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So far Fredrika Ek has created 115 entries.

Shut Up & Ride

Had this been any other time this would be me shamelessly whining my way through this text, start to finish. Or to be more accurate – that would have been the case if I was writing this from any other place.

In short the past who knows how many days of this ride have been this way too long, low intensity slapstick theatre show without an audience. Plot? Human girl and steel bicycle slowly falling apart, piece by piece until all that’s left is a lone bike bell lying next to a pair of muddy shoes with no one in them.

However. This is not any other time, nor any other place. I’m writing this now – in Guinea.

Finding itself as lucky number 183 out of the 188 countries in UN’s Human Development Index I assume it goes without saying that life in Guinea is taking place in what can only be described as a different universe than the one the vast majority of you reading this are in. And that western girls’ front hub mechanicals and black toenails won’t be topping the list of issues anytime soon.

The past week I’ve made it halfway through a million curse words. Halfway through bisarre thoughts about bad luck. Occasionally even halfway through justifying feeling sorry for myself. However – there is one thing that that without exception have let me stop the madness before it’s had time to manifest itself in reality. And that has been riding a bicycle halfway through Guinea.

To give a little context I’m currently racing. A few weeks back an embassy employee in Accra messed up his stamps when issuing my visa, resulting in that I since have been pushing hard to not have the time bomb this man created blow up in my face. Even before entering the country I was tired. Writing this I’m exhausted. Even more so than I originally got ready for.

Then again. I’m not writing this any other time, or in any other place. This is now – and this is Guinea.

I’m not sure how to explain it. And in a way I realise that’s the whole point.

While I struggle to choose my words – no more than 40% of Guinean adults have been taught to read or write at all.

My back tyre ripped open in a downhill and had me drag Mr. Bike into the town of Kissidougou where I could finally find a $5 replacement in the local market. The new tyre sucks. The old one I have left still leaves me with the fanciest setup in the country.

I’ve drowned my bike computer. Lost my gloves. Rolled over my earphones and killed a gazillion pixels on my laptop. Not only have I lost stuff more expensive than what most here would even dream of. My biggest issue with doing so is being in a place where I can’t immediately replace them with new ones.

For a few weeks I can’t afford to take rest days from my made up for-fun-game on two wheels – because I don’t want to end up bribing border guards to continue playing. The men and women I passed today wouldn’t even play with the idea of ‘rest days’ from their rice fields – because they need to eat.

I got a cold. Guinea got Ebola.

The cold have had me loose my voice. Unable to speak I look around me – and meet the eyes of women born into life in a society where they never got one to begin with.

And with an unbelievable 97% (UN report from 2016) of those women being victims of female genital mutilation I’m too embarrassed to even spell out saddle sores here.

We could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

I can’t wait for getting to actually sit down for the next post. With all that it is and isn’t – Guinea has been and still is one of the single biggest experiences of my life, and I so want to share some of it with you. All goes well and that one will be written – with time – outside the country borders and with both health and bike intact enough. Keep your eyes open next Sunday :-)

That has to be it for now. I need to be out by Thursday, and it’s high time to give these legs another beating.

We’ll speak soon.

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |August 13th, 2017|Africa, Travel Logs|

Fairytale Frustrations

‘C’est tres tres difficile.’

I looked into Pascals eyes for a while longer than what I think he was comfortable with. As if they miraculously would be able to tell me something more than what he could do with those way too few common words we used to communicate. I let my fingers dig into the bowl of attiéké that was resting on the table between us, formed some of the couscous like cereal into a ball and pressed it hard towards the palm of my hand. I took a deep breath and exhaled.

‘Oui… Tres difficile.’

During this bike ride I spent better part of a full year with hands and feet communication. With life being one big game of charades. A game that one evening taught me to hand milk tibetan yaks and the next let me fall in love with someone over a bottle of wine and a dictionary. One proving that human connection passes way beyond the spoken word and one that I remember as the best thing I’ve ever gotten to experience.

I can no longer find that feeling for the life of me. Sitting on the plastic stool opposite the Ivorian policeman that had invited me to his home for the night, I didn’t even know where to turn with the frustration tha was slowly drowning me from the inside. Our communication wasn’t even wordless. The words were few, of course. But with my ‘peu un peu de francais’ and his ‘small small english’ we were still speaking.

