Up at 5:30 am. I realize that the thief did manage to make off with my bike helmet, gloves, and shades, which were sitting on my headboard. RATS. I brought extra gloves and I end up borrowing Oumar's helmet, which my namesake, my nephew, Jonathan Carrick left for him when he visited Sierra
Leone last year. Moments before gearing up to leave, the skies open up and we are hit with torrential rain and high winds. We cannot cycle in this, let alone cover our ambitious 120 km. It is an odd and memorable moment; the three of us sitting in silence in the pre-dawn half light, the howling winds and persistent, pounding rain as our soundscape. The larger, looming question going through our heads is whether or not this is the start of the rainy season and what does this mean for the rest of the journey? We sit and we wait. After about an hour, the rain tapers off and we decide to head out after breakfast. Our timeline is shot, but we are still going for the big day. The rain has brought out the bugs in great number and, without my shades - stolen the night before - let's just say that sometimes it pays to have squinty eyes like mine!
Lifetime memory here: Near the bottom of a particularly long and
difficult hill, we start to slowly pass a group of primary school children on their way to school. (I love to see the blue uniforms because it is a sign that children in the area have a school to go to.) One of them starts running alongside us, then another and another... until all 15 of them - and their teacher - are runnin beside us up this hill! It was so moving and encouraging, and they did it with such joy and playfulness that it felt like they were pulling us up with them. Unforgettable. We actually get them to re-enact part of the climb so we can capture it on video. Then they take us to their school for a quick visit. I will leave Bernie to talk about education in Sierra Leone at a later date.
Along the way, we meet up with the dirt bike contingent and stop to pose in the street, much to the amusement of the local bystanders. (Note Paul's Canadiens hockey jersey.)
For much of the day, we use a team road cycling technique in which cyclists ride in a tight single file and take turns leading, the leader creating a slip stream for the others to follow in.
Our 120 km day is a big one and we feel it, but it would have been a whole lot harder without the early morning downpour and overcast skies, which brought the temperature down a few degrees. In the end, we manage to successfully cover the 120 km this day and finish it in style...
We end up at a former leprosarium-turned guest house in Makeni run by Catholic nuns. The rooms are clean, there is running water and Sister Perpetua treats us very well, serving up a pepper chicken (remember those peppers?) that rivals Augusta's. The electricity is turned off at 9:30 p.m., at which point we can hear the nuns somewhere off in the distance singing hymns. Nice touch.