Greetings from Mbeya
Laying in my stifling tent, my dirty laundry bag sufficing as a pillow, I’m hoping to catch a breeze. Thinking of the last couple of days, I try to capture the memories before they blend together. It seems that beautiful landscapes, tough rides, coke stops and a constant feeling of tiredness are repetitive aspects of each day. I would normally also say insatiable hunger, but the heat seems to retard that need that is normally associated with lengthy bike tours.
We left Arusha, Tanzania, after my mini-break with Mary and we were instantly thrown back into the fire. The first two days totaled just over 200 miles in the saddle and about 10,000′ of climbing. That was eighteen hours for an old man like myself. We had numerous refreshment stops and extended lunches, so that helped in conserving energy, but it’s still a long time in the scorching sun.
The third day was a meager 85 miles (138 km), but the last 18 miles was off-road. We were lucky the roads had dried from the previous day’s torrential downpour. My riding partner, Mike “Crash Hopper,” Carter and I had a strong finish considering the potholes, rocks and sand. We were inspired by a few locals, that rode their single speeds along side and laughed and joked as we raced along.
It was then time to venture off-road for three and a half days and finish out the week with one of the most demanding climbing days of the tour. The fourth and fifth days were difficult, but rain free, so everyone was smiling and still in good spirits. Along the route we saw giraffes, baboons, and an assorted number of other wildlife, (we missed the hippos).
The sixth day was a different story. Like an amateur, I didn’t check my tires until after breakfast and surprise, surprise….. two flat tires. So with a little help with my friends, Crash and Bear (Brian Cebryk, a new joiner), we changed tubes and set out for that day’s adventure. Only 35 km out, the dinner truck was stuck in the mud. A miserable situation and we decided to help dig them out. We ended up being more like supervisors, as a number of locals showed up with hoes and shovels. It was a desperate situation and we were not making a lot of progress. Luckily a local farmer showed up and pulled us out with his tractor. We were at the dig for more than a couple of hours. It was an unanimous decision by myself and my two riding partners to jump in the truck and make our way to camp. It was that, or arriving about 6:00 pm. Too late for dinner and get organized for the next big riding day.
The seventh day was a grueling day of ascending 2,140 m or 7,095′ over a 109 km, (67 miles). Climbing galore, with a little rain thrown in. The first 40 km was a very technical off-road climb and decent and then we finished on pavement, endlessly climbing into the skies. Tough, tough day, but a ride I enjoyed immensely.
In the end, we road 578 miles, (932 km), for this seven day stretch and ascended 8,439 m (27,848′). Camped out every night, without facilities…I’m ready for our rest day in Mbeya.
Bits & Pieces,
An interesting bug-bit is that besides biting my backside a few times a day, the tsetse flies have shown a liking for my beard. Certainly a distraction on the downhills.
For you sports enthusiasts, after dinner, a couple of nights, we did muster enough energy for a fun game of cricket. I have no idea what the rules are, but figured out that when in the field, if you catch it, it’s a good thing and then when you’re at bat, you can hit it in any direction.
We have now traversed 4,070 miles, (6,565 km) and will be entering our sixth county when we enter Malawi in two days.
The people, including the kids, in both Kenya and Tanzania have been great. Lots of smiles, waves and warm welcomes throughout these East African countries. There’s no doubt, these people make the best out of life with the sparse gifts that have been bestowed upon them.
I’m loving life and so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity.