Thursday, April 28, 2011

TDA 2011 - Namibia

26 April 2011 – Buitenpos to Witvlei – 162km
Today was a very long day after the mando day yesterday. It is 40km less than the day before, but doing 160km the day after is not a joke. Especially if it involves headwinds or sidewinds, which I think the TDA did not anticipate when then planned this route (they thought there would be tail winds).The road again as still pretty boring (jip, you guessed it, straight). The mornig I cycled with a peleton until lunch, which I was very glad I did because of the sidewind that morning. After lunch, which was at 80km, we entered a town at about 110km, which had a  delicious bakery where everybody stopped for some pastries (I also got some biltong there – yum…..). I had some koeksisters and vlakoek there, with some coffee to top it off. We luckily missed a large thunder storm,  and stayed for an extra hour because of it. After the bakery, I had to cycle into head wind all alone, although the last 20km I hooked up with Gary, but because he wqs struggling a bit and still on EFI, I told him that I would help him out. Big concern for me when I got into camp was that all the symptons of my stomach problems were showing up again (excessive gassy, stomach cramps etc). Hopefully it would come right and be gone by tomorrow.         I was pretty tired at the end fo the ride, and so was all of the riders. This was one heck of a long stretch and tomorrow was another 160km!

27 April 2011 – Witvlei to Windhoek – 159km
Worst fear was true, my stomach problem was back again, with my bowl movements being all over the place. My food was not staying in, and I was not getting all of my strength that I needed.  I told myself that if I needed to go to the toilet before the morning section started, I would not cycle. Very stupidly, I did have to go the toilet, and I made the decision to cycle, which was a big mistake.  I was feeling weak, and 2 more toilet sessions next to the road in the first two hours of cycling confirmed this. I made it to lunch, but decided do get on the lunch truck – which I hate to do! But I have been through this before, and I know now how you break your body down, so I was not going to make the same mistake again (although I already cycled the morning session where I should have got on the truck). So did the lunch truck thing, which ended up being a very good decision. It was a very tough session after lunch which some big ascends and head winds, with all of the cyclist saying that was the toughest stretch of the whole week . If I did decide to cycle it, I would have been miserable when I got into camp. Got into Windhoek and headed straight to the MedeClinic there where I could get some proper medical treatment and also get test done (blood and stool samples). I got another dosis of anti biotics, but held off with it until tomorrow morning. Most of the riders headed towards Joe’s Beerhouse, which is the place to hang out in Windhoek. The atmosphere is great and the food even better. It ended up being a very long night, with some red wine consumed with a great kudu steak and then Peter Angola decided that Jaggermeister would be a good choice to drink (which it turned out not to be). O, and happy freedom day SA.

28 April 2011 – Windhoek – rest day
Woke up feeling the effects of the Jaggermeister from the night before. Not the smartest move with regards to my stomach and the problems that I have been having, but I juts could not resist. I needed to unwind and it was a very long stretch.  Luckily there was  a buffet breakfast at our campsite and they could cater for 60 hungry riders, and I must have had about 10 juices there, with some greasy food (again, not good for stomach but needed it for the alcohol). Also started my anti biotics course this morning. I headed  off to the Mede clinic afterwards for my blood test, which I would also get the results only 3 days later with my spool test. Then spent the next few hours at a very big mall which felt just like being in South Africa, biltong shops (bought some and finished the droewors in the mall already), all the SA retail shops, fudge shops (which I bought some) etc. It was great to spent a bit of me time and just walking along at my own pace and time. Met up (by accident) with Chris, Patrick and Christian, where we had an early dinner at one of the restaurants there. I also saved myself about 2 hours with handing in my laundry the morning and pay someone to do it. I really felt like I had so much more time to do stuff with the laundry off my shoulders, which consumes a lot fo your time (and energy).  General impression of Windhoek is that I love the place, very quiet, laid back big town, like a Nelspruit, where the people are super friendly and was so nice to hear Afrikaans all over. Felt very much at home.

29 April 2011 – Windhoek to Weissenfels Camp – 114km
Last stage of the tour, the Diamond Coast, and consist of 14 riding days and total distance of 1762km. The next stretch up to the Sossusvlei was all going to be off-road, which to some degree I like, because I feel I am a little better at it, it is more interesting and because you have to concentrate more, the time does go by quicker. I was just a little sceptical about the rides this week, because of how my stomach reacted again and the way it makes me feel mentally and physically. Long days on a bike feeling good are difficult, long days on a  bike feeling bad is terrible, and there is no enjoyment out of it. My stomach is still going nuts and my bowl movements are all over the place, which is making me feel a bit demotivated. But we just have 15 days to go, so I really want to make the most of the days left and enjoy it. When the ride started, it was very quickly evident that this would be completely different to Botswana. The scenery just immediately changed for the better, which lifts up the spirits of the riders. Great rolling hills in the morning and afternoon with some very nice landscape images on end.  Also the dirt road is the best that we have had thus far on the trip by a mile, making cycling a lot easier than I thought it would be (I was getting speeds of 60km at certain sections going downhill and could get average speeds of 25-27 easily). The campsite are also improving now, with shower facilities being the norm, not the exception. Great ex Saffa running the place, so I very quickly build up a rapport with him. They start this great horse back trip from his farm all the way to Walvis Bay! Also sad to be missing Stephanie’s 30th birthday party today.

30 April 2011 – Weissenfels Camp to Solitaire – 124km
Happy birthday Stephanie!!!!!!!! Very fittingly with her birthday this was one of the rides of the trip. Under the top 5 thus far. On Gary’s advice, I took some Imodium before the ride in order to reduce my bowl movements during the ride, and this definitely paid off. I also felt that as I was cycling, I was getting stronger and stronger, which was great.  It was a very tough first stretch with head and side winds, with the mud from the previous night’s rain making cycling difficult. But after lunch at 65km, the pretty stuff started!! We cycled through this pass, which was actually very easy to do, and then came atop this great scene of epic valley below. The pass also had lots of very big water and mud puddles, so cycling through them was a lot of fun. It was funny feeling that we climbed so little, but yet on the other side, it was so deep. There was a decent after the pass that had my breaks working overtime (500m drop over 4km!). We stopped at a Coke stop (which was a lodge called Gecko’s campsite) to have some much needed Coke’s (the heat is picking up), which was also run by some crazy German’s which does exquisite handmade knives. I can also feel the effect of my weight loss, because my First Ascent sun off arm warmers keep on falling off my arms, which are annoying, because I have to pull them up the whole time (have to do this otherwise I get the cyclist arm tan). There was a great tail wind the last 20km, which always makes the ride so pleasant. Wonderful bakery in Solitaire, which makes the most divine apple tart (if you ever go through there, please get a piece, it is amazing).

