Stage 19, Dinder to Stone Village
The days mileage was 98k, the roads, if that’s what you wish to call them were much the same as yesterday. We started early, Gus, Eerin, Naomi and myself, were not the best at off road so an early start was a good bet. We road together for most of the morning but eventually the road conditions were so bad that Naomi and Eerin got left behind and Gus and myself arrived at camp before them, we found out later that Naomi had taken a fall and grazed her knee, Naomi would not be the only casualty today !!
I left lunch on my own as Gus was still getting his breath back and Naomi and Eerin had only just arrived, they’d upped the distance for the afternoon, it might only have been by 4km but it all counts out here. The corrugated road surface continued after lunch and by the afternoon rest stop at 76km I was feeling the pain, my hands, arms, knees and arse were all giving me grief, I wanted to stop but I kept telling myself that it wasn’t to far now. The final 2km into camp was some of the worst road, just when you needed a good ride in to camp it became so bad I nearly had to walk !!
I got a round of applause when I got to camp, I did nothing more than survive the day but those that had already arrived knew how tough it had been, 44 degrees out on the road, harsh roads and long miles meant that you’d done well to get to camp.
Gus arrived about 45 mins later and Naomi and Eerin about 45 mins after that, I’d bought cold drinks for them all, we toasted each others achievements and set about putting up tents, checking and locking the bikes, dinner, rider meeting, photos and blogs, finally at 8.00pm it was time for bed, so tired I might even sleep tonight 😉
Two special mentions go to Alan Knight and Anne Cook, Alan went of track because some kids had nicked the markers, he road 15km the wrong way before finding out he’d gone wrong, he triangulated a route across country and finally made camp, a long weary day having cycled an extra 20km !!
Anne also took the wrong turn but eventually found out shed gone wrong then turned round and cycled back to find the sweeper, the crew cyclist with the sat phone, they road the last 20km together, Anne finally made camp at 7.30, she never complained about her day, a true inspiration !!
Stage 20, Stone Village to Doka
Africa takes it toll !!
Today’s stage is only 86km, it’s the third off road day in a row, the roads are still brutal as is the heat !!
I got off to a flyer and left camp at 7.15, I’d set myself the goal of getting to camp by 1.00pm, doesn’t sound much but trust me on these roads it is !!
Our route was well flagged and took us though a gold mine and several villages, the corrugation was just as bad but I had h strength and speed to fly over it. With about 5km to go before lunch I hit a patch of soft sand my front wheel turned and I fell straight onto the handlebars. As I got up I knew I’d hurt my ribs, I’d also grazed my arm in several places, this was of no significance to me but I knew the ribs would be..
I made lunch behind two of the racers, I spent a lot longer at lunch than they did though ! I set of again this time more slowly, not only because the rough road hurt my ribs but also because my earlier pace had taken its toll. I almost limped to the rest stop at 63km, I was nearly in tears, my ribs were very painful, Nix the medic gave me some painkillers and taped my ribs and off I went again.
My day got slower and slower and I began to wonder if I should have taken the bus, at this point a fellow rider, Thijs over took me and said we only had 8km more to go, I summoned my last reserves and pedalled hard to make camp. The last 1km was uphill over rough rocky ground and I as pleased to have made it up without walking, I finally made camp at 12.45pm, well chuffed even if I was in pain 😉
While we sat around at camp it became obvious that the day had taken its toll and several people became ill, overcome my heat, exhaustion and dehydration. The medics worked tirelessly during the evening and by bed time most had recovered.
Naomi came in at about 5.00pm with Eerin, they were tired but pleased they made it 😉
Tonight’s special mention goes to Ciaran, one of the crew who spent most of the afternoon tracking down a lost rider, Diedrick. The poor guy finally made camp at about 7.30, he would still have been lost without Ciarans knowledge and ability 😉
Stage 21, Doka to Matema
Welcome to Ethiopia
99km, flat roads and another new country……oh and did I mention beer, that’s right folks after all this time in Sudan we will be in Ethiopia, home of good coffee and better still alcohol !!
The first 60km to lunch were on fairly good paved roads, relatively flat and to be honest not much to look at, I road most of it with Caroline a teacher from Belgium, when she decided to take a break I continued on my own, Naomi had cycled past us earlier and it was obvious she fancied her chances of a stage win as we were only racing to lunch…..so a short day.
I set off after her but it was clear that I wouldn’t catch her before lunch so stopped with some other riders for a coke or two 😉
We finally made lunch about 15mins after Naomi and after lunch we had about 30km to go to the Sudanese border, we met at the little hut and Luke one of the TDA crew instructed us what to do, passports handed over and forms filled in, we finally had our exit stamps for Sudan….next step getting into Ethiopia !!
Not as bad as we thought in fact, another hut, more queues but no forms this time….just patience as the wheels slowly turned, we were fortunate to get our entry stamps before the shift changed, apparently it all went tits up then !!
Out of the hut, across the bridge and welcome to Ethiopia, beer, great coffee and as it happens fantastic scenery 😉
We stopped for a cheeky beer on the way to camp but with it being so hot we felt quite odd after and decided that we’d wait until later for our next one !!
Camp was on what looked like a car park, hard rocky ground and a steady wind, fortunately there were plenty of rocks to hold the tents in place.
During the evening I started to feel unwell and by the time I went to bed I knew I’d be on the bus in the morning, not a great feeling. I had a rough night and was up several times with shovel and torch, sleep was hard to come by again and in the morning I barely had the strength to stand let alone ride a bike !!
PS. Naomi was beaten into second place by a very competitive young lady called Tracy, although disappointed to have been beaten she was still pleased with her ride !