Malawi and Ethiopia receive the most funding in Africa from foreign aid and so they now see us as cycling dollar bills. It makes it difficult to like and respect people who always ask you for money. As I cycled through Ethiopia & Malawi I saw lots of abandoned projects, where for example a bank provides a lump sum for a project. Once it finishes so too does the project, the problem is sustaining development not initiating it and thinking people will automatically keep it going.
One thing I have a lot of time of is the Zambian shops with religous names- see photo and other classics like "The bank of God is Brilliant". Another bright note to distract me from my subliminal hunger strike is the double decker bicycle my friend Benny Zenga made - see photo.The cycling is not too bad. Lots of rolling hills but good roads. The only problem is the distances - the longest day was a whopping 195kms long which fell on the height of my sickness. My weakest point to date was that very morning when a local drunk was trying to fight me in a village at 11am and I didn't have the strength to stop him touching my leg (I think he was trying to fight me !)
The cycling is not physically difficult on the body. However my pace has dropped a lot. This has knock on effects like spending longer on the saddle. Up to 11&1/2 hours one day. This in turn makes makes my bum pimplier then a teenage pizza addicts face. However time heals all wounds. Time and shammy cream.
Demons begone !As I sleep there are drums in the distance. I get up and go down to a local village. There are people dancing, drinking and singing in chants. A local woman has been possessed and the villagers are trying to lure the spirits out with their music. Pretty fascinating really but as I am kinda sick I pass on it.
The incident with the piglet It was 6pm, I had been cycling since 7am. There are always animals on the roads in Africa but they are not pugnacious in temper. They are docile and may at worse wave their tail. That is except for the piglets. I saw a few through the day roaming around the roads. This one piglet no bigger then a Jack Russell dog, was in the middle of the road. I saw him maybe 100 meters away. As I approached he didn't move. I had a lot of speed up and didn't want to break my motion so I decided to go behind him. He backed up this was going to be a collision. At the last second I decided to change direction and go in front of him. He bolted right into my bike.
As for the pig ? I never saw him again. A crowd of villagers gathered around me to make sure I was ok and they sent out some kids to find the swine. After treating my cuts and grazes I got back up on the bike and pedaled on even though it was tricky as my bike was also battered. I will know better in future - I'll bunny-hop the next piglet.
I threw him away and tried to pull the sting out. Didn't work. Just went a little further in. This required a mirror or dainty Zambian hands. I cycled on and luckily came across a group of farmers. I pulled over my bicycle. Just as I was about to speak I remembered I didn't know what language they speak here. I paused confused- I thought in Arabic, no Swahili I paused. They walked past me. I shouted at them pointing at my ear- they kept walking. I turned around and cycled towards them (Cairo bound) I made that silly "bzzz" noise that everyone else does (when they don't know the word for a bee) and pointed at my now swollen ear.
They started laughing. I decided this was enough and cycled on 36kms to the next town where a miserly old market lady did me the honours of removing the bee sting. She then said that buying 1/4 of her stock was part of our "removal" agreement. I cycled off with her lightly jogging behind me saying "money for dreads."
Benny Zenga filming in Africa
for the movie 'Where are you go'
The locals in Ethopia block the roadI asked her if she knew anyone with aids and she discreetly replied "yes". I asked who it was, she whispered "I have aids". There was a silence for the longest time and I knew I had to fill it. Maybe it was only a second but facial reactions are a language onto themselves and that time follows no rules. "Jesus wept" I heard from my religious fellow customer. Then he asked some business related question and the conversation followed a new direction.
I spoke with her about how she copes and what has changed for her and her family. Who are the people who help. It was a really positive message and it's always an eye opener. Just because you are not dealing with aids everyday because you are consumed with camping, water, food, drink, fevers and exhaustion. It's always there. There's no large neon signs, so you may not know it but it can be right in front of you. This was a nice reminder of a bad situation and how people work through it with a good attitude.