1 May 2011 – Solitaire to Sesriem (camps site at Sossusvlei)– 83km
Very glad that it was a short ride of only 83km, although you can never be sure on off rode. Some magnificent land scape scenes as we were leaving the camp site in the morning ( I think I took some good pics of it). I am pretty sure that Namibia will be one “one of the top countries” of thr trip list during the tour, all the riders are raving about the scenes (and very deservedly as well). The scenes just in these few days are to me already better than those in Malawi, Zambia and Botswana (although we did do a really boring stretch in Bots, which is far more scenic than what the riders saw). Had some fun in the morning by participating in a time trial over 30km, which I did in 1:18. I can also see how far behind I am on some of the racers, which posted times of 55 minutes! My big thing on the time trial was that Peter Lamond stated behind me, and all I wanted that was that he would not catch me (which he did not, even though his time was a bit better).  There was a little taste of things to come when the winds just picked up after lunch and there was some really strong head winds, making cycling quite challenge (and slow). For the last stretch of 12km’s, we headed into the direction of the wind, which I was very relived about and all of our speeds immediately picked up.  It was Patrick’s birthday, so we had some nice drafts beers at the end of the ride (I consulted with Gary first before I had my beer). I was planning to go and visit the dunes the next morning, but later that night decided against it, as we had to get up to early, I wanted to rest and there was a very good chance that I would be back here in the future on a (hopefully) 4x4 trip. Not sure how I managed, but I convinced myself to wash my bike and clothes, which I was very glad about the following day. At night we had a delicious buffet at the Sossus lodge, which was great value for money with various game meat on offer (of which I had ostrich, springbok and kudu).

2 May 2011 – Sossusvlei – rest day
Pretty relaxed day at the camp site. There is nothing to really do around here, except relax. There are no shops, no streets, no houses, juts the camp site and some lodges in the middle of a desert basically. Did a 4km walk to a little mini canyo in the morning, took a few pictures and then did the walk back as well. Little surprised to see how quickly the wind came up, walking there was nothing, when we came back it was a very strong head wind.  We decided that we would have another buffet lunch at the Sossus Lodge, which again was extremely good. My stomach is also feeling pretty good, so the spirits are pretty high at this stage (it needs to be, I think a tough stretch is coming up). My tent looked like a sand storm had gone through it, it is not made for places in the desert or where there is lots of sand being blown up (otherwise it is pretty good).  I also have to mention that one of most annoying things about a campsite is that it is a pain to charge electronic equipment, as 60 riders want to charge 5 gadgets each at the same time!  Sossusvlei is a wonderful place, very peacefull and in the middle of nowhere. I definitely need to have a stop here again in the future.  There was also a very funny incident with Patrick in the morning where his girlfriend relayed the wrong message and got one letter in a name wrong, and had a lot of us in disbelief for a while, until we saw the news and how he got the wrong message across.

3 May 2011 – Soussousvlei to Betha – 139km
I’m back!!!! (or so I hope so – on the cycling front that is). I felt so good cycling today, a feeling I have not had since about a month ago. It is a funny feeling to describe, but when you are feeling lke this, you just know you are going to have a good day, even though it might bea tough day (which today was for the riders, but I loved it). The stomach problems seem to be over now (finally), so hopefully now I can just concentrate on cycling (I stopped with my 3 anti biotics dosis last night). Again, it was a very scenic ride with this vast landscape in front of you, although I was slightly annoyed that I missed the gemsbok and springbok that some of the people have seen. It was a very tough section to lunch, with lots of head winds and corregation (the lunch truck was full with riders that made it to lunch and did not seem to have the energy to go on). I actually enjoyed that asection a lot and got some pretty cool pictures. After lunch there was a great descent (I was getting 55km/h) with just the right music playing for the mood that I was in and the area I was cycling in (Hinder – All night long). I got into camp at 14:30, which made me one of the earlier ones to come in, it was a great feeling. When you are in the zone, you just go and keep on peddling and the km’s tick by like nothing. Hopefully I can keep this up tomorrow. Also, HAPPY anniversary liefie!!! (1 year). The camp where we stayed was really nice, this old farm where they basically do everything, from fule pump to accommodation to bakery etc… Oh, and the stars in the night sky, what a view!

4 May 2011 – Betha to Konkiep Lapa – 153km
A great mando day for me and for most of the riders. It was weird, but because the mando worked out to be so easy, it almost did not feel like a mando (or worthy of one). I had some religious dreams the night before, but with the help of an angel, had overcome it. It was a difficult night’s sleep, but I felt very good when I woke up, like someone was looking after me and supporting me. I was also on the lookout for my signs from God when I started cycling. But as the day was progressing, I realised that I would not physically see any signs today like I had done before, but rather the fact that I was cycling way beyond my normal speed and over taking some very good cyclist that I never overtake, as my sign for the day.  It felt that day like I was flying on the bike, I was cycling with wings, with wings of an angel. It was a great ride into lunch on the dirt, and if you could make it to that, which was the tougher section, you made the day. The rest was very easy and I my speed after lunch was just over 30km/h.  Scenery again was breathtaking, as well as the condition of the off road was getting better and better as the day went on. I was in camp at 14:30, the second day. I think we were quite lucky with the wind, which did not turn out to be a factor as thought. 11 out of 11 for me on the mando.  Just a great cycling day for me (although the rain would come in later in the evening and play havoc).

5 May 2011 – Konkiep Lapa to Seeheim – 124km
What was supposed to be a very easy section of the mando day turned into one of the toughest, because of all of the rain the night before and also the continuous rain that we had when picthing up our tent, getting dressed, eating breakfast and starting cycling in the rain.  The rain made the gravel soft so your tires just fill in and fall into it, rather than cycle over it, and this was probably the day that the most riders took the trucks either immediately to camp because of the rain or were picked up between 1 – 10km from the start. This is how tough it was. I knew that if I could make it to the town at 32km, the rest of the day’s road would be paved and hopefully easier.  I cannot remember when I was so glad to see a town the far distance after the toughest 32km of my life and of this trip. Not sure how I made it, even though I wanted to give up a few times, but I did. Great to have some warm pies and coffee at the town, and also stooped raining at that point, which also made it more bearable. There was times that I was going 8km/h on a straight road, that is how tough the wind and rain was. If I was not feeling 100% healthy and on my high from the week’s riding, I would have also been on one of the trucks. I cycled with Steve that first morning session, then Pieter Lamond to lunch and then with myself and thoughts after. I was still in that great cycling feeling and so thankful to be in this mode, it makes such a difference to your mental state of you are enjoying the cycling and fully healthy. I also sorted out my bum problem sort of, although it took me 3.5 months to figure it out. Apply shammy cream to your bum at lunch as well, not just only in the morning and it makes a huge difference to me! Pretty cool hotel where we are staying and so happy that when I got in (I also beat some of the racers to it), Chris had gotten me a room. Most of the riders were staying or sharing rooms after the nights raining episode was just too much to deal with again (the tents would have to stay wet for another night in their bag). I also saw a great sign next to one of the roads, “God loves you” – again, another sign!

6 May 2011 – Seeheim to Road House Camp – 108km
Again, a short ride for the day (I think to save us for the mother of mando’s tomorrow). Nothing crazy today, although it was all offroad and although the rian stayed away from the night before, because of all of the rain recently, the roads were still pretty “soft”, which made cycling still a lot tougher than it should have. Lunch was cut short because of a river that was flowing across the rode, so we had it after 25km, which was a real shock to our system.  Slight uphill after lunch, but nothing crazy, other than my bike needing some serious TLC (tender love and care) after what it had been through by now and also from the offraod (it was holding out pretty well). We are staying in the Canyon Roadhouse camp, which has got the most amazing bar and food area. The whole building is decorated in these old signs that the owner collected from donkey years back. And the toilets are also decorated with number plates and old movie posters, very cool and it gives the places just a cool atmosphere (I would not mind if my bar looked like this). Could give me bike a good clean and also update this blog, because all of us go tin pretty early. Also nice to have everything dry out from 2 nights before. 

