Africa’s Heart Beat

August 1st, 2010
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v8-8-africa heartbeat-my voiceAfter an eight month motorcycle journey thru Africa, Middle East and Europe, I am back. I am changed and humbled. The entire experience proved to be the best of times and worst of times, and I am grateful for both.

Some of life’s experiences are appreciated as we go thru them. The more complex experiences are only fully appreciated and embraced once we have completed them. My Africa crossing is an experience I am still comprehending.

The first time an idea of crossing Africa came to me when I was 10, right at the time when a large map of the world was hung above my bed in a small Warsaw, Poland apartment. In the evenings I would study the geography of each continent, its road and railroad network marked with thin yellow and red lines. The most prominent continent was Africa, placed in the middle of the map, right above where my head would rest on the pillow. I tried connecting Capetown and Cairo using the yellow and red lines, and it wasn’t easy. In 1970s few people traveled that route.

The idea for this journey stayed in my mind for years. I would eventually learn to ride motorcycles in India and repeatedly travel to the Horn of Africa, to write articles from the region for publications in Poland and US. In January 2009 my grandmother past away and I decided it was time to do the trek I’ve been thinking about for so long… a 23,000 kilometer ride from South Africa to Europe.

For several months I brainstormed the idea and eventually the purpose of the journey evolved into a something I do well: finding interesting people and telling their stories as a journalist. Other then just words on paper, I also wanted to create a project website that would become a portal for stories I would tell. The website became

My planned route for crossing the mother continent changed, several times. There is one cardinal rule about travel in Africa: you have to be flexible. If you don’t, you will be humbled and delayed, even stopped in your tracks. The continent offers numerous obstacles that can’t always be foreseen or surpassed: floods, political upheavals, banditry, even target tourist kidnappings in some countries. My original plan of reaching Morocco via Central African Republic and Chad changed. Sudan, continent’s biggest country and a country that I crossed from top to bottom, more than compensated for that.

The experience left an impression on me of vast expanses of continent, smells of African earth, sounds of drums, and the taste of desert dust. I remember fighting through soft sand on a hot day in southern Mozambique’s Kosi Bay. The rainy assent towards Lesotho’s Sani pass offered another memorable experience. My tires slipped on the large, wet rocks and made me lose control of the bike time after time before I reached a desolate plateau of this African kingdom. Another highpoint was riding alongside a galloping Oryx in Botswana before it jumped from the grass field to continue running in front of my bike. There was the desolate gravel road of Namibia from Fisher Canyon with seeing no vehicles for hours… but seeing wild zebras and kudus. On the curving roads of Malawi 100 kilometers south of Nkhata Bay, I saw children smiling, cheering, and giving thumbs up and all other exclamations of joy. There was the starlit sky amongst the Sudan’s Meroe pyramids where I spent a night.

Life is made of moments and some of them weave a fabric that make our lives worth living. [/private]

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