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

Ants in our Pants…and Tents!

As I was enjoying a dip in the rare campsite with a swimming pool earlier this week, I thought for a split second that the more beaten paths of Southern Africa might finally offer TDA riders some creature comforts in between our long, hot rides. We have certainly seen more showers, supermarkets and Snickers bars south of the Equator, but as James the cook warned me, the Tour never really gets easier and we will continue to face both expected challenges and unexpected curveballs as we progress through each section. James’ infinite wisdom must be the secret ingredient in his perennially popular TDA dinner dish, Spaghetti Bolognese. The unexpected curveball arrived this week at our last bush camp before our rest day in Lusaka.

The day before the day before the rest day is always the toughest mentally for me, and we faced 148 HILLY kilometers along the Great East Road, with legs deadened by the dehydrating effects of the week’s mileage and heat. My bike is also succumbing to the kilometers, so I climbed the hills with partially functioning gears. This is really never a good idea. I finally rolled into camp around 3pm, and threw up my tent to allow time to enjoy James’ best Spaghetti Bolognese yet and a TDA Foundation bike donation ceremony. As I fell asleep with a full heart and fuller belly under the stars, I felt comfortable and peaceful in my tent, and thought about how much I enjoyed Zambia’s great outdoors.

A few hours later, I woke up to the unsettling sensation that something was crawling up my arm. This is never a pleasant realization in Africa, so I decided to give it a flick and keep my headlamp off. A few minutes later, it sounded like it was raining…under my tent, and I felt something crawling up my other arm. I reluctantly turned on my headlamp to investigate and gasped in utter horror at the sight of hundreds of ants crawling up, down and around every part of the inside of my tent. I jumped out of the tent and put on my shoes, only to find that they too were full of biting, stinging ants that started crawling up my legs and latched on harder as I tried to flick them off. I hopped around in my underwear yelping at 2am (a generally common occurrence unfortunately for various environmental reasons), flicking off fire ants for about ten minutes, before deciding what to do about the more serious tent situation.

Armed with a headlamp, DEET bugspray and a book, I waged World War Three on the Zambian ant army for the rest of the night. I vaguely noticed a few other lights on in tents and wondered at the status of other riders, but didn’t have time or the DEET weaponry to fight a multiple-front war. The next morning at breakfast, I saw several other riders with the same battle-weary bite-wounds covering their legs and bags under their eyes. Apparently our tents were stationed in some sort of migratory insect path, and ants invaded at least six rider tents. Australian Juliana and American Dana might have had it the worst…when they went out into the bush to use the facilities and came bag with ants in their pants. Literally.

Another antsy ant victim Canadian Steph (an outdoor guide in Alaska) described it as one of the most intense nights of camping in her life. American Paul cut his losses early and went to sleep in the truck. German Gisi said something about her night in heated German, but we all got the gist. Ants in our pants and tents certainly fall into the category of unexpected and in retrospect hilarious TDA curveballs. We will rest in Lusaka tomorrow, and then face more challenges, curveballs and comforts along the road to Victoria Falls.

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3 Responses to “Ants in our Pants…and Tents!”

  1. Erin,
    That didn’t sound like fun at all. Hope you and your teammates have recovered from those nasty bites. More than half way done and hopefully you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Stay well and continue to perserver. What you are doing is truly an unforgettable and a life changing experience. All is good here in Albuquerque. James and Diane spent a week in Colorado skiing and visiting with Diane’s family. Sean and Kim are doing great. Uncle Jimi and I just returned from a week visiting them helping them set up the nursery and getting things ready for baby Leah. She will be here before we know it. Cait is doing well still working at HP and right now Chad is over in Germany visiting his brother. In June they are heading to Maui for a 10 day trip with Chad’s family. Tough Life!!! Kev is doing well also. He will be finishing up and graduating in December. He is doing well in Track and has taken up the Steeple Chase event and presently he is Oregon’s number 1 steeple chaser. Who would have thought he would ever have competed in the steeple chase. Uncle Jimi and I are doing well and looking forward to our trip back east for James’ graduation. After James’ gradation I will head down to NY for Ryan’s graduation. By then hopefully you will be back home to us. Take care and enjoy the rest of your adventure. Love you

  2. Er,
    Keep up the hard work and don’t bring any of those ants home with you.

    Sounds like quite a T.I.A. moment.

    This. Is. Africa.

  3. I cannot believe how far you have come! I’m looking at the map and am completely astounded. It is absolutely incredible…Your stories and experiences are inspirational and entertaining.

    Some quick news from me- I am joining the Wharton Lauder class of 2012 so I start in Philly on May 10th. It’s going to be hard to leave HK, but I’m excited to plan some US races. Get ready! We need to do a racing the planet trek before long- Nepal 2011?

    Can’t wait to see you back on the East Coast this summer!

    Much love,
    Kathryn x


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