Through the Kalahari

Our flight over the Okavango delta was in the morning, so it was later than normal when we finally set off on our bikes. We were headed for Ghanzi, a town in the middle of the Kalahari. It would appear that someone tried to nick some kit off our bikes, but was thwarted, thank goodness, because we had to stop not long after Maun and adjust the fuel bottles that are on the back of one of Glyn’s panniers. One had come loose, which they can’t do of their own accord, and was dangling dangerously close to the ground. Bottle adjusted, Glyn rode off, with my gloves perched neatly on the back of his bike. To be fair, I should have left them on mine, but I was incredibly irritated that I couldn’t get his attention and get him to stop – even when I was jumping around in the middle of the road, waving my arms like a mad thing. I quickly had to jump on my own and ride after him, watching for flying glove objects as I went. Gloves returned, we carried on, being careful to dodge not only the usual culprits (goats, cattle and donkeys) but also being even more wary than normal of anything which might puncture the tyres.

We were about 20 miles away from Ghanzi, passing a tiny place which was not on the map but which the road sign said went by the name of ‘Kuke’. Someone had forgotten to heard their cattle, and they were milling about in the road. I’m not sure why, but Glyn took exception to this state of affairs, more so than normal, and pulled a great big whopping zap sign at the locals who were standing around chatting. He said afterwards that he was just really fed up with their attitude, which I think is a fair point, since cattle are such a precious commodity and a sign of wealth as well. I’d just registered this act of irritation, and was braking to avoid the same herd myself, when my bike made an awful clunking noise. Then, when I came to accelerate away, there was no response. Glyn by now was tootling off into the distance. I tried again, but to no avail. I got off my bike, to have a look, dreading that it was the clutch seized up again – the same as it had done on that muddy road from Moyale.

I was pretty soon surrounded by onlookers who I was very concerned would want my scalp for the way Glyn had just insulted them. However, I soon realised that they had probably not understood Glyn’s insult, as they were far more interested in why I had stopped and offering their assistance, primarily in the form of crowding round to see what was going on. Glyn arrived shortly afterwards, asking what was wrong, and when I said I had no power he got off and had a look himself. Five minutes later, we had figured out the cause of my problem – the nut and washer which hold the sprocket connecting the chain to the drive shaft had rattled loose and eventually fallen off completely. Now, probably due to the force of my braking, the sprocket had become dislodged, and was totally disconnected from the power of the engine.

Our happy helpers in the KalahariAn awful dread flooded through me as I wondered if we were going to be stuck here, in the middle of the Kalahari, with another major problem on our hands. However, thanks to Glyn’s ingenuity, and despite my failure to find said nut and washer, we managed to fix the problem. While I took the local kids down the road with me to search for the nut, promising 20 pula to anyone who could find it for us, Glyn scratched his head and came up with an ingenious solution. Using nothing more than a jubilee clip, he reconnected the sprocket to the drive shaft sufficiently firmly for us to make it all the way to Kang, our stop for the night.

After checkingA wood cabin in the middle of the Kalahari? out the camping facilities at the Kang Ultra Stop, we decided to opt for one of their little wooden cabins rather than camping in the dust bowl that was their camp site. In the evening we had a wonderful time chatting to a group of three chaps who were on their way to Namibia for a week. They were very keen to hear all about our trip, having stopped us earlier at the petrol pump to ask us if we were really from the UK. We swapped stories, and they shared their delicious portuguese BBQ meat with us, so we didn’t have to resort to the old faithful of tinned tuna and tomatoe which had been our plan.

That night, ‘berg pony’ really kicked in. We had been planning on one more night’s stop, but were both equally anxious to get ‘home’ to Johannesburg where we both have family and could obtain those scarce luxuries such as a hot showers, a stationary bed and internet access which we’d begun craving over the last few days. Also, we could collect a few spare parts for the bikes, including the nut and washer which we reckoned they’d have in stock, and do a full service on them both. After dinner, we perused the maps and decided that we would try, if we didn’t see any reason to stop, to get through to Jo’burg the next day.

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