Bicycle journey in colors - from Denmark to South Africa is written by Sune Thuesen
A cycling trip with a guarantee of unique experiences
Despite the scorching African sun, frustrations over inflexible bureaucracies, corruption, a controversial infrastructure and many other challenges, it is time to take a bike ride in Africa a fantastic and unique experience.
It provides the opportunity to get really close to local cultures and everyday life - and wild animals, for that matter. On my bike ride from Denmark to South Africa I really experienced how the barrier between me as a traveler and the locals was diminished. It guaranteed unique experiences.
Especially in Africa where there is a fascinating diversity - from desert to tropical rainforest, and from villages with five thatched clay huts to hectic million-dollar towns.
The 2.000 km stretch through monotonous and sandy landscapes in the Sahara went through, among other things Mauritania. The open desert expanses resulted in a strong wind that defined the days.
When I had tailwinds, I flew with an indescribable sense of happiness and feeling of freedom in my body. Hit the wind right in the face, had to step hard on the pedals and fight for every one meter.
Unfortunately, there was a tendency for headwinds, and that meant several days of cycling, where only 70 km was covered. The wind even threw sand along the crackled asphalt road. A road that ended on the horizon, whether I was looking south or north.
When you had to rest and the canned food you had to take with you, it was often a challenge to find shade. The sun was shining brightly from an azure sky and the vegetation was sparse.
Typically, there were villages with intervals of approx. 100 km where basic supplies could be purchased. Sometimes it was necessary to refuel food and water for several days.
Ending the day in one of these villages, it was possible to be accommodated by hospitable families who typically offered heart room and dinner. If the day did not end in a village, the tent could be pitched in isolated surroundings, after which the clearest starry sky lay like a dome over the camp.
In terms of security Mauritania a slightly tarnished reputation. The largest source of insecurity, in this western part of the country, turned out to be scorpions and cockroaches. The locals stood ready with open arms and colgate smiles.
In an economic perspective is Guinea among the poorest countries in West Africa, and the infrastructure in the rural areas of the country is then.
On a particular stretch of my cycling trip in the north of the country, road conditions pushed me to the extreme and I was ultimately dependent on local handshakes.
Well-meaning locals had described the way from Guinea-Bissau's border post to the town of Boké, as being in good condition and therefore I chose to cycle with few supplies. It turned out that "the good road" was an impassable sandy path that took me two days to cover.
It was the hot time in Guinea, so the temperature measured about 40 degrees and I was moving on the edge of dehydration. Luckily I came through a small village consisting of a handful of round huts.
Roaring goats and half-naked playful children revealed the village in the distance. In the village, some ladies helped fill my bottles up with water from their pump. They even gave me some juicy mangoes, which kept me running.
Shortly after, I came to a 100 meter wide river, which had to be crossed on foot. The bike was too big and heavy to be carried in the wooden canoe used by the locals. In collaboration with two young boys, I got the bike over on the opposite side of the bank. Subsequently, I could use the river to cool down.
As the sky turned orange and darkness set in, I met a young man named Ibrahimo, who took me to his village of Mesijarara. People flocked to see what in the world was going on.
I was to that extent an alien element with my fair skin, blue eyes and red full beard. The children screamed at the sight of me. I was taken to the chief, the village chief, who took care of the rest of my stay in Mesijarara.
His two wives cooked fried bananas to the stranger man, and while we were sitting on a painful hard wooden bench eating the tasty meal with the bare fists, it dawned on me how amazing a situation unfolded.
This local accommodation was not arranged by a tourist office, but simply by the good in man.
"Please do not go there", "Do not trust anyone", "They all wear weapon". That's how it sounded in the neighboring country Benin, when I told them my bike ride was going to go through Nigeria. In the media, the mood was not much better.
Boko Haram and oil pirates stole the headlines, so it was with worrying thoughts that I crossed the border into Nigeria. However, they quickly proved to be unfounded. I was received kindly and I felt safe in the country.
The conflicts that unfolded were in concentrated areas of the country, and it has actually been a great realization on the journey. This with the fear of the neighbor and the sensational media image that distorts reality.
I met many lovely people in Nigeria and was introduced to the country's cultural richness, which is based on more than 300 different tribes, among other things.
With 182 million beating hearts, Nigeria is the most populous country in the world Africa. At the same time, people are flocking from country to city in search of jobs and a different lifestyle, creating millions of cities that were hectic and dangerous to cycle through on my cycling journey.
This urbanization process takes place in most of Africa, but stood out in particular Nigeria, because there were so many people. The urban stretches resulted in anarchist traffic that required great concentration.
In general, I would characterize Africans as being extremely extroverted, and Nigerians I certainly did not perceive as an exception. I was greeted with a huge curiosity that resulted in many warm human encounters, and was, as so often before, invited to stay overnight and eat.
You learn a lot about the stranger when you are invited in, and from my experience, it is one of the biggest benefits of a bike trip in Africa.
The green hues dominated the lush Central African rainforest that covers most of Gabon. Despite the size of the country, only 2 million people live there. people, and thus the experiences stood in stark contrast to, for example, Nigeria; isolated rainforest cycling on muddy dirt roads.
I could cycle for many hours without meeting people, and therefore the silence was only interrupted by monkey and bird sounds. After several days of elephant shit on the road, I managed to experience the mighty animals from the bicycle saddle.
One late afternoon I came exhausted cycling around a bend and was suddenly greeted at the sight of 26 grazing elephants on a lush slope along the rust-red road.
All alone with the herd, I felt an awe, but it was absolutely fascinating to stand with the elephants at such close range and observe their quiet movements.
That very evening, I ended up cycling in a pygmy village. The pygmy people have adapted to life in the tropical Central African rainforest, where they primarily live as hunters and gatherers. In the company of the pygmies, I sat around the glowing fire and felt far away from home - in the heart of Africa.
Isolated cycling took on a whole new meaning in Namibia, the land of the open plains, which is approx. 18 times larger than Denmark, and like Gabon, only has a population of 2 million.
I even chose to cycle through Kaokoveld, which is the least populated area in the country. Apart from a few traditionally living tribal peoples, such as the Seminomade Himba who butter themselves into ocra and feed primarily on their cattle and goats, the human encounters were few.
In return, I experienced a majestic wildlife around me. The area is described as one of Africa last authentic wilderness, because many of Africa's wildlife have adapted to life in the wild - outside the fences of national parks.
Surrounded by giraffes, zebras, antelopes, elephants and the big cats, I felt vulnerable and small. It was incredible to experience the animals from the bicycle saddle. Africa I did not see big cats, but locals advised me to keep the fire going for a single night on the plateau due to lions in the area.
Every hour the alarm rang so I could put firewood on the fire. It turned into an uncomfortable night in my tent, which I had otherwise learned to find comfort in. In general, the time was in Namibia characterized by amazing nature experiences and endless gravel roads.
The feeling of freedom of cycling on these edges remains as one of the greatest of my entire cycling journey.
The end of the cycling journey
I cycled 20.141km in 559 days. I was in all 29 countries and ended up in South Africa in Cape of Good Hope, the southwesternmost point on the African continent.
Good bike ride if you dare to try the same ride!
The publisher Mellemgaard published a book about Sune Thuesen's cycling journey from Denmark to South Africa, which was published in May 2018. 'No food for the lazy man' offers detailed anecdotes from the cycling journey and at the same time tries to portray African living conditions and rules based on the people Sune met. his journey.
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