The Long, Slow Way Down
A new book celebrates Ten Years of the Tour d'Afrique Bicycle Race and Expedition
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A new book about the iconic Tour d’Afrique bicycle race, 10: Celebrating Ten Years of the Tour d’Afrique Bicycle Race and Expedition ($40), documents the annual 4-month, 7,500-mile ride from Cairo, Egypt, to Cape Town, South Africa. Edited by David Houghton and published by Tour d’Afrique Ltd., 10 tells the ride’s story through the words and photographs of the riders themselves.
Houghton, who completed the the tour in 2005, chose from a decade’s worth of pictures and quotes as he assembled the volume, organizing the selections based on themes—Discovery, Humanity, Challenge—rather than chronology or geography. Both the pictures and the text offer a vivid description of traveling by bicycle in places where recreational cycling is rare and novel. Several anecdotes are painful to read—children throwing rocks at the riders, for one—but 10 captures the event’s struggles and triumphs in a way that seems very real.
I bicycled nearly the same route in 2009, in reverse, and in many ways flipping through 10 was like traveling back in time. If I have one gripe, it is that many of the photos are taken from the perspective of a tourist, and aside from the riders, the book’s human subjects are often shown with an anonymous quality. I found this element odd: bicycling is an immersive mode of travel, and Africa is renowned for its hospitality. Still, the range of pictures, from portraits of the riders to panoramics of the landscape, give the reader the feeling of the tour. All that said, to really appreciate the continent’s splendor, your only real bet is go there yourself.
View the photo gallery from 10: Celebrating Ten Years of the Tour d’Afrique Bicycle Race and Expedition