Today has been absolutely spectacular—unexpected so, for most of us. The morning started with a scenic ride through a countryside that reminded of Arizona (so the Americans say), or cowboy-land (as I would call it, using western movies as my benchmark).
At one time, well-nourished horses were running alongside us as we sped over the dirt road. Last night’s camp was a horse farm. If I understand correctly, they breed horses here for international sale. At another instance, an African cowboy galloped past us on a horse.
Just before lunch, we had to wait—some 50 cows were coming up our way. Their owners (a white couple) had waved us down to wait, for our security. Cattle farming apparently is another big (or hobby?) business in Namibia.
However, everything up to lunch was only the foreplay. We had no idea what today still had in store for us. All we knew—there would be a steep downhill, descending 500m over 4km.
“Be very careful”, Tallis had warned us. With lots more tricky sandy and deeply corrugated sections on this morning ride compared to yesterday, many of us (not least myself) had deep respect of that downhill. Even parts of the flat road sometimes dared us lose our balance and fall, as some did.
Eventually, I reached the top of the so-called Spreetshogte Pass.
I couldn’t believe what I saw—one of the most stunningly beautiful views wide and afar unfolded in front of my eyes.
The downhill road was a pleasant surprise too—instead of sand and rocks, a meticulously laid pavers road awaited us.
Ready, steady, go!!! The road turned steep and winding. I pulled the breaks, but my bike barely obeyed. Yikes! With a racing heart and colossal effort, I brought it to a halt. Then I inspected the damage—my rear breaks no longer worked. Zero resistance. And the front breaks were too worn to compensate. The break pads must have been overdue for replacement. Perfect moment to realize!!!
I called Tallis. “Is Leo doing the sweep today?” I enquired.
“Yes, but it will be a while until he gets here.”
“It’s because my breaks don’t seem to work. He probably won’t be able to do something about it anyway”, I was speaking more to myself then to Tallis. “I’ll just walk down then.”
“OK. He’ll be able to assist you at camp. Be careful.”
Not sure why I had called Tallis in the first place, as if he or Leo could do anything about my worn break pads on the road. Perhaps because I felt like a coward for getting off my bike. But having had that conversation gave me peace of mind—there was no shame in walking instead of riding. I wasn’t here to break my neck, but to enjoy my day and the scenery.
My miserable breaks turned out to be a blessing in disguise: I had more time to take in the scenery, I stopped more often to take photos, and—honestly speaking—some of the slopes were so steep that I was quite happy to use my breaks as excuse for not cycling.
By the time our bike clinic started, Leo wasn’t in camp yet. Tallis jumped in to help us out instead (I wasn’t the only one with bike issues). He skilfully replaced my break pads. All the experts agreed: My break pads were worn beyond sanity. “Have you ever seen something like that?” they joked.
Even my wheels were completely worn out (obvious to the experts, invisible to me). “I wouldn’t ride with them”, they agreed.
“What do you mean you wouldn’t ride with them?” I asked in shock.
“They will get you to Cape Town”, Tallis comforted me, but . . .
When Leo came into camp, he got himself a nice cold beer and watched Tallis fixing my bike.
What a sight! That was totally worth the worn breaks, but I’ve learnt my lesson: While I’ve made sure to always clean my chain at rest days, that obviously hasn’t been enough in terms of proper bike maintenance. Even the best equipment will deteriorate if we don’t maintain it properly. And that, I guess, applies to all our assets including the greatest of all: ourselves. Sharpen the Saw, as Steven Covey would have said.
Stage 74: Weissenfels – Solitaire (Namibia), 122km
Road & traffic condition:
Partly rather smooth, partly heavy corrugation and/or deep sand and loose gravel. Limited traffic.
Cool in the morning, hot in the afternoon.
BBQ steak and sausages, vegetables, potatoes, coleslaw.
- Great scenery
- Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn
- Massive social weaver bird nests on trees
- Spreetshogte Pass
- Awards ceremony: This time, the yellow jersey was passed on by Errol to Steve for always helping out with everything at camp. Well deserved!
- Beautiful sunset views at camp
Walking down the Spreetshogte Pass and enjoying the scenery. Unfortunately, however, all my photos of myself look ridiculous, as I would only realize in the evening—I was riding all day completely ignorant of my misplaced helmet visor!