Monday, 3 May 2010

TOUGH RIDES IN NAMIBIA...

Namibia is normally hot and dry at this time of the year, but for the

70 TDA riders who have battled cold headwinds and heavy rains since we
left Windhoek it has been a bit of a shock. Namibia is tougher than I
expected. We are doing the longest section on dirt of the tour with
almost 1000 km of uninterrupted gravel roads. Namibia is not flat
either, so when you mix, rain, sand and headwind on steep up hills,
the cycling gets pretty hard… To make things even more challenging,
the tour organization has planned very long sections here with riding
days up to 173 km long. Such distances on tarred are already painful,
but on dirt, they turn into something close to masochism….
But we have plenty to look forward, firstly this is some of the most
exotic and surreal cycling landscapes I have ever traversed, secondly,
Cape Town is now really close… As I am writing this, we have 11
riding days left and about 1500 km to go. (half on dirt)
Namibian landscapes are so unique and so different from what we have
seen over this long journey. Even if the cycling is tough, it is with
a sense of excitement that most of us are feeling as we get on our
bikes at the early hours of the morning. The morning light on these
colorful desert backgrounds is just magic. I have never seen so many
riders stopping for taking pictures, even the racers in front have now
understood how privileged we are to cross such places on a bicycle and
many of them were stopping for pictures yesterday.
The thunderstorms we went through over the past 3 days added some
dramatic dark blue colors to the sky making the whole landscape even
more dramatic. I must have spent more than 2 hours taking pictures
yesterday alone.
The clear skies have returned to compliment our rest day in Sesriem ,
a tiny place that reminds me of the “Bagdad café” movie. One petrol
station, one camping and a lodge in the middle of the desert. A
beautiful and calm little oasis lost between the red sand dunes and
the mountains. The visitors are mostly South African and German
tourists equipped to the teeth with flashy 4x4 vehicles. We don’t
really fit into that category of people and I find it hard to
communicate with these very pale and fat people. I have cycled over 10
000 km to get here and I simply cannot identify myself with a tourist
that has flown to Johannesburg and rented a 4 wheel drive car there. I
just feel that an entire world is separating me from these people.
They also seem a bit scared about this big loud group of cyclists and
only a few of them are actually making an effort to ask us some
questions about our trip.
Here is a first warning about things to come, in less than 2 weeks we
are all going back to our normal lives and some of it already scares
me a bit. How do you explain what we have just lived, how do you ever
look at overloaded supermarket shelves again without having a thought
at how we struggled to get hold of simple products like toilet paper
or toothpaste. How will it feel to see people eating twice what their
daily food requirement is when our obsession has been to match our own
calories deficit for the past 4 months? What do you respond to the
“How was it?” question????.....
On the other hand, I am really looking forward for not digging a hole
in the ground to have a crap and packing up my wet tent in the dark at
5 h00 am. I only have to pack my stupid locker 11 more times and that
is definitely something to look forward to. This locker queuing and
packing is one of the most irritating part of this trip. I hate it and
so does every rider…
My computer has been infected with a virus. This has resulted in a lot
of complications for me, especially for keeping this blog running. I
have helped so many people with Internet connection, lending my
computer. Unfortunately, somebody has managed to infect it with a USB
stick. Luckily, just about each TDA rider started the tour with one
working laptop. By now, many have been either stolen or have broken
down due to the horrific conditions we have gone through, from heat,
sand and dust to humidity and plenty of physical abuse especially when
the trucks went over corrugated roads for hundreds and hundreds of
km's. David’s computer has survived every above mentioned threat so
far, and that’s where from I am now doing this update.
The next 5 days are seriously hard and all efforts are going to be
needed to remain EFI. Namibia is an easy place to lose EFI. The gravel
roads are in good condition, so you tend to ride relatively fast, but
there are many things to watch for. Most dips have thick soft sand in
which it is easy to make a mistake and fall. One bad wipe is enough to
hurt yourself and it is therefore important to remain focused until
the end. On such long days, with the fatigue adding to the routine you
tend to make more mistakes as you are nearing the end of your riding
stage.
I am not sure about when I will be doing the next posting, but most
likely from the South African border where we will be enjoying the
last rest day of this tour on May 9.

 

                               David and I with a dramatic sky at the back. We are heading for it...
                                                          Who said Namibia was flat?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

encore des images de toutes beautés !
et pendant ce temps là, une gigantesque marée noire aux états unis, des manifs en france pour savoir jusque quand on va travailer, la grèce qui est en faillite, et on continu a gaspiller dans nos contrées dont le modèle développement est fondé sur la croisance infinie ...
tu verra sans doute le monde différament dans 15 jours, ça c'est sûr !
sylvain

Anonymous said...

I think definitely it's a good idea for you (and for all of us who follow your blog) to write your experiences when the trip arrives to the end. The advantage for you is that it will not be necessary to repeat a hundred times your adventure ! only make gift of your book. I m Joan from andorra.

Viv said...

Amazing photos Gerard. Its hard being back at work, sounds tough but beautiful and now we are rested of course we wish we were back riding to cape town with you all.

One good thing though, internet back home is FAST so great to read everyones blogs.

JiPé de NANCY said...

Respects !!

JiPé

christian said...

Bonjour Gerard, je suis l'agent Air France qui vous a enregistre a Barcelone!

Simplement vous dire que un voyage superbe en suivant votre blog!

Depuis barcelone je commence a faire des petites routes de 60 km dans le secteur!!

Salutations