Sunday, 16 May 2010

IT IS OVER!


This is it, this will be my last and final posting on this blog, so let me first thank each one of you who have read and followed my African ride. Thank you for the many messages of support and encouragement. I can now tell you that they were times when I seriously considered if it was worth going on riding, feeling sick, tired and at the worst pissing blood. But knowing that you guys were out there following me and cheering for me often gave me that extra courage one needs to ignore the pain signals your body sends you and to keep riding. keeping this blog updated was a challenge I enjoyed tremendously and I tried all along to do it as soon as I would reach camp, sometimes starting to write in my dirty cycling shorts in order to share it with you guys while it was "hot". They were many technical challenges too, especially in Sudan and Ethiopia where access to electricity was just as short as to clean water and Tanzania were I sometimes had to walk a few kilometers with my computer in order to find a weak cell phone signal on top of a hill in order to connect to Internet. Another challenge was to keep all these equipment running in the dust and the heat of the Sudanese desert, the humidity of the equator, the shocks of thousands of km of corrugated roads in the truck, the leaks in my tent in Botswana and so on... Eventually it was gonna be a smart virus that would give me the most trouble and destroy my computer....  Anyway as a token of consolation, my blog won the honorary price of "best TDA 2010 blog", a nice confirmation that our efforts to keep this blog going despite the many challenges have been appreciated.

I have done it, I have made it EFI to Cape Town, 12 000 km on my bicycle without ever getting on the truck or missing a single inch. Out of the 60 who started in Cairo,12 of us have achieved this. It is something, I am particularly really proud of, especially given the fact that I am the oldest EFI of the group and given all the physical troubles I went through, it makes this performance even more enjoyable afterwards. I am also the first French citizen ever to join the EFI club since the creation of the Tour D Afrique 8 years ago.

I am not going to bore you with long and  philosophical conclusions about this tour, it is impossible anyway to wrap it up in just a few words, but here are a few impressions I would like to share with you.

Tour d Afrique makes you look older but feel younger, it is also very stressful. It is like a 4 months long marathon. You need a holiday after this and a lazy one. Jumping back into a "normal" life is my next challenge. I started immediately yesterday afternoon by throwing away the one and only set of clothes I have been wearing since January and dressed myself from toes to top at one of the waterfront shops.  I also went for a hair cut and shaved. The images of all the places we went through are now starting to roll in my mind and for the first time this morning I started talking about this race using past verbs.

Africa is an amazing continent, it is poor, disorganised, corrupted, but yet so friendly, so full of delicious surprises and again as I have stressed so often in this blog, people have very little but they still share it. Africa loves singing, Africa loves dancing, Africa lives on the hope of better days and it often gives you the impression that it accepts its faith a bit too easily, "God willing" as you hear so often. Riding across Africa is not easy, there are still plenty of barriers against cyclists: a bicycle is still far too often seen as the method of transport for the poor and African drivers have very little respect for cyclists, making it difficult for us. I had to jump off the road at numerous occasions to save my life. The real danger in Africa is not the last few free roaming lions or poisonous snakes as many still believe, but simply bad drivers.

I was forced to witness the rapid expansion of China in the continent, building roads and infrastructures in most places we passed. I was also surprised by the strong influence of South Africa, especially south of the Equator. South African companies are opening retail outlets all over. I am more optimistic about that one than about the Chinese presence...

Africa did not disappoint me, it scared me, it made me laugh, it gave me joy, it made me dream, it also taught me new things about life and even about myself.

To conclude, here are a few logistical numbers,
Number of kilometers ridden on my bike 12 035 (including extra kilometers when getting lost)

Number of punctures: 10 (from which 6 took place the same day in Tanzania)

Total budget for this trip: about 15 000 euro

Total of bribes paid: 1 (5 dollars to a chef in Malawi to skip the one hour queue at a restaurant and get my T-bone within 5 minutes, it is amazing what an hungry stomach can make you do...)

Weight lost: 10 kg (out of 72) at the worst in Ethiopia. I have now regained most of it

Number of Cokes (and Pepsi) drunk. estimated 250 to 300

Most water drunk during one ride: 12 liters (worst day in Sudan)

Fall of my bicycle: only once in Dinder park Sudan, not bad for such a long trip.

Stolen things: 0 yes, nothing was stolen from me during this trip!

