Day 25, Stage 19, 102km (plus 15km)
Start – canal camp
Finish – two mountains camp
I was feeling a bit depleted this morning. The rough roads take more out of you than you think. Today was longer than yesterday so I went out on my own at a steady but comfortable pace. The roads were pure torture. Yesterday times two. The washboard was worse. There were great patches of loose deep and sharp gravel. And the thorns were still there. At about 35km I came off my bike in a deep patch of sharp gravel. I wasn’t the only one. By the end of the day most people had come of there bike at least once. Many came off several times – scrapes and bruises for the most part, but lots of work for the medics. Shortly after I came off we came across a TdA truck and were told that we had to take a detour because of standing water on the planned route. The 15km detour added 4km to the day’s ride and was the worst washboard we had ridden on. The sorgum fields we cycled through rang with curses and, yes, tears.
Lunch was about 55km. By the time we got there we all needed a good break. I left lunch with a group of others but stopped in after only a km or so because I saw a shop selling cold coke. I should have stayed with them because I then took the wrong route and got lost. They didn’t.
After the village where I had stopped for a coke we had to cross some rail tracks and then turn left. I took a sharp left rather than a more casual left and followed a track for 30km in the wrong direction. I hadn’t turned back because I thought I was going in the right direction. Instructions said to head for a village at the base of two mountains. That’s what I did. But nobody else was there. Wrong two mountains. Wrong village. Fortunately I had copied down the telephone # of the TdA tour director. I called, had and interesting chat and soon realised I was about 15km north of where I should be. It was suggested I go back to where I had made the wrong turn and get back on track. No! That would add 60km to the day. I told the tour director I was going cross country and would keep in touch. Not sure he was pleased. I found a cross road and started traveling south. It was hot. I was not traveling on cracked earth – farm land that had dried leaving foot wide patched with deep two inch gaps between them. Not fun. I road this for about 10km and finally came to a road that went perpendicular. But it was still too far north to be heading towards the other two mountains I could see to the south. I followed it for about 2km and then the son of a bitch turned north again. I had no choice. I needed to go south. So I lifted my bike and started trekking south through the sorgum. I ‘knew’ there had to be a road. But I also knew I was in the middle of nowhere and if there wasn’t I would have to start looking for the helicopters. To my great relief I eventually saw the bobbing head of a cyclist. I headed towards it and after 3km of hiking cross country was back on the right track, with only about 20km left to go to camp. I hobbled in to find a donkey shower, which I sat under for minutes to reduce my body temperature and return to life.
I wasn’t the only one to get lost today or in days to come. For those of us who have not done more than the scheduled number of km we have a special club: the EFI plus club. Not one to aspire to.