Day 108, stage 83, 83km
Start, Solitaire Guest Farm Desert Ranch
Finish, Sesriem, Sossusvlei Lodge
Another early morning but at least it was warmer. We are about 700 metres lower today than we were yesterday so it is a bit warmer. Namibia seems to have a booming tourist industry. We cycle for mile after mile and see no signs of habitation or commerce and then all of a sudden, after 60 or 70 or 80km of nothing we come across a luxury lodge. Sesriem is a good example. It is at the gate to a National park that includes the famous Dunes of the Namib dessert. We cycled over 80km from Solitaire and saw nothing. Then all of a sudden we come across the Sossusvlei Lodge just outside the gates of the park. This is not a roughing it in the wilds lodge. This is a fully paid up member of the ‘opulence is great’ club. And it has prices to match – about $300 a night per person, single or sharing. This includes dinner and breakfast. But still, we are in the Namib dessert in the middle of nowhere, Namibia. I went into reception and started to negotiate. In the end I got a room for the equivalent of about £90 a night, including dinner and breakfast. Several other riders took advantage of this rate. But we could only get it for one night (it was a rest day and we would be in Sesriem for two nights) because the next day they had a group of 60 people coming and were fully booked. There isn’t a paved road in a hundred miles! They do have there own landing strip though. The 60 were all being ferried in on small planes. Nowhere is remote these days.
Today was a short cycle and not a particularly difficult one. We had a 30km individual time trial early on and then the naked mile. I had my usual crap time for the time trial. I just do not ride well against the clock. I need to see the bum in front. Too bad we didn’t do the naked mile first. Lots of bums. The time trial took us into an early lunch and then we had a short ride, including the naked mile, to Sesriem after lunch. The naked mile was a rather tame affair. All the men went off in a group, or most of us anyway, and then a mile or so from the lunch stop doffed out kit and posed for photos. James Campbell, a professional photographer who is also one of the riders, lined us up in echelon formation and did the bum shot, then on the side of the road for the full frontal – all very tasteful I am sure. We then road off with the breeze in our dangly bits for a while. To give some comfort to my saddle sore I tied my cycling short around my saddle with the chamois side up. Worked well. Out in the middle of nowhere like this very few vehicles pass you, and when they do they are usually going about 130kmh. during our dangly bits on view period about half a dozen cars passed. They all stopped and stared. Word got to Sesriem before we did. I went into the shop at the camp to buy a coke and the cashier asked me if I had had a nice ride today. ’Yes, thanks.’ ‘And didn’t the hot sun burn your naked skin?’ I could hear the giggles as I walked out the door. Apparently a half hour earlier an older lady had come into the camp and said ‘Close the gates! Close the gates! There are 20 naked madmen riding bicycles towards us!’ the gates were wide one when we arrived.
The women were very organized. They waited till all the men has passed and then doffed their kit and road off as a group for a while. James was the only man allowed within 20 miles. He was invited to be official court photographer, a task he performed reluctantly, I am sure, but with great integrity.
At the Sussusvlei Lodge that night we had a marvelous dinner. In addition to all the starters and soups and salads, there was a bbq that grilled everything you could get at Carnivore’s in Nairobi. There were a dozen different types of game. I had springbok Kudu and warthog – also a couple of pork chops. It was the typical Tour circus, eight or ten of us going back and then back again. I had two starter courses, three full meat courses, several deserts and cheese – also some good South African wine. And the room was marvelous.