Day 85, 153km to Konkiep Lapa

Today was another challenging ride, particularly before lunch. However, some beautiful views, particularly before lunch.

Overnight I could hear wind in the trees. Checked with the stars and was happy to find it coming from the northeast.
I started cycling in cool morning air. The road was sandy, particularly between 10km and 15km points. I found myself
walking several times. Otherwise it was a slow gradual climb up to a pass at 30km and then a descent after that.

We crossed a broad valley and then by 50km started another climb. Once past 56km we came through some hills with
several sharp climbs. It was however very scenic. The lunch truck was parked beside some of these hills at 79km.
It again took me close to 1pm. Rumor was the road became flat after the next town and even some tailwinds. However,
decided to take it easy for rest of the day.

The road did slowly improve and at 103km it was briefly paved. We stopped in town for coke stop and discovered one of
the battery cables had severed. It took a while to get that fixed. After this drove last bit to camp and was happy
to find camp also had showers. Today the morning was definitely toughest riding though, I’m glad I did this more scenic
bit than the second half.

Day 86, 126km to Seeheim

An easier day today after two tough days riding. The gravel was smooth and after 31km we had pavement for rest of
the day. In return the scenery was more distant as we stayed away from the hills.

I was among the last to leave camp, but feeling strong on smooth gravel so zoomed past a number of others. Tailwinds!
I could easily push well over 30km a nice contrast from soft gravel cycling before. Just past an hour came into Bethanie and start of pavement. Bethanie had two huge churches, some stores including one with ATM inside. Stopped in for ice cream for breakfast.

After this back on the road where tailwinds kept up to 63km where we turned. Along the way one of the riders had marked the 10,000km point.

At 63km we turned east and for rest of day it was cross winds with occasional headwind and tailwind. I stopped for lunch at 9:15am at 70km and three days earlier than day before. After this a few hills to cross and some riding on top of plateau. Our last 10km were mostly descent to a river. We crossed a larger bridge and then turned right into Seeheim camp. This was former site of a railroad stop, and now looked a bit like a castle.

In evening I did my dish duty (last for the trip) and got to bed early.

Day 84, 139km to Betta

Road conditions made today one of the toughest on tour. It was particularly the soft sandy road. However, we also
had our share of gradual climbs, head and headwinds.

Left Sesriem on a tolerable road. The first 20km was still feeling strong, though struggled through a few soft sandy
spots. You could tell when they came since tire tracks would track both left and right searching for better route.
As we cycled, the wind slowly picked up and the grade also increased. It was first a cross wind, but after 20km
it became a head wind.

Fortunately, at 30km the road turned again and we were back to cross winds. There were still rises and descents to go
over. By lunch we had climbed 500m and descended 100m, but toughest part was the soft sand. It also got warm and I
started to ration water after 50km. Fortunately, one of the vehicles came back and helped us refill. The last few
kilometers to lunch were rocky. It had taken five and half hours and I wasn’t only one late into lunch. As I calculated time remaining, realized I would likely arrive after dark, so decided to take the truck from lunch.

I wasn’t the only one and the truck was completely full. One person even opted to ride on the roof. As we got close
to camp, one rider in the truck was feeling the heat and we paused the truck to get him cooled down. With such a full
truck, I asked the driver how close we were to camp. He said, “3km”, so I volunteered to walk to make a little more room. Others made sure I had hat (helmet) and water (camelbak).

I was walking for about twenty minutes when one of our vehicles came past. He informed me camp was still nine kilometers away, so got a ride from there. As I came into camp the truck driver noticed his mistake, but I could joke with him about it.

Overall it was a tough ride and riders who normally would come in early were at camp late in the day. Photo below, some TDA fashions.

Sesrium rest day

Today a day off in Sesrium and next to Sossusvlei region with its large sand dunes. This morning I went on a tour organized by the neighboring lodge. Plan was to leave very early, hike around the dunes and then have a good breakfast before returning mid-day. We went with eleven of us from TDA in two vehicles (and additional twenty-five went on a different tour).

The dunes are numbered based on their distances from the Sesrium Gate. There are three dunes tourists normally climb up: dune 45, Big Daddy and Big Mama. We drove past Dune 45 and could see several buses stopped. This is one of the more accessible and more photographed dunes. I got a photograph also to celebrate my brother Tom’s birthday (45) today. However, the tour continued and we went through soft sand for a short while to get close to start of Big Daddy Dune.

Big Daddy dune is 325 meters high (~1000ft) and wasn’t too difficult of a climb. In the steeper bits, you would slide backwards a little but within 45 minutes we had climbed to the top. Stayed at the top briefly before descending down – partially sliding on my bottom, partially running and partially walking down. It was a fun and quick descent. At the bottom was the “Dead Vlei” or salt pans from remains of a lake. We collected there and walked back to our excursion jeeps. After this a fancy picnic breakfast and drive back as it was getting warm. Overall an excellent excursion.

