We have nothing against Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, but when you’re stuck there for weeks on end because your motorcycle is broken, all you can think about is leaving.
We had unfortunately snapped our monoshock (rear suspension) when we’d first entered Namibia. We waited for two weeks for our new shock to arrive from Austria, and when it did, we packed up the bike, got on the road, and headed to Botswana when we realized something horrible: the monoshock was not the only thing that needed replacing. The shock’s spring was also damaged, and we would have to turn back.
That meant it would be another week and a half of waiting in Windhoek and paying for repairs and living expenses before we could continue with our African travels.
This was very depressing for us, and it certainly wasn’t a great beginning to the holiday season.
By Tim Notier
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday upon us once again, it is time to start pondering what to get our two-wheeled riding loved ones for Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever gift-giving traditions that the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may have, and even for the atheist in your life that likes receiving gifts on a cold December day.
Here is a brief list for those motorcycle enthusiasts in your life. These are some of our favorite items which have served us well on our round-the-world trip. We are not sponsored by any of the products below, and bought each item ourselves with our hard-earned money. These are simply our fair, honest opinions after putting them through hell over the last two years.
Most people who visit Africa usually go on a safari. And there's nothing else on the planet like it: driving through the flat grasslands of thorny acacia trees, telling your fellow travelers to hush when you think you see something, and then whipping out your camera and holding your breath as a several-ton elephant lumbers out of the trees. It's the stuff of legends.
But there is a high price to be paid.
We were on our way to Namibia's famous red dunes at Sossusvlei when we took a nasty spill and broke our motorcycle's monoshock (rear suspension), which if you're unfamiliar with bike mechanics, is something that you can't just fix on the side of the road. So we had to tow our bike up to Namibia's capital city of Windhoek (which was quite an adventure in itself) and are still waiting for a new monoshock to be flown in from Austria.
While we're waiting, we decided to rent a car here in Namibia to explore this beautiful country. And what a trip it's been!
It turns out that going by 4x4 is the way to see Namibia since most of the country's sights prohibit motorcycles to enter. This is due to a number of reasons (such as lions could chase you, a valid reason I suppose), so in order to see things, we would have had to either join a tour group or rent a car anyway. Even the place we were headed to when we had our accident, Sossusvlei, doesn't allow motorcycles in, it turns out. Maybe this broken monoshock was a blessing in disguise.
Once again we've broken down in the middle of nowhere, this time it was out in the scorching Kalahari desert after a nasty fall into the sand... But let me start at the beginning, and it was a good beginning: the Drakensberg, meaning Dragon Mountains in Afrikaans.
Back in South Africa, these jagged peaks definitely earned their name. Like towering stone monoliths ruling over the landscape from their lofty thrones, they say that it was the scenery of South Africa that inspired J. R. R. Tolkein to create Middle Earth in his fantasy books The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And I certainly agree that there seemed to be magic there, like I could just picture a dragon hiding behind the crags, protecting his hoard of gold and treasure.
The wall of jagged mountains in the distance loomed closer and closer as we rode from South Africa toward Qachas Nek Pass into Lesotho. As our bike climbed in elevation, swerving back and forth along switchbacks, we realized that it was going to be a long time before we'd dip back down in altitude. Because now we were entering Lesotho: the Kingdom in the Sky, a tiny country completely surrounded by South Africa, and a mysterious land of mountains that feels lofty and untouched by the rest of the world.
And despite almost dying on the first day and afterwards Tim coming down with Spotted Fever, Lesotho deeply impressed us, and has become one of our favorite countries.
South Africa's long and beautiful coastline has some of the country's most developed regions, and much of it is filled with busy ports, fishing harbors, and beachside villas. But there is one remote stretch of shoreline where modern development never took hold, and it's appropriately named the Wild Coast.
It's not the easiest place to navigate since the roads there are rugged and don't lead in a straight line, but with a name like the Wild Coast, we knew we had to go. And it turned out to be everything that we've been searching for.
When we arrived at the airport in Cape Town, we were greeted with a huge sign on the wall that said, “Welcome to the Mother City." And as I stood there listening to the cacophony of strange languages being spoken around me, I immediately got the feeling that I had come to a special place, not just Cape Town, but Africa as a whole. I was reminded that it's an ancient land, the birthplace of humanity, mother to us all. Though I'd never been here before, I felt that in a strange way I was coming back to something, even it was just a deeper look within myself.
I always say that the beginning of a journey is full of difficulties and obstacles, hurdles that you have to overcome before the real joy of the adventure can start. And the start to our African journey has been no different, though it's also been peppered with moments of joy and beauty.
For the past few weeks, Tim and I have been making preparations to ship our motorcycle and ourselves to South Africa from the US. The plan is to then ride up the eastern side of Africa up to Egypt, and from there, ferry over to Europe.
We recently shipped our bike from Argentina to the States, and that process was fairly painless, but shipping to Africa has turned out to be a completely other beast. That is not to say that Africa won't be worth all the trouble. I think the moment we take our first picture with our bike and a giraffe standing behind it, all these difficulties will feel a million miles behind us.
Our newest book!
2Up and Overloaded
Get inspired by the tale that started it all:
Interested in overlanding in Peru? Check out our Road Guide to Peru
Subscribe to our Blog by Email