Hi everyone

I am delighted to be able to tell you that as of today, thanks to some wonderful donations to the Cape2Kigali motorbike ride, we have been able to fund the work of Wellspring Foundation in a Rwandan school for a year. That's hundreds of children who will get a quality values based education that will give them opportunities they would never have had without you.

I visited our work over the last few weeks and am so pleased that we've been able to move the Gasabo district to the best performing school district of the thirty in Rwanda. This is a huge achievement and we now have a model that can transform the education system of this nation and beyond.

Thanks so much for being part of the adventure. The journey towards seeing hundreds of thousands of lives transformed through the provision of life changing education goes on!

 

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... or at least the first half of the trip? We've just launched a way for you to do that.

An idea that was born in the first few days of the trip - that others would probably want to experience the things we were loving - has taken shape in the last few weeks. Through a new start-up, Ride Down South we've planned a trip for 4 riders that tracks 4200 kilometers of the Cape2Kigali ride through South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

... with a few extras thrown in - like a day of paddling down the Orange River, a visit to the Fish River Canyon, the sand dunes at Sesriem, and two nights at the world-famous Etosha National Park, home to Africa's Big Five.

Check it all out at www.ridedownsouth.com

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It’s been two days since I rolled into Kigali, two days that have been filled with activity, friendship and laughter, but also two days that I have been in my own head, trying to put the last month into some kind of perspective. My body is still vibrating from all the crazy roads and that wonderful single cylinder thumper that carried me over 9,600 kilometers. My eyes are still gritty from dust and no matter how hard I try, my left hand won’t straighten out, as it’s so used to holding the handlebars and working the clutch. In some ways I feel I’m still travelling.

It would be easy to say it was a wonderful adventure, one that's good for conversation and a few memories. But I have had a lot of those in my life and I know how they feel. I am starting to realize that the Cape2Kigali was more than that…..

I just paused for an awfully long time after I wrote that line, as I tried to think what it was. There is still a lot of reflecting to do on that, but here is what I know for now. It’s deeply personal but then, this whole blog has unexpectedly taken on that tone, so please forgive me for being so open with you. In true Andy style, I will break it down in three ways.

I discovered something about myself and about this world. Or rather I rediscovered it.

My life has been incredibly blessed and I have been given privileges and gifts that I have never felt I deserved. I often wonder how I got to where I am, to be in the friendships and roles that I get to be in and I simply don't understand it. I have just gone with it and tried to make my life count. But in that I have sometimes run too fast, taken on too much, tried too hard to make things work. I have become responsible for lots of things, projects and people. In many ways, I like that, I’m called to that, but it’s come to define me. And that is wrong.

The last 30 days I just sat on a bike, a seat with an engine. And I left it all behind.

As the days went by, the responsibilities, the burdens, the worries, all faded into the rear view mirror. Instead I rode across deserts, gazed into the heavens on incredible starry nights, woke up to hippos breathing nearby and met the greatest creation of all, gloriously, wonderfully, beautifully made, people.

People from every background, from many races and places, local people and fellow travellers who all had stories. People who I got to listen to as they told them, some with seriousness, some with gales of laughter and some with tears. People, many of whom were trying to find who they are and what they are meant to be doing to bring meaning to their lives and the lives of those they want to travel with.

People who have decided that they want to make a difference in the world. Some of them by the incredible projects they are working on. Some of them by standing for justice in difficult situations. And some of them by being kind to strangers they meet on the road.

I remembered that I love people, that although solitude and silence is a beautiful and profound thing to me, that holding people dearly, listening to their stories, trying to encourage them as they encourage me and doing all I can to show them dignity and worth, is how I want to spend my life. I know that to make empty promises about how I will do this now would be unwise. But there are a few things that are on my mind and a few ways of being that I would like to embrace, that I think are important for the next season.

I also discovered something else. This world is stunningly beautiful. It is full of incredible sights and wonders, places and things that simply leave you gasping at their magnificence. And we miss them. We’ve all watched the nature specials on TV and some of us have ventured out a little. But by and large, we spend our lives running so fast that we don't take the time to stop, look, listen, celebrate the incredible splendour of the creation we inhabit.