7 May 2011 – Hobas Camp to Felix Unite – 159km
Last mando day!( forever). The day was also extended by 11km, because yesterday’s was cut short by that distance due to the camp site that we were supposed to stay had to be cancelled. So 171km on nay road is already tough enough, but having 131 km on dirt and then 40km on paved road is even more challenging.  Also the warning from the TDA director that this was normally  along day for the riders was also not good. Everyone knew that this would be a long day, and so it turned out. Most riders spent long hours on their bikes, I made it spending 8 on mine. But what followed was a magnificent ride through some of the most desolated places on the trip thus far. Just you, your bike and nothing at times, which is great for thinking time, reflecting on the tour and what you are busy achieving. It stats sinking in as we get closer to the finish line.  I also rode for most of the off rode section on my own, which was great and I could really enjoy the nice scenery. The paved section I road with Scott, who is a very strong rider (it worked out great because the paved part was the toughest of the day, uphill and big head winds and Scott just rode in front with me on the back – all I had to do was keep up, he did all of the work, which I was very thankful for).  We both arrived with arms up in the air at the finish flag, the day was over and the last of the mando days! 12 out of 12 for the mando’s for me. The day started at 6:45 and I rolled in at 15:30, I long day indeed. It was nice to catch the second half of the Stormers/Crusaders game, although they did loose. And I think there was some big expectations that it would be a nbig night, but I think after the long day, it was over pretty quickly, most of the riders returning to bed pretty early.  I was so thankful for this week and that I was feeling good again, this was one of the nest weeks to cycle, with the scenery, but you had to be on top of your game, it was tough as well. So I was very relieved that I had this feeling of enjoyment back again. Exactly how I wanted to end the trip, enjoying it while it lasted…..

8 May 2011 – Felix Unite – rest day
One thing I am not going to miss is people getting up early in the camp sites and just talking away, without considering that other people actually want to sleep some more. Not cool. There was not much to do at the camp site, and there was no real town to speak of as well. So the riders could actually just chill out and this was the first rest day in ages where I could actually just properly rest. The camp site is right on the edge of the Orange river, so it is quite a cool feeling seeing the other side of the river, knowing that SA is there. Unfortunately of the of the worst restaurant experiences we had on the trip was the night at dinner, which turned into absolutely chaos. They did not mess up the orders, but the service and food was so slow coming out, it was ridiculous. I was actually quite embarrassed for them, and really started to give it to the lady that was running it at the front. Not what I was expecting of a place like this. Still I went to bed feeling pretty uplifted, tomorrow I was crossing into my home country! After so long, I would be back home.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

TDA 2011 - Botswana

17 April 2011 – Livingston to Kasane (border crossing) – 81km
Start of the Elephant Highway – 1539km over 10 riding days, so average 150km’s a day. Pretty sure my bum is going to get a working over again during this section. There are 12 new sectional riders for this stage, so the system is again a bit stretched and there are lots of new faces in the group (I was at one stage wondering if I was in the right group). It is a border crossing day, so nice short day, which was great for me because of my off days before. Some of the riders came across a very angry bull elephant in the morning that actually charged them, but luckily nothing serious happened. Someone also must have had a good moan about the food, because the lunch is definitely getting better – toasted cheese sandwiches. We cycled to the Chobe river, from which you have cross the river with the ferry. It is a very unique little crossing, because it is the only place in the world where 4 countries meet (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia).  It is a very weird feeling when you stand at the edge of the river, 150m ahead of you is Botswana, just to its left is Zimbabwe and to the right to Namibia. No hassles at border and we got into camp before 12. Booked a river safari on the Chobe river, which turned out to be great value for money and saw some stunning scenery, including lots of elephants, impalas, iguana, hippo’s, sunset and also the full moon. Also got an elephant and lion briefing from local guides with regards to what me might encounter with our cycling trip on the famous “elephant highway” where elephants instead of cows line the paved road.

18 April 2011 – Kasane to Bush camp – 159km
Sceptical about today because this will be my first full ride back – luckily it turned in to a very good one where I averaged 27km/p and time on bike was 5.2 hours. I could ride the first stretch all the way to lunch at 75km in one go (and there was a fresh spoor of lion and leopard from that morning at or lunch camp). The riding took on the Egypt and Sudan days, where peleton riding is the main theme again. The roads are very long and straight, so peleton riding is the best way to go about it (save about 20% cycling in a peleton) – plus it makes for some good chats among the riders. We had to do an extra 11km for the day, but still felt very good and made it easily (also less cycling then tomorrow). But very relieved that I had that same feeling when I started the trip and in the middle of it, I enjoyed it and had energy left when I got to camp. What I have been missing for the last 2 weeks now, enjoyment. I can also see I will be using my Ipod much more on these stretches, just long and endless, no need to concentrate too much.

19 April 2011 – Bush camp to Nata – 158km
Nice bike for the day, nothing crazy or exciting, although we were stopped by a passing truck and told that 5km on they saw some lions crossing the road (we saw none – luckily). I had an incident at lunch with the TDA staff that I was livid about and made my intentions and feelings very clear, although I did do it very professionally. It was an episode that has played itself out now for a while, they do not buy enough food for all of the riders at lunch, especially fruit, so  when the later riders get in, we are told that we cannot get more or any of the fruit. So when I was told this with some peers still left over I was livid (and it happened to the cheese as well just before this). I was basically denied peers although they had some, because they said they were leaving it for the riders that were still coming in, but I told them that I had none! So why can I not get any? So I eventually did get 2 slices, but made it very clear that this was ridiculous and they should ensure they buy more fruit (especially for what I am paying for on this trip!). Just before the lodge we also stopped at a gas station and I had my first take away of chicken burger on this trip (I would imagine I will have a few more as I move to Namibia and SA). At the lodge, it was Christine’s birthday, so Paul Wolf opened the bar for everyone. So no one needed any invitations and the drinks were flowing. So a planned few drinks turned into a lot and I ended up going to bed at 12 that night – which was way too late for cycling and having to get up at 5am! Not very smart. At least my stomach was holding up very well and had no problem consuming the brandy and coke’s I was having J

20 April 2011 – Nata to Bush camp – 182km
Okay, I knew this had to happen. I woke up with a good old hang over and although I was dressed with my cycle clothes which ere drenched from the rain, I decided to not cycle the day. I could maybe make it, but I would surely be in last and in bad shape, and definitely not enjoy it. And since I was not on EFI anymore, it ended up being an easy decision.  Also it started raining from 3am in the morning, and just kept on going until long after a breakfast. Everyone was soaking wet and it was one of those things I was dreading, putting up my tent in soaking rain. Staff stopped at the Wimpy restaurant for a good breakfast and then drove off to the camp, skipping the lunch stop. It was a pretty crap feeling on the truck, and I felt like I was cheating the route. So I decided it would be the first and last time that I would drink that much again before a riding day. The nice thing about getting into camp was that I could at least get all my things out of the locker and dried out. There was a lot of people that did the truck thing, including Chris and Patrick. But personally for me it did not make me feel better, I just want to be on the truck if I am unable to cycle the route because of illness, and not hangover! Scenery wise I missed nothing, and we just saw a herd of elephant in the distance.

