Cutting Edge

20 Dec

The ‘mwanzi’ (bamboo) bike has been opening doors for me in Africa. If I take a break in a busy area the bike stirs up inquisitive and friendly curiosity. I am asked all sorts of questions while people tap the frame lightly with their knuckles. Happy and friendly locals who may otherwise leave me to the touts and hustlers are invaluable when entering a new town. On hearing that the frame is genuinely bamboo and not simply bamboo decorating an underlying steel frame, all the guys let out (several) short high-pitched ‘ah’s in realisation and admiration. On a few occasions already, Westerners travelling by boats and buses heard about the bamboo bike in previous towns I passed through and, on catching up with me, approach me at an advantage.
The people I can trust most easily simply shower the bike with praise and our conversation moves on. Yet often I am asked ‘how much does it cost?’ ‘Where can I buy one?’ ‘Why don’t you sell it to me?’
I choose to say just that the frame took 3 days to make by hand at Oxford Brookes University. I don’t admit the retail cost, being concerned that news might spread even faster of the mzungu on a bamboo bike if it also known to be worth as much as a fleet of 37.5 small fishing boats from Kipumbwe* (which take 14 days to make by hand).
I was told yesterday of a bike tourist in Rwanda (I think) who had her bike nicked. She made a fuss in all sorts of ways, nationally and internationally, pressuring the local government into action. The bike was swiftly retrieved and the thieves caught. Apparently there was a grand ‘here’s your bike back’ ceremony too.
The baggage handlers at Turkish Airlines treated the boxed bike so roughly that they have left me at a stand still for the time being. Criminal. I might have to adopt this long distance cyclist’s tenacity if the repairs prove too problematic. And after all the acclaim and attention I’ve been getting out here, I wouldn’t expect anything less than a full blown ceremonial apology too.
Otherwise I’ve got half a mind to request that ‘FRAGILE’ labels be carefully stuck all over the TA baggage handler representatives, before sending them down the conveyor belt from Heathrow to Nairobi.
*I’ve been accidentally saying Mbumbwe instead of Kipumbwe, a completely random mistake which, as it turns out, is Swahili for ‘testicle’.


2 Responses to “Cutting Edge”

  1. Shem spiess December 20, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Jack Morris……, i wake up every morning and trying to get an up to date of you trip…. In the meantime am much settled mindly that you are still on the long run to southafrica… Good times and Take care buddie.

  2. Lynn Bosch December 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Hey Jack, I’m really enjoying reading your blogs. What a fantastic experience! Have a great Christmas and New Year.


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