Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here, the Long Journey Has Ended

Ah, There's No Place Like Home...
(I mean, There's No Place Like Sleeping in the Streets of Egypt)

Edfu, Egypt

Suez and Cairo, here we come!

North of Zafrana, Egypt

Mouth of the Nile

Ras el Bar, Egypt

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Road That's Passable

CONGRATULATIONS to our fellow Irish lads for Biking Across Africa!!!

We meet Maghnus, Brian, Burns, and Alan in Moyale, the border town of Kenya and Ethiopia. In the coincidence that we are stuck in Moyale due to money issues, we happen upon the four of them in the streets of Moyale, Ethiopia side. 'Hey bike tourists!' Nate and I run up to them and before we know it, questions start spewing out of our mouths...Where did you start? Where are you going? What's the road like? Where did you find water? Are there good camping spots? Where are you from?...

Meanwhile, a crowd of Ethiopians forms around us. Sooner or later, we are the biggest show on the street--passerbys jumping up and down, trying to get a glimpse of the faranjis; taxis and cars honking their horns, trying to get through; locals mocking our mannerisms, trying to make sense of what we say; 'front row' spectators with jaws hanging open and eyes stuck in a trance, mesmerized by the incessant exchanges gushing out of our mouths.

But our excitement is interrupted by a cool breeze--the sun is fading fast, and the boys have not yet found a place to stay. We agree to meet later at 'Fekadu Hotel' for drinks.


Nate and I arrive at 'Fekadu Hotel', eat our share of injera and stew, and blabber excitedly while we wait (about how we have new people to talk to besides each other). Waiting--8 o' clock--waiting--9 o' show. Nate says: 'They probably couldn't find a place to stay until dark, and by the time they got settled it was too late.'

But actually, the conversation went like this--
Maghnus: Where'd you say they'd meet us?
Brian: I don't remember. I wasn't listening that closely.
Maghnus: What do you mean you don't know? You said you knew! I thought you knew, that's why I didn't ask twice.
Brian: Sorry, man. It started with an F. Something like Fruc...fruc...fruc-ti!
Maghnus: Fructi?
Brian: Yes. I'm positive--
Maghnus: Fructi? Isn't that the name of a shampoo?
Brian: What?...No! It's Fructi--
Maghnus: No! That's not right! Fructi is a shampoo!
Brian: Just listen to me. Nate talked to me...not you!

...they walk up to a local...

Maghnus: 'Chyu know where 'Fructi Hotel' is?
A Local: Fructi, fructi, oh yes, yes!(...leads them blindly in circles...) Here, Fructi...! (points to most dilapidated building on street)
All-Other-Locals: Faranj! YOU! You look for hotel? Cheap! You you you! Birr? You! Shilling? Change money? You! Rich man!

...taking matters aside...

Brian: I don't think they're here.
Maghnus: Of course this isn't it! I told you!
Brian: This isn't my fault!


I find that's generally how conversations go when you're traveling with other people for a Long. Time. If you get past it though, it all becomes good fun.

They were headed in the opposite way: from Addis Ababa to South Africa. They were traveling much more high tech than us. They had laptops, ipods (man, haven't seen one of those in ages...), cameras, and video cameras. They had sleek-looking Thorn bikes, and color coded Ortlieb panniers. And Maghnus--crazy guy--brought 150 patches with him. Generously, he lent a few to me. (Thanks, Maghnus!)

On the other hand, Nate and I had what Orian coins 'wingnut bikes'. My panniers looked like lopsided tumors growing off my wheels, after I resewed them to double their capacity; my 15-20 liters of water bottles hung off the sides like Medusa's hair in an intricate strap system; and my bike frame screamed 'whackjob!' because a hippie painted it with leopard prints when he was stoned for three months.

But our new friends found value to our 'wingnut-ness.' Nate and I helped them tune brakes and shifting, patch up tires, and repair Maghnus' bent frame. In exchange, we played with their 'tech gadgets'--music streaming from the ipod like a heaven sent gift to feed the soul...

It's simple moments like these that inevitably keep you going. That there was nothing to be afraid of, even in the vast mystery that lay in front. That these Irish lads were physical proof that the road ahead was passable. That we--we were not alone.

(Thanks: Maghnus, Brian, Burns, & Alan. Keep in Touch.)

Sure Has Been a Long Way!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apologies, Apologies...In a Nutshell

I realized from a few recent emails that by fading out on this blog, we actually left many people in limbo worrying about us. Did we make it? Did MinWah get eaten by a lion? Did Quinn die from malaria? Did the lot of us get kidnapped and held for ransom? WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED TO US?!!!

Now, you can take a few deep breaths and put yourself at ease. Because WE MADE IT! Though we all had different ways of making it, we all made it safely back to the US, and back to our respective lives.

I will hopefully, in shah allah (God willing), be writing stories about our African journey in retrospect. They will be posted here.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who supported us; it meant the world when we were stuck in the most daunting places. So, if you're bike touring and just happen by...

Much love,

What Happened to Us (in short)

Nate and I arrived at Port Said, the Mediterranean Sea at the mouth of the Suez Canal, on Aug 6, 2009. Then we did a little musing about in Ras el Bar, the mouth of the Nile River. He wrote about it:

As you know, Karen went home in April. She had been thinking about going home since Malawi; she wanted to spend some time with her family before she started grad school in the fall. Then in Dar es Salaam (capital of Tanzania), she sprained her leg and decided to fly home.

Quinn got malaria in Tanzania. He had been sick for 3 weeks before we actually found out. After he recovered from that, he started to think about bike touring in Europe instead, where he could visit friends for the summer. He knew the section through Northern Kenya was going to be on rough road. Would he want to relive pain when he's just recovered from malaria, and already gone through his rite of passage on his Alaska-to-Argentina trip? Ironically, when we reached Nairobi, he found out he got malaria again, and decided on Europe.

Orian left us at the head of the Bad North Kenya Road; he hitched a ride straight to Ethiopia. Since Karen wasn't in Africa anymore, he wanted to get to Egypt in time to fly home for their anniversary. He figured he'd skip trudging through bad roads, because like Quinn, he felt he already went through his rite of passage on his Alaska-to-Argentina trip. He had to take some buses through Ethiopia and Sudan in order to make it. But what a trip, Nairobi to Cairo in 6 weeks!

Sometimes, I wish I'd taken a bus through some parts of Ethiopia too! I wouldn't have been so mentally drained by the time we entered Sudan.


Where We Are Now

I am back in New York City with my parents, although I travel frequently to Boston for my job search. Nothing has amounted to anything yet, but I have had a few first round interviews, and that's a start. I'm trying to follow other, more creative interests in the meantime...(like urban farming and fixing bikes in order to nurse my withdrawals from New Zealand and bike touring)

Karen is getting a Master's in Building Technology at MIT. She's very happy with her program. She's studying water flows in cities and gets to go to South America in January to study archaeological sites!

Orian received a Gates Scholarship to pursue a PhD (building high efficiency diesel engines) at Cambridge University in England.

Quinn just landed a temp job in Alaska, working with his parents at Boeing's missile defense site. He's starting college in California in January.

Nate biked back to Wisconsin from New York. I think he's spending time with his grandparents and looking for a job as a writer.