Hello friends and family!
We arrived in Botswana on April 15th and now are in Maun, a dusty, outback-frontier feeling city. This stage is unlike all the others because it is FLAT! After tackling all these mountains and hills for the past 3 months, it is hard to believe that a country can be so pancake-flat. However, it has a beauty all its own with the tall elephant grasses, the long horizon, and if you are lucky--elephants! There are 1.8 million residents of Botswana and approx. 800,000 elephants! We have a pretty good chance of seeing them while riding. And, most of us have seen at least one! I spotted one by a watering hole off the side of the road. Enormous! It had its backs to us and we apparently got a little too close as it started flapping its ears. We backed up, stood still for a while and eventually it turned around to check us out. It made the long, windy day worth it!
This stage has pretty long riding days too. All the days are at least 100 miles and some are longer. In three days we have the longest day of the tour which is 207k. I pray for a tailwind that day. I am still enjoying the riding but I have to admit that the long days put a little dent in my enjoyment and enthusiasm. My butt gets extremely sore (like all others too) and after 6 hours on a bike you just want to be done. Well, nope, you have to push on sometimes for 2 more hours. Many people have commented on my positive attitude and generally I would say I am enjoying myself and have a smile on my face but 8-10 hours is getting a bit too much for me. Also, there are not as many coke stops in which to take a break. Consequently, we don't take breaks which makes the riding a bit tedious. Luckily, the conversations keep me from not concentrating on my soreness for a good part of the day. And, my riding partners and I vary it up a bit by doing a peloton of our own or intervals or racing each other just for fun.
Some people are counting down the riding days that we have left and now I enjoy being updated too and am mentally preparing for the end. We have 17 riding days left and 4 more rest days until we reach Cape Town. I know that I will be happy that the tour is over; however, I am still in the moment. There is still quite a bit to see as well. At 4:00 pm today, April 20th, I will be flying with 6 others over the Okavango Delta to spot herds of wildlife. I am excited for that.
One other very cool thing that many of us did on the first day we arrived in Botswana was go on a pontoon boat in the Chobe National Forest. It was a three hour cruise along the Chobe River. We spotted lots of elephants, two monitor lizards, a crocodile, hippos, tons of dragonflies, a fish eagle, and lots of birds. It was so relaxing to be on the water.
Enjoy the pics of elephants and riders!