Trip Report- 22 Day Victoria Falls Tour 2019
A lucky Break
I love riding motorcycles, I will ride them at any chance I get! Now you would think that because I co- own a motorcycle touring company that i am always out riding?!
This is not the case.
I have begged and begged my partners at Sama Tours (Darryl and Jonathan) to let me guide a motorcycle tour, but they have always insisted that someone needs to stay in the office to do all the important work. (Read- the hard work!)
This year I got lucky. Over the easter weekend Jonathan broke his arm! His unlucky break was my lucky chance to guide my first motorcycle tour and due to all our other tour guides being otherwise employed, it was decided that I would guide the Victoria Falls Tour in May 2019
You will always remember the first time, and I am lucky that my first time GUIDING include such an awesome and understanding group of clients. They went easy on me and riding with them was like riding with a group of friends. We had Christine from Germany- her normal riding includes tearing up the tarmac all over Europe and her cornering skills are top notch. Then we had Dee and Rick from Minnesota. Rick is a “Die Hard” Sturgis Fan and has attended up to 40 Rallys in the black hills. Dee is a super fit Mamma Bear and the crazy, fun one of the group- always smiling and always up for an exciting off road route. Our support driver was Clayton- a local South African fun loving guy with a great sense of humor- he had us in stitches many nights
Lets Start at the Start- Botswana
Starting on a chilly and cold morning at Dinokeng we made our way to Botswana. Botswana is a fascinating country. It is so dry and flat, in fact it is home to the worlds largest salt flats (by some accounts) The highlight of Botswana for me was definitely the people. On our second day in the country- we were hot, tired and thirsty. We made a stop at a local bar to buy some ice cold coca cola. The local guys were milling around looking bored. But “lo and behold” in this tiny bar in the middle of nowhere there was a pool table and a jukebox. One “2 Pula” coin later and we were singing on the top of our lungs to ” I would do anything for love” while being severely at beaten at pool by the local guys. Their prize for winning- ice cold beer! Needless to say- it made their day when we lost!
Sundowners and Elephants
After a quick stop and a look around at the Makgadigadi Salt pans we rode another 300km up to CHOBE National Park. Here we boarded the Sunset Cruise on the Chobe River. Cold Savanna Cinder in Hand, the sun warm on our backs we enjoyed what I have come to know as the “Best Safari in Africa” The boat glided effortlessly through the water. We saw elephants swimming across the river, little baby elephants sliding around in the mud, hippos grazing in tall green grass and a multitude of bird life. We got so close to the crocodiles that they could have bitten our toes off. As the sun started to set it turned the river paradise, bright hues of orange and pink- this was total bliss! Another great day in Africa
Jetboating across the Zambezi
The next morning we were picked up for our transfer to Victoria Falls in Zambia. As you get to the Zambian border you see a line of trucks (about 5km long ) all queuing for weeks on end to cross the ferry into Zambia. Not us- we whizzed to the front of the line and boarded our own private boat and zipped across the river. From the boat we could see the new bridge being built – a massive feat of engineering that will only be ready in 2020. The new border bridge between Botswana and Zambia would mean so much for opening up the transport routes through Africa and I am sure those truck drivers will be much happier. On the other side of the river we could tell immediately that we were in a new country. We saw fisherman fishing right off the dock and locals drift by in traditional wooden canoes. The border was a hive of activity- sim card salesmen, illegal cash ex-changers and fruit and vegetable stalls lining the road.
Welcome to the Smoke that Thunders
We drove further through Zambia to get to our hotel- Avani- located right in the National Park surrounding Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is known to locals as the “Smoke that Thunders” . It is the widest waterfall in the world and the sheer amount of water falling over the edge forms an almost permanent cloud of mist above the falls. Our hotel was welcome oasis- after checking in we were excited to see a group of Zebras walking around right outside our hotel room!
A quick change into shorts and some flip flows, I walked the short distace to the Victoria Falls view site. No matter how many times I see the falls- it never ceases to amaze me. The first thing that happend was that I got completely soaked from head to toe! Mist and rainbows everywhere.
The other thing was that I kept being asked to pose in photos with the local Zambian people. I don’t know if it was because i was a “Western” women alone so I looked approachable, or because I am Ridiculously Good looking? (I rate the second one) but at every view point, I had crowds of local Zambian kids asking me to be in their photos. I spoke to a few of them- most of them from Rural Zambia – and this was their “once in a lifetime” school trip to see the Victoria Falls- They loved practicing their English with me and I was truly humbled by the experience.
Real Biker Girls Jump off Bridges!
