Thursday, April 16, 2009

Day 4: Nata to Bush Camp

Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana - The longest day yet! Each day presents a new challenge. Just because I did it yesterday doesn't mean I can do it today. But I did! Today we rode 175km - that's just about 109 miles.

We started extra early in anticipation of the long day. And it was actually chilly this morning at 6:30am. I've been wearing a jacket in the morning anyway. But this morning the crisp morning air was cutting right through it and my fingers were freezing. I was remembering those many winter mornings back home - trying to remind myself that this was glorious riding weather compared to those sub-freezing temperatures I enjoyed in February!

The morning went by so fast - partly because I was able to hop onto the back of a line of riders. We had the wind at our back anyway, which was nice. But the paceline is fantastic - the lead rider blocks the wind and pulls the rest of the group.  It takes some work to keep up, especially since you have to stay right on the tail of the rider in front of you. But when it works, the speed of the ride increases signficantly. I'm sure there is some sort of geophysical, biological explanation... but it has to be more than just having the wind blocked. It really feels like the collective energy of the group pulls you along - pushing you to speeds you could never do on your own. Thank you Coach Rich for teaching me the basics of pacelining so I could participate in that!

Otherwise, the highlight of the day was the afternoon Coke stop at this wacky lodge called Planet Baobab.  The Baobab tree is the massive fruit tree that is all over southern Africa. The grounds were littered with these lovely shade trees, not to mention a relaxing bar and an extremely inviting swimming pool. (Alas, the prospect of riding in wet biking short deterred me...) But my favorite feature was the gigantic aardvark marking the spot.

This will be our second night in a bush camp. It is what it is: we set up our tents in the bush and there is nothing around for miles. We eat very well, thanks to the hardworking TDA staff, who know how to feed 60 hungry riders (and we are hungry!)


So far, I have been lucky in that there is no shortage of water, which means we are welcome to take water bottle showers.  Again, it is what it is. But I quite like the al fresco shower, so no complaints there. I don't love the al fresco toilets but it's better than an outhouse!

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