More than that, we are actively wrecking it on a daily basis, both by our own choices and the macro choices our society is making. I rode past so many plastic bags and bottles, so many rubbish dumps, breathed in so much diesel from oily truck exhausts, saw so much ugliness that was often framed by the most spectacular scenery. At times it was heartbreaking. And I know that the environmental destruction in Africa is as nothing to what we are doing to our own countries, that the pollution created here is a small fraction of that in the West.

We make choices every day that contribute to this. We can do better. We have one life to live, and only one planet to live it on. This is all we’ve got and this is the only time we have. So why throw it away?

The final thing I remembered is to be thankful.

It’s possible to go through life wishing we were doing something else, wishing we could run away, start again. Wishing we could be someone else. We can run so hard we only see the obstacles that get in our way, the problems and the poor relationships we are part of. The entanglements that trap us and the responsibilities that weigh us down. We miss the beauty and the wonder that is all around us, the good things that are happening, the everyday moments of splendour that make life so worth living.

For 30 days I left that behind and now, as I head back towards it again I am entirely thankful. Thankful for the life I’ve been given, for the wonderful people I share it with, for an incredible family and group of friends and for a job that is meaningful and life giving. I am thankful, so thankful to The One who makes this possible and the one thing I will tell you that I am committed to is this. I will make sure I thank Him every day. I will celebrate and not mourn.

I also want to thank so many of you for travelling with me. I have been overwhelmed by the numerous emails and posts, the texts and tweets. It really has been a surprise how many of you have engaged with this adventure. A number of you said you had been using this blog in groups and sending it to others which amazed me. I’ll l keep it up for while, so please feel free to do whatever you like with it.

I want to thank everyone who donated to the ride. You were so generous and we so appreciate you doing that. Both Andrew and I are still raising funds for Wellspring and the Youth Hub and our work goes on. In fact being here in Rwanda, watching our team at work has reminded me of the profound difference that is being made in the lives of tens of thousands of people. So if you want to donate but haven’t yet, please feel free to click on the sponsor link above.

I want to thank Louise Reilly for putting together possibly the best and most appropriate playlist any human being has ever created. There were many moments I couldn’t write about, but most of them had your songs playing at the right time. One to give you a taste. A few days ago a truck pulled out into my lane so close I could almost touch it and we were closing at about 180KPH. I had a split second to decide what to do and I had nowhere to go. So I left the road doing a hundred and flew over a mound that sent me airborne. In mid air as I looked at the rutted ground below me, I decided to gun the engine and try to fly across it in a desperate effort to get back on the road behind the truck. It worked. And all the while, Seal was singing “Oh we’re never gonna survive, unless, we get a little crazy”.

I want to thank my incredible wife Helen for letting me do this and for being my fellow traveller and adventurer, even though she didn't ride the bike. She doesn’t like me writing about her much but I need to tell you that one of the biggest things I give thanks for is her. In the words of your favourite artist “You’ll be with me next time, I go outside”. Also my kids Chris and Sarah, the best friends a man could have, who cheered me on all the way. See Sarah…. I didn’t die!

I want to thank Andrew. Andrew mate, I missed you every day when you went home. I couldn’t have traveled with a better partner a more patient teacher or a kinder friend. I wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for you and I owe you big time. That road to Bulawayo……

I want to thank that wonderful bike Kayla. You might think it's a collection of moving parts made on an assembly line, but it's not really, she’s a personality. And this weekend I will put her to bed in a locked up shed in Rwanda. There may be some dust in the air when I do. I don’t know when that glorious engine will start again, but I know it will fire first time and it will fire true.

And deeply and profoundly, I want to thank my God. I found you again. I found you in people, in places and in the solitude of my crash helmet on days when I felt I was the only person in the world. I found you in crazy traffic jams and as I tried to negotiate my way out of police checks and over borders.  I found you in the faces of the ones in deep material poverty and the ones coming alongside them. I found you in the sunsets and the moon rises, in the roars of animals and the smiles of new friends. I remembered.

That's it. That's all I can say for now. I‘ll work out the rest later.

Thanks for travelling with me. See you on the road sometime.

