“oh Mary!- how I crave to write book already
-one that’s big – interesting
-and one of the very first copies with my own hand dedicate:
“to my beloved Marysienka“.
But this is still a dream only…”
This is what in 1934 Kazimierz Nowak wrote in a letter to his wife. At the time of writing it, this 37-year-old man was in Clanvilliam – 3 years into his trip across Africa. On a bike…
Kazimierz Nowak is one of the most inspiring travelers I’ve ever come across. Born in 1897 in Poland, young Kazimierz moves to Poznan after first World War to assume an office work. Soon after he marries Maria Gorcik, with whom he has two kids – Ela and Romuald. Despite his professional and family commitments, Kazimierz finds time to travel through the country on his bicycle, pursuing his passion for travel and photography.
Soon however, Poland is no longer enough. In 1925 Nowak decided to leave the country and support his family through the work of a foreign correspondent and photographer. In this capacity, he travels through Europe, all the way to Turkey. His second cycling trip through the continent takes his to Tripolis.
He is almost there now. He has reached his beloved Africa. The dream of little Kazimierz to see this enchanting continent is now almost true. Almost, because the war in Tunisia, health and money problems stop his from going further. But Kazimierz decides he will come back.
On the 4th November 1931, Kazimierz Nowak sets on the most extraordinary journey – he will cycle all the way across Africa – from Algier to Cape Town. Alone.
Traveling through the savannas and deserts on his rickety bike, Kazimierz stops by the local villages, photographing the people he meets on his way, and capturing the breathtaking landscapes. He sleeps in a tent he brought with him, feeding with food he exchanges with the locals or received from the missionaries. The photos and articles he sends back home, make their way to the travel magazines in Poland, allowing Maria to support the family that Kazimierz misses painfully each day.
Despite the loneliness and hardships, Kazimierz persists in his voyage, reaching the most southern point of Africa in April 1934. Yet even that is not enough. To everyone’s astonishment, Nowak decides to go back to Europe the same way he came – on a bike. The British colonizers he meets on his way admire his bravery and offer him a first class ticket home, but Kazimierz prefers his 7-year-old bike.
Returning to Poland in December 1936, after 40 thousand kilometers and five years of travel, Kazimierz Nowak becomes one of the very first men to cycle through Africa -twice.
Although the surgery he had to undergo a year after his return exposed him to pneumonia, causing a premature death of this astonishing man, Kazimierz got the book he dreamed of – almost 70 years after he set off on his extraordinary journey.
Remembering the stories of Nowak’s adventure from his grandpa, young man, Lukasz Wierzbicki, collects and publishes Kazimierz’s letters to his wife. A book “Rowerem i Pieszo Przez Czarny Lad” makes its way to the bookstores in Poland and to the hearts of all travelers and dreamers. On the cover – picture of Nowak pushing his bike and the name of the author: Kazimierz Nowak. He got that big and interesting book after all. One with the first page reading: “to my beloved Marysienka“.
We all have Nowak’s spirit in ourselves. Kazimierz needed a financial crisis to give him the courage to purse his passions and a childhood dream. He needed family he loved so much to be the catalyst of his motivation. He set off on a journey that was difficult. Maybe even more mentally than physically. Many thought it was not possible – a man born in a Polish countryside cycling alone on a rusty bike across Africa? But Nowak proved that if we believe, we can achieve anything.
What will you choose to believe in?