Speaking. But saying nothing.

On the 29th of March 2011 at least 800 people were killed in the Duekoue massacre. Of course even more were injured. And every single person in the city lost someone that day. On the 29th of March 2011 Pascal was on duty. And has since not only seen, but very much been part of his town and country attempting to rise back on its feet after the war. Yet. After spending that half a sentence on the topic we moved onto agreeing on that the grilled fish we were sharing was delicious.

Finally letting go of our eye contact I let my gaze continue out on the bustling street by which we were sitting. Thursday evening, the rain was holding up and everyone seemed to be out and about tonight. Women were lined up behind their food stalls, each with even bigger buckets of rice or attiéké than the next. Groups of children were running pass, playing games I’m not sure I’ll ever understand. And as always, men of all ages were zooming back and forth on their motorbikes. Always in a rush to go nowhere in particular. The vibrating base from the music being played somewhere nearby was filling the air, right on beat with the pulsating heart of the town.

I tried – and failed – to understand. That day, hundreds and hundreds of people were shot dead and left to rot on the very street we were on. This evening. What was to be found here wasn’t only life. It was everyday life.

Thinking about it, this is basically all I’ve been doing during my time in Cote d’Ivoire. Trying – and failing – to understand. Understanding the magic of this place. Or in better words – the magic of it’s people. To understand the strength, trust and faith required to have a new everyday life take form from the ruins of an old one.

Depending on their age, the children greeting me with their waves, laughs and never ending smiles have grown up in one or even two brutal civil wars. Yet – just like their older genereations – manage to be some of the friendliest and most joyus, graceful and gentle people walking this Earth.

In one way or another, I’ve found myself hosted by people in every single one of the 35 or so countries Mr. Bike and I have been rolling through. In Cote d’ivoire though, I generally wasn’t hosted by people. I was hosted by villages. Experiences more humbling than I would have words for even in my own language.

The purity in getting to end a long day bent over a bucket shower that someone helped to pull up from their well. The serenity in being invited to breathe in the sense of community not even imaginable in my part of the world. The comedy in watching the always massive groups of children watch me. And the rewards in thanking every single one of them for the song and dance performance they put on for their guest outside the main hut.

The children. I try – and fail – to understand what will actually happen to them. I try and fail to understand how their genuine smiles and endless fires burning within them would or could ever undo any of what they have in their past and don’t have in their future. To understand what actually needs to be done to help. And to deal with the guilt of letting those western ‘privilage isn’t everything’ excuses justify not doing that.  

Above all, I try and fail to handle the shame in knowing that in a few month or even weeks time, these children will be nothing but a fading memory amongst others.

Pascal clearing his throat interrupted my thoughts, and the burning tears behind my eyelids disappeared the moment my eyes once again met his. He didn’t say anything at first. This time not because he couldn’t, but because he really didn’t need to. I know he knew mine, simply because he was sharing my frustration.

He took a small zip of water. It had been hours since we’d emptied our vocabularies in our two common languages and he didn’t even bother trying to combine his English words into a new sentence. Instead he asked me again.

‘You like Cote d’Ivoire?’

I didn’t stop the tears this time. Pascal didn’t break eye contact.

I also cleared my throat.

‘Oui. J’aime Cote d’Ivoire. I like it very very much.’

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |August 6th, 2017|Africa, Travel Logs|

Grandest of Adventures

I never even realised that I’d lost it. Not until now, when I’ve gotten it back.

I didn’t know I had forgotten. Though now I vividly remember. I remember what things were like in the early days of this journey. What it feels like when everything and everyone around you has the power to overthrow everything you thought you knew about life. What it’s like to have an experience take up your whole being. And what it’s like trying to not let it slip through your fingers.

It’s just as bizarre as it’s beautiful. Morning comes and I open my eyes, as for the first time of my life. It’s day, and time and time again I literally catch myself trying not to blink. I don’t want to risk missing anything. Not until night comes and I close them again. Grabbing onto the tent floor as if doing so somehow would stop my head (world) from spinning.

