Odometer - 8000km
There is nothing better then being the first out of camp and riding through the African bush as the sun comes up. This feeling has been particularly true this past week as we have made our way along the Great East Road through the Zambian countryside.
The early morning seems to cover the full color spectrum particularly when the sun is lighting it up like a spotlight from the rear horizon. The fresh smells get carried through your body by a cool morning air. And the sounds of the bush waking up is almost silent, as it is still has not been polluted by the bustle of human activity. The latter is true unless you have the likes of Motley Crue/ACDC pumping through your iPod...As cliche as I probably sound, there is no other way to explain it, and it is energizing.
But the sun comes up quickly and soon, its hot, humid and traffic is on the warpath. The challenge then is not to have non-functional thoughts override that early morning energy, since there are usually many more hours left in the saddle.
We had some long hilly days this week. 195km one day, which was probably the longest that many of us had ever ridden in one shot. We had a 150km day that included 2000m of climbing. These 2 days were flanked on either side another 370km or so of total distance. This week was probably good mental preparation into the long days to come which will take us across Botswana and Namibia.
Early in the week, we had a fairly seemless border crossing into Zambia. Interestingly, in the past US and Brits have been charged USD $135/150 for entry-visa's. Now its only USD $50...it leads one to only conspire as to why that is?
As I have previously hinted the group dynamic plays a major role in the TDA. The best metaphor I can come up with is its like a group of people starting a new office job. At the beginning, everyone is eager to find their niche in the group, and generally tries to keep an open mind, and maybe even a bitten tongue. But as the weeks progress and people find their place, groups are formed as are opinions, and people start to let down their guards and carry on with the day to day. Whether you have worked in an office or watched "The Office" - you know what the result might be after a couple months on the job. It appears to be very similiar on the TDA. The TDA has defined groups now, for sure, based on everything from age to interests; and individuals have also developed their own distintive daily/weekly routines. But at the end of the day, after the tensions or the celebrations have subsided, we are all still on the same quest - arriving in Cape Town, by bike, on May 15 - the conditions under which we plan on accomplishing that quest are probably different for every individual.
Currently, we are settled close to the Arcade Mall in Lusaka - which is a kaleidascope of western luxuries - movies, nice restaurants and cafes, fast internet, well stock supermarkets and assorted specialty shops - a haven for our rest day indulgences'. But back in the bush, what can be as satisfying, is finding a comfortable "coke stop", our term for a small shop. A couple of days ago, a few of us were settled at one such coke stop, drinking semi cold(a small luxury) drinks and eating fritters that had just been made out back. Our seat was a thin wooden bench, where we were half protected from the sun. All I could see was a group of comfortable, happy Mzungu's (local lingo for white person)telling tales from the day and enjoying the semi-cold Castle Lager/Coca Cola. We seemed to even laugh off being heckled by one of town elders for some money...he had had too much drink according to a couple of the youngsters who were embarresingly trying to whisk him away.
Africa is starting to remind me of the richness that can be found in such simplicity.