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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Asante Tigo Tanzania

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As I was writing the Chile to Kili project with great assistance from Jessica Mc Manus she was skeptic about my ambitious dream. I remained confident that everyone will be accepting of what I am talking about because it is obvious; We are the ones who are destroying our environment so it is our obligation to reconstruct and conserve our home land. On the other hand there is great need for education, with me as an example. I think we as human’s who share the world as a home we can assist each other to reach a certain level of quality and mutuality.
Due to different circumstances we emerged from history, in this case some fall short of motivation and inspiration. Along the way we end up losing certain qualities; Self-worth, Courage, etc.
I learned about these things mostly during my personal journey, in life; personal realization and confronting daily obstacles and challenges. I found out I wasn’t alone. Alas I am not alone! There are millions like me.
So this was the case, a case worthy not to think twice of, to cycle the world, confronting the unknown; mountains and its unconquered characters. Lush green forests with it rivers and untold life threatening parasites. Deserts with its immense stomach ready to swallow all those souls who venture to test her impassion.
Most thought that I was insane, and I was unable to argue with them. My bicycle and I were ready to start what I called a project. With my ticket to South America and a little stripe of money to start the journey that was made possible form $1 donations, soon I was joined by friends who had the spirit for adventure.
My enthusiasm fluctuated when I failed to convince people, companies, and institution’s to contribute to my cause. I’m glad that my spirit remained intact; I was motivated enough with those few and the skeptics who supported my idea and me. This fired another personal quest; what is wrong with humans? Is it so hard to work collectively to find solutions to distance problems? What if there were mass deaths? Due to hunger combined with malaria and AIDS and children mortality.
At one point I was told that my cause is like an elephant, it is too bulky to eat. So we need time, right?
In short, to raise $ 100,000 remains a solemnly challenge. I remember half way through this journey when things turned more darker; I was left alone and advised to abandon the mission. Little resistance brought new supporters with fresh energy.
Today, I’m energized with the news that Tigo Tanzania, a Telecommunication company donated $10,000 to the Chile to Kili project. Over the 2 years of this project the biggest donation had been $1 000. For a company operating in a developing country like Tanzania where there are so many urgent needs like education, environment conservation, and inspiration for the young people. I imagine it was a difficult choice they had to make. For me this is clear sign that, it is not only possible to raise the remaining $80,000 but is possible to achieve the required level of education, and solve the environmental challenges we have while improving the life of people who live within and keep on developing sustainably.
I would like to thank and appreciate the company management and Tigo Tanzania. Your support on this social cause will help the initiative to reach its intended goal but also set an example. I hope this will be a message to other companies. I would also like to thank the individuals who put their personal efforts and resources to make this donation possible. A Special thanks to Annabel Ross, you have been the change!

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Monrovia to Abidjan and the days of worse Malaria

The road leading inland Liberia is is smooth tarmac but quite old enough to tell the story of one successful place. The city limit is at the slum known as ‘red light’. Here rural arrivers either come to find work or refugee they set up their own shelters. At the stretch of about 1km is market place, no one is paying a hid to anything or anyone, this cause terrible congestion, noise, pollution, etc.

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The road climb into green hills, half way the climb the grey cloud brook and let strong shower, it fall so quick that it was still frozen. As I kept on pedaling celebrating this rere moment I could see the small ice cubes melting so quick when they hit backed soil. In the top of the hills is long stretch of biggest rubble plantation in the world, fist contract date 1926 Firestone rent over 1 million acres for 99 years with payment of 6 cents per acres. 2005 new contract, 35 years for 50 cents per acres.

This part of the country was more effected with war, there a plenty of ruin houses. In villages we camped, we were confronted with the same stories of horror and haunting memory of war for the adult, at certain point I start changing subjects when it was going into that direction.

Further north the road get worse, chases breaking pot holes with only a mark that there were tarmac once. Chinese are busy reconstructing new road.

