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The Wedding……My Wedding

31 Aug

I think it was the editor of my book that said “Hap, you could not make your life any more random/interesting if you tried”.

Sometimes I have wished it was a little less interesting, ie not breaking up in the middle of Africa while making a documentary and helping set up a bike shop. But as I said in my wedding speech, if it wasn’t for living the saddest day of my life, I wouldn’t have been able to live the happiest day of my life.

Yup, I know, for a lot of you this will come as a surprise as the last you would of known about Mandy and I was the emotional blog post I wrote about us breaking up. Well pretty much one year to the day after we were balling our eyes out at the bus station in Zambia, thinking we would never be seeing each other again (I was still denied entry to the States and Mandy had no reason (and money) to come to New Zealand), we were getting married! (NB Most of my blog readers knew this anyway, but for those of you that are thinking of giving my book as an xmas present, I suggest you don’t tell the recipient about our marriage, let them go on the ups and downs of the emotional roller coaster! – It’s only fair, Mandy and I had to!)

BUT, luckily I “sorted my shit out”. Everyone will have their own thoughts on why I broke up and then got back together, eg time apart makes the heart grow fonder, Hap was blowing out turning 30 and realised what he had etc. Yes there are elements of truth in those reasons, but the real reason of why that happened only a few people know, well….soon to be the whole world when the book comes out!

All I can say is that at least I did “sort my shit out” in time, and Mandy is so bloody amazing and understanding. And once again as my editor said “well, at least it makes for one hell of a story!” And yup, that it does!

OK, enough of that, apparently photos say a thousand words, and I know you ladies reading this love wedding photos, so here are a few snaps, (cheers to Jerm, bugz and ferret – the wedding photography and production crew/best man, grooms man/stag organiser) of the happiest day of my life.  Woop woop.

But first a couple of Stag party photos (clay bird shooting):

Please note, the author of this blog does not condone the use of firearms by babies, especially if they look as creepy as this big baby!

Don’t worry I was in safe hands, my baby sitters were very responsible. (please note: the author of this blog does not support the consumption of alcohol by babies either).

OK, I think it’s best we leave the stag do photos there, as “babies were harmed”. How about some lovely wedding pics

The ladies looking great…..and Geoffrey!

What a great age we live in, Mandy’s family and friends back in Colorado were able to watch the whole ceremony through skype!

“shit, I should be able to remember my vows, I only wrote them last night”

great photo.  Signing of the marriage cert with best man and maid of honour. I’m probably thinking “yes! I’m married, I can finally lose my virginity!”

Haze, the wedding singer!!! For anyone who has watched the documentary “Bikes for Africa” the beautiful female voice belonged to Haze.

The whanua

Gen Y photo

Gen X photo

Johno and Aunty Jill (the little angel behind the wedding organising)

For those of you that were wondering! (pun intended)

Party time!

OK, I think we will end on that note.

Thank you all for making it such a special day!

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Bikes for Africa Documentary Trailer.

3 Apr

Hey Folks,

Sorry about the last post you got, it’s been a while since I’ve been blogging so a bit rusty.  I have written a massive blog post about the documentary getting all emotional and thanking everyone, and talking about the experience, but I’m still writing it. I’ll try and post it soonish, or maybe I won’t get around to it as I’m under the pump writing this book that has to be off to the editor by the end of the month!

Anyway, I just wanted to get the documentary trailer up for you my blog followers to see as we released it today.  Sit back, get a beer/coffee and enjoy this inner thigh rub of a teaser.

View the Bikes for Africa trailer here https://vimeo.com/39439601 

Also – get on involved www.bikesforafrica.net and on the old facebook http://www.facebook.com/BikesForAfrica

Hometown happiness and the year ahead

17 Jan

Hey folks,

Well it’s a sunny Nelson Tuesday, I’m sitting outside at a café. I’m meant to be writing my book, but I was feeling a blog post instead.

So what’s been up?

Last week I was reading the local paper and read an article about a school leaver named Niall whose off to Darwin to volunteer for 6 months. It just so happened he was one of the students sitting in the school hall a couple of years ago when I gave one of my speeches. It was from this speech and following my blog that he says he gained the inspiration of his own goal “to help less fortunate children in at least one country in every continent (excluding Antarctica for obvious reasons)”. Darwin is the first step in his goal.

I got in contact with Niall and met up at the start of the week and tried to impart some working the world knowledge, like this little gem: don’t hop into a stranger’s car in the middle of a notoriously dangerous African city!

It was good to meet up with him and relive how it was for me when I was about to set off on my little adventure. I reckon that inspiration goes both ways eh.

It was also good as I’m giving a presentation at the end of the month about “boy’s achievement”, so I’ve been busy reading a bunch about those crazy little creatures that are adolescent boys and trying to remember back to those times.

So hows life for this big boy? Well, my New Year’s resolution “to get FAT” is going well with 2 kgs added to my post Africa malnourished cycling skeleton.