As you know Girl Bikers have a whole new level of True Grit. If its not enough to ride motorcycles in a foreign country, the ladies on our tour (Di and Christine) decided that they would like to also throw themselves off a bridge. The whole group got together on our rest day and we walked to the Victoria Falls Bridge- also known as “The Most beautiful border crossing in the world” Here the ladies strapped themselves up into body harness and did the Bridge Swing- jumping of the Victoria Falls bridge and experiencing an 80 Meter free fall before swinging like a human pendulum in a huge arc with the cascading waterfall rumbling to their side. We were so impressed that they did the jump, and Di’s husband seemed very glad that his wife climbed back up onto the bridge unscathed. That night we went out to a local bar in Livingstone to celebrate
On to the Okavango Panhandle
After an awesome rest day at the falls (Enjoying full body massages with river views and helicopter flights) we continued our journey on-wards into Namibia. We spent the whole day riding through the Caprivi Strip- a thin passage of Namibian Land between Botswana and Angola. As the Sun was setting, the desert landscape changed and we started to see the Okavango River Valley- Cows grazing and small African villages dotting the horizon. We made our way to our lodge right on the Okavango River. We celebrated the end of a long days ride with a cold drink on the deck overlooking the River. A hippo grunted below and a Mokorokoro (African Canoe) drifted on by. The next morning we were up early for our own Mokorokoro trip on the Okavango. We had a local Namibian “Poler” who expertly used a long thin pole to propel us forward as we made our way to Poppa Falls. This wasn’t a typical waterfall- but more like a group of Rapids surrounding a small island.
Later that day we enjoyed a braai (bbq) at the Island. You cant normally swim in the Okavango Delta (There are way too many things trying to kill you or eat you including hippos) But the sheltered inlets of rapids on the Island made for a protected swimming hole. We enjoyed a natural Jacuzzi while the meat cooked on the open fire. The owners had a golden Labrador that joined us on our outing. He entertained us greatly- swimming with us and attempting to “fish” in the small pools. Well our hosts served us drinks and tasty boerewors (Spiced Sausage) while we relaxed in the rock pools
The northern parts of Namibia are very sparsely populated and the people live right on the poverty line. We saw some amazing ingenuity as the locals have found ways to survive in their harsh environment with very little. Some local guys have devised a simple way to transport heavy loads. They carve miniature Mokorkoro’s (Canoes) out of wood and these are filled with fruit, vegetables and wood. They then attach “Canoes” to a yoke which pulled by oxen along a sandy track next to the road.
Leaving Okavango behind, we made our way across Northern Namibia Etosha National Park for a couple of days. We enjoyed an early morning Game Drive into Etosha National Park which was a major highlight for us as we saw Lions and a great White Rhino right in the road.
Sand, Sand and More Sand
Next up we traveled down to Swakopmund. Located about 300km from Windhoek (The Capital of Namibia) Swakopmund is weekend playground for the city people. Local Namibians flock there on their weekend in huge 4 x 4’s to ride the Big Sand Dunes surrounding the area and to go out Deep Sea Fishing. On our first night we ate out in an old Tug Boat that had been covered into a Restaurant. The Seafood in Swakopmund is world class and our meal in the TUG was one of the best of the whole trip.
The next day we took a ride down to Walvis Bay, had lunch in the harbor overlooking the seals and flamingos and then made our way to the Famous Dune 7. This is one incredible Sand Dune. From the road you can see people clambering to get up. With Sand Dunes you always seem to take one step forward and 3 steps back. We decided to skip the climb and ride Quad bikes instead! Off we whizzed into the Desert- as we went along the Dunes got higher and higher as we laughed and played- enjoying steep drop offs and a cold drink in the middle of the Dune Field
Old Joe’s Beerhouse
Leaving Swakomund behind we made our way to the Capital of Namibia- Windhoek. Here we met up with Jessica- A German girl who now calls Namibia home. She is a fellow GS girl and on weekends can be found tearing up the Dirt roads on her R1200GS adv. Jessica is the German representative of Sama and join us on tour for the next few days. She took us to the Local Windhoek hangout- a bar called “Old Joe’s Beerhouse” Now this was a cool stop. The whole bar was packed with locals and interesting decorations such as old toilets seats that have been converted into bar stools and thousands of empty jagameister bottles. There menu was an eclectic mix of great pub food and some local african delicacies like springbok and orynx steak. At any time of the day or night Old Joe’s beer house is pumping with people- a mixture of tourists and the local Namibians.
The first mountain road in Namibia
As you have probably gathered by now- Namibia is a desert- and all the roads are dead straight. Up until now we had not experienced even the slightest of curves, but as we left Windhoek the scenery changed- we past through a beautiful mountain pass into the Auas Mountains and past the beautiful Heroes Acre monument. glowing golden in the distance. The sun was starting to hang low in the sky- turning the mountains beautiful hues of green and brown. Our German Ladies were at home in the corners from their experience riding in the Alps- so we could see the pure joy in their riding as they leaned into the corners.
