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Zanzibar South, Tanzania

It was a hot pedal out of Jambiani with Eddie through Paije. We started out on soft sand, then pavement for a hard 10-mile stretch underneath the sun before rolling on the red clay off-road tracks of southern Zanzibar. Eddie was a skilled rider and rolled in fast. The trail was packed in hard, tech, punchy but also short and sweet, connecting farms and small villages in between.

We meandered our way into Mangoni, a small village where we met Eddie’s friend Ramodan for lunch. We set our bikes aside and walked around to get a closer look at things. We talked everyday life here and I shared mine in contrast. We looked the same in color but from different sides of the shore, with different perspectives but we were all in this together. Women in the villages were breadwinners. They participated in farming, the building of materials, domestic needs, everything.

We hiked to the local mangrove forest that shelters the coastlines and supplies the villages with the foundation for housing and trade. This was important and what Romodan coined a prized resource.

After our short visit to the local mangroves, Ramodan invited me inside his home for lunch. There he introduced me to his wife and we sat on the floor in preparation for his traditional home-cooked meal. Rice with sardines and mashed green peas. It was delicious and one of the most nutrient dense meals I’ve had during this trip. 2 servings, laughs and good times. I instantly felt like family.

We were closing in on the evening with a good 30 mile ride back to Jombiani. We passed through different villages and trails which brought new discoveries. While on the last stretch of tarmac all of the day’s experiences began to unfold. One of the things that pleasure me the most is that they haven’t forgotten the old ways. They feel the passes in the wind and the fibers between their fingers when tying rope. There is no absolute way of doing things, but more of the model of their reality and way of life. These were humbling memories never to be forgotten but passed on.

Zanzibar North, Tanzania

Nestled in the Indian Ocean east of Tanzania is Zanzibar. A 60-mile island north to south with beaches that stretch to infinity until you find the next sand bar.

But before the ocean lays the road. A mix of paved tarmac and rocky chopped up streets that lead into the villages. Homes and storefronts made from stone and others mangrove trees with red clay packed in concrete. This is a different world. An undeveloped world and economically on opposite sides of the spectrum. A world where the discovery of resources for many are just beginning. People were in poverty and easily seen everywhere. While it may be the everyday anxiety the people I’ve met while riding were rich with laughter and happiness.

We started in the North end of the island of Zanzibar. We stayed on a strip of beachfront resorts and local restaurants near Kendwa beach which is known to be one of the best beaches in the world.

Kendwa Beach Zanzibar
Locals watching a soccer game at the fish market in town

The next day we met up with our tour guide Congo who rode Diane and me through the local village of Nugwi which is right on the top of the island. Congo is an entrepreneur at it’s finest. He operates his own bike touring company called Kili Adventures and sets up multiple tours on the north island. After getting our bikes ready we rode out of the small village and onto the tarmac that led us to the banana tree jungles further north. There was never-ending beauty here.

Congo on bike
Nungwi Village
Workers in Nungwi
Banana Tree Jungle, North Zanzibar

In the Jungle we explored the Portuguese ruins that dated back to the 16th century. Afterward a fresh fruit lunch and a ride through the villages to the local blacksmith where we were shown the materials and tools that were used for building. Everything was made by hand and shipped locally to vendors and other trade prospects. 

Local children
Children on bicycle
Local children at play
Diane riding through main Nungwi street

After a long day of riding the sun began to fall and we headed back into town. This was an adventure to be remembered.  

Sunset in Nungwi

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  • Resources for Bicycle Tour: Zanzibar Cycling Tours

Amsterdam City Touring

City Cycling Journal

The euro horns of the police cars sounding off were the first thing I heard when stepping on the cobbled streets of Amsterdam. It was perfect, and it reminded me of an old daydream I had long ago. It all just seemed so magical. The canals that resemble mazes from a bird’s eye view of the city as they wrap around every corner, Dutch pancakes and apple pie, people watching, and bikes. There is plenty of more heritage known to the city but bikes are the single-pointed focus and take up the majority of the cities landscape. Outnumbered by cars you can almost smell the chain grease instead of fuel. It’s a cyclist dream. A place where commuter cycling is everyday life.

The short sleeves and shorts were packed away for the season here and the sun seemed to just be hidden by the clouds every day. Puff coats, wool and corduroy pants with scarfs was the preferred attire. I blended right into the scene. 