Apart from that, initially it was a bit of a bumpy ride back into reality to be truthful. I suppose after any big goal, there is always going to be a come down, and add to that all that happened last year with some pretty major changes, I found it hard.

But now I’m really appreciating being back in my hometown while I get my book written. I’m loving spending time with mates and some quality family time with my awesome parents. Dad always offers plenty of entertainment, like this little story. Dad goes to his car and has forgotten his car keys so goes upstairs to get them out of the cutlery draw, gets back to his car and goes to open it but he’s holding a dessert spoon!

I feel rather lucky that I get to call this beautiful country home and the people that live here my countrymen. It’s feeling right being home, I never thought it would after so much travel, but it does which is relieving especially with last year when everything was so up in the air. These days I’m all about getting as much nature time as possible. There are plenty of hikes planned and I’ve just bought a mountain bike and a car – yes an actual asset that can’t be put in a back pack or checked in at the airport!

I’m excited about the year ahead that I’m dedicating to speaking and seeing New Zealand. I’m back home in Nelson writing the book and preparing my presentation. Then in March it’s down to Wanaka to work on the Bikes for Africa documentary with Sich. Come April I’ll probably be in Auckland as I get the book all finished up and off to the editor.

Then for the rest of the year I’ll be focusing on my speaking. I’ll pop the mountain bike on the back of the car, pack the tent and stove, some hiking gear and head off on a NZ speaking road trip. I can’t explain how much I want to explore my home now that I’ve explored the world. Between some corporate speaking gigs the aim will be to inspire the kiwi 16-25 year olds and help them answer that question of “What am I going to do?”

Then I’ll look to put some roots down at the end of the year, which will probably be in Queenstown or more realistically, Auckland. And by roots that will probably just mean , renting a room to store my gear ready for the launch of the book in November and a manic crazy year of speaking and inspiring. Then after that, we’ll see what happens with these little seeds of ideas floating around in my head, but I don’t think I’ve quite got the adventure out of the system yet…………..;)

So that’s that folks. I hope the New Year treating you all well.

Nuthin But Love Hap

PS Here’s an article (Hap happy to end world quest) from today’s Nelson Mail on my goal. The print article was way better as had some cool photos included, but you get the idea. Good job Russ.

Chewed up and spat out!

25 Nov

Well after being taken into the ghetto of Tanzania’s capital Dar Es Salam and kindly relieved of my lap top, credit card, money, jewelry  sun glasses, pocket knife I then spent the afternoon in the sweltering police station (but that’s all another story).

The following morning I was up at 4.15am and caught the usual overcrowded unairconditioned hurtling coffin of a bus 12 hours to Mbeya in Tanzania’s south. In Mbeya I had a bucket shower and spent the night in a local hostel.

Next morning I was up at 5.30am to catch a collection of chicken buses (literally with chickens) and motorcycle taxis, cleared the Malawi boarder and arrived in Muzuzu, the big city in Malawi’s north. In Muzuzu I stayed at a place called the Zoo – yes that’s a lot of zoos if you say it, Moozoozoo Zoo. Which by the way it’s not a zoo, but a hostel. There I was welcomed by Phil, a long haired 60 year old Englishman that looks like he has partied everyday of those 60 years, “A f**king kiwi eh? no sheep here kiwi” – I liked this guy.

Over dinner I met some locals and they took me to the local night club. That was an experience in itself, I thought everyone on the dance floor were having sex with their clothes on, then I got told they were dancing – never seen grinding like it.

Following morning woke up thinking I had Malaria, then remembered that someone had invited Mr Tequilla to the party last night. I went in search of cardboard boxes to pack my bike up that I was going to go and get that day. It seems that cardboard boxes are like gold in Malawi, or should I say petrol, they are rather hard to find. Three hours of sweating later and 800 Malawi Kwacha ($5) I was the proud owner of 10 boxes of which like a true local I carried through town on my head. Once dropping them at the zoo I got a chicken bus to Nkhata Bay where I had locked my bike to a tree two and half weeks earlier before going to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro.

My bike was still there and a whole bunch of people that I had met during my time there. They excitedly tell me “theres a party tonight”, I unexcitedly reply “cool”. I get all my gear from a storage locker, and prepare my bike to cycle the 55km back to Muzuzu the next day where I would box it up.

Somehow I end up at the party that night, it seems I have a lot of “will power” but no “will NOT power” for  hanging out with cool good fun people.

7am the next morning I get on my bike, already sweating, my god it was hot. But it seemed the people of Malawi wanted to give me a send off. As they were all walking to Sunday morning church I was showered in smiles and hellos like a ticket tape parade as I wound myself through the lush green hills.

With 30km’s left of up hill -and I mean all UPHILL- my motivation diminished, tiredness and the beers from last night set in. What made it worse was that Nhkata Bay had been the end point of my trip, the destination I had been striving for, so this last 55km to Muzuzu was a little torturous and extremely annoying, it was like a rotten cherry on top.

