Xian Quaz burning man
Stage 71 (53): Buitenpos to Gobabis
Easy to get up from a proper bed and get ready with electrical lights illuminating the situation. No stumbling about, tripping over the tent pegs, and even time to have a cuppa before facing any of it. My main sensation is how I feel; the legs don’t seem totally useless, at least within the confines of our room.
Bags and breakfast are back to the more normal 6:00/6:30 program; sunrise close to to 06:50 now. The day promises some cloud and more crosswinds, but at least not severe heat and headwinds.
Swinging west out of camp, we can see the only classified climb of the day - about 150-200 m although spread out over several kilometres. In fact, we keep gaining altitude for the initial 35+ kilometres until we’re over 1500 m asl, up onto a central plateau. The Trans-Kalahari Highway in Namibia is a poor relative to its Botswana cousin; older tarmac, somewhat broken up in places, and although mostly having a yellow edge line there’s virtually no shoulder outside that. Fortunately the trucks and standard vehicles are super courteous and normally give us wide clearance.
I’m tired all right (especially the butt) but at the same time almost surprised at how good I feel, given the long day in the saddle yesterday. Of course, no major climbs today to really test that self illusion. Son-in-law David and I spin along, not terribly fast but still at an above normal rate for me at least. I’m again appreciative of his tolerance in the matter.
The land only marginally different to the past week in Botswana; once we’re up on the central plateau, it’s even flatter. I did not realize until just this week that Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world. The road continues west, mostly straight as an arrow. It’s not a hugely inspiring ride.
It’s a bit longer to the lunch stop than I’d bothered to register this morning so was getting rather hungry by the time we arrived. A single snack bar doesn’t suffice for the morning’s ride it seems. But once done with lunch, it’s not far at all into Gobabis, a small city supposedly the centre of Namibia’s cattle ranching and what’s termed the ‘Texas of Namibia.’
We stop at the MTC shop to get our Namibian SIM cards; this is a such a drag to have to do every time we enter a new country but if one wants a local telecommunications carrier, there’s no real choice in the matter. The process takes a couple of hours and involves producing one’s passport and cash, purchasing the card and a finite term plan, registering the number with some central god in the ether, plus activating the number plus apparently having to update the phone’s iOS for anything to work after all this. Fortunately, we find a place nearby making really good milkshakes while we wait so the hours are not totally wasted. And Nelson, the young MTC guy doing all this, proves to be a patient star - I tip him with a milkshake fund.
After all that, the day is now really quite warm - 32° maybe? It’s another 8 km to camp, and of course it’s a hill climb out of Gobabis. Once we reach the Xain Quaz Camp (the first two words of which I can’t pronounce), we find lots of trees providing shade, possibly thornless sand on which to pitch tents, and an adjoining bar, pool and pretty good wifi. Not to mention amazingly clean washrooms with HOT water.
Noah and Timo are off to the side in the late afternoon, busily weaving grasses, reeds and sticks together into who knows what. They’re certainly having fun doing whatever it is they’re constructing. A little while later, it’s apparent - our own burning man, here called Muchinjikwa, a Shona term… Noah explains it or him as sort of a way of the truth - a combination of man and the Cross. One places good wishes (e.g., get your health back, wish a friend success) but it should be GOOD wishes, not a wish for something ill or bad to occur or to harm another. The figure is then set ablaze and the smoke and sparks are supposed to indicate if those wishes are received by the Muchinjikwa; the direction or motion of the smoke is telling?
I think I’ve captured what the Muchinjikwa is about, but I may well have it totally garbled. As the figure burns down and collapses, the head rolls off to one side. Y (a rider who I’ve never bothered to mention before, nor will again) gets up, walks over and kicks the head back onto the fire. I think this is not an appropriate move (at the very least, a man should never mess with another man’s fire), but …it was done. I feel that Noah and Timo aren’t thrilled.
The event more or less over, I go for my tent in the semi-darkness. The moon is really bright tonight, still a couple of nights from being full. Later, at some point in the small hours, I need to get into my sleeping bag for the first time on this trip; darn cool up here on the central plateau.