Erin's Tour d'Afrique Bike of a Blog!
An 8,000 mile personal and philanthropic adventure across Africa…

No Running with Lions

After cycling almost six thousand kilometers to the half way point of our trip across Africa, the Tour d’Afrique race directors wisely scheduled a three-day rest (our longest) in Arusha, Tanzania. We all needed a break from the daily grinds of the bike and camp, and I’m sure the staff needed a respite from all of us! Of course, when biking across Africa and not wanting to miss anything along the way, “rest” is elusive. Many of the TDA riders signed up for a three day safari, and immediately set off for the game parks.

If any of you faithful readers have been on a safari, I would love to hear your thoughts and impressions. We visited Manyara Lake. The Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Parks and although I am not much of an animal person, was blown away by our experience. Five minutes into the first park we saw a family of elephants, including a clumsy, adorable baby. From there, the list of sightings was impressive- giraffe, hippo, black and gray rhino, cheetah, zebra, monkey, lion, impala, flamingo, hyena, dik dik, water buffalo, baboon, warthog, ostrich and several other animals I’m sure I am forgetting. The only animal of the “big five” that we missed was the leopard. It was amazing to see animals in their natural habitats, and we especially enjoyed several magical and close-up elephant moments. Elephants are incredibly magestic animals. The diversity of the parks’ landscapes- forest, lake, crater, mountain, savanna and river was also astounding. This was the Africa of my dreams.

The Ngorongoro Crater is truly one of the natural wonders of the world, and it is a must-see on any East Africa safari itinerary. It is massive and descending from the rim of the crater into its depths of teeming wildlife via safari jeep is not for the faint of heart. Our hotels were also beautiful and overlooked each of the parks. We are always careful about not leaving food out when we are camping, but apparently this rule extends to safari hotels as well. One of the TDA riders Marcel walked into his room at the end of the first day to find a hungry baboon enjoying one of his bags of chips. The hotel staff informed Marcel that he should promptly remove the baboon from his room. Marcel was mostly upset by the loss of a full bag of chips.

After the chips incident, I was further surprised by how exhausted we all felt after hours of traveling game parks each day. Despite our desire to nap and sleep in, my roommate and now 2010 Ironman training partner Dana and I planned to wake up each morning to squeeze in our run training. I think the fact that we were in national parks full of hungry predators escaped our ambitions.

Dana and I have experienced a few memorable runs together in Africa, such as during the morning call to prayer in Sudan and when we were chased by a cheering gaggle of barefoot Maasai children in Tanzania. We also biked together through Dinder National Park, when we found ourselves utterly spent 10k from camp after dark with the Sudanese military forcibly removing us from the course. In short, Dana and I seem to attract unusual and memorable endurance escapades.

We completed our first run without any incident overlooking Lake Manyara at sunrise. It was total bliss. As we ran, smiling Tanzanian children walking to school passed us in their cleanly pressed and brightly colored uniforms. After the run, we did abs and push-ups outside the hotel, in front of an audience of the ever curious baboons. We were very much looking forward to our second day of running, which we planned for sunrise on the dirt roads surrounding the crater. We dragged our weary bodies out of bed at 5:45am, only to be chased down by a guard brandishing a gun as we ran out the gate. Another guard with a gun for Dana and me…he told us running was prohibited due to the threat of local wildlife. We didn’t believe him (and I had my swiss army knife in my pocket for protection), but reluctantly acquiesced to the armed African guard and crawled back into bed. A few hours later, another group doing an early sunrise safari confirmed that they saw a pride of lions a few kilometers into our running route. Point taken- no running with lions.

Now we are back on the bike, proceeding through a long, seven day stretch of challenging off-road riding in Southern Tanzania. Meanwhile, there is an easier, alternative paved route to our next rest day in Iringa, but TDA’s style is to be hard core and get offroad where possible. I am inspired by this approach but not good at dirt, so I am looking at a few long, exhausting days this week. Bring it on Tanzania! Maybe keep the rain to a minimum though…:-)


One Response to “No Running with Lions”

  1. Er-

    Did Coach Nelson ever tell you his story about lions when he was in Africa? He woke up early one morning and stumbled out of his tent to go to the bathroom… he found out later that he peed only about a foot away from a lion’s head. The lion just sat there the whole time and watched him.

    Much love from rainy Cambridge,
    Cara 🙂

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