Wild life on the road

After the rest day in Maun, Lonely Planet’s two riders, travel editor Tom Hall and author Mara Vorhees, are continuing through Botswana and Namibia on their way to Windhoek. As well as elephants, recent wildlife encounters included an unexpectedly large anteater. 




More updates will follow soon. So today’s post is an opportunity to recall Tom’s little adventure of a few days ago. This time in Tom’s own words:


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 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 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 the 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 swimming pool there.’ And on I went, aiming for Maun. Thirty minutes later, I hit a giant pothole and blew out both tyres. An hour on, I found a little shack selling cold drinks 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 as a truck went past. Astonishingly, it skidded to a halt and the driver gestured for me to climb in. I soon reached the verdant oasis of our hotel and met the four other riders who’d (intentionally) done the double day.


Unbeknown to me, the lack of mobile phone reception meant my “I am going on to Maun” message hadn’t got through to the Tour d’Afrique camp. I am now buying several beers for the guys in the support crew who were chasing after me in the truck 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 I was greeted like the runaway fool I was and have enjoyed a day of gentle ribbing. Naturally, I am accused of being colour blind (missing a multitude of pink ribbon flagging the camp) and working for a company called ‘What planet am I on?’…


~Tom Hall







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