Ten Myths about Touring Africa by Bike - Page 2
The Myth of Disease
Myth Number Three: "I'll get ill in Africa." Travelers to Africa need to know that there are a number of serious diseases there, but that does not mean that you can't eat, drink, and breathe during your stay. While the list of diseases is long, most are easy to avoid and the chance of contracting these is minuscule. Of those with higher infection rates, easy and effective prevention is available. You will be covered 95% of the way by being current on your immunizations: Tetanus-diphtheria, polio, measles, yellow fever, typhoid, and several other diseases have vaccines.
The most serious disease a traveler is likely to encounter is malaria. While it is serious, the threat is not uniform in all locations nor all seasons. Even at its worst, steps can be taken to avoid it. Number one, consult your travel clinic or physician about prophylactics for chloroquine-resistant malaria. Second, wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes, socks and insect repellent in the evening. Third, sleep under a mosquito net. It is an easy routine.
A related myth, "I will get AIDS." As in Asia, North America, Europe and Asia, AIDS in Africa is primarily a lifestyle disease. If you live a healthy lifestyle you will stay healthy. Traveling in Africa, one will be no more aware of the presence of AIDS amongst the population than in any Western city.
The Myth of Pollution
Myth Number Four: "The water in Africa is unsafe." Generally African countries are less industrialized and use few or no chemicals in their agriculture methods. The groundwater in Africa can be as safe or safer than that in industrialized countries. In the last two decades there has been a massive effort in water resources development, including boreholes drilled by the World Health Organization. Safe drinking water is now widely available in Africa. For those who want to be sure, small, light, and efficient hand pumps with filters are available to purify the water further.
The Myth of Food Sanitation
Myth Number Five: "The food is unsafe in Africa." Again one's attention needs to be properly focused. I know of more cases of travelers have become ill from overeating and eating dressings and dessert creams in fancy hotels than they have from eating local dishes in small restaurants. As with travel anywhere, one must make wise choices. Cultural development has served African society well: most Africa cuisines involve a sauce or topping with meat, chicken, fish, or vegetables, which is thoroughly boiled or sautied at high heat. This is then serve over a carbohydrate like rice, millet, corn, or a tuber that is similarly boiled. The meat, chicken, and fish were probably killed and dressed that day and the vegetables are fresh from the farm. My personal experience with thousands of such meals is that they are tasty and wholesome.
The Myth of Pestilence
Myth Number Six: "There are swarms of snakes and insects." I have seen more snow storms (two) and earthquakes (two) in the last couple years in Africa than live snakes. There is the occasional dead snake on the road, but even these are not seen on every trip. Like most wildlife, snakes are shy and do not seek encounters with humans any more than humans want to encounter them. As for insects, they are largely a function of time and place. Because it is preferable to do most traveling in Africa during the dry season, one bottle of insect repellent has lasted for ten years and it should last another ten. If one does not like insects, avoid them, but do not let that be the reason to miss experiencing Africa.