August 07 2022 – the last blog of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour.
You know when you’ve ridden far on your bike when your shortcut home is a 5 day drive. This last blog is coming to you from Botswana, from somewhere between Maun and Francistown.
We’ve been centimetering our way across Botswana for 2 days now, and we’re still only in the middle. Centimetering is like inching, just slower. We are slow because we are towing the bike trailer, and also because every hamlet in Botswana with 1 or more huts also boasts a 60 k.p.h. speed limit and the possibility of a traffic cop, complete with camera.
By car, Botswana is boring, and can make you fall asleep faster than counting sheep. Like Namibia, Botswana is dry and flat, with lots and lots of nothing, but with the added attraction of thorn bushes, plus every now and then, elephants, giraffe, and aardvarks. On a bike, I am sure Botswana would be epic. Watch this space.
Kilometers – 109 km
Time – 6 hrs 56 min
Av Heart Rate – 124 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 177 bpm
Kilometers – 81 km
Time – 7 hrs 10 min
Av Heart Rate – 122 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 185 bpm
Our last 2 days riding the Skeleton Coast ticked the epic box. Blessed with the kindest of tail winds and a smooth-like-glass salt road, we loved riding alongside the Atlantic Ocean, and enjoyed like kids on the last day of school. With beaches littered with the remains of whales, seals, penguins and ships, we were able to discover why the Skeleton Coast is so named
For the brown hyaena that make their living trawling those white sands, it must be like living next door to Nando’s, KFC, Macdonald’s and a Pizza Hut. I was bummed not to see an actual hyena, but their spoor was everywhere. One of them thieved our dinner plates from our Mile 108 campsite and licked them clean.
We visited Cape Cross, home to upwards of 7000 seals, all with fully functional bladders and bowels.
From afar, seals might look cuddly, but up close, they stink. And they have dead eyes straight out of a horror movie, and rotten teeth. Seals don’t do dentists. Tooth ache might explain why seals are so fractious. For the Ellis Robins alumni out there, fractious means grumpy, quarrelsome and easily irritated.
But all of that falls away as soon as the seals hit the ocean. In the water, seals are sleek and beautiful.
As per every Old Legs Tour before, our Grand Finale could have been scripted by Monty Python.
After 32 days and 3000 plus kilometers, we arrived in Swakopmund and stopped at a service station on the outskirts of town to debate where our finish line should be, but only after hoovering every ice cream and packet of biltong in the shop.
We also had to wait for the welcoming party, consisting of Lauri Selby and Julia Crundall, and Russell’s girlfriend Anna and Al’s girlfriend Diana who had flown in from Harare, Australia and Germany to cheer us over the line. We might ride slower than paint dries, but it would appear we ride faster than airplanes fly. In the end we had to wait for over an hour on the service station forecourt, but spent the hour eating ice cream and biltong, so it was all good.
On the map, Swakopmund is a small and distant spot, the perfect end destination for an epic Tour. But on the ground, it is all sprawling suburbs and flat horizons, with no obvious end point in sight.
Linda suggested we cross the finish line at our hotel on the outskirts of Swakopmund, but the general consensus was that something more epic was needed. An old chap at the convenience store to buy his daily milk and bread, but not his ice cream and biltong because as they were out of stock, overheard our conversation, and suggested we ride to the lighthouse in the center of town. Which sounded suitably epic. So it was game on, our finish line would be the Swakopmund lighthouse.
It was further resolved that Jenny and Linda would lead the peloton through town, while Ryan and Gary would join Russell and the welcoming committee now landed at the finish line to film proceedings.
Straight away, I bet Mark Johnson 7 Zimbabwe dollars that Jenny and Linda would get us lost. And so it came to pass.
Some background. Jenny and Linda fell out with their Garmin going into Kadoma on Day One, and have been second guessing it ever since. Fast forward to Swakopmund, and they resisted the Garmin’s every suggestion they turn right, and plunged headlong into Swakopmund’s not very scenic industrial sites, with the peloton in tow.
It didn’t help that Jenny and Linda had mistaken Swakopmund’s water reservoir for the lighthouse. In their mind, the fact that the lighthouse was so far from the sea, went a long way to explaining all the shipwrecks.
Long story short, we eventually bumbled our way to the lighthouse, and all was good, apart from the fact that there were no roads leading to it. So we enjoyed an epic and moving finish line in a random, arbitrary car park instead.
We were able to enjoy a second crack at the finish line when we arrived at the Seaside Hotel and hugged it up and posed for celebratory photos, unfortunately right in front of the hotel’s spa and one of the spa customers who was able to photo bomb our photos, whilst admiring the results of her bikini wax.
We also enjoyed a few celebratory beers, which may or may not have contributed to the delays in getting this blog out.
Swakopmund is a beautiful city with beautiful, friendly people and it was exactly the right place to finish our best adventure ever.
Most of the team have flown home, including unsurprisingly, those from Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. Most flew out of Swakopmund while Jonno, Howard and Crash flew out of Windhoek. Me, Jenny, Ryan and Gary are driving vehicles home through Botswana, while Russell and Alastair, along with Anna and Diana are driving the truck home via Etosha and Chobe. Russell wants a second opinion on the oryx.
Those who routed via Windhoek were able to enjoy last laughs together at Joe’s Beer House, easily the best pub restaurant on Tour.
Absolutely starving as per normal, we arrived at Joe’s at 18.00 only to find the restaurant fully booked until 20.30. With straight faces, we were able to bullshit the manager that Al was a famous actor and had starred in Paddington Bear and from nowhere, the manager conjured up a table for 11. Al offered up his autograph, but was slightly miffed when no one took him up on the offer.
I am happy to drive home. I get to see new places, although many of the new places look very similar to other places already seen. One lot of nothing can easily be mistaken for other lots of nothing.
For the first time since before leaving Harare on July 2, we were asked to mask up at the Botswana border post, an in-your-face reminder that the real world bullshit is on going.
I’ve not missed the real world one bit. Since getting off my bike, I have managed just 7 minutes of CNN and BBC before being forced to switch the television off. I still don’t know who Boris Johnson’s replacement is, and don’t much care, but I’m sure they got the job because they can spell woke better than Boris.
We will cross the border late this afternoon back into Zimbabwe, back to a rather sad reality where pensioners hope and pray their hips and knees last longer than their Ford Lasers and their Mazda 323’s, where those that built the country have no safety nets, leaving them dependent on the charity they are too proud to ask for.
In that respect, our Zimbabwe is a sad land, but it is our home, and it is our job to make it better, and to fix what has been broken.
In closing, my huge thanks and respect to the Old Legs Class of 2022. We rode 3000 plus kilometers through some of Africa’s toughest landscapes, often pushing ourselves beyond our limits, to raise money to pay for the pensioners food and shelter, for their medical emergencies, and so they can be buried come the time with dignity.
I don’t know how much we have raised so far on the Skeleton Coast Tour. Huge thanks to those who have donated, including Julie McKenzie in Mundubbra in Queensland and the members of her 100 Club. Your donations will be used where they are most needed and to change lives.
But I do know that our job is not yet done, and that we will have to get back on our bikes so we can carry on making difference.
Until then, have fun, do good, do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.