A common workday daydream is to embark on a vacation that never ends. One adventure outfitter called Tour d’Afrique Ltd comes close: a cycle tour of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town.
d’Afrique is a four-month odyssey across the back roads of Africa. Riders notch up 11,953km,
hundreds of blisters and a lifetime of memories over a four-month period.
In 2003, the
first tour set a Guinness World Record for the fastest human-powered crossing
of Africa, but this is by no means a race purely for professionals. Everyone
from students to retirees, double amputees to diabetics have tackled the
starting point at the Pyramids
of Giza, riders average 123km per day making their way south through Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and finally South Africa.
front group of riders are intent on winning the race or, at very least, a stage
or two, the middle pack, known as AFI riders, are determined to cover every
expletive inch, hence their name. Bringing up the rear is the Back Pack, keen
to soak in the landscape and culture at every opportunity.
A very short
list of the wonders this pedal-powered odyssey takes in include Egypt’s Karnak
Temple, Tanzania’s Ngorogoro Crater, The Great Rift Valley known as the
cradle of mankind, Victoria
Falls, the largest waterfall on earth, Fish
River Canyon, the second largest canyon on earth, the Okavango Delta, one
of the richest wildlife regions in Africa, and its botanical opposite, the vast
Dune Sea of the Namib Desert where virtually no life exists. Finally, Capetown’s
crowning glory, Table
is the main danger, but as Dave Arman who rode the Tour d‘Afrique in 2010
admits, there were some rather perplexing challenges to overcome. “In Ethiopia
every child in every single village expects you to smile and wave at them.
Whether you wave or not, they’ll pelt you with rocks,” he said. Equally, there
are some unexpected rewards en route. ”Life doesn’t get much better than
getting off the bike and soaking yourself under a waterfall on a blisteringly
riders, the Tour d’Afrique is a once in a lifetime experience. “I wouldn’t do
it again in a million years,” said Arman. “But I’d certainly recommend it to
others without a moment’s hesitation.” Yet there are a handful of hard core
cyclists like fellow racer Jethro De
Decker who like to take it that one step further. After finishing the race in
2010 he set of to complete the Freedom Challenge, an arduous mountain bike race
traversing South Africa’s rugged terrain from west to east. For some, this almost endless journey is just too
The article 'An (almost) endless journey' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.