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    Two weeks exploring South Africa and Namibia with a maxi enduro, from Cape Town to Etosha and back

    By Cristina Manni | 14 November 2021 | 1 min
    Motorcycle: BMW F800 GS Adventure
    Mileage: 5.000 kms
    Difficulty: medium, good off-road experience required
    Duration: 11 days
    Time of the year: August
    Weather: always sunny
    Temperatures: average 25°C
    Essential equipment: waterproof and ventilated kit, thermal underwear, light flip up helmet with intercom, map or GPS reader, first aid kit, chain lube, puncture repair kit
    cristina bio

    Cristina Manni

    The author


    Hi, I’m Cristina.  I love traveling and I’ve been adding two wheels to the equation of that passion since I came to Dainese. What better way to discover new worlds, to be caught up in the wonder of nature, feeling part of what you see, without barriers? Websites and blogs give you a lot of information to help you prepare, but the unexpected crops up when you’re on the spot, too. Those are the most challenging and intense moments, because it brings out ingenuity and the good in people.

     “A journey does not begin when we set off, nor does it end when we reach our destination. It actually begins much earlier and never ends, as our tape of memories continues to run in our heads long after we’ve stopped." 

    I’m not a writer, but I will try to tell you in my own words about the emotions I experienced during a motorcycle trip that two of us made to South Africa and Namibia. The winter period is the most suitable for travel here, as there is almost zero rainfall and the average temperature is 77 °F. Temperatures in South Africa are slightly lower than in Namibia, but still pleasant and ideal for riding.  

    We visited GS Africa Motorcycle Rentals & Tours in Cape Town, where we rented a BMW F800 GS Adventure. We opted for the Adventure version so that we’d have greater range and avoid any refueling problems. From our very first interaction, the agency helped us create our tailor-made trip, providing advice about stops and places not to be missed. Even in the era of satellite navigators and GPS, it’s important for us to leaf through a good guide like Lonely Planet and a map like the Freytag & Berndt 1: 1,000,000, inconvenient to open en route perhaps (and to close again if there’s wind), but very detailed. We essentially had to decide on our stops ahead of time, mainly because we’ve decided not to sleep under the stars with a tent in the company of wild animals, but our route is nevertheless very varied in terms of landscape. 

     

    Day 1 - Cape Town tour - Cape Heritage Hotel 

    The adventure starts with our arrival in Cape Town. The capital deserves to be explored on foot, so that we can admire the Dutch colonial and Victorian style buildings that coexist with the modern skyscrapers and lush botanical gardens. And we can’t miss the bright colors of the facades in the Malaysian district of Bo-Kaap, all overlooked by the grandeur of Table Mountain and Lion's Head. To end the day, we take a cable car up wonderful Signal Hill and enjoy the beautiful sunset. For dinner, we highly recommend tapas at Chefs Warehouse Winebar & Pinchos, 92 Bree St, right next to the Cape Heritage Hotel. 

        

    Day 2 - bike pick up - Cape Town/Springbok - Inn Country Hotel 

    5h 25m/561km (via N7 - 100% asphalt)
    In the morning, we head to the rental place where we find the bike in perfect order, with a nice pair of new knobby tires. We transfer our personal belongings to the bike panniers and leave the luggage we flew in with in storage. A few obligatory photos in front of the agency, all beautifully clean without the slightest speck of dust or sand, and we’re ready to go! We leave the city quickly, as we don't really like riding in traffic. It’s better to delve into nature, which we very soon will. We head north towards Springbok, where we stay overnight.  

     

    Day 3 - Springbok/Vioolsdrif (South African border town, 1h/120km via N7), Noordoewer (Namibian border town)/Aus (Karas Region)

    via C13 3h 20m/325km - 155km of dirt road via C13 from Noordoewer to Rosh Pinah, 170km of asphalt via C13 to Aus 

