"My Africa" By Per Ostersen
What an amazing time I’ve had in Mozambique. Working here at our compound in Chimoio with my two friends and colleagues has been as fun as it has been hard work. This experience is something I think everyone working for Baisikeli should allow themselves to experience.
Let’s start with the beginning of my adventure in southern Africa. I flew in to Harare Airport, Zimbabwe, then spent one night outside the city at a bed and breakfast, Simba, that had Danish influenced interior and a pool. Next morning I found a driver, named Shepherd. Him and I picked up my boss, Henrik Mortensen at the airport, and then we drove around Harare, checking out a couple of different bike shops, and especially one of them turned out to be a very cool shop. The mechanics there were passionate about their job and seemed to enjoy showing us the different tools and how they used them. The manager and Henrik had a long conversation and he got an interview as well.
After visiting the shops, we stocked up on snacks and liquid, before we drove to the Mozambiquan border town, named Machipanda, where my colleagues Sylvest and Stefan where waiting for us along with our friend Rene. Rene has lived in Mozambique for 2 decades and is happy to share his knowledge with us. He has been our interpreter, carpenter, driver and friend, and all of those traits have been a blessing for us down here, since we are just starting getting acquainted with our everyday lives in this beautiful country. I meet Rene last year when I was just travelling around Mozambique. He and his spouse, Nilza, have an orphanage in the stunning seaside town known as Vilankulos.
The compound itself is rather large, but has from the beginning had been missing some basic facilities and hominess, which we bit by bit have been building or purchasing while living here. An outdoor kitchen, a freezer, beds, building material such as wood, nails, screws, furniture, fences for privacy, and last but not least our soon to be guard dog, which sometimes but not all the time comes when addressed by his name, Zyphong – we’re working on it, and he is getting better at taking care of his business outside instead of in our rooms and living room and also is getting better at not biting everything he can get his teeth into. He is white, chestnut and has a black stripe down its back, really cute and I think he is awesome.
A typical day at the compound:
Martin wakes us up at 6 sharp to the sweet music of reggae and ska, its bright and hot and the fact that a hot cup of coffee and breakfast awaits, makes it easier to get out of bed and get going with the work. Bikes are being assembled by Stefan and Sylvest, while I do different things, such as organizing different bikeparts, going through tires and innertubes, making a system for the spareparts for easy access, fixing the fence, going shopping for groceries and whatever there is a need for. We eat lunch at 12, then get back to work. When 4 o’clock comes around, we drop our tools and get on our bikes – now its time to have fun and do our thing.
The best thing about living here, besides getting to know the locals and starting up the bike business, is mountain biking around the neighborhood. I doubt that the locals have seen anything like it. We ride into small communities outside Chimoio and when the kids spot the first one racing down the dirt road they all get up and run to the road to check us out. This gives the next riders a bit of trouble, because the road is now blocked with smiling and shouting children. Brakes, a bell and some friendly shouting do the trick however. We sometimes go to the top of the Old Man Mountain (named this because it looks like an old man’s head if he is lying down, 3 hills that look like a forehead, nose and chin). We can’t ride all the way to the top, but then we get off the bikes and carry them on our backs until we reach the summit, its hard work to get there but the ride down is a big payoff – definitely the most exciting ride I ever tried. Got to stay focused, so there is no time to enjoy the view, except for when we reach the summit and stop and wait at crossways to make sure we all follow the leader. The leader is usually Sylvest – that dude has mad skills, and trying to follow him uphill is not possible…
I also went to Tofo for a while, a very nice little beach town, where diving, fishing and all the other beach and sea activities are what drives people there. I really like that place – mainly because of the Indian Ocean. Talked to a couple from South Africa and Holland and they are interested in starting a bike rental shop there and they need good bikes, which we are more than happy to provide them with. If you ever get a chance you should explore this place – the ocean is right there, surfs always up, there are fish to be caught, sharks and rays to experience under the surface, beaches to walk, great seafood to munch on, art to buy, and if you are one lucky fella, you might get to snorkel with a whale shark on ocean safaris.
Enough about Tofo – the reason we are here is to supply the population with our Danish secondhand bikes, which is a huge improvement to the current state of bike availability. The only bikes you can really get down here are Chinese produced bikes – they are not a pleasure to ride and brake down all the time, which is a shame and counterproductive to the main reason why we bike – to put a big fat smile on our faces and this is the essence of our business!
My time here in Mozambique is unfortunately running out, I knew the time for departure was coming, but I still have a hard time coming to terms with that – I would love to stay, but Mozambique is right here and will still be there come the Danish winter. Its time to go back to Copenhagen and do my thing, which is renting out bikes and supplying joy to the tourists.