Andy

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I rolled into the Wellspring Foundation compound in Kigali at 3.27pm, a whole three minutes ahead of schedule. 30 days and 8 hours, 9,627 Kilometers, ten countries a gadzillion speed bumps [everyone of which has left an impression] and untold police blocks after leaving Cape Town, the Cape2Kigali ride is over.

It was perhaps the most beautiful day of riding yet, a wonderful way to finish. The mountain curves leaving Uganda and coming into Rwanda are a motorcyclists dream and I found myself grinning from ear to ear as each corner opened a whole new vista over lush mountain valleys and spectacular terraced hills. Ah Rwanda, you are almost beyond belief in your beauty.

The grin got even bigger when a motorcyclist shot past me on the other side of the road, pointing right at me. My friend Richard Jelsma had worked out what time I was coming across the border and rode out to meet me, Yep, I had my own motorcycle escort into Kigali.

We shot through the traffic, dodging between vehicles and slipping down side streets, Richard leading the way with ease. I remember when I used to think Kigali traffic was insane, but after you’ve ridden through Nairobi in rush hour and dodged into Bulawayo in the dark, well it wasn’t so bad, And it’s sort of home.

It was a pretty intense experience rounding the final corner and coming into the Wellspring compound, made even more so by the crew of friends and colleagues who were waiting to greet me, complete with cake and welcoming songs. I felt so grateful to be here, be in this place which is so special to me with this wonderful team. And then to spend a few hours this evening sharing it with some great friends who are in town from Vancouver just topped it off.

But what do I say now? I wanted to write a post that summed up all my feelings, that put it all into perspective, but I can’t, not yet. I’m tired, happy, a little more emotional than I let on to people tonight and still a bit overwhelmed by it all. So I think there is one more post for the blog left in me before I leave Rwanda on Monday. I just need a day or two to figure it all out.

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that I’m here, alive and kicking and to thank you for all the lovely comments on the blog, Facebook and email. I’ve felt propelled and lifted up by you all and I deeply appreciate that.

Chat to you more in a day or so. Now, to sleep!

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So here I sit on the last night. I’m in a really lovely guesthouse up on a hill overlooking Masaka, Uganda, sitting under the stars in the garden, which is lit by oil lamps along the walls and by my side. It’s perfect.

Actually the whole day has been pretty much perfect. I had a beautiful ride though Uganda and it’s so easy to see why it’s called the Pearl of Africa. I rode across the Nile this morning, through beautiful scenery all day long and crossed The Equator this afternoon. Even the three abreast semi trucks that caused me to take an unscheduled ride onto the dirt couldn’t dampen my mood. In fact I quite enjoyed it, which was good as I was there about twenty times today. Road lanes in Uganda seem to be a philosophical rather than physical construct.

This afternoon I had the chance to visit the Duncan Africa workshop. Jay Duncan is a friend who founded this social enterprise, a guitar making company that manufactures guitars here in Uganda and sells them in North America. And what guitars! These are world class and they sound simply amazing. But the most amazing thing is that all the profits are distributed here to the local community, so as well as training young people in a valuable skill, everybody benefits. The workshop manager Simon showed me around and I was blown away by the process. Seriously, if you like guitars and you want to make a difference in a local community, buy a Duncan Africa!

After riding into Masaka and settling into this rather spectacular guesthouse, I had the great privilege of spending an evening with Jeff and Shannon Dyck and their family. They run the Kibaale Community program and the Timothy Center a training project for teachers, which is close to my heart. They are also pretty wonderful in every way. Shannon was holding a baby they are fostering and the kids each took turns to look after him as we talked about the work they are doing and how they are incarnating into the local community. I could have talked to them for hours. They are genuinely beautiful human beings who have sacrificed so much to see other peoples lives changed, yet in the way of all heroic people, they don’t see any of this as a sacrifice. People like Jeff and Shannon cause me to seriously evaluate my life. I want to be like them when I grow up.