    The next morning we cross the border at Vioolsdrift. From there, the road signs are very simple, just a single board marking "Cape Namibia Route" and the indication N or S for north or south. We leave the ribbon of asphalt to skirt the evocative Orange River and start getting to grips with the Namibian tracks. The road turns into a dirt road, easy at first but then increasingly challenging. It is just us, an expanse of golden sand, a clear sky, brown rocky mountains on one side, from which baboons emerge, and a strip of green on the other that grows along the banks of the Orange. The irrigation systems used mean that the green belt even extends into the desert, making for large areas of land on which to cultivate vines and other plants. 
    After miles of off-road riding, we stop in the village of Rosh Pinah to buy some food. Those who are not vegetarian might stock up on biltong, a typical dried meat snack (also in ostrich and game varieties). The food is simple but very good, especially if eaten on the road, in the shade of the only tree that appears on the horizon.  
    We begin to get to know the local fauna as we ride. It’s the first time we’re seeing springbok and oryx (typical antelopes and gazelles that are also depicted on the banknotes). The roar of the engine and the clouds of dust the bike kicks up don’t intimidate the animals, but they remain at a safe distance. 
    In the evening we stay at the Bahnhof Hotel in Aus. A simple structure, it’s basically a renovated version of the old German colonial station (hence the name Bahnhof), but it’s comfortable and has a restaurant. And it’s a great base for the day trip we’ll make tomorrow. 

     

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    Day 4 - Aus> Kolmanskop> Lüderitz> Aus

    (125km+125km/tot. 3h via B4, a ribbon of asphalt that crosses the desert)

    In the morning we take the B4 which heads towards the coast, crossing the desolate southern Namib landscape. The area is characterized by mountain ranges and wide expanses where the famous wild desert horses roam. 

    Towards the coast the wind shifts the sand so much that it’s impossible to identify the paved road in many places. We must be careful here, as the piles of sand can reach considerable heights and invade the road. It is not uncommon to see workers removing them in fact. 

    We stop to visit the ghost town of Kolmanskop. The atmosphere is surreal. Year after year, the sand devours the houses and swallows up every memory of this long-abandoned mining town. In our riding gear, we look like two astronauts who’ve landed on a distant planet. 

    We get back in the saddle and continue to the coastal town of Lüderitz, crossing land that belongs to the diamond mining companies. The street names are still in German, a legacy of the former colonial domination in the late 1800s. It actually looks like a corner of old Europe, but in a place you wouldn't expect to find it. We choose a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the sea and enjoy some good grilled fish. We then head back towards Aus, retracing the same route we took earlier. There aren’t many options as we’ve said, unless you venture to places where access is not allowed (National Diamond Coast, National Park) or get lost in the sand dunes. 

      

    Day 5 - Aus/Helmeringshausen (via C13), Helmeringshausen/Sesriem   

    (via C27) (Namib-Naukluft National Park) - 6h/375km dirt road 

    We’re back in the saddle early again. Today’s going to be tough, as we’ve heard the road ahead described as being like a "washing machine". When we’re not bouncing around too much, I have fun taking pictures of the wild animal signs. After all, we don’t often get to see "beware, giraffes crossing"!  

    As a final destination, we couldn’t miss the view of the wonderful red dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Naukluft Park, one of the iconic images of Namibia. Here is our shot of the famous Dead Vlei, a forest of age-old petrified acacias, the very dark color of which contrasts with the white of the soil and the orange of the dunes. One piece of advice... We were sure we could ride all the way to the dunes, but as this is a National Park it is forbidden to enter on two wheels, as is often the case in both Namibia and South Africa. After all, there is a lot of sand and a real risk of getting stuck. It’s best to opt for an organized tour with a jeep and an expert driver. We booked such a trip via the Sossusvlei Lodge hotel in Sesriem. In the evening, it’s an alfresco dinner under a breathtaking starry ceiling. 

     

