It was pretty cold when I made my way to the RSA – Namibian border via N7 in the wee hours. The sun was rising and its shine cast long shadows of me and GD on the deserted road but with very awesome barren mountain views. The beautiful and dramatically geology change at the last few km as I approached the border blew my mind away. I loved this feeling. A feeling which I had longed for since my last long ride in New Zealand a year ago. It’s just me, my bike, the quiet road, and the beautiful view…and nothing else matters…
Border crossing was easy. Once done, I took C13 route as suggested by my advrider friend, Uwe. The view of the barren mountains along the way to Aussenker was very nice. At times, I felt as if I was in Chile. Despite the barren land, there were green vineyard fields which I saw. Workers, loaded at the back of a lorry were transported from their village to the field. Their houses in the village were mainly made from zinc and sticks tied together, and very small. The paved road finished very soon and was replaced by dirt road along beautiful Orange (but blue) River. It was indeed a breath-taking ride on C13. 100 km on dirt (sometimes corrugated) and certain stretches on gravels which I can do 60 – 80 kmh but taking 2 hours to complete due to stopping too many times for pics. However, it was a very hot day and I almost passed out by the time I reached Aus after riding 11 hours under the blazing heat and not so friendly wind.
The next morning, I hit the road at 8am with intention to ride to Sesriem. I rode slowly on the sandy road of C13 while watching ostriches. After 3 km, the ride became tough as there were lots of sand ridges. I didn’t have the skill to ride on soft sands like this. After 1 hour of super slow riding, I only managed to cover 20km. It was 9am and the temperature was already 40’C!!! I began to boil underneath my riding gear. There was no shelter and all around me was sand. The road was so so deserted. For the past hour, I didn’t meet a single soul as yet. It is still a looongg looongg way to Sesriem. The heat at 9 am was already killing me. I wonder how hot it will be at noon?
I stopped my bike and reconsidered the idea of going to Sesriem. Uwe had told me that the dirt road in Namibia could be good or bad, depending on when the last time it was scraped. Obviously this road had not been scraped for quite some time. The sun was getting hotter and I was sweating profusely. I started to feel dizzy and short of breath – symptoms of heat stroke. It’s not wise to take the risk under this heat in this deserted and shelter less place. Who is going to help me if I faint? I don’t want to dehydrate and die in this desert. I need to make a fast decision now. In the end, I made up my mind and turned back. Another 20 km on the soft sands resulted in 2 hours wasted since I started this morning. My new destination now is Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. It’s a long way to Windhoek via B1 and the view was filled with bushes, small trees and beautiful sandy mountains.
Later in the afternoon, I started to feel some wind and decided to stop for lunch at Mariental. I pulled over at a rest area. My butt was so sore and my hands were numb after the long ride without any rest. While enjoying my packed lunch, I saw a barefooted boy running towards me. He sat on the opposite bench and looked at me with his sad eyes. After a while, the boy started to dig into the garbage bin. He found a bottle of unfinished Coke and drank it. He continued digging and later found a milk box. He shook the almost empty box and tore it to enable him to lick the remaining milk. I was witnessing all this as if watching a drama shown on TV. How my heart fell for this boy. Especially when he looked at me again and asked, “Mem, can you buy me some food?” I really couldn’t hold my tears anymore, but I didn’t want to cry in front of him. I hurriedly put on my helmet, opened my top box, grabbed a packet of biscuits and some money and shoved it into the boy’s hand. The boy ran quickly to another small kid, whom I believe was his brother. I continued riding with tears streaming down my cheek recalling what I had just seen. I’m sure this won’t be the first and the last drama that I’m going to witness here in Africa.
It was a struggle to reach Windhoek. The wind, the long straight road, the heat…my lips were cracking all over and felt very painful. However, I can’t miss the opportunity to pose in front of ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ signboard”.
