Namibia

Morning light

Our wheels are pointed dead south for Capetown.  The barren and desolate landscape of the Namib Desert and the dunes at Sossusvlei have restored the WOW factor to the Tour.  All is as it should be, except for a growing feeling of dread that this will all end soon.  

*

The final section of the Tour d’Afrique

 

TDA calls the final section of the Tour Dunes and Atlantic.  It began in Windhoek, easily the most modern looking city we have encountered in Africa. New roads are under construction and housing projects are climbing the many hills that comprise the city. We dined in fashionable eateries on delicious game meat (kudu, gemsbok and oryx), washed it down with South African wines and paid prices comparable to home. The group suffered a stolen phone and a shakedown for cash in a city where gated communities speak to the wealth disparity in a country with among the largest diamond and uranium deposits in the world and a thriving tourist industry.  A 4 year drought has certainly contributed to high rates of unemployment and poverty. Africa is ground zero for the haves and the have nots.

30 km out of Windhoek we hit what will eventually total 891 km of dirt and gravel. Crossing the central Namibian plateau and eventually descending into the Namib desert after an epic 400 meter descent at Spreetshoogte Pass, in short order we experienced the the highs and lows of cycle touring.  A 124 km ride into the town of Solitaire was one of the most exhilarating riding days of the trip. The highland scenery is reminiscent of Tucson minus the Saguaro cacti: the surrounding mountains cast in a rust colored hue as the new day dawns, giving way to ominous shadows as they become backlit with the shifting sun. The desert presented apricot colored dunes, dry pans and heat.  Temperatures were 10 degrees cooler than the mid 40’s of Sudan, but there we had smooth surfaces to ride on.  The roads themselves were rough, serving up stretches of deep sand to power through, bone jarring corrugation, but enough interludes of hard packed surfaces to allow us to make reasonable time on relatively fresh legs.  It was a day during which the surroundings masked the strain, reminiscent of Ethiopia where at times we “could not pedal slowly enough”, a day like others in the deserts of Arizona and Texas which have us turning circles with the GoPro to capture on film 360 degrees of wide open space without a hint of civilization, save for the road. 

The follow-up 83 km ride into Sesriem looked to be a walk in the park ahead of a rest day. Wrong.  As has happened in the past, the low mileage fooled us.  The road surface was less forgiving, forcing us off the bikes in stretches to search out navigable lines.  The desert heat hit hard after lunch.  With one TDA vehicle in Windhoek to tend to an unforeseen event and a second support vehicle stranded for part of the day with a tire blowout, some riders were short on water.  Spills resulted in broken phone screens, bruises and even stitches for some.  A right turn with 12 km to go would normally have signaled relief and the welcome “home stretch”, but deep sand turned the distance into a an endurance test.

What a difference a day makes. 

 

Beginning of the “dirt”

The road before us

*

Sossusvlei

Sunrise over the dunes

Sossusvlei is a large salt and clay pan in the Namib Desert set amid red sand dunes that rise 325 meters above the valley floor.  The dunes are among the highest dunes in the world.  We had the fortune of visiting them on our rest day at sunrise, climbing “Big Mama” before running down the dune to  “Dead Vlei” where the dry riverbed and ancient trees  present a surreal  contrast to the surrounding dunes.  Yet another unforgettable trip highlight. 

An unlikely desert flower

Oryx

 

Here is a link to a movie chronicling 3 days of our ride into Lusaka, Zambia.  Enjoy, and thank you for following:

 

  27 comments for “Namibia

  1. John
    April 30, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    This is wonderful writing!

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 8:04 pm

      Appreciated John. Be well.

      Like

  2. Liz and Bob
    April 30, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    We read your blog in awe every time it appears. Bob wants me to tell you that Miss MacKinnon would be proud of your penchant to tell a story that keeps all coming back for more. Both Lenore and yourself are an inspiration, for chasing and living your dream, despite the trials of the journey. God speed and may you enjoy every day that remains in this trek. Stay safe. And keep it coming for those of us at home living vicariously thru your stories.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 8:04 pm

      Will do Liz. Thanks to you both.

      Like

  3. Scott
    April 30, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Loved riding along with you for three days! Several of our friends are also “with “ you on your voyage. Yes, I can sense how grateful you are for this experience. You have been blessed and I’m so grateful that you have shared it with us.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 8:03 pm

      Nice words Scott. Best to you and your larger circle. Humbled by the audience.

      Like

  4. Stephen R Lee
    April 30, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    I identify with your dread of ending. I cannot imagine (except by your writing and photos) the culture shocks you’ve already been through, and now you face the bigger one(s) out of the saddle. Stay the course, endure the sand, avoid the stitches, and get home safe.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 8:01 pm

      Trying hard on all counts. Thanks Steeve.

      Like

  5. maryriggin4134
    April 30, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Ok ! That was beautiful and so funny! Do not worry that we don’t get how much you are loving and appreciating ever moment! You have done an amazing job of taking us along for this incredible ride. So happy you guys got the ride that you hoped for, and probably even better! Safe ride! Keep loving the moments! XO Mary

    Sent from Mary

    >

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement Mary.

      Like

  6. maryriggin4134
    April 30, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    And ….. I still think you’re crazy….. but I admire your spirit and fantastic video skills ❤️❤️❤️

    Sent from Mary

    >

    Like

  7. Simon T Bolter
    April 30, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Great video Goan…I enjoyed the ride!
    All the best
    Simon

    Like

    • Simon T Bolter
      April 30, 2019 at 8:52 pm

      F……g spell VK I wrote GVan!!

      Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 7:59 pm

      Great to hear from you Simon. Thanks!

      Like

  8. Michael Sendbuehler
    May 1, 2019 at 1:05 am

    This is very moving. Lovely reflection and imagery.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      High praise. Thank you Michael.

      Like

  9. May 1, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Wow, looks like TDA saved the toughest cycling challenge til the end. Good thing the scenery compensates. Incidentally, one our ex-neighbours did a lot of work on the education system in Namibia. She loved it there.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      More tough roads to come. You’ll have to give me more info. upon my return re neighbour.

      Like

  10. May 1, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Really fabulous post and I can’t believe you have the time, energy and resources to put together such a great video. (BTW, you can never again mock the Neil Diamond on my playlist, now that you inflicted on me Donovan’s Catch the Wind for a solid ten minutes.) I look forward to a piece of African charcoal in my Christmas stocking.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      Yup – the song is actually under 3 minutes – movie magic. Thanks for seeing past that irritation.

      Like

  11. Bruce Blyth
    May 2, 2019 at 1:18 am

    Hi Gerry
    I just love reading about your adventures and cannot wait for the next one .
    Hope they never end -why don’t you keep going !
    Loved the video and the music .
    I have asked Denise to arrange an evening so we can all watch a presentation on your travels -don’t forget the music !
    Looking forward to your next adventure.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip
    Bruce Blyth

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 7:55 pm

      Keep going? Like that. Thanks Bruce.

      Like

  12. Liz
    May 2, 2019 at 2:10 am

    Absolutely loved the journey! The words drew pictures in my mind. Thank you for sharing the dream.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks for watching Liz.

      Like

  13. Suzanne
    May 3, 2019 at 1:34 am

    I so enjoy your writing, your videography and your zeal for life that shines through on this incredible journey. You are both an inspiration on how to live life fully.

    Like

    • May 4, 2019 at 7:53 pm

      Nice words from someone who gave me the same impression once upon a time on a big river up north. Thanks Suzanne.

      Like

  14. C&C
    May 7, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    Really admire what you are doing, don’t know how, but admirable. C&C

    Like

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