Starting Line: Tour D’Afrique 15th Anniversary Edition Begins
After much anticipation, the Tour D’Afrique’s 15th Anniversary Edition is well underway. The group cycled past the Pyramids of Giza as the Sphinx looked on, and then continued southbound out of Cairo on Friday (the 13th… bad omen?!).
As with any cycling tour of this magnitude, the days leading up to the group’s departure were not without their challenges – mainly car batteries being stolen right out the front of the hotel, several bicycles that got lost in transit somewhere along the way before reappearing again in the nick of time, and faulty ATM machines swallowing up USD $100 bills.
As riders flew into Cairo from all over the world including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Austria, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and the United States, everyone checked into the Cataract Pyramids Resort in ebbs and flows while the TDA crew were busy with their final preparations for the exciting four months that lay ahead.
These preparations included our bike mechanic Leo Kendrick making sure each rider’s bicycle was functional and ready for the tour (well… as ready as a bike can be for a four-month cross-continental tour covering 11 countries with a variety of terrains!), our tour medic Helen Gertig zig-zagging her way through every pharmacy in Cairo to acquire the medication she requires for the tour clinic, and our cook Errol setting out for groceries with a shopping list longer than a Harry Potter novel.
But all is well that ends well, and the trucks rolled out Friday morning fully stocked and on schedule.
The other good news is that every full tour rider has already completed perhaps the most difficult, tedious, and emotionally scarring stage of the Tour D’Afrique – sorting out their Sudanese visa at the embassy in Cairo.
If you have the unwavering patience that is needed to spend an entire day jumping through hoops at the Sudanese Embassy waiting to acquire your visa, then you probably have what it takes to cycle across the North African country.
Apart from that, most riders spent the couple of pre-starting line days in Cairo checking out the sights, trying the local Egyptian cuisine, and just relaxing near the resort pool (or in the case of one of our more adventurous cyclists from Australia, swimming in the non-heated pool despite the cold temperatures of an Egyptian winter!).
Stocked up with energy bars to last the entire trip, spare tubes, bike lube and (perhaps most importantly) shammy cream for sore bums, the 2017 Tour D’Afrique riders have officially begun the 12,000kms to Cape Town, starting by battling a headwind out of Cairo on Friday followed by a slightly easier ride on Saturday.
Current security concerns in Egypt have caused the first few nights of the tour to be in hotels along the route rather than campsites, which – due to the cold, windy, night-time weather – most riders don’t seem to be too upset about.
Another thing on people’s minds is that this group will be the first to cycle through Uganda and Rwanda, which have been incorporated into the tour for the very first time this year, making the 15th Anniversary of the Tour D’Afrique extra special.
There is much talk of gorilla trekking and skirting Lake Kivu around the lunch tables, but for now most conversation is revolving around the Red Sea, the Egyptian road conditions, and what awaits us in the south as we approach the Sudan border.
Everyone is in good spirits and excited to be here!