On the road again.

10. March 2010

It's been a long time since my last wheel revolutions in Africa.
I've been avoiding the Black Continent, beating around the bush, choosing other cycling destinations, but now I can't delay it any more. Despite the headaches with obtaining the visas and nightmares about lions lurking in the tall grass beside the road, I must face the challenge. Besides, it's the last continent where my current touring bike hasn't been yet.

I've choosen a particulary interesting itinerary, covering Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho. This mini "coast-to-coast" tour in Africa has all the potentials to become one of my favorites.

I have still few months until the start, so with nothing more useful to do, I started weighing my luggage. It seems I will make another record with less then 5 kg. I even shortened the cue sheet that I use instead of the map (left picture here). It's now 9,5x5,6 cm, and 0,05 grams lighter. And if you think that I am the mad one, then look what this guy has to say!


10 June 2010

The true stars of this tour were the crocs. You know - the plastic shoes. When I picked them up I knew immediately they were my perfect choice. 325 grams for a pair, plastic that should dry in seconds if it got wet, holes to ventilate your feet. They came with warm, slipper-like inserts, to be worn in winter time. And cost only 10 euros. I added waterproof socks, to be worn if the weather would turn extremly cold or damp.
The crocs should be one size smaller than your usual shoes. My crocs were too big, so I stuffed them with plastic bags in front. Worn with short socks, they were quite comfortable. Worn with waterproof sock (left) they stayed rock solid.

Prologue: Windhoek to Swakopmund

17 August 2010

I started the tour in truly "self-sufficient" way. I packed the bike in the box, carried it from my home to the city bus station, got on the bus in rush hour, got out at the main bus station, put it on a bus to the airport and there I checked it in. On the other side of the globe I got the bike almost unscratched at the Windhoek airport, assembled it and rode for 50 km to the center of the city where I'd reserved the hostel.
Road from the airport towards Windhoek. There were not much cars, but ones that were there were blasting through at 200 km/h.

This year's set up. Less then 5 kg of luggage - including the crocs.

The next morning I was already on my way to the "official" start of the tour: Swakopmund, the little, german-flavored town on the Atlantic coast. 

The Namib desert
Atlantic beach at Swakopmund
Main Got! Ist das ein Deutches Hotel in Afrika?

Driving - nicht gut für Gesund.

Day 1: 48 km. Day 2: 185 km. Day 3: 183 km. Total: 416 km.

Through the Namib-Naukluft NP: Swakopmund to Windhoek

20 August 2010

I dipped my feet in Atlantic, it was too cold to swim. There is some symbolism in the itinerary that I've chosen for this year's tour: it goes from one coast to the other of another continent. Last year I rode North America coast-to-coast, this year it is Africa. A few more years, and I'll be around the world in stages.
Swakopmund to Valvisbai road
Seaside resort
From Swakopmund I rode to Valvisbay, then turned inland on the gravel #C14. I refilled three bottles with water in Valvisbay and bought another 0,5 l drink at the Valvisbay airport. That's 3,75 liters which should last for the next 350 km, so I thought. The first day was Ok, overcast skies, warm but not hot, I didn't use up much water. I rode two or three hours after sunset, until 21:00, then I made a camp on rock-solid ground. 

The end of asphalt at Valvisbay airport
Freedoooom, ..., Freeeedooooom

Vogelvederberg, an Uluru-like monolith
Aloe Dichotoma
The next day, however, was different. The mist dissolved early in the morning and by the noon the thermometer already showed 32 °C. A few hours later it was 37 °C. The road was now of an up-and-down, roller-coaster variety, with frequent, short but steep uphills with pools of soft gravel at the base of them which absorbed all your momentum as you rode into them from a previous downhill. I drank most of my water by the end of the day. According to my cue sheet, there was only one place before Windhoek (Weissenfels guestf arm) with some certainty to get water, and it was 80 km away. And there were three passes still ahead. As I laid in my tent that evening I had a few thoughts of how I might deal with the lack of water. One of them is to collect my urine in the morning. I actually did, but fortunately hadn't had a chance of drinking it - Weissenfels guesthouse saved my life.

