Movember – ED and Mental Health

We men embarrass easily. Less than 5% of African men will talk to their doctors about erectile dysfunction (ED).


Their is no clear connection between long hours on a motorcycle riding and ED or infertility.
The reason riding may cause ED is that the seat puts constant pressure on the perineum—the area between the genitals and anus. This pressure can harm nerves and temporarily slow blood flow, which causes tingling or numbness in the penis and, eventually, ED.

But it’s important to be aware that many men can ease, or even reverse, ED by making simple lifestyle changes — such as losing excess weight and quitting smoking — that also are likely to boost their overall health and reduce their chances of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.
For some men, depression can accompany the condition of erectile dysfunction (ED). The most common symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities, fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and apathy.

ED is not an easy topic to talk about, no man would want his performance to be in question. And few would admit if they ever were sailing in this boat.

It’s very difficult for men like myself to broach this subject when dealing with the stigma surrounding men and their sexual health, particularly at the place where sexual and mental health meet. It’s a problem that puts me at risk for depression and a variety of other issues.

But in the spirit of Movember we have to be our brother’s keepers. I should be able to hold my brother’s hand, give him my unwavering support and encouragement through any health issue such as ED.

That 60 men take their lives every hour around the world is unacceptable. Let’s encourage each other to talk, let us be open and vulnerable to each other, and be that guy, that brother, that they can turn to for support.

Make difficult conversations easier.

How I got Leh’d – Riding to the land of the Lama by Victor

Sitting next to this big dude from Myanmar on a bus ride earlier in January this year, the man was curious about Kenya and in the midst of our conversation I shared my plan to scale Mt. Everest (Base camp or advanced base camp if time permitted) sometime in August. He recommended, having done a similar trip, that instead of hiking up Everest, I reconsider and tour the Himalayas on a motorcylce. He had backpacked with his friend for about 2 weeks and seemed to believe it was my kind of thing. Later that evening, a casual search and my friend google had me sold completely to the idea. It was adios Everest! Hello, Hi-malaya on an Enfield!

I began researching in April, mostly online, on experiences, requirements, costing, best timing to visit and settled for mid-August, which was about the same time I intended to be away.

In May, I got my visa – e-visa actually, which was very simple to get and began another online search for best way to go about the trip. I settled for a company that would provide an all-inclusive package that included bike rental (chose a 500cc Royal Enfield Classic), fuel, accommodation on half-board basis, back up vehicle (also carrying riders luggage) with mechanic and, most importantly, set dates when tour began and ended.

There was always a risk of going with companies that on the scheduled day did not have ‘quorum’ and would hand you over to another firm, or wait until there was a certain minimum number of riders before departing. With dates fixed and having confirmed several times, I booked my return ticket to Delhi and another ticket to the proposed start point in Srinagar. The plan was to ride from Srinagar – Leh – Manali passing through Nubra, Pangong, Tangste and Tsomoriri over a period of 8 days and covering just about 1,600Km.

The ideas, I had in my head when going through the itinerary…is a story for another day. There is an alternative to rent a bike on your own and basically customize the trip as you want. One, however, has to deal with getting relevant permits, accommodation, repairs if any and fuel (its new territory, one does not know how far apart fuel stations are). The options of bikes are the Royal Enfield Classic in 350cc or 500cc, Himalayan Royal Enfield, and Apache. Didn’t see any Apaches though.

Plans are made to be changed, right? Three weeks before departure, I receive an email from tour director stating that there was a political situation at Srinagar and that the starting point was rescheduled to Leh along with a detailed updated itinerary. He, requested that I change my flight reservation so that I land at Leh instead of Srinagar. Google manenos, indeed there was a situation and tourists were not allowed in Srinagar, lakini air ticket could not be altered so I had to make another reservation to Leh from Delhi. Tour dates, thankfully, remained the same. The new itinerary had the trip beginning at Leh then ride towards Srinagar to Kargil, return to Leh on second day and proceed with the original schedule. It was like we were meant to do a msa to ksm trip but are forced to start at Mtito then ride to Voi, then back to Mtito and proceed as planned because tourists were not allowed in Msa.