21 April 2011 – Bush Camp to Maun – 136km
Very determined to ride today after yesterday’s little debacle.  I cycled with Patrick for the whole day (we left Chris behind at camp as he needed to do his business and we wanted to get an early start). The scenery is still pretty much the same, just long straight roads with bushes on the left and right hand side. We joined the racers in the morning with their peloton, and because they were going slower than normal, we could stay with them for a h wile, until one or two of them decided a breakaway was on the cards. We cycled the stretch in one stop all the way to lunch and got in at 9:30am. The TDA are definitely upping the anti with lunch and breakfast and we got sausages today for lunch! A far cry from the eggs or tuna that we were always getting, with some nice fruit also provided. I also see they took my advice to heart and about the food rationing and had a sign up at the sausages, “only 3 per rider” – my little peer incident seemed to have at least make them think about some  things. Then after this I cycled with heather and Patrick for the afternoon. It was a great stretch and we got into town at around 12. Patrick and I decided to have another Wimpy lunch and then he got the idea to buy Chris a bday gift (it was his bday for the day), a case of beer (with a comp cooler) and then some ice. So we cycled off with a case of beer on ice on our bikes for the next 6km’s to camp. The people were very surprised about it and I think Chris really appreciated the gift. Had a very good braai in the evening, and I braaied some ribeye for Chris and Patrick with a great boerewors on top of that – a ”bring and braai” was arranged for the TDA riders, the coals etc would be provided, they just need to bring some meat and also barbecue it themselves (of which some make a real mess of it).

22 April 2011 – Maun – rest day
Great buffet breakfast at the hotel, including some freshly baked scons and muffins! Of course the riders ate through their food supplies like nothing and soon the staff were scrambling for more! There was to be no more upgrades until Cape Town so I was sleeping in my tent. Did the normal admin routine, washed my clothes and tried to get all my electrical equipment charged. We went on an Okavango Delta rip in the afternoon, where we would fly over it with a plane.  The pilot was a SA guy which spoke Afrikaans, so we got along really well and I was allowed to sit in the cockpit (the plane was a five seater, so it was myself, the 2 Bram’s, Matteus and Paul). It was really worthwhile and the scenery amazing! Seeing all of the water, how it delta’s out in the various streams, how it changes colours, seeing herds of elephant and buffalo from the sky was superb. The water provides a very good source of life along the whole park, which is huge and you only get an idea of the size from a plane, so the plant and animal life in this area is unmatched.  Another highlight of the trip for me. I would love to do a canoe or safari through the park, but for now, a flight over it was worthwhile and great way of appreciating the size and beauty of it. At least also saw some elephants now, not seen a thing on the elephant highway!

23 April 2011 – Maun to Bush camp – 157 km
Nothing crazy or anything really to report. We had a great speed with a very good tailwind before lunch and then some of it afterwards. All of the riders were pretty quick and into camp pretty early. I managed to finish the book that I was reading for over 2 months, so Patrick can stop giving me crap about it. Bastion arraged a talent show after dinner, and provided some humour, although only a few riders show cased their “talents” (it was pretty snorry).

24 April 2011 – Bush camp to Ghanxi – 140km
The roads are still (jip, you guessed it) straight and long (and unfortunately boring). It really feels sometimes that you are just going through the motions (which you are). This is a “little” warm up ride for tomorrow’s mammoth ride of over 200km. We stayed at a pretty nice camp site, where the bar had wireless. Funny story of the day was an ostrich was walking around in our camp site and laid an egg at one of the rider’s tents! Happy Easter!

25 April 2011 – Ghanxi to Buitenpos – 207km (border crossing)
A tough one, and in true fashion, lived up to the mando day reputation. Long distances, side and head wind made it a tough one. And then add rain to it as well, then you have a very” good” mando day. Of all of the places, it started raining in Botswana when we started with our cycling 10km into the ride, and it stayed with us for the next 40km. The other thing that makes cycling in rain tough, besides the obvious rain falling down on you, is the spray from the back wheel of the rider in front of you, which is almost worst that the rain from above. We had a very large peloton cycling into lunch, going very fast (my tactic to get the long day done was to have a very quick ride to lunch at 80km, and then I could take it a bit easier after that – which I managed to do). The road again was just flat and long. Very, very long. After lunch there was another storm that broke out and if it was not for the garage that was close by, it would have been a terrible ride (it was raining os hard, it felt like hail). We actually only left the garage after our second attempt, the first one it just started raining again very hard, so we very quickly retreated to the comfort and warmth of the shop. There was a refresh stop at 150km, and then after that another bad head wind to deal with. We had no problem with the border crossing, except for Sarge who was told at the border post that he needed a visa – so he had to sleep at the border crossing and refused entry into the country. We started our ride at 6:45 the morning, and I rolled into camp at 16:45 that afternoon.  A new personal best for me with regards to the distance, and 10 out of 10 for the mando’s for me!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TDA 2011 - Zambia

6 April 2011 – Lilongwe to Mama Rules camp (border crossing) – 152km
Start of the Zambezi zone stage and this was one where the distances are greatly increased from what we were normally doing (with the thought that your body should be able to do these now on daily basis taking into account how far in the trip we are). The distance for the whole section is 1215km over 8 days, and unfortunately the terrain is not flat (opposite to what I thought we would be cycling on from now on). It was a border crossing day and crossed the border at about 120km. we tried to do the peloton thing this morning, but failed horribly, as the people that we cycled with just were not on the same wave length or they just do not know how to cycle in a peloton. More worryingly for me was that my stomach was again playing up at 110km, just starting to get excessively windy and gassy, and it made for very uncomfortable cycling all the way to camp. I also tried to cycle with one short again, hoping that I would somehow be able to change back (but was unsuccessful and at about 100km had to bring out the second pair!).  The camp site was great and very well located as well as had all of the things a good camp site needed. We were also treated to some lasagne for the evening, which was superb. Most of the riders were having a few beers, but I was staying away, my stomach not reacting well to anything gassy I put in. I also thought that in the morning when I woke up my inflatable sleeping mat had a whole in, so in pitch dark, I was trying to look for the whole in the camp site swimming pool, while everyone around me was packing their things and getting ready to get on the truck.

