road before I finally put it all together. 

What he really said was, “I’m from Windhoek. Would you like a coffee?”

And I’m still chuckling thinking about it. I would love to know what he was thinking when I suddenly flinched as he asked me if I wanted a coffee.

I may not be able to understand people, but at least now I know how to pronounce Windhoek. Sort of.

Scenery Change: Country Number 16

April 5, 2016

The border crossing from South Africa to Namibia was smooth, for the most part. No “helpers” like in Central America. Nobody offering to watch my bike for a fee. Then again, there isn’t much of anything at the border. Checking out of South Africa and checking into Namibia were both relatively painless, although I did have to pay a “Road Tax” as I entered Namibia of ten dollars (154 Rand). This was my first land border crossing using the carnet, and at least here, where both sides are accustomed to seeing a carnet, it sped the process along quite a bit. No having to make copies of registration or title. Nobody bothered to walk outside and verify the VIN on the bike.

All was well until I went to actually ride into Namibia. That’s where the guard at the exit (who normally just takes your stamped slip of paper showing you’ve done all your paperwork) asked me for my driver’s license. I’ve only been asked for my driver’s license once since I left home, and that was a few days ago at a checkpoint in South Africa. So I handed the guy my Texas driver’s license, and he immediately asked for my International Driver’s License.

My International Driver’s License was one of the items in the package of documents that I lost in Buenos Aires. I’ve never actually been asked for it before. Ever. In the past twenty or so years of travel, not once. Of course now here I am in the middle of nowhere, Africa, and the border guard is demanding it.

So I tried to explain to him that I had one, but I had lost it in Argentina.

“You can’t drive without a driver’s license.”

Oh, great. This is not going to go well. I again explained that I had one but lost it, and that I had a copy of it on my computer.

“Did you report it lost?”

“Yes, I have an affidavit from Argentina where I reported it lost. But it’s in Spanish.”

Frustrated, he waved me on.

Well, that could have gone worse. Not even a bribe.

So now I’ll have to try to find a place to print a copy of my IDL and hope if I am asked again, that they accept the printed copy.

More highway miles today, but the scenery has definitely changed to desert, and getting more desert-y all the time.

After a hundred or so miles, I stopped for fuel, then turned west onto a gravel road for another 47 miles, eventually arriving at the Cañon Roadhouse, just outside of Fish River Canyon.

Never leave your pickup truck parked too long in one place. You never know when a tree might grow through the middle of it.


On the way to Cañon Roadhouse. The gravel road was nearly as good as the highway and allowed for a comfortable 50 mph.


This place is straight out of a Mad Max movie. Lots of old cars and trucks around, including inside the reception area and restaurant. My kind of place. Except that rooms here are around $90 a night, which is way outside of my budget, so I opted for their campground behind the roadhouse. Nice shade trees, very nice bathroom facilities, and I could still take advantage of the reasonable restaurant prices, so I skipped my pasta dinner for a night.

This sign is in the entrance to the campground. I think what it really means is “You and the wild animals occupy the same space.”

Kolmanskop: Ghost Town in The Dunes

April 6, 2016

I left the Cañon Roadhouse and headed west, continuing on a nice dirt road for about forty miles, until it became not so nice…

Deep sand dry river crossing. Which would have been okay, but on the other side the deep sand continued.


After another 17 miles of deep sand, I eventually popped out onto the pavement again, and continued towards Luderitz and Kolmanskop.

About 80 miles before the coast, the landscape turned to pretty much nothing but sand and sand dunes.



And wind. Which of course equals blowing sand. Some of it was piling up on the road, making for some interesting sand dunes on the pavement.

Just a few miles before the coast I came to Kolmanskop, or as it was originally spelled:


This was a town built in 1908 to house the German managers and operations people for the nearby diamond mine. It was built in a German architectural style, with a tavern, a bowling alley, a ballroom and a theater. They produced their own ice here (in 1908!) and even had a hospital with the first X-ray machine in the southern hemisphere. When the mine started being depleted of diamonds, the town eventually was abandoned, and the blowing sand has begun to reclaim the area.







Bowling alley in the tavern.


This tram was pulled by donkeys, and ran on tracks around the entire town. Ice and goods were delivered to the homes by the tram, and people could ride the tram to the stores and back. Public transport in the desert in 1908.


