May 11-14 South Africa
In January Dr. Brenda Trenholme began her epic 4 month cycling journey through Africa from Cairo to Capetown. Brenda’s goal is to raise $20,000 for KEEF (the Kenya Education Endowment Fund). Please help Brenda with a donation to support bright Kenyan students who otherwise will not attend high school (not free in Kenya!). To Donate Now to KEEF, click here (be sure to add a note that your donation isfor Brenda’s Ride).
To learn more about KEEF, go to www.kenyaeducation.org
May 11 – Nieuwoudtville to Clanwilliam 140km
In the interest of preserving my fragile nether bits, I rode the truck for 75 more km of deeply corrugated dirt road . We passed through green, mountainous canyon lands on a narrow, winding road with steep drop offs and fantastic views. I tackled and really enjoyed the last 25 km of dirt road with no ill effects as it had rained and the sandy mud had formed a somewhat smoother, softer and more forgiving surface on which to ride. The bike and I were covered in mud after fording the frequent washouts.
The off-road ride included a great 10 km climb out of a valley to the top of a ridge where the pavement began, followed by a twisty 10 km descent on silky smooth pavement. There wasn’t much time to look at the view on the way down as the road took my full attention. In the valley, we crossed a bridge over a shallow river flowing over slabs of colourful rock and passed a ranch with some nice looking thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Of greatest interest to us though was the rest stop with a garden terrace and homemade goodies. Stopping here with a few others, I knocked back two large chocolate milk shakes in anticipation of the ensuing tough 15 km climb over the next, even higher pass.
Again I loved the ascent into the cooler air at higher altitude, no surprise to those of you who know me…it’s always my favourite part! The refreshing 20 km descent into the green valley below afforded some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery of the whole tour. The barren red rocky cliffs plummeted into a patchwork quilt of lush green citrus, olive and pomegranate orchards. The striking affluence of the region and town of Clanwilliam was apparent in the luxurious homes and gardens, with hedges of colourful bougainvillea in full bloom. I felt I could have been in any town in Holland, the architecture and shop fare was so Dutch, but the landscape was more like California.
Our camp was situated on a peaceful lakeshore, and my evening was occupied with getting the staff tip and thank you cards organized. One of the riders, Mateo, a humorous and talented artist from San Francisco, sketched an appropriate cartoon on each card.
Leaving camp in the morning involved dodging the local guinea fowl common in Africa, with their black and white spotted feathers and red on their heads.
May 12 – Clanwilliam to Dorp Op Die Berg 134 km
Today was to be another day of climbing on dirt roads, a ride of only 134 km but with 1663 m elevation gain (about 6000 ft!). It proved to be one of my favourite days of the tour with a changing landscape that was beautiful beyond description. We had a chilly start but the sun and climbing soon warmed us up.
Riding on a small back road for first 60 km, we gradually climbed out of the river valley which was dotted with a string of narrow lakes of different sizes. The colours and contours were reminiscent of the Okanagan Valley but painted with bigger, broader strokes and much more sparsely populated. The landscape seemed to change every hour, starting out lush and cool in the valley floor, with the occasional small farm growing mangoes and citrus fruit. The shallow water highlighted the rich warm tones of the the flat rocks in the river bed and abundant water fowl including white swans swam in the tall reeds along its edge. As we gained elevation, cacti of many shapes and blooms (the soft pink was especially lovely) appeared, interspersed with low shrubs of purple heather and miniature yellow fall-blooming crocuses. The rolling green terrain evolved into sloping, arid sheep and goat ranch land.
For the next 15 km, we climbed steeply out of the valley up the mountainside on a rough gravel road which was very challenging. I loved it and was disappointed to reach the high pass on the ridge so soon, but welcomed the lunch awaiting me there.
The 10 km descent from the red, rocky heights led us through pine forests, then pear, orange and mango orchards, and then enormous vineyard estates. Given all of the black labourers we saw, and the crowded shanty lean-tos in which they live, I understand why South African wine (and other produce) is so affordable in Canada even with the shipping costs.
We are camped in a grove of colourful maple trees on this cold African autumn evening with the temperature not much above zero. Huddled around a big bonfire to stay warm, eating a sumptuous lamb stew, it looks and feels a lot like Canada here. Our cook Errol does a great job of helping us to maintain an amazingly high calorie consumption with superhuman quantities of everything he serves. Some of us also descend upon the shops like a cloud of locusts and clean them out of cookies, chips, nuts, fruit, chocolate, pop etc. whenever we have an opportunity, while Max stocks up on carrots.
May 13 Dorp Op Die Berg to Malmesbury 126 km
I was awakened in the night by the sound of pouring rain. Strangely enough, the tent stayed drier inside than when there is a heavy dew and all was cozy and well inside its confines. As we started off, it was still raining lightly but it soon relented and we thawed out and dried off. After some gravel, we were on pavement the rest of the day. Lots of flat road and a few small passes followed by significant descents made for an easy 124 km ride to Malmesbury.
What a feeling to have arrived, most of us intact, at our last campsite of this 120 day expedition, with the prospect of riding together into Cape Town in the morning. The excitement in the air was palpable. Numerous family and friends had driven out to Malmesbury to greet us, and we celebrated the evening with some fun awards and a wine tasting, as we had a relatively short ride in store for tomorrow.
May 14: INTO CAPE TOWN !!
This is it, the day towards which we have all been striving, here at last! It was a 60 km ride to our meeting point where we were greeted by the welcome scent of the salty Atlantic air and waves crashing on an endless white beach. It was a welcome sight, despite the fog which blocked our view of table mountain. After savouring a special last lunch with all of the trimmings, with tears of mixed emotion, and photos on the beach, we jubilantly rode the final 10 km in convoy to our beach front hotel in Cape Town. Many awaited us there with cheers and banners. Emotions ran high as we put down our bikes and posed for our last photo together. Riders, their loved ones and the staff were happy, relieved, exhausted, proud, amazed, ………! Awards were given out to the racers and champagne flowed freely all afternoon.
We gathered for dinner that evening in the hotel with our guests who had come from far and wide. We started with me reciting a poem that I had hastily written the evening before and hadn’t had time to polish but read it anyway. Throughout the meal, we enjoyed some short speeches, a now familiar theme song written and sung by Douwe about loosing our EFI, a slide show by Douwe and another by Josh (our medic) and lots of joking.
Well that’s it folks, TDA 2016 is now done and its time to move on. However, most of those on this great African continent who shared their riches with us still struggle to move forward with little education. I am grateful to and wish to thank once again those of you who supported or who will support my effort to raise funds for the Kenya Education Endowment Fund. It represents a ‘hand up, not a hand out’, as these students must want and work for the support they earn. It has been my great privilege to ride for this worthy cause.
Ode to TDA 2016
Cycling safari from Cairo to Cape Town
It was amazing, incredible, torturous fun,
And seems more like a dream now that its done.
But it wasn’t, we did it, and we leave inspired
By the many strange happenings that have transpired.
Before we return to our previous dimension
With shoes and schedules and cerebral distension
Let’s first reflect on some memories of note
Before our shared journey becomes too remote.
Meeting in Cairo we were so friendly, bushy tailed and clean,
But now we are just grimy, short tempered and lean.
Through sharing adversity we’ve grown closer as a group
It’s impossible not to when you’ve nowhere to poop!
Tallis, our capable South African guide
Assumed his task with Swaggering pride. (and so on)
We weren’t the easiest people to manage
But his laid back style worked to his advantage.
His charm and charisma encouraged cooperation
With one more than others, as was her inclination.
Ah, dear Erroll
Erroll’s daunting task of keeping us well fed
Kept him awake smoking and screwed with his head
For at times, finding any food at all was not easy
And many common ingredients made some riders queasy.