7 April 2011 – Mama Rules camp to Zulu kraal – 177km
Hell day. By far my second worst day on the trip. The distance was not so much the problem, but more in the state that I was cycling it. My stomach went crazy the night before I had 5 bowl movements from 21:00 t6he night before to 5am that morning. I felt pretty weak, tired from lack of sleep and pretty frustrated that this would happen now when I have the furthest cycling day to do thus far on the trip. And what was even worse was that it was not a flat road, but lots of rolling hills, with more up hills than down hills. I went to the medics in the morning and requested some Cipro anti biotics (most of the riders with stomach problems have been on them and it has worked).  So I took my fist pill in the morning with breakfast and was hoping that both would stay in my stomach and the little pill would work its magic. At least my breakfast did stay in during the whole day, but to say that the ride was easy is a lie. Every peddle was so hard, I just had so little energy in me and the day just seemed to go on for ever and ever. My energy levels were at an all time low and I just could not get going. Chris cycled with me in the morning, and his words ”don’t worry, no one is going to loose his EFI today” was comforting, but still for me difficult to look pass. Also difficult to see how riders that I would normally our cycle every day was going faster than me and getting to lunch stops etc before me. I they just looked more fresher. Raring to go. I just wanted to stop cycling. It was also very humid which was also not helping my cause – I was trying to take as much liquids as possible, but it seemed I just sweated everything out as quick as well. The last 40km I cycled with Len and he gave me lots of encouragement. We were the last to finish and arrived just after 5pm in camp – a few minutes before the rider meeting started – it felt like I was back in the early cycling days! Not cool!  Everyone also seemed to be pretty cheerful and drinking beer, and I was miserable. Also my stomach started playing up again as soon as I finished, and I had to go twice in about 20 minutes.  And once I had my dinner, there was another 2 bowl movements that I had, very unpleasant and just really de motivating. It felt like anything Iw as putting in, even water, was just coming out again.  I was really down that night in my tent and told myself that if I had to go to the toilet again in the morning, I would not cycle the stage but rather rest and give up my EFI. It was haning on a tread. My cool thing for the day was again the Lord giving me inspiration when I needed it most, remembering the signs that are out there every day in our life, we just need to see them. It happened at one of the stops, one where we had about 50km or so to go, I was out of it, down for the count, and then just as we were about to cycle to our next refresh stop, the shop where we bought the drinks had a sigh on top of it reading “God is great” (or something to that degree – I just saw it by accident as we were about to start cycling again).  I just had a big smile after reading the sign and really felt a lot better cycling the next stretch knowing that He was looking after me.

8 April 2011 – Zulu kraal to School camp – 141km
The food stayed in for the morning and I decided that was a good sign for me to cycle ahead for the day (plus I was quite keen to keep my EFI, since I have come this far).  But I was very cautious, knowing that this was going to be a very fine one, I might just make it through this thing with my EFI attached, but was also willing to start accepting reality, that I would have to loose EFI. It was very nice that the word around camp had spread at that stage and that a lot of people had asked me how I was, feeling etc. It was a nice gesture form the people and one that I really appreciated. Also a lot of them had some words of encouragement for me. I have to admit, one of main reasons I wanted to cycle was that there was a group of SA guys that were traveling with the motor cycles form Cape Town to Cairo, and Die Burger had arranged a photo shoot with them and the 4 South Africans on our trip. They were doing the same route as us, but just going opposite direction. So I wanted to really be part of this and also for it to happen, all 4 of us had to cycle together for the day (which I was not too happy about, because I was cycling a lot slower than the other 3 with my stomach). Somehow I managed to almost stay with the (Pieter, Ryan and Marelie), but lost them after 20km but caught up again with them at lunch time (I was about 20 minutes behind). The motor cyclist guys (they called themselves “3 Farmers and a Greek” also did not catch up to us yet at that stage – which I was glad about, so I did not miss any photo action.  After lunch I cycled with Marelie (still lots of rolling hills –more than in the morning) and at about 110km we caught up with them. We had a good chat with them, Theresa took the pictures and then they were also surprised to hear about some of the roads that we cycled on (which would basically be the same as what they were going to do). I think after that they had a lot of respect for us, and I think once they actually drive it, they will have even more. Unfortunately when you are sick, you tent to forget about the scenery and just want to survive, just make it to camp and lie down. We made it into camp at around 2pm, so I had some time to relax. I just rolled out my mat and slept in the shade in the afternoon. My stomach started becoming gassy again, so I got some additional pills form the medics. With the mando coming up tomorrow, I would have to reassess again how my stomach was feeling and that I decided that if I had any bowl movement in the evening and my dinner could not stay in, I was not going to cycle the mando. It would be a hellish day, with just under 2000m of climbing, so you need to be at 100% if you do this. Trying to drink as much liquids as possible in the meantime.  Funny story of the day was the showers at the camp, which was basically at a water pump with 2 buckets out in the open. Pretty funny and it was quite a sight for 2 of the ladies when they came to shower and 4 guys were already there, stark naked doing their thing.

9 April 2011 – School camp to Jehonah school camp – 148km
Mando 9 of 12 – dinner stayed in the night before, no bowl movement at all, which at this stage was good so I decided that I was going to cycle it. The stats for the day was climb of 1850m and down of 850m. You did not have to be a genius to figure out that the bulk of the day was going to be climbing, and lots of it! This must have been one of my toughest rides to date, physically because of my condition and mentally because my mind was playing mind games. Just give it up, you do not need to put yourself through this etc. I never cycled on this trip where I wanted to stop so many times as in that first 25 km of the day. I just wanted to stop, I had enough. Somehow I made it to the stop, just crossing a very nice bridge over a river where a lot of the other riders were at. It was a good break and then I moved on , trying to make the next stretch to lunch. Funny enough, I actually was getting stronger in this section and was cycling Chris and Patrick away. Felt good when I got to lunch and then had my first bowl movement since the day before.  Chris and Patrick decided to not cycl;e on and get on the truck, meaning that I would just have to cycle on by myself (although both of them said they would help me today!).  After lunch my stomach just started playing up again and it was like this all the way to camp. It got so bad that at my last stop 20km out, I took a rest, then got a flat, and had to go to the bushed twice in 5 minutes!  And then just before I got into camp I had to go again. And then once my tent was set up as well. I was second last in, very glad that I made it, but gutted. I felt like crap and had nothing in me. The rider meeting started while I was still setting up my tent. It was at this time that I told myself what am I doing? And then I had my light moment when I went to the toilet (of all places). If I was at home, I would be booked off for 2-3 days and put on anti biotics. Here I am trying to cycle 150km a day! Nuts! And worst was that a few people had told me that I had lost a lot of weight and did not look to well. When Lindsay also told me to just stop, that was the final straw for me. I had taken myself to the limit. I tried, but I would have to give up my EFI and just get on the truck and rest. That was the main ingredient that my body needed and I was not giving it to it. Once I had made this decision, I just felt so much better immediately. My plan was also to go ahead to Livingston and stay there for 3 days while the group was cycling there. I few people told me to keep going, but once I had explained to them my decision and how I felt, they fully supported me.  A very nice moment was when the riders were getting food,  I was still busy putting up my tent. So some of the staff arranged that they got my dinner for me (before seconds was called) and they would keep it for me. It was very much appreciated. Heather was also very nice and tried to help me when I got to camp by asking if I needed things, getting me a coke, hammer for my tent pins etc.  The  choice was made, EFI was about to go. I had given it my all. But I did feel very good about my decision and that it was the right one. And I still had managed to finish the day’s riding, not getting on the lunch truck.

