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.
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.
Many of the traditional Western roles are reversed here. We continually pedaled past women cutting wood; and men sewing.
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.
One of the most unexpected and refreshing things about traveling in Africa was sharing the road with other cyclists.
Women do the bulk of manual labor on top of taking care of the family.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even when all a man can afford is a bicycle, he is considered wealthy, in some places.
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.
Most kids have very little, but they are inventive. This little boy cleverly fashioned an umbrella from trash, wood and wire.
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.
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.