Several months ago I made a journey that would change my life, a journey that changed my way of thinking, my habits, the way I perceive what is happening to me, what I hear, what I see, a journey that brought me back to life.

Africa is a particular continent that has many appearances, cultures that have remained through time and are a world heritage, with traditions that have been around for centuries, with its special nature, and the rare scenery it encounters! Africa is generally the place where people origin, and in particular the eastern ones. It is a rich continent with all kinds of good that Europeans have not missed the opportunity to exploit since it first colonized in the 15th century.

My goal was to cross 16 countries in one year, with nothing but a bicycle and my love to travel and explore. I have been back for four months now and I am getting my thoughts and memories organized in my head, I would like to write about Africa as a continent, what it offered me, what I liked, what tired me, what struck me, what moved me and all that was carved in my memories after 15 months in Africa.

 

Greece and to explore Africa on my bike. Riding across Africa just occurred, I left Greece in March 2016 and the bike was bought in December. Within 4 months I had to plan the trip, prepare my body, go to doctors, gather the necessary equipment, find the necessary contacts, study the maps, make a relevant step, look for supporters, and finally to start realizing what I'm going to do.

On March 29, 2016, as I headed for the airport to fly to Cairo, I heard on the radio that a flight from Egypt was being hijacked, not a good way to start a trip.

The first days of the trip were peculiar, I did not know how to behave, I was open to invitations and challenges, I had said this trip is for me and I have to live it. In the beginning, I kept a safe distance from the people because like it or not Africa is considered a dangerous continent from the rest of the “civilized” world. I went from city to town and from village to village so that I could find safe places to spend the night. When I realized that there was no reason to feel insecure, I was free to enjoy the journey, I trusted the people, the weather, the wildlife and I started enjoying the trip, I started to observe, I accepted what was offered to me, and said YES to anything throughout my trip until I arrive at Cape Town.

A bicycle trip is quite demanding, you need to be comfortable in your own company, be patient and stay focused on what you want to do. In the beginning of the trip and especially in the Sudan, I wanted to give up and go back to the security of my home and my every day life, but I knew it was not worth it, I may have been psychologically and physically overwhelmed, but I knew I wanted to travel, I had to continue and not give up easily. These feelings came back towards the end of my journey, 2.3 months before I came back, I started feeling lonely, my body was used to it, but I needed to communicate, to share my days with someone, to share my experiences.

This journey was not only about discovering myself, but discovering cultures, exploring the countryside, meeting people from such a close continent but at the same time so far from us, because of our westernized lifestyle and view of this continent. Unfortunately, conditions prevailing in almost all of Africa are due to the exploitation, indifference and greed of the few. A bicycle trip requires great patience, persistence, expectation, and you have to be comfortable with yourself and being alone. Waiting allows you to spend time with yourself, you have to wait for the next meal, wait to see where you will spend the night, wait for water, and wait for a person whom you will communicate with. And that's the magic, that the simplest thing in life can make you happy, whether it's a cool fruit, a smile or a glass of water. When on a cycling route, every day has something to offer you sometimes big things and sometimes small, but you win every day. Traveling for days your needs is limited to basics that are taken for granted when at home. The most difficult day may turn out to be your best experience; it will be the one you will remember. I  had many days that I   struggled with myself and my thoughts but on the exhale of the day I was satisfied because I was continuing my dream trip, so I did never slept feeling bad. Before I slept, I always gave myself a little time to get the account of the day, and I always felt satisfied.

The people I met – were a great surprise after everything I had heard before starting my journey from the 'experts' - I was impressed by their kindness, hospitality, and how they dealt  with a stranger. In most villages I received love, curiosity, and kindness to the fullest (apart from Ethiopia) and more specifically the Muslim countries. Many times people invited me for a cup of tea, refreshment, a beer, with their only initiative being to meet and have a little chat. There were many times when they invited me to spend the night at their home after I told them I would be sleeping in my tent. In other occasions I would be stopped while on the road and they would invite me to their home.

 

During my preparation in Greece, there were various fears that were spurred in my mind about what could go wrong. I could be run over by a careless driver, attacked either by a wild animal or from a person who is willing to think that the money or the materials I have is more important than human life, or that i would get ill and that would force me to give up my dream. Who knows?

