1. Tent and sleeping

You're best bet is a free standing tent with a removable fly sheet. In some places, the ground is solid rock, it hasn't rained in 20 years and your tent pins will just bend into a knot with all the hammering you may have to do. If the tent stands up without the pins, then you will be laughing. A removable fly sheet will be a great asset against the unmerciful heat as it will enable you to keep cool as it will not retain the heat.

If like me, you have a dark coloured tent with no removable fly sheet, you must be ready to sweat at night. In preparation for this inevitability, I would advise that you should pour hot water on your bed before sleeping, turn up the heat full blast and close the windows. Dongola zoo should then be a breeze. 

If you plan on bringing a thermarest like me, be prepared that it will probably burst, thus leaving you to sleep on a piece of canvas on the ground. A cot camping bed would be a smart alternative.

If you are rather slow at the cycling lark you may appreciate a tent that can be constructed rather quickly, especially if you arrive in quite late after a tiresome day. Take this into consideration also. 

2. Bike

Obviously an important piece of kit one would think if you are cycling from Cairo to Cape Town. 

I had a Giant TCX cyclocross bike, fast on the road and hard packed dirt but quite unmerciful on the corrugation and bumpy stuff. I just had to be able to suck it up! If you want to go fast, it's the only job though.

My bike was near brand new so it was grand.

Unfortunately many people brought pieces of crap that fell apart and broke easily. 

If you plan on bringing a crap bike with loads of things wrong with it then here is some good advice...practice cycling your friends bikes and anyone else's bikes you can get hold of. When your bike breaks, you will have to cycle the Cinelli, the crew's bikes, sick people's bikes etc. so it would be smart to be proficient in cycling fast, slow, heavy, light, mountain and cyclocross bikes. My friend Jared cycled only about 12 bikes on this years tour, good going!

3. Illness

YOU WILL GET SICK

So to prepare yourself properly for this likelyhood, you should search out restaurants with shady health records and eat their burgers and chips. Any place at the bottom of the TripAdvisor list should suffice, history of food poisoning would be preferable. This is prepare your immune system for the onslaught of diarrhea and gastro in Sudan and Ethiopia. 

4. Sudan Off Road

Here you will cycle on deep corrugated ruts, this will not be fun. To prepare for this you should find a train line and try to cycle on the metal rail line for 90km, eventually you will fall off the line and have to make your way along the stones and sleepers. It's best if you fall and cut your elbows every so often. 

Obviously this will not prepare you for the unmerciful heat, I would recommend that you cycle on a stationary bike in front of an open fan oven until you fall off and feel a bit ill. You are not permitted to drink any water during this period. 

5. Ethiopian Kids

In Ethiopia, the children will see you as a cycling pen and money dispenser. Despite the fact that while the number of requests was high, the actual handing of pens was incredibly low (probably zero), this did not stop the eager youngsters from chancing their arm. Unfortunately with no pens coming their way the children became increasingly frustrated with their efforts. This resulted in a shower of stones being directed at the direction of the cyclists. (The next paragraph will show you how to prepare this) 

You may be the person to save the day and save your fellow cyclists from potential harm. Purchasing 12,000 pens prior to your visit to Africa and handing them out as you cycle along should appease their hunger for writing. It would be preferable to cycle fast, ahead of everyone and save the slower crew from the brunt of the abuse.

6. Ethiopian Stones

If nobody happens to bring 12,000 pens then you must be ready for the stones. I would advise seeking out a local halting site/gypsy camp of some sort and robbing something valuable from them. Cycle away and then return the next day. You should have ample opportunity to practice avoiding stones thrown during an excursion like this. 

7. Tyres

If you like engaging and chatting with locals along the side of the road, then the best way to engineer this is to bring really rubbish tyres for your bike. You will get loads of punctures and you can chat to the friendly locals while they help you fix the puncture. They will pull thorns out with their teeth and do all sorts of funny things. This will provide many interesting photo opportunities for the budding photographer.


Alternatively you can bring Schwalbe Marathon Plus, save yourself the punctures and chat to the locals whenever you want. 

8. Porridge

Prepare to eat barrels of porridge, tubs of honey and baskets of bananas. When you get sick of eating that, get ready to eat bags of white bread covered in peanut butter and nutella. It's probably not best to practice this as you will more than likely be sick of porridge and powdered milk after a few weeks. 

9. Coke

You may not like fizzy drinks, let alone this dark, murky, sweet liquid, but before long you will be drinking over a litre a day...be warned! 

10. Saddle Sores and poo in general

Be prepared to discuss the general well being of your ass with strangers as if you are talking about the weather. Don't worry, this will be normal conversation after a few days. As will be your chat with your new friends about the size, shape and composition of your stools. Maybe you can practice this before you go, drop it into normal conversation 'my shit was very solid there...so how was work today!?' 

11. Dirt and hygiene 

It is very difficult to properly prepare for the levels of dirt that you and your clothes will be exposed to. I would advise that for 8 days straight, you should not shower, you should exercise for many hours every day and wear the same clothes. You may lose some friends and get some funny looks especially in work and on public transport but at least you will be prepared mentally for the task ahead. You will be allowed use a limited supply of baby wipes in this period though. 

12. Toilet tents

In various parts of Africa, because of the density of population, you will not be able to dig a hole and go to the toilet wherever you want, unless you have no problem with 30 kids observing you as you aim for the hole. Therefore the wonderful toilet tents are provided. These tents provide privacy and calm amidst the panic outside for the TDA cyclist from the hordes of curious locals. 

To replicate this situation, a future TDA cyclist should source their own toilet tent and bring it to a music festival or a similar gathering. They would have a perfect scenario to practice squatting technique in a busy environment. Also you would have your own toilet...win win! 

These tips will be crucial in your preparation for a future TDA trip. You may look silly in front of normal people whilst preparing but you will have an edge mentally on your fellow cyclists knowing you are ready for what is in store.

 
 

I signed up for a trip
Many months ago
People said 'you're crazy'
they said 'don't go'

But I came to Cairo
With my really clean bike
To the Cathract Hotel
Happy faces alike

On the 11th of Jan,
We headed down the road,
With a belly full of porridge
To push the load.

In Egypt the wind,
Was really, really strong,
Once it was a tailwind,
Sure we couldn't go wrong!