Leaving Kolmanskop, it was a short but very warm ride into Lüderitz. This town on the Atlantic coast of southern Namibia is known for seals, penguins, and wind. It was hard for me to imagine penguins here, as it was just under 100 degrees F when I rode into town. It turns out that I am here during a very unusual weather pattern, and the average April temperature here is around 68F.

Due to the winds, kite surfing, windsurfing, and sailing of all types are common here. The world speed records for all of these have at one time or another been set in Namibia at either Lüderitz or Walvis Bay.

I stayed the night at a backpackers hostel in Lüderitz, concentrating on saving funds for my upcoming tourist activities. I didn’t find much in the town to keep me around, so I headed out the next morning, back the way I came, across the dunes and desert towards Helmeringhausen.



April 9, 2016

I spent a night in Helmeringhausen at the Hotel and Guest Farm. It turns out Helmeringhausen isn’t a town. It’s a 27,000 acre ranch with a support system in the middle of it, including a nice hotel with campsites, a gas station, a store, and more. It also turns out that the current owner, Bjorn Basier, is a motorcyclist, and often leads tours from Windhoek to Cape Town on the gravel roads, using Yamaha XT660 Tenere motorcycles. He’s also a die-hard Yamaha fan, and his son has a Yamaha Tricker (sort of a street-legal trials-looking bike using the same engine as my XT250).


Young pet Springbok that Bjorn hand-raised. Seems to think it’s a dog, and loves to chase the dog around my bike.



Leaving Helmeringhausen, I stayed on the dirt road for another 180 miles to Sesriem, which is the entrance to Sossusvlei, in the Namib Naukluft National Park, which is home to some of the largest sand dunes in the world.

Namibia is roughly one and a half times the size of Texas, with the total population of just Houston. The average income per person is US$2,000.

This means that the country’s transportation infrastructure is focused primarily on its’ cities: primarily Windhoek and Swakopmund. If the road connects those cities to another important place (such as South Africa), the road is paved. That makes for about five or six paved highways in the country. Everything else is dirt and/or gravel. 

I’ve spent the last 250 miles on what is referred to as a “gravel” road, but I can tell you that it is more sand than gravel, and can be a bit deep in places. I have another 300 miles to go before I see pavement again. Such is Africa, and I’m told that this is still the more civilized part.

The other complicating factor in dealing with sand and gravel roads is heat. The temperatures rapidly hit near 100 degrees F or higher during the day, but cool down nicely overnight. This can limit travel to the morning hours, from sunrise until around noon, at which point it’s time to find shade. 

The road from Helmeringhausen to Sesriem.



Oryx alongside the road.

Sossusvlei sits 63 km west of the small settlement of Sesriem. It is hundreds of miles of gravel road to get to Sesriem, but once you cross through the gate to Sossusvlei, the 60 km dead-end road is suddenly paved. It is another example of how the government realizes an investment in its’ major tourism attraction can return dividends.  

The dunes here are huge, reaching as high as nearly 1,000 feet, and have a red tint from the iron oxide in the ground. Between some of the dunes is salt pan, a dry lake bed. Deadvlei, the most famous of these, is populated with dead Acacia trees, which makes for a stark contrast of colors. 

Sunrise over Sossusvlei



A sidewinder adder. Watch him bury himself in the sand to await the unsuspecting…










White Lady Dancing Spider




People-ants marching up the dune. Reminded me of the old Ant Farm as a kid.









Springbok waiting out the mid-day heat.


I loved these camp sites. There were 12 of them, each has their own flush toilet, shower, and kitchen sink, with a raised stone paver area for the tent, along with electricity. All for about $10 a night.


Sesriem to Swakopmund

April 11, 2016

Getting on the road at sunrise or shortly after has a lot of advantages in Africa. Mostly, it’s much cooler, but there are also less vehicles on the road, so less dust.

That’s not fog…that’s the dust from one truck.

One disadvantage to being on the road early is that it’s cooler. Yep, it cuts both ways. The problem with being on the road when it’s cooler is that all of the animals are on the road then too.


This oryx is larger than a horse, and weighs a lot more. When they are standing on the road or next to the road and get spooked, they usually — and I say usually, not always — run for the side, and often run through the fence. They don’t try to jump it, they just put their head down and plow through the fence. It’s painful to watch. I slow way down around these guys.


I left Sesriem early even though I was only going 53 miles today. I arrived at Solitaire around 8:30am, and it was still relatively cool.

Official rain gauge in Solitaire.

