"Flash before my eyes
Now it's time to die
Burning in my brain
I can feel the flame"
Ride the lightning - Metallica -
It's really impossible to predict when our time can come; that moment, that one time that we all in one way or another fear. In order not to worry, we can go through life trying to ignore that it will come , or we might as well live worried all the time thinking that we have more chances to prevent it. Whatever the attitude we take, we all know about its eventual inevitability. When I set off for Lesotho, mostly every imaginable thing was in my mind, except the possibility to be even remotely close to death. What I would remember a few days later though, is that death is always potentially near us at all times.
Finally, after 10 months of riding across the east of Africa I arrived in South Africa, the great, and probably the only real, industrial power of this continent. This is the last country before completing the tour around the first half of Africa. Honestly speaking, I had never been particularly attracted to this country, but since it was on the way it wasn't a matter of avoiding it on purpose neither. It is true that the one who doesn't see, doesn't know, but today, after having spent two months in this country for which I hadn't originally felt interest, I have the certainty that had I not come, I would've probably missed one of the greatest gifts of traveling in Africa. During my stay in South Africa, I felt more in more in love with it and its people every day that passed, turning it easily in one of my favorites in the world.
When I opened my eyes after crossing the border, I entered Swaziland, then I blinked and when I opened my eyes again I was already back at the South African border. That's the feeling that I got from my flying visit here. Swaziland is a country the size of freckle within this massive continent and I almost certain that most of the people in this world don't know it even exists. I needed a little less than two days to ride across its entirety from side to side. Neither its hilly terrain, nor its bad weather I had were enough to extend my stay a day longer.
2015 has finally come to an end. A chaotic year that started as one of the most difficult of my life but ended as one of the best. Life may kick you mercilessly sometimes, but afterwards, it will always find a way to compensate you with joy, for the sorrow it put you through. That is what 2015 was for me; it was falling from heaven, shatter myself against the ground and stand up again to pick up the pieces and rebuild myself. All this process lived on a bicycle along thousands upon thousands of miles across the African continent. But beyond the miseries and times of joy, it was an intense year of great lessons that will definitely not pass unnoticed. Today, only 3 days into 2016, I look back to share in this post, some of the most intense moments of each month of 2015. One per month. It was a very difficult choice but here it goes:
January - I find myself in the idyllic Indian ocean coast of Mozambique going through a very rough emotional situation. The beauty of the country and its adorable people give me the strength to carry on without losing faith.
Mozambique is the vital proof that mere material poverty is not enough an excuse to justify the endemic problem of the sickly demands of money to the white man (assumed rich by definition) that happens invariably in almost every country of sub-Saharan Africa. Mozambique, is one of the poorest countries of Africa and consequently of the world. However, there seems to be an inherent dignity in Mozambicans what keeps them away from being immersed in that constant obsession of believing that every white man must give them money and stuff. Neither they appeal to the image of pity because of their material lack, not even to the infamous resort of generating guilt for the atrocities that white men have done (and still do) in Africa against their people, the black people.
Mozambique is probably, one of the countries of the world to which I had most longed to reach. I dreamed of a green country, exuberant, of long straits of uninhabited idyllic beaches along its extensive coastline on the south of the Indian Ocean. In regards to the human aspect, I didn’t have a very defined image of how would its people be and I could only try to get an idea associating it to the people I’ve already known of the rest of Africa. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that the Mozambican would be completely different, in the most positive off all aspects (in the most positive aspects), to the rest of the Africans that I knew until now.
After spending weeks in the bush, arriving in Zimbabwe brings a great welcoming break to the monotony. However, I didn’t really know what to expect of this country, so famous for the immortal Robert Mugabe, it’s omnipotent president that, from time to time, makes it to the news after carrying out a new whim of his to be able to stay stuck in power, even with his lucid 94 years old and after 35 of controlling the country as he pleases. Normally, I don’t arrive to a country with so little references but, in this particular case that I couldn’t get my head around to investigate, I decided to surprise myself; and sometimes it's good to do this.
