Date: Sat, 05 Feb 2000
From: Claude Marthaler
Subject: "EQUATOUR"

Dear Redfishes!
Jinja, Uganda, km 100,650

It takes almost three months for the Nile River waters to travel its 6000 plus kilometer course from Jinja, Uganda to the Mediterranean coast in Egypt. And by bicycle, like the Muslims say: "Insh Allha!"- nobody knows how much time, except God.

Our journey could have finished early morning on February 5th, as dogs were barking madly in a campground in Jinja/Uganda. A violent storm broke a huge branch from a tree which eventually fell down just beside our tent. Rain was pouring heavily like a pre-monsoon signal, one degree North of the Equator. A strange feeling.

We stuck our noses out and our eyes couldn't believe it: our bicycles - the yak and the red gazelle - had simply vanished. Fortunately, the 80 kilo weight of the yak prevented the robbers from stealing it, but the gracious gazelle was gone, brutally bringing Ute's trip to an absolute end and with it a certain "Victorian" idea of a borderless African continent. Perhaps we were already in the Northern hemisphere, but still in Africa.

We reported the loss at the almost Kafkaesque Jinja police station, waking up some "kings of clearly visible inefficiency", still sleeping on cardboard. A road to nowhere. New Vision (simply ironic?), the leading national daily and BBC World News spread out the word, but in the polygamist bicycle Mecca of East Africa, a mountain bike is strongly desired, like an instant one-way ticket to the northern hemisphere.

Unexpectedly, it took only a few seconds to trouble our vision of Africa. A mixture of the cruel legacy of the Idi Amin Dada regime, the repetitive reaction of mockery and jealousy towards the Mzungu (White (wo)man) associated with money, brought us dangerously close to a feeling of racism. Riding around the world is everything but an "Equa-tour". Heroism, luxury or waste of time in the Northern hemisphere, such a journey is often unthinkable and straight away money-connected in the Southern hemisphere.

Does only the Orient value the way for itself? Today, "our" Africa is one entire ocean far away from it. You see red everywhere once it is in your eyes. The world through a lost red frame, killing one of the myths of the road: a certain idea of "universal equality" - an Equatour. But after 8 months since Cape Town, the long rusted Equator signpost was no longer a faint image of Africa, but Africa itself. Rafting from Victoria lake, the source of the Nile, the turbulent waves bringing us involuntary in a blink of an eye from the brilliance of the sun to absolute darkness. So did Africa.

The YAK_


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