Stage 70 (52): Ghanzi to Buitenpos
An early start this morning due to the long day expected; 5:30 bags, 5:45 breakfast and we were out on the road shortly after 6:00 … still fairly dark but a hint of light to the east. David fortunately had a headlight in his gear, and we both had taillights (admittedly I’m using his spare), so he led off. Actual sunrise was not to be for another 35-40 minutes. Traffic very light at that hour, as we pass through Ghanzi and then out the other side, headed south.
The morning again beautiful - nice to see the sunrise, although it’s happening slightly over my left shoulder. The road is pretty good, a few potholes here and here, but a reasonable shoulder. Once the sun is mostly up, we can dispense with the headlight but keep the taillights on for the remainder of the morning.
I didn’t take my camera with me today for whatever reason, and we’re trying to get into a steady cadence or rhythm so I’m not stopping for photos. The landscape is essentially flat, and the bush on either side of the road is fairly thick. It’s not exactly photogenic at our level. The first 50 km is south to southwest, but then we pick up the new-ish ‘Trans Kalahari Highway’ and turn due west. The mild tailwind we had been getting is now a crosswind; it’s not particularly strong, but it swirls around a lot (all day), and is sometimes in our face, sometimes front-quarter cross, and very occasionally a tailwind as the day progresses. The road itself is in great shape, though, with the best shoulder I’ve seen since starting out from Arusha in February.
I take my solitary photo in the mid-morning; a monument to a truly terrible traffic accident which had occurred back when we were living in Botswana in the 90s although I have to admit I don’t recall it specifically.
Doug and Mats are there at the 65 km mark with bananas and water re-fills. I’m really focusing today on hydration, taking a swig from the bottle every 10-15 minutes. It’s perhaps still not enough but it’s what I can manage. The day not really hot as yet, and we make the lunch stop in reasonable time. Pushing off from that break however, is hard; even though it’s only a 30-40 minutes stop, the legs have stiffened up and it takes some minutes to get back into the rhythm. The afternoon is a bit of a slog; the light is flat, the day is warm, and the bush is monotonous. The afternoon ‘re-fresh’ at 150 km holds a special treat from Colleen - besides water and bananas, a cold coke each. That sugar pop does wonders to our mood.
After that, it’s just a matter of putting the head down and getting on with it. Some cloud cover moves in and gives us a break in the temperature if only for an hour or less. A clap of thunder actually makes me jump out of the saddle, it comes so unexpectedly. There’s a localized rain storm back to the northeast, but it seems to be moving well to the east of us, and the skies soon clear. We both seem to get a second wind, and the last 90 minutes or so of the ride is more enjoyable with the late afternoon light and the heat coming off. Also a bit of tailwind finally. We get into Charles Hill, the last settlement in Botswana before the Namibian border. This is the only coke stop of the whole day; I’m primed for an ice cream of some sort, but as the smallest container is a litre, I think that might not be wise; we’ve still got a little way to go.
Another few kilometres and we hit the border; stamp out of Botswana, cycle another few hundred metres, and then go through the Namibia entry requirements. Fairly straightforward. After that, less than a kilometre to the East Gate Camp, and that’s the day done. David has secured us a twin room for the night, so no need to wrestle the tent up. I’m tired but not as bad as I might have been. Dinner helps, as does a Windhoek draft.
Wheel / Taxi update: Chris’ rim has two splits or tears in it; Doug managed to re-true the wheel (more or less) by the standard method of adjusting tension on the various spokes. However, he had to do that by applying only minimal tension, otherwise the rim would not hold.
Chris rode some of the next day but at one point, he hit a pothole, and one of his spokes broke. Maybe related to the wheel being damaged, maybe not. Spoke replaced, and he managed to ride the long day today without incident. He had to be extra cautious about potholes of course, and dismounted to carry his bike across at the several Texas gates encountered today. With luck and caution, he’ll make it to Windhoek in the next days riding. He’ll have to purchase a new wheel if there’s to be any hope of getting through the Namib desert of course on that bike.