Biking across Africa

Lynne Wolfson, a contract instructor in Carleton’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, is spending the winter semester riding her bike 12,000 kilometres across Africa — from Cairo to Cape Town — for the Tour d’Afrique Foundation, fundraising to purchase bicycles for health-care workers in Africa.

Carleton Now will be following Wolfson’s progress over the next four months as she writes about her experiences.

Read about her first week on the road:

Hello!

It is Day Four (Jan. 19) of the tour and we have set up camp on the beautiful beach at a resort hotel in the town of Sadaga, on the Red Sea. We have almost 60 riders in our group. The last four days have been full of adaptation as we get used to our new lifestyle and situation. Each day begins at 5:45 a.m. with a musical wake-up call. By 6:15 a.m., we’ve got our gear packed and tents stowed. Then we eat breakfast and are on the road by 7 a.m.

The biggest challenge of the first few days is our adapting bodies. It seems like almost everybody has some sort of injury — mostly saddle sores, knee pain, neck and shoulder pain. It seems like half of the conversations around camp have been about health/body/injury issues. For me, it’s been knee pain. This certainly isn’t a surprise, I knew before I began that this was going to be the single greatest adversary of mine for the journey to Cape Town. Everything was going well until Day Two. The day that we will all be talking about, until a day that is worse comes along. It was going to be tough on its own merits at 168km through the gravel desert by the Red Sea. With 60km to go, the group I was riding with was in high spirits, expecting to arrive at camp with enough time to set up our tents in the daylight! But fortunes change so quickly in the desert and headwinds kicked in. It was a ferocious headwind! After four hours of hammering into the wind, we got through those 60km to arrive at camp just at sunset. We are absolutely not permitted to ride after dark, so about one-third of the riders did not make it to camp that day and had to be picked up by the trucks or hitchhike in.

In retrospect, it may not have been wise to push my body so hard on just the second day of the tour but that feeling, to see the tents of camp off in the distance after over 10 hours of biking, knowing that if I had been 15 minutes further back on the road I would not have been permitted to finish. A feeling like that made it worth it. My knees disagreed and now, two days later, I made the responsible choice and hitched a ride in the truck to give them a day for the inflammation to subside a little bit. Tomorrow, we ride 140km away from the Red Sea inland towards Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. The day starts with 40km of uphill and my spirits are high. I have confidence that my knees will be pain free!

On Jan. 26, I arrived in Aswan in the south of Egypt where I picked up dates and snacks from the market to bring on an 18-hour ferry ride to Sudan. I spent 28 hours on the ferry, which was surrounded by people and overflowing with boxes. Last night, I spent the night under the stars on the ferry’s deck and finally arrived in Sudan, five kilometres from camp.

On Jan. 27: We are five kilometres from camp and we estimate it will take four hours to get there.

To follow Wolfson’s blog and stay updated on her progress, visit her website at: http://lynnewolfson.wordpress.com.

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