Chorus

I'm going to Cape Town

Well I must be mad

And for four months long

Cycling my bike in the African sun

Onto the boat
And headed to Sudan
My tent was roasting
I could've done with a fan

The Sahara sandstorm
It got in every place
Not into the food though
Thanks to John and Janez

Luke and Nix
Plasters, they had tonnes
Gave us lots of cipro
When we had the runs

If your bikes broke
Go to JJ and Catalin
Fix your cassette
Or anything rattling

Chorus

I hated the off road
It wasn't much fun
Cycling on corrugation
In a 40 degree sun

Into Ethiopia
We made our way
Over rolling hills
As Ciaran would say

The children were lovely
They said 'you, you, you'
They wanted all my money
Then throw a stone or two

Gondor was on a hill
Like Mount Everest
Everyone had diarrhoea
It wasn't the best

Chorus

In Kenya we had a bus

'cause elections were on

The meltdown was cancelled

no lava rock fun

In Nanyuki we rested

Ate cake and got fat

The Equator Party

Was where it was at

In Arusha we stayed

for three long days

Some went on safari

for animals to gaze

The halfway point

Two months done

Many roads cycled

More to come

Chorus

The Tanzanian off road

What can you say

It was fun to ride

If you're not stuck in the clay

Into Malawi

And we cycled past the lake

Ate plates of chapati

Well as much as they would make

If you love a good riot

Some shooting in the air

Come to Zambia

Only if you dare

Into Lusaka

Spent all our cash

Zambezi zone done

Time for a bash

Chorus

The water that smoked

Was Victoria Falls

Bungee jump fun

But you needed some balls

Into Botswana

On the elephant road

Long and boring as hell

And our tiredness showed

Into Windhoek

I was glad to be there

Off road was coming

No need to dispair

Namibia amazing

Such scenery too

Solitaire had nice baking

For me to chew

Chorus

Adele did PR

Cat did the race

The drivers were super

Zimbabwe their place

The naked mile

White asses everywhere

Cars beeping loud

Sure we didn't care

The roads still tough

As we made our way

To the South African border

Where our destination lay

The Cape Town sign

Was nice to see

The target was near

For the group and me

Chorus

The off road brought us

To the beach

It never gets easy

They would preach

So now we arrive

At the waterfront

Many roads cycled

Over many a month

The friends we've made

We'll have for life

A super bunch

It's been a delight

We've come from Egypt

We've cycled so far

With bumps and bruises

And many a scar

Chorus

12,000 kilometres

By power of bike

From Cairo to Cape Town

You've never seen the like

So let's raise a glass

On this magical day

TDA 13

IT'S BEEN A BLAST!

Chorus

I'm going to Cape Town

Well I must be mad

And for four months long

Cycling my bike In the African sun

I've gone from Cairo to Cape Town

I must've been mad

And for four months long

I cycled my bike in the African sun.

 
 
Reflections on the Tour

It is ten days since I returned to Irish soil after my four and a half month journey through Africa. Catching up with everyone at home has been great and I've enjoyed telling many interesting stories. It has been so enjoyable to fully relax and rewind without any schedule on the horizon. For the previous 12 months, every waking moment had been taken up with plans of fundraising, sponsorship, cycle training, equipment sorting and visa collection among other issues. So after achieving my goal I am finally able to completely switch off, which has been so nice.

I have had a chance to reflect on the tour and think about the places that the cycle went through. It is quite surreal to look back at photos of Sudan and Ethiopia amongst other places and actually think 'were you really there?!'. It seems now such a distant memory and a million miles removed from the structured, comfortable and modern lifestyle we live our lives in. Every day was so intense visually, emotionally and physically that it is near impossible to truly recall the smells, sounds and sights of every place. Thankfully 50 other people were on the same adventure as me and there will be no shortage of moments captured on film for me to look back on.

The trip was an absolute roller coaster of emotions. The four months brought a full range of emotions ranging from total desperation to absolute ecstasy and elation. There are quite intense stresses and strains involved with cycling such a journey over a long period and in quite difficult circumstances. Thankfully the moments of difficulty were soon followed by moments of achievement and total delight. I was very lucky to share the trip with a super group of people from all over the world. We had some laugh and the rest days were like a holiday.

How do you actually cycle 12,000 kilometres?
I suppose it is a cliche but you take it one day at a time. You don't actually cycle it in one go but you break it down into smaller more manageable steps.
For example, a typical day might be 140km long. People would break the day into sections. The first might be to lunch at 70km. The next might be a 40km jaunt to a coke stop at 110km and then lastly complete the final 30km to the end. Suddenly 140km has been broken up into three easier steps.
This was the mentality I brought into every single day. It was easier to work towards a more achievable and closer goal such as lunch instead of focusing on the end. It worked very well and many small goals turn into a bigger goal.
I suppose this is a strategy we could all embrace in our every day lives.

In doing this trip I was taking on a challenge first and foremost. A challenge to cycle from Cairo to Cape Town. EFI was very important to me and I was extremely determined to ensure that I cycled every bit of the way. Even when I felt tired, sick or disillusioned there was absolutely no option in my mind but to get on my bike and cycle. People were sponsoring me because I was taking on this mammoth challenge and there was no way I was going to let them down. I found it quite strange that some other people on the trip could so easily take the option of taking a lift in the truck. I understand that people have different goals and ambitions but I just couldn't understand how they could so easily decide to give in and take the easy option instead of embracing the challenge. If you decide to run a marathon, you don't get a lift from mile 15 to mile 20 just because you hit the wall and it gets a bit tough...do you!?
Although the 18 people in the 2013 EFI club claimed all the accolades, I have massive respect and admiration for the people who lost their EFI through one or two days of sickness and still cycled every kilometre afterwards. They didn't give in and struggled on bravely.

The sense of achievement at the end was amazing and I was very proud to have completed such a journey. The darkest of days were extremely tough and enduring but they make it all the sweeter to arrive into the bright lights of Cape Town in one piece.

I feel very lucky to have been on this trip and have had an opportunity to share this experience with anyone willing to listen. I am very fortunate in my role as a teacher to be able to provide a positive role model for kids and share many aspects of the trip.
Many people dream of doing various things but fail to realise their ambitions for many reasons. Before I decided to take this trip, the reasons for not doing it were overpowering the reasons for doing it. Thankfully I was able to overcome the negative thoughts and embrace the challenge ahead. Once I paid the 100 registration fee, there was no turning back and the world conspired to make my dream come true.

Don't get suffocated by negative thoughts or people who tell you it can't be done...believe it can and the world will work in your favour.

