Eating Africa

Posted: February 9, 2011 in Travel and Adventure writing

 The Tour d’Arique bicyle race and expedition.

The eating habits of 81 cyclists, who are pushing their bodies to the limits, are ‘sometimes amusing, frequently disgusting and often shocking’, according to the on-board chef, James McKerricher.

Canadian born Mckerricher, is a sea-kayaking guide during the Canadian summers.  He has been a chef on board the Tour d’Afrique bicycle race and expedition since 2008. This year he is playing Sous-Chef until the halfway mark in Kenya. McKerricher says the cyclists eat around 5kg peanut butter each day. “To put that in context, on average, every ten days every rider will have eaten the caloric requirements for a fully grown adult in peanut butter alone,” explains McKerricher.

The riders will punish their bodies by cycling nearly 12000’km in four months through some rough terrain from Cairo to Cape Town.  Cycling up to 200km per day means that the riders have to constantly carbo load their bodies.
McKerricher says daily carbohydrates intake can be tough to track. “The calorie is a very small unit of measure. Counting calories while feeding around 100 people, 81cyclists and 20 staff members, is like using centimeters to measure the distance from Cairo to Cape Town, “McKerricher explains. “Instead of calories, I think in kilograms. Everyday I walk, sweating, back to the truck with bulging sacks of bread or potatoes slung over my shoulders. If the kitchen crew is feeling strong, we’ll make mashed potatoes with a ‘spoon’ the size of a canoe paddle. It takes two of us to lift the 50kg sack of potatoes that will be consumed in a single meal. And 20kg a day for bananas is pretty standard.”   

Lunch Stop in Sudan

Tired muscles need protein to repair; and lots of it. McKerricher says eggs are a popular source of protein. Every year, the tour consumes around 9000 eggs. “We once purchased a basket of 700 eggs from a man in Ethiopia who was carrying it on his back, looking like Atlas holding the globe. It took two of us to bring it carefully to the ground,” says McKerricher.  “For the vegetarians on the tour, the truck is filled with several huge crates of chickpeas, too heavy to move, waiting to be soaked, boiled and stewed. In total, by the time we reach Cape Town, the carnivores will have collectively eaten 5 African cows, 375 chickens, 35 sheep, 20 goats, and 12 pigs.”

The Tour d’Afrique has just left Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, where it stayed for one rest day. The largest country in Africa, Sudan is home to the confluence of the White and Blue Niles. This dramatic feature forms a natural divide between the three major cities.

Leaving the city´s chaotic traffic, a convoy escorted by the police and a group of local riders was organized. On Sunday the tour will hit gravel road for the first time this year, and that will completely change the Tour´s dynamics and the racers’ ranking. The mountain bikers, who have been struggling to keep up with the road bikes on the flat pavement, will have the chance to take advantage of their more appropriate bikes on the rough terrain, and close the gap on the lead that the road cyclists have established thus far.


Sudanese camels.



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