Today’s ride from Salima to Nkhotakota will be a bland day, one of the Tour’s more unforgettable days, Alastair told us at his route briefing. He lied. Impossibly, every day on Tour has been better than the day before.
Yesterday’s 130 km took us through the 1,000km barrier, in just 7 riding days. There have some ugly murmurings from the group reminding me that I promised them a daily average of 120 km. So far we haven’t done less than 140 km. I laughed and asked them, is it not a good thing to be above average? Had they had the strength, they would have thrown me with something heavy.
Trying to get 10 bikes and 3 support vehicles all going in the same direction and as per plan is like herding cats.
I led the riders out of Kuti Game Lodge yesterday. We saw Giraffe, Impala, Zebra and Waterbuck on our way out. My Garmin malfunctioned, I think it could be a flaw in the software system, and it re-routed us through some single track, a cotton field and stretches of soft sand that allowed the riders the opportunity to practice their falling off their bicycles techniques. And yes Alexandra, your dad was one of them but no he wasn’t hurt.
Fortunately I went to Allan Wilson and was able to fix the flaw in Garmin’s system and we were back on track.
Meanwhile back at camp, the support vehicles weren’t going anywhere because the hotel receptionist told them US dollar notes printed prior to 2013 are not legal tender. The best the support crew could come up with were notes printed in 2009. Bummer dude, he told Reinier.
After an hour of non-progress, I was phoned for advice and suggested they sell Gideon and use some of the money to settle. Meanwhile could the other two vehicles get on the road so long so they could feed us breakfast? Linda and Jen revved the Land Rover towing the kitchen trailer and hit the road. Unfortunately it was the wrong road and they went off exploring the wrong part of rural Malawi.
Meanwhile back in the peloton, Alistair and I got caught up in the search for Linda and Jen and got disconnected from the other riders. Thankfully Jen was able to send us a Live location pin that confirmed they were nowhere near us and that they were in fact lost. How we got lost before technology I do not know.
Alastair and I pressed on unsupported while Ryan and Bill tried to track down the missing girls. By now John and Reinier had somehow solved the out of date bank notes problem and were on the road finally, on the right one.
Alistair has heard all my jokes more than once. So he adopted a pet, a handsome puff adder that apart from being slightly dead, was in wonderful condition. Alistair named him Puff and tied him to the back of his bike, to talk to and to scare away begging picanins.
Shortly thereafter I was riding behind Alistair when his arms starting windmilling violently. At first I thought he’d broken wind virulently and was trying to get rid of the evidence. But it was worse than that, we’d ridden into a swarm of bees. Embarrassingly, I accelerated away from Al like he was standing still. We emerged on the other side of the swarm unscathed. Alistair looked hurt that I’d abandoned him at speed. I told him I was going for help but he didn’t believe me.
Alistair started riding slower and slower, like his brakes were on. Alas. Puff the Puff Adder’s tail had slipped into the spokes and he was now badly injured. I was appalled at Alistair’s total lack of empathy for his pet’s wellbeing and felt sorry for every hamster he’d ever owned.
On the road, bill and Ryan and John and Reinier found us and pressed on to look for the other riders, now far in front. And then eventually Linda and Jen caught us up. Jenny screamed when she saw Puff and that was the last we saw of them.
As we rode along the Valley floor, I was amazed at the lack of development, despite the myriad of NGO signs, proclaiming their good work. Plan were especially proud of their Open Free Defecation Zones all over.
I worry for Malawi. The demographics must be scary with every 2nd kid seemingly under 6. I don’t know how many kids Madonna can adopt but it’s not enough. People are forced to grow low yielding drought resistant crops like cotton and cassava next to one of the biggest water lakes in the world. Alas.
Alistair and I feasted on delicious doughnuts and cold cokes on the road whilst the others enjoyed espressos at the splendid Nkhotakota Beach Resort. We all met up at our night stop at the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. All’s well that ends well, apart from poor Puff who was by now very saddle sore and road weary. Alistair released Puff back in the wild but I worry for him.
We had to wait at the Park gate for our hosts Dave and Erica Robertson to escort us to our splendid campsite.
Nkhotakota have just relocated 480 elephants into the Park and they are a bit jumpy apparently.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is an oasis of pristine flora and fauna, a sad reminder of what Malawi once was before overpopulation and deforestation. But Dave and Erica are wonderfully committed conservationists and are part of a big step back in the right direction. Please put Nkhotakota on your bucket list.
At the end of another long and epic day, there were several worthy nominees for Dick of Day. And yes Alexandra, your Dad was one of them for falling off his bike yet again, this time whilst crossing a wooden suspension bridge. But in the end my fellow Old Legs picked on me for being unlucky enough to have a Garmin with a glitch. They are loyal like a bunch of snakes. Alas.
Tomorrow we ride 130 km up alongside the lake to Kande Beach. Please follow us and please support our cause.
Go to http://www.oldlegstour.co.zw and follow the donate prompts.
Until the next blog, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.