Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

     Not really sure where I should start with this first things first. Thank you everyone who has followed along this past year!!  
     This year, 2011, started with my retirement. The process took a while and to be sure I have not convinced myself I am retired, but if I am truly retired, I hope it never ends. And I am ending 2011 in Tanzania, soon to be joining friends for a little New Year's celebration. Today I purchased a 20 litre gas can for my return to Malawi,  a new head lamp, and had beef stroganoff flavored with vodka for dinner.
     My travels through Africa have been nothing short of amazing - from when I first rode my bike off the ferry into Morroco up until today. I now understand how different it is to be a traveler rather than a tourist. First one must take time to shed the skin, like a snake of one's old self. It takes time, but when traveling starts to really take hold and you let yourself get under the skin of the places you travel, you will never look back. I am  always planning my next adventure.
     I am on a bike, but it's not the ride - the palm trees, beaches, animals, or mountains that make it - it's the people I've met along the way. So so so many people and so many stories that will never be forgotten.

Here are some that impacted me:
      In Ghana, a teenager was going to school and was ousted by his parents because they felt farming was more important than education. Paying for his fees and his books that term, we have a connection. He still emails me regularly 8 months later with questions (I call him question man)... and the last time we spoke,  he said, "Please never forget me."
     A sobering visit to Rwanda.  It's been 17 years since the genocide and it pains me to get text messages from a man named Joseph I met, asking, "What do I do, my heart is so empty?"  At 18, he has no parents, or extended family that he knows of.  Joseph  lived on the streets until he met an American a few years back who pays for his education and boarding.
      Stuck in my head I will allways remember the thousands, YES THOUSANDS, of kids, men and women who heard the sound of the bike and ran to the side of the road to smile and wave!!!
      In Nigeria, I was asked to," Please tell Americans to visit. We are not all as you see on TV."
      I met Elvis, a local Tanzanian man who is starting a bicycle ride next month around the world from Chile to Kili ( Kilimanjaro).
      I'll not forget chewing the stimulant Kat with locals in Kenya, going to church in the Congo, visiting a local still brewing moonshine in Malawi, stopping time after time to give people rides to the market, school, church, or the next village .
       I have no ideal what God has planned for me in 2012, but the most southern point in the world you can drive to is in Argentina.  Hmmm....
Happy New Year!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Death by Mini Bus

It has been quite a week for me and the bike.  Monday I left the banks of the Nile River, or where it's said to have its beginings for Mbarara, Uganda. By Wednesday, I had three bike dilemmas: I had yet another flat tire at the back, had dropped the bike twice, and was almost killed by a mini bus.

Back flats are the worst to fix:  fitting bushings, brakes, the chain, and holding the wheel up while pushing the axel pin in place requires some serious focus... something I was running short of by the next day. The rain had started by then and I hadn't noticed that the locals were shuffling their feet along the road instead of picking them up to walk. My tires were like just waxed skies on ice! In first gear, the bike slid sideways leaving me behind to listen to the locals laugh as I lay in the mud! Ant there was the bike about 30 feet ahead of me.

The second time I dropped the bike, I had just forgotten about the whole kickstand thing for some reason.

The bus? Well, I was going about 60 mph on a dry, paved road, when an on-coming bus, going even faster than me, crossed the center line. Maybe I did, but it really wasn't a center line. We collided. The bus hit my pannier bag, bending the steal frames and ripped it off the bike, exploding its contents all over the highway. God was with me again and I stayed on the bike, but I have no clue how I stayed balanced. I am terrible at sports, and the hand /eye thing! Somehow I kept the bike up. (Probably from the experience of hitting a deer last year on the Harley.)  Well the 20 or more on the bus decided that it was me trying to kill them by running my bike into their bus and that I needed to pay for damages to the bus.  They called the police and the magistrate decided the matter. Mobs form fast in Africa and African justice is quick. It cost ME $270.00 for damages to the bus, and another $1.00 for the man and his 10 kids who collected my things from the road and stayed guard until I finished court with the bus driver and it riders.

I am not into facebook, but most of Africa is, so you have probably seen all the pictures, LOL. Also look for a used pannier bag on Ebay, I let the kids have it as my gift.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


      I am enjoying the ride through Kenya. Not paying attention to much really, the Rift Valley is a great ride but was surprised myself when I saw a sign indicating the equator.  So I am again keeping cool in the northern hemisphere. To be exact, if anyone is checking, I am on the north end of Lake Victoria. Its also a LOT cooler than the streets of Nairobi.

Zanzibar Village in Tanzania

     Nairobi National Park is in the heart of Nairobi. Lodging next to it was an experience, listening to the lions at night. My African safari of animals would be complete if in Rwanda I would see the gorilla.   Kilimanjaro: It  has a lot of snow which surprised me. I thought global warming would have melted it.

       No one was witness to what happened, but when I parked at a lodge, my bike was hit. The pannier bags were not on the bike at the time so they are good, but it took another trip to see a welder to fix the pannier frame.

It was parked where there are no cars, but I have a strong feeling a bull cart hit it. The bull cart delivers pineapple, and I think he also does contract work for UPS.
Jinja, Uganda.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


        How are you? My grand adventure should take me to Nairobi in the next week. Its been an interesting few weeks stretching out along the beaches of Dar Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania. My credit card needed to be replaced which is not an easy task, but UPS came through about as quickly as Tom Hanks did delivering his last package after being rescued in the movie Cast Away.

      Next came the end of another quality BMW part.. a broken clutch cable left me stranded in Dar Salaam. Relying on African hospitality, Simon and I spent the week finding the right parts and people to fabricate a new one. So short of another delay, I will put on some miles again starting Friday, December 2.

      Stonetown brought with it the first time I thought I was going to be hauled off to the police station for not wearing my helmet.  It may also have been me screaming at the policeman that he was a Fn idiot. The crowd that gathered was amused, but it took some doing before I was on my way again.  My next stop was for a cold beer. The policeman, who was not succesful getting a payoff from me, probably went to a shebeen (local bar). A shebeen is a local place  that often looks like a shack with a bare power line illegally attached to a fridge keeping a few beers cool for a big spender. Shake Shake is a local brew that is served warm in a 1.5 litre carton. It has the taste of watered down porridge, and looks the same. It's made from maze. Me, I went to a local bar.

     It's now almost impossible to avoid the tour bus trail. Big overland trucks roll into the lodges late at night with 20 - 30 weary, shaken, young adventurous souls. They skip across Africa on their three week tours setting up tents in nothing more than parking lots, cooking and cleaning before heading out the next morning at 5am.  They make fast photo stops at all the usual guide book "must see" places before returning to their offices back home to show friends and family "Africa."

     It's common for the odd tourist to depart the rolling brothel they paid big money for, to just gather their things and let the bus leave without them, ready to see Africa on their own. I have now met up with such persons who got off said bus 10 years ago, and they are still here! Sounds a little cynical LOL, but hey that's just me!

      Truthfully if interested in visiting Africa, I would love to see a face from home. I will even play the part of a pale-skinned tour guide for a warm beer! In West Africa I could not give American currency away if I wanted to. In East Africa the tour bus trail has created inflation and a need for green backs, so bring a few extra. No crazy lines shopping for Black Friday specials, pepper spray, shootings, or even a need for more stuff we cannot afford.