Sutherland, South Africa is the base of SALT, or the South African Large Telescope, based at the South African Astronomical Observatory. This eleven meter mirror is the largest in the southern hemisphere. They keep an eye on the universe from here and also track space debris. This area is considered one of the darkest in the world. At night the electric is off in town plunging it into a inky darkness. Pizza from a wood fired oven, eaten by the light of an oil lantern was all there was. We stayed at a campground in town and several kms from the actual site. The campground had a night stargazing program and a couple small, optical telescopes to look through.
On the way there we stopped at the small abandoned town of Matjiesfontein, an abandoned trail station and museum. Walking around the site had us imagining past days of the southern Cape.
Heading north we would end up in Springbok for our required PCR tests before crossing into Namibia. As we were riding we discussed our goals, what we wanted from this trip for it to be a successful trip. The motorcycle was an older model and its problems were becoming apparent. With already two issues, another was observed. A small crack was noticed on the underside of the left pannier, by the guy who replaced the tires. In travel, we follow the risk vs reward philosophy. This wasn’t our bike so we wanted to protect it. We were very loaded, so decided to remain on paved roads as much as possible. We would miss some things, but there was still so much to see. The Russians had invaded Ukraine, sanctions were happening.
We found a small campground on the outskirts of Springbok and headed to town to find a clinic to get our tests done. That evening, as the tests were being sent to Capetown it was announced that if you were fully vaccinated, three jabs, no PCR test was required. Since the tests were already done, we just decided to wait for the results. The next morning I was checking the bike over to find a newly developed “clanking”, and discovered the nut holding the muffler in place, was gone. The bracket was loose and flopping next to the tire. I wired it in place and would look to fix it soon.
With our negative test in hand, we headed to the Namibian border. But first we needed to check the motorcycle out of South Africa. A PROBLEM??? “No sir, I dont know where the disc registration is, or even what it is”. A quick call to the owner solved the issue. It disc had been secured to the muffler bracket, which had come loose, and the disc had fallen off. After a couple hours, they confirmed the registration, and sent us on our was to Namibia, saying “Good luck over there”.
Getting our 30 day visa into Namibia was easy, and away we went. We were on our way to Swakopmund, on the Skeleton Coast. Pulling in to our hostel, another bike related issue. This time the brake line down to the left front caliper had ruptured. The speedometer cable, remember those, crossed over the brake line at the fender. Movement caused the cable to wear into brake line, causing the leak. Of course, it happened on a Saturday afternoon, on Namibia Independence Day weekend. Everything closed until Tuesday. Just another reason to be careful on the older BMW.
We rode into town, carefully, to meet up with Ukrainian RTW motorcycle rider, Anna Grechishkina, of “I Have a Dream Travel. She left Europe and arrived with her bike in Namibia the day before the Russian invaded her home country. She was distraught, worried and had decided to stay in Namibia and raise money and awareness for people of Ukraine. Good luck to you, Anna.
The morning coastal mist hung lazily in the air as we gingerly made or way north up the fabled Skeleton Coast. This area is called “The Land God Made in Anger”, by the Namib Bushmen, and “The Gates of Hell”, by the Portuguese sailors. Because of the dense coastal fog and the constant pounding surf, the shores are scattered with rusting carcasses of ships that had run ashore. The desert to the east is the oldest in the world. It is also scattered with carcasses, but human. The ones from the ships that never found a way out of the dangerous, inhospitable and unforgiving land.
That day Kinga had put us in contact with another couple bikes in Walvis Bay, just to the south. They insisted on hosting us for a couple days and helping us get the bike fixed. Lizelle and Craig had a beautiful home, an enormous garage and a bar area, in the house, with built in braii. They were fantastic hosts and we had a wonderful time staying with them, so says my alcohol induced headache.
On Tuesday morning, as there wasn’t a BMW dealership anywhere close and they wouldn’t have the overpriced part available anyway, I went to an auto brake shop. Disassembling the motorcycle in the driveway, they had a wire reenforced brake line made in 45 minutes, for the cost of US$28. Enough said!
The next morning we made our way out if the desert and on the Etosha National Park, but that will be in the next blog post.