Location: Luderitz to Oranjemund (finish)
Total Distance: 1621km
The final section of the expedition, from Luderitz, through the Sperrgebiet to Oranjemund and finally to the mouth of the Orange River, was quite different from the rest of the journey.
The Sperrgebiet (Forbidden Diamond Area), originally annexed by the German government for mining purposes in 1908, has remained inaccessible to the general public since then. We were very fortunate that Namdeb, the current owners of the area, which is 320km long and spans 26,000 square kilometres, granted us special permits to travel through it.
Before setting off from Luderitz we checked in with the Namdeb office to do a short induction to understand the restrictions and safety requirements. On Monday, we set off down the main tarmac road, first to Kolmanskop and then to a turn off 22km from Luderitz. Set 2km off the main road was the Rotkop Gate.
There we waited for Hugo from Namdeb to drive out to unlock the gate. Hugo then escorted us for the first 20km. Elago had to carry a satellite phone that could track our movements. Initially, we were told that we could keep it turned off and just check in each night, but the following day, Hugo drove all the way out to ask us to keep the radio on at all times. If Elago’s vehicle stopped for too long, they would want to know what we were doing as we were not to stray from the Chameis Road (except to camp).
The road tracked roughly parallel to the beach, between 10km and 20km inland.
At night I could still hear the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. The landscape is so vast, I found it difficult to capture it in a photograph. Initially, there were some spectacular mountains and broad plains carpeted with low vegetation. I could count the number of trees on one hand. The colours of the rocks and mud pans were a real feature; red pan, green succulent bushes, yellows, greens, browns and white. I really enjoyed cycling through such open expanses.
I was very lucky with the weather. Normally, in at least 200 days of the year, the wind blows a gale from the SSW, directly into my face. However, I was pleased to be assisted by light, hot north-easterlies. Despite the temperature being around the 35 degree C mark, I kept my red breathable coat on to protect my arms from the strong sun. It was hot work, but in the end I think I made the right choice.
Nature is still the boss out here. A couple of times the road had been totally blocked by sand dunes that tend to move by a few metres a year. Sometimes, nestled in the hills were the remnants of old houses, also succumbing to the forces of nature.
Cycling along the Chameis Road was essentially like cycling along a mixed gravel road; sometimes a bit rough and sandy, but often quite good quality. Most of the landscape was long undulations. The first camp spot was at 350m altitude, the second and third sites were at about half that elevation. The sunrises and sunsets were magnificent!
I had set my heart on completing the Sperrgebiet stage in three days. I covered 93km and100km in the first two days respectively, setting myself up to finish as I had planned. On the final morning, I left myself 100km to get to the Oranjemund Gate.
The first 30km was slow due to a headwind and soft road, but then the road altered direction slightly and the wind switched to coming from over my left shoulder. At lunch, I had just 30km to go and was starting to get quite excited. The road edged closer to the beach where I could see the mining operations.
Finally, about 6km from the gate I came over a hill and could see Oranjemund with South Africa in the distance.
At the gate we were greeted by Francis, the communications officer, waiting to take images for Namdeb and the press. After a few security checks we were free to go through.
That was the first cause for celebration, but to complete the expedition there was another 13km to ride to where the Orange River meets the ocean. I cycled past a golf course that appeared to be mown and fertilised by springbok and oryx and eventually along a dirt track to the end. That was it!
After 1621km I was very proud to say I have made the first ever cycle journey along Namibia’s whole coastline, from the mouth of the Kunene River to the mouth of the Orange River.
We have arrived six days ahead of schedule. I had allowed 50km a day and added three contingency days to account for the unknowns – this journey was unprecedented. In addition, I was able to move faster where I had to take roads, such as through the Sperrgebiet.
The team has been brilliant – Kas has worked hard to capture the expedition on film and with stills. Elago has lead the vehicle support totally professionally for the whole journey. Thomas did a great job driving the second vehicle as far as Swakopmund. Then John lead us for the five days from Swakopmund to Namab Camp. There we were joined by Simon Wearne, a specialist for the southern region through the high sand dunes, and his assistant Elvis. Simon and Elvis stayed with us until the finish.
All of the images I’ve published in these blogs are from my Huawei P30 Pro, I haven’t yet used any of Kas’ and Simon’s images.
Simon also arranged for some much-appreciated sponsorship from Minaqua – prepared water and Radio Electronic, marine electronics and navigation systems (Walvis Bay). The Obelix Guesthouse in Luderitz also generously sponsored out three-night stay.
From here we will stay in Oranjemund for a couple of days as guests of Namdeb. I have already spoken to the secondary school students this morning and there is more to see before we make our way back to Windhoek via Sossulsvei.