Sofie Rördam

Expedition report Namibia

“I just can´t clean it!” , I said when we arrived home to my daughters.

We have just returned after cycling 800 km and 7 weeks on dusty, sandy, corrugated and demanding Namibian gravel roads. I was trying to clean the tent. It had been through a lot already, Arctic storms, brutal Turkish sun, but this time it has had its day. Like most of the other equipment. We have replaced most vital stuff on our bikes, thrown away all our clothes and anything we touch from the trip still has a sticky layer of dust and sand. And most of our trip we slept in a dusty sleeping bag, ate from sandy pots and we continuously had to clean the bike chain.
That is what happens on the demanding Namibian dirt roads. We calculated we would do about 1600 kms, but ended up barely doing half. The main reason is that we after the first three weeks we got hit by an extreme wind which pinned us down for days, gave me bronchitis (we tried to move, but we could only do 1 km per hour), ruined the tent and just made it impossible to move forward. As cycling on those gravel roads wasn´t enough! Since we were very heavy loaded, we wanted to be self-sufficient and carried 30 liters of water between us, since at times the distances between water holes are far. So we could never cycle more than 7-8 km/per hour on average. And it was winter, so the days were short.
AH, by the way, my daughters are 11 and 13 years old and they say this was the best journey ever on a bike of those four we have done!
So, I have done more than 100 000 km over 8 years all together on a bike, of which two were coming down through Africa, so I wanted to introduce the girls to the continent I love the most. And Namibia is indeed a light version of Africa. And initially I thought we would mix gravel and paved road, but immediately understood that the asphalt roads have no shoulder and are, as always, utterly boring. As always, the fun is off road.
Last year we did around a 1000 km through parts of Turkey. And when I ask the girls what they think the difference is, they rightly said that the Turks were way more generous, hospitable, food was extremely much better and down right incredible as hosts. In Africa, same back in the 90`s when I spent so much time here, one is seen as a tourist from which an income might be possible. No matter what skin color. There´s obviously reasons for this, colonialism being the main issue. But the girls still think Africa is the best! Why?
The animals and nature are just extraordinary. And Namibia is really fantastic! The scenery, the surroundings, the great sunrises and sunsets, the roaring of lions…best of the best. I certainly rate it as one of the most beautiful. And it is an easy country to travel in. But bring puncture free tires! Because the roads are demanding. And the little traffic there is, fast and at times dangerous. Not local traffic, but all the tourists who don´t know how to travel on Namibian dirt roads. They all travel in the middle to avoid the corrugations, but just create more.
The best parts for us were the area around Mt Etjo, Omaruru, Omandumba and Spitzkoppe and that great road between Uis and one of the entrances to Etosha via Kamanjab and Khorixas. I would skip Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay. Very much European and for me, Africa is black Africa. Who wants to be European silent and serious in Africa?
And I finally want to say, yes, it is a good place to start with your kids. I am very proud over mine. During my three weeks of illness they took care of all business needed, like cooking on the petrol stove, did most of the work on the bikes, carried lots of weight and best of all, the bond these two sisters have built in between them, will last the whole life.
Do they want to cycle next year too?
Nope. Enough of cycling. They want to travel by horse.
Being with your kids 24/7 like this, a privilege. Life is short. Of course we will travel by horse next year. Best of life!
Here´s more photos of you want to fall asleep or have time

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