Cycle to Swakopmund? You must be crazy! You won’t make it! Is it safe?
When I first proposed the idea to my parents and friends, these were the statements that followed.
The school holidays had just started and I wasn’t sure what to do with my first week off, so I thought why not cycle to Swakopmund? It’s good for me as well as good for the environment, no pollution at all. Also once the comments were posed that I wouldn’t make it or that it wasn’t safe and then I had to do it. I also was sure I could do it since I cycle enough through Windhoek, but I thought a challenge would be just the thing I needed.
So I intended to cycle the 365km to Swakopmund in 3 days (19th-21st August 2013) as to take it in a more relaxed way since my sister would be joining me. We prepared ourselves, me packing my saddlebag which I had won a couple of weeks prior and organizing luminescent vests.
On Monday the 19th of August at 6:45am we left Windhoek and made our way to our first stop; the Buschhotel situated 50km outside of Okahandja. The cycling was easy for the first 16km, riding in the yellow line zone of the highway, leading out of Windhoek, after the highway ended it became somewhat more difficult, with cars and lorries passing us with what felt like just a few centimeters to spare. The drivers were very considerate though and always tried to give us as much space as possible and so we had no problems what so ever. The only real obstacle we encountered was a head wind from the North-East, this meant progress was slow and we were quite exhausted by the time we reached Okahandja at around 11:45, thus we averaged about 15km/h with a couple of breaks here and there. Food we bought at shops, making sure that there would be as little plastic packaging as possible.
Having made good time we thought that the next 50km that day would be easy, boy were we wrong. The terrain changed to mountains and long hills. As it is with hills it’s nice to cycle down them but one first has to cycle up them as well. This was my sister’s downfall and thus many a break was taken. After a painful 4hours we made it to our first overnight stop, by this time we were both exhausted and after being allocated a room we went straight to sleep.
We had discussed if it were better to camp, but having to take sleeping bags and tents along would have been quite a schlep and would have weighed us down. Thus we had chosen to stay at Bed & Breakfasts, dinner we would either have at the B&B’s restaurant or organize ourselves.
The next day it was clear that my sister was not up for the cycle as she was not well and it wouldn’t be possible to continue. So it was I who continued on the venture of cycling; on that day only to Usakos, a mere 90km from the Buschhotel. Since I knew that it wasn’t going to be a tough or long ride today, mainly because we had planned to be more tired from the previous day’s ride, I only left at 9am. It was a pleasant ride, mostly downhill for long parts, but with a slight head wind not making it that easy. It was nice though that there was a broad yellow line zone again, so I didn’t disturb the drivers on the road and this meant I didn’t have to concentrate too much on the road and could appreciate nature in its finest. There were loads of Warthogs next to the road which surprisingly didn’t budge at passing cars but as soon as a bicycle passed they fled for the hills. I put this down to the fact that they don’t get to see bicycles very much and this new ‘thing’ scared them. Also to be seen were several Giraffes and the odd small buck. It was also nice to greet people at the side of the road and if they greeted back and were friendly. I took some time to talk to them and explain what I was doing and since I was wearing my YTG shirt explained what the organization is and does. They thought what I was doing was to a small part crazy and dangerous but to a large part great and worthy.
Since it was such a short ride I was there by 1 o’clock and had the rest of the day to sleep and relax. I stayed at JODO B&B which was very nice and very easy to locate, which is important when arriving quite tired and not wanting to have to concentrate. I planned to leave early the next Morning so I sorted out my breakfast, refilled all my water bottles and then went to bed.
When I say quite early I’m stretching the truth a bit, since it was at 4:30am that I was already on my bike and ready to leave. It was a full moon and so it was very easy to see and thanks to my lights and luminescent jacket I was easily spotted by the night driving lorries and cars, of which there are actually quite a few. Straight outside Usakos there is a long slow hill that feels like a mountain and stretches for about 25km and so the early morning chill was very inviting as I ascended. By the time the sun came up I was at already past the top of the mountain and could see the Spitzkoppe clearly to my right side. I could already make out the top of the Rössing Mountain, which was covered in fog, since I was nearing the coast. The sight of fog both made me happy and scared, because it meant no wind, but on the other hand it also meant that it would be harder for cars to see me. From Usakos to Swakopmund it is 150km and no broad yellow line zone so it was harder to cycle with the passing traffic. By the time I reached the Rössing Mountain the fog had cleared which in turn meant that there was quite a strong wind coming from the west, yes exactly the direction I was traveling towards. Thus even when the ground started to slant more downwards to get to sea level, I couldn’t simply roll down, but really had to peddle hard in order not to be blown backwards, thus my speed was heavily reduced, but at 11:30, exhausted, I arrived in Swakopmund.
It felt great to have accomplished this feat and was quite proud of myself for having achieved my goal and shown that it is possible to cycle quite easily to Swakopmund and that it has nothing to do with being crazy, it has a great deal more to do with staying power and mental and physical endurance.