Solitaire/Windhoek crossroad on #C14, obviously

A piece of aspfalt before Kuisberg pass

  Springboks (if you look carefully)

No need to look - no springboks here.

Day 4: 138 km. Day 5: 108 km. Day 6: 92 km. Day 7: 61 km. Total: 816 km.

To Botswana

24 august 2010

The wheel perspective
I came to the "Cardboard box" hostel in Windhoek in the early afternoon. (I remembered I wrote "cardboard box" as a residential address in Namibia on the immigration form - but it didn't seem to have impressed the officials). Mathias - the guy motorcycling around the world for 3 years now - was still there, still pondering whether he should move on to his last leg to Cairo or stay for few more days and continue his evening discussions over a couple of beers. Early afternoon is a good time to be in a hostel - the bathrooms are empty and clean in between morning and evening shower rush hours, the internet is not occupied and you have same peace to do minor bicycle maintenance. And there will be still time left to go shopping and to make yourself a meal before the kitchen becomes occupied by Japanese backpackers making a four-course, haute-cuisine dinner. I haven't eaten much in the last four days and that was probably the reason for a strange ticking in my ears. I bough half a kilo of pasta, cooked it and ate half of it in the evening. The other half I cooked at 6:30 the next morning, even before the hostel woman came to wash the dishes and to clean the junk from the sink that the "oh-so-cool" hostel guests left laying there last night. Really, I don't think there is much hope for the planet if the people can't be bothered to clean the shit they leave behind them.
The trans-kalahary road.
I made it to Botswana border in two days. The first day was a relaxing ride, carried by the tailwind all the way to Witvlei. In Witvlei the hotel that was supposed to be there had gone out of business, but there was a nice man who invited me to camp in his courtyard for that night. In the morning I shared coffee and cookies with his family and got some information about the road ahead. He didn't want to take money.
At the Namibian family's house in Witwlei
The tailwind lasted until Gobabis, then the wind turned and I had to put in some effort to came to Botswana border before the dark. I had some Namibian dollars left, so I treated myself with a huge T-bone steak, a couple of beers and two bags full of food, which was supposed to last three days, but didn't last much longer then next day's morning. It was an early start of the "hungry cyclist" stage.
The cockpit with crocs panorama
And other sort of panorama
Good bye Namibia
Another country ahead
Day 8: 158 km. Day 9: 160 km. Total: 1134 km.

Botswana randonnée

28 August 2010

The crossing of Namibia-Botswana border went swiftly and smoothly. I didn't need the visa for Botswana, didn't have to pay anything and even the question what should I state as a "registration number of the vehicle" on the immigration form was resolved relatively quickly. As a pleasant greeting into Botswana, there was an excellent tarred road with 1,5 m wide shoulder, separated from the traffic lane with a solid yellow line. And to make my entry even more agreeable, there was a 100-rand note lying in the grass just outside of the Botswana border building.
Trans-Kalahari has "bicycle lanes" in Botswana
The stretch of the Trans-Kalahari highway that lay before me was the most deserted of the whole trip: there were 80 km untill the last village with a source of water and then another 310 km until the town of Kang, without any facilities in between. I was a bit worried if my 3 liter capacity will be enough, but with a bit of discipline, i.e. drinking just a gulp of water every half hour, I made it safely to Kang in two days. I was amazed with my fast progress, so that I planed to make the final 420 km stretch from Kang to Gaborone in a randonee style, within 24 hours, riding through the whole day and night. Well, that didn't realize, I got fed up with night riding after only 2 hours.
The village kiosk
Contrary to Namibia, there were no fences along the road. According to what my hosts in Witvlei told me, that should mean that animal encounters would be more common and even seeing a lion would be possible. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that was not the case. I saw practically no wild animals in Botswana and even the donkeys and horses, that grazed by the road, run away as soon as I approached.
Botswana real estate

Playing the sticks game
My main task in Gaborone - apart from stuffing myself with bags of food - was to recharge the battery of my camera. The electricity plug-ins in Botswana (and in South Africa) have a strange three-part form and it took a considerable amount of well aimed force to use it with the type of adapter that I have.
Botswana's vista
Day 10: 159 km. Day 11: 230 km. Day 12: 188 km. Day 13: 148 km. Day 14: 97 km. Total: 1958 km.