May 2, 2017

Maun Botswana to Windhoek Namibia: April 19 – April 23

After a rest day on April 18 in Maun Botswana, the TDA bikers rode 5 days in a west southwesterly direction to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Total distance biked was approximately 830 km (157, 142, 207, 162 and 160 km each day). The road was straight, flat, and paved – and the riders have really increased their daily distance traveled. The 207 km ride on April 21 is the longest on this year’s tour.

Elevation at Maun was 947 meters above sea level (masl) and the elevation at Windhoek was 1707 masl. Elevation each of the 5 nights was 982, 1140, 1273, 1459, 1707 masl. Although I said the road is flat, during these five days the riders have gained a significant amount in elevation. At Maun they skirted the Okavango Delta for a day, and then traveled across the northern portion of the Kalahari Desert. On April 21 they entered Namibia – their 9th country – at Manuno.

The Okavango Delta is a vast delta formed from the Okavango River which originates in the highlands of central Angola. It is the world’s largest inland delta, and each year some 11 cubic kilometers of water reach the delta. The water from the delta is evaporated relatively rapidly by the high temperatures, leaving enormous quantities of salt behind. The water entering the delta is unusually pure, due to the lack of agriculture and industry (and people) along the Okavango River.

The Kalahari Desert derives its name from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning “the great thirst”, or Khalagari, meaning “a waterless place”. It is a vast area (225,000 sq. mi.) in portions of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa covered by red sand without any permanent surface water. The San people, or Bushmen, have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as hunter-gatherers. That means they survive by hunting wild game with bows and arrows and gathering edible plants, such as berries, melons and nuts, as well as insects. Supposedly, Bushmen rarely drink water; they get most of their water requirements from plant roots and desert melons found on or under the desert floor. The San have their own characteristic language that includes clicking sounds.

The riders didn’t see much agriculture or many people along this stretch. The riders spoke of the long, flat road, and that the wind came from every direction. After hot days in Botswana, it rained the night before arriving in Windhoek.

Now I will briefly describe the soup and diner the first night in Namibia after the longest day (207km) of riding on the tour: Soup for the riders was carrot and onion and lots of salt and spices. Soup is available as the riders trickle in in the afternoon. Diner was spaghetti Bolognese (24kgs pasta, 13kgs ground beef, 8 kgs carrots 8 kgs onion, 11 loaves of bread and 2 tubs of margarine). It’s one of the easier dishes to make and a rider favorite. As the tour progresses and the kitchen staff get wearier they have been serving ‘spag bol’ more and more, ’cause “it’s hard to be creative every night.”

That day the 4X4 broke down and had to be towed to camp. It was a bit of a hassle complicated further because it involved trips back and forth across the border and currency exchange (Pula in Botswana and Namibian dollar in Namibia).

Speaking of currency, one rider commented she had gotten a 100 Trillion Zimbabwean dollar (ZWD) bill, ‘which is worth essentially nothing’. The Zimbabwe government redenominated the ZWD again in early at a rate of 1,000,000,000,000 old ZWD to 1 new ZWD and the rate is still 279 ZWD to 1 USD.

During this stretch, one of the staff was diagnosed with malaria – not good – didn’t take the preventative medication…

More Botswana and some Namibia photos

Namibia

Namibia

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Livingstone Zambia to Maun Botswana: April 13 – April 17

After two rest days in and around Victoria Falls, the TDA riders rode for 5 days to Maun Botswana. Total distance biked was approximately 713 km (85, 145, 173, 174, and 136 km each day). Starting elevation at Livingstone was about 901 masl and the elevation at Maun was 947 masl. The riders were crossing a generally high, flat plateau, and elevation each of the 5 nights was 931, 1057, 919, 929 and 927 masl. The first night was spent on the Chobe River near Kasane, Botswana. Botswana is landlocked and extends 1100 km from north to south and 960 km from east to west, making it about the same size as Kenya or France, and somewhat smaller than Texas. Most of the country consists of a vast and nearly level sand-filled basin characterized by scrub-covered savannah. The Kalahari Desert, a semi-arid expanse of sandy valleys, covers nearly 85% of the country, including the entire central and southwestern regions. In the northwest, the Okavango River flows in from Namibia to form the Okavango Delta. (More on that next week.)

During this 5-day stretch there is a distinct lack of discussion of agriculture in the TDA rider blogs – principally because there were so few people and virtually no cultivated crops or domesticated animals. One rider (John) had a picture of cattle and a corn field – but those were exceptions rather than the norm. Most all riders commented on the long, flat stretches of road that was bordered by sometimes tall grass and shrubs. This stretch is the beginning of what is known as Elephant Highway. Botswana has the largest elephant herds in the world, and a people to elephant ratio of about 2 to 1 (with about 1,800,00 people). The riders crossed through the Chobe National Park.

The riders do report seeing elephants, giraffes, kudu, zebra, giant centipedes, chameleons, grasshoppers, dragon flies, butterflies, and flying beetles (and other ‘insects on steroids). They note the difficulty in avoiding the elephant poo, camouflaged chameleons, and potholes while riding. They also note the coolness in the mornings, which requires wearing additional clothing. Two of the nights they were in bush camps, which meant limited water for washing.

Botswana photos

Botswana

Botswana

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