Today would be a difficult day, Tallis had warned us—lots of sand and corrugation.
At least the road turned out to be wide enough to choose a path of least pain—deep sand and gravel versus pronounced corrugation. Since I’d gotten the hang of cycling through sand without falling, my choice was clear. However, the resistance of the heavy sand slowed us down significantly—to an average speed of less than 15km!
Four hours into my ride, by the time I’d usually have started the second half of my riding day, I was still more than 20km away from the lunch truck.
My rear tire had been giving me problems. Just a slow puncture, I had hoped, and indeed it had kept up fine throughout the prior three cycling days. When I spotted the dinner truck on the side of the road, helping Julian with his bike, I used the opportunity to pump up my tire again.
I also used the opportunity to refill my water bottles. Usually, I would barely finish my first bottle by the time I get to lunch. Today, I was already half way through my second one. It had gotten hot—already more than 30° C—and I was perspiring profusely.
I kept cycling, the lunch truck passed me, I gave them my thumbs up. Few kilometers later, my tire was flat again. OK, I better got that fixed properly.
Other riders caught up with me as I started my repairs. “All good”, I encouraged them to keep cycling. I could do this.
New tube in place, I started to pump. 100, I counted, but the tire was still flat. I started to feel stressed and lose my patience. I still had a long way to cycle and couldn’t afford to waste time if I wanted to reach camp before sunset.
Nelson came along. “Are you OK?”
“You don’t have a pump by any chance?”
He did, and within few pumps I could feel the difference. He also helped me put the tire back into place. That made things a lot easier.
“What’s that?” I removed a small stone that had gotten stuck between my wheel and tire. Next time I looked at my bike, my rear tire was flat again. Devastating news! So far, I had never been able to find the hole without a water bucket. There wasn’t any water anywhere. Initially, I didn’t want to accept the reality that this meant my brand-new tube had a hole. But Nelson’s calm brought me back to reality. I better didn’t waste more time and got to work, starting the process all over again.
Luckily, the hole was so big that I could spot it easily. It must have been caused by the little stone. By that time, more riders had come past. Anmei also stopped. “No need to wait”, I tried not to be a burden.
“But I’d like to take a break”, Anmei protested. We were all exhausted from this mornings’ ride.
When all looked like I was going to be fine, the others moved on. Nelson kindly swapped his pump with me, so I could finish my repairs, or in case I’d run into troubles again. If he’d have a puncture, he could make do with my small mini-pump on his thinner tires.
Luckily, my newly repaired tube would hold up and get me into camp, but it gave me a lot of peace of mind to carry Nelson’s pump just in case.
It’s almost 4:30 p.m. by the time I reach camp, more than 10 hours after leaving in the morning. This has been my longest riding day yet!
I barely manage to put up my tent and have a shower in time for riders’ meeting. Before dinner, that always starts right after the riders’ meeting, I quickly run back to wash my cycling clothes. To make matters worse, I’m on dish duty tonight, and I still need to repair my spare tube, in case I run into issues again.
By the time I’ve completed all my chores, I can’t wait to lie down and close my eyes. I’m exhausted!
Stage 76: Sesriem – Betta (Namibia), 137km
Road & traffic condition:
Very difficult—lots of loose sand and gravel, as well as corrugation. It was a bit better after lunch, but still quite bad almost all day long.
Sunny and hot all day long. Liz’ bike computer showed up to 39° C.
Spaghetti bolognese with salad, followed by tinned fruit salad with custard for dessert.
One of our most difficult riding days on the entire tour. 16 people ended up getting on the truck!
Those who cycled were rewarded with some game viewings while riding through the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Not me—I was too busy watching the road to make sure I wouldn’t fall!
Making it through the day before sunset, and without falling.