Big climb, big surprise

Day 72, Stage 56, 111km, Mando day

Start, Mangolosi football field

Finish, Mbeya, Mbeya Hotel

Today was a real tester. Mando day # 2 in a row. Nasty rocky roads. And 2100 metres of climb to the highest point on any trunk road in Tanzania at 2961 metres. A head down grinding day with lots of useless simultaneous calculation to keep the mind diverted.

The first 55km into lunch were tough but manageable. From lunch we had 38km of continuous climb to the summit at 2961 metres before descending into Mbeya and a much anticipated rest day. Oddly enough, I almost enjoyed the climb. We were in the hills overlooking the rift valley and the views were absolutely stunning. It was nothing short of spectacular. It was a little like watching a spectacle from a torture chamber but somehow the spectacle won. I reached the summit with half a dozen others. Pictures were taken. Tessa danced.

And then the descent. It was the worst road we had experienced yet. A descent of 19km on sharp rocks in deeply rutted clay. I was on my feet with brakes squeezed the whole time. It was harder than the ascent in some ways. I was very happy to reach the finish line sometime after 4pm. It had been my longest day on the bike on tour so far at something over 9 hours. I checked into the hotel and went for a beer and some food before I even got out of my dirty cycling clothes or had a shower. But I did make it to the shower and into clean clothes before dinner.

I had just sat down in the hotel dining room with half a dozen other people when somebody from across the room shouted ‘Alan!’ I looked towards the voice and did a double take. It was my brother Bob. What the hell was he doing here? To make a long story short, he had been planning to join me since last August but had kept it a complete secret. I hadn’t a clue. This was quite remarkable given that I have 9 and 11 year old daughters who were in on the secret. It was amazing. A great meeting worthy of Stanley and Livingston – and not too far from that famous meeting.

A brilliant end to a very challenging 8 days of riding. I was still EFI. And Bob would be riding with us until Windhoek.

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