NAMIBIA: the kingdom of sand
One of our favorite countries in Africa was Namibia! Originally we didn't even have a plan to visit this country of vast desert on the west coast of Africa, but as we got closer to it, we started thinking that it should be an interesting experience.
But to be able to enter Namibia as a Lithuanian, a visa is required and it must be obtained in advance! Lucky, since we also had to get a visa for South Africa, we stopped in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia and took our chance in the High Commission of Namibia. According to their policy, they should only handle the visa applications of Zambian residents in Lusaka, but they made an exception for us and a few days later, we were ready to go!
And boy did we enjoy our time in Namibia! Even the fact that the generator of the blue F650GS was barely alive all through our time there and we were dealing with the flat battery issues every day in Namibia did not make the experience less enjoyable!
Maybe we loved it so much because of the emptiness of the desert - we have gotten pretty tired of constant attention and the crowds of all the previous African countries and it felt so good to be able to simply stop at the roadside to enjoy the view, take a sip of water, make a few pictures or even fly the drone and not have a crowd of people gathering around to watch us. Maybe it was because it challenged us to the limits - we have spent days riding in the desert, on the sandy gravel roads which would turn into terribly corrugated washboard or suddenly become soft because of deep sand and we had to adapt in a mere blink of the eye in order to keep our heavy loaded bikes upright and on the road. Maybe it was because of the surreal colors we were surrounded there every day and every night (we will never forget the incredibly starry nights in the desert). Whatever the reason - we remember our time in Namibia as absolutely fantastic!
But as I've already mentioned, Namibia wasn't all fun and games. The "interesting" part started right after we have entered Namibia from Botswana near the Caprivi Strip. The blue bike refused to start after a short stop at one of the campgrounds to check the prices and availability... We suspected that the battery connection might have gone loose as it did once some time ago in the wilderness of Patagonia... But the wires were tightened perfectly - no signs of bad connection. The owner of the campground lent us a battery charger and it showed that the battery was flat. It must be the generator - we thought. But there wasn't anything we could do, so we decided to charge the battery over the night and push towards Windhoek, were we hoped to find a mechanic who could help us.
In Windhoek we did indeed come around a great mechanic Dieter, who works at the BMW dealership and runs an amazing BMW Motorrad workshop there. He did the regular service for the F800GSA (we had to stick to the official dealers for regular maintenance due to the BMW warranty we wanted to keep), and after doing the computer diagnostics on F650GS, confirmed that the generator is barely alive. The power that it supplied was merely enough to keep the bike going, but every time I'd use the starter, it would drain the battery until after a few starts it was completely flat...
Linas consulted google and found some forums online where riders complained that those early models of F800 and F650 series were prone to have their generators overheated and the stators would then get burned. Probably the loose battery connection back in the days in Patagonia did not do any good to that generator either... So we needed to have the stator replaced or rewired, but according to Dieter, it was a difficult task in Namibia. On the other hand, the good news was, we only had 2000 kilometers to go till we reach Cape Town in SA and that is the place of possibilities in Africa, where we would definitely find a solution to our generator issue. We could even reach Cape Town in 1500 kilometers ride if we'd take the main road, but no way we would miss the Namib desert experience - even with a dead generator! So we turned west, towards Swakopmund and south from there, into the sandy vastness of Namibia!
Linas joked that one of our bikes is a hybrid now, since we had to find a place where we could charge the battery every night and then calculate carefully the amount of chances we had to start the engine. We would sometimes use an opportunity to roll downhill instead of using the limited power to spin the starter or we would tie the bikes by the rope and Linas would pull me to start if the battery got completely drained in the flat area...
To save the battery power we replaced the lightbulb in my headlight with a burned out one, so that the headlight would not use the electricity. But to make things even more fun, it caused another "adventure" by itself! It was already a few hours as we were riding on a very corrugated part of the road when I smelled something burning. "Do you feel that smell?" - I asked Linas over the helmet intercom. "Yes, some flowers are blooming. A very nice smell, isn't it?" - he replied. I slammed on brakes and told him to do the same immediately. We stopped and then suddenly he could feel the same odd smell too. "Somebody is burning the wires" he concluded. It would have been pretty normal elsewhere in Africa, where life happens everywhere and the smell of burning pile of trash, somebody's kitchen fire or the producers of coal could have been felt in any place. But as we looked around, it was obvious - there are none of these anywhere near - we were in the middle of the desert where not a single bush would have hidden a person, burning something... Everything was flat and empty. "Maybe it's a factory?" - Linas made a second guess. We looked around again. The sky was perfectly clear and the horizon all around us was completely unspoiled by any kind of building... not even a hill or a tree! So it was obvious that that something which was causing the smell, was on one of our bikes. Everything seemed fine with them as they stood in the middle of an empty gravel road. We went sniffing them and soon discovered that it was actually the lightulb in my headlight! The tiny wires inside it got connected (probably due to vibrations caused by the road corrugations) and the short circuit melted not only the metal part of the bulb, but also the wires and burned a big black hole in the reflector. Lucky I smelled the process before it got any worse - we did not have a fire extinguisher, there was definitely no source of water anywhere near us and we barely had one liter of water for drinking for both of us (not very smart when crossing the desert, I know...).
Lucky all ended well and we could soon continue further into the desert. Our Motoz Tractionator GPS tires at that point had almost 20 000 kilometers on them, but they were still holding well on sandy gravel road as well as in sections of soft sand.
The days there were absolutely unforgettable! Wild horses and oryx wandering around would keep us company during the day and wild zebras would visit us at night as we camped under millions of stars shining down on us from the dark sky, undisturbed by any light from the Earth. The silence of it all, mixed with pleasant gentle gusts of wind and the magical terrain will stay in our memories forever!
We were very lucky to have found places to stay at night with possibilities to charge the battery of the poor blue bike which now not only had no power to start, but also like a pirate, had a big black hole instead of the silver reflector in its headlight...
One day, as we were approaching the town called Grunau, not far from the famous Fish River Canyon, dark clouds gathered in the sky and it broke down with pouring rain! There was nowhere to hide from it, so we pushed further until we rode into a farmer's backyard, all soaking wet. The farmer himself was luckily near the window. He saw us coming and directed us to park under the tin roof next to his cars and tractors. He invited us inside, offered hot coffee and told us about life in Namibia. As we were talking, he kept coming back to the window to enjoy the view of pouring rain - apparently they had a serious drought since last year, when they barely had 40 mm of rain throughout the whole year! But just on that day, according to what he measured, even more than 40 mm of much needed water fell on the ground. We joked that as we are from Lithuania, a country that is called LIETUVA in Lithuanian language, which translates into something like "RAIN_LAND" it might be the reason we have brought rain for his farming land :) And yet again we got lucky - not only we were right on time to reach his farm as the small sandy road leading to it was soon flooded by the flat stream of roaring rain water river, we could once again charge the battery under the tin roof and were allowed to even pitch the tent next to our bikes on the dry ground and not have to worry about drying it the next morning.
Finally, after visiting the enormous Fish River Canyon and staying one more night under the friendly farmers' tin roof, we packed our stuff and prepared to cross the border and continue into our final country on this continent - South Africa. By that time we only had possibility to start the blue bike twice before the battery would get drained, but still in high spirits we continued riding south.
Here's a short video we have compiled from various shots we did in Namibia. Hopefully it can transmit at least a bit of the taste of the magical vastness of Namibian desert.