life is to be lived….

And so, with huge amounts of help from friends and loads of support from my Dad, I returned to finish the trip. Life. A crazy gift to us all.

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Posted in Before the journey | 21 Comments

End of Journey

I am posting this from the Windhoek Airport, as I await a flight home to Toronto. My Mother’s life journey ended this morning, and I must end this one too. For the record, my Mother loved Africa, and passed on her love of this continent to me, and she was my biggest fan. Once African, always African…it part of our blood and bones. So Mum, I did this ride for you and because of you…I leave your spirit on this Continent.
When I am together again, I will post a few pictures from Botswana. Thank you to the many, many people that supported me on this tremendous ride. I will never forget you.
g xxx

Posted in Before the journey | 21 Comments

Malawi to Zambia

We are on Stage 68 tomorrow, and it is all becoming a blur to me. Over the last 5 riding days, here our riding distances have been: 152km, 180km,158km,128km, and 104km…taking us from Lilongwe, Malawi to Lusaka, Zambia, from which I write. The next three days which are 158km, 183km and158km in length, will take us to Victoria Falls, and a two day rest period. Phew. The ride to Lusaka was on the Great Eastern Road, which cuts through a very mountainous section of Zambia. For most of us, the elevation changes were completely unexpected and we limped in to camp several times. However, the mind does funny things and at the end of the five day period, the consumption of a few beers, milkshakes, ice-creams and muffins, all of which were available in Lusaka, worked like magical erasers…allowing us to forget all the aches, pains and exhaustion associated with our arduous climbing days.

Over the last few weeks it seems like we are crossing a border after border, and it is hard to believe that we are doing all of this on bicycles. Passports get stamped, visas issued and money changed…from dollars to shillings to kwacha, and the mind has to keep up with exchange rates that range from 180 shillings to the dollar to 5300 kwacha to the dollar…all in the space of a week or two. Many of us have lost money on the border crossings as we can’t count in multiples of hundreds of thousands on low sugar levels that are the result of riding 100 plus kilometres to border. However, no words can describe the exhileration of crossing a boarder in sweaty lycra and a bicycle helmet. Calories spent but no fossil fuels used. It gives one a sense of accomplishment.

A few memories of Malawi: riding past a procession of about 100 people waving palms and singing on Palm Sunday…brought tears to my eyes to see so many people celebrating with joy their faith; children waving and smiling as we rode by; a fellow rider using crazy glue to glue his broken tooth back in to place (not joking); rice paddies being ploughed with oxen; a rest day on Lake Malawi…beach front, beautiful sunsets, tropical paradise; humidity galore…resulting in major leg cramps from salt lost through sweat; Swiss/South African Walter, my riding buddy, leaving us in Lilongwe…resulting in only Ton and myself being left of the original group of four; gasoline shortages and sugar shortages; exchanging currency on the street rather than in the banks as the Malawi kwacha is quickly being devalued; gorging on the most amazing beef samosas at the Kiboko Lodge Hotel in Lilongwe.

Truly, the rides are melting in to one another and I count the days from rest day to rest day. As we get closer to Cape Town, it becomes too easy to taking the beauty of Africa for granted and that is a shame. It will take years to process this trip.

BTW, I won my second section of the trip…I now have the “Masai Steppe” winner plate (riding from Nairobi to Mbeya) and the “Malawi Gin” winner plate (riding from Mbeya to Lilongwe). It is all more than I could ever have dreamed of. And as I write this, my mother is in hospital, suffering with a major lung infection and I wonder if I will continue this trip and what it all means in the end.

Posted in Before the journey | 13 Comments

Tanzania (delayed post)

It is 10:12pm, and I am sitting on my hotel bed in Mbeya, Tanzania and I have just finished a vigourous scratching of my bottom which has been ravaged by tse-tse flies. Too much information perhaps, but this journey forces one to drop any facades one may have and simply become real. No longer does one hesitate to ask about the progress of a riders diarrhea, nausea or injuries. The belching and release of other body gases goes on unannouced and without apologies these days…and no one really cares. In fact, of more concern to most is the identification of the loud and constant snorers. They are like pariahs…released to the extreme edges of the campsite…isolated because of a flap of tissue that refuses to stay in place. Oh well, at least these same few are treated with love and kindness during the day. This is what riding a bicycle through Africa can do to a person. It is a stripping down like no other.

We have just finished eight straight days of riding, four of which were off-road days. Off-road in Tanzania meant gravel, sand, red mud, huge dug outs created by previously stuck vehicle wheels, stones, stones and more stones…and finally the biting tse-tse flies. It was a wild and challenging eight days and my only goal was to ride all of them and remain on my bike. I did fall once, but it was in a deep sandy part, so no harm was done. Another rider was not so lucky as he fell while avoiding a bus, and separated his shoulder. The count for separated shoulders on this trip is now up to three. and we are all hoping that it will stop there.

Tanzania has been a warm and welcoming country. The people break into smiles and laughter easily and they seem like very happy people. I am told that the country is progressing well under its’ current government and there is a general feeling of well-being in the air. Geographically, the Tanzanian countryside has been stunning. The land is lush and the soil seems to support crops of all types with ease. In fact, at times one could have confused Tanzania with Ireland or Switzerland or even parts of Northern Ontario. The air was always typically pregnant with moisture, but other than one evening of a downpour, we managed to escape with no rain at all. What a relief that has been as riding on the off-road sections in the rain and mud would have been brutally difficult. Furthermore, our support truck would have definitely got stuck in the mud, meaning no access to tents or food or clothing for the evening. It would have taken the expedition to a new and horrible level!

