Four months ago I flew to Egypt to embark on a crazy journey that would have me cross an entire continent on my bicycle. Looking back to the beginning of this trip, it’s amazing how green and naive I was. Fuelled by enthusiasm and determination (and later Coca-Cola) I was ready to take on Africa, or at least that’s what I thought. Three days ago I completed that journey and now with the wealth of experience behind me, I understand what most people thought when I told them what I was doing; “That’s amazing! Your $&¥%ing CRAZY”!
Now as I return home, it’s almost fitting that I’m retracing my pedal strokes by flying from Cape Town to Addis Ababa and then from Addis to Toronto (via a refuel stop in Dublin). The flight path home, closely retraces my bicycle journey. The enormity of the 116 day voyage completely undone in eight hours of flight. To me it’s a prime example of how modern technology is robbing us of incredible life experiences. We pay a high price for wanting everything instantly and not relishing the effort it takes to get somewhere or do something. The world would be a better place if we just slowed down a bit. Why hike or ride somewhere when you can drive or fly? Sometimes it’s worth being exposed to the moments without a barrier. Seeing an elephant in the zoo can’t hold a candle to the raw awe inspiring feeling you get when one walks out on the road in front of you. Even sitting in a safari vehicle seeing the animals in their natural habitat paled in comparison.
But I’m getting off track…as I sit here in the plane, literally looking down upon the continent, my journey seems ridiculously ambitious. Thinking about my accomplishment and what it took to complete, I feel both proud and very lucky. I was a tiny grain of sand moving a cross a vast desert. With the help of ten amazing TDA staff members and our entire group of riders I rode Every Frikken Inch (EFI) of the trip. I didn’t get sick, I didn’t have any accidents and I didn’t have any major mechanical issues. Ignorance, naiveté and stubborn determination got me through most of the riding…well that and some pretty spectacular landscapes to ride through. Not really knowing how hard this would be really helped remove any fear there might have been. I can honestly say there was only one time on the tour when my determination wavered, our first scorcher of a day in Sudan. Riding in the 45C+ heat with no shade to be found and my Achilles’ tendons still screaming almost beat me. If a TDA support vehicle had passed me during one of my “down” moments, I might just have stopped riding and got on; but that didn’t happen, and I toughed it out.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to revisit each country we rode through and do a final summing up of my thoughts and feelings on each one. A little TDA post mortem if you will. So stay tuned. I’m not quite done yet.