After picking up my rental from Alex Bikes I set off for a city tour. No agenda but to document the world outside. In essence just ride, capture irony and contrast by the subjective nature of city cycling. It was my domain.

Paradise In Banff

Cycling & Photo Album

The dramatic mountains here in Banff dominate the sky. The turquoise colored lakes surrounds the mountains floor, and snow that coat the summits. Plans for seeing the northern lights fell through as we entered shoulder season and frigid winter had seemed to arrive here just a week before departure leaving deep cloud coverage every day. While the weather in Banff had turned around fast, it was still paradise. I was a bit unsure on how to pack my bike and what tires I should run for this trip factoring the weather. The game plan was to ride a couple of trails during this trip. Moraine Lake Trail was one of them. However, with the snow pounding the trail it was too dangerous and not recommended by locals to take on.

Behold, Spray River Trail. An 8-mile loop that can be ridden east or west with challenging punchy climbs, but also short enough to where you’re able to see the end in sight. This scenic gravel trail lies alongside the ice filled river with waterfalls and deep stunted trees up near tree lines. It was cold and muted with snow that clothe the mountain slopes. And another beautiful picturesque ride. 

Hong Kong – The Twisted City

It was 7 am when I arrived in Hong Kong. A few hundred Hong dollars loaded on my Octopus Card and I was off via the MTR to Causeway Bay where I’ll be staying for 4 days before Diane arrives. For such a fast pace city, it was quiet and quaint, seemingly different from the city that never sleeps that I left just 16 hours prior. It was hot. I definitely had the wrong outfit on as my legs sweat through my jeans. Coffee was on my mind and became the first stop since I couldn’t check into my hotel until 3 pm. I walked.




In a major city like Hong Kong, I was surprised cycling didn’t thrive here. But over the 4 days I had, I was able to foot tour around, use public transportation such as buses, trains, and taxis and quickly realized why. Hong Kong just may not have enough space for bicycle lane infrastructure to be retrofitted into the city.


It may be unsurprising to some that a popular city like Hong Kong sits in one of the densest countries in the world, China. But you can tell just by walking down the city blocks. I often found myself bumping shoulder to shoulder with people. But even though it may be a high volume of people, the main issue I believe is the urban planning. Skyscrapers, housing buildings, freeways, and tunnels dominate the majority of Hong Kong’s real estate.

The streets are tight with no shoulders for cyclist to safely ride. I must have seen 3 cyclists total during my 4 days here. They were mainly old men carrying supplies. One of them struggled to get through traffic, and the other two were hopping over the rails of double decker trams. It reminded me a lot like San Francisco with their tires nearing the edges of the rails. It’s a twisted city, in that it’s landscape transitions depending on where you are. All over there is beauty, with lots of energy and powerful deep-rooted history.


Sure you can fly in with a bike or rent one at a local shop to ride, but your safety is highly at risk. Your options for cycling would be exploring the New Territories outside of Hong Kong Island, or a 25-minute ferry ride to Lamma Island for a short Mountain Bike tour. If you’re looking for bikepacking and touring, Lantau Island is a great location and takes up most of Hong Kong’s land. While there you’ll find tech terrain and more countryside views.

Being a cyclist coming from New York City I was able to get a taste of riding with the sharks. Split second decisions when dodging taxis on my fixed gear, to riding the bridges borough to borough. We’ve definitely improved over the years with bicycle safety and infrastructure. I think major cities that support cycling lanes are rooted in their community base who advocate for them to be integrated into the streets. Hong Kong has a long way to go, but cities like New York, Bogota, San Francisco and other’s can sure show what a city like Hong Kong can one day become.

Favorites From Colombia Album





 

End Route: Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report Day 4-5

We got into Cajamarca after our jeep broke down for the 3rd time shortly after leaving Touché. The breakdown kept us roadside for about an hour before we decided to leave on two wheels. We covered too much ground on the jeep that day. The plan was to initially get to Cajamarca to catch up on the route since we missed a full day. It was nice to finally be on the bike and riding the trail. It was a short ride in and longer when I stopped to snap a photo. This segment of the ride was mainly downhill so I took it slow on my V-brake setup, while George had disc breaks and went down ahead fast. Battling the terrain on my bike was a bit tough but still manageable. I ride a rigid setup that some would raise an eyebrow at since it’s not the ideal choice for a trip like this. Others, such as purist may appreciate the character.