I found a campsite and had breakfast. Before the day got too hot, I decided to check the valve clearances on the bike while I had some shade and could let the bike cool down (another relative term).

Valve clearances were right where I set them in Panama, nearly 15,000 miles ago.


I just happened to arrive at Solitaire on the perfect day. It seems that the owners were throwing a party for all of their staff this night, with a big buffet dinner, and they invited me to join them. It was a great meal, and my first potjiekos, which is a southern Africa traditional stew cooked in an iron pot.

Sunset in Solitaire with the moon high in the sky.

In the morning I again packed up early and set off for Swakopmund, which my gps said was 169 miles away, with the last 23 miles from Walvis Bay north being paved.

The gravel on this road was better than the previous two days. This is a well traveled road, but I only saw four cars in 150 miles.


There were two “passes” on the road to Walvisbaai (Walvis Bay). After cresting this one, as I was heading down, I noticed beautiful pavement at the bottom. I’ve learned to be skeptical after Ruta 40 in Argentina. Sure enough, the pavement was 1 kilometer long, then went back to gravel. Why this one kilometer was paved, in the middle of nowhere, I have no idea.



Yes, that is a 2RideTheGlobe.com sticker in the middle of the last “o”.


Off the current topic a bit, but something I wanted to address:

On most of the main roads in Namibia (and South Africa for that matter), there are these rest stops:


They all have a shade area, and many have three rings with trees in them, along with a braai stand (BBQ).


Braai stand at the rest area.

The braais are wood-burning. But this is the desert, so where do you find wood?

I can’t be the only one that sees the failure in this setup…



Swakopmund, the Skeleton Coast, and Brandeberg Mountain

April 13, 2016

Swakopmund is a nice town. As I was walking back from dinner one night, several things crossed my mind:

  1. It’s dark, and I’m walking in a deserted town. It seems like they roll the sidewalks up around 6pm. Very few people out, yet it’s quite safe.
  2. The streets have very wide sidewalks which are paved with paving stones, mostly in a herringbone pattern, and done very nicely. And they are very clean. It struck me that there are two huge differences between walking through a town in Namibia and walking through a similar sized town in Latin America: first, the town is clean. There is no trash lying around, and no dog poop all over the sidewalks. Second, there are no dogs, or very few. I walked for a couple of hours in Swakopmund two nights, and again one day, and I never heard a single dog bark. In Latin America, you would be unable to differentiate one dog barking from the literally hundreds that you hear at all hours. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s the sand. Whatever it is, there aren’t stray dogs running everywhere, and you see very, very few dogs at residences. The silence at night was surprising, after hearing so many dogs each night in Latin America.
  3. I can’t say for certain what the racial situation is in Namibia, but as a tourist passing through, it doesn’t feel as tense or stressful as it did in South Africa. People here seem to get along quite well, and are friendly.

I left Swakopmund and headed up the coast to Henties Bay. There is a reason why this is called the Skeleton Coast.


And that’s not it. Actually, the term “Skeleton Coast” was first used by author James Henry Marsh as the title for his 1944 book about the shipwreck of the Dunedin Star cargo liner. Since then, the name has stuck, and it’s even used officially on maps today.

The coastline between Swakopmund and Henties Bay is like most of the Namib coast, I think. Desert flows all the way down to the sea. There are occasional communities or sometimes sole shacks between the highway and the beach. If not for these small settlements, there would be nothing man-made in sight except for the ribbon of unmarked asphalt road. South of Swakopmund is a community called Langstrand, which is the first indication on my route that there are people with money in Namibia. Langstrand looks like a high-end beach community in California, with beautiful one- and two-story stucco homes with large windows looking out on the ocean in one direction and on continuous desert in the other.

North of Swakopmund, there is not much of anything for the sixty or so miles to Henties Bay.


Just desert as far as the eye can see. And a beach used only by a few fishermen.


The Zeila fishing trawler, shipwrecked on the Skeleton Coast south of Henties Bay.


At Henties Bay, I turned east onto a gravel and sand road for another 76 miles until I reached the small village of Uis, near Brandberg Mountain, which is the highest spot in Namibia at 8,550 feet. I spent the night at Brandberg Rest Camp. Two fo the residents here are parrots, and they hang out on the patio near the swimming pool. They are quite entertaining. One makes the sound of a car alarm going off, while the other says “Warning!” at the same time. As the cat walked by, one of them taunted the cat, saying “Meeeeoooow”. They also whistle several tunes, including the military whistling march tune.

