Tanzania offered us some of the most difficult riding and some of the most spectacular scenery. Although I live in Tanzania I had never travelled through this middle belt. I think the part of the country I liked best was the highlands between Mbeya and the Malawi border. The tea and banana plantations were stunning. The people have been friendly and welcoming as they are all over Tanzania. Most riders on the Tour feel more relaxed and comfortable here than in other countries we have cycled through. The one anomaly is that we have suffered more thefts here than elsewhere. We have lost a toilet tent, bicycles, computers and phones, cycling shoes, bags full of underwear and clothes. Something seems to have gone missing from every camp in Tanzania. I suppose that the circus we are is too big, shiny and tempting.
The bike has taken a pounding but keeps on ticking. The total brake failure in the mud and rain was the low point. The pads of my Avid BB7 disk brakes simply disintegrated in the grit and wet. Admittedly they already had about 7000km on them. But I had checked them the morning they failed and they seemed fine. After arriving in Mbeya I had the bike services. The headset needed adjusting again; front and rear gears were slipping and needed fixing (I perhaps should have replaced cables and cable casing at this time but didn’t); the brakes were adjusted once again. But the frame continues to be comfortable, no minor aches or pains. The new seat is not as comfortable as the old one – but it hasn’t broken. I am on my third chain. But the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires continue to impress. Still no flats. Knock on wood.
The body is remarkably happy. The 6 kilos I have lost and the redistribution of muscle feel good. The challenge will be to maintain this level of fitness when I am not burning 6000 calories a day. The Ulnar nerve is still a bit of a problem. I do not yet have full strength in my right hand. I assume it will take a couple of months after the Tour finishes for this to happen. I have managed to stay illness-free. I have come off my bike on the off-road stages several times (I lack the technical skills) but sustained no more than minor scrapes and bruises (unlike others who have been less fortunate – a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder, a broken collar bone, a broken pelvis, three broken ribs, a broken tooth, stitches etc.). The five consecutive days off road in Tanzania have hurt my butt a bit, no broken skin or boils, but tenderness and some red from chafing. So far so good, but a long way to go.
Two things have given me a big boost in the last couple of weeks. I went home during our three-day rest in Arusha and saw Liz and the girls; and Bob arrived totally unexpectedly in Mbeya a week later. I am also still EFI after some very tough riding. So I am on a bit of a high. On the other hand, this morning at breakfast, for the very first time, I realized that the Tour was going to end. So I have now just started to add feelings of ‘ending’ into the strange psychological mix that this Tour is. I guess this means that I will start thinking about what comes next – which I have avoided so far. It will be interesting to see how this affects my mood from day to day while I am slogging away up the next 40km hill.