Day 78, 207km to Buitepos

Today was a tough day but for different reasons for myself than other riders. For others this was a 207km challenge, mando ride and longest on the tour. The terrain was flat and the trees were short. Winds included some tail winds and light cross winds. Congrats on all the riders that completed this ride.

What was tougher for me was that my rear wheel was not yet ready, hence I was on the truck today while the excitement was on the road. Fortunately, Catalin tightened up the wheel at end of the day and I expect to be able to ride again tomorrow.

Breakfast had been moved up 30 minutes and there was a shuttle across the sand to the road for riders. Everyone was busy in the dark preparing for the long day. I awoke early to check my bike rim and realized it wasn’t ready yet, so hung back some to let others get breakfast and on the road. I helped load the truck.

The first 42km were with some cross winds and then there was a road with sign “Namibia” and turn with more favorable tail winds. The route from here was to the west, though the winds did shift some during the day. The trees became shorter and eventually some areas without was well. Lunch stop was 79km and then from here to Charles Hill was a long ride with brief refresh stop at 150km.

The border crossing was straightforward and just 1km past the border was a camp at a lodge. An Afrikaaner owned the restaurant/camp and it was interesting to see some words that were familiar in being similar to dutch. I was in early and helped with preparations for dinner. As afternoon wore on the riders came in with big smiles and senses of accomplishment.

My smile came as Catalin fixed up the wheel and I tested things with a working bicycle again.

Day 77, 140km to Ghanzi

Today had two parts. In the morning we had a team time trial with a twist. In the afternoon was a ride through and across larger town of Ghanzi and then to camp.

It was cooler this morning and slightly darker. Breakfast is still same time, but as we go west the sunset is perhaps five minutes later each day. On the first kilometer I looked down and was surprised to discover my bike shorts were inside out – and that nobody had said anything! I quickly changed them. After this some very gradual hills and a hoof and mouth checkpoint at 18km.

There was supposed to be a town at 27km, but we think it was actually just past 20km so easily cycled to start of time trial at 30km. I looked at my rear wheel and was disappointed to discover it had split again. Same failure as in Egypt. I would try the time trial, but otherwise would need help from mechanics to rebuild the wheel before continuing. Sigh.

The twist to the time trial was that instead of seeing which team could ride the fastest, each team tried to guess their eventual time. As a result, riding with either an odometer or watch was not allowed. we had picked a “team slow” that included a set of riders at similar pace as well as the sweep for the day. We had also guessed a ride of 18km per hour where trick would be keeping at this slower pace more than racing to meet it. Our target time was 2:11:03.

It was a different experience trying to ride this slowly. Fortunately there were road markings so we could keep track of the distances. Otherwise a fun ride with six of us. Our net results were that we came in 2:06 and some seconds so were within five minutes of our expected time. However, this turned out to be good enough for 4th place as other teams varied between 3 minutes and 7 minutes of their expected time. I was surprised at how close it all came.

After the time trial was lunch and I packed the bike on truck rather than wait for the rim to collapse. We stopped through Ghanzi with truck and then off to camp. There was a 3km very sandy road that most riders needed to walk, so a bit frustrating at end of a long day.

In evening JJ started on the wheel and was able to re-lace the wheel but not quite complete it overall.

Day 76, 160km to bush camp

Mixed winds made for a tougher ride today. After the rest day the bike was tuned including replacing a spring in the rear hub and I also had a new camera.

The first 7km we headed back inbound to middle of town, across a roundabout and through the center. However, by 15km we were back in the bush and cycling away from Maun. There were dry scrub trees all day long, though sometimes there was sand underneath and sometimes grasses. It continued very flat and we had mix of winds. There were cows who occasionally chose just the right moments to cross the road. With a steady pace it wasn’t too difficult to lunch at 80km.

After lunch was feeling a bit more tired so included occasional feet on the ground quick stops. Also had a longer coke stop at 104km and one later to eat a PVM bar. Hence I was happy to reach camp at 160km. We’re back in a bush camp and are told this might be one of the last as Namibia has fences and private property and hence need to camp this sized group at camping lodges.

Maun rest day

This rest day was for getting some chores done. I thought I’d be early with my laundry but was still second in queue with another rider who had put on her headlamp and was washing clothes in the early morning dark we normally awaken about an hour before sunrise so even on rest days some are up early (this lets us get on the road not long after sunrise when it is cool and winds are calmest).

After washing clothes, needed to see about getting electronics charged up. I also dropped the bike off at “bike shop” during open hours. My rear hub had been acting up and discovered the spring that keeps the paws working had broken (meaning eventually the hub spins freely both directions). Thanks to mechanics that was fixed later in morning.

