Tom Hall (Lonely Planet’s well-travelled Travel Editor) phoned me last night from the town of Nata in northeastern Botswana. With his Team LP co-rider Mara Vorhees and the other cyclists of the Tour d’Afrique peleton, Tom had just completed two days of about 100 miles (160km) each, and reports that his bike – and everything else – is ‘triffic’.
Here are some more snatches from our conversation:
It’s the wet season and the rains are spectacular. The Chobe River is the highest it’s been since 1968 and the Zambezi is also very high, with Victoria Falls totally obscured by mist and spay as millions of litres of water every second plunge into the gorge below.
Some of the campsites have been flooded, but the roads are fine – all good tar, with just a few sections of potholes. A major highlight yesterday was seeing elephants beside the road. Now we know why this stage is called the Elephant Highway.
The cycling has been quite hard, especially as we’ve been riding into a headwind, but utterly fantastic. We’re riding through the Kalahari and the landscape is mainly flat, covered in trees, scrubby bush or massive plantations of sorghum, and remarkably empty of population. Sometimes we ride for hours and see only a few other people. With long straight roads and no distractions, the riding is almost hypnotic.
The atmosphere amongst the riders is very sociable. After the harder stages in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, southern Africa is a delight. All the cyclists are relaxed and simply enjoying the trip, especially as – with Cape Town just a few weeks away – they can taste the end of this epic journey through Africa.
After two days of headwind we change direction tomorrow as we ride towards the town of Maun, on the edge of the famous Okavango Delta.
Tom finished our chat by mentioning the upcoming team time trial, involving teams of five racing through Botswana, and hopefully avoiding elephants on the highway. We look forward to hearing more…
~ David Else