Wheels down

We are back, wheels down, in Brisbane and home after seven months. Weeks have passed since our last blog entry, which was one of the hardest I have had to write. There has not been much enthusiasm to write since our return as we wrestle with trying to make sense of being back home – interesting times…

Let’s step back a few weeks, from Sri Lanka: we flew to Singapore where our friends Michael and Alicia and their two sons, our godsons, now live. Sadly Michael was away on business but Alicia was a wonderful host and we really enjoyed catching up with her and our godsons.

Making Alicia’s famous dumplings


Onwards on the last leg to Brisbane and while our flight arrived at 1:00 am we zipped through Customs courtesy of the express passes from Emirates due to my lifetime Gold status on Qantas. Worth all those hours flying over the years accruing frequent flyer points and status. We arrive home and straight to sleep. The next morning we are up and about without jet-lag, our slow gradual return with three stops has allowed us to adjust our body clocks in a much more user friendly manner. Great to do if you have the time, but impractical for most working people.

Everything is both familiar and new, I have always wondered how our eyes and memory work together, when we were travelling, everything was new, probably making my 20th century brain work in overdrive, now we are back we are overlaying the memory with the current image. Enough science.

The day of our return is Halloween night and Manly, where we live, hosts the biggest Halloween party in Brisbane, culminating in fireworks just outside our windows – just for us of course!!

Welcome home, aka Halloween night, fireworks in Manly


We adapt so quickly: within a few days we are in a ‘home’ routine again, albeit still feeling a little strange. We catch up with many friends which is wonderful and helps ground us. Our life has been moving most days for seven months, to stay put for a period of time is disconcerting, well, for the first week anyway. The exciting stuff, like dentist visits, crashed hard drives and weed filled flowerbeds have been the focus of our efforts.

Welcome home flowers from a dear friend


Enjoying the new local coffee shop with real French croissants!


We are still surprised at how much stuff we have after the simplicity of a single top-box bag, the decluttering process will continue, of that we are certain, however it will have to wait until December as we have a couple of short trips coming up. I know, back a couple of weeks and we will be off again. So much for staying put.

The first trip is motorcycle related. In 2013 just before we left for Europe to spend time with family, we attended a Horizons Unlimited (HU) http://www.horizonsunlimited.com event. That was probably the genesis of our RTW adventures although we did not realise it at the time. We have always wanted to give something back by presenting aspects of our experiences at the HU event but in the last four years we have always been away when the Queensland HU event was on. This year, the HU Snowy event for Sydney and Melbourne riders was scheduled for mid November. We offered to make presentations on ‘Starting a trip on the other side of the world’ and ‘Iran and the Stans’. We knew that it was late, but the Snowy HU organisers said Yes! Anne worked magnificently for a week to prepare two Powerpoint presentations while yours truly took his afternoon naps. Then we are off to the Snowy mountains.

– Anthony

Fish river to the Vaal river

With a new clutch, and you can tell the difference when driving, fuel leak fixed and the handbrake adjusted, we set off westwards from Kolmanskop towards our next destination, the Fish River Canyon. Another well known tourist spot in Namibia, reputed to be the second deepest canyon after the Grand Canyon in the USA. After so much dirt road driving, its quite pleasurable to be on tar again. The temperature rises quickly and we are soon back into the high 30’s after the cool of Lüderitz.

Quiver tree, Namibia

Quiver tree, Namibia


We cross the Fish river and turn south on the C12, the surface seems a little rough for such an important road, but as we progress further south I realise that due to a washout, the authorities have moved the C12 to an adjacent road. The map I used to navigate here is out of date, but the GPS is correct. Always worth cross checking each of the map/GPS sources if you have them.

The fish river canyon is not crowded and we are able to wander along the edge alone surveying the vastness and depth of the canyon. Due to the heat, the Park Authorities have closed the walking trails, not that I would want to walk far anyway.

Looking south down the Fish river canyon.

Looking south down the Fish river canyon.


Looking west over the Fish river canyon.

Looking west over the Fish river canyon.

Breakfast at the edge of the canyon early next morning is our last in Namibia. Coffee and tea in hand, we watch the sunrise, through the clouds highlighting different facets of the rock below us.

Fish river canyon lookout for breakfast.

Fish river canyon lookout for breakfast.


Anyone identify this plant at the Fish river canyon?

Anyone identify this plant at the Fish river canyon?


During some of our travels the road has paralleled railway lines. In the north of the country the railway is used to transport petroleum products to major centres from Walvis Bay. Thus keeping the petroleum tankers off the roads, not a bad thing. We have seen no trains in the south, however we have been told that the Chinese have been rehabilitating the railway from Lüderitz to the junction at Seeheim. We had not seen a single train south of Seeheim, which is the link to South Africa, until we came across a loco and single carriage heading north out of Karasburg.
Engine and one coach leaving Karasburg

Engine and one coach leaving Karasburg


Enthusiastic locals at Karasburg Namibia.

Enthusiastic locals at Karasburg Namibia.


As we head towards the South African border, I reflect on all we have seen and done here in Namibia. We have covered a significant distance, met interesting people and seen a diverse set of landscapes. It would have been nicer to have more temperate weather, but perhaps the remote areas would have been more populated with 4×4 vehicles and then less to our liking. All in all we have had a fabulous time.

We pass Sishen, which is the 11th largest iron ore mine in the world, measured by remaining reserves. Infastructure stretches into the distance. Mining equipment, rail networks, shopping centres and housing. I understand that only 18 years of reserves exist at the current location and wonder what happens if no more commercial reserves are developed?

Sishen iorn ore mine in Kathu, Northern Cape Province

Sishen iorn ore mine in Kathu, Northern Cape Province


Our first rain - with double rainbow

Our first rain – with double rainbow


Leading up to Red Sands Lodge, South Africa

Leading up to Red Sands Lodge, South Africa


Our first destination back in South Africa is Elgro River Lodge, a conference centre and game lodge on the banks of the Vaal river, south of Potchefstroom. Our reason? To attend the 3rd Horizons Unlimited South Africa Adventure Travellers Meeting. Horizons Unlimited (HU) http://www.horizonsunlimited.com is an organisation for motorcycle travellers such as ourselves. HU was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle. This event provides a great opportunity for motorcyclists to meet and exchange information as well as attend presentations and workshops.

Who looks away first loses

Who looks away first loses


Johan Gray - motorcyclist trainer extraordinaire

Johan Gray – motorcyclist trainer extraordinaire


We attended our 1st and only HU event in Queensland a couple of days before we left for Europe in September 2013 and look what happened to us on motorcycles! What we found was an exceptionally well run event by Korbus and his daughter Claudine. We reconnected with Grant and Susan, met a lovely Dutch/Australian couple Richard and Steph just starting their journey from Cape Town to Amsterdam . Oh the memories of starting a long distance trip. We are envious, but so pleased for them. What great adventures await them.
Steph and Richard leaving Horizons Unlimited, South Africa

Steph and Richard leaving Horizons Unlimited, South Africa

We spend a couple of days with like minded individuals who have travelled extensively in Africa and beyond. We enjoyed our time there even though we were not on motorbikes.

– Anthony