I didn’t bother to take photos along this stretch from Henties Bay all the way to Windhoek, as quite honestly, there wasn’t much to see. If you’ve spent much time in the Mojave Desert in Southern California, then you’ve seen it.

From Brandberg, I rode another short 50 mile day of sand road to Omaruru, and camped again at the River Guest House. This lodge has a great camping area behind it, with huge trees and lots of shade. It also has a lot of “Camp at Your Own Risk” signs, so I had to ask the owner what I needed to be aware of, since there seemed to be a problem. He said, “Oh, it’s not like there’s lions or anything. Just lots of snakes and scorpions.”

Oh. No problem then. I made sure the tent was zipped up tight that night.


April 18, 2016

Etosha National Park was founded in 1907, and covers about 8,600 square miles, or a little larger than the state of New Jersey. It is known for the Etosha Pan, or dry salt lake, which is 75 miles long. It’s also known as one of the best places in Southern Africa to see wildlife. Of the “Big Five” game animals, Etosha has four of them, missing only the buffalo.

I spent the last three days on an organized safari tour of Etosha National Park. This was necessary due to the restrictions of most game parks in Africa prohibiting motorcycles (which is probably a good thing, as it only takes one near-sighted lion to mistake me and my XT for an impala or a kudu, both of which probably have better acceleration than the XT and still lose out to the lion).

You’ll notice the 3rd “No” symbol from the left at the bottom of the Welcome to Etosha sign says no motorbikes or quadbikes. Thus, I spent three days in a safari truck.


The Etosha Pan.

The 4×4 truck looks a bit like a cross between a box van and a bus, and carries 15 passengers and two guides. It was full for my trip; I was the only American, along with 9 Germans, two Dutch, a Thai woman and a couple from Singapore. I was picked up at my hostel in Windhoek Saturday morning, and we drove nearly nine hours, arriving at the southern entrance to Etosha just before dark, where we immediately set up camp and walked to a nearby watering hole to watch elephants at sunset.


Not something I want to wake up to in my tent during the night….


The next morning we packed up and spent the full day driving across Etosha, stopping at various watering holes and along the road to observe the wildlife. I’ll let the photos tell the story of the day.

Three lionesses at a watering hole.


A gnu (wildebeest) came along, but spotted the lions and kept his distance.


Spotted hyena lying in the riverbed.


This one zebra looked like some of the problems I’ve had with the copier at work. He’s considered an albino zebra, even though he’s mostly black.


Female Impala.


Male impala








I liked this shot because of the one giraffe sitting down.



When your mouth is 15 feet off the ground, it takes some work to get a drink. These guys have two methods that I saw…the more graceful kneeling method as shown here.


And the less graceful “splits”.


Then there was the really wild animal at lunch.


And the even more wild animals at breakfast. This British family spent the last seven months driving south from England. When they get to Cape Town they plan to sell the 4×4 and fly home. I walked up and said to Dad, “Your kids are so cute. Can I take their photo?” and he said, “You can take the kids.” Seven months in a camper will do that to you.


Blurry photo. These jackals were always around the camp sites. They were skittish, but would walk right into camp and up to the table looking for food. Clearly people had been feeding them.


It was a long three days of driving (or riding along in a truck actually), but worth it for the scenery. Although I found myself thinking that as anti-social as I was before I left on this trip, I’ve become even more so now that I’ve been traveling alone for so long. It was difficult to travel with a group, and I’m ready to get back on the bike and ride and camp alone again.

One nice side effect of the past several days has been the total lack of access to the outside world. It was nice to have no wifi, no cell service, no connection whatsoever, and not be concerned with responding to the expectations of others via email, etc. For the first time in eight months of what I expected to be a remote, somewhat isolated adventure, I finally found that isolation. While the world has become a much smaller place with wifi and cellular, it comes at the price of peace and serenity. It took Africa to show me that it can still exist.

And that concludes my anti-social rant for today.


Windhoek to Divundu

April 20, 2016

Windhoek, unfortunately, turned out to be what I had heard. The capitol of Namibia, it’s a big city, with a crime problem. I’m sure like most big cities, there are pockets of good and pockets of bad. I don’t think they put many hostels in the “good” sections. 

