A man is never more a man than when he embraces an adventure beyond his control, or when he walks into a battle he isn’t sure of winning.
After two sleepless nights, a short test run and hours not getting much wiser from my map it was time to go. I’ve always maintained that my trip is far from an expedition, a word I find used too easily to describe trips nowadays, but the next 3-4 days would defiantly be an expedition into the unknown, alone, without backup and no way to get a lift if it all went wrong.
The test run the previous evening had proved it was possibly to cycle on the beach at low tide. Well, for the first kilometer anyway, after that the 200m I tried the sand was hard enough just above the water line to push my bike at normal walking speed.
My map showed that the next known settlement was about 110km further north and it had a road leading inland, this was my goal for the next days, to try and reach the village of Machesse before I ran out of food and water. I assumed that I could filter water from the four rivers I had to cross, but would probably have to walk upstream for a couple of kilometers until it was salt free. I had enough food for 3-4 days and hoped to extend this by buying fish and Mille from fishing villages I assumed and hoped would appear from time to time along the coast, but this was a guess and a gamble. My sleepless nights had come from the river crossings, in the end I figured the combination of inflating my spare inner tubes and sleeping mat I could create enough buoyancy to use my mat as a raft and swim half my gear at a time across then Mr Hyde.
So the plan was simple, 110km of beach with four river crossings in 4 days. Assuming I could cycle at least one hour a day on good hard sand I could cover 10-15km that way then walk another 10-15 while the tide was coming in or going out, resting at high tide. It was time for a true adventure, a journey into the unknown without the luxuries of preparation via internet (I had no signal or I would have checked Google earth….).
I was a little slow getting started in the morning as usual and didn’t hit the beach until 0730, to my disappointment the tide was already on its way in. Just like the previous evening I was able to cycle the first kilometer to the fishing camp at a good speed but then disaster struck. As I tried to push Mr Hyde along the beach just above the incoming waves the sand was too soft and deep. I struggled on for another hour until it was totally pointless, covering a total of 1.75km for the morning. Not to worry I thought, I headed behind the dune into the dried up Mangrove swamp, setting my tent up to protect me from the mosquitoes and flies and waited until about 2pm when I figured the tide would be almost out.
Once back at the beach the tide was almost out and still damn hard work, it seemed that the beach was quite steep and therefore the hard flat sand I was hoping for might only come at low tide. An hour and 300m down the beach I decided to wait a while for the tide to go further out. During this time several of the “water boys” from the fishing camp nearby went past on their 3km trek each way to collect water for the village. A couple of them asked if I was OK. This was very kind of them and in fact a very reasonable question. Imagine walking down a beach a finding a guy sitting there in the shade of his bike loaded down with 30kg a baggage and 10L of water, no track, path or road for miles……are you OK?
Half an hour on I started again, once again only getting a couple of hundred meters before I was exhausted, and once again resting in the shade of my bike a water boy offered me a drink of his cargo. This is in fact very kind because that’s his bread and butter he’s offering to give away, I refused as I still and plenty of water to weigh me down.
After another half hour I started again and was once again disappointed that the tide had not gone out far enough to give me that nice hard cycling sand of the first kilometer. As I dragged my bike through the thick soft sand I had images of being 3 days down the line and in the same situation, almost out of food, days from help, no phone signal and only moving at less than kilometer an hour. I looked at my GPS and had travelled 3.25km in the 9 hours since I’d started, was hungry and really tired and sore from all that dragging and pushing. It was obvious that the beach was just too steep and that the tide was already fully out so that nice hard cycling sand wasn’t coming, with only an hour before sunset it was time for a conference with myself.
I moved back to the dunes and considered setting up camp then starting again the next day. But first made some nice fresh filter coffee. With the sun setting behind me I sat in my chair with biscuits and coffee and stared out over the Indian Ocean.
“Well this is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into”
“Don’t be stupid, this is a great adventure, and great fun”
“A great adventure that’s going to end in a couple of days with you crying like a girl, alone on a beach somewhere then dying of starvation……”
“Don’t be soft, early night then up and at it, we can get cracking at 4am at low tide”
“Stop being a prick, its low tide now and almost impossible, and as far as the eye can see it doesn’t improve”
“Aah come on, a bit of character and determination, that’s done us fine so far, why not this time”
“Don’t be a prick you’re going to die doing this, stop trying to be a tough guy and accept this was a fun idea but isn’t happening with so much gear and so little food”.
And so, just as the sun was setting, we admitted defeat and headed back to the campsite, tail between legs, the expedition short lived but the seeds are sown. One day I want to try something similar but with better preparation, less gear, more food and maybe a Pack raft. I think a hiking or cycling expedition along the Mozambique or other coast would be an awesome adventure.
Maybe next time…………………