Sunday, 2 May 2010

NAMIBIA

There was a sense of excitement this morning as we left Windhoek. We were starting the eight and last section of this gigantic adventure across Africa. At the end of this section.... Cape Town..... But before we get to see Table mountain, we need to sweat a bit more... And sweating we did today.... Namibia reminded us that we are now back in dryer and warmer territory, but what a difference from Botswana! We got on dirt just a few kilometers after leaving the capital and started climbing right away on a curvy sandy road surrounded by dry bushes and beautiful mountains in the background. We climbed to a 2050 m pass before riding rolling hills and long straight stretches of dirt road filled with gravel and patches of soft sand.


Dirt roads in Namibia are in a much better shape than anywhere we have been previously on this trip. Here they maintain the gravel roads and grade them regularly, so they are actually relatively easy compared to the one we experienced in Southern Sudan or Northern, Kenya and Tanzania.
The difficulties today did not come from the road but from my bike... I changed my chain in a hurry on arrival in Windhoek and did not notice that I put a chain for an 8 speed bike. My cassette has 9 speed which means that the size of the chain is a tiny bit narrower than on a 8 speed bike. As we left Windhoek, I noticed that my gears did not shift properly. A few kilometers further, they started to shift by themselves and eventually, I could only use one gear at the back. This meant that my only way to tackle the climbs today was to use the front derailleur and to stand up when it got too steep.... This is OK for a few kilometers, but we had 115 km to go and plenty of climbs including a serious pass.
Eventually, about 10 km after lunch my chain broke. I carry quick links for such incidents, but unfortunately they were too narrow for this chain, so we had to go for plan B. Eric helped me to fix the chain by using the chain itself. For this, you have to brake another link and force the pin back into position once you join the two parts of a now shorter chain. After two unsuccessful attempts we managed to fix it and I could ride to the finish.
This did not fix my gear shifting problems though and all I could do was to stand on my legs and push harder when climbing. As problems usually come in series, Jos had a flat and a strong headwind picked up during the last 30 km of the stage. All these delays resulted in us cycling through the hottest part of the day and we were a bunch of unhappy cyclists when we finally reached the camp site.
Luckily, the campsite was really nice combined with a lodge, it was well stocked with cold beers and we even had rooms booked by Tony who was sick today and got here early using the dinner truck.
Having a room instead of putting up your tent makes such a difference, especially after a long day like this. You can get straight to the shower and relax on the bed just minutes after finishing your cycling day, rather than having to get to the truck, pick up your camping gears, walk with you tents and other necessary equipment to a remote corner of the camp and having to clear the ground, look for shade, avoid the ants and so on.... Instead within minutes, you are fresh, clean and can enjoy a cold beer. So you can imagine that there is a big rush at each TDA camp site to get to book rooms where there are some available. Each rider is trying to use a faster rider connection to book a room for him or her, so your best bet is either to find out where we are going next and book by phone in advance or to ask somebody on the truck to book a room for you. But as we progress further in this tour, more and more riders know the tricks so it is really getting harder and harder to get rooms anywhere we go. By now, everybody is so fed up with camping that the room competition is almost harder than the riding itself...

                                       Eric managed to fix my broken chain after a few attemps.
                                    I managed to reach camp with this fix and put a new chain on.
                                                This time I made sure I had the right size...
                                        Lunch in a beautiful setting, it felt like a Sunday picnic...
                                             Road signs.... We are definitely back in civilsation
                            
                                                The lunch truck waiting for hungry cyclists
                                                                  Beautiful Namibia
                                                                              Katja
                                                                             Aren
                                            Namibia has 2 habitants per square kilometer,
                                                    so here is what it means in real life....
                                             Endless empty fields with beautiful mountains in
                                                        the background, that is Namibia...
                                I had to take two photos as the riders were already too far appart.
                          Two more of the 12 posing at the 10 000 km with me: Simon and Frans

                                       We enjoyed beeing back on dirt with some windy roads
                                             after riding 2 weeks in straight and flat Botswana
12 TDA participants have managed to ride Every Inch since Cairo to this point where we pass 10 000 km.... Here are 7 of them, from left to right Sunhil, Hardy, me, Rod, Stuart, Juliana and Dan. The 3 missing for the photo are Gizi Jason and Jethro who are also EFI. Frans ans Simon came a bit later and we did a separate photo
                                                                      Beautiful Namibia...

1 comment:

Dane said...

hey Gerald, looks like you've had an indescribable experience thusfar! enjoy the last stretch and best of luck! Dane