It’s been two days since I rolled into Kigali, two days that have been filled with activity, friendship and laughter, but also two days that I have been in my own head, trying to put the last month into some kind of perspective. My body is still vibrating from all the crazy roads and that wonderful single cylinder thumper that carried me over 9,600 kilometers. My eyes are still gritty from dust and no matter how hard I try, my left hand won’t straighten out, as it’s so used to holding the handlebars and working the clutch. In some ways I feel I’m still travelling.
It would be easy to say it was a wonderful adventure, one that's good for conversation and a few memories. But I have had a lot of those in my life and I know how they feel. I am starting to realize that the Cape2Kigali was more than that…..
I just paused for an awfully long time after I wrote that line, as I tried to think what it was. There is still a lot of reflecting to do on that, but here is what I know for now. It’s deeply personal but then, this whole blog has unexpectedly taken on that tone, so please forgive me for being so open with you. In true Andy style, I will break it down in three ways.
I discovered something about myself and about this world. Or rather I rediscovered it.
My life has been incredibly blessed and I have been given privileges and gifts that I have never felt I deserved. I often wonder how I got to where I am, to be in the friendships and roles that I get to be in and I simply don't understand it. I have just gone with it and tried to make my life count. But in that I have sometimes run too fast, taken on too much, tried too hard to make things work. I have become responsible for lots of things, projects and people. In many ways, I like that, I’m called to that, but it’s come to define me. And that is wrong.
The last 30 days I just sat on a bike, a seat with an engine. And I left it all behind.
As the days went by, the responsibilities, the burdens, the worries, all faded into the rear view mirror. Instead I rode across deserts, gazed into the heavens on incredible starry nights, woke up to hippos breathing nearby and met the greatest creation of all, gloriously, wonderfully, beautifully made, people.
People from every background, from many races and places, local people and fellow travellers who all had stories. People who I got to listen to as they told them, some with seriousness, some with gales of laughter and some with tears. People, many of whom were trying to find who they are and what they are meant to be doing to bring meaning to their lives and the lives of those they want to travel with.
People who have decided that they want to make a difference in the world. Some of them by the incredible projects they are working on. Some of them by standing for justice in difficult situations. And some of them by being kind to strangers they meet on the road.
I remembered that I love people, that although solitude and silence is a beautiful and profound thing to me, that holding people dearly, listening to their stories, trying to encourage them as they encourage me and doing all I can to show them dignity and worth, is how I want to spend my life. I know that to make empty promises about how I will do this now would be unwise. But there are a few things that are on my mind and a few ways of being that I would like to embrace, that I think are important for the next season.
I also discovered something else. This world is stunningly beautiful. It is full of incredible sights and wonders, places and things that simply leave you gasping at their magnificence. And we miss them. We’ve all watched the nature specials on TV and some of us have ventured out a little. But by and large, we spend our lives running so fast that we don't take the time to stop, look, listen, celebrate the incredible splendour of the creation we inhabit.
More than that, we are actively wrecking it on a daily basis, both by our own choices and the macro choices our society is making. I rode past so many plastic bags and bottles, so many rubbish dumps, breathed in so much diesel from oily truck exhausts, saw so much ugliness that was often framed by the most spectacular scenery. At times it was heartbreaking. And I know that the environmental destruction in Africa is as nothing to what we are doing to our own countries, that the pollution created here is a small fraction of that in the West.
We make choices every day that contribute to this. We can do better. We have one life to live, and only one planet to live it on. This is all we’ve got and this is the only time we have. So why throw it away?
The final thing I remembered is to be thankful.
It’s possible to go through life wishing we were doing something else, wishing we could run away, start again. Wishing we could be someone else. We can run so hard we only see the obstacles that get in our way, the problems and the poor relationships we are part of. The entanglements that trap us and the responsibilities that weigh us down. We miss the beauty and the wonder that is all around us, the good things that are happening, the everyday moments of splendour that make life so worth living.
For 30 days I left that behind and now, as I head back towards it again I am entirely thankful. Thankful for the life I’ve been given, for the wonderful people I share it with, for an incredible family and group of friends and for a job that is meaningful and life giving. I am thankful, so thankful to The One who makes this possible and the one thing I will tell you that I am committed to is this. I will make sure I thank Him every day. I will celebrate and not mourn.
I also want to thank so many of you for travelling with me. I have been overwhelmed by the numerous emails and posts, the texts and tweets. It really has been a surprise how many of you have engaged with this adventure. A number of you said you had been using this blog in groups and sending it to others which amazed me. I’ll l keep it up for while, so please feel free to do whatever you like with it.
I want to thank everyone who donated to the ride. You were so generous and we so appreciate you doing that. Both Andrew and I are still raising funds for Wellspring and the Youth Hub and our work goes on. In fact being here in Rwanda, watching our team at work has reminded me of the profound difference that is being made in the lives of tens of thousands of people. So if you want to donate but haven’t yet, please feel free to click on the sponsor link above.
I want to thank Louise Reilly for putting together possibly the best and most appropriate playlist any human being has ever created. There were many moments I couldn’t write about, but most of them had your songs playing at the right time. One to give you a taste. A few days ago a truck pulled out into my lane so close I could almost touch it and we were closing at about 180KPH. I had a split second to decide what to do and I had nowhere to go. So I left the road doing a hundred and flew over a mound that sent me airborne. In mid air as I looked at the rutted ground below me, I decided to gun the engine and try to fly across it in a desperate effort to get back on the road behind the truck. It worked. And all the while, Seal was singing “Oh we’re never gonna survive, unless, we get a little crazy”.
I want to thank my incredible wife Helen for letting me do this and for being my fellow traveller and adventurer, even though she didn't ride the bike. She doesn’t like me writing about her much but I need to tell you that one of the biggest things I give thanks for is her. In the words of your favourite artist “You’ll be with me next time, I go outside”. Also my kids Chris and Sarah, the best friends a man could have, who cheered me on all the way. See Sarah…. I didn’t die!
I want to thank Andrew. Andrew mate, I missed you every day when you went home. I couldn’t have traveled with a better partner a more patient teacher or a kinder friend. I wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for you and I owe you big time. That road to Bulawayo……
I want to thank that wonderful bike Kayla. You might think it's a collection of moving parts made on an assembly line, but it's not really, she’s a personality. And this weekend I will put her to bed in a locked up shed in Rwanda. There may be some dust in the air when I do. I don’t know when that glorious engine will start again, but I know it will fire first time and it will fire true.
And deeply and profoundly, I want to thank my God. I found you again. I found you in people, in places and in the solitude of my crash helmet on days when I felt I was the only person in the world. I found you in crazy traffic jams and as I tried to negotiate my way out of police checks and over borders. I found you in the faces of the ones in deep material poverty and the ones coming alongside them. I found you in the sunsets and the moon rises, in the roars of animals and the smiles of new friends. I remembered.
That's it. That's all I can say for now. I‘ll work out the rest later.
Thanks for travelling with me. See you on the road sometime.