Namibia Cycle Tour - 1994
In July 1994, three months after the first democratic election in South Africa, our group of four riders took on this 1500 km tour through Namibia. We had no back-up support and took on this tour armed with only a few maps and traveller’s notes in the back pocket. Our objective with this tour was to capture photos and stories of the most exotic places in Namibia, locations seldom visited by mainstream tourists and natural wonders unknown to most people.
- Harald Kvernerud, a Norwegian who lived in Johannesburg. Harald was a member of our cycling club, Cresta Wheelers Cycling Club. Harald turned 57 on the tour. He rode an aluminium Cannondale
- Hannes (53), my dad, who did all the planning, or should I say, calculated guessing because information wasn't at our fingertips as it is today. Hannes’ choice of bike was an aluminium Marin.
- Chris (21), a fellow UP student and Taaibos Hostel friend of mine. Chris rode a steel Avalanche
- Attie (23), that’s me. My first mountainbike – a steel Diamondback
- Our bikes were all 26’ers with no suspension and V-brakes
- The gears were 3 x 7-shift
- Slick tyres with tyre liners and tubes. After a bit of research my dad determined that wider slick tyres would serve us best. 26’er slick tyres were not readily available at that time and Basil Cohen from Supersport Cycles personally organised us a few pairs
- Jonene from Linden Cycles organised us the paniers and bags for both the front and back
- Each of us were set up to carry 4-5 litres of water or Coke when available
- We had no tent and only our sleeping bags and roll-up foam mattresses. We carried the minimum amount of clothing and rinsed it every time where we could get water.
- Our main concern was getting ill by eating the wrong food, specially meat, hence we only bought tinned fish for protein
- We bought sliced loafs of bread whenever we could get to a shop. The four of us could easily finish a loaf of bread at 09:00 every morning for breakfast.
- We only had honey to put on the sliced bread
- We carried potatoes with us and cooked it in an aluminium pot whenever we had no bread. Nothing to make it taste special, apart from salt
- We were entertained twice by friends living in Namibia and sat in a restaurant once
Day 1 - Usakos to Myl-4
Distance covered: 173km
We started our 11 day Namibia tour at Usakos from a local hotel where we stayed over the night before and left our Combi there. We cycled from Usakos to Goanikontes Oasis which was a 125km ride with a strong wind from behind as it was berg wind conditions, but it was the only day we had the wind from the back.
From Goanikontes we cycled to Swakopmund, 36km and then to Myl-4, 12km where we found a cabin to cook and sleep for the night.
Highlights: Riding lots of soft sand, the moon-landscape towards Goanikontes, to see the Welwitschias, the oasis village of Goanikontes. Martin Luther, the 100+ year old steam locomotive/tractor and the picturesque town of Swakopmund. A recovery swim in the freezing cold Atlantic was the cherry on the cake for day 1
Swakopmund is a coastal city in Namibia, west of the capital, Windhoek. Its sandy beaches face the Atlantic Ocean. Established by German colonists in 1892, the city’s colonial landmarks include the Swakopmund Lighthouse and the Mole, an old sea wall. Next to the lighthouse, the Swakopmund Museum documents Namibian history. Inland, the elegant Swakopmund Railway Station, now a hotel, also dates to the colonial era.
Day 2 - Myl-4 to Henties Bay
Distance covered: 67km
Myl-4 to Henties Bay was a short 67km, we slept over in a house owned by my aunt.
Highlights: Racing along a hard-pack salt road with only 67 km to cover
A very attractive feature of Henties Bay and the heart of its origin is the natural freshwater spring in an old delta of the Omaruru River, referred to as the Valley, and discovered by Major Hentie van der Merwe in 1929. It practically divides Henties Bay in two parts namely the North Dune and the South Dune.
Day 3 - Henties Bay to Uis
Distance covered: 123km
Highlights: We actually planned to sleep over at the Brandberg, but cycling against the “Oosweer” for 110 km changed our plans. After 3 hours of riding we could still see Henties Bay! The 123km took us 14 hours to complete! We ran out of water twice and were helped by some 4x4s who had water and Coke to spare. In the process we lost our rest day which was scheduled for later during the tour.
The Brandberg is famous for its numerous rock paintings, apparently 50 000 of them can be found all over the mountain. Some of these 2000 to 4000 year old paintings are difficult to access. Today scientists are sure that the paintings were made by the San (Bushmen), who inhabited the area a long time ago. Apart from depictions of warriors or hunters a large amount of different animal paintings can be found, an indication that wildlife must have been abundant during that time.
