Saturday, March 28, 2009

No cars to Khartoum

We rode 154km today. I rushed to get out with someone. I've stopped leaving with the racers because I don't want to freak out my ankle, and since they leave last, I don't want to be stuck alone all day if I drop out of the peloton. Which is also why I'm getting logged in at twelve hour days in the race charting. I was doing about 30 km/h in the headwind, and managed to catch up to the ladies - Anne, Viv, Helen and Isabel, who were riding at 25-26 km/h in peloton. We traded off every 5km, making the day much more manageable physically and mentally - change is good in the desert. I plotted the next story of Brownie and Woofie for Sequoia (my step-daughter), thought out my storyline for the Sudanese bike (which I've now ditched, having gotten an even better one from our visit to the refugee camp), and did math problems. That's what I think about when I'm riding. I also come up with counter arguments to things said by Eric, our neo-Reganite, which makes for fun discussion in the right company - and never too serious.

Getting into camp, we were exhausted. There was a coke-stop 1km away from camp, but I couldn't get there until after dinner. We were wiped. And then we found out that after our rest day in Khartoum we would have 6 straight days of riding, including our first two in Ethiopia. We're all a little paranoid about Ethiopia. Mountains, Bad roads, kids with rocks, and no privacy. In Dongola we stayed in a zoo. There were no animals. There were so many people lined up outside the compound walls watching us wash clothes, shower with buckets (clothed), fix bikes. There were even guys sitting on a roof hollering at us. In Ethiopia it is meant to be even more so, only without the walls. So four straight days of around 150km, and then two days in Ethiopia. The first day in Ethiopia is rumoured to be really rough because it will have been almost a month since any of us has been allowed any alcohol (prohibited in Sudan). It's usually a hangover day. On the rocks. As the kids throw them at you.

The next day was our day into Khartoum. We also had our time trial. I had been out of the race for so long I didn't even know if I was still in. They didn't know either, so I got a whole bunch of 12 hours thrown on my schedule, and rode the time trial, which was great fun. I'm pondering riding them and bailing on the race aspect. I much prefer the 20 km races to racing every day - you don't get as much variety in who you ride with. We'll see. I rode on until just before the 60 kilometer mark, and then tragedy struck. A bus was coming in the oncoming, and I didn't hear the truck coming up behind me - it didn't honk because it figured it could just squish in between the two of us. the side of the truck was a sort of steel that looked like corrugated roofing. I got smacked on my arm and hand by four of the bumps, and swerved off the road, thankfully staying on the bike. I was bruised and swollen with a bit of blood, but burst into tears more from shock than from pain. I sat at the side of the rode thinking, I'm alright, everything is moving, nothing is broken, I'm just shocked. And so I started riding with one arm when it occurred to me that I had some first aid with me and should clean it. As I was cleaning it Simon rode up and I burst into tears again. He sprayed me with disinfectant, and shortly after the sweep came by and called in a truck. We got to lunch and I threw my bike on the big truck and did nothing the rest of the way in except chat with the sickies.

There is quite a bit of sickness going around - I'm hoping I'll miss it, but ailments spread like wildfire in the camp. Try to tell people not to share food - it's impossible. We all like each other, and we're all used to sharing. It's not possible to break that habit.

We got into Khartoum and were slightly disappointed in our campsite. It looked like every other soccer field we had been staying in, only there were hundreds of guys staring at us. It's being used as a military complex. We all changed our minds about the place when we discovered that there were plenty of warm showers and a shop that sold cold drinks for 30cents. we changed our minds even more so when we got a surprise treat that night.

But first, we went on the prowl for internet. There was a mall that we could supposedly get supplies at. We found a coffee shop that served ice-cream! Pizza! Bowling! Air conditioning! hahahaha! Since Scott and Sherriff were leaving us, we had a fun game of bowling together on the most curved, bumpy lanes I have ever seen! It was awesome. I have never laughed so hard! It was our own little oasis of a culture that we have no interest in back home, and yet here it was exactly what we needed. Oh and the pizza was so good - solid fat! mmmmmm. I've been dropping weight like you wouldn't believe, so the fattier the food the better.

We got back to music. A rawbaba, a drum, a man chanting accompanied by dozens of others. Imagine the African tribal music you'd get on a World Beat CD, perform it on a dark sandy courtyard, with youngfellas jumping in and stomping to the beat, the one foot keeping pace with the bass-tone, the other moving faster, with hard stomps that make the earth quake. the dirt rises - the guys stomp hard - they match themselves with partners until one tires, hands in the air or thrusting at their sides, they dance. And then they started coming up to us, calling us in. We danced with them, stomping hard until we started laughing. High-fives and clapping, slaps on the back and others encouraging us to go back for more. I went to sleep shortly after, covered in sweat.


No comments: