Livingstone, Zambia to Windhoek, Namibia.
Livingstone, Zambia to Windhoek, Namibia
‘Should we go or wait?’
A common question in a not so common cycling situation. This was asked between ourselves as to whether we should cycle between the herd of roadside elephants or wait till they walked off. We rode through which resulted in an old bull facing us and flapping his eyes in a ‘go for it guys’ kind of wave.
So I write this from the capital of Namibia, Windhoek. A place that certainly is not said as its written evident by the blank stares we’ve received when talking about it. To overcome this we simply put several accents into it which includes emphasising several ‘V’s in there. I’m looking forward to getting a little closer to getting it right tomorrow whilst I cruise the streets. So far its a very interesting place, totally separated by large hills forcing the city to spread out around them.
To get here we crossed the border after Victoria Falls where once the ferry crossing was complete we could take a left for Zimbabwe or a right for Botswana, to avoid a crackpot leader we chose right. Once off the ferry and through the foot and mouth wash basin we noticed some elephants roadside, literally like the tourism board placed them there for newly arrived tourists, well it impressed us. From here we cycled south and then west taking literally one turn for 600kms. With only one more turn in the country required we literally aimed straight for the horizon making it hard to get lost.
Anyway back to classical point form we go…
Botswana – reportedly the most well of African country per capita. This is most likely due to the small population (2.5 million) more so then its success. This said once it moved on from a British protectorate it somehow found numerous diamond fields the next year.
This smaller population is well noted when cycling along compared to previous countries as there simply isn’t anyone around. Where previously in most countries you would pass through tiny villages every 20-50kms here this is absolutely nothing. This was noted very early when we had to cycle 300kms over two days passing through one very isolated town. Due to this sparse population we don’t have any of our supporters lining the roadside whether it is thumbs-up kids or crazy ass slapping locals.
People – In the south the Sans people (Kalahari bush people) have become a lot more evident, as noticed by their striking facial features, short stature and most interestingly their unique clicking language. We stopped in a very small village recently where we simply sat whilst eating tuna and crackers entertained while the locals talked/clicked around us. I am sure we weren’t too subtle about it at all.
Landscape – from major rivers dotted with islands to void salt plans back to water forming deltas we’ve seen some diversity with most in between this being made up of scrub and a lot of it.
Wildlife – elephants, warthogs, jackals, antelope, oryx, kudu, cow attacking ostriches all of which we have simply cycled past as each respective species (us and them) go about their daily routine whether it be grazing or cycling a bike in Africa.
Off the bike and instead in a chopper over the Okavango delta we have seen elephants, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, hippos, warthogs amongst many more. Also seen a lot of birdlife although as has been the standard guideline for this trip ‘we don’t stop/swerve for birds’. The chopper was amazing and certainly the preferred way to see this incredible landscape emphasised by the open doors and the ability to fly (swoop) low over the wetlands. This was also a chance to demonstrate my ideal job a ‘helicopter navigator’ as proven by the skill in directions especially the amazing ability to point directly towards a required destination.
And finally on foot we’ve seen meerkats and several other species that make up our made up ‘small 5’.
Lions are the one animal we haven’t seen in Botswana to date although it’s been the most topical.
Hunting – from reading the local papers and speaking to locals it’s only this year that the government in Botswana has stopped issuing licences for tourism hunting. Although it should be said that elephants are still open game… go figure. Local hunters sell these licenses to international tourists to allow them to shoot game that has been tracked… again go figure.
Accommodation – due to the large distances between villages/towns we have needed to camp at various places most notably barrier camps which are manned by police/vets to control foot and mouth between domestic areas and game reserves. Each point features its own foot mat for cleaning shoes and a dip that we must ride through. Another ‘normal’ placed we spent the night is in a local store between shelves of jelly and sacks of sugar. This was due to arriving into a town a tad late that didn’t offer any accommodation so with my charm turned on we somehow ended up sleeping on the floor of this retail space.
The first one of these camps we were nearly forced to spend the night there due to the advice of numerous locals. Leaving the northern town, Kasane we needed to travel 300km before reaching our next town, a distance that requires 2 days of cycling with the only the one ‘town’ in between. As we were searching the roadside bush for a suitable camp at approximately the halfway mark several cars stopped with the first noting that we should be careful around these parts (normally most locals are over cautious) and others going as far as ‘you will die’. All of these comments were relating to the abundance of lions and the fact that we were pretty easy prey. It was ‘Roy’ the truck driver that we took the final advice from which resulted in our bikes getting loaded on the flatbed of his semi in between slabs of copper. He drove us 90kms up the road to a barrier camp entertaining us with his lions stories, conga music and his ability to pee whilst not leaving the cabin all of this whilst all 5 of us along with panniers were loaded into a 3 seater ‘rig’.
