Laying Down the Miles

 

A foggy morning out of Buitenpos


A helluva week

Giddy Up! Since entering Botswana we have had 9 cycling days sandwiched around a single off day in Maun.  The average day’s assignment has been 162 km for a total of 1463. It hasn’t all been fun.   We are tired in general, our rear ends are sore, and the only chocolate to be had at Easter was a smear of Nutella on a slice of white.

3 days ago the number was 208 km, the biggest of the trip and our lives, falling on a day with the added inconvenience of yet another border crossing. The morning had us packing up wet gear after violent thunderstorms through the night.  Camp was set 3 km back from the tarmac on a sandy road forcing us to walk most of it’s length as the sun came up.  We cleared customs at the Namibian border (country #9) at the 207 km mark and rolled into camp at Buitenpos with just enough time to set up the soggy tent before the skies opened up once again.  Dinner, showers, SIM card navigation and $ exchange left little time for recovery.

The following 2 day’s rides were arguably more challenging.  A welcome brisk and foggy morning ride and lunch proceeded a refueling stop in Gobabis, where we were so happy to see civilization that we gorged on cokes, milkshakes, capuccino (2 sugars) and a fist full of biltong  before making a right turn which steered us directly into the teeth of a stiff afternoon wind for the last 50 km. The same weather pattern held for riders on the way into Windhoek, our home for a 2 day break. 

Of course we knew about all these statistics going in.  On some level the absolutes did not sink in.  It was a kind of denial, a theory that we would work up to it, a blind faith that the wind would carry us as it had our predecessors from other years.  Now that all has been revealed, we are frankly amazed what we, along with our fellow riders, all soldiers in a common battle, are capable of.  

What we are less than enthusiastic about is the underwhelming scenery of the Elephant Highway section of the tour which has ended here in the capital city of Namibia.  As reported earlier,  elephant encounters on our bikes and in camp were the stuff of dreams.  After the anticipation and excitement of the likeliest spotting opportunities (the 1st 2 days), however, we were left with the contourless scrub of the Kalahari, few towns, people or civilization of any sort. 

So, after 3 months of escalating superlatives in this space, we admit to a brief lag in the story. It seems that we are at a juncture in the plot where the object is to lay down the miles in a hurry –  while the scenery is wanting. No matter, we’ve got our eyes on the big picture, and there is much to come.

*

The Okavango Delta

A lone elephant at a bend in the river

The Okavango, one of the world’s largest inland deltas, served as a bright spot in contrast to the long days spent cycling in the Kalahari. Vast quantities of wildlife shift with the seasons here in waters originating from the northwest in Angola that expand and contract with the season.  It is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site..

We hope to return in the future for a multiday trip involving a mokoro (a dugout canoe complete with a poler), camping and hiking.  This time around, we opted for a stunning overview of the verdant delta out of Maun from the window of a Cessna Caravan EX flying low enough to make out the animals among the shallow pools and twisting arteries of water.  We saw elephants walking in processions and basking solo in streams, hippos by the dozen, giraffes, assorted antelopes grazing over large areas, water buffalo, wildebeest and a single large big cat that was identifiable by its slow and ominous progress across the endless green.  The perspective from above provides an unforgettable sense of the beauty, bounty and transience of not just the Okavango, but of the continent’s fragile ecosystem in its entirety. This was certainly one of the most treasured gifts of our time here in Africa.

A herd of water buffalo

 

Impalas and zebras

Thanks for your donations to Suitcases For Africa for the water project we have committed to.  If you have not had a chance and would like to contribute, please specify “Shamoni Community Well”  and do so here:

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/13271

Thanks for reading.

 

Dried cured meat

 

On the road


 

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  21 comments for “Laying Down the Miles

  1. Mark
    April 25, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Stay strong
    Jesus loves you

    Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 7:38 pm

      I’ll take all the love I can get. Tks Mark.

