By bike through the south of Namibia


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.

DSCN6690KLEIN

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.

DSCN6696klein

It had been suggested that I should visit the desert research station in Gobabeb.

DSCN6702klein

I enjoyed doing that not only because I could get a supply of the water.

The staff were as interested in my bike,

DSCN6703klein

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.

DSCN6710klein

I didn’t have good eyesight and couldn’t really make out what they were.

DSCN6714klein

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.

DSCN6723klein

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

Namibia2

Later on, there was yet another fantastic sunsetDSCN6729klein

Next day, I crossed the tropic of Capricorn.

DSCN6738klein

The landscape was once again awesome and I descended into the Kuiseb Gorge.

DSCN6749klein

I camped in a dry river bed.

DSCN6755klein

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.

DSCN6756klein

I had made peace with the bad roads.DSCN6769klein

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.

DSCN6779klein

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.

DSCN6786klein

In the evenings I really enjoyed

DSCN6803klein

The quiet and the sunsets.DSCN6822klein

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.

DSCN6833klein

The construction in the trees were incredible.

Many times, the oryx antelope with its face mask and bushy, black, long tail crossed my way.DSCN6841klein

In Solitaire there was a gas station with a shop where I could buy things.DSCN6851KLEIN

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.

DSCN6875klein

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.

DSCN6891klein

Dune 45 got its name because it was 45 kilometers from the entrance. The largest dunes are Big Mama and Big Daddy at Deadvlei.DSCN6903klein

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.

Deadvlei

DSCN6913klein

Is a stunning dried up salt lake with petrified trees. In the middle of the afternoon we were the only visitors. Only when we returned to the parking lot, did other visitors arrive.DSCN6925klein

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.

DSCN6953klein

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.

DSCN6957klein

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 filled my water bottles and continued. For me there is no place more beautiful than in nature and under the stars.DSCN6966klein

I traced my tracks through sand and pebbles.

DSCN6971klein

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.

DSCN6984KLEIN

Heaven! Just like that and without wanting money for it. Thank you!

I wasn’t alone. Anna Grechishkina was in the other tent.

DSCN6988klein

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.

DSCN7004klein

And then finally a paved road. After 1,400 kilometers!

DSCN7005klein

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.

DSCN7008klein

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.

DSCN7011klein

Somewhere in the desert I pitched my tent for the last time in Namibia.DSCN7014klein

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.

What to expect on the other side of the Oranje River? Next time I’ll report about my ride across South Africa and the turning point of my trip at the southern-most point in Africa.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert.