Day 98, stage 75, 135km
Start, Bush Camp
Finish, Sedia Hotel, Maun
Today was the shortest day since we arrived in Botswana. At dinner the previous night we were all confidently telling each other it would be a doddle. The wind would sort itself out and be behind us. It was flat. And we would arrive in the big town of Maun at the end of it all.
What a load of old socks. It was the toughest bitch of a day yet. The wind started in our faces and got stronger and stronger all day. We passed through no towns. There were no coke stops to relieve the slog. There were elephants, as promised, to relieve the boring monotony of the landscape. All I saw was a few cows and a dead donkey on the side of the road. I think he was the lucky one. At least he knew he was dead. I just felt like it.
Once again I had a thankful ride with a good peloton before lunch but after lunch it fragmented as people went off individually and it pairs I went off with Bob. But he soon went ahead on his own. Getting to the outskirts of Maun was possibly the toughest 60 km I have don on this tour. I slogged my guts out to maintain a speed of 19 or 20kmh. I drank every drop of liquid I had with after only 50 km – it was 40C. Nobody passed me. So everybody was feeling it. It was relentless. I don’t think I free wheeled once in the last 4 days. I was knackered – ready for the glue factory, legs still pumping but with about as much power as a 1962 Lada.
I finally reached the edge of town and saw Rosie and Italo at a gas station. They had been in the same peloton in the morning but had left before me after lunch. So we were on a similar trajectory. I went into the shop and downed a litre of coke in about two minutes and was back on the road. 2km later I came to Bob who was waiting for me at the next gas station. There was also a supermarket next to it. I went in a bought a 2 litre bottle of orange Fanta. I filled one of Bob’s water bottles with it and then chugged the rest in record time. And then we drank some more.
Bob and I rode the last 8 or 10km to camp with Alex B who had joined us by this time. We took it easy. We knew we would make it. We were done.
As people continued to come in through the afternoon it was clear that the headwind had taken a lot out of a lot of people. We were all beat up. Ali, who is a young and strong rider, admitted that today’s ride had shaken his confidence a bit. What would happen in a couple of days when we had to do 207km if the head wind was till against us? Best not to think about it – yet.
We took a cab into town – no more cycling today – had a bite to eat and I bought a nice bottle of wine. Bob and I took a chalet with Alex. We sipped wine and read books on soft sofas. And tomorrow is a rest day.