Although his background in criminal psychology
Helped him cope with our rogue gut pathology
The job stretched his patience and skills to the max
And he required therapeutic doses of rum to relax.
Catalin’s Zen of bike mechanics
Triumphed over Africa’s difficult geographics
Hard riding, long distances and corrugated road
resulted in breakdowns and a heavy work load
But he kept us rolling despite the crap conditions
So we could have even more awesome collisions (8 to be exact)
Other talents he possessed, such as strumming musical strings
And making Steph giggle on most starry desert evenings.
The secrets of Ozgur took us time to discover
Lunch nazi, Cardasheem , and cold Stoney lover
While perfecting his English and growing a pointy beard
He looked after our problems whenever they appeared
His smile made up for his repair job screw ups
And he continued to improve on his bicycle tune ups.
Josh tended to road rash and endless sore buns
And doled out candied Cipro for the Ethiopian runs..
Unfortunately the number of women on tour
happened this year to be exceptionally poor
And with their sore tushes they turned to Brenda
Which sadly diminished his medical agenda
But, dressed as a belly dancer, Josh looked his best
If one could ignore the rug on his chest.
When Mooley had to leave, Sharita pitched in
But soon had to exit much to Max’s chagrin
we inherited Junior when we reached Lilongwe
Who works with great diligence, when it concerns the ukulele
about the staff, I’ve said enough
Now I’ll turn to ‘you you you’, the riders,
And this might get rough !
The racers were truly in a league of their own
Risking life and limb for a chance at the throne
Paul, Rupert, Katja , Emma, Magic, Douwe and Jean
Rode relentlessly hard in pursuit of the dream
What Rob was doing is not quite clear,
Not racing but holding to his schedule dear
He’d get into his stubborn donkey mode
When others didn’t manage or pull the load.
And to digress, as I really must say
he was always a true gentleman, in every way. (And we love you Roberto!)
Now while the powerhouses Craig, Jason and Graham raced
Their rides were quite measured and evenly paced
They took time for frequent leisurely junctures
Waiting for graham who was plagued with “f”ing punctures.
Len joined their ranks latterly, and bravely persevered
Long after his sore bum was worn out and seared.
When our brains and bodies could handle no more
We’d gorge on coke, crisps and candy galore.
Our dentists should be gratedul to the TDA
For sending heaps of new business their way.
Larry’s foreshortened tour revealed the quirky delights
Of his wry sense of humour and s l o w l y u t t e r e d insi g h t s.
Dave was very quiet and kept to himself
While Cohen chirped on and rode like a blimey elf.
Clive’s irreverent behaviour was a breath of fresh air
Surviving that amount of riding, booze and smoking must really be rare!
Neil was keeping pace until that motorist broke his arm…
now metal plates and dear Ginny try to keep him out of harm.
Martina and SallyAnne rode together quite a lot
The lovely, focused German and the flamboyant groovin’ Scott
When Sally was simply flustered she’d say fuck, and oh brother
But when she was really mad, she’d add the other word, mother.
Steph had her pick of the young bachelors on tour
And took her time choosing the one for l’ amour
When it was Cat and this was discovered
The others pined and have not recovered.
Early on in Egypt near the end of a race
Magic fell while trying to keep pace
He wasn’t so fortunate the next time he went down
And holidayed in Zanzibar to recover out of town.
With shorts that were worn out and showing his crack,
Steve rarely stopped moving and never looked back.
He rode a freight train that was heavy as lead
And sunk in the sand and was often stopped dead, (oh boy!
But he managed to keep his caboose moving along
and made it to camp well ahead of the throng.
Jean from Chicago was bent on success
And even for lunch breaks, would hardly recess
She rode long and hard and at the end of the day
Was grateful and smiling and got to Cape Town, hooray!
Rupert had a most spectacular fall
0nly 12 days short of winning it all,
But he managed to rally and got back in the saddle
And limped into camp looking weary and rattled.
He miraculously managed to keep his EFI
Until two days later when he fell from the sky
And had to quit the tour for medical attention
Shattering his dream of royal ascension
Princess Katja kept her standing at the head of the pack
With talent, frequent naps, rooms and protein drink by the sack.
She rode with great conscience and focus on racing
And loved to have Rups for his strong, steady pacing.
Our social coordinator, Dough boy, kept us duly entertained
With games, songs and humour, despite himself being maimed.
For composing our theme song we are quite grateful
Although some of the verses are not all that tasteful.
He beat all the men, and is now a TDA legend
With Katja and Emma who placed first and second.
Emma was strong, beautiful, determined and bold
but just had to be first in line for gold (and everything else)
This drove her to ride until she was ready to drop
But she stubbornly soldiered on and never did stop.
Keith was doggedly determined , riding bare naked all day long
With testicles flying and sun burning his dong.
Max deserves special mention for his carrots and his farts,
His computer skills, his friendliness and his very generous heart.
Another month might have seen him slip into the habit
of using knife and fork and not eating like a rabbit (or worse)
But alas, the ride is over, and we’ve not cured him of that curse.
Chief will be best remembered for his shameless ethiopian dance
On that really shitty, shitty April day when he had to ditch his pants
At the moment he didn’t mind being on display
With an appreciative cast of thousands looking his way.
Juliana’s delicious chocolate bombs were gobbled up with glee,
And over she went with a big smile on her face, hooked up to the bungee.
Although crazy Crash was only with us for a while
Tweaking Emma’s bra straps sure made him smile!
We will wear our jerseys with his graphic designs
With pride and fond memories of these rolling times.
We know Heiner rides but we’re just not sure when,
Because when we ride past him he’s usually in zen.
He pitches his tent stripped down to his shorts and heavy gloves
And greets each dawn singing the Swiss anthem he loves.
Our cuddly bear Brian is steady as a rock
Coveting opportunities to drink coke and take stock
He fires right ahead on the off road sections
And lucky for us has no obvious contentions.
Matteo’s daily jokes and cartoons kept things funny
Despite the many days where his poop was so runny
He would not let us carry him or his pack
Despite the condition of his twisted sore back.
Bert’s political commentary added to the conversation
And his book on sex was no doubt a sensation.
But despite his obvious great prowess with words
His skill with bikes was truly for the birds.
From Livingstone on, Ginny and Adrien accompanied Neil
And rode to the end with common sense and zeal
In contrast to their three other countrymen
Who rode like hell and returned home again.
Quietly and cooly, Adrien often rode to the lead
While Ginny preferred her comforts indeed!
For the last section we were joined by Mimi and Dave in Windhoek
But they had certain problems following Tallis’s handbook .
We think they really enjoyed the ride
But it’s hard to say why their smiles were so wide.
About Gil, Troy, Eric and Kevin’s its hard to comment
Since they stayed in hotels and not a tent.
Kevin and Troy wisely rode mountain bikes
leaving the others behind on the off road hikes.
Gill was certainly a trooper, right to the end
And hopefully Eric’s Achilles will mend.
So congrats to Emma, Katja and Rob
for riding EFI with barely a sob
And to all the rest of us alive
who have simply managed to survive.
Thanks to the staff for all their support
Of our ambitious endeavours from port to port,
And to the people of Africa who shared their riches
with all of us crazy rich white sons of bitches.
Thank you !
May 5 -10 Namibia and South Africa
In January Dr. Brenda Trenholme began her epic 4 month cycling journey through Africa (she is cycling from Cairo to Capetown, South Africa). Brenda’s goal is to raise $20,000 for KEEF (the Kenya Education Endowment Fund). Please help Brenda with a donation to support bright Kenyan students who otherwise will not attend high school (not free in Kenya!). To Donate Now to KEEF, click here (be sure to add a note that your donation is for Brenda’s Ride).