After this a trip to town. I bought new batteries for my headlamp (not just for clothes washing in the dark :)) and also looked for a simple point and shoot camera since three I had all had various maladies. I’d been able to make #2 work again but just in case. It took several tries but eventually found a shop that sold them. Not time to drop by supermarket for food. After this the internet cafe to get this update typed.

On return, my electronics will likely be mostly solar charged and I can bring in rest of laundry from the line.

Some went off for canoe trips or helicopter excursions over the Okavango Delta here, but somehow this ended up being a lot of small errands here today. Feels good though to have headlamp, clean clothes, working bike, cycle computers and cell phone charged. Should get me going again for week ahead. Last year the next five days were longest on tour – 825km total or just over 100 miles/day average for next five days in a row. With some tailwinds and flat roads shouldn’t be toughest riding but a headwind day or two could make it more challenging. Look forward to this next ride and our next destination of Windhoek, Namibia.

Day 75, 135km to Maun

We expected today to be an easier day, but the wind had other plans. Botswana continues to be flat terrain with low scrub trees. The grasses are yellow and dried and we’re told this is because of drought not of normal dry season.

Left our bush camp this morning and was on the road before 7am. My camera got jammed yesterday and the backup camera was also acting up – so will need to investigate this further in Maun. Riding was fairly easy with winds from the side and more tail wind than head wind. There wasn’t much in way of villages to distract me. At 30km I passed a double fence that reminded me of the “emu fences” in Australia – keeping the big game closer to the park. Otherwise the terrain and landscape was mostly the same until reached lunch at 69km.

On the way, I passed two touring French cyclists. They had started in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and gone to Arusha and now mostly on our route. However, carrying their panniers and gear. Nice to see others cycling this route and I suspect easier in southern parts of Africa than what we did north of Nairobi.

By lunch the winds had shifted and after lunch they were definitely head winds. Now it was up and into the wind for last kilometers into Maun. I did pass through a small village or two, but any tree that overhung or other cases was an excuse to briefly stop catch my breath and pause from that wind. Fortunately, I was able to slowly keep plugging along and by 2pm I was in outskirts of Maun.

I cycled through middle areas of Maun at 127km and then slowly headed along and outbound to our lodge area at 135km. We now have a rest day here. I’m going to see further about the camera choices and also see if I can get other posts up (3G internet hasn’t been much in Botswana). The last five days have been long and so ready for a good break in Maun and get ready for five longer rides from here to Windhoek.

Day 74, 184km to bush camp

Tailwinds! However, even with tailwinds it was still a long day and took me until 4:30pm to finish. I was slightly
late starting out. Our first 9km we went back to middle of Maun. There was a Wimpy (fast food) restaurant where some
riders stopped. I continued past and made a left turn downwind. We didn’t have much variety for the next 170km.
There were some low trees on both sides and mostly yellow grasses on both sides. I saw cows but not elephants or other game. The land was flat and the wind was a cross-wind but more from behind than ahead.

We crossed a major park between 140km and 173km though it didn’t look very different than before the park. In the morning I put things in gear and without too much work kept slowly going until I reached the lunch spot at 85km. There were occasional pull-offs with a trash barrel and sometimes shade. After lunch the next designated spot was Planet Boab cafe at 103km. Highly recommended even with a pool. Some riders even brought bathing suits with plans for a dip. The racers mostly skipped this diversion since it was 1km off the road. Some of us slower riders also skipped just to keep progress though some decided to ride to the pool, swim and take the lunch truck from there.

I took a photo of the Planet Boab sign and then my camera jammed. Sigh, this had been a replacement camera I had
purchased in Nanyuki. I tried unsucessfully to get it unjammed. After this it was a steady ride with a less steady
wind – sometimes from side or even corner ahead. At 152km was a “refresh” stop where one of the TDA staff was there
with water and apples. I stopped here and learned of the last 30km to ride. This wasn’t too difficult to end a long
ride. There were plenty of thorns in this camp, so I camped on top of a gravel bed and kept those thorns from my tent
and thermarest.

Day 73, 145km to Nata lodge camp

Another day of cycling southwards. It was flat riding but cross winds all day and occasionally even slight headwinds.
I also saw my first elephants while on the bike.

I left construction camp just before seven. The road started wide and we avoided any further construction this day.
However, we did have different sized chips for chip-seal road and hence sometimes easier to pedal. The morning included a lot of straight and flat cycling. While techincally a “construction zone” this area was completed. Without much difficulty I was at lunch by 10:30am.

