We’ve had our first official riders meeting this morning, where we met our entire crew and most of the riders who’ve arrived by now. Our crew briefed us about standard procedures, daily schedules, safety measures, and the like. If you would like to know more, please refer to the TDA website and their Tours 101 for all general tour information. Other than the usual stuff, here’s a few interesting points worth noting:
Our dedicated tour management and crew
- Nine fully dedicated TDA staff are coming with us to make sure that we, our bellies, bikes and butts are staying in reasonable order, safe and on track all the way down to Cape Town (crazy traffic, own stupidities, and other unforeseen yet to be expected circumstances aside). The crew members are:
- Tour leader—Tallis—on first impression, seems like the kind of guy who’ll manage to keep everything under control
- Race director—Max—on first impression . . . um . . . handsome
- Medic—Helen—young, cheerful, and, in her words, has seen it all
- Bike mechanic—Leo—looks very young but seems to know what he’s talking about
- Chef—Errol—”the grumpy South African”, in Tallis’ words (!), but promised unlimited coffee supply at campsites, so I’d say he’s the one I’d better only write good things about
- Media manager—Brad—the key man for all communications and TDA news, blogging and social media updates
- -9. Vehicle drivers, kitchen and camp support—sorry, can’t remember all names. Please check the TDA website for more info about staff and rider profiles.
- We’ve also met Sharita, the prior year’s tour leader, who will be flying in and out, and meeting us again in different cities. We’ll also have the pleasure of meeting TDA’s founder, Henry Gold, somewhere along the way, probably in Uganda.
- In addition, two members of the Egyptian tour agency that TDA works with will accompany us until we reach the Sudanese border. We’ve met both of them already as they’ve been welcoming us at the airport and the hotel, managing our smooth arrivals and making sure all our needs are taken care of.
Our three support vehicles
- Lead truck—used by the tour leaders and for emergency transports (not to buy beer and run personal errands, as we’ve been told)
- Lunch truck—drives ahead to make us all very happy when we spot it half-way
- Dinner truck—transports all our gear
Our security and comfort
- The local police is a bit nervous about the current security situation following the cathedral bombings in December and the suicide truck bombing incident in northern Sinai this Monday. They are keen to make sure we stay safe, so we expect lots of police cars and an ambulance to follow us all the way down to the Sudanese border.
- For us, however, the tense situation is a blessing in disguise: The police doesn’t want us to camp outside. Hence, we’re having an unexpected tour upgrade from notorious camping grounds to hotels for the first three days. Yay—warm blankets and shower rather than freezing tent nights!
To race or not to race
- While each rider has their own reasons and ambitions for this tour, most are tourist riders in the truest sense of the word. Neither time nor EFI (cycling every inch) is of interest to them.
- So far, it seems only 5 or 6 of us have indicated their interest to be timed—thereof only 2 females including yours truly. So, in essence, as long as I’ll make it to Cape Town, I’d make number 2 in this year’s race, and that even though I have no racing ambitions whatsoever!
Other points worth noting
- While my arrival had been absolutely smooth and free of major troubles, not everyone has been that lucky. One cyclist had her flights cancelled due to bad weather and ended up dragging her entire luggage including her bike box all the way from Heathrow to Gatwick. Another couple is still waiting for their bikes which got lost in transit. Yet another rider had to bribe the customs to get his bike cleared. . . . So, please, don’t expect things to run perfectly all the time. I was just lucky, as it seems. However, arriving early definitely pays off to leave enough time for all gear to be sorted before heading off down south.
- I’ve met most riders by now. It’s starting to feel like a small family already. Everyone seems very easy-going, open-minded and fun to be with. Hopefully, there’ll be lots of interesting stories to write about.