The Pacemaker

Today’s crazy hard ride was for Nampijja Prossy, Muwanguzi John, Lukyamuzi Ronald and Namboga Faith. I needed their motivation today, although I was feeling pretty strong initially. We rode 95 kilometres and climbed 5400 feet today to 7500 feet elevation. I’m happy I can still breathe.

We left the-name-of-the-town-that-we-stayed-in-that-I-can-never-remember at 8:30 and the tarmac was glorious. It was cooler this morning than normal and really misty. We were ‘muzungus in the mist’ and surprised people as we approached out of nowhere.

I know I keep mentioning the hills, but they just keep coming. We rode over three mountain passes today to get to Kabale. Three. On the first one, a young man riding a bike with colourful wheels and a beautiful smile came alongside us. We are used to this by now and enjoy the camaraderie. It never lasts long because usually we can outpace whoever joins us pretty quickly. This man was an exception. He was ridiculously strong and kept pace with us for miles and miles. John was lucky enough to hitch another ride from a slow-moving truck for a short time and this young man stayed right beside me the entire time to pace me back up to John. I am not sure if those laughing as they witnessed this were making fun of me or him, but he seemed to enjoy joking with people alongside the road. I didn’t mind one bit, because I thought it was so nice of him to not leave me as it was obvious that he was doing me a favour. If I slowed down, so did he. If I was able to speed up, he stuck with me. We could not communicate at all, but I did understand that he was also riding to Kabale, which is a heck of a long way to ride in flip-flops on a single speed. We did eventually drop him on the first climb, but when we started down the other side we looked back and he was at the top waving to us in celebration. We were wondering how he was progressing when all of sudden he had caught up to John on the second climb. I was ahead at this point when John motioned for him to go and catch me. He stood on his pedals and took off and John said he covered the 200 metre gap in about fifteen seconds. I was very surprised to see him in my rear view mirror and he laughed when I said, “No way!” understanding that I was impressed with his strength. I gave him my banana at the top and he stayed with us for about twenty kilometres before we left him for good when he stopped in a town (hopefully for some water) as we continued on. The third pass had a restaurant called The Food Station at the very top and because it was about 1:30 and we hadn’t eaten anything, we decided to stop. We shared a piece of chicken, fries and a cold drink and then headed down the hill into the city.

One very annoying thing we have found before and after every village and town is the speed bumps. There are two speed bumps, then four, followed by one large mound and for each set, we have to slow down to go over, or risk losing something off our bikes. Sometimes, if there is no one coming up from behind, we can either aim for the sections that have been worn down a little bit by car tires, or swerve around the edges in the ditch to ease the bumps. Most of the time, however, we just have to hold on, stand up on the pedals, and take it. I don’t know if it’s been the bad roads or the speed bumps, but so far I have lost a shoe, my Get Schooled trucker hat, and yesterday I lost my reading glasses. John has also dropped both of his sandals at different times, but I was behind him and saw them on the road and picked them up. Today, however, he went flying over especially large speed bumps and his bag of chips and his iPhone bounced right out of his bag and onto the highway. I think I ran over his phone a little bit, but everything seems to be OK. He was equally concerned about the chips as he was about the phone (our main navigation device).

Once we turned off the tarmac, we were so happy that we were almost to the lake. It took us three hours to go the last five miles according to John’s bike computer. It was STEEP!! Some parts registered at 15% grade and for me, pushing my bike was just as fast as riding. John’s bike is so loaded that he didn’t have any other option but to ride; it was just too heavy to push. There was an old lady who started walking up the hill at the same time that we started riding, and after three miles of climbing she crested the top only thirty seconds after us. We were super relieved to get to the top, but we had no idea what was coming. We had to now go down to the lakefront where our hostel was. And by down, I mean D-O-W-N. It was now too steep to ride down. It was single track at about 18% grade. We dropped almost a thousand feet in a little more than a kilometre and I had to have both brakes engaged while walking alongside my bike the entire time. The back tires were skidding out and it was all I could do to just try not to slip and have my bike land on me, or worse, go sliding down the bank beside me. Finally, we found the little path that led to the hostel. But now it turned upward and was so steep, narrow and covered in roots and rocks that we had much difficulty rolling the bikes up and over the last hill to the gate.

When we finally parked our bikes for the day, I just laid down in the concrete reception area and could have stayed there all night. The six-and-half-hour ride (over the course of nine hours) had done me in. What?! They have pizza? Ok, I’ll get up.

Reaching Lake Bunyonyi has been a big goal for us. It is the only safe lake in which to swim in all of Uganda and we have been planning to take a few days off now that we are ahead of schedule. I had found this hostel online that was cheap with a little hut right on the lake so I called ahead to book it. Once again, we are the only ones here which allows for a lot of rest and privacy, but also turns the staff’s attention to only us. In some places that has become a little bit overwhelming, but these guys seem excited to have us but are still very chill and have the Bob Marley turned up. And by on the lake, I mean literally ON the lake – there is water lapping underneath us and we can hear the frogs and crickets outside. A shared outhouse and outdoor shower are just up the hill and there is a dugout canoe for us to try tomorrow. The other reason that reaching this place was significant to us is because when we leave here in a few days, we are heading back to Kasanda where we started.

Apparently, the national news and TV reporters in Kampala have heard about what we’re doing and want to interview us and do a story about why we are here and what prompted us to want to bike around the country. Because of this and the timing of the party we plan to have with the Get Schooled students and their care givers, we have to time our last days of riding to match up with these events. We have about nine days left mileage-wise and about twenty days in which to finish. So exploring Lake Bunyonyi by dugout canoe and maybe biking around a bit (if we can get our bikes back by boat) is looking pretty good. Our blogs over the next few days will just include some pictures of the area and thoughts as they come to us. Thanks everyone for sticking with us.