I woke up with a view to doing a video diary every few hours to document my last day. Throughout my ride I have taken video clips but I didn't want to rely on it the whole time. The majority of the most amazing things I've experienced I haven't caught on camera because they've happened so quickly so the video has been there to help document feelings and thoughts rather than moments of madness. I think it's better that way anyway, if I was too worried about catching everything on camera then I wouldn't of lived the ride the same way and probably wouldn't of met half the amazing people I have done.
The day began with a massive breakfast that I soon regretted a few miles into the day's ride. I had a late start as I was being extra meticulous about savouring and taking everything in that I possibly could. Cleaning my teeth took twice as long and packing Nigel took forever as I knew this would be the last time I would do it during a bike ride through Africa.
The day didn't really good as I had planned it. It was a cold and windy start and the road was dusty. I didn't expect there to be many cars about but annoyingly there were and so I got a little frustrated. After a bit of huffing and puffing I had a word with myself. "Come on Harding, this is the last day, stop being an idiot, suck it up and put a smile on your face because in a few weeks time you'll be back in England wishing you were back on your bike with dust in your eye heading towards to Lesotho!"
I was worried a little about the ever degrading condition of my front wheel aswell and the potholes didn't exactly help matters. As always, I knew it wouldn't be the end of the world if it did split my front tube because I already had a strategy to fix it but with every thing that goes wrong, it's just a real inconvenience and I'm a man that loves progress.
I had a few stops to make a few videos here and there and the headwind delayed my progress somewhat but I was still getting there slowly but surely. I don't know whether I was more emotionally drained than physically but my legs felt really heavy. I'm in the best shape of my life but I think all the excitement and anticipation had finally taken its toll on my thighs and I really struggled up the hilly terrain.
On my way down one of the many hills I spotted a car at the bottom that had stopped and the driver stood by the road and waved me down. Little did he know that I had disconnected my front brakes to stop them rubbing on my broken rim but thankfully I spotted him early enough to allow just the rear brakes to stop me in time. It turned out that he just wanted a chat and was interested in where I had come from. This hasn't been the first time this has happened and again it helped me to take my surroundings in more. I've learnt that time is the cheapest but the most precious gift you can give someone. Last year I wouldn't of stopped, and every now and then I've been guilty of not stopping. It's like when you're back home and you pretend to be in a rush when a homeless man or charity worker asks you a question. Are you really in a rush? Is your life really so important or the next shop really that important that you can't stop for 3 minutes? We had a chat that lasted no longer than 5 minutes but I would like to think both of us left feeling better than we did when we started. What amazed me even more was that when he left, he drove past me the other way which meant he must've initially drove past and then turned around to speak to me!
It wasn't long after the chat before I saw my first sign for Maseru. A place I had no knowledge of a few years ago. A place I've been heading toward for the last 8 months and even though I have never been there, I have been thinking about it as much as I've been thinking about home. I got to the top of a hill and the sign said Maseru 1km. This is it I thought. I strapped my camera to my chest and started the video. I had done it! I could see the border patrol at the bottom of the hill and motored my legs one last time letting out the biggest WOOOOOHOOOOO of the ride. As the wind blew louder and faster past my ears my handlebars began to wobble aggressively and Nigel veered dangerously to the right towards an oncoming lorry. Something wasn't right and I thankfully managed to avoid the lorry and get Nigel veering back to the left side of the road.
After 8 months and 4 days and nearly 10,000 miles of some of the most extreme terrain our beautiful world has to offer, my front wheel had finally given up 200m from the border. I would say I couldn't believe it but I could. It was a typical end to the roller-coaster ride I have been on and I ended up pushing Nigel through customs and across the bridge into Lesotho. Typical indeed but would I have it any other way? I got my entrance stamp into Lesotho and stood at the border with the question, "do I fix the wheel or just push it the rest of the way?" I didn't want to end the ride by pushing Nigel but I knew I was close to the football for hope centre so couldn't really decide if there was much point in changing the tube. In the end I decided to duct tape up the sharp wheel edges and change the tube, I couldn't guarantee how far the centre was exactly and the big hill ahead of me would be easier to cycle up than push up.
The weather was grey but holding up so I didn't mess around with changing the tube and managed to get myself tentatively riding again in no time. After a quick picture in front of the "Welcome to Maseru" sign, I was fortunate enough to get good directions to the centre off the first person I asked.
5 minutes later I had arrived, now I could say I had done it!!! The fat lady that had been warming her throat for so long could now belt out her first tune and as she sung loud and proud in my head, I took a few minutes to stand and breathe in the surroundings. The Kick 4 Life centre really impressed me and I walked into reception and asked if one of my contacts was there. He wasn't, and the lady had no idea about an Englishman cycling to Lesotho. I laughed, I wouldn't of had it any other way. I walked down to the next building where I was greeted with great smiles and open arms! I had arrived a day earlier than what I had initially said but as I didn't have Internet I couldn't inform the guys. It didn't matter in the end though. I was happy to be there and everybody was great at welcoming me in and making me feel immediately at home. In that split second I knew why this organisation has been and will be, so successful. The love that is lost in so many places throughout Africa was in abundance at Kick 4 Life and I was so pleased to be a part of it and done something towards it.
Kick 4 Life had kindly organised a place for me to stay at a staff members house called Moses. We immediately hit it off and that night he very kindly cooked me a meal and we watched a movie. It was a perfect way to end the day. Tomorrow would bring the mayhem of media interviews and a fancy meal out with other staff members but for that time, I was happy to chill out and relax.
I sat in his home, a home, a place that I had been without for so long and now I knew I could go back to my own one very soon but at least now I had the chance to reflect on what i had finally completed.
It was a dream come true, an idea that was made a reality and something that so many people told me was too dangerous or impossible that i had finally made possible and I could now live for the rest of my life knowing that i can do anything I want, if I breathe and believe.