This is Shanny’s latest report from the Tour d’Afrique bicycle expedition:
This tour can often be about change. Constant, daily changes in scenery, the terrain, the people and culture and the challenges you face to get from point to point each day. Change in your health, your motivation, and weather are all part of what makes this an expedition more than a cycling holiday.
So as the cyclists entered Ethiopia last week and climbed away from the desert environment of Sudan and up towards our first stop in Gondar they were reacquainted with their climbing legs. This was also the place where change in tour leaders happens as the riders said good bye to Sharita who had been overseeing the tour since Cairo and where I have joined in her place.
In Gondar, we camped at the Goha Hotel – set atop a hill overlooking the town below. The two days gave the staff a chance to take out all of the equipment and food bins and give everything a good cleaning and scrub off the layers of Sudanese dust.
Our first rest day seemed to be a popular day for weddings celebrations at our hotel in Gondar. When one bride arrived, a wedding party of over a hundred people surrounded the car singing, dancing, clapping, and shouting. As I watched I thought back to the wedding receptions I have been to and can’t recall one that came even close to the level of energy and joy that enveloped that bride’s car. It was great to see.
Leaving Gondar we had some challenging climbs past many modern and not so modern towns and villages. Corrugated steel roofs sit atop rough poles packed with mud along the roadside with stunning rock formations in the background sticking awkwardly up into the sky – strange geological oddities.
We are now in Bahir Dar to prepare for a five day riding stretch that will get us to Ethiopia’s chaotic and expanding capital, Addis Ababa. Some of the cyclists are on a tour of Lake Tana today to visit the 14th century monasteries along its shores and to experience an Ethiopian Coffee ceremony.
Change for me was landing in this warm and sunny environment from a Toronto winter. I am here to fill the void that Sharita is leaving, and it is no small feat. She has been the ringleader for this cycling circus across Africa on and off for over 6 years and she knows the route better than any of us who have lead this tour in year’s past. But I feel confident that we have everything in place to keep things moving steadily towards Cape Town. We have a great group of staff supporting the cyclists this year that have allowed me to feel right at home on the tour and ready for the constant change that is part of this experience in the days and weeks ahead.