Gudron d’enfer

Day 86, stage 66, 124km

Start, Luangwa, Bridge Camp

Finish, Jehovah Witness school football field

Just as Bob and I turned off the dirt track back onto the tarmac and started heading west towards Lusaka we heard a huge explosion behind us in the direction we had just come from. I half expected to see body parts dropping out of the sky and to hear the screams of the damned, but nothing. Later in the day, when we saw Bridget and Vince at lunch, we found out what had happened. A big 18 wheeler that had been parked near the camp pulled out and passed them as they were cycling up the dirt track. Shortly after it passed them a tire exploded, sending shards of rubber and wire everywhere. If you are too close to one of these exploding tires it can kill you. Fortunately Bridget and Vince were not too close. But it really was loud – the advent of the apocalypse loud.

Today was a shorter day but for a reason. We had to climb over 1600 metres. Last year this had been a Mando day but the riders had said the previous day was harder so the switched the Mando day to the day before. They both felt like Mando days to me. I felt strong for the first 40km but then the road surface change and I lost pace. It was the most bizarre road surface. It was essentially tarred gravel. But I think they got the size of the gravel wrong. It was too big. Because it just seemed to claw at your tires like it wanted to pull you into the underworld. It was rough. It was jittery. It was slow going. By lunch we had climbed 1100 metres, the last 20 odd over this gudron d’enfer.

After lunch was gentler and the road surface improved – though still rough, I think they got the gravel size adjusted. We camped that night in the football field of a school next to the Jehovah Witnesses Kingdom Hall (they are all over Zambia). The was no village nearby but a few hundred metres away there were a couple of roadside shops. About a dozen of us walked back and were lucky enough to find some cold beers. We gathered in the shade behind one of the shops and essentially in the front yard of the shop owners house and relaxed for a couple of hours. It was lovely. Darragh started chatting to a couple of guys who appeared and went off with them. They took him to their still where they make the local hooch. Darragh got right into it, had a few tots and bought a bottle to take back to camp. By dinner time he was quite stotious. I am happy to report that he could still see the next morning.

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