10 April 2011 – Jehonah school camp to Lusaka – 109km
Some weird thoughts going through my head when I woke up (like cycle the last stretch, which I knew I could still make, but I knew it would have serious long term consequences on my body – and mind). But I awoke to the most beautiful sight of milky way and the starts – we have to wake up 4:45 in the mornings, breakfast is at stupid 5:30 am. And when I saw this sight, I still knew life goes on, this is what this trip is al about, and not EFI. Seeing these sights, enjoying it and taking it in. I started to miss all of this over the last 2 weeks, when my stomach started. I knew then that I had made the right decision.  It was weird feeling handing my bike to the trucks to be put on the top. Steve had invited me to sit with him on one of the trucks, but because one of the staff members wanted to sit in front, I still could sit in the back of that truck (all of the other riders had to sit in the other, so I had loads of space all for myself!). It was also surreal passing the riders as we drove along, watching them cycle away. That was me until yesterday, today no more. I waived and yelled words of encouragement to all my mates that I passed, and they would just laugh or wave back. We got to the camp and it was even more surreal being one of the first people to pitch up my tent! I could also use the shower first, which was great.  The one thing that did blow me away was how quickly the racers came in, they were in by 9:30 am! Nuts! I would have still been on the road  cycling away. Terry, Luke and myself went to the Arcades mall and feasted on some steaks at Rhapsody’s restaurant (expensive, but they made great milk shakes as well).  I sorted out my bus tickets in the afternoon and then met up with some of the riders for our first movie in over 2.5 months. We went to see “I am number 4”, and I have to say, it is the best C grade movie I have seen in my life – not sure how they one slipped through to be shown on the movie, as someone was clearly not doing his job! The funny parts of the movie was when we were joking about it and making funny remarks. Dinner was at Mike’s Kitchen, an SA restaurant with all traditionally great SA food. I just had a real hunger for ribs, so I decided to have some of it and finish off on a high….peppermint crisp tart. Probably not good for my stomach, but I just had to have it, I had a big craving for it and my appetite was on the loose. I also think the mental thing of not having to cycle was having a good impact on me. I could now just relax….and eat J

11 April 2011 – Lusaka – rest day
My planned trip to a hospital did not work out as intended. Surita (TDA tour director) took me, but after the umpteenth “go to this place” and “wait” etc I had enough. I decided that I would rather go to Livingston and see a doctor there. Besides, my bus was leaving at 13:30, I had to leave camp at noon to make it, and I still had to pack and set up my tent etc.  For breakfast I decided to save some money and just get some fresh fruit as well) to go to the Spar at the Arcades centre. When I walked in, I noticed that they had a sit down section where you could order breakfast (and Horst was already there as well). What followed was the best breakfast I have had on the trip by a mile! (and best value for 25,000 kwachas). I was quite surprise to see the bus actually leave on time at the station, which is a rarity in Africa! It felt good to be away from the TDA group and going on to Livingston, I needed the time to regroup and also recover. Some people were actually commenting on how much more relaxed I looked when I left. It also felt great travelling by bus again; it felt like I was back in South America on my trip.  The bus journey did not run 100% smooth; we had a breakdown but was very relieved when it was fixed pretty quickly. I booked a room at the Jollyboys backpackers, which seems to be the place to stay.  Plan is to stay there for 3 nights and then join up with the TDA group in Livingston at the camp where they will be staying. It seems like very nice backpackers and there are loads of activities to do here. I also got a surprise when Patrick sms’d me to inform me that Chris, Megan, Ruth and he was coming through to Livingston the next day as well.

12 April 2011 – Sick day (Livingston)
I woke up and I was SO glad I was not cycling. Man, being off the bike is great! After almost 3 months continuous it was greats to be off it for more than 1 day. I think the mental effect was also very comforting and positive. Walked to the Shoprite in town to buy some healthy food for breakfast and lunch (I got that but of course ended up with so sweets and biscuits in my bags again). My breakfast was Kellogg’s Cornflakes and Yogurt and it was like a real treat for me! So nice to get something else that was also very basics other than the standard TDA breakfast (which does become too much at times). I went to see the doctor in the morning and the prescribed some new anti biotic for me, Flagyl and Altacef for 5 days (he mentioned that the Cipro that I took is pretty common in Sub Sahara Africa and can be purchased over the counter, so the bugs become resistant to it). My biggest shock of the day came when they weighted me – 83.5kg!!!!!!!!!!! I was about 95kg when the trip started, and this is by far the lightest that I have been since I left school! Crazy! So tip for anyone that wants to loose weight, cycle trough Africa for 3 months!  Chris, Patrick, Ruth and Megan joined up with me in the afternoon. I was very glad that Chris and Patrick joined me, as I am getting along with them really well and was fun to have them around. It was also nice to catch up with what the riders were getting up to from back in Lusaka. It took Patrick also just 5 minutes form he entered to the back packers to get acquainted with the Belgium lady group that was there as well! Went to dinner to Mexican restaurant, which was surprisingly good. And my other shock of the day was when I had calculated how much I had spent thus far on the trip, it was WAY over my intended budget!!! Need to maybe look at areas where I can start cutting on some things! Or I need to start working a lot earlier when I get back in South Africa (or hope to get a job).

13 April 2011 -  Sick day (Livingston)
Woke up with a big craving for those Kelllogs Cornflakes! My stomach seems to be getting better, which is very good news and it seems that the anti biotics are working, which in the doctor’s words, should be “raring to go by Friday”. We went to see the Victoria Falls today, and it is very impressive! It is not as wide as Iguazu Falls, but it is much higher – and the spray from the Falls is really something. It really does it name very proud that the locals gave it, “the smoke that thunders”. Because from far, it looks like some big bush fire with the spray of the water being so impressive. There are 4 footpaths, and the one footpaths takes you very close to the Falls, and you get soaked (they rent out rain jackets there as well). It feels like you are walking through a big rainstorm, everything is soaking wet afterwards! We did this foot path first, which gives your clothes some time to dry off during the other paths. The park was smaller than I anticipated it would be, but the Falls itself did not disappoint. Also very good view point from a path that takes you to the bottom of the Falls at the bowl section (it just looks like a wild toilet bowl). The one problem with the spray was that your view was a little objected with it, and it was very difficult to get a good clear view of it (so a helicopter ride would have to be arranged to overcome this problem).  Some of the guys wanted to go to the Zim side to see the Falls, but were advised that the view was not that great by some back opackres, so they decided against it. Feel pretty privileged that I have now been able to see some truly spectacular waterfalls in the world. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.

14 April 2011 - Sick day (Livingston)
There was a nice comment on the TDA blog about Paul Spencer (who was second in the race) and myself after we dropped out of EFI. Reading the official website blog they wrote the following:
Two very strong riders (including the second place on the race) lost their EFIs this week, not so much because it was that hard, but because at this point everyone’s bodies are starting to feel the 3 months of strong riding since January when they left Cairo, in Egypt, to the 12,000 km journey across the African continent. The tour is now on its way to the 8,000 km mark.
We (Patrick, Ruth and myself) decided to do the helicopter ride today – it is very expensive,30 minutes for US270, but well worth the ride. It takes you into rapids 20 – 26 of the George of the river, and then onto the Falls itself, doing a few circles from where you can see the Falls and the two towns, Livingston and Vic Falls.  The heli flight was so good to see the Falls from the air, exactly the view you need to see the Falls in all its glory (especially because of the “smoke” that it produces up close). Flying into the gorge of the river was great as well, it felt like an airwolf episode! And after seeing the river so close, I definitely want to come back and do the river rafting. And the George is also very deep and curvy, something I was not expecting.  Waiting at the Launchpad of the heli was also great, because you are at this lookout deck where you can just see smoke in the distance, which is of course the Falls, so it is very easy to spot.  I also saw the riders cycle into town today, and it felt very weird not being part of it. The also arranged a booze cruise for the evening, which I decided not to go to, because I cannot rink alcohol because of the anti biotics I was on. Instead Patrick and myself went to the markets to buy some gifts and also just stay in for the evening at the back packers (it turned out to be a pretty wild evening I was told).

