The hardest part of travelling is the goodbye. It definitely leaves me wondering why as I pedal on with an awkward smile and an uncomfortable all too familiar tingle in my chest. I should be good at this after 3 years of goodbyes, I think to myself as I straddle Pandemic The Magic Bicycle outside of the urban campground in Kampala, Uganda. “It’s been nice meeting you, I gott’a go, the equator is 80km from here…just up ahead” I casually say as I wave to an older ozzie man, a retired musician with long comforting arms. I have known him for only 4 short days.
As my darkening yellow and white cotton shirt flaps in the smoky humid breeze of urban exhaust, I leave the city limits in search of the equator and a bigger set of denial soaked testacies. I pedal along for 80km to the equator amongst old motorcycles and trucks in need of carburetors. New tunes copied from Mr. Crotch Rocket, the musician beat from my MP3 player as I celebrate my manly attempts at stoic emotional non involvement.
As I sit at a café at the equator sipping instant dark roast Ugandan coffee pondering my future days as a horny old maid, a swarm of tourists arrive by the mini bus load, 5 middle aged couples topple out of their vehicles for their photos at the equator. Their matching beige safari hats shade their wrinkled smiling faces. Their years of togetherness are easily recognizable by their highly recommended by the tour company adventure red polo shirts. Their ¾ length holiday pants flare from their elderly calves to their comfortable walking shoes. They hold hands and lean into the memorial sign for their holiday snap shot at the equator.
One man, his brimmed hat dangles from a string on his neck, his eyes squint into the sunshine, notices me sitting in the shade of the café sipping coffee and smiling at his tour groups’ photographic enthusiasm. Pandemic is leaning near the giant cactus bush, against a weathered wooden post under the Equatorial café welcome sign.
“Where have you cycled from, where are you going?”, his smile stretches wide in encouragement as he raises his camera from his pocket and begins taking photos of Pandemic.
“I am trying to cycle a line that goes around the world, I started 3 years ago, long story short, I have pedaled west on the world map from New Zealand…” I unenthusiastically utter, even boring myself today with the repetitive nature in which I repeat my own story.
The man’s eyes begin to sparkle, perhaps hoping for heroic tales of Himalaya Mountains climbed, Middle Eastern deserts crossed or African wild animals I have narrowly avoided. I vain a faint smile at his endearing support and say,
“I just spend some time with some new friends I met in Kampala…you know what the most challenging part about trying to cycle around the world is? It is all the friendship missed, it is all the goodbyes.”