UPDATED June 16, 2021

BY Michael Coo

IN Tour d'Afrique


UPDATED June 16, 2021

BY Michael Coo

IN Tour d'Afrique


The Red Boxes


As usual the wake up call was @ 6am with breakfast @ 6.15, tent packed, red box loaded (always a challenge as most have too much stuff, and the boxes are squeezed into their racks with much straining grunting and squashed fingers).” – Anon.

TDA Global Cycling Expeditions are a life-changing experience. They immerse riders in daily challenges in terrain, climbing, climate, environment, language and culture that each require mental toughness over multiple months. The roads vary wildly from smooth paving, to rutted, broken tracks and riders can expect limited amenities and nights of rough camping. The very last thing you want to have to deal with on these incredible adventures is your luggage!

The concept

Over the 20 years that we have been running the Tour d’Afrique, we have experimented with various ways to effectively transport the luggage and spare parts of up to 80 riders and staff across the African continent – not an easy puzzle to solve. After the inaugural trip in 2003, we decided to build shelving inside the support trucks with slots for plastic boxes that could be safely clipped in to avoid crashing out during the rough and challenging drive but that could also easily be removed by the riders to access their belongings. That was the thought, in any case… Our local staff in South Africa went out shopping and found a good deal on a load of red plastic boxes. Hence the infamous Red Boxes that provided much comment and entertainment from 2004-2008 when they were in use on the trip.

>>Related Blog: Paradise Lost: The Good Ship S.S. Sagalnaam

2008 rider Ashleigh Emerick takes her red box for a test run in Cairo

The idea was for all the riders’ belongings – clothes, spare parts, camping equipment, etc. – to fit snugly inside this box. Upon registration for the tour, riders were sent the dimensions of the red box so that they could pack accordingly. The more, shall I say, organized of us actually constructed cardboard replicas of the boxes at home and then test packed their creation to see what would fit. The rest of us simply packed for the trip and hoped, somewhat hopelessly, that it would all work out when we arrived in Cairo.

Watching newly arrived riders in Cairo attempt to stuff, squeeze, cram, jam, ram, shove and wedge their personal supplies for a 4 month pedal across Africa into a small red box provided our staff with unparalleled entertainment. Tough decisions had to be made –  toilet paper or arm warmers, baby wipes or brake cables (the former in each case!)? Eventually the boxes were packed and slid into their assigned slots (unlucky riders got the top or bottom rows) on the support vehicles and the ride began.

Along the way they would find some additional uses for these memorable red boxes.

Washing Machine


>>: Related Blog: Paradise Lost-The Good Ship S S Sagalnaam

Card Table

Camp Chair


Mobile Office

It wasn’t always easy getting everything to fit…

…or getting the red box to your campsite (unless you had help)…

…but they brought riders together…

Credit: Gwen van Mossevelde

…so let’s raise a glass to the the memorable Red Boxes…

…we’ll never forget you!


Tour d'Afrique

Our original trans-continental journey and flagship expedition crosses Africa from north to south, covering 10 countries in all. Beginning at the...

2 Comments for "The Red Boxes"

As a couple in 2006 we had 2 red boxes (Yeah!). Before the trip, I constructed a cardbox with same dimensions, and tested if our belongings were able to fit. Happy we did so. During the trip, at first, we took both boxes out, but later only one and at the end we took only the necessary things out of the box, leaving them in the truck. You only need minimal things to be happy?

Oh red box how I’ve missed you. You always kept everything safe from being squashed and dry from any rain. You made it easier to be organized. And easier to spot the things I needed. You were soothing as a warm bath and so convenient as a washing machine. You were by my side through thick and thin, always supportive in my ambitions. I pray one day you might return but until then, I’ll keep your memory close to my heart.

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