#27 – Getting to know Namibia
With a new tyre around the rim I went back to the road, after having spend 3 nights at Andries and his wife’s house. Soon I entered a desolated gravel track, only used by a few cars and a lonely turtle.
The gravel track led me to the Hoba meteorite, the largest and heaviest on our planet. For the roughly 300 million year old chunk of iron and nickel has only arrived on earth recently, about 80.000 years ago.
An approaching thunderstorm made me knock on a farm’s door at the end of the day. The farmer let me in and later showed me around at the massive corn farm he worked at. We also visited a closed copper mine nearby, and we even found some copper remains.
Namibia feels more Western than African, as there are huge and well maintained farms, factories and old abandoned mines. The supermarkets offer a wide range of products in every town and there is even drinking water from the tap. My life has become really easy out here.
But what you also can see, is that most businesses are run by white Namibian people, and the low paid jobs are filled by black people. The apartheid may have been torn apart, the differences are still there. The white people even claim that during the apartheid, the black people had better lives than now, and that apartheid was nothing more than a separation between people similar as the one between men and women.
I found myself a real camping spot, with a warm shower and a kitchen, two of the most basic facilities that I normally didn’t have access to while camping.
Almost pure satisfaction ruled the day as I cycled on a decent gravel path, and with nothing more than nature. Every now and then a car passed, but mostly I was breathing some of the freshest air I ever inhaled.
My host of a few days ago gave me a note with a name, and told me I can stay at that place. Suddenly a sign popped up, showing similar characters as on the piece of paper I was holding. Without announcement I entered the farm and was invited in.
“Take this gun, we’re gonna hunt for beasts”, my host Chris told me. Some time later we were driving in his private game park, searching for anything with a lot of meat. We spotted an oryx far away, and with a single long distance shot between the eyes, Chris’s son shot the animal. The meat will be given to the somewhat 50 local workers, as it happens weekly.
I was handed a bag full with fruits, dried plantain and a big sack of biltong, before I left Chris’s farm. Cycling the planet really seems to bring some extra privileges with it, and each time I’m amazed by these kind of gifts.
For a long time it didn’t look like I was making a lot of progress on the lonely gravel road, as the small stones cause extra friction and cost me more energy. But when the ceiling behind me turned into a vast grey mass, a fierce wind allowed me to ‘surf’ on the wind and shortened the time to reach my destination.
“So you’re here with your bike?”, Simon and Katja asked me as I passed by their campingspot. From one question came another, and eventually we shared our life stories, while having dinner and sipping away a beer.
The morning road was a battlefield for the cannibalistic armoured bush cricket. Smashed by cars, they were eating their family, and most likely to be killed the same way sooner or later.
More friendly was the Himba woman who was selling handcrafted bracelets and necklaces. Even though they looked good, my main attention was at the beautiful details of the woman’s hair and appearance. They put goat fat and ocher in their hair, and it is one of the ways to express their status in the community and to tell something about the phase in their life.
And if that was not enough for today, then entering the Ugab terrace – the African Monument Valley – certainly was. A few big columns were scattered across the plain green surface, and became more intimidating as I came closer to them.
Adventure to me is to deliberately take the more difficult path, a choice where the journey is more important than the outcome. A decision in which sense overrules consciousness, and risks nearly hit overdoses.
Cycling between the divine rock formations of the Ugab Terrace was like a dream whitin a dream. And I wanted to see more of it, about 200 km, but an ill preparation in food supplies forced me to take another route leading to a city.
The landscape became bolder by the kilometer, and as soon as the surface beneath my tyres changed from gravel to tarmac, a murderous hot and dry wind blew into my face.
After I entered the gravel road, I realised it was going to be a tough day. The gravel was all loose and due to the many passing cars the track was mostly corrugated. Combined with heat that blew into my face like a hairdryer, it was a mental nutcracker.
I extended the amount of water I carry from 6L to 9L this morning, but even that wasn’t enough. Luckily a few cars stopped to offer me cold drinking water. Knowing that people take the time to help me, was also a mental boost.
But the one lucifer that the local woman where I stayed at gave me, really made my day. It allowed me to cook and enjoy a warm spaghetti meal, instead of eating bread with peanutbutter. Being able to eat a real meal does extinguish all misery of a day.