I pulled over for a cold coke to try and left my spirit that was oozing out of my pores and soaking my shirt. I slumped down on the side of the mud hut selling coke with six young guys sitting around outside doing what young village guys do, which is sitting around.

I drain the last drops from the reusuable glass bottle and hear a truck approaching on the hilly road. I wave it down, $4 to take me and my bike the last gruelling 30kms – a bloody bargain. The locals on the back help me lift it on, and I take my place on the back of the truck beside a breast feeding lady on a sack of some miscellaneous vegetable.

With the sun beating down and the wind in my soap washed greasy hair I smile. I’m not guilty that I’m cheating and getting a ride, I’ve already cycled 2,550km and I can’t think of better way to end my trip than on the back of packed death trap Malawian truck with smiling locals crawling up the steep hill road.

I arrive at the zoo in the afternoon and Phil wearing a Hawaiian shirt is in his chair on the porch half way through a bottle of vodka. “Kiwi, you know where the key is”

“sweet, cheers Phil. You didn’t burn me bloody boxes did ya?”

“Nah. But what the f**k you wrapping with those, a truck?”

10 boxes later and three rolls of tape my bike is boxed. Under candle light (no electricity due to another power cut) I use another roll of tape and two bungy cords to tape up my broken Africa polyweave bag (like the ones you buy from the $2 shop) that houses all my panniers.

5am the next morning I’m woken by the taxi beeping at the gate and remember Phil telling me the night before to “make sure you at the f**king gate on time or the barstards will honk and wake me up you kiwi f**k” – I really liked this guy, he’s a real character, he’s interesting. Sorry Phil, but but my watch and lap top were stolen in Dar Es Salam and I lost my cell phone, therefore I have no time telling device, and anywhoo the taxi is uncharacteristically 30 minutes early! Adios.

I get to the bus station and have two guys in tattered clothes carry my bike and tie it to the roof of a bus with string that back in the developed world would have been thrown out a couple of years ago.

“You sure that going to stay up there?” 

“Yes sir”

I wouldn’t mind taking out some insurance on that reassurance. But hey, I’m in Africa, they been doing this for years, it will do.

Even though I was told the bus would leave at 6am, we pull out of the station at 6.30am – On African time that’s an early departure.

I can relax now, I’m on my way to Lilongwe the capital of Malawi.  I fly out tomorrow. But no, Africa will not let me relax. In Muzuzu we pull into the petrol station to fill up for the five hour ride to Lilongwe. No Petrol. Shit! Then I remember there is a petrol shortage in Malawi.  I mean full on no petrol kinda shortage, read, the first petrol station I cycled past in Malawi had 143 cars queing up as they had heard a rumour that the petrol tanker might be coming. Apparently Muzuzu had had petrol the day before. The second petrol station, no petrol. Shit!  The third petrol station, YES!  Fancy that, a petrol station that has petrol, I never knew I would be so happy to be at a petrol station that sells petrol. I pat myself on the back for taking the early bus as I know that by lunch time there will be no petrol left in Muzuzu.

I arrive at the hostel in Lilongwe where I had stored my bike helmet, carved wooden animals and other miscellanous stuff I didn’t need on the last part of my cycle journey to the lake. I bump into Greg and Chris who drive an overland truck, I had met them earlier in my trip.  They invite me to dinner and beers with their overland truck group for my final night in Africa.

The next morning before getting my taxi to the airport i transfer my last $100 into my account, actually it’s Mandy’s $100 but she loaned it to me from our joint account so I could get back to OZ – bless her soul. My taxi comes, i’m going to arrive at the airport four hours early, but I’m still nervous. There’s something nerve racking about only having a hundred dollars to your name and no access to a credit card. There is no error for mistakes, and in a continent where errors are a part of life and with my past weeks track record, I have good reason to be nervous.

And guess what? 

“Sir, you’re 25kgs over your baggage limit?”

“Ummm, there must be a mistake, I have specifically organised with my travel agent to have my bike shipped and he assured me that everything has been confirmed”

“Well, we have no confimration of this, you will have to show us the receipt”

After more begging and telling the lady how my travel agent and I emailed back and fourth 16 times especially so I would avoid this situation, she still tells me I need the receipt.

I try to find somewhere with internet and a printer. This is harder than you would expect, for example in Muzuzu Malawis 3rd largest city when I was trying to find out what day I was flying out on (my E-ticket had been on my lap top) the internet just happened to be down for 2 days.

Anyway I find an office that has a printer. I ask if I can use his internet, he says his boss is very strict, I tell him I will give him 100kwacha (60cents), he says OK.  I find the email from my travel agent with the receipt, I print out the receipt on his Amiga 500 printer, yep you know the one that prints out streams of paper with little holes along the side.

