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Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books


Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books.

On January 11, 2013, exactly 1 year ago today, the 2013 Tour d’Afrique began in Cairo.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Laura surprised me by giving me a book for Christmas that compiles all of my blogs from the ride plus a collection of photos she gathered from other riders.

It looks great and brings back many good memories.

You can have a look at it and order it you wish by going to:http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/00b0ee2f7acef00d2b7b2e686e5bd9690b8ec534

Yesterday the 2014 Tour d’Afrique riders left from Khartoum. I hope they enjoy their ride as much as the 2013 crew did.

ORS is Magic

Day 45, stage 35, 96km

Start, Arba Minch, Swayne’s Hotel

Finish, riverbed camp


The day started with a couple of km climb and then a great downhill for several kilometres. We then hit the off road section again d everything ground to a near halt – at least for me. Some people seem to be able to ride the off road sections at good speed. They either have bikes made to specialize on off road or they have asses made of steel. I feel everything and the only way I can build up any speed is by getting out of the saddle and riding standing up. But I can’t do this for too long. And when I sit down again the speed goes down as well.

About fifteen kilometres into the off road section I came across a couple of Land Cruisers stopped at the side of the road and half a dozen white tourists standing in the middle of the roadway. I rung the bell on my bike but they didn’t seem to hear me and didn’t move. They were handing out something to a bunch of kids who had gathered round. Two minutes later they were back in the air-conditioned Land Cruiser with the cool box in the back and speeding off to their next authentic encounter 200km way. I was not best pleased. Closer to the road and the people we have to travel through, we are bombarded with the consequences of this type of tourism, the sense of expectations that all tourists are there simply to give things away, and the aggressive behavior that results when they don’t. A few weeks ago Claire had witn3ssed something even more egregious: a vehicle full of white tourists who didn’t even bother to stop and get out of their vehicle but just chucked candies out the windows and then watched as the poor village kids scrambled and fought for their bit of the bounty.

The final section of the day was a hair raising slide down 10km of steep dirt track to our camp in a dried riverbed at the bottom. It had been along and very tough day. I had taken in about 10mlitres f fluid today and still felt thirsty. People were knackered. But the toughest day was yet to come. Once again I took an ORS.

Sudan Visa II

I was at the new Sudan Embassy by 9:15 this morning. There was red carpet all over the street in front of the building and a huge black Mercedes with tinted windows parked on top of the carpet. But there were few people around. However, the door was open so I wandered in. The visa section appeared to be closed. The room was filled with flowers, flags, banners, signs and posters. And there as a big ceremonial table and chairs in front of the visa counter. As it turns out, the Foregin Minister of the Sudan is in Town and there is a formal ceremony to open the new Embassy building this morning. Shortly after I entered the building an important looking guy – big and wearing a well cut blue suit – appeared through a door from an inner courtyard. I approached him and said I had come to pick up my visa and passport. He looked at me a growled a bit. But I think he made a quick calculation and decided that the best way to get rid of me before the Minister arrived in full splendour was to get me my passport. So he waved someone over and sent him to retrieve it. Two minutes later I had my passport with visa and was gone. It took less than 24 hours from the time I submitted my stuff to the receipt of the visa. And unless anybody managed to get same day service yseterday I may well have been the first person to get a visa from the new Embassy. Gotta be a good omen.

Cairo day 1

DCIM100GOPROAt 4:00am the storm-trooper-trolley-dollies turned all on the lights, marched down the aisle smashing down the tray tables and snapping ‘breakfast time’ in several languages. I have been woken up in more pleasant ways. Out the window I could just make out the Nile in the dark. We were getting close to Cairo. At 5:20 we landed and half an hour later we were waiting for our luggage. The 737 from Dar to Cairo was full of people going on the Haj or to other places further east. (I noticed a couple of guys with Halliburton backpacks on their way to Bagdad. According to the writing on the backpacks, Halliburton was winner of the 2011 quality service provider award. I guess waterboarding is a recognised service these days. At least they were probably not bothered by the 4am wakeup. Used to it – or inflicting it.) Since most people on the plane were connecting to other flights there were only five or six of us waiting to collect bags. It still took an hour. But everything arrived intact.