A shy laugh appeared on her cheeks while she was holding her two kids and I said “thank you so much for letting me camp here”. These simple meetings are so much richer than any official camp spot, and I realized I started to miss them.
I resumed my road through the harsh Namib desert. The landscapes seemed like from another planet, with the highest mountain of Namibia called Brandberg, glued on my right side.
In the distant I saw a moving creature. It was to small for an animal and to slow to be a motorised vehicle. It appeared to be another cycler. Another cycler followed, as they were heading towards Cairo together.
As the first rays of sunshine made its way through my tent, I woke up and prepared myself to experience another day of cycling in the Namib desert.
After passing a few abandoned houses and gem stone markets, I entered a landscape which ruled out all life, except for a few bushes. I had to hide behind my bike to find some shade during the breaks.
In the middle of the silence, there was a hut. As it was the only shelter I would find, I camped here. The last car driver that passed on the road gave me yogurt and two bananas, as he promised when he passed me this afternoon also. When the sun disappeared behind the horizon, chicken skin started to form on my body and a clear view on the Milky way floated above me.
A screaming spectrum of colors filled the horizon from the moment I opened my eyes. For a minute I thought I became deaf, untill a slight breeze revealed a crackling sound from the tent.
Seldom I’ve seen places with less than here. Sand, an ongoing cable walking over wooden poles, and a bush every now and then was all there was to see. The end of the desert got transformed into a mirror, due to the heat.
The road evolved from bad to smooth to tarmac in the course of the day. The slight downhill and the favorable wind caused me to arrive on my destination early, and to take it easy for the rest of the day.
A chilly wind blew from the nearby ocean towards inland. A straight line of tarmac went through the desert and brought me from one city to another.
One of the few objects that broke the horizontal edges of land, water and air, was a shipwreck. Once let in the water with promising prospects, now used as a lookout spot for birds.
I open the door and see an Herero styled woman sitting. The typical headdress she wears is called an Otjikaiva, ans is an homage to horned cattle. This ethical group used to herd cattle and is what kept them alive. Later, her daughter and granddaughter enter the room as well, and they host me for the night.
With a very light setup I departed towards the nearby city Walvis Bay for a day trip. A scenic route along sprawling sand dunes. A stretch of 30 km on which I had to balance myself on the edge of the busy and small road, but mainly I found myself cycling in the sand.
Far away I saw a group of pinkish birds, knewing that it should be flamingos. Further ahead, I was able to see another group of the clumsy, but elegant looking animal on stilts from closer by.
At the end of the tarmac, I walked on top of a dune and enjoyed the emptiness. At this point, the cold and warmth were flirting with each other, as a chilly breeze from the ocean enteted the merciless desert heat.
To not touch the bike was my mission for today. With some people and the dog from the hostel I was staying at, we went to surf at a nearby beach. Even tough I didn’t manage to stand up straight on my surfboard, I enjoyed the water of the Atlantic Ocean.
The rest of the day mostly consisted out of hanging around with fellow travelers at the hostel, and to let my partially tanned foots rest. Having visited the last proper hostel almost a year ago, it felt good to be surounded with interesting young people from all over the world.
A naked sky with an ambient city background light is the perfect recipe to cook some beautiful pictures. Together with a group of mostly Germans, we walked up a large sand dune just outside town. After a day of doing close to nothing, this was pleasant end of the day.
Physically rested out, I grabbed my travel sled out of the hostel’s garage. It’s amazing how you can become close to a strange group of people in just a few days, and saying goodbye becomes harder.
Soon I was dangling on the edge of the road with speedy cars. To fight for space and to fear for my life every time a car passed, while there was a spacious desert next to me, made me attempt to cycle in the sandy tracks next to a parallel railway.
I found myself camping in a public place again, in the backyard of a police station in a small village. As the night grew darker, some voices behind walls grew louder, which I assume came from prisoners.
The elements were taunting me. The wind that pushed me, the heat that made me drink excessive amounts of water, and above all the dangerous road were cars and trucks passed me close and fast enough that the windflaws put me out of balance.
The many forgotten crosses next to the road didn’t add up confidence. For me this was reason enough to hitch hike my ass out of here. As the quickly changing landscapes passed my eye sight, I wondered what kind of beautiful experiences I was missing.