In cycling, falling off the bike comes with the territory. At least, that’s the case for me.
I’m fairly new to this sport, and while I feel more confident and capable with every ride, I’m learnng that it’s the rare cyclist who can outmaneuver every unpredictable rough patch.
Fortunately, my scary spill in Tanzania was nothing more than that. Just scary. After four hours in the Kilimanjaro Medical Center (another story in and of itself), the x-rays of my neck showed no signs of injury, and my globalbike comrades and I were cleared to leave. Walking gingerly through the hospital hallways in sock feet, bruised a bit, and covered in the red dirt we’d been riding through, I could see we were quite a curiosity. The nurses, doctors and patients were clearly puzzled by our presence. The stares we got going back to the bus made me want to stop and tell our story.
I could see the questions in the eyes of the onlookers: “who were these Africans and Americans clad in cycling togs and looking every bit like friends?” and “what brought them together to ride bicycles in this remote corner of the continent?” Oddly enough, I have a feeling that it won’t be long before the word “globalbike” becomes a one-word descriptor in Tanzania to answer questions like those.
Back on the bus headed for the Honey Badger Lodge, we waved goodbye to the strangers who found us so strange and rode off to reunite with the rest of the riders waiting for us.
What happened next will forever be etched in my mind’s eye. It was a scene that sums up my sentiments about this trip and points to the essence of what happened while we were in Tanzania.
When we stepped off the bus at the campsite, there were cheers and tears. The whole team turned out to welcome us home, relieved that I was well and we were all together again. The reception line of well-wishers waiting for us and the exchange of love we shared will be a cherished memory – it was a crystallization of our connection and proof that people from very different pockets of the world can find common ground. Not only did we find it, we sought it out in one another. After days of living together, delving into one another’s stories, sharing meals as group, after pedaling up and down and around Mount Kilimanjaro, we moved beyond language, cultural and ethnic barriers and became a community. We sincerely cared about each other, and on that night, we embraced that bond by embracing one another.
By the end of this journey, it would be apparent that “them” and “us” were descriptors for who we had been when we were first introduced, but now our rag-tag team of tired riders, young and old, black and white, American and African, men and women, boys and girls, were a blended “we.”
This brilliant idea about transformative tourism worked, and the lessons we have learned from it, big and small, are significant.
I know that I am forever changed for what I experienced with globalbike in Africa. I’ve seen what can happen when people cultivate meaningful connections and care about a common goal. I’ve seen what can happen when we act on behalf of “we”.