We were talking the other day about all of the things that we were afraid of before we left for Africa. We had traveled around the world before, but this was something completely different. After all, it was going to be our first time camping in the desert and in the jungle, it was going to be our first time stepping foot on the African soil and it was our first time ever crossing an entire continent on bicycle. We were in for quite and adventure.
It is funny to think of all of the irrational fears that we had before leaving. Well, I should say that I had. Dave tends to go with the flow better than me, but that is not to say he wasn’t curious on how we were going to deal with problems that would arise.
So without further adieu, here are some fears that we had about camping and cycling our way down Africa, what we encountered and how we dealt with them.
1 – Fear of being chased by wild animals. This happened to us on more than one occasion. Packs of wild dogs chased us in Egypt and they managed to hold on for quite a while. Luckily, we saw them coming. They hung out in fields and started chasing us as we passed. Normally we had enough momentum going so we could stay one step ahead of them. I don’t know what we would have done if they had chased us on an uphill.
Dave was also chased by baboons. They ran along with him for a fair amount of time, but once again, he managed to outrun them. It sounds pretty funny to be chased by baboons, but they can be very vicious so it is a good thing Dave was in pretty good shape during that part of the trip. All in all, we came through the trip unscathed.
2. Peeing in Public. Ok, I was just looking for an excuse to write the word pee on my blog. But this really was a concern. I had heard that in Ethiopia especially that it was very populated and if you had to go, you wouldn’t have a lot of privacy. I was considering carrying a sarong with me so that if I had to squat in public, I would at least be covered up. However, this never was an issue. There was plenty of deserted areas to duck behind a tree or a mound of dirt. I must admit though that in Ethiopia it was very crowded and you didn’t have a lot of time before people came out of the middle of nowhere. So, you just had to do your business quickly.
3. Dealing with snakes and insects while doing your business. Yes, I see a theme…going to the Toilet is always and issue. We had to get out of our tents in the middle of the night and find a safe place to go. Surprisingly, I never worried much about it by the time we camped in long grass and bushes. I guess it is because through Egypt and Sudan we started off in Deserts. We became numb to any worries after a month or so, therefore, when I when I went to do my deed, I never worried about it. I did however make a lot of noise walking so, I am assuming that snakes and other creepy crawlies would have been more afraid of me, than I was of them.
4. Crashing. Traffic can be brutal in cities and on highways and I was pretty concerned about being taken out by a car. It ended up not being the cars we had to worry about, but the tour buses and transports. In Egypt buses would zoom passed us on the highways without a care in the world. They would also drive straight for us from the opposite direction seemingly wanting to run us off of the road. They did a couple of times, but if you kept your head about you, you just simply drove onto the shoulder to wait for them to go by. There were a few crashes on the trip, one person broke their collarbone, one had a concussion, there were several stitches, but Dave and I were lucky with the fact that we didn’t have any major falls. The only one that took me out of commission for 10 days was a minor scratch from a silly little fall that ended up getting infected.
5- Surprisingly infection was never on our list, but it is a very real fear now. Several people caught serious staff infections and cellulitus. We were riding in the rainy season in Tanzania and Malawi, so even mosquito bites were causing severe problems. But that was not a fear of ours until we were in the middle of Africa. A word to the wise. If you are in Africa during the wet season and you have a cut that doesn’t even seem like it should matter, Don’t ignore it. Clean it and disinfect it, anything can become infected in a matter of 24 hours.
6. Having Wild Animals surround our camps. We were camping right through the heart of Chobe National Park in Botswana and in forests in Ethiopia, but we never had a problem at night. We didn’t have electric fences or armed guards, we were just a little traveling community of campers pulling off at the side of roads or in clearings. We saw signs like a elephant dung all over the place, so we knew that a herd of elephants had passed through, but we never had the occasion of anything entering our camp. Oh except for Hyena’s surrounding us in Ethiopia, but they kept their distance. Just don’t wander off with your shovel to do your business too far in the middle of the night.
7. Rocks being thrown at us in Ethiopia. This is a very real fear and it is well known that Ethiopian children like to throw rocks at cyclists. You can read all about it at my post at Brave New Traveler.
8. Contaminated Water. We were going to be riding through very dry and remote countries. We really haven’t ever had to worry about water before, you can buy bottled water nearly everywhere. Well, not in Sudan. Our trucks would stop and fill up at wells in towns and then purify our supply with tablets. Well, when drinking your water this way for 4 months you are bound to have a parasite or two sneak through and I had 3 different kinds accompany me back to Canada. I swear I still haven’t recovered.
9. Bandits. We have all heard about robberies and muggings and when you are cycling all alone for 120km each day, you would think that you would be pretty vulnerable. I especially cycled alone more than a lot of people. I was racing, but I wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the men’s peloton and I didn’t want to hang back with the expedition riders, so I was alone with no one in sight for hours on end. Only once did I worry a little about being robbed and that was when I was exhausted on a day in Ethiopia. I had a group of teenagers walking along with me harassing me, slapping me and grabbing at my things. One huge yell at them though and they left me alone. I also managed to find some extra energy to get back on my bike and ride up that epic hill that I much rather would have walked.
10. Living in Filth and Sweat. I sweat a lot, I mean buckets and after a workout, the first thing I need is a shower. Otherwise I become itchy and my skin stings and I am just generally uncomfortable. I burn easily too and whenever I am at the beach, sand stings my skin if I have gotten too much sun.
In Sudan and Ethiopia, we were sun burnt and hot. Sand would stick to our skin mixed with sweat and we went for up to 6 days without access to water. We had enough water in the trucks to drink and cook with and that was it. The rest of the time we were on water rations and were not allowed to use it to bathe or clean. It was unbelievable, but I became used to being dirty. My skin toughened up and I didn’t even care that I couldn’t shower. If we had any water leftover in our water bottles at the end of the day, we were allowed to dump that over our heads, and that was really all that we needed. When we had days off, we would shower once, but if we had a second day off we would say, “why bother, I just showered yesterday!”
So after our adventures in Africa, we feel that we will be able to handle anything that the world can throw at us during our next travel. Or at least we are ready to face our fears head on.