Friday, 15 March 2013

Yabello rest day to Kenya border...

The ride into Yabello and a rest day became known as the toughest of the trip. I know I keep saying that, but this day of off-road cycling, and other factors such as a strong head wind and climbing made it that little bit more challenging. It was a seriously long day on the bike and some riders cycled at a pace which brought them into camp 8 hours later. Obviously with stops in-between, but that still a hell of a long day to be out on your bicycle. 

However to make it interesting, the scenery as always was beautiful with very impressive termite mounds to keep your mind off the dusty dirt road causing painful muscle cramps in your legs.

We did a really fun stop in a local village, and as per usual we attracted a massive crowd of onlookers. After many photo's and a quick drink it was back on the road, praying that Yabello would appear around the next corner.

Once at camp it was time to celebrate not only a fellow TdA rider's birthday, (... HAPPY BIRTHDAY Naomi!), but also the end of a really challenging day.

Birthday Girl Naomi and her good friend Erin
Yabello was a cute town, nothing much to offer, and to my frustration absolutely no internet, but once again we had massive smiles on our faces because across the street was a cafe selling chocolate doughnuts. The hotel was know in town to serve the best food, so we all got ready to indulge in delicious food. However, upon arrival the electricity was out, and thus the kitchen only had limited options on the menu -- basically spaghetti with tomato sauce or meat sauce, and that was it. That evening, the power came back on and we enjoyed the luxury or a wider menu of food choices. Now there were burgers and pizza available! We immediately ordered our favourite western meals, but we sure paid for it in more ways than money. I was just beginning to get back to my fit and healthy self, but after sharing a pizza that wasn't cooked properly, I suffered the effects of a very upset tummy and serious nausea. Once again my rest day became a recovery day.

While in Yabello we had the important subject of Kenya to discuss as the up coming election drew closer and closer. The TdA organizers had been advised not to let us cycle anytime nearing the elections for safety and security reasons, as there was evidence of serious riots and unrest during the previous elections. A group of cyclists do not want to be caught up in this! So with that in mind, everyone agreed that avoiding trouble was key. We were therefore going to cycle two days to the border of Kenya and then have only 1 day of off-road cycling to a bush camp. Thereafter, a bus would transport us to Marsabit and then Nanyuki where we would wait out the election process over four days. All TdA riders were grateful for the long rest period as, finally, we could have the feeling of being on holiday.

After feeling poorly on the rest day I was pleased to wake up on the morning of the 128km cycle feeling much better. It was a difficult day, with a headwind once again, several parts being off-road and, of course, a lovely unforgiving climb just to remind us we still in the rolling hills of Ethiopia. I had a great morning, cycling alone to my music. I didn't realize I was actually leading time wise for the ladies racing that particular stage. Arriving at lunch, it dawned on me that I could push hard and hopefully get my very first stage win. I had a quick bite to eat, filled up my water, jumped back on my bike and cracked on with a strong pace up to the finishing line. It was extremely difficult, but at the same time, it was a great way to challenge myself. I believe being competitive adds to the fun of the TdA tour. Arriving at camp, I was the first girl to time-in and I knew I had won. It was a very proud moment and I'm incredibly happy to get my first stage win. 

The ride to the border was short, only 80km, but a consistent headwind made it a slow day. We had been told to be at the border before 13h00, because thereafter they close the offices for a two hour lunch break. It was 11h30 and I was about 5km from the border, while mid conversation with a friend cycling beside me, when my front wheel came out from under me… Yes, it just fell off!!! As a result, I had a spectacular fall over my handlebars once again. Totally confused and unsure why I was lying face down in the middle of the street again, I saw my front wheel completely detached from my bike frame. Luckily we were moving slowly, due to a slight incline and headwind, because if this had happened on a downhill, my injuries would have been far more serious. Once I had collected myself I inspected my broken bike and realized that the problem must have been that my front wheel wasn’t on properly. From all the bumps the day before, the quick release must've loosened and slowly the front wheel worked it’s way out until it became totally detached. As a result of the accident, my axle was bent, I had broken two spokes, and the break router was damaged. At this point I wasn’t able to continue riding to the border, because I physically couldn’t get the wheel back onto the frame. I called the TdA organizers support vehicle, which came to pick me up and got me to the border to start the paperwork process.

Upon arrival at the border, I learned that two minutes earlier the Ethiopia Immigration Office had decided to take an early lunch break. So there we were, stuck in Ethiopia for two hours when all I wanted was to be at camp in Kenya, putting the continuing challenges of Ethiopia behind me. In the end, we had two hours to kill, so we found a local bar selling cold drinks and played an interesting "Snooker" type game with some locals. 

Finally the Ethiopian Immigration offices opened and we all got ready to enter a new country. I'll be honest, Kenya has been a country I have really been looking forward to visiting.

With my bicycle still lying broken and without a front wheel in the back of the TdA support vehicle, I walked across the invisible line separating Ethiopia and Kenya. The first thing I noticed was that the beautiful paved road had suddenly came to an abrupt stop, and a rocky dirt off-road had begun... again. At this point I truly appreciated my Trek bicycle, so kindly sponsored by the CYCLE LAB in Cape Town. On these rough roads, my trusty mountain bike has really been top drawer, allowing me the freedom to excel...

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