No easy finish

Day 115, rest day, Provenance Camp, Noordoewer

We camped on the Orange River a few kilometres from the border crossing into South Africa. Across the river we could see the vineyards of the Northern Cape. For several kilometres along the river before we arrived at Provenance Camp (or Felix Unite Camp) we passed a massive agricultural project – turning dessert into irrigated vineyards and soft fruit orchards. The South African influence and investment is spreading more and more quickly up the continent. It was impressive to see but they were obviously taking huge quantities of water out of the Orange River. I hope it is sustainable. For weeks, as we cycled through dessert and near dessert, we have seen nothing but dried up seasonal riverbeds. In Namibia the rains had not come this year. The seasonal rivers had not seen water for more than two years.

Provenance Camp was an oasis on the edge of the dessert. The views from the dessert hills along the river bed were stunning. Our chalet was on a cliff overlooking the river and facing the sunrise. The night sky was filled with more stars than I can remember seeing; the milky-way clearly visible. The sunrise in the morning was a post card. I sat at the table on the veranda outside the chalet with a cup of hot cocoa and watched it come up over the river and the dessert hills, a great way to start the day.

As always on a rest day it was a time for laundry, bike cleaning and maintenance, and the internet – laundry and bike in the morning, in the afternoon I settled in with a good bottle of Pinotage and my Macbook. Several people took kayaks out on the river or wandered the few kilometres to the border town to get a Wimpy’s burger. I didn’t move.

With just a week to go many people, myself included, were a little low. We had come a long way together. We were nearing the end. But we also knew we had a tough final six days of riding ahead of us. We had thought that once we crossed into South Africa most our route would be on tarmac. But when we arrived here we discovered that 3 – 4 of the 6 days would be off road. So, no need to change my tires. Arrgghh.  The change to off road also added 50 or 60 kilometres to our final week – not a lot, but off road it adds up at the end of the day. The changes were made because TdA had not been able to get permission to ride on the main road down the west coast. As a result TdA had had to scramble and come up with a new route that would get us to the same camping locations each day. Of the 6 last days, two were now supposed to be off-road centuries (over 100 miles or 160km). They really were trying to break us. We had done thousands of kilometres off-road. We had done a dozen or more centuries. But so far we had not done an off-road century. There would be no leisurely cruise to the finish line.

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