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A long time ago, I had a ten minute conversation on the beach with Steve who had been on a TDA tour through Africa. I didn’t know it then but it planted a thought in my head that would soon change the course of my life.
It seemed that everything I had done before had in some way prepared me for this. A life in hospitality and a few years at sea - from some grand establishments to some very inhospitable vessels and anything in-between.
There were a variety of less stimulating occupations I had explored before I landed at TDA. I think this is what has kept me here for so long, the almost overwhelming stimulation that one gets from daily life on tour, which is miles apart from my quiet country life in South Africa.
That, and the other people. There is always such a variety of people from all walks of life and from all over the world that I would otherwise not have met.
As a tour leader, I love the daily challenges, and ever changing worlds we are all so lucky to travel through. Getting a diverse group of cyclists, with different backgrounds, and goals across a continent is a rare thrill that makes life at home feel a bit pedestrian! The best feeling on tour is making a tough day go smoothly, and to surprise the riders with something unexpected or memorable along the way.
I live on the west coast of Canada, in Victoria, a quiet town which can seem like an extreme contrast to many of the places I tour with TDA. In the past I have done a number of solo cycling trips, as well as exploring by motorcycles when time was more limited. Over the years of travelling though, I've realized how much I enjoy the camaraderie of travelling with a group to share experiences and make memories with. My future goals for personal travel at the moment are a bit different, and are based around the sea. In the next couple years I want to go by boat to the extreme north of Canada, in the hopes of exploring places impossible to reach in any other manner.
It's hard to nail down a single memorable experience from all my trips with TDA, but I most often think back to the experiences of Central Asia, and discovering the beauty of the Pamir Mountains for the first time. At one particular high altitude camp in Tajikistan, I remember taking a hike with a group of riders up a steep 5000m peak adjacent to the camp. As we neared the top, we found ourselves unable to safely make it past 5000m due to a loose rock scramble for the last 20 meters. Disappointed, we turned around and witnessed a flock of Marco Polo Sheep running along the ridge just below us, making time before the sun set.
If I were to make a single suggestion to a future TDA rider, it would be to slow down, and keep a camera close at hand. The best stories at the end of the trip are not normally those of the speediest cyclist.
I love travel and more importantly travel by bicycle. It brings the freedom and adventurous spirit that any other way of travelling cannot match. I love that I am able to share this with our guests and show them the world in the best possible way.
I currently live in Oxford, UK but have had a relatively nomadic lifestyle from my mid-twenties. Call it an early mid-life crisis! I am best known for a three-year, mostly solo, 46500km bike ride from Reading, UK to Reading, USA. It was truly transformative and gave me a motivation to pursue a life of travel and adventure. It also saw me leave my career in television for one in cycling, and I haven’t looked back. I have also written a book about this adventure, available in all good book stores!
TDA for me brings the beauty of bike travel with the ease of some support, but that does not mean it is easy. For me, my favourite days are the ones you will remember forever. The Blue Nile Gorge day in Ethiopia is a real stand out. Beautiful scenery and rough roads as you descend 1800m into the Blue Nile Gorge before then climbing 1800 back out of the Gorge on the same rough roads, with children running past you, cars honking, each rider riding their own battle against the gradient. The beer at the campsite on the top never tasted so good! Roads and stories like this happen on each and every TDA tour and that is what is so special. No matter where in the world you are going, you are going to have epic, mementos days.
My best tip for any future TDA rider is bring a positive attitude. It is the most important tool in your kit bag. This will keep the spirit of adventure burning throughout the tour, which can be up to five months for some. It will ensure you are able to see the beauty in the world around you even when you are tired. It will mean that the hard moments pass quickly and the memories will last a lifetime.
“Good afternoon, my dear dream merchants."—TDA rider arriving at the office in Toronto for a visit.
I started with TDA as a local cyclist in Brazil during the Vuelta Sudamericana in 2009. I had just finished a long solo cycling trip through South America and I was invited to join the first couple of sections of the tour to help with the language. Once I was back home I started volunteering for the company, doing everything I could to spread the word about TDA. Eventually they decided that it was only fair to hire me.
