Long Rains have started
Updated: Mar 3
Stage 47 (28): Bitimanyanga to Makongolosi
The rain started up again at about 04:00 … but then had slowed to a drizzle and full stop as I was breaking down a sopping wet fly and tent. All the usual morning stuff, albeit this time a little muddier and a little slower, and I was away just about 7:00.
Again, right out of camp and go until we hit tarmac.
Overcast skies and certainly threatening, but as it turned out, the rain held off until approx. 1:00 (so only the last two hours in full-on rain). Also, what rain had fallen by setting-out time seemed to have settled the road surface, so although scarily slick in places, not so loose. Overall, today’s surface was no worse than the previous day, and I was able to spin along at what I thought an acceptable rate, at least in the morning.
The route not as remote as yesterday’s section, but still very lush and green; more often small holdings here and there, and several small settlements offering the potential at least of water top-ups. I tried for coffee at one but eventually was told (or I deciphered from what I was being told) that they (the village?) were ‘out.’ Oh well, worth a try.
The terrain hillier than yesterday, too; 6 hills classed as climbs on my Garmin. Generally 1-2 km in length and 4-6% grades; not particularly onerous but the complementary descents on the other sides were interesting given the condition of the road surface.
The afternoon after lunch stop a little more rugged terrain, with Inselbergs showing up through the mist-obscured hilltops. We skirted most of these, fortunately. A cold wind hit soon after lunch, suggesting a weather front fast approaching; I stopped to pull on my (at that point, clean) rain jacket, and sure enough the rain started within 30 minutes or so, continuing for the remainder of the ride.
We hit tarmac 3 km from the end of the ride - what a relief on my butt. Our camp is set up on a soccer field attached to another school. The rain has turned it into a muddy field, standing if not flowing water everywhere. Most everyone huddled under the camp awning, surrounded by increasingly excited kids, wondrous at the arrival of this circus. The noise of 1,000 screaming kids is hard to describe.
I’m soaked and muddy; the bike is just totally covered in mud. First order of the moment is to get a cup of hot soup down and then some sweetened tea. We look disconsolately at the soccer field and the supposed camp spots; a few of us instead wander over to a couple of empty classrooms at the school (we have permission for this) where at least it’s dry. I go back and retrieve my duffel bag and return to classroom where I can finally strip off wet riding gear and pull on dry and warm clothing. Much better.
The kids are everywhere gawking at us through open windows; one little girl is intent on coming in, first with her furled umbrella, and then to clean the blackboards. A serious student, I’m sure.
Eventually permission is granted to camp out here, so I pop the tent in this classroom. At least it’s dry … we have to be OUT by 06:00 as school starts at 06:30, but I reckon that’s not a problem.
Back to the Mother Truck for riders meeting and then dinner. There are hundreds and hundreds of kids about the perimeter. It’s not relaxing and I think wistfully of the desert camps in Egypt and Sudan. But I know we’ll get that solitude back in Botswana and Namibia.
Darkness comes early in this weather; thunder rumbles but as yet, no lightning flashes. Tomorrow will at least be all on tarmac; we’re not supposed to encounter dirt again until south of Windhoek.
Tomorrow we climb out of the Rift and then descend to Mbeya and a rest day thereafter. This has been a hard 7-day stretch, for everyone really.