'All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible'
T.E. Lawrence






 
 
Arriving into Cape Town
The 11th of May will be forever etched in my memory as the final day, the last hurrah, the end of a four month struggle to cycle the length of a continent.
It all started as normal, I took down the tent, packed up my stuff, and ate some porridge. I readied my bike and set off own the 90km spin into the city of Cape Town.
The race group cycled together for one last time, for many months we cycled, helping each other, battling for time and stage wins and sharing a laugh after a tough day. It was great to make our way one last time.
After 60km we had reached lunch. All morning the epic view of table mountain was getting bigger, more brighter and more visible. Lunch was where we ate, took photos and the celebrations had inevitably started to begin. The TDA picture of choice was the one with the bike held over the head on the beach with the majestic mountain in the background. Photos were taken showing the full group, the EFI group and the race top three. With great pride and huge delight I stood in the EFI group with the many hardy, lucky cyclists to struggled bravely to maintain this status and with John and Pascal in the top three men.
From there we began the police convoy to the waterfront area. The 30km cycle, took us by beautiful beach side residential areas, port areas and through the city centre. The city looked amazing with the natural beauty of the unbelievable table mountain towering over the city. It was stunning. The weather was equally impressive, not a cloud in the sky and temperatures hovering around the mid twenties.
Eventually after what seemed an easy, stimulating cycle we neared the waterfront area. Turning in we were greeted by hundreds of people. The waterfront area was full of shops and restaurants full of people out enjoying their Saturday afternoon. After safely depositing the bikes, we took our place beside an amphitheatre area to get refreshments, where a band was entertaining the crowd whilst waiting for our arrival.
Finally we were had arrived. We hugged and cheered. In groups of countries, we were called on stage carrying our flags. Unfortunately for Darragh and myself, the failed to make an Irish flag but two Italian flags. Annoyed as I was I headed up anyway.
Speeches and presentations commenced. We were all called up and picked up our various medals. It was just unbelievable to be finally receiving an award for completing this monumental task. I was so delighted to get my EFI award and my bottle of fizz and African carving for coming second in the race.

The longest timed bicycle race in the world!

I picked a good one to do anyway.

That evening after getting sorted in the hotel, I enjoyed a pint of Guinness with Darragh and Steffen. We headed to the reception in the rugby club for some grub and celebration.
It gave us chance to wear new threads and get spruced up a bit. After 4 months of looking at each other in the same rubbishy clothes, it was interesting to see this change.
Adele had prepared a sideshow showing moments from he trip, it was quite a surreal experience. Looking back, I seemed hard to believe I had actually there, that I had actually done that. The start of the trip began to seem like a lifetime away. We had done so much, cycled so far and epic nature of this achievement was finally beginning to sink in.

For the first time in 121 days I wouldn't have worry about putting up my tent, fearing what lay in store in the next section or cleaning my bike. I could sit and enjoy the moment. Like the evening after winning a championship, the job was done, the task completed, and I was a happy man.
I had just cycled 12,000km from Cairo to Cape Town.
 
 
South Africa
Crossing from Namibia to South Africa at the border at Noordouver on the 6 of May was an important moment as it meant were moving into our tenth and final country. After so many border crossings, I knew that at the next one, I would be heading home.
A kilometre down the road we saw a sign showing the distance to Cape Town. 678 kilometres its said. It was really nice to see and in a few days we would have reached our destination.

The first day we travelled to Springbok. This involved quite a lot of steady climbing over the mountains. It was gradual but long and quite tedious. Leaving the Namib desert, we entered the Northern Cape and some highland areas. The land was still very arid and dry. After 133km we reached our caravan campsite in Springbok. There we did our normal new country routine of getting money and sim cards. The town has a good selection of eateries and some good amenities such as banks and shops to appease the cyclist.
The following day we departed and headed down the N7 once more, not to Limerick but to Garies. A pretty short day with some payback for all the climbing done the previous day in the form of some glorious downhills. The landscape mountainous, dry and quite beautiful as the road weaved its way through valleys and around hillsides. I arrived to the end of the day with Pascal after skipping lunch. We were in pursuit of Daniel who skipped lunch trying to win a stage. We managed to pass Daniel after lunch and work together until the end. I took the corner and sprinted to the end to record a sneaky win! Garies was quiet town with less amenities. We camped in a campsite beside a rugby pitch.

On the third day we headed again on the direct road towards Cape Town. A mando day and 162km on mixed terrain meant that it would be a bit tougher. We headed towards the beach and our destination at Elands Bay. After about 70km we said goodbye to the busy main road and onto the dirt. After travelling for 30 km we returned to the pavement once more. After 5 hours we could finally see the sea and were close to our destination for the day. The sea was really cold as I went in for a paddle but it was quite refreshing. It was the first time to hit the ocean since Egypt.

The fourth day was the last race day and a nice short stage too. Pascal and Freek had agreed to cycle each others bikes. It was going to be quite interesting to see how Pascal would adapt to cycling a heavy mountain bike wearing runners while Freek would use clip in pedals for the first time! All of this on rough dirt road. We headed off. The pavement ended after 10km and we would have to continue for another 62 primarily off road, a mini day in TDA terms. I somehow managed to take the wrong road with Freek at the start leaving Alex to blast away into the distance. Suddenly we realised we were wrong, checked directions and turned around. We were eventually motoring and caught up with Pascal who was labouring somewhat. Together the three of us continued and could see Alex in the distance. Sensing some hesitation in the group I pushed it hard. I skipped lunch and eventually passed a surprised and annoyed Alex. I continued strong and was delighted to win the short, last stage in 2 hours and 22 minutes. Elands bay was a quiet seaside town with a hotel and a few shops. It did the job of the evening. The race chips were handed in. It signalled the end of the racing and I was pretty glad about that. That I evening I sat down, wrote my TDA song and had a beer whilst chatting as the sun set over the horizon as we looked over over the beach.
From Elands Bay we headed towards Yzerfontein. The penultimate cycling day was to prove quite a drag. 158 km, much of it into a stubborn headwind. We were all quite 'done' mentally so a long struggle of a day was not what we needed. Thankfully though we were given permission to cycle on the pavement. The police had initially decided that we were not allowed take the main route for safety reasons but thankfully this was lifted. I cycled with Mike and we didn't really hang around, making steady progress throughout the day. Thankfully after many long boring hours we reached the town in question. That evening the TDA had a special ceremony to award the different people who contributed to the trip. We all got a special award, I picked up 'event organiser' for my participation in bungee jumps and fancy dress with Steffen and Tessa. Afterwards we were treated to an amazing spread of sea food for dinner. White fish, shrimp, mini lobster, mussels, oysters were on the menu and it was delicious. A super supper!
The last evening in a campsite was spend reminiscing. We talked about the funny times and the hard days, the amazing places and the places we hated. It was fun. I also played my TDA song and as happy it seemed to have a good reception.

