• 31 March 2016

Tough roads in Tanzania

Tough roads in Tanzania

Tough roads in Tanzania 300 169 Gürkan Genç

Tough roads in Tanzania

Thursday, February 4th, 2016


I spent one and a half month in Darussalam. I must say that it is the most impressive capital I have seen in East Africa. While I was in Darussalam I held a speech in one of the local schools together with our ambassador’s wife Yasemin Hanim (Mrs. in Turkish).


I meet with Tanzanian people and cyclists under the organization of Bicycle Federation of Tanzania. I gave interviews on TV and newspapers about my world tour on bike.


I attended the opening ceremony of the genetic laboratory under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Fatma Hanim from Capa University, Turkey. We ate together with people working at the mission and went out at nights. Thanks to them, they took care of me. At this one and a half months break I felt like at home. In the mean time I replaced the old worn parts of my bicycle. There were some equipment which I hadn’t replaced since the beginning for 40 000 km and there are still some which I needn’t to replace yet.


Let me talk about my observations of Darussalam. First of all, I must say that the prices are changing according to the customer. Especially, when shopping in bazaar every seller gave different prices for the same products. At groceries the prices are fixed, do not change.


You have to pay attention to your packages and your pocket after shopping. The employees of the embassy witnessed so many crimes that do not walk around on the streets after it darkens. They even drive very fast. Theft is a casual daily happening. While sitting at a restaurant someone could appear and take your mobile phone from your hands. While waiting at red lamp someone could open your door and attack you. This happened while I was in the city. One of our mission employees was attacked in front of his house door. 


There is a place called coco beach. It is advised not to go there at night, even at day light. Too many thefts are reported for this place. I went there during day time and I was the only white man there. It is not a common destination for white men.


Tanzania was formerly a part of Oman Empire which I already mentioned you before. Therefore, there are Tanzanian people having a skin color like Arabs. One day I witnessed such a situation. A Tanzanian of Arab descent was arguing with a Tanzanian of African descent. The reason was that the Tanzanian of African descent was trying to sell his product at a touristic price (a white man price) to the Tanzanian of Arab descent. I was watching them nonplussed. I witnessed similar situations in some other places. Throughout my life I never had to do with racism but experienced what it is to be by the local people during my East Africa travel.


Dr. Fatma invited me for a dinner at Rotary club one day. I was supposed to introduce myself to the businessmen. One of the businessmen an Italian talked to me after learning that I was traveling around the world on bike. The conversation was about how China captured Africa. None of the European countries are able to cope with Chinese. I learned that China put 40 billion of budget for Africa this year. I was told that China was sending prisoners of China as labor source to Africa. The Italian talked about a city of which more than half of its population became Chinese already. Maybe it is on my route. Oh, and he also said: “The only Europeans working and doing business in Africa are Turks.” That the Italian businessman saw Turkey as a part of Europe came strange to me since one of the countries which don’t want us to enter European Union is Italy.


Muslims of Shiite sect I met during the bicycle tour invited me for a speech at the mosque. This was the most striking speech I’ve ever held yet. They were waiting for me after the evening pray.


While there I thought to perform my evening pray with the community. At the missionin Tanzania there was an attaché from directorate of religious affairs. The next day when I saw him I said: “These men pray in a different way compared to us.” “Aaaaa Mr. Gurkan did you pray with them? I would never pray with them” Well, I visited 13 different Muslim countries and had the opportunity to observe Islam and Muslims. Islam is interfused with every country’s culture. Nobody could state that in every Islamic country the people pray the same way. May some people do not accept my opinion, I write what I observe. For the last 6 years I travel among people, stay at their houses, eat and sleep together. Religious duties change from country to country. The length of the pray changes, prostration during pray changes, fasting changes. Would you say: “Only the Turks do right”? Come on… Dude, I have traveled 4000 km on bike in Saudi Arabia and spent about one year in Arabian Peninsula. Aside Medina and Mecca you won’t see anyone praying in due form! You won’t. No.. Look all the people from Hatay (a province in Turkey) are there, go and ask them. Would you say, hey look you are praying the wrong way? Our directorate of religious affair claims “it is sin to depilate” Go to the home of Saudi Arabian women and forbid them depilation… Hahahahah.. You will be ending like the imam of Kaaba calling for Friday pray. People would ask “Aaaa where is he” then. My friend people are going out to space, play on space technologies. Call out a fatwa and say: “Travel, see, share your experiences, inspire people to travel, explore the world. Do not give up readily, follow your dreams with your courage and faith. Turkey must keep up with the space era, we need to discover planets.” Dude, isn’t there just one intellectual innovative imam in Turkey? I beg if we had such imams… We would have gone to Mars till now and planted our flag. : ). Let’s talk about another interesting similarity. The orthodox and catholic rites I attended in Europe were different than that in Africa. I call this impact of culture on religion through time.


