Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 114 - Upington, South Africa, to Karasburg, Namibia

RobT:  We decided we needed to get up early today because we were looking at a 600 km day, including a sightseeing trip to Augrabies Waterfalls and a border crossing.  This is a lot for one day, since border crossings can be time consuming as we learned on Central America.

Our hosts in Upington and Gaby, RobC's wife, suggested we should visit the nearby waterfalls. Since we had not heard of this place before we wondered “How good can this waterfall be?” as we were in the middle of a dry,  hot (38 Celcius - 100+F) and extremely flat land.  We were a little sceptical.  The first part of the ride took us along N14 which followed the Oranje River, through grape country.  Grape vines as far as the eye could see.  One of the main exports here is raisins, so we saw plenty of grapes drying in the sun on concrete slabs.
Raisins at different stages, drying in the hot sun.

 Grape vines in the desert, surrounded by palm trees.

We reached the park entrance and the mist of the waterfalls could be seen from 3 km away.  The river was very high so we were warned that the road in may be flooded and some of the lookouts would be closed.  Luckily, the road was not flooded, but two of the lookouts were closed for good reason, they were under water!  We parked the bikes and hiked to the falls.  Amazing!  The spray off the falls instantly soaked us and the raw power of the water falling over the rocks was awe inspiring.  Our cameras received a good washing too, but still functioned.

Augrabies Falls, quite spectacular.

 RobC standing at the edge.

  Another good shot of the 26 waterfalls.

RobC parked at a quiver tree. The dried leaves of this tree are traditionally used to make quivers by the Bushmen, to hold their poisoned arrows.

The noon shade forms a nice star burst of the quiver tree.
An hour or so later we reached the blacktop and the Namibian border was 60 km away.  The plan was to refuel before we got to the border, but our GPS indicated the next fuel stop was in fact inside Namibia.  This is a little disconcerting when the fuel reserve light goes on. 

We were told that the border officials on the South African side were extremely friendly and the ones on the Namibian side were all business.   In actuality, both sides were extremely friendly and helpful.  We were even allowed to claim a reimbursement on the VAT tax we paid for the BMW services and parts we purchased in Cape Town.  The cheques will be mailed  to our respective homes!.   The crossing was one of the easiest and most enjoyable  we have encounter thus far.  16 km of dry blistering heat separated the two border posts.  It was like someone had turned on a hair dryer and pointed it directly at our faces.

The South African border officials do have a sense of humor. This is the only patch of grass in hundreds of miles.

 The Namibian border

We crossed into Namibia and the fuel stop was right there.  Fueled up, re-inflated our tires, filled the Camelbacks with water and talked to the locals.  Once again, people surrounded the bikes, keenly interested in where we came from and where we were going.  We handed out our cards as well as some drinks to the local kids, who were more than appreciative.  We also found out that the Namibian dollar and the rand are equal in value and the rand is accepted throughout Namibia.  Nice and simple.

Our fuel stop on the Namibian side.

 Passing out our postcards.  They were in high demand by the locals.

No, RobC is not taking one of his power naps ... he's letting some air out of the tires on the gravel.
100 km later we arrived in Karasburg and decided there was no sense in continuing on to Fish River Canyon, as we would get there in the dark.  We found the only hotel in town, a 100-year old landmark with character.  The owners made us feel right at home.  Our room had a bath tub and AC.  No shower, but they let us use one of the other rooms for a shower.  We weren't about to take a “sit bath.”   Yes, we required AC after spending 6 hours in 40 Celsius with full motorcycle gear. 

We also met Francois, a fellow bike enthusiast from Johannesburg, South Africa, who is in the mining industry.  He had just bought a farm not far from Fish River Canyon, where he plans to mine a semi-precious stone by the name of Blue Lace.  He told us that there are only three places in the world where this stone has been found and Namibia is the only one where there is still an opportunity for mining this mineral.  He said that all of his production, about 15 to 20 tons a month, is shipped to China, where the stone is highly prized and said to create peace and tranquility in its users.

Francois confirmed that the gravel roads in Namibia were first rate, as good as any tarred road. They even classify them on the road signs indicated by an alphanumeric designation..  A208, for example, is gravel road 208 in excellent condition.  D334 would be road 334 in fair condition.  It’s like back home during a snow storm  where the snow ploughs come out to clear the roads, here the graders come out after a rain storm and resurface the roads.  Amazing!


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