Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books.
On January 11, 2013, exactly 1 year ago today, the 2013 Tour d’Afrique began in Cairo.
A couple of weeks ago, my sister Laura surprised me by giving me a book for Christmas that compiles all of my blogs from the ride plus a collection of photos she gathered from other riders.
It looks great and brings back many good memories.
You can have a look at it and order it you wish by going to:http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/00b0ee2f7acef00d2b7b2e686e5bd9690b8ec534
Yesterday the 2014 Tour d’Afrique riders left from Khartoum. I hope they enjoy their ride as much as the 2013 crew did.
Posted in bike discourse, bikes, EFI, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, planning, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, training, Zambia
Tagged alan knight, bike discourse, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, genesis croix-de-fer, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, planning, sickle cell foundationof tanzania, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, tour d'afrique, Zambia
Kenya was a bit of a damp squib. It sort of didn’t happen. The election got in the way. But the election was a bit of a damp squib as well. No fireworks. We only cycled 4 of the 10 days we should have cycled in Kenya, which means we didn’t do about 600km. That’s about 5% of the Tour so quite significant. There was a mixture of relief and regret – relief at having a little more time to recover and not having to ride a few tough off road days, mixed with the regret that even if we are EFI we will know that we haven’t really done the full Tour.
Kenya itself has been quiet and very welcoming, a pleasant change of attitude after Ethiopia. People were perhaps on best behavior because of the election. Kenya does have a history of election violence but most Kenyans appear to have taken to heart the need to change. We will have to wait to see what happens.
The bike continues to work well. I did break my saddle on the rough off road stage from Moyale to Sololo and have to ride the last 26km with no seat. But luckily I had brought a spare. It is not quite the same shape but I have now done several hundred kilometres on the new saddle and have been comfortable. I also changed the bar tape in Kenya, from the original dark tan that matched the original saddle to a bright pumpkin orange. The original bar tape had lost all of its cushion and was torn in a number of places. I had also lost the bard end caps on both sides. So it looks like a new bike with its black seat and orange bar tape. I also now have a new rear derailleur (a 105 with mid-sized cage) that I will put on when I get back to Arusha. The fix that the mechanics did to the bent derailleur has served me well. While changing gears was often fiddly and never smooth, I never lost functionality and always had the full range of gears available.
All I can do is knock on wood. So far I have been healthy and have gained in fitness. I have lost about 7kg without the aid of AIDS. The zinc ointment has healed my sunburned lip. I have not had to use any chamois cream (just a tough old ass). And the infection I had in my leg after I fell cleared up long ago. The only niggle is the ulna nerve trauma in my right arm. My right hand is still weak so I use a knife and fork like a Neanderthal but that will go away with time.
I am happy and enjoying the Tour. It has been great to come home. It will be great to finish the Tour. Liz asked if I had thought about what I would do when the Tour finishes. I had to admit that I hadn’t really thought about it. There is lots of time to think and reflect when you are cycling, but I must admit that I have mostly been thinking about all tings related to the ride – how is the body working, how is the bike working, what is happening in the country around me, how are the others doing, what’s for dinner.
But now that the first half is over and we are counting days left rather than days gone it is inevitable that we will start thinking about what comes next and assimilating the experience of the Tour. All I know right now is that my next holiday starts on June 13 when we fly to the UK for a summer holiday with the kids. It’s going to be tough.
Day 61, stage 48, 118km
Start, Namanga camp, Kenya
Finish, Maisai Camp, Arusha and Home
Our camp yesterday was only about 4km from the border. So the first order of business on the morning was to go through border formalities. By 7:30am I was in Tanzania. It was good to be home I couldn’t quite see Mount Kilimanjaro because of the clouds but knew it was just off to my left. Arusha was straight ahead another 115 km or so.
The first 50km were delightful rolling hills with spectacular and rich countryside. Then we started climbing over the mountain range that would eventually feed us into Arusha. We climbed for about 40km. and it was a deceptive climb with lots of false flats –looks like it’s flat or even descending when in fact you are still climbing and you are wondering why you are working so hard. But by kilometre 90 we had reached the other side and had a great slide into Arusha.
My focus was now on an airplane and not my bike. We have a three day break at Arusha – the unofficial half way point of the Tour. I got in sometime after 1pm and had a flight from Kilimanjaro airport at 9:30. Lots of time. I sorted my locker, threw my dirty laundry into a bag, had a shower, found an ATM, booked transport to the airport and got a beer. It was only 2:30. I impatiently cooled my heels for a few hours while the other riders sorted their kit and prepared for the break. There was a holiday atmosphere – much different than the mood of the 4 unscheduled days off in Nanyuki when we felt in limbo. May people were off the Ngorogoro, Tarangiri or Manyara. A couple were heading for Zanzibar and beaches.