I take it back to the check-in lady. Apparently it’s not the official receipt. Bloody Africa and their bloody love for bull shit paperwork – sorry angry face.  

“Sir, you will have to wait for my superior to come”.  

“When does she come?”

“At 11.30”

Umm, thats only an hour and a quarter before my flight departs, nervous.

Well at 11.45 the lady arrives, my plane departing in an hour. My bike and bags sitting behind the counter next to the conveyor belt. My heart sinks as I set eyes on the superior. She’s a large lady that walks with the arrogance of an African person in a position of authority. She talks to the check-in lady, points to me, I smile and try to look charming -easier said than done when you look like Osama Bin Laden of which I get referred to on a daily basis in Africa, sometimes Jesus on a good day.

She waddles off out the back with the urgency of someone going on an hour long lunch break. What felt like an eternity, she comes back and confirms what I’m treading.

“There is nothing on your ticket that says you have excess luggage”

I plead and tell her the situation. She doesn’t care. I ask her what the solution is? She tells me that they charge $36/kg for excess luggage and that I’m 25kgs over, therefore I have to pay about $900. I say I only have $100 and my credit card has been stolen. She shrugs her shoulders and walks off. Gate closing in 20 minutes.

My options are to leave my bike at the airport and never see it again which doesn’t appeal as since my lap top has been stolen it is now my only asset I own in the world. OK, plan B, BEG.

I go to the check-in lady, and I beg like I have never begged before. She tells me that her boss has told me what I need to do. I put my head back, close my eyes, breath deeply, run my hands through my hair and have one last attempt. I plead and beg and let all my helplessness and vunerability pour out of me – doing everything except crying – thats plan C. 

“I’ve had everything stolen in Tanzania, including my credit card, I only have $100, I can’t pay. I had organised all my luggage allowances with my travel agent especially so I would avoid this siutation. I’ve been in Africa helping the people, volunteering, doing good. If you don’t let me on the plane I’m going to be stuck here with nothing, I have to get on that plane, I beg you (I even have my hands to my chest in the prey position), please, please let me on, I’ll do anything”

She tentatively looks behind her to see where her boss is. 

She exhails “Ok, if you can rid of 15kgs, I’ll let the luggage go through. You have 10 minutes till the gate closes”

I run behind the counter and attack my carefully packed bag with a set of keys, tearing the roll of tape apart and bungy cords. I rip open my panniers and take out all the heavy stuff, wrap the bungy cord around my poor excuse for a bag and put it on the scales.

“You’re still 4kgs over”

In a frenzy I pull more stuff out begging her not to close the gate. 

I place my ripped up bag with tape hanging from it being held together by a bungy cord on the scales. She gives me a look that says “my god you are a pain in the arse”. 

“OK”

She processes my bag and bike. I grab my ticket, and she tells me to run. I run, well I run as best as you can run when you are carrying about 20 kgs of gear that is hanging off you in the form of a back pack, two panniers, a dirty washing bag and a flimsy plastic bag that is falling apart.

I clear security, then with my array of bags I get to the air flight staff who are checking carry on baggage. The guy looks at me with a look that says “this Osama Bin Laden guy can’t be serious”. I empty my pocket of all the Malawi money I have. I go through.

As I enter the tarmac stumbling with all my hand luggage an official runs after me,

“Sir, our x-ray machine has broken down can you come with us so we can go through your checked luggage”

 I enter the baggage room. I pick up my misearble looking $2 shop broken bag, the policeman looks surprised that the bag belongs to a Mzungu. He gives it the once over which involves me battling to undo the bungy cord and him telling me not to worry. But then he points to my bike box. I’m like, you can’t be bloody serious, that took my three hours and three rolls of tape to pack, and I’m bloody sure that you don’t have any tape for me to re pack it, plus the plane is waiting on me.

I look at him, and feel like saying “mate does it look like a bloody bomb”, but I decide to use a different four letter B word, I point to my bike helmet hanging off one of my bags and say “it’s a BIKE” and walk back out to board the plane.

“would you like a water or juice, sir?”

“two beers, please”

A couple of hours later we touch down in Johanesburg, I have a eight hour stop over I spend lying on the airport floor, then another nine hours of flying and I’m on Australian soil, Perth. Five more hours and I will be back in Melbourne……….or will I?

I enter the airport later than expected due to a delay. Quarantine have a feild day with me, a bicycle, camping gear, and half of Africa’s wooden souvenirs in my luggage. But I enjoy it, the qurantine lady is friendly and chatty, it’s good to be in my home continent. 

Someone asks her the time “she says it’s 4pm” 

I say “what did you just say the time was?”

“4pm” – Shit! I thought I had a four hour stop over. It seems that has been eaten up, my plane leaves in just over an hour and I know from my time living in Perth that the domestic airport is atleast a 10 minute drive away.

I now just stuff all my gear back into the bag and bungy cord it up not worrying to do a good job. I push my trolley into the airport meeting area with the urgency of  homeless person who hears that there is a free burger give away at McDonalds.

