africa by bike
Saturday, 18 November 2006
Wednesday, 4 October 2006
our lovely cycling trip has, unfortunately, come to an end. i am back in australia, rob is in china, and paul is in sierra leone (i think!). obviously we needed some space. there are very few continents big enough for the three of us. after almost getting lost on our last day of cycling (actually pushing our bikes through sand), we arrived in tanzania, ate some seafood, and beelined (sans velo) to arusha to watch some elephants rub their butts up against some trees. after fulfilling that fantasy, we headed to kenya to watch some lions tearing chunks of meat of an unfortunate zebra, and hang out with a friendly, but short, masai warrior named kios. rob and i farewelled paul, who went off to uganda, then i farewelled rob. i ate two great ethiopian meals, got a a big plane, rode agross the island of mauritius twice (once along the coast and once through the mountains), hopped on another big plane that luckily landed in sydney, unluckily before i had the opportunity to get any sleep. i might keep blogging in another spot. please check our photos one last time to savour the flavour of africa. it has been great, thanks for staying in touch. xo
Monday, 4 September 2006
more mozambique (read the one below first!)
we made our way down to the ilha de mozambique, a place that i enjoyed very much. basically, a run down colonial capital, complete with fort, churches, piazzas, stunning beaches, dhows, great food, a tranquil ambience, friendly locals, and almost no tourists. i wish we could have stayed longer but we had to keep heading north. the north of mozambique is truely remote. we are lucky in a way that we werent riding through as it would have been very difficult to find water and food. we are also lucky our buses and trucks didnt break down or crash. we passed through regional towns, cliche tropical beaches, portugese ruins, forest and many amazing rocky peaks, and after a few days arrived at the most northern town, palma. paul was a little sick in palma, so we decided not to ride the final 45 kilometres to the border. unfortunately, sick or not, there was simply no transport heading there, so we pushed on with two wheels each. and pushed and pushed... our bikes through sand. more than nine hours later, we arrived at the border post, met a few other folk trapped there without transport, had a well deserved fanta, and set up our tent in the immigration officers backyard. it was easily the most remote, and sometimes worrying, day of cycling during this african safari, and nicely appropriate for the last real day of cycling. the next day we rode down to the river, crossed on a little boat, then rode up to the tanzanian border post, back to the land of african food. from here we head north as quickly as possibly, trying to fit in a couple of days of big game hunting, before flying out of nairobi in two weeks.
in a very last minute decision, sometime in malawi, we decided to go to mozambique. we met a trio of brits who had just driven through, and they spoke highly enough of their time there to convince us it was worth the extra kilometres. it was also the first time on this trip we would get to experience something very special, and something i had started to miss - the coast. but it is a long way from the malawi border to the mozambique coast. and in between lies very little except hills, forest, a few very small villages and really, really bad roads. but as we crossed the border very late in the evening, we noticed something different about mozambique. the road became very wide, and developed a nature strip down the middle. i guess we were riding down our first african boulevard. then as we sat down for our evening meal, something else was different. it still took way too long to arrive, but, the food had flavour. as we travelled further into the country, we were amazed that, in the smallest villages and the biggest towns, all the food had flavour. in fact, the whole country has flavour. mozambique was certainly more of an adventure than any of the other countries weve been to on this trip. 200+ kilometres between towns, with very little in between to fuel our legs, about 1500 kilometres of slow dirt roads between us and tanzania, a very obvious language barrier (pablo portugese, anyone?), and the knowledge that stepping off the road in the wrong place could end very badly. we knew from the start that we couldnt rie all the way as time was getting away from us, so after crossing the country, meeting some interesting village people, our tires touch the sealed highway for the first time. here we stayed at the thriving centre of mocuba. although, not quite as thriving as it would have been during the portugese time, it was starting to pick up after the long civil war. there were a couple of nice looking hotels in town, but for some reason, neither of them wanted to accept us. sure we were a bit dirty, but that doesnt usually worry anyone, as our money is always clean. it was obvious that the hotels werent full, so we patiently and politely enquired as to the problem. i asked if we could put the tent up out the back. they agreed and we started chatting. after we became friends with the owners and they had established that we were not white south africans, a (very nice ) room miraculously became available.