It’s really hard to choose a place or a tour that was special, but both scouting and leading our first Trans-Oceania tour was certainly out of the ordinary. I had ten weeks to scout the whole thing from Medan to Sydney and spent nine of them trying to wrap Indonesia.
I recall a particular day in Indonesia that the riders later named "The Wall". Henry and I had been discussing avoiding a stretch of highway we weren’t happy with. We’d seen an alternative on the map but the road was privately owned by industry and we were having trouble getting the getting the permits we needed to use it. When we arrived, we saw local people using the road, which was a trail, so we decided to have lunch there to give me time to scope it out. A local guy on a motorbike took me up the steep trail to check it, flag it, and take notes and waypoints. At some stage, the trail got so steep that the motorbike couldn’t get both of us up, so I walked the rest of the way before calling staff at the lunch spot to tell them the route worked and to give them directions. It was a bit improvised and out of the ordinary but it was functional.
Because I knew what this steep route would put the riders through, I decided to wait and touch base with the first to complete it to see what they had to say about the experience. The first couple of cyclists showed up with big smiles on their faces and said they’d loved it but that they didn't think I should wait for everyone because there was sure to be some aggravated rider who would probably punch me. I decided to stay and wait for that punch, and while a few people did arrive looking ready to smack me, the angriest of them all actually just gave me a big hug. After a good shower and some good food everyone was in fine spirits; in the end, this day turned out to be a rider favourite of the whole trip.
Working with TDA is really the perfect job. Not only do I love both travel and bicycles, I also love watching people achieve things of which they never imagined themselves capable. Finally, this job allows me to share these loves with a wonderfully diverse group of people.
There are many things I love about my job, but my favorite is to dive deep in the route to learn all about its features, profile, geographical and historical facts, and to reunite with the team and riders to explore the journey together. All of us are very privileged to be able to explore the world at the pace of a bicycle; to really be present and see, feel, hear and smell all the environments we are cycling through. I love to keep the riders focused on their journey, motivating them to see the magic and the beauty of what we have the opportunity to be doing. I like to be the bridge to their experience, helping them face the challenges and persevere.
I currently live in Belgium. I have been traveling through all hidden corners of the American continent and Europe for the last 10 years where I learnt about its history and culture. I'm a certified nature and history guide in Mexico, specialized in Mayan History. I'm also a technical cave diver and worked with cave exploration in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, where I lived for 9 years. Here I developed skills in safety and risk management, which is one of my favorite aspects of the job as a tour leader: to be able to foresee hazards and plan ways to mitigate them.
Cycling is my favorite thing to do, so in 2017 I did a solo self supported bike trip for 4 months from Mexico to Brazil. This was when I decided to change the course of my career from guiding nature and cave diving tours to working with cycling tour companies, realizing I could transfer my skills in safety and risk assessment from cave diving into leading cycling tours/expeditions.
My tip for cyclists joining our tours is to trully allow yourself to be out of your comfort zone and to enjoy being there. Traveling by bike is physically challenging, but having a strong, open and adventurous mind is what you need to take the most out of it. Learn to appreciate the differences. To think as a group and to be realistic about what crossing a country - or a few of them - by bicycle implies. It's a unique and a massive achievement for everyone involved in it, don't forget that! Have fun, and smile always.
I see bike touring as an opportunity to slow down and bring yourself back to the essential things in life. Food, water, shelter, love, connection, space in your heart, space in your mind, movement, exploration. I believe that travelling by bike is the best way to discover our beautiful planet because of the pace of travel. It's fast enough to cover ground and cross continents, as we do with TDA, but it's slow enough to be able to truly soak in the destination you're in and everything that comes with it. The vulnerability of being alone on a bike, dressed up in bright lycra in the middle of nowhere makes you approachable and sparks curiousness and interest in the locals you meet on the road. As a tour leader with TDA, I am grateful to have the opportunity to facilitate these experiences, moments and connections.
