Sadiki Juma, Our Champion

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It have been about four months now since the long ride of Chile to Kili come to the end. Although there are many to do on the other side of this initiative I took long break to allow myself to catch up with the rhythm of life out of saddle. The ride was challenging and partly difficult but the adjustment and come to the end is not as easy as I anticipated. I’m confronted with reality which I somehow neglect or managed to produce some immunity which made move on. Such journey, personal could be “Pilgrimage” but may be fruits of pilgrimage doesn’t bare very quick. I’m not despising all but I think its human nature to look at what is missing-‘Ever improvement’ I think throughout the journey I fill huge part of my personal life, I’m feel strong and able for undertaking what I believe, I acquire knowledge and develop values which will always remain useful.

It is after this break which include some activities of traveling here and there participate in meetings and talks. The main one has been talking with potential candidate for scholarships and improvise the ideal since the goal of raising fund isn’t so succeed yet.

 

This part of interviewing and selecting candidates isn’t so ease or it made hard due to my rigid back ground especially in education and driving changes. Several candidate failed to demonstrate how they could drive changes or contribute to critical issues in the community such as set inspiration, creativity and even sometime strong academic back ground which isn’t the central qualification but county. Some students already had particular training but haven’t use it yet.

The other main issue is to modify the ideal of scholarship to fit on the current budget. It is obvious that due to what we manage to raise until right now we can only be able to pay for certain training or year of university/collage. I decide that for those candidate who will succeed to win scholarship I can work with them to find other part of scholarship from other sources.

As the process continue, we landed on one strong character, determined and full of promise; Sadiki Juma. Sadiki is twenty one years old, coming from ten children of alcoholic father and low income mother. Sadiki was introduced to cycling few year ago, although he have never being strong one in the Arusha Cycling Club he have managed to maintain commitment to athletics which kept him away from family trouble, streets attempts and options. His failure to good performance in the club could be partially due to luck of equipment and adequate supply of food. Recently Sadiki started to hike up Kilimanjaro as ported to sustain his income.  For more than six months he have been working hard to convince me that he is candidate to be considered. Considering his dedication and determination, and his back ground and immediate social and economic challenges which he share with many other young Tanzania; I choose Saidi to be our first Chile to Kili champion to win scholarship.

It is my hope that Saidi will keep on working hard on his studies so he can be example to his peer and other youth, with his creativity and determination he will be good source of changes and solution to our community. We are now focusing our attention to female candidate so to help us bring about the same effect to woman. Chile to Kili is still out for help and ideal to make this education initiative sustainable. If you have any thoughts or support of any kind don’t hesitate to write to me. Lastly I would like so thanks all our supporters, it is your invaluable support which made all this possible.

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Arrive, Arusha

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I knew that the ride will come to end or at least to stop for sometime but the day I arrived in Arusha it seem like the halt come by surprise. The goals played central part, they motivate and gave me determination. This accomplishment of finish the cycling gave me two different feeling at the sometime. I was happy and joyful that I came to the end after many challengers, risks,happiness, frustrations, etc. There were deep sense of achievement that I was able to make the loop which two years ago it thought that was impossible.

The other feelings was that, yes it is the end! Not of disappointment but the sheer realty that is the end of the adventure and commence of conformity.

I was overwhelmed with happiness seeing all the familia faces of family, friends and strangers as well. Cheering, waving, patting, hugging, hand shakes, congratulating all made me heavy. Throttled with emotions, not knowing what to say back or react. Although some of the friends were disappointed with size of the crowd and general ceremony, I was some how glad it was that small and took short time. I think big one of half or whole day could be like ten days of cycling.

More dramatic reception were after few days when I had to go to my grand mother. I decide to arrive in Marangu in the late evening trying to avoid attention. This did work quite well as my grand mother (about 86 years old) cried out her highest pitch for the joy. The cry traverse the creeks,banana and coffee fields, within few minutes neighbors and relatives start to emerge from half dark fields, joining the cry or call of joy known as ‘shangwe’ in swahili. By surprise the old lady start throughing the part by offering people drinks. Calling God/gods in uncountable names and thanks in several languages. She declared that she now can die happily after seen me. The words were too strong to leave my eyes watery, it reminds me those emotional Mamas in Latin America who wondered what was my parents though about me. I was glad that it was dark so I didn’t had to see the light skin wrinkled face of the old lady whose age decreased her body size while giving her speech.

Two days of cycling from Nairobi to Oldonyosambu I wasn’t tired as I was supposed to, 170km from Nairobi to the border I did it in less that eight hours even though I was still loaded and the day was partly rain. I didn’t think about finish line but I think being so close it had huge impact.

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Thanks to Justin and Valerian who came out to Oldonyosambu the nigh before the arriving date, together we camp, enjoyed the campfire with worm beers and tough bbq. I think without them the night could be longer.
Thanks to Tigo Tanzania for the quick organization of small arrival ceremony. Thanks to Erik, Jan, Annabel,Vincent, Dassa, Howard, Conservation Resource Centre, Front Line , ITV and manny others of come out or participate on the reception of Chile to Kili.

Climbing Kilimanjaro….
I’m now working on the plan to cycle from Arusha to the Marangu and hike up the Kilimanjaro as the finishing point. I’m not doing this because I haven’t got enough of cycling neither adventures, it because the goal of fund raise it still far behind. It is my hope this will be another opportunity to bring in more donors/dontions. I also think it will be chance to create more awareness in Tanzania and for for individual/stakeholders to participate in this cause. Tentative plans for climbing is September (proposed date; start cycling Arusha-Marangu 31st August, start hiking 1st September and finish 5th September) . For those who would like to participate in this can also rise funds on their own for Chile to Kili, this will have to cover their expenses for cycling from Arusha to Marangu/and climbing kili. Please, if you are interested write me email; lelo.chiletokili@gmail.com

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Nairobi

It is 7 days remain before I finish the long ride, although Chile to Kili is one which caught more attention. For me this ride started 2009 when I set off at the same place I will finish this time.

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I don’t think there is much different of the feelings from that I had in the time I was starting and this time of finishing. In the begin I was eager to start, I was excited that final I made a decision and there I was leaving first time out of the country to the land which I only knew by books, maps and imaginations. It was feelings of happiness and joy but also of fear and uncertainty for many challenges awaiting in the horizon.

It is more or less what I’m feeling today; I’m happy and excited that I’m approaching finishing point. I’m happy for being able to live through what other wise could remain as a dream or imagination.

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Well, As I approach finishing line it is obvious that this isn’t me only have to celebrate. There are so may people who participate on this endevour, the numbers are uncountable. Every and each one participate in different level which make me feel like we are so connected no matter of our differences. For this reason I believe all of us we should celebrate together for being the change we wish to see!

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One question I hear often now is about my general experience, I’m worrying that I can’t explain in few words but it is my hope that one day I can put all together and write down. I learn a lot but all these concepts, insights and understand need time to be in test and practice so hopeful will be that knowledge I desired.

In several time I have learn that many people wonder how is possible to undertake such endeavor. One comment recently made me laugh was; ‘searching for fame’. Well, I think for some it require to think bit more than that. It was a desire to learn and share what I have leant. It is LOVE of knowledge and to see that others receive adequate education so that the quality will be added to life and hopeful we can make world abetter place for all. It is ENTHUSIASM stimulated with nature an bicycle, I use it in every morning when I have to take on 100km and every other things I engaged with. It is PURPOSE; those goals I set awake me when I was sinking into depression of the long journey, when it become to bumpy and when it was too frustrating.

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Mwanza

Goma announced the arrive to East Africa, walk down the dust street I hear people charting in Ki-Swahili. This town which know little of peace is sort of cosmopolitan not only of tenth of international organizations and individual organizations but also for some East Africans such who run business.

The cross border day from Congo to Rwanda was like big welcoming, total contrary to what I had experience in Kinshasa. Here customs/ immigrations officers , policeman/woman, etc wanted together photos. And formalities were without questions or demand.

