Text Ethne Mudge
There are many ways to explore the wonders of Namibia – on foot through the Fish River Canyon, by scenic flight over the Skeleton Coast, in a hot-air balloon crossing the grass plains towards and over the monumental dunes of Sossusvlei, by Uri traversing the sand-sea south of Swakopmund, and by boat in the pristine Sandwich Harbour Lagoon.
However, when it comes to experiencing the landscape intimately, there is something that beats the most trusted 4×4: Africa on a bike.
The day that Vittorio from Avventure nel Mondo and twenty-two other bikers rode into Swakopmund, the adrenalin of the last 4 575 kilometres still clung to them like desert dust.
They had ridden from Lilongwe in Malawi, through Zambia, Botswana, the Caprivi Strip in north-eastern Namibia all the way to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, from where their bikes would be shipped back home to Italy the following day. For some in the group this was their first time in Africa, and they had been able to experience everything – from forest and savannah to desert and ocean.
The thing about riding with a group of twenty-something motorbikers through Africa is that it doesn’t allow for much planning, even with support vehicles at hand, because tyres will fail, thick sand will try even the hardiest traveler, and the availability of petrol is sometimes unpredictable. Having thus abandoned all hopes of a programme and armed with the strong individuality that bikers are known for, the group forged ahead, collecting memories.
Through the fatigue, the campfire stories emerge. Stories of being caught at sunset near a village in Zambia when the locals shared their food and children sang for them. Stories of crossing national parks on transit roads and meeting herds of buffalo and elephant, such as in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, and then of being forced to drive among the animals because the sun was starting to set, and of meeting a group of eight lions in Kafue National Park, also in Zambia. And in Namibia stories of sitting in a boat and looking up at elephants sipping a sunset cocktail of Kwando River water, of finding Bushman paintings at the Spitzkoppe, and of jackals stealing their food in the Etosha National Park.
Permeating most of the stories is the aspect that all this is being experienced from the vantage point of a motorbike where you have the added senses of touch and smell and a greater closeness to your surroundings than a 4×4 generally allows. As Vittorio puts it, “A motorbike is a tool of adventure: on a bike you are alone with yourself and the sun.”
Already planning another trip from Mombasa, Vittorio says they are sure to pass through Namibia again. Besides having the best roads, Namibian landscapes are unique for their light and colour. As though all the talk of fortunately making it to their destinations, of fortunately being allowed to ride across parks, and of fortunately having food carried to their camping spots when lodges were fully booked, doesn’t adequately explain the exhilaration of their trip. Vittorio interjects his own story, musing: “Africa… always very generous.”
Avventure nel Mondo, which started in Italy, has been organising adventure tours around the world for years. Whilst indulging in the thrill of not having a programme, the focus of the adventure is a cultural tour aimed at safety. To find out more, visit their website (http://www.viaggiavventurenelmondo.it/) or join them on Facebook.
This article appeared in the May’12 edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.