The last days ride was not at all what I was expecting. The morning started very cold and very wet, in fact the inside of my tent was the wettest it’s been on the entire trip, and it didn’t even rain. All the moisture was from condensation. My sleeping bag was wet, the clothing I hung out to dry was wet, inside and outside of the tent was wet. Everything had to be packed wet. Perhaps this was the perfect reminder of how easy we’ve had it in terms of weather.
The start of the days ride actually had to be delayed about fifteen minutes because of how foggy the roads were. Visibility was very low and made for dangerous cycling (the possibility of being hit by a car was much higher). When we finally did get underway, the fog and the sun made for some very beautiful and ominous views. I tried to get some photos but there was so much moisture in the air the lens on my phone would fog almost instantly. It made for some eerie but blurry pictures.
When the fog finally lifted it revealed a beautiful rolling hills landscape, with green fields and assorted farmlands and pastures. Again, not what I was expecting so close to Cape Town.
I cycled along at a very leisurely pace for a few hours, taking my time and enjoying the last ride of the tour, then I noticed the time. It was already 10:30am and we had been told we needed to be at the lunch spot by noon for the last 17km convoy into the city. I needed to pick up the pace. There was still 25km till lunch and the wind had decided that it was going to try and push me back to Cairo. I crawled along at 16km/hr for good half hour struggling with every pedal stroke. As if the wind wasn’t enough, a huge wall of fog loomed up in front of me. Why it was there and where it came from, no one knows, but it was enveloping the ancient lost city of Atlantis. Seriously, I found Atlantis. Maybe if historians just followed the road signs they would have found it faster. As it turns out, Atlantis is a suburb of Cape Town, and not the mythical magical city as told in legends; It’s really sketchy (picture District 9 and Slumdog Millionaire). At about ten kilometres from lunch a sharp right turn gave us a brief reprieve from the debilitating wind and I managed to make up some ground. Then all of a sudden, civilization appeared; a traffic light! I’ve seen maybe three of them (working ones) since Cairo. That’s when it all finally sank in for me…the tour was just about over (cue the sappy melodramatic music).
To my surprise I was the first rider into lunch. Clemont, our fastest rider on the tour, decided to voluntarily give up his EFI status and took the truck to lunch as a personal statement that he was just here to enjoy the ride and that it didn’t mean anything to him (much respect!). I thought with all my dawdling and picture taking on route that I’d be in the middle of the pack, but it turned out everyone else dawdled more. At lunch there was a wonderful spread of snacks and fake champagne, a little pre celebration, celibration. We ended up starting the last convoy about an hour later than planned. The dawdling was contagious and a bunch of riders had to be picked up or pushed hard to get them into lunch ASAP.
Once into the convoy, the 17km went very quickly. Unlike previous convoys where we crawled along in heavy traffic and lung-choking exhaust, this one was smooth, clean and very upbeat. We chatted amongst our selves as our police escort blocked traffic and chaperoned us to the finish line. Then with mixed emotions we made the final turn into the Lagoon Beach Hotel. The sidewalk was lined by friends, relatives and loved ones of many of the riders. It was a very emotional moment for all. Tears and smiles intermingled as we all fought with conflicting emotions. We were finished. All that remained was the distribution of medals and the celebratory dinner.
We all stayed up late into the evening (WAY past out 8:30pm bed times) chatting and reminiscing about our journey. Africa has been completed, top to bottom, east to west. Saying goodbye, then lingering, then saying goodbye again. A tear, a hug, turn your back and walk away.