Outside the gate to my hostel was a sign that said “Do not leave your vehicle unattended on the street. It WILL be broken into.” Not “it MIGHT”. I spent two nights at the hostel; one before the safari tour to Etosha, and one upon returning. The first night someone left their rental car on the street briefly, and lost all of their stuff. The second night a woman had all of her luggage stolen, including her passport (I never heard the story of how, so I don’t know if it was in a car). In both cases, they were U.S. citizens. Not sure what that says, but the sign is fairly prominent. I left my bike inside the gate, with a cover on it, for the three days I was in Etosha, and was still worried about it, although all turned out fine. 

It’s a shame, because aside from Windhoek, my experiences in Namibia have been overwhelmingly positive, and the people have been great. 

Leaving Windhoek, I rode back up the same highway that I had just come down in the safari bus the day before, eventually turning away from Etosha on a road out of Otavi. From there to Grootfontein I passed through a wide valley, which looked a lot like the Rio Grande Valley in Texas — large, flat, grassy plains and pastures with tall palm trees and cattle — except for the low mountains on the horizon. 

This would be my longest distance to cover in one day in Africa — around 515 kilometers or 318 miles — and fortunately it was all paved.

At a fuel stop along the way, I received the usual questions: “Where are you coming from?” (most people here initially assume I am South African, I guess because I am a white guy on a motorcycle), “How long have you been on the road?”, and “Where are you going?”. When I mentioned that I was from Texas, the response was “I see you have your cowboy shoes, but where is your hat?” The stereotypes of Texans are as strong or stronger than our stereotypes of Africa.

“Cowboy Shoes”

I spent the night at Roy’s Rest Camp just north of Grootfontein. At the campsite, I met Jeremy and his mum B, who are traveling together in a rented 4×4 camper truck, and having a great time. I’m still not sure I understood it exactly, but it sounded like Bea was from England but had been living in New Zealand for a long time, and Jeremy is from New Zealand, but has been living in London, working in IT. When he was recently “rendered redundant” as they call it (laid off), he decided to do this Africa trip, and chose his 76-year old mother as his navigator/traveling partner. I had dinner with them at the campground, and coffee the next morning, and they’re great people. B is a hoot. I’d choose her for a traveling partner too. 

Jeremy had lots of questions about my bike setup. He rides, and after meeting me, is seriously considering a long trip on a bike.

I also met two gentlemen from Sedgefield, South Africa, who along with some friends started a craft brewery as a hobby after retirement and now can’t make enough beer to satisfy everyone’s demand for it. They recommended a camp site for the following night near Divundu, so I made a note of it and decided to try to track it down. 

Leaving Roy’s the next morning, the scenery began to look more like what I had always imagined Africa to be. There were small huts, about 8 feet square, made from tree branches for walls and with thatched roofs. These homes were usually in a compound of six to ten of them, surrounded by a fence also made of tree branches. (I later learned not to call them “huts”. They are “local houses”. And the gathering of houses surrounded by a fence are the houses of extended family.) Occasionally a house made of corrugated sheet metal would appear in among the wooden houses (where does all of this corrugated sheet metal come from?), and the inevitable plastic lawn chair. I have to think I’d be the richest man in the world if I could just get a few cents royalty from every plastic lawn chair sold. 

These women were grinding grain outside their family houses. I wouldn’t want to arm wrestle them. They’re using slightly smaller versions of utility poles and really slamming them into the grain. It was impressive. I would definitely say I was more impressed with them than they were with me.


African version of Home Depot: everything you need to build your house, for sale on the side of the road.

Women dressed in bright dresses walked down dirt paths alongside the road, carrying heavy sacks of grain, plastic jugs of water, or woven bowls on their heads, perfectly balanced, some with a baby in a sling on their back. Children waved eagerly as I rode by. Young men gave me the thumbs-up, while smiling broadly. By the end of the day, my left arm was tired from so much waving back. 

Eighty kilometers from Divundu I passed my first motorcycle traveler going the opposite direction on a yellow BMW GS. I slowed, but he didn’t, so I continued on. I didn’t see his license plate, so I’m not sure where he was from, but the bike was loaded similar to mine. This is definitely not the Gringo Trail in South America; it’s been just over 3,500 miles in Africa, and that’s the first traveling motorcyclist I’ve seen on the road. 

Several miles down a gravel road, I found the Mobola lodge and campsite I had been told about. A nice place, right on the river, with a bar over the water to watch the hippos and crocodiles. 

