Bicycling Africa: A Journey Closed

Bicycling Africa: A Journey Closed

by Spencer

Six days ago, I was in Kenya’s third largest city, Kisumu, on the shore of Lake Victoria, bicycling home to my dearest cozy sleeping bag on a dark scary road, the main southward arterial to Uganda. It was about seven. It was quite dark, but close enough to dusk that there were regular clouds of gnats. It was not pleasant.

At once: I am blinded by an oncoming semi-truck. My night vision is shot; there are no street lights. Ahead I barely make the outline of bicycle loaded with raw sugar cane six feet wide. I veer right onto the road proper where a minibus is overtaking the semi-truck. Oh crap. It honks; I veer left, into a pot hole. This hurts. Back right. Through a cloud of gnats, close the eyes. Open eyes. Three shadowy slowly moving bicycles, two seconds to impact. Hmm. Left again. Big unseen bump. Ow.

Repeat times twenty minutes. People point at me, shout. Mzungu! Mzungu! White person! White person!  In the dark I really don’t welcome it. Why are you so interested in me? It’s intense but also banal. Being on the bicycle, as so, that is my day to day. Cycle, cycle, awkward encounter, cycle, eat, sleep, repeat.

I look up and there, dark and lonely, almost hidden, is my turnoff, a ragged stone strewn road. I made it! My unconscious instant reaction was one of surprise – I made it! I didn’t get hit by minibus! Or a truck! No one mugged me! Wow! How absurd! I could be home with ice cream on a cozy couch watching TV! Why take this road? Why?

The cost was high. I am now broke. I lost a laptop, a few camera lenses and a month’s work. I crashed, went to the hospital and am now scarred. And yet, at least here and now, I am certain that it was worth it.

I look back on the past couple months. I remember the many places we went, the nonstop cycling that blurs from adrenalin riddled tiring tedium to a beautiful swath of nice scenery and wandering thought. I remember those days that had the happenings of weeks and, of course, I think of the many people we met.

There were the hopeless ones, the alcoholics and stoned glueheads. There were those who were simply stunned to find themselves in the company of Americans, like we were otherworldly aliens in possession of infinite wealth and wisdom. (How I wish it was true!) But mostly, people were fun, regardless of circumstance. So many helped us. They ranged from commercial farmers to the near destitute, very old to very young, of all backgrounds and sorts, the defenseless to highly armed paramilitary soldiers. It seemed as if helping another is an inherit human trait. That gives you faith.

For the next week, I’ll be in Kampala, attempting to put together the pieces. It’s hard to believe – the journey is almost over. New York City seems a world away. Regardless, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. Stay tuned!

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