Bicycle Touring East Africa: Summed Up In 21 Portraits

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Twenty-one portraits to wrap up our travels in east Africa…

If I had to summarize bicycle touring east Africa in one line, I would say it’s about the people. Not that there aren’t hundreds of other wonderful aspects to traveling here, and not that there aren’t epic cycling routes throughout, but the people are what make it special. I started taking portraits somewhere along the way, some candid, some point blank. Here are some that needed a home, and I thought I’d use them to help sum up our trip on this side of the world.

P.S. Because of timing and the rainy season, which is in full force in Rwanda and Uganda, we are now making our way through Morocco, a completely different side of Africa, literally. Check back soon for more, and follow our Facebook page to get regular updates.

Malawi Portrait
In most of the countries we cycled, we were always told to find the chief of the village to be given a place to camp. This gentleman was the chief of a small village on the road in Malawi. He loved the opportunity to take part in a photo shoot.

Malawi Portrait

Many of the traditional Western roles are reversed here. We continually pedaled past women cutting wood; and men sewing.
Malawi Portrait
As rich as the land may seem, maize is still the staple, and without a good crop year, the people suffer. Unfortunately, the rains came early this year.

Malawi Portrait

One of the most unexpected and refreshing things about traveling in Africa was sharing the road with other cyclists.
Malawi Portrait
Women do the bulk of manual labor on top of taking care of the family.

Malawi Portrait

Mazungu or wasungu ((white)foreigners) on bicycles are generally met with what appears to be a healthy mixture of suspicion and curiosity. Very rarely, the look appears to be one of disdain.
Malawi Portrait
It is amazing to experience the distance people travel to sell a small amount of produce at a street market. This woman was walking a dirt road, with a huge bowl of grain on her head, several miles from the nearest market to earn what may amount to a little over one dollar.

Malawi Portrait

One of the big challenges of cycling through east African countries, especially Zambia, are the drunks… they are very insistent on having a hearty conversation, sometimes to the point of grabbing you and holding you there. I guess they mean well.
Malawi Portrait
We have seen a lot of happy children… gleefully playing with old tires, toy cars made from used beer boxes, plastic bag kites, and mud dolls.

Malawi Portrait

Malawi Portrait

Our trip was filled with special moments meeting salt of the earth people in the most remote corners of nowhere. A lot of times they would run out to the road and stop us, just to shake hands and ask where we were from and where we are going.
Malawi Portrait
Malawi Portrait
Kids are always hungry in Malawi. We were playing frisbee with these three boys; they stopped, mid-game, to kneel down and eat termites that were swarming out of a hole in the ground.
Malawi Portrait
Malawi Portrait
Malawi Portrait
Most small children are scared to death of white men with beards (or maybe it’s just me). It took a while to take this family portrait; I finally snapped this one in between fits of tears and terror.
Malawi Portrait
Even when all a man can afford is a bicycle, he is considered wealthy, in some places.

Malawi Portrait

We met a few people who were only traveling in Africa for a month and felt fortunate; We also met a few people traveling for years and felt envious. Joreon and Sonja (not shown) have been on the road for almost 3 years in their quest to see the whole continent.

Malawi Portrait

Most kids have very little, but they are inventive. This little boy cleverly fashioned an umbrella from trash, wood and wire.

Zanzibar portrait

The further we moved north into Islamic countries, the harder it was to take portraits. There is nothing more disheartening than a ‘no’ when you are asking for a shot.
Zanzibar portrait
When asked why we are cycling through their country, we explained that we wanted to see their country and meet people; this always seemed to make them proud.

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  • Matthijs Hajonides

    Your photographs are so incredibly well composed. Still following your blog, and getting inspired. Be save

  • mikehowarth

    What a beautiful set of portraits. Such an amazing continent, and a gentle reminder I pick up my own portrait project which seems to have fallen by the way side.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks! The portraits are a little more difficult to come by in Morocco… folks don’t like to have their photo made here (or they want money)…

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks Matthijs!

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