Sunday, 5 March 2017

Woman V Cancer Cycle Africa - Tanzania- Group 1- October 2015. Days Four to Seven.

Day 4 - Olpopongi Village to Arusha. 76 KM. we start today by cycling through an area sandwiched between Mount Kilimanjaro and mount Meru. the volcanic landscape offers a striking difference to the lush surrounding of Kilimanjaro. there is the potential to see a lot of wildlife. once again we will cycle through the parched landscape. the cycling becomes much smoother as we reach to none busy road that links Narobi and Arusha. the price to pay for the good road is the climbs. a long descent awaits us as we cycle into the bustling town of Arusha.

Things start off OK this morning with breakfast, bread and jam at 06.30, then the briefing and warm up at 07.30. again it was late 08.30 when we left camp. at first the going was good, packed red sand and we made good time.

Still smiling!

However, very soon the road turns to rock, Volcanic rock mixed with the famous; or is it infamous African Cotton Soil, a very fine sinking soil when dry, thick, black mud when wet. This was extreme off road-ing, we had to walk as we could not cycle on it. Even the support mechanic, very experienced in off road conditions could not manage the rocky terrain and was walking with the rest of us.
Walking on the rocky road

There were no water stops and it was a long hard slog till we saw the tent at 11.00 located at the junction of the rock road with the main tar road for a fruit and water stop. Now we traded the rocky road for HILLS, and lots of them. There was a very steep hill and at the top was lunch this was now 12.00. the day was very hot. After lunch I peddle on the tar road to Arusha. As we pass local children, dressed in Muslim attire, they start to shout and throw thing at us, rocks mainly. one girl runs up to me and slaps we hard across the face. I was so intent on keeping going that I could not be bothered to stop and challenge her,  many others in the group have the same experience.

At last we arrive in Arusha, and it is late when we arrive at the hotel, 18.30. but the showers are hot and there is a bar, so good times! The dinner is good and at dinner there is a lot of complaining about the route so far, today has been a tough day and many of the women feel that the route has been to hard and they are unable to accomplish what they have trained for. The group is down hearted after a long hard day.

Day 5 - Arusha to Mount Zion Campsite. 94 KM. After a few kilometers we leave the hustle of Arusha behind as we cycle through beautiful rolling and seemingly endless grasslands. the road is smooth and undulating.
our lunch stop will be at Mtimmoja Primary School.
After a long day of cycling we descend into the warm basin of the east rift valley and camp close to Trangire National Park.

This was going to be the longest day and the day I had feared the most. we did have an early start, and cycled out of Arusha after a good breakfast early in the morning. The roads were tar and good, the wind was on our backs and we made really good time.
Water stop

Good roads

the school
we got to the school in good time, we were there by 11.00 and had to wait for lunch.

After the school visit we cycled on,  we saw many local children in traditional dress and got into the camp site in good time. it was good to have a chance to unpack in the light and sort the tent out. there was a bar and It was great to have time to chat about the day. However, It seemed that some people had been attacked again, one woman was badly beaten with a long stick and others had rocks thrown at them as they passed through a ravine.
The Zion camp site was good, it had trees so was not too dusty, it had 4 showers and 6 toilets, all be it squatting ones! Dinner was very basic again and held in the boma. We did sleep well that night in the tents.
Zion Camp Site

Zion Camp Site

Zion Camp Site

Toilets with Millipeade
Day 6 - Tarangire National Park to Mto Wa Mbu Lake Manyara National Park.  74KM
the first half of todays ride is speedy and flat 35 Km. once we leave the main road and enter deeper into the rift valley it becomes stark. Cotton felids dominate the more arid areas whilst sugar cane and rice fields line the trail.
As we approach Lake Manyara a hiller section merges with a swampy area. we eventually meet the buses that will take us to our accommodation near Lake Manyara National Park.
We set off early at 07.30, the first few KM is bumpy, then a good tar road to lunch.

After lunch the sandy track gets sandier and sandier its like peddling on a beach. The track also goes through a ravine and it is extremely hot. This is really the worst day, many of the women are in tears and give up, its so hot and so very hard, the temperature is recording 41 to 42oC on the van thermometer. As some of the women start to dehydrate they become dizzy and fall off the bikes, at least 3 hats are broken.  We also encounter gangs of young men holding sticks and large stones, demanding the bikes. The van drivers look scared of the youths, I find it is best just to keep going and show no fear. Some of the other women though are intimidated by the crowds.

At last we get to the end of the track, the buses are waiting. It is rather confusing as the buses go back to the Zion Camp site, onto a tar road and we eventually get to the accommodation, Twiga Lodge. we arrive in the dark at 1900. we are advised dinner is at 20.00. There is also an issue that the group is to large for the lodge and some people are allocated accommodation down the road. Many of the women are very angry, having to find bags in the dark, with barley an hour to get ready. In our room the shower does not work, it is just a small trickle. I had seen that there is a camp site in the lodge, with its own ablution blocks so I use this for my shower. Whilst Twiga is old fashioned, it is clean, The people who are in alternative accommodation are very disappointed. Reporting windows with out glass and broken doors. I am glad I am in Twiga. Dinner is OK, but the bar runs out of tonic, so any drinking sessions get cut short.
At the briefing session tonight the man who planned the route states that tomorrow we will climb higher than Ben Nevis, I am stunned and almost feel like not bothering to try as it all seem to much!

Day 7 - Mto Wa Mbu to Ngorongoro Crater. 39 Km. Although todays ride is the shortest day, it is challenging and we will end today 2,000 m above sea level.
The last day, and we are up and off for 06.30. peddling up a very steep hill, then uphill's and inclines and uphill's. However I just go at my own pace and despite the Ben Nevis talk this is the easiest day. 

Lake Manyara in the background

just keep going up
Mile after mile of uphill, eventually at about 12.00 I see the gates of the Ngorongoro Park, I have made it.
The men who have provided the support sing to us all in celebration, we enjoy jam sandwiches, sparking wine and get our meddles. We have done it !

The men who made it possible

The buses now take us back down to Twiga Lodge. the next day is a free day and there is an optional jeep safari to the crater. Then buses will take the group back to Arusha for the celebration dinner.
I could not stay for these two days and had arranged to leave early. I had to organises a private transfer to the airport. I also had used some of my Skywards points and upgraded my flight home. this was a good decision.

Take me home! Dar es Salam to DXB
It turns out that we actually cycled 400 KM not the 300 Km originally stated, and it was a challenge not a holiday.
I feel that the itinerary was misleading, mentioning National Parks and wildlife. All we saw were dust roads, aggressive locals and tents. I would not recommend anyone to go with this company. Action for Charity or Dream challenges. The trip was chaotic, the accommodation of poor quality, the food was appalling. Without the hard work of the local support team it would have been impossible.  I am amazed no one got lost or hurt and I think that this was due to good luck rather than anything else. BUT, we did it, and raised a little for our Charites.