It should be noted that we got up early the next morning to catch another truck, just back the other way 90km’s to our previous days pick up point to ensure those that are concerned still managed the ‘e.f.i’ (every friggin inch of Africa) riding experience/challenge. Despite the locals thinking we were crazy self-pride can be a large driving force.
So in the end we weren’t eaten by lions but it should be noted that at later barrier camp Shuan, Justin and myself that tented were lucky to escape death due to a 2am wild (domesticated) donkey stampede. With a hoof landing on his tent I think Shaun was still rocking in the foetal position in the morning.
Roads – this is our first flat country and when I say flat I mean we haven’t been up any bigger inclines then a driveway which at times can become a tad monotonous. To overcome this and to utilise the advantageous winds it’s been time trial style riding, where as an organised bunch we will sit on 30-35km/h. All of this helps considering our average distance per day in Botswana is approximately 150km with some over 200km. Although big (or huge) kilometres we have become accustomed to it as much as one can, this even includes Shaun who has only been here for a week or so. Our legs are looking well defined and ‘hot’ in only a way that a cyclist could appreciate. On this subject I should add that the hair on my arms is now blond due to the sun; don’t stress the legs are still hair free.
Food – also known as fuel which at times seems more of a necessity rather than an enjoyment. We eat ridiculous amounts and it’s not uncommon to go into a restaurant and attempt in sign language that you want double a normal serving.
As an example on a rest day recently I consumed a bowl of muesli, apple pancake with custard, strawberry shake, chicken burger meal deal, borewors (local kransky) roll, rump steak and vegetables, milo thickshake (double thick) and finally several soft drinks. All of this and somehow most of us are still losing weight.
On the flipside and as an example of our culinary skills at the end of a rest day we all cooked a pasta dish with peas, tuna, baked beans and topped off with minestrone soup… not a dish that will make the trip back home. All of these ‘ingredients’ are available in cans which are a bit of a driving force in our choices.
Cameras – my new canon point and shoot which was only purchased a month ago is broken due to no fault of my own. Very frustrating considering that not much can be done now and until the end of the trip. As a pure coincidence my other camera (5D) is now coming up with errors although still working just at 24mm focal length for those that are interested. T.I.A (This Is Africa) which is a saying that covers most differences, frustrations etc… of this continent.
Update to this is that the extremely generous folk (mark and george) at canocopy, namibia (+264 (61) 228831) have simply given me a camera to replace my broken point and shoot (s100). I can’t express enough how kind and helpful they have been considering that we only spent a day in their city.
Namibia – we arrived here in our 9th country only two days ago. This was achieved after riding 820km in 5 consecutive days, with a 210km day, roughly working out to 165km average days and I should add we had head winds for several of the days. With Shaun leaving us here its certainly a good note to send him home on. The few cars on these very straight roads that we have passed are mostly 4WD’s on some sort of holiday which make you think of the ground they can travel i.e. 3 days to drive across Botswana compared to our 12 days (in lycra.)
This country is even more sparsely populated then Botswana so we really don’t expect to see or engage with anyone. So far the country has been great with some subtle changes in the landscape that makes it a point of difference from Botswana. The German influence (colonisation) has left its mark whether it’s from the town names i.e. Keetmanshoop or the food i.e. pork schnitzel with bacon and cheddar cheese washed down with a stein. I have decided pretty early on that I have no hope pronouncing most names so have simply given up.
The opposing side of this history is the reported first genocide (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herero_and_Namaqua_Genocide) and even in today’s time where you will notice examples of difference between the locals i.e. ‘whites’ getting their cars filled up with petrol by the ‘black’ attendees etc.
From here it’s one days riding out of the capital, Windhoek before we will hit the 10,000km mark and then further down south taking in the amazing sites that this country seems to offer before hitting up South Africa.
I should add that I think I have found a charity to raise funds for through my african images. So please preruse through the ones up for now and once home ill add numerous selected others.
Ok that’s me done, I need to get to bed it’s nearly 8:30. Please note that I appreciate everyone’s comments on the blog and already look forward to boring the hell out of everyone with stories of ‘once I encountered a remote tribe in a sleepy backwater whilst riding through thick jungle…’etc.