Video: Australian cyclist Kate Leeming on her way along Namibia’s notorious Skeleton Coast. Footage: Johan van Rooyen
Equipped with a special all-wheel-drive bicycle and supported by experienced guides and other modern technological devices, Kate Leeming, stood a better chance at surviving the extreme conditions of Namibia’ desolate Skeleton Coast than the sailors of old that stranded there.
Leeming set of on her gruelling cycling journey on the southern bank of the Kunene River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean about two weeks ago and is the first person in history to attempt to cycle the 1 600 kilometre (975 mile) length of the Namibian Coastline from north to south.
About the start of long and mostly lonely cycling journey along the beach where the Namib Desert meets the Atlantic Ocean, Leemingshe wrote on her blog that she met Johan Van Rooyen, the Manager of the Northern Namibia Development Company diamond mine who formed part of a small group of people to witness the beginning of her epic trip.
“The manager from the diamond mine at the river mouth was there to greet us. He was keen to get a story for the company’s newspaper. It was great to finally be ready to go after all that had happened in the last few days and after the obligatory photos, I was off,” she wrote.
According to Jimmy Marais from Karibu Safaris Namibia, who helped her with all the planning, logistics and and support for the trip, Leeming averaged about 50 kilometres per day since setting off from Foz de Cunene.
“She reached Henties Bay earlier today after cycling the entrie length of the the Skeleton Coast National Park. She passed the iconic southern gate to the park which is adorned with the skull and cross bones two days ago. From Henties Bay she will tackle the journey further south to Swakopmund which is most likey to reach the holiday town later on Friday.”
Jimmy said the intrepid Leeming will spend another two or three days resting and interacting with the community of Swakopmund before resuming her journey further south to the mouth of the Orange River.
About the first few days of her journey Leeming wrote on her blog that the weather conditions and tides are just some of difficulties she has encountered so far. The constant south easterly wind causes her to constantly cycle against the wind and when the tide comes in she is forced to cycle on the soft sand above the beach.
About the Skeleton Coast she says: “This is such a harsh environment as the wind seems to suspend sand and salt in the air – it gets into everything. The ocean is very cold, about 15C as the Benguela current circulates straight from Antarctica. The sea breeze is particularly fresh. When the wind picks up as the tide rolls in, the real struggle begins. The higher the tide, the more I am forced to cycle over the softer sand beside the shoreline.”
Leeming who hails from Australia cycled a distance greater than twice the circumference of the Earth at the equator during her previous expeditions on different continents of the world.
The idea behind the the cycling journey on the beach along the Namibian Coastline is to prepare to make the first bicycle crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole.
“I have undertaken training expeditions around the world which occurred in polar conditions, sand and high altitude. Cycling on sand is very similar to cycling on snow and the Skeleton Coast expedition will also help me to prepare physically and mentally for the Antarctic journey.”
The second part of the expedition is aimed at humanitarian assistance to disadvantaged communities along the route.
“I was deeply affected by many experiences from my previous African expedition. I am determined to make more of a tangible difference to the people whose land we will pass through. I have brought together a formidable team; my Indian partners, Global Himalayan Expeditions and local tour operator Jimmy Marais of Karibu Safari. In September we will undertake part two of the project, a humanitarian expedition to install a solar energy system to bring light and eventually improved access to education and economic empowerment to the remote village of Purros in Namibia’s northwest.”
She said she will use the six week long cycle journey between the two river mouths to pave the way for setting up education connections, especially in the centres of Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.