For the final time I hopped into my tent, closed the zip and fell asleep happy in the knowledge that the following day, I would be arriving at the destination I had been striving for for the previous 4 months...Cape Town.
 

Namibia

05/06/2013

1 Comment

 
Namibia
Cycling in Namibia has been amazing, enjoyable, rewarding but also very intense physically.
I had no previous expectations of Namibia but the scenery has really blown me away. It has been so unbelievable compared to the monotony of Botswana. The mountains, the sand dunes, the landscape have been really stunning.
The terrain has been all been off road apart from the first 15km out of Windhoek. For the most part the 8 days spent off road have been hard packed dirt which has been easy to ride on, similar to road. There have been intermittent sections of deeper sand and rocks which proved extraordinarily tough. One particular day in particular caused huge difficulty and forced many people to dig deep into their reserves of energy to survive the day.

26th May to 28th May Windhoek to Sesriem
A three day stretch from Windhoek started with a beautiful 114km cycle over rolling hills into the arid, dry Namib Desert. The speed was good and the cycle was interesting visually. I was able to pedal along with no one around to distract my attention from the road and the amazing backdrop. The following day, a cycle of 124km to the beautiful little rest stop of Solitaire was even more amazing. The highlight being the Spreetshoogle Pass. Rolling up, suddenly the world opened up. A spectacular view spread across as far as the eye could see. Despite my eagerness to get to camp, I had to stop for some photos. A descent of 500m in 5 kilometres followed and I made my way to camp. Solitaire, was the perfect place to spent the evening, a delightful bakery with an amazing selection of freshly cooked goodies greeted the hungry cyclist. The place decorated with vintage cars embedded in the sand gave a rustic sense of desert isolation. The following day was a fun day, we had a 30km individual time trial which I managed to finish fourth. Lucas and Chas the new sectional riders finished first and second with Steffen in third.
Lucas Brunelli, a film documentary maker has joined the cycle for this section. He has shot some amazing footage in his career as a cycle messenger in major cities around the world with many daring stunts. He is making a short video for Cinelli who are promoting their Bootleg model of bike, I look forward to the finished video product.
In the afternoon we did the annual TDA naked mile. All the guys stripped off and cycled down the road. The amazing scenic desert mountains provided the backdrop for our white asses! The ladies followed down the road one we had disappeared out of sight.
The next day we made the early morning trip from Sesriem to the massive sand dunes and the dead trees in Deadflei. The dunes reaching over 300m in height were truly stunning. We climbed up at sunrise and relaxed as the early morning sun warmed our bones. After some silly photos were back to camp to relax for the five day stint ahead.

30th April to 4th May Sesriem to Felix Unite
30th 138km
A brutal hard day, one of the worst, probably in my top three most difficult of the entire tour. One that shook many people and forced lots of riders to dig exceptionally deep to finish the day. It started off with such a light hearted and funny tone. Alex, Freek and myself decided to buy some silly clothes in Windhoek and wear them on the first mando day. Pink leggings, pink socks, pink visors, yellow sunglasses and a coloured tank top! After a few hours struggling in the hot dry sun, the pink leggings were proving to be no the smartest decision. It took about 3 and a half hours to make it to lunch. I had ran out of water 20km previously and my mouth was so dry. I told Adele at lunch that there may be a situation and that people may need water. A passing by car stopped saying the people were stopping them, that they had ran out of fluids. A decision was made to send the lunch truck back to help those in distress. I was a at lunch with Alex and we headed on after consuming plenty of fluids and fruit. After lunch there was miminal rest bite. I kept plugging away, the day dragged on for hours in the difficult terrain. Eventually I reached the flag. One of my longest days on the bike, nearing 7 hours. Everyone arrived in looking absolutely shattered. All who EFI intact managed to battle to the bitter end and maintain their status, some using all the light in the day to get to camp, some amazing efforts.
1st May 152km Betta to Konkiep Lapa
Stage win!
The morning was quite difficult churning my way quite miserably through deep sand. I got bogged down on numerous occasions. Eventually the road hardened up and I managed to get into my groove. I happened to catch Pascal in he morning after a beautiful downhill section which I really attacked. We cycled the rest of he day together and a fantastic section of really hard packed sand eased our passage at the end. We were able to motor along at 40km an hour and reached camp in good spirits. We didn't sprint and was happy out to pick p another stage win.
2nd May Konkiep Lapa to Sesriem 124km
A mixed day in which we had the pleasure of cycling on pavement for the first time in a while. We were lucky to have a tailwind for the morning and the pace was very hot as I pedalled with the Cinelli guys in the race group. Freek and John, Daniel took he opportunity though to skip lunch and go for stage wins. Freek came out on top by quite a margin. Myself and Pascal decided to cruise along and keep the tiring legs from aching any more instead of attempting to chase down the rogue attackers. Camp was at a nice hotel and some food and evening rest was on the agenda.
3rd May Sesriem to Canon Rest House 92km
An easy day on paper turned out to be miserable slog. A vicious headwind brought speeds to extremely low levels. A day where people hoped to get a rest proved to be a horrible struggle and showed that there are no easy days. I cycled with Pascal for the day, each of us taking pulls. Pascal was stronger than me and was bearing more of the brunt at the front, I worked unreal hard whenever I could. My legs ached and unfortunately were not getting any rest. Eventually we reached our destination far beyond the time we had expected. Canon Rest House again provided opportunity to consume extra calories. The whole evening was taken up by worries cyclists looking at maps of the route ahead and speculating on what direction the wind would come from on the following day. There was a sense of foreboding for the final day of the stretch. After a few bowls of dinner, everyone scuttled off to the tents to rest for the big day ahead.

4th May 173km Canon Rest House to Felix Unite
The last cycling day in Namibia. The morning was filled with trepidation as the cyclists feared a headwind like the days previously. Some headed out at first light eager to utilise as much light as possible. The day actually turned out to be ok. The scenery was stunning, we cycled alongside canyons, up mountain sides with amazing view and down some stunning fast descents. I cycled with the race group for most of the day, by the end it had been whittled down to myself, Pascal and Lucas who joined at lunch. I was so delighted to reach the pavement and had 40 km to go. We passed some vineyard developments on our way. The camp was situated in a river valley and had some nice facilities.

