I remember a night in the Dida Gagalu desert of Northern Kenya when a rider who had done the tour before told us not to worry; the southern section is much easier. He was wrong. Again in Zambia similar words were spoken, "Don't worry, once we pass this part its all gravy. The Namibian dirt roads are better than tarmac and South Africa is just an extended cruise." Let me set the record straight, those enlightened souls were wrong… dead wrong. No part of this tour is easy, no section is a cakewalk, no country is a walk in the park.
Today was our last full day of riding in South Africa, and once again riders were challenged. Massive headwinds (fittingly enough, not unlike the ones we experienced leaving Cairo) were thrown at us from Poseidon's domain as we struggled up hills that didn't seem to want to end. Upon cresting them, we were still compelled to pedal down the other side. I rode with Nick Marr today and as we tried to tuck down one of the few and far between descents he registered a paltry 29.6kph on his speedometer. It was a frustrating day. The best part of it though was to be had as we reached the top of a large climb and were greeted with a stunning view of distant Eyrserfontain, sweeping African brush land, and there in the distance, almost completely shrouded in mist was Table Mountain. We both pumped our arms like schoolboys at the sight. Speaking of acting like schoolboys, several hours earlier we were cycling along, having a chat when Nick let out a yelp not unlike that of a startled 11 year old girl. We had ridden within an inch of a massive snake which had reared up and struck at his leg. Luckily enough it missed and Nick was alright… so we decided to go back and poke it with a stick until we got scared and ran away. It was great.
Tomorrow, we arrive in Cape Town to fanfare, media, minstrels, Consuls General, Executive Mayors, family, friends and onlookers. At the waterfront the Td'A 2009 riders will finish this journey and return to their lives. While I am glad to be ending this trek and be returning home to my family and friends I can say with certainty that a very large part of me wants to stay in Africa with this group of people that I have come to know intimately. We have struggled through rough roads, scorching days, maniac truck drivers (not Indaba drivers though who are wonderful), water rationing, bottle showers, bush camps, sand pits and stone throwing children. We have shared in the majesty of the Sahara Desert, the Nubian Desert, the Dida Gagalu desert, the Kalahari Desert, watched elephants bathe, watched Ethiopian women carry bundles of firewood twice their size up massive slopes, cheered as our occasionally stuck trucks lumber their way back onto the road, drank beers at a mountain top hotel as arriving riders were greeted one by one as they arrived. We have seen the best of people and the worst of people and through it all we remain united, solid and unyielding. We are the Td'A 2009 and no matter what may come of us in the future no one can take away that fact that for four months we struggled and smiled through one of the greatest adventures on the face of this planet.