Alexander and Beatrice cycle to Swakopmund in their holidays…

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.

Alex and Beatrice about to start their journey...

Alex and Beatrice about to start their journey...

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.

That's a happy YouThinkGreen ambassador in Swakopmund ;-)

That's a happy YouThinkGreen ambassador 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.

Alexander Brock

 

First Bike Mob in Windhoek

Bike Mobs flyer

Bike Mobs flyer

On Sunday, 21 July, at 14:00 the first Bike Mob started in front of the Hilton Hotel in Windhoek. The name ‘Bike Mobs’ invites the participants to come and cycle in their Sunday best.
The ride was organised on short notice by Laban Naftal from the Physical Active Youth and Michael Linke from the Bicycle Empowerment Namibia (BEN).
Alexander Brock and Carsten Antoni with his family joined the ride on behalf of YouThinkGreen Namibia.
The purpose of the Bike Mobs is to show the citizens of Windhoek that it is very possible to use the bicycle as a means of transport in the city.

The Bike Mob's just about to start...

The Bike Mob's just about to start...

On this lovely Sunday afternoon 18 enthusiastic riders cycled from Ausspannplatz along Independence Avenue to Katutura. On the way passing many surprised pedestrians who couldn’t believe their eyes.

Grace on the back of her dad.

Grace on the back of her dad.

The group was made of cyclists of all ages and genders. The youngest participant was Grace Antoni, who came along in a backpack on the back of her father.

At the end Alexander Brock and Carsten Antoni won a Knog pannier bag worth N$1,100 for their best Sunday’s cycling outfit. A big thanks to Bicycles for Humanity Melbourne for the prize 😉

If you would like to join one of the next Bike Mobs, but you don’t have a bike, please look up the bicycle shops of BEN Namibia on the map below and give them a visit for an affordable second hand bike.

Hope to see you at the next Bike Mob.


View Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia in a larger map

The first bike stand at DHPS

The first bike stand at DHPS with a beautiful bike, but who is the brave rider???

The first bike stand at DHPS with a beautiful bike, but who is the brave rider??? It's Karl Ehler's!

Miraculously we noticed today that the first bike stand has appeared at our school grounds.
Well done, DHPS administration and thank you very much for the effort!

We have also noticed that our bike bus movement has found its first hardcore followers.

On the website we’ll try to feature these brave cyclists who have started to ride to school despite the challenges (traffic, taxis) they are facing on their way.

Karl Ehlers receives a YTG T-Shirt

Karl Ehlers receives a YTG T-Shirt

First cyclist to be featured here is Karl Ehlers:
Karl is cycling to school with his bike on most days since we introduced the bike-bus at DHPS.
He lives in Eros and visits grade 8.
Today Karl received a sexy YouThinkGreen T-Shirt for his outstanding efforts and for setting an example to other students at DHPS.
Well done, Karl! Please continue to inspire others!!

 

Bike Stand on 01 Aug 2013 - Well done, guys!!

Bike Stand on 01 Aug 2013 - Well done, guys!!

BTW, there are quite a few other brave riders by now. Look at our bike stand on the 1st of August.

We think it’s time for the administration to set up another stand…

If you know of any other brave rider who you think has earned himself a YTG T-Shirt, please let us know via email or comment on our facebook page.

Stand-up Comedian Mark Sampson visited DHPS to interact with YouThinkGreen

Don't Be A Waster! YTG students with the Sampson family.

Don't Be A Waster! YTG students with the Sampson family.

Africa Clockwise  is a phrase that everyone should learn to know and respect. On the 17th of July, we, the members of Youthinkgreen-Namibia, had the pleasure to meet up with well-known South African comedian Mark Sampson, his family and their very large green (in ecology and color) truck. These intrepid explorers are on their way around Africa using only alternative fuel and by doing so are on their way to a new world record.  Their trip should last two years: one year traveling up the west side of Africa and then one year traveling down along the eastern side.
In front of our school hall the green colossus loomed, casting its shadow on the Youthinkgreen-Namibia group, all of whom were eager to listen to Mark and his family. Mark and family immediately jumped in and started describing their plans and what exactly made their truck so environmentally friendly.
Firstly, as mentioned, they are doing it to break a world record, but secondly and more importantly to show the world that it is possible to travel by alternative means and to prove that Africa can show the world how to cope with climate change. On another note they wish to discover whether it is possible, in this century, for a kid to live happily without a TV or water on tap.
They were keen to talk about the workings of the Big Green Truck, which once had been a Mercedes 911 bullnose gun-tractor, pulling heavy artillery weaponry through Angola. Mark mentioned that when they had bought the truck two years ago it still had had a gun turret attached to it, which with the renovations had been exchanged for beds for the children. Of course these weren’t the only changes. The interior has been completely redesigned and is now a comfortable “small home”, fully equipped to function as kitchen, lounge, bathroom and/or bedroom.

The main conversion happened with the motor though, transforming the old diesel motor into a motor that runs on waste vegetable oil, from fish and chip shops for instance. The family told us that they had received old cooking oil from Joe’s Beerhouse here in Namibia, which we thoroughly support and admire. Yet the oil, which in Namibia would have gone straight into the landfill and thus be no use to anybody, has to be processed before it is capable of powering the Big Green Truck.
Once every top up of oil, the family has to spend a good few hours filtering the oil so that all impurities are gone thus not harming the engine. Firstly the oil is filtered through baskets lined with the same type of cloth used in making cheese; the oil is then pumped through numerous string filters. The oil is then filled into barrels and stored on the roof or in the mighty fuel tanks of the truck; making it possible, to our great admiration, for the truck to drive from Cape Town all the way to Windhoek without having to obtain more oil.
Their electricity is generated with photovoltaic solar panels, which of course is the logical and sensible source when traveling around Africa.
The Sampson family then showed us the sign they use when they see people distinctly doing something environmentally unfriendly; which is by using ones three middle fingers and pointing them upwards one forms a “W” which stands for the word “waster”. This sign one can casually show an offending person and leave them feeling flummoxed, but with a sense of shame.

Youthinkgreen Namibia is incredibly honored to have had the chance to get to know this inspiring family and their Big Green Truck and wishes them a safe and fulfilling onward journey.

For more information visit the Africa Clockwise website and have a look at their Facebook page.

You also find a short report about the visit on The Republikein’s website.