For more than a week I was unable to post any photos from Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya.
I’m wide awake in a hot tent in the desert of northern Kenya. Unable to sleep, dirty, tired, sore, hoping for a rain shower like last night that cools down the evening to comfortable temp. My stomach gurgling as my body and antibiotics do battle with a final stomach bug manifested the last night in Ethiopia. Wondering when Ill have to run to the hill, since one hill behind the campsite is the only cover for a bit of privacy on this wide open desert of lava rocks. Its described as desert and the heat bears that out, but visually it bears a great deal in common with the midwest plains of the US. Wide expanses and shimmering waves of heat showing on the horizon.
It has been a week of ups and downs as I finished racing in Ethiopia with one of my best days. I felt strong all day and suspected I was on my way back. In the night the trouble began. Barely able to stand up, I managed to get some bike clothes on. Jon and Jurgen packed up my tent. I set off figuring it would only be worse to sit in a truck all day.
The ride to the border was the longest day I can recall. 20kmh was a struggle and each pedal stroke slow and labored. Jon, Jurgen, Jay, and Rosalyn spent most of the ride with me even though it was so slow. Due to my dragging, we arrived at the border just as Ethiopian immigration closed for lunch, forcing a two hour wait at bar nearby. Even sprite was difficult to swallow. I did my best to sleep in a chair as a local hounded me to convert money with him.
I am only just able to eat again, grabbing the blandest food items I can manage from the very limited options. The water supply has taken on a disconcerting taste since Yabello, that causes me to get queasier with each swallow, but I have to drink more. The last 2 nights I managed to stock up on bottled water, but today I was forced back to the truck water. The hot afternoon’s post ride entertainment was trying to figure out some sort of masking agent to allow me to drink. Sports drink mix? No, even worse. Powdered Milk? Yes, but tough to drink in quantity. Tea? possibly. Emergency shipment of Infinit? If only.
Tomorrow’s stage is one that is notorious in the TDA history for knocking out riders. The “road” is a terrible minefield of fist sized rocks, gravel, and trenches dug in by years of trucks flinging down the same tracks. Passengers hanging to the top. It isn’t really riding so much as persevering abuse. It is a mandatory race day, but for me Ive clicked over to survival for these stages as my body and these roads teach me I’m not invincible. In past years half the riders get on the truck. Some because they cant take the poor conditions, some due to the inevitable crashes and falls that occur. Even today, many riders came in with bleeding knees, elbows, and shins from low speed crashes trying to find some smooth bit through the rubble.
Let’s see about that sleep again.
I am posting through a cell phone at speeds that make me reminisce about the good ol’ days of 9600 baud modems so images are not doable until we get somewhere else.(Actually this and the next are past posts that I am just now able to post over a slightly faster cell phone in kenya)
Packed up and left the comfort of Addis with warnings of the deteriorating road conditions and to expect even more kids running to meet us and surrounding the camp site.
The projectile count increased immediately and the yells turned to a nearly unanimous “money, money, money”.
I reached my fırst snapping point after getting hit by a large number of items. I spoke with one rider who took some days off because she found she was getting very angry at the kids and didn’t want to be that way.
Every day and all day in Ethiopia we have large groups of people surrounding us. Not my comfort zone certainly and it affected my experience. When I get to the next city should be able to post some video of a lunch stop.
It seems like we’ve been on the road for many days since Gondar, but its only been 9 days. The terrain has changed as we finally get some hills. I’m starting to see animals that aren’t domesticated such as monkeys and baboons. Trees and vegetation are becoming more and more plentiful. Hopefully, my red blood cells are increasing as we have spent a number of nights at altitude.
A series of days where we climbed quite a bit has altered the race and dwindled the racing group to predominately Raffael, Christian, and I. Others pick their days to race hard. While sprint finishes were common the first month, it is more and more common to have splits in the group.
Various illnesses and a plague of gastro and coughing descended on the camp. It is rare soul who came through untouched. Many have lost multiple days to the truck and as a result EFI status.
Ethiopia has been beautiful countryside. Navigating the hordes of people on the roads has been the primary obstacle or pastime depending on your perspective. Thousands of children each day running to meet you screaming: “you, you, you”, “where are you go?”, “money, money, money”, and an occassional “I love you” or “welcome”.
Stones thrown often and sticks being used to swat riders on the back or arms, items stolen from back pockets and saddle bags, children feigning a jump in front of you as entertainment. This is especially worrisome at 50KM/hr.
The gorge time trial was centerpoint of the section. Only 20K but record time was 1:19 so a stiff effort. I managed a decent 1:28. Sectional rider Paul from Norway did 1:17 to win the day.
We also crossed the highest point in the tour. In a departure from racing we all stopped and took some pics at the top as a group.
The ride into Addis was one of the better days. The race was only to lunch, so it was on from the start and fast. After lunch, relax in the shade than an easy ride, complete with layered juice stop, to a meeting point for a convoy downhill into the city. The screeching of brakes drowned out the sound of trucks as we had a melllow descent as a group to rest in the city.
My first time stepping on a scale since the start of tour revealed 10 pounds lost already, so nearly all my time in Addis Ababa was directed toward eating, sleeping, or being a layabout.