Eventually we did hit the dirt. I was feeling a bit stronger, only to encounter another TDA plague: Crashes. 10K into a mandatory racing day, another rider switched trenches through the sand and crashes directly into me. I’m swearing up a storm, he hops on his bike, rides off and goes to the front and pushes the pace. I chase the leaders for 25K , just get back on , and blow up from the effort. Riding solo, I crash again on a descent with a stream bed/trench at the bottom that I attempt to jump, a new batch of road rash and SRAM shifters that are starting to look the worse for the wear.
Electrical tape is now holding my right shifter shroud on. That day was followed by one more mandatory day to Mbeya and rest. 2 days of mandatory racing were a bit too much still for me and i fell off the pace early to solo through one of the toughest and most picturesque climbs of the tour. Still all gravel and sand, we wound our way to the highest point in Tanzania. The descent was another matter, terrifying. Such a rough road that it was difficult to control, steep so speed could easily get out of control, and exhaustion from racing made for a harrowing descent. I rode the brakes like a first time bike rider. My fingers blistered from holding on and maintaining some control through the length of ride, hoping all the way that the promised pavement is just around the next corner.
In Mbeya, after debating whether it was worth the hassle, Alan and I grabbed a cab to Utengele Coffee Lodge about 20K away from town. It turned out to be a excellent choice, great bed to try and recover a bit more, a beautiful mountainside view, and some good coffee. Ice cream after every dinner was standard.