Cycling World Magazine July 2017 - Page 53

July 2017| 53 This week we ve had rain, wind, sun and even fog greeting us as we set off in the morning. We usually start by cursing and blinding about our aches and pains from the day before. The fog was particularly memorable as it was accompanied by a 6km climb, meaning not only could we not feel our legs, but we couldn’t see 20 metres in front of us, so we had no idea when it would end! Normally, the first hour of the cycle is the hardest. The stiffness in our legs has, at times, made getting out of the sleeping bags a challenge in itself, let alone cycling up a mountain. Somehow the human mind forgets the pain it went through days, even hours before and allows you to convince yourself that despite not being a professional athlete you are still able to lug 55kg of weight on two wheels over some of Africa’s most intense mountain climbs. God knows how. Brunch usually starts at around 9am. It consists of one of the finest meals the lunch bar . To those of you that are unfamiliar with said lunch bar, you’re missing out. The crispy inner peanut butter avoured comb is delicately wrapped in Cadbury s finest milk chocolate and extends for at least six big mouthfuls. No matter the time, altitude, weather or dietary requirements (which are quite specific for this trip lunch bars are unrivalled and essential. Theo has become the resident king of the lunch bar, munching on at least three before lunch. road, that becomes slightly more of a challenge. Instead, we have so far used a mixture of cunning, charm and St Christopher’s luck! We normally arrive in the place we are aiming for between . - pm. Seeing as it gets dark at . pm on the dot, cutting it fine can be a dangerous game. Especially as our main rule is no cycling at night. Usually on arriving at the location, Charlie turns on the charm offensive and attempts to convince the owner of the smartest guest house in the area that we would love to camp on their premises. When this doesn’t work, we send in the reinforcements. Johnno steps up the haggling process Theo whips out his phone with usually less than 15 rand of credit which equates to roughly 85 pence. and starts to madly research the nearest guest house or hostel. This process usually lasts as long as it takes for him to run out of credit or for the light to fade. So far this has been a tremendous success. One memorable night, after being told the local guesthouse was full and we would have to cycle another 15km on top of the 75km we had already completed that day, we went round the corner and found the rival hotel which kindly said we could sleep on their lawn for free. This seemed great until we saw the proximity to the river; 20m away there were signs saying no swimming or fishing beware of hippos and crocodiles! At that point, we realised perhaps it wasn t the most generous offer. Bikepackers can’t be choosers, as they say, and luckily we survived, albeit with noisy rustling in the bushes throughout the night! Actual lunch is tricky. Unfortunately, we’ve worked out that roads, and subsequently the roadside cafés, were designed with cars in mind. The distances between food stops are vast. There isn t, therefore, always an option to eat lunch at lunch time. We have to have our wits about us from 11am to 4pm. KFC is a regular; Nando’s is a highlight. Anything else is a risk. Theo often settles for another lunch bar. It’s an amusing process to go through watching three guys you thought you knew exceptionally well go through a full life cycle from near starvation to overloading with food on a daily basis. It provides a fascinating insight into their different characters. This is one of the areas where our teamwork has really started to pay off. veryone is very generous with their supplies, and nobody judges a man who has a second or even third course at dinner. Or in my case, a full steak and chips followed by a burger and chips for pudding, followed by pudding, followed by some more chips, which actually happened on two consecutive nights. That is one thing we have noticed, being out on the bike for an average of nine hours a day means we can literally eat whatever we want! The next daily challenge we have is finding somewhere to stay. As we are carrying our tents, we have the capacity to pretty much sleep anywhere, in theory. But when you’re half way up a mountain and there is no side of the What’s great though, is although we are perfectly capable of tucking into a menu, we can also fend for ourselves. Our culinary dishes have stretched from pasta and pasta sauce to noodles and tinned fish and, on