The road from Hammerstein (that’s not its names but what I called it) was the worst that we have encountered so far.
The corrigation tracks were very deep. It’s caused by cars and trucks driving too fast on the gravel roads. It looks like mini waves.
I had to stop many times because I was so scared. The backend kept sliding on me when I would get stuck in a deep track and when it would narrow to a tire width and the sides would be piled up gravel and sand.
To an experienced rider like Andrew, he just flies over the road but for me…..not so much.
I just pulled over and the tears would not stop coming down.
Andrew keeps watch for me in his mirrors and if I take too long to come behind him, he turns around comes looking. I could barely get the words out to him “I’m not ok…”
I just shut the motor off and walked away to the fence line and let the tears go. Andrew just hung back and gave me space. Then encouraged me the best that he could.
I was broken.
Physically and mentally.
But there was no other choice but to get back on the bike and keep going.
Taking breaks so I could shake out my hands from gripping so tightly, quads burning since I was riding standing up most of the time cause that is the only way I could see the tracks and feel in control of the bike.
We were 12km from town and I needed another break so Andrew went and took Laura into town to organize camp for us then was going to head back and ride with me.
I sat there drinking water and made my mind up to go. Climbed on and headed to town, meeting him half way there. He stayed right next to me as I crawled into town.
As soon I got off the bike, the both wrapped me in huge hugs and a cool sprite.
The tentsites were fully booked but we spoke a German family who let us tent on their site and use their fire pit.
I walked into the desert some and used my Garmin to send messages to my family, asking for prayers and telling them about the day.
Susan sent me a message, a simple but complex question. “Are you finding what you are seeking?”. Pondering that question brought the tears on as I struggled to find the words to answer.
“I don’t know yet but I know that people are being put in my path.” It’s helping to restore my faith in everything.
This trip is forcing me to my breaking point and beyond to where only faith exists.
Faith in myself, the bike, my team and lastly God. Repeating to myself over and over out loud. “You can do this”, “find the track”, “breathe girl, breathe” and “he hasn’t taken you this far to leave you now”.
Just nonstop talking to help me concentrate.
It’s amazing what a good meal, cold shower and deep sleep can do to restore my soul.
We woke up early to try and catch a hitch into Sousevlay. They don’t allow bikes into the park and it is about an hour from the entrance to where the dunes and drybed is.
We managed to flag down a big tour bus. He driver cab was separate from the cab with the tourists but he waved us on. The tour guide was not happy about it, claiming it was against company policy in case of accidents but she couldn’t kick us off without looking like an asshole.
She did not like Andrew at all but warmed to me and we chatted sporadically when she wasn’t speaking German to the group of people she was guiding in a semi-supported bicycle trip. They ride the bus and stay in lodges but ride bikes 20-30km a day.
When we got to the “entrance”, we had to get on 4×4 open air trucks since the sand drifts are hard to maneuver in cars.
The parking lot was right on the edge of the dunes and you had to walk through them to where the drybed was.
I had just watched a documentary about this place before I left and now, here I was standing among the dead and twisted trees. It talked about a folk lore that God was upset at the trees so he ripped them out of the ground and put them back in with the roots up to the sky.
The earth was so dry and cracked, it was about 7-8 football fields long and maybe 1-2 wide. You could hike to the top of “Big Daddy” but it takes normal people about 4 hrs then to get down, you just run straight down the face of the dune. It was hilarious watching people come down. One boy just tucked into a ball and rolled down the hill. His dad did crazy antics right next to him.
The dune had green plants and yellow flowers growing on the side of it. I could believe they could grown like that.
As I walked from the far end, I realized that there were deep footprints dried into the ground from where someone had walked across after a rain storm. Now the footprints were harden and would remain there until it rained again and again and the earth could fill the holes again.
It made me think about it in terms of a heart.
When you are most vulnerable, someone will walk into your heart and leave deep footprints. Sometimes it’s for a good reason, most times it’s not. So your heart becomes like that dry desert bed. Dried, cracked and nothing grows on it and everything planted there just withers away. Then everyone that comes afterwards walks on the hardened surface without leaving a mark, unable to tell they were there at all.
I think I am that way now. I am just waiting for the rain to come.
We caught a ride back with a super nice group with mostly Australians and one Swiss girl that I sat with. Turns out the tour guide Kenneth, knew Gerrit and Alta. The people were rented the bike from and had a great first few days with. He gave such positive feedback about the road that we packed up camp and got on the road to the next town of Solitaire. Only 80km away. Easy day…..right?
The roads were still terrible but I knew to stop as often as I needed and talked to myself.
Andrew and Laura had just topped the hill in front of me when I started out again when suddenly the bike dropped down 1-2 feet. I knew immediately something was wrong. “Oh shit….the shock broke”. I remained calm and since the rear wheel was still able to spin, I just pulled in the clutch and let it roll to a stop.
Right then, a car came from the other direction and flagged him down to go and catch the team and tell them what happened so we could make a plan.
The family sped off and I got the bike off the road. It was too low to use the kickstand so I just sat on it to keep it upright. I figured Andrew would drop Laura off in town to figure out a truck and then come to me. Eventually I just let the bike rest on the boxes briefly while I shed my gear and searched the road for the bolt that had come loose.
Andrew came back and we got the boxes off with my stuff and had a guy named Gunther Heimstadt with Bateleur Helicopters stopped and gave me a ride into town while Andrew stayed with the bike.
Laura had already left and rode with the owner of the lodge Pasquale and they came back and he organized his men and a truck to load the bike.
We decided to take of it in the morning so we set up camp and had dinner. Turns out the same group and tour guide was staying here as well and Kenneth felt terrible about his shitty road report and what happened to the bike.
The next morning we started looking at the map and making a plan over coffee when the mechanic Robert came over and we got the bike off the truck. We tried to call the local BMW dealer but they never got back to us so Robert, who is an aerospace engineer by the way, manufacturers and completely new bolt and bushings with his lathe. He is incredibly smart but like most geniuses, his peoples skills are lacking so I stayed out of his way and not talking while he did his measurements and used the lathe. I went through and checked all the other bolts on the bike, just in case.
He got it all completed and we helped him reassemble the bike and then we went to his house and he showed us his 4 KTM bikes. Literally, this guy is building a biplane in his living room. He slowly warmed to us, even cracking dry jokes and flashing smiles. He lowered the tire pressure on the bike and I went out on a test ride with Andrew.
It was a completely different ride. The bike absorbed so much instead of my legs and arms. It was mind blowing.
Andrew pulled off to the side and we spent a long time talking and I finally asked him questions about his trauma and we both ended up opening up and letting tears fall without embarrassment and watching the desert in all its glory.
I think it was healing for us both. We are riding out tomorrow so hopefully my angels can keep up again cause they are working hard to keep me safe.