To learn more about KEEF, go to www.kenyaeducation.org
May 5 – Seeheim to Cannon Rest House, Namibia
Internet connections are virtually unavailable as we travel through remote Namibia and S.A. Our cell phones are not able to pick up 3G to act as a hot spot, and the occasional hotel has not got Internet functioning. One was hit lightning and the other didn’t have it! I would have thought it would improve as we went south but the reverse seems to be true!
Also I apologize for the lack of photos. I have not been able to put them onto my ipad from my camera as it is full.
My over-enthusiastic gut gave me no choice but to take immodium and ride the truck for today’s bumpy off-road route of 93km. It was beautiful dessert scenery and we arrived early at the camp site. I took a room so I would have ready access to a toilet, but the Imodium was so effective I felt comfortable enough later in the day to go on a trip to the nearby Fish River Canyon.
This is apparently the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The 7 of us who had the energy to go were rewarded by the stunning scenery. The canyon was wider with more obvious layers of river erosion and glacial action than I recall seeing in the Grand Canyon. The colours in the late afternoon light, the echoes, soaring predatory birds and the solitude of this magnificent sight were all impressive. We saw baboons and a squirrel (with no trees in sight, just low shrubby cacti) and a bushbok on our way back to camp. I slept well in my comfortable bed!
The weather is definitely autumnal, with warm, clear, sunny days and very chilly evenings. Even during the day, the wind has a chill and the sun is gone by 6:15 pm.
May 6 – Cannon Rest House to Felix Unite, Namibia
171 km , but only 44 km on silky smooth pavement. I opted to play it safe with my overzealous gut and only rode the last half of this long ride. I rode with Steph, a young Canadian woman from Toronto and we enjoyed a very leisurely day in the sun together. She was not at all ruffled by having to fix her three flats as we were in no rush to get anywhere. We were surrounded by desert with craggy mountains and glacial deposits of unusually shaped huge rounded boulders everywhere we looked. At the end of the day, after a brief descent and rounding a corner, we were greeted by a surprising sea of green foliage, the first we had seen in weeks. It was swathes of irrigated vineyards bordering the meandering Orange River as far as the eye could see. This river forms the border between the countries of Namibia and SA. We were getting close to our final country!
Our campsite at the community of Felix Unite was close to and overlooking the river, with lovely lawns on which to camp, a pool and nice facilities. However, the Internet signal was very weak and again, I did not succeed at receiving or sending mail. We had a social evening, chatting and having drinks around the pool under the stars. People are feeling the end coming and starting to feel excited and also a bit sad about ending such an experience.
May 7- Rest Day
I enjoyed a late start to the rest day and spent the day trying to rebook my flight home at a later date to no avail due to the poor Internet connection. My quiet day consisted of some mending on a friend’s bike shorts, cleaning my bike and falling asleep in the shade of a tree overlooking the river. I had an early night.
May 8 – Into South Africa
137 km with 1600 m elevation gain on pavement. Last day of pavement !
We rode out of Namibia through spectacular productive green vineyards bordering the Orange River, flanked by terra cotta coloured mountain ridges. It was a quick 12 km to the border where we crossed the bridge into South Africa (YEAH, WE MADE IT) and then climbed gradually on a steady incline away from the river for 55 km. It flattened out and undulated with great shorter climbs and dips through savannah for the remainder of the ride.
Our terraced campsite on the outskirts of the town of Springbok is perched in the mountains in an area that has mined copper for over three hundred years. The temperature here is dramatically cooler than anything we have experienced since Egypt, with bright sunshine and a brisk breeze. Time to get out the woollies which I have carted across the continent.
We now have five more days before our last day’s ride into Cape Town, and the energy is palpably different with people reflecting on the whole experience. Some are nostalgic already and others can’t wait to get off the bike! Some plan to simplify their lives and spend more time doing the things about which they feel passionate.
We have two people sitting out with sore lower backs, one with an arm fracture and another travelling with us while his collar bone and shoulder heal. We will be greeted by Rupert in Cape Town now that he has had his collar bone plated. My ribs are fortunately mended. The journey has taken it’s toll on us all, some more than others. Last year at this time on the tour it was raining and miserably cold, so we are very thankful for this lovely sunny but cool weather. The off-road sections could be (and were) a muddy nightmare in wet conditions.
May 9 – Springbok to Kilprant, South Africa – 153 km
The temperature was shockingly cold when I emerged from my tent this morning. Everything was wet with the dew and I needed to wear all of the layers I brought, for the first time since Egypt. With a breeze and some menacing clouds hanging overhead, we bravely set off, starting with a chilling descent for four km before we hit the dirt road. We then climbed for a while as the sun peeked out and started to thaw. We travelled through a narrow flat-bottomed valley flanked by some beautiful glacial red rock formations and nearby mountains. The sun beaming through the rising mist and cumulus clouds was magical. As we climbed, the valley widened into a plateau of savannah with grazing sheep, the clouds disappeared and the tall grasses were an uncanny shade of pastel green against the red sandstone. It was beautiful scenery but we truly struggled on the most terrible corrugated gravel.
My derrière was so bruised and my bones so shaken by lunch time at 80 km that common sense got the better of me and I rode the truck for the remaining 73 km into camp. It was a good decision, as it took until 6 pm (11 hours) for some of the riders to finish the ride, which culminated in even sandier corrugated gravel, uphill grades and a strong headwind. Instead of the usual jubilation and sense of accomplishment that most riders exhibit on completing a day’s ride, most today were just exhausted and frustrated by the conditions and simply relieved to have survived.
To top off this trying day, our camp tonight is a sharp contrast to those of recent weeks; it is a dirty, dusty, ugly parking lot at an historical watering station for sheep being driven from their summer to winter grazing grounds. The general store has some unsavoury rooms that some riders have taken to get out of the bitterly cold wind. I’m camped on the concrete veranda to see if I can avoid the heavy dew. It’s off to sleep in my toasty sleeping bag in anticipation of another tiring day on bumpy roads romorrow.
May 10 – Kilprant to Nieuwoudville, South Africa
It was the truck for me over rough gravel road until lunch, after which I rode the last 15 km of dirt road and then 55 km on Tarmac. The road wove through rolling wide valley floors flanked by tall mesas with deep river canyons, reminding me of Wyoming. The unusual occurrence of rain last night made everything fresh, the air had a lovely herbal scent and the colours were intense. The gravel surface was somewhat softer and more forgiving, but we had to ford several washed-out areas.
The paved road rose and fell at pleasant intervals. After the final longer, steeper winding climb I found myself in a different world, in higher farmland of a completely different nature. The rocky dry savannah was replaced by flat, lush, green fenced pastures, with flocks of well fed sheep grazing upon them and dotted by farm houses of Dutch architecture. The creek beds had some water and the various trees had leaves. I noted many types of birds in the fields, including ostrich, grouse, partridge, ducks, geese and I think waxwing.
Camp was just outside of a small town and had good showers. The population of this part of SA is sparse, and it is often 70 or 100 km between any sign of a community, other than a rare ranch house. Tallis, our SA tour leader gave us an evening talk with interesting personal perspectives on his native country.
km behind us 10,913
km left to Cape Town 484
May 1 – Namibia – Rest Day at the Dunes
In January Dr. Brenda Trenholme began her epic 4-month cycling journey through Africa (she is cycling from Cairo to Capetown, South Africa). Brenda’s goal is to raise $20,000 for KEEF (the Kenya Education Endowment Fund). Please help Brenda with a donation to support bright Kenyan students who otherwise will not attend high school (not free in Kenya!). To Donate Now to KEEF, click here (be sure to add a note that your donation is for Brenda’s Ride).
