‘Simply Adventure’ is back, public again…….!
********* Seasons Greetings to YOU and YOUR loved ones....! *********
Yeah, I’m still alive!
My challenging, 2012 Siberia adventure, (http://blog.mailasail.com/siberiabike), was so intense, I needed to go ‘underground’, for all these months….
Yes, underground I went, out of the ‘blog-light’, but certainly not in hibernation, as those Kamchatka grizzly bears, are forced to go and do! Adventure is my way of life, and fortunately hibernation isn't needed to keep our sustained. vitality!
Solitude: The Kamchatka River
Did they survived the Winter?
Thankfully: No more eruptions since I left!
So What have I been up to.....?
In April 2013, I set out from Cape Town, on a similarly intense, but very different, extended expedition: Exploring sub equatorial Africa. This time, on a motorcycle.….and it's been seven months of an amazingly rich, yet challenging experience! Eleven countries, 19 000 kilometres, lots of rich, and diverse, experiences, a range of not such fun, injuries. After 'suffering' from stimulation overload, I left my motorcycle in Lusaka, Zambia, and am now resting and reflecting in Cape Town. These are very intense, life experiences!
Having survived, my baptism of fire, into the world or remote, continental motorcycling touring. I now feel ready to invite you to join me for Part 2: My journey from Lusaka to Spain, via West Africa, and the Sahara. This section should be amazing, and all totally new for me…. New countries, new cultures, new terrain, lots of political conflict, but the common thread, is dealing with this unknown, alone, and following the ‘Simply Adventure’ spirit and philosophy! I hope you will join me on this 3-5 month adventure. The details are to be found at the end of this e-letter.
This the source of the (White) Nile... Lake Victoria Uganda, and completing my Nile Explorations from 2007. From their confluence in Kartoum, I'd only followed the Blue Nile leg through Sudan, and Eithiopia to it's source at Lake Tana. This time I followed the Victoria Nile, and once again saw that this is one special River, but also one that man is increasingly exploiting in the interest of survival and development! Very soon this rapid will no longer be, as another Hydro electric powerstation is constructed.
The Primates were special. I had special viewing experiences in Kibale and Bwinda, Uganda, then Parces National des Volcans, Rwanda, and lastly Gombe Stream, and Mahale Parks, Tanzania. All different, but for me, the gorillas experience was best in Rwanda, and the chimp experience best in Mahale.
In all, I explored nearly 4000 kilomteres of the East African, Indian Ocean, and the many Rift Valley Lake, shores. This shot of the Indian Ocean. It's clear that as the population grows, these water fronts, and their associated fishing grounds are becoming increasingly stressed, and losing their balance. Lake Tanganyika was mostly a refreshing exception, and I was pleasantly surprised by the pristine condition of the lake, and its imediate surrounds.
...And what route did I take......?
If you are wondering how I have covered a huge, 19 000 kilometres, since Cape Town, and yet I’m only at Lusaka, a visit to http://blog.mailasail.com/intoafrica will show the tortuous, exploring route, I took going right up to the equator. I've 'done', South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Keny, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and finally Zambia. By clicking on some of the posts, you will find photos, and a brief summary of the day’s experience. (Sorry, I'm adding content to this each day)
This expedition was not the ‘typical’ Cape To Cairo, motorcycle conquest. In true ‘Simply Adventure’ spirit, the goal was to continue the exploring from 2007, and understand the state of mystical Africa today, and this would involve real adventure, often going where few, if any, have ever been by motorcycle.
Many part of Africa are still places of true freedom, where the only rules are the rules one makes oneself. I learnt to expect anything and everything. This was Burundi, and here the oxen have right of way.
On one single day in Bujumbara, it's capital, I witnessed four serious motorcyle / motor vehicle accidents, one of them being ME! An oncoming truck passing another oncoming vehicle, seeing me just continued on, mowing me down, knocking me off the bike, and then vehmently insisting, I should have got out of the way! I had the villagers on my side, and I forced the driver to accompany me to the police station. Just made me feel better! Many stories along a similar lawless line.....
