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THE TOUR D'AFRIQUE BICYCLE EXPEDITION 2005 – INTO CAPE TOWN!

On Sunday 15 May cyclists set their bicycles down for the last time in sheer exhaustion mixed with relief and laugher after being on the road for four months and completing 12 000 kilometers by bicycle across the African continent.

The third annual Tour d'Afrique bicycle expedition commenced on the 16th of January under the watchful eye of the Sphinx in Cairo, Egypt and finished in the beautiful cosmopolitan city of Cape Town at the Mouille Point Light House.

Despite a few broken collar and hip-bones, stitches, scratches, bruises, dehydration and exhaustion these intrepid adventurers managed to cycle through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa without too much damage to their bicycles and their cycle worn bodies. Hereby proving that Africa should no longer be referred to as the feared 'dark continent'.

Cyclists from diverse countries such as the UK, South Africa, the USA, Germany, France, Holland, Denmark, and Canada bravely tackled the route from Cairo to Cape Town that took them across some of the harshest but also some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Africa

However, it is our very own Leana Niemand from Cape Town that has earned her medal by being the first ever women on tour to receive EFI status. This means that with her whispery thin body and sheer determination she managed to cycle every single inch of the road from Cairo to Cape Town without missing a single day, hour or stretch of the road despite injury, exhaustion and dehydration. Maarten van Dalsen also from South Africa took second place in the male racers' category.

The Tours official results are as follows: Mens Race 1. Kim Bremer - Denmark, 2. Maarten van Dalsen - South Africa, Stefan Tobler - Switzerland. Womens Race: 1. Francziska Morger - Switzerland, Leana Niemand - South Africa, Hannie Bazuin - Holland.

Cycling through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, intrepid adventurers prove that it is possible to cross the African content by bicycle in four months via a safe a mode of transportation that will lead the way to the future of the bicycle in eco-friendly tourism.

The bicycle offers an alternative, healthy mode of transportation that brings man closer to the workings of his natural body and in return promotes a sustainable environment. A collaboration between the Tour d'Afrique, the Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN), and the ITDP has ensured that bicycles will be distributed to health care workers all along the route of the tour. But, Engen is also displaying a real interest in uplifting African communities and has largely sponsored the tour's communication team, Theresa Brown and Astrid Stark. Astrid and Theresa are staging and documenting the hand over of bicycles to HIV/Aids health care workers in various East African countries.

Astrid completed her schooling career at KHS in King Williams Town after which she promptly followed her gypsy instincts and traveled through Europe. Only to return years later with a longing too explore Africa – cradle of mankind and continent of her birth.

The tour is not without its trials and tribulations. With recorded temperatures soaring to 40degrees at times, cyclists consume around 16 liters of water a day. They burn calories faster than can be consumed during lunch and dinner breaks. A cyclist from the UK, David Houghton, dryly remarked that: "food never tasted so good, we are eating anything that is not nailed down"

Thus far, cycling through the nearly non-existent roads of the Sudan has proved to be the toughest. At one point in time cyclists were given only a few liters of water a day for drinking and bathing. The body's need for fluid took control as one cyclist decided to drink his rations and bathe in the leftover dishwater. The next morning he had spaghetti bolognaise sliding down his cycling shorts, but his thirst was quenched – for now.

Aris Block, a Dutch cyclist had a lethal encounter with another cyclist in Egypt that left his collarbone broken. He had to be airlifted to Holland. Three weeks later the brave Dutchman rejoined the group in Sudan to only suffer another break in Ethiopia. He is not easily deterred and rejoined the group from Kenya.

For more stories or information check out www.tourdafrique.com.

Pictures of printing quality may be downloaded from www.tourdafrique.com/05media.htm.

Please contact the tour's communication team Astrid Stark and Theresa Brown at astridstark@gmail.com or teebrown@gmail.com.

Their South African number is +27 (0) 84 400 42 11. See also www.benbikes.org for more information on the NGO that they work closely with in the distribution of the bicycles to health care workers.

Here is an extraction of the Tour d'Afrique 2005 diary that may be found on the website.

Cheers

Astrid

Botswana - Friday 22 April

Thebe River Safari Lodge to Bush camp

As if 160 km's is not far enough, a few cyclists took a wrong turn and cycled unwittingly into the Chobe National Park, despite being warned by the guards that cycling through the park filled with wild beasts is not the smartest move. They considered it just another little tour challenge and pedaled bravely forth in a tight group. Safety in numbers is a herd mentality that does not really work in Africa. The weakest always go down. After consulting a map they realized their mistake and hitched a lift with a truck back to the starting point where they enjoyed a second breakfast before some hopped on the lunch truck. Our new sectional rider from the UK Scott, set a new endurance record by cycling 230 km's. Even though this is only his second day on the race he refused to give up and insisted on completing the full journey including the little Chobe detour, by bike - all ten hours of it. His only comment at dinner: "I am rather hungry tonight'

The road was mostly flat and terribly straight. Jean from Canada stopped in her tracks to allow two elephants to cross the road just ahead of her. Eagles swooped in the skies and a few people reported spotting the graceful Sable (antelope) in their path. There was also a road kill of spotted hyena that was so big someone thought it was a leopard and immediately took a few pictures. Not even the dead can escape our cameras.

Tonight our tents are scattered between thorn trees and gargantuan heaps of elephant dung. An almost full moon rests snugly in her soft blanket of black velvet – a solitary audience to the orchestra of crickets and frogs serenading her from below.

Saturday 23 April.

Bush camp to Nata Lodge

It is not every day that you fall with your face in the sand within five meters from an elephant bull flapping his big ears at you.

We were cycling the first 75 km's of the day when we spotted an elephant in the road. The group decided to stop to enjoy the moment and in my excitement I forgot to unclip my shoes from the pedals and went down in a very ungraceful sideways movement. Fortunately the elephant was the main attraction and after Aris unclipped my foot my embarrassment went largely unnoticed.

Hannie and Marius chose to crash into the bush next to the road rather than colliding with a truck coming straight at them. They are shaken but unscathed.

After lunch the straight, flat road became a nasty ordeal due to a strong headwind. Dutch rider, Andre had to take two naps during this time to deal with it. In his words: " If what you are doing is no longer fun, stop and do something else for a while". Eating copious amounts of ice cream, drinking beer and sleeping rates as good alternatives to cycling for most of the guys.

It is all about black tops, straight roads, tail winds and keeping your feet moving…

Bon Voyage and remember. .. "deFeet is not an option, but cycling is..."

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