I anticipated as we headed south in Africa, development would increase. To a degree, it has. In the major towns the surroundings feel much more familiar and at times like a small town in the US. In between those stops however it has been long stretches of little civilization. An outpost here or there that I always find myself wondering how this outcropping developed in such isolation. There are very few coke stops on the route these days.
The road out of Windhoek, taunted me with 15k of pavement than went to dirt and hills and the race was on. As we are getting within smelling distance of the barn in Capetown, I have to admit I was a bit on autopilot as far as racing. The long flat days in Botswana had made it impossible to do anything more than ride as a group and do a sprint at the finish. The introduction of dirt and hills was a wakeup call.
Weissenfels, a horse stable and farm getaway, is completely off the beaten track. A strange little stop that I could only imagine visiting if you were interested in total isolation to write a book. I figure I could take 2 weeks before I’d be hitchhiking to Windhoek for a little more input. Keeping in mind I’m from North Dakota and familiar with open space.
Solitaire is at the intersections of 2 gravel roads. The only way-point between the city and the tourist destination of Sesriem. It has a campsite, gas station with no fuel, and a bakery with some of the best apple pie and baked goods I’ve encountered on this journey. 4 slices of pie, 2 cheese croissants, and a danish helped me refuel after days of fighting the climbs and gravel out of Windhoek.
Sesriem is a lodge, campground and a gas station completely devoted to serving tourists visiting the dunes at Sossusvlei. An amazing site the dunes are as well. I am skeptical of tourist attractions. A minority live up to their marketing and only a few exceed expectations. I always list the Grand Canyon and Sistine Chapel as two that really knocked me out. In Africa, many have far exceeded the way they were explained to me. The dunes of Sossusvlei at sundown were another of these “wow” moments.
With the dirt comes gaps and more time riding alone. Its a day of weaving about searching for the least corrugated section of road to gain some speed and save your body from vibration. This race is typically won by 24+ hours by the time it reaches Capetown. It appears the gap will be hours this year, perhaps minutes.
Also of note for this section was the TDA tradition known as the “naked mile”. For some it has turned into a competition for who will do the most miles naked. One rode the entire day naked. The tourists driving by had a memorable experience.