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by SS at 12:35 pm on Monday 22nd March

Today was more of the same unpaved roads as yesterday and overall more descent than ascent. For the manyth time on this trip, I caught myself desiring those brake levers which lie inline with the normal drop brake levers but are placed on the top of the handlebar. It is quite tiring to have to use the drop position for prolonged periods and my advice to future riders on a cyclocross bike would be to definitely bring those. (Paul, a returning rider who wasn't able to complete the tour last year, has added such levers to his bike in the interim year.)

There were a few moments going down the descent where I lost control. This was usually when my speed picked up over terrain rough enough to mean I couldn't process the road ahead fast enough and I realise that the road is approaching faster than I can react to it. In all of these cases I was able to gain control quickly, mainly by braking. A couple of times while in this mode my hands flew off the bars as my bike hit protruding rocks and I had to struggle to regain my grip. This is a recipe for danger and my brakes are usually partially enabled whilst descending most hills on dirt.

My once pristine bottle, new in Nairobi, is now a mess - scraped and blackened, having been ejected from its home in my bike's bottle cage as my bike and I ride over rough terrain. These ejections are quite an exciting sight, the bottle usually bounces just once before settling with a resounding THWACK. As it settles, the lid usually pops off, flying several metres off across the road. The contents of the bottle, usually red energy drink, empty themselves onto the road in the shape of a flame from the mouth of the bottle. Normally I notice fairly quickly but when this happened for the third time today, I noticed after a 50 metre (vertical) descent and was preparing to walk back up the hill when another rider, Paul, appeared at the top. Pausing to pick up my bottle, he delivered it to me at the bottom = much appreciated!

It was cloudy this morning which meant breaking out the yellow sunglass lenses (increased definition of the road in lower light). The clouds usually mean increased humidity and I was definitely sweating intensely, drinking 7.5 litres of water the entire day (similar to our days in Sudan). There was nearly as much climbing as yesterday - another sweat inducing way to spend the day.

The northern Kenyan road is meant to be the toughest unpaved road of the trip but I'd like to contend that observation. Whilst most of the last couple of days have been relatively straightforward rocky double track, the Tanzanian road today had several severely sandy sections. The road in Kenya was tough but rideable and occasionally fun. This road was not fun, did not cause any adrenalin release and it was extremely hard work. At times, the sand was multiple inches thick, swallowing your tyre. At some points, forward motion was almost impossible and most riders had to dismount (having been forced to by the sand stopping their bikes) and walk for a few metres to find somewhere more steady to push off on.

The worst part of it was that it was at the end of the day. Usually you can push through sand but it requires a lot of energy. At the end of the third day, the day after a mando-day (which was actually easier than today's ride), there was no energy left. Camp was a welcome relief today and I genuinely fear for my EFI status if the road tomorrow is similarly sandy.

(You should note that the road hasn't always been so sandy, it was merely corrugated in the past and had sand dumped on it to make it smoother for vehicles. Hmph.)

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