Here we are, overlooking the Orange River, ready to cross into South Africa tomorrow and the final part of our epic adventure. Cycling Namibia has been beautiful and tough. I can definitely say Namibia: blood, sweat but no tears.
The scenery here is mesmerising. Wide expanses of grasslands with fairy tale blue mountains in the distance. The extraordinary red dunes of Sossus Vlei which live up to every picture you have ever seen and bring on thoughts of Beau Geste and the foreign legion. Then, yesterday, mountain passes that could have almost been the Lakes or the Peak district, with long climbs into golden moorland. The springbok bounding across the road gave it away though.
The riding has been hard. Lots of days on the dirt. An epic about half way through the section which typifies the TDA (Tour D’Afrique) experience. The rain had been pretty constant all night, and I woke up with a groan at the thought of taking down the tent in the wet and mud. But, it all got done and it was time to set off – still raining. The day was 31km in the dirt, followed by around 100km on tarmac.
I was feeling quite perky, thinking that a little rain never hurt anyone and that the conditions were pretty similar to home. Fortunately, I hadn’t factored in the fact that the road was going to turn into thick glutinous mud which required massive pushing power for every pedal stroke. I found that out though, as I climbed the tiny hill out of camp and almost fell off when the bike came to a complete standstill.
Cycling Namibia or mud wrestling?
It was one of those experiences where you don’t quite know what to think or how to approach it so you just keep pedalling. My intial speed was around 5km per hour in some parts, and trying to rationalise 6 hours to cover 31km is quite difficult.
This is where the TDA camaraderie on the road really really comes into its own though. As I got passed by the speedy boys, there was lots of advice shouted on the best line, the best gears, the easiest way to spin, and generally just a bit of human kindness in a wet, cold, hard, muddy world.
Apparently, I looked as though I was trying to strangle my bike at one stage… actually that was just me trying to drag the pedals round.
The tarmac, when it came into view, was the prettiest thing I had ever seen, and even better there was a shop with hot coffee and hot pies just there, and a big group of fellow riders to share with.
Then it was just a long slog into a head wind with lots of rolling hills to keep us interested. But after the morning epic, it felt good and my energy was high. I even managed to be first woman into camp. To make the day even better, we were camping in a hotel that looked like a castle and I had a shared room – no tent! And they had real coffee and syrup cake. Rewards are not always in heaven…