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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THE YOUNGEST TO TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD? JACK GROVES
In the age of electronics, hyper-communications, and convenience, it’s untrue that the world’s youth have lost the taste for adventure. There will always be an element within the human spirit that demands and grows from new life experiences—an instinct as old as Mankind. And you don’t have to look far to find it.
Alpinestars Tech 7 Enduro Drystar
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SLIDING FOR ADVENTURE
For the last 25 years I’ve been riding off road on everything from a 450cc lightweight to a heavily laden 1200cc adventure motorcycle. Although I was usually able to handle anything through rough terrain at slower speeds, I struggled at higher speeds on loose surfaces. And the biggest pucker moments occurred while approaching tight turns on gravel roads at high speed—barely navigating them safely.
National Cycle VStream Sport Windscreen for Honda Africa Twin
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TIN CAN TO TIN CUP A LONG OVERDUE TRIP
Long before the modern U.S. highway system was built, with rest stops, 24-hour fuel, and every imaginable packaged food choice on hand, there were the “Tin Can Tourists,” the original American motorized overlanders. As early as the 1900s, these wanderers faced many of the same challenges we live with today. But life was far simpler for the Tin Can Tourist traveling dusty, rutted tracks in meagerly powered vehicles, camping off roadsides in canvas tents, and eating cans of beans over Sterno stoves. Fifteen months ago, we sold our house to join this rambling lifestyle.
R&R for an RN IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
A mid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, I needed to find the quiet serenity that comes on two wheels. As a nurse educator in a trauma-based tertiary hospital, I’m deep in the trenches, responsible for disseminating information and implementing health regulations to frontline workers. Inundated with fear from global news, increasing numbers of the infected, lack of resources, and a palpable universal panic as the world began to shut down, I needed to be away from it all for a while.
RAM Tough-Charge X-Grip Waterproof Wireless Charging Motorcycle Mount
RAM Mounts were first introduced in 1995, and over the last 25 years their ball and socket system has become the most ubiquitous way to mount devices wherever you need them. Recently they increased functionality to include Qi wireless charging with the Tough-Charge line of mounts.
HOW TO SURVIVE an Adventure Ride
I’m no expert endurance rider or a professional fitness instructor, but what I can do is ride my motorcycle continuously for five long days and feel physically content at the end of the trip. Okay, maybe after the celebratory beers, I might not feel as good on the morning of the sixth day, but at least my muscles will be relaxed. So, what can you do to prepare for an upcoming off-road adventure to stay strong, enjoy the ride and be able to dismount at the end of the day without calling friends over to pry you off your bike? Here are a few tips from personal experiences that will help you succeed.
Touratech Aventuro Traveller Carbon Helmet
Touratech has a long history of taking great helmets and adding their own features to make them stand apart. Their newest offering, the Aventuro Traveller Carbon, is no different. It’s built upon the Nexx X.Vilijord, a helmet not sold in North America but one that sits at the pinnacle of the Portuguese brand’s line-up. The Aventuro Traveller becomes its own with a full carbon shell, signature Touratech look, and easy accommodation for just about any communication system available.
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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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A JOURNEY FROM THE HEART OF NAMIBIA TO THE SKELETON COAST IN LAND ROVER’S STUNNING NEW OFF-ROAD CHAMPION
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The trail was crisp. The first snow had fallen overnight, a dusting, not enough to crest the top of my running shoes.