North & East Africa

Hash and Hotel Rooms in Morocco

While biking through Morocco, one might think that the men are incredibly gregarious by the way they flag you down from the sides of the road to talk and share a tea. That was what I thought at first. But soon I realized that most of these men saw me as a potential customer for local hash or a hotel room, and they used their unique selling skills that only a Moroccan is born with to try and convince me that what they were offering was exactly what I needed at that point in time. But not every Moroccan had a sale in mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed my jog through the country while I spent a little time out of the European Union. The Rif mountains of northern Morocco were surprising green given that I always imagined the country to be one big desert, and the hilly farming areas near the old city of Fez presented as many colors as spices were available in the local markets.          Northern Morocco 23/4/18 to Algeciras, Spain 4/5/18

Moroccans made one of the better water carriers I have seen for their donkeys

Tasty tangine right off the coals

The blue city of Chefchaouen, my favorite in Morocco

I heard that large stone wheels like this are still used to make olive oil

 

Running from the Police into the Middle East

In Egypt I lost the peace I found throughout the deserts of Sudan as I was soon followed for several days by the Egyptian police who were ordered to protect me from any threat as I traveled. Terrorist activity against tourists in the past has left Egypt in a position of understandable paranoia, and so I had to cycle with a police truck following me for several hundred kilometers along the Nile river in Egypt. But this did not keep me from enjoying in awe the ancient pyramids, tombs and temples of Egypt, and appreciating the strong energy and happiness that Egyptians displayed as they greeted me throughout the country. I continued on to Jordan where I marveled at the ancient city of Petra and biked along the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. As I crossed into Israel, I arrived just in time to celebrate Purim, a fun Jewish festival, with some of my friends who I have not seen in years.    Aswan, Egypt to Jerusalem, Israel 7/2/18 to 11/3/18

Dressing up for the Jewish Festival of Purim

Modern JerusalemThe Dead Sea, 500m below sea level

The Monastery of Petra, Jordan

View of the ancient city of Petra from aboveThe foundation laid for one of the windmills outside of Wadi Musa, Jordan

Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza, EgyptBent Pyramid at Dashur, EgyptA little welding on my bikeSome of the Egyptian police officers who followed me while I biked

One of the tombs in the Valley of Kings (Luxor, Egypt)Egyptian washing his horse in Nile canal

The Treasury of Petra, Jordan

Kudos to the bread bikers in Cairo, Egypt!

Meet Mario. Mario worked 12 hour days every day for 19 months straight at a gas station in USA. He made the most of the opportunity and now can afford to plant cumin on this plot of land along the Nile.Lush farmland along the NileHabu Temple (Luxor, Egypt)

This was the view from the front door of a home I stayed in one night. The father of the home said that his grandfather made a good choice when he chose the piece of land to build the house. I would agree.My first falafel with my first Egyptian friendsSailors on the Nile

From Hell to Heaven

As I biked out of Ethiopia and crossed into Sudan on my birthday, I realized that I was leaving Hell and entering Heaven. Any cyclist who survives biking through Ethiopia will understand what I mean. Unfortunately my time in Sudan was hurried, as I was only allowed a two week transit visa with an expensive price tag. But the trip across the Libyan and Bayuda deserts of the Sahara was peaceful and colorful.     Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 9/1/18 to Aswan, Egypt, 7/2/18

Ferry on the Nile river crossing the Sudanese-Egyptian borderWater in Sudan

Sudan did not win the award for best food in Africa

The castles of Gondar, Ethiopia

 Timkat (Epiphany) celebration in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Typical rest stop in the Saharan Deserts

