Location: 25.73561 S, 15.04815 E
Total Distance: 1169km
Simon gave me two choices of route from where we were to Luderitz. The first option was to continue working my way through these low dunes, following the valleys, then up and over a string of dunes and into the next ‘valley’ all the way to the tarmac road, entering it about 40km from Luderitz. The second option was to continue to a point about level with Saddle Hill on the coast and work my way back through the high dunes, then continue down the beach. This option would be much tougher physically, but more interesting. There were extra contingency days that I hadn’t used at all, so I opted for the second, more adventurous proposal.
The goal for Day 24 was to continue in the same vein as yesterday to get as near to the point where we will have to cut inland. It was another long, slow 6 hour, 30 min grind. There was a land breeze and the inland temperature rose to 35 degrees in the shade. Out on the bike, I was roasting by lunchtime.
I have concluded that I really like these desert environments, even though they are harsh. The sand cleans everything, unlike the wet, salty sand on the coast that sticks to everything. Camping on the coast, our tents get saturated every night, whereas in the dry desert, everything is fresh and dry in the beautiful morning light.
Some of the desert animals are a thrill to spot; oryx (gemsbok), sidewinder snakes, enormous dung beetles and all sorts of animal tracks.
Location: Saddle Hill South
25.73561 S, 15.04515 S
Total Distance: 1213km
Today was the big day. I knew it was going to be tough once we entered the random high dunes we needed to cross to get back to the beach.
After about 10km of cutting through lower grass-studded dunes, we made our way into a confusion of dunes – chaotic with no direction alignment. It was slow going, trying to power up the firmer faces and drop down steep slip-faces. These slip-faces, that are so steep and soft, they are almost a straight drop. The vehicles simply slip down the face in the lowest range gear. I was enjoying ‘falling down the slopes, but then I got a little over-confident and crashed dropping down a 20m slope, somersaulting over the handlebars with the bike landing on top of me. No harm was done, I was just covered in sand – in my mouth, water bottle, everywhere. The bike ended up upside down on top of me, so none of the working parts were dipped in the sand. The best thing was that Kas filmed the whole spectacular fall with a long lens.
By lunch I had managed 26km. By then we had just entered a vast valley with a wall of dunes maybe 200m high. It seemed to be best to follow along the bottom of the valley that eventually lead to Saddle Hill North and the sea – after 32km.
Back on the coast, cycling was very different. The wind was blowing a gale sending sand horizontally along the beach. The tide was coming in, waves surging over the beach almost to the dunes. We had to get around an 8km stretch, the bay between North and South Saddle Hills before the tide came in.
At Saddle Hill South, I was able to ride/scramble between the rocks and sand dunes for a kilometre. The vehicles couldn’t do this section and had to do a challenging drive over some high sand dunes. We met up on the south side of the obstacle and set up camp.
We are now about 90km from Luderitz and expect to reach there in two days. There is one more section tomorrow morning where myself, and particularly the vehicles have to do in low tide. After that, it will be mainly the wind that will slow me down.