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Cyclist braves lions on trip down Skeleton Coast

Cyclist braves lions on trip down Skeleton Coast

Video: Kate cycles past Wlotzka Baken on her way south to Swakopmund. – Footage: Niël Terblanché

Niël Terblanché
AFTER conquering Namibia’s notorious Skeleton Coast and narrowly avoiding an encounter with desert-adapted lions while cycling south and ever closer to civilisation in the major coastal towns, Kate Leeming, was looking forward to a few days of rest in Swakopmund.
Informanté met Kate halfway between Henties Bay and Swakopmund while she was almost halfway done with her historic trip down the length of the Namibian coastline.
“Besides the weather, the wind and the never ending sand I have to cycle through what stood out the most was rich history of the Skeleton Coast. From Diogo Cão more than 500 years ago, the crew and passgers of the Dunedin Star almost a century ago to the derelict oilrigs and mining equipment left behind by opportunistic prospectors one gets the idea what transpired here over many years.”
Kate described her encounter with Dr. Philip Stander, Namibia’s world renowned desert-adapted lion expert, as one of the more interesting encounters of her life.
“We met Philip at Möwe Bay and after conversing with him about his life and his dedication to the conservation of desert-adapted lions he informed us that there might be two groups on our way further south.“
Kate said that the lion conservationist insisted on escorting her to avoid her running into the two groups of lions.
“Philip ensured us that the lions would not just attack but insisted to go along for part of the way to protect the lions and to minimise the possibility of a possible conflict situation. He drove out front using electronic equipment to track the lions to make sure they were not anywhere near where I was cycling. At one stage he let us know that a female and her two cubs were close and I decided to cycle between the two support vehicles just to be on the safe side.”
Namibia is just about the only country in Africa where its endemic species can roam freely, without borders. Just about everywhere else, animals need to be protected in game parks. It is the only country where the endangered black rhino is increasing in number.
Just before cycling past the quaint village of Wlotzka Baken about 30 kiloemtersnorth of Swakopmund, Kate said that she is looking forward to a few days of rest and recouperation.
“The trip so far has been hard. I have to deal with a lot of elements while cycling. The going is relatively easy when cycling on the beach, but when the tide comes in I have to cycle on the soft sand above the shoreline and that’s not easy although I have a special sand bike with fat wheels and all wheel drive. The wind is another issue and makes the going difficult.”
She said despite some difficulties during the first two days of the epic journey she made good time and looks forward to set off on the second leg on Tuesday.
On Monday Kate plans to meet with learners from various schools in Swakopmund to discuss the educational part of her journey before setting off through the Dorob National Park on her way to the mouth of the Orange River at Oranjemund.

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