The Tortoise

Day 65, Stage 49, 145 km.

Start, Arusha, Masai Camp

Finish, Magugu Football Field

Today was the start of a stretch of 8 consecutive riding days. In the next eight days we would cross Tanzania from Arusha to Mbeya and cover almost a thousand Kilometres. The first three days would be on tarmac. The final five days would be on rough off road. It has rained a little in Arusha and we were beginning to have to pack our tents way wet. But there was no rain in the morning. It was a great day. The roads were good, except for about a 15km stretch that was under construction, and we made good time into Magugu.

Rural Tanzania has seen a population explosion. There were kids everywhere. And of course we are like a travelling circus that is more fun to watch than Starsky and Hutch. The red cord is strung around camp to demarcate our area – often an acre or more – and the kids line up, sometimes 2 and 3 deep and just stare. In the evenings their parents and distant relatives join them. I wish I knew more Swahili so I could follow what they are saying. ‘Hey, see that one in the yellow jersey? I think he is just bout to visit the toilet tent. Didn’t he visit the tent just an hour ago.’ ‘What is that guy doing to his bike? He has just changed his tire three times. Why doesn’t he just go to the Fundi (a Swahili Mr. fixit)? He obviously hasn’t a cue what he is doing.’

There was a nice little duka (shop) and bar across the road and many of us ended up there with a cold beer or two. It was good to be back on the road again. We had had too many off days lately – days lost to the Kenyan election and then the scheduled 3 day rest at the half way point. The legs felt a bit reluctant but still willing. We had a long stretch ahead of us so pacing would be important. Some of the younger people like to push hard and then suffer towards the end of a stretch. I try to keep an even pace and not kill myself. This means that in the end I am sort of the tortoise of the race. I will never win a stage – or even come close – but I finish and keep going. Boring middle of the pack of perhaps. But I am happy to let the racers race.

And of course, that night they stole the toilet tent.

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