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Ω2

Botswana: Elephants on the highway!

   Makgadikgadi Pans, in the area of the Kalahari Desert, was the only place in Botswana that I wanted to visit. With a total size bigger than Switzerland, it’s the largest network of salt pans in the world! Ever since I was planning this journey, I was dreaming of riding on these remote off-road routes and wild camping in this unworldly and deserted landscape.

Makgadikgadi Pans, in the area of the Kalahari Desert, are the largest network of salt pans in the world!

Makgadikgadi Pans, in the area of the Kalahari Desert, are the largest network of salt pans in the world!

   I reached the pans after a full day traveling on boring tarmac. In Mmatshumo I left behind the asphalt and the adventure began… Initially, I was riding through the green bush. At some parts the road was sandy with ruts and I fell once, when I was riding a bit faster than I should. I went on more carefully and it was fine. Whenever I was hitting deep sand, I was riding on first gear letting the motorcycle follow the ruts without taking my feet from the pegs.

Initially, I was riding through the green bush until the salt pans appeared. I had no idea what was coming...

Initially, I was riding through the green bush until the salt pans appeared. I had no idea what was coming…

   At some point the vegetation disappeared and gave its place to the salt pans… That reminded me riding fast my XR in Gujarat, India, on the salt pans which are at the Tropic of Cancer. As I did back then, I opened throttle and found myself speeding towards the open horizon. I reached my usual 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph) and I opened full throttle to go even faster. I enjoyed some ecstatic seconds until… it was time to pay the price. My motorcycle suddenly became unstable and the handlebar was moving violently from left to right!

   I thought instantly that I was riding too fast to save me from crashing and that if I crash in such a speed, I may injure myself. I tried to balance the motorbike as long as possible, in order to gain some precious seconds for braking. The handlebar kept moving from left to right and it seemed impossible to stop that. My speed was down to something around 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) when I did eventually fall facing the ground… I was sliding on the salty soil for a few meters. I immediately stood up thankful that I was not injured! I had never crashed in such a speed.

My motorcycle's handlebar was moving violently from left to right and I instantly thought that if I crash in such a speed, I may injure myself...

My motorcycle’s handlebar was moving violently from left to right and I instantly thought that if I crash in such a speed, I may injure myself…

   I immediately noticed that my windshield was completely broken… It was the first time that even its bracket was broken. Actually, it was a miracle that this windshield had lasted so long. I had replaced it four times in Asia! When you ride rough off-road routes, you cannot have a windshield. But on the other hand, it is very useful when you ride eight hours in a row on paved roads.

A windshield on an enduro bike cannot last long... I had replaced it four times in Asia!

A windshield on an enduro bike cannot last long… I had replaced it four times in Asia!

   Everything was covered on dirt: my motorcycle, my REV’IT! clothes, even my helmet. However, my riding gear had protected me once more… I shook off the dirt from my clothes, took care of my motorbike and collected the windshield’s broken parts from the ground. I continued more carefully. The ground seemed solid but at some parts the wheel was digging the surface and there was soft soil underneath. That’s why I had lost control of my motorcycle when I was speeding.

   I could see the sun setting on the left hand side, so I rode to the bush and set camp. I was cooking in this quiet and unworldly scenery while stargazing at the Southern Cross, which I learned how to recognize on the sky of the southern hemisphere. The indigenous tribes of Botswana used to see the Southern Cross as two giraffes.

The Southern Cross (on the top, the one which resembles a kite) keeps me company during the quiet nights in the nature of the southern hemisphere...

The Southern Cross (on the top, the one which resembles a kite) keeps me company during the quiet nights in the nature of the southern hemisphere…

   The next day I carried on hoping not to face any more challenges. However, the salt pans were full of surprises for a two-wheeler… The ground seemed dry and solid but it was not. Its surface was covered by a layer of slippery mud that knocked me down twice. Before I could even realize what was going on, I found myself sliding on the mud again. I was as dirty and muddy as a pig! The tyres had been transformed in a rotating mass of mud. My left aluminum pannier fell off the bike again. I was hitting its bracket to make it as straight as possible and put it back in place. My feet were so slippery that I could not stabilize them in order to lift my Baobabis. I had to unload some of my luggage.

These salt pans are full of surprises... The mud looks dry but it's not!

These salt pans are full of surprises… The mud looks dry but it’s not!

   I finally reached Kubu Island, a rocky island full of baobabs in the middle of the salt pans! I lied down to rest underneath a tree enjoying its shade while gazing at the wild scenery above me… After circumnavigating the island on my motorbike and explored it, I went on with my route heading north.

 Kubu Island is a rocky island full of baobabs in the middle of the salt pans!

Kubu Island is a rocky island full of baobabs in the middle of the salt pans!

   Happily, the rest of the riding was not in salt pans but on dirt roads with some sand and stones in a few parts. The sand wasn’t deep, so I could easily ride on 40 to 50 kilometers per hour (25 to 31 mph) between the grass. This went on for hours and of course, I didn’t see any other vehicle there. Before exiting the salt pans, I set camp since I wanted to enjoy this scenery for one more night.

Happily, the rest of the riding was not in salt pans but on dirt roads with some sand, where I could easily ride on 40 to 50 kilometers per hour (25 to 31 mph).

Happily, the rest of the riding was not in salt pans but on dirt roads with some sand, where I could easily ride on 40 to 50 kilometers per hour (25 to 31 mph).

   After that, I headed north. On my way from Nata to Pandamatenga it felt like being on a safari by my motorcycle, which is unbelievable, since it’s strictly prohibited wherever there are wild animals! However, in that area there are no fences. I saw many times, just next to the road, elephants, giraffes, warthogs and impalas. It was unique to feel that I was in pristine nature and I was riding next to those untamed animals…

Motorcycle safari! I was riding next to elephants, giraffes, warthogs and impalas!

Motorcycle safari! I was riding next to elephants, giraffes, warthogs and impalas!

   I finally reached the place where four countries share a border: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. You can choose whichever you like! I chose Zimbabwe, since I had already visited all the other countries.

 

More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

 

Παρουσιάσεις

Κοζάνη
Σάββατο
30 Νοεμβρίου 2019, 20:00
Όμιλος Δικυκλιστών Κοζάνης
1ο χλμ Κοζάνης - Κρόκου

Kozani

 

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