We eat more Flavored Maize Snack the next day and get sick again, but we don't eat as much and so we don't get as sick. We decide this spicy maize snack, good a deal as it may be, is not worth the accompanying fevers. We were planning on riding today, but it's hot and a hundred kilometers to the next town, and we decide just to stay here in Gweta and sit in or around the pool instead.
It begins in the Angolan highlands, where the clouds scrape against the peaks of Mount Moco and the Serra da Chella. Rain falls and rain gathers. It collects itself into creeks and streams. It chases gravity through the mountains. It arrives at a plateau, and here one stream joins another. The waterways meld; they become tributaries. The Cuito. The Cubango. They rush forth. There are more rains and more motion and a great confluence where a river is born. The Angolans call it the Kubango. To the Batswana, it's known as the Okavango. For a thousand kilometers the river carves its way through the earth. It crosses Namibia. It enters the Kalahari.
During the 31 days of August, we spent 320 USD on food, 250 USD on accommodations, and 0 USD on everything else. In total, we spent 570 USD, at an average of 18 USD per day (9 USD, per person).
We leave Gochas, after a lovely night of sushi and good company, with sadness, clean clothes, and a touch of dread. We're not particularly eager to get back on the bikes and cycle ever again, but we suppose it's about time to get moving. Muscles no longer ache, wrists and palms have recovered from the relentless pressure of handlebars, and the hotspots of soreness and chafing are mostly healed. So on the seventh day since entering this town's cozy web of human connections, we depart.
We've now been on the road a little longer than a month. As far as months go, it's been a tough one. Since leaving our wonderful hosts in Cape Town, we've been challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally. We've put ourselves through more isolation, desolation, rough roads, hard days, arduous climbs and stubborn headwinds than we'd bargained for. At times we've been bored, frustrated, and hopeless. But here in the small outposts of the Kalahari, we've forged human connections that have warmed us to the bone.
Area where there is nothing. This is what Namibia means in Khoekhoe, the language of the Nama people. It is a large place, Namibia. It is twice the size of California, a twelfth the size of the entire United States. And yet, life here is sparse. California holds some forty million people; Namibia is home to just two million. With fewer than three persons per square kilometer, it's the fifth least densely populated country on Earth.
From July 8 (when we began our trip) until the end of the month, we spent 2,301 ZAR on food, 2,959 ZAR on accommodations, and 120 ZAR on everything else. In total, we spent 5,380 ZAR (399 USD) in 24 days, at an average of 224 ZAR per day (112 ZAR, or 8 USD, per person).
By the time we drag ourselves from our cozy room and into the quiet streets of Loeriesfontein, it's well past noon. We're outside the Spar, the local grocery, filling our already-overstuffed panniers with over five days of food. The bikes sway under the weight of our rations. Accompanying the spaghetti and peanut butter and noodles and chips is water. Lots of it. Over sixteen pounds of water is strapped to my rear rack in a pair of bulging plastic bladders. Twenty-five additional pounds' worth are carried in a collection of eight bottles split between the two of us.
The days northward begin to blend together. The roads and the hills and the rest stops begin weaving into a tapestry of sights and smells, a patchwork of rough and smooth textures. There are challenging climbs and there are thrilling descents. There are tailwinds and many headwinds. There are many honks and waves of encouragement, plenty of quick encounters packing up outside the grocery.
I've said before that Cape Town is a terrible place for a bicycle. We do our best to head north, but our best doesn't get us very far. The oceanside promenade from Sea Point to the Waterfront disintegrates just east of the main tourist drag, and the first moments of our worldwide bike tour are interrupted by a large set of stairs calling it all to a halt.
It's daybreak, wherever we are.
Above the clouds, above the earth, above Africa. Down below lie vast open spaces. They're punctuated by thin meandering lines of tar or dirt or single-track. Up here there are no borders, few landmarks. I look out the window and gaze down at our coming months.
Boats make for good metaphors. Well-worn metaphors. The one here I'm borrowing from somewhere. The high seas, it goes, are a dangerous place. An uncertain place. There are waves and weather and sea monsters real and imagined. The ocean swallows up little boats without a thought. It's best, then, to stay in the harbor. But ships are not meant to idle in the bay.
We've had almost a year to plan for this trip, and time is finally up. Our flight to South Africa leaves in a week, and we'll be on it, ready or not. Are we ready? No. Are we approaching ready? Maybe. Here's what we've been up to the past month.
Coping with the inevitable mishaps of life and travel is largely a matter of mindset. Unpredictability is the defining feature of an adventure. Thus, embracing adventure means welcoming both the good and the bad. Welcoming the good is easy; welcoming the bad can be more challenging. So to make the latter a tad easier, we've created a bleak little game for ourselves called Bike Touring Bingo.
I've spent almost seven years—seven years!—going to the same place at the same time on the same days of the week. Those seven years have been pretty lovely, and I feel so fortunate to have had what was really a pretty great job. But getting too cozy is dangerous. Inertia is a stealthy predator. I quit my job today. I'm terrified. I'm thrilled. Here we go.
It's been plenty of fun talking to folks about our journey. A bunch of the same questions usually come up, so here are some of those questions and some corresponding answers. We'll be updating this page every once in a while with new questions and new (or modified) replies.
Last month, this little trip of ours was still a fanciful notion. It was happening, sure, but we didn't know exactly when and we didn't know exactly where, and we still lacked the requisite paperwork and inoculations to get us across the African continent, let alone the world. This month, things are a bit more real. Here's the latest.
Really, really soon, we'll be waking up somewhere on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, probably in a dew-soaked tent, probably with a pair of really dusty bicycles sprawled on the red dirt by the tent door, probably getting ready for another long day of flat riding through the Botswana bush. That's all approaching at an almost-alarming pace, but we still have a lot to do before we get there.
A few months back, I wrote about some things that might be good to know before bike touring around Iceland. Stuff like what weather to expect, where to camp, and how much to budget (oh, and how to get there and which way to travel). Those tips, I hope, captured the logistics of traveling Iceland by bike, but they didn't necessarily capture the experience of doing so. Iceland offers plenty of ups and downs along the way—things that make biking there a pleasure, and things that make it really, really difficult at times. Here are a few of them to consider.
I have a camera—a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera—that takes really crisp, high-resolution photographs. Camera folks regularly name it camera of the year. It's a pleasure to work with: full-frame, articulating display, quick shutter speed. Paired with my lens of choice, a 28-300mm NIKKOR, it takes some really lovely photographs. But, despite all the really gorgeous places our bike trip around the world is sure to take us, it won't be coming with me. Here's why.