Just my luck the of the past week the free transfer bus has just left and the next one leaves in 40 minutes.  I go to the ATM and withdraw my last $100.

I pay the taxi driver $21 for the 10 minute ride, a sum of money that I used to live off for four days when cycling in Africa – ahhh the real world. I go to get a trolley. Bugger me! $4 for a trolley! Although it does say its a “smart trolley”, I’m unsure what a “smart trolley” does differently to a normal trolley, but I have no choice so pay the $4. I remember back to the days of Africa where I could get five guys to carry all my stuff for that much and still have change to buy a coke. Ahhh the real world.

I arrive at the Virgin check-in counter with my smart trolley loaded like an African truck.

Ahhhh, you guessed it.

“Sir, our system says that you only have an allowance for 5kgs excess luggage, your 15kgs over”

I look to my smart trolley, If you so smart mate, how about you handle this.

To save you the details, just reread the Malawi check-in counter bit above and substitute in friendly, smiling, attractive Australian girls.

So after showing them the 16 email correspondence between me and my travel agent clearly showing that I had pre-organised my bike, I get the pity look from the senior manager

“Sorry, I know that your bags have been checked through to Melbourne in Malawi, and I know that you have pre-organised everything, but my hands are tied. If I let you on with this I could lose my job. There’s nothing in our system………………and sir we have to close the gate in 7 minutes”

“Ok, so whats the solution, can I leave my bike here?”

“Sorry sir you can’t store it here. You are 15kgs over, and we charge $15 a kg for excess”. I think to myself that that’s a bargain compared to Malawi where it was $36/kg.

Then I give them my sob story, everything stolen, no credit card, I only have $100 to my name, which after the taxi and smart trolley is now $75, blah blah. In return I get a sorry look. I hand them my debit card that I just used to withdraw the last $100 in the hope of some miracle has happened that $225 has appeared in it.

“Declined sir”

The manager steps in again, “Sir we are going to have to shut the gate soon”

The check-in lady asks me “Is there anyone else that can pay for you”

I remember that in my pocket notebook I have a few phone numbers. 

I ask the check-in lady “Can I use your phone?”

“Sorry sir, only internal calls”

There’s another guy beside me,

“mate, can I use your cell phone please?”

“Yeah, but hurry, I’m on the same flight as you and it’s leaving”

I dial my sisters number, but get a funny signal. the guy has to leave. shit.

I ask another guy who looks likes he’s in a rush. He gives me his phone. 

I try my last two numbers, all I get is friendly chirpy answer machines. 

“We’re closing the gate sir”

I punch in my sisters number one last time “Just wait, the phones ringing, please, please don’t shut the gate, if she doesn’t answer then you can shut it”

Hello Jarnia speaking”

In rapid fire speaking frenzied voice I blurt out “Sis, Hap here, whats ya credit card details?”

Hey Happy, how are you? You still in Malawi?”

“Sis, not Happy at the moment, emergency, about to miss my flight got no money, whats your credit card details?”

I pass the phone to Phoebe the check-in girl.

“it’s accepted. You’re really lucky” I ponder that for a moment, “I’m lucky”, ummmmm. I think to myself that I have a lot of luck in very unlucky situations.

The manager gives me my boarding pass with a smile “You really need to hurry, the planes waiting on you”

I run get to security, throw my day bag and dirty washing bag on the conveyor belt and empty my pockets of my passport and debit card. I pick them up and run up the escalator three stesp at a time.

With “final call” flashing at the gate I make it………..

Then I hear a kiwi accent shout out from behind me “Bro, you forgot your passport”

SHIT!

I sprint back from where I had just came but I can’t find an escalator that goes down. Stuff it. Down the up escalator I go, just as I jump off the bottom my dirty washing bag falls off and starts going back up the escalator. I jump back on, grab it and start running back down the upward moving stairs.

The security people are holding out my passport and debit card as I sprint to them.

“Cheers fellas” I shout behind me as head back up the escalator. 

I get to the gate, “boarding pass sir” 

OH NO, I’ve lost my boarding pass!

Just kidding. I get on that plane and slump into my chair. I wonder if I should use my remaining $75 to buy a beer, I refrain. 

I arrive in Melbourne, $4 more for a smart trolley and I hop into the taxi with my $71. Home safe, taxi to Matt and Linnleys is only $50.

But no, as it’s after midnight it’s a “special rate”.

$72.60 the meter says as I arrive outside their apartment. Luckily the driver is a young Somalian guy that grew up in NZ and says in his Somalian kiwi accent “no worries bro, $71 is fine”

I walk through the door at 1am at Matt and Linnleys my awesome hosts who have the spare room made up with clean comfy sheets, my mail from last six months, cell phone and an emergency loan. 

Matt walks out of his room in his boxers bleary eyed making sure I’m not a burglar

“hey bro, good to be back?”