After arriving in Cajamarca we found a hotel and put our bikes down for the night. Cajamarca is a truck through route city, small and punchy. For dinner we ordered whatever he was having. Looking back, it must have been a Sancocho de Pescado. A fish soup dish served with rice, yucca, potato and corn garnished with a lime. It was a hearty stew like dish. Fuel for tomorrows ride into Ibagué.

In the morning we were out the door around 8:30am. It was 32 miles of road riding into Ibagué where we would pick up our off-road route. Riding the road was sketchy. Trucks were nearly rubbing elbows as some viciously passed by and the local motorist think they’re in go carts. This is why I prefer being off-road. We got into Ibagué around 11:30am.


We decided since it was early to grab a fast lunch and continue pushing forward on the route. It was a bit tough finding the trail head. George was already frustrated and it was only getting hotter out. After finding the route we climbed for hours. This section was tough and one of the biggest climbs and bike a hikes I’ve ever done on my rig. After reaching the top the trail became very dangerous. The trail narrowed in and We suddenly appeared on a foot trail that led to homes of the locals that lived in the mountains. They were shocked to see us on bikes passing through their, and at the same time paid us no mind. The route became steeper and more technical as we continued to push on. I ended up taking a spill over the bars and broke my fork V-Brake boss. At this point I only have a rear brake.

After skidding everywhere, we approached a dead-end to the trail, seemingly by it’s appearance. We had to either continue on this path or head back to the trail head. This was the moment where I had to make the decision to hike back up to the main trail or take a risk on the rough foot trail. After conversing over a plan we decided it was best to abandon route and seek alternatives. We hiked back up to the main trail which was brutal. We ended up riding back into Ibague where we ended our ride.

Its easy to get comfortable in areas like these. The remoteness of it plays a big part. Part of me wanted to continue, while the other part just needed to take a step back to consider our safety. While going for it and taking the risk could have ended in reward, It’s all about knowing your limits.

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Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report: Day 2-3

It was a slow ride from Armenia into Salento. Distancing away from the cars we go further and farther away from black top roads and onto the dirt track high into the mountains. You can hear the tires rustle as they transition. The distractions of cars sounding off horns and motorbikes revving up their engines as they pass by slowly quiet. We were then undisturbed. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. It was all new, the same but different. On the trail the Banana trees and large snowflake like plants replaced the usual shrubs from back home, and the palms took up most of the trail dramatically. We were in the wild.

It was a big climb into Salento that took us just under 3 hours. We took breaks in between; no rush it was the first day. The initial plan was to get close to The Cocora Valley so that we can see them first thing in the morning. That soon changed after we decided to stop for a beer after making it into Salento. We then met Zack, a Floridian who worked the bar at Luciérnaga Salento. After hanging in he convinced us we stay right here in town. We booked a night at La Serrana, an Eco Farm Hostel not far down the road. We parked our bikes for the evening and walked back to the bar for a second round of Club Roja

That evening the night was clear, and packed with entertainment close by. Several more rounds of Club Roja, and a late night walk back to the hostel. – (I read my own mind). Tomorrow, a new day, a new ray of sunrise with a new warmth.

The next day was the usual for me. I kept my routine and work up before 5:30am. I didn’t want to but it was automatic. 5:43-5:44 I felt the earth shake. No one believed me, I was the only one up. It rumbled and my heart started pounding after what I experienced. I stayed up for a while quiet with my eyes open, then grabbed my camera and went outside. After breakfast we packed our bikes and took a jeep ride from the center of town over to Salento with our bikes. The plan was to check out the Wax Palms in the Valley and then pickup our route near by afterwards.

The Route that we took was wrong. We were going in reverse for about 45minutes on a downhill course. After a few mountain bikers came down and told us we were going the wrong way we had to leave and head back into Salento. On the way we meet a few mountain bike riders who showed us an alternate route that will take us into Tochê. This was the actual route that was on our map. It was clean in the beginning, but later that evening things took a turn for the worse.

