By bike through the south of Namibia
I had a nice tour through the north of the country to Walfish Bay. About half of the time I had been in the desert and cycled on gravel roads. I thought to myself that 640 kilometers across stones and corrugated roads should be enough for the whole year when I reached the salt road in Henties Bay. Then my host convinced me that tar roads could be very boring and I continued on unpaved roads. But I decided to take another approach.
When I left Walfish Bay, I didn’t want to know how many more kilometers I’d ride on gravel roads. Bryan had told me where I could get water and perhaps buy groceries.
Amongst the positive things about the German population in this part of Africa was the beer and also the bakeries with real bread.
Before I left town, I bought a lot of food. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get bread the following week and therefore a one-kilogram loaf of rye bread was neither too big nor too heavy. I didn’t need to fill the water bladder just yet. More heavily packed than usual I continued.
The desert continued immediately behind Walfish Bay. I left behind the blue of the lagoon and the green of the grass. The predominate color now was grey-beige.
As much as I had enjoyed to stay with Bryan in Walfish Bay, now it was great to camp in the desert again.
It had been suggested that I should visit the desert research station in Gobabeb.
I enjoyed doing that not only because I could get a supply of the water.
The staff were as interested in my bike,
As I was in their work.
Mainly young people were employed to research whatever there was to be learnt about the desert: population, tourism, flora and fauna. I had no idea about all the living things in the desert. They also researched the dunes.
The staff very proudly told me that American researchers who studied Mars, came here to research the dunes and compare them with the ones on Mars. One of the dunes on Mars had been named Gobabeb and other dunes also had Namibian names. I didn’t think that I’d ever cycle on Mars.
Not only did they fill my ten-liter water bladder but they also served me coffee. After a long break, I continued with an even heavier load.
From a distance, I kept seeing animals.
I didn’t have good eyesight and couldn’t really make out what they were.
Only when I took a photo, did I recognize them. No lions, only zebra and mountain zebra which were smaller and darker.
I reached the Mirabeb Camp in the Namib-Naukluft Park before the sun set.
It was situated around a giant red rock. There was hardly anything there except the obligatory braai (BBQ). I had been told that I wouldn’t meet any other campers there and had therefore earlier filled the water bladder to capacity. But I met Ken who asked whether I needed water. We exchanged apple struddle and rye bread.
And because he took a photo of me, here it is
Next day, I crossed the tropic of Capricorn.
The landscape was once again awesome and I descended into the Kuiseb Gorge.
I camped in a dry river bed.
But I should have paid more attention to the tree. What fell down wasn’t good for the tires.
If one sleeps in a gorge, the next day one needs to climb, and here is the Kuiseb Pass.
My theme was “Slow travel on gravel” and I wasn’t in a rush. Rather than get upset by the terrible condition of the “roads”, I enjoyed the landscape and the wonderful quiet camping spots. The tourists retreated to their lodges by 5 pm and after that the desert was all mine. They reappeared around 8 or 9 am.
Aftermath of the tree from last night. The thorns were from hell.
It could have been a nice place to fix a flat tire but the temperature was around 40 degrees and it was a bit exhausting. I wondered what the maximum temperature was the patches would manage.
Fortunately, it was the only flat tire in this unhospitable area.
In the evenings I really enjoyed
In Gobabeb I had learnt that the desert lives and I had already been fascinated by the weaver bird in Opuwo.
Now I learnt about the social weaver bird. It didn’t build a nest but a whole village.
The construction in the trees were incredible.
The place had quite a reputation for its apple struddle which I obviously tried. It easily ranked amongst the best in the world. The portions were large and could easily substitute lunch.
I didn’t stay at the fenced in campground. I wasn’t desperate enough for a shower to forego my sunset.
Next day at noon I reached Sesrien which was the entrance to the world-famous dunes of Sossusvlei.
I was lucky and immediately got a lift into the park. The distance was over seventy kilometers one way and I didn’t want to cycle in. I left my bike at the gas station and went by car with a father and son.
But I doubted that they were the largest dunes in the world. It seemed to me that the “Big Red” in the Simpson Desert in Australia, the dune in Dunhuang, Taklamakan in China or the dune in Huacachina, Peru were much higher.
Since I had successfully scored this tourist attraction, I wanted to continue the next day.
But a sandstorm intervened and it was so severe that I was afraid my tent would fly away if I left it.
And so, I simply stayed put and enjoyed a quiet day outside the national park.
From far away, I saw this building.
At first sight, it looked like one of the desert fortresses in Jordan.
When I got closer, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a hotel and spa.
Who wants to go to a spa in the desert? Unbelievable.
I went inside with the excuse that I needed water. The black staff were very friendly. The price for one night was 1,800 Namibia dollars. That was the cheapest option in case one was stranded there and needed a place to stay for the night. Most people booked a package ahead of time from Windhoek.
I traced my tracks through sand and pebbles.
Every driver realized immediately that there was a strange being on the road.
I got my next supply of water at the first farm after the NamibRand Reserve. The woman told me that they were facing a water shortage. The level of the ground water had really fallen because the lodges used so much water to fill the pools. They still had enough water for the house but not for the fields.
I had reached the end of the desert in a place called “Aus”, in the south of Namibia. I told the owner of the campground, shop, and gas station that after the long crossing of the desert, I longed for a large salad.
Not even ten minutes later, Elize brought me a large bowl.
Heaven! Just like that and without wanting money for it. Thank you!
I wasn’t alone. Anna Grechishkina was in the other tent.
Since 2011 she toured the world by motor bike. Cycling is physically more demanding but I wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of bureaucracy, spare parts, and shipping. And to do that on a Ukrainian passport. But she managed it all and had my respect.
Wim, Elize, and their granddaughter invited us for a braai (BBQ) in the evening. No surprise that I decided to stay an extra day.
And then finally a paved road. After 1,400 kilometers!
Wim had told me that it was now possible to drive through the diamond exclusion zone. I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the city of Oranjemund but I could cross the border with South Africa at Alexanderbai.
When I reached the gate of the exclusion zone I was told that the drive-through permission only applied to cars but not to bikes. I was allowed to call the boss. He asked whether I’d be able to cycle 30 kilometers on gravel roads. I had to laugh out loud. After I had promised not to stop at the two mines, I was allowed to bike the 80 kilometers.
It was a dream. The border between Namibia and South Africa, the Oranje River, was the first river that had water. But not for long.
Unfortunately, the ride ended ten kilometers before the border when a heavy sandstorm started. I simply took cover and waited what would happen next. It was impossible to eat because my mouth would immediately be filled with sand. And the food would be covered in it.
Nothing to do but wait. After a few minutes and a pickup from the road construction team stopped. The driver asked whether he could give me a lift. I wanted to know whether it’d be better further along and he responded, no the opposite was true. Today was the first time that they had to stop works in the city.
What a pity that I hadn’t been able to ride my bike for the first nor the last few kilometers in this beautiful country. On top of it we went downhill to the border post at the ocean.
I wasn’t allowed into the city and had wanted to camp in a sheltered area. Unfortunately, I wasn’t permitted to do that either and the border guard organized a pickup to drive me across the border into South Africa.
What a country! I strongly recommend to visit by bike and not by car. Every year there is an increase of twenty percent in the number of visitors who race across the gravel roads and use water for showers.
I wonder whether Namibia realizes what it does to itself.
In total, I spent 48 days in the country and covered 2,872 kilometers of which 1,440 kilometers were on gravel.