Erin's Tour d'Afrique Bike of a Blog!
An 8,000 mile personal and philanthropic adventure across Africa…

Independent Woman

Erin and curious sudanese women at desert camp, after 150k

In addition to testing the limits of my physical stamina, mental fortitude and patience with others, this trip has redefined my concept of what it means to be an independent woman. Note the irony as I write this from Sudan, where most women are completely covered from head to toe in the traditional Muslim burqa.

My days typically start around 5 or 6am to the “zip zip” alarm clock of other TDA riders getting out of their tents. I am not a morning person, but when I hear that first “zip” I jump out of my sleeping bag, understanding that I am already behind in the rat race I have christened…”the TDA morning hustle.” We all race before we even get on the bikes- to deconstruct our campsites, slather our bodies in sunscreen and tush padding, find the one small bush to take care of business behind, make sure our bike is still relatively operational, shove 100 pounds of crap into our way too small lockers (coach, i’m doing my weight-lifting) and then get in line for the daily morning porridge, which does run out if you don’t hustle. By the time I get on my bike at 7 or 8am, I’m exhausted! No wonder these rides have been so hard!

I have always believed in the value of hard work, and a funny thing has happened to me, thanks to our 14 or so morning hustles so far. I actually feel a true definition of independence and self sufficiency. When I worked at a financial firm in New York (which seems like heaven after the back-breaking labor of riding my bike and hand-washing my entire wardrobe today), I considered myself independent. But in reality, someone else was cleaning my apartment, washing my clothes, cooking my food ,training my body and taking care of every other little task while I was supposedly hard at work. I could buy convenience in New York City, and only now do I see the error in my former ways. Now that I’m essentially a brown collar laborer (our collars are brown with dirt not blue), I’m constantly surprised and fulfilled by the small little things I am capable of improvising and dealing with. A personal favorite today, was one of the best “showers” of my life…standing in my swim bikini under a garden hose at a former Sudanese zoo.

Of course, part of this newfound independence has been knowing when to accept free help, something that my former Manhattanista-self avoided at all costs. Accepting and offering help at all times is an integral aspect of the morning hustle, all-day ride and evening turn-down on the Tour d’Afrique. What goes around comes around is our most precious motto. Now, I will gladly accept a cold drink or a spare hand, and offer a bike part or round of ibuprofen to my fellow riders. However…that 100 pounds of crap and gear that I hoist and jam into my small locker every morning…the sweat of that labor is all mine 🙂

Today is a rest day in Dongola, Sudan, after which we will bike the remaining 500k or so to Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. I am looking forward to new challenges to my newfound independence along the way.

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