Tortoise Slalom

The mornings seem to be a triumph, but after entering the Namaqualand District I suffer the inevitable and dreaded afternoon low. However, after one such afternoon I find myself in the comforts of Sophia’s Guest House in the isolated town of Garies, north western South Africa.

The day started with perfect conditions, a few dollops of white fluff cloud to shield me from the sun. Hell, there was even a spot of refreshing rain (or what constitutes it here). A Brit wouldn’t consider it to be rain at all, it was but a spritz.

The afternoon’s 65km was a different tale, yet another afternoon of umbrella-breaking, bike-stopping head winds. After just a few short days I’ve already come to view wind in a new light. She is fickle. One day she is like an old friend, always behind you whispering words of encouragement to push you on your way. The next, she’s your childhood bully, always in your face and putting you down and just as you think you’ve escaped, she nudges you into the road just to let you know she’s round every corner.

Its not all hard going; I’ve had a few sightings of wildlife. Two days ago I glanced over my shoulder to see an ostrich running alongside me for half a kilometre of so, with just a bush between us. The poor fella, in a dash for freedom, had made an escape from his farm only to find himself trapped along a busy road!

I’ve spotted the black and white behind of a springbok as it dashed for safety, probably to escape the rather fragrant smell I am trying out at the moment.

I have found a few tortoises crossing the road on their morning commute; after saving the first few, I had to give up. After all, I’ve got a commute of my own to think of. Instead I’ve taken to a new sport – Tortoise Slalom. It’s tougher than it might sound, those little blighters are everywhere and they are surprisingly swift.

Mongoose are also abundant. They scurry across the road as they hear me coming. I even had the pleasure of sighting a business of baby mongoose running for the shrubbery. Now, where there are mongoose there must be snakes, and guessing from the number mongoose, the bush must be teaming with them. Which raises some concerns….when one uses nature’s lavatory, the last thing one needs is for a snake hiding in a crack or a crevice to see one’s crack and sink its fangs into it!

After a long day, on finally reaching my destination of Garies, I was pointed in the direction of the towns rugby pitch where on the far side I would find the Caravan Park. I stopped in my tracks. It was like a landscape from a desolate future world, post Judgement Day. All that was missing was a Terminator walking between the burnt out cars. And the rugby pitch? Well, I would be very surprised if the local town could field a full squad, unless the bushes which have taken root on the 22 made up the numbers.
Which is why I find myself in the delightful establishment of Sophia’s, run by a lady named Elizna. They even have tea! It’s well over my budget but I was at her mercy as I couldn’t face an hours search for a suitable off-grid camping ground. Since arriving, a steady steam of overlanders on motorbikes have fallen into the same spot of bother and have booked a room, saying that they wouldn’t feel safe camping at the caravan park, and if it’s too dangerous for big burly hairy bikers, that’s good enough reason for me! So I’ve got a bed in a wonderful private room. It was a low point when I found myself in the shower accompanied by a family sized packet of crisps…don’t judge me, I need those calories.

One last note: it’s my routine to do my laundry in the shower, but a tip for any future cyclists – Be sure to thoroughly rinse.  After all, you sure don’t want a frothy crotch.

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