After having spent Christmas in Livigstone with Father John, I continued the road with a stronger spirit. Cycling with a broken heart is not an easy job, but once I had crossed the legendary Zambezi River, in Kazungula, I could be sure that when I arrived to the zoo, there would be no more room for sorrow. There, in Botswana, where there are more loose wild animals than people around the bush, everything would be about riding the bicycle with the precaution of not altering the beasts, not to die in the attempt of doing so, and reaching safe and sound to the 2015.
we arrived to Zambia, where we officially entered the south of Africa.
However, together with the arrival to this new country, many strong
changes would also arrive; a change that I would never have imagined
real, but it became imminent; so strong that by the time I was able to
see it, it was already too late to fix it. Zambia would be a beautiful
country but a country that would be marked by the suffering of change.
Only 35 days had passed since we returned to Africa. What we had been through in the last four countries was so intense that they seemed 350 days. We accumulated more than 2000km of exuberant mountains, crystal-clear blue lakes, african jungle, savanna and bush filled with wild animals. However, by the time we got to Mbeya -a big city in southern Tanzania- and were ready for a well-deserved break, Josefina, Julia's sister who had come to visit us, was ready to go. The
reward for having cycled across such rough roads was not only a couple of
great bed and food days, but fortunately it was Malawi. This place is
one of the most beautiful, quiet and easy-to-ride countries in the whole
Africa, and it was a particularly beautiful Malawi now because, having
Josefina as a company, we were forced to reduce our pace of cycling-warriors, so
that she could keep up with us.
Translation courtesy of María Conztanza Beatí When we think about Tanzania, first thing that comes to mind are the wild animal poetic pictures walking through the immense Serengueti savannah during the anual migrations, the snowy top of the ever omnipresent Kilimanjaro and the idyllic Zanzíbar beaches, sightseeing touristy places that are located in the east part of this country. But nevertheless, we rarely hear stories from the tanzanian west, where unpopulated places extend hundreds of kilometers, the only ones inhabitants of the bush and the virgin coast of Tanganyka lake, are the wild animals and people from the tribes away from every contact with the masses of tourists. It doesn't matter how beautiful the photos of the east are, some of them photographed ad nauseum, it is this stretch of 1000 km of inhospitablewilderness that extend from the Burundi border to the Malawi border, that captivates me the most and that's where we head to.
Sometimes, massive human tragedies such as genocides need to happen in some countries, which are unimportant (and sometimes completely unknown) for most people in the world, to be recognized in the map of humanity. Such is the case of Rwanda which, after suffering a brutal genocide in 1994, will remain in the memory of history forever. However, in some other cases, no matter how much suffering people have to endure, they don’t have the privilege of being acknowledged by a world that essentially ignores them and does not care. Such is the situation of Rwanda’s neighbour: Burundi. Burundi has had its own genocide, also between Hutus and Tutsis, followed by decades of civil war, hunger and poverty. However, those who have found out are very few. The most frequent question I receive when I pronounce “Burundi” is: “and what is that?” . We enter the forgotten country after leaving Rwanda.
It was the year 1994 and I was 16, when a remote African country virtually unknown to South Americans suddenly echoed in the news. I must say that almost nothing is published about Africa in my country, so I barely remember that moment, but what I do remember is that it was a new tragic story coming from the black continent (after all, bad news is all we hear from Africa). What I did not know until much later in my life was the magnitude of the tragedy that was taking place in Rwanda in those days, which made it unavoidable to get to this tiny country with a picture of deep grief.
always surprises me how fast the road can change. After the three days
it took me to cross Park Queen Elizabeth through the savannah, followed by the
forest along its beautiful loneliness surrounded by animals, we arrived
finally to a remote village where the simplicity of the plain road
turned suddenly into a hell of slippery slopes. We would start the
arduous way to the remote region of Virungas, the mysterious place where
Diane Fossey, the famous American zoologist, spent 18 years studying
and protecting the gorillas at the mountains.
was born, raised and lived until I was 28 years old in a country called
“developing country”, a political and hypocrite concept recently
created by economists of rich countries when referring basically to the
third world. I am a third-world citizen from Argentina and have spent
most of my life in South American and Asian developing countries, that
is why every time I visit the so nobly called “first world” is when I
most feel what is known as “culture shock”, the opposite effect of what
many first world inhabitants experience when they are horrified after
landing in an unknown poor country. After travelling in Africa for
several months, the shock is even stronger, the first world where
everything is in order, clean and civilized (at least on the surface) is
the one I really find exotic.