A big day of riding today – 125km with 1890 to climb and 1670 down. Over 1,300 of the climbing is before lunch at 71 km.
Leaving camp it is nice and cool, even though it is very busy riding through the town. About 10 km out of town I notice what looks like a really big dog walking along the side of the road up ahead. As I come closer I realise that it’s a very large male baboon. As I come close he pops back into the forest before I can get my camera out.
To start there are quite a few rolling hills where I can maximise the speed from the down to get most of the way up the next one in the big gears.
The country is very pretty, green, hilly with some interesting rock formations. At the top of the hills are little clusters of houses surrounded by crops, and most have a cluster of small children smiling and waving from the top of banks as you ride past.
Then we got onto some long steep climbs, and I had to get off my bike a few times and push. I drink a lot of water when I ride, actually more than anyone else I know, and I was looking forward to re filling my water bottles at a village at 51 km, but there was no village! I had got confused with yesterday – the next village was 68 km, so another 17 k and I am out of water and thirsty.
After another long steep hill where I again had to get off and walk, I was starting to get concerned, by now my mouth was feeling sticky and my throat very dry, and I didn’t think I would be able to make it to lunch. All the TDA trucks had been past so I was reviewing options -such as asking at a house for water and risk drinking untreated water, try and hitch a ride, ring the phone number for Tallis TDA tour leader for help (good plan but no phone signal). Then I remembered in my bike bag I have lollipops!
Whilst it wasn’t fluid, sucking on a lollipop helped my throat plus the sugar hit also helped. I had to get off a few more times and push my bike, but finally made it to lunch where I immediately drank a bottle and a half of water.
Sitting at lunch I couldn’t stop coughing, not constantly but about 15 seconds of every minute. After about 5 minutes I realised that although I wasn’t wheezy it was pretty likely asthma and felt much better after using my inhaler. I don’t stay long at lunch about 10 minutes, long enough to eat a sandwich and fill up my water bottles. Otherwise I find I start to cool down and then the first 15 minutes are hard while you warm up again.
After lunch the first 15 km were mostly nice down hills with a couple of climbs that I got up fine. Then coming to the top of a hill there was a big steep descent followed a long steep climb. I got about a third of the way up and then it was a long slow walk with the sun beating down on me.
Thankfully it wasn’t till near the top of the hill that I was joined by a group of children demanding my bike, my water bottle, and their money. I was pleased to get to the top and speed away from them.
I had made a deal with myself leaving lunch that if I hadn’t got to 95 km by the time the lunch truck came past I could catch it and ride the rest of the way to camp. It came past at 94.7 km and as I was on a nice downward slope I gave the thumbs up and it sailed past. I regretted this about 5 minutes later, faced with another substantial uphill. Off again.
A bike is called a push bike as you can push it as well as ride it. Sam one of the TDA staff came gliding effortlessly past me and stopped to see if I was ok, which I reassured him I was. Sam was carrying extra water and filled up one of my water bottles for me before speeding off into the distance.
30 km to go with an average speed currently of 8 km, if this keeps up it will be another 4 hours to camp. Not a happy thought. Another 5 km drags by, this one took 28 minutes. I am really regretting my thumbs up to the lunch truck.
Thankfully we had some good down hills followed by not too steep ups and the next 25km went really quickly. Unfortunately, my second mistake of the day – I thought we were riding 120 km and at 120.7 I stopped to check my notes and see it’s actually 125 – and of course what do I see ahead but more uphills.
The last 5 km was ugly, not because it was even a steep climb because it wasn’t, I had just had it. The last two km I walked about half of it.
Luckily once I turned off the road into camp it was a downward gradient so I was able to arrive at camp on my bike. I was surprised that three riders came in after me and another two had stopped at lunch.
We are camping on a school soccer field, once again surrounded by crowds of children wanting our water bottles and every time you look at them chanting “give me my money”. There was a string fence around the camp and some of the riders had put their tent right on the edge and had large groups of children by them. Some had climbed over hanging trees and were dangling down close to their tents. Brett had kindly put up my tent, thankfully not on the outside.
After soup and two cups of tea I headed off to get changed. No showers or buckets of water so wet wipes it was. Even though my tent is not by the string it is about 2 metres away and as I went to my tent a number of children followed and stood around watching. I figured if I shut all the flys they would soon get bored and wander off, which they did.
I had a doze in my tent until dinner time. For the first time it is cool enough to wear a long sleeved top. Dinner is white pasta, tomato and cucumber salad, mushroom sauce with some type of meat replacement strips which is a bit tasteless (possibly tofu). After dinner for no special reason the staff had made a really nice chocolate cake.
Tonight is my turn on dishes. All the riders do their own plates and cutlery and about every third week it’s your turn to help with the pots and pans etc from dinner.
Back in the tent by 7pm, nice and cool. I should sleep better tonight especially as the camp doesn’t have a road going past it, so there shouldn’t be motorbikes and trucks roaring past.