Category: Africa

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Ethiopia Retrospectum

[Originally published in Bikepacking Journal no.2, 2019 with photos by Logan Watts. Shared here with my photos.]

We were in Ethiopia for twelve thousand minutes. The only tiny thing we gave back, all we could, is that we respect that we’re alive together and making meaning together and writing and rewriting memories. We are not owed anything, not kindness or regard or being taken care of. If these things are not given, we still owe our own herculean colossal effort of understanding.


Jacques explains. “Location” indicates the black townships, we’ve been directed here by that very word on the lips of a nodding woman on the dirt avenue, I’m looking to buy a local SIM card. One story high, corrugated steel, off-rectilinear lots that expand or contract to the hilly contour but somehow still seem tidy, colors sing cheer and that they’re brightly painted itself enough to distinguish the boundaries.

Johannesburg and Kruger

Students in smart uniforms, a loud beer hall, turning buses and impossibly clean commuter rail station. Then lands of hard wind blown blonde grasses with season burn smoke columns, onward to canyons rolling granite and green, serpentine roads. To a vast park. No bicycles, a shame, they’ll wait.

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South Africa Postcard

There’s Nelson Mandela’s house and then Desmond Tutu’s around the corner, a neighborhood density of Nobel Peace laureates unrivaled. We drink local brew, 2% alcohol so leaving us liters away from danger but very near to jolly, a man stops his car to thank us for visiting, older women waking home all in green from a religious service beaming hellos.

Cairo journal entry

I arrived in Cairo, a lone cyclist pedaling into a metropolis, on the evening of 28 January, 2011 at the end of a tour of the western oasis circuit from Luxor. From the warnings of local contacts I knew that I should keep vigilant. The city — indeed much of Egypt — was rising to a new pitch in the protest against the government. Today, Friday, a day off work and a day of consultation after prayer, was expected to be a turning point, and it was. By now the world knows of the events on that day from television images of burning and overturned police tactical vehicles, teargas braving mobs, rocks against rubber bullets and water canons, allegations of live fire in some cases, and tanks rolling across urban bridges and through downtown streets.