Coming To An End In The Cape Floral Kingdom
Tate Drucker was the Content Creator on the 2022 Tour d’Afrique. In this report, she takes a look back at the end of this year’s expedition.
On one side of the TDA truck, heavy storm clouds rolling towards us from the horizon. On the other side of the TDA truck, the distant, warm glow of city lights – the lights of Gqeberha.
Throughout the Tour d’Afrique, the end of certain stretches of the trip have been marked by the arrival of sights specific to that chapter of the expedition. In Botswana, a distant baobab tree poking its head above a sea of thorny acacia trees guided cyclists toward it, as they would soon camp under its overarching branches that night. In Namibia, small swatches of sand slowly appear alongside the road, eventually giving way to deep, red oceans of sand dunes, looking like mirages spread across the arid landscape. In South Africa, it was Table Mountain, the quintessential silhouette of the Western Cape appearing on the horizon and guiding the cyclists towards the Mother City.
Normally, the Tour d’Afrique ends on the white-sand shores of Cape Town but this year the cyclists had an additional stretch to conquer. For the first time ever, the expedition carried on from Cape Town and headed east along the spine of the mountains of the Karoo, eventually leading the cyclists to the Garden Route.
South Africa’s Garden Route is a 300 kilometre stretch of wild coastline, known for its dense rainforests, rocky beaches hugging jagged cliffs, sleepy, small towns boasting charming ma-and-pa shops and blue mountains poking their peaks out from the thick blankets of fog that roll off the ocean. Most notably though, are the dazzling blankets of wildflowers that cover the rolling hills.
These bright wildflowers and unique plants are called “fynbos” (meaning “fine bush” in Afrikaans). The flora that qualifies as fynbos is found only in this area of the world, and is known for is exceptional biodiversity. Fields of pink heather-like shrubs, pockets of blooming proteas, and twisting, neon-green vines have made this part of the world known as the Cape Floral Kingdom, and is how the Garden Route got its apt name. This breathtakingly beautiful, postcard-ready landscape is disturbed only by the snaking roads the Tour d’Afrique cyclists have been pedalling along; stopping to pump air into their tires or have a roadside peanut butter sandwich amongst one of the world’s most fragile and unique ecosystems.
As the traffic began to pick up and the end of the expedition grew closer and closer, the riders arrived at Jeffrey’s Bay — their final night all together while on the road. While waves rich in bioluminescence broke on the shore just past the campground, the cyclists and crew all sat together to share their final remarks on the trip; swapping stories, snacks and Tour d’Afrique jerseys. Meanwhile behind them all, those heavy rainclouds sat in the distance, reminding the riders that their final day on the road would be as windy and drenched as their first day leaving Livingstone was, almost two months ago (Most cyclists found this funny, seeing, the tour as coming full circle). And on the other stretch of horizon, sat the warm, dulled lights of the now- not-so-faraway city they’d been peddling towards for 4,655 kilometres.
Arriving in Gqeberha and crossing the finish line was a surreal experience for many of the cyclists. After seven weeks of being glued at the hip with other people who all shared the the same goal of making it there on two wheels from Victoria Falls, ending the expedition felt both like an exceptional accomplishment and incredibly bittersweet. They arrived at this city, a monumental, enormous achievement, but for now, there are no more sights on the horizon to pedal towards anymore.
For many of the cyclists, however, this is only the beginning. Some now want to cycle all the way around the world. Some still want to complete the whole Tour d’Afrique, taking on places like Egypt and Ethiopia. Some are taking some time out of the saddle, while some are already itching for the next adventure. All are in agreement, though, to keep peddling on, wherever they end up next in the world.
Our original trans-continental journey and flagship expedition crossing Africa from north to south, covering 11,000 km in four months. A test of mind...