Canada >> Cairo >> Cape Town
I’d been working 55-hour weeks cooking in some of the nicer restaurants in Montreal when I packed up my camping gear and flew to Cairo to cook for 80 cyclists on their African journey, from Cairo to Cape Town. I had no idea what I was getting into.
To make things more challenging it was Ramadan and finding open shops for supplies required a lot of local knowledge. We made it work though. There were comical moments too; the Egyptian chef stuffing 30 frozen chickens in the underbelly of our bus; the spice seller we had to bargain with for an hour before he let us buy anything; the cyclists chasing our tents across the desert because a Red Sea windstorm had blown them down.
Making New Friends
But the fun really started in Sudan, where I met one of my favorite local assistants, Abdul Baggi. He'd been across Sudan multiple times, yet was hopeless with directions, useless at bargaining in the market, and lazy too, sitting in camp smoking endless cigarettes as I slaved away prepping the night's meal. But what I loved about Abdul was his laugh and incredible self-esteem. He truly believed he was always right and no matter how much you told him otherwise, he'd simply give a heartfelt, warm and slightly crazed laugh until no one bothered him again.
When The Going Gets Tough…
Then there were the Tanzanian roads, a challenge on a dry day. Add rain and all bets are off. One year rainy season hit early and we knew we were heading for a big muddy mess. I was driving the 4x4 ahead of the cyclists to shop for supplies. That’s when I came to a point where what had been the road was now a raging river. I had never driven a car off-road until Africa, so what to do wasn’t second nature. So what do you do? Well first you walk into the river and see if it sweeps you away to your death. If it doesn’t, and the water doesn’t go above your waist, you get back in the vehicle, roll up the windows and go for it.
Life At The Local Pace
Oh wait though, before that you sit back, relax and enjoy one of the most wonderful things in Africa - small-scale entrepreneurship. No matter what road you are on, or how remote the location, if there is any kind of roadblock, you’re guaranteed someone will come along and start a small fire to roast corn, brew tea or bring chapattis to sell. It’s a truly beautiful aspect of Africa. You’re never really stuck; you’re just living life at a local pace.