July 23 and 24- Day 22 and 23 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour
-from the Etosha National Park to Ongongo Waterfall Campsite on the Ongongo river near Warmquelle. Warmquelle aspires to be a one horse town.
Kilometers – about a thousand.
Time – almost forever
Av Heart Rate – 18 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 20 bpm.
Bummer. We owe the Tour 45 km of the 60 km we were supposed to ride on Day 22 after our 4 hour drive out of the Etosha National Park ballooned out to 9 hours.
Etosha is that huge,I’m surprised Putin hasn’t invaded it yet. It is the same size as North Macedonia and far much bigger than Macedonias East, West and South, according to Russell. Having lived there for a few months, Russell is an acknowledged expert on North Macedonia.
We drove west almost all day, apart from when we drove north, south and east instead. I accused Russell of getting lost. Worried I was building a Dick of the Day against him, he quickly reminded me that I was the navigator. I quickly reminded him back that putting your navigator to sleep with amusing anecdotes about North Macedonia was an even bigger Dick of the Day offense.
I’m glad Russell got lost because we saw the most magnificent lion I’ve ever seen. He was straight out of the Lion King, complete with windswept mane. We saw him at a waterhole, staring down a herd of oryx. Russell says oryx look like they were designed in the Ferrari factory.
We drove through surreal scenery all day. It got progressively drier the further west we went, from fields of gold grass as far as the eye could see to Clint Eastwood western landscapes but minus the cowboys, to apocalyptic lunar where the opportunities for woodpeckers were few and far between.
The sight of a lone oryx trudging through the big dry is a memory I will bag forever. I’ve decided to promote Etosha to my best game reserve ever.
It was late afternoon when we finally exited the park, and too late to ride, so we drove to within 15 km of our planned night stop, a bush camp on a dry river bed in the middle of nowhere. There was elephant dung in the riverbed so Jenny and I put our stretchers up under the trees on the bank. We fell asleep with a Scops owl hooting in the branches above.
Distance – 76 km
Time – 7 hrs 14 min
Av Heart Rate – 113 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 164 bpm.
Ascent – 152 m
This part of the blog is coming to you from the Ongongo Waterfall Campsite on the Ongongo river. The campsite is in a rugged canyon with 20 meter high sandstone cliffs on either side and can be described as obscure, random, rustic, quirky and utterly delightful.
There is a family of rock rabbits living on a cliff face opposite my tent. They are very cute and I have the urge to hug it up with them. I showed them to Howard but he doesn’t want anything to do with rock rabbits, not since one of them urinated on his tent, earning him the Dick of the Day wig in the process. He remains suspicious of them.
I was very excited to see my first real live Himba tribesmen peddling their curio wares outside the Etosha gate. I’ve been dying to see them so I can hug it up with them to see if they stink.
The Himba don’t bath, ever, in their whole lives. They live in the desert and for them water is too precious to waste on washing. They look almost shiny. I think they cover their bodies with an oil and their hair with some kind of mud. I asked the Himba lady if I could take a photo of her and her child.
She might never have bathed in her life but there were no flies on her. She told me no photos, not until we bought half her curios. But that was win win because her curios were cool.
Her little Himba baby was very cute and content on her mom’s back, and got all of my attention, especially after her mom decided to go topless for our photo. I was hugely embarrassed and did not know where to put my face. I was interested to see the baby had a dummy secured to one of her mom’s dreadlocks. N.B. I now know that Himbas don’t stink.
Day 23 was one of my best days ever on a bike. On paper, it promised very little, just an arbitrary track on the map from nowhere to nowhere else, but in the flesh it delivered epic in buckets.
It also delivered deep sand in buckets. Sand makes long days longer. The first 11 km took 2 hours to ride, fall and/ or walk.
Al Crundall enjoyed his Eureka Day. He relished the physicality of the challenge, and loved the scenery and vastness and the emptiness of the vistas. We rode through proper big sky country all day.
Al Crundall wasn’t alone. Al Watermeyer also rode with a happy smile that was more like a grin all day.
But Mark Johnson not so much. Mark took a seriously hard fall in the not so soft sand, landing cockeye, buggering up his leg. He could hardly walk but refused to put his bike on the truck and rode through the pain, chewing Diclofenacs for the rest of the day, like I chew jelly babies.
There was lots of falling with Jaime leading the way with 3 spectacular dismounts. The riders went off falling off in the sand even more after Crash discovered a horned adder sunbathing in the sand. He was a feisty little guy and highly venomous.
Namibia is utterly vast and stretches away forever in all directions. Because it is near impossible to sightsee whilst falling, we were able to take in the incredible vistas that we were riding through only after the sand. Turns out Namibia is completely flat and there are mountains. But thankfully we rode around them and through them, not over them.
I think we rode in communal land all day, but saw only 2 villages, 2 herds of goats and 2 herds of cattle all day. The cattle were in good condition and were all tagged. I think Namibia is enjoying the EU export beef quota that Zimbabwe used to enjoy.
We also saw a herd of springbok and a tower of giraffe. The tower of giraffe were in full gallop mode and ran alongside us in the distance. Another giraffe ran across the road just meters in front of the riders. We saw elephant dung throughout the day, but no elephants.
We also did good on the bird front and were able to tick off pallid harriers, rosy-cheeked lovebirds, ant eating chats, and a very cool Ruppel’s parrot. all new birds for me.
Namibia is God’s own country. It is big like South Africa, but without the people, and without the hate, the crime and the violence. It is a peaceful, happy country, without Zimbabwe’s trauma and chaos and big brother police roadblocks. Small wonder Namibia is full of tourists and we aren’t. Alas.
In closing, more good Nevin Lees May news. He reached out to us yesterday to tell us he has landed a job on a game farm in Shamva, starting August. Just 6 short months ago, Nevin thought he would never walk again. I so love that the Old Legs was able to play a part in making sure Nevin’s story has a happy ending.
I would like to thank and acknowledge St Stephen’s Old Boys for stepping up to help one of their own. Not bad for a bunch of boys from Balla Balla. Zimbabwe remains a village even though we are spread out all over the world.
In closing a big shout out from Bumper Al to Mait, Tenzen and Mila in Canada. He is having his best adventure ever and looks forward to sharing it with you in December.
Until my next blog from a town called Palmwag, have fun, do good, do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.,