Overlooking the Okavango River from my campsite. Hippos were a bit noisy but didn’t bother me.



Tell me where in the U.S. you can have this: a swing bridge over a river filled with hippos and crocodiles, that leads to an island with a bar. So after you’re done drinking, you have to sway back across the crocodile-infested waters, in the dark, on a swinging bridge. With great personal choices comes great personal responsibility. THIS is what I love about other countries.



Bar on the island. Looking across the river to Angola.



The next morning I packed up slowly, as I was only going about 25 miles to another riverside camp. This one I had read about earlier and had booked a reservation in advance, otherwise I would have gladly stayed at Mobola another night. 

Not only was the deep sugar sand road into the camp a bit of work, but then the road turned to water…

Yes, this is the road.


Made it across, slowly. Not deep, but fast current, and rocky bottom.

The camp itself is on the edge of the Cubango River; very green and lush. Which is probably why the crocodiles and hippos like it so much also. My campsite is right on the river. I’ve been assured that the animals won’t disturb me (or does that mean they attack quickly?). 

No kidding….this is the swimming pool: a cage in the middle of the river, so you can swim with the crocs and hippos.


My campsite, on the river’s edge.




Water heater for the showers. Wood-fired. Or elephant dung. Depending on what you’ve got more of.



Yes, this is REALLY the toilet. And yes, I shot this photo from the jungle. There is no screen on this side; only on the side facing the campsites.

Sunday Best

April 24, 2016

I left Ngepi Camp mid-morning for a 340 kilometer ride across the Caprivi Strip, that narrow portion of Namibia that stretches between Angola, Zambia, and Botswana.

One last bathroom photo before I leave Ngepi Camp. This bathroom had the typical signs on the outside: one pointing to the “Ladies” entrance, and one to the “Gents” entrance. Turns out they both went to the same place eventually. Check out the details: pink plush on the Ladies side; lid padlocked in the “UP” position on the Gents side. I didn’t visit all of the bathrooms at Ngepi, but they actually have a walking tour of the restrooms.

The Caprivi Stip highway is a very straight, very flat road through what used to be known as the Caprivi Game Park, but is now Bwabwata National Park.

Lots of these signs along the Bwabwata National Park road. I crossed in the heat of the day, so I didn’t see any elephants. Others told me they saw quite a few in the early morning.


I didn’t see any of these evil hyenas with white eyes either.


Growing the local economy by using available resources.

A little more than half way across I came upon an 18-wheeler lying on its’ side on the opposite side of the road, but facing the same direction I was headed. It clearly hadn’t been there long, as there was a crowd of locals gathering around it. As I slowly rode past, I looked in my mirror and saw a pair of legs sticking through where the windshield used to be. I turned around and went back, thinking at least I had a first aid kit on the bike and possibly could help. I parked the bike and walked up to the driver, who was sitting in the cab with his legs sticking out. As he saw me approach, he climbed out. I asked if he was okay and he said he was fine, although he was clearly embarrassed at having turned the truck over on a flat, straight stretch of road. He couldn’t have been more than 20 or 21 years old, and didn’t seem to have a scratch on him. Very lucky. There didn’t appear to be anything I could do to help, so I got back on the bike and continued on. I was thankful that I didn’t meet him coming the other direction a few minutes earlier.

I spent Saturday night in my tent at Caprivi Houseboat Lodge, which I thought was an odd name for a campground, until I saw that they actually have several houseboats that they rent out as rooms, in addition to a few land-based chalets, and the campsites.

Sunday morning I crossed the border into Zambia at Katima Mulilo and took the very potholed road along the north side of the Zambezi River east towards Kazungula. The border crossing went smoothly, other than all of the “fees” necessary on the Zambia side, including:

  • US$80 for a multiple-entry visa, since I’ll enter Zambia again in a couple of days (Must be paid in US dollars, and they must be post-2006 dollars, and they must not have any tears, ink stains, or other damage. It took going through almost every twenty dollar bill I had before I presented four that were acceptable to the immigration officer. If I had run out of acceptable 20s, I’m not sure what the next step would have been.)
  • US$20 for a Road Safety Fee (Tax)
  • 50 Kwacha (US$5.34) Carbon Fee (emissions tax)
  • 305 Kwacha (US$32.58) Mandatory Third Party Liability Insurance (they required it and wouldn’t let me out of the border area until I bought it)
  • 30 Kwacha (US$3.20) Local District Levy (another tax)

So basically $140US to cross into Zambia, a country with poorly maintained roads and a struggling population. Where is all that money going? I paid only a small road tax fee to enter Namibia, and the roads that were paved were nicely maintained.

