If I’d imagined an opening paragraph then, it would have been universally encouraging, definitely including the concept, “I’m 68 and if I can do it so can you!”
This trip was, without question, the motorcycling experience of a lifetime, but it was not “soft adventure” travel, and I was about to push my off-road skills beyond their limits.
Why ride Namibia? Famously, Namibia has the highest and most beautiful sand dunes on the planet, as well as the world’s oldest desert. It is an off-roader’s fantasy— 80% of the roads are unpaved. The country is just north of South Africa and has the same iconic animals as the other southern Africa safari countries, including more cheetahs than anywhere else. In fact, in Namibia’s far north is one of the most famous safari destinations, Etosha National Park.
Not only that, but Namibia’s official language is English, and it’s a safe, well-organized country. You’d be hard pressed to find a more enticing motorcycling destination.
Several companies feature motorcycle tours through Namibia, including experienced and reliable stateside outfits. My preference is for local companies, and after researching Gravel Travel I signed up for their “Namibia Special Tour,” which ended up being a perfect choice.
After landing at the airport in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, I was greeted by a guy who was way too cool to be holding a greeting sign in the arrivals area. Andi was to be our guide, and he immediately used his gametracking skills to identify the other 12 Gravel Travel riders among the scores of folks leaving baggage claim after our flight from Frankfurt, Germany.
Ah, the German connection. Gravel Travel is a German and Namibian touring outfit and caters largely to German tourists, with Belgian, Dutch, British, and a few American riders thrown in. Namibia has an involuntary history with Germany that dates from 1884. After World War I, the League of Nations passed Namibia to South Africa, which imposed racial classification rules and eventually apartheid. After decades of guerrilla war, South African rule was completely eliminated in 1994. The country is now described as a stable, multiparty democracy. But a strong German presence remains amicably in the midst of a country run by its majority population.
As it turned out, all the other riders were German, leaving me even more the odd person out than I’d expected. Not a problem! Andi spoke perfect English (as well as German and Afrikaans) and all but two of the others spoke English and went out of their way to include me in dinner conversations and the group as a whole. I was by far the least able rider, in addition to being female, old(ish?), and American, but they continually and without condescension kept an eye out for me. They proved to be great teammates.
Contrary to my chipper preconceptions, which were aided perhaps by some overly welcoming descriptions on the company’s website, this was not riding for the untalented or inexperienced. We started at Gravel Travel’s lodge outside of Windhoek and, after a delicious lunch, were assigned our bikes for the week and taken on a 100 km shakedown ride. We rode Yamaha 650XTs, which Gravel Travel has found to be the most reliable dual-sport for this desert environment. Fortunately, the company offers lowered seat models for folks like me.
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Klim Badlands Pro Jacket and Pant
Many companies offer ADV gear, but when you whittle it down to RTW-expedition-grade quality, only a handful of brands stand up to the test.
YAMAHA TENERE 700
The wait is finally over. The Yamaha Ténéré 700 is probably one of the most anticipated bikes to come out of the Yamaha factory in quite some time. Yamaha teased us with what appeared to be a production-ready model three years ago and every model year came and went without show. We were starting to wonder if it would ever show up on the showroom floor. Well folks, the day is finally here, and it was worth the wait. The middle-weight class has been gaining a lot of attention over the last three years and is likely to be the most popular segment for years to come.
Nonprofits in the Moto CommunityWho Deserve Your Support
The security guard at the gate had a particular look on her face, one I’d become accustomed to over the previous month. I met her gaze with a big, cheesy grin. She looked confused. “What the hell are you doing out here mate, and where the hell have you been?”
Trails End Dual-Sport and Adventure Tail Bag
I’ve said it many times, I’ve never been a big fan of tank bags. However, they’re a creature comfort hard to resist once you’ve ridden with one that’s well designed.
Garmin zūmo XT
Garmin has long been the big fish in the pool of GPS, and their zumo line of products has graced motorcycle handlebars for years.
A REACH TOO FAR
This is not the story I thought I’d be writing when I began my motorcycling adventure on Namibia’s gravel roads.
3 KEYS TO HAVING A STUDENT MINDSET
We all do it. We get comfortable riding what and how we ride. Why bother stretching ourselves? Why try something different, more challenging, and unusual? Because having a student mindset focused on learning and growing will make you a safer rider. And, it’s downright fun!
2020 KTM 390 ADVENTURE
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BACKCOUNTRY DISCOVERY ROUTES MARATHON
It was late afternoon, high on a ridge in the Rockie s, and I must have come into signal range, as my phone lit up with a message. Stopped in the middle of the trail, it indicated that my youngest had tried calling. She wanted me to come home, as she was ill. Although concerned, I also felt relief that this would give me a valid reason to jump ship. Fo r several weeks I’d been riding nothing but gnarly trails day in and day out and had begun to question whether taking on one Backcountry Discovery Route after another was a good idea.
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A WEEK AFTER SHIA LABEOUF’S EX MADE SHOCKING ALLEGATIONS ABOUT HIM, HE’S SPOTTED MAKING OUT WITH ACTRESS MARGARET QUALLEY.
GEOLOGY 101 Columnar Basalt
A distinctive volcanic structure found throughout the world has been given fanciful names: “Organ Pipes” in Namibia and Victoria, Australia; “Kilt Rock” and “Samson’s Ribs” in Scotland; “Giant’s Causeway” in Northern Ireland; “Thunderstruck Rocks” in Romania; “Devils Tower” in Wyoming and “Paul Bunyan’s Woodpile” in Utah, USA; the “Baigong Pipes” in China; and the “Cliff of Stone Plates” in Vietnam. High-resolution satellite images have even shown similar as-yet-unnamed structures on Mars.
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With cruises that visit South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, CroisiEurope shows off the best that land and water have to offer.
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A tool is only as good as the hands that yield it, which likely explains why having the most advanced drone isn’t necessarily the ticket to creating incredible works of aerial art.
A JOURNEY FROM THE HEART OF NAMIBIA TO THE SKELETON COAST IN LAND ROVER’S STUNNING NEW OFF-ROAD CHAMPION
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In 2007, Rhiannon Giddens performed at the Folk Alliance International conference with the aspiring black string band Carolina Chocolate Drops.
The Moment Between Seasons
The trail was crisp. The first snow had fallen overnight, a dusting, not enough to crest the top of my running shoes.