You know when things go wrong that they seem to come all at once? No different even here in Africa – although its opened up my eyes for the need of a mail drop shorty. I’m cycling up to Maun (Mow-oon) in time for Christmas Day putting in almost 100km days in the process. it’s different here, certainly a challenge each day with the new weather conditions, the amount of people begging for money on the side of the road, the animals, and the bugs. Spiders are a force to be reckoned with here – the size of your hand (without your fingers), the mosquitoes are of course hungry for your blood come sunset, the dung beetles busy rolling cow/donkey poo down the road the size of a toy car, and the butterflies and moths that come out are in the hundreds of thousands. They go wild at night with your headlamp on covering your tent, and finding ways to sneak inside your tent.
I’ve been staying with Police as much as possible – telling them the story that the last police station told me to come by so that I would be safe. Apparently they think that it is a good idea for a white person to be staying with them, and after a few minor check-ups with their superiors, I’m good to go camping in a shaded area for the night with fresh water to wash up, fill water bottles and cook with. Some of the times they are flat out confused, not knowing what to do, and asking for things such as passports, without even looking at them, or asking me to write down my name and phone number for verification. I of course don’t have a phone number so it is a bit hilarious when I try to explain it to them. For the most part it involves having the same conversation over and over again with various officers. I asked one of the officers in Ghanzi if I could plug my laptop into their wall, and they told me it was very unsafe with thieves around everywhere – to which I responded that ‘I could trust the police right?’ before they opened a door with a key and said to come back at 10pm. Coming back at 10pm I found out that the man who had the key just decided to go home early and didn’t leave the key for his superior where they agreed to leave it. An hour later they found the key and I had my laptop good to go for a few days.
Lightning storms are becoming regular at night now, as is dark clouds moving in as it is now rainy season. Up until a few days ago it was just a visible threat, and the odd drop of water landing on me – until yesterday while camping in the bush at the side of the road I knew it was going to be something different. Setting up the tent, closing all the bags, putting electronics away in time before the rain started. It wasn’t like a Canadian Rainstorm where it comes down in buckets, but a consistent drop.
I noticed a few issues with my equipment while this was happening – Rain water is seeping onto my groundsheet in my tent, forcing me to move panniers inside where it is very cramped. Maybe I need to set up the tent and guy wires when it rains, I remember my last Hilleberg tent working quite well when you set it up the way they designed it, but only half assed when you just set it up with bare minimum parts. All was well with the rain coming down and I was looking forward to my bicycle getting a good wash from the massive amounts of sand that have collected on it from being in the Kalahari desert so I settled down finishing off "Bicycle Diaries" by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and then moving into Stephen King’s "Full Dark, No Stars". Both pretty good reads and the latter adding some spook to the night. Hearing noises just turns out to be one of the many mules or cows that runs around freely and I was just getting into a strange part of the book when I felt something grab me – I yelled and realized it was my bicycle that had fallen over right into my tent. I yelled for Brenna to come and help as I was trying to keep the bicycle from going through the fabric, and she came quickly to help me out of the mess. I couldn’t realize why the bike fell over in the pitch dark and safely secured it (this time away from my tent) and went back inside. Not before letting a handful of mosquitoes and moths in – in fact one moth was so big his eyes were as big as some fish eyes – Gross, I had to squish some, shoo some out, finally to be left in peace. Not sleeping well all night because of the rain, reading weird stories, and it being so hot that I sweat everywhere with sand rubbing on my burnt arms and face (I thought it was a good idea to not use suntan lotion and ride without a bandana/helmet earlier in the day as it was overcast). Waking up at 7 when the rain finally stopped I went outside to see the damage to the tent – Nothing! Could have been worse.
Unfortunately I found one of my red turtle lights lying in the mud (likely due to Brenna lifting the bicycle up by the Saddle), and my MSR Dromedary Water carrier lying halfway in the mud – I suppose it shifted off my rack as it wasn’t fastened all the way which caused the bike to tip over. I cooked breakfast, feeling terrible and having not 1 but 8 visits to the bushes to purge whatever was in my body, likely a combination of not enough water (I drank 10 litres the day before), or too much sun (likely both!). Rolling the bike out of the muddy tire tracks on the dirt road onto tar I grumbled a bit about what else could go wrong – with my tent completely soaked, air mattress leaking still and covered in sand, and my nose sore from the tent poles smacking me in the face when taking it down. I started riding in light rain in silence, reflecting on the past events knowing that it could only get better.
PIng! That’s a new sound! Sometimes I hear my S-Biners clang on my racks when things shift around, but never this sound. I got off my bike and checked my rear wheel – and sure enough, I broke a spoke right near the hub flange. No Problem, my spare spokes are in… Canada! I didn’t want to fix it right away so hobbled along for 95km before reaching my destination at the police station where I could fix it without traffic whizzing past, cows freaking out and getting bombarded by the sun. Brenna had a few spare spokes so I flipped my bicycle upside down, took off the wheel, tire, and pulled out the bad spoke. Putting in the new one I found out that both her sizes were way too long for my Rohloff Hub. Challenge indeed. I put everything back together and figure that I’ll have to hunt one down in Maun when I take a few days off.
When I flipped my bicycle upside down my MSR Fuel Pump for the Dragonfly stove fell out and smacked onto the ground, breaking the plunger to pressurize the bottle. Then, when trying to stuff everything into my pockets I jammed my IPod into the pocket with my Spyderco knife and heard a crunch, putting a huge gash in the screen. I likely put it in that pocket as it was easiest to drop in as my hands are burning from not wearing gloves today – the sun still managed to burn me pretty bad and I’m going to have 3-4 days of really terrible riding while they blister and heal. It’s not the end of the world for all of this and manageable but certainly throws some interesting moments into the ride so far. I need to find a mail drop at least a month away (Zimbabwe? Malawi) to send some parts from China, Vancouver, and London UK over – I’m trying not to send them all at once and hold off on the Vancouver shipment until its absolutely required, but my list of supplies grows.
Anyways, no biggie, just some more variables to throw into this journey – could be worse, everything will sort itself out.