We crossed the border to Namibia on April 22nd and boy we were glad to. Not only did the border crosssing into Namibia also mark the 1km to go point at the end of a 207km day but Botswana was boring. Simple. Flat roads with just a few short bushes and grass on either side going on for miles…and miles…and miles. We were riding the elephant highway though I was to see just ostrich and impala. Boring.
I arrived at camp to a big cheer just as the rider meeting was taking place. Climbing would increase daily over the next few days and we would eventually drop down into Windhoek – before the inevitable uphill out of the valley. While many would assume flat is a cyclists friend, I definately prefer to climb – not only is it more interesting but your legs can rest on the downhill – little chance for that on a continual flat.
In three days we would be in Sesriem. The route would go through dusty roads and we would not see tarmac for some time. Surrounded by stoney peaks , walls of sedimentary rock, short scrubs and again vast open landscapes this would be challenging yet glorious ride. We would be camping in the national park from where it is customary to head to the famous sand dunes for sunrise. For TDA riders it was not the only custom many of us would observe.
Unlike some of the riders I had read about “the naked mile” from previous participants blogs. I knew it was while we were in Namibia but on stage 83 of the riding schedule the whilte board at the riders meeting also pointed out the now auspicious day had arrived. Immediately the chat began. By the end of the evening the girls were forming a plan. We would head out after lunch for a group shot….way after the boys had left of course! Only James the photographer was given a green card….well, it would be foolish not to engage the man with airbrushing skills!! I too announced i had a costume….for the naked mile….unusual yet all would “not” be revealed until the following day!
I left camp with John having placed my costume in the handlebar bag..ready if needed..and it was. We were soon overtaken by one of the male riders. While cycle helmets are always an essential, he was otherwise completely starkers with just his race number covering critical zones. It was time to join in the fun. I told John I would stop around 5km from the lunch truck for a quick change and to my surprise he said he would do the same. We were riding the naked mile together and would stop just past the food stop having given a wave before covering up for lunch.
We pulled over and as we did 3 giraffe ran out infront of us crossing the road just ahead. While it delayed us “getting dressed” it was fabulous to be ready with the camera at this exact moment. Amazing to see and while meaning a short delay we were soon heading up the road.
John left first so I could get photo proof of his ride and I followed…in my costume. While my leaves were fake and attached to my underwear it was reminiscent of pictures of Eve in the Garden of Eden. I felt fabulous and we certainly raised a giggle as we passed by other riders eating their sandwiches. What a laugh.
Covering up again we ate lunch and the boys gradually departed – some revealing all just as they rode away! The girls left together ready for a photoshot….
The times would come around 1km down the road and while initially nervous it did not take long before everyone had entered into the spirit of the occasion. The photo would be taken from behind as we continued our journey. Tour D’Afrique 2013 displayed on our backs. The girls carried on for a further 11km apparently. I was staying behind for a photograph as was another rider Anne.
It was a very hot day and many of us had commented that it felt much cooler riding so you could feel the breeze pass over your skin so with that in mind and perhaps the fact that we were complete exhibitionists Anne and I rode all the way to camp. While a very quiet rode the few drivers around seemed amused as we proudly waved when they passed by. Just as we drew close to the finish line I put the costume back on while Anne used flagging tape – usually used to mark our route – to cover up a little. Heading straight to the bar (by then in a sarong!) we rewarded ourselves with a nice cold beer for a job well done.
In total I did around 45km that day in my birthday suit. It was a day I’ll never forget yet may also never repeat but you have to try most things once eh?
(photo to follow…just waiting on good wifi!)