As we entered the penultimate country of this ride, we lulled ourselves into a false sense of being close to our finish line. A quick calculation though, revealed that we still had one-sixth of our total mileage to cover and Namibia it turns out, is not particularly conducive to swift travel by bicycle. This is a country with only two million inhabitants and for context; Ethiopia is of a similar size but has squeezed around 100 million people within its borders. Depending on your information source, this place is second only to Mongolia as the most sparsely populated country on earth. Simply put, there is an awful lot of nothingness in Namibia.
Our entry and introduction to this country was the Caprivi Strip, an odd extension of land to the northeast which seems like it should probably belong to someone else. In fact it did formerly belong to someone else, before Herr von Caprivi negotiated with the Brits for the land to be annexed for German Colonisation efforts, in order to allow access to the Zambezi. It seems odd that it still exists as such today and from what we could tell, serves only to provide a 400km introduction before arriving at the actual country.
Our route towards the west coast was spectacular and ultimately provided some cooler weather, our first sighting of an ocean since Egypt, and a much-needed bike repair shop. Once re-stocked, we departed for what would prove to be some of the thirstiest miles of our entire trip. Attempting to carry enough water for the inland leg toward the isolated stopover of Solitaire was entirely futile, as we came to rely heavily on passing motorists to top up supplies who thankfully – out of sympathy or otherwise – were pleased to oblige. Even with such generosity, this was not an easy few days and as we fell asleep each night under the remarkably still and silent desert sky, the recurring thoughts occupying our minds were all water related.
Despite the relationship-testing conditions though, there is much to be taken from Namibia. Firstly, this country stands as a fine example of how beautiful a place can remain when we humans don’t mess it up. What’s more, the historic German influence – although fairly indefensible in its origins – has left behind a legacy of some hearty German cuisine and fine beer. Not ideal for desert crossings on a bicycle, but when we return in an air-conditioned motor home, we’ll certainly indulge.