At Ganta were we arrived at lunch time, we find Lebanese restaurant with air condition. It was like entering another planet, this comfort was expensive. Plate of rice and chicken $8 (USD) where outside same dish probably not well spiced is that $2. We stuck in the restaurant and neither well not muscles will allow us to cycle out of the village, we needed a break. I was the same next day so I let Matias continue, it was a sign of Malaria as I come to learn later. I caught up with Matias next day.

The road to the Ivory Coast boarder is dust road, thanks it just upgraded recently from footpath to gravel road unless other wise the distance of 100km even with bike would take about 3 days. It just deep valleys leading down from Nimba Mountains.

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At Liberia border I spend more time than wanted, chatting with immigration officials who are looking to establish friends, drunk one who wanted to show their knowledge of the world and those one who wanted to show how power full their. At the other side of the bridge Ivory Coast boarded post it was smooth crossing, just stump and go!

I find Matias out side small village guest house, we spent the nigh in the small rooms which turn to be ovens and mosquitos holes.

Trapped into vicious cycle…
It was love morning awaken with thousands callings of forest birds, the close canopy forest was covered with thick morning mist. I pedal slowly try to watch for familia birds, there were couple of them. The road goes through deep forest of chanting and distance noise of people, the weather is still good but soon it will be unbearable hot. There good number of people matching to both directions, with machetes on their hands, woman with bundle of firewood in the head and baby on their back, some carry huge yams, some sort of dead animal. As other part of West Africa most of activities here are to find food. The road goes though the villages the same like those one I have seen in Guinea, Sierra Leone, etc. No one will tell me again that this people are poor because their are lazy.

There are deforestation and damage on water shade, with place where there is no meet protein is so valuable that no one dare to skin the animals scaring to loose the precious food. In this case most of wild animals are just good meet as one enjoy goat or ship other pace else.

Recently West Africa made me think about the philosophy of conservation, I come to conclusion that the recent one we have it can hardly work in the place where a life of human is on such a stake like here even if they will die tomorrow because of their distraction. In the more observations it is like the extreme poverty here it is the cycle with interaction to may other aspects; instability, environmental degradation, health, education, etc. In what I have seen I can’t see any way out without well design sustainable and combined efforts to alleviate this situation.

I have seen some project here which give evidence and hope that there is possibility. The EU projects on Education, Food production, and Health. The challenge is, they are in small scale and I’m not sure about their sustainability. Liberia has many 4X4 of United State Agency International for Development (USAID), there are plenty of sign boards and headline in he news. This made me think it is true that there were lot of funds coming in poor country but now with just little research on the subject it seem it is like sort of game.

It said that in the year 2002 USAID for Sub-Sharian was $3 per person. Taking out U.S consultation, food and other emergency aid, administration cost and debt relief. The aid per African is total of 6 cents.
No matter how wrong or accurate the date may be for me putting together what I know; the wealth of the wealth and poor of poor. I’m less convinced that we can not reduction or eradicate of extreme poverty which is not only the treat to our environment but also the global welfare. It total incomparable how may have been spent of fighting terror and how may on fighting poverty.

The Malaria days….
I have enjoyed a childhood life with no much suffering of dangerous and scaring malaria because of growing up in the highlands. Apart of the Amazonia malaria which bust out in U.S which wasn’t bad compare to the one I have now because I remember I was able to be in the television talk while I was sick.

Since Monrovia I start notice some minor changes in my body but I though that was due to difficult roads and weather. My thermal rest (mattress) start making huge babbles which make it impossible to blew. So the day I start feeling the pain in the back born, shoulders and neck I thought is because of sleeping on the ground. The next thing was chill cold come from the spine cord and made my body shiver, before I put it together I got acute headache. Laying in the tent I felt like the world was coming to the end, I straggle to put on cloths, I couldn’t think clear what should I do. For the whole night temperature went up and high so was to remove layers and put them back. The dominant thoughs was about death. It fun because I rarely think about death and now the thoughs were resisting to leave me.

