We have just finished our ride through Tanzania and it has been the best yet. What a beautiful and unexpected country. We have been cycling through lush farmland, thick forest, dense bush, and up and across wide blue mountain ridges. The last 8 days were all on dirt roads and before we started, everyone was apprehensive. We knew it was going to rain but we didn’t really know what that would mean for us, the bikes, the tents, the support trucks and the camp.
And it did rain, and rain and rain. The first two days in the dirt were tremendous. Red mud up to our ears, brake pads worn out, derailleurs creaking and crashing but most of all, fantastic riding. We had lots of climbing on the red murram but then wild fast descents which were like ice rinks when the rain slicked them. Things got easier after that apart from some very sticky mud sections and some treacherous sand. I did a classic over the handlebars after hitting sand and then the bank on a descent (not using brakes). I was unhurt apart from a few scrapes and bruises but the poor Africans who saw it were horrified – “Madam, Madam, pole pole,” they shouted as they came dashing down the hill to help.
We were mainly in bush camps for this section and the lack of water for washing was more of a problem than it has been before. We were covered in dirt and mud and had been sweating like warthogs on the bikes. We managed though. In one camp, the Tanzanians were selling water for 2000 shillings a bucket and in another there was a milky river about 2 km away – bliss.
Our last mando day (mandatory: racers HAVE to complete so it is always extra hard) was a long climb up from the forest, through farmland and then into the mountains, giving way to views right across the plains. It was equivalent to climbing up Ben Nevis, sticking Snowdon on top and then doing that too, so the legs and lungs were screaming but the views really did make it worthwhile.
Malawi now – seems flatter and we have tarmac but it is pretty humid and we hear tales of headwind…..