A Note on Our Support Crew – African Routes
Tour d’Afrique uses”African Routes” (an overland tour company) as it’s primary rider support from Sudan through to Cape Town. The African Routes trucks (aptly named Doris and Betsy) plus the guides (5 boys) met us at Wadi Halfa, Sudan not long after we had gotten off an 18 hour ferry ride down Lake Aswan, crossing the Egyptian/Sudanese border. The first thing we noticed upon meeting them was that they were brown (dirty or tanned, I am unsure?), tired looking (they had just driven up from Cape Town, non-stop), unshaven (again, I think they had been on the road for a few weeks), listening to some good music and they all had thick South African accents, which even the South African riders giggled about. However, after spending the last few weeks traveling with these guys, you realize that there are many qualities needed to become an overland guide. By day they drive the trucks through to whatever they have to, to get to camp on time. They replace and repair whatever mechanical things need to be replaced or repaired. They operate a lunch truck that provides hungry riders with food and water midway through a long, hot race day. They set up camp, build fires, weld bike seats, sort out generators, shoot at things with a sling shot every now and again, smoke (I am sure that is a necessary part of their job) and so much more! By night (and this also happens in the early morning too) the same dusty, rugged, sometimes dirty person who had greased everywhere during the day now has clean hands and arms and is sitting in the “camp kitchen” slicing vegetables, seasoning meat, stirring pasta sauce, rolling dough for bread, making milk and occasionally having a break to quickly have a cigarette, check the generator is working, rewire some light, set up a barbecue, retie a tarp rope, help a rider fix something on their bike and offer information about some part of Africa or a story of their trips as well as getting another quick cigarette lit. Once they have finished cleaning up after the hurricane of riders have blown through dinner the same guide is to be found writing in his journal, reading a book, downloading photos, listening to an ipod or trying to get a good nights sleep (these boys will sleep almost anywhere but I have noticed that it is always close to, in or near one of their trucks) as they rise almost an hour before any of us to make breaky!
All of these skills, plus a sense of humor, a love of a chat and some good stories seem to help make up the substance that is in these boys and make them so good at what they do, so easy to spend time with at camp or enjoying a ride in the truck with them through a big town.