An Irish Guide’s African Adventure

Foreword:

Tomás is one of our fabulous guides for our Ireland Cycling Vacations. He has taken on the monumental challenge of cycling the length of Africa (12,000 km in 4 months) to raise money for charity. Below is a fascinating narrative of his journey so far. If you would like to follow Tomás’ adventure or donate to his chosen charity the details are at the bottom of his story. Bonne Chance Tomás, we are all cheering for you.

The inspiration for this journey came from multiple places. Firstly, I’m raising funds for the Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation – a mental health charity based in County Kerry. I have raised just over €11,000 to date. Secondly, I’m not sure in which direction I want to go with my life so I’m hoping this trip helps me make a decision. So far however I feel the opposite has happened – rather than narrow down my options, I think I’ve expanded them. Ah well. Thirdly, I love traveling. I cycled across America 2 years ago, and after that I wanted an even tougher challenge. Africa stood out. It’s the holy grail of cycle touring and easily the hardest continent to cycle. Fourthly, most of the conversations we have about Africa are negative ones. I wanted to come here with my own two eyes and make my own judgement. Fortunately, what we usually hear about Africa is untrue; it’s a beautiful continent with beautiful people.

Most days have been brilliant, but a few that really stand out:
– Climbing up the 20km, 8% average, 1400 meters Blue Nile Gorge. An absolutely beast of a climb. The climb itself was not helped by an awful, uneven road surface with tons of buses and trucks roaring past! But having Baboons as company made this one of my most memorable climbs.
– Cycling into Khartoum- the capital of Sudan. This marked an end to the long desert stretch – 1200km of Sahara Desert – done and dusted. I celebrated with a can of Guinness. Leave it to the Irishman to find alcohol in a country where it’s banned.

My worse experiences would have to be:
– My first day in the Sahara Desert after crossing into Sudan. I rode 95km by 12:30pm and finished super early. I spent 4.5 hours cycling and I’ve never cried so much in my life. I felt so lonely and irrelevant in the huge open desert. No place for shade, no place to stop, 40 degrees Celsius. Mentally it was the toughest of days but I made it and I now use it to convince myself I am capable of getting to Cape Town, South Africa.
– Ethiopia. Despite having the nicest scenery I’ve ever seen I found it to be an awful country to cycle in, easily the worst in the world. No one can figure out why the people are so hostile towards touring cyclists. I had stones thrown at me, abuse shouted, I was spat at, hit with bottles, slapped with a cow whip, people tried to push/punch me from the bicycle, it really was an awful experience. I could tolerate the shouting/begging/abuse most of the time, but the stones were sore (and dangerous).

Some of the most memorable experiences so far were visiting the incredible temples and pyramids of Egypt, catching sight of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean for the first time, climbing alongside Baboons up the Blue Nile Gorge, cycling up to what will be my highest cycling altitude of the trip- 3100 meters. I was gasping for air! A 3-day hike in the Simien Mountains in Northern Ethiopia. I’ve met some incredible people: all the Irish ambassadors at the embassies, the Ugandan Vice President, the Ugandan Minister of Sports and the head of the cycling federation in Uganda. But the best meeting of the trip so far? My girlfriend for the first time in nearly 3 months when she flew into Nairobi to visit me for 2 weeks!

Some of the strangest places I’ve slept:
– In a roadside cafe with Sudanese strangers. I slept like a baby! I’ve slept in many of these cafes.
– I slept in what can only be described as brothels in the back of bars in Ethiopia.

Looking towards the next part of my trip I’m excited for the wildlife! Kenya is the beginning of real Africa. I’ll try to cycle through a national park although cycling is banned in most of them (for good reason).

The country I enjoyed the most was Sudan. The Sahara Desert was a tough challenge, both mentally and physically, but the people were incredible. They would do anything for you and I instantly fell in love with Sudan and its people. I slept in many roadside cafes and the locals would always insist I ate with them. Afterwards they would bring tea and sometimes even some watermelon. If I declined their offer, they would get very offended, and they wouldn’t take no as an answer. They would simply stop eating until I joined them!

Additional info  –
I have 6 more countries to cycle through. Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. My trip will finish in Cape Town. Maybe a few detours in between. Rainy season is upon me soon, probably when I get to Malawi. I’ve 2 more deserts to cycle through- Kalahari desert in Botswana and Namib Desert in Namibia! I hope to be in Cape Town by April/May!

You can follow my trip via:

Facebook- Tomás’ Africa Cycle 

Instagram  – searstomas

Twitter- @SearsToms

Donation link to the Donal Walsh Foundation- www.idonate.ie/cyclingafrica