The roads....! I couldn't have asked for more variety, and more challenge! This one in Souther Uganda, not bad, but I was soon to be dealing with deep mud, as that dark cloud ahead, moved over and dumped it's threatening load all over 'us'. I fell two or three times, and didn't meet many fellow road users along the way. I hope you also see the multi dimensional beauty of this scene? For me It shouts, freedom, expectancy, challenge, wild Africa, nature's wonderful contrasts, and then alone-ness. But then, I guess I was actually there........!
Lake Tanganyika. The end of the road, time to transfer to ship! This is my bike being precariously transferred from a local's rowing boat, to the anchored, MV Liemba, ex German, warship. The rowing boat journey started in the dark, just before sunrise, with a launch in breaking lake waves from a small indiscrete, lakeside village. In their excitement, I sensed from the oarsmen, that me and my motorcyl,e were a '1st' for them. This was for 'our' final stage of traversing the worlds second longest lake, one that also, amazingly, holds 1/6th of the total worlds freshwater stores.
Africa: Helping me understand humanity......... It's a place where an openess to learn is richly rewarded! The learning deep within the Soul and not for the feint hearted!
I often get asked: "So why am I exploring 'the whole' of Africa again....?" :
A continent, that's largely an enigma to the rest of the world, it's one that provides, a ‘ready to use’, magnifying glass, for understanding the bizarre conflicting human traits: To Exploit, and yet, to allow ourselves, To Be Exploited.
The often, written off continent, is clearly in unprecedented, boom times. This was a great time to be exploring deep in it’s soul, seeing from the coal face how this boom is happening? Who is really benefitting? At what societal cost? Then pondering the future: Where this is all going, is it good for both for the continent and the world outside Africa?
Questions, questions, and lots of pondering....Like 'Darwin', the chimpanzee in the pic on the right (Yes, Darwin really was his human chosen name), This trip was about understanding more about the world, and it's, growth obsessed, definition of success, whether this is the way Africa should be 'forced' to go..... ? Traditional Africa, doesn't seem to stick well, with this new definition of success, and maybe I can learn something, from what was their original definition of success? 'They' certainly had one, that's been clear to me for a long while!
The one thing for me about Africa, is that it always gets to play with my deep inner emotions. Sometimes violently stirring up, conflicting values, or beliefs, ones that I thought were long time, safely separated and able to co-exist, in well camouflaged, hideouts within. Africa torments one, not allowing those conflicts to go unresolved, even often showing one, that their resolution is so difficult, and maybe a never ending, impossible mission. This isn't about the guilt from the past that I have seen, that westerners often experience, I have long part that behind me, this is something about The Today....
After seven months of dealing with these philosophical challenges, I have developed some strong views on the complex issues behind these conflicts. Some have started changing the way I perceive things, however, the journey isn’t over yet,! Sharing my insights, and thoughts as they get develop and are further challenged in Part 2. As my blogs about this next stage unfold, maybe it's something you will volunteer to become drawn into..... It's Africa, and one could partionion it out of our lives, but it's also a valuable place for learning about our the whole of our small world.
Remanants, of the capital of the old, German East Africa... the port of Bagamoya, Tanzania. A place Livingstone used for starting his inland expeditions. Soon the area around here will become the largest harbour in East Africa. Funded by the Chinese, the prize is Natural Gas for eternity, and history will have another development event to reflect on.... !
The 2013 Zimbabwe election. I was there just before it took place. The desperate hope for democracy! I could deeply feel it in every human spirt while I was there. Understanding why, and how, humans accept this level of exploitation, took me deep into myself.....
Entrepreneur, Survivor, or Forest Destroyer? Everywhere, people like this, earning an honest living, as a link in the chain, from deforrestation, to burning the charcoal for energy. This guy part of the logistics link. Electrification is being funded by USA, but the newly privatised Power Company, is charging too much, so charcoal is still preferred, and his livelihood is still safe...! What's right, and why was it OK to destroy Eurpoes forests?
Adventure, adventure, adventure........
If I was looking for a real adventure, the trip so far, has certainly provided more than my fair share. An oveload in fact, that's why I'm taking time out here in Cape Town!
Alone, on remote, challenging roads seemingly going to oblivion . From deep sand in Mozambique, huge strewn boulders in Rwanda, deep river crossings in Tanzania, to worst of all, dealing with,deep, red clay mud coagulated by an iconic, equatorial rain storm, in Uganda.
