Tuesday, November 22, 2016
- Three Continents
After a two-week break I left Wesley Livingstone to cycle over the pothole track to the Namibian border. Meanwhile, I suspect that a pothole according to African definition must have at least 2 meters in diameter and 50cm deep. Over time, we made fun of who can drive around the holes the fastest. The whole thing felt like playing Grand Theft Auto (GTA). Wesley studied for 6 years in the USA and now travels from Nairobi back to his old home.
Due to the dry season I had decided not to visit the Victoria Falls. At the end of the rainy season in February and March, up to 10,000 m³ / second of water shoots over the northern edge of the gorge. Currently, however, the amount of water is less than 170 m³ / second. Except for a rock face you do not see much. I was all the happier when I saw the Zambezi River for the first time on the border with Namibia.
The border crossing went extremely fast for African conditions. On the Zambian side, the officials wanted to take pictures with us and the Namibian colleagues pressed quickly and without further questions a 3 months tourist visa in our passports. The whole process did not even last 15 minutes! Such an efficient way of working is actually not used here in Africa.
Right in the first village, in Katima Mulilo, we were allowed to stay with Susanne and Paul for 2 days. They also work for Interteam interteam.ch here in the area. Annatina had already told me about them in Tanzania and it has been almost 10 years since we had last seen each other. They spoiled us with delicious food and some exciting stories from their time here in Namibia. Many many thanks!
On the way through the Caprivi strip, two cyclists from Germany overtook us. Heinz and Bernd started from Lusaka and cycle for a little over three months through southern Africa. We talked briefly before they cycled away again.
The emergence of the Caprivi strip dates back to the treaty between Germany and England over the colonies and Helgoland of 1 July 1890 ("Zanzibar Treaty"). The German Reich renounced in this on future claims to Witu and Zanzibar. For this purpose, the island Helgoland fell to Germany, and its colony German Southwest Africa got access to the Zambezi. Behind this lay the strategy to create a territorial connection of the Southwest African possessions with German East Africa.
Unfortunately, the National Park was a total disappointment for me. We did not see any animals and people live more than 60 kilometers in this protected area. In my opinion, this park is an absolute joke. In addition, the paved roads throughout Namibia are extremely narrow. As long as there is no oncoming traffic you feel reasonably safe as a cyclist. However, the local motorists take hardly any consideration for cyclists. Fortunately, quite a few tourists in Namibia are traveling with their own cars. These brakes nice and overtake with enough distance. This is something you are almost not used to.
In Divundu I had to say goodbye to Wesley again. He wanted to drive along the Okavango River as I continued to follow the border with Angola. On the same day Heinz and Bernd passed me again. Together we stayed at a farm and I was even invited to a beer by them. Many Thanks!
The drive through the north of Namibia was no different from the rest of Africa. Everywhere people who live in clay or corrugated iron huts and light the whole bush landscape. The enormously reckless drivers drove me on the narrow streets sometimes almost over the pile. No one would recommend riding around in the north of Namibia by bike. First, people here have to learn how to drive properly.
For me, the worst terrorists in Africa are not the Boko Haram, Al Shabaab or whatever they are called, but the flies! These little dung-birds drove me from dawn to dusk every day to madness. Pure psychoterror! Even finding a quiet place to sleep for the night was not always easy. So I had to improvise quite a few times.
After nearly 1,200 kilometers driving through the north of Namibia, I arrived in Opuwo. Actually, I wanted to recover here for a few days. However, I did not like the place at all. Opuwo was built by the South African government as an administrative center for the Himba municipal area and means in the tribal language of Himba as much as "the end". I find a very suitable name. For some days I had to struggle with severe diarrhea. Not ideal if the thermometer rises to over 40 degrees every day and you use more than 10 liters per day. In the end, I opted for antibiotic therapy.
The distances between the cities are enormous and there is often nothing in between. With a motorized vehicle this is not particularly tragic. However, cycling can quickly lead to a problem. At times, I dragged up to 36 liters of water and food for 7 days with me. But I was all the more happy when I was able to turn into the Kaokoveld shortly after Opuwo on the D3707.
The Kaokoveld is an area of about 50,000 square kilometers. From 1970 to 1989 it formed under the name Kaokoland a homeland within Southwest Africa. I liked the area right away. For the first time on my journey through Africa, I did not see thousands of people every day. The beautiful landscape, mixed with the silence that prevails here, was balm for my soul. However, Dusty (my bike) and I were put to the test. The road can not be described as such in my view. Not even the term "piste" has earned certain sections. Often I had to push Dusty through deep sand, rocks and boulders for several kilometers. Very soon I realized that I can not complete the track in the planned time.
Thus it was from now on rationing the water and the food. Fortunately, I got a four-wheel drive almost every day. Most of them were tourists who always stopped and usually gave me some food or water. In addition, they motivated me a lot, which I could well use. Once a group even spontaneously invited me to a breakfast on the street! Of the locals but held hardly a single vehicle.
Partly I felt like on another planet. Around noon, a strong wind always set in, which became stronger until the evening. This made it a real challenge to set up the tent in the evening and cook a meal on the gas stove. For that I was rewarded every night with a breathtaking starry sky.
With the diarrhea my bad luck had begun. Almost daily, additional problems were added. In Livingstone I had bought new pants. The hardships meant that they were totally torn after only 2 weeks. From the many sand, my circuit began to crack more and more. At some point, the chain flew out and I discovered the damage: The teeth on the rear chainring were almost all broken off. Nobody could help me. In addition, I broke off a gear screw when I wanted to put on this and the steering line limitation even resolved the whole thread. Also, the zippers on my tent did not work properly at some point.
Another highlight here were the many animals. Every day I encountered very different species. Ostriches, kudus, springboks, giraffes, zebras, sparrows, monkeys and many more crossed my path every day and often stopped just a few meters away from me.
I needed a total of 7 days for the route through the Kaokovield. This was definitely my scenic highlight throughout Africa and the hardships were worth it. Totally done, I reached Sesfontein. The place was quite a disappointment. Except for a small shop and a few mud huts, there was almost nothing. At least I found at a Automechanicker a hand file with which I could nachzufilen the teeth on chainring. In doing so, I made the decision to postpone the remaining 600 kilometers to Swakopmund.
The endless corrugated iron roads did not end and the slopes were usually steeper than the Eiger north face. I cursed like mad at the incompetent Africans who are not even able to build real roads. As a result of the many pushes, my shoes slowly dissolved and the weight on my bike (almost 90kg) in combination with the sand caused the tire's profile to dissolve rather quickly.
I can hardly say how I made the track. Physically and mentally I was totally exhausted when I finally saw the silhouette of Swakopmund on the horizon after 23 days. My material and myself need a total service now. The bad roads here in Namibia have taken their toll. With lust I rushed first in the shower and then on the many supermarkets and bakeries here in town. That's exactly what I love about traveling by bike: Even the smallest things can make you extremely happy.