July 21 and 22 – Day 20 and 21 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour
From Mururani to somewhere not far from Tsumeb, and then through the Etosha National Park, but not on our bikes unfortunately.
As I blog at 04.00 I’m able to look up at the stars above because Jenny and I were too knackered to bother with tents. I wish you’d seen the stars in the night sky a few hours ago. They would have taken your breath away.
I’ve been awake for hours, trying to sleep with eyes wide open,soaking up the stars and the sky above, trying to drink in the night sounds of real Africa, no cars, no dogs, no people, apart from a distant Ryan Moss snoring.
I will wake up more tired than when I went to bed, but that is all good. I’m hoping I can talk Jenny into dumping our tent going forward.
Distance – 123 km
Time – 7 hrs 14 min
Av Heart Rate – 125 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 166 bpm.
Ascent – 348 m
Yesterday we rode 123 kilometers, mostly on dirt, apart from the first 14 kilometers on tar. We rode under blue skies and through the absolute middle of nowhere, through flat, featureless, pristine bush. N.B.- this part of Namibia is that flat, they’ve built tall steel towers to stick trig beacons on, which is a first for me.
Because left turns and right turns in the dry featureless Namibian bush look same same when you’re not paying attention, especially during briefings, we were able to add to the long day by taking 2 wrong turns. Which was also all good, because yesterday turned out to be my Eureka day.
Eureka days are when your legs finally come to the party and you realize you can pedal all day, and more than that, you want to pedal all day. Instead of dreading the hills ahead, or in yesterday’s case, the next forever stretch of the dirt road disappearing towards distant horizons, you look forward to them, so you can see what’s in front.
And you also realize there is nothing else you would rather be doing, and no one you would rather be doing it with.
Our brotherhood of the Skeleton Coast Tour has grown hugely strong and I know it will endure for years to come. N.B. Before I get bust for being chauvinistic and unwoke, Jenny, Linda and Jaime are very much a part of this brotherhood.
Apologies to the purists out there but to keep me company in the empty bush, I rode with my music playing loud. I went with a more mellow playlist, some modern stuff like Keane and The Kooks and Zee Avi, but mostly older stuff like Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young and Pink Floyd.
Howard Thompson and I played carpool karaoke, belting out the words to the songs, him loudly, me badly, enjoying our best time ever. Howard has had multiple Eureka days thus far on Tour.
Howard told me his favorite Pink Floyd song Comfortably Numb was an apt description for the last 10 years. His Old Legs Tour experience has ripped him out of that comfort zone and has changed his life. Howard said he hasn’t belly laughed as much in 20 years as he has in the last 3 weeks, and wants more have fun, do good, do epic going forward.
As Howard spoke, I got goose bumps. I said and felt exactly the same after our first Old Legs Tour to Cape Town 5 short years and a lifetime ago.
That we are able to do good whilst doing epic and having fun is so win-win. Nevin Lees May reached out to us yesterday to tell us he is walking almost jogging again, and actively looking for a job in wildlife conservation, exactly one month on from his second knee replacement operation. When first we met Nevin in February, he couldn’t walk without sticks, and the thought of a flight of stairs made him whimper.
And also yesterday, Bev Cockcroft and Lilian Chard went for consultations with the orthopedic surgeon, hopefully their first steps towards walking again without pain.
The Old Legs is riding 3125 kilometers to Swakopmund to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help them.
Unfortunately we aren’t the only ones who prefer travelling on the roads less travelled. Dust clouds from passing cars will be a factor going forward and we’ll have to ride carefully. The worst offenders by far are the convoys of South African explorers with their 4×4 caravans in tow, still firmly stuck in Joburg rush mode. They need to chill. Africa is best enjoyed at slower speeds.
In a pathetic attempt to mollify my bottom, and in anticipation of 8 hours in the saddle on corrugations, I deployed triple padding today, and sat taller in the saddle than when I stood. Severe global warming issues down in my man bits aside, it worked a treat and the mutinous murmurings from my bottom were well muted.
The bush we rode through all day was seriously empty, and very easy to get lost in. We passed exactly 2 pedestrians. I asked both of them if this was the road to Namibia. The first guy said definitely yes, but the second wasn’t so sure.
But it’s not all laughs on Tour and we do take some things seriously. Knowing that we had painted huge Dick of the Day targets on our backs after initiating the second wrong turn of the day, Howard, Nick Selby, Pete Brodie and I strategized blindsiding Mark Johnson for an unprecedented two days on the trot in the dreaded wig and tutu. And it worked. Howard is a damn fine defense lawyer, but an even better prosecutor.
One of the most endearing memories from this Tour will be that of Mark Johnson trying to explain to the German lady tourist standing in front of him in the buffet dinner queue why he was wearing a ballerina tutu and a multicolored wig in a game reserve.
Because I inadvertently got caught up all day with the fast boys in the front of the peloton, Day 20 was one of my hardest days on the bike.
But Day 21 was even far more knackering.
When planning the Tour, we put in a request to Namibian Parks and Wildlife for permission to ride through the Etosha National Park, but they told us sorry, no can do. So we uplifted the bikes and spent the day driving through the Park.
As far as game reserves go, Etosha is a next level good and delivered up elephants, kudu, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, hartebeest, duiker, springbok, impala, steenbok, ostrich, Kori bustards, and Secretary birds in spades, plus best of all for me, Oryx a.k.a. gemsbok, plus a meerkat for Jenny.
And the Etosha salt pans blew me away. They look like the sea, but without the water and the waves, or girls in bikinis. I have left Etosha on my bucket list for further exploration.
So far no lion, cheetah or rhino, but we still have another 4 hours in the Park tomorrow before we get back on our bikes.
All the riders agreed that 6 hours of slow driving in the vehicles was more exhausting than riding bikes. We have no idea how our support crew are able to do that and more, day in, day out, without ever being grumpy. Big thanks to Jenny, Linda, Ryan, Gary and Russell for keeping our pedals turning.
A big shout out to Cillian and Ronja from your Grandpa Nik a.k.a Crash. He is riding like a teenager and misses you lots.
And big hugs to Julia, Cara, Ciane, Natalie and Daniel from Al Crundall plus lots of love to Lewis, Jett, Cayden and Harry, Zara and Chloe from Grandpa Rooster. He is enjoying his adventure but misses you guys much.
In closing, big thanks and kudos to Mannie’s Bike Mecca in Windhoek. We don’t know him from a bar of soap but he shipped both Jaime’s derailleur and Al Watermeyer’s bottom bracket before receiving proof of payment … a rare and pleasant surprise in these modern times. We though that sort of stuff only happened in Zimbabwe.
Until my next blog from a bush camp near Otjokavere, which would appear to be unbeknownst to Google Maps, enjoy, have fun, do good and do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.
* Names and images may have been changed for privacy reasons
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