July 15 – Day 14 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour

-from the Caprivi Strip to somewhere else in the Caprivi Strip.

Distance – 136 km
Time – 8 hrs 4 min
Av Heart Rate – 132 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 180 bpm.


The upside of riding the Caprivi Strip is that you are able to cut and paste whilst blogging , on account of the road being mostly long and flat and straight with bush on both sides, including some fine specimens of Terminalia sericea, and other trees whose names continue to escape me, blah,blah,blah.


There is no downside to riding the Caprivi Strip, other than the road being mostly long and flat and straight with bush on both sides, blah,blah,blah.


But today’s ride almost never happened. You will remember that Al Watermeyer slightly overshot the turnoff to our night stop camp in search of ice cream.


I am able to include the word slightly only because Al encountered a boom gate across the road manned by a police detail who told Al he was not permitted to proceed any further by bicycle, even if he was in search of ice cream, on account of the fact he was riding into a national park complete with elephants and lions. But for that boom, Al would have overshot by a lot, because the next town with ice cream is 200 kilometers further down the road. Al likes ice cream a lot. But I digress, back to the national park security boom gate.


Al told the guard that we were riding from Harare all the way Swakopmund, and that Swakopmund was on the other side of the guard’s boom. The Warden of the park was duly summoned. By this time, I’d also arrived at the boom, also in search of ice cream, but in the truck.
We explained our mission to the Warden. He was a reasonable guy and empathized with our cause, but rules were rules. There were dangerous animals in the park including lion, elephant, wild dog and buffaloes, and cycling was strictly forbidden for obvious reasons.
I am less than fond of rules and asked if I could speak with the Warden’s boss, the Director of Namibian Parks and Wildlife on the phone. I tried to schmooze the Director, but to no avail, because rules were rules. So I phoned Adam Selby, because that’s what you do when you are faced with insurmountable problems, because the Selbys can and do make shit happen. And they know lots and lots of people.


Long story short. Adam phoned Namibia’s National Ombudsman with whom he had been in contact with regarding the trip, who phoned the Minister of Tourism, who phoned the Warden to tell him the Old Legs Tour could proceed as per plan and ride through the Bwabwata National Park.


All of that happened last night, and unbeknownst to us. Fast forward to this morning and we arrived at the boom gate hoping and praying we could ride, but fully expecting to be told no. When the Warden gave us the green light, we high-fived, excited like kids off to the circus.
Riding in the bush on a mountain bike makes you feel good to be alive. Riding in the bush with animals that can make you dead makes you feel even more alive. You ride with every sense heightened, straining ears and eyes. It so exciting and I love it.


Our perseverance was rewarded as soon as we entered the park when we saw our first lechwe. We don’t get lechwe in Zimbabwe. Similar to impala but more closely related to waterbuck, lechwe are found in the Okavango and other marshlands of South Central Africa. They are specially adapted to their environment with slightly longer back legs that allow them to run through water up to half a meter deep.
We bumped into a pair of Impala rams rutting next to the road. They ran alongside for a few hundred meters, with horns clattering as they had at each other oblivious to our presence.


We rode next to a pair of magnificent sable bulls right next to the road. We also saw duiker, steenbok and a tiny dik-dik, no bigger than a spaniel. Linda and Jenny in the front support vehicle also saw zebra and eland.


The game dried up as the day got hotter. That we were riding through thick bush didn’t help. But riding in bush without game is still good muti. But the Caprivi Strip does go on a bit.


As the sun got higher in the sky, my bottom got more sore, and I was yearning for corners to ride around, but all I had in front of me was more dead straight. I have the attention span of a cocker spaniel . But there was no stopping where we wanted or messing around at the back of the bunch, as is my want. Because of the animal threat, we had to ride in a tight bunch with vehicles in close attendance front and back. So I messed around in the front of the bunch, almost getting squashed by a car, earning myself a deserved Dick of the Day.


After 129 kilometers and feeling rather knackered after back-to- back long days in the saddle, we pulled into the first sign of habitation, a police station, to ask if we could camp for the night. The station commander was very hospitable and gave us permission to pitch camp in his car park. On the Uganda Tour we slept in a Tanzanian police Detention Centre , but our Namibian police experience eclipsed that by far. I’d rather be a prisoner in Namibia than in Tanzania!Namibian police stations are clean, Tanzanian stations aren’t.


Our night in the police station car park was memorable. Adam hid a rubber snake in Nik ‘Crash’ Bellwald’s sleeping bag. Nik is Swiss. They don’t do rubber snake jokes in Switzerland. So instead of being petrified when he found the snake, Nik laughed and laughed. He is having the best time of his life.


In closing, a big shout out from Howard to Margie, Daniel, Nick and Maka.
Tomorrow we have another 70 kilometers of Bwabwata National Park in front of us, complete with elephants hopefully, and then another 20 kilometers to our next rest day at Divundu on the Angolan border.


Until my next blog from there, have fun, do good, do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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