In Windhoek, I managed to report at the Malaysian Embassy. I was received by the Ambassador, HE Hishamuddin Ibrahim, who is a very friendly person. He invited me to stay at his residence which I accepted happily. At the residence, I met his wife, Madam Ida who is a very good cook. I enjoyed a very delicious dinner with the Ambassador family.
I said a temporary goodbye to my wonderful hosts and made my way to Swakopmund, a resort town at the west Namibian coast. The distance from Windhoek to Swakopmund is approximately 360 km on Highway B1 and B2. As usual the road, even though it’s a highway, was always deserted. There were a few roadblocks along the highway though. Nearing Swakopmund, high rising dunes came into view. I headed to Dune 7 via D route. The road was partly under construction. I arrived at Dune 7 which was the highest dune in Namibia, about 383 m in height. Some people climbed up the dune, but not me. I’m too lazy.
I returned to the Ambassador’s residence after one night at Swakopmund. Dinner was fabulous with chicken curry, fried mixed veg, sambal and fruits on the menu. After dinner, I was surprised to see a cake on the table. Madam Ida asked me to sit down. I was confused until they sang me a Happy Birthday song. OMG!!! I felt like crying. How did she know that tomorrow is my birthday? I was deeply touched by this family’s kindness. Thank you.
I made my way to Opuwo. Upon arriving, I was swarmed by the local Himba women, offering their goods which were mainly bead necklaces and bracelets. The women, some topless, some wearing bras, and some carrying their babies in a sarong behind their back, persuaded me to buy their stuff. I scanned my surroundings and got pretty excited. This was the reason why I rode all the way from south to the north of Namibia, almost reaching the Namibian – Angola border. To see and meet the Himba, one of the African tribes who still lived according to their ancestors’ way of life.
Later in the afternoon, I took a stroll and lazed at a bus stop, watching the Himbas and the Hereros, another tribe residing in Namibia. Unlike the Himbas who put on very minimal clothing, the Hereros were stylish. I loved to see the women in their bright coloured gowns with matching hats, walking the street with an umbrella in their hand.
As for the Himbas, there are about 50k of them left in Namibia. The majority of women are topless and they put red ochre cream mixed with butter on their skin to protect them from the unforgiving heat, hence they looked red. They indeed have beautiful skin. They plaited their hair and covered it with clay?? (I’m not sure) but the hair felt very rough like the tail of the horse. It’s interesting to see the different hair plaits style indicating different statuses in their community. Also the accessories they wear, very unique. Some of them walked barefooted and some wearing their traditional sandals made from animal skin. Witnessing all this, I found the significance of a quote from a friend. “You can find Asia in Europe. You can find Europe in America. But you can’t find Africa elsewhere… Africa can only be found in Africa.”
After Opuwo, I rode east heading to Caprivi Strip. The landscape changed from barren desert to more greens. I can see lots of animals drinking water in puddles on the grassy area. I passed lots of small villages. The houses were very unique. As for the locals, the kids wore torn clothes, the men lazed under the tree to shelter from the heat, while the women, mostly barefooted did all the hard work such as carrying fire wood on their head and water buckets in their hand. How unfair.
It took me 3 riding days to reach Katima Mulilo, a small town near the border between Namibia and Botswana. It was a tense ride as now I’m riding in Bwabwata National Park in the Zambezi region which was not fenced. Hence the wildlife can suddenly appear out from the bushes. There were lots of elephants signage, reminding road users to be alert at all time. The first 80 km of my ride today was very very quiet. I didn’t meet any human or vehicle at all. Not even a house or village can be seen. To be honest, I’m scared. Only after riding 100 km, I saw a small settlement of a poor tribe. Their houses were so small. I reached Katima and stayed at a small hostel. I was the only guest here. The receptionist went home at 7 pm and I was left with the security who brought his friend to accompany him. Both of them were drunk that night and they disturbed me. They kept knocking on my door and asked me to join them. I told them that I’m tired and I need to sleep!!! The guys laughed. The disturbance went on until midnight and I only managed a cat nap while holding a knife in my hand, and a pepper spray under my pillow.