Leaving Ai-Ais I had a boomerang of a day. I hadn’t been on the road for an hour before I picked up a large puncture. I didn’t even have to put water on the tyre and look for bubbles- when I stopped the puncture was close enough to the ground that it actually kicked up dust with the pressure being released! Needless to say, fixing at flat in a hot, windy desert ranks somewhere between syphilis and a tracheotomy on the fun-o-meter. The dust kept getting into everything- even my pump wouldn’t seal properly over the valve since the dust had gotten into it. So, after about an hour I was back on the road and in a somewhat sour mood. The gravel road winding along the Namibian side of The Orange River helped since it was one of those mystical, almost perfect gravel roads for real traveling. It had everything to make it fun- Lots of corners, dips, changes in surface- the works. It also was amazingly well-mannered with no corrugations, potholes, deep sand, or ruts. You put down your miles with all your luggage while still enjoying the actual riding. The day was starting to look a little less crap filled.
Turning up a canyon, I surprised a flock of wild ostriches and they went running off in all directions, with a few running along the road off to my right. All but one quickly peeled off, leaving their friend to face the strange wheeled beast alone. I settled in beside the bird, about a car lane across from it, and just paced it at about 50km/hr. You know all those wildlife shows where they show ostriches running away from the camera? Yeah, well, they suck. Despite their stupidity and host of character flaws, riding beside one at full-bore is an amazing experience. Those ungainly legs become things of beauty and start to make complete sense, the way they use their wings to help control themselves becomes obvious- in short you actually begin to admire the stupid beggars. Then, the canyon started to narrow dramatically and the bird felt it had no choice but to keep running from me, but despite knowing it didn’t see me a playmate I couldn’t help but keep pacing him so I could continue to watch the amazing sight. Soon enough it was obvious that the fun was heading into dangerous territory and I let off the gas and let the bird continue on its way down the center of the road. The experience made me completely forget about my tyre and turned what I had considered to be the booby prize of African animal sightings into one of the most powerful I’ve had.
From there I headed on to Lüderitz and got my first taste of Germany….