Today seems like a suspiciously short distance with only 83 km to ride with only 300 climbing and 580 metres down. As expected there is a catch – really nasty gravel and soft sand, just about impossible to ride.
We had heard that the bakery at Solitaire made really nice apple pie but by the time Fritz and I got in last night the bakery was closed. This morning before we left we went to the bakery and got some and stopped at 10 km to eat it. It was still warm and very nice.
The plan was Brett, Fritz and I would ride together today, however at 25km I was already in tears with the frustration of just not being able to do more than a metre or two without getting off and walking. So I told them after the drink stop at 38 km to ride without me, as if the gravel got no better I was going to stop at lunch. It was a lovely spot, a restaurant and accommodation with lovely sweeping views, I really did not want to leave.
At about 12 km Ashleigh arrived coming back along the road by car to find the sweep, as one of the riders Tom had fallen off and there is no cell phone cover here. Ashleigh wanted to get to the sweep to use the satellite phone to let Jen (medic) in the lunch truck know that they had stopped another car and put Tom in it and were sending him forward to the lunch truck. Luckily apart from needing stitches and bruised ribs Tom was ok.
Today is the day of the annual naked mile. I have no idea where this tradition started but the plan is all the riders remove all clothing apart from helmet and shoes and ride for a mile naked. This can be done as part of a group or individually. Goodness knows what drivers think seeing naked cyclists riding down the road. Some riders ignored this completely, and some rode totally naked. I entered into the spirit of things by riding with no socks in my sandals and no gloves. Shirley got into the spirit and arrived at lunch naked, after which Lu Lu declared the lunch stop a naked free zone.
In the morning a few riders got on the truck but I wanted to keep on going in the hope that the toad was going to improve.
It took me 5 hours to get to lunch, so I called it a day as I’m not interested in another 10 plus hour day struggling in gravel in this heat.
I am pleased I made this call as the road did not improve in the afternoon, a number of riders commented that the 12 km before camp was the worst gravel they had ever ridden in their life, plus a temperature of 39.9 degrees.
The Camp site was dreadful – one power point for all the riders! No shade, all dirt, 2 showers and toilets for 53 riders plus 10 staff, no WIFI, and to top it off to get breakfast, lunch or dinner you had to walk nearly a kilometre. And if for any reason you didn’t get into camp by 5 pm to book for dinner you would miss out.
Lots of very disgruntled riders as tomorrow is a rest day and this is not a rest day suitable space. The camp site we were shown by the GPS was right by the restaurant and on grass! A number of us were looking into other options. What a saga!
I rang the number of a lodge, spoke to a woman and she confirmed me and another rider had a booking, but I wasn’t given a booking number. I was concerned as multiple riders were trying to book so I rang back and spoke to same woman, and it was like she hadn’t just spoken to me and I had to book again. Then there weren’t enough rooms and a number of people missed out and it all got a bit tense.
A shuttle from the lodge came and I was worried Brett wouldn’t get to camp on time, but I didn’t want to not go on the shuttle as I was worried that despite having a booking the rooms would go to the first people who arrived. Luckily Brett arrived just in time to lock up his bike and jump in the shuttle.
We got a room at the Sossus Dune Lodges, 6 km away with stunning views and lovely room. However, it was incredibly expensive, we were told 2,300 a room for two which is $230 NZ which is a lot, but when we got there we were told that was per person! A serious amount of money for one night, but when looking at the beautiful view and faced with going back to the miserable camp site with no facilities and shade we weakened and stay. The price Included breakfast, but can you believe it we had to pay for WIFI!
There were 11 of us from TDA staying, and even though we didn’t book together we all had to sit together and eat at the same time. We were sitting out on the balcony which was beautiful especially watching the sunset.
The meal was a set menu with no vegetarian options:
Egg mayo (which was an egg cut in half with a dab of mayo)
A choice of Onyx or pork with vegetables
Apple crumble type pudding with no cream, Ice cream or custard.
Nice to have a bed and a shower, plus not have to get up at 5:45 am tomorrow.