May 17, 2016 | 17,227 km | By James
We had a straightforward cycle north (yes, north!) on the B1 from Windhoek before we turned west onto the B2. After 118km, we topped up our water bags at a roadside farm at Okazizi and found a dried-out riverbed to pitch our tent for the night – which displaced the resident cattle from their usual overnight spot.
From Windhoek, we’d been cycling on a large hard shoulder, but this disappeared once we’d passed through the gold mining town of Karibib.
We reached the town of Usakos. Emily’s uncle had warned us that it was the kind of place that “1st first prize was a week in Usakos; second prize was 2 weeks in Usakos”. Nevertheless, we begged the fuel stop/restaurant owners to pitch our tent on the closed campsite within their grounds.
We had our first experience of the Namibian gravel roads when we took a detour to Spitzkoppe – a majestic outcrop of racks that have been weathered over the years into a beautiful collection of boulders, crags and arches. We even saw some bushman cave paintings that are believed to date back 2,000-4,000 years.
From Spitzkoppe, we had a punchy 154km ride towards the coastal town of Swakopmund. Although it was gently downhill all day, the wind suddenly changed direction, meaning we had to pedal hard into a biting headwind for most of the day. We arrived exhausted but were pleased to see Emily’s uncles John and Nigel and Auntie Astrid, who’d come over from Johannesburg to see us. It was the first time Emily had seen them in 15 years! The next day Emily’s folks arrived from the UK to join us, and we spent a fun few days in Swakopmund catching up and spending some precious family time together.
Emily then sprung a massive surprise on me. For my birthday, she’d organised for me to do a Skydive in Swakopmund. What’s more, she (reluctantly) agreed to join me. For somebody who’s terrified of heights, is a nervous flyer and hates rollercoasters, it was entirely out of her comfort zone but, thanks to Eddie and the remarkably professional set-up at SkyDive Namibia, we both experienced the thrill of freefalling to the ground from 11,000 feet. As I’d done a few jumps before, my tandem master allowed me to do a few turns whilst in freefall and even let me pull the cord. I’m not convinced Emily enjoyed it quite as much as me, however.
From Swakopmund, we drove north and spent a fantastic few days in Etosha National Park. Etosha is a vast National Park. We were spoilt with the vast numbers of animals we saw, including giraffe, zebra, various antelope and stunning birds, huge numbers of elephants, 7 very endangered black rhinos, and a leopard. When the time came for Emily and me to leave, we were disappointed not to see any lions or cheetahs – only for us to spot them as we made our way out of the Park. Thanks again to John and Astrid for organising such a memorable trip!
After Etosha, we were reunited with our bicycles in Walvis Bay, where we’d left them with Warm Showers host Brian. Sadly Brian wasn’t there, but he kindly let us stay at his beautiful cottage overlooking the Walvis Bay Lagoon and its resident flamingoes. In Brian’s absence, his landlady, Caroline, looked after us and, over a cooked breakfast, it transpired that she came from the same town Emily’s parents live in and even went to Emily’s old school. Small world.
The notion of a small world soon disappeared the next day when we were back on our bikes. 115km uphill on gravel and into a headwind is tough.
Even more challenging when there was nowhere to get water. It was because of this that, the day before, Emily’s uncle John had driven us on a 250km round trip so we could bury water in the desert at our intended wild camping spot. We were so incredibly grateful to him as we retrieved the precious water bottles. That night we were too exhausted to properly enjoy the stunning sunset and star show.
We struggled onwards on the corrugated roads until we reached Rostock Ritz – a desert lodge and campground with an amazing policy of offering long-distance touring cyclists a free room for the night. The staff gave us an incredible welcome, and we made use of the soft bed by sleeping for 10 hours straight!
We’ve had a shorter day today – just 45 kilometres from Rostock Ritz to the desert outpost of Solitaire, where we’re incredibly grateful to Grant at the Solitaire Country Lodge for hosting us tonight. Nevertheless, today’s ride took us over 5 hours as we’ve struggled over the desert road’s corrugations, sand, and dust.
Just 3 days into bumpy gravel and the skin on my behind has broken…which will make the next stretch south to Cape Town memorable for the wrong reasons.
We’ve set ourselves an ambitious target of cycling 1,800km from Swakopmund in just 20 days, so we’ll arrive in Cape Town on Friday 3rd June. Please do follow our progress on our live GPS tracker and support our fundraising by donating to World Bicycle Relief – we’d really love to fund as many bicycles for school kids and communities in Africa before we reach Cape Town!
If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.