I'm originally from Montreal in Canada where I studied business and tourism, but I have recently moved to Barcelona where cycling is unreal, even over the winter months. For the past few years, my career has been a collection of different projects and opportunities such as working as a TV host back home in Quebec, guiding with TDA and other outdoors companies as well as running my own vanlife conversion business. I've always loved getting around on two wheels, for some years, my focus was to go as fast as I could while I raced Ironman triathlons as a semi-pro. Nowadays, I still enjoy riding my bike, but a little slower, and looking around much more.
My best memory on tour is without a doubt when both my parents joined the 2019 Tour d'Afrique as riders to cycle the last two sections of the tour, from Vic Falls to Cape Town. It was such a precious privilege to be on sweep duty and get to ride with both of them through the namibian dunes.
As a tip for future participants, I think the best mindset to come onto a tour with is one of gratitude. We are all so privileged, both staff and riders, to be on these trips that being grateful for this life we get to live is an attitude we must cultivate.
See you on the road!
Hi there, My name is Gergo [Grrr-go], I'm from Budapest, Hungary. Graduated in Visual Communications, since then dealing with photography, film and all sorts of graphic design projects. After more than a decade of annual and occasional bike touring with my family and friends in the late 80's and 90's, a couple of seasons of mountain bike racing, and quite a few years of "just" sitting in an office, in 2005 I read a magazine article about the Tour of Freaks... I mean... the Tour d'Afrique. It made me wonder: how such distance is even doable on a bicycle? Fast forward to the following January: I found myself in Cairo, at the start line of the 4th edition of TDA! I successfully completed the full tour. What a great adventure it was! Next year, in 2007 I also crossed the Himalaya by bike, riding with a friend from Lhasa to Kathmandu. On this trip we had a great off-road ride up to the "North Base Camp" of Mount Everest in Tibet, China at 5,150 metres (16,900 ft) above sea level. This is where this profile photograph was taken. In 2010 we circumnavigated the island of Cuba – self-supported, with the help of an old paper map. Since then I did the Amber Route, a couple of Orient Express tours, Trans Europas, Odysseys and the PubRides. In the summer of 2020 we completed a long distance all self-supported bicycle tour with the kids (then younger than 1 and 6) with tents, tandem and trailers.
Sharita van der Merwe
“The thing I love most about my job is watching the social dynamics unfold.”
For as long as I can remember I’ve been stripping, fixing, and riding bicycles. As well, I knew from a young age I wanted to explore, travel, and see the world—my dream at one time was to fly airplanes. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that flying in a straight line from point A to point B wasn’t for me!
When I left school I had no direction, no idea of where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, once my dream of flying died. In 2003, I saw a magazine ad of a bunch of cyclists lined up in front of the Giza pyramids and I became hooked on the idea of doing that but I had to choose between taking a four-month cycling trip across Africa or going to Warriors Boot Camp to get educated. I chose Warriors and the programme equipped me for life by giving me a solid foundation. There, I was free to discover and explore who I was and to test physical and mental endurance. Having my attitude and my comfort zone constantly pushed readied me for all sorts of real-world challenges. I stayed at Warriors for three years, then cycled solo across Africa when I was 22 years old. In 2009, I landed the job as TDA’s assistant tour director on the Cairo to Cape Town trip—and the rest is history.
Ever since, Africa has been my baby and my favourite. I’ve worked on other tours—the Silk Route, the Bamboo Road, Ruta Maya, Magical Madagascar—but Africa is my full-time project and has lately included TDA’s complex tour of West Africa.
I’m based in beautiful Cape Town; when I’m not here, I’m scouting, exploring, problem-solving somewhere in the world and revelling in the adventure of being alive.
TDA has taken me to 80 countries and my most incredible off-the-beaten-track expedition was the West Africa scout in 2017, especially Guinea—I’d never been to a place so remote, rough or wild. I fell in love with Africa all over again on that trip. The stories are epic and endless!
There’s never a dull moment with TDA, because you absolutely never know what’s going to happen next.
