Saturday morning I wake-up ever so slightly excited about the off-road ride ahead. I prepare for a bone rattling ride and strap myself into a sports bra and kidney belt.
The ride started easily enough on tarmac, until Lucy nearly killed a suicidal cyclist who rode out straight in front of her. As the tarmac petered out and the dusty streets of serrekunda began, we were faced with a whole new world of obstacles. The road quality was so poor that there was absolutely no sticing to your own side of the road. There were people, running children, chickens, goats, men with wheelbarrows, 5-5 taxis and donkey carts to contend with. Lucy was riding ahead of me and was forced to slam on her brakes on numerous occasions. I found that glaring at people and very clearly shaking my head stopped most of them from darting out in front of me, as the horn seemed to do nothing. As we came to the end of Serrekunda, the dust road started merging into a dirt track that was clearly going to be turned into a tarmac road. An enormous agricultural truck was headed our way, the kind that would spray silage in a field at home, it was watering the road. We pulled over to the side of the road as close to the huge wall as we could then proceeded to get totally and utterly soaked. It was comical. I dread to think where the water came from.
The real off-road ride then began. I had definately made a sensilble underwear choice. I quite enjoyed the ride until we hit the patches of deep sand where, inevitably, I just lost my back wheel and got stuck. I hate sand. The next big patch of sand I hit, I sweverd all over the place and hit a sand bank then dropped the bike. Lucy then repeated the process and dropped her bike behind me. Salifou stopped and came back to rescue us, shaking his head in despiar. I shouted a little, we agreed we would slow down somewhat.
I slowly began to build my confidence, the trick being stare at something (Salifou's back wheel) a good way infront, hold on really hard and just accelarate. It is completely mentally exhausting and weaving through a herd of cattle, in sand, on the very edge of drops, is terrifying. Eventually we stopped by choice, rather than accident, and had a rest. We had covered about 10km of dirt road and had another 3 to do before we hit tarmac. The remaining 3km were through some small villages that might have been interesting to look at if I had been able to move my eyes, but I couldn't. I was so relieved when we got back on the road and thoroughly enjoyed the 22km back to the office. We all passed, we're mostly all covered in bruises and we're mostly all wondering how we are ever going to get to work in one piece.
Tuesday we head up-country to our placements. I think I will have access to the interent, but how fast and how reliable is anyone's guess.
Any views expressed are my own and are not representative of VSO.