TAN’S VIEW: The roads in the north of Ovamboland are flat and straight and lined with a menagerie of animals, including many cows, goats, dogs and worst of all, donkeys. They are an obvious hazard and we certainly had our eyes peeled for them. From our time in Botswana and other parts of Namibia, we are well practiced in sharing roads with donkeys, which I have found to be far from clever but also far from the stupidest animal getting about. They are worlds above kangaroos, emus and sheep for road smarts for example. Needless to say, we didn’t see this coming.
There you’ll see some marks from where the bike scraped against the road. And many donkeys in the distance. Damn donkeys!
I was riding out in front and in the far off distance I saw two donkeys fighting which I found quite odd as it was the first time we had seen donkeys do anything that wasn’t physically suggested by its owner with a stick. One donkey was chasing the other and biting its back. They were galloping like horses (granted, slow, small and stupid ones) complete with a trail of dust. I was about to get Mick on the intercom to warn him, but they crossed the road again about 100m in front of us and I knew Mick would have seen them. So I instead concentrated on getting past them safely. After crossing the road they ran head long towards me on the flat grassy verge on the left hand side of the highway.
Donkeys can gallop when sufficiently motivated it turns out. Sure enough they crossed the road again from left to right about 30m in front of me. We were doing about 100 but I quickly braked and dropped to probably 80. Crossing that close in front of me heightened my attention significantly but it still wasn’t fear inducing proximity. As soon as they crossed I told myself they could well canter off onto the verge and turn back in a long looping arc to cross again as they had before. I was more than shocked however, when they turned on a dime just a meter or two off the tar and doubled back straight across the road. It was just too fast. As one donkey was chasing the other biting its arse, than meant I was facing a wall of donkey.
Lighting quick decision processes then played out. I grabbed the brakes and looked to the left of the road. It was flat and grassy but it was also the direction the donkeys were going so I ruled that out. I looked to the right of them but could see a car coming in the opposite direction. I judged I could not swerve around them. It would have been a highly aggressive turn that I might not be able to execute and I couldn’t risk crashing onto the other side of the road with oncoming traffic. That left direct impact as the only option, albeit a shitty one, and I slowed down as much as I could in those few tiny moments. From my vantage point, I just a wheel’s length from hitting the second donkey right in the middle of its body. I looked up to the road ahead beyond the donkey, relaxed and hoped that he was moving faster than I thought he was. Unfortunately he wasn’t. Everything after that was a bit of a blur as it happened so quickly my mind simply couldn’t process the visual. I didn’t knock my head but I had no visual recollection of hitting the highway, it all just happened too quick and I was quite thankful for that.
Where the donkey strike occurred. You can see the tyre mark where the front wheels went full lock and unceremoniously threw me off
MICK’S VIEW: I was about 30 or 40m behind Tan and saw the donkeys cross about 30m in front of her from left to right. We both were doing 100-105 and braked down to maybe 80 or so. Seeing them cross over I thought we would now ride by and all would be fine, it was one of those close calls but at 30m it was close but really not that close, just one of those moments that catches you by surprise and you think, “shit that was lucky”. However, the donkeys hit the verge and turned hard to the left and came straight back across the road. We both got on the brakes but it wasn’t for long, maybe only a second or so before Tan hit the second donkey just in front of its rear legs, doing 70kph I’d guess. I was probably about 15m behind when she hit. Tan turned slightly to the left at the last moment before impact so the front wheel turned full lock to the left and threw Tanya off the right hand side of the bike, now the high side. The bike then went over and down on the right hand side. Tan flew off head first and hit the road right shoulder and chest first and slid down the road, head first and face down. Thankfully just before impact she instinctually turned ever so slightly to the left which means she didn’t hit the donkey square on but at a slight angle. This meant she didn’t fly straight over the bars and into the fairing, but over the right hand side of the tank and clear of the bike. It was a bloody good bit of fortune. But it all happened so quick I could hardly process what was going on.