But when I started my first peddle, all the fears were gone. I did not feel fearless but I did not feel any danger, I felt closer to nature, I felt that we all co-exist and do not need to be afraid to live out of our box; we have to go out and live life, gain experiences, learn to appreciate the smallest things. I learned how to live on basics, not because I had to, but because I did not need any luxury, my needs were food, water and a place to spend the night. This was my routine, my way of life, I ate or bought my food from where everyone else was, I drank from wells and what the locals offered me, I slept in my tent under the star row, I spent 15 months with 15 kilos of equipment, living with only the basics made me feel free.

On this trip I saw wild animals in their natural environment for the first time, I swam in the famous Nile river, I walked in the exotic beaches of the Indian Ocean, climbed a mountain on my bike at 3280 meters high, I  offered my assistance, we managed to put a forest extension under protection, I helped SpinTheWheel to reach its goal, i volunteered in an organization for the protection of the environment, we managed to electrify a medical center, offer meals to two schools, I lived in a remote community for several days, I have reached the southernmost end of Africa, I learned to control my mood, I crossed the desert Sahara, I observed various tribes that remain unchanged in time, I  went diving in  two of the most beautiful  of the world. But the most important of all was my contact with the people, they were the ones who made my trip interesting, I had small chats with most of them but in some cases, we spent many days together even a whole month.

Ever since I came back, I was asked many times if I was afraid, if I felt danger, if I had any unexpected facts. After 15 months in Africa, it is normal to have dealt with situations that you don’t meet in your everyday life, but not necessarily to threaten your life. In such a trip you have to be prepared to cope calmly with what occurs and I am glad to have done it and managed to achieve my goal. I will not go in depth of all the positive things I kept, I would like the same to happen to whoever is reading this. One incident that took place in Egypt was while I was taking a picture, I heard gun artillery, I turned and he was pointing at me. I was out of a camp and I did not know that taking pictures was forbidden. One night in Sudan in the middle of the desert and while I found accommodation in a 'restaurant', trucks full of people appeared and they demanded someone to cook for them, the owner did not accept because it was late and then prevailed a bit of chaos with me watching and holding my bag ready to up and leave fast if things got bad. In the end, the calmest ones prevailed and nothing happened. There were other cases like this but I never felt that my life is being threatened.

For all these people, all I can express is my gratitude, without all of you the journey would be different.

When I reached CapeAgulhas, the southernmost part of Africa, I felt relieved, I felt that one chapter of my life was closed, I sat down for a bit  just to observe the ocean, to make a small calculation of what I did and to realize that my nomadic life  would stop for a while, I felt overwhelmed. When I went back to my tent to cook, I realized that I had lost my lighter and could not cook, I went to a pub to ask if  they had one since it was late and everything were closed. When I entered the pub, a couple who were sitting down, recognized me, they had seen me earlier on the bike and asked me where I came from. When I told them my story, they invited me to have a beer with them they offered me food without allowing me to pay anything. After several beers and after a beautiful night, we all left. These are the gifts that are offered to you in such a trip, these meetings, the communication with people, laughing and having fun with strangers.

Few days left to reach Cape Town and the time of return is close. I wanted to end  my journey climbing  the TABLE Mountain. When I climbed the mountain and watched the city, I experienced a sense of euphoria and at the same time a complete relaxation and satisfaction. I have been impressed with myself and the potential we have as humans to overcome our fears and insecurities in order to achieve our goals. I may have been exhausted by the fatigue, I felt stronger, I understood how far we can get if we want it. All you need to do is step up!

This journey is a piece of my life. It changed me, offered me something that I could not imagine, I felt reborn. I hope from my photos and texts of this journey, that I was able to create some emotion and thoughts for somebody.

Thank you Africa !!!

Peace love and Happiness

100 days on bicycle 

 

 

 

Let’s start at the beginning; I last rode a bicycle over 10 years ago. In January of 2015 I decided to buy a second-hand bike in England so I could start riding again but it was stolen 4 months later. In July of the same year when I returned to Greece, I bought a cheap used one for the same reason.

At the end of September I started getting ideas in my head about taking a very long journey using a bike as a means of transport. So I began to read about cycling and hesitantly took my first bike ride from Piraeus to Salamina. I continued to read and at the beginning of December 2015 I came to a huge decision, namely to go to Africa.  I therefore started asking around and becoming informed. Unfortunately in the beginning I was a bit disappointed due to the fact that many people that I asked would either laugh or they would try to persuade me not to go because of the “dangers” of the specific continent.