Otherwise just a few rest day chores to wash some clothes (dries very fast here), charge up the electronics and lube my bicycle chain. A relaxing time for rest of the day, though it gets warm here in the desert. I’ve enjoyed the last three days of cycling off-road in Namibia. The scenery is stunning. The temperature swings are big but still not quite as hot as in Sudan. The gravel roads are sometimes filled with soft sand, but still reasonable to ride.

We’ve got five challenging days of off road cycling further here in Namibia. Two of them are “mando” days which are always tough and another is over 150km – so expect to have a tough ride from here to South Africa border (and probably beyond). However, Namibia is definitely on my “top 3 countries” list for this trip (along with Tanzania and Ethiopia).

Also by the way, in addition to celebrating Tom’s 45th birthday, today we also celebrated my 50th birthday and hence the photo at top of this page. Below are some additional photos of the dunes trip.

Unknown crop circles of dead spots.

Sybille takes a photo of Jenny and Erik

Tracks in the sand


Big Daddy Dune

View from top of Big Daddy with Deadvlei below
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Day 83, 83km to Sesriem

Today was a fun ride. A little shorter than average and the gravel had less soft sand than previous two days.

We got off just as sun was rising. This meant shades of red and purple on the mountains ahead. The road started out
well graded and was quick to travel. At 15km we started a 30km time trial. This route was mostly flat, though did
go over a low hill with quicker downhill. At the 40km mark, stopped to watch some giraffes cross the road and then
stand over on the right. At 45km was end of the time trial and also lunch.

After lunch was point of a different TDA tradition, “the Naked Mile”. Many of the men had already gone in a good
and the women were collecting together waiting for the rest to go. I undressed behind the truck and rode on for 3km
before getting dressed again. Not long enough to worry about extra sun burn. Photo below was evening before when
staff decided to serve dinner aprons only.

It was warm in the afternoon, but otherwise good cycling and was still early on arrival into Sesriem. Looking forward
to a rest day and chance to explore the dunes. My brother Tom turns 45 tomorrow so this gives me an excuse to visit dune 45.

Day 82, 123km to Solitaire

Wow! Amazing views today. The desert landscapes without trees and low barren hills make for spectacular vistas.
Around each bend and over each hill there is something different to see. The roads varied and occasionally had
soft sand, so this also made for a challenging ride.

We started with an 8km ride back to the junction with D1265. We had ridden on “B” roads from Botswana and “C” roads so far. Fortunately, the “D” roads weren’t much different. There was soft sand in parts though. We cycled past our
first set of low hills and then skirted along a longer range. This made for constantly changing views. We passed some farm ranches and occasionally a pickup would go past to kick up a cloud of dust.

Without much difficulty, I was at lunch at 62km. This was at a junction in the road. The trucks would take the left
fork. We took the right fork and passed a sign warning of steep grades, and also forbid trucks or caravans. We were
going the scenic route over Spreetshoogte Pass. The next 13km to top of the pass was straightforward without much more climbing. However there were a few short ravines to cross and at bottom of one of those my water bottle rattled off the bike. Turned back and picked it up again.

Once on the top, the view was amazing (reminded me a little of the views in Southern CA looking down on Borrego Springs). We could see far across the valley below. The top parts of Spreetshoogte Pass had were some of the steepest road I’ve been on. Rather than gravel, they had fortunately put paving stones. Rather than ride pumping my brakes down the entire route, I elected to walk down the steepest bits and not much difficulty reaching the bottom.

At this point we had 31km left with plenty of soft sand and it was getting warm. Fortunately mostly flat cycling.
At 111km was a road junction back onto C16 and not much later made my way into the small gas station/roadhouse named
Solitaire. There was a bakery here with excellent brownies and apple pie and good camp sites. Overall a spectacular day.

Day 81, 114km to Weissenfels camp

Today was our first day of off road cycling in Namibia. The road was better than previous off road in Tanzania and
Sudan, but still tough riding with occasional rocky bits and soft sand.

We left on major roads from Windhoek but by 4km turned onto smaller road and up hill. At 11km we came past the landfill and I saw a troop of baboons running across the road carrying their loot. Shortly thereafter the pavement ended. We also started climbing more steeply. When we reached 23km, we were at top of Kupferberg pass and could see a long distance on the other side. The views were stunning both then and for rest of the day.

The road had been tough cycling and had some rocky partds but also areas with soft sand. This meant constantly scanning road ahead and as necessary adjusting the track to pick the best route. Cars also came by kicking up clouds of dust. At 34km, we turned onto a smaller road and at 64km had an appreciate lunch stop.

After lunch the road smoothed out some, though my legs were tired. I was a later rider though not the last in to lunch. Our nice views continued and we slowly climbed through a set of hills and into camp. This camp is normally a horse camp as well as has some cabins. It surprises me how many of the farm houses along the way are also tourist accomodation (not many farm houses, but those that are seem to get some extra tourist dollars as well). They turned on a repeater and we could even get cell phone service.

