Four months on the Road.
Like everything else about this trip, it is one thing to talk about it and is quite another thing to do. As a writer for the Globe & Mail, Leah McLaren, once put it after cycling a section with us – “I’m going to ride my bike across Africa. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Rolls easily off the tongue. Gets a positive reaction at a cocktail party. But there’s only one problem: You actually have to ride your bike across Africa. And like most things in life worth doing, that’s a hell of a lot harder than it sounds”.
As we enter the more traveled part of Africa we run into all sorts of other travelers. From other cycle tourists to over-landers to volunteers on a short-term contracts, the reactions to our endeavor are the same across the board - shock, amazement and then the questions. How, where, what if, have you ever, what about, has this, how do you etc. The sheer logistics on a macro and micro level are beyond the imagination of anyone who has never stepped aboard the Tour D’Afrique.
The personal commitment to managing one’s own mental and physical well-being is daunting enough. Then there is the other more tedious, yet essential, daily task of ever so carefully taking care of ones’ 100 or so individual belongings with the same care and attention as you have for the previous 100 days of exhaustion on the road. Did you put your camera carefully back in its case? Did you remember to take all of your laundry in that was drying overnight? Did you pick your dinner plate up from the ground next to where you were eating? Did your bathroom bag stay in the shower stall on the last rest day? Did you pick your passport up off the counter at the money changers? Did you waterproof ‘everything’ in your riding pack today? Did you need to take your camera out in the sandstorm? Did you leave your cycling shoes outside your tent last night? And the list goes on and on.
These questions are usually simple enough to find the right answer to from the comfort of your own home or rested and relaxed on a rest day. However, after cycling over 100kms through sand and dirt, the ‘right’ answers to these questions become harder and harder to come by. Deciding which is less heartbreaking in the battle between lost and broken is perhaps dependent on the individual and the item involved. Whether staring at the computer that won’t turn on is any less upsetting than the passport which is sitting in the hands of some stranger are not directly comparable, yet they fall under the same list of tour essentials come and gone.
A quick survey of items that are no longer with us, due to the ‘extenuating circumstances’ of tour life, is almost comedic in its length, yet we can all agree that there is nothing funny about waking up to find that yes, you did in fact leave your cycling shoes on the road last night…. and so it goes: 5 tents, 12 cycling water bottles, one pocket knife, countless amounts of clothing, 7 cell phones, a dozen dinner plates, endless tent pegs, 4 headlamps, one solar panel, 2 reading kindles, 5 tires, a handful of sunglasses, 2 pairs of cycling shoes, 3 cycling helmets, 6 tent zippers, 13 tent poles, 2 watches, half a dozen cameras, one round of malaria meds, one iPhone, 3 cycling computers, 3 MacBooks…as well as just about everyone’s ego, pride, dignity, temper and patience.
Needless to say, on any given day on tour, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone too hung up on the lament and loss of such high value and irreplaceable goods. The ship sails on tomorrow, we all help each other out where we can and in the end we make due with what we have, finding that none of it (except of the cycling shoes and passport perhaps) really matter in the end.