Although it had only been a few days since my Italian supporters had involuntarily abandoned me it felt as though I had been lingering at Espace Thialy for months, stuck in limbo like an ageing songwriter living in a once glamorous hotel, unable to contend with the oppressive reality of the world outside.

Now and then I'd meet some or other guest who spoke a bit of English and it gave me a reprieve, allowing me to engage in some good old-fashioned small talk for a moment before returning to my wallowing.

While the internal court remained in session, deliberating on the protracted case of The Situation I Find Myself In v. What I Did To Deserve This I started developing a mundane daily routine around the drama, dealing with the necessities of life. The nightly regroup with family and friends took on some structure and a natural roster fell into place as each expert witness was consulted. The discussions weren't exactly progressing—no new information had come to light—so even those previously intense interactions began to take on the characteristic of a more casual, less critical chat (though their importance to me never diminished).

Despite respectful but adamant insistence from my advocates that I should not abandon my trip I still wasn't able to see the way forward. Even Roma, in one of our fruitless exchanges on WhatsApp, made it clear that she wanted me to continue and that there was no point in me coming back—there was no chance of reconciliation.

The mistake she made was telling me that she didn't want it on her conscience that she'd been the reason for me failing to realise my dream. Little did she know, that admission only allowed me to weaponise the idea of giving up: it revealed a vulnerability for me to immaturely exploit: if I gave up, it would be on her.

Over time, I wore myself out through hours of agonising and analysis—to the point where I simply couldn't be bothered to catastrophise any more. The untamed animal that was my emotional state had lost the madness in its eye. It was weary and broken-or broken in. Perhaps I'd survived the worst of the wild ride and with me and the beast of my burden both exhausted we stood eye to eye, respecting each other as equals.

In that calm, hollow moment I was finally confronted with my reality. Nobody was going to come to the rescue. This was only about me—my predicament had nothing to do with anyone else. It couldn't be wielded recklessly as a way to solicit attention, guilt or pity. I was facing the wolf but there was no point being the boy who cried. There was nobody to cry to and the wolf wasn't interested in the sheep, it wanted the boy. I would have to make a choice: run or face it.

But the choice between taking on the remainder of the trip or throwing in the towel was too enormous to make. Instead I gave myself an easier set of options and asked myself whether I'd be willing to pack up my things, quietly and carefully, and ride just one day east of Dakar. Not towards the mystique of terrorised Mali, the chaos and corruption of Nigeria or the thick, threatening jungles of the Congo but just a couple of hundred kilometres down the N1 for a change of scene. I only had to be willing to try that and if I couldn't manage it I could always turn back to Dakar with my tail between my legs and return to my musty room.

On the other hand, I could admit to the very real possibility that I didn't have it in me to continue and could choose to endure the shameful process of getting my bike and what was left of myself back to what was left of home. I could head west to the port of Dakar and start fumbling my way through a search for an agent to ship my bike back to Australia while I flew to Paris to front-up to the Qantas counter. I could go back to the ashes of a career that I had sacrificed for this trip to be alone in a house I couldn't afford filled with the echo of a relationship that had imploded, having abandoned the dream trip into which I had poured a life's worth of ambition and self-respect. I could go back and live as a failure.

In comparison, a day out on the bike in the Senegalese countryside didn't seem so bad.

© David Baskind · 2022