Fixing Broken Things

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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