Been There Dune That
Before our ride through Namibia, I felt the usual trepidation preceding eight consecutive days of mountain biking over formidable desert terrain. I dealt with my fears by 1. Keeping them to myself; 2. Putting a positive spin on any negativity; and 3. Expecting nothing beyond the next pedal stroke. I believe that low expectations can ironically be an effective approach to life. Set the bar too high and you can end up disappointed and discouraged. Set the bar a little lower and you feel empowered when you exceed it.
What was the result of my low expectations and perpetual positivity? Eight days of riding that now count among my favorite on the entire trip. After the aforementioned thunderstorms at our horse farm campsite, we woke up to more thunderstorms. We rode over rolling gravel roads toward big distant hills, as lightening streaked and dark clouds guarded the threatening way forward. It was so cold that the staff started serving hot chocolate at lunch, which typically is in the middle of nowhere in Namibia. On thunderstorm day I left lunch absolutely freezing, at which point I faced a big climb and found myself in the middle of a torrential downpour and thundercloud. I rode with Race Director Kelsey, who assured me that rubber tires are a good thing in the middle of an apocalyptic storm.
We could have been negative about the cold, wet, scary and muddy conditions, but instead we had a blast. We pushed it up and bombed down the hills in a total mudfest, until climbing to the most beautiful lookout point I have ever seen in my life. At the top of the mountain the clouds and thunder claps cleared, and Namibia opened up in yellow, blue, green and purple in every direction. Canadian Jen cried and the rest of us were awestruck that such a place exists on this planet.
What goes up must go down (and vice versa in the world of cycling), and the descent from the lookout point was a bit harrowing. Kelsey, Canadian Rick and I very cautiously ripped it, and rode into a desert campsite in the appropriately named town of Solitaire, where renowned apple crumble and hot showers alleviated our hungry bellies and muddy bodies. Thank you Namibia, for teaching me the value in pushing through something that initially scared me.
The next morning American Dana and I took off for the town of Sossusvlei, enjoying the treat of a mere 80 kilometer day. Mileage has been hard core lately, and even on dirt less than 100k is a rare treat. Dana and I rode into and out of lunch clothed, unlike many other riders who decided to participate in the unofficial tradition of a “naked mile.”. It is tough getting passed by a faster rider on this Tour. It is even tougher when he or she is naked. It is then extremely funny when he or she stops to change a flat tire…still naked. There are truly some adventurous (and now oddly sunburned) individuals on this Tour.
Upon arriving to Sesriem/Sossusvlei by bike, Dana and I did what any dedicated Ironman triathlete would do…we went for a run at midday into the smokin hot desert. It was a beautiful run, topped only by the fish and chips and eight beverages consumed immediately post run.
The highlight of our rest day was by far the next morning, during our sunrise trip out to Namibia’s sand dunes. We woke up at 4am (not unusual for us), piled into an open air gas-powered vehicle (unusual for us) and froze for the 60k ride into the desert (not unusual for us). It was worth it, as we climbed up a huge sand dune just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. We watched the sunrise and then ran/jumped down the dune. It was so fun that American Sam and I ran back up vertical sand, just to enjoy the view from the top and run back down again. We enjoyed and sorely needed a rest day in a town that contained sand dunes, a gas station and just one lodge with a killer buffet. As our time is drawing to a close, I find myself wanting to spend as much time with fellow riders in stunning landscapes as possible.
Final disclaimer: the title of this blog entry must be properly attributed to Irish Paddy, who shared his inexhaustible wit with us at 4am on a freezing cold, open air ride out to the sand dunes. Thanks Paddy…good one.