Alarm goes, 5 am wake up and the start of a 16 hour travel day! And NO I’m not heading to Europe, this is a mere excursion to the 1st African Cup of the season in the province of Nyanga Troutbeck Zimbabwe. I’m driven to the airport, VIP style by training partner and friend, Mr. Michael Lord.
It is a connecting flight from Cape Town international, first flying to Johannesburg (OR- Tambo), 2-hour layover, and then a mere 90 min flight to Harare. But that is only the start of the fun, everyone that has travelled to the race before knows that you are only halfway once landing at the International airport in Harare. This is my 2nd trip here, and from previous experience I realize that it will be another 75-120 min wait at customs waiting for all the other athletes travelling from different parts of the world, and then getting our bikes serial numbers checked and cleared at customs. This can be a very tedious and time consuming process, requiring a tremendous amount of patience. However, somehow by a miracle the bikes arrive quickly (not in one piece for everyone unfortunately, there’s a vicious machine throwing our “fragile” bikes onto the conveyor belt). No-one checks them and we are on the bus within 50 minutes after landing. Something can’t be right? It is never supposed to be this easy, and then the drama starts… Touch
So as I was saying everything went swimmingly up to that point. Now we have come to understand that the transport truck, supposed to carry the bikes of about 28 athletes have broken down along the route and will not make it to the airport in time. Well as they say in Africa, adapt or die so we chose the latter. We have a bus able to carry about 65 passengers and we are only about 30 people altogether with athletes, hosts and coaches which makes the 5-hour bus ride sort of bearable allowing athletes to rest the legs and have some extra leg space for chill. That is about to be a thing of the past. So the only alternative is pack 20- odd bike boxes into the back 5 rows of the bus. Now we are really sitting on each others laps. We meet up with the transport bus, halfway through and load all the bikes over, the extra space is a relief, but honestly are we there yet? At least I’m busy reading a good book so the time seems to pass a little bit faster, or at least I’ll tell myself that. We arrive at the Hotel by 8:30pm and beat the previous traveling record even with the delays. Buffet is served at last I’m starving! But first a quick shake out run in the African darkness with my German compatriots and room-mate Linus Stimmel…
The next morning we try to sleep in as much as possible, but I suppose the jet-lag (or bus-lag in this case) catches up to us. We have breakfast, easy swim on the course and then head out for a bike-and-run course familiarization. Out on the bike I just once again realize how beautiful this country still is. Zimbabwe has been in the media’s eye for all the wrong reasons over the last couple of years, however the scenery and beauty of this landscape is still second to none…
A little bit of history behind this area and the hotel we’re staying at. This area of Zimbabwe is sparsely populated, making it a very popular tourist attraction. The area know known as Nyanga resort was mostly the private estate of Cecil Rhodes, it reminded him of Scotland so they tried replicating the forests and introduced trout to the streams and lake which can still be found here today. The area is also home to the highest mountain in Zimbabwe, at 2595m Mount Nyangani. A variety of hiking trails also lead to deep gorges and one of Africa’s highest waterfalls, Mtarazi falls(725m).
The race hotel with its friendly staff and hosts was built and founded by Major Herbert Macllwaine and interestingly enough the massive fireplace in the reception has never been put out since the hotels grand opening way back in 1947. Quite a bit of firewood has been burnt there over the years I would say.
On your marks, and we off. Decent swim sees me coming out the water about 27 seconds from the front Europeans. I bike as hard as I can, but unfortunately being a bigger guy at 83 kilograms these climbing course doesn’t really suit me. I catch the front pack on the 3rd lap of 4, but unfortunately by now one of the Germans has broken away. Work all the way back home, and get pipped by the Australian Nicholas Free to take home the bronze medal. Still good race and points earned, but definitely still some work to do before my First major games in the Gold coast in just a little over six weeks. Back to Stellies we go, and continue the process of getting better everyday.
I’ll leave you with one final quote from :
That’s all for now. Back to work…