It’s all back. Every little piece of it.

I know I can’t make sense of any of it just yet, which is why I’m not even trying. And it’s alright really. At the moment all I need to do is to stay on my back in the flowing river that is this experience, trusting that the current will take me wherever I’m supposed to go.

Ghana has come to an end and I’ve made it into Cote d’Ivoire. The palm fringed seaside has been replaced by lush, thick greenery and the only way I know how to describe it is that every imaginable part of this place somehow seems a little more intense than in it’s neighbouring country. The ride is larger than life and the main reason for it is very clear.

People.

A few months ago I was climbing grand volcanoes and riding 5 000 meter mountain passes in search for adventure. Here – I find it by stopping in a village to buy a few bananas. Or even more – has it find me, by simply sitting down to eat them somewhere (anywhere!) along the road.

Alright, friends. I’ll throw in a few random snapshots. But for now I’m afraid this is it. For now, I need to go back to be absolutely present in what is one of the greatest experiences of my life.


Haha. I have no explanation for this one.

Oh. More than anywhere else I seem to be posting stuff on Instagram Stories these days. For some real time glimpses of life out here, make sure to give @thebikeramble a follow :-)

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |July 30th, 2017|Africa, Travel Logs|

Ghana Good Times

It’s Sunday morning and I woke up to a brand new world today. I’m in Cote d’Ivoire – which I’m counting to be country no. 35 of this journey. The clock says it’s still early but the bustling streets of small town Aboisso came to life already hours ago. I think the sun was the last one to rise here today. I crossed into the country only yesterday afternoon and as per usual, I’m a little too excited to throw myself onto the road to start to get to know this new temporary home of mine.

First though – we need to talk about Ghana.

No. Let’s not.

See those 3 dots? They’re there to replace some 500 words I just deleted, realising that this is stupid. Not to mention it also being impossible – to try and squeeze everything from dancing children and the purest connections between people, to brutal faiths and fundamental human rights issues into a quick Sunday breakfast blog post.

More than anything – would it not give this country a grain of justice.

I didn’t even spend 2 full weeks in Ghana. Still this is one I regard as one of the very biggest experiences yet, on more levels than I was ever ready for.

Which is why this one goes out to you.

Not a single one of you will ever know that these words exist. Nor will I ever meet you again, to get the opportunity to tell you that they do. But thank you. I thank all of you. The hundreds of souls that let me into your world, for a chat, a meal, a night’s rest or for a simple wave and a smile as I swiftly zoomed passed you by the road you were sitting.

Thank you for your respect and for your patience. For your curiosity and laughters. And yes. Thank you Joshua, for sitting down to teach the sweaty obruni how to properly eat an orange.

Thank you all. For making a girl who’s still very far away from home – feel like she’s already there.

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |July 23rd, 2017|Africa, Travel Logs|

Another Rich White Girl’s Blog Post

Hey.

Short stop in this time. Today marks one full week of breathing African air and my head is still spinning too fast for me to make much sense of any of what’s tumbling around in there. I’m used to a 15 kph movement of around 100 km per day – and the (barely existent) speed of change that comes with it. I’m used to moving from one village or town to the next.

Last week the screen in front of my airplane seat showed speeds hovering around 1000 kph and I found myself on three continents within 24 hours. Though that’s not what makes me feel like I’ve fallen into a tumble drier on steroids.

That is Africa.

I’m finally here. On this massive continent surrounded by more contradictions than any other. The one I’ve been told, not-at-all-told and warned about since before I could even spell it. One week in, mentioned contradictions seem endlessly bigger than they ever have before. And I can’t seem to wrap my head around a single piece what I’ve so far found waiting for me here. Though let’s talk about than another time.

The million impressions and future campfire anecdotes that have constituted the last week led me to Accra and the capital of Ghana. Showing up at the Togo-Ghana border without a visa was probably up there on the list of most-stupid-stunts I’ve pulled on this journey – and a gamble to say the least. Needless to say I’m surprised as anyone that it actually worked out. Just as needless to say is that I am equally grateful, happy and relieved that it did. Probably more than anything, since none of us now have to find out just how much of a catastrophe my Plan B actually was.

