I followed several interesting blogs on TDA 2012 and recorded the following perceptions and lessons to watch for:
- Kids in Egypt also throw stones and cane at cyclists. It helps to learn some Arabic and to be friendly. Ethiopia is even worse for having things thrown.
- Truck with lockers is available after Lake Nassar. The dimensions were smaller than expected.
- It got very hot in Sudan. More people got sick. Two bikes were stolen, so be careful locking them. At this point, tone shifted some in reports.
- Blog updates happened once a week or less. Set expectations so people aren’t expecting frequent updates. The TDA official site uses a satellite connection(?) and was a little more frequent. For example, very few updates between Addis Ababa and Marsabit, Kenya. Twitter posts from cell phones sometimes more frequent. Very few who updated more than once every two weeks – seems like the cycling rhythm, long days and internet connections conspired to lessen communications. Take a journal to write things down and report later.
- Views of Ethiopia were mixed. It was definitely exotic and different. The terrain was most challenging. Kids throwing stones continued to be a challenge even causing some crashes. Greetings of “salamno” or “what is your name” seemed to help. Mood of blogs continued to change in Ethiopia. Between Ethiopia and Sudan the most “EFI” status seems to get lost.
- First few days in Kenya have some of the most difficult road to cycle on. Loose lava rock and several people fell. There was even a section with banditry that they skipped over via bus. Still seems to be petty theft so watch belongings. The mood has also changed with respect to more people riding some or all of the day in the truck.
- Kenya has some volatile political situations and an election scheduled for March 2013. There continue to be some petty theft.
- Arusha is halfway point. There is a three day point here and chance for a safari. Also chance to generally regroup and replenish. Reviews of the Serengeti are positive.
- Biting flies in Tanzania, make sure to bring DEET. Tsetse flies apparently like blue or dark colors.
- Malawi becomes much more hot and humid. It is also rainy season as TDA comes through so more days with rain. Perceptions of Malawi are mixed and some already start thinking ahead to end of the trip.
- Zambia starts a stretch with longer distances. Relatively flatter roads but a lot of riding. People already starting to have an end-game syndrome.
- Victoria Falls is an adventure zone, two day off and many things to do.
- Botswana has some of the longest distances, presumably flattest and smoothest roads. Less people around for constant “hello”. Some thought this was boring.
- Namibia turns back to longer though somewhat flatter gravel roads. Seems like quality of these gravel roads is as good as further north or people have gotten used to them. Long stretches between points of civilization. From Windhoek south gravel roads, long distances but spectacular scenery.
- Last six days are in South Africa. By now finish fever in full glory. Through Nambia and South Africa, becoming more familiar and developed.
Overall, 43 full tour riders started and 37 finished. Of these 13 cycled EFI. Reasons for leaving full tour most related to injuries – so be careful on falls or general injuries. Initial parts through Sudan (heat), Ethiopia (climbs, kids), Kenya (roads) seem to be particularly tough in sorting this out though challenges of Botswanna (distance) and Nambia (gravel) still remain.