Wednesday, 6 November 2013


"Azoooongooo, Azoooongoo, Azooongoo," the village alarm had been set off. I had been spotted. Wearing a cowboy hat and tight Lycra I was always going to stick out. Oh and being white and not in a car. I let out a slight sigh. The friendlies will soon be upon me. Just now I am focusing on getting to the top of this hill. All day it seems I have been trying to get to the top. The wind blows another gusty effort across my face.   

Leaving Kenya to set off on this 3000 mile journey I suppose I had already got expectations of the road ahead. There would be kids running around with guns, the locals living in shanty slum towns, wild dangerous animals roaming freely, poverty, hunger and unhappiness. I would have to be on my guard all the time. After all the last time I was on this continent I was robbed.

"Azoooongooo, Azoooongoo, Azooongoo," the next excitable batch of kids charge in my direction. I continue spinning the pedals. I slowly climb closer to the top. These ones catch me and its time for the next English practise to begin. "Hello, How are you?" they ask repeatedly. "I'm Good," and return the question. "I'm Fine," is always the answer. I have yet to meet a African that is not fine. Ask anyone in Scotland and they will most likely give the "I'm not bad,' negative reply.

At first the positivity takes me by surprise. I am riding through villages built from mud bricks and straw roofs. This is as basic as I can imagine. At times it feels like I have went back in time to a way humans used to live thousands of years ago. Goats, cows and chickens roam freely. Apart from the first few days (Giraffe, zebra, gazelle and ostrich) these are the only animals I have seen. In Tanzania men with spears and large knifes watch as I go by. Looking like warriors from a bygone age. I would often ride by bicycles, kart or even just people carrying water (on their heads!!) to take back to their huts. Electricity and running water is not a common feature to the many, many village I have been through. Yet they still shout I am fine!

The conversation then moves forward, "Give me Monknee" and sometime "Give me my Monknee". This is more of a game, not a demand and always delivered with a smile. The kids would also ask for sweets, footballs and pens. My  two pannier bags on Kirsty would have to have been full with these things to meet a fraction of the requests. Sometimes the little ones would run beside me. I would be so tired from the constant climbing that they could easily keep the pace with me. I would share a few of my sweets. If anything it stopped them running beside me. A little bit dangerous with the poor standard of driving here. I did once ride away from a group of kids and I was rewarded with them throwing rocks at me. I can tick that off  the African to do list.

I have been to six countries now and in each it is the people that has made it enjoyable. My day starts at 4 in the morning. By five I'm on the road. By nine the heat is already insufferable. For those 12 or so hours I am pedalling I am, mostly not having a good time. The heat, hills and wind all seem against me. The lows are exaggerated by hunger. At the start I found it particularly hard to get food. My record was four and a half days with only one proper meal. Living off biscuits and fizzy drinks. Getting over the halfway line, let only the finish seemed impossible at that point.        

However each day I push on and hit my target. This is the greatest part of the day. No more pedalling. I can relax and enjoy where I am. Maybe go for a walk in the town for the hunt for food. Maybe just have a chat with the locals and share stories. Or if somewhere beautiful like Lake Malawi just set and take it all in and enjoy the privilege I have of seeing these amazing places. The day ends with the sound of Afro pop blaring about 9. Upbeat and loud.

I have covered 2223 miles so far. I have 7 days and 788 miles left to cover to get to Jo-burg. It is going to be tough. I need to cross Botswana a place that I have been warned has nothing there. Just a big desert oh and wild animals. I might just see some elephants yet.

Its time for this Azooongoo to go get Kirsty ready for tomorrow. Its not long till that 4 in the Morning alarm goes off.....

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Are you having a Giraffe

Like cycle touring it has been a while since I have done a blog. I'm a bit rusty at both. So much like my first day back on the road I will try and keep it short and tell you about my first few days in Africa. The last time I was in Africa it wasn't too kind to me (  I suppose in many ways it influenced my expectations of how my arrival in Nairobi would be like. I needn't have worried it is just another big developed city. Huge in fact!

I planned on leaving the city just after sunrise the next day. This plan went out the window when I noticed I had a flat tyre. It took me over 15,000 miles before I got one last time. So you can understand my surprise. Not to worry I had spare tubes so I just got about changing it. Only then to realise that I had brought tubes with the wrong valve fitting. Yep I know what a muppet!

This put me in the situation of having to go to one of the shopping malls in Nairobi to try source a new one. After recent events in the city this was something that I had hoped to avoid. I needn't have worried. I have never before seen so many guys with guns in a shopping centre. In fact there is a lot of security everywhere I have been so far.

So, finally tube bought and replaced I was then off. The hustle and bustle of Nairobi was like many cities I had been before. I was well prepared for dodging trucks and weaving through grid traffic. My right hand soon remembered its automatic up movement to wave every time I heard a cheery beeps from the oncoming trucks. It took a few miles to get into a rhythm and feel comfortable on Kirsty again. But the feel of the hand positions, pedaling and changing of gears soon came back. It was like we hadn't stopped.

Some 20 miles into the day, I managed to break, the newly fitting that morning, bike computer. So I got out my favourite expedition tool, duct tape. In the time it took me to do this brief repair, a herd (if they come in herds?) of giraffes walked right past me. I would have missed them if I hadn't stopped. The down side of this though, is it does suggest that those cute and cuddly character from the Disney film the Lion King might actually be real!

With in a few hours of riding I had broke my vow to not see any animals in Africa. Moments later as I was cycling along I startled two prancing gazelles that darted away from me. I pondered if this would work on lions too as I made my way up a drawn out climb. At the top I stopped and double checked with a local to see if I was going the correct way. I wasn't. I had actually went the furthest distance that I have ever went in the wrong direction (see it hear:

I turned round and set about getting back on track. Kenya is a country that I am finding difficult to navigate. Before night fall I stopped in a town that could have been a quieter version of a Indian city. Day one has been hard. I'm sun burnt, dirty from the road, have covered very little distance, found the traffic challenging,  and road condition dishearten. I still have a very long way to go. Have I bitten off more than I can handle with this challenge?

The ride is for the Myocarditis foundation. Please read and share Lucy's story

Big thanks to everyone that has donated and shared Lucy's story so far!