Stage 22, Matema to Bush Camp
Riding the bus !!
I’m a cyclist and a fairly stubborn one to boot, I don’t claim to be the fastest, the strongest or the best in any way but I am a cyclist and as such the idea of needing to ride a bus because I’m to ill to ride my bike isn’t great, on our other tour Naomi and I would just stop for a day and recover but on this tour you can’t do that, you have to keep up with what is now referred to as the travelling circus or Tour of Freaks !!
I wasn’t the only person on the bus, I was joined by four other people and as I haven’t had there permission to name them they will remain anonymous 😉
We watched in silence as our bikes were lifted onto the bus and strapped down ready for the journey. The journey would be 91km and included a couple of testing climbs, something that believe it or not many of us had been looking forward to….so many flat days in the deserts without much to see had taken there toll. As we tried to make ourselves comfortable in the cab, I use the word tried as this is not a limo, it’s a utility vehicle with little leg room or comfort. The sun hits the front facing window and quickly turns it into a greenhouse, opening the windows allows the dust straight in so it’s a compromise and one I hope not to need a gain !!
As we set off we came across one of our female riders, she complained of having stones thrown at her, we’d been warned that this sort of thing was common in Ethiopia but none of us expected them to throw rocks at a lady. We are in Ethiopia for more cycling days than any other country and with this as a common occurrence it will prove difficult not to retaliate at some point !
The truck followed the rider for a while but eventually time pressures meant it had to move on. We stopped briefly at the lunch truck grabbed a quick sandwich before heading on to the evenings campsite. We arrived at camp at 10.30 am, why so early you may ask, why couldn’t we spend more time at lunch or stop for a coke perhaps. Well when the truck arrives at camp it takes about an hour to turn the truck into the kitchen, canteen, coffee bar, locker room, bike maintenance spot and with the huge canvas awnings it looks like a huge bird of prey, you can see it long before you arrive at it, a welcome sight for the weary cyclist indeed. So by 11.30 am the truck was ready, the soup was on the stove and the hot water for coffee was ready and right on time the racers arrived, yes folks there are a small group of very fit riders on this tour and they race each and every stage, they are hugely competitive and incredibly fit, they covered the 91km from camp to camp with three fairly big climbs and a lunch stop in 4 hours !!!
Hard to believe it when some people set of at 8.00 and don’t arrive until 5.30 or 6.00 but they do it everyday, regardless of the terrain, the road conditions or the heat, they are quite inspirational !!
Camp was perched on top of a hill with sweeping views of the valley and the local village. The locals wasted no time in providing buckets of cold drinks at slightly inflated prices and showers in what seemed to be the local barn.
The mood was good and I started to feel better, my appetite was back and I though that I was on the mend.
I retired to my tent soon after dinner, two helpings for me, I really was feeling good. It didn’t last though and I was up again twice during the night with shovel and torch. I felt ok at breakfast though and made ready for the day ahead !!
Stage 23, Bush Camp to Gonder
Stubborn equals stupid !!
107km, 2500m of climbing but two rest days and a hotel as the carrot, I put on my Lycra checked my bike and joined the rest for the days ride. Lunch would be at 60km but first we needed to climb one and if not the biggest hill on this tour. The route started up hill and seemed to continue in that vain although the main and steepest part of the hill didn’t start until about 21km !! My legs were feeling it before we even started the main climb, I managed to find enough strength to cycle most of it with Lizzie, very talented cyclist and hugely competitive to boot. Finally though I had to let her go as I could no longer keep her pace, I found myself just focusing on the ground and hoping that round the next bend that the pain would stop, it did eventually but only after about 30km, after that there was a good downhill section followed by rolling hills to lunch. My the time I got to lunch I was knackered, my legs were like jelly but I though I’d be ok after a bite to eat, some fluids and an energy bar. In retrospect I should have stopped at lunch, I was stubborn and as it turns out stupid. I made slow progress from lunch barely making 15km an hour, I remember just focusing on the ground, wishing the kilometres away and hoping that I’d be at the hotel soon. One of the other riders, Kevin, a fireman from Canada cycling behind me said that I’d been weaving across the road very slowly, I can only assume that had he not stopped me I would have eventually just ridden myself to a standstill and fallen off sideways, at that point I would have been injured and possibly robbed. As it happens he got me to a shady spot, at this point another rider called Michael arrived and helped, they made me drink lots of water and called the backup truck. Within minutes Nix the medic and Sharita who was driving arrived and with Kevin’s help got me into the truck, put me on a saline drip and took me to the hotel, I was taken straight to a cool hotel room put on a comfy bed and was checked on regularly until the drip had finished !!
This could all have ended very badly but thanks to some good people I am now making a good recovery, still a bit shaky but hopefully with two days R and R I will be fine 😉
The good news is that Naomi yet again managed the full 107km and 2500m climbing and still had her EFI (every fucking inch) it’s what TDA call a rider that manages to ride every bit of the tour 😉
The hotel is very nice, the view is fantastic and I feel well looked after, hears to getting back on the bike !!