“Working outdoors is phenomenal.”
When TDA need local support for translations in Turkey in 2014, I entered the picture. Before TDA, I lived year-round there, in Izmir. Now I live on the road eight months of the year; the rest of the time I’m in Turkey, either applying for visas or rock-climbing.
Sometimes on a tour our failures are as incredible as our successes. Being defeated as my tour attempted to climb a new route on Koca Sarp, a rocky mountain in central Anatolia, is an experience I’ll always remember.
I’ve seen so much of the world with TDA. My favourite place I’ve been so far is Meteora, Greece. Probably the greatest pleasure of cycle-touring for me is never spending more than two days in a row in the same spot.
I just love Africa. I love introducing Africa to people that have never been here or have never done anything like this. You can just see their eyes open, and all of their prejudices drop as they ride through it. The bike is just such an amazing way to do it, I’ve done tours in the past where the passengers are in the vehicle with me, and it’s just not the same. [On a TDA tour] you stop at coke stops all the time, and are constantly interacting with your environment. You often rely on locals for something like water, that interaction is absolutely essential to the tours. In the end, it’s one giant road trip with people that become your family. I love camping. You get addicted to the camping lifestyle, to see the sunrise and sunset everyday. You’re in the mix, you’re hearing the hyena’s and the owls. The amount of times I’ve had elephants come through our campsites in Africa, it’s magic.
I have been leading tours in Africa for over a decade, but I started at TDA as a chef. I love shopping at local markets in Africa, the interactions with the mama’s, and just buying everything they’re selling in bulk.
I love the behind the scenes moments. Everything it takes to keep the show on the road. Trucks getting stuck, and us having to try and pull vehicles out with help from the locals and their tractors. I remember another time on the North American epic, on the Arctic section, we had such a hard time trying to source water, that we sent up the drone to find the local water tank in a little First Nations village. It’s stuff like that that I love, the behind-the-scenes challenges. I like the spontaneity, the natural chaos of Africa.
[As a tip for future participants of our expedition tours], get comfortable with all your camping gear. Set up your tent first, maybe even sleep in it for a night or two in your apartment. Test your mattress, take it up and down a couple of times, because you’ll be doing that a lot. People don’t always realise this. You’ll be coming into camp after a long ride, and having to set your tent up and then tearing it down again in the middle of the night, just day after day after day, it’s relentless. So packing well and being comfortable with your set-up is absolutely essential in my opinion.
There is a great sense of satisfaction seeing a Rider finishing their day with a smile on their face, and that Day by Day, we have Taken someone safely to a place on this planet that Most People will never see, and all whilst by Bicycle.
I am a South African that has lived a life of itchy travel feet, and found myself Living in Sweden. Being a passionate cyclist in my teenage years, my Bike Mechanic Brother, taught me to fix my own bicycles, a vital bit of knowledge not only for a teenager trying to save money on bike repairs, but how it would shape my working career.
I've worked in all corners of the Bike industry,... shops, import and distribution, race teams, and even now for the Swedish Cycling Federation, as well as personal Guiding for a huge mix of private clients. They have all added up into helping me grow my knowledge of a bicycle, and how I can make one operate even in the worst environments with rider abuse,....which then played into the hand of being a confident TDA mechanic.
Guiding and Leading Tours came organically through my knowledge of Traveling, mixed with my knowledge of fixing bikes, thrown into the pot of being a passionate cyclist, and large desire of being on the Move.... Quite a mix.
TDA tours have the ability to provide one with a gift. It is a gift that keeps on giving...and that is: just when you think you have seen it all, there is always something else to surprise you with! From sleeping inside the Great Wall of China, to swatting flies off your sandwich in 49celcius Australian outback, or watching stars in the Sudanese Sahara, to Sipping Expresso's in an Italian cafe. From the Orderly bike lanes of Denmark to the chaos of Freetown, Sierra Leone.... There is so much that happens daily!
For any future rider that is wondering how to make their experience better. Set your expectations reasonably, ask questions, And come prepared... and Know your equipment!