Africa is clearly also about the wildlife, and being alone on a motorbike, without a weapon, face to face with tree lions, hippos, hyena, buffalo, elephant, pythons, and the like, was all knew and exciting for me. This was often about my fear setting the rules of encounters, and nobody else.
Then the diverse landscapes: Both awe inspiring, and adventure challenging: From motorcycling, across the beauty of Zimbabwe, up the remote and special, Northern Mozambique coast, crossing the bridgeless Rovuma river into Tanzania, following the (Victoria) Nile from its Lake Victoria source, in Uganda, to its lake Albert ‘rest’, before it exits for Sudan and beyond. Exploring the majestic volcanoes of Rwanda, meeting Livingston and Stanley at Kigoma, and taking on Lake Tanganyika’s pristine expansiveness, traversing its more than 600 kilometres, of wild and remote, shores.
Often forced to deal with the undisciplined road users, who almost without exception, have a complete disregard for motorcycles, in Africa’s, booming, dysfunctional, and congested, capital cities. I was knocked off the bike twice, and falling more times than I can remember, threatened on numerous occasions, by AK-47 wielding officials, trying to extract my seemingly easy dollars, 'Umzungu" dollars. The stories are many, and diverse, the memories vivid and sobering, butI'm alive to tellthe story, and the regret, non-existant....
This was all so different from the single minded, simplicity of a Polar expedition. This was about a new dimension of adventure tourism, a deep people experience, and a journey that connected with my passion for exploring across the many dimensions of human life. Without blogs, I could share this with you, but I hope to take you with me into this world in Part 2.
A rare shot of 'Me': It's hard to find willing and competent photographers in remote Africa, and it's not my priority! These photographers were also very rare: Here on the challenging Congo Nile Trail, in Rwanda, that follows the beautiful, Lake Kivu shoreline. Other than disbelieving locals, I only came across this young Rwandan couple. They had lived and graduated in France, and were doing the 6 day hike. It was great to have a 'normal' chat with them....!
The dark side of my adventure.....And another type of learning! One of two serious ankle injuries after having the bike fall on me, twice. This one particularly challenging, as it happened on the remote and very difficult, dirt road between Beira and Caia, Mozambique. Soft sand the cause, it's never the rider....... We know that! Anyway, no crying, no body around to hear the sobs, just dig deep and ride on, mate! Four days later I was bribing a doctor for x-rays!
So much diverse scenery, one photo can't attempt to capture the breadth of Africa's beauty, so just one sample.....! The North Eastern Mozambique, beyond the Zambesi is quite unique in it's plethora of impressive, randomly 'placed', single, granite Inselbergs.
Africa's Soul: In transformation or being ripped out....?......
Beyond Africa's tourist brochure, offerings, I see the continent really about its people, and the people that have shaped it's rich, journey....
Astonishingly, the population has grown by nearly 20% since I did my 2007 expedition. That’s an additional 50 million people in six years, and there was clear, ocular evidence of this around me, everywhere.
By birth and upbringing, I'm an African, and my 2007, Cairo to Cape Town, bicycle trip brought me face to face with my ‘fellow Africans’, in a way I’d never experienced before. Years of reflecting on that experience, and lots of reading in between, seeing the condracictions with the west, I was driven to go longer, further, and deeper, and to understand more……
Approaching my exploring with an open, non-judgemental mind, looking for evidence to disprove long held, yet mostly unspoken, western world beliefs I WAS seeking answers. I realised that these answers would have to come from outside of my own, sometimes limiting reference points. With this mindset, my personal learningon this expedition, was very challenging, but reached a new apotheosis.
Almost without exception the African cultures are built on a need for strong community belonging, one that I know as, 'Ubuntu'. One that , works on the premise that : ‘Without others, we as individuals are nothing’. This seems to fly in fundamental conflict with that of the ‘homeless’, solo adventurer, who verges on being a misanthrope, and it was at this interface that the challenge began!