With only 6 riding days to Cape Town, this amazing trip is reaching it's conclusion. It is hard to believe I am nearly there. So much has been seen and done, so many kilometres have been cycled. So many days of tough cycling and so many funny and amazing moments. I am looking forward to the end but I don't think I have fully grasped the magnitude of the what we have done.
I roll into Cape Town on Saturday the 11th, maybe it will hit me then...I can't wait!
 
 
Elephant Highway 1550km - 10 days
The highest average kilometre per day of any section on the tour. This section travelled from Livingstone in Zambia to the modern city of Windhoek in Namibia, traversing the country of Botswana. In previous reports of this section I had heard that the terrain would be flat and boring and that is exactly what transpired.

For ten long arduous days I cycled in the race pelaton with the other guys along the really long boring road, staring at the wheel in front. The road was so monotonous, it was flat and there was no mental stimulation whatsoever. I might as well have been cycling a 1 km loop over and over as the change was so limited. When you are cycling over 170km for 5-6 hours, you really crave the mental stimulation of nice scenery or interesting terrain to ease your passage. Unfortunately on this road it was extremely limited. Botswana has also got an extremely low population density. So for hours and hours, there would be no sign of life, no houses, no people. This is stark contrast to everywhere most of the countries we passed through recently in Africa where people would be popping out of trees and hedges and everywhere. This lack of people added to sense of isolation.
The mornings had become extremely cold and it added to distress of trying to get ready whilst in near 0 degrees.

The race speed was also quite fast on most days. We did decide to keep it together for most of the day and every day I did my best to be with Pascal until the end, it didn't always work out that way but I was happy enough with my efforts! I managed to come second in the section so that wasn't too bad.

Thankfully I have been feeling really strong and healthy of late and the bike has also been in pretty good fettle. A few squeaks and rattles but nothing too serious. I also managed to win a stage which was nice. I hadn't won one since Ethiopia, many, many weeks ago and had resigned myself to think that I mightn't win another. So to get another stage plate was great.

The 'Elephant Highway' did live up to it's billing. On the very first day out of Livingstone, we were very lucky to spot a rhino grazing in a field just off the road. It was amazing to see such a majestic creature in it's natural habitat. Then down the road we spotted a few elephants enjoying their day. Botswana really is the place to go if you want to see elephants. There are thousands of them and they have full liberty to wander across the roads from place to place. Along the road many signs warned of elephants crossing. Elephant sightings were quite amazing but also quite fleeting. We travelled with a local elephant expert who was available to pass on information and give us advice should we encounter an elephant on the road.

My experience in Livingstone was really good. With a massive variety of activities available in the thrill capital of Africa, I knew I would be spending a bit of money. I had planned on doing the bungy jump at Victoria Falls and maybe some white water rafting. On arrival we were informed that rafting was not available due to high water levels so I turned my attention to the bungy. I was delighted also to win a prize for my fundraising efforts on behalf of Pieta House. I won a bridge swing which was amazing. All cyclists who had engaged in fundraising efforts were given one of many excellent prizes, a real unexpected treat!
A huge crew of us took part in the bungy challenge on the Victoria Falls bridge, my second time jumping with a chord attached to my legs. It was more terrifying this time around. We had a super day though and I did my bridge swing also, a bit less scary and a little more fun. A trip to the majestic Victoria Falls was taken in after the jumps.

After the first 5 days we had a rest day in Maun, the stopping point at the Okavanga Delta. I was extremely wrecked at this stage. 3 out of the 5 days were over 160km and the last day of 135 km was predominately into a stiff headwind with weary legs pushing the pedals. I was physically drained, my legs hurt but I felt healthy. Some good food and a massage and I was good to go again. I booked a trip over the Okavango Delta. I was really looking forward to seeing the splendours of the fascinating delta from the high vantage point of a small plane. The trip was really good but a little shaky. I managed to see many elephants, giraffes and zebra amongst other animals. The land was so incredibly flat. The delta is quite interesting in that the river empties into a desert rather than the sea. Myself and Lizzie unfortunately succumbed to the unsteadyness and I required a sick bag just before landing...I thought I could make it but no!

The second stint of 5 days were the longest of the two blocks. All days over 150km and a whopping 207km spin on the third day. These were really challenging as you may imagine but thankfully we did have a little more help wind wise. The 207km we cycled from Ghanzi to the border. The pace in the race group was extremely fast all day and as Pascal sailed off into the distance with 20km to go, I cycled with Freek to the border. A massive milestone had been reached. 207km is an incredible distance and one which I would have been daunted with to drive, never mind cycle! Thankfully after 6 or so we had entered Namibia.

The terrain was still quite boring and monotonous but it was noticeable to see how more affluent Botswana and even more so Namibia had been compared to the other countries. Very expensive cars travelled the road, good modern facilities in lodges and the town, wide availability of products in shops. There also seemed to be way more white people.

The last two days were half race days and gave us a chance to take it a bit easier in the afternoon. 80km in the afternoon might not be everyone's idea of taking it easy but it did mean a more relaxed pace.

Windhoek was the final destination. A really affluent city nestled in the surrounding mountain, desert land. The hotel was really nice, the food was excellent and I decided to splurge a bit and get a room. A bit of rest and relaxation as usual was extremely well greeted. With only 14 riding days to Cape Town, I am eagerly looking forward to the end. But I know it is only around the corner so I am hoping to stay in good health and get there in one piece.

In just over two weeks and I will have cycled the length of a continent. (..Touch wood!)
 
 
Zambia
Lilongwe to Livingstone - Zambezi Zone

The 'Zambezi Zone' took us from Lilongwe to Livingstone as the we headed in a south westerly direction.
The section covers 1219 km and takes 8 days to complete, an average of 152 km per day. As the tour enters its final few weeks the kilometres per day are really increased and we experienced some really long days in this section.

From Lilongwe to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia the terrain was extremely hilly, with quite a lot of climbing on the five riding days. Thankfully from Lusaka to Livingstone, there has been more flat road and some tailwind to aid transit but some huge distances to cover. The long flat days have been actually been easier physically to complete but have been quite boring with hours of sitting in a peloton following the wheel in front. The landscape has consisted of thousands maize plantations. Thankfully animals seem to be better patrolled in Zambia than in Ethiopia and Malawi which means that we have one less obstacle to worry about on the road!
This week we saw again how precarious and dangerous this trip can be. Jan a very nice Canadian man collided with an oncoming local cyclist cycling on the wrong side of the road, as he was departing Lusaka. Jan dislocated his shoulder and broke his collarbone and local lad broke his arm. Jan's tour is now finished and we wish him a speedy recovery. Again it highlights how easy accidents can happen and I suppose unfortunately these things are inevitable with such a large group cycling such a distance over the course of four months.

