SESRIEM TO SWAKOPMUND
The early morning air was surprisingly crisp when we left Sesriem. The road to Solitaire was quiet and good. We made great time and arrived in Solitaire before 10 the morning. The fresh apple strudel was just what I needed and we chilled on the stoep for a while.
Moose was full of stories but (unfortunately for Lisa) most of them had to do with the road to Swakopmund. He was very concerned with the state of it and told us of a number of accidents close by during the last week or two. (One which had a young lady lose control on the corrugated surface, rolling the vehicle - leaving her paralysed from the neck down.)
It was a bad omen and for Lisa, this day was not a good one. The thought of 350km of potentially horrendous corrugation had her all in a twist. The first 30 or so km's was just fine but the road surface started to become a bit looser progressively. The corrugation became deeper and speeding up was not an option.
Like Pavlov's dog, Lisa reacted to the roar of the exhaust as I accelerated to keep the Tiger straight. I realised that she was having an emotional day and tried to keep things as controlled as possible. To make matters worse her knee was aching and standing on the pegs was not an option. We were truly screwed as at the current pace it would take us the whole day to reach Walvisbay.
At an impromptu rest stop, we considered her hitching a ride with the next passing vehicle. However, nobody came past for 40 minutes so we got back on the bike and kept going. It was Christmas Day after all and not many people travel the Namibian roads at the best of times.
Finally, I spotted two vehicles approaching from behind and we flagged them down for a chat. It turned out to be three young couples travelling together in two vehicles from Gauteng for a holiday in Swakopmund. They offered Lisa a ride and she was accepted with relief. With Lisa off the back of the bike, I could finally open the throttle and end the bone-shaking agony.
Standing on the pegs for the next two hours was a joy compared to the torturous bouncing from before! The scenery changed slowly to more flatlands with bulbous rocks shaping the horizon here and there. Hardpack finally followed the loose gravel and I enjoyed some time to take in the amazing scenery.
The desert folded in around us as we came closer to the coast. Cooler air soothed my skin. Then it hit us. The mother of all sandstorms. Thankfully we were less than 10km's from Walvisbay and the dirt transformed into tar right about the same time.
Waves of sand hit me from all angles - my helmet barely kept the grit from my mouth and eyes. Sand dunes formed in the road mutating the blacktop into a gauntlet of haziness.
The heavy Tiger bucked as we hit pockets of air. At some times leaning far into the wind - my shoulder pointing towards the sky. I suddenly felt a wobble and a shake and my heart sunk as I realised what's happening. Here of all places?
The rear tyre is flat to the rim when I stop. I pull my buff over my face and try to find a firmer spot off the side of the road. My little compressor coughs up some sand as he tries his hardest to inflate the flat tyre. No luck - this is serious.
One of the vehicles turned back after they noticed I have disappeared from their mirrors. 'Don't worry' I scream over the roar of the wind. 'I've got everything I need to do a repair here. See you in Swakopmund! They drive off and as I pull out the tool bag my heart sank as I realise the tool to remove the rear wheel was missing - just in time to see my new friends disappear over the hill in the distance.
Contemplating my situation - it was looking bleak.
A few minutes later a shadow fell over me as the two vehicles returned to my plight. They decided they couldn't leave me in the desert under these circumstances. We swiftly cleared the back of the Colt truck and with remarkable ease, we loaded the Tiger on the back. All while the insane wind relentlessly showering us in the desert sand.
As we drove into Walvisbay the wind dropped and sun-swept beaches welcomed us. The dunes were full of people racing around each other on quad bikes and 4x4's.
Our Samaritans took us right to our front door - a cold beer never tasted so good! Did I mention that it was Christmas Day?
Distance for the day: 350 km's
Part 7 - Swakopmund