Now, I would consider myself a prankster, loving joking around. Most of the time it has ended well. With one major exception!
Travelling through what was back then 1989 Zaires, today Congo Kinshasa, was the real deal. Roads where passable most of the time, but not always. Almost without exception dirt roads. Anything could happen on the road. Once I helped an arrested guy at a roadstop to escape. The reason?
When I turned up, every single police came over to me to have a chat. Whilst talking, I saw the arrested guy which was tied up with his arms behind a chair, stand up and start running away. It took some time before the police noticed the escapee and set after him, shouting. I set off as a rocket, not to get involved. After a few hundred meteres I saw the escapee running parallell to me about 50 meters away. He smiled with a joke in his eyes. I smiled back and sped up.
This is why I love Africa more than any other place. Never boring, always those laughters and smiles and the unexpected always happens. But be careful who you joke with.
One morning I ran into a bunch of Bantu hunters, who had killed a small forest elephant with their spears in the night. I stopped, tried to talk to them and left. They cross the red dirt road behind me, and stepped into the Jungle again. Suddenly a group of baboons stepped out of the forest. The chief, a giant fella (male baboons can weigh up to 45 kg:s!), came over to me. I realized he was targeting my bananas which I carried in front of me on the handle bars. Now, the devil in me arrived, so I picked one banana, held it out for the chief. Just as he was about to grab it, I pulled it away, so he ended up with nothing. i held it out again, same story, That pissed him of badly. He jumped up on the bike, grabbed my shirt and ripped it into pices and set off with all bananas. I realized my chest was bleeding. I could see his nailmarks down my chest.
Next time I came across a big group of baboons, they possibly saved mine and my friends life. Whilst crossing straight through Mikumi National Park in Tanzania, we came across a couple of female scientist who were observing the behaviour of the baboons. We, that is, my great friends Steve Jewell and Marc Freedman. Steve introduced me to cycle touring and Mark was on his way around the world. We joined those scientists one day whilst they were folllowing a family group of baboons. They said:
“If I lion turns up, don´t run.”
We had two armed guards with us just in case. As the scientists Sonia and Lisa predicted, the family came down the trees same time as always and went off searching for food. As we walked though the high grass of the savannah, suddenly we saw the fron baboons started screaming and running. A lioness came out of the grass and went for the front team. She suddenly realized there were more than baboons there, she stopped and looked at us. I remember just by survival instinct or washed just cowardness, I took a step in behind Mark, who than would be mawled by the lioness in case of attack. The scientists started running, the armed guards started running and we three cyclists looked at each others, and….started running. Even though we saw the lioness slowly galopping away from us.
Next day we went with the scinetists into town in their jeep. We saw two young male lions sitting in a tree next to the road we passed on the bikes the previous day. Luck again.
Most things ended with uncontrollable laughter in Africa!
From the bike I came across plenty of snakes, lots of elephants, giraff, buffalo, hippo, loads of warthogs, antilopes, hyena, zebra and lots of wonderful people.
I hope to return next year with my daughters.
Photocopyright_ Some photos shot by Hub Sprockett alias Marc Freedman