Kilimanjaro airport is quite ways from Arusha. So I took a taxi into town where I picked up a cheap shuttle bus run by the airline, Fast Jet. At 6:30 we were off.
At 7:45 we were at the Airport. We took off 10 minutes before schedule and landed 40 minutes before schedule. Liz picked me up and we were home and we were home shortly after 11 – a short whisky on ice and then sleep in my own bed. Heaven.
Day 60. Stage 47, 157km
Start, Indaba Camp, Karen Nairobi
Finish, Namanga camp, Kenya
There were lots of smiles on faces this morning. Nairobi and Kenya were still quiet and we were back on our bikes. We had one day of cycling to the Tanzanian border and two days to Arusha. Today was long day: 157km. We had only cycled 1 day on the last 8, so the legs were a little forgetful and reluctant. The first 2okm were up and down steep hills as we made our way through a number of busy villages on the outskirts of Nairobi. We then took a left onto a road that would, in 35 km or so, connect us to the A2 and the road to the Tanzanian border. The trouble was, that while today’s rode had been billed as all tarmac and while we all had our skinny road tires on, this 35 of road that would connect us to the marvelous A2 was like the dark side of the moon. Where it was tarmac it was the worst pitted, potholed, lumpy tarmac I have ever experienced. Where it wasn’t tarmac, which was a lot of the time, it was some of the worst off road we had seen. The rough terrain broke the bracket that holds my pump onto the bike frame. It fell off into my crank I had to stop 5 times because my bottles flew out of the bottle cages. This had only happened twice on the very rough road from Moyale to Sololo – the road that broke my saddle. Needless to say, when I got the A2 at about km 55 I was very happy. All I could see was great tarmac as far as the horizon. The rest of the day was a really lovely ride. The landscape spectacular. I wasn’t too quick on the day. The legs needed a bit of coaxing. But it felt good to by riding.
Shortly after I got into to camp and just as I started to set up my tent the rain started. I quickly abandoned tent pitching and found shelter. Half an hour later the sun was back. But no sooner had I put up my tent and changed clothes than the sky opened again. This time it was serious. Large branches came off trees. One landed right on top of Hubert’s tent – luckily he was not in it. Flash floods swept through the camp kitchen, which had to be quickly moved to higher ground and under shelter. Drainage trenches were quickly dug. Great fun. An hour later we had the sun again. Welcome to the rainy season.
It was a long day for many – especially some of the new 20 riders who had joined us in Nairobi. A century and a tropical downpour on the first day was a stiff introduction to the tour. But it was a great day.
Day 59, rest day, Nairobi
I had a great sleep and woke up early. It had rained in the night. The air was fresh and cool. I went out onto the balcony just off my bedroom and enjoyed the rising sun. then I had a long soak in the tub, shaved (usually only do this once a week or so – I don’t shave when we camp – so I often look like I should be on the street looking for empty soda bottles to cash in) and caught up on my blog. It was a lazy morning.
About noon we drifted off to the ‘country club’ to join some friends for Sunday brunch. The only clothes I had with me were a scruffy and almost clean t-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts that had experienced a few too many bush camps. So they hid me in the back and we got through security. It was like being back at Sweetwaters. Very posh. Big swimming pool with lots of kids splashing and diving. White linen table cloths – even on the outdoor tables – and an all you can eat buffet. After we ordered and tucked into a jug of PIMS it was off to the buffet tables. Four full plates and eleven deserts later, my poor hosts – a lovely couple from the American embassy – were looking a bit embarrassed. I don’t know why. I didn’t spill anything. And my t-shirt looked like that when I came. It was lovely.
Malayah was flying to the UK that night for a holiday to meet husband and daughter for a holiday in Cornwall. So while she sorted last minute changes to plane tickets and other travel arrangements I did absolutely nothing – and enjoyed it immensely.
Around 5pm I caught a taxi back to Indaba camp. The taxi driver had no idea where it was but I was pretty confident I would recognize it. We crossed the city and got to Langata road easily enough, and even found Muiri Rd. We drove down the road and didn’t see it. At a T junction we stopped and asked a guy where to find the place. He pointed without much conviction and sent us off to the left. After a couple of kilometres nothing looked familiar. So we asked somebody else – uhhh – then somebody else – go five roads back and turn left. But that is where we had come from. Back we went – and turned down Muiri Rd again. Still didn’t see it. We went to the end of the road and turned right – we had turned left last time. We asked somebody else. We went back the way we came and turned into a drive. The boy at the gate did not know the place. We back out and asked a girl across the street. She had no idea. We turned around and were facing the pace. The drive we had entered was across the road, the girl was standing 20 metres from the gate, which we had passed 5 times in the last half hour. There was no sign for the place, but there was small ‘no. 16’ on a post hidden in the trees. How could I have missed it? Bloody PIMS cup.
