Thursday, 10 January 2013

I have arrived and so it begins...

The day of my departure... It is difficult to say how I was feeling. At first, I was excited; excited to begin this epic journey, excited to meet my TdA team, and excited to see my parents who arrived that very same day from the UK. However the day of my departure was a busy one.

I woke up early and rushed around Cape Town, picking up my bike, collecting brooches and business cards from the MAD charity offices, and doing some last minute shopping -- all the while constantly chatting on the phone to friends and family, wishing me luck and sending heaps of love. Then the next emotion kicked in... Anxiety. I became physically sick to my stomach. At our family friend's house, after finalizing my packing, my parents arrived and we cracked open champagne to "cheers" my epic journey. I looked around, holding my glass of champagne, surrounded by my loved ones, and instantly I felt a nauseating sensation overtake my body. I have never experienced this feeling of being completely overwhelmed. I was as white as a sheet. I felt like I was going to be sick and the shakes had started... I could honestly say that I was having a mini panic attack. Hahaha. Only then I realized that it was afternoon already, and I hadn't eaten anything all day. I had plainly forgotten. I was a total shatter-brain -- I would grab a glass of apple juice, walk two steps and complete forget about it. Those around me would have to remind me: "Tessa, you're busy eating a banana", and make sure I finished it. I'd hold it in my hand and not even take note of the fruit! However, finally with food and fluid in my system, I started to calm down and all was okay.

As expected I was overweight, my luggage that is. We arrived at the airport early, hoping that some sweet-talk might help me get away with the excess but, as I suspected, I was out of luck. Thank goodness I had purchased 15kg extra weight with my ticket, but even so, I was 10kg over. I needed all that I packed and so rushed off to the ticket counter and paid for the extra weight.

With my luggage wrapped and successfully checked-in, I had a few minutes to see my family off. It was a wonderful turnout with my parents, cousins and aunties present. It really helped make my farewell special. At the security check, we'd reached the final part of the goodbyes. I was expecting tears and all kinds of emotions, but as soon as my dear mum started crying, I immediately became incredibly calm and collected and was able to console her. My fears of my journey ahead were no more. I felt confident and totally ready.

With my sleeping tablet handy, by the time the flight took off I was in "lala" land. I completely missed dinner on the flight, (... not a big deal, because plane food is my worst) and I didn't even feel the plane land or take off in Johannesburg. I was out for the count and enjoying far-away places of a deep-sleep dream world.

On arrival in Doha, I shopped around the airport for my very last important item, a good CASIO watch. I found the one I wanted and ticked the last item off my list. Now I was finally feeling fully prepared. On the flight to Cairo I was wide awake and super excited.

We landed and at the baggage collection the nerves kicked in again: What if my luggage got lost??? What would I do??? Questions were running through my mind, but as my bike box came out on the belt, I squeaked with excitement and ran to hug it. All was well. As if I don't stand out enough in a foreign country like Egypt, I have to go and perform in a way that draws even more attention to myself.

With everyone staring, I made my exit and held thumbs customs didn't stop me. Every person in front of me got pulled over, and when the officer got to me, he says: "STOP!!! What is box?" I reply with the sweetest smile I possess: "It's my bicycle. I'll be cycling home to South Africa." He looked at me with worried eyes, probably thinking this girl has lost her marbles. He shook his head and let me through. The airport transfer shuttle was perfectly on time, and I was at the hotel, checked-in, and sitting in on the TdA meeting within an hour of my arrival.

The intimidating meet-and-greet began, with a group much larger than I expected. 65 full tour riders from all over the world coming over to introduce themselves was a little scary. I just nodded and smiled and walked away thinking I cannot remember one name or one single face. I was exhausted and retired to my room after a quick dinner to get a good nights rest and be ready for another big day.

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