As I was sliding down the road I could hear the sound of my bike sliding along the highway behind me and I was naturally concerned about it hitting me. Soon the sound of its movement died down so I was able to relax while I continued on my gut slide down the highway. The sound of my Shoei, grinding down the road was so loud I think I got worried about my head and questioned if I needed to try to protect it some more. I clearly remember telling myself mid slide ‘I have a great helmet, it’s a great helmet.’ I think I was considering whether I needed to try to protect my head with my arms. Fortunately I knew better than to do that. Then I remember saying in my own head ‘I’m feeling a bit stressed,’ then I told myself to shut my eyes and then I thought ‘that’s better.’ Thanks to being a pretty average snowboarder and years and years of crashing off road, crashing the right way has become instinctual. So there I was, relaxed, eyes closed, arms against my body looking like “a salmon swimming up river to spawn” as Mick remarked later.
While I still had momentum behind the slide I rolled onto my back and was immediately looking for traffic. Soon Mick was above me and the first thing I recall saying was ‘Am I safe here, am I safe here.’ I didn’t want to get up straight away if I didn’t have to. Mick said I was ok for now, he quickly felt around my torso and neck and then went and moved the bike off the road.
In typical African fashion there were soon a lot of people around and they were all very concerned, with many of them having witnessed the donkey strike. They were keen to drag me off the road so Mick had to fight off their good intentions until I could get a sense of what I might have done to myself. Immediately I thought I had broken my right arm and was holding that in close. In the slide the mouthpiece of my Camelbak came off causing water to wet my right arm, which I thought was blood. So I opted to examine my arm last as I thought a bloody mess was likely to upset me. As a few minutes passed I was starting to feel quite good actually. My lower body felt completely fine and my left side was okay. I hadn’t hit my head at all and only scraped the point of the visor and the helmet’s chin guard so the helmet, though a visor bolt had broken, was in good condition. The Shoei Hornet is an awesome helmet, it must be said.
My hand and wrists were perfectly fine. It was just my right arm and belly that were worse for wear. I was incredibly glad that I was wearing my ladies AlpineStar Stellar body armour that day as nothing protects as well as a perfectly fitting set of body armour. The only place the armour falls down is protecting the belly. I got some deep gravel rash on my hip down my right side but it wasn’t bleeding and looked surprisingly nice and clean. I was eventually satisfied that my arm wasn’t broken but I was worried about my belly/abdomen which was sore after my 70kph belly flop onto the highway. When I examined my abdomen area I felt no strong pain or rigidity but it was undeniably not feeling awesome. I hoped it was just from the gravel rash but figured a hospital visit was in order to confirm.
The hospital in Otapi
MICK’S VIEW: I got hard on the brakes and stopped no problem about 3m or 4m before the bike and 7 or 8m before Tanya, parked the bike on the very left of the road but still on the road to protect us a bit from oncoming traffic and make sure something big and visible was in sight and in the way. The donkey had gotten up and off the road and was looking sadly ok albeit rather feeble and with a bit of limp. They might be tough, but even a full sized donkey would have felt the impact of 200kg of loaded up bike plus rider, ploughing into its guts at 70km/h.
Tan’s bike ended up just off the road on the left hand verge on its right hand side but Tan was still face down on the tar, but thankfully on the very left hand side of the road. She rolled onto her back as I got over to her and she was conscious but very shaken up. She was holding her right arm very gingerly and was pretty sore. She had massive gouges in her chest plate on the right side and holes in her jersey all down her front and right elbow. She said she thought she was ok but it was obvious she was pretty beat up.
I felt her ribs, collarbones and neck as they are classic injuries from an accident like this but all seemed ok. I was pretty confident by the way she was moving that there probably weren’t any broken bones, even thought she was still very worried about her right arm. She said her back wasn’t sore either, which was a good sign as she has had past spinal injuries. I went back to the bike and picked that up. I didn’t look properly but could see from picking it up that the fairing was smashed, dash bent and broken, headlight broken, forks looked bent, all in all it looked pretty fucked up, kinda like when a bike hits a donkey at 70kph.
Plenty of people stopped and it didn’t take long before there were lots of people standing around and seeing if we were ok and just generally gawking at the crash of the foreign woman on the motorbike. A few people tried to move her but I told them to leave her be and one guy wanted my bike off the road but there was no way I was moving that, not yet anyway. I went back to Tan and her right arm looked very sore but I started to think we had got off pretty light and might even avoid a trip to hospital.
