I’ve been going for about a month now and have reached Harare after about 2000 miles or so in the saddle. I have been asked why my seat is so small and firm looking. Chafing leads to saddle sores, which are perhaps the bread and butter of a tour cyclist particularly when its raining and, for the male cyclists, ingrowing hairs are a risk. I may just have to resort to waxing my behind soon. Numbness and pain can be caused by compression perineum. In both men and women the perineal area and external bits are supplied by the pudendal (deeper) and perineal (superficial) arteries and nerves. These blood vessels and nerves traverse from the back to the front and can be compressed, which can be a tad uncomfortable. Though, luckily for me, I’ve not been plagued by these issues.
Solitude is my biggest nemesis on the road. I rarely have a conversation which isn’t about the ride or just simple chat with locals about family life. So I’m making the most of the opportunity to spend time with friends, helping prep for the wedding, drinking lots of tea and gorging on an embarrassing volume of food.
I’m thirty years old and in the middle of wedding season. I’ve been to all sorts of do’s: big ones, posh ones, shoes string weddings and registry office shin-digs, but I can safely say that the Zim wedding is the only one I will ever attend which includes a game drive in the morning and photos with elephants in the afternoon. I even fed giraffe. Unfortunately, whilst I am away this year I am missing three big ones at home, but my friends can revel in the fact that while they are in the swing of their jovial celebrations I will likely be in the hurt locker cycling in the blistering heat, up mountains or soaked to the bone in the arse end of nowhere.
Perhaps I will take up wedding planning as my next vocation. It doesn’t look that hard. Put a few tables out, some chairs, prop a band in the corner and an ipod for when they duck out early. The key factor is an open bar, but don’t under estimate the sheer volume of alcohol guests will consume when the know the taps have been turned on. Oh and of course stick a few extra zeros on the bill when you hear the word ‘wedding’.
The groom was jobbed off to build pallet tables whilst, as an usher, I provided not so helpful pointers and a cuppa or two. The set up was to be a garden picnic. It looked like the mad hatters tea party, complete with bright colours and dainty tea cups, which was fitting for the occasion, because as the evening went on it got madder and madder…
The bride, Nix, looked stunning in a white lace dress and Dirk the bride groom had hair to rival his bride in waiting, like he was out of the 90’s band Hanson. Or perhaps the couple were going for the Tarzan and Jane look.
Following the wedding, forty or so friends and family departed for the buddymoon. In northern Zimbabwe, running along the border with Zambia, is an untouched jewel of Africa, Lake Kariba. Kariba means ‘trap’ and refers a rock jutting out of the gorge where the dam was built to hold back the waters of the worlds largest reservoir. Few foreign tourists get the opportunity to explore the waters here as the industry is not developed, meaning we have the lake to ourselves. It’s so vast that you can’t see the other side at some points. We chug along at a snail’s pace in three house boats. They are ungainly things, large white boxes atop floating pontoons. The oldies take one boat and the “youths” fill the other craft.
Operation Noah saw the relocation of some 5000 animals when the waters rose but along the shore wildlife is abundant; elephants graze continually in order to sustain their great mass – they might even eat more calories than me! We hop on the tenders to explore the bays and take a closer gorp at the hippos, who grunt when we approach sending puffs of water into the air like whales clearing their blow holes. In the morning, we find a carcass of a young hippo calf. The crocodiles will have a field day. When we arrive they are loitering in the vicinity of the bloated body. Occasionally, they literally enter the cavity of the dead animal, animating it like some gruesome puppet as they tear blubber from within.
Often on game drives there are almost traffic jams to see the animals with four or five large vehicles circling lounging lions in the afternoon sun, but not here. Here it’s just you and them. It’s an intimate way to marvel at nature.
In the shallows, barren greyed tree trunks protrude from the lake, drowned by the rising waters all that is left is a skeleton forest of tree trunks. They are amazing. As the sun goes down, silhouetted against the red sky, they create a sunset unique to this expanse of water. At night some of the party sleep on deck beneath the vast Milky Way (when it’s not overcast). In the distance, over Zambia, lightening flickers in the cloud tops just warning me that I’m in for a wet few days during the next leg to Malawi.
I couldn’t have asked for a better stint off the bike, resting my perineum, seeing friends, making new ones and most importantly extending my network of points of contact for a bed for the night and a feed around the world. I even gained a new life skill of feeding a wee baby – perhaps being a nanny is my new calling? It was an honour to be in the wedding party as an usher for two of my closest friends, but now its time to get back on the bike and make for my next country, Zambia.