Thursday, April 28, 2011

TDA 2011 - Namibia

26 April 2011 – Buitenpos to Witvlei – 162km
Today was a very long day after the mando day yesterday. It is 40km less than the day before, but doing 160km the day after is not a joke. Especially if it involves headwinds or sidewinds, which I think the TDA did not anticipate when then planned this route (they thought there would be tail winds).The road again as still pretty boring (jip, you guessed it, straight). The mornig I cycled with a peleton until lunch, which I was very glad I did because of the sidewind that morning. After lunch, which was at 80km, we entered a town at about 110km, which had a  delicious bakery where everybody stopped for some pastries (I also got some biltong there – yum…..). I had some koeksisters and vlakoek there, with some coffee to top it off. We luckily missed a large thunder storm,  and stayed for an extra hour because of it. After the bakery, I had to cycle into head wind all alone, although the last 20km I hooked up with Gary, but because he wqs struggling a bit and still on EFI, I told him that I would help him out. Big concern for me when I got into camp was that all the symptons of my stomach problems were showing up again (excessive gassy, stomach cramps etc). Hopefully it would come right and be gone by tomorrow.         I was pretty tired at the end fo the ride, and so was all of the riders. This was one heck of a long stretch and tomorrow was another 160km!

27 April 2011 – Witvlei to Windhoek – 159km
Worst fear was true, my stomach problem was back again, with my bowl movements being all over the place. My food was not staying in, and I was not getting all of my strength that I needed.  I told myself that if I needed to go to the toilet before the morning section started, I would not cycle. Very stupidly, I did have to go the toilet, and I made the decision to cycle, which was a big mistake.  I was feeling weak, and 2 more toilet sessions next to the road in the first two hours of cycling confirmed this. I made it to lunch, but decided do get on the lunch truck – which I hate to do! But I have been through this before, and I know now how you break your body down, so I was not going to make the same mistake again (although I already cycled the morning session where I should have got on the truck). So did the lunch truck thing, which ended up being a very good decision. It was a very tough session after lunch which some big ascends and head winds, with all of the cyclist saying that was the toughest stretch of the whole week . If I did decide to cycle it, I would have been miserable when I got into camp. Got into Windhoek and headed straight to the MedeClinic there where I could get some proper medical treatment and also get test done (blood and stool samples). I got another dosis of anti biotics, but held off with it until tomorrow morning. Most of the riders headed towards Joe’s Beerhouse, which is the place to hang out in Windhoek. The atmosphere is great and the food even better. It ended up being a very long night, with some red wine consumed with a great kudu steak and then Peter Angola decided that Jaggermeister would be a good choice to drink (which it turned out not to be). O, and happy freedom day SA.

28 April 2011 – Windhoek – rest day
Woke up feeling the effects of the Jaggermeister from the night before. Not the smartest move with regards to my stomach and the problems that I have been having, but I juts could not resist. I needed to unwind and it was a very long stretch.  Luckily there was  a buffet breakfast at our campsite and they could cater for 60 hungry riders, and I must have had about 10 juices there, with some greasy food (again, not good for stomach but needed it for the alcohol). Also started my anti biotics course this morning. I headed  off to the Mede clinic afterwards for my blood test, which I would also get the results only 3 days later with my spool test. Then spent the next few hours at a very big mall which felt just like being in South Africa, biltong shops (bought some and finished the droewors in the mall already), all the SA retail shops, fudge shops (which I bought some) etc. It was great to spent a bit of me time and just walking along at my own pace and time. Met up (by accident) with Chris, Patrick and Christian, where we had an early dinner at one of the restaurants there. I also saved myself about 2 hours with handing in my laundry the morning and pay someone to do it. I really felt like I had so much more time to do stuff with the laundry off my shoulders, which consumes a lot fo your time (and energy).  General impression of Windhoek is that I love the place, very quiet, laid back big town, like a Nelspruit, where the people are super friendly and was so nice to hear Afrikaans all over. Felt very much at home.