At Rwandese border post as always it was organized, clean and formal. So far I think this is most clean Africa country I have been. Rwanda didn’t only make the welcome home to East Africa but make the end of tedious visa and official harassment. As I cycled off Gisenyi towards south east along beautiful scenery of Lake Kivu on the gravel road named ‘Congo Nile Trail’. I remain with one challenge to cycle across the hills and valleys of western branch of Great Rift Valley. With the altitude varying from 1400 m to 2900 m of steep climb and descend it could be spirty breaking challenge but with the motivation of finishing line, enthusiastic children run with me 5 minutes up hill, favorable weather and most the reward of that panoramic view of crystal blue lake surrounded with thousands cultivated hills; definitely there was less physical pain.

In Kigali, four year since my last visit there is little changes, infrastructures have improved but all seem to be well planed. I’m here in the 20th memorial of genocide, it little bit political but i’m impressed by the way they confront their past and reality which is contrary to many other countries. President speech was moving also inspiring due it his character of insisting on the facts and responsibilities.

While Rwanda keep on reinforcing my hope and wish for African countries and the rest of developing world my quick visit to what could be twin sister, Burundi. Hope is still hang in that morning mist covering the hills.

I roll down to Tanzania border from Kigali, upon arriving at the border post is when I realized that I was crossing to the land which I was supposed to, probably strongly identify with. Unfortunately, all that prove to be another emotion among many other. Possibly is after long time on the road I develop mix feelings of arriving home. May be it was just being tired to the point of thinking that once I arrive in Tanzania I’ll bent down and kiss the ground. Well, the immigration office was quite fascinated and double stamp me with enthusiasm,lot of congratulation and welcoming.

Cycle through Kagera region towards Mwanza, I just realized how Tanzania is big country. In this rural areas of norther west the situation was kind of reminding me of vicious poverty of West Africa.

It was very nice when my friend Peter Gostelow cycled to meet me on the way to Mwanza. After unsuccessful attempt to get permit to cycle through Serengeti National Park. I will now do little bit of detour to Nairobi and enter Arusha. This will also give chance for those friends who want to come out and cycle to the finish line on June 7th.

Many thanks to Isamilo International School, Star Tv, Tigo Tanzania and many other friend for organize successful event in Mwanza.

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Republic of the Congo-DRC-Rwanda

I assume for majority when someone say Congo it fast translated to huge land mass of equatorial forest, with the deadliest conflict since World War II, leaving 5.7million people dead (most of death are not related with fighting). Well, there is Republic of the Congo also known as Congo Brazzaville the different is size and progress.

I cross into Congo cycling from southern east of Cameroon.This small country, the former Marxist country doesn’t make lot of headline though it also had it share of political crises. The attempt of transition from communist single part to mult parties democracy lead to civil war which lasted for about 4 years. Just like it big brother Republic of the Congo is wealthy; oil and many untapped minerals.

I started what was supposed to be ‘pygmies trail’ from the Cameroon president town of Sangmelima (I now fancy with African presidents home towns or villages because they always has good infrastructure good for few days cycling, the down side people and especial authorities tend to be too superior). The trail, I think is half ‘Cocoa trail’ for about 250-300km are small scale Cocoa fields mixed in the tropical forest. I think the project which bare so many sign boards of UNDP, Japan and Cameroon government consider environment protection as there are minimum clearance of forest for plantations. From Sangmelima the villages and small towns seem to be well off, often mud house and occasion cement bricks are roofed with corrugated iron. There are water pumps and schools in most of villages. I think part of this progress brought by profitable cacao farming which based in the house hold and the ‘blessing of civilization’ which demonstrated by good numbers of the churches dating 1900’s.

At Djoum the under construction tarmac road come to un end as well as the progress and ‘civilization’. A long day of rain and sticking red mud which clog in the wheels brought me to what will be last big town in the Cameroon jungle, Mintom. This seem to be the recent frontier of pygmies who are fleeing from modernity. The town is most habited with northern who are here for economic activities such as; logging, constructions, mining, etc. I made a friendship with forest inspector here try to get information about logging, apparently he couldn’t tell me the name of the hard woods although he is trained officers. But he told me that most of the woods here are coming from Republic of the Congo and CAR. We discus broadly about the logging with its ecological distraction, economic profits, etc. I told him that part of my endeavour is to sensitize about this issue, he said that is impossible task. Well I couldn’t disagree with him due to his experience. At last he promise to play his roll and save the rain forest, we agreed that we should straggle more to find more the technologies and modal of development which will protect this environment.

Cycling in this forest is quite pleasant and rewarding especial when it is dry and before it become 31 Celsius . The road is rolling across small creeks and the only narrow path of red earth meander into vast jungle. The forest is always calm just dominated with sweet chanting of birds, backing monkeys, this rhythm is occasional interrupted with logging tracks and chain saws. Pedaling into this forest bring perpetual emotion of good feelings and strength. The vast lush green forest with it streams unlike immense deserts I cycle through bring sense of hope and it pleasant to observe. Because of tall trees I couldn’t see the sun set but just watching the clouds changing colors, I just imagine how beautiful it would be. The nights were absolute dark when the full bright moon covered with heavy clouds. Insects, frogs, bats, etc of all strange callings dominate the nights.

I was luck to camp with pygmies in their encampment which are still in the dense part of conserved forest, Ngoyo-Mintom. This encampments are no much different from those one of San people in the Kalahari and Savanna of Tanzania. They are simple shelter made of sticks and palm or banana leaves. There always just few which are shared with the whole community for sleeping, pre-proses their huntings and gathered food. There were little timid expression in first encounter but disappeared after a while. In my encounter of those who still live in the isolated areas, there were few who understand some words of French but not real for conversation. I find out just like my experience with ‘Bush Mens’ there is great sense of simplicity among pygmies, they will wonder a bit about my bike, tent and cocking gears and that it. There were no compilation when I ask to camp contrary to other places where they will ask first to see immigration offices, police station, and gendarme. The pygmies I stayed with some are working in small fields owned by some folks who lived in the urban. There is good number of pygmies who enter marry with bantu groups such as Fung, go to school and full embrace the modernity while other still move and wonder into the forest live on and as the Mother Nature decide.

In the small town I see what is the crisis of pygmies which is the same for groups of people of such sort; Sans, aboriginals, etc. Pygmies fail victims of alcohol, seem like they become quick edited. I see them drinking those small plastic liquor of 45% alcohol, woman fell victims of prostitution as well.

The share of ordinary person challenges into the forest….
Due to it remoteness there is huge poverty in this forest, I think it could be ease to have quality life if they can add knowledge to improve their living conditions rather than live it up to nature. It is like poor haven’t got enough as war, terror, disease, oppression, etc still follow them. The sad part of the big challenge is to see that some of those who sent here to assist this people often exploit them and abuse them.

The day before Djoun in the middle of forest I was stopped with military man on motor bike carrying three people seem to be his family. He approach me with such aggression, backing and shouting like a charged buffaloes. He wanted my ID, I show him my passport without reading anything on it he put it in the pocket together with my map, claiming that I’m suspect. He should have been drunk because he never let me finish sentence, well he has strong smell of some liquor. While I was just making mental calculations he was explaining the my suspect to his family who seem to be equal horrified with his action towards me. He wanted me to pay to get back my belongs, well that is ‘jungle justice!’ I remember my contacts in Yaounde, thanks that there was cell phone connection. I phone my friend Mathieu ask if he could get talk with the military man or sort the help from the minister. Mathieu talk with military who at the end give my passport and map and take off with no more words.

Next day to Mintom another military man was too drunk to listen, he kicked may cooking port to the rains because I resist to show my passport. It was rain heavy, he was wet and too drunk to trust him with my passport. Thanks to the villages who helped me to gather my belongs and spot him from biting me or probably shoot as he was asking the villagers where was his gun.