Monday, 21 August 2006
malawi was supposed to be the well deserved holiday after two months of rough roads and some pretty rough food. i had heard many good reports about the place before i came, but must admit i was a bit sceptical about just how good it would be. i mean, lazing around on beaches and swimming in the huge freshwater lake sounds untterly boring compared to riding up mountains and getting chased by guerillas. luckily i was proven wrong by this friendly and relaxing country. we have lazed around on a number of beaches, cliff-jumped off the ferry as we travelled south, and even managed a few lovely rides on smooth roads through the craggy mountains. rob and i were joined by his brother paul, fresh from work in uganda, and as yet they havent ganged up on me, but its not easy getting the three of us in the tent. from here we head to climb mount mulanje, the highest in malawi, then head into mozambique and start the long trek north back to nairobi.
Thursday, 10 August 2006
lake tanganyika to lake malawi
it was almost be accident that we ended up in zambia. i mean, who goes to zambia? but rob really wanted to go to malawi, and zambia just seemed to be on the way. we enjoyed a relaxing ferry ride from kigoma, tanzania down to mpulungu, zambia. there wasnt much to do but chat with the locals, lie on the deck, and watch the tonnes of sardines being loaded and unloaded from small boats into the ferry.the fishy smell got worse and worse as the trip progressed. by the end, i knew id miss that special aroma. so we arrived in zambia, and figured out that more than 400 km of dirt road stood between us and the prophesised paradise of malawi. along this dirt road were no hotels, restaurants or internet cafes, just dust, sand, rocks, six hot days, five cold nights, one tent, four cans of baked beans, and the friendliest, most welcoming and hospitable people weve met on the trip. in fact, zambia turned out to be a great highlight of this trip to date. on three consecutive nights we were hosted by villagers, many of whom spoke exceptional english, just like me. we camped beside their mud huts, ate nshima by the light of the moon, and listened to the stories of their lives. in return, we answered their questions about life in australia, took numerous photos of their families and promised to send them when we returned home. when not being hosted by these kind folk, we earned this kindness by riding some of the most isolated and rough roads (and tracks) that ive ever been on. we went for a day and a half without even seeing one motorised vehicle. luckily, there was usually someone on a bicycle, going from here to there, doing this and that, to keep us bemused.
Tuesday, 1 August 2006
whilst in rwanda, we asked dozens of people about the current situation in burundi, a country that has had little peace in its post-colonial history. the feedback was all positive, so we visited the burundian embassy just to make sure. even with the peaceful current situation, we thought it wise not to ride to the capital, bujumbura, just in case. we rode from butare, rwanda, down to the border, and across the bridge to the burundi immigration. after a little confusion about which line to queue in, we were disciplined by an angry policeman for ducking under a gate rather than walking around it. we apologised, ducked back under the gate, and walked along the designated route. luckily, this turned out to be our most negative experience in burundi. recently peaceful after many years, the people were warm and welcoming, happy to see tourists and share their smiles and french-language skills with us. feeling safe, we rode south from the capital along lake tanganyika. it was 122 kms of the flattest road of this trip so far, past farms, jungle, palms and surprised locals, with the mountains looming to our left and the green waters of the lake to our right. we spent the night in the southern town of nyanza lac, and were shown around by the local councillor, martin. naturally, the flat road disappeared the next day, as we climbed high into the mountains towards the tanzanian border, into no-mans-land, through some spectactular scenery, and across to tanzania. from here (kigoma), we will catch a ferry south along lake tanganyika, to zambia, then cycle to malawi.
we had been warned about rwanda for the last few weeks. uganda was quite hilly. but people kept saying that uganda was flat and rwanda was hilly. it didnt quite make sense until we actually got there. in fact, rwanda is not hilly, it is mountainous. in some ways mountains are easier to ride than constant small sharp hills, as you get into the rythm and just sit back and enjoy the views (and pedal round and round). the views we enjoyed in rwanda were some of the best so far. we spent a few days in the area around the virunga volcanoes, but unfortunately only had a short glimpse of them on the first day. the highlight of rwanda was easily our trek to the mountain gorillas, who live in the rainforest on the sides of these volcanoes. we opted to trek to the largest and most remote group, the susa group, made famous in the movie, gorillas in the mist. it was three hours straight up the side of the volcano, through lushious thick jungle. the trek was special in itself, through a landscape unlike any ive ever seen before, but the special bonus of sitting and following about 30 huge gorillas for an hour made it a truely magical day.
after a few more days riding in the mountains we headed across to burundi.
Saturday, 22 July 2006
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