15 April 2011 – Rest day – Livingston
Had a very chilled out morning at the hostel, catching up of all of the gossip from the night before’s big booze cruise. I had a great scon (first one in months) and coffee at the local bakery. I booked a sunset cruise for the afternoon, which I was hoping would be more mellow and chilled than the night’s before with the riders. It worked out great, as we were only 6 people on the whole boat, which included snacks and drinks as much as you can. It was a nice and weird crowd, although the one Irish guy was annoying the hell out of me, as he was trying to impressive these 2 Swedish grirls. The scenery on the Zambezi was stunning and we saw loads of hippos (a lot more than the group the night before). The sunset was also something very special and I was just gazing at it for minutes, watching the sun go down quickly. I went out with this crowd of 5 peole to one of the local disco bars, where I bumped into Haman, Ribca, Chris and Ram a little later. It felt really good to see them and my spirits were immediately lifted and knew it was time to “go back” to the TDA, my rest worked and I was looking forward to be back on the trip.

16 April 2011 – Rest day – Livingston
I moved back into the camp where the riders were staying in the morning (Waterfront camp). The camp is located right on the river with pretty impressive view of it. I felt a bit weird coming into the camp, because I had been away for 5 days, but once I started putting up my tent, I was slowly getting back in the groove of things and how things worked. I managed to watch the super 15 game of the Reds vs Bulls at the bar (Bulls got mauled). Chris and myself booked the lion encounter for the afternoon, where you basically get to interact with lions that are over a year old (so they are not small). It ended up being an amazing experience and the lions a lot bigger than I thought they would be. The lions come from SA and are part of a program to reintroduce them into the wild.  There is one main guy and 3 other lion tamers that walk with you while you basically pet the lions when they lie down and walk with them when they get up.  They also help yuou take some pretty cool pics. You are also not allowed to pet them on their head and you also have to come from behind them , while talking loudly so that they know you are there, and then you can pet them more at their back end – it has to be quite firm. The highlight came when you walk behind the lioness and you can holds her tail while she is walking! It felt like walking with a  dog on a leash. The weirdest feeling, but very cool.  I also managed to phone Stephanie and mom and catch up on all of the latest events back home and in Cayman.  I also watched the Stormers vs Lions game in the afternoon, so I basically got caught up in two games, a record! I was pretty early into bed and did not want to drink any beer in the  evening, the anti biotics course needed to be completed.


Monday, April 4, 2011

TDA 2011 - Malawi

29 March 2011 - Rice fields to Chitimba Beach - 123km
Woke up still feeling the effects of the cold/flu that I had, but at least it had steadied, and not gotten worse. Funny story of the morning was that one of our 2 toilets were stolen in the bush (hilarious, especially if you see the size of them and the fact that we had 4 guards!). It was however very quickly found after the guards were told that they are not getting paid if anything is stolen! Due to the rest day at the camp site that was coming up, we had to stop at a super market in town 30km from the start to stock up on some items so that we could make dinner, breakfast etc because they could not cater for 60 people at lunch. The shop was not great, although you could find some decent items there, the biggest problem was the fact that there was only on cashier for 60 riders (and all manual, no bar codes - oh, Africa.....). So it took a very long time to gte all of us through there. The ride to lunch was pretty boring. After lunch it was picking up, both on the view (we were cycling along Lake Malawi) and the difficulty (cycling ina head wind for the last 30km - not cool and I just wanted to get to camp). We were cycling on the M1 all the way to Llongwe (it is their national road, like the N1 in South Africa). We stayed at a brilliant camp site right on the lake, which looks more like a beach area than a lake, with good grounds, all clean toilets etc, nice bar. Just the type of place I was hoping we would get now more on a regular basis. One of the items we stocked up on was sauguges that we had to barbecue for the nigth. I decided to let the people do their thing first and have a go at the barbecue, but after a while I decided to get involved and took control of the whole barbecue thing (which I enjoyed and got some compliments from the people the next day - it is our national past time). My day did not end that well in that I picked up a problem with my stomach and it was very gassy after lunch. it was also not helped by me drinking 4 Carlsberg's when i got to camp, and it ended up with me having a few unpleasant trips to the toilet during the night. Hopefully it can be sorted out pretty quickly, but I was pretty stupid having those few beers on a gassy stomach!

30 March 2011 - Rest day Chitimba Beach
Great day waking up and knowing that I had very little of admin things to do. The shades of the tree and the earplugs in my ears meant that I could get some more sleep/rest in than I normally do on rest days. I could finally really have a proper rest day! I changed my chain for the first time on 7000km, did very little washing (only had 2 days of gear to wash) and cleaned some sleeping gear. Nothing crazy, which was exactly the way it should be. Unfortunately I could not drink any beer, as my stomach was still to upset, so water would have to do for the rest of the day. There was also nothing really to do other than just chill out, play some volleyball, sit at the bar, read a book, walk along the river etc…. pretty much what most of the riders were doing, or just sleeping in their tents. I took an afternoon nap as well. Very annoyed with the dinner that the TDA provided us with, as we had to pay USD5 for it, which I though was bull. They basically owe us a riding day, which means that we should be provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner (although I am extremely great full for the extra rest day, my body can do with it). The backdrop if the camp is really nice, lovely small mountain range touching the water of the lake, makes for a very good sunset and sunrise.

31 March 2011 - Chitimba Beach to Mzuzu - 135km
Slept very badly the night and had 2 bad dreams involving religious things plus there was a lot going on in my mind. Not good for something like this trip, because the sleeps gives you the energy you need, especially if you ride like we do on a daily basis. I heard that there was a big uphill at 16km to 26km plus I just did not like the long distance cycling of 155km. So certainly not a good way to start the day and I was mentally and physically tired. I have not spoken about any religion on this blog, but through it would be worth mentioning what happened to me today. It was so good to see that we you are down and out, and you really need it, God is there and He looks after you. He lets you know that He is there and He will support you. The book, The Alchemist, main thing that stood out for me was this theme that there are signs out there in our everyday life that God is with us, but we just need to look for them, and know when we see them ie recognize them. Well, today, I saw 4 signs. In the moments when I really needed it, I saw these signs. The first one was on the uphill when I passed a rock, and on this rock was spray painted “God is Great”. I noticed it, but made nothing of it. Then later on, still on the ascent, I truck drove by me and a lady was out of the window shouting some encouragement to us. I could not really hear her, but at the back of the truck was the words “God is Groot” (God is Big). Immediately I just knew then at that stage that God was with me, supporting with me, helping through this tough ride. And not just on this ride, but on this trip. In my life….. and I had such a big smile on my face afterwards when I realized this. I calmness settled into me and I peddles along.  Then at lunch, they served us chicken, which again was great, because the lunches before was pretty poor and I was already dreading this one. And then I also forgot my Energy Bars, but there was a spare box in the lunch truck, so I could get any ones that I wanted further on, so I actually got my favorite ones! In the afternoon, I cycled further, and passed this house or small business. I could not read the name of the sign, but all I could make out to me was 1 John 15:7. And later on a cycled past a house that had written on it “Psalm 23”. The road after that was very touch and we had to go uphill, into headwind and it was raining lightly, but I made it quite easily in the end – with the help of God. It was such an eye opening experience and I was so excited and relieve dwhen I got into camp. I had an afternoon nap (which I never have use) and then slept like a baby that night – I almost missed dinner as well from my afternoon sleep. It was just such an awesome experience and I really groundbreaking day for me. God is great, praise the Lord!!!!

