Namibian Capitals

Trip Start Jan 10, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Arebbusch Travel Lodge

Flag of Namibia  , Khomas,
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Leaving Maun was not something I was especially looking forward to – it had been a pretty good rest day, involved feasting at our first Wimpy's of the African Continent, and there was only some pretty long, flat distances coming up. But I had never been past the edge of Maun, and believe it or not, there was some excitement and slight trepidation at reaching the mystical town on Ghanzi, a town I had only heard whispered about in my African childhood…

We had been given some news which had the tour a flutter, and widely divided in feelings…we had (probably) only 2 more bush camps for the remaining weeks, all other nights would be in lodges or camp stops of some description. I fell on the die-hard camping side of the line, striving for the ultimate status of EFT and thinking that we had frequented some stops on this trip in "lodges" or “recognized” camp grounds where the facilities had fallen far short of a nice peaceful clean African bush camp…However, I will admit, the sound of being able to roll to a stop at the end of the day and have cold soft drinks, easily purchasable treats and tidbits to tide us over till evening meal, and possibly hot showers had my resolve wavering…oh how soft and un-African we had become. But to keep us on our toes, not two days later there was an impromptu camp when a planned stop was found deserted and closed…ghost hostel-esque.

This week was the epic challenge that half the riders were there for…no, not the 207km Mando day, although that did occur somewhere round here…I mean the (drumroll…) TDA Decathlon. Cleverly set up to mimic the trials and tribulations of the tour, the competition resembled one of those Japanese game shows where contestants run a gauntlet of horrors, from forcing down PVM bars, to being exposed to riders in nothing but bid shorts as they grunt and strain their way around an riding obstacle course. I, of course, took part in a swiftly constructed and deftly named team – the Three Bears – where I had the honor of being Mama Bear, the big guy obviously Daddy and the smaller girl Baby. First event, dig a hole that would respond to Bigfoot’s call of nature under time pressure, and competition slowly became fierce, starting with people toe poking spades into wet rocky soil, and ending with something resembling a shovel windmill in carefully selected, geologically analyzed, friable soil. Needless to say, competition brings out the best in us all, and after completing my hole in close to record time, I attempted to clinch the win in a barefoot sprint to the finish, only to slip on storm-drenched muddy soil and face plant in front of the video-ing and cheering crowd. Shamefully it cost a few seconds, a blooded knee, foot and hip, and first place...but thankfully not EFI.

The dirty clothes resulting from this spill were much more irksome than the injuries, and in fact, with the relentless rain and mud of the last few weeks, my terminal OCD, clearly inherited from Old man Briggs, was starting to take a serious beating. I had no problem that tent flys and groundsheets were getting soaked these day, had just about resigned myself to the fact that I had to put this wet stuff into my nice, shiny and luckily-breathable backpack to transport, but that I then had to deal with additional mud and grit from these clothes, my Man-dals and the Trap, and that I had little to no hope of drying this stuff in the afternoon in the next camp was getting a bit much.

On the plus side, the Tarp that I was now using as a groundsheet inside my tent (at the ingenious suggestion of a Canadian pro Camper) saved my gear from complete saturation on a number of occasions. Particularly, the day riding to the Namibian border had been ominous in developing rain clouds, only set to spoil our afternoon and evening again as per the previous few days. The camp gave limited options and a few of us picked the least saturated turf to erect canvas on…not saying much as there was an audible squelch and toe cooling effect with every step. I installed the interior damp protection scheme, which later that night doubled as a floating floor when the lawn turned into a 2” deep lake that had people evacuating for fear of crocs…or getting wet. A few dashes to put valuable items under a more permanent type of shelter and I was back to enjoying the unique sensation of a cold African Waterbed.

After busting out a long wet and pretty tough 207km Mando day, and relearning the technique of riding on hills that had reappeared on the edge of Namibia, we pulled into Windhoek. The first thing that struck me about this city, apart from the perfectly positioned German bar at the edge of town into which pulled half of TDA, was how tidy and new the whole place looked, like someone had recently picked a spot in the middle of nowhere and decided to construct a few buildings and roads, etc…Although I was later assured by a taxi driver that there was plenty of poverty (riding in high speeds in his American-Muscle-Car style taxi that undoubtedly burned more in gas then he was charging us, I’m not sure how in touch he was with it), it appeared that there was also a lot of money…from the mines and diamonds maybe, my knowledge on Namibia is flaky at best.

What I can tell you is that there are malls and lodges stretching for distances that make our cycling trip look quite tame. It was common practice when travelling from the restaurant at our lodge to the campsite and back, to mount up on one of our trusty steeds, although the end result was usually that you were hungry again by the time you had completed the round trip. And the restaurant we visited on the first night to say farewell to a few stalwart riders was no exception to these grand dimensions – Joes Beer house was big, packed to the rafters and raucous to boot. I thought that in usual TDA style, 20 of us showing up to eat would cause a stir, but we were put into a corner without so much as a raised brow…Luckily it was well stocked, food was excellent, and service above African standards we were used to. I was thinking about eating zebra, but the idea caused dismay on a face or two, so I settled for a less cute animal instead, the ugly Eland. Stuffed to the gills on African game and relaxed, the thought of outfitting my bike to take on the dirt roads in the days ahead did not seem so bad.

Highlights: Stopping to take down some serious lunch on the non-race day into Windhoek, calculating that it had been about 3 weeks since our last non-race day and hence lunch break; getting to the end of 207km of riding and realizing that chances were slim I would be doing that again in a hurry; realizing that after 207km, almost any amount and type of food is fair game, and finding that the innocuous border post “town” actually has a roadside café offering various dishes and milkshakes; enjoying a delicious desert whipped up by two riders as a farewell to the group, then discovering there is leftovers and sneaking some back to the tent for midnight and breakfast treats; being pretty worn out the day after the Mando and struggling along till inspired by riding past a huuuuge sign indicating that Gobabis, meat capital o’ Namibia is coming up!!.

Lowlights: Riding 207km, looking forward to a relaxing evening, only to have the all too common inconvenience of a deluge of rain into the night to keep things exciting; riding through the fabled meat capital of Gobabis, and heading on out over some tiny but very challenging hills, and later discovering from other grinning riders entering camp, that we had completely bypassed the second Wimpy’s of Africa; after riding an excellent team time trial event to begin our day into Windhoek, the second half dragged on forever with some terrible winds, rolling hills, and the occasional President-of-Burundi convoy rolling past to force riders of the road, resulting in the latest entry into rest day camp; arrival in Ghanzi...not sure what the fuss was about!

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