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!

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