I am sitting by myself, luxuriating in the solitude and the sun and the breeze on the deck in the evening sun of the Kulala Desert Lodge. Google it. I’ve landed in paradise, invited by my friend Mike from Arizona and his four buddies who just joined the tour a week ago and another American guy Max who has been on tour with Mike and me from the beginning.
So once again I’m just one of the guys! All platonic, just like Bill’s at Whistler when we were kids.
Anyway, Max has negotiated a special rate for this lovely place so i decided to treat myself, after some grueling days and a migraine last night and rough washboard roads today. I am looking out at the dunes, with springbok, gazelles, ostriches, wildebeest, zebra, oryx etc wandering by in the dessert. It is a haven for the soul and I I know I am very lucky to be here,but I am a bit worn out emotionally and this is what I needed. Tomorrow before sunrise we will go to see the dunes at sunrise. The Kalahari is so gorgeous I know you would love it. There are ridges of volcanic black basalt, other mountains of red sandstone and lots of quartz that is almost blue.
April 28-29 Namibia
April 28 – Namibia – Windhoek to Weissenfels Camp
Well folks, only 8 more riding days in this beautiful country of Namibia (all off-road with 3 days of riding, one day off, then 5 days of riding and our last rest day) before we enter South Africa for the final seven straight days of riding! It all seems a bit like a dream, as if I’m in a kaleidoscope and the colours and patterns change with the pedal rotation, the days, the countries, the seasons…
Today we left Windhoek at dusk with 6 new riders for the final leg of the tour: a lady from SA, a man from Toronto and four gents from Arizona, friends of Mike’s. After 14 km on smooth pavement getting out of town, we were on gravel/sand roads for the next 100 km. It was rough but not such deeply rutted washboard as we endured in Sudan. The new guys thought it was bad enough. My back tire slipped out in the sand at low speed and I fell over in slow motion but was able to twist and land on my back rather than my ribs…I had tears of joy I was so relieved not to have broken anything!! Just 7 days of off-road before we’re back on pavement…..I will try to survive this intact.
The scenery was especially lovely today…really rolling savannah with hills for a change and a backdrop of actual mountains to the north. The red sand, autumn yellow grasses and acacia trees of the Kalahari desert were contrasted against the bright blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. We saw baboons, camels and big herds of sheep and cattle. Tonight for the first time in four months it’s raining in our cattle/horse ranch bush camp… a true cause for celebration as they are suffering a drought. I’m enjoying the pitter-patter on my tent as I write.
April 29 – Namibia – Weissenfels Camp to Solitaire
Today definitely felt expedition-like with 124 km more of rough and sandy, corrugated gravel roads to navigate, which are so hard on the body. However, it was one of the most scenic days of the trip: the savannah, with its scattered grasses, acacia trees and occasional ranch houses, rose into ridges of steep red rock mountains. We climbed slowly before lunch to the Spreetshoogte Pass, to be greeted by spectacular views of the expansive valley below. We dropped steeply (500 metre drop over 4 km) on a cobbled road with many hairpin turns, and then we were back on the gravel. I slid and fell once at low speed with no injuries worth comment, but have a very sore neck from gripping the handle bars all day.
There is nothing easy about riding in this heat over this terrain for these distances. I was definitely losing steam when I finally arrived at camp at 2 pm. I was hot, dry, covered in sweat and dust, and black with grease from fixing two flats. There I found a lovely open campsite with all of the amenities and a proper bake shop with steaming hot delicious apple pie and pastries, of which I consumed no less than 4, washed down with 2 litres of electrolyte solution! There is not much that sugar and a shower can’t fix! We are seeing many more local white people and tourists as we go south.
One more off-road day before my body has a much needed day of rest.
9,723 km done since Cairo – we are 85% of the way there!
April 21 – 27 Botswana and Namibia
In January Dr. Brenda Trenholme began her epic 4-month cycling journey through Africa (she is cycling from Cairo to Capetown, South Africa). Brenda’s goal is to raise $20,000 for KEEF (the Kenya Education Endowment Fund). Please help Brenda with a donation to support bright Kenyan students who otherwise will not attend high school (not free in Kenya!). To Donate Now to KEEF, click here (be sure to add a note that your donation is for Brenda’s Ride).
April 21 – Botswana – Maun to Bush Camp
I really enjoyed today’s 157 km ride, feeling strong with fresh legs after our rest day. It is autumn here and we rode through tall golden grassland with herds of large robust cattle, first-hand evidence of why the beef and cheeses here are of high quality and of European influence. I loved seeing the beautiful, well cared for horses which were taken aback by the uncommon sight of us tourists cycling by. There are regular fences now to keep the livestock contained, rather than the endless idle shepherds of all of the other countries so far. I rode with one of the new British cyclists, Adrien, who lives with his wife in Singapore and rides at about my speed. He was good company and gave me lots of tips on travel in SE Asia.
Here in Botswana we can ride along in clean air for long, peaceful stretches in this fenced farmland, past healthy looking livestock without seeing anyone or any buildings, and just the occasional car. It is a sharp contrast to the extremely densely populated countries further north through which we have passed that appear much less hospitable to human habitation, or any life form for that matter. Areas of Sudan and Ethiopia were often barren, windblown, sun-scorched rocky infernos without a blade of grass, tree, insect, bird, wild animal or obvious water source in sight but you could not cycle an inch in solitude or escape the smoky air pollution of cooking fires and burning garbage. Our planet harbours many mysteries!
We arrived fairly early at our bush camp, this time a field of scattered thorny bushes and one impressively enormous old baobab tree that must be a few thousand years old. The only modern amenity here was my packet of wet wipes. We had time to relax but there was no 3G for internet connection to allow me to catch up on my emails! We discovered some massive hairy-legged tarantula-like spiders called baboon spiders living in tunnels in the ground that would come out in attack mode if you introduced a stick of straw in its hole. The camp was also home to a brilliantly striped yellow and black female ‘golden globe spider’, literally the size of a ping pong ball, spinning her elaborate silky web in the slanting light of the evening sun. Sorry the photos did not work out, as sadly, my good camera has succumbed to a case of overexposure to sand. I’m hoping it’s not terminal and I can get some therapy for it in Windhoek on our next rest day.
April 22 – Botswana -Bush Camp to Ghanxi
Today’s pleasant ride of 143 km to the small town of Ghanxi was much like yesterday’s, except that there is now slight undulation creeping into the flat landscape, a welcome change. There are some distinct, isolated hills in the far distance that look like old volcanoes.
On a long straight stretch of road this afternoon, our fastest cyclist Rupert had an unfortunate mishap at high speed and went down quite dramatically just in front of me. Either his foot came out of the cleat just as he was accelerating past us, or several spokes popped out of his wheel, but the end result was a complete yard sale at 40 kph as he and his bike hit the rough asphalt with force and a horrific clatter and eventually skittered to a halt. A group of us were riding as a pod when he passed and fell. Luckily we were able to disperse instantly and avoid other mishaps as there was no traffic coming from either direction. Rupert was bruised and grazed all over and left a considerable amount of his skin, clothing, helmet and bike paint ground into the road. Although he had some deeper wounds to his hands and ankle, he miraculously suffered no really significant injuries. We had him stripped down and mostly cleaned up and bandaged by the time TDA help arrived.
We TDA participants are a very odd bunch. There is a label for those who are able to cycle every single inch of the entire route…they achieve “EFI” status. This stands for Every Fucking Inch, and some (not me!) would give anything to achieve it. All but four of us have lost our EFI status at some point on this tour through having to ride the truck for various reasons…broken bones, diarrhea, sheer exhaustion, emotional fatigue, saddle sores etc. Rupert wanted to continue riding after his accident to keep his EFI, and so, against my medical advice, he persevered on his bicycle. As it happened, that day our bush camp was three km off the highway on a very sandy road. The sand made it impossible to cycle and we all had to walk and push our bikes this distance in the scorching heat, quite a slog. Rupert limped into camp in agony with his EFI status intact. Our medic Josh spent the entire evening further tending to his wounds in a clean rented luxury tent with a good bed, clean sheets and bathroom.
