The 3 Underestimates Of The Tour d’Afrique’s Final Section
Another year, another epic achievement for a large group of driven individuals who were willing to push the boundaries and challenge themselves. This was the fifteenth year that people from all over the world flew into Cairo with the goal of cycling all the way down to the southern tip of the continent, and every year throws different curveballs at the Tour d’Afrique.
This year we skipped Ethiopia, but most would agree that the scenic pleasures of Uganda and Rwanda more than made up for it.
As it turns out, even two weeks away from the finish line there were still a few surprises in store for the riders – all three of which Tour Leader Tallis specifically told us about, and all three of which none of us managed to truly comprehend regardless.
The first was the beauty of Namibia. Before we left Windhoek, Tallis warned riders that the final section is absolutely stunning… why is that a warning? Because it’s also extremely tough (that was the second underestimate).
Tallis’ advice to the group was not to let the difficulty of the terrain ruin your experience of cycling through some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet (and having seen it myself now, I don’t think he was exaggerating when he said that).
Even with these frequent statements of how breathtaking the Namibian scenery is, no one who was visiting Namibia for the first time seemed to be prepared for the beauty we were about to witness. Spreetshoogte Pass, just after Windhoek, was literally jaw dropping. Not metaphorically literally… LITERALLY literally. I saw jaws drop.
About 100 kilometres into the day, things are starting to get a little monotonous, the rolling hills are wearing you down a little, and then suddenly you come over a crest to find that the ground just drops away into a stunning mountainous desert landscape via a very rapid (paved, thankfully) descent with lots of twists and turns.
This proved to only be the beginning of the stunning scenery we would experience in Namibia, as a few days later we reached Sesriem and ventured out to Dune 45 (either for sunrise or sunset, depending what each rider opted for). I thought I had seen some epic sand dunes in my time, but those of the Namib Desert put them all to shame.
While those two were arguably the highlights, Namibia continued to astound all the way to Felix Unite, which is where we crossed the Orange River into South Africa.
And here’s the second warning which, although I’ve already touched on it, Tallis felt the need to remind riders once again as we entered our last seven-day stretch to the sandy shores of Cape Town: the final section is tough.
Most people on tour (myself included) had the attitude of: “Hey, we’re nearly there – it’s all good, I’m just gonna enjoy it” …and then quickly realised that seven days is still a long time when you’re dealing with sandy patches, corrugation, headwinds, hectic ascents, and last but certainly not least… flies.
For me, the flies were the worst. I could deal with all the other stuff (not without a little swearing, of course) but after just 20km of swatting flies while rolling over corrugated sand, I was getting personal. I was telling flies I was going to murder their friends and families while they watch.
Luckily, the group maintained high spirits throughout this stretch, perhaps helped by the sobering realisation that a week from now we would no longer be seeing each other every day. Rather than get upset, people seemed to make the most of it and was a fantastic final few days on tour.
Then there was the third thing that Tour Leader Tallis kept telling us but which we all seemed to underestimate – that it’s about to get very cold of a night.
When you’re sitting in your hotel room in Cairo shivering, it’s hard to imagine that in a few days you’re going to be roasting away in the sweltering heat. Similarly, once you’re sweltering, it’s hard to imagine that South Africa is going to be cold, mainly because most of us foreigners associate South Africa as more of a tropical surfer’s paradise than a “let’s all huddle around the campfire” kind of place.
Those last few nights of camping up in the Cederburg, a mountainous area in South Africa’s north west, offered very brisk evenings and mornings until the sun thawed us out each day.
On the subject of weather, the tour was very lucky this year that it was a perfect day cycling into Cape Town – from the lunch spot on the outskirts of the city, we had a spectacular view over the bay of Cape Town with Table Mountain towering over it, and then proceeded to cycle along the waterfront right to the Finish Line, where a lot of riders’ friends and family were waiting for us with a glass of champagne and a pat on the back.
It’s been an incredible adventure cycling across 11 countries over 4 months, experiencing numerous cultures, terrains, climates, hardships, and getting to know this wonderful group of riders. Having only cycled a quarter of what the full tour riders did, I can only imagine the enormous sense of achievement everyone must be feeling now as they enjoy a few days of well-deserved relaxation in Cape Town and return home to see their loved ones and begin life post-Tour d’Afrique!
Once again, congratulations to everyone who participated in the 2017 Tour d’Afrique.