When I first heard about Tour d’Afrique (TDA) over a year ago, I was instantly hooked. It sounded like exactly the kind of challenge I’d been waiting for—to ride Every F***ing Inch (EFI) from Cairo to Cape Town.
However, I was an unlikely candidate for that challenge: I had no particular cycling experience—even just pumping up the tire of my old bike proved challenging! I had never put up a tent before—why would I trade a comfortable lifestyle for living out of a bag and poor hygienic standards? And I was intimidated by Africa—a supposedly dangerous war-torn and disease-ridden continent.
I’m not sure anyone believed I could ride EFI from Cairo to Cape Town, nor could I rationally explain why I wanted to do it. I just did it. In hindsight, it seems that it’s been that simple—
- Heart over mind: I had learnt to follow my intuition. By putting my heart over my mind, I was foolish enough to embark on this seemingly impossible adventure.
- Mind over matter:I believed in myself. By putting mind over matter, constantly, over and over again, I managed to find the power to do it.
- Luck: I had a lot of luck—no serious accidents, illnesses or other safety threats. Just as the quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson goes, “I’m a big believer in luck.” But I would include, “the harder I work and the more I believe, the more luck I seem to have.”
Now that it’s done, that I’ve reached that finish flag in Cape Town, many of you have asked me how it feels to have reached that goal.
Throughout cycling, whenever it got really difficult, when I was in physical pain, I’d imagined that special moment of cycling into Cape Town. I’d seen myself burst into tears of joy while cycling those last few meters of our 11,000km+ journey, when hugging my dear friend Charl who’d be waiting for me at the finish line, upon calling my parents to tell them the good news, during the awards ceremony and medals handover . . .
Well, it didn’t happen. There was no single special moment, but a gradual build-up as we’d seen Table Mountain from afar on our last riding day, and a gradual build-up over many difficult days throughout the past four months.
Sure, I was happy to reach the finish, but it wasn’t an overwhelming happiness.
- It wasn’t the same kind of happiness I’d felt when I reached camp after each of our three bloody hard and hot off-road days in Sudan;
- not the same scale of relief that I’d felt when a hot shower warmed my frozen body after that endless 200km+ day in Botswana when I’d been cycling for hours alone in torrential rain that had darkened the sky and clouded my visibility;
- not the same degree of satisfaction that I’d felt when I spotted the lunch truck after a final bend at the top of that steep seemingly never-ending climb just two days ago in South Africa (2,000m ascent in total!);
- not the same type of excitement I’d felt when I put up my tent outdoors for the very first time by the Red Sea in Egypt;
- not the same intensity of feeling alive that I’d felt when, after a month of being sick and running on low energy, I’d finally felt strong again on my bike and enjoyed the experience despite our muddiest campsite ever in Tanzania;
- not the same extent of beauty that I’d seen when looking at the starlit sky in the middle of the Namibian desert;
- not the same kind of pride I’d felt when for the first time I’d fixed a puncture all by myself;
- not the same sense of love I’d felt when reading the encouraging messages of family and friends (both my own as well as of other riders, TDA or cycling in general) while alone in my tent;
- not the same realization of global interconnectedness I’d felt when strangers aside of the road waved and wished me a safe journey;
- not the same level of gratitude that I’d felt when riders or staff helped me repair my bike, secure my tent, return forgotten items, . . .
- no epiphany moment as I’d had many times throughout the past months whenever I realized, over and over again, that there’s nothing particularly dangerous about cycling through Africa; to the contrary, that Africans (across all the diverse cultures and sub-cultures that we’d encountered) are some of the most friendly and welcoming people, often more honest and respectful of us (including our safety and property) than what we’re used to back home,
- . . .
And that’s OK, that reaching the finish line was just another moment on this tour, because the journey had been my reward.
I know I could never have done this alone. So thank you for being part of my journey—
- Thank you to those of you who’ve been in touch with me throughout my journey—commenting on my posts to let me know you’ve been following me, giving me feedback, encouraging me. Each of your messages has given me lots of energy. There’s too many to name each of you individually. Special thanks to Jeannette for her witty comments and detailed feedback, to my dad for his regular e-mails and well wishes, and to Rachael for all her WhatsApp messages and updates.
