The Longest Day
The Elephant Highway stage of the Tour d’Afrique is famous for two things: our two-tusked friends and long days in the saddle. But why stop at 150km, when 300km has a sounds far more fulfilling?
My fourth day riding the Tour had been, like others before it, tough but thrilling. Once again I was getting a huge kick out of riding, sometimes in groups or pairs and sometimes alone, pinching myself that I was on two wheels speeding (sometimes) through the Botswana grasslands and salt-pans.
So much was I enjoying the day that when I stopped at a refreshment fill-up that I forgot how to ride my bike and fell over, grazing my knee like a schoolboy in a football match. This mildly painful incident occupied my mind for the next 25km, by which point I began to consider that I may have ridden, assisted by a hefty tail-wind, right past our bush-camp for the night.
It was at this point that odd part of the human brain which defies common sense spoke up. ‘We’re going to Maun then. It’s only another 130km. There is a pool there.’ And on I went, aiming for Maun. Thirty minutes later, I hit a giant pothole and blew out both tires. An hour on, I found a coke stop that no other rider found. It may have been a divine intervention.
Thirty kilometers from Maun I got another puncture and, exhausted after nine hours in the saddle and the searing heat, stuck my arm out. Astonishingly, the first truck that went past skidded to a halt and the driver gestured for me to climb in. A taxi ride from the outskirts of Maun to our verdant oasis of a hotel later and I met the four other riders who’d (intentionally) done the double day.
Unbeknownst to me the lack of mobile reception meant me message hadn’t got through to camp and I am buying several beers for the guys who were chasing after me almost all the way to Maun. But like everything on the Tour easy-going bonhomie covers a multitude of sins and when the other riders arrived today I was greeted like the runaway fool I was and have enjoyed a day of gentle ribbing. I am colour blind (missing a multitude of pink ribbon flagging the camp) and that I work for a company called ‘What planet am I on?’ Line of day goes to speedy rider Frankie ‘Hey! 300km Man! And you didn’t even mean to!’
– Tom Hall