Windhoek rest day

Happy ANZAC day. Today some of the Australian and New Zealand cyclists held a short remembrance ceremony at 5:30am. I slept in slightly later (6am) and missed the ceremony. Rest days are a chance to catch up on maintenance, laundry and other tasks as well as to rest. Today my big goal was to find a fleece since mine seems to have been lost or disappeared in Egypt. Our nights have been cool (4C or about 40F) even though it will warm up more than (25C or 77F). There is also still chance of cold rain in South Africa so want to be prepared.

Photo below shows how Afrikaans is similar but not quite same as Dutch as phone company tells us they will bend over backwards for us.

Windhoek reminds me a bit of Arizona/New Mexico deserts. There is light vegetation and underneath one can see sandstone. The humidity is low and the buildings are set up to be efficient for desert heat. The stores are also more “western”. For example, on our way in there was a bike shop set up much the same as shops in US and carrying similar gear.

Despite hot daytime temperatures, I guessed this would be first larger city that had two key aspects that might lead to a fleece sweatshirt: colder temperatures and larger people. This morning I cycled over to the large mall in town. I found a shop that carried many of the same things REI might carry in US – though the store itself was smaller. Most importantly, I found a fleece in size XL. Bought a wool hat for good measure as well. Having accomplished main tasks, worked through the mall and the Super SPAR grocery store before cycling back.

Ride distances schedule has been posted for our upcoming eight riding days in Namibia. All of it is off road, expecting lightly traveled gravel roads. Three days (114km,124km,83km) bring us to Sesriem for a rest days at the sand dunes. Five remaining days (138km,153km,126km,93km, 172km) bring us to the last rest day near border of South Africa and Namibia. Unlike some of the off road in Sudan, I look forward to this off road riding as I expect it to bring us through some beautiful desert scenery and sparsely traveled places. (Traditionally on one of these days the “Naked Mile” is cycled in one of the most remote sections). I also expect this can be challenging, particularly depending on wind or if road surfaces are soft.

Day 80, 159km to Windhoek

End of a section and ride into the modern city of Windhoek. Through the day, the roads got busier and the terrain after the airport (110km) got hillier.

It was again perhaps 4C last night so again time to put on new layers and ride slowly in the cold first few kilometers. Fortunately, after sunrise the temperature quickly warms up.

The terrain initially reminded me some of the wide sagebrush valleys of Nevada, Utah and in parts of Colorado. There were wide sweeping views and plants colored similar to sagebrush. There were also some long very gentle climbs. Once the larger trees reappeared the similarity also went but the Kalahari desert is closest I’ve sensed to western USA. Those larger trees were along the way when at 44km I stopped at a coke stop. Also here were some German researchers looking at Cheetahs so learned a bit by talking with them as well.

After the Cheetah coke stop it was a straightforward ride to lunch and 79km. Both trucks were parked here and we were asked to get our passports since might be needed at police/agricultural check later (in hindsight nobody asked for mine, but better safe than sorry).

As we left lunch, some more tail winds and warmer. It was still desert areas as we approached the airport. Even the airport looks like it was built a ways out of town and not much else around it. Perhaps one reason it was built so far away was some of the best flat lands. After the airport, the road got more short sharp hills to climb over as we went through some ridges. The highest of those ridges a little before 133km and then the agricultural stop there. A large truck was to my left and they just waved me through.

Shoulders were still narrow and traffic was heavier, so took some concentration the last kilometers to reach outskirts of Windhoek at 149km. Just past this was new bike shop – first western style one I’ve seen here. I purchased some long finger gloves. After that a few more turns and few more hills to reach our camp in Windhoek. Will be nice to be here for a rest day.

Day 79, 162km to Witvlei

Today was our first full day of cycling in Namibia. The terrain was similar to Botswana though we see just a few small hills reappear.

This morning was cold in the desert. It seems we have a swing of temperatures between 4C and over 24C. I put on some extra layers for the cold, though had only my short finger cycling gloves and had lost my fleece somewhere in Egypt. There were some slight climbs leaving Buitepos also to get warm. After this mostly level.

I took off a layer or two. It seemed like we had some tailwinds and bike with new tire and wheel was running well. My average speed picked up and I made my way to lunch by 9:15am for 85km. Hooray!

Had a nice lunch and then back to cycling to reach Gobabis at 108km. Here was a Wimpy restaurant, a bank to change Botswana Pula to Nambia dollars and supposedly a good german bakery (reports were this might have been closed). In any case a good leisurely stop and second lunch.

After lunch, still had 50km to reach Witvlei. The road had no shoulders but traffic was light. Occasionally a truck would come by, though we had to watch to make sure they gave us clearance.

In the evening we had a TDA version of “burning man” with large man made of wood. Each person could write a note of bad things/thoughts they might want to get ride of and have them burned along with the man. Not sure if sharing voids the warranty, but my note said “broken rims”.