Anyway, I performed my evening pray the way I knew (let me say that the way we do is also not right to them) and then went to the room to deliver my speech. Ups there was a funeral in the room on the floor. First we took the funeral out then I started to deliver my speech. Aaaa when I looked around I saw two shrines at the back. In my speech I made use of music with some visuals. I delivered my speech without turning on the music. What a strange speech it was dude. They all hugged me. They started to follow me on social media. Some cyclists started to say: Froome captain of SKY team on one side and you Gurkan Genc on other side.” Whoa : ) Then we went out for dinner and the next weekend went out for a cycling tour. It was a different and nice experience to spend some time with those people.


Murat, knowing that his brother in Turkey was following me, invited me to this house. Also Ayhan whose elder brother was following me kept in touch and took care of me. Sohret, Ali, Sevgi thank you all. They never let me alone in Darussalam. Berat Bey (Mr in Turkish) from mission was just a phone call away fixing everything. Also Merve and Resat helped me a lot. Gokce assistant of Dr. Fatma took a sample of my DNA to examine. From now on I’ll send a blood sample from each continent to follow how DNA will be affected. By this way I’m taking part in a scientific study. Hehehe.


We always say the world is small. While I was travelling in Middle East a French cyclist on his travel around the world had stayed at my friends’ home in Turkey and our routes crossed in Darussalam. On top of it he was staying at Taha’s house a friend of mine I haven’t seen for 16 years. Taha is a safari operator in Tanzania. If you’ll go on safari in Tanzania find Taha a graduate of Bilkent University son of a Turkish diplomat. Believe me he’ll do the best for the lowest price. He’ll never cheat on you.


Gautier is 21 years old had set off from France 9 months ago. Listening to his dreams my dreams at that age came in my mind. He is too young yet not shaped by the road. His thoughts will change by time. He was a bicycle mechanic in his country traveling through the world with the money he earned. He studied sports science. I hear you saying how come, a man both having studied and working as a bicycle mechanic finds the money to set off for a world travel? His bike together with the equipment has a value of about 1600 Euro. He doesn’t stay at hotels or hostels. He prefers mosques or churches to overnight. He never attends activities or visit museums for which he has to pay. If someone invites him he stays a couple of days with them and then moves on. He has a PayPal account and receives donation from his family and friends. I had the opportunity to meet his family in Darussalam, they came for vocation. : )


On the departure day from Darussalam on January 13th, 2016 we set off together. Gautier’s bicycle is a 28 inches frame one. He has two panniers in the front each of 10 L capacity. He puts is mattress and tent on top of these panniers. He has a handlebar bag and a single 24 L capacity pannier attached to the rear rack. Four bags on the total. That is, he is traveling new fashion bike-packing style. I have 6 bags on my bicycle of 26 inches frame. It is really hard to pedal in compatible speed together. He will ride faster than me with 28 frame anyway. And light weight adds on.


After a one and a half months brake it was pretty hard to take the road again. I marked a spot on GPS to take us out of the city and then didn’t pay attention to which direction we were pedaling. We came down to the south of our actual route. I said, we’ll take side roads to come to our actual road but ended in such places where even to push our bike was a challenge. Without peoples help I wouldn’t be able to move forth. By the way, that day on mountainous terrain a plant cut and wounded our legs, even after 20 days from our wounds a yellow bile was flowing and didn’t heal. While writing this article the wounds remained, as I was riding towards Malawi it reached to a peak after which I decided to go to hospital to receive medical treatment.


It had been passed 6 years I hadn’t pedaled in accompany for long term. My old friends were coming in my mind and on 15th January, 2016 I received a skype call. Elana was calling. They were celebrating my birthday with Theiry, Liam and their new born. These two persons are really very special to me. Since I didn’t write my Spain memories I didn’t share what they did for me with you yet. I’ll tell it if I find an opportunity one day. You’ll get surprised.


We hung on with Gautier for a while. He has some experiences due to being a bicycle mechanic but I believe that the road has a lot to teach yet he is at the beginning. As long as we were together I didn’t let him to pay and tried to support him. I also shared my experiences with him. It is a custom on my side. I try to support as much I can everyone pedaling on my side.


The environment we entered with Gautier after Mikumi National Park was very nice up to a point. Once we stopped to photograph impalas. The impalas started to run away recognizing we were about to stop. Just at that moment a female lion showed up and tried to catch them. Our adrenalin made peak in both of us. This happened just 200 m away from us. On the last 6 km of the park route the tire of Gautier blew out we only stopped to blow it. This park passage was the highest average speed 50 km during our joint travel. Hahaha. Scared half to death.