These challenges of harassment and humiliation continue and worsen in the Congo till I start approaching the capital, Brazzaville. Immigration officers wanted 10,000 ($20)CFA for entree stamp, the same amount for police and then gendarme for what they call formalities which means writing my particulars in their books. All road block has it invention, the one which I find to be to ridiculous, well all are. They refused my yellow fever vaccination card asking for medical card which they explain that I need to be vaccinated for all disease include Ebola!

In my cycling reflecting these situations I remember those words of Julius Nyerere; Equality, Self-Determination and Respect to Human Values. For what I have experience here and other place of same sort, It make me wonder of how one can take for granted the freedom and comfort while the new of suffering like this will be like thunder flush.

After the border crossing shit show, I spend the night at Souanke village. I only slept a quoter of night as I suffer with fleas beatings. I blame the Congolese man who run small hotel try to get back some money what sound like a joke for him. That have been indirect price of cheep accommodation ($10-20) or food of less than $2). It is better to cycle in the work rain than cold rain but when rain everyday and strong it stop to be fun. Two days of rain and mud on the road brought me to Ouesso.

Ouesso is the town in the corn of border between Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Central Africa Republic while DRC is across the delta. The town is in the banks of Songha river which joined the might Congo river down the stream. I find the growing town economy to be run with foreigner immigrants, Cameroons, Senegalese, Mauritanians, etc run most of business while constructions and other high skills work are Chinese, Brazilians, Malaysians, etc. Already Republic of Congo start to get too much of the immigrant, in Brazzaville they are repatriating thousands of people from DRC which include many more from West Africa who leave here illegally.

From Ouesso to Makoua, 215km it only about 200km of forest which remain up paved. Sparsely populated in the north RD is like happen place now, there is construction of roads, buildings, water facilities, air ports, etc. Although it seem like it small populations still haven’t wake up to this dusk or the Marxist era, as I often seen in the bars or village square enjoying their primus beer, palm wine or liquor shots and dancing their most beloved lingala roumba or soukous musics while foreigners make most of the opportunity available.

I crossed the equator at Makoua without notice although the map is in front of me whole day. After train on the bumping and mud roads I made most of the brand new flat tarmac road which permit up to 170km per day. The forest give way to what looks like savannah grassland,though I liked the forest it was good to cycle in the clear blue sky once again. At some point the landscape become like that one of Rift Valley.

Planing next leg of Congo…
I exploring the options to get to the east of the continent, early I was convinced that I could attempt to cycle roads but this ambition was reduced with the rain season and Tanzania embassy officials who say security is not guaranteed. Well, that might be their reasons among many other not to cycle in Congo. My plan route of Kinshasa-Kananga-Lake Tanganyika. Since this is the hardest country to cycle through in Africa the current rain season will double the challenge. The other challenge which now I think I don’t have much energy to deal with is officials treatment and jungle bureaucracy, I’m sad to find out in this part of the Africa possibly ignorance still consume the very self. I spent 5hrs upon arrive at Kinshasa immigration, with good amount of harassment I had to negotiate the bribe which start from $100 to get entry stamp.

There were two last options, to take the cargo ship up river to Kisangani. So far waiting time is unknown for the cargo barge of what is said to be like moving village of about 300 people with no facilities. Duration of the trip is also not known but estimated to be more than a month. I just wonder if this not supposed to be separate adventure, of some prep and well served energy. I took on the last option to fly to Kisanga.But upon arrive in Kisanga, curious UN-Peacekeeping solders who has their base at the airport learn about my plan to cycle to Uganda. They told me few days ago their troops were attacked in that road. They said that for small rebels in the forest I will be good human power. Thanks to their help I was able to fly to Goma.

I got back in the saddle at Goma cross to Gisenyi, Rwanda and pedal the Congo Nile trail before joined the tarmac road to Kigali. And now in Kigali I will cycle to Rusumo border to Tanzania and aim to finish line at Arusha, Clock tower (the place where I kicked off 2009). Looking forward to arrive there on June 7.

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Cameroon II

20140408-130139.jpgI find Cameroon to be fascinating country with some unique aspects of daily life which I will try to share some here. It seem like formal education is still low in Cameroon, this creat the space between half understand of modernity and striving cultures, tradition with it knowledges. Most of my encounters belong in this space. Those who know less in the rural areas or urban they are simple and ease going which make me wonder if the less the person is informed with our contemporary understand and knowledge is the better he/she can be? Well I assume we could understand if the development and modernity would not have that superiority aspect. I often hear when people what to funny someone or in the argument, they will call each other a villager which means is backward. This complexity or transition is what make Cameroon life fascinating for casual observer of daily life.

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The first aspect in Cameroonian life and the one I like is about food and eating. Cameroonians are luck, there is plenty of food here in the large extent is good and vary, natural and quality. Cassava,Yams, plantains and rise might be the main dishes. These are mainly accompanied with fishes. There is so many river fishes here, mostly fresh grilled in the street in the urban and occasional dried or smoked in the villages. There also chickens, half chicken mixed with veggies and spices grilled while wrapped in the cement paper. Cameroonian also love pepper, most of food served with lots of pepper.

Cameroonian portion of food is mostly big, after the big plate of either ‘batton du manioc’ (pond cassava rolled in banana leaves) with fish or smash yams with got, beef or wild meet (though I didn’t see lot of wild meets apart of once find elephant meet in the menu, I was told several time that anything called meet would be eaten here.) The meal goes together with good amount of palm wine or couple of their 0,65L beers. I was once invited for a meal which turn to be meals, my friend order ‘poulet deje’ with veggies and plantains for both of us. As we were waiting we took the big 33 Export when the plate come it was enormous and delicious, although my friend push me we couldn’t finish it. Luckily we got to other big encounter joined us with great up tight. They finish it and order another one, insisting us to join them especial me who they say I need to eat a lot. Cameroonian believe on eat, they eat and drink well.

20140408-130357.jpgMy friend Peter who spent about 3 years cycling across Africa, he place Cameroon as number one country in Africa where you can easily find a beer. That is true. People here love their beer, at anytime when available. I’ll be searching for coffee in the morning people would ofer me beer which some work up with. Well that is not great ideal when I have 100km of rolling hills. In the evenings people are relaxed and enjoying their beers, in Cameroon this might also be the time for shopping. One can buy almost everything need for daily life; foods, clothes, shoes, phones, art works, drugs, etc. In several times I have been seen mans selling medicine, I find this to be bit strange so I try to have a look like most does even though they would not buy, they like to touch and monk the the price which is funniest part because the seller will give the price and buy will give back the product asking for what? then the seller will ask the buy to give the price. This is also the way sharing taxes works, passengers give destination and price and if fit for the driver will stop. The drug seller has painkillers among others but by surprise there were also viagra, real viagra made in India for $3 lots of pills. The other occasion which I find to be fun or humor f beers is when someone want to buy a cloth and try it straight away in the crowded open are bar.

The spirt of sports…
Cameroonians are active and love sports, anyway most of people here works with their hands. Football is big sport with such inspiration from their national team but as I find out cycling is growing with two international big completion; Tour de Cameroon and the First Lady sponsored tour. Moutain running is another growing sport inspired with international completion of Mt Cameroon annual run. In the weekend in Yaounde, parks and roads were full with ordinary folks running and stretching.

20140408-130224.jpg Through sport I was introduced to Mr MInister Atana who players tennis. He show unexpected energy and enthusiasm toward Chile to KIli. He use his position to bring the initiative to Cameroonians through national medials. He invite me for small reception at his home and donate all the money I spend for the Congos visas. More over he gave me the gift of ‘Presidential Diary’ with plenty of Mr President Paul Biya’s photos. He wrote a few words of inspiration and courage, most echo one ‘Power of Positive Thinking’. I’m thankful for Mr. Minister help and support but more grateful for his openness , sharing and enthusiastic character.For the short conversation we had I learnt few important things about African politics and leadership, it change some of my perceptions.

