Day 1 – 114km – As this little expedition approaches its close, there is one thing I was pondering over last week that never happened to me: a repetitive use injury. Think about it – cyclists usually average 60-90 pedal strokes per minute, times 60 minutes in an hour, times 5-8 hours a day, times 80-something days. Even factoring in my time off, the LOW end is over a MILLION pedal strokes since January. I mean, that is a ridiculous number by itself, but think of the impact to ankes, knees, hips, etc. Well, my body decided to wake up this morning and get with the program. Sore knees over the past few riding days have manifested into a right knee that spent the morning locking up on me, and intensely painful. However as the day started, I knew I needed to keep going. It was a perfect morning – outside of the 4km stretch where we passed the Windhoek garbage dump. Cool temperatures and an invigorating 400m climb out of the bowl of the city lead us to a plateau with rolling grasslands and spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Under our tires was some of the best dirt roads you could imagne – hard packed and smooth, allowing speeds on the downhills of 60+. Thanks for getting me there, ibuprofen!
The 60 km to lunch took a lot longer than expected, as we were all constantly getting off the bike to take photos of the terrain – but after the lack of Botswana pictures, it just felt like making up for lost time. Things changed a bit after lunch with the roads deteriorating and decent head/cross winds, but still made camp by 1. We were informed that we’re out of bush camp territory at rider meeting this morning (which now means daily showers & cold drinks!), camp tonight is at a horse farm – with a delicious dinner of grilled lamb. However, due to the return of the GI bug (sigh) I’m being antisocial and calling it an early night. What this has proven to me is that there will be a visit to a proper hospital in Cape Town to get lab work and perhaps even proper medications soon enough. Cape Town. Scary close.
Day 2 – 124km – From the get-go today, it seemed as though the KMs were flying past, but two hours in, I looked down to see that I’d only crossed over the 40km mark, which was followed shortly by my first flat tire on a Schwalbe since Ethiopia – and the realization that my pump no longer worked. Mike and Heather caught up to me and lent me the necessary supplies for the repair, and we made it to lunch – which came 12 km earlier than expected due to some impassible terrain. Continued on after lunch, through sections of deep mud at the low spots in the road, which at points turned into small to medium sized streams making passing difficult. Climbed up through a mountain pass before reaching one of the most amazing views I’ve ever laid eyes on.
The whole of Namibia stretched out beneath us – a large, flat plateau in the middle, flanked by mountain ridges to either side – it was unreal. Took some photos before beginning a harrowing decent on a 12% grade. Over the course of the 4km decent we lost over 550 m – which was less descending, and more of a controlled fall. Managed to keep the bike upright over some pretty crappy dirt and rock surfaces before proceeding to a coke stop where a nap nearly did me in for the day.
Finished up the last 30km to camp in a little town called Solitare. The town is so small, that the hotel doubles as general store, gas station, bakery – practically the entire town. But speaking of the bakery – should you ever find yourself in Solitare, Namibia, or hell, anywhere in Namibia you MUST stop in. Moose, the owner and baker makes the perhaps the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted. And really, people do come from all over to sample his pie. After two huge slices, a shower and taking the whip to bike shop to get the rear derailleur fixed, I had a small dinner – thanks in large to the pie – and am now off to an early bed again. Trying to kick this bug, it’s taken a lot out of me this time – enough that if tomorrow were any longer than 86km I’d be on the truck.
Day 3 – 86 km – Was excited to get to bed at an early hour last night, but dismayed when I was woken up by a downpour at around midnight. With this type of rain it becomes deafening inside of my tent – not to mention the thunder and lightning accompaniment. Things died down after a little, and I was able to fall back asleep, but it wasn’t a restful sleep or a particularly easy morning to get up. That was until I heard Sarge yell “Honey, I’m home!”, and burst out laughing. We had been without him since the border crossing as he was surprisingly told that he could not enter without a visa – costing him his EFI in the process. His unique mix of reggae, Bee Gees, Celine Dion , and Journey blasting from the bike I did not miss – but its funny how any one person can be so missed in camp and on the bike after just a few days.
Decided to try our luck at the bakery again for breakfast, and was rewarded with a large piece of that delicious apple pie and coffee. As Christina and I lounged and had breakfast, we didn’t realize that everyone else had taken off, with the exception of those riding the truck. So, nearly two hours after the others started, we pulled out of camp with sweep. It was a much longer day that it should have been, judging by the distance alone – we fought headwinds, and a brutal stormfront which decided to settle right over us with it’s gray, menacing darkness and lightning. The rain here is something of an anomaly – there has been more rain in the first three months of this year, than the last three years combined.
Just prior to the dark clouds settling in though, we got in one of TdA’s trademark events: the naked mile. Prompted by Jorg and Kendra, the three of us stripped down till we were wearing, well, nothing but our helmets, and went for a ride. It was really more like the naked ½ mile, in all actuality – but we did manage to hit every puddle along the way. And for inquiring minds: yes, there are photos. And no, you’re not going to see them online! Between the puddle splashing and the rainstorm we finished the day absolutely filthy. The rest day tomorrow is in a little town called Sesriem, which is made up of four hotels and a gas station. Seriously, thats it. And although the place TdA booked us into is a bit of a hole, we managed to walk to the hotel next door for an amazing buffet dinner of game meat, stir fry and, well, more game meat. Add Springbok, Ostrich and Eiland to the list of animals I’ve consumed on this trip!
This morning was an early start as we headed off to see the infamous Namibian sand dunes. Climbed the massive sand structures for well over four hours before calling it a day. The sheer magnitude of the dunes is incredible – taking most of us well over an hour of walking along the spine of the dune to make it to the top of “big daddy”, the world’s tallest dune. Tons of great pictures of the desert landscape when I get better internet connection….for now, off to clean the bike and enjoy another HUGE buffet dinner!