Welcome to the Vet on a Bike website. My name is Ian Wright and I’m an English veterinary surgeon. Over the next few months, I will undertaking what I hope will be an epic adventure: joining the Tour d’Afrique expedition cycling across Africa from the Sudan to UK to South Africa, raising funds for the Born Free Foundation, stopping in to see some of their and other animal-related charities projects along the way and fulfilling a life-long dream to travel overland through Africa.
As I go, I’ll be keeping this website updated with tweets, blog posts, maps and photos. If you’d like regular updates, you can subscribe by email, Facebook or Twitter using the buttons on the left.
The entire expedition will be completely self-financed, with every penny raised going directly to the Born Free Foundation – please do consider donating using the JustGiving box.
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The last couple of weeks from Windhoek have been tough, partly because mentally we’re all mentally ticking off the days to Cape Town, but mostly because Namibia is not an easy place to ride. Stunning to look at, the combination of desert heat, sandy roads, long mileages and a lack of villages and towns for drinks stops have made this section probably the toughest riding since northern Kenya.
Leaving the Tropics
Leaving Windhoek, we headed west on gravel to take us to Sesriem, gateway to the sand-dunes of the Namib desert and the salt-pans of Sossusvlei. Along the way, the landscape got more and more arid – Windhoek, whilst itself very dry, was like a tropical paradise compared with the desiccated vista to the west. There were a few close animal encounters – Alex’s brother Doug, who joins us from Windhoek to the South African border, was nearly flattened by an oryx that had forgotten its Green Cross Code and Michel went one step better and had to grab a charging oryx by the horns to stop it flattening him. Other highlights of this section were the Spreetshoogte Pass, a crazy descent of 1,000m over just 4km, the quirky campsite / trading post / German bakery at Solitaire and some beautiful sunsets and starry nights.
Top of the Spreetshoogte Pass
On the last day into Sesriem, we had two changes to the normal routine. I decided to race the final time trial of the Tour – 30km on gravel roads and my first ever race on a bike. It turned out quite well – I was seventh out of the group but more importantly pushed myself hard and couldn’t have gone any faster on the day. The other change to normal riding was the staging of the annual naked mile – no further explanations necessary; suffice it to say that most of the group took part at some point during the day.
Amazing night skies
Following a rest-day at Sesriem, we continued our journey south to the border via Hobas and the Fish River Canyon. Although the daily distances were not huge compared with the days in Botswana, this has been some of the toughest riding of the entire Tour. Very hot from 10am-4pm, strong winds also build in the afternoon – unfortunately most of them headwinds for the last few days. This part of Namibia is utterly desolate, with no signs of life at all apart from a few hardy oryx. On yesterday’s ride, the most notable feature were the rusted remains of a 50-year-old bakkie, slowly being reclaimed by the sands, its fan still spinning squeakily in the wind.
Miles of nothing…
… except this!
We cross into South Africa tomorrow morning. Normally, the route takes us straight down the N7 all the way to Cape Town – a long, straight route with lots of fast traffic. This year for the first time, our route takes us along gravel roads a little further inland through Namaqualand, skirting the Cedarberg before finally re-joining the main road just north of our destination. Should be a stunning, but challenging final week.