Though most Cameroonians in the rural areas shout to their stomach to ask me what I’m selling while I’m straggling with climbing in the 32 celsiu, this confirm that Africa is imaging market! Their have been supportive in several occasion shouting ‘Courage’ and express their truth feeling of my endeavor. I think this is place in Africa where I feel the feelings of altruistic for my physical challenge.

20140408-130309.jpgMany thanks to my host family in Yaounde, Matheus and Celine with their two amazing boys.

Bilingual country…
Cameroon is described as ‘bilingual’ country, guess it is the story of many other African countries. Well it only few I have come across manage these two languages; French and English in the good extent. I think it is not such ease for a child to master mother tongue and two foreign languages. People are well linked with French language which sometime mixed up or carry the accent of the indigenous languages. The small part of the western, the former British protector maintain English to be their official language. Well they are trying their best though what is spoken in the street is what they call ‘Pygmy English’ resembler to what is spoken in Nigeria and Ghana. This is also a political game as the country was divided from it former German drown boundaries, 50 years of reunion haven’t eradicate the differences.

In the National TV news from the interview the English version of the news title me as ‘Humanitarian Cyclist’ while the French version called me ‘Cyclist Solitare’. This is my fascination of transition, possibly it is the art but listen to the languages here, the words they use and the way they use it just amazing.

After the drama of most expensive visa for the Congos; Republic of Congo $200 for 14 days (apparently I was given express price which is 3 days for extra $100 instead of $100 which the waiting is 1 week but the officer didn’t give me the second option.) Democratic Republic of Congo was bit friendly officer with drop of Ki-Swahili verses but visa was $200 come out next day but start when it enter in the passport. I managed to lobby for long visa, the option come out 6 months, price for for another $200 after long negotiation. Where else could you find negotiable visa? Is this official steeling? No one to answer, may be inside these Republic the general situation will answer. On my way to peak my passport at DRC embassy I was surprised refused by security old man because of my tire shoes, anyway I’m not sure if that was reason or because I did’t left beer last time as he proposed.

20140408-132041.jpgNow in the south of Cameroon, Sangmelima possibly the last urban before enter what known as ‘Pygmy trail’. Perhaps, this is the heart of Africa then, the territory which bring closer the frontiers of Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and both Congos.

Isn’t this suppose to be ease…?
The other night I saw the constellation of southern cross, the constellation which indicate I’m home now. It is few hundreds kilometers to the equator, it is 32 celsius in the day time and hardy passes two days without thunder rain. I’m not sure how long I have to spend in thisjungle before I see the mountains of the East. I have spend quite long time to read my map but the general feelings remain like the one I had in the begin.

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Cameroon

20140331-155829.jpgCameroon or Rios dos Camarões (Shrimps Rivers) as it was named by Portuguese explorers. It is the country of scenery, natural bounty and diversity. From the coast line, mountain rangers, rain forest, savannah and desert. This geography variation create the diversity of people as well as cultures. The country habour many euthenics groups ranging from Nilotic (fulans), Bantus to Pygmy, leave the territory with about 200 different languages.

It have been quite a while since I cycle in the mountains, arrived in Limbe I was welcomed with climbings before decent to the coast again in Douala. It was a great chance to visit the mid west of the country, these highland are scenic and has pleasant weather.

Mt. Cameroon
Thank for the visit of Anton and Hélène. I’m now supplied with new equipments which hopeful will help to tackle the coming stretch of Congos. The visit come with invitation to hike Mt. Cameroon. The invitation to change the kind of challenge, to use different kind of muscles from one I’m now accustomed, to hike the highest point of West and Central Africa.This was good chance to change the weather, from 30 celsius to 0 celsius.

We drive from Doula to Buea (Buya) town on the foothills of the Mt.Cameroon, about 1500-1900m. It is nice weather compare to the heat and humidity of low lands, it is not ease to get clear view of the mountain as clouds hide it for the most of the time.

There are couple of clubs/organizations which facilitate the hiking. The price vary from $250 -300 for 2 days for two people. Probably is not so ease to sell a trip to someone who sell trips. When I did calculation I couldn’t find out why we have to pay all this money which doesn’t include food just guide which is $20 per day and park fees $10 per day. We try to find private guide but end up in the club again but this time we had to pay only $110, buy and cary our food and equipments.

The hike start in the edge of the town where there are former colonial building varying from German to British a common picture of Cameroon, in other city like Douala there is still three architecture; German and French.

20140331-160137.jpgBefore the steep trail enter the tropical forest, it wonder through banana fields, unguarded prisoners tending their gardens.

We peak John who is the porter to be our guide. He point out some train in the forest and say it is wild animal trackers path. I was surprised with this information, trackers in the national park?

Well, I just find out later that Mt. Cameroon National Park was official established as early as 2009. Financed and supported with German Cooperation (GIZ) and World Wildlife Funds (WWF). This for me was shocking information, a home of forest elephants and moutain Gorillas!

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These are the challenges of conservation I have seen from the southern part of Senegal to here. The efforts of conservation of environment and eco systems haven’t peak significant pace. Although conservation and sustainability can be noticed in the daily life of the pupation in this region. It seem like there is conflict with growing urbanization, population and poverty. Big scale economic projects such us palm oil production, oil, gas and mineral mining, etc seem to have lot of effects on environment and less sustainable. Huge part of population still in the poverty relay on this very environment for their less developed means of food production which increase encroachment to new areas and degradation. As I have mentioned several time before with no sufficient protein or meet production population is depending on the wild animals, a great challenge for the protection of fauna.

Cameroon is experience the something, majority are still substance farmers. In this kind of practice farmers are likely to advance in the new and fertile lands; mountains, forest, etc.

The hike to first hut about 3 hours though the tropical rain forest was quite but full of birds chantings. Although now we were 2000m +, were still sweeting from humidity. The hut here is of wood, with park rangers to check permits. Before the intimidate hut we caught up with rain but it wasn’t such cold. The intimidate hut is corrugated iron with wooden plunk which I guess to put your mattress on and sleep. The floor is rock and dust but carpeted with dry grass. The sealing board inside the hut all are full of signatures and autobiography, seem like favorite of locals who make it up here.

The hike to hut two was more challenging, the trail seem like it follow what used to be water fall path. It is steep loose rock track, for about 1 hour the walk was like counting steeps. I wonder how is the runner have to run in this section. I was told that this is most difficult part, what is known is they go down hill with their batts.

We camped at hut two 2800m, the corrugated iron hut is party burn down, thanks for that we could sleep in our tens. We brought charcoal for cooking, not best good option but the other group venture to chop down the remain bushes for fire wood. I try to tell them that is not goo idea since in this altitude it will take too long for plant to reach that point so it is great harm for the eco system an diversity. But this guys not only argue that the trees grown every season where they management seem to set unneeded and un managed wildfire. They also block they understanding. We also had discussion of trash especial plastic which little the trail and huts. Crew doesn’t seem like they used to take their trash back, most of the trash in the trail seem to be local products of packet waters and so on. John and one of his friend try to brain storm on how they could clean the trail. They claim that runners left lot of water bottles behind. I told them to go after the race sponsors; Guinness beer, Orange mobil company, etc. Our conversation smoothed with fire burn in the middle as we sit around. Brono, another hiker we team up, tell the story of his involve in supporting small enterprise in Africa while Patrick another hiker give use insight of geopolitical of Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon which is his study here in Cameroon.

In the next morning after breakfast we hike for two hours to reach third hut 3800m, which seem rarely used because porters don’t like the cold up here. Half an hour from this hut we battle with strong wind which force us to hold one another in some points we reached the 4200m (if my device was correct). John said the next summit is ‘German summit’ 4600m, with that sort of weather it would be quite difficult to reach it.

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We made our way down, this wasn’t ease and pleasant part. It seem like we put too much pressure in the leg last day, half way down we start feel the pain of tendons. I think it was ambition to take this mountains for two day but route doesn’t offer much because even for 3 days trip one has to make to second hut in one day. The down side I think is decent in the same route, the price is to massage legs for couple of days.

