It seems like a lifetime ago, yet was actually only 4 weeks ago, that I rocked up in Yeovil to Tri UK to collect the Focus bicycle that we were kindly donated by Tri UK for the Africa coast to coast trip.
Shiny, very bright red and complete with upgraded tyres, the bike was quickly dismantled and packed up like precious jewels, ready for the long trip out to South Africa and then Namibia. Upon unpacking it in Windhoek, howver, I was horrified to find the rear derailleur hanger looking somewhat less splendid than it should have been:
These parts are made to break easily in the event of a fall, to protect your whole gear mechanism from being broken. Sadly, though, they are often riveted onto the bike, so cannot be removed for transit. Cue Awesome Joe, the magical mechanic at Mannie’s Bike Mecca in Windhoek, who saved the day and possibly trip, by custom making me a new hanger. Several hours of hanging out waiting for the mechanical hero to do his thing was far preferable to the other option we’d been suggested by other bike shops – getting a part sent out from Europe and waiting 5 – 7 days for it to arrive. And so it seemed only fair that Awesome Joe be the name of the bike. A fine name and a fine tale.
With Awesome Joe all good as new, Steve and I made our way over to the skeleton coast to join Brendan and the others who had all met in Malawi and driven over together. One short ride / run to loosen up the legs, and then we were off into the unknown…
Our morning run and cycle sessions have started anywhere between 5am and 7.30am, depending on how many wild animals might be out hunting locally at that hour! (I have been known to cycle clutching the pepper spray pretty tightly, although in reality if we were being actually attacked by a leopard or lion, I think pepper spray might only anger a determined predator!) Morning temperatures have plummeted to as low as 2 degrees C and have been a challenge when trying to prise oneself from a toasty sleeping bag into the saddle.
We have mostly wild camped on the sides of the road where we stop running and cycling and we have been lucky enough to see stunning sunsets, sunrises and starry nights nearly every day.
One night we were treated to staying at a mission orphanage school, complete with a dinner date with Brother Gabriel, who was a very kind host and a delightful addition to the team, if only for a night.
Our food has, somewhat predictably, been very carb-heavy with some protein and vegetables interpersed; consisting of huge bowls of porridge at the end of our morning 20 mile / 30km session and huge bowls of pasta, xima or rice and vegetables for a late lunch and dinner, after an evening run of 5 – 8 miles / 8 – 14km.
Brendan seems strong and determined every day, although his blisters and my sore seatbones tell a slightly different story (I will spare you any photos). The sometimes very deep sand and rutted, bumpy roads take a toll on both our legs, my bottom and occasionally our spirits…
We have also been treated to some amazing animal sightings. Most of these I have not managed to capture, as I have been concentrating on not falling off the bike on the bumpy roads.
We even saw a rogue hippo and a black rhino:
OK, OK, those two photos aren’t real. The ‘black rhino’ is actually a brown donkey grazing, but I did manage to convince some of the team that I’d seen a black rhino using that photo!
We have seen, amongst other animals, numerous warthogs, giraffes, regal oryx antelopes, jackals and even Africa’s most venomous snake, the puff adder. It was a tiny one curled up at one of our campsite spots. Needless to say, everyone stayed away from that corner and took great care to zip up the tent properly that night.
And so, after a few days of resting due to Brendan being sick, we are ready to get back to the wilderness. Batteries, both actual and human, have been recharged and we are ready to get back to the matter in hand.
Next time I will introduce you to the team, but for now, I wish you a splendid morning / afternoon / evening and hope you will stay tuned for more as we cross Africa coast to coast on foot and wheels, raising money to build a new boys’ hostel at a wonderful orphanage in Malawi.