The rest of us enjoyed the evening eating Errol’s delicious cooking, quenching our thirst with cold beer from the bar and competing as teams in a knowledge quiz that Douwe had cleverly devised, with categories in general knowledge, music, history, sport and Africa. Our team didn’t win but had a lot of fun trying. What a day! The camaraderie is quite amazing amongst this quirky, eccentric group. Roll on!
April 23 – Botswana – Ghanxi to Buitenpos
Ah, today is the long anticipated challenge of the 208 km ride to border with Namibia. Adrien and I set out before 6 am, just before dawn with headlamps, pushing the bikes whose sluggish wheels resisted rolling in the sand for the 3 km back to the highway. We rode the whole distance with periods of headwind at a steady pace, stopping briefly for lunch and four refreshment breaks, and made it to the border in 8 hours, at 3:30 pm. Awaiting us was a lovely camp for tenting, but we were bushed and in need of comfort. So Katja and I shared an economical ($17 each), spacious and well equipped bungalow with Rupert. His road-torn body was largely bundled in bandages, yet he succeeded in riding the whole distance and clung on to his EFI, but paid the price and needed TLC and wound care.
Lately it has been cooling off very nicely at night and a sheet is no longer enough to stay warm. There is no need to use the tent fly as it has not been windy or rainy for weeks, or is it months? It’s hard keeping track of the day of the week, let alone the month as time slips imperceptibly and inexorably by. As we go south away from the equator and head into autumn, the morning temperatures are very comfortable for riding until about 9 or 10 am, when we stop for lunch. The midday heat (about mid 30’s) remains a bit oppressive until late afternoon, but cycling creates a lovely breeze that makes the heat feel much less intense. Despite the dropping humidity in the Kalahari Desert, I still have a soggy sweat-soaked chamois by the end of the day! We are well supplied with hydration fluids and I’ve been going through about 8-10 litres a day. Riding south in the Southern Hemisphere, we have the sun on our backs much of the day. We have travelled a considerable distance west, and have a time change today, putting our clocks back an hour and getting a bonus hour of sleep tomorrow morning!
April 24 – Namibia – Buitenpos to Witvlei
Considering yesterday’s demands, the old body felt pretty good today. We rode 163km, and other than having three flats (one of which was my fault for not noticing I was putting on a tube with an unrepaired puncture), it was a very pleasant easy-rolling day. We are getting into the hills we had seen in the distance a few days ago and this is indeed welcome relief from the monotonous pan-flat horizon. I don’t have any body aches or muscle fatigue, but my brain just wants to shut off and go to sleep. On the long flat stretches I wish I had tri-bars with a place to rest my forehead… that way I could just fall asleep for a nap and keep peddling. I will opt to get more sleep at night.
Well, the inevitable finally happened. Rupert lost his EFI today, with a slow speed slight wobble which triggered a fall, which broke his collar bone into three bits. He is flying to Cape Town for surgery to plate it later this week. The surgeon in Windhoek deemed his other wounds too high an infection risk to operate right away. Rup is British but has family in Cape Town, so he will get fixed up there and greet us when we arrive for the grand finale in just 20 days’ time. It was extremely disappointing for him to have to give up, as he was winning the race and was one of the few left with his EFI status. Katja will miss him especially as she is the fastest woman and second fastest rider overall, and they cycled together daily and had become good friends. We will all miss him.
Ten km before camp, some of us paused at a charming little haven and sampled some delicious homemade German/Afrikaner biltong (like jerky but better), baking, liqueurs and beer, knowing we would be camping that night on a soccer field with no amenities. Everyone is looking forward to a rest in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia when we get there tomorrow night after another 159 km.
April 25 – Namibia -Witvlei to Windhoek
This is the tenth day of long slogs with only one rest day in the middle. Our bodies are really feeling the cumulative effect and I fear our immune systems are suppressed. Several people have just come down with diarrhea, or fevers, or nausea, and others are just too bagged to ride the distance today. My knees are aching a bit for the first time, so I will only ride my bike the 80 km to lunch and then jump on the truck and avoid cycling the last 79 km into town in the heavy traffic.
I am thrilled to announce that we are finally out of malaria risk territory and I can safely stop the prophylactic pills which have done a number on my gut. YEAH!!! It’s been nice eating ten thousand calories a day of anything I please and only absorbing a portion of them, but I’d far rather get back to normal.
April 26 Rest Day in Windhoek, Namibia
After arriving in Windhoek yesterday afternoon, Katja and I checked into the neighbouring affordable but very elegant Safari Hotel. The rest of the day slipped away with a much needed rest, a bath in a TRUE bath tub ( one of my all-time favourite pass times) and an early dinner.
Today we enjoyed the buffet breakfast on the terrace by the pool before spending several hours cleaning our battered road-weary bicycles. We switched the tires over to fat knobblies in preparation for the upcoming 8 days of rougher, hilly, off road mountain bike terrain. It’s hard to believe we are in Namibia for only 8 more days of cycling and two rest days, and then on to the final 7 day straight stretch through South Africa (with no rest days) to complete our epic journey. It is sinking in now that I have the time to contemplate it.
I spent three hours this morning and the whole afternoon blogging and rewarded myself with a massage, whereby I discovered I actually do have very sore, painful muscles. Katja and I went to a traditional Namibian restaurant for a superb dinner this evening with our friend Mike from Arizona and his four friends who have just arrived to join the TDA. We savoured delicious Impala carpaccio, followed by grilled zebra filet accompanied by SA red wine. I think Mike’s companions are now even more apprehensive, having heard more tales about some of the challenges we have faced. However, the biggest challenge of this trip is not the riding but adjusting to the extreme or adverse conditions we have experienced. We are now riding in relative luxury in a familiar, European influenced culture and I think they are in for a great time without having to make such major adjustments.
April 27 Rest Day in Windhoek, Namibia
I have been blogging for many hours and am alas up to date! Another terrace breakfast by the tranquil pool has sustained me and I am now going to attempt to get my odometer and headlamp solar charger working and find a camera shop. The rest of today I fear will be spent on various such tasks before being ready to head out tomorrow morning. I will no doubt find time to squeeze in another one or two baths before I leave!
9,599 km down and only 1,798 more to go!
April 18-20 Botswana & Okavango Delta
April 18 Nata to Bush Camp
Fourth day of riding (165 km at a good clip) on very flat and increasingly arid terrain. The lovely, lush and leafy deciduous trees of the last weeks in Tanzania and Malawi have all but disappeared. We are again in the land of acacia trees and thorns…… many, many thorns of all description, which cause many, many flat tires which are usually greeted with only one expletive, which starts with “F”!
Emma was riding solo today on a stretch of deserted highway with very little traffic when her tube suffered yet another puncture. “F”! Again! She noticed an elephant in the distance slowly coming her way, but having no choice but to stop, she quickly went to work on the flat. Now, realize that Emma is a confident, well-built Dutch woman, over 6 feet tall and not easily intimidated. As the elephant got closer, a passing car stopped to see if she was OK and she waved them on and continued to work even more hurriedly to repair the puncture. When she next looked up, she was terrified to find that the big bull elephant was only 15 metres away and she had only one tire on the bike and nowhere to go. Fortuitously, at that moment another rare motorist happened along and beckoned her to get into their car, which she did, until the elephant quietly went on his way across the road and into the distance again. Elephants have been known to crush big trucks with little effort.
