Namib desert

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Namib desert

Namib desert
The desert begins behind Rostock

The Namib stretches along the entire coast of Namibia: a desert in the former colony of Deutsch-Sudwest, where between Luderitz and Rostock Heino fans and enduro riders get their money’s worth.

Michael Martin


Freezing wind blows into the open helmets. The eyes blink into the deep winter sun. We drive through the Namib Desert under a steel blue sky. The deep black tar road with the bright white median gets lost somewhere on the desert horizon, behind it lies the South Atlantic, lies Luderitz, our first travel destination in Namibia. Two days ago, Katja and I started our BMW R 1100 GS with still summer temperatures at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, now the heated grips are running at full speed: The icy cold comes with the Bengua current from the largest refrigerator in the world, the Antarctic Luderitz began German colonial history in August 1883. In the evening, the head of the tourist office presented us with an old oil painting showing the Bremen merchant Luderitz, who was the first German to buy land from the Nama people who lived here in this desert bay. Just one year later, the German government took over large parts of what is now Namibia as German South West Africa. Although the colonial rulers only had the say until the end of the First World War, they have shaped the country in many places to this day. Countless German place names are immediately apparent when you look at the map, and the next morning the sun breaks through the dense coastal fog for only a very short time. There is no connection to the north from Luderitz, where huge sand dunes beckon. So back on the tar road and back to the east. Only a few kilometers away from the coast we drive in the glorious morning sun, after a while we turn off the tarred road and follow the small, hardly used track that leads on the eastern edge of the Namib Desert to Helmeringhausen, about 100 kilometers away – a desolate nest that consists of only a few houses. Everything seems dead. At the gas station a German sign: “Beware of the biting dog”. In the hotel across the street, a stuffed giraffe’s head looks sadly at the dusty furniture from the 50s, there is self-crocheted in the toilets. The next day we rush along a solid slope along the eastern edge of the Namib to the north of the country. First through flat desert land, then past rugged ranges of hills. Finally the first red dunes of the Namib appear in the west, shortly afterwards we reach Sesriem, the gateway to the Sossus Vlei nature park. Unfortunately, a detour to the largest sand dunes in the world in the park by motorcycle is prohibited – and any discussion with the ranger is pointless. We have to make do with a rickety off-road vehicle. The piste meanders through a narrow dune valley, after half an hour we reach the Sossus Vlei, a clay pan surrounded by red star dunes up to 350 meters high looking for their own kind. On foot we torture our way up a razor-sharp dune ridge for an hour. A murderous brawl in the soft sand. But the view from above is breathtaking. Sand, sand and nothing but sand, above a deep blue sky, now and then snow-white clouds. And there is an almost eerie silence, except for us nobody can be seen – or heard. Further along the Namib to the north. The country seems to expand endlessly. Only the fences of the huge farms that run parallel to the slopes interrupt the spaciousness. Then change of direction. To the north of the Rostock farm, the piste turns west and crosses the spectacular Kuiseb Canyon, which separates the southern dune areas of the Namib from the now predominant gravel desert, which slopes down to the Atlantic Ocean like a sloping roof. Although there are still more than 100 kilometers to the sea, we can already see the many hundred meters high wall of fog on the horizon, which almost never disappears on the coast. But we are still driving in the blazing afternoon sun. No traffic, no problems with the slopes. Desert can be that simple: As it was before Luderitz, the temperature suddenly drops by over 15 degrees, suddenly a cold wind almost blows us off our motorcycles. It only takes a few minutes and we’re driving in thick fog again. The beauty of the Namib has disappeared, everything looks gray and forbidding. We crawl through the fog for an hour, then suddenly tar, street lights, a roundabout: Walvis Bay. But the largest port in Namibia offers little for tourists. We only stay to refuel. On the coastal road north to Swakopmund, the cars sneak through the fog with their headlights on. The storm whips the spray up to the street, we will soon be soaked. Finally we roll through the wide streets of Swakopmund, in the fog we see ornate houses from the German colonial era – and suddenly we are in front of Cafe Anton. A couple of old women are sitting inside, and under their curious eyes we order Sachertorte and hot chocolates in our dusty and wet motorcycle clothes. A pleasure – despite Heino posters and German folk music. Two hours later we are sitting around a small campfire. All around us, the cliffs of the Spitzkuppe protrude into the starry night sky. In the moonlight we see a wonderful primeval landscape made up of huge marbles of stone, vertical rock faces with steep, curved flanks. Here in Damaraland there are no fences, no prohibition signs, no white farmers. On a good gravel road we get to Palmwag, the last safe petrol station before the Kaokoveld. We play it safe, fill the tank and the two 20 liter canisters to the brim with gasoline, and store 30 liters of drinking water. We look skeptically at the completely overloaded GS: With the driver and passenger, the whole load weighs a good 500 kilograms. The Kaokoveld is the home of the Himba, the last nomads of Namibia. In the west this semi-desert passes over the Namib desert, in the north the Kunene River forms the boundary to Angola. Soon after Sesfontein, the last outpost of the Namibian administration, the slope crosses wide sandy areas. We didn’t expect that in the Kaokoveld. Immediately we are in the sand with the machine. Now the vast amounts of luggage are taking revenge. We can only push up the machine by using all leverage. Get up and continue in the deep sand track. Less than 50 meters further we are in the sand again, then we can make about 100 meters – and there is no end to the sand field in sight. I let the air out of the tires, still the most effective remedy on deep sandy slopes. We laboriously lift the machine up again, but Katja prefers to walk. Little does she know that I can still get a kilometer before I’m back in the sand. When the BMW finally comes to a standstill and I want to drive on, the rear tire is buried in the sand up to the axle. “It’s smoking there,” calls Katja. Immediately the acrid smell of worn clutch linings rises in the nose. We stare at the smoking clutch housing – and hope that the clutch doesn’t burn down completely. Finally, after half a minute, which seems like an eternity to us, the smoke subsides. But we have been warned, because we do not have a spare part with us. We dig out the rear wheel with our bare hands. Suddenly the bare carcass appears. A tunnel has been torn off. How long will the tire last now? We had sent our crossing stripes to Nairobi by haulage company because we had not yet expected tire problems in southern Africa. As quickly as possible, I pump some air into the battered rear tire – and can only get 100 meters. Katja and I have had practice standing up now, but slowly we feel our strength dwindling in the heat. It still takes many hours until we have the ten kilometer long sand passage behind us and the slope allows a moderate pace again. We can finally enjoy the beautiful landscape. The gently rolling giraffe mountains stretch to the north, all around us, black plains without vegetation. The sun has long set behind the hills when we see a couple of huts in the distance: Purros. Immediately in the semi-darkness we are surrounded by Himba nomads, who reserved but friendly offer us a place to camp. Dinner is canceled today, we just want to sleep. Early in the morning we walk through the village. Himba women sit like statues everywhere in front of the earth-colored clay walls of their huts. Her skin, which has been rubbed with a mixture of animal fat and powdered iron-containing rock, shines reddish-brown. They wear loosely falling calf leather skins around their hips, and their arms and legs are adorned with heavy rings. Chains with small leather rags and filigree iron rings around their necks provide information about the size of their herds of cattle. By noon we are back on the road. Contrary to all expectations, the slope to Orupembe is in good condition. But the alleged place is nothing more than a water point. A little girl comes out of the desert with her goats, lets the animals drink and disappears again. We now follow a wide, grassy valley north. Nowhere are animals or people to be seen, the Himba have apparently retreated into the mountains that are slowly appearing in front of us. Soon afterwards we are at the foot of the steep Van Zyl ?? s Pass. We laboriously balance the heavy enduro past large boulders and through tight bends. The barren, hilly country slowly disappears below us until we discover the Skeleton Coast and the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon. At 60 km / h we bump through Ovamboland to Tsumeb. “Best tire in country” is written on a sign in front of a tire dealer for SUVs – and we are now missing a dozen of the tread blocks. But we’re lucky: an employee remembers a motorcycle tire that was never picked up. It will soon be lying on the counter completely covered in dust. It looks tiny, has a street profile, but through the layer of dust we can read “17 inches”. Fits. Admittedly, the new tire looks puny on our huge machine. But it will be enough for the highway towards Botswana.


