Sleeping under an overpass – surprisingly quiet, with the exception of the drafts of wind that shake around my tent and the birds who have nested in the roof. It’s also a dried up river bed that has seen some damage likely in the past year due to the massive amounts of rain in the area, but it’s safe to say I’ll be ok tonight. Hello from Central Namibia!
My scheduled posts didn’t even get entered into the system, so we’ll have to give that a go for the next couple of weeks – they are reviews of some products and not time sensitive anyways. I’ve been not really thinking about much on this site as of late as I’m in the final test of releasing a project which I think will be beneficial to all bicycle tourists and those who are interested in the concept – Look for something January 1st. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time has been put into it going back 9 months now, so I’m glad to be in the final bug fix mode and will be happy to let it sit and be useful before going back and adding more features as I have planned for down the road – but way down the road!
The past few weeks have been a bit of up and down for me, in a weird funk with some storm clouds following me not understanding why they appear and not able to shake them off immediately – I think I can say now I worked through it in my head and now in a much better headspace. I’ve gotten some incredible amounts of rest since last post making it out of the crazy dirt roads leaving from Rosh Pinah and finally putting me back on tar roads in Walvis Bay, back at the Atlantic Ocean halfway in the country. What was expected to be a short stop in Walvis Bay turned into a 3 day affair, after finding out my plans to stay in neighbouring town Swakopmund had to be delayed due to some issues that had arisen. Camping behind a church the first night wasn’t so bad, other than the massive amounts of sand getting everywhere, leaving me with a fear that my zippers would get damaged in my tent. For the next 2 nights however I had the luxury of staying in an empty preschool, of course it is summer holidays here in December and I had a huge house to roam freely in, only lacking hot water. There were a few turtles and a rabbit roaming around the yard which were fun to watch and see how they interacted with each other.
I spent a lot of my time at the Wimpy’s Burger, where the owner who is just starting out cycling was very friendly and welcoming, even introducing me to his many friends throughout the time. I also got to work at washing my gear – My food pannier needed a bit of attention, old pieces of rice, pasta, spices, and whatever ended up floating around inside and created a sticky mess on everything in the process. I also attempted to find the source of a mystery leak in my Exped Synmat 7 Air Mattress – I’ve had issues with an older version of this mattress before, and I can’t seem to figure out why some nights I wake up to a rock in my back, and other nights not. I’ve rubbed soap all over it, dipped it in a pool, bathtub, rubbed a cloth over it – nothing. Could it be the valves? I guess the manufacturer who has been very helpful in the past will be the final word.
I’m now down to my last and final Click-Stand – the other one snapped in two during the dirt road debacle. The new one seems to be holding up well since it hasn’t been damaged and bent yet, but I don’t think it will last all the way through Africa – Thorn, my bicycle manufacturer will not honour any warranty on the frame if one puts a kickstand on the bicycle, so I’m running out of options to keep my bike standing up – It’s incredibly difficult to lean it on something with the handlebars the way they are configured – much more surface area was available back when I was riding a Surly LHT with Drop Bars.
Along with my pants that ripped on D707 a few weeks ago, I also noticed that one of my Ortlieb Panniers had ripped and lost its stitching where the bag tightens up. Tailors weren’t able to fix it, so I found an upholstery place that fixed it in less than 2 minutes for the low price of $3. It’s in good working order now – although these panniers are going to be lucky to last through Africa as well. I stand behind them 100% however.
Walvis Bay is a small community that has a very busy industrial area and port where many containers get loaded/unloaded on a daily basis for import and export purposes. I’ve even run into people on the road who are driving unique vehicles for their vacation who have shipped them over here via container – that’s dedication, and a price that I can’t even fathom. It’s a city of 70,000 – quite large when you think of other places in Namibia, and has all the offerings that a city needs, loud nightclub with bad music, lots of grocery stores – and a very strange store with a Canada flag on it that sells T-shirts of ducks. It’s a small enough place where people know each other and look out for each other, and has some beautiful coast lines with some obviously well off residents. Behind it are sand dunes towering over the area, spraying sand into every nook and cranny of stores, porches, and anything else it can work its way into. Apparently there are thousands of Pink Flamingos in the lagoon, yet I didn’t get a chance to see them as I found out afterwards, a common theme.
