It would take four months to ride between Cairo and Capetown according to the TDA schedule and 11th of May 2013 was the big arrival day. Though we were driven through much of Kenya and I had taken a few days off the total distance between points A and B would remain the same (11, 793km) and the length of time the journey would take was also fixed. While TDA was a a significant physical achievement, the mental challenge of the trip can itself prove to be even more testing at times. The ups and downs weren’t simply about road gradients.
For our last week we would be on tarmac and dirt roads for around 750 km – the TDA tour still proving itself to be gruelling and one of the toughest bike races/expeditions you could ever be crazy enough to take part in. Given this, it was strange to think we were almost there. A tough four months – I was so looking forward to the end now. We had a fantastic group of riders but being part of a large travelling circus for this time was enough for me. In fact, it was probably too long.
The last night would be spent in Yzerfontein, next to the coast – the smell of the sea bringing on that holiday feeling. Sadly the weather that night at camp felt less like a holiday – it was so cold. Despite sleeping in three layers of clothes, in a fleece liner, in a sleeping bag, in a duvet cover, under a blanket and with a hot water bottle I was freezing. The next morning and our last ride would be no different. Fingers and toes were slow to warm and I rode the 60km to lunch with John in fleece and windproof.
As we turned onto R27, our main route into Capetown, all eyes were focused on Table Mountain – our destination was in sight and I was starting to get excited. We were nearly there. Lunch would be at the beach and from there we would wait for a police escort, riding as a group to the waterfront area. The police were delayed and while it was frustrating to have to wait being just 30km away, once the convoy started so too did the buzz.
We arrived at the waterfront, congratulated fellow riders and made our way to the medal ceremony. I was so proud all all riders but of course given my first few days and John being ill I was pretty chuffed that we had seen this through. We had made it.
The auditorium was packed as we walked in and the welcome was amazing. The band played “celebrate” by Kool and the Gang and we would. That’s for sure. Medals were awarded to all full tour riders, called up in turn while standing next to their country flag. It was a bit like our own olympics! Additional recognition was given to those who had acheived their EFI (every … inch) and of course the winners of the race. It was gobsmacking to hear that Pascal (winner of the mens race) had an average speed through Africa of 32km pr hr. I was perhaps a little slower!
With the ceremony over there was just enough time for a complete new outfit shop before we would be collected for the evening party. I was pleased that after so long in cleats and crocs I could still dance the night away in my new heels – surely that’s an alternate EFI?
The next morning would be slow for me and the goodbyes would begin. John and I would leave the hotel the following day though some were already starting to make tracks. Confident I would see some of the group again for many it would be the last time. While sad in part very quickly a sense of relief was also coming – just simply as less people were around. I was able to pack away things I didn’t need and finalise arrangements for our last two weeks in South Africa.
We rode out of the hotel with our panniers for the first time since arriving In Africa. On our own with route planning, no rider meetings, no chef and of course we were now carrying our own luggage. The bike felt heavier yet I somehow felt much lighter. Freedom.