The next morning the fiver decrease and the only wish was to remain in laying dawn. But I had to find out how may pills of malaron I should take. I’m not used with medications and with my numbed brain i though I will die if I over dose. So I took a walk to the village dispensary, 3 hours of walk. I don’t how I did it but thank to village guide who loudly keep on telling me stories which I don’t remember. He was always saying we were there.

The dispensary was partly supported with EU, is saving several villages. It is not best place to be especial when one has though of dying. Local make jokes with hospital here, they say is the place when you go inn you don’t come out alive. The nurse find my French accent interesting but she had no clue how may tablet I should take, she advice to take one after 12hrs. But because I was too sick I encourage myself to take 2 tablet.

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The village food didn’t encourage up tight; boiled cassava and boiled meet with skin which still has some hair. I decide to take the taxi to the town, the mini bus or taxi took whole day with several changing on the way. At one point we had to go back to the village because of the threat from armed robbers. The dark fall while I was in the road, it was like malaria ghost has come back. With no layers I shiver for hour.

At Yamoussukro I rush to find hotel, i needed worm place and something to eat. Wondering around I was feeling so bad that I was waiting for the time to faint. I find hotel but I had no enough CFA (local currency) and they will not accept dollars. I handle in my passport, ipad and my USD. The night was like the night in the tent. Now with internet access i got advice for malarons, thank you so much to those who send me advices and wishers in Facebook. All were useful and part of quick recovery. After two days the fiver calm down but the more safe place to be was Abidjan. I’m now in Abidjan, thank you Daniel with your family for amazing help.

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Your Donation and Support

20140120-213938.jpgAs we celebrate the life, achievements, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It remind us we still have to raised awareness of conservation of our environment and need for sustainable development. This could be achieved by investing on education hence better knowledge, quality life, technologies, polices, etc. You support to our initiative will lead to better future that could be built from positive change.

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Freetown to Monrovia

History is history but I think it can answer some questions and can also determine one’s direction. Sierra Lone and Liberia finish 20th and start 21st century with down side of human; war and brutality. But also emerge with new optimism and hope most notable; First elected female president in Africa. Ellen Johnson Sieleaf.

20140119-170104.jpgAs I cycle to Freetown I was curious to see the remnants of decade long civil war, many have fade away with time and the city is booming. Traffic congestion and over crowded small part of peninsula, lack of roads, running water, electricity, etc. Partly explain that while others were moving forward someone here was moving backward. This will be more vivid in Liberia, electric polls, roads and others showed that once there were infrastructures here.

20140119-170215.jpgOne of the account which bring the stories of what other called ”Senseless War” and it madness close to our imagination is from a former child soldier; Ishmael Beah ‘a long way gone’. In this memoir book Ishmael tell the story from the time when his was just a boy in the village of Mattru Jong (which I had chance to pass through), the time things where normal to the time when he will lose his family and forced to become frontline soldier while he was still 13 years old.

Stories still exist in the rural areas I cycle through, I chart with formal child soldiers who are now in the late 20s, old folks, etc. The most effected were venerable rural areas and poor, the victims were uniformed youth, children and woman. War took long time and the madness reach the peak because partly was fueled with drugs, it was hard to tell from soldiers and rebels as most turned into groups of looters and reapers.

Sierra Leone is beautiful country of many rivers, white sand beach, mountains and forest. This natural beauty added with indomitable spirit of it people. Majority of Sierra Leones are kind, friendly and welcoming just like they have never see or experience other side of human character.

It one of the former British colon which I find to preserve well the link. The name of places are like; Water Loo, Kent, York, Liecester, New England, etc.

20140119-170426.jpgThe answers are often ‘Yes Sir’, ‘No Sir’. And most asked question; What is you mission in Sierra Leone Sir?

