Namab Camp to +12km sand dunes
Total Distance – 1065km
There was no hurry to set off from Namab Camp because we had to time the first part of the day with the tide. The plan was to cycle along the first 24km of the Lange Wand (Long Wall), but for the vehicles to follow along the narrow strip between the sea and the sand dunes, the tide needed to be out.
There was a fair bit to do to prepare and reorganise for the next section now that there is a new team – Elago and Kas in one vehicle, Simon and his assistant, Elvis in the other. The extra time was also used to fix my all-wheel drive issue, to prevent sand from entering where the torn rubber seal that connects the universal joint to the frame. Has and I started with the same solution I had used for a previous journey (Finke River), to fit the neck of a plastic bottle with gaffer tape in such a way to form a type of apron around the damaged joint. Then Kas worked out how to cocoon the whole unit with another piece of a plastic bottle, thus protecting the whole unit. It seems to work well without impeding the turning universal joint – nothing like bush mechanics!
The first section of the Lange Wand was truly spectacular with huge sand dunes dropping away to the beach.
A few kilometres after Black Rock, 24km from Namab Camp, Simon knew this was the last point at which the vehicles could escape the beach – no vehicle can drive all the way along the beach due to the tides and I couldn’t cycle either because there are places the sand slips straight into the water. We had to climb into the sand dunes.
The overall strategy was to cross the strip of enormous, chaotic (no specific pattern or direction to begin with), then follow the direction of northwest – southeast valleys between the dunes. As each furrow veers away from the coast, we would have to cross the ridges and pick up the next dune valley, then repeat.
The hardest part was the first section. It took me three hours to travel 12km! I was very glad the AWD system was back in use. On the relatively flat beach, I managed fine without the extra grip. But as soon as I was faced with great walls of sand, the AWD really makes a difference. On the first dune away from the beach, I had forgotten to switch the AWD on and started sliding down the slope, but as soon as I flicked the switch, the front wheel grabbed and helped me climb up it.
This section was incredible tough as I had to drag and lift out of the soft sides of each dune. Over the 12km, I ascended 410m, so a lot of climbing in soft sand. I was exhausted by the end of the day and started to wonder how I was going to manage for the rest of this section.
Our campsite was stunning though, as was the whole of the surroundings. We weren’t very far from the coast as I could still hear the waves crashing on the beach.
Location: 25.35708 E, 14.98590 S
Distance – 52km
Total Distance – 1117km
I was fully prepared to continue the battle after yesterday’s effort. However, this morning we were quickly out of the high dunes and into the first of the dune valleys. In the cool of the morning, the sand was more coherent and this made a significant difference to my ability to cycle.
There were still small dunes and soft sand in these ‘valleys’, but I was able to move along at a steady pace. Simon lead the way using his tracking device to navigate and he is adept at reading the landscape. We meandered along the dune valleys and then over the ridges and troughs to the next parallel valley.
There was no wind, being protected from the sea by the dunes and with the heat radiating off the white sand, it felt like I was in an oven. Cycling in these conditions is extremely strenuous, so my approach is to try to conserve as much energy as possible in between efforts, to save for the challenging parts, such as pushing through boggy sand or over a steep sand dune. It is relentless work, like a kind of interval training, It requires my full concentration to read the sand, stay upright and try to move forwards with a steady cadence and effort.
So far the strategy is working. On the high points I can see the sea, so we are never far away from it. This evening, when I looked at our progress on the Garmin tracker it seems we have really made up time today and appear to be ahead of schedule. I don’t want to take anything for granted and need to take each day as it comes, but although this is a massive challenge, so far I am on track.