With still sour legs I cycle off Douala towards Yaounde. This was pleasant ride in the rain forest with rolling hills which brought me to 700m.

20140331-161354.jpgFor 240km the only big urban was Edea, a village of Cameroon football striker Samuel Etoo. On the road it only small villages till 15km to Yaounde. It didn’t feel like I was entering the capital. The downside of this road is trucks and buses rushing from Douala port to the capital and in the neighbor countries.

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The continuation…
I attempt to get Equatorial Guinea visa but the reception was like ‘don’t bother us’. I try to push to see general consulate but I was threaten that they will call police.

Gabon visa also prove to be too difficult or far expensive to get invitation latter which now I’m told will not even guarantee me visa. I made up the plan now is to head in both Congo since Central Africa Republic is still in chaos. The plan is to cross to Republic of Congo from Cameroon then follow river congo to Brazzaville. From here will cross to Kinshasa then head east to either Rwanda or Burundi.

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Nigeria

It was tedious mission to obtain Nigerian visa. To copy up with this situation I adopt life in Cotonou and fall along. If find myself in the simple routine; to the embassy, to the printing shops, to the restaurant where I had expensive but good branch which doesn’t make my stomach run like most of food here, back the hotel in the mid day to hide under fan from heat. In the evenings I would take a walk into the busy street to the beach, where predominant activities in this time will be drink beers, playing soccer, woman opening they food stalls. All over would noise of metal music, mosque callings, church loud speaker preachings all accompanying the sun as it sinking into Atlantic Ocean.

Finally, visa came through and I had no much to do with this place which I was starting to get used to. I cycle off the city which due to high number s of motor bikes they construct a separate lane. I had to share this lane with motor bikes loaded with different cargo. In several occasion I had to stop to let the one with sugar canes or bed to pass. There were some which caught my attention like a woman on the motor bike carrying big bundle on head, this is not ease as the bike has to go through traffic. Other make me smiling; some one on the bike holding screaming goat on his lap.

Benin – Nigeria border, welcome to Nigeria…
So far this is the most hustling border I have been. It is crowded place of shouting, jostling and pushing. I had no option but do like the rest, I stick behind motor bikes and refuse to get off my bike, anyway there was no much resistance since I was only one in the bicycle. I was looking around for a Benin flag so I could stump exit but the crowd kept on sweeping me forward along several road blocks most with ropes, wood sticks, tires, etc. Further on were mans with sticks, golf bat, metal sticks with nails, all this to manage this swam of human beings. At last when the crow broke lose I asked where is stumping offices. Surprisingly, I was told that I was already in Nigeria. When I consider the crowd I though of continue but for the visa which took me about two weeks to obtain was better to stamp. I went back into the crowd find small Benin immigration office which could not be spotted without guide who at the end ask for coins. Nigeria immigration office was not much better compared with Benin hot container. In the Nigeria offices I was hustle for gifts but manage to get around and make friends.

I was surprised with the size and function of Nigerian border post which doesn’t resemble with those Nigerian embassies I have seen neither reflect the big country in the region. Well, my expectations were still high at the time but soon I will learn that, the giant of Africa is selling good images abroad but inside lies the necked truth.

To Lagos….
After border the four lane road leading to Lagos through Badagri in the begin didn’t pose much challenge to cycle on. There were many check points of police which also seem to represent different squads. All has nothing to do with bicycle,there were too many vehicles already to deal with. This was great opportunity for me as I had to do Cotonou-Lagos in one day (130km). When there were no road blocks and urban vehicle peak up the speed about 100km/h, that wasn’t quite pleasant when there is no shoulder. Cars pass me very close in crazy speed, this was scaring but to this point there were no options than keep on pedaling, stick on white line and no warbling.

20140316-194909.jpgThe vehicle wreak which decorate the road give clear sign of kind of the road and drivers I was dealing with.

I stopped at Badagri for lunch, I was hopping to see some sign of this historical town, ancient port for trans atlantic slaver trade but there were non. It big urban which I think make the begin of Lagos though it about 60-50km to the heart of Lagos. From here on was another show, the road got busier with VW old vans which are preferred min busses in this area. There were people everywhere, some shouting to me things which I couldn’t understand. Faces didn’t look so welcoming but nether too aggressive.

Traffic become madness as I approach the city, loaded wagons, trucks, busses, people; at certain point when I stop and look around, it was like i was in the sea of chaos and disorder. In general cycling across Nigeria I find out that there is one or two words may not exist here ‘ organization and order’.

To get trough this I had to do like everyone, push and shout. This isn’t ease when you are not used to, and especial when one is on the bicycle. For the 130km I saw only one bicycle. I don’t know what do people here think when they saw someone in the loaded bike trying to make through. 90% of cyclist I saw in Nigeria which are most in rural areas were woman caring their farm products.

Well, the accounts I read from touring cyclists who cycled in Nigeria, it clearly sound ease for a European or any other foreigner of different skin color since it is rare accession to see foreigners even in the normal activities. In my cycling here I saw only two Europeans, I was told there were some especial in the oil regions but they are in those tinted vehicles which race by with sirens and two quipped military vehicle in between. It is African county I have see least number of Chinese!

I was blamed by drivers for being the road with bicycle, some will show this by literary stop on may rear wheel or push me out. There are few who pity, give way or give some sign of appreciation. Telling you what? This make lots of different here, it compensate for 100s.

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In this ocean of people, with limit infrastructure, broken vehicles, heat, noise, air pollution, shouting, pushing; after 130km I wasn’t tired because of cycling but rather tired of having to deal with all these. I made to the house of host in the neighborhood of Somolu. This place didn’t inspire courage when I arrive from big street, it is sort of bit up lifted slam. It is dense populated, sewage and electricity is big problem. Most of faces were unpredictable, the man who point me direction seem like he want something. My host showed up and assure me that is safe.

We wonder around the dark street with diesel generators to find food. We find pond cassava and maize mail with quite spice sauce, the common dishes of West Africa. Every single piece of small meet is sold separate for about a dollar per piece. Nigeria like most of West African countries there are no sufficient supply of meet, when available it is not cheap. In the rural and semi urban there huge consumption of wild meet. In the road I saw monkeys, rabbits, snails, etc all for sale.

I spent a day try to do sight see Lagos but that was impossible to do much because of transport. It is so difficult to fight for public transport in the rush hours. It just ease to seat in wood plank seat in the 35 celsius traffic jam.

The worst day of the journey so far…

20140316-200406.jpgI left Lagos, managed to get less busy road for half a day then joined express to Benin City which is more or less four lane high way. The road is busy especial with trucks coming from Lagos port and busses rushing to central and south east of the country. This road is good at some part while other are under construction and others have those big potholes which make cars to slow down or go around. The road was so noise especial with horns, some tracks will not give way if someone do not horn.

In the two days I made it to the Benin City where there was slightly change of atmosphere. I learned that this make the end of Yoruba ethic group and it is start of Igbo region. It said that the people in this region had less exposure to formal education, I wouldn’t agree less just for what happened to me here.

I was cycling across the city heading to the Delta State, as always I take it ease in the crowd watch life activities. At the edge of the busy central I stop to check direction. I check my paper map then confirm with one in my phone. A man walk to me and ask me ‘who are you?’ , that is not ease question so I take time to figure out how to replay. But the gentleman keep on talking asking and answering to himself, not real addressing me but crowd which swell so quick. I try to explain to him that I was tourist from Tanzania, this didn’t made much sense so I try to produce my passport. When I open my front bad they saw my camera, this worsen the situation. The crowd roar with discussions, discuss about me like I wasn’t there. Before I thought it was just curiosity but at this point it have turn to some sort of street court of more than 30 judges and some keep on coming. What I could here mostly is that I’m terrorist, some shout ‘Boko Haram’, saying that I have some bombs in the panniers.

The crowd of more than 50 people now was getting restless with many suggestions, some calling for police some being police by start to back orders to me. I was quite anxious and terrified try to hold on my bicycle and check my pockets.