I got into camp, set up my tent and then went out with Alex for a pizza and a ‘lite’ beer. We found our way back to camp without incident and turned in for an early night. We had a century to ride tomorrow.
Day 58, stage 46, 107km
Start, Savage Wilderness Safaris Camp, Sagana
Finish, Indaba camp, Nairobi – Malaya and Alistair’s, Gigiri
We all got up around 6, which is usual on days when we cycle. We took down our tents, put on our cycling clothes and hoped for the best – hoped we would actually need to be wearing cycling clothes, hoped that we wouldn’t be putting our tents back up in an hour.
At breakfast the news was not good. Yes, we were going into Nairobi. No, we would not be riding. Busses would arrive by 10:30 or 11:00 to take us in. We could change out of our cycling clothes but keep our tents in our lockers. I was not happy. We could cycle the 50km to the earlier decided spot by 10:30 and meet the buses there. We would at least get in some cycling. Why wait here for the busses. The Kenyans talked of just heading out on their bikes to Nairobi anyway. In the end they were dissuaded. So we cooled our jets again. Extreme caution had won the day.
As it happened the roads were quiet and the election results were not announced until after 2:30. Kenyata had won with 50.03% of the vote. There would be no run off. The city remained quiet after the announcement. Then Odinga announced he would challenge the results in court. He emphasized that people should not take to the streets to protest but let the legal system do its work. The city remained quiet.
Shortly after the results were announced I took a Taxi through the city to get from Karen to Gigiri to visit Malaya. There was little traffic. A few Kenyatta supporters were out in their red t-shirts celebrating. It could have gone the other way, as it did in 2007. But so much had been done to prevent a repeat of 2007 that many bet that it wouldn’t. Still early days. Hopefully now we will be able to keep to schedule and cycle to Arusha tomorrow and the day after.
Malaya is doing a sprint marathon in 5 weeks so I helped her sort out her bike. We then met up with some friends and took the dogs for a walk in the woods. It was almost like being back in the real, non-bike-obsessed world. We then went over to some other friends of Malaya’s for dinner – a family evening with kids and marshmallows roasted over the fire. A great break.
Day 57, stage 45, 103km
Start, Sportmans Arms, Nanyuki
Finish, Savage Wilderness Safaris Camp, Sagana
Yes! We ride! We broke camp and cycled to the ‘this is the equator’ sign just outside Nanyuki where many photos were taken. It is a bit cheesy. Lots of curio seller swarming around selling the standard tat. Lots of riders buying more tat. At 8 we started riding – rolling hills, lots of beautiful country side, good roads. Lunch sometime after 10. Camp sometime after 12. A short day. But a very peasant one. The legs felt like that hadn’t been used for a while but still responded. There were lots of smiles as people arrived at camp.
Camp was at the Savage Wilderness Safaris camp site. We left the tarmac road and descended a couple of km down a dirt track to a whitewater river. They are set up for whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing; they have zip lines, mountain bike trails and bungy jumping. There were a bunch of British soldiers there getting a taste of every activity. They looked more like they were on a holiday junket than a training week. They looked more like desk jockeys than SAS hopefuls. A bit odd really. Guys looking awkward on bikes, in kayaks and canoes. But they all had lots of tattoos. They stared at us. We stared at them. Kind of zoo meets zoo.
The rumours were flying once again about what would happen tomorrow. Would we ride into Nairobi? Would we ride half way and then be bussed? Would we be bussed the whole way? We had heard that the election results were to be announced at 11am tomorrow. Should we be off the roads by then? Would it be calm? What would the reaction be if Kanyatta had more than 50%?
At the rider meeting we were told that we would ride the first 50km and then be bussed. This was a bit of a disappointment. We were missing more riding. But we were also told that we would meet again in the morning. If things looked really bad we might even have to stay in Sagana. Nobody wanted that. We were mostly getting really restless. We wanted to move forward. We wanted to ride.
The Kenyans continued to scratch their heads.
We had the added wrinkle that we were to pick up about 20 new sectional riders in Nairobi. At the very least this seemed to suggest we couldn’t simply bypass Nairobi and head straight to Arusha – as some people had begun to speculate. Somehow we would need to get to Nairobi.