I was fascinated with their Krio language; broken English with drop of French words and African languages. ‘How de bodi ?, De bodi is fine…!’ that is the greeting goes.

20140119-170308.jpgThank to my host friend and family, Paul Lamin for trying to teach me without much success.

Most of the things are in the bottom rug of moving up, many young people are in the streets with luck of education and essential skills they still have hard time to make their way into economy with limit opportunities.
I was luck to present to young professionals of Environmental Protection Agency, their questions demonstrate the commitment and enthusiasm. One of the thing I will remember this agency is a treatment of proper meal. I can’t think of other country with such simple food which could also be descried as luck of food and passion to prepare it. Most of the meals are boiled rice, cassava sometime mixed with sweet potatoes and plantain. This is saved with ponded cassava leaves or potatoes leaves with piece of fish, plenty of palm oil and hot paper.

….in the jungle…
Out of Freetown I team up with Matias, Danish dude bound to South Africa. After 50km along the coast we were to see if we could hitch the boat to the other side across the bay or make couple of hundred kilometer detour to the town of Bo then down to Liberia.

20140119-165843.jpgWe arrived at the conspicuous port due to the crowd of people and shakers settlements around. Before we though twice about the ideal we shuffled into open wood boat, I was bit hesitant but Mat’s bike was already on board. All the pushing and jostling was like the boat will leave next minutes. Before I remove my shoes so I could walk the depth of almost chest size to reach the boat, a muscles dude offer to lift me up on his shoulder. I though it was kind of joke but the man was serious, of course it is not a free service. It fun looking at him lifting up huge mama.

Arrived at the boat I was shocked with the number of people and cargo. This shock remain with me for the entire 2 hours and half trip which seem to be like two year of my journey. It took about 3 hours of shouting, jostling and engineering to switch on the small yamaha engine. We venture into immense ocean, I didn’t had courage to watch and enjoy the white sand beaches decorated with tall palms and green mountains on the back ground with dotes of colorful villagers. Roughly there were more than 60 people with cargo on the boat, the wooden fleet was so deep one could touch the water. I sat down barry on my book avoiding to look around the blue ocean scared that I might spot the wave like those I have seen in the other coast which could easily cover all of us.

The boat could only make it to 15km/h, it greet luck that the ocean was calm that day. I was so reveled when I saw land but my jubilation was when I set a feet on it and regain my sense of confident.

Chiefs…
At Shenge village we were taken to paramount chief, we were instructed to sit on thatch shelter join with other old mans. I was surprised when old lady emerge from the house we were asked to stand up. For the first time I met female chief. She didn’t bother us much, guess she didn’t had much energy. She offer us banana and instruct that we shown place to camp. If were not lot of formality and old man hang around I wished to have more personal chart with ”her majesty” How did you become a chief? How is to be a chief in this culture where woman not only can not enjoy the same privilege but still has long way to change their mentality to realize the equality.

This will be the same formality for every village in Sierra Leone as foreigner we had to report to chief especial when wanted to spend night in the village. Sierra Leone still maintain chiefdom, it said that chiefs are elected but it can be for life time as it mix of tradition and modern democracy. Most of the chiefs they were very nice to use. I find it interest to talk with them, all of those I met got good education, some have lived in America, some saved a good position in the government and now a chief position seem to be retirement. It seem that there is big gap between their people who are majority illiterate living in the isolated villages in the forest, ocean or river side. Most didn’t suffer with these villagers especial in the time of war. The swagger, respect and fair to these leaders I think it can hinder democracy.

20140119-170954.jpgThe road to Liberian border was quite challenge, there are plenty of roads as there isolated small villages. Most of them are like footpath with so many rivers and creeks. Moto cycle is only fast link. The think forest is rolling terrain. It hot and humid which suck water from the body.

20140119-170702.jpgIn the diamond mining area road get better but huge mining trucks constantly steer dust which cause temporary blindness.