Day 4 - Uis to Brandberg
Distance covered: 144km
From Uis we cycled to Brandberg, 34km, here climbed the mountain to see the White Lady Painting. From Brandberg we cycled to Twyfelfontein to see the 15000 year old rock gravures and slept over in a “Tented “ Camp, another 110km
Highlights: The Brandberg is the highest mountain in Namibia and the landscape is spectacular. I learnt about The White Lady of the Brandberg rock painting in archaeology and could now see it for myself. Nobody really knows who would have painted a white lady so many thousands of years ago??
The best known rock painting, the White Lady, was discovered in 1917 by Reinhard Maack, who was the first European to climb up to the Königstein. He was a German explorer and universal scientist, who was engaged in many different fields at that time
He interpreted the White Lady, a 45 cm high rock painting, as warrior. Years later, in 1955 the French priest Henri Breuil interpreted the painting as white lady after he had compared the figure with a Greek portrayal in Crete. Although scientists today are convinced that the painting depicts a warrior or shaman of the San, the name “White Lady” remained.
Day 5 - Twyfelfontein to Khorixas
Distance covered: 95km
From Twyfelfontein’s Tented Camp we cycled to the Petrified forest in Khorixas – 52km and from there we cycled to Khorixas Restcamp where we sat down to eat in a restaurant and had a beer to celebrate Harald’s 57th birthday – 43km
Highlights: The 15000 year old Twyfelfontein Rock grafures (petroglyphs) was the highlight of the day and the advertised kiosk could only offer us their last cans of tonic water and Schweppes Dry lemon. We relied on the tourist kiosk to buy some food, but they had nothing. Luckily a local camp staff member saw our dilemma and was able to supply us with a freshly baked home bread in the morning, what a saving! The Khorixas Petrified Forest just proved to us that this was not always just a desert
The Petrified Forest is a national monument, proclaimed on 1st March 1950, after being discovered by two farmers in the 1940s. The Petrified Forest is situated about 50 km west of Khorixas. The name is a bit misleading as it is not exactly a forest, which turned to stone, but rather an accumulation of enormous fossilized tree trunks about 280 million years old. Scientist found out that these trunks haven’t grown in today’s Namibia but were washed down a river in ancient times when one of the many Ice Ages ended on the Gondwana continent. There must have been a huge flood that carried along the trunks to where they lie today.
Day 6 - Khorixas to Outjo
Distance covered: 162km
From Khorixas Restcamp, we did a detour of 66km to see the Rock finger/Vingerklip. From the Vingerklip we went to Outjo, another 96km to make 162km for the day
Highlights: Although I went to school in Rosh Pinha in the South of Namibia, I never got to see the more famous Finger of God, Mukarob, in the South of Namibia. Mukarob collapsed in 1988. This time round I got to see the other Vingerklip further up North. Our stay with Ds Barry Oberholzer and his family and the Kudu-steak braai was refreshing.
The Vingerklip is the geological leftover of a Ugab Terrace, its geological history can be read like an open book when looking at the layers of conglomerate. The Rock Finger stand on a hill top and has a height of 929 m above sea level, the rock itself is 35 metres high. Visitors are allowed to climb the hill to view the rock formation, but it is prohibited to climb the Vingerklip.
Day 7 - Outjo to Otjiwarongo
Distance covered: 70km
We considered the ride from Outjo to Otjiwarongo as a rest day as we did only 70km and had a good rest for a chance.
Day 8 - Otjiwarongo to Grootfontein
Distance covered: 193km
Day 8 was very special to arrive at Grootfontein Meteorite Rest Camp after 193km, where we could see the solid 30-ton iron-nickel Hoba Meteorite and enjoyed a game drive by the farm owner who also served us a very special dinner and a bed and breakfast.
The Hoba meteorite, short for Hoba West, is a meteorite that lies on the farm of the same name, not far from Grootfontein, in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia. It has been uncovered but, because of its large mass, has never been moved from where it fell. The main mass is estimated at more than 60 tonnes.
Day 9 & 10 - Grootfontein to Felt Drift
Distance covered: 299km
From Grootfontein Meteorite Rest Camp we cycled to Felt Drift, where we stayed over to see the Dinosaur’s Tracks of 65 million years ago. It was two hard days and we managed 299km and had a halfway stop to sleep in the kitchen of a fully booked hotel.
Highlights of day 10: Long hours in the saddle. The dinosaur tracks. Sleeping under the stars!
Day 11 - Felt Drift to Usakos
Distance covered: 169km
From Felt Drift we joyfully went back to our hotel in Usakos.
Highlights: Completing a largely unseen 1500 km tour with friends, with my dad, in such an ancient landscape – special! Thanks, people of Namibia!
11 Days of riding - 1500km in total!
by Attie Koekemoer: