^ A very wet and soggy morning at camp kicked off day 6. Setting off on our ride in the pouring rain I left my cameras in one of the support vehicles...so no photos of surprisingly quick pace we kept on the hard packed red earth as we whizzed by miles and miles of agave fields.
^ The rains finally subsided and I was reunited with my cameras just in time to glimpse to first clear view of the Usambara mountains. Little did I realize that by the end of that day after riding and hiking for seemingly endless hours we would be standing on top of those very mountains.
^ Sisal production from the endless miles of agave plants we rode by is the oldest commercial cash crop in Tanzania.
^ After a break for lunch, a change out of a riding gear, and packing up our bikes we set off on foot to climb 4500 feet up into the Usambara mountains.
^ "Hiking" is a kind way to describe what we were doing...I'd say "clawing our way up a slippery mud covered wall by grasping at whatever vegetation happens to be in front of you" might be more accurate.
^ Looking down on where we started the hike in that small town off the highway.
^ Looking up into the cloud covered mountains we still had to get to.
^ When there was a "trail" the sketch factor with the slippery mud and long drops was puckeringly high.
^ Aaaaaaaaaaand then the rains came back.
^ I've done some pretty serious hiking over the course of my life and this climb was no-freaking-joke, a true accomplishment to make it to the top. Of course on our way up some of the sections local women would pass us carrying their child on their back, huge bags of corn balanced on their heads, a machete in one hand, and bare feet. Amazing.
^ Finally made the summit and arrived to camp welcomed by Simba's beaming smile and lemonade!
^ We started our climb down in that little town by the highway...such an insane amount of vertical elevation gain over so few miles!
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^ The unrelenting rain was doing a number on us...mud everywhere...slips, slides, and crashes aplenty.
^ But whoa whoa whoa...when the rain finally relented just in times to tackle routes like these through the heart of the Usumbara Mountains...absolute perfection.
^ Just two boys stoked to be playing in mud.
^ Our tireless squad of guides, mechanic, and doctor.
^ Paulina, always all smiles.
^ Then, out of nowhere, cluster-cuss commenced. We crested a ridge in the Usumbara Mountains like we had been doing all morning, descended down into a valley and began our ascent up the next ridge only to find out the road was completely washed away due to the torrential rains we'd been getting hit with the past couple days. With the road closed neither the bikes nor the support vehicles could proceed, so there we were just stuck in the middle of this small rural village. This village was predominantly Muslim, and all the residents who came out to see the commotion of a bunch of westerners on bikes were none too happy about a bunch of women baring too much skin in the middle of town. It was tense. Our guides were for the first time on the trip actually stumped as to what our move would be...facing either backtracking or....maybe there was another route that one of the locals suggested might be passable in the our Land Cruisers/Land Rovers. So with a town of pretty hostile eyes looking on, we had to dismantle all the bikes, mount them all on the racks of our SUVs, and rearrange all the luggage in them in order to now fit all of our bodies, bikes, gear, and luggage. Pure clustercuss.
^ So off we set deeper into the Usumbara Mountains on an unknown, unplanned route that may be passable but most definitely would be slippery and muddy as hell.
^ The beauty of the lush rain forests and stunning vistas we were driving through was almost enough to take ur minds off the fact that this was hands down THE MOST TERRIFYING DRIVE OF OUR LIVES. Being in an open sided Land Rover with no seatblets sure didn't help, but slipping and sliding along muddy roads inches from breathtaking drop offs was butt-puckeringly-insane. There was much swearing, many tears, many prayers, and more swearing. This ride of terror went on for nearly 4 hours well into the night.
So basically what happened was that the route we were suggested to take that might be passable, well, wasn't. Somehow in the maze of un-named mountain roads and trails we ended up navigating all the way back to where we had camped on the night of day 6. When we all finally rolled back into camp late at night, we were a ragged mess of freezing, wet, hungry bodies with our nerves shot.
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^ Paulina, damn near killing the battery in the Land Cruiser dancing to the same five Black Eyes Peas tracks on repeat most of the day.
^ Katie, not amused at Charlotte's declaration that Katie's glasses made her look like Justin Bieber.
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^ The sunrise on our final day of riding felt different than the rest. The tension in the air of nearly finishing a truly monumental task that was years in the making for all of us was strained by the nearly heartbreaking knowledge that after riding that day, "real" life would begin again. The singular purpose of having your only job each day being to pedal your bike is a truly beautiful thing, one that we were all wrestling with giving up as our journey came to close.
^ Paulina, SO ready to finally see the ocean for the first time in her life!
^ Patty and Stu, if Jaclyn and I can exhibit even half of their qualities when we reach their age I'll count my life as a success. Such an inspirational couple!
^ There She is, our first glimpse of our elusive goal, the Indian Ocean!!!
^ As we plunged ourselves into the ocean, a bald eagle flew overhead.
^ YOU DID IT PAULINA!!!
^ 10 days, 400 miles. It is finished. Beer me.