As I mentioned before, I am currently participating in the race aspect of the tour. A race from Cairo to Cape Town!
The race and stress of having to cycle hard actually began to get to me this week. I was finding it difficult mentally every morning to line up with the racers and face the prospect of going hard. I wasn't enjoying it and decided to take a step back. The cycle tour is meant to be tough and challenging but it also needs to be enjoyable and the fun had begun to disappear for me. On the tough mando day I decided to leave the group and just plod along by myself. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The self imposed pressures had gone and I could tip along with having to follow any bikes at my own pace. It was quite liberating. For the next few days into Lusaka, I didn't cycle with the group and headed on my own every day. I lost a bit of time on John who is in third but I feel all the better for my little hiatus. After Lusaka I was ready to rejoin, less pressured and freshly motivated for the next three days!
The three long days from Lusaka to Livingstone, large groups formed and the pelatons moved quite quickly and efficiently along the increasingly excellently smooth road. Bard and Pascale were dominating the race and this continued during the section. The last three days, the group stayed mostly together and I was happy enough to hang in as long as possible! Thankfully I was enjoying the cycling again and feeling a lot better.

One of the days we were 'treated' to an extremely unusual situation and development. After cycling to lunch near to the town of Katate, we sat down to eat some food as normal. Suddenly word had arrived that that race for the day was stopped and we would not be moving from the lunch stop as there was a disturbance of some sort taking place in the nearby town. I was quite relieved as I wasn't feeling hectic and cutting the race short suited me just fine. Messages were quite varied coming through, we were told we could go and then just as quick the word coming through was that we had to stay and not move. Rioting and looting and demonstrations were taking place in town and it was definitely not safe for us to pass. After about two hours and much lying round it seemed like we could move. Many police had passed and after some consultation with local officials, Ciaran our tour leader decided we could progress to the town and pass through. In a big group we headed to the town. The group was told to stay together. As we entered town, police presence was very evident. There was quite a lot of armed men around the town, they were moving people out of different shops with guns cocked. The locals seemed very agitated and very startled and the sight of 50 foreign cyclists travelling rapidly through their town did little added to their sense of shock. After travelling through most of the town, we stopped suddenly as up ahead there seemed to be a local dissenters road block with fire burning and big smoke plumes. We stopped and were told to get off the road. Everything had been running 'smoothly' up to this but the flaming road block was an unsuspected problem. A few army vehicles raced by in the direction of the road block sending gun-fire into the air. Some of our group were actually excited, some quite afraid and other just intrigued. After a few minutes when the road block was cleared and the view looked calmer, we progressed in a convoy. The trucks and the bikes moved down the street towards the disturbance. The army truck in front had some armed personnel on board with a female protester who was being restrained at gun point. As we passed the road block position there seemed to be about five more protesters being held on the ground whilst on their knees. As we cycled on through the rest of the town the army men on board sent out sporadic gunfire and locals near the road would scamper into the distant fields. It was quite surreal. Thankfully after a few minutes, we had moved from the area of disturbance and the army convoy departed. We were free to cycle on for the rest of the day.
Later we had found out the reason for the disturbance. According to the locals allegedly a girl had been murdered by native folk who believed in witch craft and her private parts were sold to a witch doctor. The locals were unhappy with the police reaction and decided to protest. We just happened to be passing through on this particular day. According to those in the know in Zambia, this is a totally uncommon incident and totally out of character with normal events.

Lusaka has been a very nice city to relax in with some excellent shopping centres to spend money, eat excellent food and even take time out to watch a movie in the cinema!
 

Malawi

04/13/2013

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Malawi
The 'Malawi Gin' section of the tour took us from Mbeya in Tanzania to the current resting place of Lilongwe covering 750km in 6 days of cycling. According to the Tour d'Afrique website, this section of the tour is one of the easiest, with a difficulty factor of only 3 out of 5. Sometimes this can be a poisoned chalice as it lures one into thinking that it will be a free ride, generally it turns out to be anything but!
Malawi is a very beautiful country with beautiful green mountains and hills. Lake Malawi, the third biggest in Africa stretches most of the way down the country. It is a very narrow country with a map outline not totally different to Leitrim!
The seasonal rain continued and we woke up many mornings to a wet tent. Thankfully the day would always turn bright and sunny and the morning blues would fade away with the hot sun of the day. This trip is really proving to be a rollercoaster of emotion. The wet difficult mornings packing my tent with a prospect of a tough cycle ahead tend to be my most difficult and challenging moments. These mornings I have realised how truly mentally tough this trip is. Four months away from the comforts of normal life and away from family and friends can be a tough effort on its own but throw in the fact that there is also a trans continental endurance bike event taking place also, then you might get an idea of the difficulty involved!
Thankfully the negative thoughts would subside by virtue of the beauty of the country, the heat of the sun and the warmth of the locals. The sight of the red flag signalling the end of the cycle is always sure to be a highlight of the day. The banter that follows with my racer mates afterwards as we share a coke and crack a joke or two is some of my most cherished moments on the tour. As the evening progresses, the prospect of a tasty and nutritious dinner is something that every cyclist waits eagerly for. The work is done or the day and we dig in to one, two or three(sometimes I'm really hungry!) portions of delicious freshly prepared grub. Soon I amble off to my temporary African residence, my tent, lay down on my increasingly dirty thermarest and rest my head on my pillow. The day's work is done and I am ready to recharge my body for another fairground ride of ups and downs the following day.

Mbeya to Karonga 162km
The first day of cycling from Mbeya, Tanzania took us to the Malawi border and to the camp in Karonga. The cycle involved an amazing decent from the highlands in Tanzania into the valley below. The cycle was beautiful and as it wasn't a race day, I managed to stop and take a few photos. The hotel camp after 160km was located along Lake Malawi. Myself and Steffen decided to take a room and a shower and a cold drink was greatly appreciated.

Karonga to Chitimba 92km
We followed a course along the lake, although it was a short distance, it seemed like quite a struggle. Headwinds proved to be the nemesis and after Pascale's early burst splintered the race group, I cycled with Ali and Lizzie to the lovely resort of Chitimba beach. There we were accosted by local wood carvers as we walked down to the beach resort eager to offer their many services which included carving, sewing, food, money changing, anything really! That evening after a dip in the beautiful warm waters of Lake Malawi and some food with a carvers, we enjoyed at few drinks at the beach party. When the obligatory thunderstorm rolled in, the last if the revellers had moved inside. This did not stop an impromptu dash to the lake for a late night swim amidst the rain and lightning.

