I’ve woken with a swelled stomach. At first, I dismiss it for saddened nerves. Today, I’m making the final run into Cape Town, the end of an epic journey from Mali to South Africa on the backs of an $800 scooter. But after kissing the toilet bowl a couple times, I realize that it’s something worse. I’ve made it through the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana and the like while never once catching a stomach bug, but last night eating a fancy meal on the coast of developed South Africa, I got food poisoning.
I struggle to put some clothes on and pack my things. I had this date set, I’m not going to miss it. One last massive heave at the toilet, and my swelled belly feels well enough to move.
Anne waits gracefully for me outside for our last ride together. I toss myself and all that I own on her broad shoulders. I stop for some powerade to hopefully regenerate my electrolytes, guzzle the contents and whizz away through West Coast National Park.
I’m surrounded by beautiful greenery. Sand dunes are coated by lush green shrubs and the road twists and turns through the thick foliage. The meandering road offers my mind an escape from the war going on in my stomach. I find the highway again, and pull into the shoulder as trucks go flying past.
Suddenly, I have to hit the breaks as hard as I can as not to drive into a downpour of my own contents. I toss the helmet from my head, and launch a perfect orange waterfall of powerade into the ditch.
I have been playing this day over and over in my mind for months. My arrival in Cape Town after 17,000 or so kilometers was meant to be emotional, exciting and filled with pride, but all I can think about is rolling into a ball and sleeping at the side of the road.
Soon though, I press on. I open the visor to my helmet and let the world flow through it. I can see Table Mountain in the distance, and it seems much nearer than it is. Before long, I forget about everything and just focus on the plateaued peak standing gracefully in the distance.
As I ride into the shadow of Table Mountain, I can’t help but laugh. I can’t help but feel a tear peel from my eyes as I mouth the words “I did it, I f**cking did it.” My stomach issues become a distant memory as I start seeing signs like “Cape Town Motors”.
Through 17,000 kilometers I’ve endured two bouts with malaria, countless rough roads, more flat tires than I could ever dream of counting, and many days of deep loneliness. And here I am, at my destination.
The first emotion that hits is laughter. I chuckle so hard that my whole body shakes. I giggle at the hilarity of it all. Did I just drove a scooter down the west side of Africa? Before the giggles fully leave my chest, a mixed feel of sadness coats my body. What now? There is such finality to Cape Town. Such tragedy that it has to end. The emotion flows to pride. I hold my head high like a father walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. It ends again with the laughter. I did it.
It’s only on this day that I start thinking about what I’ve done and what it means. These adventure challenges become addictive. What will I do next? What stupidity will I indulge in now? Can anything I ever do in my life from now on beat this? Is this my one epic, or will I spend my life trying to outdo myself?
I roll down an empty Cape Town street and turn through the white Colosseum-like pillared gates of the famous Mount Nelson Hotel. It gleams in a perfect shade of pastel pink and is back-dropped perfectly by the wonder that is Table Mountain. It’s like the scene out of a movie I never thought I’d be a character in. The bellman, Wilson, greets me with one of the friendliest smiles I’ve ever seen. He helps me unload Anne Murray one last time, and he remarks about how much he loves my scooter. How many people have said that along the way – each gas attendant, each hotel reception, and each police checkpoint has made that remark – and this will be the last.
I toss myself onto my overly soft bed and spread out in the shape of the naked man on the cover of anatomy textbooks. I stare at the roof and again start laughing in recollection of all the things that went down.
This has been the trip of a life time. I’ve grown immensely. I always knew I was patient, but this trip taught me I could be stern if I needed to be as well. I learned too how strong my family and friends are, their support was unbelievable. And all those people who said it couldn’t be done, well, I needed them desperately. Anyone who knows me knows that the best way to get me to do anything, is to say I can’t do it.