In this road I develop worst saddle sour ever for last 2 years, when the blisters bust contracted with sweat I couldn’t seat neither walk. It was quite painful to try to pedal because there were few options.

Tommy George…

20140119-170859.jpgAt one evening in the village of Maselelo contemplating of place to sleep, Mat was feeling the bottles while I was waiting in the edge of the village. I engaged in the conversation with a young boy was standing there watch the river, I asked him about direction and distance. He spoke very clear with good English which is not common in these remote villages. I went on to ask him where he study. I come to find out that the boy who sound quite intelligent was in secondary school but following the death of his father last year he was now out of school unable to finish two years to high school. He is living with his grand mother. Knowing the harshness of this place, I felt the weight of this boy life. What are hopes and chances for this young man in this remote village ? Look around his grand mother thatch house and small field of cassava and ground nuts. The distance from the last village and the distance to next village with rivers to cross, she can not make much profit if luckily she can sell some harvest.

Tommy, 13 years old. His annual school fees is 200, 000 (leones) US $ 46, this is lot of money for people who are leaving under $1 per day. I decide that I will give the boy my food money.Thanks to Mat who decide to share and contribute for 100,000 (leones). This make use run out of cash in the last villages but glad to see the Tommy back to school. Hope I will hear back from him sometime or my friends of in Freetown can help out.

Liberia….

20140119-171221.jpgEven though I was too tired and with additional pain of saddle sour, I find it surprising and fascinating as we arrive at Liberia boarder. It was like arriving int the lost state of America not only because of flag but the immigration police uniform, military and most notable; the language. Till right now I have had time to understand Liberia English, it is half way american accent spiced with jamaican slang.

Who said this country never colonialized? It was America colon with Ameico-Liberia through American Colonization Society from 1820. Indigenous become citizen 1904, possibly that what make it second oldest modern African state after Ethiopia.

A day cycling from the border (137km) through new villages and few war ruins, tarmac road brought us to Monrovia. Arriving in Monrovia a small city/town but dense populated, It was like entering into Hollywood live scene. Broken buildings, houses with tall walls and barber wire on top, military barracks, slum duelers, lot of UN vehicle racing around, etc. All this at small space.

We were luck to find home in the middle of what is said to be among of expensive African cities, they say this is due to lot of aid workers, huge number of UN staffs, mining companies, etc. Thank you so much Kate and Ivan for the help and share your diversity experience from the farms in South Africa to all the way up here.

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End of Sengal-Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry

Finishing Senegal…

We exchange fare well with Agustin with his wonderful children and extended family who made my stay in Ziguinchor a memorable. The family security dog wouldn’t agree ease with this depart, he chased me for about 2km till he was fetched back with Augustin. I was introduced to Augustin with friends who run organization which support ecological projects; Ecofunds.

20140101-155742.jpgLike most Senegalese, Augustin is ambitious educated in Europe in business and Agro forest economy studies he come back to give back to his community, he set up several firms including travel agency which according to him become quite successful to the point of collaboration with airline company to manage direct flight from France and Dakar to Ziguenchor. His flight were always full put the government running flights into risk for those incidents he lost his business license, at the time I was in Ziguenchor the government was unable to provide flight for couple days. Ziguinchor, is separated from main Senegal landmass by narrow Gambia and Gambia river, this region was more exposed to christian missionaries and less to islamic therefore enjoyed the luxury of education.

I cycle out through the growing city, 15km I arrive at uncrowded border just peasants parking their big sacks of peanuts, I stump out Senegal at the immigration officer siting under the mango tree.

20140101-160117.jpg Senegal come to the end, my first Sub-Sahara country after the cycling in North, Western and North East Africa. It goes with the excitement of seeng cycling in the black Africa but also it reviling harsh reality of this continent. The country have done far better in comparison with others in the region; with minimum resources, straggling democracy brought several reforms through governance which put the system into motion at least with stability. There are good progress and achievements in education field but has yet to copy up with speed of population growth, create suitable environment and jobs.

