The man who quit his job and escaped by Harry Morris of ridingcontinents.com
On the whole I find my life day to day, week by week pretty bloody dull; five days out of seven I sit at a desk or stand looking out of a window, literally, I’m a weatherman. Those two days at the weekend I really pride my self on making the most of them; mountain biking, climbing, running, long weekends in Europe and obviously drinking ample amounts.
On a greater scale, as a prolific holiday slash adventure goer, annually I probably go on three decent trips call it five weeks in 52; which is a luxury I can afford to take as I’m single and have no ties at home... I’m privileged to manage so much time away. Over the last few years I’ve toured down the Dalmatian coast, swam between two continents in the Silfra Fisher, Iceland and white water rafted down the mighty Zambezi from Victoria Falls. However that still equates to 62% of my time being dull.
I concede that this is probably well above average. I have no dependents, nor money troubles - in fact I have a job that pays well (albeit a tad demanding at times) but more importantly I was guaranteed a job until I’m grey not that that’s saying much as I can already spot the odd rouge grey. But still, I live to work and despite a generous proportion of my time dedicated to adventure I decided to take action and shift the balance, at least for a time, in favour of living.
Fast forward six months, I’m sat in a lodge, Mushroom Farm, nestled into the Kipengere mountain range over looking Lake Malawi. Well apparently the views of the lake are breathtaking but right now it is the wet season and cloud shrouds the forest revealing only the occasional glimpse of the blue waters below if but for a second. I’ve just completed a visa application for Rwanda which I will reach in a week or so - in the box requesting occupation I select, unemployed.
It's a significant moment, the first time I’ve acknowledged formally that after six years of gameful employment I’ve now packed it all in to achieve a my ill conceived dream of cycling around the globe with the aim of cycling on all seven continents. After setting off from Cape Town just over a month ago I’m 5000km into this undertaking which sees me cycling solo through eastern Africa, following the trading route famed by Marco Polo, the Silk Road, from Istanbul to Beijing; tracing the tracks of backpackers down the Australian east coast to Sydney; crossing the Golden Gate bridge and following the Pan American highway to South America and with any luck reaching the Antarctic even if it's just to cycle just a mere one hundred metres or so to reach my final continent.
On my meanderings I will see just a thin corridor of the world - a kaleidoscope of landscapes from the vast yellow sands of the Sahara, the dark greens of the Amazon to the turquoise of the Caribbean. What excites me most though is witnessing the generosity and hospitality of the people I encounter; every travel book or blog that I have read people have talked of the welcome and interest that they have received along their paths be it a short exchange of words or an invitation to join a family for their evening meal.
On a bike you see places from a unique perspective. Cycling roughly one hundred miles a day I’m breaking no records but with an average pace of around 12mph most afternoons as I search for a suitable spot to pitch my tent I find myself to be quite isolated; well, relatively so compared to western travellers driving from gated campsite to campsite in their 4x4s with all the creature comforts. Instead I find myself asking permission from the local chief if it's ok to pitch a tent under his Baobab tree or being welcomed into a Missionary or Health Centre for the night. More often than not just as I insert my final tent peg I’m ushered into a home or waiting room and told that I am not to sleep outside. I wish that just once they would save me the charade of pitching my tent before kindly welcoming me into their home.
Tucked away in my panniers growing dusty is my multi-fuel stove poised ready to boil up yet another meal of pasta with tinned fish. But to my great delight most meals are spent in the company of the local people breaking bread together and talking of family life around a fire; the main topic of interest is not my expedition but the reasons as to why I do not have a wife. The staple food across southern and eastern Africa is sadza or nashima, a maize meal which has the consistency of a thick mashed potatoes and is normally eaten with vegetables and relish. I’ve become quite apt at eating with just my right hand though I must admit I save a tad embarrassing amount in my untamed beard for later.
As I cycled north from Cape Town I was faced with blistering heat in excess of 40C and water became the biggest challenge. Cycling through the heat of the day as locals nap in the shade I was drinking nearly 15 litres of fluids, far too much weight to carry. With heat stroke being a genuine risk the long stretches between water holes couldn’t be underestimated.
In Botswana cycling improved with temperatures dropping but the land plateauing wildlife became the chief concern. In the Nax Pan National Park I cycled flat out, white knuckled with fear of big cats only to be nearly charged by an elephant as we came nose to trunk with one another as I rounded a bend; and in the Okavango Delta I explored the water ways at reed level punting through the delta in a hand made Moroko canoe. But the experience that outweighs all of these physical struggles and animal encounters is witnessing firsthand the hospitality and genuine kindness of the African people. The bar has been set and my next continent has a lot to live up to.
Some might say that sitting on a bike for 10 hours a day, fending off the rain, heat, cold and saddle sores sounds alot like work but just as we all like to think....I’m hopefully not your average joe.
Harry is undertaking this venture with the hope of raising money for Save the Children’s Emergency Fund. You can follow him on Instagram and check out www.ridingcontinets.com for more information and updates.