Rest day Chitimba
I did very little. I ordered some wood carvings, ate my weight in chapatti, samosa and local fish and got some rest.

Chitimba to Mzuzu 135km
Today we were faced with a 25km individual time trial up. Starting at camp we would cycle for 15km along the lake and then wind our way up over the mountain and finish around 25km. Unfortunately my TT did not go to plan, a big lump of glass happened to wedge its way into my tyre. After the initial puncture at 19km, I hopped off the tyre and put in the spare tube. After about 3 minutes I realised I was flat again. My schoolboy error was not to check the tyre for any foreign objects. Faced with no spare tube and the prospect of losing a world of time, I decided to run with the bike the last 5 km to the end! Thankfully Sandy, a very nice Canadian lady offered me her bike to get to the end and I was away again. Thankfully I covered the last stretch and checked in. I rolled back down the hill and reunited Sandy with her bike.
I began to fix the punctures, I few locals gave me a hand, we were all useless! Thankfully Mike Vermuelen was on hand and he helped me. I was away again. With no race for the rest of the day I was happy to plod along. I cycled with Steffen and Claire. Another tube problem stopped me in my tracks but we were soon away again. The day proved to be very long and very dragged out. I arrived into Mzuzu around 3, quite late for me.

Mzuzu to Luviri School 125km
A day through the highlands, through mist, fog and rain. I could easily have been cycling in the west of Ireland on a cold Spring morning such was the weather and the terrain. The hills were tough, the pace was hard and weather was providing hard on the mind. Lunch arrived and the second half didn't seem so bad.
Luviri School to Kasunga 107km
A shorter day with less climbing than before. Myself, Pascale and Bard arrived at lunch together pretty confident that we had staved off any potential attacks from stage winner wannabes. Unfortunately we hadn't accounted for Freek who had initially said this morning that he was not racing, a sly move! The boys laughed. Half way through the second half, Bard and Pascale sensed an opportunity at the foot of a hill. Freek had been pulling for a few kilometres and the lads attacked. They got away and Freek pushed as hard as he could to the end. As it turned out he managed to win by 30seconds. A brave stage win!
Kasunga was a reasonable sized town with some shops catering for locals, a few supermarkets and a limited number of restaurants.

Kasunga to Lilongwe 130km
The race was to lunch at 76km. The race group was bolstered by many extra people who joined in the convoy along the way. Phil Kissel, Alex, Thijs, Ali and Lizzie all joined in and made it easier on us regular racers. The head winds proved quite a difficulty in the morning. A sprint to the finish was contested by Pascale and Bard and I rolled in after that. A head cold had begun to manifest itself the previous night and was causing me a few difficulties. A bit of coughing and a runny nose was not the worst ailment one could have but it could turn into something worse if not properly managed.
After lunch I rolled with Alex. A constant flow of chat, some downhills and possibly even a tailwind meant the journey to Lilongwe passed quite smoothly. Arriving at the Mabuya Camp, I was very tired but relieved. Another section over and another capital city to rest up in.

The Mabuya camp has been a very nice and comfortable place to rest in for the past few days. The food has been good, the service excellent (a treat in Africa!) and the paid wifi has also been very nice. It even worked flawlessly from my tent. We have seen the board with the schedule for next few days and it makes grim reading, long days in the saddle beckon but we will keep going. The road to Cape Town continues.

 
 
This was the most interesting yet one of the most difficult sections so far. For eight straight days we cycled through beautiful lush green countryside, on a variety of challenging terrains and in some difficult weather conditions. The people along the way were extremely pleasant and friendly and their smiling faces ensured we always felt welcomed especially as we travelled through some remote local villages in the southern part of the country.

On this part of the trip we began to encounter heavy evening rainstorms on a regular basis. This caused many problems. Sleeping in a tent can be a troublesome task for weeks on end but can be more of an ordeal in heavy incessant rain, especially in the morning when trying to pack up. Clothes, sleeping bag and thermarest all get wet and it becomes quite awful to sleep in damp environment when you're body is still tired from a hard day on the bike. The road also because of its nature became extremely more difficult to cycle on. For four and a half days we cycled on a back road of hardpacked dirt, fine when dry but soft and mucky when it gets wet. We faced some extremely tough conditions and this proved to be a really difficult challenge.
On March 16th we started off after the three rest days feeling good. The first day was a pretty long spin. 145km of mixed road and off road. The racers decided to take it relatively easy. This meant we waited for each other on the hills and actually take our time at lunch instead of blasting through as we have been doing recently. That evening we arrived at camp and myself and Darragh were planning our Paddy's day activities. We had a time trial scheduled for the morning of the 17th so the day would be free afterwards. Darragh was keen to have a pub crawl and I suggested we could set up a dares game so we basically tried to combine both ideas. We spent the evening coming up with dares that could be done in pubs. The crew were all for the idea and Adele even offered to be judge! We were all told to wear green.
March 17th
Wearing a green top, some orange flagging tape I was ready for the day. The time trial started after 20 or 30km after some difficult hills. It was a climb for 12km and a downhill for 12km. I pushed quite hard and was glad after travelling through the town to reach the dinner truck and the finish. I was really looking forward to getting lunch and to getting stuck into the days shenanigans! My team of Darragh and Steffen would be working hard to complete as many tasks as possible. Throughout the day we managed to sit on a local's bike, two of us sit on a donkey, sing with locals in a church ceremony that was in progress, take a dead animal into a pub and drink many different beers along the way. In the end we were pipped at the post by the team of James, Alex and Freek. Freek cycling a local motorbike, Alex bringing the dog into the pub and all of them sitting on the back of a local tractor and trailer tipped the balance in their favour. The blazing saddles team of Ali and Lizzie also made a good effort on the day.
It was an extremely fun day with many laughs but I can't say I would recommend cycling whilst drinking. It definitely does not improve performance!
March 18th
After a good nights sleep, I was ready for another day. 119km.
We started with quite a difficult climb. Steffen who had done really well in the previous day's ITT had joined the race group. Unfortunately the big hill as usual rattled the group to shreds. Pascale, Bard and Freek were like trains and myself John and Steffen got dropped. I managed to cling on and get back to the group. For most of the day I clung on for dear life. I was struggling quite a lot and was unable to pull with any strength. Thankfully I held on reasonably well and when Pascale and Bard pulled away with about 15 km to go I was happy enough to cycle at my own pace to the end. The scenery on the cycle was amazing with some unbelievable rock formations either side as we sped through towns. There was a super hill near the end. I managed a speed of 85kmph, possibly my fastest ever! That evening we were told to change tyres, I decided to leave on the skinny lads hoping that rain would not come and that the dirt roads would stay hard. The rain did come but I was still hopeful I had made a good choice. My fat tyres would be in my locker just in case.