We were invited to people’s houses, put our tents up in classrooms. Stayed at catholic churches. Made new friendships.. All so nice.


The reason why I turned left after Mikumi Park was to see Udzwunga water fall. But when we arrived there we found out that the ticket office was 10 km ahead. I really got very angry. Nothing to do we moved on. The next days it rained and the road become almost impassable. After that point it was no more a bicycle tour but a tour of pushing bikes. For three days we could cover only 18 km and no more. Both we had to push our bicycles on slopes and also mud stuck on drew us crazy. The wheels were unable to rotate.


The bike-packing issue in my mind since Dubai became clear on that day. The experiences of Gautier were also helpful. On 28’’ frames there are generally mudguards but the distance between the mudguard and wheel is pretty short. Furthermore, its distance to the fork is too short. He complained about the mudguards. Also, he fell down a couple of times due thin wheels and due load only in the front.  Since I was using a 26’’ frame bicycle with no mudguard my wheels did not get stuck with mud. But this time at had problems due to v-brakes. Mud was stuck on brakes. If I can transfer some load to the front to lighten rear load then I might change to disc brakes and move to bike-packing. This is possible. By this way the reverse force exerted on rear hub will not tear out that much the hub due to lesser load.


Days by days passed. That route took us to pineapple gardens. My tong swelled due to the pineapples I ate for free just picking from the trees. We were sleeping in tents we put up under primitive shelters because it was raining every night. One day I was again pushing my bike up a hill when I said enough is enough. I’m not going to push my bicycle anymore. We’ll load on the first truck which passes by no matter how long we wait for it.


Hahaha you got surprised? At the end of my 4 years of bicycle tour I’m for the first time on a truck haulage for 20 km. Why?


Because my frame cracked, that is my bicycle is about to fall apart! My bicycle had fallen down on one side due to the heavy load on it somewhere in Ethiopia and there was a rock which scratched the dye on the frame.


That was what I thought but actually the frame was damaged. In time due to harsh terrain that crack become larger. The day I was cleaning my bicycle in Darussalam I saw that it covered half of the frame tube. And while pushing my bike in this terrain I recognized that the crack widened and was about to cover the whole circumference. Pushing the bike increased the harm. I have to pass through Malawi and arrive in the capital of Zambia before my bike completely fall apart. My first precaution was what you see above in the photo. I supported the frame tube with wrench and plastic clamps which stopped crack from enlarging. So I have to quit dirt roads and slopes. I’ll make an additional 20 km somewhere else. : P. Taking into account that I made 40 831 km more than the length of equatorial line this Kron brand bicycle has accomplished its tour around the world. A new frame of same properties is being produced. This bicycle has been worthy of a museum : ).. There will be some new features on the new bicycle which I’ll share soon.


At the end of pushing zone (20 km) we got out of the truck and continued. On the next days after we came to paved road I kept to ride on that road although there were attractive side roads. Keep going slowly. : D


I didn’t like the taste of watermelon among the other fruits we ate on the road. It had a bitter salty taste I guess connected to the water quality in that region. Coconuts were better in southern parts. As I mentioned before the best pineapples were in this region which cost less than 10 cents per fruit. One coconut costs about 25 cents. Good. The pancakes we were eating in the mornings cost 200 Shilling, lunch 1200 Shilling.


I said that we stayed at schools en route. At one of the schools I paid for overnight staying for me and also for Gautier. He said we could stay somewhere else for free but I didn’t listen to him. I wanted to stay at this school because I wanted to make some observations. It was a Swahili language school, www.stdyswahili.com. All of a sudden US students appeared. We started to chat. The first question came from them:

–       How did you find this place?

–       While we were passing by I stopped and directly entered the school and asked whether we can stay or not : ). As I was told I have to pay for it I accepted. Well, what are you doing here?

–       Really, you just stopped so. We are learning Swahili language here.


It is strange why they have chosen such a huge building complex far away from any city center. Really strange. When we were alone Gautier asked: “How come someone wants to learn this language?”


Oil and natural gas was explored in this region you need to learn the language. : ). The students were last year students of universities in USA. Two of them caught malaria but didn’t interrupt their studies. Anyway, we stayed there for one day then set off.


The closest town to the border is Tutkuyu, the town where I and Gautier separated. Till this point we rode together for 16 days. He pedaled for the first time on such a hard terrain, on top of it uninterrupted. The last night we found a guest house. He stayed for two and me for three nights there.


I must admit that the road to Malawian border was the most beautiful road I rode on bike after a long time.  Let’s move on to the next country.  : )



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