Well, the first day on the road was one for the books. Before we left the Wellspring compound, we took what Andrew calls the “Little did they know” picture. The boy is a prophet.
We rode out of Kigali on a warm summers morning and motored an hour and a half through the most gorgeous scenery. Fragrant tea plantations, swooping mountain passes, children running and waving like we were Tour De France riders. It was sublime, and I could hear the whoops of the Kigali2Joburg crew over our intercoms.
Expecting the normal border hassles, we sailed through the formalities at both the Rwandan and Ugandan borders with smiling and helpful guards waving us through. I somehow don’t think they’ll all be as easy as that.
After a quick lunch stop in Kabale, we headed up towards the mountains, ready to take the turn into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Sounds foreboding right? We thought so too, especially as we rode towards those weird dark clouds. I mean it’s the dry season!
Apparently not, because as we turned on to the mud and gravel track that we had to go 26 K down, things. got. crazy!
A huge storm came out of nowhere and we suddenly found ourselves riding into what felt like Valhalla. Lightning flashed, thunder roared and the heavens opened. Our little track of a road was soon criss-crossed with flowing rivers of mud. Corners were washed out and the rain soaked us to the skin. Oh and did I tell you we were climbing a mountain with a sheer drop of two or three thousand feet on one side?
I was leading and trying to pick the right line, with my head on a swivel, also trying to keep the other riders in view as we slid around hairpin turns, with a visor that was almost impossible to see through due to water streaming down it. Three times my bike kicked out sideways and at one point I found myself heading towards the drop, just managing to kick it round again before finding out if it had a parachute attached.
I’ve got to say, the other riders were incredible. Some of them had never ridden off road and they stayed upright, with not one person dropping the bike.
Eventually we rode into the Ruhija Gorilla resort campsite, a cool place we’re at for two nights. I gotta tell you, we got off the bikes and after a moments stunned silence, with a ‘did that really just happen’ look on our faces, we all burst into hysterical laughter and hugged each other silly, It’s good to be alive.
Tomorrow some of us will visit a local village and some will go and see the gorillas, but tonight we’re still in the afterglow of making it through, even though all our clothes are still dripping and we’re huddled round a fire trying to get warm. What a day.