The most plentiful wildlife we are seeing these days are less daunting…the colourful but dead snakes, reptiles and butterflies on the road, and occasional live birds in the sky. The camping gets easier and easier. Although these bush camps are in the middle of nowhere, sometimes hundreds of kilometres from any other sign of civilization, they have wonderfully clean, modern amenities for all of the tourists paying big bucks on safari. They usually offer shady, flat, grassy tent sites, warm showers, a pool, a bar and snacks if not a restaurant. We all appreciate it so much after the spartan existence and hardships that we experienced further north. Too tired this night to enjoy the amenities, I ate, did my hand washing and fell asleep under the twinkling sea of bright stars, to be vaguely roused by the shuffle of more passing elephants in the night and a few grunting wart hogs.
April 19 Bush Camp to Maun
We rode 183 km in high temperatures over a paved but bumpy road, with other riders having several “F”lats along the way. Taking our time, we arrived in the touristy town of Maun at a resort for a much awaited rest day. The last five long days had worn us down. Needing some sound sleep out of the heat, mosquitos and marauding animals, Katja and I shared a room in the hotel. After a refreshing swim and a cold cider, I was asleep by 7 pm.
When I started this tour I had some difficulty keeping up on my heavy “donkey” bike on the flat stretches and ended up drafting much of the time in order to keep pace with some of the faster riders. But with months of practice, I am now able to do my share of pulling the others (other than the racers) on the flat. Progress! I still need to draft on the downhills, but that won’t likely ever change as I don’t have gravity on my side! We haven’t had a good hill to climb in weeks.
April 20 Rest Day – Maun and Okavango Delta
This morning several cyclists and I flew in a 6 seat plane for 45 minutes over a tiny portion of the immense Okavango Delta, a well-known destination in Botswana for wildlife seekers.
The rainy season has just passed so the animals are not yet concentrated in the delta in large numbers for water as they will be later when the surrounding green savannah turns to brown desert. We were happy to witness from the air the larger context of the landscape across which we had been cycling, as well as some scattered herds of elephants, antelope, hippos, and unidentifiable other beasts. They were like little toys on the vast landscape of boggy (uninhabited by humans) savannah, crisscrossed by streams which will soon largely dry up. I thoroughly enjoyed the flight from the front seat, awarded to me for arranging the trip, while the others unfortunately concentrated on not tossing their cookies in the bumpy back seats! There are canoeing safaris in this region which would be a wonderful reason to return here, especially to better appreciate the rich bird life.
After leaving the airport, I walked the several kilometres back to the hotel, stopping in at a few art galleries and roadside stalls, and savouring a vegetarian Indian lunch in a shady garden cafe. It was nice to have some unscheduled time alone, before returning to all of the organizational tasks of a rest day (laundry, recharging electronics, restocking my day bag etc.).
Tomorrow we start a predictably difficult portion of the tour, five more straight days of long distances on flat land after just finishing the same. The weather is still unusually hot and the insects bigger and more impressive than before. The length of the tour is wearing on people physically, emotionally and psychologically, and we have all had support from the others in moments of need. We are such a diverse group but somehow we have bonded well and it works. The TDA (Tour d’Afrique) family unit.
Fortunately I feel well and strong again now that my ribs are mostly healed, other than the nuisance side effects of the antimalarial drugs which I can stop next week. YES!
8,656 km done, Only 2,741 km to go!
April 12, 13 and 14 – Victoria Falls Zambia
We arrived at Victoria Falls, Zambia on April 11. We have covered 7,943 km of our journey (70% of the way from Cairo to Capetown).
Rest days are a misnomer! My three rest days in Livingstone were really FUN, but not at all restful. As in Arusha Tanzania, there was a smorgasbord of activities from which to choose, and knowing I wouldn’t likely be back any time soon if ever, they were hard to resist.
On the evening of our arrival, I relaxed on a sunset dinner cruise (aka booze cruise) on the Zambezi River, which divides Zambia from Zimbabwe, and saw a few hippos and exotic water birds, a memorable sunset on the river but mostly other tourists. After a breakfast feast the following morning at the nearby 5 star hotel, several of us spent the morning canoeing down a stretch of the Zambezi River and saw more hippos, a juvenile crocodile sunning itself on the bank, and a variety of birds. After months of cycling on hard, unforgiving pavement, it was surreal to gently paddle, or float along with the current, and listen to the birds and the lap of the water and watch the beautiful world go by.
We then walked the spray soaked trail along the Zambian side of Victoria Falls which was an unforgettable, spellbinding experience: the deafening roar of the 500 million litres per minute of water thundering over the 1.7 km width of the falls, the multiple rainbows as the sun shone through the huge clouds of rising mist and being cooled (soaked to the bone!) by heavy showers of falling mist. I savoured a delicious dinner (well worth the European prices) that evening and the next on the enormous terrace of the resort next to our campsite, overlooking the river backlit by the African sunset. I slept well (but not long enough!) in a rented platform tent with power outlets and a common clean modern bathroom for US$35.
I was up early again the next day to go on an elephant encounter, where I could interact with the animals in an elephant orphanage. They are such big gentle souls. I then went on a game drive and saw many wild elephants, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, birds, bushbuck and antelope.
The true highlight of my day was walking with four armed guards to see the highly protected and guarded (from poaching) 4 white rhinoceroses. These animals roam freely within the game park, with 24 hour protection by four guards who do 12 hour shifts. Their tusks sell for US$65,000 per kilo.
So when I arrived with the four guards, there were 8 armed men. They talk out loud around them so they are accustomed to having the guards around them, making it safer for the guards. I was able to come within ten meters of these huge animals, second in size only to the elephant and weighing up to 7,000 lbs.
The last “rest” day I walked across the historical bridge linking Zambia to Zimbabwe, which was built in 1906 to complete the railway from Cape Town to Cairo. I spent the afternoon at the famous Victoria Falls Hotel, an elegant colonial building where a group of us celebrated Douwe’s birthday in fine style, with a leisurely champagne lunch. The remainder of the day was spent preparing bags and bicycles for the onward journey.
April 2 – 11 Malawi & Zambia
Saturday April 2 – Rest Day, Lilongwe, Malawi
We now have three riders off with fractures! One of our riders was unfortunately sent flying by the side view mirror of a car coming into Lilongwe yesterday, crashing and breaking his forearm and scaring the hell out of him and us. He flew to Johannesburg today for surgical plating of the fracture and will meet up with us again in Livingstone, Zambia. It was very sobering, as the drivers frequently pass by very closely at high speeds, leaving us no wiggle room.
Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, is a busy and somewhat modern town in terms of layout and architecture. I note a gradual shift to a more western feel as we head south on this continent, with formal shopping malls, restaurants with a reliable standard of hygiene, modern toilets, etc.
People in business and the service industry are commonly locals of south Asian descent. On our rest day here, I enjoyed two excellent Mediterranean meals, at Mediterranean prices.
The medic on our team and I have been seeing numerous nasty skin infections amongst the riders, arising from minor abrasions or insect bites and developing rapidly into painful pustular satellite lesions. We went to a local private walk in clinic to discuss them with the doc there and were served instantly. The MD agreed that they were just virulent staph, commonly seen here, and reassured me that I should continue to dole out the antibiotics like smarties. I thought I had retired!
To satisfy my desire to bring an elephant home with me, I bought a lovely oil painting of the wrinkled geography of a portion of an elephant’s face. It is now wrapped and taped to the only safe carrying spot I could find, the ceiling of our dinner truck.
Sunday, April 3 – Lilongwe, Malawi to Chipata on the Zambian Border
Today was a great day! I rode my bicycle for the first time in 16 days to see how my healing ribs would tolerate it and it was ok! I am more than elated to be back on the bike, moving slowly, but moving! It was a gentle ride through gloriously green rolling farm land as I crossed the border into Zambia.
