Posted by: Dana | 2010/04/25

April 24 – Puddles in My Tent

Thunder and lightening are striking all around, and I’m tucked in my tent and ready for bed. It is 7:22PM. I was on “dish duty” tonight and was accused of being part of the worst dish washing group on tour because there was risotto caked onto the dishes after we washed them, and we were too focused on scrounging up leftovers for a mangy but lovable dog that found our camp in the middle of no where in Botswana! We are in our final bush camp on tour, camped alongside the road, between Maun and the Namibian border.

I have mixed feelings about our last bush camp―one on hand, I rejoice, because this will be the final night of having absolutely no facilities, digging our own holes to poop in, and taking wet wipe baths to clean ourselves at the end of the ride. Gone are the days of rationing wet wipes, wearing cycling clothes multiple times before washing, and laying under the trucks for shade in the afternoons. On the other hand, bush camps have become a way of life here on tour―a temporary home that we erect in one day and take down the next, sometimes close enough to villages so we can interact with locals and at other times, so remote that we have only the stars keeping us company. There is something wonderful about going to bed at sunset and waking before the sun rises. And, in a bush camp, this is generally what we do. The rest of the camps, I assume, will be established camp grounds with facilities, or hotel properties that allow our group to set up tents on their premises. The end of bush camps seems like a significant marker of having reached parts of Africa with much more established infrastructure and more amenities than we have found elsewhere.

On the rest day, yesterday, I took a day trip to the Okavenga Delta in Botswana, an enormous wet land area which is home to incredible wildlife and birds. With a group of ten other riders, we took two small planes from the airport in Maun to the Delta. From the air, we could spot giraffes, zebras, gazelles, etc and had an amazing vantage point to soak in the vastness and the wetness of the Delta. The planes landed on a dirt landing strip, which had turned to mud from the night time and early morning storms, which made landing feel a bit like slip-and-slide. In any event, we landed safely and were greeted by men from a local village who would be our guides for the day. The men used long poles (think of the gondolas in Venice) to push dug-out canoes through the marshy wetlands of the Delta. We traveled through the tall sea grasses and observed tons of wildlife, both on the water, and on the small, dry, islands from the canoes and also from a three-hour walking safari we took on one of the islands. If I had known a hike was planned on this much needed rest day, you can be assured I would not have signed up! But, it turned out to be an interesting adventure during which we spotted gazelles, coudus, baboons, African monarch butterflies, and even a black mamba snake.

The flight back to Maun was a bit bumpy, as the pilot warned it might be. This was my first-ever flight in a tiny airplane and I have to admit to being a bit nervous. Also, the hike with the locals in the Delta struck me as a potentially dangerous one―as we were totally unprepared (wearing flip-flops and shorts!)–navigating our way through marshy wetlands which are home to deadly snakes and other predators. As we approached our landing in the plane, I remember thinking that I’m done with the scary stuff (the bungee jump still replays in my head!) and I just want to make my way safely to Cape Town.

We are so close now. In two days time, we cross out of Botswana and into Namibia, our last country before South Africa. Three weeks from today, we will roll into Cape Town in our final convoy. I promised myself not to wish away time, and not to get ahead of myself by thinking too much about the end before it comes, but it is difficult not to imagine the moment we will arrive in Cape Town and the feelings that will accompany it.

We are one day into a very long mileage week, ticking off the final miles in Botswana. This week consists of five riding days before our next rest day in Windhoek, averaging more than 100 miles per day. The day after tomorrow (Monday, Stage 79) is a Mando Day (aka as a killer day)–207km from Ghanzi, Botswana to Buitenpas, Namibia―our longest mileage day of the tour. At the pace I’m riding now, I don’t expect this will be the longest day of the tour for me in terms of hours on the bike since the terrain is flat and I can move along at a decent clip. But covering more than 125 miles in a day is no easy feat, even after three plus months of cycling. In fact, it’s damn hard! The legs are tired and crampy and this long day falls in the middle of an otherwise incredibly huge week.

So the rain is still falling and, for some reason, my tent seems to be failing me for the first time. I have puddles forming on the inside of my tent. Ugh!!! Everything else seems to be in good working order―my bike, my body, and my camera―the three most essential things. I hope to post this tomorrow (April 25) from Ghanzi and will update again in a few days from Namibia. Until then, happy spring! I am thinking a lot of loved ones at home and was glad to get the assurance from my niece, Maya, on her birthday, that she and her sister, Claire, have not forgotten about me. I hope the same is true about Jackson.

One more thing…We saw our first road signs for South Africa today. Nevermind we still have another entire country to cross before we get there, but the sign was the most concrete reminder that we are inching closer every day! Very exciting!!!!!


Responses

  1. I would think that ‘dirty dishes’ are relative considering where you are! More importantly, though, you saw a black mamba snake!!??

    How close was it? How do people react when they see a black mamba??

  2. Keep up the good work, Dana-you’re getting closer, oh, so close to the end. I know you are tired and there are long days ahead, but just try to take one day at a time. Don’t look ahead too much, even though I know it’s easy to do. We are all eager to hear about your adventures over the next 3 weeks. Stay strong. ILY

  3. so exciting. i love the image of you in flip flops fighting a snake. i know that didn’t happen, but still. you are so brave. i think of you everytime i go swimming. xxx

  4. Dana,
    So glad you are recovered and back to the adventure! The hike and plane ride and the animals you saw sounds amazing!! Though I am on board with your new resolution to quit the scary stuff and make it home 🙂 I am already getting so excited for you to come home. I hope you enjoy the next few weeks!!!

    xoxo,
    Tracy


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