- Special thanks also to Charl for being part of my journey all the way—from believing in me from the very start and helping me prepare, via our frequent conversations throughout the tour, to welcoming me in person in Cape Town.
- Thank you to those of you who’ve been following my journey but preferred to remain silent. I know you’ve been there with me, and that’s been enough. Seeing your site visits from all over the world has given me energy to continue.
- Thank you to everyone who’s helped me with my preparations—from Lynn who’d made me aware of TDA and would never have guessed what a life-changing impact our lunch conversation would have; via Christian who encouraged me that I could do it; to Ralph who helped me organize my bike on short notice before Christmas.
- Thank you to my family and friends back home who had to bear with me constantly updating them about my latest TDA preparations over many months, and then with me being gone for almost half a year.
- Thank you to the entire TDA head office team for organizing this epic adventure and making it possible for us, for bearing with my myriads of messages and questions ahead of the tour, and for silently supporting us in the background.
- Most of all, thank you to all and each of our on-site crew members who’d taken such good care of us, our bellies, our bikes, our health, our safety and well-being—all the way from Cairo to Cape Town.
- Last but not least, thank you to everyone in our group (riders and staff alike) who’d made this such a special experience—for your camaraderie and friendship, your tolerance and acceptance, your humor and wit, your open hearts and minds, your hands-on support and emotional encouragements, and everything else that each of you had contributed to our diversity by simply being you.
Just as I’ve managed to cycle Every F***ing Inch from Cairo to Cape Town, with the help of others and the universe, I believe that each of us has the power to make our dreams come true, no matter how impossible they might seem.
Heart over mind—dare to live your dreams. And mind over matter—trust that you’ll find the power to make your dreams come true. Wishing you lots of wonderful dreams. No matter which dream you decide to pursue, enjoy your journey, because that will be your biggest reward.
Lots of love, hugs and kisses,
NB: I will still be uploading some videos. Make sure to check back in a few weeks, subscribe to the newsletter and/or connect with me on social media. So long 🙂
Stage 87: Malmesbury – Cape Town (South Africa), 78km
Road & traffic condition:
Easy riding on tar, mostly on quiet country roads.
Convoy for the last 20km from lunch at the Kreeftebaai beach along the beach to our final stop in Cape Town (Lagoon Beach Hotel).
Not as cold in the morning as yesterday; blessed with sunshine all day long. We got lucky weather-wise for this section. Apparently, it had rained in previous years. What’s a blessing to us, however, is a near disaster for South Africa—one of the worst droughts they’ve had in years.
Lunch by the beach.
Final celebration dinner at the Lagoon Beach Hotel, and absolutely yummy breakfast buffet the next morning at the hotel—a highlight for luxury-deprived TDA riders!
But the clear winner of my personal culinary highlight award: Spitbraai (slow grilled lamb—a South African specialty) at Liz’s house the following night.
The entire day has been a highlight—
- Last time packing up our tents,
- last time breakfast in our group,
- last riding day,
- seeing Table Mountain from afar,
- first time seeing the sea again ever since we’d left the Red Sea in Egypt,
- lunch by the beach,
- convoy into town,
- reaching the finish flag,
- some reunions with family & friends,
- champagne, medal and awards handover,
- hot shower in a luxurious bathroom,
- celebration dinner & drinks,
- falling asleep in a fantastic bed with proper clean bed sheets, . . .
- . . . another round of celebrations at Liz’s house, including a special local music event (big thanks to Liz and Tim for organizing this fantastic evening for all of us!), . . .
- . . . mixed feelings of nostalgia and relief, celebrations and goodbyes, welcome back to luxury and reality, . . . —what’s next???
Warm welcome with flowers and champagne from my dear friend Charl. I might have fallen into a big void without him—alone in Cape Town after saying goodbye to my new friends. Feeling blessed that he’s been there. Instead of nostalgia that it’s all over, I’m now looking forward to our vacation in South Africa.