Usually, I admit, I enjoy my free time at camp (even) more than most of my cycling day. Today was different.
It’s been a relatively long day, and most people felt exhausted from 176km on the bike. To me, however, today’s ride was perfect—never mind the distance: almost perfect roads, gentle rolling hills that made the uphills very easily manageable (hardly changed my front gear), little traffic, fewer kids, meditative silence.
For many, this monotony (and no coke stops after lunch!) felt like torture. As for me, I managed to escape into a state of flow and lose myself in my audiobooks. Other than my soft tissue getting sore and bruised after too many hours in the saddle, I could have continued forever, or so it felt. I was flying across the tar just as I did during our early days in Egypt and Sudan.
If I ever was to become a more serious cyclist, it would have to be on flattish boring roads—no need for off-road or long climbs with steep downhills for me. I might be tempted to invest into a super-light carbon road bike might upon my return to Europe (my TDA souvenir reward), but I’m jumping ahead of myself.
Arriving relatively early at camp today (just before 2pm), I was looking forward to an afternoon of relaxation. Like several others, I went to buy a local SIM card. Many riders had gotten that done yesterday, but I hoped to get through via roaming on my Malawian and/or home SIM. Neither seemed to work.
With only Mark ahead of the queue at Airtel, that should have been a relatively quick and easy process. Little did I expect that I would only return to camp shortly before our riders’ meeting. To start with, the store owners were out for lunch. “They should be back in 10 minutes”, Mark had been informed. But we all know what 10 minutes means in Africa. We waited for half an hour until the store owner finally returned.
However, Airtel was only a booth inside that store. So we had to wait longer, for the Airtel lady. She surely took her time, slowly strolling to her counter. As usual, getting a local SIM card involved a lengthy registration process, copying identity details onto a form, then photo-scanning that form as well as our passport details, which usually never works on first attempt.
The ID registration of SIM cards, by the way, seems to be have become global practice, to combat terrorism or other illicit activities by being able to track down the person whose calls have been intercepted—big brother always watching.
Registration finally completed, but our data was still far from working. Mark’s SIM card had to be trimmed into nano format to fit into his iPhone, and my data had to be activated by entering a myriad of codes.
Even though I didn’t feel hot while cycling (the wind cooling me down), I almost fainted while waiting inside that hot and humid store without the slightest breeze. Sorry for Niklas, who had to wait for both Mark and me to finish until he had any hope of getting online himself.
After almost two hours, I finally walked back to camp, just in time for dinner, just so I could keep up this blog 🙂
Stage 56: Chipata – Petauke (Zambia), 176km
Road & traffic condition:
First 2km out of camp on a rocky dirt road . . .
. . . then almost perfect (except for about 20km where the road was still under construction, hence rougher).
Overcast in the morning, sunny with up to 30° C after lunch.
BBQ steak, squash, some sort of yam/potato, coleslaw.
People seemed fairly exhausted from the long riding day. I went to the lodge bar after dinner to write my blog. Surprisingly, the only person who followed was Brad—equally to write his blog. “Perhaps they’re all still sitting near the dinner truck”, I thought, but when I walked back over, most had gone to bed already.
Great riding day.