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Spreetshoogte Pass

Stage 74 (55): Weissenfels to Solitaire

We’re away just about 7:00 - the sun not yet quite up. The gravel running south is fortunately deserted at this hour, which is just as well, as finding a reasonable line through the washboard and loose sand is again a challenge. This is essentially a new sort of riding to me; I’ve certainly done 20+ km of gravel and sand at a time before, but never been faced with repeated all-day tests of this nature.

The temperature gets up to only 26° today, with some cloud cover; there are even a few instances of spitting rain!

About 90 minutes into the ride, we cross over the Tropic of Capricorn - leaving aside the issue of just how accurate this road sign is, it’s still a photo moment for most of us.

I have quite a fright in the late morning when I literally ran over a puff adder who was going about his business crossing the road. I didn’t see him until too late to avoid, and I think I ran over him about a 1/3 the way from his tail to its head. He raised his head, but otherwise didn’t seem unduly irritated, fortunately. Certainly seemed unhurt.

A coke stop at ~68 km proved to be farm house / rest camp; homemade carrot cake plus a couple of slices of Kalf’s (sp?) homemade bread, of which he’s justifiably proud. After that, it’s a hilly last 10 km or so to the lunch truck which is perched just below Spreetshoogte Pass. The views are just amazing - the Namib Desert below us, stretching out for seemingly forever.

At about km 78, the route descends the ‘Great Escarpment.‘ This is a fault scarp related to the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent about 180 million years ago, which led to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. Hence it’s similar to the big climb we had leaving Chitimba Beach in Malawi: that was the fault scarp of the East African Rift, which will lead to an ocean in place of Lake Malawi in a few million years.

  • Courtesy Bob Keickhofer

I’m not feeling confident about making it all the way to camp by dinner time so elect to get into the lunch truck, and call it a day. A huge mistake on my part as the lunch truck won’t leave for another 2 hours or so, and then takes an alternative route to avoid the somewhat perilous descent; as a result I don’t get into Solitaire Camp until 5:30 - it’d have been faster to have just sucked it up and completed the ride. I’m furious with myself, and in a foul mood.

David has had the kindness to stake me out a tent spot in what otherwise is a fairly crowded location. A shower and dinner help. The kicker comes when the all-day dreamed-of apple pie (for which Solitaire is apparently known throughout the region) is not available. All sold out and/of the bakery is closed today, Good Friday.

Bummer all ‘round.

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