While Mick was seeing to the bike I was sitting amongst a large group of concerned locals. There were two guys in particular that looked so worried and looking at them I could tell this one guy was battling with wanting to place a hand reassuringly on mine but wondering if it would be too inappropriate. It was really sweet. At that point I noticed I had lost the mouthpiece to my Camelbak and become totally fixated on that fact. All I could do was stare at it is and say quietly, ‘Its gone, it is not here, its……gone’. It seemed to be the only thing that mattered. The shock was starting to set in. A local lady noticed my concern over the lost mouthpiece and went and found it on the road and gave it back to me. That, along with the genuine concern on the face of everyone there was really heart-warming. It wasn’t a morbid gawk fest. People genuinely cared.
MICK’S VIEW: Tan was up and standing but was not particularly mobile, or even stable. She said she was feeling nauseous and her eyes rolled back in her head and she was looking pretty bloody likely to faint. One of the first cars on the scene was owned by a catholic mission and came complete with its own nun. Sadly she didn’t have her winged hat on so couldn’t fly. They offered to take her the 6km into town and gave me some pretty rough directions to a hospital i.e. go into town and turn right and the hospital is down there. I put Tanya in the front of the car, and went back for her tank bag and helmet and put that in the back of the car. Stupidly I threw the ignition key and GPS loose in the helmet – bad habit.
A local lady kindly offered to look after the bike in her millet plot while Mick transported his to the hospital
Tan shot off for the hospital and I pushed the broken bike off the road. The fairing was pretty cracked and looked buggered, the dash was bent, one of the switches was broken, mirror was broken and few other things. At first glance I thought the forks were bent but on closer inspection thankfully they were just twisted in the triple clamps. I pushed the bike further off the road, and a local lady with a plot directed me to park the bike in her front yard and agreed to take care of it. I then jumped on my bike and made my way into town. My gremlin limiting the engine speed is still there, I could get to a bit over 4000rpm which is about 105 and the bike would start spluttering and missing. But that was a problem that could wait for later.
I found the hospital pretty easily but I didn’t even know for sure if I was even at the right place, so I asked the security guards manning the gate if an “Australian lady” had come through. Yes, she had apparently. I waited a moment and nothing happened, so I ask them to lift the boom gate so I could come in, but they told me I had to park outside. ‘No way’, I said, ‘I’m hardly in the mood for negotiation, and I’m not leaving the bike outside’. It’s Namibia, which is pretty safe for Africa but its still Africa, there is still the odd light fingered person about. I think they could tell I was starting to get a bit pissed off and wasn’t going to budge, so they let me park the bike inside the fence in the shade next to the security hut. I found the mission people inside the hospital and spoke to Tanya and she seemed to be doing ok.
Photo removed for now, will get it back up shortly.
The hospital kitted us up well for taking care of the wound
I was feeling pretty unwell on the way to the hospital and noticed that the driver looked so worried about me he was doing his best to avoid potholes while looking over at me ever couple of seconds. By the time I got to the hospital I was feeling a lot better but still wanted a professional to clean up the wound and give me a good once over. Nothing felt serious but I was worried a bit about my guts. As the nun held my hand and took me into the local hospital, all eyes fell on me in stunned silence and I felt the sudden urge to cry but managed to restrict it to a few stray tears. I saw the emergency doctor within minutes and she did her examination and ruled that she didn’t think I needed x-rays and everything looked ok. She was surprised by my lack of injuries actually. The nurse checked my blood pressure and cleaned up the gravel rash nicely and gave me some medication and a heap of dressings, plus put my arm in a sling. The doctor was keen to give me a pain killing injection but I told her I was fine and she settled for giving me some paracetomol. The final bill for my hospital visit was N$150, about 15 bucks.
