This is a guest race profile by Natalie Sisson who’s riding the Tour d’ Afrique herself this year.
If cycling almost 12,000 km across Africa, from Cairo to Capetown sounds like fun to you, then Tour d’Afrique may be the bike expedition you’ve been waiting for. This bike race across Africa runs every year starting in January and finishing in May.
“The Tour d’Afrique is the ultimate test of endurance and tenacity amidst some of the most beautiful environments and cultures in the world. Each day yields new and unexpected challenges, discoveries and friendships. Riding a bicycle is the perfect pace for exploring and encountering Africa on the outside and one’s own personal limits on the inside.” – Erin Sprague TDA 2010
Entering it’s 10th anniversary, this is not for the faint hearted. Every day you will clock between 120-200km (75-125 miles), for 5-6 days straight over four months! You can either race it (around 25% of riders do this), or just make it through by riding to finish it. This expedition aims to test your endurance and spirit, physically, mentally and emotionally.
The tour is broken down into 8 sections.
|Pharaoh’s Delight||Cairo – Khartoum||1,956 km|
|The Gorge||Khartoum – Addis Ababa||1,624 km|
|Meltdown Madness||Addis Ababa – Nairobi||1,687 km|
|Masai Steppe||Nairobi – Mbeya||1,214 km|
|Malawi Gin||Mbeya – Lilongwe||757 km|
|Zambezi Zone||Lilongwe – Victoria Falls||1,213 km|
|Elephant Highway||Victoria Falls – Windhoek||1,541 km|
|Diamond Coast||Windhoek – Cape Town||1,726 km|
You can choose to do the full tour or part of it, or just ride a section. I’m riding from Nairobi to Capetown in two months which is still just over 4,000 miles.
The Tour d’ Afrique Course
The terrain is hugely varied and each year it differs with some roads having been paved while others have deterioriated. That’s why it’s recommended you take a mountain bike with a spare set of road tyres and front forks you can lock out.
From paved road through to corrugated, rutted, loose sand and hard packed gravel, you will be hitting some serious hills as well as muddy potholed roads when it rains too. The best thing to do is always expect the unexpected and get ready for some tough riding.
Aside from a life changing experience, the Tour d’ Afrique organizing crew make sure you’re provided with camping sites, nutrition, tour organization and support – not to mention an unforgettable journey. They have two large trucks that take your gear to the next campsite each day so that you can focus less on gear and more on the grueling task of cycling.
There is no luxury here however, the constant riding means you will have a sore ass and there will be days when you won’t be able to move out of your sleeping bag, let alone be able to climb on your bike to tackle some unrelenting terrain all over again.
On the rest days you get to take a look around the “major” town you’re in, sample the local cuisine, jump online to share your tales with friends and loved ones back home and even treat yourself to a night at a lodge with a hot shower and bed….bliss.
All this will set you back over 5,000 euros or around US$8,000. This does not include your flight, insurance, visas, immunizations and extra side trips like organized safaris you can choose to partake in. Nor does it include lodges or food on rest days. If you want to do the full race, you’re looking at a nice little figure of 9,400 euros or around US$12,500. So if you take the plunge, you better be committed to finishing!
Personally, I’m budgeting around US$15,000 to cover all these costs, plus the bike, bike parts, camping and riding gear and anything else I think might come in handy in Africa!
If you’re not a morning person, the idea of waking up between 5:30 and 6:30 AM won’t appeal. you’ll have to get used to changing timezones, climate and hours of daylight too. Each day when you get up you pack up your camping gear and personal belongings, and eat breakfast that’s been prepared for you and then jump on your bike.
Along the way you’ll be given more water, lunch and some snacks to last you through to when you reach camp again. You’ll be riding with anywhere from 25-50 other nutters who decided that riding the length of Africa was a good idea.
Every evening, you’ll be given a rider briefing before dinner that will take you through the following day’s route, including navigation, hazards, interesting sites and accommodations. For every new country you visit you’ll also learn about the scenery, food, geography and history, and what to expect in terms of cycling through this country.
After the course of 94 cycling days (each averaging 123km each), 24 rest days and 2 days of ferry boat travel (over 120 total days of travel), you’ll have traversed the entirety of Africa, from North to South. Over the course of the race, you’ll pass through 10 countries, along the Nile, past ancient temples, through the equator, past Mount Kilaminjaro, past the beautiful Victoria Falls, and finally arrive in Capetown – that is, if you can make it all the way there.
Are you up for the challenge? You can find more information on the Tour d’ Afrique on their official website.
You can follow me on the ride of my life when my expedition starting March 12th