Back at the lovely Sunbird hotel, everyone opted for a shower. We all needed it!

A couple of hours later, it was time to receive a briefing on the second part of the Challenge; cycling through the Plateau.

Dean Glossop and his team of experienced and well-trained cyclists from Cycle Malawi, met the Orbis Challenge team after dinner and gave them a talk on how the cycle would go. All obstacles were discussed and how to get through them, the appropriate cycle formation to follow throughout different terrain and all the hand signals the cycle guides would be using.

It was a lovely evening, there was concern amongst the participants, but Dean assured them it was something they could manage and something they should enjoy.

Another early start for the participants and staff. Breakfast was served with everyone in their hot pink and blue Garmin cycle gear, this was definitely a new experience for me. I’ve only seen this kind of thing on tv and now here I have BBC South-East presenter Juliette Parkin in front of me, showing us all the aired videos she had taken at the start of the challenge. I promise you, it didn’t feel real.

With bottles all filled up, bikes fitted and serviced, it was time to make a head to the starting line. Every participant was mounted on their bike. I saw the anxious expressions on their faces but had no doubt they would manage. I had enough proof from the Porter’s Race in Mulanje. That was no easy race, so this would be a piece of cake.

As soon as the participants were off, I strapped my camera to my neck and found space on Dean’s car door. With half my body in and half out of the car, I strapped myself tight and we zoomed ahead of the participants using a separate route, in order to catch some good footage of them ascending the hill.

I must say, for people that looked anxious at the start of the cycle, they had been progressing well in a short space of time. We heard some chants, shouts, laughter and before we knew it, we spotted a couple of smiling cyclists approach the vehicle.

This continued for the first 23 kilometres. We’d stop occasionally and watch them whizz past with smiles and waves. I kinda beat myself inside for not joining them. Once at the first pit stop, the cyclists had their refreshments and took pictures with the beautiful view of Zomba town and its surroundings behind them. It was a lovely afternoon, not too warm and the air was tropical, a blend of the different trees growing on the plateau.

The cyclists then reached the 23km mark and decided whether they would be going on to do another 20km or would return to base. Everyone gave their best performance and 23km itself was something to be proud of.

As we (Dean, the bike mechanic and I) proceeded to the last pitstop at Chingwe’s hole - a very scenic stop atop the plateau - the tire on the Pajero popped. Yup, oh-oh. Definitely unexpected but what’s an adventure without a twist? Now, we’re stuck a couple hundred metres above our lodge, with cellphone reception but we’re blocking the road which the participants would soon be cycling down. We had to change the tire, but fast and we definitely needed help.

Was luck on our side? I think so! Soon as we grabbed the spare tire from the back of the car, a couple of boys chasing monkeys came by, saw we were stranded and offered help, maybe at a cost, but we weren’t complaining and definitely not choosing. We changed the tire, changed direction and carried our very dirty and sweaty selves back to the bottom of the hill, awaiting the cyclists' arrival. We pitched up a few chairs and sat down playing music. The view was spectacular, we were parked under shady botany and could see the Mulunguzi Dam below.

One cyclist, three cyclists, five, seven. They all whizzed past us, now panting, however, still smiling and waving. Once three-quarters of the entire group had passed, we packed up and headed back to the hotel car park.

It was an entirely different scene there. The participants had arrived, exhausted and definitely challenged, physically. All team members sat or stood to wait for the remaining group to arrive. Once everybody was back to base, the medic attended to each participant that needed attention. Janice, who injured herself and happens to be a nurse, somewhat ignored her injuries and helped the medic Sam tend to her teammates too! We all looked at her in awe and adoration of her selflessness.

Everyone longed for a shower and their bed but dreaded any staircase that led to either of these. What’s a challenge without the actual challenge right? These guys pushed themselves to the limit and it was rewarding. Approximately 40 kilometres in total, cycling through moderate terrain without giving up. Well done team.

Watch out for the next update on the Orbis Challenge, prep yourself for the 2019 OC and #bepartofsomething.

 

 

 

 

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