“While inspecting the wheel once more just outside of Same, a gentleman stopped next to us and asked what was wrong. He suggested we go camp at the Elephant Motel and, in true Tanzanian spirit, phoned ahead to let them know that we were coming in serious need of repair. Upon our arrival they had a driver/translator organized to take me to a ‘duka la baisikeli’ (shop for bicycles). This is the way Tanzanian people are.”
Leaving Nairobi I felt excited for two things. I felt excited because I was actually on my bicycle and riding south through the bottom half of Africa, realizing a dream that has been with me for a long time. The other was that I was heading towards Arusha to meet my long-time friend, Isa. She would join me for three weeks and together we’d cycle from Arusha to Dar es Salaam and we’d end our little adventure with a relaxing visit to island paradise, aka Zanzibar. However, unknown to us was how much our roughly sketched out route and time frame would change.
For the first few days Isa and I stayed with my cousin, Leigh-Ann, and her husband, Ewan, in Usa River, about 20 km from Arusha. Here the adventure started even before our bicycle wheels started turning. I bought a simcard at a local vendor but the guy behind the counter cut it incorrectly with the punch, destroying the chip. The only place where I could get a new one was in Arusha. Since we had to find some spare tubes for Isa’s bicycle as well we decided to take some local motorcycle taxis, or ‘pikipikis’ as they are referred to in Swahili, from Usa River to Arusha and back. This was an activity few Moms would approve of, but this is life in Africa and that is how people get around here.
By the way, Swahili people love their double conjugated words like ‘polepole’ (slowly), ‘araka-araka’ (fast), ‘kuku’ (chicken) and my personal favourite, ‘pilipili hoho’ (greenpepper), to name just a few.
At the end of our first day of cycling together we ended up staying outside a town called Moshi at the base of Kilimanjaro. ‘Kili’ is the tallest free-standing mountain and most famed bucket-list-adventure-expedition in Africa. For a while there we thought the mountain was a myth because it was completely hidden in the clouds. There was no indication of its existance. But while we were enjoying our second celebratory beer the clouds dissipated and ‘Kili’ appeared in all its glory. Magnificent. Then and there we agreed that we’ll return in 5 years to send ‘Kili’. We need to save first – its not cheap.
Up to about 16 km before Same all went well. We had to make some minor adjustments on Isa’s bike along the way, but for the most part it was all smooth riding. Then I felt something weird on my rear wheel and noticed the seam on my rear rim was tearing up. The tik tik tik noise that drew my attention was from the brake slamming into the tear each time as the wheel went round, thereby rapidly making it worse. We were in the middle of nowhere and the only solution I had then was to disconnect the brake and keep on pedaling. I knew this was just the first of many serious problems still to come and stressing or cursing won’t help.
While inspecting the wheel once more just outside of Same, a gentleman stopped next to us and asked what was wrong. He suggested we go camp at the Elephant Motel and, in true Tanzanian spirit, phoned ahead to let them know that we were coming in serious need of repair. Upon our arrival they had a driver/translator organized to take me to a ‘duka la baisikeli’ (shop for bicycles). This is the way Tanzanian people are.
Unfortunately, the bicycles generally used in Tanzania are from India and their rims are an odd size. But they did manage to weld and strengthen the tear as best they could so I could keep going until I find a replacement. Of course aluminum cannot really be welded, so it really was only a temporary fix. And I still could not use my rear brake on a bicycle which, including my weight, weighs more than 120 kg! Nonetheless I managed to ride it like that to Tanga, 190 odd kilometers away. There Dr. Deuse Ishengoma, Director of the Medical Research Institute, made some phone calls and helped me find a secondhand rim that was perfectly suitable, although not in the best condition. This is the way Tanzanian people are. To be continued …
p.s. In addition to having the adventure of a lifetime I am cycling through the southern half of Africa to raise awareness for #AntibioticAction & #ScienceInAfrica and its made possible by my sponsors, #GlobalAcademyJobs. Pay a visit to www.antibiotic-action.com and www.globalacademyjobs.com to learn more.