Heading into Swakopmund was a windy affair, sand dunes on the right, Atlantic on the left, and no shoulder to ride on while cars whizzed past with no regard for the cyclists. Even though its 35km it still took close to 4 hours to get there, where a smiling touring cyclist from the Netherlands awaited. I neglected to catch his name, but I do know he left his home about a year ago and went down the same route I plan on heading into Morocco, but was denied at the DRC border, and the Angola Border and had to fly to Kenya from the Central African Republic – I hope I don’t have to go through those sort of visa roadblocks, as I’m done with flying for the time being. There are other routes however, even though I’d really like to see what is going on in the Congo.
Not knowing where I was to stay as I had arrived 2 days earlier than expected into Swakopmund, those thoughts were quickly erased when I ran into the host intending to have me stay with her for a few days, who said it may not be a bad time to come by now as things seemed to have cleared up in terms of the living arrangements. Whew! Anne-Sophie has been in Namibia for 3 years from France after coming here for a vacation with a friend and ending up landing a job with the Alliance Francaise. From a small town in France she is the only Warmshowers host in the country and is the only one for that matter until Kenya! She’s done a few small tours with her recumbent bicycle which is back at home in France, but I think I may have convinced her to bring it back with her after Christmas holidays and start doing some touring in the area. She was very nice and friendly making sure that I was comfortable and needs were met in her cozy flat close to the beach.
I spent my time off visiting (and getting kicked out of) cafes using their wireless internet trying to work on final remnants of the project, and to prepare for a presentation which went off wonderfully at the Alliance Francaise to a dozen or so people. I rewrote my presentation from scratch and did it with video editing software as opposed to PowerPoint, and while there were a few glitches, it paid off as the final product looked that much cooler. Many questions were asked by the attendees, with some of them surprising me. A few members of the press were also in attendance so we’ll see if there is a newspaper story that appears somewhere down the road.
I forgot to mention in the last post as well about my experience on the dirt road when I had run out of water and food – A friendly tourist had stopped to give me a refill of water and stuffed me with bread and sausage when a car pulled up and the driver stood out asking if I was Canadian – A weird question out of the blue, but I responded with a yes. He said he had just heard about my travels on the National Radio and they had asked anyone who saw me to get out and wish me safe travels – A few others throughout the day stopped to say similar things – a huge motivation boost on some very tough riding days.
With the presentation behind me I spent my last day in Swakopmund exploring the sights, fixing old flat tubes that I’d not had a chance to fix on the road, and managed to rework my camera mount on my handlebars with some tools from the hardware store. No more shaky camera, but unfortunately I won’t be able to share any of the content with you until I get a decent computer that’s able to edit 1080p video without freaking out – so maybe in 2013? Still, I’ll have a great cache by that point in time. I failed to find another piece of hardware to fix one of my Power Grip straps on my pedals which had worked itself away from the mounting screw, forever to be lost on the side of the road. I have an idea now to remount it, just need to get to one of those stores again, likely in about 120km in Windhoek, Namibia’s Capital City.
Instead of heading straight to Windhoek I opted to head north on a salt road instead of the busy B2 Highway which is known for its lack of shoulders and high occurrences of collisions. It tacked 100km onto the journey but the peace and quiet was worth it. I ran into 3 boys who were living in the bush for the past few months hoping to sell some gemstones from where they lived 2 hours east to help support their families before returning home for Christmas. Tourist season has ended they proclaimed, and I made sure to give them some bread and water after they guided me to a boat that has run aground sometime in the past 3 years. They said it was an illegal fishing boat that was caught by the Namibian Police, tried to escape and ended up hitting a rock, causing severe damage to the hull. The ship remains half in water, but is unsafe to board and explore at this time. I finally started heading east in Henties Bay, on one of Namibia’s notorious ‘D’ roads – known for terrible conditions, soft roads, and no services. It actually turned out to be not that bad even though one of the days had me climbing nearly 1000 metres before running out of energy and opting to pitch a tent under the full moon in beautiful Spitzkoppe. These beautiful mountains appeared out of nowhere, and have significant history for the people who have lived here for thousands of years.