I briefly tell him what happened and then he replys

“Sounds like Africa chewed you up and spat you out”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lap top stolen

17 Nov

This will require a blog post, but since my lap top has been stolen it will have to wait until I’m back in Australia in six days.
Quite funny after 9 years of travel it happens now. Sich don’t worry, I have all the doco footage.
There will be no more blog posts until i get back to Australia.
Off on mission back to Malawi starting 4.15am tomorroow, two day bus trip, one day cycling, one day bus and then have to find a cardboard box to pack my bike up somewhere, MISSION!

11/11/11 – Worked the World

10 Nov

At 11:08am 11/11/81 I was popped into this world, no doubt crying – by the way for those of you who don’t know my nick name Hap is derived from Happy. When I was a baby I always used to cry therefore my father nick named me Happy and over the years has been shorten to Hap. Umm I digress, fancy that.

When you read this providing I juggled the time zones correctly it should be 11/11/11. I will either be celebrating my birthday on the highest point in Africa, or otherwise I will be dizzy and disoriented with altitude sickness spewing my ring out about 200m below the highest point in Africa. No matter where exactly on Mount Kilimanjaro I am, I would have completed my working the world quest.

It’s hard to believe that nearly a decade ago when I first started thinking about travelling the world, and then when I committed to this goal in early 2003 that I would be standing on Mt Kilimanjaro at age 30 having completed it. Wow, 2003 seems like such a long time ago. Well I suppose it was. When I stepped onto that plane bound for Korea on the 7th April 2003 I had never owned a cell phone and facebook was just an idea floating around in some soon to be very rich pimply faced teenagers mind.

Also in 2003 I wouldn’t have thought I would have had a blog, probably due to the fact that they also didn’t exist then. Back then I use to write bulk emails that were legendary due to their ridiculously long unpunctuated nature – a bit like my blog posts. I find it quite ironic that the reason this blog even started was because of that Sunday on the 14th of October 2007 when I fell off a rope swing leaving myself with a buggered back and doc’s orders to do nothing for at least three months while I recuperated. Three months later, my back was better and www.hapworkingtheworld.com had been born. At the start when I use to get 20 hits in a day I thought it was amazing – that was probably mum going to it 20 times. Three years later I average between 150-200 hits a day with my biggest day being 1,900 and over the lifetime of the blog I have had 130,000 hits. And if you type “wet naked Korean men” into Google I come up as first on the list – you know you have made it when that happens!

When I started my working the world quest it never crossed my mind that I would write a book, in fact I hated writing. But when I collated all those bulk emails and created my blog I did so with the dream of one day maybe writing a book. Bugger me, this time next year “Working the world” will be on the shelves.

But enough of me. I know that if it wasn’t for all the support I have had throughout, then maybe 11/11/11 would only be special for me as there are so many bloody 1’s on that date. So I want to THANK everybody that has helped me over the past 9 years, to all those people that have had me turn up broke on their door step needing somewhere to sleep, to everyone that has given me employment, that has supported me and believed me, has donated money and time to the Final Continent Expedition, to all my blog readers for the comments and putting up with my poor grammar and spelling. THANK YOU.

But I also want to make a special mention of a couple of people that have played a big part in getting me where I am today. The first is obviously Mandy who spent about 3.5 years working the world with me (would have been longer if it wasn’t for US immigration giving us a 10 month break from each other). Although it may not have had the happy ending here in Africa there is still no changing the fact that Mandy has played a MASSIVE role in the recent years. Two moments especially come to mind. One while living in Paraguay when I hit the wall trying to get to Antarctica, and secondly all the work she put into Africa. Round of applause for Mandy please.

The Second person is Barney. Barney was around at the start of my working the world quest and came along for the ride for a couple of years. Barney and I went through a lot in those two years, some bloody great times, some of my best working the world memories were the 6 weeks we spent backpacking in Brazil. But there were also some tough times; sleeping in the car together in Canada for two months while trying to get work on the rigs comes to mind – We spent Barney’s 25th birthday at a soup kitchen! But as well as that two years, Barney has always been there and supported me from then on, constantly believing in me and helping out when the shit has hit the fan throughout, always a phone call away. Plus he’s basically been my PR manager. It is Barney that I can thank for my book contract as he was the one that went out of his way to get me on the Breakfast show with Paul Henry, the interview that my now editor saw and started following my blog. So chur bro.

Then there is also Mr Richard “Sich” Sidey. Before November 2009 I didn’t know who Sich was and he didn’t know who I was. But at a hostel at the end of the world in Ushuaia after I had emailed him he decided to come and meet this guyed called Hap while his cruise ship was in Port. Three weeks later after that 5 minute meeting I got an excited message from the hostel receptionist telling me to contact Richard. That was the break that got me to Antarctica on board Sich’s ship after nearly three years of exhausting every possible Antarctic working option. And it’s pretty cool that Sich has jumped onboard for the Africa continent adding a whole new dimension to it by volunteering his amazing documentary making talent. Wicked, I can’t wait to see what magic is conjoured up when Bikes for Africa hits the screens next year. Chur bro.