Know how your bike feels, make sure it has arrived on tour Fully serviced. Know how to put up your tent if you're not confident with it.
And Figure out your bag packing! I have watched too many people lose an hour of their precious day (and some everyday for 4 months).. because they don't have their equipment organized.
Cheers..and happy riding!
“The more I experience in life, the longer my list of places to travel grows.”
Being a tourism business graduate, I have always been passionate about both travelling and the fields of administration, marketing and business development. I believe that these two areas complement each other perfectly in working with TDA.
It might surprise you to know that I used to have a fear of cycling, commonly known as cyclophobia. However, I was determined to overcome my fear, and at the age of 26, I conquered it by taking up cycling and facing my fear head-on. Since then, I've become an avid cyclist and I'm passionate about sharing the joy and adventure of cycling with others. One of the things I love most about cycling is the sense of adventure and camaraderie that comes with exploring new destinations on two wheels.
I have experience working with a variety of different clients, including individuals, groups, and businesses. With experience in customer support, I understand the importance of providing excellent service and building strong relationships with clients. I'm committed to ensuring that each and every customer has an exceptional experience, whether it's by answering their questions, addressing their concerns, or going above and beyond to exceed their expectations. I'm a stickler for details and I'm always looking for new ways to improve my skills and take on new challenges.
As a new member of the TDA Global Cycling team, I am proud to work for a company that not only provides exceptional cycling tours, but also has a positive impact on the communities. I am continually inspired by our commitment to innovation, safety, and creating unforgettable experiences for our riders. TDA Global Cycling's dedication to excellence is what sets us apart in the industry, and I am honored to be a part of such a dynamic and respected company. As a passionate cyclist myself, I appreciate the attention to detail and sense of community that is fostered on each of our tours. It is a privilege to work for a company that is dedicated to creating a positive impact both on and off the bike.
“Seeing the impact the tours have on participants gives me great satisfaction.”
I set up TDA in 2002 with the hope of creating a truly unique bicycle adventure in Africa, where I spent a significant amount of time in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The idea was to have fun but also to advocate for cycling and donate some bikes to health care workers in Africa.
I love seeing and experiencing the world so any new place to explore gives me great pleasure.
I would say one of my favourite memories from my tours is the last day coming into Cape Town on the 1st TdA in 2003. The day started well with a police escort, which we assumed was going to take us all the way to the city. Unfortunately, when the police reached the boundary of their jurisdiction, they simply made a U-turn and left. The police from the jurisdiction we were entering was nowhere to be found. (This, by the way, was before there was a wide use of cell phones.)
The 1st TdA was not scouted in detail, so I had to scramble, pull out the maps and find our way to Cape Town, avoiding major roads as we didn't have permits to bring a large group of cyclists on main roads. We also told the media, families, and friends that we will be arriving at 2PM. With the help of maps, and with luck we managed to make our way to the coast and see Table Mountain in the distance.
However, there was now one new problem. We were early! So, I stopped the convoy. This was not easy for some to take as they were eager to see their families. Personally, I had a big chuckle. Months of hearing naysayers that it was impossible to cross Africa on a bike or cycle it in 100 days of cycling, or get through the borders safely, and not get everyone sick or die from thirst or malnutrition and so on, and here I was detaining everyone so that we don't arrive too early.
I love my job because it lets me cycle the world and because of the endless possibility for unique experience it affords me. I also derive immense satisfaction from seeing the way tour participants are affected. For most of them, our cycling tours are life-changers.
“Sitting around on Friday afternoons in the TDA office, drinking beers, gazing at the wall-sized world map and brainstorming new tour ideas.”
I rode the 2006 Tour d'Afrique and ended up chatting with Henry over dumplings in Chinatown about a job. Twelve years later, I'm still here, as Office Manager.
Working for TDA has given me the chance to make so many memories. On the third day cycling in the sand and rock on unmarked tracks in the Sudanese desert south of Wadi Halfa during the 2006 Tour d'Afrique, I remember stopping, exhausted and filthy. Looking around and thinking “What the hell am I doing here?”, but with a big grin on my face—a really big grin.
