Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If I Had a Hammer

Namibian po-po
The next morning we left Mariental after a breakfast of coffee and rusks (very dry bread-like biscuits, they're a staple in the region). Shortly after we crossed the city line, we encountered a police stop. The officer waved us over, asked for our licenses, and one came over to inspect the front of my bike. He paid particular attention to my new replacement for Toilet, and told me I need to move it because it was impeding my headlight. It is too tall and covers the lower half of my headlight, which we knew when we bought it, but we figured that since we aren't riding at night at all, it would be fine. But no. So the officer turned the jerrycan on its side for me (fortunately it was empty) and strapped it on the rack. At the same time, another officer played with Colin's seat pad, holding it up as a breastplate for himself. It was actually pretty funny and no problem, and the officers kindly posed for a photo, and we were on our way. We had a short-ish ride to Windhoek and planned to arrive by about 2pm, get a room or campsite, and have an opportunity to look around the city. The ride was uneventful, the temperature good, and we saw our first hornbill in a tree along the side of the road! 

We made decent time and arrived in the outskirts of Windhoek... and promptly made a wrong turn. Colin was leading the way and made a right turn (across traffic, remember, we are now driving on the left) into the drive to the Windhoek Country Club. I followed... and stopped, about three-quarters of the way across the oncoming lane of traffic. I tried to go, with the bike in gear and it wouldn't move, I shifted into neutral, it wouldn't move. So there I was, stuck in traffic (they fortunately had enough space to go around me), with Colin asking me what was wrong. “It won't go,” I told him, so he ran out, tried himself to make it move, quickly gave up on that, and lifted the rear wheel off the ground to wheelbarrow the bike and myself out of the road. It's a good thing the bike weigh less than 200 lbs. Now parked in the entrance to the Country Club, Colin looked at the brakes to see if one was frozen... no. Next, he noticed the chain cover was mangled and came to the sudden realization that the bolts that came loose on the hub of his sprocket mount when we were in Ohio had backed out on mine. So to answer the question of what would happen if one of the bolts came out while we were riding, the bike just stops. One of the bolts had backed out so far that it caught on a metal tab on the swingarm that holds the chain cover on, and it froze the rear wheel. When we got it disassembled, the bolt looked like an arm with a bent elbow. We put it back together, using loctite on the three remaining bolts, and a nice gentleman who stopped to ask if we needed any help directed us to the nut and bolt store to buy a replacement for the bent one. Needless to say, we didn't actually get settled in Windhoek until much later in the day than planned.

The next day, after we took the hub out and put the shiny new bolt in (and did the same with Colin's bike- this time, with loctite), we spent on a hunt for more tires. We each are carrying a spare rear tire, but the ones we have are not lasting as long as we'd hoped. We want to have a spare spare tire to make sure we can make it all the way across Africa, and since Windhoek is the biggest city in Namibia, we figured it would be the place to look. We did get two new tires, hopefully they are made of hard rubber instead of the licorice that our Michelins are molded from! 
Our guesthouse in Windhoek was an interesting establishment. It's recommended in the Lonely Planet guide as a good backpackers' place. They had wifi, a pool, included breakfast, and seemed to be a busy place. What I didn't realize when I looked at the rooms and at the campsites out back (oh, that's kind of cool, they have painted up old VW buses under awnings as installation artwork) was that the employees actually seem to live in the buses. In the mornings it was like watching clowns getting out of the teensy car at the circus when you looked at the buses. The line for the shower was always long, and the hallways were always full of people waiting to use something. Anyway, it was an interesting place, and we did meet some very nice people, both fellow travelers and employees. 
Springbok look delicious!
Our next destination was Swakopmund, which is a town on the coast that is supposed to be more German than Germany. We weren't really that interested in the city itself, but it's close to the Namib-Naukluft National Park, which has the Welwitschia Drive and huge lichen fields, among other attractions. We wanted to see the welwitschias, having heard about these amazing and ancient plants (they can live up to 2000 years!!!). We went to the park office to get our permit to drive in the park, only to be told that we cannot take motorbikes into the park. The Namibian park system has a blanket rule that they're not allowed, even though there aren't any lions or other hazardous critters in this particular park. I was told to ask the Warden if we could get an exception, and he said no, but we could drive the part of it that is on public roads. So that's what we did. We didn't see any welwitschias, but we did see springboks, herds of running ostriches, and some amazing scenery. And, we put water on the lichens and watched them bloom. Very cool, but no videos of it. Wouldn't want you to fall asleep at work. Sorry. 

Dune 7 on the way to Walvis Bay
We continued our ride to Walvis Bay along Dune 7, which is a gigantic sand dune, probably several hundred yards high and miles long. It was beautiful to see- the colors of the sand shifted from red to tan to brown in stripes and reminded me of the coats of the springboks we'd seen. On our way back to Swakopmund, we saw TONS of motorcycles riding toward us in the direction of Walvis Bay. Colin remembered that this weekend was bike week in Walvis Bay. Aha, that explains it.

The next day we decided to make our way farther north along the coast, then cut inland to start heading toward Victoria Falls. It rained overnight, was still raining when we got up, and....the power was out all over the city. And, it was cold, so we wanted to get the heck outta there. Our first stop was the gas station to refuel, and while we were at the pumps, a couple of men rode up on their big Africa Twins to talk. They were from near Johannesburg and were riding through Botswana and Namibia before heading back to Jo'burg. As we talked, more riders pulled into the lot, We declined their offers to join their ride, since the weather was crappy and we wanted to keep moving onward, but it was fun to feel like a celebrity for a moment!
To be continued... .

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