Writing this I’m on Day 3 of who knows who many, in the chaotic capital Accra. The one mission here is to acquire necessary visas for the onward journeying through West Africa. A mission that so far is moving along perfectly. The full page visa sticker for Ivory Coast is already in my passport and after the weekend the one for Guinea hopefully won’t be far off.

Meaning that this final and biggest adventure is just about ready to take off for real.

Just now I don’t have time nor energy to try and properly put the overwhelming feelings inside me to words. Though sitting under the cool A/C in the shiny upscale apartment of lovely French expat Lorraine it seems absurd not to. The evening of my arrival Lorraine took me for a burger and beer. We both agreed on that the meal was delicious. But didn’t mention the fact that it had cost almost half a Ghanian monthly salary.

Tapping on my laptop I’m now zipping cool pineapple juice and snacking away on imported Swiss chocolate. I’m looking down through the big windows, passed the guards on duty and across the barbed wire fence surrounding the building. A constant stream of people are passing by, balancing everything from fruit and peanuts for sale, to massive quantities of water or big bags of trash on their heads. I have no idea where any of them are going. I just know that it’s Saturday in Accra, and that normal people are spending it doing normal things.

Right here on this website you can still find the words of 22-year-old me. The girl with the big dreams, who was still back in her hometown merely getting ready to make this journey reality:

‘Brilliant sunshine and pouring rain. Lush rain forests and bone-dry deserts. Privileged people with the world beneath their feet and people who can’t even put a pair of shoes on theirs. This is a ride with the goal of experiencing it all.’

Three years later I’m more grateful than ever to not only have gotten to experience all of that – but also all those things way beyond my wildest imagination. The ignorance in my own words though, makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. It’s been long since I realised it, but never before has the fact been so disgustingly obvious.

That the ‘privileged person with the world beneath her feet’ – has been me all along.

There will be only one photo today, taken at 6.30 am somewhere in southern Ghana. One of 3 beautiful sisters walking to school in the neighbouring village.

I think that if you take the time to actually look at it – this one might be just enough.

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |July 16th, 2017|Africa, Travel Logs|

(To)Go Time!

This is life my friends.

Usually I’m referring to life as feeling the wind in your hair while charging down the downhill you spent your day earning. Or to zip your tent open simply to let the world smack you in the face with another so-good-it’s-not-even-funny sunrise performance.

This is nothing like that. Still I’m feeling more alive than since I don’t even know when.

It’s Saturday. I don’t know what timezone would be appropriate to refer to, but it’s been long since I cared much about clocks anyways. I’m awkwardly posing as a rational human being today. Mirroring the people around me I’m zipping airport cappuccino while tapping away on my laptop. Apart from the fact that I (and the suit & briefcase-man sitting next to me) just caught myself blowing my nose in the sleeve of my shirt I think it’s working out alright.

I’m in Europe.

A few hours layover in Madrid marks my first breaths on my home continent in more than 2 years and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more out of place in my life. Not in a bad way. Neither in a good one. It is all just so incredibly weird. I’ve walked these very floors before. Still not. Today makes it very clear how I feel so endlessly disconnected from the person I was before this whole thing started. That girl who had seen – or more importantly felt – nothing.

Today though, this is no more than a passing thought. My whole being is occupied by something else entirely.

– I’m halfway to Togo. –

It’s happening. I’m Africa bound. What started as half a thought somewhere on a lazy day back in Mendoza is now materialising itself in reality. And I’m realising that my childish excitement didn’t necessarily need company by that double shot of caffeine. The onward flight ticket tucked into my passport seems incredibly overkill. The butterflies in my belly could easily have flown me to Africa themselves.

Today marks four continents down – one to go.

Can you believe it? I know I can’t.

As I still don’t know myself, I can’t exactly tell you what happens from here. The unknown factors are lined up like domino tiles and which one will fall first is as unclear as ever. At least getting to start Plan A would be neat though. Please keep your fingers crossed that I’ll be able to acquire a visa to Ghana in the next few days.

Or by all means, don’t.

