A Little Work Before I Go

March 31, 2016

It’s almost time to begin my trek into real Africa. Before heading north into Namibia, I put a new set of Pirelli MT21 knobbies on the bike. This will be the third set of these tires that I’ve used on this trip (and the fifth set of tires overall), and I really like them. I’ve been surprised at how well they work on the pavement, for full knobbies, even in rain. And I’m able to get about 10,000 kilometers, or just over 6,000 miles out of a set.

This morning as I was packing up to head to the shop for the tires, I noticed another break in my pannier racks. Exactly the same place as the broken rack on the left side, which I discovered in Cochrane, Chile and had welded in Gobernador Gregores, Argentina. Only this time it was the right side. Fortunately, the local Yamaha dealer, Helderberg Yamaha, knew of a welder nearby, and MCR Specialised Welding was quick to help me out.

New tires installed; panniers, top rack, Rotopax gas & water cans removed. This is the first time in many months that I’ve ridden the bike without all of the weight on the rear, and I was surprised at just how light and fun it felt.


Rear rack in the shop, having its’ arms welded back on.


Due to the location of the re-located turn signals (necessary in order to open the panniers), the exhaust blows directly onto the bottom of the right rear turn signal, and before long melted a hole in it.


The guys at MCR Welding put an extended and angled tip on my exhaust to route the hot gas away from the turn signal. The flasher still works, so I’ll patch it up and keep using it for now.


Chris at Helderberg Yamaha was a huge help. He found the tires I wanted, ordered them for me, and had them ready when I returned from Plettenberg Bay. The shop mounted and balanced the tires quickly and pointed me towards the welding shop just a few blocks away. Great service all around.


A couple more days in Cape Town, then it’s off on the real adventure.

March Expense Report

As I predicted at the beginning of the month, March was by far the most expensive month of my trip so far. I was prepared for this though, due to the expense of shipping the bike from South America to Africa. I also installed another set of tires on the last day of the month, which drove the total up even more. And I spent more on lodging than I normally would have due to the extended time in Buenos Aires preparing to ship the bike, and again in Cape Town waiting on the bike to arrive and preparing to leave Cape Town. So while my gas and food expenses were less than February — the food could have been less yet — the lodging was more, and the shipping expenses really knocked a hole in my budget.

Gas: $121.32 (Daily average: $3.91)

Food: $280.97 (Daily average: $9.06)

Lodging: $1068.91 (Daily average: $34.38)

Tours, Park Admission: $66.77

Bike Maintenance: $385.41

Tolls, Ferries, Shipping: $2053.73

Miscellaneous: $19.90

Grand Total: $3997.01

For April, my lodging expenses should decrease significantly, as I plan to camp a lot more, and food should also be less. My only big expenses that I foresee right now are one or two safari tours (these can be expensive, especially since I have to join an organized tour). Overall, my monthly average should be much less in April than March, and hopefully less than February.

Coffee Appreciation & Truth

April 2, 2016

Until just a few years ago, I didn’t drink coffee. I always drank a lot of Coca-Cola. Then someone (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) got me hooked on coffee. Although to be honest, I still knew nothing about it. I had no idea what a macchiato was versus a latte, or what made one coffee good and another less so. I knew about as much about coffee as I do about wine: in other words, nothing. I knew what I liked but that’s about it.

So when I found this coffee shop in Cape Town called Truth Coffee, and saw that it had a Steampunk theme, and read that it had been named the Wold’s Coolest Coffee Shop by the UK Telegraph, I decided to put it on my list of places I wanted to visit while in town. Then I discovered on their website that they offered barista courses as well as a half-day “Coffee Appreciation” course that would help me understand coffee. So I signed up.

The inside of Truth Coffee is done in a Steampunk theme. Very interesting. Unfortunately they had a water pipe burst the night before my class, so the restaurant was closed when I got there, but I was able to get a few photos.


Huge coffee roaster in the middle of the building is a focal point. Built in 1913, it’s still in use here at Truth.


Photo by Shanna Jones

The instructor for the course is a fascinating guy in his own right. José Vilandy was kidnapped at 11 years old and forced to become a child soldier in his native Angola. Several years later, he escaped, and eventually made his way through refugee camps to South Africa, where he went to college and earned a civil engineering degree. Not long after that, he discovered that he had an interest and a love for coffee that he could pursue as an occupation. In 2008 he won the National Barista Championship in South Africa.

José Vilandy of Truth Coffee. Taught me more about coffee in a couple of hours than I would have learned on my own in years.

I had a great time in this course learning about different coffee types, “cupping”, grinding, brewing, and using a commercial espresso mahine. I’m certainly no barista now, but I have a much greater appreciation for what I am ordering and how it’s made, and when it’s done right. They ought to franchise this place. It is way more interesting than Starbucks.

As I was leaving Truth, I happened to spot a guy riding up on a brand new Honda Africa Twin.


He was headed to Truth, but was unaware of their closure due to water problems. I spent a few minutes checking out his bike and talking about my trip with him. The Honda was nice and narrow (although it looked tall), and looked like a good size for a 1000cc adventure bike, though still much more bike than I’d want or need to take on this trip solo. I have to admit though, for a large motorcycle, they definitely got some things right, like the 21 inch front wheel, the narrow tank/seat junction, and what appears to be a good center of gravity. It’s definitely a nice looking package.

Then, on the way home, I stopped at a McDonald’s (yeah, yeah, I know…) and I spotted this:

Yep, in South Africa they have McDelivery, just in case you are already so fat that you can’t even get off the couch to go to McDonalds.

The Cederbergs

April 3, 2016

I left Cape Town mid-morning, taking a back road north and around the city, through beautiful rolling hills and more vineyards. The weekend bicycle crowd was out: road bikes on the pavement, mountain bikes on a trail alongside the road, and occasionally mountain bikes doing laps in the large vineyards, which I thought was pretty cool.

My lunch destination was Paternoster, a small fishing village on the coast a couple of hours north of Cape Town. 



Specifically, I wanted to eat at The Noisy Oyster, just because I liked the name. However, I seem to have a knack for bad timing. 

Chalkboard on the left says open Sundays at Noon. Chalkboard on the right says “Closed Sunday, April 3rd”. Grrr.

Sign out front says they are closed Sunday, April 3rd. Not all Sundays, just today. Just my luck.

So I ate down the street instead. 

“Famous” Paternoster Fish Cakes. Not sure if they are famous outside of Paternoster, but the menu says they are famous here.

After lunch I took another back road out of town, eventually joining up with the N7, the main road north, which is also known as the Cape Namibia route. After another couple of hours, I turned east off N7 onto a gravel road and headed into the Cederberg Mountains.

Well, at least it’s not baboons…

My camp site for tonight was a small campground along this gravel road. It took me several tries to find it, even though there’s a sign at the road for it. After searching and not finding it, I rode back up the gravel road to a hill. From the top of the hill, I could see the grassy spot that is the campground, so I knew I was close. Eventually, I took the correct turn through a citrus grove that dumped me into the campground. 

I was the only one there. In fact, I never saw anyone else, including the owner. The place had nice bathrooms, and nice, clean stainless steel sinks for kitchen prep, along with a heavy wooden door that had been turned into a kitchen prep table. There was also electricity, with outlets over the table and lights in the bathroom that worked. The campsites had a few small trees that provided enough shade. 

The stars were out in force, and it was a beautiful night. I slept incredibly well, and in the morning, after packing up and still never seeing a soul, I left a 100 Rand note (about $6.80 — the going rate for most decent places I’ve camped) and one of my stickers under a rock in the middle of the kitchen table before leaving. 

“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.