(For the previous blog of this trip see post here)
Day 5: Fish River Canyon to Upington
Packed up we made our way to the lodge for an early breakfast before hitting the long road to Upington. After another 150km of bad dirt road it was clear that The Todd had taken a real beating. The weight and road conditions pushed the suspension to the absolute limit and on occasion the rear shock “bottomed out” - which cause a lot of strain on the drive chain and I had a feeling we would need to replace it sooner rather than later..
A strong crosswind made the 400km journey to Upington a trying affair. It didn’t help our cause much that it was really, really cold. We managed to stay frozen good and proper during the whole of the day. So much for scorching Namibian heat! The road was long, straight and boring with little traffic. This was by far our worst day of the trip but an unfortunate necessity toward the next destination.
We were both very happy to see Upington appear in the distance. Fortunately we were staying in a beautiful place right on the river and we had a nice relaxing evening.
Day 6: Augrabies Falls
The plan was to visit the Augrabies Falls en-route to our next overnight stop in Calvinia and we got up at 6 am. Watching the sun rise over the Orange river was inspiring and after a good breakfast we packed up and hit the road.
We popped into the local Yamaha dealer and picked up a spare chain just in case. The irony is that we actually added to the weight that caused the problem! However, it did alleviate the crisis slightly.
After the previous days struggle with wind and straight roads, the winding road along the Orange river was a delight. We made good time and found the Augrabies National Park to be fairly quiet. The sight of the great Orange (Gariep) spurting over the edge so spectacularly is truly astonishing! We were really delighted that we made the trip all the way there.
About 20km before Kakamas, on the road from Augrabies, we came across a road sign that announced we are entering a war zone - against chaos, crime, poverty and laziness.
It was put there by Father Aloisius Eckerstorfer of Austria, who came to Namibia in 1965, then moved to South Africa. He helped build the Augrabies Roman Catholic Mission almost literally from scratch along with the founder Father Enrico Balducelli.
As we stopped next to the church inside the encampment all the little children came running out of their classrooms – teachers in tow! They were fascinated by the bike and we received a very friendly greeting from all!
The unusual cluster of buildings that make up the grounds begun in 1952 - and all labelled with the year of their completion - has seen wooden off cuts transformed into mock-Tudor trim, throwaway date palm stumps converted into pillars for a shady lapa, and bricks formed into arched windows for the bell tower.
The centre piece of this is the church itself. We knocked on the door of the presiding Head Nun (as the priest was away) and she showed us around. We were not quite sure how to react when we entered the church and discover a pink-themed hall with Germanic stations of the cross interspersed between thatched pelmets. We were even more startled when she pushes a button and water spouted from between rose quartz rocks into a fish pond on the floor that turns out to be the baptismal font. The push of another button lights up two rose quartz "candlesticks" on the altar. Then she pushed another button and red spotlights bathed her in a rosy glow. We remained poker faced as we bid her farewell. As soon as we as I started the Todd, all the school children came running out again waving us goodbye and breaking out in song! Quite an experience!
The long road to Calvinia starts as soon as you left Keimoes for Kenhardt. Straight and boring as they come. Over 400km’s of absolute nothingness. In Kenhardt we were accosted by a few beggars, got something for lunch and reset the chain’s tension. From there it was a race against the sun. We really try to never ride in the dark but the light was fading fast and the last 100km to Calvinia was a cold blur. We made it there right on sunset (7:30) and booked into our B&B.
Calvinia turned out to be the ultimate choice for bad dining experiences. We had asked our host for some suggestions and we were given 3(!) options. The first place turned out to be closed, the second fully booked (only serving the attached guest house for the evening). The final option was the local hotel. Yikes! What a bad experience that turned out to be! Perhaps they just couldn't keep up with the peak season demand.