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Cycling From Cairo To Capetown: Namibia
Wednesday 23rd April : Namibia
It was great to break the 200kms mark into Namibia. It was a great end to the day and a few cold Windhoek beers awaited me over the border. It's an awesome bottle of suds and it's hard to say no at $.70c U.S. So hard to say no that in fact Dave, Rod, Clive and the documentary guys and a few others all stayed up quite late. Some people did say no - but that was the following morning when they had to cycle: Rod and Clive know who I'm talking about.
24 April Actually horribly hungover as I am, I'm averaging about 42kms which is pretty good for me. Maybe I should drink more often ? Right now I'm mid-cycle at an internet cafe in Gobabis a small town and it's almost time for me to log off and break the news to the sweet girl working here that although I have an awesome flash bike I have no money to pay for the last 2 hours of internet use. My first impression of Namibia is a good one. That could be because Botswana wasn't the most characteristic stretch of my expedition. But people are friendly and the biltong is cheap.
Next stop is capital city : Windhoek, so good they named a beer after it.
Free Internet Yep she let me have the internet for free in Gobabis. I arrived in Windhoek a totally western town with terrible traffic. The cars leave you no room and I had to jump off the road 4 times on my ride. I stopped into a taxidermists on the way to Windhoek. He gave me a tour of his business. I won't forget the giraffe he stuffed it for a man in Switzerland. The cost of stuffing it is 20,000Euros. This man aims to stuff up to 8 animals a day and ships them all over the world. It's hard to see why someone would hunt a giraffe. I chased a few around in Zambia and they run away so it's not such a challenge to justify stuffing and shipping it around the world. Nonetheless this man seemed happy, wealthy and had over 50 tortises in his garden. Later in Windhoek I chowed down on a few stripes of zebra & other wild game in Joe's Beer Garden - a restaurant famous for serving wild game.
After a late night in El Cubano (4am) I got up the next day at 8am and drove 350kms to Swapkopmund in a rented car with 2 friends Luke and Jos. There are 2 roads. A primary road and secondary corrugated asphalt road to Swapkopmund. That's right we took the secondary one by mistake and it took us nearly 6 hours of steep hills, big rocks and heavy sand. I spun the car out of control one time but managed to recover it very close to a mound of sand. We then all agreed to drive under 90kms at all times. The road was about a kilometre wide and both warthogs and monkeys were grazing happily, on this stretch we saw 3 houses and met 1 other vehicle. Had the car gone out of control we would have had no water, food, phone or way to keep cold during the day. Or indeed warm at night. Please don't think we would all snuggle up together.
Sandboarding in Namibia
As I journey south into winter the nights are getting longer and of course later and Swapkopmund is no different. After a long night of playing pool with Kenyan safari guides, dealing with rowdy drunk locals and sipping Jagermeister I eventually got to bed only to get up early to go sandboarding followed by quad biking. The sandboarding is tough and walking up a 90 metre sand dune in snowboarding gear is the most physical thing I have done in Africa. The town of Swapkopmund is like a little German town completley different from anywhere else in Africa, I could stay longer but unfortuanetly I have a deadline in Capetown - only 12 more days on a bicycle. The Namib desert awaits bearing bush camps and asphalt roads.
Robbed ! I just checked my bank account online and a withdrawl of 1500 was made in Ethiopia. I wasn't me. I can only see a serial number, the amount and the date. I remember the day : it was in Bahir Dar and I went into a bank gave them my bank card and asked them to take out some money (not 1500). They looked at it for a few minutes then handed it back to me saying they can't help me. Think I need to call fraud.
Well I made the 3 days through the Namib Desert. This is reputed to be the best place on earth to see stars and it doesn't disappoint. In fact Africa with it's large plains never disappoints in that department. The Namib desert hosts exceptional scenery and reminded me a lot of the Nubian desert in Sudan. Despite 3 punctures the riding was easy. The sand was nicely packed down and made riding a pleasure.
I took a picture of a dried-up cow carcass today, then deleted it. It brought me back to the deserts in Egypt, Sudan and to a lesser degree Botswana. The amount of dead animals (mostly cows, camels and goats) dried up on the side of the road in Africa is astounding but according to locals most of them have met their faith by the haphazard driving that accompanies those who brave the desert. I don't doubt this for a minute.
It's a harrowing thought when I consider that I had to jump off my bicycle in Egypt to avoid a bus and that a bus knocked my off my bicycle in Tanzania. The usual traffic is a bus load of tourists ploughing to their next destination or a truck with goods on a tight schedule. The dried corpses give the impression that these animals were scorched by the Sun however this is not the case, I have never heard of a thirsty camel but I do know a few bad drivers in the desert.
When you are cycling at 10kms you do get frustrated. I did curse all the gods, my bicycle and of course the 1970's funk group Earth Wind & Fire. I soon ran out of people and music groups to curse. I needed to put the head down and get on with it. It took me about 10 hours with only 2 ten minute breaks throughout the day.
Of course you can't cover the same distance on desert dirtroads as you can on tarmac. However in order to visit Fish River Canyon we had to ride one day of 130kms of dirtroad followed by 50kms of tarmac for a total of 180kms. This was quite a tester as any other dirtroad day has a total distance less then 120kms. Factored in are the 2 very large hills and a very strong headwind knocking the face off you.
Fish River Canyon Africa's answer to the Grand Canyon, having seen both I can confirm they are big holes. What always amazes me more then the scenery when I see these wonders, is the thought of how patient a river can be. It takes millions of years for that river to carve it's course 500 metres down. I have been in Africa for 4 months but it feels like forever: ok, it's not a fair comparison but it can give you that drop in the ocean feeling when you're gazing at desert stars.
We also stopped by the Orange River for the last rest day before Capetown. I took time out to reorganise my stuff, have a few last Windhoek draughts and admire South Africa from across the river border. I would be lying if I said there wasn't viking drinking afoot.