So many people, both people i’ve met on this trip and via email from this website, have asked why I’m doing this trip. I don’t think i’ve been able to give a straight and honest answer- the question’s stumped me every time. It wasn’t solely about playing the tourist- yes i’ve always wanted to see Africa, but this wasn’t the kind of trip where you can really immerse yourself you a culture and really get the feel of it. Yes we obviously rode through many, many different villages/ towns/cities, but never really stayed long enough to get a thorough understanding of the places. I suppose each of us has their own reasons for doing this trip but for me, it was simply a new challenge and a way for me to learn a little more about myself, broaden by horizons and create new personal boundaries. This trip will now be the thing with which all of my life’s future challenges are measured against. And they will most likely pale in difficulty, as this has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
For me, every day of this trip has been one of the hardest days of my life. While Shaun was over here with us, I was having a talk with him as we peddled our way through the back roads of Botswana about how, for me, no days have been easy, they’ve just been varying degrees of difficult. Some days it’s mountain climbing, other days you’re battling a head wind, other days it’s oppressive heat, other days you’re slogging it out in sand (think of the sand at any surf beach) or when all the stars align and you have none of the previous perils you end up pushing out an enormous 190+km day. This has been my life for 4 months and for roughly 3 months and 3 weeks, I’ve wondered how the hell I was going to make it to the finish line. I won’t lie, there were many, many times where I honestly contemplated pulling the pin and flying home. There was so much comfort and luxury awaiting me there and all it would take would be a decision, a bus ride and a plane ride to end the difficulty and return to that comfort zone. So simple. I’m glad I didn’t give in though.
Have I enjoyed cycling for 4 months on this trip? Yes and no, mostly yes- it’s a pleasure to have been able to ride my bike every day. But, some days have been hard, very hard, which has taken some of the enjoyment out of it all. The frustrating thing is the difficulty was all in your head- once you allowed yourself to start thinking “this is hard, i hate this” it was a very slippery slope from there and if you didn’t change the way you thought, the rest of your day was just going to get harder and harder. Sadly, I wasn’t able to adjust my thinking until later in the trip and there were too many days where I fell into this mental trap and didn’t get the full enjoyment out of the days. You’re literally fighting your own mind, but i’m proud to say that in the end, I won. I read a saying somewhere once “Fall 7 times; stand up 8” and if there’s a motto i’m applying to how I handled this adventure, that’s it.
Have I enjoyed Africa- without a doubt. Every country has been so diverse and the culture and people have been eye opening and spectacular. I’ll miss the more undeveloped countries the most- cycling through Ethiopian mountain villages where the villagers literally stand with their jaws open in amazement (at seeing white people!) as we cycled past was one of the highlights. I came on this trip expecting elements of hostility and am pleased to be able to say that we’ve had nothing but kindness and hospitality.
Have I enjoyed spending my time with Gavan, Shane and Wade? 100% yes. For me, spending my time with these 3 guys has been not just the highlight of this trip, but undoubtedly my life. I can honestly say I’ve never laughed so much in my whole life. There have been many times when we’ve been riding in single-file formation and are talking utter nonsense to one another without taking our eyes off the road where I’ve just sat and grinned to myself at how well we all get along and how I don’t think a better group could have been designed.
- I’ve thrown a few tantrums- some silent, some not so silent
- I fell into my own vomit while very unwell one night
- I’ve drank about 1 litre of soft drink for every day i’ve cycled
- I am coming home with a soft drink addiction
- I’ve been sicker than I ever remember being in my life
- I’ve come across more kindness in 4 months through Africa than 31 years collectively in Australia
- I’ve seen scenery that is so spectacular that I didn’t realise could have existed
- I’ve seen kids who literally have nothing in their lives by way of material possessions who are happier than the majority of kids in Australia
- I’ve developed cravings for foods that i’ve never craved before and worry that these unhealthy cravings are here to stay
- I’ve feared for my life, once (lions)
- I’ve seen stars like i’ve never seen them before
- I’ve learnt that you can get a long way with just a smile in a country where communication isn’t possible
- I’ve learnt that I am very lucky to the relatively mediocre life and job that I have in Australia.
