The Rwanda/Uganda Bike Tour of A Thousand (and fucking one) Hills
An Emotional Ride!
Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills and I certainly feel like I got to experience many of them on my 620km cycling tour from Kabale in Uganda to Kisoro and then criss-crossing Rwanda, but as the title suggests there is always one more hill.
Speaking of one more hill and facing these kinds of challenges – I know that bicycle touring is mostly a mental struggle than a physical one as our bodies are remarkably good at facing physical challenges when we want them too. I honestly believe anyone can do bicycle touring and it just needs you to put together a series of pushing on the pedals and you’ll get from A to B, and on to C…
The big challenge of any bike tour is the mental side of keeping your body going, and to not just meet challenges, but deal with them and ultimately conquer them to keep going. This bike trip certainly had its great share of challenges and here are just a few:
- I’m using a 20-year-old ladies mountain bike with 15 limited gears
- The bike is heavy before any gear and for 35km I was carrying my 20kg on my back (note you actually really carry it on your arse bone via your back!)
- The bike had a very defined ladies shaped seat – definitely not suited to the male anatomy and also not shock absorption in the front forks which makes a huge difference – especially on African roads
- Probably the biggest challenge was I didn’t have padded bike shorts (I am wincing a tear still on this point)
- I took on a few very tough back dirt ‘roads’ that are more rocks and holes than roads
- The terrain was tough – usually 1000m of climbing each day and sometimes 2000m of elevation gain (but also the decent and I love climbing anyway)
- Finding adequate drinking water was a challenge on occasions as well as food that was high enough in calories to keep the motor running at peak performance
I think what I learnt more from this trip than any other (even doing a bike trip while doing Live Below the Line in 2012) was that the challenges I faced were trivial and insignificant to the people’s around me. As I passed through rural Africa the people face much greater challenges – everyday and forever – no clean or running water, inadequate health and education outreaches and facilities, no electricity, no means to get yourself out of extreme poverty no matter how hard you try.
I gained so much from these people as I passed by because they were not coming to me so I could ‘save’ them but they knew they have to face their daily challenges and get on with life.
As I often got extremely annoyed and tired of the constant attention and calling out I also had to realise that I was the only small piece of entertainment they might have had access to that day, that week, that month…
Personally the hardest part of this little bike tour were the constant emotional hills. One minute being forever grateful and humbled by the people or scenery and the next being called at, ogled, being asked for money and just generally being annoyed by people running and cycling next to me to make fun of me with their friends and often being teased.
I am quite sure I will never do another bike trip in Africa like this because it is hard enough to cope physically and mentally but emotionally as well takes it beyond being enjoyable, that and dealing with ridiculously dangerous traffic.
I’m glad I am not painting the perfect picture of riding freely though the misty mountains of Uganda and Rwanda (which I did) but it was more positive suffering of the emotional kind that was too much to enjoy enough to do it again.
Lastly going back to the grateful and humbling people and scenery see a few of the pics that will be the everlasting memories of a week spent pedalling around a bike in the thousand (and fucking one) hills of south-west Uganda and Rwanda…