Bed in SudanSudan

Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Farming Country Ethiopia

Two Christmases & Zero New Years / What It’s Like To Bike In Africa

It has been over two years since I have ridden with another cyclist for more than just a couple days. I met my Swiss friend Pascal in Nairobi several weeks ago and we decided to head north together for a while. We biked through the richest cultural areas I have ever seen around Lake Turkana and the Omo Valley region of Kenya and Ethiopia respectively. Riding in Ethiopia means dodging rocks, sticks, water bottles, and book bags that are thrown at us by village children, and afternoon stops to enjoy the best coffee in the world. Due to the Ethiopian calendar, we have enjoyed celebrating Christmas twice, once in Kenya and once in Ethiopia, but missed the New Year altogether, so we are still living in the year 2010.            Kampala, Uganda to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 3/12/17 to 9/1/18 (or 9/1/10)

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Standard Ethiopian hut for food storageI introduce injera, the typical Ethiopian food and a much needed change after months of maize meal throughout Africa

Ethiopian Christmas celebration consists of a massive loaf of bread, and peanut and grain mix, and the world's oldest and best coffee

Common site lately in Africa, both fixing bike problems and being stared at by children who are curious why we are there

The sandy roads around Lake Turkana in Kenya meant a lot of pushingCrossing the equator in KenyaEthiopian grave

Pascal getting his bike welded after his front fork snapped from 5 years biking the globe

The delicious Ethiopian mix of avocado and mango juice. Why doesn’t anyone else do this?!Cooking in a church classroom in Kenya

Tea Farms of Kenya

Ethiopian Orthodox celebrate Melkam Gena (Merry Christmas) on January 7th. That meant two Christmas celebrations between Kenya and Ethiopia 🙂 . Ethiopians also celebrate their New Year in September, meaning no New Year celebration this year 🙁

Wild Honey & Grasshoppers in Eastern Africa

After a long windmill project off the bike in Malawi, I was eager to hit the road and make some distance north, trying to avoid biking in the rainy season. That didn’t work out so well as I was rained on daily in Tanzania, but waiting for a rain shower to clear always means passing the time shoulder to shoulder with the locals under the nearest shelter you can find. I briefly biked through Rwanda, enjoying the beautiful countryside and energetic children who ran and biked alongside me as far as they could. Then onto Uganda where the polite greetings, kindness, and big smiles of the Ugandan people have made quite an impression on me.                      Mchinji, Malawi to Kampala, Uganda 17/10/17 to 2/12/17

Stopping by the special needs orphanage of the GEM Foundation in Kampala, Uganda

My first and best Ugandan friend Zulaika 

Thanks Maria Kane for trading my bike for your Land Cruiser! The rest of my trip should be a bit easier now.UgandaAt the Soeurs Trappistines monastery of nuns in Kibungo, RwandaRwanda

This is a common sight in rural Africa, I come to a junction in the road and a bunch of signs for Non Profits and NGOs. In remote areas, often times the only vehicles I see are trucks, taxi vans, and the Land Rovers of these NGOs.The mountains of the western rift in Burundi

I want to thank the United States Government for funding the construction of more than one hundred miles of smooth road in western Tanzania. Smoooooooth.Millet+Corn+Wheat+Peanuts+Rice+Soy Beans = Power PorridgeCrowding around for camel rides

Kapenta fishing port in MalawiMalawian dugout canoe

It's grasshopper season in Uganda, and this is a roadside grasshopper farm. Lights are hung from the sticks, metal sheets reflect the light, and the attracted grasshoppers fall into the oil drums. And they are delicious.Produce market in busy downtown KampalaA little hard to tell in the picture, but the slopes of the hills in southern Uganda were so steep they caused me to break a good quality bike chain for the first time

Green, clean, fertile RwandaTanzanian long horned cattle. Take that Texas

Wild African honey comes in a liquor bottle with a bit of wax and a bee or two that you have to remove, or eat…..?