One kilometer past lunch was a foot and mouth disease checkpoint. Fruits and other items were to be declared and all
truck and bicycle tires went through a pool. We also first placed our feet on a mat. After this continued the ride
across the savannah. Just past the checkpoint I saw two elephants hanging out in the shade. Otherwise not much change until 135km. I stopped in downtown Nata for a coke and then took the road outbound to Nata lodge. This road was narrower and also more into the wind but fortunately not too long.

In the evening we had a trivia contest. Questions were asked about cycling, Africa, TDA and also riders on TDA.
There were about seven teams. Two tied for first and our team then came in next. It was fun and even stayed up to
almost 8pm!

Day 72, 172km to construction camp

Today started with a cool flat ride. We were headed SSE and got a cross-wind starting middle of the day. That made the afternoon a tougher ride.

Our first 7km we backtracked from Kasane to the main road heading south. Apparently the more direct road on the map
becomes a sandy dirt track so we’re riding a big “L” the next four days to Maun. We saw plenty of warning signs showing us impala and elephants. However, I didn’t see any today. Our “elephant man”, Darryl who was accompanying us with safari vehicle and sometimes went off-road saw at least a dozen and some other riders also saw a few. Apparently, Botswana has ~160,000 to ~180,000 elephants which is about 60,000 to many. The road itself was surrounded by low trees and mostly cleared 50 meters on each side with only low grasses.

I saw a baboon sitting in a tree in the morning. It was a slow steady ride to lunch and was there by 10:30am at 76km.
After lunch the wind picked up. It was mostly cross-wind but also had head-wind components. We passed an area with
many crops at 90km. Saw sorghum and sunflowers. After our brief crop area, it was back to savannah and a coke stop
at 107km. Some riders stopped here to wait for the lunch truck. I decided to continue but still catch that same
truck when it passed. That got me until 127km and just the start of the construction zone. Signs said construction
next 135km, but I missed the first 45km.

The construction zone varied between new road, service road and often was a bit rough. The cross-wind continued and
we stopped frequenly to give riders still on the road a refill on water. From road reports, it doesn’t sound like
I missed much and was happy to be at camp.

Day 71, 81km to Kasane

Welcome to Botswana! Today was a shorter day that included a border crossing. As we move west, it keeps being a little darker each morning. Today wasn’t a race day so everyone was pretty relaxed in leaving and in cycling. Race day or not doesn’t make much different for those of us who are technically “timing” but not racing.

The first 4km brought us back to middle of Livingstone. From here we started west to the Botswana border. About 20km on right side of the road was a rhinocerous. The terrain was flat with just a few shorter hills. Otherwise tall savannah grasses and some low trees.

The flat terrain meant it was before 10m when I was at lunch at 66km. Just past lunch we turned left and headed to
the river. There was weigh station here and many long lines of trucks. I’m told trucks can wait up to two weeks
before getting across. Close to the border station was an exit from Zambia. I exchanged Zambian kwatcha here for
Botswana pula, though figured later I lost a higher percentage on the deal than normal. Fortunately, not a large amount

After this I was allowed on the next ferry that left (even TDA trucks ended up waiting an hour). It was a short ride
across the river. I cycled into Botswana including passing across a foot and mouth disease water. The last 10km brought me to the river and not far from town of Kasane. I cycled into town and was able to get money from the ATM (something I had been unable to do in all of Zambia. My credit union said all was ok, but I’m curious if they accounted for the new currency).

Across the river from our camp, we can see a narrow corner of Namibia. Zimbabwe is also not far from here, so we’re
close to that corner point with four countries.

Victoria Falls rest days

Two relaxing days outside Livingstone near Victoria Falls. This is a tourist hot spot with plenty of exotic things to do e.g. bungee jumping, ultra-light aircraft flying, helicopters, boat cruises, safaris, etc.

My list was pretty simple, namely to travel 10km and see the falls. I was impressed, the falls are big (not the highest nor the tallest in the world, but claim is the largest “sheet” of falling water when measured by width times height), approximately twice as high as Niagara Falls and one and a half times as wide.

However what was more interesting was the constant mist/rain when you walk along the falls. Some was quite heavy and good test of a rain jacket. I could also see the bridge where people bungee jumped and some of the other things here. Photo below shows rain jacket rentals for those who forgot.

Otherwise, kept mostly to the “rest” portions of rest days – got my skipping chain ring replaced and read some books (currently trying to figure out what happened with apartheid with South Africa coming up). We’ll have ten days of riding from here to Windhoek, Namibia with a rest day in Maun after five days. Expect some longer and flatter riding and getting rested for that.