Reflections on Tour d’Afrique 2018

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It’s just shy of 6:30 pm and I’m lying on the grass looking up at the sky watching the clouds change colors as the sun sets.  I’ve just arrived at our campsite and immediately lay down on the ground to rest after an 11.5 hour day covering 208km by bicycle that included a border crossing.  I had never cycled more than 160km in one day.  Not only was this the longest day of cycling I’d ever done, but it was also day 73 of 119 of an epic life-changing cycling adventure across Africa.

In my decision to transition from active duty I knew it would be a great time to have an adventure.  If I was going to take a few weeks off why not take a few months off?  I had done a few cycle trips before that were about a week long. However, I was far from a seasoned cyclist.  I enjoy being active and the idea of seeing the world by bicycle was very attractive to me because you’re going fast enough to cover a decent distance each day but you can easily engage with local people and experience culture along the way.  After nine busy years in the active duty army, I was ready to have some time to myself pursuing my dream of doing a long-distance cycling trip.  So I decided to cycle 12,000km across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town through ten countries.

First things first, I did not cycle by myself.  I was with a group, TDA Global Cycling, which specializes in expedition cycling tours.  This trip was a supported trip meaning that we had support vehicles carrying our camping supplies, our route was planned for us each day, in addition, meals were provided during riding days.  All I had to do was get up, pack up my gear, cycle the day’s route, enjoy the scenery, set up camp and repeat each day, what a great adventure! We also had a few tourist days which gave us the chance to explore local attractions.  The simplicity of life during the trip meant I could spend time learning about the local culture, interacting with my fellow riders and dedicate lots of time for self-reflection.

Throughout the trip, we were met with many challenges from climbing huge mountains in Ethiopia with naughty children throwing rocks at us, to sandstorms in Sudan, to incredibly muddy roads in Tanzania during the rainy season.  One of the happiest moments on the trip was when we crossed the border from Malawi to Zambia.  The roads in Malawi and previous countries were not well paved so my bum was suffering greatly.  All of a sudden in Zambia the roads were the silkiest smooth pavement I have ever ridden on, it was amazing!  This made me appreciate the small things in life.  Who knew a subtle difference in pavement could mean so much.

During our ride, we also had some amazing experiences which included a safari in Tanzania and high tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe as part of a day trip from our camp in Livingstone, Zambia.  Each day throughout our trip we went somewhere new which is what made it such an adventure to me.  Having elephants and giraffes cross the road in front of us and getting word from local truckers to beware of a lion ahead made it a wild adventure, one that I will never forget.

Since coming home I have joined an army reserve unit and spent lots of time with family, mostly making up for lost family time from many overseas assignments during active duty.  I pursued opportunities I learned about from fellow riders, opportunities that I had never considered and come to realize there’s a lot more I can do to contribute to the world around me.

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