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Washboard Day

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

Stage 46 (27): Itumba village to Bitimanyanga

Once again, usual morning routine (some people get up amazingly early on these trips, I have to say). Unfortunately I’m now writing this the morning after and it’s a bit of a blur. But really good porridge this morning, that I recall; I went back for seconds.

And once again, dead easy directions; turn right out of camp and head south until one sees the Mother Truck and camp.  The route is described as a day of undulating terrain with no real climbs, just continuous rolling. The initial stretch was all downhill on a double-rutted track or road as it’s officially described. These roads aren’t so much dirt as they are a mixture of sand, clay and some amount of gravel. Very occasional larger stones may have been put down by the road crews at one point or another. The sand component varies in compaction (or looseness, depending if one is a half-full or half-empty sort) with the ridges being generally hard and the valleys being wheel-grabbing drifts. It’d be a nightmare for sure, if wet, and our two large camp trucks would have great difficulty in getting through. But today is dry.

Jim greets me again as he passes me on a sweeping bend to the right. And we’re into some real drifts of sand; several riders ahead are struggling and in the process of getting off (or already off). Jim powers through most of the way before he too is sucked to a stop. Oh oh, he’s right ahead of me on this essentially single-track. He’s both a better and stronger rider than I am, but my wider tires make the difference and I manage to get through and start the gentle ascension onto firmer sand.

We’re in a construction zone soon thereafter, very messy conditions which persist for the next 10 km or so. Piles of road  material, deep ruts in places, and heavy working machinery to navigate. It’s a relief when finally passed.

The cycling demands full concentration what with the sand drifts, rocks and potholes. But the land is beautiful; lush green African bush on either side, with only very occasional small farm plots and a few huts. Very unlike yesterday, hardly a soul about, although there are sometimes individuals or small groups of youngsters shyly waving. I hear Francolin calling and of course the Doves start their morning cooing. Fresh elephant poo at one point. A troop of  Savannah Baboons cross in front in the later afternoon.

The temperature is perfect at the start - I think 20° and it never gets really hot, so probably not much more than 26-28° or so.

The road sure takes its toll on my butt and back; it becomes a slog after the lunch stop.  The corrugation and potholes seem endless. A few drops of rain fall in the last 30 minutes of riding but it holds off for now at least. I finally reach camp and I feel very glad to do do; even manage (just) to get the tent up before the skies open to a serious downpour. Most of the riders are huddled under the awning, soup and tea etc being consumed while looking out at the rain fall. There are still riders coming in, the last don’t reach camp until about 6:00, soaked and muddy and very chilled. I think briefly about a bucket shower in the rain, but give it up.

Chef Mitchell’s bbq slowed by the rain, but not really by much, given the lousy conditions. Bangers and Mash are dinner; another cup of tea for me, and I head into tent. Wet wipes will have to do. Outside the village sounds are in full force; this Elementary School (where we’re camped) is flanked on at two sides by all-night bars, it seems. Another night with ear plugs.

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