I left Maun with a serious rest-day hangover. My legs were still in sleep mode and not prepared to turn the pedals. The 157 km that day felt long, extremely long. Most of Botswana is covered by the beautiful semi-arid sandy savanna of the Kalahari. However, after hundreds of kilometer on straight flat roads through the Kalahari it is hard to keep the mind entertained by its monotonous landscape. Just before the lunch stop we had to ride through a foot and mouth check point, one of many throughout Botswana, which required us to ride through a basin of brownish liquid. The procedure ensures we are not transmitting the foot and mouth disease which is caused by a highly contagious virus that spreads rapidly in cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. At lunch we caught up with the Scotsman Douwe, the Dutch lady Emma and the English gem Rob with whom there is never a dull moment on a bike. With lots of laughter and a mix of interesting and totally silly conversations we ate up the miles and arrived eventually in the bush camp, where we were welcomed by a magnificent Baobab tree under which we pitched our tent for the night.
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of cracking eggs and a sharp frying noise. Bacon and eggs! Wohoo. Today’s ride was a bit shorter with only 143 km and a rewarding finish at a lodge camp, promising a deliciously cold pool and a bar stocked with chilled drinks. I spent most of the day with Max chatting away. The road was flat with a tail wind blowing us along. At about 60 km we saw a whole bunch of riders standing on the side of the road. As we passed the group we noticed that Rupert was lying on the side of the road. It was one of the few days Rupert and I weren’t riding together as it was a non-race day and enjoy socializing with fellow riders. Later we heard that his pedal broke and unclipped at high speed but fortunately could continue the ride. Some Fanta and Coke stops on the way and a Spar stop in Ghanzi, just before the end to stock up on post-ride snacks, broke the ride in digestible junks. The last three kilometers to the camp were off-road with a mix of deep sand and hard compacted rocky terrain. Needless to say that I had fun in the sun even though I was on 100 PSI pumped slick tires. The sight of the turquoise water in the pool and bar right next door finished off a perfect day in Botswana.
Riding 160 km on fatigued legs feels long. Riding 208 km is simply insane – physically and mentally – when you’ve ridden already 9500 km the past three months. Stage 73 was our border crossing to Namibia and required from us riders to complete a double century. Somehow we did it thanks to 3 liters of Coke, some ice cream, gummy bears and other very healthy snacks. Okay, there were also fruit, sandwiches and for me Hammer Perpetuem and other nutritious food items contributing to the successful finish. 😉 The reason we grave so much Coke and sweats, more than in other countries, is probably due to the very dry climate (in addition to painfully long distances) which drastically increases the risk of dehydration. In a more tropical climate one does sweat more but the inhaled air is humid and doesn’t leave you as thirsty as in the dry climate. Once the sun has risen and the temperature climbs to over 30 degrees I am in constant battle to keep my mouth from drying out, a sensation I only experienced before when riding in the Karoo/SA in over 40 degrees. Anyways, 208 km and almost 9 hours later we found ourselves in the Buiten Pos Rest Camp, just after the Namibian border crossing. Only half alive, I dropped dead and woke up to the alarm of my iPhone at 5.15 am with the desperate desire to stay in bed. Half a liter of coffee later, I was back on my bike rolling on Namibian ground.
Witvlei was the goalpost today, and only a little, tiny, very short 162 km later we arrived on very thorny municipality ground. At this point it was all about drinking, eating, drinking eating, drinking, eating, repeat. The body is bone-tired but as long as the mind is kept strong and the engine supplied with fuel the ride continues. Sadly, it was also the day on which Rupert broke his collarbone leaving him with no choice but to abandon the tour. When I heard of the news I was gutted. He was the legit tour winner with a time lead of over 50hrs to the second male rider, also one of the last EFI riders, and so deserved to be crowned in Cape Town. Why on earth had this to happen?
The next day’s ride to Windhoek was another 100 Miler. Rob and Douwe had plans to leave before breakfast as they wanted to drive to Lüderitz still on the same day. For my part, I was keen to get the ride quickly out of the way and decided to join the two. We paced against the wind under the watchful eyes of warthogs and squeezed out of our legs what was left. We arrived in Windhoek at noon beyond tired and relieved to have come this far – 9 countries, 7 sections, 75 stages.
Two days of R&R in the hands of a massage therapist, waitrons, and the blissful feeling of soft fresh bed linen, a warm shower and a refreshing swimming pool have been the perfect ingredients to rejuvenate, but also to reflect on the amazing and crazy time behind us.
Windhoek to Cape Town, the last section of the Tour D’Afrique is waiting for us. Ahead is a 1912 km stretch which will see us ride through two of my favorite regions, the Namib desert and the Richtersveld. My black Mamba and I are ready for the home stretch. Bring it on.
A huge thank you for all the generous donations received so far. If you would also like to contribute to the purchase of a #BuffaloBicycle please follow this link: https://katjasteenkamp.com/qhubeka-world-bicycle-relief/