Last but not least, there is my amazing family who have been along for the ride for the last 30 years. I cannot have asked for more. When other people my age were chasing careers, having children, buying houses I was working the world, of which some families maybe have seen as “pissing about” and probably still do since I’m turning 30 and I’m broke going to live with Mum and Dad – Geoffrey make sure you got the beer fridge stocked up. But I have had nothing but support through all the ups and downs, support and encouragement always a phone call away. As the saying goes, “blood is thicker than water”, and my working the world quest has proven that to me. So a round of applause for the Cameron family.

OK, I leave for my hike in an hour. I will let you all know how it went when I get back. And guess what, the other guy in my group is a Danish sheep shearer! Considering there are only two in Denmark it’s pretty classic. So 11/11/11 will see a kiwi sheep shagger and a Danish sheep shearer standing on the roof top of Africa – Luckily there are no sheep that high up.

Enough of my sheepish thoughts, I really just wanted to THANK YOU for all the support. THANK YOU

Head winds, mountains, the shits and showering with a drunk villager!

3 Oct

After spending two nights in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s I reluctantly had to leave. The reason being that I had 265km to cycle in three days to catch the once a week overnight ferry that goes from the western tip of Lake Kariba to the eastern tip. Lake Kariba is the stunning manmade lake that acts as the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

It didn’t start too well. The cold that had been biting at my heals finally sunk its teeth in. I woke with a headache, my nose was congested and running as well my bum. For breakfast I had my malaria medication, ibuprofen, cold and flu tablets and an Imodium while watching the Springbok play Fiji on the hostel TV. Then the power went out, signalling that it was time I got on the road.

Charlie my cycle companion

Considering I was planning on cycling 100km to the next town I was leaving it rather late. Add to this I had never cycled 100km before. As I cycled out of the hostel the clock showed 9am. I cycled down the street and found Charlie, a local fella that I had met the previous day outside the supermarket hawking phone credit and other street curios. He was a keen cyclist and had taken great pride in showing me his supermarket bought road bike that he cycled 50km every day. He had made me promise that I would come and get him and we cycle out of town together.

Once I found Charlie we had to go to his house in the town ship so he could get changed. We pedalled through the dirt roads of the town ship with Charlie sounding the police siren he had rigged up to his bike. It was quite the experience. I was a little nervous waiting outside Charlie’s haphazardly built brick and concrete structure after the last guy I cycled with got changed into pink stain boxers. Thankfully Charlie appeared through the front curtain of the main door wearing tattered bike shorts.

We left Victoria Falls into a head wind, me feeling like shit as I tried to keep up with Charlie. But he was exactly what I needed if I was going to make that ferry. Focusing on keeping up with him took my mind off my sorry state. After 15 km I asked Charlie would he like to have a go riding my bike. You would have thought I had told him Christmas had arrived, he was stoked and so was I. Getting on Charlies road bike was a dream compared to my over laden mule. It only lasted 10kms though as Charlie realised that Christmas had not come early and he was stuck doing my hard work.

After 50 kms of head winds and undulating roads Charlie and I sat down and shared my biscuits. I filled up his water bottle and then off he cycled back to Victoria Falls. I pushed on, feeling absolutely knackered, but enjoying the challenge. I was also thankful the Imodium was working and I didn’t have to stop every couple of kilometres to fertilise the barren road side bush.

Meat pies and a curve ball

With the sun getting lower in the sky I arrived at the shitty looking mining town of Hwange, my destination for the night. As I cycled in my GPS clicked over 100kms and I gave a little whoop. I pulled into a rundown looking petrol station and bought a meat pie to celebrate – just what the stomach needed.

I was pretty buggered and couldn’t be bothered going to the hassle of finding a place to camp on the side of the road so asked where the cheapest hotel was. The attendant pointed to the top of a hill. Bugger. But with the motivation of flopping down on a bed I made the push up the hill. My heart sunk as soon as saw the hotel. Like most places here in Zimbabwe it had seen better days before Zimbabwe turned from the bread basket of Africa to the Magabe basket case, but it still looked out of my price range. Enquiring at reception confirmed this, US$90!

Bugger. The sun was about set, there was nowhere else in town. I had to put as much distance between me and Hwange and try to find a concealed spot off the side of the road to camp.

As the big ball of red fell from the horizon I waited until no traffic was coming and wheeled my bike into the bushes with the GPS showing 115kms. I set up my tent ate some rice, and then fell into a cycle induced coma not worrying about the sounds of nature outside.

A new day

I woke at 6am, feeling pretty good. When cycle touring I find the best part of the day is the first kilometre of the day. The sun is low in the sky, the temperature perfect, the body feeling good. Then you realise you have to do this the whole day and your butt starts to hurt.

