Caught out in the rain
Stage 56 (37): Chipata to Petauke
A long and ultimately very wet day. Sunrise now about 6:00 a.m. here in Zambia, so we may be on the 5:30 for bags, breakfast at 6:00 routine for the foreseeable. The only issue I have with that hour is making myself eat a whole bowl of porridge, with or without some trimmings. Some riders will also make themselves a PBJ sandwich for mid-morning snack, but as I’m generally at the ‘lunch’ truck by 10:00 to 11:00 (depending on the day of course), I usually don’t bother. A banana is more than enough for the typically 3-4 hours ride time. There are also typically coke stops along the way if one wants a snack or drink.
The route out of our camp involves about a 6 km backtrack, including that badly rutted dirt section, but very smooth going once we hit the main road and swung west. We’re on the Great East Road as it’s known here. This section seems to have been ‘rehabilitated’ according the road signage; remarkably, it includes a great wide shoulder. Better still, what speed bumps do exist, generally do not extend into the shoulders; good for the many many cyclists here.
The land is open and very green. Developed agriculture in the first 30 km or slowly giving way to smaller farming operations, and now cattle, too. Terrain very gently rolling, not totally flat, but I recall only one ‘climb’ registering on my Garmin / ridewithgps app.
I feel really flat today; minor headache and rubber legs. Maybe not enough hydration the day before? It’s tough to get going again after the lunch stop; legs really don’t have much to offer. The morning had been warming, but now we’re hit with cool air blowing in our face; weather changing ahead. Of course, I neglected to carry my rain jacket today. The first sprinkles are sort of nice, then as it grows more serious, not so nice. I can see this wall of rain approaching so I get myself to a very large tree and shelter leeward as the rain really hammers down. At first, the tree canopy is like a proverbial umbrella, but after 20 minutes I’ve got cold water dripping down my neck. I give it another 10 min or so, and as it’s letting up, I head out again.
Must have been the cool, as now I’ve got some energy. A second storm hits me after maybe 30 km. This time I shelter under a more substantial overhang - the porch roof of the local council building. It’s a Sunday, so the office is closed. I’m very quickly joined by half-a-dozen people; we share hellos but not too much else due to the language barrier. That squall lets up again after a short while and we all disperse.
This time I don’t think I get even 20 km before the third storm reaches me. I race onto somebody’s front porch where there are a dozen or do already sheltering; I do ask permission as I jump onto porch with my bike, but I don’t sense any negatives, just bewildered surprise. This time, a couple of the guys speak good English, and we back and forth for a half hour or so. They’re very curious about all the cyclists they’re seeing today, so I try to fill them in on the situation.
The rain didn’t really stop but it did abate somewhat, and I’m wanting to get to camp in reasonable light, so off I go again. When the rain picks up yet again, I’m wet enough that it doesn’t matter, and it’s not cold if I keep moving. I reach camp finally in about an hour or so, but it’s certainly late. Just enough time to get the tent up, warm shower and dry clothes on, and it’s yet another ‘riders meeting’ call followed immediately by dinner
I’m in my bed just after 6:30, done for the day.