On leaving Arusha we passed the signpost set up to signify the half way point between Cairo and Capetown. While I’m not sure exactly how this translates to the TDA route from the section stats that TDA provide we have travelled around 8,000km so far (guess!) – around 600km of this being on a very bumpy bus transfer – the rest – we pedalled.
Egypt brought flat roads and tailwinds which continued into Sudan though it was also here the tough challenges set in – off road corregation at nearlky fifty degrees heat. Ethiopia brought the hills. Constantly. In addition to the 1362m climb over 20km we did up the Blue Nile Gorge in sweltering sun we also had the most metres climbed in a single day in this first section of the tour – 2502m into Gondor, Ethiopia. However, it would be the stone throwing children that would be the greatest challenge. From here we entered a friendlier Kenya yet with the first election since 2007 we were unable to ride much of the way and we would all be pleased to be back on our bikes proper in Tanzania.
Doing the trip with TDA was certainly the right decion. Water and calorie intake would be tough as an independent rider though it was the support through Kenya and more difficult political situations that proved critical. While I found it tough to adjust to the group at first and would still say I do not fit naturally into a very regimented way of life I’m sure going back to being a team of two will also feel very different again for future trips.
We’re up to 77 riders now – too many in my opinion – especially if you’re not a racer. Getting into camp late means you often get the worst pitches, cooler soup and lukewarm tea. While I understand it’s tough for TDA crew to do much about this, though the urn is reheated on asking, I do think a lottery/rota system could be operated when hotel rooms are limited. First come , first served is not a fair way. I think the whole experience would be much better if the group remained at 50 perhaps with two trips running a week or so apart. I guess that’s easy for me to say but with just one large truck and shade area with high sun or rain it makes for a very cramped camp.
In the grand scheme of things however this is my only key critique. The crew work so hard to make our ride a success. The food has definately been the highlight even if jam, peanut butter and honey make daily appearances (3 of my food hates!). Dinner has been tasty and plentiful with only a couple of meals that haven’t worked so well. A big thumbs up there. I have been fortunate not to need the medics at all and the bike mechanics little.
To date I have to be honest and say that my heart has not been caught by Africa – not in the same way that I love Asia. Our rest day towns, with the exception of Egypt, have had little to see and do in terms of history and buildings and I certainly prefer Asian cuisine. Where Africa does stand out is for scenery and wildlife. Vast deserts, open plains and of course the giraffe, elephants and lions. People said I would also notice the birds here and they were right. Such amazing colours.
All the above said I’m so happy to be experiencing Africa and I’m glad TDA has featured as part of my world trip. I’m looking forward to heading through the more Southern tips of Africa (Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) and with dinner booked at Quartier Francais (listed on world top 50 restaurants) at the end of this 5 month stage for us I’m certain we’ll make it. Here’s to the second half of our African adventure.