From Victoria Falls, Zambia to Windhoek, Namibia we will ride more than 1700km. We will do this in 10 riding days. That's 10 centuries in a row, with one rest day in the middle. Luckily the terrain is flat, but so far the winds have only been in our favor for one day out of the last 5. While riding 10 centuries is challenge enough for most, a few riders have take the opportunity to do a double in one day. Six riders left very early (first light) and road 320km in one day, then waited for us to catch up to them and continued with the tour. Took them 12hrs. They just made it before dark. Not bad, but not much room for error. Stuff like this makes Boss nervous because ultimately we are responsible. But everyone needs to seek out their own adventure. One rider has ridden 320 km twice now, although the second time the tailwinds were good, I was managing 35kph without much effort. A group of 4 left together, 3 had never done a double before. I think the did that 320km in just over 9hrs.
It's been at that point in the tour now when people are bored of the routine, the conversations are predictable and the everyone has started to think about the end and what they will do after the tour. Dangerous thinking because there are still 18 riding days left and the riding in Namibia will be quite difficult, albeit rewarding.
One rider made a list of things he is tired of:
Tired of bending down: We bend down to get into our tents, to get out of our tents, to get into our lockers, to squat for a poop, to sit and eat, to wash our hands...
Tired of queueing: we queue for dinner, to get into our lockers, at immigration, at the bank (by far the worst queue), at the Internet cafes (60 westerners flooding a town with one Internet cafe can brings the network to a crawl), We queue to get lunch, to fill our water bottles, to start the race... endless
The women wear funny hats here. Imagine if you took the floor sweeper attachment to your vacuum and stuck it to your forehead. Then wrap fabric around your head and the attachment. That style is quite in vogue in Botswana.
Botswana (we are in Maun now) has been an exiting and boring ride. The roads are dead flat and straight. So much so that when one of our overlanders, which are big trucks, passes us you can watch it slowly disappear down the road for a good 20 minutes. It just gets smaller and smaller until it is just a dot on the horizon. It's a bit depressing. Even when you see another rider head you know it might be 30 minutes before you actually catch them. Riding alone for too long can be quite monotonous. Yesterday, having lost my ipod, I was riding against a stiff crosswind. The elephant grass to my left was at least two meters tall. I started to imagine I was a lioness, looking through the grass to the open Savannah beyond I could see Zebra and springbok running from me as I looked for the weakest of the heard to cull. When the wind gusted and the tall grass bent over the road I became a surfer in a giant amber tube. I reached out my left hand and ran it along the grass and ducked low to avoid hitting my head while I swerved in and out of the flow. I'm not crazy yet, just really bored.
The exciting things has been the elephants, giraffe, buffalo and other animals that frequent the roadside.
I rode by 3 adult elephants and one baby grazing on the side of the road the other day. They were quite close to the road so, having been chased by an elephant before and not really enjoying it, I moved to the other side of the road. Unfortunately, that was still too close. I was taking a few pictures, sitting up in the saddle when one of them turned his head to look straight at me, stuck his ears out, trumpeted and started to walk into the road at me. I pedaled a bit harder to get ahead of him and then the other 3 ran to the road as well. I now had 4 elephants (granted one was a baby) chasing me, no more that 5 meters off my back wheel! I tried to get a photo over my shoulder of the pursuit but in my nervousness I couldn't find the shutter button and I almost crashed. So I put my hands on the bars and took off, the chase ended quickly but the big bull stood still for some time and watched me go as the others ran into the trees. All this happened the day after I had warned all the riders in a rider meeting to be very careful around elephants and not to get too close.
I haven't updated in a while for a variety of reasons. In no particular order:
1) Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia felt very familiar and their didn't seem much to write about.
2) Internet has been terribly slow and erratic
3) We've gotten into the habit of getting drunk upon arriving in town before a rest day and typing a blog update with a hangover is just stupid.
4) We've been quite busy on the last few rest days with miscellaneous work.