29 April 2011 – Windhoek to Weissenfels Camp – 114km
Last stage of the tour, the Diamond Coast, and consist of 14 riding days and total distance of 1762km. The next stretch up to the Sossusvlei was all going to be off-road, which to some degree I like, because I feel I am a little better at it, it is more interesting and because you have to concentrate more, the time does go by quicker. I was just a little sceptical about the rides this week, because of how my stomach reacted again and the way it makes me feel mentally and physically. Long days on a bike feeling good are difficult, long days on a  bike feeling bad is terrible, and there is no enjoyment out of it. My stomach is still going nuts and my bowl movements are all over the place, which is making me feel a bit demotivated. But we just have 15 days to go, so I really want to make the most of the days left and enjoy it. When the ride started, it was very quickly evident that this would be completely different to Botswana. The scenery just immediately changed for the better, which lifts up the spirits of the riders. Great rolling hills in the morning and afternoon with some very nice landscape images on end.  Also the dirt road is the best that we have had thus far on the trip by a mile, making cycling a lot easier than I thought it would be (I was getting speeds of 60km at certain sections going downhill and could get average speeds of 25-27 easily). The campsite are also improving now, with shower facilities being the norm, not the exception. Great ex Saffa running the place, so I very quickly build up a rapport with him. They start this great horse back trip from his farm all the way to Walvis Bay! Also sad to be missing Stephanie’s 30th birthday party today.

30 April 2011 – Weissenfels Camp to Solitaire – 124km
Happy birthday Stephanie!!!!!!!! Very fittingly with her birthday this was one of the rides of the trip. Under the top 5 thus far. On Gary’s advice, I took some Imodium before the ride in order to reduce my bowl movements during the ride, and this definitely paid off. I also felt that as I was cycling, I was getting stronger and stronger, which was great.  It was a very tough first stretch with head and side winds, with the mud from the previous night’s rain making cycling difficult. But after lunch at 65km, the pretty stuff started!! We cycled through this pass, which was actually very easy to do, and then came atop this great scene of epic valley below. The pass also had lots of very big water and mud puddles, so cycling through them was a lot of fun. It was funny feeling that we climbed so little, but yet on the other side, it was so deep. There was a decent after the pass that had my breaks working overtime (500m drop over 4km!). We stopped at a Coke stop (which was a lodge called Gecko’s campsite) to have some much needed Coke’s (the heat is picking up), which was also run by some crazy German’s which does exquisite handmade knives. I can also feel the effect of my weight loss, because my First Ascent sun off arm warmers keep on falling off my arms, which are annoying, because I have to pull them up the whole time (have to do this otherwise I get the cyclist arm tan). There was a great tail wind the last 20km, which always makes the ride so pleasant. Wonderful bakery in Solitaire, which makes the most divine apple tart (if you ever go through there, please get a piece, it is amazing).

1 May 2011 – Solitaire to Sesriem (camps site at Sossusvlei)– 83km
Very glad that it was a short ride of only 83km, although you can never be sure on off rode. Some magnificent land scape scenes as we were leaving the camp site in the morning ( I think I took some good pics of it). I am pretty sure that Namibia will be one “one of the top countries” of thr trip list during the tour, all the riders are raving about the scenes (and very deservedly as well). The scenes just in these few days are to me already better than those in Malawi, Zambia and Botswana (although we did do a really boring stretch in Bots, which is far more scenic than what the riders saw). Had some fun in the morning by participating in a time trial over 30km, which I did in 1:18. I can also see how far behind I am on some of the racers, which posted times of 55 minutes! My big thing on the time trial was that Peter Lamond stated behind me, and all I wanted that was that he would not catch me (which he did not, even though his time was a bit better).  There was a little taste of things to come when the winds just picked up after lunch and there was some really strong head winds, making cycling quite challenge (and slow). For the last stretch of 12km’s, we headed into the direction of the wind, which I was very relived about and all of our speeds immediately picked up.  It was Patrick’s birthday, so we had some nice drafts beers at the end of the ride (I consulted with Gary first before I had my beer). I was planning to go and visit the dunes the next morning, but later that night decided against it, as we had to get up to early, I wanted to rest and there was a very good chance that I would be back here in the future on a (hopefully) 4x4 trip. Not sure how I managed, but I convinced myself to wash my bike and clothes, which I was very glad about the following day. At night we had a delicious buffet at the Sossus lodge, which was great value for money with various game meat on offer (of which I had ostrich, springbok and kudu).

