The Finish Line
After a wet and wild second to last night of camping on the Western Cape, we woke up to another 146 kilometers of cold, wet rain the next morning. The morning was epic, with ocean vistas, foggy farmlands and the occasional ostrich crossing. Dana and I rode along happily, chatting about the last four months and contemplating the next hot chocolate stop. By the afternoon a colder and more persistent rain was falling, the road was undulating with hills and the crazy coastal view was replaced by a boring endless highway. Dana and I finally just laughed and screamed through our soaking wet rain jackets, “why is this tour miserable right up to the bitter end???!!!” For the record, we did feel much better following a second hot chocolate and scone stop.
When we arrived at our last campsite in Yzerfonteine, fate finally decided it had tortured us enough. The sun came out, the showers steamed with warmth and Norwegian Knut and I found a machine dryer, the likes of which I haven’t seen since Manhattan. There was an air of finality in the humid sea breeze at camp, as the Tour Directors explained protocol and procedures for our final day into Cape Town. We enjoyed wine, joke awards, a final fish dinner cooked by James and then continued the evening around a warm fireplace at a nearby bar.
When I woke up to the sound of the surf the next morning something felt off. I thought I must be emotional about the last day…but no…it was more that it was way too light in my tent for wake-up time. I checked my watch and screeched…the Captain had overslept for the first time on the final day of the tour!!!! Racing to take down my tent, shovel in some breakfast and stuff my locker for the last time I also managed to notice that it was sunny outside, if only 3 degrees. I jumped on my bike last out of camp, with a muffin in one gloved hand, a tube of sunscreen in the other and wearing a full on down jacket. I am truly going to miss the unique and hilarious moments of this Tour.
We rode 60 kilometers to a beach for lunch, staring directly at Cape Town’s Table Mountain the whole way. The lunch stop was spectacular- 56 intrepid individuals from around the globe, dressed in matching yellow finishers’ jerseys complementing the blue surf, on the precipice of completing 12,000 kilometers and a true lifetime achievement. As everyone raced around me taking pictures, giving congratulatory hugs and preparing for the final 30 kilometer convoy together, I realized that this adventure through Africa will never really end, and is now an integral and indisputable part of who I am.
Thirty kilometers of the usual group convoy shenanigans later (British Sunil wore a tuxedo; Dutch Franz got a flat; race director Kelsey tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to keep us on one side of the road), we followed the Atlantic Coast to Cape Town’s Waterfront and the Tour d’Afrique finish line banner. Under the blaze of a brilliant autumn sun, 56 finishers took to the stage in a procession by nationality. There was a lot of hoopla, including medals, speeches and recognition from Cape Town’s Deputy Mayor. I assume the actual Mayor was attending to the many miles of unfinished highways and infrastructure in Cape Town a mere 26 days before the World Cup.
After the exciting last pedal stroke and corresponding celebration at the Waterfront we had two hours to check into our hotel, collect all of our gear and somehow morph from dirty campers wearing four month old clothes into sophisticated urbanites for a final fancy dinner and banquet. Canadian Jenn and I ran into the nearest mall and dubbed ourselves “the desperate shoppers” as we tried on pairs of skinny jeans over our bike shorts. Even though I think I still looked somewhat like a dirty camper in the new skinny jeans, the final TDA dinner was fabulous. A slide show, funny speeches and more awards gave us a sense of satisfaction and closure after four months of expedition cycling.
Of course, the trip still wasn’t over at the end of the banquet. We continued celebrating that night until an early morning hour that we previously knew as wake up time. Most riders also planned to spend a few days to a few weeks climbing Table Mountain, sampling wine country, exploring the beaches, jumping out of planes, diving with sharks, and otherwise being normal tourists for the first time this year.
As we now start to travel in different directions, I am so grateful for the singular experience that brought us together. I plan to write just a few more blog entries once I digest both the enormity and simplicity of riding a bike across Africa. The changes I have experienced may best be reflected by the eyes of others, in my final days in Africa with my new friends and upon the pending sight of my friends and family back home. Until then though…exploration of Cape Town awaits!