In 2011 I embarked on a five-month journey with my best friend Nick. The plan was to ride from the southernmost tip of Africa to the northernmost tip of Norway. Since we were planning big, it only made sense to also attempt summiting Kilimanjaro on the way. Nick and I were going to meet our friend Timmer who would be flying into Africa specifically for the climb. One month into our trip, we were still waiting for our bikes to arrive from America. We will never fully know what the reason for the delay was with all the excuses both countries gave us. It doesn’t matter anyway. We finally did get the bikes and had only ten days to make it to Tanzania to meet up with Timmer for our scheduled climb. The ten-day journey was quite the ride with multiple flat tires and bike malfunctions. I was already on my second fuel pump and Nick’s rims were becoming less and less round. With only 250 miles left to go, we were right on track to meet Timmer that evening, and then it happened.
I remember talking to Nick on my intercom when he told me that his bike was acting weird and he had to stop. I turned around and buzzed over to where he had pulled off on the side of the road. Just as I slowed down to stop next to Nick, my front wheel started acting squirrely. I had a flat. Nick thought his problem was his rear hub. Both bikes were broken down at the same time, which would’ve been fine if we had spare time, but we were trying to meet Timmer 250 miles away at a hotel. We each propped rocks under our skid plates, set up the tent, and began working on our bikes: Me on my front flat, and Nick on his rear hub. I fixed my flat in no time, as by then I was almost a seasoned pro. Nick’s bearings were all blown up, and although he had back up bearings, he couldn’t seem to pry the old casing out of the hub. After some discussion, a plan developed for me to ride back to the last town (30 minutes away) and see if there was anyone who could get the old bearing out.
I charged down the road, entering the town just as dusk fell. People started surrounding me as I stopped my bike and grabbed the hub. I asked the growing mob for a mechanic and someone pushed through. The man was confident that he could remove the old bearing. This was good news and he took the hub off somewhere. By this time it was dark and the people were still hovering around me and pushing closer. It was all I could do to keep an eye on my luggage. The man came back with the old bearing removed and a new set already pressed in. How could this be? I didn’t know, but it was wonderful news. I paid the man, and then quickly grabbed two cokes and some street food for dinner. Thirty minutes later, I was back to Nick with the dinner and the repaired hub. Since it was now 9 p.m., we decided to call it a night and get up early in the morning. We could make the next 250 miles to meet Timmer before noon. Little did we know that the next morning I would have another flat and this time I was out of patches… Ah, the life of a traveler.
By Luke Swabb, originally posted on www.roadrunner.travel
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