I’ve been on the road less traveled for a few years now, and I have no intention of having regrets because I didn’t choose the one not taken. Perhaps Robert Frost said it best:
In my last blog post, from June 1, 2012, I said that Africa had set my soul on fire, and that she was beckoning me back. Since then, I have been back twice, and will be going again for the third time in January 2016. So I’m reopening my blog, after a 3 year absence!!
My next adventure will be in February, where I’ll be walking 100 Miles for Elephants to raise funds to help stop the poaching of these beautiful, soulful creatures. This will be a 9 day adventure, walking through Laikipia in support of this critical cause. Here is a short video of what I’ll be doing:
At the moment, nearly 100 elephants a day are slaughtered in name of the ivory trade. That’s nearly 10% of the current elephant population in Africa. At this rate, during our lifetime, elephants will be extinct in 10 years.
Historically, ivory was used to carve trinkets, but the value has increased by over 500% in the last 3 years, and now ivory is hoarded as an investment. The United States and China are the world’s biggest consumers of ivory.
There is hope! Local communities are desperately trying to protect the elephants, and we can help them.
This is the organization whose mission is to secure a future for these majestic animals. I’ll be raising funds for the Elephant Earth Initiative, and 100 of funds collected will go directly to their partner organization Space for Giants. Here is the link:
In the meantime, please watch this powerful video. Elephants, like humans, mourn their dead, and this is raw proof of that.
Stay tuned for future posts!
This Is Africa!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. Oh, wait – wrong story…..this isn’t the Tale of Two Cities. It’s the Tale 10 Countries.
Africa. It’s wild, it’s tame, it’s lush, it’s bare, it’s bountiful, it’s sparse. It’s dry, it’s humid, it’s cold, it’s hot. It’s vibrant and colourful. It’s vast, immense and boundless. It’s fickle, mercurial, unpredictable and intimidating, yet somehow comforting in its wildness.
Africa. It’s vibrant, it’s listless, it’s joyful, it’s sad, it’s welcoming, it’s reserved.
Africa. Ahh, the simplicity of my life there. Just get up each day, pack up and just ride my bike. No cell phone, and often no internet. Some days I didn’t have clean clothes because I didn’t feel like washing them the day before. Sometimes my odometer didn’t work, and I revelled in being in the moment and not worrying about how kilometres I still had left until lunch or camp. Most of the time I didn’t know what time, or even what day it was. It really made my other life seem unnecessarily complicated.
Africa. Little by little, without me even realizing it, you crept into my being and became part of me. Now you will forever be part of my heart and soul, and you’ve set my spirit on fire. I have left a piece of me with you and I will never be the same. And you are beckoning me back…………
I think of Zambia as sort of a bridge from the lush, green damp part of Africa to the vast, dry and desert like part. The people are really what make this beautiful country so vibrant and alive. It seemed like everywhere I went, there was music playing and people were dancing. There were the inevitable coke stops, although they were certainly getting less frequent the further south we went. At one, we stopped to listen to some music and dance.
Zambia, of course, is home to one side of the famous Victoria Falls. While in Livingstone, a few of us went over to Zimbabwe where the view is considered to be better. The day we went it was quite misty, more so than usual, so it wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but it was still stunning nonetheless. I’ve forgotten the stats, but these falls are significantly bigger than Niagara Falls, and not in the least commercialised.
There is an opportunity to bungee jump or swing over the gorge, and a few of my more adventurous (read: crazy) did that. One more thing to tick off the bucket list, but for me, well never gonna happen! I decided my life will be complete without it. Good on them, though – I admire their courage and they way they meet life head on.
After leaving Zambia, we entered Botswana on a ferry by crossing the Zambezi River. Another stamp in the passport, and that’ll be my next post
Here are some pics:
Well, it has been awhile since I blogged, so I hope someone will tune in! My best excuse is that I didn’t always have internet…..but I’ll update this soon with pictures and everything!
Anyway, I am back in Dubai, where I embarked on this journey. Here is the final tally:
The final tally:
23 passport stamps
5 time changes
5 full moons
1 super moon
94 cycling days
1 naked cycling day
countless coke stops
1 naked coke stop
6 flat tires
4 broken ribs
80 anti-malarial tablets
countless anti-inflammatory tablets
118 laughing days
2 crying days
countless new friends
AND at least 1,000,000 smiles!
Here’s a couple of photos of me at the finish: (OK they’re a little BIG, but the finish was BIG)
This is a rather long post I’m afraid, but I really hope that everyone who is following my blog will take the time to read it.
While I was in Kasungu, Malawi I went to the ATM, and while waiting in line I noticed a man wearing a shirt with a red ribbon on it. When I looked closer, I saw that his shirt also had Stephen Lewis Foundation printed on the sleeve. We started talking and it turned out that he works for CSCD (Centre for Sustainable Community Development). They support people in the area who are affected by HIV/AIDS, and they receive funding from the Stephen Lewis Foundation. He kindly invited me back to the office and suggested I visit one of their projects on the following Monday.
So instead of cycling out with the group the following day, I arranged to stay in Kasungu an extra day and went back to the CSCD office. I was warmly welcomed by Linley and Asayire, two of the dedicated workers from CSCD, and had the privilege of joining them to visit some members of their support group, who are the front line workers supporting people of the community.
