Posted by: Dana | 2010/05/09

May 9 – One Final Border to Cross

I’m sitting on the edge of the Orange River, on the Namibian side, overlooking South Africa. It’s the first body of water I can remember seeing in a very long time. We’re staying at Felix Unite, a campground/lodge near the border for our final rest day. Tomorrow we cross into South Africa, our tenth and final country, for the last stretch–six days of riding―before we convoy into Cape Town’s waterfront.

Everyone is on a complete high and we’ve started to celebrate already. Maybe it’s a wee bit premature, as we have another entire country to cycle through, but with less than one week to go, the mood of the group is jubilant, anxious, and excited. Last night, we had an unplanned and impromptu party at the lodge bar, which was pure joy and fun. I’m sure each one of us has very mixed feelings about the ride coming to an end, but now it’s beginning to feel time to celebrate.

Namibia is incredible. We’ve cycled for more than one week through the deserts and mountains of Namibia, each day waking up to a chilly and crisp morning. By mid-morning it gets hot, but then turns cool again as the sun sets. We’re getting into winter here, so the days are short. It’s fleece jacket weather and I’ve even had to put on a winter hat a few nights this past week.

I last posted from Sossusvlei where I visited the sand dunes for sunrise. A group of us woke up and set out in jeeps at 4:30AM for the one hour drive to the national park. We approached a giant dune and began a hike up its’ ridge which rose from ground level some 300+ meters. As we hiked this thin little ridge line, the sun rose up from the horizon, coloring the dunes and all of its contours amazing tinges of brown, red, orange, and yellow. We plopped down in the sand and sat there, on the ridge, as the sun came up. It was so peaceful and quiet. To get down, we each bombed down the side of the dune―running and skipping and leaping―breaking the silence of the dunes with giddy laughter as we tumbled down the steep slopes. The sand sea stretched as far as we could see in every direction and barely a sign of life was visible. At the bottom of the dune, we walked through Dead Vlei which I can only describe as a bunch of eery-looking petrified trees that look like they have been there for millions of years.

Next to the campground at Sossusvlei is a fancy traveler’s lodge where an out-of-this-world buffet is served each night. As you can imagine, this was a huge draw for all of the riders who don’t miss any opportunity to stuff our faces. The grill at the buffet offered fillets of nine different game meats―and, yes, I tried a bunch of them: ostrich, kudu, oryx, springbok, warthog, zebra. This was not the place for vegetarians. We cycled out of town the next day, and I saw each and every animal I ate the night before galloping and grazing off the desert scrub. I felt a little icky about the feast I had so enjoyed.

The cycling across Namibia has been absolutely stunning. The landscapes at every turn take my breath away. Truly, this is a gorgeous country. The riding has been difficult, as we’ve traveled unpaved roads since leaving Windhoek. The road is deeply corrugated, which means there are long stretches where it is so bumpy that my brain literally feels shaken and my fingers go numb. This is where a bike with suspension would help immensely. Those without suspension take the beating with our butts and legs and arms. But, honestly, I can’t complain. The scenery makes the rough roads worth traveling.

The day before yesterday we had our shortest ride of the week―110km–to the Fish River Canyon, Africa’s largest canyon and second in the world to the Grand Canyon. The Canyon itself was actually 10km from our campground, which meant that we had extra cycling to do if we wanted to see it. You can’t count on hitch-hiking around here, because there are practically no vehicles on these roads. So, off we set from the camp, a group of about seven riders with cold cokes and snacks strapped to our backs. The Canyon was certainly worth the extra effort―hard to capture in words and also in pictures, but so, too, is almost everything else I have seen on this journey! The Canyon measures 160km in length and up to 27km in width and drops down 550 meters to its base. It was a gorgeous site. There were no visitor centers or tourist buses. It seemed as if no one knows about the Fish River Canyon or if they do, perhaps it is too difficult to access for most travelers. We enjoyed the views, took some pictures, and rode back to camp.

Tomorrow we will leave Felix Unite and cross the border into South Africa. I don’t know much about what the next six days have in store, in terms of route, or distances we’ll cover, or sites we will see along the way. For now, I’m concentrating on enjoying these last few days, soaking in this experience as best I can, and enjoying the company of this rag-tag group of riders who have become family―a big, dysfunctional; and grubby family―but I suppose there isn’t anything else I could have expected or hoped for.


Responses

  1. This will be one finish line you will never forget, however it ain’t over yet. Stay focused and don’t eat tacos sold by the roadside vendors.

    Tom

  2. Can’t believe your starting your last week. Sounds like your experience with the dunes and the canyon was a blast. Last week I just started riding again. I did 20 miles and was exhausted…can’t imagine what doing 60 to 100 miles a day must be like.

    Keep up your strength and have a great last week.

    Marv

  3. You rock girlfriend! And I love your blog. See you on the flip side. Enjoy the finish!


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