It’s over. It’s strange to wake up and not be on the Tour d’Afrique 2011 anymore, and it will probably take a long time for everyone to really get back to the “real world”. That is, off course, for those who are really going back to their normal lives. Some decided to stay in Cape Town for a while; many decided they want to restart their lives in a completely different way now. Couples are formed, skills are discovered, professional links get established, and much more happens on the road and inside the Tour d’Afrique nomadic little world. Also, putting your whole life on standby back home and stepping away from everything for 4 months is a wonderful opportunity to think about your life and happiness and decide what you really want to do about it from here on in.
Our last night was unusual. After an long riders meeting where Tour Leader Sharita went over every detail about the finish line with everyone, an unexpected and fantastic sea food feast showed up in Kim’s kitchen. Many people stayed awake late celebrating with their friends – the last night and the last camping spot. A strange mix of anxiety, happiness, sadness, exhaustion and all kinds of intense feelings were in the air. People who had been serious and quiet and had gone to bed right after sunset for 4 months were now up drinking, laughing, zip-tying the sleeping ones inside their tents, hiding wheels, seats, helmets and everything they could find.
The last day on Tour was quite different from the previous TDA final days. Cape Town has just finished building a big network of cycle paths and our way into Cape Town would find us on one of its legs. Why not to throw a big event to receive the Tour d’Afrique riders and to promote the idea of using those cycle paths to commute in the city in a more fun, healthier and faster way than driving a car. We left the little spot by the beach where we had our last lunch as a big group.
There were cyclists from many different groups from Cape Town, TDA former riders and other people who learned about the event somehow and showed up ready for the “The Big Ride In”, as the event was named. No official numbers, but considering that our group was about 85 people and disappeared in the middle of that huge critical mass, I would say we rolled along Cape Town’s new cycle paths with at least 400 bicycles and a couple of dozen skateboards and roller blades. We entered the Green Park under applause for a long ceremony where the winners and EFIs received their medals and there was a final bike donation by TDA.
It’s been an amazing journey. It was hard, both for the riders and the staff, but it was the experience of a lifetime. It was challenging in many different ways. It was an especially hard TDA, but it was an especially good one. The group was fantastic. We got to really respect each of these individuals who decided to take part in this. I was sure to meet a bunch of very interesting people, and I certainly did.
The fact that so many TDA 2011 riders are registered or registering for other TDA tours is very rewarding for us. A few of the riders who were supposed to do only a short section of the Tour decided to keep going with us instead of going home, which is another rewarding fact. Others who did a long part of the Tour on previous editions and therefore knew what they were signing up for came back to finish the other half of the route with us in 2011.
What about coming back one day and repeating the same tour? “Would you do this all over again?” I asked a few riders on the end. “I don’t think so”, said most of them. “But would you ever recommend doing it to a good friend or a relative of yours?” “Hell yes!”
– Cristiano Werneck