After we had checked into the hotel I went and found a taxi to start the process of getting my Ethiopian and Sudanese visas. It took about an hour and half to find the Ethiopian Embassy. They had moved to a new building. And it took a while to find somebody who knew where the new place was. But we finally find it and the process was very easy and civilized. I filled in a form, attached a photo the TdA letter and $30 and handed it to a guy sitting behind a big desk. He asked a few questions and told me to come back at 2pm. I did and now have the visa. The Sudanese visa looks like it will be a bit more of a scramble. I went to the Sudanese embassy in Garden City, a bizarre place that look s like the side entrance to city prison. There is a small, glassless window about 18 inches square with three 1-½ inch diameter stainless steel bars crossing it. You had to attract the attention of and then talk to somebody through this. Turns out the Garden City Embassy is closing and no longer in business. I eventually found out that the new embassy will open for business on January 2 in al Dokki. OK. We wait.

By now it was mid afternoon. After a short nap we went to the north end of Zamalek to a café called Maison Thomas, est. 1922 for dinner. Good pizza, no beer. A real bit of French Riviera circa 1935. Lovely architecture, ambiance and food.  Then home for a good long sleep.

It’s a great season to think of others.

So please think of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania this Christmas.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Plane to Cairo

Just after midnight tonight we get on a plane to Cairo. Today is all about packing and final preparations. Started the day at 5:40 with a 60km ride. Then took the bike apart and packed it in its box. Now trying to get everything else into a duffle bag of the right size and weight. January 11 seems very close and very real now.

It’s a great season to think of others.

So please think of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania this Christmas.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Last minute arrival

alans cycle shirt-CADThe cycling jerseys have finally arrived. What a saga. The jerseys arrived in Dar early in the morning of Wednesday December 12. It has taken until now to get them released from customs. They were released at 16:22. At 17:00 the office closes for Christmas. Brinksmanship. When the jerseys arrived I was told that I had to pay about 660,000 shillings in duty and tax (for a few cycling jerseys mind) or about $450. An outrageous amount I thought. We have diplomatic status so anything we receive should be tax and duty free anyway (this is called PR06 status – we have pre-approved PR06 papers on file). We have never had any problem bringing stuff in in the past. I mentioned this and they kindly said they would re-assign customs status. They did. They now asked for 1.1 million shillings or over $700 (for a few jerseys). Go figure. It is Christmas after all. Customs was upping the ante. They did not want to see the PR06 on file. They would only accept a new PRO6 document for this package specifically. A PR06 has to be signed by the Foreign Minister. To make a long story short, the new PR06 was delivered at 16:05. The package was released at 16:22.

38 minutes to spare – or I would have been riding topless.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Stuck in customs

alans cycle shirt PATTERNMy new jerseys are all made and were sent DHL from Cape Town a week ago Monday. They arrived in Dar Es Salaam at 7:56am last Wednesday. I have been trying to get them through customs ever since. Gotta love bureaucracy!

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Out on the new bike

My new bike arrived last Sunday. Thanks to Georgina for bringing it on the plane with her from London. Thanks to Damian at C&N Cycles for making sure it was packed up and delivered to Georgina at Heathrow Terminal 5 on time. Thanks to British Airways for not losing it and for getting it here undamaged. So many things could have gone wrong. Everything worked. A good sign. A charmed bike.

I have been out on it every day since it arrived. If you look closely at the poster in my last post – Fundraising Update – you will see the new bike. On Monday I took it with me to have the photos taken for the poster. On Tuesday we had the poster.

The assembly was fairly straightforward – except for adjusting the Avid BB7 disk brakes. I had not mounted and adjusted this type of disk brake before. The instructions that came in the package were crap. Thank heavens for YouTube. I found a great instructional video and had it sorted in no time.

Looking forward to some much longer rides on the weekend.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Fundraising update

A whole team of people has been working very hard in the background to get our sickle cell foundation fundraising campaign off the ground. Anton, Annelie and Derek at DJPA Partnership, a local communications firm; Mejah and his crew at UWABA, a cycling advocacy group here in Tanzania; and Sarah and Julie at the Sickle Cell Foundation. We have two upcoming events: a reception for corporates on October 4th (the Sea Cliff hotel has kindly offered to host); and a ‘Cycle Caravan’ around Dar on October 21st – see the poster (it says Oct 14 by mistake – this will be changed). We are looking forward to both events and hoping to raise lots of dosh for the Sickle Cell Foundation.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

List of lists

I can feel time passing quickly. Even though the start of the ride is still four months away it is beginning to feel very imminent. It has reached the point where I am making lists of lists. I have a list of spares; a list of camping stuff; a list of clothes; a list of cycling gear; a list of medications; a list of electronic stuff.

One big piece of luck has come my way though. Two Australians who did the full TdA in 2010 are passing through Dar Es Salaam at the moment. I was put in touch through a friend. They are all coming over for dinner tonight – and we will go through the lists. Kind of like asking friends to come see the slides from your trip with the kids to Disney World. But hey. They get a free dinner.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania