Stage 42: Arusha to Babati
Rain overnight and some mist this morning, but luckily not actually raining at departure and the roads mostly dry. Alice and I were away at first light straight after the usual breakfast of porridge and a banana. Out of Masai Camp, up the hill and through a early Saturday morning in central Arusha.
Today wasn’t going to be my day as it turned out. The odometer not working, so I stopped twice in the first 3-5 kilometres to fiddle with that; seemingly to no avail. Well, not critical but a nuisance as it provides an easy speed number, helpful for maintaining pace. Alice disappears into the traffic. Then I see that my other TwoFish bottle cage adapter on right front fork is flopping about; that Velcro strap broken, too. So a stop to deal with that as best I can, then stop again to dump out the kilogram of water to minimize the bottle shaking about. Ultimately another stop an hour or two later to flag down TDA vehicle to take the whole thing off my hands; don’t feel like riding today’s distance with something so loose and moving about on the front fork.
Photo courtesy Charl van Wyngaarden.
After we’d cleared Arusha and got out onto the steppes, the mist and fog rolled in; actually a nice change from the past weeks of unrelenting sunshine. Droplets of water on me and the bike, and dripping off the helmet but I rather enjoyed it. It was certainly different. I pressed along on my own for some time, trying to catch Alice? I knew I’d never catch her on the road, but figured if I really hustled, I might re-connect at the lunch stop ~85 km down the road. But one more wrinkle in the day; my rear tire flatted at ~80 km. So much for that tubeless attempt. I was dealing with that and had the tire off, when Grace stopped to assist (which was really nice). We cleaned out what little sealant was left in the tire, which wasn’t much at all, and looked for cause of puncture? I don’t think there was a discrete puncture, thorn or glass; rather, I suspect we just never got the bead set successfully on the rest day change-over, and most if not all the sealant just escaped. Anyway, after some time messing about, inserted a tube, got that pumped up and continued onward. It was only 1-2 kms to the lunch stop as it turned out; I could use the floor pump there to fully inflate.
Photos courtesy Charl van Wyngaarden.
The morning especially was a beautiful ride; the rains have made everything green. Lots of Masai tending to their livestock, and for the most part, friendly. A couple of ugly incidents in the afternoon, however; young Masai boys threatening with their sticks, or pitching rocks. At least one occurrence of having ‘coronavirus’ shouted at a rider in addition to the sticks, etc.
Relatively short lunch break and we continued on, Grace and I. I knew that I’d have to stop at the late afternoon coke stop to get some water, as I’m only carrying the two 750-800 ml bottles. Not enough. We’d made good some time and were getting close to that coke stop when I spotted a group of 4-5 riders up ahead; two of them, both new sectionals as it turns out, were way out in the road, one more or less on the centre line. I didn’t do it well at all, for which I’m truly sorry, but I did snap at them, warning they were going to get themselves clipped if they rode like that. African buses will run right over us without a moments hesitation; we’re not in a quiet park back home. Cyclists have no right-of-way here. Well, as it turned out, they were riding in a protective zone about Michiel who had touched a wheel in that same group a short time before, going down hard. He’s got a real gash on his knee, requiring 6 stitches to close that afternoon. He did tell me later that he rolled gracefully and magnificently, though. I’m sure it would be worthy of a replay if only the TDA camera crew and/or helicopters had been on-hand to record.
So we watched Michiel getting bundled into the TDA support vehicle while I downed some water at the coke stop, then we’re off again. We have a bit of climbing to do right at the end of this stage. Not really a lot, but enough on what’s now a very warm and humid afternoon to require some concentrated effort. Cheryl chases me up that hill, not giving me a break. I’m surprised either one of us can find the simple joy in doing this, on our 42nd day of riding. But we do.
Photo courtesy Peter Smith
Eventually reach camp on the far side of Babati town; a somewhat decrepit hotel but there’s grass upon which to pitch a tent. Jolien shares her laundry tub with me; we all rehydrate, and relax a bit before dinner. A few riders are still coming in after 6:00 (very late, today) but get there in the end. But something is wrong with the crew, I can sense it. Our normal riders meeting (and dinner) delayed until all are in as Tallis wants to address everyone.
As he starts, I know what it’ll be. The 2020 Tour d’Afrique is cancelled, effective immediately. Although we’ve not yet been directly impacted by the coronavirus sweeping about the globe, we can’t avoid the consequences. 1., We will have trouble getting home as international borders close down, 2., if we were to fall ill, we’d very likely be in some remote location without first world medical assistance, and 3., local xenophobia blaming tourists for importing yet another western disease, ‘coronavirus’ in this case, with the situation then possibly escalating quickly out of all control.
We’re all very upset, in shock almost. Lots of questions about getting home, logistics of packing everything up. We’re to return to Arusha by bus in the morning. Then TDA crew will remain until the 21st to assist in facilitating our return to respective homes. Several of the riders have quit their jobs to do this tour, rented out homes, planned and trained for months or years. It’s shame. I know it can’t be helped, it’s one of those things, and our little tour is by no means a major thing, but it’s a shame. Myself, as it sinks in ... I’m truly gutted.
This will be the last post for the foreseeable. I’ll have to get myself home.