Setting Off For West Africa
“A journey is a door through which one goes out of the known reality and steps into another, unexplored reality resembling a dream.” – Henri Albert Guy de Maupassant
At its core, it was just a cycling trip. I take my bike, put one leg over the bar, push on the pedal and off I go. It was January 2003 and I, together with another 30 people, were off on the adventure of a lifetime, a cycling journey that would take us from the watchful eyes of the Sphinx by the Pyramids in Cairo to the beaches of Cape Town under the incomparable Table Mountain.
On paper, the inaugural Tour d’Afrique looked insane and some actually said just that; in letters to the editors, in emails to our office and some to my face. It was something that had never been done before. I put on a brave face and shrugged my shoulders but inside a little voice occasionally said – ‘listen to them’. Why was I doing this? I can come up with many answers, maybe even good ones. Well, why do people volunteer to test a new plane or go to Mars? In reality, the real answer still eludes me.
Now here I am about to start another new, tough, perhaps even extreme adventure – West Africa en Vélo – 73 days on a bicycle from Casablanca to Cape Coast in Ghana. I am constantly being asked ‘how does it feels to set off again’. What should I respond? Should I respond with platitudes -that I am excited and apprehensive?
Should I say that I am surprised? That even in my wildest dreams I would not have believed that 15 years later, after cycling all six continents, I am again undertaking such an incredible journey? That who knows what surprises will it bring, what joys and sorrows I will experience, what lessons the journey will teach me?
West Africa en Vélo
Join us on this unique cycling expedition to explore West Africa from Casablanca to Cape Coast. Clocking in at just over 2 months and 6,300 km, riders...
Should I respond that one is never too old to take on new challenges? I am 66 years old but there are quite a few on this ride that are older than me! Should I point out how great it feels that I am not really involved in the running of the tour, that the wonderful TDA staff is doing all of it?
Should I point out that I am a really lucky man to be in a position to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity? All of those things, and more, are part of how I feel ‘setting off again’.
The answers to a simple question can be elusive because, in reality, what I recall now and what I really felt then are most likely totally different. What I can say with certainty is that each journey that takes me out of my comfort zone, is never disappointing, and most importantly , is always enriching. It forces me to stretch myself, mentally and physically. It forces me to meet people, whether my fellow cyclists and staff or the locals that I meet one day at a time. To quote Maupassant again “it is the lives we encounter that makes lives worth living”.
So how does it feel to set off on another new adventure? Wonderful, just simply wonderful, I think. But then again, why am I doing this, whispers my little voice.