From one to many

Since leaving Cairo on the 11th December we have now cycled 762km – around 508 miles in 6 days. Despite the longest of these days being 166km (just over 100 miles) and the greatest distance I have ever covered this has not been the toughest part of the challenge so far for me. Indeed, while I was not looking forward to digging my own toilet in days of wild desert camping it was the difference of environment from one cycle buddy to being in a group of more than fifty that has proved to be the hardest adaptation.

I like groups and most who know me would say I’m pretty social. While I can be shy initially, once comfortable I am more than confident with all sorts of people. When deciding to do this trip through Africa it had been John, my cycle buddy, who was more concerned. I have however found it much harder.

Of all the riders taking part in this trip to Capetown most ride much faster than me. While good on endurance I am not speedy, whether it be running or biking and with John also being a faster rider this has proved to be tough.

The first day from Cairo started as a group convey, led with a police escort we all had to cycle slowly for the first 35km or so. Traffic was busy and safety was paramount. It was cold as we slowly ambled out from the pyramids towards our first desert camp. Once on quieter roads, and following a long queue for the one ladies toilet in the gas station, we were off. We still had aound 95km to ride and the slow start meant there was still a lot of ground to cover before darkness set in.

I set off at what for me was a fair speed. I had been looking forward to starting the ride ever since packing up the bikes in Mumbai. It was too cold to cycle much while back home at Christmas and being on my bike was now part of a very regular routine. Unfortunately I arrived at camp very deflated and with everyone dispersed I collected my bag and tried to find a pitch for my tent. While the ride finished with slight uphill against the wind I had cycled around 75km on my own. Ordinarily this would seem no problem but having got used to the banter, humour and all round company of my cycle buddy John I found myself feeling alone amongst this new, larger crowd. I cried that night and could not look through his photos depicting his more exhilerating afternoon in a group with around eight others. It just seemed to make things feel worse for me.

He rode with me the following day and despite feeling much better that day I was still finding the adjustment really tough. The following morning I did not know who to cycle with and once again I left with John. It was a mistake. The tailwinds were strong and despite pushing my hardest I could see he was very frustrated staying with me as others overtook. I stopped sharing any information on distance covered and was just looking forward to the ride being over. This was the worst day yet. After lunch I cycled with two other folk to reach camp and despite having a better afternoon I was not 100%.

I arrived at camp to find John had lost his tent to very strong winds and as as we tucked into my tent that evening we tried to speak about how the journey through Africa would work. Having thought a group trip would be a good idea, given John and I had only met three times before we headed off last July, I was now not so sure. There was nothing wrong with the trip – staff and other participants, food and even desert camping were all fantastic. It was the feeling of loneliness that I could not stand. I felt like I had just lost my best buddy. He’d described his afternoon with others as being let off the leash in his blog and I slept little that night as I mulled over these words he had meant as a light joke.

I woke the next day and all I really wanted to do was go home. I was hating this and after more crying on John’s shoulders we set off. Normally such a strong minded individual it was hard to understand just why this was so hard. The headwind continued and I drove down on the pedals, conscious not to be too slow. We arrived at lunch quickly – at least by my standards – and I waited around to cycle with folk from the previous day. John headed off at a faster speed and I felt we reached a good compromise so we both get the best from the trip. I certainly don’t want to hold anyone on a leash, much as I would hate that too, but I also want to share this next stage of our adventure with him too.

We’re a couple more days in now and things look to be settling down. We usually set off in the mornings together, giving me a chance to push myself and then he goes on from lunch to ride faster too. I have found some greart folk to cycle with and as i feel less lonely I am of course more happy to be alone. I hope we’ll go on to share our African adventure, with each other of course but also with new friends too. We’re both here and looking out for each other and that’s good for me.

11 thoughts on “From one to many

  1. Hi Naomi, I hope things have got better for you and i wish you luck on the next step of your journey!
    i had a great birthday and had snow on my birthday which was so cool!!!!!!
    We had Christmas pudding and hot chocolate for breakfast how weird is that? But actually it was really good as it meant we had tons of energy for ages, as we went sledging for five hours!!!!!!!! We then followed that up with a massive lunch at Cosmo. Also we had lots of fun building some snow women as well, and my mum might send you a picture of one she made, which was outside our house. Then in the evening i went to dads and we had a film and a burgers.

    Hope you are feeling well and are having a great time, and i will look forward to reading your next blog.

    lots of love your amazing godson
    SAM xxx

  2. Hi Nao – thinking of you. Funny how you (one) can feel more lonely with a lot of people than on your own – but it’s not uncommon. But I think one of the key things you said was that your ability is endurance not speed – and if you can put that ability into your psychology for this group trip it will help. You’ve also been travelling a lot and maybe that flip back to UK upset your equilibrium. Also the comedown and the tiredeness after the achievement of the longest mileage you rode – all these things would make anyone tearful. I am full of admiration for you – was only thinking about you yesterday and what a trooper you are and how much I was looking forward to seeing you again – though that’s most likely going to be in 2014 when we are planning to go to Scotland again. Sorry we didn’t see you when you were in in Brizzle. love Frances

  3. Naomi,

    Your honesty is so refreshing :-) you are an absolute star! its to be expected that such a big change to the dynamic of your cycling adventure would bring with it some uncertainty.

    Keep your chin up and keep smiling, when you feel like everyone else is racing ahead just remind yourself that they probably can’t pull an S-shape or shimmy like you!

    Your blogs are brilliant and so are you. :-)



  4. You are such a trooper! Speed says nothing about a person other than a difference in pace one prefers/or travels. To make it through all kinds of adversity, and never quit……. That’s all you girl!!!! Keep strong, enjoy, and follow your dreams. You rock!!!

  5. Dear Naomi
    You should not be surprised by your early feelings of how you are settling into the group situation. As you say over the past few months you and John have become a settled cycling team sharing the good and the bad and working out what to do and when to do it. The Tour D’Afrique was bound to bring difficulties as each of you settle into the new environment and your own expectations.
    I always said when I was planning my participation that adjusting into the group dynamics would be even harder than the rough camping and tiring daily living regime. Up to 3 weeks in a group is usually easily adjusted to but anything longer always brings problems because you have to come to terms with the fact that these are your travelling companions for a long time. They come complete with both good and bad (annoying) habits and that is quite a tough to accept. I bet several of your fellow travellers have similar feelings but by being on their own they do not have someone on the group to express those feelings to so keep them bottled up inside themselves. I am certain after a few weeks and people get used to one another and say what they are really thinking that those comments will come out.

    Don’t forget one of the reasons you are there is to see the Country,its people and its traditions. I am certain your doubts and uncertainties will slowly fade as you get to know, trust and enjoy the company of your fellow travellers and in turn enjoy the whole experience of cycling through Africa.

    I send you all my Love and Good Wishes and hope that the next blog is more upbeat as you settle into the daily rhythm of the trip. I suspect you are at Luxor at the moment. Enjoy the luxurious trappings of its Tourist life as they will have to last you for a few weeks.

    Take Care and Cycle Safely

    Steve Andrew
    PS Aswan has quite a new McDonalds on banks of the Nile near to Railway Station. Enjoy it.

  6. ah naomi, lovely naomi. Sorry to hear its been tough -emotionally and physically. Sounds like you’re starting to pull it together though and settle in to the trip. Still, it beats the office any day….

  7. Hi Naomi…..I hope you are OK and things do settle down. We love what you are doing and will keep doing our best to promote it so that it gets the profile it deserves. Looking forward to your next update.


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