2 May 2011 – Sossusvlei – rest day
Pretty relaxed day at the camp site. There is nothing to really do around here, except relax. There are no shops, no streets, no houses, juts the camp site and some lodges in the middle of a desert basically. Did a 4km walk to a little mini canyo in the morning, took a few pictures and then did the walk back as well. Little surprised to see how quickly the wind came up, walking there was nothing, when we came back it was a very strong head wind.  We decided that we would have another buffet lunch at the Sossus Lodge, which again was extremely good. My stomach is also feeling pretty good, so the spirits are pretty high at this stage (it needs to be, I think a tough stretch is coming up). My tent looked like a sand storm had gone through it, it is not made for places in the desert or where there is lots of sand being blown up (otherwise it is pretty good).  I also have to mention that one of most annoying things about a campsite is that it is a pain to charge electronic equipment, as 60 riders want to charge 5 gadgets each at the same time!  Sossusvlei is a wonderful place, very peacefull and in the middle of nowhere. I definitely need to have a stop here again in the future.  There was also a very funny incident with Patrick in the morning where his girlfriend relayed the wrong message and got one letter in a name wrong, and had a lot of us in disbelief for a while, until we saw the news and how he got the wrong message across.

3 May 2011 – Soussousvlei to Betha – 139km
I’m back!!!! (or so I hope so – on the cycling front that is). I felt so good cycling today, a feeling I have not had since about a month ago. It is a funny feeling to describe, but when you are feeling lke this, you just know you are going to have a good day, even though it might bea tough day (which today was for the riders, but I loved it). The stomach problems seem to be over now (finally), so hopefully now I can just concentrate on cycling (I stopped with my 3 anti biotics dosis last night). Again, it was a very scenic ride with this vast landscape in front of you, although I was slightly annoyed that I missed the gemsbok and springbok that some of the people have seen. It was a very tough section to lunch, with lots of head winds and corregation (the lunch truck was full with riders that made it to lunch and did not seem to have the energy to go on). I actually enjoyed that asection a lot and got some pretty cool pictures. After lunch there was a great descent (I was getting 55km/h) with just the right music playing for the mood that I was in and the area I was cycling in (Hinder – All night long). I got into camp at 14:30, which made me one of the earlier ones to come in, it was a great feeling. When you are in the zone, you just go and keep on peddling and the km’s tick by like nothing. Hopefully I can keep this up tomorrow. Also, HAPPY anniversary liefie!!! (1 year). The camp where we stayed was really nice, this old farm where they basically do everything, from fule pump to accommodation to bakery etc… Oh, and the stars in the night sky, what a view!

4 May 2011 – Betha to Konkiep Lapa – 153km
A great mando day for me and for most of the riders. It was weird, but because the mando worked out to be so easy, it almost did not feel like a mando (or worthy of one). I had some religious dreams the night before, but with the help of an angel, had overcome it. It was a difficult night’s sleep, but I felt very good when I woke up, like someone was looking after me and supporting me. I was also on the lookout for my signs from God when I started cycling. But as the day was progressing, I realised that I would not physically see any signs today like I had done before, but rather the fact that I was cycling way beyond my normal speed and over taking some very good cyclist that I never overtake, as my sign for the day.  It felt that day like I was flying on the bike, I was cycling with wings, with wings of an angel. It was a great ride into lunch on the dirt, and if you could make it to that, which was the tougher section, you made the day. The rest was very easy and I my speed after lunch was just over 30km/h.  Scenery again was breathtaking, as well as the condition of the off road was getting better and better as the day went on. I was in camp at 14:30, the second day. I think we were quite lucky with the wind, which did not turn out to be a factor as thought. 11 out of 11 for me on the mando.  Just a great cycling day for me (although the rain would come in later in the evening and play havoc).

5 May 2011 – Konkiep Lapa to Seeheim – 124km
What was supposed to be a very easy section of the mando day turned into one of the toughest, because of all of the rain the night before and also the continuous rain that we had when picthing up our tent, getting dressed, eating breakfast and starting cycling in the rain.  The rain made the gravel soft so your tires just fill in and fall into it, rather than cycle over it, and this was probably the day that the most riders took the trucks either immediately to camp because of the rain or were picked up between 1 – 10km from the start. This is how tough it was. I knew that if I could make it to the town at 32km, the rest of the day’s road would be paved and hopefully easier.  I cannot remember when I was so glad to see a town the far distance after the toughest 32km of my life and of this trip. Not sure how I made it, even though I wanted to give up a few times, but I did. Great to have some warm pies and coffee at the town, and also stooped raining at that point, which also made it more bearable. There was times that I was going 8km/h on a straight road, that is how tough the wind and rain was. If I was not feeling 100% healthy and on my high from the week’s riding, I would have also been on one of the trucks. I cycled with Steve that first morning session, then Pieter Lamond to lunch and then with myself and thoughts after. I was still in that great cycling feeling and so thankful to be in this mode, it makes such a difference to your mental state of you are enjoying the cycling and fully healthy. I also sorted out my bum problem sort of, although it took me 3.5 months to figure it out. Apply shammy cream to your bum at lunch as well, not just only in the morning and it makes a huge difference to me! Pretty cool hotel where we are staying and so happy that when I got in (I also beat some of the racers to it), Chris had gotten me a room. Most of the riders were staying or sharing rooms after the nights raining episode was just too much to deal with again (the tents would have to stay wet for another night in their bag). I also saw a great sign next to one of the roads, “God loves you” – again, another sign!