Mick settling the $15 hospital bill. That included immediate treatment and all dressings and wound cleaning stuff. Pretty good we thought
We found a shady place to rest and work on the sick bike across the road from the hospital
MICK’S VIEW: The hospital was basic but clean, and the staff were really quite professional and seemed to know what they were on about. I was pretty impressed, and I don’t mean that to sound condescending, but we were in a little Ovamboland town after all. After thanking the doctors and the kind nun and driver, we walked across the road to a cheap looking restaurant and had some lunch and a cool drink.
Once Tan was settled I hitched a ride to a taxi rank and then paid off a driver to take me to the bike, I told him I wanted to go 6kms out of town but his taxi wasn’t full yet (in Africa, taxi’s only go when they are full, so people sit and wait until then), I told him I’ll pay him for all his seats there and back. How much will you pay he asks? N$50, about $5. He said yes straight away. When I arrived at the bike the locals were keen to hear how Tanya was doing and were happy to hear that she was fine. They also wanted to know what her name was which we found really touching, especially because discussing this point later with other people we suspected this was so they could include her in their prayers.
‘Juhna’ is now sporting some gnarly scars. Thankfully the Safari Tanks, like Aussie lady bikers, a made tough
Mirror bit the dust and the aluminium dash properly bent
Barkbusters took a beating, handlebars required straightening and mounts copped some gravel rash too
While back at the crash site, marks on the road allowed me to pace out the distance Tan had slid down the road. It was about 14m, which was a pretty fair effort. I gave the bike a once over, reattached the fairing slightly and made sure everything was kind of working. The bike fired straight up. Forks were twisted to buggery in the triple clamps but thankfully not bent. I rode it back to the restaurant and started straightening things while Tanya rested. I had to remove and straighten the hand guards, straighten the dash, epoxy a heap of new cracks in the fairing. The DRL mount was bent and broken. The lens for the projector was cracked, and the dipper mechanism bent also. The heated grip switch was broken so I disconnected the heated grips. One of the elements was also damaged as the grip got road rash down to the bars. I took the broken mirror off and put the good one on the right hand side. I also tried to address the miss at high revs my bike was having. I thought it might be some shit getting picked up into the main jet so figured I’d drain the fuel bowl while all the tools were out and hopefully any grit would drop out. After about 4 hours we were good to go.
Damage to the projector mounts, lens and dipper mechanism
The fairing was broken now for the third time
We’ve gone though A LOT of epoxy resin in the last 2 weeks
She’s pretty beat up now
After a hearty meal of deep friend Russian sausage, hot chips and a coke I felt actually pretty good. I checked out my bike riding kit and was able to put together how I must have impacted from the damaged to my armour. It seemed I hit my right elbow first and the right side of the body seemed to cop a bit more impact than the left. After a few days when the swelling on my right elbow went down enough it revealed a bruise that mirrored the full elbow guard on my body armour. Mick is convinced that, were I not wearing my body armour and were instead wearing my riding suit, I would have broken it. Another thing we were so happy for was the fact I was wearing my new Leatt neckbrace. It felt like a fortunate twist of fate when I thought about it. It was only after meeting Tony in Windhoek that we got to thinking we should buy neckbraces. Were it not for him we probably wouldn’t have bothered to get them. We bought them only a month and a half previous and were it not for that neckbrace I would have been in a huge amount of discomfort after my donkey crash. As I slid down the road the neckbrace simply locked in with the helmet and instead of bouncing up and down on the bitumen my head stayed in one position and I just slid on my armour and the tip of neck brace. We felt lucky to have met Tony and Friedel before this accident, now I am more thankful than ever. TONY WE OWE YOU A DEBT OF THANKS!
Some sctraches on the boob plate of my body armour. This body armour was the first gift Mick ever gave me. BEST GIFT EVER. 5 ½ years old and the gear is still looking out for me
My Leatt neckbrace purchased only 6 weeks previous. MONEY WELL SPENT. You can see the damage from the neckbrace grinding against the road
Seems I wasn’t the only one to register damage in the crash. Note the donkey hairs wedged under the indicator. They still travel with me as my lucky charms
After about 4 ½ hours, and despite the discomfort in my arm/shoulder, I was up for the ride. I was obviously riding on high alert as there were countless animals lining the road for the entire route. My past appreciation for the humble donkey was gone and I found myself giving dirty looks to every one that I passed like they were all part of the murderous donkey conspiracy. Well you failed donkeys! You failed! It wasn’t long before I was feeling confident again and we managed to polish off about 270km before stopping for the night.