It was also clear that ‘independent Africa’ is far down the road of exploiting its post colonial freedom, and is busy creating an African identity for ‘itself’. Within each country, there was a distinct uniqueness of identity, and visitor experience, and one, no more linked to its colonial rulers, but rather linked to its leadership legacies since independence (Both past and, work in progress)
Of shock to me, was the significant influence of 1st world capitalism, and the speed at which a seemingly irresponsible, and corrupt, form of capitalism, is being rolled out into many of the countries. This appearing to be in contradaction to the traditional, selfless ubuntu, cultural traits, I mention abov. This new modus operandi, almost allowing a duality of persona, at the higher echelons. It was clear to me, that the pace of these rollouts were often catalysed by a cleverly disguised, exploiting , 1st World, powerhouse.
There were many stories and my personal occular witness, of what I call, ‘Rape and Pillage’, where the ruthless pursuit of economic wealth, is destroying the soul of Africa, Greed is showing it’s ugly face, and giving a bad name to Capitalism. Maybe the examples are coming from the west!
What I saw was a new form of exploitation that is apparently being condoned and / or driven by the leaders, who will not have colonialism to blame for this loss of autonmy, this time. Whether this is a fair excoriation or not, will need my Part 2 exploration and thought to run its course.
This is a typical African market in the new booming Africa. Crowded with people, a huge range of wares, and lots of clothes stalls. All of which sell second hand clothes, either donated or imported from the West. Gone is the traditional dress, with all the Western brands well represented in the older generation livery, and now sold for a fraction of their heyday value. There is now a strong trading culture, and somehow the trading is booming and creating a self powered spiralling spending boom. It was clear to me that Africa has virtually stopped making it's own things, and the game has shifted to trading the 1st World's efficiently supplied products.
Innovation! I met a Guiness Book of Records, World Record holder in Western Tanzania! Seeing bicycles used for purposes the designer would never have imagined, is part of the fun of exploring Africa. This set a new standard. These are water containers and they were empty, but still the guy needed a hand to make his first precarious pedal turns before he was up and balanced. Never saw hen the containers were full......!?
A noticeable change from 2007, was the huge increase in motorcycle use. Clearly fuelled by increased affluence, and also the Chinese providing very cheap, 125cc bikes. No Japanese bikes were to be seen.
The modern, African poor: I found this group of teenagers on remote Koti Island, just off Angoche, in Nampula province of Mozambique. There are no scools on the island, fresh water is in very short supply, and very basic living, yet this photo shows one of the kids taking a photo of me, taking a photo, with their mobile phone! I came across many, seemingly really destitute, beggars, who then produced a mobile phone! Humans do know their priorities, and always get them met! There was no doubt to me that the mobile phone companies are making a killing in Africa! Ubuntu is about communication with others, and the mobile phone has found it's most perfect market!
Solo, Alone and not Alone...!
A huge personal challenge on this adventure, was coping with being mostly alone on an arduous, seven month expedition in often remote, Africa.
Mostly, being the only, ‘one of my kind’ around, (no wise cracks, please!), this is not for the feint hearted, nor for those needy of strong sense of, ‘belonging’ with others, or those who regularly need the familiar references to confirm, 'who hey are'. Here the references are largely useless, and that the confidence of the affirmation that I was ‘Still Me’, had to come only from within!!
I’d be misleading you if I said I did this ALL alone, and also, I would probably have lost it completely if I had spent seven months, on the motorcycle, really all alone!
To help satisfy my ‘belonging’ needs, Ruth joined me early on in Botswana, where I parked the bike for a four wheel ,exploration. Then I was very fortunate to be invited, as an unlikely outsider, to join a very special group of Zimbabwean friends. This, on their truly amazing, 12 day hiking expedition down the Zambezi escarpment following the Rukomechi River bed to Man Pools.
I also persuaded my good buddy, and adventure canoeing partner, Imi Moosa, to return to Tanzania, his land of birth, and childhood upbringing , for a different kind of adventure. Again, I parked the motorbike, and we travelled around Tanzania, using a diverse range of transport, that sometimes tested our body space limits. After 40 years away from Tanzania, it was great to see him reconnect, and then share in his shock, at how dramatically Tanzania, and Dar-es-Salaam specifically, had changed!
As pseudo locals, and certainly, non conforming, tourists, we appeared as an odd couple, confusing the local, umzungu, stereotyping. We had a lot of fun using this to gain valuable insights, and to fuel our fierce debates on Africa, and what we percieved was actually happening, from a big picture perspective.