As I sit here on this final night, lit by the lanterns and listening to the hubbub of Africa coming up from the town, so much is going through my mind. I think of all the beautiful people I have met and the breathtaking things I have seen. I am full to overflowing with images and memories that are burned into my mind and so thankful to God that He gave me this opportunity. It’s so hard to believe this all ends tomorrow. In a few days time I’m going to have to put Kayla into a shed and walk away [Yep I gave the bike a name… I know, embarrassing, but she’s been all that’s between me and disaster. I am at the stage where we are so in tune, I don’t even have to think a move, she does it for me,. Total Yoda stuff. She’s never let me down and she’s as real to me as a person]. All I wanted to do when I got to the Equator was for us to carry on to the Tropic of Cancer and hit the hat trick, to keep this partnership going; but sadly, all good things come to an end.

I have a life to go back to, a family I love, friends I want to see both in Kigali and at home and a job that is incredibly meaningful. My life is rich in every way. And on this last night, as the oil lamp at my side flickers and the night-watchman hums a tune in the corner of the garden, I feel complete. More complete than I have ever felt before, filled to the brim with contentment and resolve to live my life in a better, more meaningful fashion.

Before Kayla and I part ways, I have a final 400 KM to go to Kigali and one last border to cross before arriving at Wellspring, probably around 3.30pm. I hear the ride is beautiful. That would be a fitting way to close this adventure, to ride though creations magnificence into the country I have grown to love on a bike I have grown to adore.

See you in Rwanda.

 

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It was an interesting moment when the van pulled in front of me and I was surrounded by a gun toting posse. I had been warned about the part of Kenya I was going through and I hadn't seen another Muzongo all day. Seems they listened to the warnings. So when the gang of four surrounded me as I was about to leave the gas station, my first thought was, this could get interesting.

"Hey. Is that a GPS" said the leader. "How does it work?" It turned out they were private security and we had a great chat and laugh as I showed them how it mapped my route. Lots of fist bumps, African style handshakes (way cooler thian Western ones) and big grins. Super nice people.

 

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It was just the same at the next gas station but without the guns. I ended up buying lunch and standing in the shade with all the staff, laughing and joking as they posed for pictures. People really are great.

Tonight I'm in a backpacker hostel for Nile River rafters in Jinja Uganda. I made it after 10 hours of roadworks and border hassles but all Is good. I love these sorts of hostels where you get to meet the most amazing people. I just ate a burger with a photo journalist and an American Kilimanjaro guide who told me thrilling stories about their time travelling in Africa. They were fascinated by the bike trip. Another wonderful evening getting to know people who bond on the road. Tonight I didn't say much about myself or what I do. I was feeling pretty reflective and I just wanted to listen. It was really refreshing. And for those of you who know what a blabber mouth I can be, quite unusual.

It brought home to me that my time travelling in Africa is coming to a close. I have one more stop, visiting Duncan Africa, a social enterprise that makes guitars founded by my friend Jay Duncan and dinner with Jeff Dyke who works nearby in Masaka, where I'll stay tomorrow night. Then it's over the Rwandan border and into Kigali. If all goes well, I expect to arrive about 3.30 in the afternoon on Wednesday and I'm looking forward to riding into the Wellspring car park. But I'm not looking forward to getting off this wonderful bike.

I'm trying to put my feelings into words but I can't, not yet. So many mixed emotions. So many thoughts competing for attention. Ah well that's for another day. Still 800km to go and the fat lady isn't singing yet.

 

 

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Last night I crept up to the fence in the dark and waited on the very edge of the property. It's a two foot high fence with two stands of electrified wire and it was all that was between me and the hippos that came out of the lake onto the shore, fifty feet away.

I had been told the Hippos wouldn’t cross the fence line but as they got closer, it didn’t feel that way. I was completely on my own, the closest tents about 200 meters away, hidden in the darkness. It was absolutely exhilarating. They came towards me, snorting and snuffling, trampling bushes and branches beneath them. I was thrilled at what I was seeing and hearing. They were so close that I rang Helen and put them on speakerphone, so that she could hear them breathing. Hippos aren’t very conversational over an IPhone, but they sure make an impression.

It’s been wonderful to rest up here at Lake Naivasha with no bike issues, no meetings, just me, a lake, some good food and a good book. I hadn’t realized how much I needed it until I woke up after sleeping over ten hours. This trip is a wonderful experience but it’s also a tiring one.

