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Around The World: Cycling With TDA In 80 Countries
Is there something magical about the number 80? Did Jules Verne know when he wrote, Around the World in 80 Days, that he was creating a whole new industry of books, plays and films of ‘Around the World in 80….’? I was recently looking for a book on the Toronto Public Library website when I stumbled upon a whole range of books – Around the World in 80 Books, Around the World in 80 Plants, Around the World in 80 Trees, Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments, Around the world in 80 Tales, in 80 Festivals, in 80 Birds, in 80 Plants, in 80 Recipes, in 80 Spiritual Places, in 80 Words, in 80 Trains, in 80 Treasures, in 80 Record Stores, even Around the World in 80 Purees. Wow! Who knew?
While scrolling through the list, it got me thinking. If you go to the TDA Global Cycling website, we also have the magical 80 number – “Choose a tour on one of 6 continents and in over 80 countries.” A potentially great idea suddenly took hold of me. Is there a book here? And if so, what would be the subject matter? Would it be – Around the World with TDA in 80 countries, Around the World in 80 Cycling Stages, Around the World in 80 Cycling Shorts, Around the World in 80 Flats, Around the World in 80 Cycling Pubs, Around the World in 80 Bikes? I mean, why not use a winning formula and start an industry of our own. After pondering on this for what seemed like a minute or two, I decided that I could kick start a book called – Around the World in 80 Cycling Vignettes.
Here are the first two vignettes which both transpired in Tanzania during different years.
How a big cockroach almost ate me
In 2004, on the 2nd Tour d’Afrique, I was riding with the ‘back-pack’ of riders, commiserating on the intense equatorial heat. During lunch, with the heat only intensifying, I told the riders not to despair, that we would soon be cycling past a dam. The year before, the 2003 ‘back-pack’ had enjoyed cooling off at the dam. Arriving at the reservoir, we took a short dirt road to the edge of the water. While taking off my shirt, I heard a man in uniform yelling something. The heat was overwhelming and my mind was only focused on the water. I couldn’t care less about a man in uniform. As I stepped into the water, I finally understood what the screaming man was saying, “big cockroach, big cockroach.” I shrugged my shoulders and jumped in.
Once in the water, I noticed the man was now extremely agitated but I was enjoying myself too much to pay him any attention. I swam a few strokes. Raising my head, I heard the screaming again, “big cockroach, big cockroach.” It was probably because of the yelling, that no one else had followed me in. And then it hit me. Big cockroach meant Big crocodile! Quickly, I leapt out of the water. Who wants to have a confrontation with a ‘big cockroach’ when even an encounter with a small cockroach in your kitchen is not a pleasant experience. Back on my bike, I contemplated the incident and once again, for thousandth time, thanked my exhausted angels for protecting me. I suspect that once I cross over to the other side, they will want to have a sincere heart-to-heart chat with me.
Where are you going?
The other story took part a year earlier on the first Tour d’Afrique. Anyone who has cycled from Cairo down towards the Cape of Good Hope will tell you that just about every day, locals will yell a greeting, and often pose the question, “Where are you going” or, as they say in the ancient Amharic dialect, “Where are you go?” Answering back “Cape Town” doesn’t draw a reaction, as it is not really something that a rural farmer, who likely would not even have an interest in visiting their capital city, could easily fathom. So, I would just say the name of the next town or big city on route. So when a young woman working in her fields yelled at me, “Where are you going?”, I don’t know why, whether it was her good English or the smile on her face or just because I couldn’t think of the next big town, so I responded, “Cape Town.” To my utter surprise she responded, “Why?” I slowed down, hesitated, and then yelled back, “Good question. Very good question.” Why do we throw caution to the winds, why do we say goodbye to our family and friends, why do we take unknown roads?
J.R.L Anderson, a British journalist, who at the age of 55 undertook a risky boating expedition and subsequently wrote a book – The Ulysses Factor: The Exploring Instinct in Man, explained why. “There is some factor in man, some special adaptation, which prompts a few individuals to exploits which, however purposeless they may seem, are of value to the survival of the race.” At this stage, I honestly must admit that under no circumstances did I think what I and the rest of us were doing was of value to the human race but now, deep down, there is a little voice saying, “I sure hope so.”
Do you have a vignette to contribute to – Around the World in 80 Cycling Vignettes?
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