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.


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