6 May 2011 – Seeheim to Road House Camp – 108km
Again, a short ride for the day (I think to save us for the mother of mando’s tomorrow). Nothing crazy today, although it was all offroad and although the rian stayed away from the night before, because of all of the rain recently, the roads were still pretty “soft”, which made cycling still a lot tougher than it should have. Lunch was cut short because of a river that was flowing across the rode, so we had it after 25km, which was a real shock to our system.  Slight uphill after lunch, but nothing crazy, other than my bike needing some serious TLC (tender love and care) after what it had been through by now and also from the offraod (it was holding out pretty well). We are staying in the Canyon Roadhouse camp, which has got the most amazing bar and food area. The whole building is decorated in these old signs that the owner collected from donkey years back. And the toilets are also decorated with number plates and old movie posters, very cool and it gives the places just a cool atmosphere (I would not mind if my bar looked like this). Could give me bike a good clean and also update this blog, because all of us go tin pretty early. Also nice to have everything dry out from 2 nights before. 

7 May 2011 – Hobas Camp to Felix Unite – 159km
Last mando day!( forever). The day was also extended by 11km, because yesterday’s was cut short by that distance due to the camp site that we were supposed to stay had to be cancelled. So 171km on nay road is already tough enough, but having 131 km on dirt and then 40km on paved road is even more challenging.  Also the warning from the TDA director that this was normally  along day for the riders was also not good. Everyone knew that this would be a long day, and so it turned out. Most riders spent long hours on their bikes, I made it spending 8 on mine. But what followed was a magnificent ride through some of the most desolated places on the trip thus far. Just you, your bike and nothing at times, which is great for thinking time, reflecting on the tour and what you are busy achieving. It stats sinking in as we get closer to the finish line.  I also rode for most of the off rode section on my own, which was great and I could really enjoy the nice scenery. The paved section I road with Scott, who is a very strong rider (it worked out great because the paved part was the toughest of the day, uphill and big head winds and Scott just rode in front with me on the back – all I had to do was keep up, he did all of the work, which I was very thankful for).  We both arrived with arms up in the air at the finish flag, the day was over and the last of the mando days! 12 out of 12 for the mando’s for me. The day started at 6:45 and I rolled in at 15:30, I long day indeed. It was nice to catch the second half of the Stormers/Crusaders game, although they did loose. And I think there was some big expectations that it would be a nbig night, but I think after the long day, it was over pretty quickly, most of the riders returning to bed pretty early.  I was so thankful for this week and that I was feeling good again, this was one of the nest weeks to cycle, with the scenery, but you had to be on top of your game, it was tough as well. So I was very relieved that I had this feeling of enjoyment back again. Exactly how I wanted to end the trip, enjoying it while it lasted…..

8 May 2011 – Felix Unite – rest day
One thing I am not going to miss is people getting up early in the camp sites and just talking away, without considering that other people actually want to sleep some more. Not cool. There was not much to do at the camp site, and there was no real town to speak of as well. So the riders could actually just chill out and this was the first rest day in ages where I could actually just properly rest. The camp site is right on the edge of the Orange river, so it is quite a cool feeling seeing the other side of the river, knowing that SA is there. Unfortunately of the of the worst restaurant experiences we had on the trip was the night at dinner, which turned into absolutely chaos. They did not mess up the orders, but the service and food was so slow coming out, it was ridiculous. I was actually quite embarrassed for them, and really started to give it to the lady that was running it at the front. Not what I was expecting of a place like this. Still I went to bed feeling pretty uplifted, tomorrow I was crossing into my home country! After so long, I would be back home.

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