Stage 34, Bush Camp to Arba Minch
Going for it !!!
I might have mentioned before that I ride a bike that weighs 19 kilo and is an out and out tourer, this aside I decided that today would be the day that I’d try and get a place 😉
Everyday we check in and out of camp, the fastest time wins the stage, my aim wasn’t to win as to be honest that would be crazy considering the competition, I just wanted a place !!
I left camp early, 7.15 to be exact, I wound up my bike and dropped into a time trial position, not easy on my bike, and I peddled….hard ! I have to admit that despite my intention I did stop occasionally to take photos…..I just couldn’t bear the thought of passing through a part of the world I’ll never see again and not having a record !!
I also managed to lose a water bottle on a particularly rough section, I spent ages trying to find it as it had rolled down a bank and under a bush. I made lunch at 59km in two hours, considering the road conditions I was chuffed.
I only stopped long enough for water and two bananas before I was back on the bike and peddling hard. More rough sections ensued but at least there were now lakes to look at. At 92km I stopped and took painkillers for my knees, checked the directions for the way to camp and chomped on an energy bar.
The next 4km were fairly flat and I was still going well but at about 98km the road turns left uphill for 6km, I found it tough and to make it worse I was overtaken by Pascal and Phil. As I say I struggled up the hill, I was spent and by the time I got to camp I was slightly demoralised. I’d given my all and knew it wouldn’t be enough to get on the board.
There is a hotel at this camp, perched on top of the hill overlooking a view of the lakes, Naomi was ill and therefore we took a room. There is no rest day tomorrow but its nice to get a comfy bed, flush toilet and shower !!
Showered, clothes rinsed and beer drunk we awaited the rider meeting and race results, the results showed that I missed third place by ten minutes…..would I have made it if I didn’t take photos and lose my water bottle…..who knows, it just means that I need to try again at some point !!
Of to bed, it’s all off road tomorrow and 98km !!
Stage 35, Arba Minch to Riverbed Camp
96km, on and off road !
I left early and set off with Sandy, she normally rides with Trish but she was ill so it was a good partnership for us both. The first 10k was downhill or on flat roads and on reasonable Tarmac, we weren’t pushing but still we were making good time. We still had the issue with kids but there seemed to be less of them now. After about 37km the road turned left and onto unmade road, this is where it started to get hard as we were now going up hill as well !!
We passed through several villages not stopping to take photos, you just get mobbed by kids wanting money, and Sandy was starting to struggle. When the TDA bus came past Sandy jumped on, a shame really as we were only 5km from lunch and nearly back on Tarmac !!
Lunch was at 62km so we only had 34km to go, most of it on Tarmac until the final descent into camp, about 10km on loose road !! I left lunch with Bridget, a really tough cyclist, the road was paved but there was also a slight headwind and a very steep hill of about 12km to climb. Bridget lost me on the climb although I was trying hard, I actually had to stop and be sick, a combination of lunch, heat and trying to drink so much water !!
I finally crested the hill and found Ciaran, our TDA leader, pointing the way downhill, although I’m not great at downhill on loose surface I was at least grateful not to be pedalling !!
When I arrived at camp I was physically knackered, I had three cups of very sweet tea, four litres of water with hydration salts and two bowls of soup !
It took the best part of the evening before I felt ok again. I ate three helpings of dinner and went to bed early, I was far from 100% !!
Tomorrow would be another tough day !!
Stage 36, Riverbed Camp to Yabello
98km and 1400m uphill, all off road !!
I didn’t feel up to tackling the full day, I was still feeling the after effects of the day before. Naomi, Gus, Francine and Tessa were also not feeling 100% so we all took the TDA bus to lunch and started there, bad mistake as it happens !
The road to lunch was much flatter, less climbing and far easier than the afternoon route, we weren’t to know !! I set off from lunch with Gus but hadn’t gone 5km before my first puncture, Gus went on without me and I set about fixing my puncture. I couldn’t find the cause so fitted a new tube, pumped up the tyre and set off after Gus. Less than 5km it went down, sod it, this time I spent 30 mins checking the tyre, I found three tiny thorns ! I fitted another new tube and again set off after Gus, the tyre was holding 😉
Only now did I notice my surroundings, mountains in the far distance, scrub trees and red clay soil up close…..oh yeh, and loads of termite mounds !!
The termite mounds were amazing, huge towering mounds as tall as the trees, and loads of them !!
The road though was rough, really rough, and on my bike it was like I had square wheels, by the time I stopped for coke at 65km I’d only covered 15km in 2.5 hours !! I was struggling, I was not enjoying my cycling and when the TDA truck stopped to ask if I was ok I put my thumb out and hitched a lift to camp !!
It was Naomi’s birthday and she had also gone straight to camp and organised a hotel room. It was a rest day in Yabello, two nights in a real bed, showers, toilets and cold beer !!
We had great night at the hotel with the other riders, Naomi had a jar of Nutella as a present which she shared with me, it made a good breakfast pancake into a great pancake 😉
Our day off was spent washing our clothes as the laundry service was overwhelmed, fixing inner tubes and bike maintenance, some day off !!
We were also informed at an extended rider meeting as to how TDA would get us safely through Kenya. We enter Kenya at about the same time as it has its elections, in the past this has caused civil war in Kenya, lots of people died and the tourist industry lost millions in revenue, TDA plan to bus us three sections to a safe place to await the results, if all goes well this should suffice, if not we will bus further and possibly out of Kenya. Fingers crossed all goes well as it wouldn’t do to practically miss an entire country !!
Oh well, all jobs done, bike sorted, 128km on rough paved and unpaved road tomorrow so it’s time for dinner and an early night 😉