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!

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