Southern Africa

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]

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.

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

Installing Solar Powered Water Pumps in Eastern Zimbabwe

After biking across Zimbabwe to the capital city of Harare, I settled down with the most helpful family in Zimbabwe and got involved in some work with solar energy. Through a string of connections I met James Davy, a solar installer with prior experience working in rural areas teaching farming. James took me under his wing and taught me a great deal about solar energy systems. He also invited me to help with a couple solar powered water pump installations for communities near rural primary schools. It has been very refreshing to be stationary for a while, forming closer relationships with Zimbabweans than I normally would while just biking. My time working and living here has helped me prepare for a solar project of my own…

 

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 7/7/17 to Harare, Zimbabwe 10/8/17

The solar masters: James Davy & Baba Mevi

Talking to the primary school kids about biking

 

Beware of the Elephants

Botswana is a country filled with diamonds and wildlife. I did not find diamonds, but I was in constant contact with the ubiquitous wildlife that roam the big bush and marsh areas of this country. One particular stretch, aptly named elephant highway, meant close encounters with the humongous mammals. I have been learning that these big animals are not so accustomed to bicycles, and sometimes I am mistaken as a threat. This resulted in once being chased by an elephant, an experience that really makes your heart race. Camping in the bush means looking for lions tracks before setting up tent, and listening to growls and snorts all around me through the night. After a visit to Chobe National Park and the big Victoria Falls, I look forward to seeing what more this beautiful continent has in store.

 

Windhoek, Namibia 16/6/17 to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 7/6/17

IMG_6403 Vic FallsIMG_6342 BaboonsIMG_6325 Hip-hop-otamosIMG_6295

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IMG_6267Elephant using his/her trunk as a snorkel to cross the Chobe riverIMG_6228 ImpalasIMG_6211 Croc

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IMG_6143Standard donkey cart I have been seeing in Namibia and BotswanaIMG_6132

 I have heard of shoes made from car tires and finally found a pair in Botswana

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IMG_6328 Fish EagleIMG_6318 Lionesses setting out to huntIMG_6289Giraffes doing the splits to eat and drinkIMG_6272

IMG_6245African Buffalo & Hungry Hungry HippoIMG_6225 WaterbuckIMG_6202 WarthogIMG_6188

 

IMG_6163Plenty of these warnings in BotswanaIMG_6140

IMG_6125One of many roadside sculptures made of blown tires and car parts from accidents in Botswana

Namib in Namibia

Heading north out of South Africa I made my way into Namibia, one of Africa's most sparsely populated countries. And for good reason, Namibia is one dry country and I biked right through the Namib desert, the oldest in the world. Along the way to the wonderful valley of colorful dunes at Sossusvlei, I enjoyed fighting desert headwinds and sandy roads, drinking from wind and solar powered water holes, and watching more African wildlife at play.

Cape Town, South Africa 23/4/17 to Windhoek, Namibia 16/6/17

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IMG_5921Off the grid 1: GenerationIMG_5956The other sign says ! Sand

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IMG_5791The day I came down with a cold I biked down into a citrus valley, the first I have been through since Colombia nearly a year ago. What are the chances, I biked right into a natural pharmacy and loaded up on Vitamin C.IMG_5992The OryxIMG_5931Springbok and Wildebeest steaks for dinnerIMG_6054

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IMG_5870Fish River CanyonIMG_6015

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IMG_6018The last stretch into Sossusvlei is impassable by bike, so I caught a ride with a couple German families in their 4X4. We soon got stuck in the sand and did some digging and deflating to get out.

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IMG_5928Off the grid 2: Storage (Elon Musk's Powerwall is an upgrade of this)

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Billy and his wife Betsie live comfortably off the grid in Namibia. Here Billy shows off the rotatable structure he built for his solar panels.IMG_6043

IMG_6023 SossusvleiIMG_5858

IMG_5974Pack of Zebras watching me curiouslyIMG_5881Most everyone I saw out on the sandy roads was equipped with a 4x4 and often some serious camping equipment. But old Falcor and I made it alright.IMG_5786Believe it or not, this barren country in South Africa will bloom full of wildflower colors come AugustIMG_5943

IMG_5806A little biltong (beef jerkey) stop before heading into Namibia. Little did I know, Namibian biltong is even better.

South African Dap

After cycling through Uruguay to Buenos Aires and avoiding detainment in a Brazilian airport, I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean up in the air was not my original plan, and while I feel bad about leaving a larger footprint in the ozone layer, I am happy to continue my circumnavigation in a different continent. And different it has been: the music, animals, racism, dap, language… Latin America is far away. I passed through the small country of Lesotho and felt like I was in pre-colonized South Africa. My detour to Cape Town is complete and I will now bike in a direction I have not yet travelled since I started my journey, North.

