The highest average kilometre per day of any section on the tour. This section travelled from Livingstone in Zambia to the modern city of Windhoek in Namibia, traversing the country of Botswana. In previous reports of this section I had heard that the terrain would be flat and boring and that is exactly what transpired.
For ten long arduous days I cycled in the race pelaton with the other guys along the really long boring road, staring at the wheel in front. The road was so monotonous, it was flat and there was no mental stimulation whatsoever. I might as well have been cycling a 1 km loop over and over as the change was so limited. When you are cycling over 170km for 5-6 hours, you really crave the mental stimulation of nice scenery or interesting terrain to ease your passage. Unfortunately on this road it was extremely limited. Botswana has also got an extremely low population density. So for hours and hours, there would be no sign of life, no houses, no people. This is stark contrast to everywhere most of the countries we passed through recently in Africa where people would be popping out of trees and hedges and everywhere. This lack of people added to sense of isolation.
The mornings had become extremely cold and it added to distress of trying to get ready whilst in near 0 degrees.
The race speed was also quite fast on most days. We did decide to keep it together for most of the day and every day I did my best to be with Pascal until the end, it didn't always work out that way but I was happy enough with my efforts! I managed to come second in the section so that wasn't too bad.
Thankfully I have been feeling really strong and healthy of late and the bike has also been in pretty good fettle. A few squeaks and rattles but nothing too serious. I also managed to win a stage which was nice. I hadn't won one since Ethiopia, many, many weeks ago and had resigned myself to think that I mightn't win another. So to get another stage plate was great.
The 'Elephant Highway' did live up to it's billing. On the very first day out of Livingstone, we were very lucky to spot a rhino grazing in a field just off the road. It was amazing to see such a majestic creature in it's natural habitat. Then down the road we spotted a few elephants enjoying their day. Botswana really is the place to go if you want to see elephants. There are thousands of them and they have full liberty to wander across the roads from place to place. Along the road many signs warned of elephants crossing. Elephant sightings were quite amazing but also quite fleeting. We travelled with a local elephant expert who was available to pass on information and give us advice should we encounter an elephant on the road.
My experience in Livingstone was really good. With a massive variety of activities available in the thrill capital of Africa, I knew I would be spending a bit of money. I had planned on doing the bungy jump at Victoria Falls and maybe some white water rafting. On arrival we were informed that rafting was not available due to high water levels so I turned my attention to the bungy. I was delighted also to win a prize for my fundraising efforts on behalf of Pieta House. I won a bridge swing which was amazing. All cyclists who had engaged in fundraising efforts were given one of many excellent prizes, a real unexpected treat!
A huge crew of us took part in the bungy challenge on the Victoria Falls bridge, my second time jumping with a chord attached to my legs. It was more terrifying this time around. We had a super day though and I did my bridge swing also, a bit less scary and a little more fun. A trip to the majestic Victoria Falls was taken in after the jumps.
After the first 5 days we had a rest day in Maun, the stopping point at the Okavanga Delta. I was extremely wrecked at this stage. 3 out of the 5 days were over 160km and the last day of 135 km was predominately into a stiff headwind with weary legs pushing the pedals. I was physically drained, my legs hurt but I felt healthy. Some good food and a massage and I was good to go again. I booked a trip over the Okavango Delta. I was really looking forward to seeing the splendours of the fascinating delta from the high vantage point of a small plane. The trip was really good but a little shaky. I managed to see many elephants, giraffes and zebra amongst other animals. The land was so incredibly flat. The delta is quite interesting in that the river empties into a desert rather than the sea. Myself and Lizzie unfortunately succumbed to the unsteadyness and I required a sick bag just before landing...I thought I could make it but no!
The second stint of 5 days were the longest of the two blocks. All days over 150km and a whopping 207km spin on the third day. These were really challenging as you may imagine but thankfully we did have a little more help wind wise. The 207km we cycled from Ghanzi to the border. The pace in the race group was extremely fast all day and as Pascal sailed off into the distance with 20km to go, I cycled with Freek to the border. A massive milestone had been reached. 207km is an incredible distance and one which I would have been daunted with to drive, never mind cycle! Thankfully after 6 or so we had entered Namibia.
The terrain was still quite boring and monotonous but it was noticeable to see how more affluent Botswana and even more so Namibia had been compared to the other countries. Very expensive cars travelled the road, good modern facilities in lodges and the town, wide availability of products in shops. There also seemed to be way more white people.
The last two days were half race days and gave us a chance to take it a bit easier in the afternoon. 80km in the afternoon might not be everyone's idea of taking it easy but it did mean a more relaxed pace.
Windhoek was the final destination. A really affluent city nestled in the surrounding mountain, desert land. The hotel was really nice, the food was excellent and I decided to splurge a bit and get a room. A bit of rest and relaxation as usual was extremely well greeted. With only 14 riding days to Cape Town, I am eagerly looking forward to the end. But I know it is only around the corner so I am hoping to stay in good health and get there in one piece.
In just over two weeks and I will have cycled the length of a continent. (..Touch wood!)