More than once, I was told by immigration and customs that they don’t see many motorbikes through here. I seemed to be a rarity. I glanced at the logbook that I had to sign at several windows, and didn’t see another motorcycle listed, nor another US citizen.

Not long after crossing into Zambia and passing through Sesheke (just past the border), the road began to look like many of the roads in rural Mexico and Central America: potholes stretched across the road and prevented a clear route through at more than about 50 to 60 km/h. There were very few cars, but I did encounter a few big trucks that were struggling to get through the potholes.

It was Sunday morning, and there were a lot of people on the road. Not cars. People. In a 140 kilometer stretch, I passed hundreds of people walking alongside the road, dressed in their Sunday church clothes. Women had nice dresses. Men wore suits with ties. Many carried plastic lawn chairs. They clearly walked miles to get to church and then home again.

On their way home from church. I had passed dozens of similar families before turning around to ask if I could take this family’s photo. When I approached, there was clearly fear in the eye of several. I think they were unsure of why some white guy on a motorcycle was approaching them. When I asked to take their photo, they didn’t understand enough English to figure out what I wanted, until I pulled the camera out of my pocket, and suddenly they were all laughing and relaxed. They all wanted to see the photo after I took it.

Their homes were the same “local house” 8×8 foot or maybe 10 to 12 foot diameter circular hut in a dirt clearing surrounded by a fence made of tree limbs. In fact, nearly all of the homes are this style, though I did begin to see some that were made of mud or adobe walls rather than just the tree limbs I had seen earlier in Namibia. I couldn’t help but wonder where they kept their clothes in these small homes, as everything they wore looked so clean and well cared for. Even though the houses are very basic and surrounded by nothing but dirt, the women sweep the dirt floors and the dirt around the house nearly every day. They do their best to keep everything clean and orderly.

Eventually I arrived at Kazungula, and turned onto the road toward the ferry crossing into Botswana. I began to pass more than a hundred 18-wheelers parked alongside the road. This again reminded me of Central America. And sure enough, when I arrived at the border post, I was immediately approached by “helpers”, another sight I had not seen since Central America. This phenomenon seems to occur in the poorer countries, and in this case, it was only at this Zambian border post. I didn’t encounter helpers at the Katima crossing earlier in the morning, nor did I encounter helpers when I got off the ferry in Botswana.

One big truck at a time at the Kazungula ferry crossing. With the ramps skimming and digging into the water during the crossing, I was a bit concerned.

The reason there are so many trucks waiting to cross is because the ferry can only hold one truck at a time, and this is the official border crossing between Zambia and Botswana. My carnet has very specific instructions stating that this is the only border crossing I can use to leave Botswana.

Official Zambian police vehicle at the Kazungula border crossing.


One of the locals on the ferry pulled out his cell phone to take a photo of me, and suddenly everyone wanted to be in the picture, so I gave him my camera as well.

Four countries all come together near this point: Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, kind of like the “Four Corners” in the US where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona all meet. But not as nicely square as that.

The entry into Botswana was very straightforward (and without all of the fees of Zambia) and I was through immigration and customs in about ten minutes and on my way to my camp for the next couple of nights.

As I pulled into the camp, the guard at the gate told me to be aware of the monkeys and baboons. And she wasn’t kidding. The monkeys were everywhere, as were warthogs. Before I could get the tent set up, I had a dozen monkeys in my campsite watching me.




Haven’t met the baboons yet, but the warthogs are about as thick as the monkeys here.




7 Tips for Camping in Africa

April 25, 2016


Tip #1: Close to the river is nice, but not TOO close.


Tip #2: Zip up the tent, regardless of how short you intend to be out of it.

Banded mongoose



Tip #3: If taking a nap in the chair, remain calm when you wake up to a noise. They will usually walk around you.


Tip #4: Do not get between the hippo and the water.

Those two black bumps in the middle of the photo are hippos. Or as they call them around here, “Eepos”.



Tip #5: When cooking dinner, expect company.


Tip #6: Choose your shade wisely. Everybody wants to be in the shade in the heat of the day.


Tip #7: Always look outside the tent before climbing out.