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.
Congratulations Kate and Kas and the rest of the team for a successful expedition, finishing early and arriving safely. What a great adventure, thanks for sharing the journey with us via Blog and I love the pictures. Enjoy a well deserved rest Kate. With Love Tatjana, Kas’ Mum
Claudio von Planta says
Congratulations to another unique expedition. I’m really blown away by your incredible determination and endurance. I hope you will soon win he necessary sponsorship for your ultimate mission: Crossing Antarctica
Nick and Jenny Nicholas says
Fantastic effort Kate! Your blogs are a great read. Looking forward to the BIG ride down south.
Nick and Jenny Nicholas
Richard Robert Allen says
well done kate…what a great adventure. it has been fascinating reading about it all.
Anne-Marie Treweeke says
Congratulations Kate and your team on finishing another amazing trip.
Thoroughly enjoyed the blog.
Carol Bathie says
What an achievement!
Thankyou for sharing your extraordinary journey, the emails have been a delight to read and the images a window to an undiscovered world.
Good luck with your Antarctic endeavour.
Carol and Pete
Charles Foster says
Wonderful achievement, wonderful report
Congratulations, Job well-done Kaate, hope we will meet in Windhoek with Jimmy before you go back to Motherland.
Darrel Drieberg says
Congratulations Kate. Thank you for sharing this fascinating adventure with us.
Eric Nutter says
A fantastic first! Brilliant!
Mark Hillebrand says
Well done Kate – another fantastic achievement !
Dick Friend says
“Awesome”, we’d say – but we need a new word (since the millennials have adopted it) to describe the achievement. An awesome journey made more so, having been completed by a “boomer” (late bloomer? kangaroo?).
David Christodoulou says
Well done Team Kate!! What an amazing adventure- loved the blogs and fantastic photography.
When’s the next trip!!’
Greg Y says
Fantastic journey Kate, and a tough one. I have really enjoyed following the adventure – I didn’t know anything about this region and you have highlighted some fascinating aspects of it.
Jane Leeming says
Well done Kate! Look forward to seeing you next week.
LIndsey Tester says
I have followed this trip all the way through with continued admiration, at your commitment and stamina. Some wonderful photos and leant along about the area. Very many congratulations, a terrific feat to add to your many others! In awe, from your cousin!
Jonathan Howell says
Brilliant blogs , the pro team are very proud of you and we look forward to your safe return and to hear your story I person (while you’re making balls ! )
Mark Pownall says
Robert Falconer says
Well done Kate.
Really enjoyed your “Bloggs” and photos stunning!
Look forward to your stories at the Club over a beer or two.
Martin Fuggle says
Congratulations Kate – it’s been fun reading your blogs which were very interesting. Looking forward to seeing you back at the tennis club and hearing a little bit first hand.