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Some Thoughts from Darrel Wratten, TDA 2007
It’s a rest day in Addis, and a chance to dislodge what I once considered a natty pair of Diadora cleats from the hungry grasp of my trusty, but clearly now out-dated steeds’ stiffening peddles; a chance to surrender, and have someone else refresh the variously faded and filthy bits and pieces of bottom-softened spandex that we all seem to swear by wearing; and a chance to think a little of what trespassing down this thin line across the Sudan, and now through Ethiopia this past month has meant to me.
First, there’s the meaning of my body. And a slowly accumulating pleasure in finding out that I’ve become just a little fitter. Of discovering that what I once would have thought entirely improbable now seems quite achievable — that a century of rolling hills a day, across unrelenting sand and stone and under an unreasonable sun, can be done; that slipping down a 1300m slope and up the other side of a disgorged Nile can be fun.
Second, there’s the meaning of my bike. And a happy recognition — from someone who has never really ridden the thing — that it can be comforting to abandon oneself to its meditative cadences. And so, at the moment at any rate, even in this current mud-sodden and rapidly rusting state; she feels more like a comfortable couch than the instrument of torturous intent I’d figured her for in a short pre-trip peddle around the corner from a Cape Town home just over a month ago.
And third, there’s the meaning of the map that sits besides my race number. And a renewed appreciation, as I watch the wonder of the world pass by each day, acquiring in the process some sense of my own existence that this “tour of freaks” across a continent has very little do with a sense of personal accomplishment or endurance; of measuring incremental steps in a quest to cover it all off; or remembering the proper order of things and people and places. Rather, that this map of Africa is one that has helped me to celebrate being displaced; in having my own ordered sense of the world continuously disrupted by experiences that always suggest the fragility of a shared human condition..
So, for Rider Three-One-Three at least, the section from Khartoum to Addis Ababa, called “The Gorge”, has been full of memories and meaning that could have happened anywhere in the world where people meet. Accept of course that we’ve learnt to say “salaam” (hello) and “amasiganalo” (thank you) when some shy kid sticks out his hand or a stick and lobs you with a stone as you struggle up yet another undulating ascent.
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