Sunday, April 20, 2008

Daily life of a TDA rider...

begins with waking up too darn early: 5:30 am. First comes the bathroom usage which consists of finding a bush to squat down behind, spread your feet far enough apart to not splash yourself, aim into the hole that you have dug, and then deposit toilet paper. Make sure to cover your hole with dirt. Ok...done! Not quite, use hand sanitizer afterwards. You need to pay extra special attention to hygiene.

Return to tent, begin dressing into bike shorts, jersey, bandanna, socks. Apply chamois cream to prevent saddle sores-try to do this in tent so it doesn't look like you are doing something illegal. Put on deoderant, take malaria pills, apply antibiotic ointment on infected mosquito bites. Brush teeth with camelback water. Pack up sleeping bag, pillow, thermarest. Put these items outside of your tent. Put on biking shoes. Take down tent. Stuff all your camping and toiletry bags into your infamous red box. Smoosh, squeeze, and sit on box to make things fit. Lift red box into the truck and then your personal slot-usually with the help of another person. Ok-cool. forgot to take out your spoon, bowl, and cup. Go back into truck-big, heavy step up-wait for others to be done with their red box, lift the handle that keeps your red box safe in its slot, yank out red box, can't find eating utensils. Rats again...pull box out of! Get another person to help you lift it back up in slot. Won't forget to set aside bowl, spoon, and cup again. Get coffee or tea and then oatmeal (so, so, so sick of oatmeal right now) or weetbix, or no-taste bran flakes, or Pro-Nutro (South Africa's family breakfast meal-an acquired taste). Coffee is good. If you are sick of oatmeal, which a lot of people are, you can slather two pieces of white bread with peanut butter, butter, and jelly. Never was a fan of peanut butter and jelly. Wash your bowl, cup, and spoon. Breakfast done!

Make sure your water bottles and camelback are full of fast fuel (an energy drink from South Africa) and water. Time to start biking! Leave camp around 6:45 am. Lately, we have been biking long distances: 170, 172, 155, 160 k. Enjoy the pedaling and the scenery. Eat a PVM energy bar half-way to lunch. Best flavors are apple, choco-nut, caramel nut, and apricot. What you have received in your box is: chocolate, apple, strawberry, and lemon-line. Will anyone trade with me? Have good conversations along the way to lunch which is usually around half the distance for the day. Get to lunch sometimes early and sometimes mid-morning: 9:30-11:30. Spot the lunch truck-yeah a break! Set down bike along the side of the road, take off camelback, refill water bottles, and chow on lunch. Oh wait...there are restrictions on how much we can eat. Sign says: one meat sandwhich, 2 spread sandwiches (peanut butter, jelly, chocolate sauce, etc.), one slice of pineapple, and two slices of orange. Hmmm....and we have how much more to ride? The tightening of food at lunch does anger scores of people. Spend about 20-30 minutes at lunch depending on how long the riding day is. Apply sunscreen and you are off!

Work off your lunch in the afternoon. Take pictures every once in a while. Enjoy the scenery be it the undulating green hills of Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania or the flat grasslands of Botswana. Hope to see some wildlife. Say hello to locals. Enjoy the pedaling motion. Sometimes the ground feels smooth beneath you and sometimes it is rough. A sealed tarmac is a luxury. Here and there try to push your speed-especially down the hills so you can get up the next one with not as much effort. Arrive at camp anywhere from 2:30-5:00 pm hot, sweaty, and tired but full of good spirits from cycling instead of having to go to work! Roll bike into camp, find a campsite, lay bike down to mark your spot. Get necessary camping items out of your red box, set up your tent and now relax with coffee, tea, soup, and bread. Soup is made fresh daily. Talk to other riders about the day or try and coax an interview out of them if you are me! Some people read at this point, take a nap, roll the lactic acid out of their legs, listen to their IPODs, or if one has enough energy you can explore the area.

Riiiiiiddddddeeeerrrrrr MEETING is called around 6:00 pm. We are briefed by our tour leader, Duncan, about the next day: directions, how many kilometers, where we will be staying, conditions of the road. The meeting is always followed by two words: Bon Appetit! We queue up for dinner; usually the racers have a 10 minute warning before the rider meeting and place their chairs near the food so they can hurry up and eat and get seconds. Dinner has been great! We have quite the variety of food these days since we are in the lands of plenty: squash, cabbage, beets, onions, star anise, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, carrots, and all sorts of meat. People cluster into small groups and sit on the camp chairs provided which are in a bad state of disrepair and at this point enough of them have collapsed that not every rider has one. Good conversations float around and you can either listen or partake. Tea and/or coffee completes the meal. Some people have found ways to squeeze wine or hard stuff into their red boxes so they might finish the night with one of these beverages.

Most people are in their tents by 8:00 pm. These days it gets dark by 6:30 pm. As you find that last place to relieve yourself, you see headlamps through the rainfly and you see people reading, typing into their computers, or listening to music. As you walk back from your bush toilet, you hear some snoring and/or sighing into the night. At this point in the expedition, if you are a light sleeper you know who not to set up your tent by: the snorers, the early-wakers, the late-night talkers, etc.). You wake up throughout the night and check your watch. Ahhh....thank god I still have 5 more hours before my alarm goes off! Back to my cozy thermarest and sleeping bag! Good night!


Anonymous said...

Kerri- Although I love reading about your adventures in these far off places that I will probably never see, I thought this post was very interesting. This daily recap is really amazing about all you are going thru!

You had to figure you would get sick and/or have a fall while there. Glad to hear you've made it thru both incidents.

Sorry I haven't wrote in awhile. Been working more hours than ever and my free weekend time has been few.

I was shocked to get your B-day card. Did you have your Mom mail? I am very impressed! Thanks and got the post card too!
- Fro

Anonymous said...

Keri, we love you and your adventures, glad it's you. At this point in time, we like motels and swimming pools. We're coming to South Africa next April, will have to talk. Gail and Bud

Anonymous said...

I saw Peddlin' Patty (aka Bikin' Betty) coasting the beautiful yesterday away...reminded me of you.

Sounds like these days are full of challenges especiallly the gagging oatmeal and splashing pee!!

When you finally get out of the saddle you might like to try something completely different like floating and reclining at the beach!