Tag Archives: Rest Day

Sesriem Rest Day – More Dirt and The Racing Isn’t Over

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.

Sunset on the Sossusvlei dunes

Sunset on the Sossusvlei dunes. Billed as the highest dune in the world

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.

Top 5 in the race at Spreetshoogt Pass just before a crazy gravel descent

Top 5 in the race at Spreetshoogt Pass just before a crazy gravel descent

Climbing Dune 45 at Sossusvlei

Climbing Dune 45 at Sossusvlei

Windhoek Rest Day – Every Race Has It’s Kansas



The mention of Kansas gives me a slightly sick feeling to this day. When I raced RAAM in 2006, Kansas was mentally the most difficult stretch. Unchanging terrain, seemingly a Hanna Barbara cartoon where the background just repeats behind the characters as they run across screen. It also had a 30+ mph cross wind that forced me to lean into the wind at precarious angle hoping at all times that I not become a kite. Top it off with thunderstorms and threatening tornadoes and I hope you’ll understand my prejudice.

Botswana is the Tour d’Afrique’s Kansas. Incredibly flat and long days in the saddle, however it keeps it interesting for the riders with a great number of charismatic mega fauna (thanks Dan).

The race consisted of group riding with a sprint at the end most days. On the longest day of the tour, all the racers worked together to try and better the course record for that day. I was lucky enough to pull into the finish but losing the sprint with Raffa in 5:41 for 207.8 KM to set a new best time. I think it is an unusual tour where all the riders work together as a team on a stage, but it was fun and a great break from what had become routine days on the bike.

Off the bike was different story, wildlife sightings and trips upped the headcount of interesting animals I’ve seen in the wild.

The section was completed by riding into Windhoek, Namibia and being greeted by “Team Alaric”, local rider Alaric Baritz’s family and friends. They than treated all the TDAers to a Braai (BBQ) that evening. Amazing hospitality to take on such a large group of ravenous cyclists.

Maybe Kansas isnt so bad after all.



Ride in with Team Alaric In the Paper

Ride in with Team Alaric In the Paper

Visit to World Bicycle Relief in Lusaka Zambia

I spent the afternoon of my rest day in Lusaka, Zambia with Kristin and Brian of World Bicycle Relief. I visited their operations center and than met some people who have had their lives changed by the bikes provided by World Bicycle Relief. It was an eye opening experience and helped give me a better understanding of their efforts.

Buffalo Bicycles

Built For Big Loads on Tough Roads

I first learned of World Bicycle Relief through the Wrigley Field Road Tour, a century ride that starts at Wrigley Field in Chicago and ends at Miller Park in Milwaukee WI. It was a great ride on familiar roads. Even with the added bonus of hours riding in the rain, it was a fantastic time. I was enthused at how tangible a benefit World Bicycle Relief provides. A $134 donation equals one bike to a person or child that is in need. For each 20 bikes distributed they train someone to repair them.

Racing Tour d’Afrique and Tour Divide was a great opportunity to combine my cycling adventures/races/escapades with a fundraising effort.

My visit began with a conversation with Brian, the WBR Country Director for Zambia. He explained a number of the programs that WBR is currently engaged in and some new ones that they are testing. The amount of different ways they distribute bikes was new to me. I had assumed donors donated and those bikes were distributed to young girls to get to school or healthcare workers to visit people in need, but this was only part of the the way bikes made it into the hands of people. People and organizations can buy the bikes, WBR partners with a micro-loan organization to finance the purchase of the bikes, and other organizations are purchasing bikes for use in their programs. WBR has some excellent organization in the way the community and schools are engaged in the bicycle use and tracking the effect the bicycles are having on the area. He was very candid about some of the challenges they face. Brian was also very descriptive of his life growing up in Zambia and experiencing the difficulties in rural Zambia.

We next hit the road for a Chonga to meet Albert, a young entrepreneur. It was a bit odd to be in a car at highway speeds again. I hadn’t been in many cars other than a couple cabs and tuk tuks in 3 months. Albert began as a mechanic of WBR bicycles and has grown that into an expanding bike shop business on the verge of moving into a larger space for the 2nd time in a few years. He has since diversified to building some rental properties to house students at the local high school as well.

A walk through the edge of the market area brought us to Joe, a farmer, livestock middleman, political pundit, and storyteller. He purchased a number of bikes through a micro-loan program for small businesses. He started his business by biking further out in to the surrounding area, buying goats, than carrying them into the city for sale. An 80K day was not unusual. Joe could tell a story and our conversation flowed from his cycling, to how he moved around trying to make a living, to sending his children to school, to the way in which the 72 tribes are the political parties in Zambia (and why his should have the next president). Joe always had a friendly laugh no matter the subject.

Thank you to Brain, Kristin, and David for being such great hosts for a tired cyclist, They really went to great lengths to make me feel welcome, see WBR, and get me ready to hit the road again the following day. Hope I can make it back one day to see even greater success.

More Info About World Bicycle Relief

Donate To World Bicycle Relief

Joes Farm

Joe - a WBR bike recipient via a microloan program, Brian - WBR Country Director for Zambia, and Brian's son

Albert, a WBR Bicycle Mechanic who has grown a healthy bike shop where he sells buffalo bikes and replacement parts

Albert, a WBR Bicycle Mechanic turned Entrepeneur

Albert's WBR Shop

Albert's WBR Shop

Livingstone, Victoria Falls Rest Day

Had a great double rest day. Described to me as the tourist capital of Africa, which made me worry, but it was fantastic. Great B&B, great food, and even better sights to be had on the days off. It was mostly activities rather than introspection, so here’s some photos.

Drenched By Victoria Falls

Drenched By Victoria Falls

Bridge to Zimbabwe

Bridge to Zimbabwe

On the bridge to Zimbabwe

On the Bridge to Zimbabwe

Mist from Victoria Falls in buckets

Mist from Victoria Falls in Buckets

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

A pretty shot of the falls

A pretty shot of the falls

Documenting my photographic capabilities

Documenting my photographic capabilities

The moment before we flip

The moment before we flip or the oh sh*t moment where we question why we wanted to go the difficult way

The flip

The flip - everyone got wet and spent an uncomfortable amount of time under water

The recovery

The recovery - love how the guide is the most excited out of all of us.