Day 106, stage 82, 124km
Start, Weisenhof Guest Farm
Finish, Solitaire Guest Farm Desert Ranch
Two weeks from today, all being equal, we will be cycling into Cape Town. Hard to believe. But there is still a lot of hard cycling to do and anything can happen. I remember being told a story about a guy who was EFI when he arrived in Windhoek but got so sick in Windhoek he couldn’t even think of getting on his bike. Unfortunately we had our own version of this story coming out of Windhoek. Lizzie, who held second place in the women’s race, had felt run down coming into Windhoek. In Windhoek she went to the hospital and discovered that she wasn’t just run down but had a significant infection in one leg that appeared to have started with a saddle sore. She tried to keep going but had to give up coming out of Windhoek. What a shame, she is a really strong rider with a great attitude. But anything can happen.
Day 2 off road there was less climbing and a lot more descending. Before lunch the day was pretty much like the day before – some good bits of road, some bad bits, but manageable. After lunch we went onto a D road and off the map. The reason for this was a mountain pass that was not to be missed. We came out of the mountains through a pass that laid out dozens of miles of valley before us. We descended 500 metres in only 4 kilometres. That is an average gradient of -12.5%. With switchbacks, this is serious white knuckle and smoking brake territory. The descent is so steep that our trucks had to take another route. They were not allowed to go through the pass. It was remarkable. Some people walked some of the steeper and rougher parts of it. I cycled the whole thing but had my brakes firmly engaged the whole time. I almost lost it at one point. I was on a smooth bit and had picked up a fair bit of speed. But before I knew it I was back on dirt and going too fast, and then the dirt became very corrugated. One hand bounced off my handle bars and I only had only hand left to keep my upright. Somehow the lazy hand found the bar again and grabbed the brake hard. I skidded around a switchback and got it back under control. Shit. Too many broken bones on this tour already.
After descending into the valley we cycled another 45km to the town of Solitaire. Sounds like a lonely place right? But it wasn’t. It was little more than a cross roads in the middle of the Namib but it seems to be the social hub for the area. There is the camp we stayed at, a gas station and general store, and a bakery and restaurant. The bakery makes amazing apple pie – they say they make 150kg of pie a day, sounds outrageous but could be true. When we arrived there must have been twenty or thirty cars in the parking lot. And they kept coming, disgorging fat people who made a beeline for the bakery. What a bizarre place. But a great place to camp.