Sometimes a little game of adventure domino is just what a girl needs.

After all. This is life my friends.

Until next time,

Fredrika

PS. Feeling so grateful to have you lovely people with me on this journey. It simply would’t be the same without you.

By |July 8th, 2017|Africa, Travel Logs|

Wrapping Up

Ever since my first pedal strokes in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina – South America has been blowing my mind in ways I could never even have imagined. Every day, week and month seemed to give even a little more than the previous one and there has been absolutely no end to the madness.

Up until Lima.

In a parallell universe I’m still up in the high, high Andes. Slowly making my way between yet another couple of epic passes, ever so curious to find out what is to be found on the top of the next one – and then the next one again. In this universe though, I’ve had to finally accept what the calendar had already been telling me for quite some time.

‘So you still want to hug your mom for Christmas? Then you better get a move on.’

Racing up the coast from Lima to Ecuador had it’s perks. For the first time in a million years I actually made some proper distance and accompanied by a constant tailwind I literally felt like I was flying north. This was without doubt the least interesting/charming/impressive/varied/challenging stretch on my entire ride on the continent – but to be honest I didn’t mind.

For one I was happy to get to see some big numbers for once. And somehow my mind had made the switch turning this into nothing but mere transport. This was me on my way to the airport.

Though a route through the mountains would have beaten this a million times over, it wasn’t bad. There were some sweet views. And some ever sweeter people. I can’t remember a time when I’ve taken as few photos as during the few weeks between Lima and Quito. The ones I did take though – looked like this:


Morning routine!


Day in and day out…


I asked Isabel for water. She gave me a shower, bed and food until it came out of my ears :-)


No. 1 coastal highlight! Spending a few days riding with lovely Caio from Brazil

Days – even weeks – blurred together and all of a sudden my bike computer told me I’d ridden the equivalence of one entire lap around the equator. 40 000 kilometers. By all means a fair distance on a bicycle…



Today the race ended. My entire ride through South America did. I’m in Quito, Ecuador – and since only a few hours back I’m holding that flight ticket. The one that in less than a week will take me to Togo, West Africa.

Togo. West Africa.

I’ve been so ridiculously excited about this ever since the very idea first made its way into my mind back in Argentina. And I almost can’t believe it’s really time. Almost at least.

Mr. Bike is getting boxed up – soon. But first, this old body needs a proper game of eat, sleep, repeat. And since I’m all of a sudden surrounded perfume smelling people – I think a shower (or 10) might be an alright idea as well.


Apparently not the ‘capital look’ in Ecuador

Where in the world might the next blog post come from..? I sure don’t know. My layovers are as weird as they are many. Let’s hang on and we’ll all find out on Sunday :-)

Until next time,

Fredrika

Furry Love

It’s time to move on from the mountains – but before actually letting go of this too-good-to-be-true slice of adventure heaven there is one specific bunch of souls that deserves their minute in the limelight.

The alpacas!

Everywhere – and in mass. For big empty stretches up there alpacas (and llamas but they’re not as cute) were our main interaction with locals and there’s no getting enough of these loonies. Because they’re darn sweet for one. But mainly because each one of them carries enough personality and range of facial expressions to star in their own Hollywood picture.

There are the wise, the beautiful and the quirky ones. There are the frightened and the brave as well as the heroes and the villains. Seems like such a waste that Disney still haven’t put out a movie – or five – starring these naturals. Whatever genre they’d go for – this is blockbuster material for sure!

Which one would you want to see in lead?

Alright, I promise to stop now.

Big sunsets and even bigger night skies in postcard views are obvious favorites for anyone calling a tent their home. More than ever in these landscapes. What I like even better though – is stumbling upon unexpected favorites.


Not the usual one – but still one heck of a view to wake up to!

Puh. I just had to get that out of my system :-) Writing this I’m already in northernmost Peru ready to cross into Ecuador. Odd feeling to go alpaca flash backing while looking over the ocean with warm sand between my toes.

Next Sunday I’ll recap back to reality and for the first time in I don’t even know how long this blog will continue to update in real time! I’m so looking forward to it – and I hope you are too.