In the end I didn’t give up and I decided to do it.  I thought to myself that so many have made a similar trip to Africa and other countries of the world, so at Christmas of 2015 I bought the bicycle that I am riding now. The reason that I made this preamble is that you don’t need the most expensive equipment to make such a journey, nor do you need specific experience in that type of journey.  And lastly, you shouldn’t be influenced by what you hear (it may be done good -naturedly because they care about you, but you shouldn’t let anyone destroy your dreams even if you fail in the end). As I said before I began my journey and decided that even if I only travelled for a month and visited only one country, I would still gain from the experience. But here I am after 100 days, 4 countries and about 4,000 kilometers – still going strong     

I have experienced more in these 100 days than I ever would have in 5 or 10 years. I have reached my limits, I have considered quitting after a few hard days but the next day I would tell myself “keep going a little further and I’ll see”. I have experienced moments that have been engraved on my mind. I am filled with images and appreciations that make me want to go on even further and explore the African continent. Through my journey I have met locals that have invited me into their homes to meet their family and treat me to a cup of tea, a plate of food and even to stay at their house. Unfortunately it was impossible to accept all invites or else I would still be in Egypt drinking tea! I would like to thank everyone, from anyone who just waved at me on the road to the people who invited me into their homes or helped me with direction, accommodation and any other problem I had.  

 

 

I have tried talking (as much as I can) in different languages, Arabic, Amharic and Swahili, I have tasted tens of different types of food and fruit. I have drunk a range of drinks from raki and xourma to grapefruit. Me and my bicycle have been transported by car, tuk-tuk, small vans, tractors and boats. I have slept in places I never believed I could have slept.  In Sudan I felt so safe that I just asked the locals where to sleep and they would always find me accommodation without a price. Once I slept in an Ethnic park in Kenya where I saw footprints made by a lion.  Another time I slept by the side of the road because I was too tired to go on. In Ethiopia I camped next to the hut of the Hamer tribe.

I had the pleasure of meeting Greeks that live in Sudan and Ethiopia whom I would like to say thank you to for their hospitality.  Even though they are far from Greece some values are never forgotten. I have seen unbelievable scenery and animals such as scorpions, camels, snakes, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, baboons and a lot more that we unfortunately only see in captivity in European countries. I have seen one of the most beautiful sunrises in Ethiopia and the most beautiful sunsets on a boat on Lake Nasser while crossing the borders of Egypt-Sudan. I have ridden my bike in temperatures over 40C, faced a sandstorm and quite a rain storms which kept me stranded for hours. I also had my first diving experience in the Red Sea where I saw stunning and colorful organisms in the coral reef.

 

 

After 100 days I feel more complete, I could even say wiser and grounded to reality. Africa has been tainted by wars, dictatorships, exploitation, hunger and other difficulties that we westerners don’t take into account. The people, though, never give up trying, fighting every single day to make a living. In Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, a lot of people asked me how to get to Europe (not legally of course because it is near impossible) and if I could find them a job. Most, especially in Sudan, mentioned the well-known route of Libya- Italy where so many perish in the Mediterranean.

Travelling on my bicycle has given me the chance to see how locals live, which is 50% of what you should experience when visiting a country. I have direct contact with the people.  I take my time and I don’t miss things that I would have if I travelled by other means. The downside is that I couldn’t get to some places that I wanted to visit due to the fact that it was impossible by bike or too time consuming. Time is different here, I count distance in days not hours and I enjoy the scenery stopping wherever I want to take pictures or have something to eat. 

It is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything and I would advise anyone that has second thoughts or fears to get over them and begin an alternative journey even if it’s not by bicycle.

So now that the summer has arrived and everyone is going to visit the beach (I just came yesterday) it would be superb if we all tried to keep our sea and beaches clean. I see here in Kenya as in Egypt and Greece that the people do not respect the environment hence not respecting themselves. Whatever trash we throw in the sea, on the beach or on the road makes its way back to us and we end up blaming the government or any other authoritive body. We are the ones that should be doing something. There are a lot of volunteers that help clean up beaches but even if everyone just cleared up their own rubbish, things would vastly improve. If there are no rubbish bins on the beach we can always bring a bag with us and throw it in a rubbish bin on the way home. There is no need to see the beautiful beaches of Greece full of rubbish and the sea covered with plastic bags. We could even think about it in a selfish way “next time I go to the beach I want it to be clean therefore I will clear my cigarette butts and trash”. Greeks dispose about 2.650 tons of cigarette butts on beaches. It is the most common waste we find on Greek beaches accounting for 38,3%. Let’s be more cautious about the environment and our future.
 

That is all from me. Regards to all from the Indian Ocean and Kenya!

                                

          
Copyright All Rights Reserved © PassengerInLife 2017

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.