Diamond Coast - Windhoek to Cape Town April 30 2014
The last section of TDA2014 brought some amazing experiences and some of the hardest sections of the entire tour.
If Namibia is not on your bucket list, you need to add it. I found it to be a beautiful, diverse country with so much to offer in terms of animals, landscapes and culture. Our first rest day was in the Namib-Naukluft Park, at the dunes of Sossusvlei; miles of mesmerizing sand dunes. Some riders biked on the dunes and had a great time messing about in the mounds of sand. Watching the sunset over the dunes and how the colour of the sand changed was marvelous. We were also able to make it to Fish River canyon, the second largest canyon in the world.
Through Namibia we continued off road through incredible mountain vistas, without having too much climbing. Cyclists saw lots of wild animals- kudo, baboon, lorx, springbox, ostrich, and big snakes. There were times when these wild animals seemed to chasing the riders, twice there were encounters with a lorx who seemed to be quite curious as to what these crazy people were up to. Luckily, no one was injured.
Cycling through uninhabited areas meant there were few places to stop for a drink or a snack so it was important to ensure riders had enough water and food to get them to lunch. There were times on this section of the tour that I ran out of water and was super hungry before arriving to lunch. But nonetheless, this section confirmed that I am much more of mountain biker than a road cyclist. For the first few days of the off road I was cruising at a speed that I could not maintain on the road- seems ironic, but I had more adrenaline to push myself.
As we got further into the southern hemisphere, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, it did start to get much colder. Nights involved sleeping in with all my clothes in order to stay warm in the Namibian desert.
Entering the border into South Africa was a great feeling; this meant we were 7 days away from Cape Town, a place many had been thinking about since we started the tour in January. It did also help us to remember that we still had 7 more riding days, and of course needed to be careful as we were headed off road again. The reason for the off road in South Africa is that the highways are too dangerous to cycle on, cars are at max speed on roads without a shoulder.
We were warned about the wind in South Africa, but personally nothing could have prepared me for the endless wind as we headed south. I realized I can take climbing mountains, curious locals, off road, rain, and sand. But wind and I really are not friends. As our tour director, Randy said, it is like the invisible enemy.
It was on these seven days that I finally got that feeling I was waiting for: pushing myself to the limit. On day 115 of 120 each pedal took so much effort. I pushed myself as hard as I could;12km an hour into an intense headwind. I thought the lunch truck was at 70km, so began my count down at 60km. It took an hour to go 10km. Reaching 70km I realized that lunch was not there and must have been at 75km. I was done, really feeling I could not keep going, feeling I could run faster with my bike then ride. Nonetheless, I continued reaching lunch 45 minutes later. I really felt like I wanted to give up, but after a nice break and some food, I decided to push on as there was road and the possibly of a tail wind ahead. Another 8km on off road, then it was a delightful, to see tarmac again (despite my previous dislike). Happy to be moving at a much faster speed I powered down the hills, until the free hub on my bike snapped again. This meant my bike was out for the count, hoping in the truck with Alex was a good choice as the rain started to pound down just as we reached camp.
That night I went to sleep thinking that I really wanted a day off, and told myself if it was raining in the morning I would take the dinner truck to camp. The am brought sunny skies and my bike was fixed, and ready to ride. I was happy to have made the decision to ride, but knew that I was going to be thrilled to reach the finish line in 3 days, where my Dad and Carol awaited!
Day 119 was like no other on the tour, pelting down rain, hail, and busy roads meant that I really did not want to bike. I did not sleep much the night before, debating my decision, so also woke up really tired and freezing in the rain. I thought up so many different excuses for not riding, but in the end I just did not want to, I was tired. Thus, along with another rider who took the day off, we put up the marking tape so those amazing riders that decided to give it a go in the weather conditions would not get lost. It was extremely impressive how many riders finished the day, as even in the car it was a scary 120km ride into our last camp for the TDA2014.
Waking up early on Day 120 was not a surprise for me, as whenever I am really excited about something I have a hard time sleeping. We had 60km to get to lunch that was on a beach with Table Mountain in the background. Despite being up super early, I was late leaving camp and had to boot it to get to lunch in 3 hours. After four flats I finally made it! Next up was some photos on the cold, windy, rainy beach then our 20km convoy into Cape Town. It was hard to know how I would feel reaching the “finish line”. But I was extremely happy to see my dad and Carol and very proud of what I had accomplished over the passed four month. I now just need some time to reflect on the experience and truly understand what it meant for me to bike across the amazing, marvelous continent of Africa.