When we came into our last rest day in Dongola, I felt tired and exhausted. Today is different. Even though this section has been harder, my mind is at peace.
Well, to be fair, I’ve had my two minutes of frustration this afternoon. While some riders give all their washing to the hotel, I—and many others—prefer to do it ourselves. As we didn’t have any water over the past four days (the Nile was too far away to walk to), and I prefer to wear a fresh pair of cycling shorts and jersey each day, quite a bit of dirty clothes had accumulated.
So I spent the better part of an hour rubbing soap into the paddings of my cycling shorts and elsewhere, trying to get rid of bacteria and the sandy colorations on all things white and bright. So far, so good. I don’t mind a little bit of labor. And I had hung it all up nicely on my rope, proudly tied between a metal structure and a chair.
“Maybe you want to use that metal gate over there,” Hanne had suggested when I had already hung up three pieces, but I was too lazy to change it.—”Ah, I think it should be fine,” I convinced myself, and proceeded with my duty. Last bit of washing hung up, balance tilted, and—before I knew it—all my washing had collapsed onto the earthy floor! I try not to use swear words, but couldn’t help it in that moment.
So then the metal gate it had to be. “Better hope the kids don’t reach through and take your washing,” Wendy warned me, but by that time I couldn’t have cared less whether anyone would steal my stupid clothes. By late evening, everything was still there. The Sudanese are very honest people for sure!
My other little bit of nuisance this afternoon is my nose. While cycling, we’ve had constant side wind from the left, blowing cold air and sand up my left nostril. I seem to have developed some kind of allergic reaction, needing a tissue every second minute, and sneezing like crazy. Thankfully, we have a rest day tomorrow, so I can recover before we start what’s supposed to be one of the toughest sections of the entire tour.
But all of that actually is not the point of my lesson today. The point is, I’m feeling happy and awake, not tired and exhausted. What’s been different these past days is my mindset. Instead of regarding each task like a chore, I’m living in the moment again, enjoying the process of putting up and taking down my tent (ignoring my frozen fingers in the morning), the process of being connected with nature, the process of cycling at my own pace and learning Swahili along the way.
“. . . when tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment . . .”—Muriel Barbery (thanks to Charl for sharing that beautiful quote!)
Last week, I had pushed myself a little too hard at times, always looking forward to reaching camp as fast as possible. “I think you’ll win the race,” a few had commented.—”No way,” I protested, “I stand no chance against the racers,” meaning Charles and Julian, who are the most competitive, as well as Marc and Niklas, who are equally fast(er than me), but more relaxed about their race times.—”Yes, but they will eventually burn out,” others argued. “Just keep it steady,” Tallis said, “that’s what Katja did last year. She also wasn’t the fastest to start with,” but ended up winning the race.
And boom—for the first time I realized that I, a cycling amateur to start with, might have a slim chance of winning the race. Enough to stir and re-awaken the competitive devil inside. Curiously enough, all three of us—Charles, Julian and myself—are ex-financial services folks. Charles worked in M&A (mergers & acquisitions, just like myself), and Julian made his career with Morgan Stanley (investment banking culture, just like my own grooming). What’s wrong with us (ex-)financial services people that we always need to be at the front?!
This section, I’ve kept reminding myself that trying to compete against Charles and Julian is suicidal. There’s only one way I could win against them: if they got sick or had an accident, which I’m certainly not going to hope for. And I’m going to win the women’s race in any way, as long as I make it to Cape Town, simply because I have no competitor! So why should I stress myself ?!?!
The other stress factor that’s disappeared is the heat. Upon reaching Sudan, getting out of camp by sunrise in order to get most of the cycling done before the heat kicked in seemed crucial to me. But we got lucky—it hasn’t been unbearably hot yet while cycling (at least for those of us wearing cooling materials). And even if, 15 minutes out of camp sooner or later really doesn’t make a difference anyway. Even if I leave camp last, I would always catch up with everyone anyway latest an hour into the ride (excluding the racers; as well as Ed, Paul & Wendy, and Phil if they decide to go a bit faster for a change—all of them very strong cyclists, but they usually prefer to focus on the touring aspect which seems a smarter choice for sure).
Sorry, I’ve been writing too much. Am having a relaxing foot spa in the morning and got nothing better to do meanwhile. 😉 To cut a long story short, here’s the moral of my rambling: Stress is entirely self-inflicted!
Stage 18: Abu Dolooa – Khartoum (Sudan), 86km
Road & traffic condition:
Traffic picking up significantly as we’ve approached Khartoum, but everyone driving at a much more reasonable speed near the capital (probably because there’s more police around), so much more manageable.
For riding into Khartoum, we’ve cycled in convoy, and the police has blocked the road for us. Tallis asked the slowest riders to go first following his truck. As regards the faster ones, “I don’t want to see you in my rearview mirror,” he warned. So we went last, followed by Wynand in his lunch truck. That way, our convoy could stay together uninterrupted for 20km—well done everyone! 🙂 What might have been a nightmare trip without the police and proper organization, thus became a pleasant ride into one of Africa’s most chaotic cities.
Still windy and overcast with sand. Even though today’s ride has been one of our shortest so far, heavy side wind made the first 50km one of the most tiring stretches of this section.
Fresh ice cream in the nearby mall for some. Luxurious mixed grill and late night chicken quesadilla in the hotel for me—won’t need breakfast tomorrow!
#1: Cycling in convoy into Khartoum, with the outlook of a rest day tomorrow.
#2: Camping on grass rather than sand, with access to hot showers and modern toilets, in the courtyard of a pretty decent hotel (the Grand Holiday Villa). The clouds in the photo below were temporary only—mosquito spray à la Sundanese!
#3: Most riders went to check out a nearby mall for fresh ice cream, cafeterias and some shopping; and a fancy restaurant for dinner.
. . . and until late night. Even though I wanted to go to bed early, eating seemed more important to me. By the time I’d usually be deep asleep, I ordered dinner number two!
Our hotel must be a trendy hotspot—hip music filled the air, and trendy locals filled the tables. Sudan is a strict Muslim country. So, instead of going for a drink, they all came to smoke shisha.
Giving we’re camping at such an in place, why would I want to leave our hotel grounds?
But, apparently, there’s a limit to how much shisha one can smoke. By the time I went to bed around midnight, most of the locals had also decided to call it quits. Loud music kept filling the air, but silicone filled my ears. Best night’s sleep so far!