DC Triathlon Club

2019 Member Spotlight – Loraine Heckenberg

June, 2019

What inspired you to do the Tour d’Afrique?
The Tour D’Afrique has been a dream of mine since I found out about it around nine years ago. Africa is a place of incredible beauty and epic adventure – it easily captures the imagination. Since I love riding my bike and being outdoors, the Tour D’Afrique was the perfect way for me to explore an entire continent.

What was the most memorable part of the ride?
Everyday was something different and so much happened in a single day. We watched the landscapes and peoples evolve as we passed into and through a new country. Being on the bike, proceeding gradually with no separation between you and what you encounter provides you with the opportunity to really experience the scale and diversity of what’s out there. You can’t get the same experience when you are safely behind a windshield or snug in your bed in a hotel.

What was it like cycling through some of the more remote areas of Africa?
We were quite the spectacle everywhere we went. It wasn’t everyday they saw 40 cyclists in brightly colored spandex rolling through their town. Kids would come running over as fast as they could. Some people would come up to try to touch me. A Western woman traveling fast on a bike through their town wasn’t anything they had ever seen the likes of before. If you got turned around, you could just ask them where all the other people in lycra went and they would point you in the right direction.

What was the most challenging part of the ride?
I thought the hardest part for me would be camping for four months with no promise of showers or good sleep, but once you get really dirty and uncomfortable, you achieve a sort of dirt stasis with your environment. The hardest part for me and most people turned out to be staying healthy and managing the cumulative fatigue.

Is there any place that you’d like to go back and visit?
I covered quite a lot of ground and will probably move onto another continent for a while, but Africa will always have a special place in my heart.  I will definitely be back. I’d particularly like to cycle Rwanda.

Is there anything that you’d recommend for someone looking to do a long distance adventure?
Just do it – then be mentally ready for anything to happen. You can never really prepare properly because crazy, unexpected things are going to happen. Like a good triathlete, I made long lists of things I needed to bring and do for preparation. Most of that was a wash and I had to figure things out along the way.