Toughest country: Ethiopia
Most exotic country: Ethiopia
Best T-bone: Namibia (Felix Unite camp)
Most exotic food: Sudan and Ethiopia
Highest temperature during a ride: 45 degrees Celsius (Sudan)
Lowest temperature during a ride: 7 degrees Celsius (South Africa, Springbok)
Cheapest meal: Ethiopia (2 dollars including drinks)
Best fruit juices: Ethiopia
Friendliest people: Malawi

Biggest danger: Traffic riding into Nairobi

The question most asked to us: "Where are you go?" (Every Ethiopian kid)

Longest day: 207 km in Botswana, but longest saddle time was 10 hours in Ethiopia

Best money ever invested: 50 cents for a bucket of fresh water in Zambia to wash myself

Most beautiful part of the trip: Tanzania, between Arusha and Iringa, 700 km of pure beauty!


Worst day of the tour: a 130 km long stage in Ethiopia that took us to an altitude of 3100 meters and where I was sick as a dog with fever, stomach bug and bladder infection.

Highlights of the tour. An Ethiopian nurse giving me her lunch in Addis and seeing Table mountain appearing in the horizon had both water filling my eyes.


12 000 km on my bicycle and 120 days since I took a similar shot in front of the pyramids...

Finally, we are gonna get our lives back..

The locker 9 club tired but happy...

Last group photo with the beautiful Table mountain in the background

The male race winners from left to right, Stuart (1st) Tim (3rd) and Jethro (2nd)

The female race winners from left to right Juliana (2nd), Gisi (1st) and Jen (3rd)

Me passing the finish banner. I bought it for 2100 USD at the found raising auction dinner that evening, adding 21 bicycles to the 120 already donated. I reached a whooping total of 141 bikes, an all time record for the TDA charity...


The official arrival ceremony at the Waterfront included speeches, medals and flag carriers for each country represented. It felt like the Olympics...      


                               Me receiving my EFI medal from the deputy mayor of Cape Town


                         Hardy and myself in the VIP tent celebrating our hard earned EFI medals


      The members of the famous locker 9 brotherhood as they look in normal life at the gala dinner party.
      From left to right, Éric, me, David, Gabriele, Jos and Peter

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

bonjour Gerald,
Well done, congratulations, félications, châpeau!!
You really are one hell of a guy, going through all this!
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the blogs,I was always waiting for them. It made me see Africa through your eyes - a totally different perspective!
Congratulations on keeping your EFI status, and congratulations also on raising so much money and donating all those bikes!!
Sorry, this is not in French, but I can better express my admiration for you in English!
Every time I look at Yaana's Teapot I shall say "salut" to you!
Grosses bises!
Ute Chell
St. Jory de Chalais

tonton GERARD said...

COMMENT RESTER INSENSIBLE A CE BRILLANT SUCCES et à CETTE AVENTURE
PHYSIQUE ET HUMAINE
BRAVO !
QUAND JE T'AI RETROUVE A MI PARCOURS A NAIROBI J'AI COMPRIS QUE TU ARRIVERAIS AU CAP EN TANT QUE EFI (et pourtant tu nous avais fait des frayeurs avec ta sacrée prostate !!!)
merci à IAANA pour nous avoir permis de te suivre au jour le jour.
Quelle sera la suite??????
A VOUS !
A BIENTOT
grosses bises
GERARD dit : "le tonton"

Javalí Rubio said...

Congratulations Gerald, je savais que tu allais finir cette Odissée.
Duarte

Anonymous said...

Happy to see you alive in Cape town! Ei paskempi retki!
-Kari

Berni said...

Congratulations!!!

You wanted it, you did it.
I only can say "Bravo".
Take care Berni

http://www.kwale.org said...

It was a pleasure for us to follow you the past 4 months. And it is a pity that it's over now.
We already started to miss the daily checking for TDA-news on your website.
Thanks again Jaana and Gerald for this amazing blog. Good look from Munich, Rainer & Claudia

MonkeyOfAfrica said...

WELL DONE! And congratulations on your EFI medal. Thanx for your diligent blog posting, that really inspired me. What an adventure! Regards Marcel.

yaluna said...

Congratulations again, Gerald! That was spectacular. Indeed, once in a lifetime experience. But I wish you don't stop there and find many more exciting goals and projects for the future. Well, maybe a bit less extreme than TDA;)
It was truly a pleasure following you all this time and thanks for all the hassle keeping as up to date. It was fun.

good luck!