Guinea-Bissau…

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Arrived at the boarder post the man on football ti-shirt ask for my passport. Just to make sure who he was I ask if he is immigration officers. The colorful man found me ridiculous, he told his fellows that ‘I think the house is disco!’. Well, I could imagine for him he couldn’t understand how come for his fellow black dude wonder who is who or ask direct question. The office was quite casual with atmosphere of celebration, everybody was running his own initiative from the road to the back of the counter. I was stamped after threatened to be returned to Senegal.

Later I found out Guineans particular these one the former Portuguese colon (or overseas province) fancy a lot with clothes and shoes. Although there is no a lot here, the busiest sport I saw in the markets is second hand clothes sections. Despite the fact that the country is stricken with extreme poverty, the sense of beaut and colors are still precisely. Girls just like Brazilians like to express themselves through dressing. I found out the dress code to be suggestive for the country which is not modern.

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I stop at Sant Domingo, camped at the village with German man who found his second home in the middle of thatch roofed and mad houses. I find it quite ironic consider my understand of German culture with their altruism character, well I can’t generalize!. I camp out for few two days,

20140101-160916.jpgexplore the market day which was tremendously colorful with some products which I have never seen

. Most of this product are of cause food products, about 80 % of daily activities here is to find and prepare food often one meal per day. These food products are all natural most grow themselves in the forest therefore I assume the price is determined by collecting time. Wondering in this market which isn’t very different from the one in the village I grew up, I thought to myself the wealth and and rich of poor man is his food and freedom, these are all natural food. In the developed countries these will be only for rich man.

20140101-161321.jpg Nature determine life here provide all the nutrient by seasons.

It is hot and humid I sat down and watch the market

20140101-160448.jpg, my mind wonder in different conners to put together the situation in front of me. I think this system could be fine 100 years ago or so, today we have grow into different sophistication. The village is growing or has been growing though the population in Guinea Bissau like most part of Africa is quite stretched out populate sparsely (Gunea-Bissau has about 2 millions people in the area of 36,125 km square). With no clean or running water, access to basic health care, function latrines, balanced diets, etc. In my though I find it to be a sot of misery and hard situation to be exposed on. My friends finished the shopping, anyways there is no much to buy; Neals bought new cup for bucket shower and bar soap. I walk away my head occupied with thoughts of what could be done to alleviate the situation. But why? ; a moral question or human responsibility?

It was already 11 am Neals was ready for a beer I guess that is good remedy to sustain life here but it could be to better for me.

I find my remedy to go through this is bicycle, my hunger and un-sastification transformed into physical pain as I pedal through the hills and valley under the sun, endurance and tolerance is secret, motivation and hopes are tranquilizer; combined at the end of the day bring internal calmness and it is 172km; I’m in the Capital, Bissau.

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Along the low laying woodland (main cash nuts trees) and rice valleys it chains of villages. Lot of smiling faces and enthusiastic children who most shout ‘Branco’ ‘white’ at the first sight bit older would call out ‘Pretu’ ‘Black’. More older enjoying their palm wine by the road side which boost their confidence would great out ‘Ami Kuma?’ the creaole language (How are you my friend?) About 40% of people in Guinea Bissau speaks creole which is formulate out of Portuguese. Instead of saying ‘ Coma estas? they will say ‘Kuma? and if they want to be more formal ‘Kuma esta?’ and that how it goes to form a language to link them across their several tribes with separate African languages. It said that is again about 14% can speak official language Portuguese while others speaks various African languages.

Human bond and practice of simple things like compassion is out of question here, out of urban areas folks are so generous and helpful, I find Guinea-Bissau to be very friendly and ease going people. People are very ease to know and liked, they carry certain fascination which attract me.

In the capital I was invited to camp at the home of tax driver, it is small slam not to populated. I pitch my tent on room which has no tenant it has no window like many others. Illegal connected electricity come around 8pm and there were about 4 times black out through out the night, it bit worthless. That is urban, huge part of country electricity is day light dream.

