I’m starting a new series on ‘Your Wildest Adventure’ where fellow travel writers gather here to share insightful tales on their craziest jaunt around the world. To kick off the series, Dave & Deb at The Planet D brings us on their once-in-a-lifetime journey of cycling a continent.
Cycling A Continent
It all started with a glass of wine on a rainy New Years Eve. We had come home early from visiting my parents in Florida and felt that it was time for another adventure.
We needed to take off and be free again. But what could we do to make a drastic and dramatic impact? We didn’t want to just simply go backpacking again. We wanted to do something extraordinary.
As we discussed how unfulfilled we were with our lives an interview caught our attention on the CBC. They were talking with Ultra Marathon runner Ray Zahab. He was the original inspiration for the wildest adventure of our life. Ray Zahab had competed in and won many ultra marathons such as the Marathon des Sables and the Yukon Ultra as well as starring in the 2007 documentary “Running the Sahara” which was produced by Matt Damon.
By the time we went to bed our mind was made up and we decided that by the next New Years Eve we were going to be on the adventure of a lifetime.
It was only two weeks after that night that we spotted an article in the paper about a man that was taking part in that years Tour d’Afrique. It is an insane bicycle race that starts in Cairo, Egypt and ends in Cape Town South Africa.
We joined a spinning gym and started our training for the world’s longest and most grueling cycling race. We informed our friends, families and our employers that we were leaving and before we knew it, the time had come.
Racing Off in Cairo
One year later we were on a plane to Egypt. We had been cycling an average of 400km per week and we had been weight training and endurance training all year. But nothing could prepare us for the physical challenges that lay ahead. We would be traveling through some of the toughest terrains on the planet cycling on average 120 km per day for 120 days.
It was a cold morning in January when we left in a pack from the Great Pyramids of Giza. 60 people from 23 countries had come together to ride through a continent. We caused quite a stir that day. Half of Cairo’s police force was out to escort us through the city. They stopped traffic and people cheered as we passed. We felt like major celebrities in our convoy as we worked our way through the maze of this enormous urban centre. I imagined that this is what it must feel like to compete in the Tour de France.
It was surreal at times to say the least. In Egypt and the Sudan, we had armed guards following us through our route. Random trucks would pull up in front of us with their machine guns aimed in our direction. They would smile and wave and we would hold our breath and pray that their hand wouldn’t slip or that their truck wouldn’t hit a bump.
New Challenges Each Day
Each day brought on a new challenge and adventure. In Egypt we had to dodge speeding busses and hectic traffic. In the Sudan we dealt with deep desert sand and unbearable heat. Tanzania and Malawi brought on epic climbs and awesome descents. We survived being chased by wild packs of dogs and even baboons. We were lost in the desert and shared or roads with herds of cattle and donkeys. But nothing compared to having children throw rocks at our heads with perfect aim during our entire 23 days in Ethiopia. It was a wild adventure to say the least.
As time went on, things became easier however. The roads got better the farther south we cycled and the children in the southern countries didn’t have the same affection to rock throwing as they did in Ethiopia.
We camped our way down the continent meeting new people and seeing awe-inspiring sights like Victoria Falls, Mount Kilimanjaro and Fish River Canyon. We witnessed the beauty of the wild Africa. We slept under the stars surrounded by nothing but nature and we lived a life of simplicity for four months. As grueling and difficult as it was, there was something beautiful about waking up each day and knowing exactly what you had to do. There was only one goal and that was to make it to camp as fast as you could.
Cycling Africa pushed us to our physical and mental limits and after conquering 12,000 km on the seat of a bicycle we have learned that anything is possible.
Ending the Race in Cape Town
Riding into Cape Town on our final day in May brought a sense of pride and personal achievement. A huge crowd greeted us at the V&A Waterfront and we were even rewarded for our efforts. I had won the women’s race and Dave was awarded the prestigious EFI (every fabulous inch) award. While others went on side trips or took a day off, sat on the bus or fell ill, Dave pushed through sickness and fatigue to ride every single kilometre of the tour.
Our time in Africa had come to an end, but a spark had been lit inside of us. This was only the beginning, a whole new world of possibilities had opened up and we couldn’t wait to plan the next adventure.
Dave and Deb are Canada’s Adventure Couple. They have traveled to over 30 countries on 5 continents. From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to trekking to the Pinnacles of Borneo, they are always searching for new and exciting ways to explore the world.
Follow them at ThePlanetD for their next adventure through Central Asia where they will be trekking the Himalaya’s, horseback riding through Mongolia and learning Yoga in India. You can also track their adventures on twitter @theplanetd
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