Tour D’Afrique Update: Heat, Hot, Boiling, Cooking and Burning

If you have not read our previous posts on this subject, the Tour D’Afrique is a cycle race over 12,000 km from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa over a period of 4 months. Our CEO, Gerald Corniel is participating in this race. The riders are currently making their way to Khartoum in the Sudan. Read Gerald’s Blog for detailed updates and information.

This is an update from him:

“Last night at camp, a few of us got together and worked out a strategy against the heat. We would ride together the first 2 hours as fast as we could and clock as many kilometers as possible before the infernal blaze would reduce our bodies into boiling eggs.

That worked out really well, Tony and I got in the front of the pack and despite my previous day cold and fever, I was feeling so good that we actually rode 25 km in front without passing relay… Needless to say that our fellow riders were happy about that… When we dropped to the back of the group, I realised that quite a few other guys had hopped on the opportunity and our peloton was actually quite big. The problem with that is that many riders especially at the back are quite experienced in peloton riding and riding in big groups can be hazardous. We already had 5 guys falling on top of each other a few days ago and they walk around camp limping with fat bruises on their bodies. Anyway I knew that as soon as Jim, the American would take his turn in front, that peloton would explode, and that’s exactly what happened. We were already maintaining a decent pace of 35 km per hour and since Jim always make a point of rising the speed of 5 km per hour when it is his turn in front, our pace went to 40 km per hour which split that group in two.Our group kept that strong pace all the way to the lunch truck at km 77 which we reached in about two hours making our average speed over 35 km per hour. By then the heat was now starting to hurt and everybody knew that the remaining 65 km were not gonna be fun. Last night during the rider meeting they told us there was a “coffee shop” at km 122, so this was the next target…

Again we decided to stick together and rode all the way to this “coffee shop” The heat is impossible to describe. You simply cannot get away from it. There is no shade nowhere, it is just sand reflecting that heat straight at your face, even your bike starts to burn and the water in the water bottle gets so warm that it is totally unpleasant to drink it, but you have no choice. We are drinking so much water, it is mad. You fill all your water bottles, (I have 3) and then you grab any opportunity to buy cold drinks along the road. Today there are two such opportunities… Then you refill all at the lunch truck.

The “coffee shop” offered a brake from the heat; Designed for the local people, it was very basic, very dirty, if you had to come in there straight from the asseptisised world we are used to live in, you would call it filthy, but by now, we are pretty much comfortable with that, so we will just call it “dirty”. but, who cares about dirty anyway… What mattered is that it offered shade and ultra luxury a bed and some seats… Jos, our South African rider who is more built for playing Rugby than riding a bike through the Sudanese desert took over that bed and had a sleep for a good hour while the rest of us where taking photos of the place and downing cold drink after cold drink. Unfortunately within 30 minutes we had managed to drink every possible cold drink available at the “coffee shop”… This meant that the new riders who were just coming in were gonna have to intake that horrible hot pepsi… This is one of the advantage the faster riders enjoy. The TDA staff actually stops at these places in advance and tell them to fill their fridges for us, but you can imagine that these fridges are often old and efficient and take many hours to cool down anything…

A colorful bus full of women pulled in at the coffee shop stop and the place became very busy. I was hungry for something salty, but here in remote Sudan they seem to like only super sweet stuff. The coffee shop sold all kind of disgusting ultra sweet biscuits, but not one salted thing, and we need to replenish with salt given the amount of sweating we do. So I was left with only one solution, try the local meat stew that was boiling in a aluminium pot. The woman who came out of the bus had some and it did look disgusting, but I was hungry and I eventually was the only rider who was brave enough to give it a try. The people here carry their own plate and I did not have one, so the guy who was running the place gave me his. By the time I saw how filthy his plate was, it was too late to decline the offer. He politely cleaned some of the grace and thick layer of, I don’t know what he does with his right hand and threw a full portion of stew in it… So I decided it was time to start teaching my body about the local germs and bugs, a good preparation for Ethiopia… Anyway, the taste was good, lightly spiced. The problem  is that chopped meat in Africa is a very different thing from chopped meat in Europe… Chopped means chopped.. So this means that the meat is full of very sharp pieces of bones so you gotta be careful when eating it. This also means that you hit the lottery when you find a piece that is soft and eatable the way we are used to. Eating that meat reminded me the scene of Charlie Chaplin eating his shoe sole in “the gold rush”. There were strange pieces of strange body parts, but never mind, I was hungry and to me it tasted good. I suppose that in any other context I would have given it a different comment, but for the middle of the Sudanese desert, it got a good rating from my French palate…

Riding to camp was easy, a nice tail wind had picked up and we were propulsed at a whooping 38 km per hour over the last few kilometers without much work…

Tomorrow is another hard day, we have 155 km to go and in days we will be in Khartoum.”

Read the Junk Mail Blog regularly for updates on Gerald Corniel’s progress in the Tour D’Afrique

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Henno Kruger

Digital Marketing Campaign Coordinator at Junk Mail Publishing.

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