Today has given me a chance to relax and reflect and work out the next day. I’ve been doing a lot of navigating by using coordinates and over breakfast I had the map and GPS out, trying to figure out where to go next, where I’ll stay tomorrow night. It’s actually been one of the joys, having a few fixed waypoints but an overall freedom to go were I want, when I want.

When I got back to the Banda I opened my devotional and these were the first words:

“You are on the path of my choosing. There is no randomness about your life. Here and now provide the coordinates of your daily life. Most people let their moments slip through their fingers half lived. They avoid the present by worrying about the future or longing for a better time or place…. They forget their creator, who walks with them only in the present….you are freed to let my spirit direct your steps, enabling you to walk along the path of peace.”

Well, guess that’s tomorrow sorted, even though I don't know where I’ll be yet!

This passage brought home to me that through this journey, I have been able to really live, to not let those moments slip through my fingers, especially when it comes to the beauty of creation I have witnessed and the people I have met. I have had the chance to put everything aside and to see, listen and at least partly, to understand.

Richard is one of those people. I’m sitting here in a small village building that offers Internet and I’ve just been chatting with him. I noticed he had a World Vision T shirt on and we talked about the HIV orphans project he volunteers on. He is committed to helping them in any way he can. I told him about what I do and the partnerships I’ve experienced with World Vision Canada, which have been excellent examples of synergy and cooperation. Richard asked for my contact details and as many have done, enquired about a role with Wellspring.

It’s amazing how many people I have met that want my email or contact details; gas station attendants, hotel employees, ex teachers, people in shops and marketplaces. Many of them have asked if I can help them, if they can “make an arrangement” with me. I’ve been very honest about what I can and can’t do and I’ve made a judgement call on what contact info to leave with every single person. With the exception of the few sketchy characters I’ve met who I was on my guard with, I’ve tried to treat them all with dignity and respect and to hear every one of them.

I know for many people this would be quite trying but I’ve personally found it very meaningful. People like Richard are doing all they can to make a difference, both in their own lives and those around them. It would surprise many people in the West how much Africans do to help each other, as we are brainwashed into thinking that almost everyone is corrupt and that only Western aid and big NGO’s can save the day. It’s so far from the truth. The predominant culture here is collective, not the individualistic one we experience and people look out for one another, showing kindness and regard in a way that would be an example to many of us back home.

Richard and his compatriots also know that they have the potential for so much more than their current circumstances allow them. They aren’t giving up, they are determined to try and navigate a way to a better future, to change their coordinates. It’s why I believe so much in good development. Bad development is where we as Westerners do all the planning and the work, provide the solutions and feel good about ourselves, often leaving a mess behind us. Good development on the other hand can help people from all backgrounds to achieve their potential by giving them the tools they need to bring transformation for themselves. It builds on their existing assets, rather than trying to meet the needs that we perceive through our Western worldview.

Education is a key component of that and that’s why I work for Wellspring. I was thinking today about the 82,000 children in the schools we work in, a number that will soon increase to over 100,000 with the new partnerships we are starting. I will never meet the vast majority of them but who knows what the individuals in that mass number will achieve, now that they are being given a chance at a quality values based education that could change their lives. Is one of them the next Nelson Mandela, the next Bill Gates, the next Elion Musk, the next Mother Theresa? How many of them will be better mothers and fathers, committed global citizens, passionate social activists.

We are all trying to change our coordinates, all of us striving for a better future. As long as we act justly, it’s good and honourable that we do that. Yet over all of this is the Creator who has plans we can never know about, who knows our exact location and is plotting the course for us. We just have to stop, listen and follow his directions. As we do that, He calls us to be “ambassadors of reconciliation” to do our part in bringing justice and truth to wherever it is our coordinates currently place us, just as Richard is doing in his project and just as so many others I have met are striving to do.

Our job is simply to do the best we can with what we’ve got and to trust in Him, as we walk the path of peace that He leads us on. So I guess I’ll leave the directions up to Him. In a sense, it's a new way of looking at celestial navigation, so we’ll work out where we pause tomorrow when we get there.

 

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Riding into Nairobi is an adrenaline rush.

