Almost immediately we open our first photographic show. Until the opening night we are a two man show, working our butts off to edit, crop and label and handle other curatorial bullshit. But on the 25th of October everything comes together with the help of many good people. A company sponsors our prints, a friend hauls a couple of kids to help at the bar, another friend puts up a playlist, a friends helps us to hang the posters and an advertising agency allows us to exhibit in their garage – a fitting venue for our endeavour.
The idea is to show a positive image of Africa, which I’m sorry to say, is not by a long shot a popular destination for my folk. And plenty of people come. Just like the bride and groom at a wedding, we don’t get to meet a lot of them, or to enjoy the fruit of our work, running up and down, all blushed up and nervous about not screwing up. But it’s good fun. Maybe one day one these people – perhaps the two months old baby I saw in the crowd, or the guy who left his pregnant wife home and drove 300 km to have Ana write on his 800 GS the GPS coordinates of Cape Agulhas – will soon invite us to their show and make us dream with their stories of adventure.
After the one-night event at the McCann Garage we move the photos to an indie gallery in Bucharest, then in Cluj, where we meet an electrifying community.
After Cluj we pass by the newly renovated salt mine of Turda, an elegant example of how to spend EU development funds.
While sunny days last, I try to test-ride a BMW Xchallenge, but because I cannot find any within the area, I try the Çertao. The test is inconclusive.
Before the first freeze we have two dear guests coming over. We meet Alper on a joyride along Transfagarasan.
Esther comes to spend a few days together: we feel like we belong to the same breed of recovering travellers, struggling to cope with a different reality. We have unplugged from a set of values that made the backbone of our life, and we have a lot to share between each other about our experiences.
Back to Bucharest, we have some anxieties to tackle. My solo rides start to make Ana worry again, and even I am not feeling confident anymore. City traffic feels more daunting than cotton mud. We move from bedroom to our living room where I lay the mattress on the floor, because after a few nights in the soft cushy bed my back is killing me. We are readjusting to new sounds: ambulances, sirens, neighbours slapping windows – it’s the reverse of what the animals in the movie Madagascar were experiencing. We struggle to take comfort in this urban jungle. One night something strange happens. As we’re watching a movie, I hear something unruly. Ana goes to the kitchen to open the window: it’s raining! One of those light, warm summer rains that make even this bloody tarmac smell good and inspire people to make love. But we feel oddly nostalgic, and after we talk a bit about this, we realise why. This life giving rain is “outside” and we are “inside’. In our tent we knew when the rain would come before the first drop fell, we could smell it in the air, we could hear the wind swooshing. Now if the speakers of the laptop were any louder we would just miss it. But it’s all behind us, and soon the night traffic and the neighbourly sounds don’t bother us no more. We’ve become city dwellers again. That means we also cannot wake up anymore without an alarm clock.
In November our story wets 2000 eyes at TEDxBucharest.
We feel deeply honored and quite emotional to share our journey with such a young and generous audience. It dawns on us that by talking about our experieence we can help others take that leap of faith into the unknown. So we do it again in a couple more venues:
And we wait patiently for winter holidays to come and pass. Radu, who hosted us in Gabon a year ago, brings a temporary ailment: news from Africa and his mother-in-law’s pounded cassava with chilli.
By now, cracking cold, snow and darkness rule supreme. We meet up with another fellow adventurer and fellow Jupiter’s Traveller and we drink out tits off. All these make us sound like we’re bragging about our climb to success, but nothing could be further from the truth. We remain the same ordinary people, nothing changes on the surface, while big changes bubble on the inside. Perhaps there have been some lines written about us in some newspaper, that’s all. Our focus is to get our wheels spinning sooner. On the 1st of January Ana wakes up with high fever and the chills. On the 3rd the tropical diseases clinic opens and she gets tested for malaria. Negative. On the 5th she ends up in hospital, after five days of almost non-stop fever, with 8 blood pressure, pale as paper, to find out that she has pyelonephritis, an infection in her right kidney. Ironic,right? How we don’t get sick when we go camping, or picnicking in the bush, but a small bug in the big city gets us down. The episode has its perks: we get to remember something we so easily forget, that any day we have our health must be seized.
Valentine’s Day, a holiday we’ve always ignored, comes with an emotional separation. After being our mobile home and our trusty companion through thick and thin, we must say good bye to the blue Tenere. She will be forever missed. It’s not the beefiest ride out there, but it puts a smile on my face. Man, it was a hard thing to do!
But to pull out a continuation of our journey, we need different machines. As the snowdrops start pushing though mold and winter snows are thawing, Ana gets for her B-day a laser in the eye. It sounds dangerous and gross, but it ends well. After a couple of weeks she can drop the contact lens and embark on another voyage without risking to be forced to sleep with some plastic in the eye for months or having to apply drops that have been basking in 60 degrees Celsius for many days. In celebratory mood, my rookie girlfriend gives a shot to DRZ 400. Me? I rescue from the dullness of a garage my dream bike: a KTM 690 Enduro R. A beast with the looks of an angel.
My garage fills up with stuff, my hands get covered in grease and my mind bursts with ideas. I have a lot of work to get done before we can get rolling. In the meantime we become possibly the only Romanian architects who get interviewed by an architecture magazine not about their designs but about their vagabonding with a tent that they didn’t even make themselves. How did we sneak in there, I don’t know :) Slower than we’d want to, we pen down the first pages of the extended Africa travelogue. We are by no means writers, journalists or photographers. This is simply a way of dealing with our post-partum feelings, with our burning mal d’Afrique. You can download and read those first pages here.