I was happy to see tar roads again, immediately the average speed went from 10km/h to 15km/h and doing 80km seemed like a breeze. There were a few towns up ahead as told by my GPS, and I opted to stop in Karibib, which had a few grocery stores, and a hilarious store name ‘Hard Cock Drilling’. For 2 days I thought about who would be the person who would start a business up and advertise it that way, and looked forward to taking a picture with it, only to find out that it was a spelling mistake on both the Tom Tom iOS app, and my Garmin Edge 705 Cycling GPS. Someone along the lines thought it was a funny replacement I think, and I pedaled past Hard Rock Drilling in search of groceries. A group of children of ages 11-14 intercepted me however and asked many questions and we shared some laughs talking about how to say hello, how are you, and even some dirty words in English, French, and their native tongue (My memory is getting worse, I should have written it down upon them telling me). Roaming around the city for 10 minutes brought no real good places to sleep so I turned around in order to go speak to the Police, before being flagged down by a woman in a Pink Camper Van who asked me if I was looking for something – I replied ‘A place to sleep!’ matter of factly, and she said in no way was I to continue searching, and that I was to come to her house, relax, have a bath, swim in the pool, and enjoy a meal. OK! I followed her back to her place, through a locked gate, and while I was getting the tour of the house I found myself being led through a maze of rooms and turns before ending up in a commercial building. Coincidences happen frequently, and I just so happened to be inside the building of Hard Rock Drilling – this was the owners wife who had invited me in! I couldn’t help but tell her about the spelling mistake and she laughed quite heartily for a few minutes about the error, before introducing me to her husband, the owner.
We shared lots of time talking about the differences between Africa and North America, some geography lessons, and I did what they told me I should do – Showered, Relaxed, and enjoyed a traditional Namibian Braii (North American’ers: Think BBQ). Sheep’s ribs, and a sausage known as Puff Adder which is a mixture of the sheep’s liver, kidney, onions and spices stuffed inside intestines completed the meal along with some vegetables. Wonderful people and I can’t thank them enough for answering my silent plea for a shower that day. They offered advice for the roads ahead, and even a place to stay down the road close to Botswana, which isn’t really that far away – maybe 450km if that. First, I need to do some headstands at the Namibian Legislative Building, visit the Windhoek Brewery, and see off the competitors for the annual Windhoek –> Swakopmund Bicycle Race, which happens each year in December and has many cyclists riding 24hours straight 380km to get to the destination. Crazy stuff!
Scenery is changing each day of riding now in the centre of the country, the desert conditions and coastal sand has disappeared and huge trees and mountains have taken their place, wildlife is around but hiding, the more north you go is where one will run into Elephants and Lions, but I’ve decided to skip out on it and just go through Botswana in full where the same animals exist, but roam freely instead of in Game Parks or conservation areas.
I’m proud to say I’ve only heard one Christmas carol in the time I’ve been here, and doing a good job at avoiding at listening to any other ones. I was actually quite surprised to here them in a super market, but this is likely only because the town I was in was very westernized. It’s actually one of the reasons why I am here, so I’ll do my best to stay out of busy areas for the time being. It’s a time for family, but somewhere along the lines has been taken over by presents, big ticket items, and big business. Not saying you don’t have to celebrate it, I’m just saying that it’s not for me.
Finally – The support for the Clothing Children in Zimbabwe fund has been staggering. I think we’re going to need a trailer attached to my bicycle for when I get there to distribute clothing. If you’ve got a few bucks and want to support a charitable cause where you actually know what the money is being used for, there’s still some time, so check out this post.