I got there at about 4pm after the ride from Arusha that included the most confusing border I’ve ever gone through. Due to building works, all the normal roads, gates and signs were missing and I found myself a mile down the road into Kenya without going though the Tanzania exit and Kenyan entry formalities. I was an illegal immigrant! Major no no as I had no visa and I have to register the bike everywhere I go. I could get into a lot of trouble at roadblocks, let alone trying to get into Uganda. I managed to find the way back and got it all sorted thanks to a customs official who tried to be stern and unforgiving but couldn't help laughing. I like Kenyans.

I had been warned about Nairobi traffic but nothing can prepare you for going through the center of town in rush hour on a motorbike. It's total insanity and any road signs or lane markings are purely decorative. Cars and trucks were weaving around everywhere with motorcycles darting in between, trying to find routes through the gridlock. At one point I found myself between two dump trucks angling to try and get into the same lane and slowly getting closer and closer. I was hemmed in from behind with no room to squeeze through the gap. It helped me get in touch with my inner Star Wars and I discovered a deep affinity for how Luke Skywalker and Princess Leah must have felt. I had this sudden urge to shout “R2, shut down all the garbage compactors on the detention level…do it now!!!!”

I managed to get through though and arrived at the house of the Walton’s, the family I was staying with. And what a family. You know when you meet people and just feel better for being around them? Philip, Katherine and their 5 kids are those people.

Phil is a biker and adventurer. He knows more about the KLR I’m riding than I ever will and has some great road stories to tell. He is one of the new breed of business missionaries and sees the world through a kingdom lens that totally resonated with me. He’s also one of the founders of BRCK; a company that has invented a device to bring portable Internet to rural and urban communities in Africa that anyone can access for free. He and his partners are working on getting these devices into schools and have some major plans for how it would transform education in Africa, which totally got my attention. As Phil talked to me about it, I could see his passion, but it really caught fire when he talked about the company being all about Kenyans. He wants this to be the company where Africans come into the West and show them how to do things better and he is deeply committed to social transformation and the concept of a rising Africa. They have major well know backers including one of my favourite rock stars that has a famously social conscience and I think they are going to do it.

We had a great meal with another lovely couple who are also engaged in education and we got to talking about how the church has lots it’s sense of adventure and risk and what that means for young people and their faith. As someone deeply committed to the next generation, Phil and I were on exactly the same page. They don't want something worth living for, they want something worth dying for and it's the challenge and the cause that motivates them, not the smoke and flashing lights. That's why the issue of justice is spoken of so vibrantly by the new generation. So many of them just get it, but will have no truck with the soapbox preachers or the Fox News right wingers.

However it was later in the night that our talk took an unexpected direction. [I asked their permission to write the following story, which they were happy for me to do].

Katherine and Phil sat and talked to me about what happened two years ago. Phil was in the US on business when he got a call from a business partner to say that Terrorists had attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi and that Katherine and the kids were trapped inside. He sat there watching things unfold on TV, while his family remained inside for hours, Katherine and the girls hidden under a table caught in the worst of the crossfire, the two boys hidden in a store room. It’s Katherine and her daughter who became one of the images of the attack and who were on the front pages and in the magazines, as after a few hours, a rescuer engaged the terrorists and called them to run to him while bullets flew everywhere. The African woman who had sheltered their daughter was shot, but the family got out.

Phil told me it shouldn't have happened, that they were fully visible under the table, and you can see them on all the CCTV footage [they are a major part of the HBO-BBC documentary that was made], but that he just felt God telling him to pray in his room, that the terrorists would be confused and cofounded.

I sat as they told me the whole story, glued to every word. I was profoundly moved by their dignity and calmness as they shared about both the event and the after effects. I could sense how this traumatic experience has not impacted their love for Africa and Africans which is deeply inspiring to me. I was able to share a few of my own experiences in Bosnia that were similar, but I never had to protect my family like Katherine did, or sit half way across the world and pray like Phil did. I think the Walton’s are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

I was sad to leave them this morning. I wish I could have stayed longer with this remarkable family and I truly hope I get to hang out with them again.

Leaving Nairobi I rode out in the rain and was passed by two bikers on touring bikes. They waved me into a rest stop so we could chat. I love this new community of bikers that I suddenly feel part of. They were riding from Mombasa and when I told them I had come up from Cape Town they couldn’t believe it. They started asking me all sorts of questions and for touring advice and I suddenly thought…”Wait a minute, they actually think I know what I’m doing”. “Guys seriously” I said, “I’m just a beginner” which made them really laugh. But I am, and all I could think of as I rode away, feeling way cooler than I actually am was, ”Please God, don't let me fall off in front of them”.

