It was raining throughout the whole night and while I felt well rested I did not sleep a lot. It was time to get up and go. With less than 80km I thought it could only be an easy ride back into Lagos. Little did I know that today was going to be as difficult and challenging as every other day where we cycled over 100km.
The first 25km of the day went by without much happening. The skies were overcast and dark clouds were looming bringing with it the promise of certain rain later on. We reached Agbara, the last big town before we will reach the outskirts of Lagos. After stopping for two ice cold malt drinks (just to keep the wolves at bay) we were off going further east and getting ever closer to our end goal.
From here the road became increasingly busy and the traffic picked up at a significant rate. It started to rain and by now the road was a filthy muddy mess. This last 40km of the entire ride was by far the most challenging, technical and required the most concentration. It was characterised by lots of stopping and going, road side bus stops, weaving through traffic, potholes (some of which were invisible due to the rain and mud), poor and reckless driving and more rain. Fortunately for me, the wind was still pushing me from behind so even though it was impossible to settle into a comfortable rhythm I was able to achieve good speed during the short sections where our progress was not halted by road side bus stops.
Eventually we reached the Lagos State University Campus and by now I knew that it would only be a matter of a few minutes before we reach the real hustle and bustle of the city I have gotten so used to over the last few years. The Mile 2 junction followed very soon after that and before I knew it I reached the bridge at Orile from where I had a clear view of the National Theatre Complex, the Nigerian Breweries Head office (our friends from Heineken) and the highest cranes from the Lagos port. Here I had to wait for Friday and Uzo to catch up with me since they had to fight and work a little harder than me to beat the traffic.
In no time they caught up. A few minutes later a small camera crew joined us (the same crew who accompanied us from Lagos to the Seme border on Day 1) and after witnessing a truck and a smaller sedan crash right in front of us (fortunately no one got hurt, except of course for the inevitable bruised egos of the drivers) apparently because they haven’t seen a white man on a bicycle in that part of town before, we were off to complete the final 10.4km home.
Twenty minutes later and with tears of joy (or was it perhaps the rain drops rolling down my cheeks) I hit my brakes, sat on the stairs right in front of our block of flats and took off my helmet one last time. It is done! We have made! I have just lived through one of my dreams! How amazing! What a privilege!
It was time to reflect on the adventure that came to an end. I was thinking of the Giants (and heroes) who inspired me to take the first step into this adventure:
· Dervla Murphy, the Irish lady who, amongst various other crazy adventures, cycled from Dublin to Dehli in 1963 (unaided)
· Mark Beaumont, the Scottish man who broke the record for pedalling around the world and who cycled the length of the Rockies and Andes (mostly unaided)
· Riaan Manser, the South African guy who circumvented Africa on his bicycle (unaided) and Madagaskar on his kayak (unaided)
I was thinking of people with polio. We see them almost every day on their hands and feet, in deficient wheelchairs, on little make shift skateboards weaving between the traffic to try and make a living. They are the brave “War Horses” who have all the odds stacked against them. Now at least 101 of these "War Horses" will have an opportunity for a better life thanks to all the heroes who pledged so generously in support of this event.
I was thinking of all my friends, family and colleagues who were supporting me all the way.
Most of all I was thinking of the real hero of this two week adventure. Daleen Haarhoff, the South African chick who married me almost 13 years ago and who made the biggest sacrifice of all by sticking with me through all these years and for taking care of our two children (unaided) during these last two weeks. Without this sacrifice the Ride for Polio would have remained only a dream. How does one truly say thank you?
There were so many highs and some lows during the last two weeks. This experience will truly remain with me for the rest of my life! While there is no basis to compare this adventure to the awesome achievements of the Giants listed above, I am just grateful that, by the grace of God, I continue to be a healthy person and to have all my body parts in good working order. There is no excuse – this body needs to stay active and all its parts, so long as possible, must be utilised 100%. We have to live life everyday as if it is the last.
I am truly grateful to be alive and for life itself!