In the morning the compound was quite crowded with young folks of about 15 to 25 years, its canabis and liquor bar. I adjust into my new home and make friends, I was provided with bucket of water from the well in the compound

20140101-161606.jpg. For the toilet I would use bush toilet if there was near by bush, for the show I was too tall so I had to squat. Anyways in this part I find to have less shame or concern for the necked, in the rural areas folks bath in the streams woman wonder around bare chests.

20140101-161746.jpgI spend the day charting these idle young folks who couldn’t figure out what is the heck I’m doing. They are full of dreams and energy but there are less opportunities; creativity is so low and no much of inspiration or motivation. Most wish one day to wake up in America or Europe. It was incredible experience to live within these people I slow start to see what lay beneath the daily life here, there is lot of stress. Fights especial verbal fights for woman break out time to time, these is loud shouting to each without listen to one another. Woman carry more responsibilities, often single parents because they start have children at age of 15-18 they can hardly control their children. People are very curios in the slums, these fightings are big scene, it just like football, they took parts and cheers.

Football is big entertainment, music play a big roll in the daily life. Despite all the hardship this place was lively and full of life.

It was more tough to spend more time in this place with no sense of private or individual space. I met a group of young professionals from various West African countries, they were exited with the initiative. At one evening I give present to them, this is after they had couple of round of beers and wine, they all cigarette smokers, they smoke through out the presentation calmly chewing on peanuts and drinking. At the end one of them a Senegalise, Sele who speaks less than all offered to put me in the cheap hotel in town.

I got Guinea-Conakry visa with no lot of paper work for 30,000 CFA. I ride out of the city, the road from the ocean wonder inland. Guinea Bissau is well linked with roads. The villagers seem to be more remote every single day, disconnected from the modern world. Along side the roads there are good numbers of wells which seem to together with fancy mosques beside thatch roof and mad houses. Most bear the sigh from whoever donate them, Kuwait has more mosques and wells, EU, USAID and MDG (Millennia Development Goals) has more schools, health care (some of them abandoned, in one village I was invited with village health worker who work at his mad house.

20140101-162444.jpgI ask why they abandoned the nice breaks house. He said he is only one left at the village, there is no money to run the clinic which still bare the rusting sight of donor.) There are so many donors vehicles, signs, etc. Of course there is improvement but thinking of their resources, funds, technologies for whatever the time they have been here (MDGs was sign 2002) but still for 2 millions people the system is yet to work! I wonder what will be of another 11 years to eradicate extreme poverty if there is running down now. If we are not making business out of it then we should re-thing the strategies.

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On the second day which was x-mass day there was no real sign of celebration out here, it was till the evening when I come across military barrie at Ganamberi village on my way searching for Cantanhez National Park. The solders seemed to be happy the senior who introduces himself as ‘Comondante’ he wasn’t just tips but quite buzzed. He said that I should stamp excite before I continue because that was border post, argument with his colleagues break out. Apparently there was no respect for ‘comondante’, anyways I will still be in Guinea Bissau. Comandante win he said we’ll have to find the immigration officer. That was mission, I wonder into village houses with him after refusing to give him my passport. On the way we become friends, he tell me the stories of his proudly military work, children who he doesn’t know the number exactly or where they are. We stop a lot for greetings which is quite important here In one instance we stop at the house he introduce me as tourist. This was christian family though majority are muslims include comandante there is no great distinctions they all practice their local believes which are more stronger. Five littles of palm wine was brought out and served I sip and rotate the jug. I do not real like the palm wine, in most cases it is 0% hygiene because the make are ofter drunk. I kept on not to offends my new friends whose by no with alcohol they were more excited and the leave of intimacy was high. They learned my dislike of palm wine. I was given a special drink made for x-mass; it mix of condensed milk, cash-nuts and local liquor, the closest comparison is Amarula, it definite changed things!