    Day 6 - Sesriem / Walvis Bay / Swakopmund 

    via C14 and B2 - 5h/343km (dirt road, only the last 43km from Walvis Bay and Swakopmund on B2 are on asphalt) 
    The next day, we’re in for the most demanding section of the whole trip. As a passenger, you need a lot of confidence in the person riding to get through these difficult moments, especially when the wheels are having fun wobbling in the sand. The dusty tracks, sometimes full of potholes, make for quite a challenging ride, particularly with a loaded bike and a passenger. 
    Halfway along our route, an oasis aptly called "Solitaire" appears out of nowhere. Here we can freshen up and refuel the bike. A chalkboard catches our attention, as it shows the measurements of rainfall in recent years, just a few millimeters per month! In fact, the sun beats down and it's hot. Luckily, my jacket is well ventilated and allows me to open the vents to let the air through. 
    After the sun-drenched desert landscape of the Namib, we reach the coastal town of Swakopmund. Founded by the Germans, it retains a colonial feel to this day. Having got over the embarrassment of arriving at the hotel covered in dust and with plastic supermarket bags containing our clothes (for our next trips, we’re going to get some technical bags we can put inside the bike panniers), we drink in the sight of the imposing waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the characteristic wooden pier. 
    We find a great little place for dinner. “The Fish Dely” is a sort of fish shop complete with restaurant. At the entrance you stop at the counter to choose your fish, which is then cooked and served at your table.

     

    Day 7 - Moon Valley and the Namib dunes 

    We usually prefer to travel alone and not abandon our trusty vehicle, but there are some places where it’s best to rely on an expert guide, both for the lay of the land and the many things we can learn by doing so. To visit Moon Valley in the Namib desert we book a tour with the Kallisto agency and enjoy listening to Hans' interesting anecdotes. With his jeep, he takes us to explore the many endemic plant species. I didn't think a desert landscape could be so lush! The words that stick with us are Welwitschia mirabilis, the name of a thousand-year-old plant with an unusual shape.

     

    Day 8 - Swakopmund / Outjo    

    5h 30m/400km via C34/C35/C39 - asphalt
    As we continue north, we opt for a paved route, taking a day off from the harsh off-road. We spend the night in one of the area’s many lodges. Our plan is to take in another unmissable activity in Namibia, observing wild animals in their natural habitat!  

     

    9° giorno – Etosha National Park –

    overnight stay in a lodge in the Etosha region 100km/1h asphalt 
    To explore the Etosha National Park we choose a guided tour (it is forbidden to enter by motorbike of course). You know the animal documentaries we see from our childhood? Well, it's all here, live, in front of our very eyes! Elephants, lions, rhinos, zebras, springboks, zebu... Hunting for prey, crossing the plain to seek drinking water, caring for their young... What a sight! 

      

    Day 10 - Etosha National Park - Outjo    

    100km/1h asphalt via C38 
    Having spent a second day visiting Etosha, we head south before it gets too dark. As the sun goes down, the helmet intercom is useful, warning me that a family of warthogs is crossing the road without giving way. The little ones are really funny, but it's best to avoid any close encounters, for many reasons. We spend the night in Outjo, at the Etosha Garten hotel. 

     

    Day 11 - Outjo/Windhoek    

    320km/3h asphalt via B1 
    We’re at the halfway point and turn south towards the capital. Windhoek doesn’t offer any real attractions or historic sights, but it deserves a short visit. A few colonial houses stand out among the modern buildings. At the open-air market on Post Street, you can see examples of handicrafts from all over Africa. 

     

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    Day 12 - Windhoek / Keetmanshoop / Seeheim

    5h/543km (via B1 90% asphalt, the last few km once you deviate from the main road are dirt)
    We cross small towns and, significantly, the Tropic of Capricorn. We skirt Keetmanshoop, a city that rises between the sands of the Namib and those of the Kalahari. And from here we are catapulted into a surreal dimension, with sand and stones everywhere, but we’re looking for the Seeheim hotel and suddenly it appears… below us, inside a small hollow in the desert and along the tracks of the old German colonial railway, now abandoned. We also take pictures of the famous quiver trees. The name refers to the fact that the Bushmen would use the branches and leaves to make quivers for their poisoned arrows. 
    And here’s another interesting tree fact - along the road we notice huge balls of dry grass clinging to the branches. We find out that they are the large nests of weaver birds. They use straw to build a sort of complex that can accommodate as many as a few hundred birds.  

     

     

    Day 13 - Seeheim> Fish River Canyon> Ai-Ais

    3h/170km of dirt road (gravel, ridges, bad sand) via C12 and C37 
    The next day we’re back on the road heading south. We stop to admire the majestic Fish River Canyon from above; originally created as a result of telluric movement, it has been shaped by erosion over millions of years. 
    Our destination is Ai-Ais, a name that means "burning" in Khoisan, one of the indigenous languages of Namibia. You can even sink into the sulfurous hot springs, for a relaxing bathe after miles of sand and stones. We stay overnight at Ai-Ais Resort. 