Until next time,

Fredrika

Way-Up-There Wonderland

If you haven’t already given my last post a read you should stop and do that now. Because this is nothing but a continuation of the remote mountain road where that left off. Still accompanied by Lars (www.lostcyclist.com) most days could quickly be summarised in a single shot usually looking something like this.


Photo: www.lostcyclist.com

Each pass took us a little higher than the one before and every new lake seemed to greet us with even bigger colours than the previous one had proved possible. We’d no doubt found the life-is-good sort of existence that had brought us there in the first place.

Then – por fin – came the proper passes. Three of them 5000+ meter above sea level and higher than I’ve ever peddled my poor (lucky!) bicycle before. And yes, as always. As air gets even a little thinner – life gets even a little better!


Paso Abra Arcata 5090 masl. Highest point of Mr. Bike’s life! Well done boy :-)

Apart from being pretty darn high and ridiculously beautiful the one thing that particularly caught my soul during this stretch was one I hadn’t expected. I think a few of you reading this are under the illusion of that I and others out and about on these stunts are – in any way shape or form – doing something extraordinary. Sometimes more than others I think we even fall for it ourselves.

This wasn’t that. It wouldn’t have been even if we’d wanted it to. These remote 5000 meter gravel passes were humbling to the point of no return. They had soul – literally. Because no matter how high or remote we went, not once did we leave everyday life of the souls that lived there.


Brother and sister playing outside their house on 4900 masl


Ignacio. Working his alpackas on top of a near 5000 meter pass in the middle of nowhere.


I don’t have a photo to proof it. But this man is wearing sandals :-)


Girl. GoreTex, GPS and fancy bicycle. Least badass human being in the region.

Days became weeks and slowly we were reaching some sort of end to our high altitude endeavour. That really didn’t matter though. Not yet anyways. Because every morning we opened our eyes to find ourselves in for yet another day in wonderland.


Though of course. Daily challenge no.1 was getting out of the sleeping bag!


Sand dunes on 5000+ meter above sea level!

Until next time,

Fredrika

Leaving Ground

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to properly explain what it is that these mountains do to me. And I’m not sure it even matters. Fact though, is that I’m still to meet a mountain range that I don’t fall hopelessly for. And Los Andes might just be the mountain love of my life. I had already spent months going up, down and across them. Still I couldn’t wait to head into Peru to kick off another leg. The highest one of all.

Joined by Swedish Lars (www.lostcyclist.com) it didn’t take long to get the show going. A few smooth tarmac days from La Paz we left the main road in favor for a route that our maps suggested was a definite dead as the roads we wanted to take supposedly only existed in our imaginations.

As we decided to take our chances and roll onto our gravel road anyways I think we were both a bit hesitant… for like 15 minutes. One first golden hour view and that was it. This was it. Dead end or not – this road was gonna get ridden.

High passes. Mesmerising lakes. Out of this world canyons. Lovely local people. And lots of feeling incredibly small. Shortly put this first week or so was the bomb. And that’s without even mentioning the bonus of actually getting to speak my own language for a bit.

A few snapshots.


Adventure for us. Everyday life for others.


The mandatory river crossing shot ;-)


Chilly mornings…


…and warm Peruvians. Photo: www.lostcyclist.com

Between two passes we stumbled into the tiny mountain town Chojata – which I still hold as my top place in all of Peru. Stumbling into the 61st village anniversary and being pulled straight into the festivities was a lot of things, but boring sure wasn’t one of them. And boy do these people know how to dress!


Photo: www.lostcyclist.com

Truly capturing these views simply can’t be done. At least not by me. But I think these photos can give somewhat of an idea of the scale to it all. These environments aren’t just stunningly beautiful. They’re insanely dramatic.


Can you see me..? Photo: www.lostcyclist.com


And the village down there..?


I’m in this one too! Riding above the who knows how many hundred meter death drop into the most spectacular canyon I’ve ever seen. Can you find me? Photo: www.lostcyclist.com

This ride had every bit of what I search for. It even proved to have all those presumably non existent roads threatening to kill the fun at any given moment.

And the best thing of all? We’d only just gotten started.

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |June 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|