Namibia is one challenging country to cycle through, and I’ve barely touched the edge of it – I’m beat up all around from the past week of cycling.
I managed to run out of water the other day when cycling into Aus from Rosh Pinah, a 168km journey that was uphill for nearly the whole time – you wouldn’t think it is, but it took the energy out of me and hard. The last day of cycling into Aus was 70km and into an extreme headwind all day. Average kilometres per hour were 7, so you can do the math on that one and see where things go wrong on it. I thought that 14 litres of water was going to do me, but I ended up running out 20km away. Making it into Aus I went to the only store (gas station/combo thing) only to find it was closed. However the 24hr gas attendant (he never leaves, or sleeps for that matter?) went and found the owner who opened up shop for me for 10 minutes while I walked around looking at the overpriced selection of food – 2x the cost of what I’m used to paying. The owner was nice enough to open his gates to a small camping area complete with toilets, showers, water and power at no charge – The shower was on my highest priority as it had been a week. Priority two was getting a 2 litre of Coke in me, followed by a gigantic beer, before having one of the same dinners I’ve had over and over again over the past few weeks – Curried Vegetables in a can mixed with either Rice of Spaghetti. Not sick of it yet. Really – there was nothing in Aus for me to go crazy over, and I handed over my money for a small bag of goods that would keep me going for a few days hoping that a bigger store would appear.
Not so! The food pannier is now down to a couple cups of rice, a few soup stock cubes, coffee, and a can of corned ‘meat’ – No more oats, No more Mealie-Pap (whatever this stuff is it looks and tastes like dirt), no sardines, no oysters, no nothing. You’ll also notice there’s no fruit, or fresh vegetables listed, as nothing really grows here. Leaving Aus the next morning I desperately needed a break from the past 2 days and was glad that the dirt road (for the next 700km) was downhill for 45km. I heard there were farm houses along the way that I could ask for water and the first one on the left I entered to be pleasantly surprised when she offered lunch, water, coffee, and some take away figs fresh from the tree and a bag of Biltong. Really nice woman – who has aspirations of setting up a small campsite and self catering building for travelers. I thanked her and she thanked right back due to the loneliness of being out in the middle of nowhere and not having many people to talk to. She gave some advice on upcoming roads and farmhouses.
When in Aus I peered at the map and plugged in some coordinates into my computer mapping software, with the Destination of Betta – It was 208km 2 different ways, and I recall a few people telling me about the scenery on Route D707 – A dirt road. I asked a few locals and travelers what they thought about taking this road as opposed to the C13/C27 Gravel offering and they said it was sandy for about 200 metres, but I should have no problem cycling it. Again – don’t trust any people in cars for conditions on if there is hills or if the conditions are bad – they don’t know. I opted for D707 and made it 10km on a fairly nice packed red dirt road, horses and wagons coming the other way filled with people coming from working on a farm, before stopping and staying at another farmhouse for the night.
The next morning all prepped with 16 litres of water, great energy and motivation had me sailing for the first 15km blasting out some Johnny Cash before conditions started to deteriorate so badly I’m amazed they can even call this section a road. Sure, 200 metres of it is sand, every 200metres. If you go too fast, you lose control, but if you go to slow you sink. And when that happens you have to switch to a higher gear stand up and try to get some traction, before shifting down a gear to get some movement. You repeat this over and over again before moving it seems, only to be caught up in another pit 20 feet ahead. Constantly scanning for an area to try out you have no real time to stop and think about what is around you, not noticing that the heat is blasting down at you at 34 degrees in the midst of the Namib Desert. Over and over again the stand up, shift, sit down pedal movement gets tiring, and your feet regularly slip off the pedals and the handlebars turn all sorts of funky ways uncontrollably. With the up and down of getting back on the saddle I managed to punch a hole right in the ass of my pants, repair looks next to impossible on them but I will try in about 1.5 weeks time when I estimate I’ll be in some sort of populated area. This movement also caused some other nasties on my ass – Little bumps right under the left cheek that hurt like hell every time you sit on them. Worse, they grow and grow and grow and are painful to the touch. I went ahead and held my breath pinching one to see if I could burst it but no such luck. This brought tears to my eyes, and there was nothing else to do but keep riding. After a while your pain receptors just turn off and you don’t notice it, but for the first 20 minutes of riding after a break or a rest it feels like someone is grating you with a cheese grater.
I must have rubbed my nose wrong, as the blood started pouring out of it a few days back and whenever I touch my nose just a bit these days it starts out gushing huge droplets, forcing me to stop (in the sand), find some toilet paper (I have better uses for this than on my face) and hope it stops. It’ll fire up even without me knowing where I’ll touch my face and realize I’m caked with blood all over my moustache and its dripped all over my lips. No one is around, so who cares- and my water can be used for better purposes at this stage – if you rub on it it flakes off after a while.
Worse though is all at once all of my electronic devices just gave up the ghost – discharging all their batteries leaving me without any abilities to listen to music, log statistics, charge speakers, or even run the GPS. Why my laptop lost its power is beyond me, as it was fully charged when I set it to sleep the night before. Why my cache battery connected to my front wheel Dyno Hub is dead was a puzzling situation as well. The GPS dropped off about halfway through the day, the phone shortly there after and the speakers had fizzled about the same time. I unplugged some of the components and tried to charge / run power to them one by one but it was very intermittent. Was it the speed I was traveling at? (6km/h), was it because I was bouncing up and down on the crappy dirt/sand/gravel surface? I decided to just forget about it as best as I could and get off D707 – It’s too bad that it was such a frustrating road, as D707 has some significant meaning to me in other areas of my life. I suppose the road would have been worth it if I could have saw a Zebra as told I would, rather than the Springbok that were running around wildly sometimes running headfirst into barbed wire fences then running sheepishly away. Strange creatures indeed.
Most tourists I have met are from Germany, which makes sense – Namibia has a very large German population, remnants from the 1st World War, in fact there remains a Prisoner of War camp near Aus used during those times but war is no good to me, and I have no interest in seeing how we’ve managed to fudge up society and rights in the past. They seem nice enough, but I’m getting quite frustrated with seeing a car pull up with a man and a monopod snapping photos of me as if I’m part of a safari hunt – Sure my ass may be black and blue but..
I took half a day off in Betta, waking up to flat #3 of the trip, and slowly making my way downhill 22km wincing at every bump hoping that there would be ice cream parlours, flowing fountains and all sorts of tasty treats for sale. About 200 cows roam freely around the roads instead along with wild dogs, horses and goats. There is a gas station, and a campsite which wants 80 NAD ($11.30 CAD) for someone to pitch a tent. Even better, is the store that has no prices on any products, I ended up paying $16 Canadian for 3 cans of vegetables, a can of coke, and two potatoes, a total rip off. They have you over the barrel, and know that you will pay it as the bar has already been raised by other tourists who show up on busses, or rented 4wds looking for someone to fix their blown tire. I wasn’t having anything to do with the campsite and spent the day sitting in the shade in front of the gas station slowly looking at my bike to see how it fared from the thousands of aftershocks over the past few days. The power plant issue I may have sorted out with some loose wires, I taped some things together and will hope it holds until Swakopmund in 7-10 days where I plan on resting for a good week.
For now I think tonight’s a good night to bust out a few Ibuprofen and hope my butt feels better in the morning for yet another gravel bump party.