Ride Report: Namibian Recce – Sun, Sand and Stars
Ride Report: Namibian Recce - Sun, Sand and Stars
The Ride Expeditions team recently returned from an epic recce trip to Namibia – an incredible country with enormous landscapes, wonderfully friendly people and exquisite food. Little wonder we want to run motorcycle tours in Namibia as soon as we can! Here’s what Tour Manager Charl Neethling had to say about his experience on the trip:
“If riding in Namibia needed to be described in one sentence, that sentence definitely would include the words big, open, wild and stunningly beautiful. It’s a truly incredible country.”
Here’s the story of our first journey into this amazing place …
PLANNING THE TRIP
We’d heard enough stories from people who’d been on trips to the wild parts of Namibia to realise that all the beauty and solitude of this incredible country often comes at a price. From the searing heat during the day to icy cold nights, limited availability of water and fuel in some areas to the ever-changing road conditions and, in the case of problems, the decidedly variable mobile phone coverage! Proper planning for this trip was essential and in the weeks prior to the trip we spent countless hours poring over maps, reading up about route options on local forums, watching videos and generally scouring the internet for any useful information we could find. But the research was definitely paying off and the plan was coming together.
After leaving South Africa, we’d enter the country from the south and follow the Fish River through the vast National Park that bears its name en route to the coast, then follow the beaches and coastal roads as far as the locals recommended. From there we’d head east to check out some of the many amazing landscapes and natural landmarks we’d highlighted on our trusty map. The route then tracked further into the country’s remote and astounding interior to eventually meet up with the Kunene River that forms the border between Namibia and Angola. After that it was just a simple question of deciding on a different route back south – or at least that’s what we hoped!
The overnight spots would have to be decided on the way, depending on availability of resources, daily progress and general mood of the group – you have to be realistic when adventure planning! We were being joined by two lucky victims, sorry, guests Steve and Vivianne who assured us that they were up for anything, and with four Ride Expeditions staff, the posse was complete.
So, with the plan more or less tied up, it was time to get out on the road, do some incredible riding, shoot some epic footage and find out all about Namibia. What could possibly go wrong?
PACKING THE KIT
We eventually whittled the list down to camping necessities, riding gear, tools, medical equipment, food, water, fuel and obviously, all the camera equipment we could fit. For the bikes, we’d settled on a suitable rugged threesome of a KTM 690, a KTM 1090 and a BMW F850GS to give us an idea of how these different bikes would handle the wide variety of terrain we’d encounter. For the support truck that would be hauling the kit and the backup trailer up to and all through Namibia, we’d gone straight for the Toyota Hilux, the vehicle of choice in Namibia and indeed all across Africa.
In a country where distances between towns can often test the capacity of your fuel tank, quality of your suspension and the cooling ability of your radiator to manage daily temperatures of over 40°C, a tried and tested support vehicle makes an enormous difference!
RIDING THE ROUTE
From the moment we fired up the bikes and rolled out of the first night’s campsite just inside the Namibian border it was clear that riding in this country would be a winner. Starting out with some beautifully smooth and fast dirt roads, we sliced through the harsh and unremitting landscapes of the Fish River Canyon National Park. Mile after mile of incredible riding continued throughout the day as we pressed on towards the coast. The scenery varied constantly, from flat out dirt roads through barren and rocky passes to soft and sandy tracks that tested our riding skills and certainly made sure we stayed wide awake. This was everything we’d hoped for and more.
At the end of the first day’s riding we were delighted to find our overnight stop was just a stone’s throw from some truly impressive and enormous sand dunes. With the kit unloaded, what better way to end off the day than by spending an hour or two on the bikes kicking up the soft stuff and enjoying a spellbinding sunset from the top of the dunes?
But it wasn’t all smooth roads and cold beers as the sun set over the horizon. We encountered everything from impassable dead ends to roads packed with so much traffic it felt like Rome in rush hour, mile upon mile of the worst corrugations we’ve ever encountered and sand, oh the sand! Anyone who’s done any distance on sandy roads will understand how much work and focus it takes to keep the rubber side down! It’s not the deep ruts or even the really deep patches that catch you out – it’s the soft spots that suddenly appear when everything else has been relatively hard. We had some truly bum clenching speed wobbles for sure but thankfully no major dramas.
STRIKING THE BALANCE
Needless to say some of these roads were pretty sketchy and not actually that enjoyable to ride, but that’s the whole reason behind putting in the time on recce rides and actually riding possible routes rather than just planning a tour from a map and a guide book. We definitely want our riders to enjoy a challenge on the tours, but we have to strike a balance between a challenge and re-running the Dakar!
With all of the options considered between the sand and dust in the south, the red dirt and river crossings in the north, the dry heat and even a few unexpected desert thunder showers, it won’t be hard to ensure that the riding we’ll include in our Namibian trips will always be exciting and truly unforgettable.
PITCHING THE TENT
Although our actual tours will always include a wonderful variety of accommodation options from safari lodges to luxury hotels, on this recce we settled on wild camping most nights to ensure we encountered enough of the country without constantly searching for the evening’s accommodation. This turned out to be one of our best decisions, as we found some breathtaking camping spots that offered up truly epic views and incredible stargazing. When you spend your life surrounded by the bustle and noise of a city, sitting under the stars with a cold beer while surrounded by all-enveloping silence is good for the soul.
Of course, when we say wild camping it sounds like we just cleared away a few thorny bushes and arranged the most pillow-shaped rocks to rest our heads. But with the Namibian wildlife not averse to wandering through an impromptu campsite during the night and those wetter-than-expected morning mists, we were pleased to have some help from First Ascent who hooked us up with a few beautifully compact but surprisingly roomy Helio tents. We’ll be doing a separate blog to fully review these tents, but suffice to say that at the end of a long day, crawling into a cosy tent and pulling down the zip is a great feeling!
PLANNING THE FUTURE
So after ten days and over 5600 km of truly awesome riding in Namibia, it’s hard to imagine leaving out any part our journey as even the challenging days just added to the overall experience of the trip. But to put together a memorable tour in this achingly beautiful country, we’ll take the experiences from our first recce, combine it with more research and a couple more recces before we start firming up the final itinerary with the best routes, the most interesting places to stay and the most incredible sights to see.
This is going to be one of our most epic tours and we can’t wait to add it to our ride calendar!
Check out the video from our recce trip below …