Rwanda day 1
Made it to Kigali at 8PM last night. Bags arrived and all was looking good. I found the bus for the hotel and travelled there with a French cycling team. They were not the friendliest team and as I later found out the French and Belgian squads that have come here in the past don’t have the greatest reputations. Apparently the colonialist mentality still exists. Anyhow, I made it to the hotel only to find out that TT1 wasn’t there? Well shit, I had nearly drained my phone playing Angry Birds on the 8 hour flight from Brussels and didn’t even know if I would be able to reach anyone. I also didn’t realize that most folks really seem to prefer French here over English so my rusty Frenglish wasn’t getting me very far either. Ding, I get a text from the team DS Jack Seehafer wondering where I am, primarily because I am his designated drinking buddy. We go back three years and have shared many beers over that time. I am sure it was a $20 text with international rates but boy was I happy to see it. I was able to get one of the hotel workers where I wasn’t staying to give me a ride over to the new hotel, another $10 well spent. This hotel is nice; internet, big rooms, nice staff and a bar. Jack and I immediately got a few beers and all was good.
Day 1 I wake to the outside sound of people horns and bright sun at 6 freakin AM. A little early but that’s the way they roll. Sunrise is at 5:30 here. Breakfast is an interesting mix of baked beans, rice, beef stew and cheese. I tried it all but would take sausage gravy myself. I’m guessing we aren’t going to get that. Next we were off to pick up the team car to drive in the race. Back home we are spoiled with 2 BMW 3 series. Here we get a stick shift Toyota Corolla with 110,000 miles on it and the trim falling off. Good news is than any further damage will be hard to judge. We have a sticker on the side that says Team Type 1 and a big American flag on the door as well. We had to then hit 3 supermarkets to get all the food the riders need for the week as well but we should be ready to go.
Now that we are done with the shopping, two of us decide that it may be fun to go to one of the markets so we hail 2 mototaxis. Here there are tons of these motorcycle taxis. For basically $1.25 they will take you all over town – the thing is you are riding on the back of a motorcycle in a pretty crazy city. Sharing the same helmet that every other rider basically forever has worn – I simply try not to think about that too much. It was a blast though. The market had all sorts of food and we have also discovered where all the clothing from the 80’s ended up. Tons of 20 year old looking clothing everywhere. There wasn’t anything truly unique other than fresh goat at the market. Another ride back on the motorcycle and then some time to kill
We have a whole entourage here – 22 people in total. Only 10 of us are really for the race. The other 12 are here for either the purpose of diabetes education or documenting the trip. One of the cool things is the other folks that tend to come along at a bike race. One of them is a gentleman named John Wendell. His day job is the Afghanistan correspondent for Time Magazine. He’s taking a vacation to take pics of the race for us. John, Jack and I went out to meet one of his friends Simone. She is an old friend of his who is a correspondent for a German newspaper and has spent the last couple of years on the Congo and Sudan. Jack and I got to sit back and listen to some crazy stories about covering bombings in Afghanistan, riding bikes beside armored convoys, drunken Moscow evenings, and parties in the Congo where people literally wear pants made of gold. I don’t think I could do what these folks do but it was an absolutely fascinating set of stories from folks that have no sense of fear and end up crazy situations.
Off to bed – tomorrow is the prologue. Only a 4 K TT, but the President will be there and it will be on National TV so I will shave just in case. We’ll see what kind of interesting things I can come across tomorrow.