July 27- Day 26 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour
-from Palmwag in the middle of nowhere, through Vrede to Twyfelfontein, both also in the middle of nowhere.
Kilometers – 107 km
Time – 8 hrs 31 min
Av Heart Rate – 119 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 181 bpm
Max Temp – 42 deg as per Nick Selby’s Garmin.
I am blogging to you at 04.00 a.m. from my bedroom beneath a low slung bush in a dusty car park in a town called Twyfelfontein. Oh, how our accommodations have varied on the Tour.
Because of extreme fatigue, Jenny and I paid for an accommodation upgrade in Palmwag, and enjoyed 5 star luxury. Tonight, again because of extreme fatigue, we’re sleeping on stretchers under the low slung bush in the campsite car park. Which has turned out to be not such a good idea. Resenting my presence, the insects that live in the bush above my stretcher descended to my pillow an hour ago and tried to eat my head. Alas.
For the record, Palmwag, Vrede and Twyfelfontein are towns in name only. Namibia’s approach to town planning would appear to be quite laid back. First you come up with the name ,then signposts, followed by buildings, etcetera. some time later, possibly. As yet the buildings in Palmwag and Twyfelfontein haven’t happened, although Ryan and I did find a slot machine in Vrede.
The lack of infrastructure is a slight snag as we had Palmwag and Twyfelfontein down as resupply points for luxury items like gas, food water, soft drinks and beer. The lack of beer is especially worrying.
We rode into the desert on Day 26. It was so cool, even though we hit 42 degrees C, according to Nick Selby’s Garmin. We now know that the skeleton part of the Skeleton Coast is derived from the dead mad dogs and Englishmen stupid enough to venture out into the midday sun, leaving just us even-more-stupid Old Legs cyclists.
I saw my first desert elephant today, and a tower of obviously lost giraffe who’d overshot the last edible trees by a hundred kilometers.
We followed the elephant’s footprints for kilometers down the road before we saw him in the flesh. Tracking the elephant was easy. His footprints were huge, dustbin lid sized. Desert elephant are big and grey like normal elephants, but they’ve evolved bigger than normal flat feet to help them walk on sand. I am thinking about having dustbin lids fitted to my bicycle.
Al Crundall, Al Watermeyer and I saw our first full-on sand dune. It was straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. We thought it would be cool if we clambered up to the top of the dune with our bikes for photos but rethought that quickly, and settled for photos at the bottom instead. The words cool and sand dunes should never be used in the same sentence.
This part of Namibia is called the Damaraland. The scenery was huge, vast, empty, big vistas that stretched all the way to horizon, blah, blah, blah, as mentioned in previous blogs, but times by two. Normally the sole preserve of hairdressers and florists, the word gorgeous also applies.
Even though he has never been there, Russell says the Damaraland’s craggy horizons remind him of Utah, where every Clint Eastwood Western was filmed. I was able to gain valuable insight into why Clint travels by horse, and not by bicycle.
The roads were a horrible mix of strength- sapping soft sand and bone-jarring corrugations. I’ve changed my mind on this 32 times thus far, but think I prefer corrugations over soft sand. On his hard tail, Howard is the complete opposite.
The road was punctuated by some horribly harsh and obscenely steep climbs. With soft sand underfoot, the climbs were zero fun in the heat. Howard and Jaime clocked top speeds of 60 and 58 k.p.h. respectively.
They were almost as fast as the tummy bug that has roared through the peloton and support crew alike, causing the shivers, debilitating headaches and severely leaking bottoms. We are thinking the cause to be either just a tummy bug, or malaria, or heat stroke. Thankfully I am one of a handful who have remained unaffected so far.
To lighten the mood in a somber peloton, Al Watermeyer threw me with a dead snake that he found squashed on the road. About 4-foot long, it was a Namib desert snake.,
The book describes it as mildly venomous, but I was able to filter out the word mildly as the snake whistled towards me. NB please note that whistled is a figure of speech, because dead snakes don’t make any noise. But I more than made up for the snake’s silence and screamed like a girl and took immediate evasive action, unfortunately directly into the path of Al Crundall riding behind me, who screamed like two girls, before taking his own evasive action. Al also swore like he’d just hit his thumb with a hammer. Somehow Al avoided crashing into me.
Eventually I stopped, but only after putting sufficient distance between myself and the dead venomous snake. Or so I thought, until Pete pointed out helpfully that the snake had wrapped itself around the frame of my bike. Whence upon I resumed my screaming and my evasive action on foot.
And all the while Pete Brodie and Al Watermeyer laughed and laughed. Al Watermeyer says he has never had so much value-for- money out of one dead snake before.
Until my next blog from the Brandberg Massif, have fun, do good and do epic if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.,