Fortunately or unfortunately, military vehicle showed up, they push the crowd which wasn’t ease to manage. Their commander come to me and ask was is the problem but the man who start the mess answer all, claiming that they suspect me as ‘Boko Haram’ terrorist. I straggle out of shock to answer and producing my passport but the commender refused to see the document. He say I should follow him to his office, I try to resist but that was worse thing to do. He say I’m challenging the authority so he ordered his man to lift me into the car. That wasn’t difficult for these big mans but the challenge was for heavy bicycle with the gadget which threaten them. They disconnect my hub dynamo charge for the claim that is bomb and the small speakers as recorder saying that I’m recording them.

We drove to the well guarded military barrack but the senior refuse to buy terrorist claims. He gave me the look but say nothing. He told my captive to release me or take the matter to civil police. My captive didn’t seem to be so happy, we start driving to the police station. They were now into argument suggesting that I gave 5000 Naira and they late me go. But I remain silent, already terrified and angry, I remain calm and look at them.

At the police station I was shuffled around with backing of orders like I was deaf criminal. For all the time I was thinking about this situation and the statement I have been hearing, non of them make real sense. If I was terrorist with bombs what I was waiting for, I could blew all of them in the street as they surround me or at the barrack or the police station. I think it was just a cynical behavior, show of power, luck of experience with foreigners especial the one who you can not real tell. At the police station I show them my visa and told them I was a tourist but this seem to make little sense, they all repeat ‘ African Tourist?’

The ask to search my bicycle, to search for bomb which I think they had no idea how look like because lots of my equipment capture their attention and they ask for explanation. Final they end up noting my name passport number and number of visa in a piece of paper. At this time they were now talk rather friendly anyway it dint ease much my anxious but I appreciate. I told them that I have never been harassed like this before but the answer was ‘this is normal’. I went on and say that I was peaked up in the street without explanation or prior interrogation, I felt like my basic right were violated. But the police who seem to be senior at the time he said that I wasn’t Nigerian so I don’t have any right. At this point I just realized I was talking with someone who probably has little understand or he is trying to annoy me.

I cycle off the police station trying think what has just happened,I could be killed in that crown with their mob psychology. I’m sure this is how they end up chopping the hand of those hungry and desperate thieves or stone the adultery to death. I was angry but couldn’t find who to blame; Me for coming here? The boko haram threaten mob?. As I was still in this personal discussion a black Mercedece Benz horn at me and try to push me out of the road, people inside waved me to stop. I pulled off, then in the vehicle come out two sweating traffic police with two civilians. The questions was the same ‘who are you?, where are coming from? where are going? what do have inside the bags?

I bust out of anger and desperation stetting that I’m traveling with bicycle and I have just come out of police station. Unfortunately, my voice was swallowed with horns and shoutings, there is already a traffic jam and the crowd is forming again though they are alerting each not to come closer because I might have bombs. But Alas! this people were so curious, guess they would die for seeing. They just push and push, I was in the middle of big crowd in the less that 3 minutes.

The police who seem to be of high rank than the one I talk with before with three armed polices he push his way through the crowd and greet me. I show him my document and explain the I have been at the police station, he seem to pay little hid to my explanation and busy himself into the page of my passport. As he was going through or just admiring my visas and stamps. A man in the civilian dress but with quite authority voice started to interrogate me. Everyone seem to want to interrogate, i’m used with this in the places I stop for food, water, etc but this man was asking reasonable questions. As I answer him few questions the policeman confront him with voice which come together with command and hostility ‘Who are you?’ The man produce his ID which I couldn’t understand but seem to make sense to the policeman anyway he dismiss him. Telling him I was under his control, the argument went on. They start pulling my bike. The people who stopped me they have already disappear.

The man who look like intelligence he lost the battle and reman in the phone trying to get his squad but I was driven away before his squad arrive. We drove to the same police station, people were surprised to see me again but the police who brought me now he is of high rank, they had to salute him. He address them like he was talking with deaf. Anyway he got the story and shown the piece of paper with my info. guess for avoiding to look stupid he say I should meet his chief. He called his chief but over the phone the chief doesn’t seem to buy the story. I sat around waiting for the chief, I took time to study the details of the police station and the people around. It didn’t look like the place which should be avoided for all price not to looked inn, such a skin body within these giant fellas. It is place where cockroach and rates chasing each other, I think they will eat someone who fall a sleep. Most of the police doesn’t seem to be in the better shape either,their uniforms looks like have been worn for long time. The front desk doesn’t have much to record informations or to facilitate their job.

My study was interrupted when every police around jump out of the seat shout and salut to the big man on his white tradition attire; a white cap loosely hang on head, a loose white robe which goes together with long pants. He definitely look like cheif but not a police chief. Anyway he had a look at me seating there may be terrified like chicken waiting for slaughter or may be I was looking bravely to scare him not look at my eyes or address me. He quickly scan my passport and told the standing polices ‘what is wrong? this man has visa and passport. Why do you have him here?’ He didn’t wait for answer but gesture to me and say ‘please go’. He kept on lecture the police about the question of liking to ‘chop money’ ‘to take bribe’. I excuse and tel him I was here before and was released but arrested again, i ask if he could give me some form of latter. He said he doesn’t have that authority but the visa is federal legal document for me to be in the county. He point at the emergence number at the wall and ask me to take them if they would be a help for me.

I was off again, I was so busy discussing the situation myself but with pedal seem to take what I couldn’t take inn. At lunch time I find out I was already covered 51km for less than 3 hours. On the way there were many other check points but I was stopped only at those which din’t seem to be busy. They let me go quick because they were loosing money, the bride which they collect as it is their salary or official payment. At the evening before sun set I was in Warri, 105km my original goal, I did it for about 5hrs. I was exhausted but far less tense, the morning event seem like 2 days ago.

20140316-200726.jpgMany thank to Zuwairat, a Nigeria friend who surprised for book me in the comfortable hotel with lots of food. I felt bad when she apologies for what happened for me in her home state.

That kindness and place made me feel like I was out of Nigeria for a while except that the gate man at the hotel almost refused to open me a gate. I’m sure for him I total look like a person who do not belong in this premises; dressing in the broken pants, sweeting with the sink which absorb all tropical sun everyday. On the dusty loaded bike! But Zuwairat is a strong lady also with authority voice when needed.

To Calabar…
The next morning I left Warri, taking all precaution not to look like boko haram. A difficult job since I don’t know how these muslim extremist look like. The road which wonder into the delta was again partly new, partly broken and the rest under construction. The flat terrain made me go fast and that was my intension. In this part there were few urban but villages are big. At the evening I was 15km before the city of Port Harcout. The next day I cycle across the city. It was sunday, most of the things were closed down but those hundreds of churches were flooded.

I have never being in the place where there are such highest numbers of churches or sort of churches like Nigeria. The road is full of sign boards bare quite hopeful and promising name with rhetoric slogans. The churches which vary from open space one with just canopy to keep sun out to the massive buildings.

I’m so intriguing with religion/spiritual activeness of Nigeria. It was also here where I find out, it not just for the introduced religion but this place have been active with this sort of philosophy long ago before contact with foreigners. The Orisa/Orisha religion seem to be among old African religion which survive even across the Atlantic, it was carried on with slave with slight modification to master’s believe Orisa continue and nourish in Brazil and several Caribbean states. The home of this religion which recently received international recognition from UNESCO is in the heart land of Yoruba people, Ile Ife.

Orisa shows how people here used religion for healing and so on but with little resemblance with modern religion structure. It is the main instrument used by tradition healers (Baba Lao). Though this kind of practiced was condemned and made as ant-christianity I think the religions here are twisted to fit the former one which I assume was more practical. Healing by miracle is one of it aspect of these churches. By listen to the preachings and talk with different people it seem like the self appointing prophets, pastors, bishops, apostles, etc are feeling the gap of needed education/knowledge to majority. It also formulating new culture out of lost one, community life in the new urban as well as psychologic survive in this place.

