WHERE : Africa WHEN : December 2017 - May 2019 (18 months) OBJECTIVE : Discover 30+ Countries and Countless Stories DISTANCE : ~25,000 kilometers / ~15,500 miles CLASSIFICATION : Wings (?), Wheels, Walks
I suppose everyone has their Everest to climb, though ironically that mountain never spoke to me. For me it was always Sagarmatha’s sexier, deadlier little sister K2, tattooed from head to toe and giving zero f*%ks. Even her name was intimidating, “Oh, I can’t be bothered with such banalities, I’m too busy eating tiny humans for lunch.” Nom. Nom. Nom.
For this tiny human, Africa by Bicycle is K2.
Whence this idea? I couldn’t say. But I do know when it appeared. I had returned from a cycling trip in Indonesia, my first solo outing in the Global South. With a bigger heart and broader mind I had returned to the same beige cubicle, working the same beige job for the same beige corporation run by the same beige cardboard cut-outs of humanity who wore Hawaiian shirts to their quarterly Corporate Earnings meetings thinking they were “hip” and “cool” and being generally the kind of people who would use those actual words while wearing Hawaiian shirts to lead Powerpoint-driven Corporate Earnings meetings.
Silicon Valley, meet thyself.
And yet, out of nowhere, floating high above this colorless morass? One word. Africa. A brightly colored, lethal whisper. Af-ri-ca. Thirty-point-two million square kilometers of “F*%k You, Beige!”
My workstation was soon covered in Africana: a map on the wall, each country labeled with its relevant Travel Advisory or Travel Warning from the U.S. Department of State. Print-outs with each country’s flags and general statistics (from the CIA’s World Fact Book; Seriously), kitschy pictures of shorelines and elephants and Baobab trees. I left a copy or two of National Geographic on my desk, but was quickly informed by Human Resources that “Exposed Women’s Breasts aren’t allowed on-site.”
Summarily deprived of breasts, I obsessed over potential routes instead–a graph theory problem with severe restrictions. Find complete route R from Vertex A (Cape Town) to Vertex Z (Casablanca), with the fewest kilometers spent on Travel Warning or War Zone edges; avoid all vertices labeled “land mine,” “genocide,” or “ransom.” The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)–Conrad’s infamous Heart of Darkness–was to be avoided at all costs: Here Be Dragons!
That was a decade ago. Since then I have escaped The Beige. Nepal has happened. India has happened. These led to Turkey, then Morocco. Morocco, in north Africa. Morocco, with its brief two-wheeled joyride–on a moped of all things–but a ride nonetheless. And along the mighty Sahara’s edge.
The whisper has returned. Nom nom indeed.
INFORMATION ON PHOTOGRAPHS
[– Featured Image from Google Image Search. No Photographer information was available.
[– Top Parallax Image, South African Boys, is from photographer Steve Carver. © Steve Carver, for Journeys in Light. All Rights Reserved
[– Bottom Parallax Image Featured Image is from Google Image Search. No Photographer information was available.
A trip of this magnitude is never made solo. The dream isn’t enough. Its successful fruition requires many people’s involvement: friends and family at home; the kindness of countless strangers; the sage advice and insights of those who have gone before. Less warm and fuzzy, but equally indispensable are the assistance and cooperation of gear manufacturers, government officials, medical professionals, and other members of the establishment. Even the naysayers and the Chicken Littles play their parts.
If you are reading this, you are already an integral part of my support crew–a vital node in the network tending my dream of a kinder, smaller world, motivated by empathy and demanding justice. Everywhere and for all people.
Thank you for your trust, and for spending your precious time with me on this surprising ride.