That afternoon we arrived at our Lodge on Lake Oanob. Our lodge was situated in a Nature Reserve overlooking the lake. Everyone was spread out in brick style chalets with thatched grass roofs and amazing lake views. The chalets all have remote locations- so we needed to use our 4 x 4 back up vehicle to get to them. We enjoyed taking a little hike to the main compound for dinner- along the lake shore, over rocky outcrops. The moon was full in the sky. Lake Oanob is home to rare antelope species such as the black Orynx which are kept in special camps that we can see from the trail. We enjoyed dinner in a fabulous restaurant located on the water- and later Clayton drove us back to our stone cottages. It was quite a lot of fun 4 x 4’ing in the dark after all the passengers had a few glasses of wine. Lots of giggling- as we tried to keep our “Takeaway wine glasses” from spilling over on the drive.
And on into the Desert
The next day was truly the highlight of the trip for me. Being a GS Rider, I live for riding dirt roads. After leaving Lake Oanob behind we made our way to Keetmanshoep. This town is famous for its wild horses and we even saw a few of them on the side of the road on the way into town. Wild Horses weren’t the only strange things we saw on the trip through Namibia. We also saw hundreds of Warthogs. These “Kamakaze Pumbas” tend to burrow in the dirt next to the road. As we progressed South through Namibia we saw hundreds of them running along side us. The big mamma pig would run in the front- her tail standing up as a type of flag for her young piglets to follow as they ran for cover.
After Keetmanshoop- the dirt roads began. The dirt roads in Namibia are great wide open “Gravel Highways” that stretch as far as the eye can see. We slowly made our way to Fish River Canyon. En-Route we stopped for a photo shoot at a low level bridge that made for a cool water crossing. We also stopped promtly when we saw a sign advertising “The best Apple Crumble in the world” It was at a funny little farm stall type place with quirky desert decorations, rusty old cars and quiver trees. The apple crumble was delicious and the owners were lovely, warm and inviting, telling us funny stories which we washed down with good coffee. As the sun set the rocks become a fiery orange and red color- zebras galloped across the road, and we followed a smaller road between quiver trees, cactus and boulders- leading to the most beautiful lodge I have ever stayed at. Canyon Lodge is located in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by huge boulders. in fact some of the chalets are built in and around the boulders. It is such a unique and special place. As the last rays of light disappeared into the horizons i just stood on the balcony- admiring the vast expanse of Nothingness.
Some Riding, Some Hiking and a Boulder Bar fridge
The next day we had a rest in this spectacular location- a bunch of the girls decided to go for a hike up into the Koppies (Rocky Outcrops) surrounding the lodge, it was an amazing way to get a birds eye view of the lodge in amongst the boulders. We also saw incredible bird life and beautiful quiver trees, while learning all about the poisonous cactuses that bushmen used on their arrows to hunt game.
On return to the lodge we jumped on our bikes again and enjoyed a gravel ride out to the Fish River Canyon View site. The Fish River Canyon is the 3rd Largest Canyon in the world, and a pretty impressive site to see. The view site is also the start of a famous 5 day hike that takes you down into the canyon where you walk along the dry river bed for 85km,
We spent the rest of our afternoon at Canyon Lodge, relaxing. Some of us enjoyed a swim in the rock pool and others headed up into the Boulders to enjoy a drink, they have a fridge in the boulders hidden in a rock on top of the koppie! A perfect places to watch the sun go down and the moon come up.
An intruder in my room
By now we were heading into the final days of our trip. We travelled back into South Africa again and made our way through the one horse town of Springbok to Citrusdal. Citrusdal is famous for its hot springs. We arrived mid-day and I booked myself in for a full body chardonnay massage (Amazing) As I was changing for the massage, I glimpsed to my right and thought “There is someone in my room” I looked again and i saw a huge grey babboon walking into my room. Luckily I have perfected my very firm command of “Outside” to my dog at home, and when I screamed it at the baboon, he very quickly retreated out of the room. After that I quite needed a de-stressing massage! The massage was followed by an awesome soak in the hot pool surrounded by mountain, it was absolute bliss- and a great way to relax all my motorcycle riding muscles after 4000 km or so through Botswana and Namibia.
Riding Route 62
It was another chilly morning as we made our way to the start of the Garden Route. We rode high up into the mountains over the Bainskloof pass- this was an exciting pass with formidable black rocks, tight turns and breathtaking views.