The whole day of sunday seem to be total different, everyone in the sunday special, nice and clean. I couldn’t find even those mama who sale food along the road.
Small towns and cities in this side seem to be far nice in the comparison of when I passed early, some are clean, lighten with street light, has some public recreation areas, etc The scenery here is also nice; landscape is divided with so many rivers which creat shallow rolling valleys of palm trees.

It almost impossible to camp in the places I traveled through in Nigeria, I was also less enthusiastic even to try it. The cheap hotel/guest house which one of my friend describe them as ‘shit halls’ cost from 2000 to 3500 Naira ($10-20) with some negotiation because being a foreigner or villager in the city in Nigeria is everyones luck day . Most likely to have fan or air condition function when here is electrics power if one is luck.

Calabar was nicest city I visited in Nigeria; clear and organized for most part, surrounded with natural forest, likely to find relaxed people, etc. I was luck to come across well informed and experience Cameroon consulate worker. Armand who straggled to get shengen visa to visit Europe, travel alone in the different European countries with bad experience in German where he said no one wanted to share with him train or metro seat. He process my visas within 10 minutes with normal price of $100. He also offered to show me around Calabar.

The Giant of Africa….
Yes,Nigeria is the giant with population of 168.8 million people, it is predicted to even over pass South Africa economically in few decades.

I have read and hear so much of this country but negative ofter overpass the positive. Though I was aware that the travel in Nigeria especial with bicycle was going to be challenge I promise myself to open my eyes more wide so I could find answers to my questions and possibly see the other side of the coin.

Well, I started to see the complex of Nigeria from my the Nigerians I encounter abroad but that didn’t say much neither the country’s writers who enlighten me in many ways. Nigeria show evidence of distinctive African civilizations and the consequences of interruption of this system. From the south coast to the north, there are ports and cities which grew because of trans Atlantic slave trade, I assume in the north out post should be some which supply the trans Sahara Slave trade as well.

At the end of that terrible human exploitation which nourish here duet it social systems, someone drew the lines and put three distinctive ethnic groups together; the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. It is clearly that person didn’t had any clue about these people. For more than 50 years Nigeria is still paying the price of this mistakes.

20140316-200600.jpgFor what I have seen I think there good number of Nigerians who don’t live very different life from what their ancestors live couple of hundred years ago, not less than my half brothers Maasai in Tanzania or Oromo people. I think that is our proud but challenge is when it disrupted or doesn’t fulfill our needs. Talking with herders who flew the poverty of north or looking at young girl tilling the land in the forest to plant cassava or yams, I cant tell the different. The system now support only few that why it is the leading country in Africa for market of private air planes while at the same time it could be leading for malnutrition and people who are feeding on monkeys and other wild animals which only gods now what bacteria they will produce tomorrow. I think it also the reason why it produce laureates but with many officers who can not tell the different of tourist and terrorist.

Nigeria is quite a different African countries or African due to the challenges they are facing. They learn quick most in the Streets university , they work hard and relay on their personal abilities. That is what I have seen in the street, if one can shout more louder and push he/she will be the right one and go through to the next level. Lot of young people I talk with who are real ambitious and determinant unfortunately, for most is to become wealth and powerful they rare talk about help and support like the most of other Africans. Anyway I only saw two sign of EU projects and no NGOs or other sort of aid and donors. I assume in this case these people are les exploited with good well and benevolent work compared to Ethiopians.

Nigeria like many other African countries is wealth of natural resources and other form of wealth although here is the one of global impotence, the oil. Apart of the fact that wealth prove to be hard to be shared among all citizen but country is pay more price for the long team environment effect which are equal shared with all citizen if not only the poor ones. The neighborhood I stayed in Lagos, is famous for printing. I visited people work day and night. They receive tenders to print all sort of things around the West Africa region, I don’t have doughty even outside. But these people doesn’t have access to energy. With all their efforts they are living in the sharing houses which are crowded and has no sufficient important facilities.

If the was energy, why not all this young people couldn’t exploit the opportunities like IT just like their counterpart in India? With such a big domestic market, all days I was cycling in Nigeria I saw queue at the filling stations and many closed down. An OPEC member who can not supply his internal market. I was told that the countries refineries doesn’t work full capacity so for long time they have been taking crude out side to refine. Well, that is opportunity for new company which will be own by politicians. That is the cry I have been hearing everywhere in Nigeria, for both those who know what they talk about and those who doesn’t know ‘Government and Corruption’
There is one of Swahili phrase say; What have been said, is there, if not there then will come’. At one point Nigeria was the first African country to pay be able to pay it external debit. I think that mean things are possible here and can be far better.

In Nigeria again like other several African countries there were little room for my package idea of environmental conservation and sustainable development but lots agree with my cry for more emphasize on education. The question which stuck with me as I seat in the boat rolling down into calabar peninsula to Limbe, Cameroon is; Is it poverty influence bad government or bad government influence poverty?

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Togo and Benin….

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One day and half of cycling brought me to the Togolese frontier. It was quite a busy road from Accra to Sagakope. After crossing the Volta river with it wide green basin there were chains of villages. Near to Togo border life bust out again a dense populated small urban which increase on Togo side.

The formality and order of things end when I cross the rope to Togo. Immigration officers they were quite happy, cheering themselves with liquors. It was fun that they kept on guessing the first Tanzanian president without success and didn’t click on their brain when I mentioned him.

The life on this side was vibrant, beach where lively with music and bars. There where also a smell of, that ‘still forbidden herb’ on the air, it was like entering ‘Togo Libre’. Both Togo and Benin are touristic in the coast, they receive good number of visitors from their two neighbors; Nigeria and Ghana.

The festival of ‘Valentine Day’ which I saw in Accra was in the continuation here. In that red nigh in Accra restaurant where flooded, bars full and extended in the streets. Every one seem to put on new dress. The commercial advertisements demonstrate how whole Memorial Day is commercialized. And here where the fast moving globalization, people trying hard to share the common global values.

Lome start just soon from the border and will finish about 50km before Benin border. It stretch bit more inland. I meet with old friend who was arrived in Lome from inland Burkinafaso. His stories where implying that Togo exist in the coast,inland is almost forgotten.

I was informed that the Benin visa was to be granted at the border just as Togolese. I found out that to be ‘no’ just after few hours of cycling form Lome to the border. Friendly and gentle immigration office said that is not problem, he will send my passport to Cotonou, the capital and I can peak it up when I get there. At small crowded room hot like hell, the new was broken ‘I’ll be fined for not observing Benin immigration laws’. It took me more that 6 hours to be served. I tried to resist but tired officer who she is serving more that 3 people at one time she through my passport aside.

There is influx of foreigners in Benin just like most of other African countries. I queued with; Indians, Pakistanis, Lebanese, Moroccans, Chinese, French, etc. Well, I assume the former ‘Marxist’ country has something to offer to all these souls.

In this region I’m overwhelmed with the prices of visas and tedious process, from Morocco to here is 12 countries, all require paper work and sometime senseless interviews. I think like most had that imagination that Africa exist in the whole as it people ofter called or claim ourselves to be ‘African. But West Africa have challenged this notion; Is that physical description or because of the physical features we share? I think we share more closer ancestors than we are divided.

The division is far too deep, it is an assimilation which is still practiced well till today. Yes, there are certain occasion we share and understand each but that is only small and limited bunch mostly consist literate who are able to see beyond these ill inflicted boundaries.

African leaders after the brutal death of euphoria and optimism accompanied by dream of United States has manage to do little to break through boundaries which was imposed upon the continent. West Africa within 16 countries their citizens at least can move around with less hindrance. Within this ECOWAS bloc there are achievements and more on plan like one currency, etc.

In this recently travel, I feel like even us called ‘Africans’ it is like our existence in this continent is a historical distillation, partly desire of being whole but also projection or fiction which we share with the rest of the world. As I made my way from outside to inside, I think of what this continent, it people mean to the outsiders? What it have contributed to world? There is no argument with the historical facts, that is clear enough. It is still a continent of untapped natural resources and possibly a space of infinite possibility.