The sun began to fall so we needed to find camp. We setup stealth slightly hidden from the high grass off the route. It was dark by the time our tents were setup. George prepared the stove for dinner. Upon functioning the stove, it combusted and later burnt out. We were out of a stove, and later out of a sleeping back as his rolled down the edge of the ridge we were camped off of. After a combination of hike-a-bike and climbing for 3 hours prior to to this unfortunate event, we decided to descent back into Salento to try and find fuel and a new stove, and possibly a blanket of some sort for George. It was a long day.

 

Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report: Day 0-1

Colombia, one of the South American countries I’ve always wanted to visit. I dreamt of seeing the Wax Palms in the valley so much I almost tattooed one along my right rib cage in Bogotå. Bolivar Square, a magical place where birds fly wild in front of you waiting for you to push the shutter. The vivid colors of the colonial villages, the coffee, the food, the people, the sounds, and the mountains – I <sigh>.

I’ve been wanting to ride Colombia for a couple of years. I’ve had a few trips under my belt on the home turf, but an international trip was far fathomed before coming into fruition. My stomach was turning when George said he was down. Right there I said to my self “wow, this is it.” So now, how do you deal with the fear of the unknown? You do it by simply recognizing you don’t have much of a choice.

That was initially my thinking in bikepacking Colombia. You do everything you can to plan to the tee. Bike properly together and working, insurance to back your ass up if things go south (oh it did), and whether or not the route your riding is actually rideable. There’s so much you can do in terms of preparation, but the core of it all is just going for it and figuring things out on the go.

A short Uber ride to the LIRR to meet up with George at the AirTrain, then a 6 ½ hour flight into Bogotå, Colombia. We got in late evening, exhausted from time travel and pulling our cumbersome bike bags that kept tumbling over. We booked a hotel for a couple nights before heading West to Armenia where our route begins.

The first full day in Bogotå was amazing. Sort of a culture shock for me because it was my first time out of the United States, let alone on a pretty intense bikepacking adventure. We were on our bikes, the best way to travel here. Bogotå has an incredible system of bike lanes setup all over the city. The lanes are pretty safe, but riding in the street can be dangerous. However, I think everyone looks out for each other. Yyou can tell they have a method going to keep everyone safe on the road, so I didn’t feel uncomfortable riding with the cars and motorbikes. We kept it tourist style and explored just about everything during our first couple days there. We jumped from restaurant to café to historic landmarks and diving into different neighborhoods to check out the scene.

A couple of days later we booked a 9-hour bus ride from Bogotå to Armenia, Colombia which is point A of our route. George’s tire exploded after getting sliced by a sharp end on a water bottle cage makeshift he installed right before boarding the bus. We had to find a tire at a local bikeshop there which came by quite easy. The next day begins our first day of the trip where we ride into Salento, a 26 km ride with a massive climb. This was where the feeling began to be real for me. The next day the Wax Palms await.

 

-Stay tuned for Day two of this trip coming soon. Follow @manualpedlpix for images and updates.

Ode to Kokopelli Trail: Day Four – Five

Awakened 3AM in the morning by the sounds of truck tires and chains dragging on the hardened dirt where we were camped. While traveling out of my REM sleep I forgot we were sleeping at a popular boating campground named West Water. Due to overnight distractions and not so good of a sleep, we both woke up pissed off and cold from the chill Colorado river. It was early, we broke down on time, ate breakfast and refilled our water supply before loading our bikes and heading off. The ranger on duty was kind to give us food after a short chat about our trip. I think he knew what we were up against. We we’re on the road a little before 10am. About a mile of pavement then directly on dirt double track shortly thereafter.

The day seemed comfortable. The fast track through the Utah fields was like a dream. The wind lightly brushed the grass, the tires crushing over the red clay and subtle breeze against my arms was pure bliss. We logged our 25 miles 2 1/2 hours later. The climbs came and the hot desert terrain didn’t add up to our expectations. It was tough, one of the most physically demanding trails I’ve ever ridden. Bike, push repeat. After all that, we were rewarded with epic views. We camped at dewy bridge and met bob who offered us to have dinner with his family at their R/V. We chatted the evening collectively, laughed, drank beer and ate. This was our last camp on Kokopelli Trail before taking the road into Moab, UT the next day.


Photo by Mickey Cheng


Photo by Mickey Cheng


Photo by Mickey Cheng

Route Reference: Bikepacking.com – Kokopelli Trail