- I have some incredible friends back home who have been of immeasurable assistance while I am away- and that I am coming home happily indebted to so many people.
- I’ve learnt how to be a better friend, and the value of friendship
- I’ve learnt that I’m not as mentally strong as I once thought I was.
- I’ve learnt that you can’t send double-edged ‘daggers’ via mail to your Mum.
- My Mum is super women and has been put through hell (by me) while I’m away- thank you Mum.
- I have developed a love for bicycles that i’m sure will never die. So much so that i’ve designed a new commuter bike while i’m away which is sitting in boxes at home waiting to be built. I’ll also be sourcing and buying a new road bike within the first couple of days home. I now own 4 bikes and can justify owning each and every one of them. There will be more.
- I will not miss Wade farting on me every time we ride in single file formation.
- I won’t miss eating out of tins.
- Before this trip, I loved tuna. After this trip, and having eaten approximately 5kgs of the stuff, I will be lucky to ever eat tuna again. The same can’t be said about tinned fruit- I am now an addict.
- I won’t miss applying sunscreen 3-4 times every day
- I won’t miss sunscreen running down my face and into your eyes, due to sweat, all day every day
- I won’t miss sweating for 10+ hours every day
- I won’t miss mosquitoes and the panic that ensues every time you get bitten (and I’ve been bitten a LOT).
- I won’t miss packing up my tent and camping gear in the mornings
- I won’t miss living out of tiny bags
- I will miss being so in-tune with my body with regards to input and errr, output.
- I won’t miss eating being the unenjoyable process that it currently is. I’m so excited to sit down to a meal and enjoy it (normal portions and all), as opposed to jut stuffing down the commercial quantities of miss-matched food and getting straight on the bike 10 minutes later.
- I am currently researching the best, non-commercial, milk-shake maker for home to satisfy my addictions.
- I may be the only person to cycle the length of Africa and actually put on weight in the process.
- I will miss the almost celebrity like reception we get every day when we arrive into towns. From people simply marvelling at our adventure and trying to comprehend just how far we’ve ridden, to people buying us drinks, food, meals etc out of pure admiration.
- I hope to one day meet Robert Knol (world record holder for cycling the length of Africa (70 days with an average of 160km per day!) and Mark Beaumont (work record holder for cycling around the world (194 days with an average of 160km per day) and shake both of their hands. What we did was difficult. What Robert and Mark did is incomprehensibly difficult.
- This won’t be the last time I visit Africa
So that’s it. This is the end. I’ve thrown some more photos up in the Namibia page and a new South Africa page. Like most things i do with my life, this site will probably just stagnate until my next adventure (Kokoda 2013??).
And thank you to everyone- especially Robert Knol for your continual and patient advice and assistance when we were planning this trip. There are SO many people who’ve assisted us in the preparation of this journey- too many to mention individually. In return I hope to be able to offer that same kind of assistance to anyone who is planning a similar trip. And thank you to everyone who contacted me through this website. I didn’t have the time or opportunity to respond to everyone (i tried!) but please know that I read every one of your emails and at times they really made the difference and spurred me on. Thank you!!
So if you’ve enjoyed this site and our adventures, I ask just one favour from you. If you’re ever driving on a lonely road and come across a touring cyclist, stop and have a chat. If you’ve got any water, soft drink, coffee or even a half-eaten bag of chips, offer it to them. Chances are they’ve slept rough last night and are slogging it out that day and will be grateful for anything you can offer (those bags on their bikes don’t have room for luxuries). They may also take the opportunity to ask you about the route ahead- ‘What’s the road like’? “Is there food or accommodation ahead in xxxx town”? Just don’t make it up if you don’t know- it’s a terrible feeling to see that the road starts to climb when someone’s just said it’s perfectly flat. People cling to hope.
So people, that’s the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
I’m Justin Molik and I’ve cycled the length of Africa.