Speke and Me, Explorers We

John Speke’s drawing of the Nile’s source back when. The falls no longer exist for damming.

It was fitting that the book I brought along on my cycling adventure around Lake Victoria was a 1912 edition of John Speke’s memoir of his own two-and-a-half year expedition in search of the source of the River Nile. During lonely sick days or lazy afternoons, I lost myself in his detailed account of trudging through swamps, leading mutinous men, and struggling to appease a series of chiefs and kings along the way. To read about a specific place along the lake’s enormous fringe which was opened up to the Europeans by Speke in the 1860s, and then to pass through the very same place on a bicycle gave my whole adventure context. Hell, it makes my ordeal look like a trip to the grocery store to buy cake mix.

I had fairly smooth roads, for one thing, and wheels to boot. Continue reading

The Home Stretch through Uganda

My first Ugandan lunch for nearly a month

Miles beyond Busia, over the border from Kenya and back into Uganda, they still say “Jambo!” in greeting. They still say “Asante Sana” in thanks, and they still count currency in Kiswahili. This makes it tough to shift gears back into the Lugandan language after having been in Kiswahili mode for so long.

But most things are Ugandan again. Plantains are steamed and mashed into matoke, the belly-filling staple food available at any roadside restaurant. The plantations where those fruits come from line the gently rising and falling roadways, and the white minivans with a blue checkered stripe zoom past my rattling bicycle at great speed, taking commuters to the next towns. Continue reading

On Into Kenya

It was hard to leave Tanzania, due to the great ties I made but also due to sickness and poor weather. I met many kind people there who helped me out when I ran out of money and contracted a vicious infection of my gastrointestinal tract, and just when I thought I was close to crossing into Kenya, I was beaten down by the weather. Continue reading

Across to Tee Zed

 

At the bus station in Muleba, TZ

I knew I was close to Tanzania when a woman strolling along the road balancing a bundle of firewood atop her head made her reply to my formulaic greeting.

“Jebaale, nyabo!” I said in Lugandan to the lady, much as I had for the past fifty miles. Jebaale is used as a greeting, but literally means ‘good work’. I said it to her because I thought she actually deserved it.

“Jambo!” she replied, smiling. I recognized her Swahili greeting and rejoiced. The border town of Mutukula must be close now, though I continued my Lugandan outbursts as I whirred by. Continue reading

On Fund Raising

The system works!

I hate asking people for things, normally. I’d rather sleep out in the cold than knock on a stranger’s door, unless I was seriously concerned about my survival. My diet, when I’m in a financial bind, consists of what’s both cheapest and most nutritionally wholesome: fruit, seeds, nuts. And the very last thing I’d ever ask anyone for is money; I feel I ought to be able to earn what I need. Maybe I’m proud, maybe I’m stubborn, but I only wish to sustain myself in contentedness.

Recently I’ve had to change this mentality somewhat. Working with this community-based organization, PMK Save the Future Generation – Uganda, I’ve learned that one must ask for help in order to receive it. By trying to raise money for my circumnavigation of Lake Victoria, and the subsequent funding of a new community banking program for the organization, I’ve achieved a new level of humility by sending emails to friends, companies, organizations, and family asking for contributions. Continue reading

Tuning for Victory

Loiterers at Kampala Cycling Club

Worry gripped me. I lay awake some semi-sleepless nights thinking about the long route I will follow in the coming weeks on my dodgy, heavily used bicycle and began to feel nervous. People were depending on me now! What if I failed? If my idea to ride around Africa’s largest lake had continued – as it started – as a foolish lark performed solely for my pleasure, then there would be no problem. I’m used to hurling myself into unknown situations. But now people are watching me. They will want results. Continue reading

Cycling Uganda: Finding a Bike

Meet Victory

On the busy, sloping streets of central Kampala, near the old taxi park where all forms of transportation come crashing together in a kaleidoscope of wheels and potholes, multiple level shopping centers offer hair extensions, electronics, or local food. In the basements of many, one can find dozens of bicycle shops, jammed with tires, selling the magnificent machines in all conditions, shapes, and sizes

I came around looking for a bicycle solution. Men in greasy jumpsuits waved their wrenches and beckoned me downstairs to see their selection. I complied, happy to be out of the sun, and to peruse through the many junker machines available. I needed one which could bear me around Lake Victoria. Continue reading