In retrospect, Malawi is a beautiful country with stunning geography and gentle, friendly people. It has the remnants of British colonial infrastructure and is developing, but seems to have maintained more of its native African character than Kenya or Tanzania.
After a 3 hour stop in Chipata, our first town in Zambia, to organize SIM cards and data packages for access to the internet, I arrived in camp near town. It was located in deep jungle with rich foliage dripping with the recent rain.
I had a great conversation with a young Dutch doctor (weekending at the camp) who is working in a nearby regional hospital for two years learning tropical medicine.
Monday, April 4 – Chipata to Petauke, Zambia
Back on the bike today! I had a great ride with a new rider (an illustrator from San Francisco) who joined us in Lilongwe. We rode 140 of the day’s 178 km before I got in the Hilux to accompany two riders to the local hospital who needed medical attention. One was struck by a car who turned left into him as he descended a hill, but fortunately the injuries were relatively minor. His bike is no longer functional until we find parts for it. Getting lab work and x-rays was a long and interesting process, and we met up with the colleagues of young Dutch physician I met yesterday. We were late getting into camp in Petauke which was on the parklike grounds of the most beautiful camp we have visited. Each little chalet was painted like the coat of an African animal, and I indulged myself for $35 to a night in the zebra hut. The decor and amenities were first class and my aching bones enjoyed the luxury of a bed.
Tuesday, April 5 Petauke to Luangwa Bridge Camp, Zambia
171 km with 1545 meter climb! Today’s long, steeply mountainous ride was remote with lots of climbs and goats, but few people or villages. We often have transient cloud cover these days which provides welcome relief from the hot sun.
One of our newer riders, a journalist from Toronto, decided to take a reprieve from the sun and hills and laid down for a nap at a distance from the road. He had just dozed off when a tour bus driver noticed him lying in the grass and came to a screeching halt, backed up and everyone on the bus started yelling at him to get out of there as fast as he could. Apparently he had chosen an area known for its poisonous snakes, and noticing all of the snake holes around him for the first time, he frantically but carefully made it safely back to the road with applause from the bus riders.
Every day of this amazing adventure, cycling from Cairo to Cape Town, brings new experiences and sites. On our ride today in Zambia, we spotted a buffalo bike, an incredibly sturdy breed that can carry heavy loads and replacement parts are readily available in Africa.
One of my fellow cyclists, Katja, happens to be raising money to buy these buffalo bikes for needy kids in South Africa (see link below). She was very excited when we saw a person riding one and she had her photo taken on it. I have enclosed the photo for your interest and to see if any of you or your friends would be interested in supporting her worthy cause.
We have a great campsite with nice amenities (including clean, roomy outdoor showers built of stone) perched on the bank of a big wide river, with a great view of the pumpkin orange African sunset reflected in the molten waters and silhouetted against the huge black trees on the horizon. It’s very hot and sauna-like in the tents in the evening these days. It would be nice to leave the fly off for some air, but the nights cool off and the dew is so heavy from the humidity, one has to use the fly or wake up with everything soaked through.
The stresses of these sorts of adjustments are much more onerous than the riding, and present the true challenge of our adventure. The different diet, adjusting to an imposed schedule, the climatic stresses, sleeping on a different environment which is often uncomfortable and noisy, the worry of the traffic hazards (vehicles, kids with rocks and sticks, unexpected obstacles such as potholes, speed bumps, goats or donkeys in the road), the illnesses from bugs to which we we are unaccustomed …these are our daily challenges and the riding, sights and social interactions are our reward.
Wednesday, April 6 – Luangwa Bridge Camp to Jehova School Camp, Zambia
A relatively short 124 km ride today, still in very remote countryside with lots of climbing. I had fun riding with a few of the racers who were nursing colds and taking it easy, which allowed me to keep up. We spotted a 5′ long, 4″ diameter yellow snake with black diamonds dead beside the road, and one smaller, more ominous looking living one that looked to me like a black mamba…. I didn’t stick around to inspect it.
Camp was on the grounds of a Jehovah’s Witness school and provided a good cricket pitch for us to provide the locals with some evening entertainment. We are seeing more and more churches of every denomination that you have and haven’t ever heard of, including J.W. , the names of which are often amusing. There are fewer Muslims and I haven’t been awakened by call to prayer at the crack of dawn for a week or two. the amenities included bucket showers and nature.
Thursday, April 7 – Jehova School Camp to Lusaka, Zambia
It was a relatively smooth 103 km ride into Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, through rolling cropland with modern farms and farming equipment ( yes, tractors! ). However every foot of roadside grass for hundreds of miles is trimmed by hand by scores of men with scythes! Clearing fifteen foot swathes on both sides of the highway, this has to be .an employment project for the masses!
I met and rode into town with a local rider and artist Chifuchi, who will accompany us to the Botswana border. I’m sharing a room with Katja in the run down hotel, rather than camping on its grounds, as it is pouring rain and TDA is covering the cost…the room is cheaper than the tent site! We went to the mall to indulge in several servings of gelato. Its amazing how many calories one consumes with the distances we are doing. Katja, Juliana and I shared some lovely S.A. red wine in our not so lovely room before stepping out for an evening of gracious dining followed by thwarted attempts to find good dancing. Oh well, it was fun trying.
Friday, April 8 – Rest day in Lusaka, Zambia
Our driver from last night took Bert and me on a city tour, which included the Suetto market, the very British colonial municipal buildings and boulevards and most interestingly, the old and new president’s residences. The old one was a humble cottage and housed president ——– who was the driving force behind obtaining independence from the British in the 1950’s when Zambia and Zimbabwe were Rhodesia. He is well respected and still alive and politically active today at the age of 94, and 6 of his 9 children are politicians or diplomats. He assisted many African countries achieve independence.
I had a tasty meal of braised kudu, an antelope like beast, at a excellent restaurant that served local game, followed by creme caramel. Oh heaven, after no deserts for three months.
Saturday, April 9 157 km – Lusaka to Soccer Field Camp, Zambia
I rode out of Lusaka rode in the pouring raining with Steve through lake sized puddles on the road. It was refreshingly cool and the traffic quickly subsided. After lunch, I caught the race team on one of their slow days and enjoyed their company into camp. My ribs are feeling much more solid and I can now put some force into my peddles and sleep through the night. Amazing how the body heals itself in three weeks.
My buddy Mike from Arizona unfortunately went over his handlebars today when his brakes failed in the rain, and will be heading by taxi to Vic falls to rest and recover until we get there in a few days time and his bike is repaired.
Sunday, April 10 – Soccer Field Camp to Ruze Chalets, Zambia
This long day (181 km. ) started out with two flats in rapid succession within the first km. However, I rode with Brian from Comox, B.C. and he was kind enough to wait and help me out. He helped organized and has just delivered 400 donated and refurbished mountain bikes which he had shipped to Malawi. They will be sold for a modest, fair price to locals, consistent with the policy of giving a hand up rather than a hand out. The money from the sales then goes to support a local orphanage. Thanks ever so much again to those of you who have supported or wish to support KEEF, the charity for which I am riding to raise funds to help educate kids in Kenya.
We had a very pleasant and leisurely ride (which I needed after yesterday) with lots of stops for snacks, drinks and conversation and were thus quite late into camp. I’ve had a bucket shower, for which I paid a dollar to a local to haul a bucket of water so I could rinse off the day’s plastered on grime. I’ve had dinner and am heading to bed.
Monday, April 11 – Ruze Chalets to Victoria Falls, Zambia
Our 151 km ride today seems normal, as we adjust to these daily distances which would have tired me out earlier on in the journey. It is a lovely bright day to ride to Livingstone, and there is much excitement in the air about our upcoming three day rest there. We have all made plans to take in the many interesting sites and activities around the famous Victoria Falls.