As I was told the stories of village, what I should do and I shouldn’t the food was borough hug plate of rice (I have ate so much rice in west Africa than I have eat in my life time). I think they drunk 10 liters of palm wine before we continue. Immigration office, an old man sit in front of his big compound he order his bag. The old bag contain ink and stamp, he stump my passport and sign I could remind inside the country or leave. It was dark by now but comandante is trying to lead me to the park but he was too drunk which he would never accept. I proposed to camp at the barrie instead. Seat around campfire I listen the story of drunk solders. Guinea-Bissau since it independent (1970′s) have never had a democratic elected president who save office for full time, it is a military play ground country. The last president he was assassinated because he try to disarm the army. Recent arm business is cocaine trafficking, facilitate shipment from Latin America to Europe with stop over in the Guinea-Bissau Islands.

The direction I was given in the morning didn’t bring me to the park but instead to the few mad houses with bitten up flag which is slight different from Guinea-Bissau, I was in Guinea-Conakry.

Guinea Conakry….
In this village/post there is another ‘comandante’, his voice and face tells the years of drinking and smoking. Apart of his worn out military uniforms he has no any recognizable military swagger, I though this is his retirement post. He was gentle and friendly, he had a look on my passport and said I can continue but will have to find my way to whatever I go. He gave me a bottle of mineral water.

There were single part wondering into woods, I stick on the man path, it pass through solitary villages, crossing many streams and rivers with no bridges. This means unloading the bike or sometimes walk into stream if it is not too deep. Other places bear chests woman washing in the river would help me to lift the bike most are real strong and muscle.

This part linked two countries is wild ‘a wild Africa’ with no much wild animals. It tall trees forest. The cultural is quite intact, I couldn’t see the cars just motorcycle, people, young to old board these motorbikes bump and dusty for 100km to get to the town. The main link to the modern world is radios, partly news and the rest is music.

In Guinea-Conakry people are linked with French in the rural areas most will be able to help someone out with basic words while most are fluent in urban areas. I spend the night at Debis village done only 60km cycle 40km and walk the rest. Camp at compound of one extended family, the old man of the family lead me to the stream to shower with other bunch of man coming back from the farms. I hang out with the young lister to their stories and dreams. Most (boys) would be married with their father soon, on 18-22 years old their likely to be married to 14-16 years old girls. When I ask them how many children they wold have, they say as much as god will give them. When I ask for more precise answers the estimation is from 6 +, and how they will sustain them ? That is god’s willing. Girls would say they want to be married when they are 25 yrs above but there is nothing to do in the village and it is too hard to refuse their father’s decisions. They also prefer less children (4-). In Both Guinea I saw many young girls with children on their backs.

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In that night there was accident, the thatch roof caught fire and the entire mad house burnt down. Though people have less here it was big loss, there was cries and moaning.

20140101-163249.jpgAt Boke town the dust and bumping come to the end, the road is paved but now with all the dust I have running noise and dry throat. The drivers here know two important things; accelerate and honking. No mater how I try to stay calm the honking drive me crazy especial when I’m climbing and the shoulder is occupied by grains or cloths and no where to go.

Boke to Conakry it is rolling hills of cool morning and 32 celsius hot and humid afternoons. In Guinea Conakry with about 10 millions people of what could be among the wealth country in West Africa due to it potentials and natural resources, the system is working bit better compared to other Guinea. In both countries, the rural folks with their small towns are quite gentle and friendly. This is among of remain Africa of imagination in teams of people and culture.

Twenty Fourteen…
In the hectic and busy suburb of Conakry were majority conduct their rural life though they live in urban with slightly likeness of other modern urban areas. I watched very minimum celebration of the turning of the year. Thanks to Charles Ibsen (2011 TDA ride) for providing comfort of home. The news from Sierra Lione embassy is that the consulate is on the leave for unknown time.

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