Saturday, October 17, 2009

There is a Fungus Among Us

Two hundred and seven kilometers. I started my ride before daybreak.
The rash had kept me up all night, had been for a while, and so I felt
really disoriented. I started my ride with Hinchy (one of the
Kitchener crew - three retirees who do tons of adventures), Tom, the
most wonderful 18-year-old I have ever met, and Helen, our Lillipudian
Chief Inspector. I love Hinchy – he always has a joke. Helen was
doing poorly that day, though she’s usually tough as nails. She
started falling behind, so I told her to get behind me and I would
pull her. There was a headwind today and it was only going to get
worse. If she got through the morning she might get through the whole
Psychologically, I sectioned the day off into five. It was 40km to
the right turn, 45km to lunch, 35km to the Coke stop, 45km to the
refreshment stop, 42km to the finish – border crossing at the end.
I pulled Helen to lunch, and then from there I caught a train – Mark,
Alex, Evelijn, Tom and Simon. We were doing between 36-40km/hr. Peter
and I pulled for quite some distance, pushing on beyond our turn right
into the coke stop. While I was in the washroom, the crew took off.
It was perfectly acceptable too do that, and if I were in better
shape, I might have even caught them. Peter later explained to me
that the way to catch up to people is to go one or two km above their
speed, so that you’re not killing yourself, and once you catch up to
them you can just take it down to their speed... it’ll take a while,
but you’ll catch up. I’ve never been able to catch anyone, but I like
the theory.
I rode with Peter for a while, and then Graham and Lone caught up to
us. I was near my breaking point. My rash was so painful. I decided
that I would hitch into Windhoek the following day and go to the
hospital. I couldn’t ride like that anymore. Nothing the nurses gave
me was working. Erin would be in Windhoek already, as she was going
ahead with Sharita, who had caught Malaria.
I stopped at the side of the road and Graham and Peter talked me into
getting on the truck. I sat for a while, and then a train came by.
Helen was in it, and she let me know that Eric was doing sweep. I let
them go, but tried to figure out what I was going to do. There was no
way I could spend more than five minutes with that arrogant jerk. I
decided to ride to the refresh, and if I could hitch a ride I would.
A few transport trucks passed, but no one who could take me. I
watched as the little side road markers clicked by. Little white
posts that told you every .2km you had gone. It was enough to make
someone batty. When I got to the refresh, the train was still there,
and so I asked if they could wait so that I could join them. By that
point I decided that I would carry on through. It was such a big day
for everyone, I couldn’t jump on the truck, no matter how bad my
thighs were burning.
We rode a decent pace – about 25km/hr. We stopped frequently. And we
got in. It was wonderful.
Everyone finished, minus Simon, who has diabetes and had a bit of an
attack. He seemed really down about not finishing. There were huge
rounds of applause as Texas John and Ernest came in – our two oldest –
72 and 69. The spirit in camp was great, and there was spag bol for
dinner – everyone’s favourite. I’m not a big spaghetti person, but
for some reason on this trip it truly tastes like mana from heaven.
I set up camp on the grassy grounds that were covered in beetles the
size of my fist. The bottom of my tent was alive with themovements of
them underneath. If it wasn’t the beetles, it was the corn crickets.
The next morning I woke up and got my stuff together to go to
Windhoek. I would take the truck until the first major town, wherfe
apparently it becomes easy to hitch from. I spoke with Shanny about
Eric. He said that Eric had already spoken to him, and that he had
intended to have a talk with me, as it is unacceptable to have anyone
swearing at his staff. I apologized for that, and then he said he
would speak with Eric. I went over to Eric and apologized for
swearing at him in front of everyone, but that I meant what I had
said. He said “Yeah, you shouldn’t have said that.” No apologies. I
started to wish that maybe one of those crazy Tanzanian drivers would
make it into Namibia and take him out. Then I decided that he wasn’t
worth thinking about.
I caught a lift from a truck driver, and laughed at all of the deer
crossing signs, but instead of deer they were alerting us to warthogs.
They cut the grass in Namibia back 500m so that you can see when the
animals are running for the road. Indeed, we did see a few warthogs
running for the road. All of Namibia is fenced in. It was all
partitioned off to farmers a long time ago. Mostly white farmers.
The landscape went from Botswana flat to hilly and gorgeous. Red
rocks and greenery. Windhoek is the first real city I’d seen in ages.
the fellow dropped me off in front of a bike shop (total
coincidence), and charged me five bucks for the lift. I went into a
coffee shop, had spaetzle – so German, and made my way to the hotel.
It was nice to be really and truly alone. I sat in the room, watched
a movie on the tele, and headed to a hospital. The funny thing was
that normally I would feel incredibly guilty for sitting inside on a
beautiful day. That disappears when you spend all day every day
outdoors. Not that I would want to do more than a day of it, but it
was nice for a treat.
I went to the Rhino Private Clinic – listed in the Lonely Planet.
They stared at me as if I had a second head, and then sent me to the
Roman Catholic hospital, where I had to go to the Casualties
Department – the Namibian way of saying Emergency Ward. I was so
lucky. My doctor was a cyclist who had ridden from Windhoek to Cape
Town. When he did it it had rained the whole way, so he recognized it
for what it was – I was moldy. Heh heh.
My prescription: “Knickers off, loose skirts, legs apart, and apply
this cream.” Mom would be proud. After a million questions about the
tour, he had one of the nurses escort me to the nearest pharmacy, out
of the building and down the block.
I went to Klein Windhoek, where the best restaurants are, had dinner -
I almost ordered a bottle of wine, and then discovered that what they
charge for a bottle is what they charge for a glass in Canada – and by
the time got back to the hotel, Erin and Sharita were just getting
back to their room. We made relaxed plans for the next day. Erin and
I. Sharita looked like death warmed over. Thank god I never caught

No comments: