Kids seem to be everywhere in Africa. As soon as they see us coming, they run towards, if not into the middle of, the street. Often, when we go past, they keep running next to and after us. In the remote rural regions, unless still wearing their school uniforms, they usually run barefoot.
“They are really poor”, I though, “it must hurt to run barefoot on this rough ground.”
Today, I listened to an audio book that analyzes why Kenyans are such fast runners—Running with the Kenyans. The author, Adharanand Finn, quotes international studies which found that running barefoot is healthier and better for us. It helps kids develop a more natural running pattern and stronger muscles. Their skin gets used to the ground and doesn’t get injured, even when they run over glass.
Running barefoot, in fact, is deemed to be one of the Kenyans key success factors to their world-record running performance! No wonder the kids often take off their shoes to run next to us (as you can see on yesterday’s photo that I’m reproducing below once more). They intuitively know that they’ll run faster without.
Stage 46: Soccer Field Camp – Biti Manyanga (Tanzania), 128km
Road & traffic condition:
To start with, a lot sandier than yesterday; several riders fell, but no serious injuries other than some scratches and bruises, fortunately.
Then, around lunch, we had 40km of serious corrugation like in off-road Sudan, just at more manageable temperatures. Eventually, the road improved, but heavy rain and treacherous potholes made it slippery and unpredictable once again (for those too slow to reach camp before the rain started).
The ride started pleasantly overcast. Towards lunch, it got very hot and humid—33°C, my Garmin read. Fortunately, lots of trees along the dirt road gave us some shade. “Better stock up on water”, I thought and stopped for a coke stop.
Five minutes later, a torrential rain shower hit me. The temperature instantly dropped by ten degrees. As soon as the rain had stopped, the intense sun returned and my Garmin showed 30+° C once more. However, the renewed heat wave didn’t last long. Torrential rain would pour over me almost all the way until I reached camp. Water puddles accumulated everywhere on the ground, and little rivers were flowing down the road.
Five kilometers before camp, lightening illuminated the sky, and a roaring thunder instantly hit the earth. I sped up. Fortunately, the thunder storm moved away from me.
At camp, the sun came back out and seemed to dry everything instantly. I bought a bucket of water from the kids for TSZ 1,000 (about USD 0.3) to wash my clothes. Hoping for a good hour of intense sun before dinner, I even washed my rain jacket that had dirt splashed all over. How stupid—as soon as the mission was completed, clouds drew in again and yet another downpour threatened to burst any moment.
As soon as we’d finished dinner, heavy rain provided a soothing background music as I fell asleep.
The best spaghetti bolognese yet, with big mushrooms in the sauce.
Eventually, we got our taste of the tsetse flies while riding—annoying for sure. I got bitten multiple times, but—contrary to expectations—the bites didn’t feel too bad or leave any lasting itchy spots. However, some riders felt that the bites hurt badly. Even though I tend to react allergically to insect bites, it seems I got lucky with the tsetse flies.
I’m quite amazed how well I handle our harsh conditions, me out cycling alone in the bush throughout heavy rain and, eventually, even a thunderstorm.
Towards the beginning of my ride, I heard a roaring sound. Elephants, I assumed and sped up my pace for a while. Henry had told us how he almost got killed by an elephant stampeding him. When feeling threatened, elephants can be some of the most dangerous animals in the bush. Since hearing Henry’s story, I have big respect for everything wild.
“Where you going?” a car with two local guys pulled up next to me towards the latter part of my ride, amidst the heavy rain. “We saw lions up there”, they said with a straight, somewhat excited face.
“No problem”, I smiled at them and headed on. Surely, they were just pulling my leg, but the thought kept bothering me at the back of my mind. “Lions probably think that I’m a motorcyclist, too difficult to chase”, I comforted myself and kept a decent pace.
When Tallis came past in his cruiser, checking on the riders still out on the road, I waved him down to confirm. “They were just pulling my leg, right?”
“Yes, highly unlikely”, he smiled, “enjoy your ride”, and off he went again.
When arriving at camp, it was wet and muddy. For the first time, our crew had put up a toilet tent for us because—surrounded by locals—there’s nowhere to hide behind.
Inside the tent—two holes dug into the ground.
Well, all of this might sound really harsh and bad conditions to some of you. To me, it all just seemed like simply part of the experience today. I had fun, or at least was in a good mood, all day long—so that by itself was the highlight of my day.