Mar 22-Apr 1 Tanzania and Malawi
In January Dr. Brenda Trenholme began her epic 4 month cycling journey through Africa (she is cycling from Cairo to Capetown, South Africa). Brenda’s goal is to raise $20,000 for KEEF (the Kenya Education Endowment Fund). Please help Brenda with a donation to support bright Kenyan students who otherwise will not attend high school (not free in Kenya!). To Donate Now to KEEF, click here (be sure to add a note that your donation isfor Brenda’s Ride).
To learn more about KEEF, go to www.kenyaeducation.org
Mar 22, 23 – Tanzania
Tanzania was beautiful, really, really beautiful…the people, the varied landscape and the amazing wildlife. My favourite country so far, hands down! But the extremely bumpy off road section for three and a half long days (riding in the Toyota Hilux) were torture on the broken ribs and the pain got worse by the day. The weather was dry. Nevertheless, it was a miracle that our three support all wheel drive vehicles made it through this rough section, but not without the aide of a tractor on two occasions to haul us through the 18 ” deep mud and a ravine turned into a river with recent rain. It was a scene watching (which is all my ribs allowed me to do) the cyclists unload the 2500 lbs of luggage from the trailer stuck in the river, wading through mud knee deep. We are after all on an expedition, not a tour, as our trucks advertise!
Mar 24 Mbeya
We had a welcome rest day in Mbeya, the border town of 300,000 before entering Malawi. We stayed on the grounds of a hotel owned by people originally from India but fifth generation Tanzanian, who served delicious, fresh, homemade Indian food which we gobbled up. The roads are overtaken by local cyclists, the preferred mode of transportation here and donkeys have all but disappeared.
Mar 25 – Mbeya, Tanzania to Karonga, Malawi and
March 26 – Karonga to Chitimba Beach, Malawi
We crossed the border into Malawi, a sharp contrast to Tanzania and lacking its strong British influence, organization and wealth. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa, if not the poorest, and this is immediately apparent in the less substantial clothing, nutritional status, housing, roads, schools etc and the reappearance of ever present begging. Much to our relief, the people are friendly and not aggressive towards us as they were in Ethiopia. There are very few cars and bikes are the most common mode of transportation after walking. It is not uncommon to see three people, and a baby, on one bike! The cyclists often balance phenomenal loads of cargo and travel at quite a clip on their ancient one speed contraptions, overtaking our cyclists on the downhills. With the high humidity, the steep hills and mountains are covered in jungle, and there are beautiful tea, coffee and banana plantations along the roadside. The tea plantations are very aesthetically pleasing, covering the rolling landscape with uniform crosshatched rows of pruned bright and dark green bushes. We drove through a banana market town and all one could see in any direction was bananas, everywhere, on the ground lining the road, in baskets, on carts and being carried on shoulders and balanced on heads.
Mar 27 and 28 – Rest Days at Chitimba Beach, Malawi
I am now enjoying two day’s rest at a resort in Chitimba Beach on Lake Malawi, the 7th largest lake in the world. With the relatively smooth rides in the support vehicle for the last two days and the rest here in a bed, my ribs can now at last begin to heal. I slept last night for the first time in a week, haven’t cried yet today and life is definitely looking up. My outlook is no doubt much improved by the fruit punch I’ve imbibed as I write this, gazing out from my little beach cabana on the lake with a dramatic backdrop of steep green jungle covered slopes rising up to sandstone cliffs. A four hour guided hike to the ridge was offered but no one had the energy to go, except me, and I am incapacitated! How I would have loved it!
On Easter Sunday five of us attended mass at the Catholic Church as a cultural experience. Glorious singing with rich harmony, to three resonant drums, and subdued dancing were a large part of the service. Near the end, the priest cordially invited us to stand up and say our names and country of origin. He then had the gall to address us regarding the church’s dyer financial needs and to solicit us directly to dig deeper, after we had already voluntarily donated generously to the collection plate. Quite shocking, but no real surprise. It sent whispers through the crowd who, I believe, were as dismayed as we were. He then had the nerve to read out a long list of names and praise, individually, those church members who had donated generously and shame those who had not!! Time to leave, which we did! The music was lovely though and the church was a cool shady reprieve from the cloying, muggy heat.
The staff had some locals do a pig roast on the beach, and dinner was tastey. It was a most pleasant day, embelished by the punch, the roast, and amusing conversations in the shade of a gazebo with a refreshing breeze off of the water.
March 29-31 – Chitimba Beach to Kisungu, Malawi
The two days of lakeside rest at Chitimba Beach in Malawi was much needed by the cyclists, after climbing over 28,000 vertical feet in the previous week on rough ground in tropical heat. We set off again with somewhat refreshed legs but not necessarily rested livers. Everyone is still somewhat weary.
In the last three days, the distances have been long (eg 150-170 km/day) and the roads good, except for the annoying Malawian obsession with speed bumps. There are always 11 bumps in a row for some obscure reason, and often eight or ten of these annoying groupings in rapid succession, usually in a location with no obvious reason for slowing down and with no warning of their presence. So although the landscape is extremely hilly and it would be so much fun to use each descent to get you part way up the next ascent, gaining any speed is a dangerous proposition and caution is the order of the day.
We’ve had about 16,000′ of climbing in the last three days at a cooler, more comfortable temperature (30+ vs 40+ degrees) thanks to the higher altitude. I slept better at night in the more arid air, not waking in a pool of sweat as I had been. The route is rural with little traffic and the landscape is a breathtaking bumpy patchwork of small coffee, tea, banana, tobacco and maize plantations. It is mostly subsistence farming, the farmers are quite poor and Malawi is more densely populated than Kenya and Tanzania. The scenery of Malawi ranks at or near the top of my list so far for beauty and diversity. Tourism and public amenities in general are not as developed , most of the wildlife has disappeared, largely through poaching. They are making efforts to make change and there is so much natural potential to develop.
April 1 – Kasungu to Lilongwe, Malawi
We arrived in the capital Lilongwe today, a sprawling city with modern shopping malls and heavy traffic and throngs of people, all a bit of a culture shock after the quiet rural life we have been leading. Approaching the city, the shoulder of the highway was narrow to nonexistent and one of our cyclists had his handlebars clipped by the side view mirror of a vehicle passing too close. This unfortunately resulted in a crash and a bruised thigh and broken forearm, and miraculously nothing more serious. The police did detain the motorist who claimed the cyclist had run into him and the final outcome of that is unknown. Our cyclist is back with us tonight with a temporary cast and some decisions to make. A shock wave goes through us all when these things happen to one of our group and we are all touched. We pick up a new rider from California today and one of our feisty Canadians ends his tour here tomorrow. The group is always in flux, and despite these shifts and our extreme diversity, we are tight knit group and mutually very supportive….family to each other in these challenging foreign lands. I miss my circle of friends and family at home and am grateful to have such wonderful surrogates here.
We had a dress up party tonight where we had to dress up another cyclist whose name we drew out of a hat. I was dressed up as a safety officer in a tight, gaudy, shiny, synthetic, fluorescent orange short skirt and top (perhaps resembling a psychedelic Doris Day?!) and my victim was our muscular medic whom i decorated with exotic makeup and a belly dancer outfit with skimpy stuffed bikini top showing off his hairy cleavage. TMI.
Tomorrow we rest and I will see how it goes with getting back on the bike on the quiet side street where our campsite is located. If my ribs tolerate it, I’ll wait until we are back on quiet roads with good shoulders before I ride any distance. Our next riding day takes us to the border with Zambia. Wow, time is flying by with only four countries left on our agenda! I am really excited about riding again, cautiously, after this long hiatus.