Almost one month has now passed since the beginning of this yea’s Tour d’Afrique and the magnitude of the challenge has well and truly dawned on all participants.
During the past week cyclists had the pleasure of being introduced to their first taste of off-road riding and this addition to the equation made the going considerably tougher than it has been thus far.
After leaving Khartoum riders had a few more days of smooth riding before they hit Sudanese gravel and moved into the real rural parts of the country.
Despite appearing like aliens to the local villages imagine a group of spandex-wearing, white people trooping into your village once a year riders were welcomed with open arms and was on the receiving end of several welcoming parties as they rode into the small villages.
This stretch is one of the toughest and most challenging of the entire tour with no rest days for eight days, deep sand and corrugated roads to navigate, temperatures averaging in the high forties and no showers for more than a week. However, it is these tough times that riders will remember when they look back on their experience and being able to say you conquered this section is an achievement in its own right.
Saying goodbye to Sudan was a bittersweet farewell as most people had grown quite fond of the people but the hills of Ethiopia and the promise of cooler temperatures at higher altitude was enough to make the crossing of the border something to look forward to.
Even though this was only their second border crossing, the change from one country to the next was once again noticeable in terms of culture and landscape. Climbing started as soon as the tour entered Ethiopia with the toughest day including a 2500m ascent to end in Gondar at the highest altitude riders will experience on the entire tour.
After three days in Ethiopia it is already clear that this is a country like no other. There is no such thing as silence in Ethiopia and no such thing as being on your own. Local people and livestock are everywhere and wherever you go you are followed by a mob of children wanting to know where you are going, where you are coming from and why.
The biggest problem is that no one has an answer for the last question but hopefully by the time they arrive in Cape Town they’ll have a better idea than now.
Said Alan Emerton:
Ethiopia has been magnificent so far. I now remember why I signed up for Tour d’Afrique again, earlier there were stages where I wondered why IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m doing this to myself, but now it’s becoming worth it. It’s starting to feel like I’m in Africa now.Â
Said Alaric Britz:
I love Ethiopia thus far, it looks a lot like home in Namibia and the mountains and the scenery is fantastic. The biking conditions are also more enjoyable at the moment because I enjoy cycling on rolling hills instead of the continuous flats of Egypt and Sudan. Hopefully this will continue in the foreseeable future.Â