I've decided what to do when the tour is over (I think). My brother is shipping me my panniers and I will ride from Cape Town, up the east coast of S. Africa into Mozambique to attend the Wedding of Natalie and Holo. The I will ride into Malawi, stop in Zomba to visit Africylce and see if I can play any role there. Then it's back into Zambia. I'd like to go to S. Luangwa and then ride the Petauke Rd West to Lusaka. In Lusaka I will visit Zambikes/Arcifa and see how their bamboo bikes and custom bikes are going. Perhaps I can be of some assistance there as well. I'm convince now that the only way to help Africa develop is to develop new industries. Health, education, conservation, political stability will all follow if people have opportunity. The opportunity to help start a custom bike industy is enticing. After Lusaka it's up to Serenje, visit the village, hang out at Mapontellas and maybe a visit to Shiwa N'gandu. Then Fly home to Charlotte to see my sis and bro, whom I miss greatly, and my little niece, Katie Rose, who I am sure has gotten even cuter and bossier since I left! I have every intention of doing the tour again next year so I will spend my months in the states trying to make money and sort out the logistics of another long term leave of absence. I see some of my stocks are up, which is good, but it also seems my house is in need of repair and I'm not sure of the possibility of restarting the business in just a few short months.
I think my racing days are over. Touring is such a different animal. There is no point in going fast. You just miss opportunities to experience things and get to camp too early for dinner and sit in the heat/rain /wind until you can eat and go to bed. It is nice however to be able to pick up the pace when necessary however. Such as when you are being chased by elephants or when you've stayed at the bar 20 km from camp a bit to long and have to TT back to camp before dark (we didn't make it though). I'm excited to do the tour again next year and the opportunity to do other tours. It's not so much the cycling the I'm enthusiastic about as it is learning more about the world and helping people experience Africa. The challenge it seems is how to give riders as complete a picture of each country as possible while still maintaining a schedule that gets up to Cape Town in 120 days.
Another exciting thing is a new project the TdA is starting called Dream Tours. It should be up and running next month. You log on to the TdA website. Design your own dream tour and post it. There are questionnaires and advice on how to design a tour. Once posted the tours are open to be voted on. If enough people vote on your tour the TdA puts it together and you go for free. And dream tour means dream tour. Want to parachute with your bike into Iceland and ride teh glacier? OK. Kayak across the Bering straight and ride into Siberia - let's go. it's a cool concept.
Financial independence is inevitable. In the long run, no one needs money anymore. Do we have a right to consume? I wonder when we stopped be identified as citizens and started to be identified as consumers?
I finally finished an entire book on this tour. Life of Pi - highly recommended. About a 16 yr old Indian boy stranded in a lifeboat for 207 days with a tiger. A true story (maybe)
Scavenger Hunt list (for riders to complete before we reach Lusaka):
1) picture of a local in the TdA pose
2) 1 spoon (we're always losing our spoons)
3) Paul Porter Favorite Fruit - anyone who rode into Nairobi with him will know this (Paul, a favorite of the whole group, unfortunately had to go home when he crashed and broke his elbow)
4) 1 piece of Amalasha - figure it out
5) a broken/discarded flip flop
6) a bag of roasted termites
7) a food Tom will not eat (tom is the 18 year old on our trip with a voracious appetite and a habit of "dropping in" whenever food is being cooked of shared.
8) List of all Zambia's presidents since independence
9) 1 Rambo tot - Rambo is an orange flavored grain alcohol sold in little plastic tots with a picture of Sylvester Stallone on it. The picture is of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa.
10) 1 Ngwe - the smallest denomination of Zambia cur ency, out of circulation for about 20 years.
11) List of Greetings in all 7 Zambia Languages (no guidebooks or Internet allowed)
12) 1 Snake stone
13) 1 Locally made Slingshot
14) Picture of yourself riding a local bike, or on the back of one.
"The human Stomach is Flexible" - James (our cook) who eats constantly
"The other thing I ride has tits" Written on the wall of the Ndaba Bar in Nairobi by Vimpy, our driver
"ish" To be added to almost any statement to make it more vague. ie: Today's route is 156km ...ish.
That's it. Not much in the way of deep thought mulling around in my head these days. The trip is still fun but I am looking forward to the day I can take off on my own again. I may take a few days off and hike Fish River Canyon in Namibia. I also have a lot of thinking to do about what I want to do after the next year has passed. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.