Some of the things, but by no means all, that CSCD do to support people in the community are to provide bicycles for people to go and get treatment, provide medical kits with antiretroviral drugs and painkillers, empower support groups to grow their own crops of maize and soy, and provide counselling.
I had the honour of meeting a woman, whom I’ll call J, who has been infected by HIV, probably by her husband. She is one of the recipients of support from the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
J, who is a 52 year old single mother of 7 and grandmother of 9, had herself tested about 6 years ago after her husband left because she had been feeling unwell. While it is physically quite easy to get tested, and results are back in a day. But mentally and emotionally it is not so easy, and it takes a lot of courage. There is a still a stigma attached to having this cruel disease, and many people do not want their friends and neighbours to see them at the clinic, either getting tested or getting treatment. And of course once someone decides to get tested, there is a very real possibility that the result will be positive.
There are an estimated 3,000,000 people in Malawi who are affected by HIV/AIDS, but since many people don’t get tested, it is really impossible to know how exact numbers. Of a population of 16,000,000 people, that means that nearly 20%, possibly more, are HIV positive. That is a significant number.
The government of Malawi are currently running a campaign encouraging people to get tested, as well as get counselling for emotional support as well as prevention. I am hopeful that campaigns like this will help turn the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa so that numbers of people affected will be reduced. I truly believe the tide will turn.
J encouraged me to ask her questions, and while I felt quite awkward at first, it soon became obvious that she was more than willing to share her experiences with me. She is not bitter, and there is no air of the victim about her. She meets life head on with courage, grace, dignity, and even good humour. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to do the same were I in her shoes.
I have some lovely photographs of J, and of course for privacy reasons I will not publish them. Instead they will remain in my photo album and in my memory and I will treasure them. Meeting J truly brought this issue home to me. It is one thing to be thousands of miles away, but to actually meet the front line workers, who are tireless and who are so committed to their work, and the people they support – well, I will treasure that always also.
I have now reached my fundraising goal of $5,000 and I will be increasing it to $10,000. Please help me achieve my new goal. I have said this before – there is no donation too small – every little bit truly makes a difference. Just go on to my fundraising page – it’s so easy to donate.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. As always, I am truly grateful for your support!
A few days ago we crossed into Malawi. What a treat. The scenery is beautiful, the people are friendly, warm and generous – in fact Malawi is known as the heart of Africa. And of course, the cycling was challenging, as usual, with some big ass hills to climb, so we felt like we had earned our rest day at Chitimba Beach. Chitimba Beach was a pleasant surprise. There was a beautiful sandy beach, hot sunny weather, and warm blue water to float around in and relax. There was even beach volleyball.
Of course, we had to pay the piper the next day when we headed out on our way to Lilongwe. We had a “mando” day. Mando (mandatory) days mean that the racers can’t miss it. Whenever we see Mando day, we know we’re in for a tough day. Our expectations were met with really big ass 20 km. climb in the middle of the day.
And of course, there was the inevitable coke stop – it seems I’m now addicted. These have become the highlight of my day. But they are getting rarer and rarer – what will I do without them?
Here are some pics of scenery, chilling at the beach, having fun with local kids, coke stops, cutting the grass Malawi srtyle. Unfortunately some are a little out of focus because I took them at the top of a climb and my heart rate was still sky high. But you get the picture.
Next rest day – Lusaka, Zambia
I have Internet! I can finally post! Thank you so much to everyone who sent me good wishes for a speedy recovery. Yes, I’m back on the bike! It hasn’t always been easy as I am definitely nervous on the descents, of which there are many.
Kenya was a bit of a blur – only 1 day cycling there before we crossed the border into Tanzania. What can I say? Tanzania – love, love, love it. Most of us agree that it has been the highlight of the tour. It has safaris, it’s greener than you could imagine, the sky is bluer than I would have thought possible, it’s slow paced yet energetic and vibrant at the same time, it’s colourful, it has great beer and chapatti (a type of bread)…….
It’s also very hot and humid. Cycling days are long and sweaty. Fortunately, there its never too far to the next village where we could take a break and have a cold drink. Coke stops have become our lifeblood. In principle, I dislike Coca-colonization – Coca Cola’s goal to invade every country and make Coke the world’s #1 drink, but when you are hot, tired and thirsty, principles be damned! The coke stops gave us a chance to sit and relax and visit with local people. The people, to me, are the heartbeat of Africa.
A challenge for many people is to adjust to the pace of life here. Things run on what we call “Tanzania” time. For people used to a faster paced lifestyle….well, it can take some getting used to, but I love it. It really makes you enjoy the moment and realize that everything is as it should be. So I’m one of the last to get to camp in the afternoon – who cares? There’s nothing much to do there anyway.
And the safari!!! On a 3 day rest break in Arusha, a group of us went to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengetti. OMG!!!!!!!! Lions walking up to the truck, giraffes casually munching on trees a few feet away, hippos floating in pools, wildebeasts playing, hyenas stalking their prey – I can’t possibly describe the experience and do it justice, so I’ll just say !!!!!!!!!!!! Fill in whatever adjectives you want. Next rest day – Lilongwe, Malawi