Fishing boats of Kigoma, Tanzania

Tanzanian football field

After months of riding through Southern Africa in the dry season, I finally reached some green country in Tanzania

Lake MalawiThis fisherman singing to the sunrise woke me up on my morning camping on Lake Malawi

Let’s Build A Windmill

When I entered Malawi, I was eager to meet a Malawian man named William Kamkawamba who built a windmill when he was 14 years old. While searching for that man I met Zack Mwale, a young innovator in Eastern Malawi. After chatting about windmills we decided to build a windmill ourselves that would work to pump water for a community that was currently without any type of water pump. We went to some surrounding villages and met the people of Zandana, a small village of some 25 families who all pull water from a well using a bucket, or walk more than half a kilometer to a water hole to carry water back in buckets on their heads. We agreed with the chief of the village that it was a good place to install a windmill. After weeks of designing, finding materials, building and redesigning, we successfully constructed a windmill that pumps water for use in the village (see video above). This rewarding experience has been an inspirational one for myself and the people of Malawi, most of whom have never seen a windmill before. Zack and I look forward to seeing what this windmill leads to in the future, hopefully motivating other communities to look to the wind for clean energy.                       Mchinji, Malawi 7/9/17 to 17/10/17

 

The old well in the village of Zandana, Malawi. The community used a bucket to pull up water from this well

After hours of searching around the market in Lilongwe, Zack and I struck gold when we found this old gear set that used to work for a conveyor. We used this for the critical function of the windmill gearing.Zack negotiating timber prices  Digging holes for the water tank standWind blade layout The people of Zandana helping to move the tower

Plumbing Trenches

First Design = TOO MUCH POWER!!

Water Well Cover Zack and the gears

 

Lifting all the wind blades up at once Our master craftsman Delick extending the windmill shaft

First time taking water from the windmill

Water hole where people of Zandana, Malawi take water

When we strapped this 1000 liter water tank to Zack's little car, we had to drive at night to avoid the inevitable police bribes that would follow.Digging the water well Building our gear set for the windmill Constructing the tower Some of the children of Zandana around the well

Assembling the wind blades

 

Our first wind blade design was too powerfulBack to the drawing board Redesigning the windblades View from the windmill tower of the village of Zandana

We carried sand in buckets on our heads to mix concrete. African women are ridiculously strong when it comes to this.The future of innovation, baby ZackZack claims he became a better brick layer than me by the end of the project. I disagree.

A big thanks to Zack Mwale and his family and friends for all their support, meals, and good times. I thank the people of Zandana for all their help throughout the project. Thanks to Delick, Halice, Jablos, and Mr. George for all their help and patience. If you are interested in what to consider in building your own windmill, reach out to me through my contact page. If you are looking for innovation and design work, Zack Mwale is filled with ideas and can be reached at [email protected], whatsapp +25699930029.

Crowning The King, Baboons and the “How Are You” Song in Zambia

I was eager to hit the road after a long stay in Zimbabwe. I rode through the backdoor of Zimbabwe, crossing the great Zambezi river into Zambia. Little changed entering Zambia, except hearing the "How Are You" song chanted by little children 24 hours a day, a sore butt from a new saddle, and a giant baboon who aggressively stole 1 kilo of oats from me. I met some other cyclists for the first time in a while, including fellow global trekker Pascal after last seeing him in Mexico nearly 2 years ago, and a couple on a short tour of Southern Africa. After riding with them for a few days I split upon entering Malawi to learn more about renewable energy…

Harare Zimbabwe to Mchinji, Malawi 25/8/17 to 7/9/17

Malawians win the prize for best firewood bike packers so far

This family of elephants decided to eat from this tree. My bike and the bikes of Pascal and another couple were all sitting under the tree. One of the elephants stood eating just 2 steps away from destroying my bike. When I tried to sneak behind and steal it away, he turned, stepped forward and threatened me with widespread ears, standing inches away from my bike. I backed off and just as the family decided to find another tree to eat from, one of them smelled fruit in the front bag of Pascal's bike. After failing to take it out with his trunk, he stepped on the bag to try and open it. He again failed to open it but bent the front rack and wheel of Pascal's bike before leaving. Only in Africa.