I also remember being in southeast Asia in 1990, watching from “the comfort of the bar"… as a bus bound for Singapore pulls in. A mad rush ensues. People throw their bags and children through the open windows and clamber into the door, all this as the bus backs into its parking spot. People wanting off the bus are forced to bash their way past the people forcing their way on. A polite Westerner (about 6'3", 220 pounds) makes a futile attempt to board. He is no match for the locals and as the bus pulls away, the bus door spits him out, pack and all.”
For me, the best part of the job is the unpredictability: phone calls in the middle of the night about lost riders, elephant attacks, missing passports and vehicles that can't be turned off for days on end. You just never know what's coming next.
“A mountain biker at heart, but bike touring pays the bills!”
Most of the time, I work at the TDA head office in Toronto as the IT Manager, but I also sometimes work on the tours as needed, either as a guide or a bike mechanic. I landed here because my uncle mentioned to me he had a friend—Henry—with this crazy bike company, the friend and I met, and the rest is history.
I studied Business and IT at university, and my previous job was at an exotic car dealership. In my own time, I do more mountain biking than touring, and usually find nice trails to ride wherever our tours take me. Outside of TDA, I’ve cycled across Europe and half of Canada.
The Pamir Highway was a peak experience for me! As a mountain biker, I always love the roughest, crappiest roads our tours travel on. My favourite day of the entire Silk Route was actually the day that most of the other riders thought was the worst—it ended with a long switchback descent on a rough gravel road.
Every day brings a new challenge to solve, whether here in the office or on the side of a road in the desert. I really value that element of my job and relish it immensely.
“I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world. I learn so much each time I travel and with each new project and new tour we launch.”
I first found a TDA brochure when I was a sales manager at Duke's Cycle in Toronto. I met Henry and convinced him to give me a job in the office. That was over a decade ago now.
My love of all things bicycle started when I was in high school: I lived in the country and my friends were six kilometres away, in town. A bike was the easiest way to meet up with them on weekends. This started my interest in cycle touring and I did my first big trip at age 17 with some friends—a month of biking around Lake Erie, covering 3,400 kilometres from our hometown Kirkland Lake, in Northern Ontario.
Some of my favourite TDA travel memories are from Kyrgyzstan. Also Ethiopia, as well as France. And of course can't forget Namibia, and Ireland, and, well...
I love to travel and I feel very fortunate to have had an eclectic mix of travel experiences. Whether it’s trying fermented mare's milk in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan, eating “spagbol” prepared by our talented tour chefs after a long day of riding, sipping strong espresso in Venice, or sitting street-side for lunch in Paris, my travels always have food at their centre. Food and cycling—the combination can't be beat!
Working with TDA is all about variety—food, cycling, challenge, problem-solving, meeting people from all over the world, getting a glimpse into the way others live elsewhere and gaining knowledge from them, and learning to be humble.
“I caught the travel bug young, while staring up at airplanes and wondering where they were going. It hasn’t ever really left me.”
Before TDA (which is quite a while ago now), I had several relevant passions. I was a serious bike racer for quite a few years. Then I lived long summers in the boreal forest planting trees, followed by winters of bike couriering in Montreal. The next step in the skill set—cooking—was acquired at culinary school and by working for some of the best chefs in Montreal and Vancouver. And all of this was interspersed with traveling however and wherever I could around the globe.
With TDA I’ve experienced so many incredible sights, smells, sounds, and more. The memories to ponder later on while in the communal rocking chair are endless. In particular, I feel exceptionally lucky for the professional and personal relationships developed with people from around the world over more than a decade—it’s in these relationships that windows to so many cultures have been opened, so many ways of being witnessed.
I also feel fortunate to get to watch tour participants as they delve into nomadic life on our journeys. Each day, whether easy or grueling, is a trip into the unknown; the simplicity of these days brings people together while at the same time offering grand rewards.