The day before had taken it out of me and it felt like my wheels were square and god had turned up the thermostat. Having covered 50 tough kilometres by lunch I took refuge in a cross road local truck driver diner. I had a filling local meal of sadza and beef and 3 bottles of coke (they are on the US dollar here, but there is a change shortage so every time you buy something it has make an even $1, hence the extra bottles of coke).

A new landscape

After a couple of hours out of the midday sun reading my book with the truck drivers I felt like a new man. As I turned off the highway onto the trafficless secondary road I pumped the pedals with new vigour.

My vigour didn’t last long though as my post card size map of Zimbabwe that I’m using didn’t show the natural phenomenon of mountains. It should not have surprised me as the on the map the 265km I was covering was less than 2 cms.

Although it was hard work I enjoyed the new landscape after all the flat riding thus far. I also enjoyed that granny gear that I hadn’t used and had thought was useless. The special part of all this was I had the snakey road all to myself. One special moment was flying down this steep road lending into the corners (maybe I’m talking that up just a little). As I came around the last corner I entered an oasis, a tranquil river valley where the silence was deafening. I parked my bike on the bridge and stood in the middle of the bridge taking it all in, my new surrounds and not a soul around. I fought the urge to set up camp beside the river and pushed on so I only had a short ride the next morning.

Showering with a drunk man

With the sun setting on another day I was trying to find a place to camp but there were mud hut villages scattered all along the road meaning it would be hard for me to sneak into the bush unnoticed. I spotted a respectable mud hut and decided to go in and ask if I could pitch my tent for the night. A big African mumma with a ripped shirt and warm smile welcomed me. Miriam was her name and she fed the chickens and yarned to me while I set up my tent.

Then Miriam’s husband Andrew arrived home. Andrew looked a little unsteady on his feet and confirmed what I was thinking when the first words out of his mouth were “I’m boozy, hehe”. Andrew was pretty sozzled. A nice guy but a whole Sunday of drinking had left him with a tendency to keep saying “like ABCD” – I’m still unsure what it meant – and a tendency to keep telling me that he was the retired chief of police (he actually was).

The day of boozing had left Andrew in a very chatty mood, the last thing I really felt like doing. It had also left him with a personal space discrepancy. There was a lot of hand shaking, and back slapping. Then Miriam bought me out a bucket of water for a splash bath.

Andrew took me around the back of the mud hut and set it up with a brick beside the bucket for me to stand on as to not get sand on my feet. Then in one of those weird travel moments I found myself butt naked perched on a brick splashing water on me while Andrew sat there against the mud hut ABCDing it up. Looks like I can cross ‘washing butt naked behind a Zimbabwean village mud hut under the watchful eye of a drunken retired chief of police’ off the bucket list.

A Cochroach and Zambezi water

In the morning I made Miriam and a very hung-over Andrew coffee and biscuits then eagerly jumped on the bike ready to tackle the last 50kms or so.

Mid way through I stopped off on the side of the pot holed road for some jam sandwiches. This was day five of cycling since leaving Katima. I looked at my shirt that was covered in five days of snot, sweat and apricot jam from cleaning my knife on it. I took a big swig of Zambezi river water that I had filled up at a nearby village. Then as I opened my new loaf of bread a cochroach scuttled out of the bag. This was exactly what I had been wanting, African adventure. I was loving it.

Karibean Ferry

I made it to Mlbizi on the Western tip of Lake Kariba, spent the night and then caught the overnight ferry. I thoroughly enjoyed the ferry (really recommend it, great way to travel), great people and Lake Kariba was calm and glistened with the sunshine. Half way through the trip they stopped the boat in the deepest part of the lake where the crocs weren’t meant to be and we went for a swim.

A few beers were sunk that evening with the setting sun and then I went to sleep on the deck looking up at the African sky. Not a bad end to the first leg of the trip.

Sorry for the novel length blog post but this one is acting as a bit of journal for me. Plus I’m sitting at resort sized “exclusive camping ground” looking out over Lake Kariba, but I’m the only person in the whole place. Like so many places I have seen in Zimbabwe I can’ t help but think this place must have been magical 20 years ago when it would have been bustling with excited holidaying families. But I suppose that’s just the sad side of African politics.

Oh yeah, I would have loved to insert heaps of photos but unfortunately the internet is so slow, expensive and hard to come by it is not worth it.

I hope you are all well, I have to go and cook some rice.

PS: I’m just getting around to uploading this blog post. I am currently in Zambia and have been for the past 10 days, I’ve had no power or internet but plenty of adventures have been had, I will update you in future posts. I’m off to stay with Trevor and Helen Parr tomorrow. Trevor was my family doctor growing up and his daughters are great friends of mine. Heis working at a mission hospital over here.

OK, 10 days of emails to catch up on.

Nuthin but love Hap