Here are some memories of Tanzania:

Coke stops galore; chai and chapati stops every 20km for some and Serengeti beer stops for others; chipsy amayi stops…translation is french fries cooked with one or two eggs…yum. Mangoes, pineapples, miniature bananas, passion fruit, avocados…and…cheese. Yes, cheese has been rare on this trip and is a welcome sight at the lunch stop!

Tomorrow, we leave Tanzania and enter in to the sixth country of the tour which is Malawi. I know very little about this country and am looking forward to it…however, Tanzania was a real jewel of a country and was loved by all.

It is 10:12pm, and I am sitting on my hotel bed in Mbeya, Tanzania and I have just finished a vigourous scratching of my bottom which has been ravaged by tse-tse flies. Too much information perhaps, but this journey forces one to drop any facades one may have and simply become real. No longer does one hesitate to ask about the progress of a riders diarrhea, nausea or injuries. The belching and release of other body gases goes on unannouced and without apologies these days…and no one really cares. In fact, of more concern to most is the identification of the loud and constant snorers. They are like pariahs…released to the extreme edges of the campsite…isolated because of a flap of tissue that refuses to stay in place. Oh well, at least these same few are treated with love and kindness during the day. This is what riding a bicycle through Africa can do to a person. It is a stripping down like no other.

We have just finished eight straight days of riding, four of which were off-road days. Off-road in Tanzania meant gravel, sand, red mud, huge dug outs created by previously stuck vehicle wheels, stones, stones and more stones…and finally the biting tse-tse flies. It was a wild and challenging eight days and my only goal was to ride all of them and remain on my bike. I did fall once, but it was in a deep sandy part, so no harm was done. Another rider was not so lucky as he fell while avoiding a bus, and separated his shoulder. The count for separated shoulders on this trip is now up to three. and we are all hoping that it will stop there.

Tanzania has been a warm and welcoming country. The people break into smiles and laughter easily and they seem like very happy people. I am told that the country is progressing well under its’ current government and there is a general feeling of well-being in the air. Geographically, the Tanzanian countryside has been stunning. The land is lush and the soil seems to support crops of all types with ease. In fact, at times one could have confused Tanzania with Ireland or Switzerland or even parts of Northern Ontario. The air was always typically pregnant with moisture, but other than one evening of a downpour, we managed to escape with no rain at all. What a relief that has been as riding on the off-road sections in the rain and mud would have been brutally difficult. Furthermore, our support truck would have definitely got stuck in the mud, meaning no access to tents or food or clothing for the evening. It would have taken the expedition to a new and horrible level!

Here are some memories of Tanzania:

Coke stops galore; chai and chapati stops every 20km for some and Serengeti beer stops for others; chipsy amayi stops…translation is french fries cooked with one or two eggs…yum. Mangoes, pineapples, miniature bananas, passion fruit, avocados…and…cheese. Yes, cheese has been rare on this trip and is a welcome sight at the lunch stop!

Tomorrow, we leave Tanzania and enter in to the sixth country of the tour which is Malawi. I know very little about this country and am looking forward to it…however, Tanzania was a real jewel of a country and was loved by all.

Posted in Before the journey | 2 Comments

Happy arrival in Nairobi!

Posted in Before the journey | 14 Comments

The Galleria Mall

We reached Nairobi, my hometown, yesterday.  My, how it has changed even from my last visit in 2005.  It has improved vastly in its cleanliness and efficiency.  We rode in on a new multi-lane highway called the Thika Highway, and it rivalled some of the roads in Toronto.  The Kenya Government is obviously spending a lot of money in improving the infrastructure of the country and I hope it will bring in more tourism and stability to this nation.

This part of Africa is very different from what we have come through.  When I was last here, I made the mistake of comparing Kenya to Canada.  Of course, with this type of comparison, Kenya seemed like it was on its way down.  I now know differently.  When compared to the countries we have come through so far, Kenya is a modern nation with emphasis on work, education, and health. I am once again proud to say I am Kenyan born.  Once we crossed the border at Moyale, I saw countless numbers of school children in clean uniforms on their way to school.  In fact, even the smallest of villages seemed to have at least two schools each.  This was not the case in Ethiopia….nor Sudan…nor Egypt. 

We did have to transfer by bus for about 160km through Isiolo, as the TdA was concerned about the possibility of attacks by bandits if we rode through on our bicycles.  However, as that patch sitll had some terribly rough roads, most of us did not mind piling on to a local bus for the day.  The banditry in this area is largely over theft of livestock between different tribes, however, last year there were some violent incidents involving some of the cyclists. 

I have received some news of some violence in Nairobi yesterday…so I am staying away from the central part of town.  Indeed, I am parked on the floor of the Galleria Mall in Karen (sp?), which is a lovely suburb past the Nairobi Airport, on Langata Road.  It is a brand new mall and yesterday I had a lovely dinner here with Walter and Ton…and we polished off two bottles of South African wine!  BTW…Ton has lost 22kg and Walter, 10kg.  My weight is down by 3kg!

I feel like I am on new planet at the moment…sitting on a marble floor, having had a hot shower last night and the use of an actual flush toilet that works!  Woo-hooo!!!  Our tour director says that it is “easy-peasy” from here on down to Cape Town.  That is an exaggeration I am sure, but it certainly is starting to feel a little more holiday like!

Posted in Before the journey | 9 Comments

road near mt kenya

road near mt kenya

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