Looking out the window as the plane descends towards the airport at Leh, I knew right then that I would be back, views of the vast Himalayan Mountains were incredible. Got to the hotel and met the tour director who briefed the group about the tour, do’s and don’ts, medication to buy (for altitude sickness) and collect the rest of his payment ($100 deposit was paid as reservation fee). There would be 12 of us in the group on 7 bikes including the ride team leader.

Day one and two was a return trip from Leh to Kargil, all on tarmac with a few twists and approximately 245 Km each way. On days three to five we rode to Nubra, Pangong and returned to Leh covering a distance of about 600 Km. For those three days, we had to get different bikes whose registration numbers were allowed in Nubra and Pangong. There were some steep ascends/descends on loose gravel, manageable as long as one does not have a phobia for heights (no guard rails either). On one of the nights we camped at the beautiful Pangong lake. That route had more twists and turns compared to the first two days, 20% of route was on unpaved roads and temperatures were lower.

Some tour operators will opt to take you through this leg by car to avoid renting the required registered bikes. By the end of the third day, everyone in the group was sniffling, due to riding continuously in low temperatures (10 to 14°C). On the following days, everyone could be seen buying anti-histamines and coldcap equivalents to battle those symptoms. The last leg of three days, we rode through Leh – Tsomoriri – Sarchu – Manali, and in my opinion was the toughest. Approximately 50% of the riding was done on unpaved/off road, through sand, across rivers and streams at even lower temperatures. Total distance covered was 640 Km. Sarchu, visited on the seventh day was biting cold but rewarded by incredible views on the last day to Manali.

I learnt to stop strangling the handle bars (death grip) and grip bike with knees, arms at ease and guide the bike with subtle waist movement. Target fixation is a reality when dealing with hairpin bends – one needs to always look and focus on the end of curve (which keeps shifting). Initially I would take very wide turns because my focus was on the nearby part of turn and correct later. With time, I was forced to realise that the bike will move in the direction you look.
After 8 days of riding, sniffles and a stiff butt one just wants to sleep for hours.

Great tour overall, it was an awesome experience, the twists, riding through sand and loose soil, gravel, river and stream crossings all in one package. Delhi to Manali is another 500 Km which was covered by bus as the tour operator took another group through the same tour in reverse – Manali to Leh. If the 8 days are not enough, it is possible to rent a bike and ride another two days to Delhi. I loved the tour so much will consider going back next year for the Spiti Valley adventure. Until then, you never know what google search results for guided adventure bike riding may reveal. I’ll keep searching when idle.

A few tips for those that intend to take the trip:

Most important ATGATT. They will offer helmets and knee/elbow guards but no jacket. The helmets most likely may not be the right fit. Carry your own helmet if possible. Gloves is a must

I chose Leh to Manali rather than the reverse because this option gives one the option to acclimatize more easily. Coming from Manali (1800m) to Sarchu (4250m) will literally shock the body and that’s on the first day.

Have at least 2 pairs of shoes with you or and have gum boots for the stream/river crossings.
Dress in layers to beat the cold or have thermal wear for use in the evenings and during rides
Shades – very important. Though cold, it is really bright. And some sunscreen
Driving license.
Headlamp with one collection of spare batteries.

If you are taking any type of medicine, carry them from home.
Nasal drops can be extremely helpful if you end up with a blocked nose after catching a cold.

Camera with at least 16Gb memory, shooting in RAW twice the size
Trip has a lot of Indians, Hindi is the predominant language, at times the captain in explaining things forgets to use English. Take it easy, someone will summarise what has been said
Ka-nyama dry fry or boil na thupu mbiri, kafirifiri kwa umbali will be very hard to get! Mostly vegetarian food. Chicken, occasionaly, is available.

An open mind, ATT acha JKIA
Most importantly, HAVE FUN, ENJOY THE RIDE

Estimated Costs (US$)
Visa 80
Tickets 700 cheaper if early
Ticket Srinagar or Leh 50
Tour 750
Lunches/drinks 70-100
Misc 200

Verdant Gardens – Ghana to Burkina Faso Return – by Abdi Zeila (Part 1)

Trip report (Accra-Kumasi-Tamale, 660 kms so far)

I have a 200cc Chinese-made ‘Royal’ brand motorbike. This brand is the most popular in Ghana, with the majority of okada men in Accra riding the 125 and 150cc variants. It is very cheap to maintain and rides well. The only downside is the high fuel consumption whilst on the highway.