And this guy wins best generator bike packer

Solar powered water pump in Zambia

In Zambia and Malawi, these bicycles are used as taxis. Room for one, or two if you get creative

Reunited with my buddy Pascal

Shout out to Working Bikes on this one. I use to volunteer with Working Bikes, a nonprofit based out of Chicago that collects donated bicycles and ships them to developing countries. Sure enough I found one of the recipients, and this organization run by women in Zambia uses the shipping container filled with bicycles as their shop and warehouse, fixing up the bicycles and selling them to the community. After spending many Saturdays working with Working Bikes back in Chicago a couple years ago, it was great to see the other side of their equation. I found a bike saddle which helped my sore butt, and my buddy Pascal found a bike rim to replace his which was stepped on by an elephant.

Pascal has been biking around the world for 5 years now. He showed me his route on the same world map he has had since he started.

Christian women praying in the fields outside Harare ZimbabweThe backdoor Zimbabwe-Zambia border post of Kanyemba. Not too many people take the rough road through a safari area to reach this river crossing.This one is tough to see, but scarecrow or voodoo doll set up next to a hut?

Meet Beatrice Maggie. She has a great story about women's empowerment in Zambia. Watch the video and listen to the rest of the recording to hear her story. She can be reached at [email protected]

How the Sun Can Freeze In Zimbabwe

In early July as I was first biking into rural Zimbabwe, I met Zulu Tofirani, a bread salesman in the village of Kalisine. I dined with Zulu's famly,  slept in his humble shop, and learned about his desire to expand his business in the future. Like in most other rural areas of Zim, Zulu lives off the grid, without any electricity. Those in Zimbabwe who do have electricity have suffered from frequent power outages as the country struggles to generate enough energy from its coal plants. As I left Zulu, I began to think about how he, his family, and his business could benefit from an off grid solar system. One month later, after I learned a good bit about solar installations, I made my way back to Zulu to install a solar system strong enough to power to a deep freezer. Zulu and I agreed that the project would be an investment in him and his business. The idea is to use the solar powered freezer to expand his offering to sell meat that he and local farmers raise, as well as other chilled products that are in high demand in the area. By harnessing the power of the sun, hopefully Zulu will be able to grow his business and make life a little more comfortable in his village. I look forward to tracking Zulu's progress as I continue on my trip.                                      Harare & Kalisine, 11/8/17 to 24/8/17

Zulu's familyZulu's shop

Running cable for lighting in Zulu's hutThe power board/control panel

Solar panel frame construction with Baba Mevi

 

        A huge thanks to James and Buck Davy at One Stop Solar for their recommendations, instruction, and high quality solar products. My project would have been a pipe dream without the help and resources of Graham Botton of Carbontek. My thanks to Barry Rawlings at Switched on Solar. Thanks to the guys at Capri, Zimbabwe's best refrigeration dealer with products manufactured in Zim. I also want to thank Baba Mevi and Orphan for their help and wonderful company, as well as the community of Kalisine for their assistance during installation.

Welding the solar panel roof mount

Orphan installing the battery and security cageCarrots and solar panel connections

Wiring the equipment togetherLearning to grind millet traditionally

African Kung Fu and the Monkey Dance

Solar system connecting into the gridThe more I explore this continent, the more I enjoy hearing African music. Sample some of the different songs below, you won't be disappointed:

Solar Installation with Max of One Stop Solar in HarareI have been amazed at the skill of Zimbabwean women when it comes to carrying anything and everything on their head

Eating a cooked field mouseComposting Beds at Foundations For Farming. Check out the great ways to farm organically at www.fffzimbabwe.orgI enjoyed following my teammate Lord Graham Botton into thorny bushes as he did not know how to read his GPS during my first mountain bike raceShout out to the Saturday morning Mountain Bike Crew in HarareThe Chinese have a growing presence throughout AfricaFrom left to right, the evolution of typical rural homes in Zimbabwe