Sunday, June 5, 2011

TdA Hangover - Stage 5

Now comes the part when everyone is asking me about the TdA. The same questions come up a lot and I thought that I'd share in the event that you hadn't already asked me.

Doesn't your butt get sore?
The answer is yes. Very. You know what though? My butt got sore sitting at a desk all day, too. Too much of anything is bound to make you uncomfortable. So, you find ways to manage. I was lucky, and careful, to avoid saddle sores. My secret? No chamois cream and no hanging out unnecessarily in my chamois after the ride was finished. Did that make it pain free? No. But it helped. The rest of the pain I managed by pedaling harder so that my burning quads would take my attention away from my aching butt (or something like that).

Isn't it dangerous?
The answer is yes, again. But, danger is everywhere. On TdA, we had theft (armed robbery), animal attacks (a dog bite and a charging elephant), physical violence (gangs of stone throwing children in ethiopia), illness (malaria, typhoid, giardia), injury (broken ribs, all kinds of scrapes and bruises) and a vehicle accident (overlander written off). It's been less than a month since TdA finished and I can come up with the same list of dangers. In my circle of friends, there has been theft (mugging), physical violence (bar fight), animal attacks (dog bite), illness (skin cancer, cryptosporidiosis), injury (broken ankle) and a vehicle accident (car written off). Danger is everywhere.

Aren't you tired?
The answer is no. Admittedly, I was tired in month three of the journey when my body was plagued with illness. I was quite possibly burned out a bit from riding at that time as well. But, my body eventually bounced back. The net effect at the end of the trip is that I have more energy than ever. I feel like the trip rolled the clock back by ten years. Being active every day, being outside, eating well - it's good for you!

What 'things' did you miss the most?
This changed with time. At first it was toilets. Then it was showers. Then it was good meat. Then cold drinks. Then chocolate. Then ice cream. Some of these things came and went. At the end, to be honest, I didn't feel like I missed anything. This was partly because I learned to live without certain things. It was also because I got used to conditions being temporary.

What was the most useful thing that you brought?
Aside from my bicycle, I have to say that the answer would be my blackberry. Internet was sometimes hard to find and very often not of high quality and Blackberry coverage was relatively good (albeit expensive), with the exception of Ethiopia. I also have to say that my travel sized perfume and pink nail polish turned out to be surprisingly useful. Riding consecutive days without showering, camping in the mud, and suffering through persistent gastro-intestinal trauma sometimes made me feel more like an animal than a woman. When you are too sick to buy toilet paper, let alone focus on beauty. When you look like a hippie because you wont risk a hair cut at the 'hear cuting saloon' next to the rasta-bar/brothel. These are the times when you cling to those precious threads of femininity that remain; perfume and hot pink painted toe nails.  

What did you bring that you didn't need?
Well, I had a lot of medication and first aid supplies at the end of the trip, but I wouldn't say that was wasted space. What did end up unused was my ebook. Some people used these a lot. I didn't read anything at all. I soaked up the bliss of the moment, rather than taking myself to another place and time through reading. Sure, not reading for five months has its consequences; my vocabulary seems to have shrunk and I have little knowledge of 'major' global events of 2011. Then again, I feel that my choice to stay in the moment and place where I was gave me a better appreciation of the people and places around me.

Were you happy with your bike?
Yes. Totally. I love that bike. Surly Long Haul trucker with a salsa woodchipper handle bar. Road crank and a mountain cassette. Cross brake levers for added comfort. If I did the ride again, I wouldn't change a thing. Was it the fastest bike? no. Was it the most comfortable? no. There is no single perfect bike to race on the buttery smooth pavement in Sudan while also providing comfort on the heinous lava rock of Northern Kenya. The trucker was a great inbetweener. As far as I can recall, it was the only steel frame in the top 10 finishers. There were all sorts of bikes on the trip. Most of the fast guys rode cross bikes. Most of the slower people enjoyed their hard tails. And in both cases, people seemed to be quite happy with their choices. The perfect bike for the TdA depends on the rider.


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