Montevideo, Uruguay 11/4/2017 to Buenos Aires, Argentina to Johannesburg, South Africa to Cape Town, South Africa 23/5/2017

IMG_5688One of the cooler bike shops I have come across, Woodstock Cycleworks in Cape TownIMG_5713Table Mountain, Cape TownIMG_5659

IMG_5624Rugby is very popular in South Africa and the youngsters play without shoes!IMG_5730

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I have to talk about this pie. It was hot this day and I asked the lady in the grocery store what flavor this pie was. She told me it was not a pie and pointed to the chicken pot pies if I wanted pie (South Africans don’t call sweet pie pie here). I asked again what flavor it was and she said milk. I decided I needed to try it. I inhaled 3/4 of the pie and shared the rest with a homeless man on the street.IMG_5605This is Dion, the Boer famer who made a plan, invited me to stay on his farm, and then treated me to the best biltong (much better version of beef jerkey) in all of South Africa. Boer make a plan!IMG_5569 Modern versions of the South African randavel hutsIMG_5517Huge thanks to Pat in Johannesburg for helping get my bike ready for AfricaIMG_5562Tshepo (left) is a 22 year old native of Lesotho who started Hands of Life, an organization that teaches youth life skills and the joys of biking. Tshepo put me up for an evening and some members of the group rode out with me as I biked back into South Africa. Keep up the good work Tshepo!IMG_5553When I biked into Lesotho, the little country completely surrounded by South Africa, I immediately noticed the difference in size of a typical property. Here the people enjoy a little plot of land with a garden and maybe some animals, whereas South African land too often is split between massive farms owned by a few, and big populations crammed into former Locations, now called "townships".

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Paying tribute to Madiba in Johannesburg

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IMG_5724Ass shaking is encouraged in South Africa, and so I did just thatIMG_5469

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Thanks to the principal and custodian of Bokmakierie primary school. When my tire split 10km outside of Cape Town, they helped me avoid a rough neighborhood and get a spare tire to make it into the city.IMG_5615Tallest bungee jumping bridge in the world on the southern coast of South Africa. See video below.IMG_5668

I have to talk about this smoke dried snoek fish. It was horrible, if you ever have the opportunity to try it, don't.

 

IMG_5577Family of giraffes near the roadIMG_5565

IMG_5587Indian Ocean at surf mecca Jeffrey's Bay

 

IMG_5555Hands of Life humble headquarters outside Mafeteng, Lesotho

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IMG_5540Beware the beef propaganda!

Fernet & Mate in Buenos Aires & Uruguay

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Shout out to Maria and Maeva, thanks for hosting me in Buenos Aires!IMG_5381Uruguay

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Bike failure #2: Tire explosion, I think I'm getting too fat…

 

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Bike disassembly for the aeroplane to South Africa

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Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

IMG_5440The best pizza in the Americas, outside of Chicago of course, is in Buenos Aires

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Bike failure #1: Brooks Saddle rail break. Am I getting too fat?IMG_5706

Bike Failure #3: Broken Rim. I'm definitely too fat

IMG_5396Buenos Aires, Argentina

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And the most delicious ice cream in the Americas? Also in Buenos Aires. You can trust me on this one, because I have been struggling with an ice cream addiction for a while now.IMG_5368

 

IMG_5367Fishermen relax with their mate in Montevideo, Uruguay

Sailing the South Atlantic Ocean

Once I reached Ushuaia, the end of the world in the Land of Fire, I began looking for a sailboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean to South Africa. I luckily found one, but they unluckily were completely full. I then even more luckily met Alain, the famous French sailor of the Kotick sailboat. He, his wife, and a friend were to sail back to their home in Uruguay after a season of charter trips to Antarctica. They had space on board and I joined them for a 10 day, 1500 mile voyage up the South Atlantic Ocean to Uruguay. Along the way I learned to sail from the best in the business and saw life in the other world of the ocean.

Ushuaia, Argentina 12/3/2017 to Montevideo, Uruguay 11/4/2017

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Our sailboat, Kotick, upon arrival in Montevideo, Uruguay. If you are interested in a trip to Antarctica on the famous Kotick, contact Captain Alain Cardec at www.kotick.info, [email protected]IMG_5221Leaving Puerto Williams, Chile

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IMG_5233The power couple, Alaine and Claudine CardecIMG_5228

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IMG_5286Jesus on board, QUE MAS?!

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IMG_5224Butterfly sailsIMG_5230Sunrise on the LeMaire Straight

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My bike packed next to my bunkIMG_5215