Tetsuya Mizoguchi is a man on a mission. The 22-year-old is attempting to become the youngest Japanese to travel from Cape Town to Cairo by riding a bicycle. Catching up with Anthony Wanjiru Kuria during his time in Kenya, the university student explains how he has come to rely on the kindness of strangers who invite him into their homes in various countries, a gesture that has allowed him to travel across continents without much money.
But, how did he find himself here?
When he was 15, Tetsuya received a special gift from his parents: a bicycle. From a tender age, they had noticed his love for cycling. This present would now allow him to accomplish his lifelong dream of cycling like his idol, Peter Sagan, a Slovakian professional road bicycle racer.
After endless hours of practice, he started registering in local cycling tournaments. Winning the competitions he registered for did not satiate his appetite for adventure. Instead, he decided to challenge himself by touring his native Japan.
“I had to wait until I turned 18. When that time came in 2015, I got a blessing from my parents and was on my way. Riding my bike, I toured my home country in a record two weeks,” he excitedly recalls.
A year later, the wanderlust bug bit him again. This time, it prodded him to venture out into Europe. In August 2016, he flew to Barcelona, Spain. He had his bicycle, sleeping bag, tent, a few clothes and a camera. He cycled through 12 countries, among them, France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, and Austria. “Europe was a great experience for me. The people there were kind; some even invited me to their homes. When I was not lucky enough to find a host for the night, I would set up my tent in secluded places and rest for the night. I wasn’t worried; I felt safe.”
“I have to say that Europe is quite expensive, particularly Paris. I relied mostly on bread, take-away or canned food because I could not afford to eat at hotels. The most memorable place I visited was Toulouse in France because they have a cycling culture there. Therefore, when the residents found out what I was up to, they cheered me on. I got a lot of encouragement from this,” he adds.
Tetsuya completed his Europe excursion in two months. He boarded a plane in France and flew back home. His parents and girlfriend, Miho Amano, were extremely proud of him. “My younger brother was very happy for me. He does not go out a lot; he prefers to play video games.”
Tetsuya also harbored ambitions of becoming a vehicle engineer like his father. This particular career path he wanted to follow had seen him earlier enroll at the Toyohashi University of Technology to study car engineering. He is now in his fourth year. “I mostly travel during university semester breaks. I’ll be graduating in March 2020.”
After conquering Europe, he set his sights on Asia in 2017. While there, he visited four countries: China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. The trip lasted throughout the month of March. “Like Europeans, Asians are very kind; they let me spend time in their homes. Asia, unlike Europe, is not expensive; I could at least afford to eat in hotels and sleep in hostels whenever I did not find a host.”
“I experienced the kindness and generosity of Laotians, who, despite not having much are so happy. They also invited me into their homes to share what little they had. Unfortunately in Japan, we are rich but not happy.”
In August of the same year, he left for South America. In the continent he cycled through Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. “This has been my most challenging trip so far. Because of the high altitude, I found it difficult to cycle. At some point, I had to climb to an altitude of 5, 000 meters; this made it extremely difficult to breathe.”
“Moreover, I experienced food poisoning twice, had to push my bike though the Atacama Desert in Chile and communicating was tough because most of the people in this region speak Spanish. I had to do with gestures and lots of smiling to get through. But, they were also very kind to me. I even tasted Alpaca meat for the first time in South America.” In November that year, Tetsuya flew back home.
Cycling through Africa
In October 2018, he flew to South Africa with the intention of cycling from Cape Town to Cairo. Like in other continents, he’d be cycling 10 hours every day. Unfortunately, in Johannesburg, he was mugged by gun-wielding robbers. “They stole my wallet and phone. Fortunately, they didn’t hurt me or damage my bike.”
Although his possessions were forcefully taken from him, his spirit was not broken. He continued his journey into neighbouring Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. In Tanzania, he saw, for the first time in his life, wild animals. “It was in the Serengeti where I saw zebras, giraffes and lions. I also got to interact with the Maasai. Moreover, I even saw Mt Kilimanjaro. These are moments that will forever be etched in my memory.”
On 3rd January, he arrived in Kenya. While here, he was being hosted by businessman, Simon Kamangu, in his home in Nairobi. “I found him waiting for my Japanese neighbours at the gate when I arrived home from work. He explained who he was and I invited him to my house. When they arrived, I offered to continue hosting him until he could get visas for Sudan and Ethiopia,” says Mr. Kamangu. “He has been a great inspiration to my family because he has achieved so much while still young,” he adds.
From Kenya, he went to Ethiopia through Moyale Town, from where he cycled to Sudan and ended his trip in Egypt.
He looks forward to going back home, graduating and finding employment. “I want to work and make enough money to marry my girlfriend Miho by the time I am 27. The marrying age in Japan is usually 31 but I do not want to wait that long. We have settled on three children. I shall share with my future family about my adventures around the world.”
Tetsuya has his sponsors Diatech Bruno and OSG, (Japanese bicycle and drill maker respectively) to thank for funding his trips. “I was also covered by my travel insurance. The insurance footed the hospital bill when I experienced food poisoning in Peru and Chile. Fortunately though, I have not sustained any serious injuries on my trips.”