      Like

  2. Stephen R Lee
    April 25, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Congratulations on your respective strength and resilience. Some people give themselves medals for single century rides – in favourable conditions. Yours have been a matter of course – in all conditions.

    Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 7:36 pm

      Methinks you would be in your element here Steeve. This tour can be sampled in sections btw.

      Like

  3. Anonymous
    April 25, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Gerry, what a thrilling blog! I’ve enjoyed every.single.entry.(ese) See what I did there…hahah. A remarkable journey, an incredible undertaking, the immense perseverance, the grit, grind…out of it is truly amazing!
    Cindy

    Like

  4. April 25, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    My goodness I can’t remember the last time I even did an hour on a bike seat. Thoroughly enjoying your story and your pictures. You have made this part of the world alive for me. TY for sharing.

    Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 7:34 pm

      Sweet. Thank you Lynne.

      Like

  5. April 26, 2019 at 12:10 am

    Wow, I’m really impressed with your endurance and commitment. Hoping the best for you …

    Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 7:37 pm

      Matched only by you and that shoulder on the ST – thanks Kevin.

      Like

  6. Liz
    April 26, 2019 at 1:20 am

    The animals seem safe and in abundance. A trip of a lifetime. There is no doubt you will return. You’ve kissed this part of the world. I’ve so enjoyed this blog.

    Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 7:33 pm

      Loved seeing the Delta form the air. Thanks Liz.

      Like

  7. Fred Argue
    April 26, 2019 at 2:16 am

    Dear Gerald, As always a great story. Best wishes for the final leg. Logistics is cruise were amazing as you predicted. As far as boats go, I think I still prefer the canoe.

    Love to both and congratulations for completing all those KM. F

    On Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 11:36 Cairo to Capetown on Bicycles wrote:

    > Gerry posted: ” Giddy Up! Since entering Botswana we have had 9 cycling > days sandwiched around a single off day in Maun. The average day’s > assignment has been 162 km for a total of 1463. It hasn’t all been fun. > We are tired in general, our rear” >

    Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      I was going to propose a ST reunion ride in Missouri in 2020. That’s obviously way too tame for you now, I fear. We’ll all be “Candy-asses” (shout out to Xenon) to you now.
      This is so impressive and awe-inspiring! We look so forward to your posts. Not only is the content riveting, but you write so well!
      Ride on, dear ones!

      Like

      • April 26, 2019 at 7:30 pm

        Looking forward to scaling it down. We’ll talk when I get back. Thanks for the encouragement.

        Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      Canoe = simplicity and self reliance – like a bicycle! Thanks Fred.

      Like

  8. April 26, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Once again, in contrast to your crawl across the Kalahari, we approach record flood levels. A dam on the Rouge River is threatening to break. Heavy rains due today. Water everywhere. Fortunately, our experience 2 years ago with ‘once in a hundred years flooding’ means we are better prepared.

    Like

    • April 26, 2019 at 7:28 pm

      Great to see all the volunteers out helping. Hoping for no rain on both our counts. Take care Dennis.

      Like

  9. Anonymous
    April 27, 2019 at 2:39 am

    OMG – how do you do it? The air photos are wonderful – what altitude were you at as the animals did not seem to be spooked as u flew over. Stay safe and steadfast Judy & Jack

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      Wondered that myself – maybe 500 meters? Wait a minute – aren’t you the experts? Extrapolate from the size of the elephant? Thanks for reading and be well.

      Like

  10. Anonymous
    April 30, 2019 at 12:58 am

    What you don’t know yet (or maybe you do) is that after this trip, you’ll have a quiet confidence that comes from knowing that you can truly handle anything that is thrown your way and land upright. It’s an invaluable addition to your future selves. Your new found tolerance, patience and endurance will serve you on whatever path life is taking you down. I imagine by now you’re able to create an entire day’s worth of distraction inside your heads. Keep on keepin’ on.

    Like

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