After Khartoum, the temperatures soared. The beautiful desert of the north gave way to scrubland and with 8 days of riding ahead of us, I was pretty apprehensive about what was to come. Rightly, as it turned out. Tour d’Afrique was about to torture me by being hotter than hell
The first day was a shock. It was 150km and all on tarmac. But after lunch, at around 11.30, the temperature rocketed. That first day it reached the late 40s but later in the week it actually went up to 51 C. I had always thought I coped quite well in the heat, but not in this. It sucked all the energy out of my legs, and my head felt like it was going to explode. By the time I got to camp that night, I was shaking, couldn’t speak and had goosebumps all over. Basically, dehydrated and knackered. Ruth has my undying gratitude for putting my tent up!
Things then got worse when we hit the dirt. It was good to get off the beaten track and to be right out in the wilderness riding through tiny villages and compounds and fields of sorghum but the road surface was brutal. Corrugated ruts or sand and sometimes both. Add in the long distances and the heat, and sprinkle in a bucket load of African thorns – giving one rider 10 punctures in one day – and the whole group was pretty beaten up. The truck got full.
The law of diminishing returns came strongly into force. The hotter you are, the slower you go, the harder the ruts are, the more your saddle rubs and rams, the tireder and less skilfull you are and you fall, hurt yourself, unclip and go even slower.
I got through it, but very, very painfully.
But, as with everything, there was an upside and that was the incredible support, good humour and camaraderie of the group. It is not often that after a mere couple of weeks’ acquaintance you can ask someone to inspect your bottom for saddle sores….thanks, Ribka – and yes I had some good ones.
Later, I wrote a book about it. Dodging Elephants – available here.