Can’t believe my luck. And the lack of pain and discomfort (silly woman – that came the next day – in spades)
The one thing that did hurt was my guts from belly flopping on the road. There is no give in bitumen
I couldn’t help but kick myself for crashing into a donkey. However, it was a good lesson for us. It was the first time we had seen donkeys behaving in this way. Now we know that whenever we see an animal acting differently we will come to a crawl before passing them. Really we were so fortunate as it could easily have resulted in significant damage to the bike and serious injury to myself. Perhaps we just cashed in our good road karma from helping unbog our Austrian friends in the Gunamub. As unwelcome an event as it was we could not get over how fortunate we were. As far as hitting a donkey at speed on a relatively busy highway goes, it was as good an outcome as you could hope for.
Not feeling very awesome. Strangely proud of my riding jersey – will not be replacing or repairing
Its taken some quality stacks to get it looking this good
It was also a demonstration on the importance of good gear. Prior to the trip we had done a lot of brainstorming on how to keep our pre-trip expenses down. Such things included the ruthless pursuit of the best deal and price for storage, shipping, insurances, banking etc. However, we never once looked at saving money on our riding gear. That was always the place where we were going top of the line and for the most part we sourced stuff in Oz at higher prices to ensure perfect fits. Shoei helmets, Sidi boots, Alpinestars (me) and Leatt (Mick) armour, Leatt (me) and Pod (mick) knee guards, Klim and Fox riding gear; its all good stuff. My advice to anyone, based on my experiences, is to not be a cheap bastard and get superior gear. If you can’t afford good stuff you can’t afford the trip. The stories of people wearing cheap boots stuffed with newspaper so they fit, who then crash and smash their legs and ankles and are not able to work for a year, are real. These things really happen.
The gravel rash to my hip. Not extensive but deep. Shall produce a decent scar. Looks a bit like a zombie bite
MICK’S VIEW: The ignition key that I threw loose into the helmet in a rush to get Tanya to hospital got lost. Bugger. I should have put it all in the tank bag rather than rush and stuff it in the helmet – oh well we know for next time something out of the ordinary happens. Slow down and secure everything. We left the hospital aiming to get as far as Tsumeb but only got to Oshivelo before the sun was starting to set. With the shock of Tanya’s donkey dance subsiding we begun to focus on my miss. It hadn’t gone away. I could do 100-105 no problem, but at 105-110 it would start to play up. I noticed an interesting symptom though. An oncoming car overtook not far in front of me so I turned on all my headlights to make sure I was visible, and the miss came on strong. Lights off and it went away. It was electrical load related.
We found a hotel room in Oshivelo, which is little more than a petrol station, weight bridge and collection of buildings that used to mark the border of Ovamboland during the war of independence. Once soldiers had gone through Oshivelo and it was considered active service. We got a room in the intriguingly named “Apollo 11 Complex” and set about getting some much needed rest.
We went to a local restaurant across the road to find out that all it served was “chips”. Seriously, it was a chip restaurant. Nothing else. So we sought out the only other restaurant in town and discovered that all they served was chips and sausages. We ordered everything on the menu (chips and sausages) and while the sausage was good the chips were underwhelming. It seemed the establishment had made the same mistake as some of the world’s largest corporations by diversifying too much and having their key product suffer. We went to sleep after emailing the symptoms of the bike and a diagnosis theory of mine to our trip electrical engineer and awaited his input. We are pretty fortunate to have an expert electrical engineer on standby for any electrical issues that crop up. He is my old man and works for free.
Makeshift garage at the Apollo 11 Complex
Mick looking for electrical gremlins
The next morning we found that surprisingly, my dad’s diagnosis was reasonably similar to mine. We thought that there was some sort of interference from the charging circuit into the ignition circuit; being engine speed and therefore voltage related it made sense that there was probably an insulation problem. I’d guessed maybe it was a break in the loom but Dad thought it might be down at the stator itself, which made a lot more sense as I had not only converted the stator from star to delta. I had also attached a new pulse coil so if any of those joins weren’t insulated properly it could be a HV leakage point. I spent a lot of time investigating the electrical issue while in the hotel, messaging in real time through Facebook to my dad on the other side of the planet. We’re a long way from Jupiter’s Travel days.
