And now the post you’ve all been waiting for, one with a picture of one of the “classic” African animals, in this case, an elephant. In three days, I rode about 800 miles (1250 kilometers) from Windhoek, Namibia to Katima Mulilo, Namibia, which is right on the border with Zambia, separated by the Zambezi River. Below is a map I cranked out quickly — it does not have all of my path included yet.
View Africa II – Jim’s Motorcycle Path in a larger map
As I worked my way north of Windhoek, I started to feel the “real Africa”, as I felt when I crossed from South Africa into Mozambique back in 2000. No more big shopping centers; the predominate roofs were now made out of thatch; people were walking on the road, often herding cattle or goats.
In the stretch from Grootfontein to Katima Mulilo, I basically rode the length of the Caprivi Strip which is a slender finger of land that resembles a match sticking out of a matchbox. I had been told that I would encounter elephants along this section of rode. In fact a guy showed me a video on his phone of when he encountered elephants. As I left Grootfontein, there was a sign that said “Wild Animals Next 190km”. I was excited, but also a bit nervous. There aren’t a lot of motorcycles coming up this way–they’re all doing the Cape to Cairo route (now that it is paved–it wasn’t when I did it!). What if the elephant’s freak out when they see my bright green bike with the unicycle on the back (just as dogs often freak out and sometimes chase me when they see me on my unicycle).
There was every indication that I WOULD see elephants. There lots of signs warning about the presence of elephants.
Then there was fresh elephant dung on the road with some frequency. But the kilometers clicked on and still, NO ELEPHANTS 🙁 My fear of seeing angry elephants turned into a fear of not seeing elephants at all. 50km, then 80km, then 100km–still nothing. Well, not nothing — endless herds of cattle and goats, and the occasional donkeys on the road, but no elephants.
I did my best peer into the bush and spot them lurking, perhaps scared off by the sound of the motorcycle’s whining engine. I rode standing up for miles on end, and Jay and I used to do in South America to relieve the stiffness and boredom of the long, long stretch of road through the Atacama Desert.
150km. 180km. Just 10km to go and I was getting dejected. My friends want to see photos of African wildlife. I want to see African wildlife. Then it happened at kilometer 186 (just 4 kilometers before my opportunity would supposedly end on this stretch of road) — I could see in the distances 4 moving objects that were bigger than any other living creature I had encountered on the road–ELEPHANTS!
I flipped on my helmetcam, and then busted out my camera as quickly as I could. I soon realized that my fears were mislaid–the elephants scurried across the road, obviously picking up the pace in response to the noise my approaching motorcycle made. The bull looked back and watched to make sure his family safely made it across, but before he vanished into the bush, I captured the picture of him below. Remember: THIS IS NOT IN A GAME PARK, it is 15 feet (5 meters) from a public road!