#1 No way back from here

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We are in Rwanda! Last night we landed in Kigali after a comfortable flight. Upon arrival all seemed well: our bicycles had arrived safely and our cycling bags swiftly rolled off the luggage band. Except one. The one in which the drone was packed. The security at the airport had done their job well and took it from us. Fortunately they were very friendly. They let us go without a problem and ensured us they would keep the drone safe for us. “Don’t worry, sir. Very safe.” And so we had the first setback of our journey. Hopefully one of few, probably one of many.

After a short struggle to fit our bicycles in the taxi van (a problem that took 15 Rwandans and Huib to solve), we were driven to our hostel by Shema. Shema spoke proudly of his country and we could see why. Immediately we noticed how clean the streets were and how well-maintained everything looked. This is definitely not your typical African country.

After we arrived at our hostel, we ate a local dish named Isombe (stew made from mashed cassava leaves, tomatoes, onions, coriander and garlic) and tried of the local beers (Virunga Mist was my personal favourite, even if it’s just for the name). While we were enjoying these last bits of luxury, we reflected on how all of this had come about.

Back in March last year, it was Tho who had come up with the idea. One day he woke up in his flat in Amsterdam with an urge that many of us will recognize. An urge to get out there, into the unknown. Some would call it a longing for adventure, but the word adventure doesn’t really cover it. It is too hollow a term for a need that is instilled so deeply in us. I once read that our longing to travel stems from the earliest days of our species. From the moment our ancestors climbed out of the trees and set foot on the savannahs, we were always on the move. Whether it was fruiting trees, herds of antelope or bush fires, we were always trailing after or running away from something. As humans adopted agriculture and sedentary civilizations developed, we lost this nomadic lifestyle but never relinquished the urge to be on the move. It is plausible that this is why many of us who are stuck in our comfortable but boring city life, are sometimes overcome by that sudden need to just go. To get out of the city and discover new frontiers.

When Tho woke with this feeling about 15 months ago, he didn’t wait long before he acted. Within a few days he came up with the idea that has now become reality: a cycling journey through Africa. Not just for the sake of the adventure, but also to raise money and awareness for conservation. A few days later, when Tho met Huib for a beer, he told Huib about his idea, and asked him if he wanted to join. Encouraged by a few drinks, Huib immediately said yes. That evening, Huib and Tho would drink many more beers and in all their excitement they told everyone in the bar about their plan. When they woke up the next morning, there was no way back.

But the team was not yet complete. Tho and Huib decided that four would be the ideal number, and it was deemed preferable if the two additions would have some experience in Africa. Huib proposed Jan and myself as possible additions, for we both had spent over a year in South Africa and Botswana to train and work as safari guides. Naturally, the two of us didn’t need much convincing, so within a week after Tho woke up with that sudden urge to get out there, a plan was made and a team was formed. What followed was 15 months of planning, prepping and anticipating. Many hours of research was done and countless routes were drawn before we settled on the current one.

This is the route we will embark on today. A route that spans over 5,000 kilometres, six countries, and several biomes. Along this route we will visit eight highly diverse parks and meet people from even more diverse cultures. We will undoubtedly have many flat tyres, fall off our bicycles and get sick. Because of all this, tensions might rise and arguments may occur. But all this will have been worth it during those special moments; when we arrive at our destination in the evening, when we sit by a fire under a sky full of stars, when we see that bird we spent days looking for, or when we have that breath-taking elephant encounter. These are the moments we look forward to the most. These are also the moments that we will write about and catch on camera, to share with you.

As I’m writing this the birds around me are starting to sing louder. Kigali has woken up and the rising temperature is signalling that it is time to go. Today we will cycle to Kayonza, about 65 kilometres east of Kigali. We will let you know when we get there.

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Learn more about the adventures, the challenges and the stories from our Rwanda to Zambia cycling adventure.