Looking for bad connection but sadly everything looked fantastic
Couldn’t see anything untoward so decided to insulate everything anyway
I couldn’t see any issue, in fact I was pretty pleased to see that the delta mod and pulse coil splice were actually pretty damn neat, but the theory was good so I re-insulated all the connections anyway. I ran out of the Pratleys 15min epoxy so dug out the JB-Weld, which takes about an hour to set so we lost lots of time there. Had no effect sadly, other than make my neat delta mod and pulse coil splice really bloody ugly.
It was stinking hot in the hotel courtyard as it was a brick building with a 8ft high brick wall all around and white dirt, so reflected all the heat like an oven. It was ferociously hot. My temp gauge on the vapor said 61deg! Tan meanwhile was lying down in the shade making the occasion groan of discomfort. The pain and stiffness of the donkey accident were setting it. She was disappointed to learn that the neck brace that went a long way to minimising injury didn’t spare her the full effect of the whiplash altogether. She was sore, really sore. And she became all the more dissatisfied when she somehow managed to lose her new ignition key at some point during the day. We were clearly in a downswing luck-wise. We had lost 2 ignition keys in 2 days. We now had to fish out the only spare we had left.
Every connection re-epoxied with whatever I had. Far from pretty
With Tanya getting sorer and sorer we considered staying another night, however we new there was a bike store where our spare tyres were waiting for us with Johan’s brother Dirk in Grootfontein, so we decided to travel the 180km to get there. We eventually left Oshivelo around 3.30pm after having spent all day working on the electrical problem without success. Then, 3kms out of town Tanya got me on the intercom to tell me that her fairing was loose. Due to the cracks, the fairing was shaking around and the fasteners came out so its was only held on by a single one. This was a last straw for me I cracked it, I was so bloody sick of fixing bikes and wasn’t a very happy camper. We ended up tying the fairing on with some para-cord and continued on our way. As we hit the highway I lent down and unplugged the stator. With no charging the electrical miss was gone and the bike behaved perfectly. Interesting.
We were now quite overdue to arrive at Dirk and Lynn’s house in Grootfontein so went straight to their placee. By the time we arrived I was very stiff and sore but didn’t think I looked too bad but upon seeing me Dirk and Lynn insisted we would stay with them. They thought I looked terrible. Turns out Lynn is the head nurse at the local hospital and she saw to it that I had the right medication and ran me a hot bath with Epsom salts which was a dream come true really. They had already eaten so went and got us pizza and drinks we devoured like wild animals while getting to know them.
We discussed with them our immediate problem, which was the fact our tourist visa was due to expire the following day. We were over 800km away from the border crossing and even if I was feeling up to it, Mick’s bike had a potentially serious electrical problem. We had been considering just overstaying our visa as it had already been extended once. Dirk advised us against doing it as the Namibian government has a proven reputation for being over-zealous with their enforcement of visa rules. He knows of multiple occasions when people have been detained and even deported. Dirk is a minister and happens to know just about everyone it town so rang his friend that had once worked in the Department of Home Affairs for us. His friend said it was extremely risky for us to overstay the visa and that if the cops noticed our expired visa there is a good chance we could be detained. Fortunately, with Dirk’s connections we were able to arrange for a second visa extension. When we got to the Home Affairs the lady we dealt with knew full well that she wasn’t supposed to give us a second extension, even with the medical records from the hospital, but her superior knew our story and gave it to us. We were so fortunate to have Dirk and Lynn to help us.
So now friends the grand total for our two lots of visa extensions to Namibia is $180. But at least we were in Namibia legitimately for the next 2 weeks, which we thought would be an appropriate timeframe to diagnose the problem and get parts air freighted from South Africa. Ha! The fools we were! Turns out, the donkey crash was the easy part.