July 31, 2012 (Khorog, Tajikistan) – Some 30 foreigners on a cycling tour organized by Toronto’s Tour de Afrique were caught in crossfire early last week reports The Globe and Mail. The conflict pitted government forces against rebels in this central Asian republic. The tour group, including at least two Canadians, was already two months into a cycling tour from Shanghai to Istanbul.
The foreigners essentially became prisoners in two Khorog hotels while the fighting waged outside. After three days of fire fights, the cyclists were evacuated by helicopter and by diplomatic vehicles to the capital, Dushanbe. Apparently none of the foreigners suffered physical injuries during the fighting.
“We were caught on the edge of a conflict and there was no way out,” said Ross Thomson of Victoria, B.C. “We couldn’t go out of the compound. There was just a stone wall between us and them. It all sounds spectacular, but I never felt scared or in imminent danger.”
Tour d’Afrique Ltd, the organizer of the expedition, describes itself as, “a Toronto-based company named for its flagship cycling tour that annually traverses the African continent from Cairo to Cape Town.”
The company now offers bike tours on five continents, including: the Orient Express, crossing Europe from Paris to Istanbul; the Silk Route, a trans-Asia expedition between Istanbul and Shanghai or Beijing; the Vuelta Sudamericana, which traverses South America from the Atlantic to the Pacific and then heads north along the coast and through the Andes to Bolivia and Peru; the Amber Route which explores many of the treasures that used to be hidden behind the Iron Curtain en route from St Petersburg Russia to Venice; an Indian Adventure, a sensational ride from the Taj Mahal in Agra to the tip of the Indian subcontinent at Kanyakumari; and the North American Epic which was first held in 2011 from San Francisco California to St John’s Newfoundland.
Poignantly, the Tour d’Afrique website mentions that: “While local politics, unrest, and economic climate have occasionally caused us to adjust these routes, we believe our tours continue to offer participants unparalleled personal challenges on two wheels and the experiences of a lifetime.”