Yesterday, it seemed like most people had finally recovered from the Uganda bug. I’ve had my second night of uninterrupted sleep tonight (which I think I hadn’t had since Sudan) and woke up feeling great. I thought so would everyone else.
Only when I walked over to breakfast, I realized how lucky I’d been. About a dozen riders came down with a violent stomach virus overnight and had been up all night vomiting and/or otherwise suffering. Other riders who hand’t been effected by the virus nevertheless had a sleepless night, kept awake by the sick ones and/or loud music from the nearby village.
Today was a mando day for the racers. However, due to limited spaces on the trucks, it had become a mandatory day for everyone who could still manage—one way or another—to ride their bikes.
To me—with newly restored energy levels and feeling strong again on the climbs, taking most of the uphills standing and pushing up my bike fast—today seemed like the easiest day of the entire section. I had almost forgotten that I wasn’t a weak cyclist, and it had seemed hard to imagine during the past weeks that I would ever regain the energy to move back towards the mid/front of our group. Today, I simply enjoyed being me again.
Others, however, would have a totally different experience. Many people riding the entire stage felt it was a hard day. And as to those who had taken the truck from early morning onwards—we wouldn’t see hardly any of them at camp. Four riders had to go to hospital for re-hydration (though would be discharged again by the end of the day), and all the other sick people had gotten a hotel room (this time exceptionally assisted by Tallis) to rest and recover.
When I reached our camp, my initial reaction was to also find a hotel room. It was raining heavily and there was mud everywhere. By the time I had pushed my bike through thick grass and mud to the dinner truck, the mud had built up so thick again that the wheels wouldn’t spin anymore—big mistake!
Two days ago, I would completely have lost it under these terrible camping circumstances. Today, re-strengthened, I could take it with humor again and almost enjoyed our hardship—one more story to tell. Based on Rupert’s suggestion, I found myself a dry spot underneath a roof and would stay dry throughout the night. There were even some power outlets where I could re-charge my devices—what more would I want?
New sectional riders Kim and Greg kindly offered that I could have a hot shower in their hotel room (thanks guys!). However, I was too lazy to even walk there, and defaulted to wet wipes again. Not showering doesn’t bother me the slightest bit—we’ll get sweaty again tomorrow anyway. To our new sectional riders who only joined us in Kigali, this must seem like a totally incomprehensible decision. To me, it seems logic.
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because my mood and ability to enjoy this tough camping situation is totally dependent on my health situation. Few days ago, I was over camping and our tour, and longed for my comfortable life back home. This is because I was sick. Today, I’ve finally been able to truly enjoy my experience again.
Other than those riders who fell sick overnight, two sectional riders had to abandon our tour early due to health issues / lingering issues from a prior accident. Another rider collided with a motorcyclist today which was entirely not her fault. Fortunately, nothing happened to her, but her bike seems broken beyond repair.
By today, I think there are only four of us left who have managed to cycle EFI (Every Fabulous Inch) thus far. This is not only due to strength and mental stamina, as well as having set the goal in the first place (many riders hadn’t cared from the start). Luck plays a tremendous role as well, and health truly is our most important asset.
Stage 39: Biharamulo — Geita (Tanzania), 141km
Road & traffic condition:
First ca. 20 km of rough dirt road with some corrugation . . .
. . . then ca. 40 km wide and smooth dirt road . . .
. . . and finally—10km sooner than expected—wide decent tar roads without speed bumps.
Overall, the roads have been a lot better than anticipated, and even most of the dirt road section was fun to cycle one—smooth wide roads free of traffic.
Overcast in the morning, heavy rain in the afternoon (but not too cold).
I should probably mention that we’ve been getting kiwifruit and oranges for breakfast for several days already, which is great to replenish our vitamin C supplies.
Ham for lunch has been a delicious first today (plus guacamole, cheese, cold rice etc.); beef stew (similar to Goulash) for dinner.
Lots of sick people. Extremely muddy camp site. Most people ended up going to nearby hotels (either because of illnesses and/or to avoid the mud and have a shower), so it’s been our most quiet camp so far.
We’re camping in the backyard of Waja Boys school—a school for advanced higher education.
While putting up my tent, curious but well-educated and civilized boys (aged 22) kept bombarding me with intelligent questions. “What in your opinion is the difference between the education system in Austria and Tanzania?”—Why would I know?—”Why do all Europeans like Africa?”—How could I possibly tell them that most actually don’t?
I usually dislike it when people keep talking to me while I’m setting up my tent and trying to get cleaned, and even more so when locals stare at me. However, the boys were so nice and friendly that I tried to entertain their questions to the best of my abilities.
After dinner, there was a voluntary Q&A session with the boys who were all very curious to know more about us, and why all of a sudden so many people from so many different countries had come to stay with them. Having patiently entertained their questions all afternoon, I resigned myself to taking photos only.
Today was—supposedly—the most difficult day in this section (a mando day): relatively long (141km), lots of climbing, and partly dirt roads. For me, it’s been my best day for long. Even though I spent eight hours in the saddle, I was enjoying my ride and felt stronger than any day since Kenya. I got lucky that I seem to have fully recovered, and I haven’t caught the new bug (yet).