In general, I just remembered the stories I was told in Latin America, the understand of North America and fast growing knowledge of Europe to replace the older one. Still the continent is just partly known to outsiders. But how much to it natives?. And Africans I meet; artists, football players, street hawkers in Spain. Well, it all thoughts and observation from the saddle of bicycle.

The Benin immigration with no mercy fined me $105 excluding the visa. Because of their overnight changers and luck of recourses they are overwhelmed with numbers of visa demand. I have to wait for 2 days for my visa before start what seem to be tedious process for Nigeria visa.

20140220-155407.jpgThe most notable thing in cycling in Togo and Benin is the colorful dress. It is common to see multi color in Africa but I think Togolese and Beninois are most colorful dressed African I have seen so far.

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I saw off my friend who already have got his visa for Nigeria. In this fare well is when the reality of cycling in Nigeria reveal. ‘I’m real going to cycle to Lagos?’ he asked. Beninies can’t understand why would someone go to Nigeria just live apart cycling to Nigeria. My friend Russlan from Ukraine he have been unrest since the change of the protester in his native country changed. He decide that he will fly from Lagos to back home and joined the movements.

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Ivory Coast to Ghana …and Tanzania elephant crisis…

Malaria slowly left the body though in fatigue but was glad to be out of that horrible fiver.

Ivory Coast is well linked with roads this make the cycling far ease compared to dust bumping roads. Around Man area it elevated region with hills and valleys. From lush green forest to palm fringe of the coast Ivory Coast land is fertile and well exploited. The palm plantations crown the hills and roll as far as eyes can see. There is good numbers of pineapple plantations as well as bananas. . Cocoa was what made the economy of Côte d’Ivoire boom in the ’80. Went down with political crisis and now is come back. Cocoa and fertile land have not only brought hay days in Ivory Coast but also lamenting ones. This have encourage long time regional immigrations from countries such us Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, etc. The immigration took political turn cause instability in Ivory Coast what also become regional crisis overlapping as the tribes inter-related beyond the political boundaries. In this forest is where the Liberia rebels start and spread the wind all the way to Sierra Leone.

Cycling in this region, in this remote and dance forest. I understand how any guerrilla war might take decades.

The other cost Ivorians are paying is environmental degradation, one of the rain forest in the north with almost 100 years old tress was and is still taken down for the need of small scale cocoa plantation.

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It is like Ivory Coast was about to follow the suit of East Asia courtiers to use its land for production such as palm oil to bust it domestic product. The evidence of this can be seen in the development of infrastructure and particular in the city of Abidjan. But seem like political crisis mad it miss the turn, there is still efforts to catch up.

Ghana…

20140214-125640.jpgTwo days of cycling on the relatively flat coast and low land of Ivory Coast I arrived in Ghana. Among the first African country to part with British empire and join the Pan-Africanism dream rising from the hills of Ethiopia, championed by it last emperor Haile Selassie. Lead by it legendary Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana went on even to adopt the rainbow colors of red, green and golden but instead of Jewish star it set it own ‘Black Star’. The early success of Ghana set inspiration for many other African countries which soon after couple of decades dream of self ruling become true and then back the dreams land; like the one of Congo DR. Well, history with it weight seem to be treasured here and against all odds Ghana is still striving to show example for other African states.

Upon arrived in the Ghanian boarder I was assisted with immigration offices, immaculate dress and well speaking. This was surprise for me, this kind of fuss sometime happen where there is some foreigners and tourism but not in the middle of forest. It first boarder since I cross from Spain where official give some deamn for their work to assist and be responsible without ask for money. In general, I found out later the system here is trying hard to catch up with 21st speed. It went on to produce people such as Kofi Annan, and lot of other self driven Ghanians I meet.

The four days cycling to Accra have been battling with mid day heat and humidity, some times with broken roads where Chinese are busy making new ones. Even though I wanted to take it ease as I’m recover from Malaria, I find myself doing 100+km per day. At last I find out I am not strong as the body assume. The last two days to before Accra were of such exhaustion. But in the expensive towns overpriced with mining (oil and gas mining) workers, the option was better to move on.

Despite the effort of Ghana trying with good governance is still trapped in the extreme poverty. In the villages I slept most houses has no toilets, the public one is out order, over used and still in use. The laboratory for disease to people who have no running water. In the small urban which are floated with young immigrants, few skilled while more are not. Food is bit high, in several occasion I had to wonder lot in litters and dust towns of shakers to find food. When I find ponded cassava served with source of smoked fish, the hygiene on preparation and serving doesn’t arose uptight. Good food in Accra which is partly fast food is $4- $6. May be the gap is wide here or the plan to alleviate the situation of majority is too ambitious and doesn’t catch up with population growth speed.

In general Ghanaians are friendly, kind and welcoming. It ease to mingle with people here, always there is good answer even for dumb question. When I ask for direction folks with give such a efforts to show directs or ask others to make sure I’m assisted. It was so difficult to find cheap in the city hotel. After wonder for hours some dude the decide to take their motor bikes and lead me around. Cheep hotel/guest houses are for few hours.

Planned to sort Nigerian visa here in Accra but turn down because I don’t permanent residence permit but advised to apply in the last country before Nigeria. In this case is Benin, seem like will be sort of show. Mean while it was such a pleasure to catch up with two friends come here for conference; Howard and Ragnvald. Thank you guys for the treat!

…and the Tanzania elephant crisis…

Though some thinkers stressed the possibilities of natural limitations, explained about the need to conserve natural resource and develop sustainably as early as the time of industrial development in the north. Till this day it have been hard for us to understand what this mean or bothering to do much. The history of nature and wild life conservation is very young. In the 1870s the yellow stone national park among earliest national park was founded, the wind took African rich biodiversity in the 1950s. The pioneer of these efforts ofcourse they were hunters who realize the diminishing of the creatures they knew nothing about more than how they died when shorted.

Yes, it is not long since we knew that there is NO human race is less human. Still we haven’t full abolish that mentality neither forget the price paid for this kind of changers.

In the 1980s Tanzania was home of second biggest number of elephant. Today is epicenter of massacre and trafficking. It said that Tanzania is loosing 30 elephant per day, nearly 11,000 per year! The elephants which numbered 70,000 five years ago to day they are scarcely 13,000. That to say about elephant what about dwindling number of poor Rhino.

The great explanation of crisis is poverty and wealth. Again it said 350 millions of Chinese middle class consume 70% of poaching ivory not to say about other endanger wild animals.

Chinese are not to take all the blames, there lot of cultures to change even in Africa. There is wide practiced spot hunting though this is done with only those who are well off and very rich. It said that the royal British guards need 1 black bear for the each hat they were, they have to replace these hats almost every year. How may black bears ? Britain is hosting giant wild life protection conference with about 50 heads of state. Some of my friends wondered what will Tanzania president will say due to his failure to protect elephants which hit critical point during his ruling. Now you can figure out. In Tanzania the poaching hit the deep roots of corruption, the trade is such profitable and lucrative that it swallowed every one. Now it in politics and life threatening venture.

20140214-125752.jpgTo day we know and understand the complexity behave of these wild animals especial elephants. I believe that like all creature of nature, they have no less right to life than us. They are vital to the ecosystem which support our life.

Although this situation is controversial and complex as it may seem but I think we have been in the more hard one than this; stoping slavery, racial prejudice, etc I believe it possible to save the wild life. We need massive participation and campaigns, more effective ones, more than those one in the conference rooms. Asia need more awareness and long term education, our royalties have to stop hypocrisy and take honest position to save the wild animals. We need to make sport hunting a barbaric act. The success and survive of these wild animal is in the hand of each one of us, we need to act according to out position and ability.

I have talked about my affiliation with wild animals and nature where I was luckily born amongst. It is my drive to take this cycling challenge. It hard and bitter to understand the interconnection of problem and see what happen but still it doesn’t take away the hopes.

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