I rode down the escarpment into the Great Rift Valley along a Cliffside road with amazing views. I’m living the dream today. I’m now at a camp on the side of Lake Naivasha organized by Ryan and I pretty much love him right now. It’s beautiful! As I rode in I looked to my right and there was a giraffe, 50 feet away. The hippos come out of the lake in the evening right up to the camp fence, so guess where I’ll be hanging out tonight.

It's a rest day tomorrow and I am ready for it. Time to laze up before the last leg, with one more stop in Kenya, one in Uganda and then into Rwanda.

Right, off to have dinner with the hippos. Talk to you soon.

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It was an unintended rest day in Arusha today and I’ve got to admit, as much as I love this old beauty, my butt was glad for some time out of the saddle. I spent some time sorting out bike issues, looking around the town and the best part as ever, meeting some really great people.

I rode in Tuesday night without a speedometer or odometer, which both packed up after the crazy dirt road I had to take as a detour and some pretty awesome bumps it contained. It doesn’t end the trip by any means but it causes some problems as there is no fuel gauge on the bike, so you make sure you fill up about every 350KM. You need an odometer to tell you that as I found out the hard way yesterday when I ran out of gas. Fortunately, the reserve tank saved me and got me to a gas station. Gotta love the reserve tank.

Back at the hostel, I met Rick and Chantal from Holland, a lovely couple who are traveling in Tanzania. We chatted for a while and I realized that this was my kind of place. Friendly and full of fellow adventures. They loved the idea of the trip and we took pictures by the bike before I got to work trying to identify the problem.

As I worked,  I realized it was a bit more than a cable issue. Just as this was dawning on me, along comes Shadrack, asking if he could help. Turns out he knows a guy. I checked with Enoch at the hotel who said he was legit [I know right? Great names. I’m looking forward to meeting a waiter called Uriah Heep]. So he hopped on the back and off we went. And went. And went further. Down dirt tracks and back alleys and I was just thinking this was a bit sketchy, when we turned a corner into a compound where his guy lives.

The guy turned out to be Per from Denmark who moved here in 1996 for the adventure. He’s one of Africa’s top enduro bike racers and runs a motorbike safari company. He even has a 1.5k scramble tack on his property and holds races there. Per has great stories and we swapped a few for an hour or so. He whipped off the front wheel and we found the problem. That is we found it but can’t fix it without a new wheel hub, which isn’t available around here. No worries though, I’ve got a Plan B. My trusty GPS has all I need on it, so I’m pressing on.

I had a fun afternoon wandering around town getting supplies, maps and the fourth pair of sunglasses this trip [one pair lost in Bulawayo, one shot blasted with dust and sand, one too embarrassing to be seen wearing in public], then headed back to do route planning in the rooftop bar of the hostel I’m staying in. It has a wonderful view of Mt. Meru that makes me want to climb it some day.

I was joined at the table by Laura from Belgium and we chatted for ages about her time in Africa. She’s been volunteering in Kenya and has a background in special needs education. She’s a lovely human being who wants to make a difference in the world but knows that she has so much to learn from those she is working with. She really understands that we get more than we give.

Later on, John and Paul joined us, two Brits out here for vacation. John is a teacher who is heading home so he can be with his students when they get their exam results, which I thought was a marvellous example of what teaching is all about. Paul is a lawyer who does a lot of work with Citizens Advice Bureau and advocates for those in real need. We talked for hours about our lives and the things we believe in, about justice, dignity, worth and value, as well as politics, cricket and just things that made us laugh, seamlessly moving from hilarity to seriousness and back again.

At one point I looked around the table and thought to myself, how did I get to be here, with these amazing people, who I may never see again, but sharing such a delightful evening? No agendas, no pretence, just four people meeting on the road and sharing part of their stories. I felt so privileged to be sitting there.

