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.....