That is me, leaving Accra. A friend of mine, Jo, escorted me for the first 10 km.

I left Accra on Saturday at 6.00 am, thinking that this is the right time to exit and avoid traffic. Accra traffic never sleeps – there were just too many cars even as early as 6.00 am. The highway out towards Kumasi is dual carriageway for the first 40 or so kilometres, but it quickly gets rutted and full of potholes for the remainder of the journey (200 km). I made good progress, however, except for two occasions when I had to stop and tie my load again. Ilikuwa inaegemea upande mmoja. Still using bladda to tie my stuff.

Obligatory visit to the palace of the Asantehene, king of the Ashanti people

There is absolutely no respect for motorcyclists by motorists – they try to force you off the road and many of them came to within inches of my handlebars as they overtook me. I only noted them at the last time by the whoosh of their slipstream as they zoomed past, extremely close. There was not a single motorbike on the highway to Kumasi – I was the only one, it seemed to me. I battled rain on most of the way.

I got stopped by policemen twice in Ashanti region. The first time I had no trouble, and they checked my papers and DL and released me with a smile once they realised I am a Kenyan. The policemen crowded around me and asked me if I run marathons. I did not mention my north-eastern roots in Kenya, and indeed confirmed to them that I can out-run any Ghanaian.

The second stop was a lot more difficult. This happened because I went past a police barrier without stopping (I saw the sign announcing the barrier, and I did not stop, my mistake), and their shouts made me to turn back. The cop who stopped me was shaking with rage. I took my time to dismount, removed my helmet, and when he saw my facial features, he knew immediately I was a foreigner, and he cooled down. I spoke easily with him, and he asked for my papers. On seeing my Kenyan DL, he immediately went to converse with his boss, and he said I have just committed an offence.

He pulled out a yellowing, weather-beaten book, titled “Offences” and pointed out to the right clause – this is an innovation our Kenyan police need to adopt, seriously. Of course, I read through and thoroughly agreed with him. He was surprised to see me concurring. Anyway, after a few minutes, and noting that I remained calm all through, they told me to go on since I am just a tourist. I scrammed and disappeared.

Kumasi is always jam-packed. I could not believe the extent of the congestion caused by cars (especially the tro-tros, aka matatus) in this city, Ghana’s second largest. Like Accra, this city’s traffic is mostly controlled by signalised intersections – there only a few roundabouts. The traffic control is efficient but the cars are just too many for the city – helped also by the low fuel prices (lower than Kenya).

I spent the whole of Sunday relaxing and visiting places of interest – especially the palace of the Ashanti kingdom. Here, there are artefacts highlighting the kingdom’s 324-year reign. I saw muskets (old guns) that the kingdom’s fighting men used in 1690s, throne seats, clothes worn by their fighters and kings, and so much stuff that left me impressed. The city has incredible history.

Ghanaian food

Of course, I have been gorging on Ghanaian food – great diversity, unlike home, liberally prepared with pepper. Even the water here I believe has pepper. Fufu. Yam. Different types of soup (some called “light” soup). Fish, lots of it. Jollof rice.

Yesterday, I set out for a 380-kilometre run from Kumasi to Tamale, the northern-most city in Ghana. It took me six hours to get to Tamale. The entire stretch is like a verdant garden – green and rich agricultural zone. I am in Tamale now, and the city is a bikers’ paradise – there are more motos here than anywhere else in Ghana, and there is therefore more respect for bikers.

I

I am off to evaluate projects supported by my organisation. I will be visiting smallholder farmers in this region today and tomorrow. Then on Thursday, I will do a 370-kilometre trip across the border and into Burkina Faso’s capital city, Ouagadougou.

Death! Issa just a scratch..

I am perplexed at the mad rush motorcycle riders especially Bodas and couriers have on our mad roads.

‘Teke Teke Buda, nimechelewa’

‘Hiyo order inafaa kufika in 15 minutes ‘

The rate of accidents resulting in death or disability from Motorcycles is rising.

But no, these riders think that death is something you can come back from!

Ride Safe