That’s been the subtext of this trip. The deep privilege it’s been to meet so many truly good people. People who want to leave their mark on the world and make it a better place. People who genuinely care and have compassion and concern for those they feel burdened for, whether it's a child with special needs in Kenya, a wife who’s been abandoned with two kids, a class of teenagers who are nervously awaiting the exam results, or a guy sitting outside his hostel, scratching his head, trying to work out how to fix his bike.

There is something about a journey like this that brings out community and joy, that bonds us with those we meet along the way in a manner that simply doesn’t happen in our everyday lives. In a sense, we’re all broken in some way, all carrying our damaged wheel hubs, but we limp on, just like my bike. Occasionally we come across inspiring people who make the path easier and lighter, who restore and refresh us, who know how to patch us up so we can carry on. I believe that whether we know it or not, we all reflect The One who can fix any broken thing, who brings justice, mercy and dignity to all and these last few days, I have met some good souls who do that well.

I’m heading across the border to Kenya today, to overnight with some more good people in Nairobi before heading to two days at a camp in Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley, courtesy of my good friend Ryan. I worked out today that I have about another 1,600K to go before I arrive in Kigali on August 12th. Still a lot of road. Still a lot more stories. Still a lot more of this amazing liminal adventure to revel in.

See you in Kenya!

 

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I rode into Arusha just as the sun was setting behind Kilimanjaro.

It had been another long day, ten hours on the bike with traffic jams for the last two hours, the first I have seen this trip. More stunning scenery along the way and more “Oh Wow” moments that made it all worth while.

I had stopped in a small roadside shack and shared a coke with George, a Kenyan guy who had also rested up. He invited me to stay with him when I pass through his town but the schedule is getting tight. Ah, the finish is only a week away! Nope, not ready to think about that yet.

It was a decent road for most of the way but there was a stretch of construction that meant a diversion for about 10 K on dirt tracks. Three weeks ago I rode my first African dirt track in total terror, as the bike wobbled all over the place, legs flying and heart pumping. Today my only thought was “Dirt road. Awesome!” and I flew over it at 50KPH because speed makes the bumps easier. Did I just say that? I think I’ve come along way in the last while. Literally.

It was also deserted. There was an hour or so where the mountains rose on one side and the plains stretched out on the other for what looked like well over 100Km. I could have sworn that for that hour I was the only person on Earth.

Coming into Arusha brought back so many memories of being here 13 months ago and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with my daughter Sarah and a wonderful team of friends. I’ll never forget that night that we summited. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The mantra for Sarah and I if things get tough now is “it will never be as hard as the last night on Kilimanjaro”.

Last year we never saw the mountain before we climbed it other than from the air on the way in. It was raining when we got to Arusha so it was covered in cloud. Today it was out in all its glory though and it looked …HUGE! I think if I had seen the view I had today last year, I would have turned round and got back on the plane.

We didn’t see that view though, so we went ahead. It was a wonderful first few days but it got harder and harder as we climbed it. The final two days, sheer will power and determination took over. That last summit night I was sick and a little delirious from the altitude but I just kept my eyes on Sarah’s backpack [she was a rock star] and put one foot in front of the other. It was hell on earth, passing people who had dropped out and were in a seriously bad state. Until we got to the summit that is. Then it was heaven. Sarah and I summited together and we have that memory of looking out over the rooftop of Africa that will be with us forever.

Climbing Kilimanjaro taught me something about life that has been confirmed by this ride. That life can be unbelievably tough and that no one knows what we are feeling unless they are walking in our shoes, carrying our pack. We want to give up sometimes. Obstacles and roadblocks get in our way and we have to face them or turn back. We can say enough, surrender and go home. Or we can persevere, not knowing for sure whether that last rise is in fact the peak, or if there is more to come.

Life is hard sometimes. For whatever reason, it just seems impossible to scale the mountain in front of us. But we can get past the tough times. It just takes courage and sheer determination to keep going. If we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, sooner or later we get to the summit. And believe me, the view is spectacular.

I’m going to stay an extra night in Arusha to fix some bike issues, nothing major just a few things that need a day to sort out. I’m loving the backpacker hotel I am staying at. A monastic room but the coolest people and a rooftop restaurant to die for. All for $12!

I’ll wave off the guys climbing the mountain tomorrow. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

 

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