     

    Day 14 – Ai-Ais / Vanrhynsdorp

    5h/500km via C10, B1, N7 (80km dirt road to B1, then asphalt) 

    The next day we leave for South Africa. This is the section of the route on which we feel the most free and the most lost at the same time. In front of us the line of the horizon is clear, with blue skies dotted with a few white clouds above, and an endless expanse of sand below. And all around, Africa, in all its purity. 

    On previous days, we travelled hundreds of miles without meeting anyone. Shortly after crossing the border, fate has it that we get a puncture. Unfortunately the puncture kit doesn’t solve the problem. So we ask for help at the Letsatsi Lodge hotel where we’ve booked for the night. And like a guardian angel, the legendary Willy, a painter with a passion for motorbikes, comes to save us in the middle of nowhere with his trailer. He takes us to the local mechanic for the repair. Every person we've come across has always been kind to us. Before asking for any kind of information it’s polite to ask "How are you Sir/Madam?" A nice "how are you?" is always a good way to start a conversation. 

     

    Day 15 - Vanrhynsdorp / West Coast 

    overnight stay near Langeban 

    We continue south and suddenly a breathtaking spectacle appears... the days have warmed up since we started out and the desert has begun to bloom! Namaqua National Park, located in Northern Cape Province, is covered in multicolored flowers. A riot of bright color, from orange to fuchsia, extends across the usually arid land. A truly unique ecosystem! 

    The stretch of coast through the West Coast National Park is not to be missed. Thunderous waves crash onto the shore, while flocks of pink flamingos stop in the serene lagoons nearby. It’s difficult to capture the poetry of the place in words or with a click of the camera. 

     

    Day 16 - exploration of the vineyard area with food and wine stops and an overnight stay in Tulbagh  

     

    Day 17 - Tulbagh/Cape Peninsula 

    The trip ends with a tour of the Cape Peninsula and an obligatory photo at the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwesterly point of the African continent. We travel along roads overlooking breathtaking cliffs, especially along Chapman's Peak Drive, considered one of the most beautiful views in the world. We admire the spectacle that is the meeting of the Indian and Atlantic oceans. For those who, like us, thought that penguins could only be found in cold spots, we recommend a visit to the famous Boulders Beach, home to a colony of African penguins. 
    Having travelled roughly 3100 miles, we reluctantly return our faithful travel companion and collect some initial information about our next destination, which we will travel to from Cape Town. We still don't know exactly when, but… Botswana awaits us! 

     

    Travel details 

    For this bike trip, the essentials included:  
    • a technical suit in water-repellent fabric that ensures breathability and can deal with temperature changes throughout the day (with removable thermal jacket and air vents to adjust the ventilation); stretch inserts and adjustments at both the hips and neck ensure comfort even after hours of travel; 
    • a back protector, conveniently inserted in the jacket pocket;  
    • technical layers to regulate the temperature (such as technical underwear and a thermal shirt);  
    • a pair of breathable gloves; 
    • boots with reinforced external inserts on the malleolus and shins, a waterproof membrane, and a sole designed for maximum grip in any situation. 
    A good lightweight, modular helmet completes the outfit, so the neck doesn’t get tired even after many hours in the saddle. It needs a comfortable interior to avoid any bothersome areas of pressure and, most importantly, an intercom. Perhaps not all riders want to hear voices in the background as they travel, but it can be useful in order to share directions on the road, although honestly it’s hard to go wrong in Namibia!  
    In terms of equipment, it is important to have a first aid kit with you (general medicines), and you have to carry lubricant and an anti-puncture kit for your bike. 

    Essential equipment

    Adventure helmet

    Adventure helmet

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    Gore-Tex® jackets

    Gore-Tex® jackets

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    Gore-Tex® pants

    Gore-Tex® pants

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    Waterproof boots

    Waterproof boots

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    Rain suit

    Rain suit

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    Thermal shirt

    Thermal shirt

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    Thermal underwear pants

    Thermal underwear pants

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    Tex gloves

    Tex gloves

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