If you want to travel through Namibia, you have to be prepared for long distances and loneliness: the sparsely populated country is as big as Germany and France put together. In return, the Namib offers unforgettable desert impressions – and sometimes even Sachertorte.

Arrival: In cooperation with Lufthansa, Big Bike Tours offers motorcycle transfers to Windhoek. There and back are to be paid for the transport including the flight ticket for the driver from around 8,450 marks. Information: Big Bike Tours, Geislinger travel agency, Riedstrasse 1, 72351 Geislingen, phone 07433/2491, fax 6421. The Munich company GS-Sportreisen offers round-trip transport for a motorcycle from 3993 marks, depending on its weight. In addition, there are flight costs for the driver (from around 1400 marks). Information: GS-Sportreisen, Nordendstrabe 55, 80801 Munich, phone 089/27818484, fax 27818481. A Carnet de Passage is required for the motorcycle upon entry, which is available from ADAC. Air Namibia offers a good flight connection to Namibia: Three times a week there are non-stop flights to Windhoek, the ticket is available from 1599 Marks per person, depending on the season. Travel time: In Namibia there are good travel conditions all year round. In the winter months from May to August there is almost always a cloudless sky in the southern hemisphere. In the hot summer between November and March, heavy thunderstorms make it advisable to take rain protection with you.Overnight: Camping in Namibia is also possible outside the numerous campsites. The numerous lodges or guest farms spread all over the country offer good overnight accommodation. Information: Namibia Tourist Office, Im Atzelnest 3, 61352 Bad Homburg, Phone 06172/406650. Literature: The currently best travel guide is Namibia by Daniela and Frieder Schetar-Kothe from the Reise Know How series for 44.80 marks. Also recommended: Christian Pehlemann’s Namibia touring manual, self-published for 49.80 marks. In the fall, Michael Martin will publish a new illustrated book: Southern Africa from the Rosemheim publishing house for 49.80 marks. The Michelin map 955 “Southern Africa” ​​on a scale of 1: 4 million for 14.80 marks is a good overview. Shell issues a usable card for the Kaokoveld. These and other maps are available in bookstores in Windhoek. Time required four weeks. Distance traveled 2500 kilometers

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