March 19th
104km. The first 60km to lunch was paved. It was noticeably more damp and it didn't bode well for the 44km to camp. Anyway I headed with Pascale and Bard. The two lads seemed to be moving fast but I was happy to go at my own speed. The road was mostly sand based, pretty hard in spots which meant that I could travel 20-25kmph. It also had very wet areas which were quite sticky and one could pedal through very slowly in a high cadence just to keep moving. We seemed to moving into a very remote area. Very little traffic travelled on the road with many locals using bicycle for transport. Camp was at a game post. Our bikes and bodies were filthy. Thankfully the locals provided us with buckets of water to clean ourselves. That evening we encountered some torrential rain. Everyone was huddled together in muddy pools of water under the tarp from the truck seeking shelter. Queuing and eating dinner was difficult and most people were quick to find comfort in their tents. I suddenly felt very lonely in the tent, listening to Damo Dempsey singing in my ear with water seeping up through the base of the tent that had been accumulating on top of my groundsheet. My morale was at quite a low point knowing that I had many difficult tough riding days ahead. All I could do was put my head down and fall asleep.
March 20th
The morning came and sense of foreboding about the day ahead was still present. The road condition had deteriorated during the night and the 114km cycle would now become even more difficult. I started off and cycled with the race group. After about 10km of cycling through really soft and mucky conditions, I came to a point where most cyclists had to carry their bikes. The mud was so deep, I couldn't cycle. I really tried to plough on as good as I could but was getting quite annoyed with the slow progress. There was a local bus that had gotten stuck in the mud, it was blocking up the whole road. I continued to cycle when grating noises suggested I should stop. The mud had completed clogged my chain and gears. The bike suddenly stopped working. Looking down I noticed my derailleur was completely hanging off...'great', I thought!
Many thoughts ran through my head, 'what the hell am I gonna do now?', ' can I get a bike off the truck?' 'Could I lose my EFI?' 'Could I run to the end'. The last possibility was probably a non event considering it was still 100km to the end! After pondering my options I was lucky that Daniel, my kiwi friend had decided that he was going to take the truck and would be happy to lend me his mountain bike so I could complete the rest of the trip. I blasted away on his bike with a renewed vigour and really enjoyed the rest of the day. It was fun to ride the bike, although bigger and heavier, it felt comfortable and safe. I was very happy to get through the day in one piece. Many others suffered similar problems and the bike mechanics were extremely busy that evening. I needed a few new parts on my bike. A new chain, derailleur hanger and a cassette were put on. Thankfully all was ready for the next day on the mud. Steffen had won the stage today, his first after going really hard all day. He beat Freek by 30seconds!
March 21st
124km
Today was another really difficult day. Again the day started off with me in bad form after a rain soaked tent and gear. Similar but more difficult than yesterday. The majority of the terrain was soft and difficult to cycle through. This was a really tough long day with many people taking the truck. My bike the was making grating crunching noises from the very start and as I peddled I was worried as to whether I was doing further damage. The sand was causing havoc in everybody's chain and I wasn't the only one. Thankfully I plundered my way through. Once again we passed some beautiful villages with many smiling faces to greet all the passing cyclists.
I was extremely glad to reach the end once again.
Kieran spent about 40 minutes fixing my bike that evening and I was glad that the grating noise was remedied.

March 22nd
Mando 120km
The racers started together. We headed off as usual, thankfully the roads were better than before and not so much of an ordeal. The road had been quite bumpy and dodgy again and I risked life and limb rallying down the hills.
As soon as we arrived at camp I decided to head into the adjacent school and seek out the principal for a chat. I headed into the office and he greeted me. I told him that I was working at the same craic. He told me that they had near 1200 students and only 17 teachers. It was amazing to think of a pupil teacher ratio of 70 to 1. He showed me some stats regarding numbers of pupils who progressed into secondary school. They were surprisingly high. He also stated that many local students didn't bother attending school as they hoped that they might find a nugget of gold in the land which could set them up for life. The camp was crazy with hundreds of excited kids crowding around the perimeter.
March 23th
Mando 111km
The last day of the eight. Today we would face over 2000m of climbing into Mbeya all on dirt sand roads. Kieran used the words challenging quite a lot during the rider meeting which usually means it will be tough! He also pointed out there would be some super viewing points along the way especially as we head up the climb.
I headed off in the morning as usual. Alex joined our racing group and was making excellent progress. I dropped off early as my chain fell off. I was pretty annoyed by this but kept going. After 30km I noticed Alex had stopped with Bart, they were at a coke stop, I had no notion of stopping. I arrived at lunch after some ups and downs. After a quick break I was away again. The climbing started pretty quickly, it was going to be a battle to the end. In my head I knew the climb ended at 92km so I was gearing all my thoughts to that point. Every time I looked at my cycle computer I was counting down to the top of the climb. The views as I crawled up were amazing, I managed to fumble in my back pocket, clear off the mist from my lens on my t shirt and take a few snaps from my camera. It was quite a precarious job whilst cycling on bumpy ground. Suddenly I ached my way up the winding hills and let out a shout of glee on arrival at the sight declaring the highest road point in Tanzania. It was not all plain sailing as I thought it would be. The road still had many ups and downs from here, with the final descent into town a complete nightmare. The rocks seemed even more rough and bumpy and my chain hopped off so many times, I was getting even more angry with each fall as I feared another racer would pass me. Thankfully I reached the paved road, it seemed like I was floating on a cloud. The road seemed so smooth and gentle!
Finally after 5 hours and a half I had reached the end of the road, the Mbeya Hotel. A cool bottle of coke was my reward. My true reward was the knowledge that I had come through an extremely tough week which really challenged me mentally and physically. I felt every low at times and always felt a certain amount of stress at the prospect of racing every day. Racing is very tough. My goal has always been to retain my EFI and to keep in contention in the race so I was glad to eventually finish up in second place in the section and cement my position in second position overall. The fat tyres would be put away until Windhoek and we could look forward to some comfort, some rich food and a new start in Malawi.