Windhoek —> Naos —> Nauchas —> Solitaire —> Sossusvlei —> Fish River Canyon
In the heart of the Namibian desert, Windhoek acts as a waterhole for touring cyclists to refresh and restock. We ended up meeting five in total! Touring cyclists are usually a similar breed of people – positive, appreciative, and inquisitive – so we were happy to spend time with our fellow push-bike travelers. We even set off South-bound with Rory, an American who is 2 1/2 years into his touring adventures. Cycling with another tourer is a bit like starting any new relationship – it’s best to take things day-by-day rather than making big commitments straight off the bat. You may get along really well off the bike, but people travel at different speeds. That first day setting off with Rory we kept joking that we were not cycling together. We just happened to be on the same road headed toward the same place. We weren’t able to loose him in the end, or maybe the loose sand on the Namibian roads reluctantly bonded us, because we somehow ended up sticking together 😉
We had the choice between pavement or dirt roads leaving Windhoek, which is a common dilemma for us. On one hand, pavement means smooth riding. On the other hand, dirt roads have less traffic and usually take you to beautiful scenery. It was worth the trade-off in this case. Every day after dodging patches of sand, massaging our bums with washboard, and enduring the heat, we managed to find an oasis in the desert. The first night we made it to a small farming community of 20 people where a German grandmother named Eva welcomed us onto her lawn and gave us refrigerated beers. The next night we stayed at our favorite paid-for campsite of the trip, complete with an outdoor shower built into the rock and a raised fire pit to warm us while we looked up at the stars. On the third day we had some respite from the gravel at the paved Spreetshoogte Pass, known as being the steepest pass in Namibia. Before our descent, we were all thinking about how terrible it would be to have a break-failure. Well…that’s exactly what happened when Simon’s break cable snapped. Luckily, we were still close to the top and he was able to stop by a lookout point to fix it. By the time we got to Solitaire (another desert oasis) the gravel was starting to wear on us. Funny how the very moment we decided we didn’t want to take our bikes to the red sand dunes, we met an amazing couple by the pool who offered to take us! Similarly, at the very moment we decided to try and hitch-bike back to pavement, a truck with an empty trailer rolled in to the completely deserted campground we were staying at. Simon went over to have a chat, and Rory proclaimed that if this worked out he would “never worry about anything every again”. Ha! Not only did it work out, but the driver ended up being a tour guide who was taking his son to see the Fish River Canyon before going to a campsite on the border of South Africa to pick up a shipment of towels/robes/etc. for his company. This meant skipping a section of the desert during the upcoming heat wave and and also getting to see the second largest canyon in the world. Successful hitch-bike!
The best experiences we’ve had on this trip have not been planned. Sometimes it’s just better to hold on to your handlebars and go along for the ride!
P.S. We were told the roads would be re-grated after peak tourist season the following month, so maybe cyclists coming through then will have a better time on the gravel…?One can only hope 🙂