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Kentz Cairo to Capetown
Cycle Challenge

My Africa

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African kids

The reason I have taken so long to write this the last of my blog entries is that I know my journey is over once I have posted this. I can’t think of being sad but only grateful for the friends and memories I had the fortune to experience.

It was a peculiar time for me. The only consistent things were rolling bicycle wheels and one city: Capetown. I have camped before, but not for 4 months straight ! I have gone without a shower before but not for weeks on end. Not having a mirror was a brilliant experience. When I arrived in Khartoum I had not seen my reflection in over 2 weeks ! This was the funniest thing, I had grown a beard, went to shave it and BANG I forgot what I looked like.

It’s hard to explain what you can realize or learn from cycling through countries. The similarities in every country are astounding the spirit and persistence of the people in light of their international reputation, their poverty, hygiene standards and levels of fatal diseases. However people get on with life in an industrious way. The most common character in every country was how the women really worked hard and how the men took twice the time to complete half the workload !

Charity-project-Ethiopia My Charity It was great to see where the money I raised was invested in Ethiopia and how far a little can go. Having witnessed APA's work first hand and seeing how much the workers care, I knew I made the right decision. Everyone working there is a local, they know the infected people and possess an admirable persistence in integration, education and awareness.

The total raised to date is over €22,000 of which I am extremely proud and owe a huge thanks to everyone who supported me and helped along the way. Over 100 different people helped me reach my goals over the last 6 months, all in different areas but each role as important as the next. There are too many people to make a "thank you" list but you know who you are. Thanks and I will be in touch soon.

Ethiopian food Food, dance, drinks, mannerisms, religion and even climate could change completely when you cross a border. A border can be a 3 metre long foot bridge, a queue of trucks 5 kilometres long or a 19 hour journey across a man made lake. Africa is the most divided continent in the world with many countries changing names and borders twice since World War II. Whilst there are similarities, the differences over each border are fascinating. The best simile I can conjure for the diversity of Africa is the difference between my starting point and my end point: from the pointed and sloping Pyramids of Egypt to the smooth, flat top of Table Mountain in Cape Town.

African Bad Habits

Africa’s worst habit shared by all of the countries I visited was the high level of rubbish on the streets. Even when I asked a member of the Egyptian cycling team to put a tin can in the bin beside him, he actually stood up walked outside and threw it on the ground. Some areas were really neglected with regards to dumping and I can’t see it changing because the adults need to be educated to influence the kids and that won’t happen on African time.

Pictured Below
Meeting the last single woman in a
Zulu village. She is not allowed to
cover her breasts until she is married.

The best country ? It has to be Ethiopia. Perhaps it’s because I visited a couple of my charity projects there but I felt a real connection with the people. It has it’s own time and the persistence of it’s people surprised me every day. Each day was peppered with hundreds of funny and strange memories. One that always makes me smile is when I asked an Ethiopian villager for directions and he held my hand whilst he showed me the way. I was beside myself laughing and trying to explain it to him in Amharic was very difficult. To him it's normal. In fact as I neared the equator most men held hands when walking down the street. Even as they stand in one spot. This type of behaviour is typical and not regarded as homosexual in many African countries, it's and initial shock but you learn to live with it !

There was also a strong presence of Greek Ouzo in Ethiopia which I found very interesting and tasty. There was no country I didn’t enjoy but less populated areas were my least favourite, regardless of climate.
South Africa was a very close second favourite country for me. Probably because I finally met the people of Kentz, most particularly Pat Cass who was so helpful since I have been in Africa. There was also a great feeling of being so close to Capetown which made every inch exciting and emotional.

Language was always interesting as I had to struggle with more then 12 of them. Some expressions are absolutely classic. In Swahili a roundabout for cars is called a “keepy lefty” and in Namibia and South Africa a traffic light is called a “robot”.

My worst idea of the 4 months was taking 3 dehydration packs and 2 liters of water in Ethiopia. This was an attempt to calm my rambunctious diarrhea which backfired.

My worst habit was not using pegs for my tent causing it to fly into other people's tents. Close contenders for this accolade include : not showering, 10 days was the record (no shower in the desert) and also not leaving my tent when nature called ...

Conor's discovery -  counting sheep My Discovery Before my journey started I thought I would return with a great philosophical discovery. I believed that because I would have so much time on a bike I would realise something truly magnificent. I did do a lot of thinking, but nothing to rival Socrates, Descarte, Camus & the boys or even John Searle. I did have a EUREKA moment. That was the realisation that when I would count sheep at night to get asleep, the sheep were always cartoon figures in my head. Yet I don't remember ever seeing a cartoon of a sheep !

Ethiopian Discovery Most times me & Dave went out in Ethiopia people tried to fight us, neither of us are hot tempered but it's cool because Ethiopia rocks.

Sunset in Botswana on the River Chobe As a novice cyclist, I soon realised that almost anyone is capable of completing large distances on a bicycle. To do so day after day requires a marathon type mindset with a lot of patience. To be able to cover huge distances you must see the bigger picture. Then stop dreaming of the end and focus on everything in-between. As a cyclist I found the hills to be always an enjoyable challenge. The wind, the invisible assassin was my worst enemy. A hill you can see and approach on your terms. The wind however gives no warning and follows no pattern.

African Sunrises & Sunsets

A great similarity shared by each country are the sunsets and sunrises. Although my home (Ireland) and probably any country on a nice day shares beautiful sunrises & sunsets, for some reason every one along my journey seemed like a stolen moment, somewhere I'll never see again.

Each day begins and closes with breathtaking views of the sun. Flat deserts, wetland mountains and bustling cities provide excellent sets for the natural illumination. This is something I never took for granted and always treasured. For a dark continent the light is outstanding.

There's always other stories...

There are worse stories of debauchery then are documented here. Late nights, local stories, misfortunes and run ins. But not everything can be explained by the writer nor understood by the reader. Travelling stories are circumstantial. People think differently when travelling and even more so when cycling. Strange things seem normal and normal things seem strange. Perhaps you can recognise it from how my writing style has evolved. Beginning in Cairo I was stating the date, place and distance for my blog which was eventually replaced by anecdotes or the memories that will stick.

Speaking of which....

Click here for the Zanzibar job

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Click here to view my donation page for my charity APA

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