We then joined our famous Route 62- this is South Africa’s answer to Route 66 in America. It is a fun ride and we followed it through the small Karoo towns, stopping at the Country Pumpkin for lunch. They were giving out free fruit liquor which we politely declined. We had our normal stop at Ronnie’s Sex shop (for milkshakes, not anything else) and we arrived in Oudtshoorn in the late afternoon. Our favorite guest house in South Africa is Adley house. This old school – Cape Dutch Style white building with a wrap around patio along with fluffy duvets, and cozy antique furniture is always a welcome oasis.
Ostrich Massages and Elephant Hugs
Oudtshoorn is the Ostrich Capital of South Africa and a day in Outdshoorn would not be complete without a visit to an Ostrich Farm! Cango Ostrich Farm offers a great tour where you learn all the ins and outs about ostrich farming in South Africa- you get up close and personal with the ostriches as you feed them while they give you a neck massage with their incredibly strong necks.
The group really enjoyed a visit to the Ostrich Farm and then a bit later they went on a Cave Tour at Cango Caves. On their way back – I met them at Buffelsdrift where we had booked the late afternoon elephant experience. I have done a few elephant experiences in my life, but this one was truly special. Buffelsdrift is a beautiful lodge, it consists of raised wooden walkways and chalets joining a restaurant and chalets all overlooking a waterhole surrounded by wildlife. The guide introduced us to their 3 Charming orphaned elephants. He explained that is keeping with animal rights, they no longer allow people to ride the elephants. Finally it was my chance to go up to the elephant and feel her leathery skin. As I was posing for a photo- she suddenly pulled me in with her trunk wrapped around me! At first I was afraid but then the guide explained that it was just an elephant hug! It was the best feeling, especially when all 3 of the elephants pulled me in for a hug at the same time. I really enjoyed this particular elephant experience because it was very personalized. We were the only clients there at time and we really got to know the elephants, we had the guides all to ourselves and they shared their funny elephant stories with us, apparently it is not that easy being an elephant mom!
Onto the Southern Most Tip
It was time to head to the Southern most tip of Africa. We started our journey with a trip down to Mossell Bay where we enjoyed some coffee on a beautiful beach and saw a famous sea cave. We then continued to Cape Agulhas. This is the Southern Most tip of Africa- and always a great place for a photo shoot, as you celebrate the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans Meet. Here we enjoyed another great seafood lunch at a beach bar with our feet in the sand. In the late afternoon we rode into Hermanus. The sheer mountains surrounding Hermanus have their own unique Cape Fynobs vegetation with small colorful shrubbery. The air is always a silky mist of salty air coming off the ocean. We spent the evening at Windsor Hotel- a classic and charming grand old hotel situated on the sea cliffs. There is nothing better than sitting in their bar sipping a glass of wine, while the waves crash outside.
Our last day involved an early morning stop at Stony Point to say hi to our favorite Penguins. These penguins live on the beach and create nests in the dune vegetation. We saw many fluffy young penguins cowering for cover in the shrubbery. I love watching the the penguins fishing. They stand on the rocks waiting for the exact moment a waves comes up and then the jump in and dive down to catch the fish. They also have to wait for the right moment to get out of the water…. they always seem a bit like they are drowning at they have large bodies and tiny little flippers which the paddle like MAD to get out of the water. Afterwards they stand on the rocks flippers out, sunning themselves to warm up again.
A sweet end to an amazing ride!
The rest of the day was spent riding beautiful coastal roads into Cape Town. We stopped to see Just Nuisances grave overlooking Simons Town and also at Cape Point to marvel at the Cape Peninsula. All in all it was a grate day with beautiful coastal views everywhere we looked!
It was bittersweet pulling into our Cape Town Hotel- We were glad that we had made it all the way to Cape Town- with over 6,000km of riding. We had battled Hot desert roads, some high speed winds, Kamikaze warthogs, Corrugated dirt roads. Did I mention that Clayton (Our Back up driver ) got two punctures in the Fish River Canyon? It wasn’t always easy going, being on a motorcycle for 22 Days is a challenge. Every day your exposed to the elements- Sun, rain and wind – your body takes quote a knocking! I guess that is all part of it all. Imagine how boring a bus tour would be! I really felt such a sense of accomplishment that we made it, and as I fell asleep that last night I felt such a nostalgia wash over me. All the laughs that we had shared, our picnic lunches on the side of the road and all the incredible places we had seen all came rushing into my mind in full technicolor- A LIFETIME of memories, that I will treasure forever.
Map of our Route
Total Km Ridden: +-6200km
Countries Visited: South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia
Days Riding: 15 Days
Rest Days: 5 Days (Plus and Arrival and Departure Day)
For more information on the 22 Day Victoria Falls Tour- please visit our Tour page
Nicole our Marketing Manager Extraordinaire guided her first motorcycle tour in May 2019- This is her story!