Botswana is a boring place to cycle – at least the parts where we cycled. It is flat (the Okavanga delta). There are very few towns and villages – one every 100km or so – so few places to get a coke. The bush is a monotonous sameness. There is no wildlife in evidence. Of the narrow ribbon of tarmac that we followed I am sure there is more happening. While we were in Maun Bob took a 1-hour flight in a small plane over the bush. He saw lots of game. We saw little from the road – even though the road we were on is called the elephant highway. The towns have a middle-America suburban feel to them. There is middle class affluence – shopping malls, civic buildings, functioning utilities. But there are also street kids sniffing bags of petrol and petty crime – not what you typically think of when you think of Africa poverty.
During the rest day in Maun I left my bike with the mechanics. There was nothing really wrong with it but we had put on a lot of miles recently and I thought I would take the opportunity for a quick tweak and tune. When I got it back the front derailleur didn’t work. I took it back again. They said my crank was also loose so they had tightened it. The next morning when we started riding again my crank sounded like an eggbeater. I rode with it all day. It was a pain. It appears the crank had been tightened too much and had crunched the bearings in the bottom bracket. So the bottom bracket that had been fine when I first took the bike in, as far as I know, had to be replaced that evening (by a different mechanic), who also repacked the headset once again – it was starting to grind a bit – and readjusted the front and back gears. After that it ran well again. But I was pretty pissed off for a day.
Towards the end of Zambia I started to develop a saddle sore that wouldn’t go away. The days were getting longer, we were spending more time in the saddle, it was hot during the day and I sweated a lot. This is the first persistent saddle sore that I have had. It is not a killer. No skin has broken. But it is sore and I do ride with a low level of butt pain for most of the day. The long days have also made my legs a little tighter. I have a knot of muscle in my left thigh that doesn’t warm up for 20km in the mornings. I think I need a good massage to get the knots out. Other than that I am feeling great, sleeping well – and of course eating sensibly (coke, snickers bars, half litre tubs of blueberry cheesecake ice cream, crisps, mango cream biscuits and lots of oranges)
With just less than three weeks left everybody is wondering what ‘reentry’ will be like. Many are anticipating change of some sort. A few say claim that within a couple of days they will be back in the old flow and it will seem as if they have never been away. I think some change will be inevitable, some rebalancing, some refocusing. The Tour has been a great way to clean the mind. The forced routine of our days and the obsessive focus has cleared away the clutter. It has almost been like going away to a retreat and meditating for a week or a month. When I mentioned this to a few other riders it was amazing how many of them said that over the years they had practiced some form of meditation but that on the Tour they had discontinued it. The whole Tour was a step sideways or outside that de-stressed and sort of calmed – calmed is not the right word, but sort of steadied the heart beat, got rid of big swings, ups and downs.