1 April 2011 - Mzuzu to Luvri school - 124km
Mando day - no 8 of 12. Tough one for the day! The stats for the day’s ride – climb 1966m, descent 1745m, and the camp was at 1533m – so basically there was a lot of climbing involved for the day (good news is this is the last major climbing section of the trip). One of the days on the tour where we do the most climbing, and the way that I was feeling lately, I was not too excited about this one (normally I am pretty strong on the uphill’s). Slept really good, had no funny dreams and the afternoon nap did the trick (or so I though). On a day like this, you have to be at a 100%, no stomach bug, flu or something funny, otherwise it will be a very long day. And so it ended up being for me. The route was very scenic and one of the better ones that we had cycled, although the morning it was very foggy and made seeing anything difficult plus some areas of the forest has been chopped down quite a bit. Although the fog means it was relatively cool and it keeps your body temperature quite down a bit. It was very tough section to lunch and I was feeling the effects of the sickness and the previous days cycling days. When I arrived at camp I was finished. I managed to put my tent up and literally just and to lie down for 40 minutes in it and wait for the bike shop to open. Another back spoke had come off and I also wanted to change my saddle with Patrick’s spare saddle (my bum still feeling it a bit). My stomach was also playing up before dinner and I actually had to go and sit somewhere separately so that not everyone had to hear my gassy problems! At least eight out of eight mando’s for me!

2 April 2011 - Luvri School to Kasunga - 109km
I felt surprisingly good when I woke up (although I have the weirdest cravings now when I wake up, I have to eat chocolate – thank you Top Deck Dairy Bar for the help!). Mentally it makes such a big difference when you know you have to do a 109km, which I now consider to be short. The riding turned out to be what all of the riders were hoping for, easy! All of us were in by 1pm, so I had some time to relax and also walk to town and stock up on some snacks. My stomach was not well and the last 15km I was cycling like a professional cyclist just to try and make it to the camp toilet! (I was very gassy, getting heart burn, felt like vomiting etc  - not cool, but I picked up some local Malawian pills for it at the pharmacy). Still compared to other people I have had it very light. Also weird that we found out that 3 riders have Malaria – still not sure about it, as 2 of them are still riding on a  daily basis with it, which I find hard to imagine! Definitely getting very irritated by the getting up so early. We have to get up at 4:45 am to have breakfast at 5:30am! Nuts! I hate doing things that do not make sense and this is one of it, it unfortunately then has the feeling that we are a military camp rather than a cycling trip – it is just to early. I might need to go speak to the tour director one of these days…. You feel so rushed when we get it so early, everything is a hurry and I actually forgot my sunglasses in my tent and rolled it up in it! The breakfast and lunch is also getting to me. It is the same thing over and over again, and I feel slightly short changed on this. Like Pieter said, it feels like we paid for a 5 star hotel, but we are getting a 3 star hotel. The breakfast and lunch is VEREY basis and there are various things they can do to spice it up. Also the excuse that these items could not be obtained in certain areas (like in desert) is now over, we are regularly in pretty big towns, so they need to shape up here! The dinner for the evening stayed in very well in my stomach and there was no excessive farting – yes! My new saddle was also working, but still not convinced it was going to solve my bum problems.

3 April 2011 - Kasunga to Lilongwe - 131km
11 months going out with Stephanie – yeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!! Bring on the 2 rest days. My goal was just to make it to the capital and chill out, my body and mind needed it. I needed a break from some of the TDA staff and also some of the riders (yes, it was inevitable that some riders would annoy you). Slightly annoyed this morning, as I really felt like we were being rushed out of camp and made to finish our breakfast quickly so that the staff could rush to the camp and have off. I found some sort of leash stuck to my one water bottle and also a grass spider (big one) in my eating bag – this was enough for me to finally get rid of it and get a new one. The cycling was 1000m climb and 950 descent. I was cycling again with Chris the whole day and the ascending was more gradual instead of a mountain pass, which is more pleasant.  The decent was almost all in the last 20km and was great to see the view from the city on a plato and then heading down towards it (although the city has more a town feeling, similar to Gabarone in Botswana). My bum was pretty sore and I was slightly annoyed with it, still not sure if it is my saddle or the shorts (or just that I do not have a cycling bum). I was even more annoyed with some of the TDA staff when I got there and the one could have really kept his stupid comment for himself (although I got him back with a good chirp). So I was very relieved that Chris had upgraded us to a lodge (the Korean Gallery Lodge), because if I had to see some of the staff or some of the riders, I would be highly peed off. The lodge was great with a TV and large fan (needed, the city is very humid). We had a good dinner with some of the other riders, with the conversation being around the trip thus far and the funny and stupid stuff some of the riders get up to).

4 April 2011 - Lilongwe - rest day
Double rest day!!! Yeeeeee!!!!!!! Great feeling that we have a double rest day, makes mentally such a big difference. It was a day of doing nothing….physically…..although I did catch up on a lot of emails and blogging (and Skyping J - yes Stephanie). I also stocked up on my chocolates and biscuits at Shoprite 9so nice to have a SA brand doing so well here). The funny moment for me was I had to run back to the lodge in order to chat to Stephanie on Skype before she headed off to work. It was SCARY to see how quickly I was out of breath and breathing and sweating heavily up to the lodge (it was only 15 minutes walk).  I can cycle each day for 120km’s, but I cannot jog a 15 walk! My muscles have really adapted to the cycling to the point where my other muscles are weak (I do not need to use them now, so I don’t really care) but I will definitely need to do more gym work when I get back and some serious running again. It was great having the room all day to myself to do all of the work, as Chris was at camp fixing his bike and doing the bike donation (which was now moved to tomorrow).

5 April 2011 - Lilongwe - rest day
All caught up on my blogging and phoning people etc… Chris and I left the lodge at 11ish and headed back to the camp to set up our tent for sleeping the camp site. The 2 days break was good, but my body is still not completely feeling rested out. There was a bike donation at the camp in the afternoon with the added benefit that SAB had sponsored more than 200 beers as well (so for the first time the bike donation was very well supported). It started raining slighlyt in the evening, nothing crazy. I had my Shoprite chicken and boerewors (which did taste a bit old that I bouhgt at lunch time) for dinner, after which my stomach started to start playing tricks on me again (which was very annoying as I thought that I was over it now). Border crossing tomorrow and heading to a new country!